Kitchen Renovation & Changes

Wow you guys. It's been a while. 
If you haven't noticed on all my social media feeds, big changes have and will continue to be occurring. About a month ago my husband started a new job... in Denver, Colorado! It's a long story, but to be short and frank - we wanted a challenge, more opportunities, and place that suited our lifestyles better. So of course this big move meant that we had to sell the house, which we did in less than a day. We spent right up to the showings kicking ass on refinishing the upstairs bathroom and other small pieces to the kitchen. I'm so happy with how the kitchen turned out, I just had to share. Here is a peak back to the beginning of our renovation... we came a long way!!

Since my life has taken this amazing, yet abrupt turn, I'm not really sure where I see this blog going. This blog has been a diary of my life in Michigan and I don't see it continuing out in Denver. It's hard to fathom not blogging ever again as I love this outlet, so I'm going to assume I'll start over on a new blog after I have a handle on my new life in Colorado. Who knows. Right now I'm just trying to enjoy the time left in Michigan. Then onto the next endless pursuit. 

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Simple Date Granola Bars

It's really not like me to feel so off and out of it for more than a day, but lately I've felt like I'm living in a haze. It's these ruts, deep and unannounced, that force me to dive deeper into my passions, like running & cooking, in hopes of resurfacing. It's so cliche, but putting on my running gear and getting out the door is seriously the hardest part. Once I'm out there, the motivation escalates quickly. Same can be said for cooking - it's figuring out what to make that is the biggest hurdle. Maybe it's the fact that Spring finally feels like it's here or that I've got to a point in these doldrums that I've realized that we are truly limitless. That the obstacles that make the days seem so daunting are hurdles we can overcome. It's usually ourselves that put up these limits that make our world seem impossible. Well listen up people - you are limitless. You will overcome. And if you don't think you can, look at the boundaries you or others have put up around yourself, then tear them down. 

For those days where you need energy to conquer those obstacles and prove you are limitless, nothing does it quite like a snack filled with dates & peanut butter! 

Simple Date Granola Bars

1 1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 cup dates
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup coconut 
4 TB flaxseed, ground
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup agave 
1/8 tsp salt

Soak dates in warm water until they soften. 
Process dates in food processor, turning it into a creamy texture. 
Mix dates, oats, almonds, sunflower, coconut, flaxseed & cinnamon in a bowl. 
In a small saucepan, heat peanut butter, agave, and salt until all is melted. 
Pour over dry ingredients and make sure it's mixed well. 
Pour mixture into a 8X8 dish and press top to flatten evenly. 
Let cool, then cut!

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Sesame Ginger Dressing

You guys, this winter blew. Don't get me wrong, I love the snow, but I've been so over it since January. With spring trying to make it's comeback, my body is craving greens in a big way. Our garden is just waiting for us to plant it full of kale, spinach, and mesclun; so there will be no shortages of salad making. In the meantime I'm making sure I have plenty of recipes for salad creations in my arsenal. And no salad is complete without a nice dressing. 

Sesame Ginger Dressing

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup oil

Combine all ingredients, except oil, and mix well with a whisk or fork. Once ingredients are combined, slowly pour in oil while whisking to form an emulsion. 

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Classic Hummus Dip

Recently I was asked to guest post over at Tasty Table Topics and wanted to share that post here as well! Few thoughts on my nutrition journey and of course, a recipe to go with it! 

 Growing up on a farm in central Illinois, I was raised on a "meat and potatoes" mentality of eating. When the family would sit down for dinner each night, it was expected of us to finish all of our food on our plates and drink a whole glass of milk... even though I detested milk. It wasn't that we necessarily ate poorly, as my mother cooked us a lot of great meals with healthy veggies or grains in them, but the overall view of our diets was mainly focused on meat, lots of meat. 

As a student athlete I rarely thought about nutrition or the way I ate. All I knew was that I was hungry all the time and tried to consume as much food as possible. One of my best friends first memory of us eating in our college cafeteria was my huge platters of food and in particular a gross looking overcooked brat that I was so excited to eat. This was how I was known for a majority of my life - for eating unhealthy and being the "garbage disposal." 

It wasn't until I graduated from college and began my journey training for marathons that I started to consider my diet - what was I putting into my body? Over that year, I slowly started adjusting my diet towards eating more veggies, fruits, and whole grains. I consumed less meat and diary. It wasn't instantaneous, but I began to feel good... really good. As my training increased, so did my thirst for staying healthy. I loved learning about new foods, how to cook these new foods, and where these foods came from. 

So in 2010 I decided to become vegetarian and since then my husband and I have moved to eating a mostly vegan fare. It wasn't easy at first as it took some time to figure out new meals for two very hungry athletes, but we strongly believe it has improved our mental and physical health tremendously. 

My journey isn't for everyone, but I do think that knowing more about your food, health, and body is something that a person of any diet lifestyle should be heavily invested in. You only have one body, so make sure you take care of it! 

Classic Hummus Dip

2 cups chickpeas, cooked
2 garlic cloves
3/4 cup tahini paste
5 TB lemon juice
3 TB water (or leftover chickpea juice) 
1 tsp salt
olive oil, for garnish
paprika, for garnish

Put all ingredients (minus salt, olive oil, and paprika) in a food processor or high speed blender. Add salt slowly in, tasting for preference. Scoop out and put in container. Drizzle olive oil on top and lightly season with paprika. If you have any leftover chickpeas, throw those on top as well! 

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How to Make Vegan Cheese

I've always been super skeptical of vegan cheese. For someone who has ventured into a plant based diet because of the health benefits, eating processed vegan cheese just didn't seem like a good alternative and frankly I thought they all tasted like plastic. While researching some of my cooking curiosities I came across so many cool recipes for homemade vegan cheese... and immediately thought "how had I not tried this before?!" 

Cashews are so versatile and I'm finding out that in raw form they can make some really tasty treats. If you are looking for a subsitute for almost any recipe calling for a cream, butter, or cheese - cashews are the way to go. 

I've been experimenting with raw vegan cheese as well and have fallen in love with this version on the Rawmazing blog. Using just raw cashews and rejuvelac (a fermented liquid that you can make by soaking raw wheat berries) you can make an incredible soft cheese. We have been using this for quesadillas, grilled cheese, and pizza sauce. 

This cashew cheese can be totally customizable... adding in herbs, garlic, peppers, seeds, the list goes on. My favorite way to eat this cheese is with Whole Wheat Hippie Crackers and apples. 
Have you ever tried vegan cheese before? 

Vegan Cashew Cheese

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB Braggs 
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 TB miso paste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
5 tsp agar powder
1-2 TB sun dried tomatoes (optional) 

Soak cashews overnight. 
Using a food processor or blender, ground the cashews up into chunks. 
Add rest of ingredients (expect tomatoes, water, and agar) and blend. 
In a saucepan bring water and agar powder to a boil for 5 minutes or until mixture is dissolved. 
Add agar mixture to cashews and blend until creamy. Add in tomatoes and blend just so that the tomatoes are folded in. Pour mixture into a ramekin, loaf, or muffin pan. Put in fridge for a couple hours to set up. 

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Whole Wheat Hippie Crackers

If someone would have told me in high school that in the future I would end up swearing off meat, commercial body products, and stop washing my hair every day... I would probably laugh at this future "hippie." Yeah, I'm a little bit granola, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I've learned more about myself, food, and our environment in the last three years than I have in the previous 24 years of my life... and I want to keep on that journey.   

I used to eat crackers like it was my business. During my summer job cross pollinating corn, I remember devouring packaged peanut butter crackers every single day. In college, Wheat Thins and cheese was basically a staple. Once I found out what was in both, I rarely ate crackers again. Until my mom made me these Easy & Gluten Free Vegan Crackers from Oh She Glows. 

A little thicker than normal packaged crackers, these babies were salty and crispy. And they didn't last the weekend in our house. I told myself I had to make these, but kept thinking how time consuming it probably would be. Oh was I wrong. 

Blend, Roll, Cut, Bake. 
That's it. And now I'm back on my cracker craze. 

These guys tasted amazing with a spread of homemade vegan cheese. 
I'm thinking peanut butter crackers will be happening soon as well. 

Whole Wheat Hippie Crackers
adapted from Oh She Glows

1 cup whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry) 
1 cup almonds, ground
4 TB flax seeds, ground
2 TB nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
2 TB hemp seeds
2 TB seasame seeds
1/2 cup water
1 tsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease baking sheets. 
Ground almonds until fine in food processor, just before the point of turning them into a paste.
Mix together the rest of the dry ingredients with the almonds. Add in water & oil and mix well. Knead together with your hands and shape into a ball. Roll dough out as thin as possible and cut into desired size. Bake at 350F for 10-20 minutes. This truly depends on the thickness & oven as I rolled mine pretty thin and they were well done. Whereas my mom said she could have baked her's for 20 minutes, instead of 18 minutes. So watch those crackers! 

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