Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce (Vegan)

food, healthy

I am actually allergic to several foods, including tomatoes. Ugh!! I know!! How do I eat pasta, ketchup, or so many other savory dishes with tomato? Luckily my allergy is mild and I can enjoy tomatoes without too much suffering. The best thing for me is simply to avoid them as much as I can (which is almost impossible). However, I have realized that in this food era where people are making cauliflower lemon bars, chickpea brownies, and other unconventional foods, pasta sauce does not necessarily need to be made from tomatoes. When coming up with ideas, I realized that naturally red-ish vegetables are pretty much limited to carrots and red bell peppers. Some day I’ll experiment a carrot pasta sauce but I experimented with red bell peppers and the result was an absolute hit!

DSC01532

Extremely creamy, flavorful, and bright with colors. It’s salty with a slight hint of sweetness from the roasted bell pepper. I am in love with this sauce and I have already made it twice since last week. I made a simple pasta dish but will use it in a lasagna recipe in the future. I cannot wait for you all to try this! Because I am not vegan, I tested out a vegan and a non-vegan version and they taste quite similar so I will be posting the vegan version due to a now-high demand for vegan recipes.


Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce

yield: 2 c. sauce

ingredients:

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c. non-dairy unsweetened milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
  • 3 tbsp. nutritional yeast

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 475 F. Rub bell peppers with 1 tbsp. olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes until the outside is charred.
  2. Remove from oven and let bell peppers cool for 5 min.
  3. In a skillet, put 1 tbsp. olive oil and saute onions for 5 minutes until transparent and lightly browned. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Remove the skins from the bell peppers. They should come off very easily.
  5. In a food processor, place the bell peppers, garlic, onions, milk, salt, and nutrition yeast. Pulse until the sauce becomes incorporated and is a light red color.
  6. Remove from food processor and serve immediately with pasta OR cook for an additional 5 minutes on the stove top.

This sauce can be consumed straight from the food processor or can be cooked on the stove after. I have tried both and found that both taste great. I did like to cook mine additionally on the stove top to heat it up and slightly cook the garlic.

This sauce is a huge crowdpleaser and will satisfy all your pasta cravings! Impress your vegan friends and make this sauce right now!

Low-Carb Chocolate Walnut Cake (Gluten-Free)

food

Powdered peanut butter, or sometimes referred to by the common brand PB2, has gained widespread popularity within the last few years because of it’s crazy similarity to actual peanut butter while containing about only 12% of the fat. It sounds to good to be true, and in my opinion, it really was but it is true! PB2 is insanely tasty and while not as good as actual peanut butter, it is pretty much almost there. If I can get peanut nutrients without the oil.. count me in!

While playing around with a bottle of PB2 I purchased from TJ Maxx, I found that it works great in baking and making food items taste like peanut butter, but is actually not great for when you want to actually taste the texture of peanut butter. For example, I made a PBJ with peanut butter and was not a fan because it was too dry for my liking. However, smoothies, frozen yogurt, and baked goods are great ways to used PB2.

I’ve been trying to eat low-carb to hopefully improve GI comfort, so I experimented with  a low-carbohydrate chocolate cake with the recipe adapted from SkinnyTaste.

DSC01539


Low Carb Chocolate Walnut Cake (Gluten-Free)

yield: 12 (4×3 bars)

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. powdered peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 c. + 2 tbsp. honey or agave
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 c. chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Spray a 9×9 baking pan with non-stick spray or line the pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine peanut powder, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, water, vanilla, honey/agave, and water. Add dry to wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Stir in dark chocolate chips and walnuts and pour into baking pan.
  5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until fully cooked.
  6. Cool on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes and then serve!

The cake is best served hot and is packed with protein! I take one or two bars to work to munch on when I am need of a snack.

NutritionLabel

Low-Fat Mandarin Orange Yogurt Cake

food, Uncategorized

A light and fluffy cake so tangy and zesty that you’ll want to eat all the time. The great thing about this recipe is that you can utilize all parts of the orange: juice, zest, and pulp, although I barely used any of the pulp. However, after I extracted some of the mandarin juice, I ended up eating the remains of the orange since food waste is not an option!

I used mandarin oranges for this recipe but feel free to use any other oranges such as navel, cara cara oranges, etc.

DSC01525


Low-Fat Mandarin Orange Yogurt Cake

yield: 1 (9 x 5) loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c.  whole milk yogurt + 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp. mandarin orange zest
  • 2 tbsp. mandarin orange juice
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/3 c. chopped walnuts

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp. mandarin orange juice

Directions:

  1. Grease loaf pan or line with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg. Add in sugar and poppy seeds and combine well. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, oil, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla extract.
  4. Add the dry mixture into the wet in 3 batches and combine well. Add in the chopped walnuts and bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes, until brown on top and toothpick comes out of the batter clean.DSC01496DSC01500
  5. Let loaf cool on a cooling rack for approx. 30 min before putting the glaze on + top with additional zest. Or you can be like me- I skipped the glaze because I could not wait and I went ahead and ate the loaf fresh out of the oven.

The bread lasts in the fridge up to 2 weeks and freezes extremely well. Feel free to make smaller servings such as muffins. I haven’t tried it yet but am certain they will turn out delicious as well.

 

 

Cheesy Cream & Onion Pinwheels

food

One of my favorite things to make for parties or hang-outs are pinwheels, made from canned biscuit or croissant dough. I prefer croissant dough because it is more flaky, but both are great options. You can put anything into your pinwheels, from cheese, meats, to nutella and nut spreads… it’s one of those recipes where you can’t go wrong. For a movie night with my friends, I decided to make a cream and onion filling since I really need to grocery shop and some of my friends are vegetarian. As always, the recipe was divine and I am excited to share it with you all!

DSC00030


Cheesy Cream & Onion Pinwheels

yield: 10-12 pinwheels

Ingredients:

  • 1 can croissant dough
  • 4 oz. softened cream cheese (1/2 of a whole bar)
  • 1/3 c. shredded cheese of choice (I used mozzarella)
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 3 slices turkey/ham
  • 1/4 c. chopped caramelized or browned onions
  • chopped green onions for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. Open the can or croissant dough and unroll the entire dough without breaking off at any of the perforated points. Seal the perforated lines together so that the dough is one complete sheet.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except turkey/ham and use a spoon to spread onto the entire dough.
  4. Lay the deli meat on top of the spread.
  5. Roll up the dough tightly and slice into 1 cm. thick pieces. DSC00022
  6. Place onto the cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Once done baking, let it cool for 5 minutes and serve immediately. I served them with a side of honey dijon mustard but the pinwheel have tons of flavor on its own.

These are beyond delicious and so simple to make. I can honestly eat them all in one sitting as I watch Netflix, but this is a very decadent treat that should be eaten on special occasions only! Feel free to double or triple the recipe for mass production.

 

No-Bake Protein Bites (GF + Vegan)

food

I am constant on the run, and I typically snack on banana chips, dark chocolate covered nuts, granola, or pretzel chips. I chose these snacks because they’re “healthier” than potato chips, crackers, or other processed bars, but I realized I was actually gaining weight and not feeling satiety at all. When looking at the nutrition labels, I realized I was duped by words like “banana” and “dark chocolate”, because banana chips are seriously no better than potato chips, and that dark chocolate used on nuts includes a lot of oil and sugar. I should have known better, which teaches the important lesson that when you make your own food, you know what ingredients go into it, which is why I made my own on-the-go snacks which allowed me to customize the recipe to my liking. The protein bites were somewhat inspired by aussie bites, commercial protein bites most commonly sold in Costco. They’re very tasty but include some unfavorable ingredients like canola oil, butter, and refined sugar, and is low in all vitamins.

DSC01442

There isn’t too much to these protein bites except getting the proper consistency, reaching your desired sweetness, and adding your own desired ingredients. Personally, I like it to be less sweet and on the harder side, though some people enjoy a softer consistency. For recipe adjustments, I have included some suggestions:

Adjustment Solution
Softer Add 2-4 more dates OR add 1-2 tsp. more water OR add 3-4 tbsp. more date water
Sweeter Add 2-4 more dates OR  Add ¼ c. chocolate chips OR Add vegan sweetener

No Bake Protein Bites

yield: approx 16 squares (1.5″ x 1.5″ x 0.5″) OR 35 balls

Ingredients:

  • 12 pitted dates soaked in hot water (any kind works; I used Deglet Noor Dates because they’re cheaper)
  • 2 tbsp. hot date water
  • 1 1/4 c. uncooked old fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/4 c. chia seeds
  • 1/4 c. flax seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. nut butter or nut-free butter (I used a combination of almond and peanut butter)

Directions:

  1. Microwave 1 c. of water until boiling in a bowl and soak all the dates in for 5 min.
  2. In a food processor, put in all the ingredients except the hot date water and pulse for about 15 seconds. The mixture should come together and resemble very fine cookie crumbs. Add in the date water slowly, as needed, and pulse about 5 times until the mixture comes together.
  3. Form the mixture into bars or balls, and refrigerate. Refrigerating will help the bars/balls become more compact.
  4. Customize with dried fruits, chocolate chips, or nuts if desired.

Bars last in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks. I have included the nutrition facts below. I recommend eating bars as a snack or as a part of breakfast, but never as a whole meal. Bars are high in fiber, protein, and omega-3s.

 

 

Seaside in Winter: Aegean Sea

travel

Today, the sun made a rare occurrence in Turkey’s skies as it peeped behind grey, stratus clouds. Understandably, people set foot outside of their rooms, cameras around their necks and phones in one hand, eager to snap photos of the sun and sky, which resembled an orb against a painted sky. I happened to be staying at the Pine Bay Resort which was one of many resorts in the area on the coast of the Aegean Sea, decorated with swimming pools, beach chairs, cabanas, and bars next to its backyard beach area. Due to off-season, Pine Bay’s beach resembled a ghost town with sand covered in thick sheets of dried sea grass, trashed with plastic products, and home to stray cats and dogs who scoured through the bits and pieces on the beach to make a living. The scene was no paradise to the public, but it was paradise to me. I get to enjoy a private beach without paying thousands of dollars? Call it a dream.

6:01, my watch read. Approximately 25 more minutes until sunset as the sky made its way through the left side of the color spectrum and the thick, dark, yet clean waves washed up against the sand. The sounds of nothing but water traveled to my ears and I called out to the two stray dogs who were joyously chasing each other along the coastline. They were clearly best friends as they refused to leave each other’s side, and thankfully they accepted me as they elegantly sat next to me. One looked like a mixed golden retriever and the other was likely part-cocker spaniel along with many other breeds. They could have been dangerous, but I immediately gained their trust as they took me on an unforgettable adventure along the Aegean Sea which included climbing up an incompletely-built dock, finding unique items hidden in the beds of sea grass, and using wood bark as chew toys. Amongst the conglomeration of items on the beach, I found a message in a bottle, conch shells, and washed up jelly fish. At the moment, I wished to read the message in the bottle, but figured I would leave it for the next person who finds it. I was in too good of a mood to read a message that possibly could have been despondent. Besides, there was a big chance that I wouldn’t even be able to read the message.

dsc00839

Close up

The minutes were passing by as the sky transformed from shades of pink, purple, and blue ’til nothing but city lights miles away could not be seen anymore. When the daily evening prayer rang across the sea and cities, I knew it was time to head home. With the two dogs leading, I ran quickly, splashing sand onto my legs and allowing the sea’s wind to blow through my hair….

Traveling in Turkey: Ephesus

travel, winter

It is surreal to admit to myself that I am in Turkey- a country in the Middle East (Never thought I’d be here), a country in both Europe and Asia, and a country so full and rich of history that I find myself living in an AP World History textbook. History was never my strong subject, but visiting the places we learned of make me want to read so much more about it.

To begin, I am in Turkey in the Winter for a few reasons: I am more free than I am in the Summer, travelling to Turkey in Winter is cheaper since it is not prime season, and there are a lot less tourists here.. I try to avoid tourists as much as I can, and oh the irony for myself being a tourist! Yes, but I leave minimal trace behind and I keep to myself, watching the culture around me rather than chasing destination hot spots and snapping photos non-stop.

With constant blizzards and grey skies, I finally visited a place that was blessed with a cloudy blue sky and shining sun: Ephesus. In all honesty, not many people know of Ephesus because these ruins are overshadowed by the Acropolis of Athens or Rhodes. When people think of Turkey, “ruins” just don’t quite come in mind… mainly Hagia Sophia does. However, Ephesus is absolutely worth the drive. It lies in Southwest Turkey, about a 9 hr. drive from Istanbul, and is home to structures such as the Temple of Artemis and the Library of Celsus. The entire site is breathtaking and magnificent since many of the ruins remain intact, unlike the site of Troy (Troia), which is also in Turkey.

The overall view at Ephesus is overwhelming, and time is a factor to consider. I recommend reading into its main sites and figuring out which ones you would like to focus on. Ephesus Breeze gives a detailed summary of the site and what you may expect to see. It is important to note that there are many stray cats around the site. However, they will not bother you as long as you do the same.

There is an admission office outside or Ephesus where you may purchase admission tickets. As of January 2019, the admission fees are as followed:

  • Ephesus: 60 Turkish Lira
  • Basilica of St. John: 15 Turkish Lira
  • Museum of Ephesus: 15 Turkish Lira

I purchased the first ticket for 60 TL and was able to visit the majority of the sites. I did not feel the need to spend any additional money for the other sites as the most important locations like the library and the amphitheater were included in the Ephesus fee of 60 TL. The ticket looked like:

dsc01430-e1548050296298.jpg

Ephesus entrance ticket

In terms of transportation, rather than immediately driving South to Ephesus from Istanbul, I recommend planning a round trip around Turkey beginning in Istanbul and visiting Ephesus on the way back to Istanbul. A complete round trip of Turkey would include Istanbul to Ankara (can visit Ataturk Mausoleum), to Nevsehir (to visit Cappadocia), to Konya (visit Mevlana Museum), to Denizli (visit Pamukkale), to Ephesus in Selcuk, then to Turkey. A detailed map of a round trip or Turkey is shown below:

Image result for cappadocia in turkey map

However, if time does not permit for such a trip, I still highly recommend squeezing Ephesus into your trip for it is relatively close to Pamukkale, and you would be able to visit both places within a day.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Colorado National Monument (What to Know Before Going)

travel

Do NOT underestimate this gem based solely off of its name. Although not deemed a national park, Colorado National Monument is worth the drive West from Denver and has one of the cheapest entrance fees for parks in the Southwest at $15/vehicle or $25 for a 7 day pass.  However, I highly recommend purchasing the annual park pass for $80 which lasts for 1 year and allows you to visit any National Park Service- affiliated park in the U.S. It was a great investment and definitely worth the money.  Continuing on… The monument includes multiple hiking trails that differ in difficulty and bike trails as well. There are no bodies of water in the monument and is mainly for hiking, photography, and scenic driving.

For the 1 day visitor who simply wants a summary of the monument, a drive through would take 1-2 hours, and this includes stopping at the major impressive points and taking photos quickly. For those who want a more in-depth summary of the monument, it would take approximately 3.5-5 hours, and this includes stopping at every point, taking photos, and walking down to the photography points (which are at the most a 5 minute walk). There is only one path to drive through the monument although a couple stops may require divergence into a smaller road. There are two entrances into the monument, a West entrance and an East entrance. Those who are entering from Colorado would likely enter from the East and those who come from Utah are would likely enter from the West. As I entered from the East, I exited from the West and a complete drive through the monument would take you towards the town of Fruita and Highway 70 on the way to Utah. The drive to Arches National Park from the monument takes approximately 1.5 hours and the drive there is barren, with only miles or crude land, so I highly suggest getting a full tank of gas before going into Colorado National Monument and filling the car up with snacks and water. Using the restroom in the monument before heading out would be a smart move.

From personal experience, I highly recommend the following stops, as they are extremely breathtaking and worth the stop, but of course if time allows, all stops are worth the stop.

1.) Cold Shivers point: the first major point when entering from the East side. The spot is just as it sounds. It will give you the cold shivers due to its high elevation and massive drop below your feet that was carved out from rapid waters. Beautiful and daunting photography spot.

2.) Echo canyon at Upper Ute Canyon Overlook: This one stop is the most memorable and fun stop in the entire monument; it is also not written on the monument map or labelled anywhere so this is sort of a hidden gem. There is a mummy-like statue that lays on the opposite canyon walls, but beyond that, the walls have the best ability to echo your voices. It is surreal and enigmatic in a way because it truly does sound like your twin is thousands of feet away from you, repeating your words a couple seconds after. I spent about 10 min here, yelling at the walls. This is a must!

3.) Artists Point: A very photogenic spot due to its array of rock colors, hence the name. The vibrance of colors will depend on weather conditions of the day, and is most colorful to the human eye on a day when clouds partially cover the sun.

4.) Independent Monument View: Stop here to see an odd rock formation that looks as if it were carved by humans.

_DSC0204

side view of Independent monument

5.) Grand View: Why would you even skip this stop when the magnificence is IN ITS NAME? It’s Grand.. no further explanation needed.

Thus, these are my top 5 stops, but once you visit the monument, you, of course, will eventually come up with your own top list.

Additional spots:

_DSC0192

Ute Canyon

_DSC0223

Balanced Rock

 

 

Healthy Chewy Brownies (GF, Vegan, Low Fat)

food, healthy

Honestly, I’m just drooling over here because I made brownies that ARE HEALTHY and GLUTEN FREE??? How is that even possible? I mean fats and eggs make a brownie good; they give it texture. A plant based one honestly sounds unappealing. I honestly am very impressed with my experimentation because I have failed numerous times attempting to make healthy dessert. Somehow, this turned out to be a miracle and it somehow worked. My mind is blown and I want you all to try these brownies some time!!! I love chewy brownies, so I used my knowledge of food science to make the brownies quite chewy. The chewiness comes from the maple syrup used, and gives the brownies amazing texture.

 

The only downside to these brownies was that I did used granulated sugar. If I attempt making these with a non-refined sugar, I will post an updated recipe. I was hoping maybe dates could be use instead, but I have yet to test that out.


Healthy Chewy Brownies (GF, Vegan, Low Fat)

yield: 8 x 8 pan brownies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. oat flour (I used homemade; flour must be very fine)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cocoa powder
  • 1/3 c. + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup + 1 tbsp warm water mixed together
  • 2 tbsp flax meal + 1 tbsp water mixed together
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp chopped nuts (almonds OR walnuts) OPTIONAL
  • 2 tbsp dark chocolate chips OPTIONAL
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl. Whisk until combined, and then add the coffee powder. Whisk to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, add the granulated sugar, syrup and water mixture, flax and water mixture, and vanilla. Whisk to combine thoroughly.
  4. Pour the dry mixture into the wet bowl in 2 or 3 batches. Whisk gently but do not overmix the batter. Toss in the nuts and chocolate chips, if applicable, and stir in. _DSC0275
  5. Pour batter into a 8 x 8 baking pan and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until baked completely.
  6. Take the brownies out and cool for approximately 10 minutes. Dust with some espresso powder, sugar, or ganache and enjoy!

Shrimp Ravioli w/ 10 Minute Tomato Blender Sauce

food

Homemade pasta is quick and easy to make, and is seriously a game changer. Even without a pasta maker, one can simply make it utilizing a rolling pin and a few minutes of kneading! Keep in mind, pasta dough does not need nearly as much kneading as bread dough. Additionally, marinara sauce takes hours to cook, due to the necessary time needed to break down the fibers and sugars in the tomatoes. However, I have been testing for a quick tomato sauce and have found the perfect way to make homemade marinara sauce. It surely isn’t the same thing as stewed marinara sauce, but it is just as delicious, flavorful, and it’s difficult to even notice the difference. Now, let’s get down to the gist of it. The Ravioli dough can be found HERE and the shrimp filling and tomato blender sauce is down below:


Shrimp Ravioli

yield: 35-40 medium ravioli

ingredients:

ravioli filling:

  • 8 jumbo shrimp
  • 6 oz. ricotta
  • 1/4 c. packed frozen spinach (drained and water squeezed out)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp salt

NOTE: Garlic bread seasoning OR Italian seasoning mix + garlic powder can be substituted for garlic powder, oregano, parsley, and basil.

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and dollop 1 tsp of mix onto ravioli dough.
  2. Form the ravioli and allow it to set out at room temperature for 45 min. to dry.
  3. Once ravioli has been set out for 45 min, boil a pot of water with 1/2 tsp salt. When the water is boiling, throw in the ravioli and let them cook for approx. 6-8 min, or until dough becomes see through.
  4. Serve the ravioli fresh with a delicious pasta sauce! My 10 minute tomato blender pasta sauce is a savory sauce blasting full of flavor.

Tomato Blender Sauce

yield: 2 c. sauce

ingredients:

  • 4 roma tomatoes cut into chunks
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. In a blender, blend the tomatoes and basil leaves until smooth.
  2. In a pot, melt the butter and sautee the garlic until lightly browned. Add in the blender mixture, and allow it to simmer on low for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour in all the other ingredients and stir. Cover the pot with a lid and allow to simmer for an additional 4 minutes. Turn the heat off, and serve over the pasta or let the sauce sit in the pot, as it will thicken up.