Hungry Haley

it's more than food

Simple BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Entree, SandwichHaley Hansen1 Comment

These California-Style BBQ Chicken Sandwiches are the sandwiches - the sandwiches for the end of summer, the sandwiches for a quick weeknight dinner, the sandwiches to satisfy your craving for all things refreshing, juicy, BBQ-y, and delicious. They come together in less than an hour with fresh, tangy coleslaw, hearty whole-grain buns, creamy avocado, and juicy, sweet BBQ chicken. 

To articulate the last month of my life feels like I'd be assigning myself an entire book to write. And I'm not going to do that because 1) this is a blog and 2) I already am writing a (cook)book. I've been working full-time, if you add up the hours I spend at my actual job and the hours I spend working here and on the cookbook, and loving almost every minute. 

Simple BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

When I'm not working, I've been laughing harder than I have in as long as I can remember. I've been letting myself leave items on my to-do list uncrossed - some emails unopened, some laundry unfolded, some blog pictures unedited and some posts unfinished and even unstarted (which I realize is not an actual word) - in favor of the highest quality of quality time with the funniest of funny people. Grace and I grew surprisingly and naturally close with a local baseball team this summer and are still in awe of how they seemed to be our best friends in just four short weeks. 

Simple BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

I'm actually very proud of myself and I haven't been able to say that much in the last year. From forgetting about my "bedtime" a couple nights a week to stay up later with these friends, to learning how to play the drinking games that weren't a part of my college experience (and I hate beer, but I took the good with the bad), to letting a few days go by without answering a single email or even opening my laptop. 

My mind was rarely in blog-mode and it still isn't, but I'm rolling with that and figuring out if it means anything significant in terms of my pursuit of this blog. I love it here and I'm coming up on my fourth year of blogging, and everyday I'm learning more about it and myself. Thanks for coming along :) 

Makes 4 sandwiches 

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage (purple or green) 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey or agave
1 tsp. garlic powder
4 whole-grain hamburger buns
Optional: fresh spinach leaves

  1. Whisk together the mayo, apple cider vinegar, honey or agave, and garlic powder in a small bowl until combined. Toss this with the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl until well incorporated and refrigerate 30-60 minutes. 
  2. Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat and lay the chicken thighs in with about 2 inches between each piece. Cook about 5-6 minutes each side and remove from the skillet when done. I always check the middle of each piece by carefully and barely splitting it open with a knife - if it's pink or even pink-ish, it needs more cooking. 
  3. After the thighs have cooled, use your hands to tear them up into shreds, then toss them in a bowl with the barbecue sauce to coat. If you prefer to toast your buns, do so at this time. 
  4. Assemble the sandwiches - lay the spinach leaves (if using) on the bottom half of the bun, followed about a half cup of the barbecue chicken, then avocado, and finally the coleslaw and the top half of the bun. 
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Simple BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta (Vegan, GF)

Entree, GF, Pasta, VeganHaley HansenComment

This Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta makes plant-based eating easier and tastier than ever - just sweet potatoes, cashews, and your favorite pasta. Smooth and velvety, a little sweet and lotsa savory, the dish comes to life with nutrient-dense ingredients bursting with flavor and color!

Lately, Instagram feels like trying to find a treadmill at the gym at 5 PM. Blogging feels like resting on my couch in the comfort of my own home with a glass of kombucha next to me. Instagram feels like someone trying to get me to eat a bowl of mint-chip ice cream (which I don't enjoy) or a $12 salad I can make at home, while blogging feels like the chocolate-chip cookie I'd so much rather munch on, or the burger that tastes way better and costs half that price (and I can't master a burger... yet). Instagram feels like an hour-long hot yoga class, and blogging feels like the outdoor HIIT/sprint workout I look forward to every weekend. 

Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta (Vegan, GF)

What I love - l o v e - about Intuitive Eating is that its principles can gracefully make their way into other areas of life and help you learn to live more intuitively. A couple weeks ago, it helped me embrace HIIT workouts and weight training and spin classes, which I used to think I should only be doing every so often. I can do them as often as I'd like, as long I properly fuel my body and allow it the rest it needs, without any force to do (or not do) the exercise. Movement wants us to enjoy it, and those are the forms of movement that I enjoy most. 

Now, it's helping me understand what intuitive living feels like. Like Intuitive Eating, this involves both the body and the mind, and lets you - the Intuitive Living Being - decide what want to participate in each day. Do I want to exercise today? Most days, I can easily, happily, honestly answer "yes" and others I simply accept the "no" from my tired muscles and let them do what they need, be it rest or a walk or some stretching. Do I want to spend the next two hours testing a cookie recipe? As of late, the answer to that has been a big, fat "NO" because someone stole my baking abilities and ran far, far away with them (read: my cookies - for lack of better word - suck lately). 

Do I want to scroll through Instagram right now? Well, I want to catch up with my people, my community. The bloggers whom I've connected with via Instagram are the most joyful part of it all. The rest - the caption-creating, the picture-editing, the analytics-checking, the commenting, the liking - just stresses me out. Those are the pieces of the Instagram package that I wish I could dispose of and keep only the friends and the innocent picture sharing, which is probably what it was designed for in the first place, but, like, society happened and all that. 

A little ritual I practice now before eating and throughout my day is a simple check-in with my body. If I'm feeling hungry, I ask myself how hungry I feel, what sounds good, am I tired, what does my body need and what does it crave, etc. I began applying that ritual to Instagram usage and found that I don't even have hunger for it to begin with. My mouth usually waters for a burger or a cookie or - yes - a salad or a smoothie when I'm truly hungry, but my mouth never waters for Instagram anymore (it has never literally watered, so I hope you get the metaphor). 

Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta (Vegan, GF)

Likely, this is just a phase. I'll come back to Instagram someday. When, I cannot predict, but I don't see myself giving up on it. I just need a break, like I did after I spent four months busting out cookies and cakes and breads and donuts for the blog (hello, sweet tooth. I hope you've been satisfied). I need time for me - time to let my thoughts unravel how my mind does so naturally, without unnecessary influence. 

And let me tell you, this is some of the best me-time I've had in y e a r s. I love this blog with so much of my heart. SO MUCH. I love typing and I love cooking and I love creating ideas for posts in my head, even if it's during a workout when I should be focusing on keeping my knees over my ankles during squat jumps and tightening my core during planks and burpees. I love opening up. I love sharing my favorite recipes, which I hope become some of your favorites, too. 

Well, I'm out of breath for this post and it's long, so you're probably out of time and hungry for the recipe already. But, before I show it to you, I want to thank you for reading this today. Thank you for continuing to encourage me, whether you know you do so or not. Thank you for the portion of your day you've given to this blog, my happy place :)

Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta (Vegan, GF)

Makes 4 servings 

2.5 cups cubed sweet potato, peeled
1/2 cup cashews, soaked at least 4 hours
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup reserved pasta water
3 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. sea salt (adjust to taste)
8 oz. pasta shells (I love Banza)
Fresh basil, chopped, for garnish
Optional: torn and steamed kale leaves

  1. In a large pot, cover the peeled and cubed sweet potato with filtered water, bring to a boil, and cook for about 12-15 minutes. Pierce them with a fork to test tenderness, then remove from heat and drain when the fork pokes through completely. You want these to be very soft to allow for easy blending. Set aside to cool.
  2. In the same pot, bring water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. When straining pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of the water for the sauce. 
  3. Drain and rinse the soaked cashews. Set aside. 
  4. Use a high-powered blender or food-processor for the sauce. Blend or pulse on high the cooked sweet potato, soaked and drained cashews, nutritional yeast, tahini, and reserved pasta water until smooth*. Add the spices and blend again until combined. Transfer to an airtight container and set aside. 
  5. In a large mixing/serving bowl, stir together the pasta shells, steamed kale (if using) and sauce - you won't use all the sauce, but about half of it. Adjust the amount used as needed. Top with fresh chopped basil leaves and serve immediately. 
  6. Store leftovers of both pasta and sauce (it's good on everything else, too!) in an airtight container for up to one week. 
  7. Enjoy! 

*The blending time will vary depending on the strength of your blender/processor. Mine took about ten minutes total, and I use a Ninja blender

Later that afternoon, my legs begged for some movement so I took my bike out for a ride to the beach and I had no idea at the beauty that was to come and amaze me. A symphony of gorgeous greens hills, rainbows of blooming flowers, child-like chirping birds, seemingly sparkling blue skies, and the indescribable aroma of it all could've knocked me over in all its wonder.

Tempeh Pinto Bean Skillet Tacos (GF, Vegan option)

And wonder, I did, because I unexpectedly fell in love with spring (a season that used to feel to me like green-ish bananas - just "ehh") in that moment. Since then - a month ago - I've spent as many moments outside as I can, with and without my computer/studying materials. I walk to my 6 PM class with a bigger, heartier smile and sense of joy than I could've imagined possible. I wake up before the sunrises at 6:12-ish (but who's counting?) and anticipate it's appearance, eager for it's colorful arrival. 

What all of that had to with these tempeh tacos, I'm not totally sure. I mean, they certainly are a warm-weather friendly meal. Beyond that, though, they too just kind of happened, like how I fell in love with spring, in a way that took me so much by surprise I couldn't help but love them even more. The blog hasn't been the most encouraging thing for me in the past few weeks, so for this recipe to just work as well as it did felt (and tasted) like a million wins all in one skillet. 

Some notes on this recipe: 

  • I used tempeh because 1) it's less expensive than meat, 2) it's texture and flavor beat tofu (in my book), 3) it's fermented (read: gut-healthy!), and 4) it's SO easy to cook. If you'd prefer meat or tofu, go for it. The recipe is versatile enough for almost any preference!
  • You may need to add just a tablespoon or two of water or veggie stock to the pan when you add the tomato paste - it was a bit challenging to mix in because of how thick the paste is. I made it work though, so you can, too. 
  • I read somewhere that lightly rubbing your corn tortillas with just a splash of water before heating them over the stove helps keep them soft and pliable, and that worked well for me! 
Tempeh Pinto Bean Skillet Tacos (GF, Vegan option)

Oh, and happy (almost) Cinco de Mayo! Perhaps you'll find this recipe delicious and simple enough to bring to your celebration this weekend :) 

Makes 3 servings (3-ish tacos)

1 15-oz. can pinto beans
1 8 oz. block tempeh, roughly crumbled into bite-size chunks
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tbsp. oil (I prefer grapeseed or avocado oil for high-heat cooking)
1 tsp. cumin
1-2 tsp. ancho chili powder (I used the Simply Organic brand)*
salt and pepper, to taste
3-6 corn tortillas (3 large or 6 small)
Mixed greens
For serving: crumbled feta (omit if vegan), fresh cilantro, avocado, diced red onion

  1. Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet** over medium heat and coat with 2 tbsp. oil. Let this heat up for 1-2 minutes, and then add the red onion, bell pepper, and garlic cloves. Cover and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste and spices until incorporated. Add the pinto beans and tempeh crumbles and stir again. Cover and cook 5-7 minutes, or until the tempeh has a light char on the edges. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  3. Heat the tortillas by rubbing a light coat of water on each side and laying them in a pan until soft and warm. Serve alongside the tempeh pinto bean skillet and mixed greens, and any additional toppings: crumbled feta, fresh cilantro, and diced red onion. 
  4. Enjoy! 

*If you don't have or can't find ancho chili powder, cayenne or paprika will work. Use 1 tsp. if you're sensitive to spice, 2 tsp. if you like spice. 
**I used a 10-inch Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet for this and it worked so well! Be sure to coat it with oil while heating it to prevent any sticking. 


Pesto Pasta Salad (GF, Dairy-free)

Entree, GF, Lunch, Pasta, Salad, VegetarianHaley Hansen1 Comment

A Pesto Pasta Salad that is creamy and bursting with vibrant flavors - this dish comes to life with fresh basil, hearty pasta, and a healthier mayo-infused pesto sauce. It's ideal for warm-weather picnics, meal-prep lunches, and any other craving for a quick, refreshing, and delicious pasta salad. 

Ready for some life updates? I hope so, because nothing else excitingly news-worthy or funny or highly deserving of mentioning here is coming to mind. Talking about myself doesn't come easily and I don't like to do it often, but I do need to remind myself every so often that this is my own space and occasional sharing about my life is not selfish. Right? 

First life update: I conquered the absolute most challenging quarter of my four-and-a-half years in school! By the end of the 11 weeks, I'd completed 17 units, 15 quizzes, 13 midterms, 7 finals, 4 groups projects, and 1 essay. Don't ask about my social life because it didn't exist. I survived because I knew before the quarter began that it was going to be extremely difficult. I struggled because I simply could not find the desire to pray about it, to read my Bible, to worship in church on Sundays (or even go to church, for that matter). Not seeking God, for a combination of complex reasons, made the anatomy midterms and the metabolism lab reports seem like a piece of cake. 

Second life update: I finally found the desire to seek God again. Be it the far less stressful load this quarter, the understanding that life is indescribably tough without a relationship with Him, or a combination of the two, I'm not sure. I'm just thankful that when I wake up in the morning and bring my bible downstairs to read it while I drink my coffee, I actually do read it instead of just stare at it.  

Third life update:  my parents moved from the house in SoCal in which we've spent the last 15 years to a new house in Minnesota. And this happened, like, three days ago, so we're still processing the fact that the pages of our family's book have actually turned for good and it's time to let God starting writing the new chapter for us. Saying goodbye - both to the house and to the friends we've made in California that feel like family - was, by a landslide, the hardest part. Granted, I didn't take part in any of the logistics of the whole process - the signing of various papers, talking with the realtor, etc. My parents have been ready to move for a while, as SoCal became too expensive, too crowded, and too far removed from our family for just the two of them to handle (my brother and I both love elsewhere). So, here's to beginning the new chapter! 

Pesto Pasta Salad (GF, Dairy-free)

Fourth life update: In just under two months, most of my best friends will graduate from Cal Poly and prepare to move back home, to grad school, or wherever a job is waiting for them. Excited for their futures and proud of them, you bet I am. Nervously anticipating the day they all leave, you bet I am. But we aren't going to think about that yet! Instead, we're going to be thankful my class load this quarter allows me to actually spend time with them and be present in each moment, be it watching movies and giggling about dumb jokes on Friday nights or wine tasting on weekend afternoons. Gosh, I love them. 

And that's all I've got for life updates at the moment. I hope you found them interesting! Thanks for reading along :) 

Pesto Pasta Salad (GF, Dairy-free)

PS this is, by a long-shot, the best pasta salad I have e v e r made. The six servings lasted me maybe three days. Just sayin'. 

Makes 6 servings (with extra pesto) 

For the pesto: 
4 cups fresh basil leaves, torn and stems removed
1/4 cup walnuts
3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tbsp. oil (grapeseed, avocado, or olive work best) 
1 shallot, diced
2 garlic cloves
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the pasta: 
8 oz. pasta (I used Banza
3/4 cup mayo (I love the Primal Kitchen brand)
1/2 cup pesto
2 cups kale, washed and trimmed
2 cup finely sliced red cabbage
1 tbsp. oil
mixed greens, for serving (optional)

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Strain and cool. If using Banza pasta, I recommend also rinsing with cool water to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the pesto while the pasta cools by pulsing the ingredients in a food processor until the basil leaves are finely chopped and the nuts are almost a finely ground consistency. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. 
  3. In a large mixing bowl (I used a huge casserole dish - whatever works), massage the kale leaves with 1 tbsp. oil to soften them. They will turn a beautiful, vibrant green color and tenderize, which is much easier for digestion. Add the chopped cabbage and pasta and stir to combine.
  4. In the bowl with the pesto, stir in the mayo until well incorporated and then add this to the mixing bowl with the pasta and veggies. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to mix the pesto aioli (mayo + pesto = pesto aioli) in with the pasta and veggies until everything is coated with the aioli. 
  5. Serve with mixed greens and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. 
  6. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!
    Pesto Pasta Salad (GF, Dairy-free)

    Cauliflower Quinoa Tots (GF, Dairy-free)

    Appetizer, GF, VegetarianHaley Hansen1 Comment

    These Cauliflower Quinoa Tots are calling all snack-lovers, appetizer-fanatics, and hors-de-vours-addicts. A healthier alternative to the traditional fried tater tot, these tots are packed with packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, AND tons of flavor. Nothing to miss out on here! Bring these to game-day gatherings and dinner parties, and guests of all ages will love them.

    What if I didn’t include a recipe for this? Like, no ingredients list, no measurements, no instructions, no notes. If I just handed you a bag of cauliflower and quinoa and spices, what would you do? Because sometimes life hands you lemons and sugar and a pitcher and you make lemonade. But sometimes life hands you a bag of ingredients like cauliflower processed into “rice” and quinoa and nutritional yeast and you’re like, “Yeah, okay. Cool.”

    Cauliflower Quinoa Tots (GF)

    To say that this post is long overdue sounds like I am obligated to post everything about my life and my thoughts and my struggles on this blog, which is not true, technically, because I do want to share things here. Name one blogger who doesn’t want to share (recipes, ideas, thoughts, pictures, his/her story, etc.). Exactly.

    Seriously though, what would you do if I handed you a bag of ingredients you had no idea what to do with? Because – could you guess? – that’s what life is doing to me right now. The ingredients its handing me are ones I’ve worked with before, so often in fact that motivation to cook up a tasty, unique dish is diminishing as we speak.

    Instead of cauliflower, I have in my hands feelings I’m so tired of, but don’t know what to do with. Instead of quinoa, I have a lack of motivation to open my Bible for the umpteenth day in a row. And instead of nutritional yeast and spices, I have sprinkles of this and handles of that which don’t feel like much independently, but dang do they add up. Instead of a recipe, I have my own head to sort through a jumble of thoughts and emotions. 

    This isn’t me complaining to you about all that is going on and I sincerely hope it doesn’t feel that way as you read this – please tell me you’ve gotten this far. This is me reminding both of us that accepting and embracing the lack of a recipe is sometimes all we can do. I’ve been deterred from sharing this – though it’s been on my mind for months now – because it’s the first time in a long time I haven’t figured something out before sharing it in this space (which I need to caution myself frequently that people actually read now and it isn’t just my thoughts + me escaping the world).

    This is me using my lack of understanding and knowledge to encourage both of us because not always will the answer present itself conveniently or quickly to us. This is me letting you know that I’m a human behind this screen and I make mistakes, I confuse myself, and I don’t have life wrapped around my finger. I cry sometimes, too (read: I cry a lot… sometimes).

    This is me reminding both of us that there is someone bigger than us working on life for us, and even when it feels and smells like a pile of squishy yellow quinoa-cauliflower-ness, that God (that "someone") can make life turn out pretty damn tasty if we just keep moving forward and trusting.

    Cauliflower Quinoa Tots (GF)

    Makes about 16 tots

    1 1/2 cups cauliflower rice
    1 cup cooked quinoa
    1/2 cup almond meal
    1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 eggs
    2 tbsp. tahini
    1 tsp. mustard
    3/4 tsp. cumin
    1/2 tsp. paprika
    Salt and pepper, to taste
     1/4 cup chopped parsley
    Optional: ketchup for serving (I love Tessemae's

    1. Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
    2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg, tahini, and mustard. Add the cauliflower rice, cooked quinoa, and almond meal, and stir to coat in the wet egg mixture. 
    3. Next, stir in the nutritional yeast, spices, and parsley. Scoop golfball-size portions and roll into an egg shape. Distribute these on the pan - it should make about 16, but will vary depending on the size of each. 
    4. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. Remove from oven and cool slightly. 
    5. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!
    Cauliflower Quinoa Tots (GF)

    Turkey Burgers with Tahini Dressing and Grilled Bread

    EntreeHaley HansenComment

    This twist on traditional turkey burgers brings fresh zucchini into the mix, along with a side of hearty grilled bread and a drizzle of creamy tahini dressing. Fire up your grills - these are simple and delicious, to leave you with plenty of time for friends and family, and plenty of deliciousness for everyone to enjoy!

    A round of turkey burgers disappears faster than a batch of cookies in my kitchen, I guess. Yeah, even if it's just me eating. 

    turkey burgers zucchini.jpg

    What is it, though, about grilling burgers that elicits this otherwise unfamiliar masculine feeling? Is it the thick patty of meat I'm handling (lol)? Is it the idea of grilling said meat patty? Orrrrr... is it ironically the fact that I'm avoiding the task of learning how to operate the grill conveniently placed outside my apartment in favor of cooking in my vast-iron skillet? 

    The skillet, might I add, is my preferred method not because it's my only method (haha) but because 1) I adore that black hunk of pure power and 2) it's cooking abilities are endless, so why NOT use it to make the best burgers I've ever made?? Oh, and the bread, but we'll get there soon. Patience. 

    Turkey Burgers with Tahini Dressing and Grilled Bread

    I tested these when I was with my parents during my spring break because they lovvvvve turkey burgers and they also lovvvvve when I make them dinner, so I did. Dad walked in while I was working everything together (the turkey meat, spices, almond meal, zucchini, etc) together with my hands and wanted to make sure I didn't "over-work" the meat. Girls, just imagine that coming out of your Dad's mouth. Take a second to giggle, then erase it from memory. Anyway, the first round was "ehh" - could have used more flavor and a little more binding to yield a thicker burger, in my opinion. 

    Two days later, I headed back up to school, so I can only hope my parents ate the leftovers (I would've, regardless of taste - no food will be wasted).  

    Since burgers are relatively straight-forward if you've made them a few times before, modifications were simple and easy to execute. My next item to tackle was the bun situation. Buying a pack of twelve hamburger buns for myself for one recipe seemed like too much. I love buns (big buns, and I cannot lie) and I rarely ask for burgers "protein style" when I'm eating out, but when it's just me... again, "ehh". 

    Turkey Burgers with Tahini Dressing and Grilled Bread

    After a little back-and-forth between investing in the buns and not, the bakery - THE bakery - down the street (which sounds so clichè and I'm okay with that) conveniently popped into mind, with their fluffy, hearty, baked-fresh-daily loaves and all. 

    Skillet. Butter. Bread.  

    Grilled bread.  

    Turkey Burgers with Tahini Dressing and Grilled Bread

    And that's how it happened. And that's how it probably always will happen. As the thick slice of hearty 6-grain bread crisped up in the skillet, I glanced at the toaster resting on the counter beside the stove and chuckled. No need for you, you broken little toaster (only one side works, which doubles the time required for the simplest meal of all-time).  

    Now for the tahini - I used it because I have two jars on hand. If you don't, that's okay. I personally think the modern-day home-cook should always have some tahini in the pantry, so either take 10 minutes for a quick trip to the grocery store because tahini. is. worth. it. or sub another dressing, sauce, condiment, etc. I didn't add cheese because I didn't have any, but I probably would've if I did, so make your choice there based on what's available to you. 

    If this looks like a simple meal, then I've achieved my goal for this recipe. Warmer weather, the smell of blooming flowers and (finally) green hills, and longer days (plus, the thought of just 10 weeks between me + the end of the school year) are all bringing about a longing for summer, and that's what this meal represents to me. My parents and I love grilling and keeping dinner simple, most of the time at least. Veggies + starch + protein - each boasting its own unique flavor, yet all three working in harmony to satisfy whatever it is we crave.  

    Turkey Burgers with Tahini Dressing and Grilled Bread

    Keep it this simple, or elevate it to your liking with more spices, different vegetables/mixes of greens, an actual burger bun (but still grill it/skillet it because that step is a must), or what have you.  

    Either way, get in the kitchen and enjoy yourself. 

    Makes 6 burgers

    for the burgers:
    1 lb. ground turkey (85% lean)
    1 medium zucchini, shredded
    1 shallot, finely chopped
    3 garlic cloves
    1/3 cup almond meal*
    1 tsp. cumin
    1/2 tsp. paprika
    A pinch each of sea salt and pepper for each patty
    Fresh cilantro, chopped
    Mixed greens
    Red onion, thinly sliced
    6 slices whole-grain bread
    Oil, for the skillet

    for the tahini dressing:
    1/4-1/3 cup tahini**
    2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
    1-2 tbsp. warm filtered water
    2 tsp. garlic powder
    A pinch of sea salt, to taste

    1. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the shredded zucchini, shallot, garlic, almond meal, and spices (not the salt and pepper). Add the ground turkey and mix with your hands until just combined (as Dad says, "don't over-work the meat"). 
    2. Form into 6 balls just larger than a golfball and flatten each into a patty so that the inside is slightly thinner than the edges to ensure even cooking throughout. Cover and refrigerate 30-60 minutes. 
    3. Prepare the tahini dressing while waiting by whisking all the ingredients together in a jar or small glass bowl. Set aside. 
    4. Heat a large cast-iron skillet (nonstick skillet or grill will also work) over medium heat and coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper just before placing them in the skillet to cook. Place 2-3 patties in the skillet at a time and cook 4-5 minutes on one side, then flip and cook 4-5 minutes on the other. Remove from heat and set aside. 
    5. If needed, add a touch more oil to the skillet and place 2-3 slices of whole-grain bread in the skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, but keep an eye on it because cook times will vary depending on the thickness of the slice and how crispy you'd like it. Remove from heat when finished. 
    6. Assemble the plates by creating a bed of mixed greens, and then adding red onion, a slice of bread and a turkey burger to each. Drizzle with tahini dressing, and sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes and fresh chopped cilantro on top. Serve immediately. 
    7. Enjoy!

    * If you want a thinner dressing, use 1/4 cup. For a thicker dressing, use 1/3 cup. 
    ** I used leftover almond meal from earlier in the week when I made homemade almond milk, so mine was less finely ground than the typical store-bought version. The difference could alter the result a bit, so keep this in mind while making the burgers. If the meat mixture feels too sticky and wet, add a bit more almond meal until patties form neatly.

    Turkey Burgers with Tahini Dressing and Grilled Bread

    Red Pepper and Spinach Chilaquiles (GF option)

    Entree, VegetarianHaley Hansen2 Comments

    These Red Pepper and Spinach Chilaquiles are a healthier take on the traditional Mexican dish. Homemade corn tortilla chips along with tons of veggies makes for a nutritious AND satisfying meal - breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 

    Say "chilaquiles" without feeling an insurmountable urge to smile and shake yo booty. Do it. I dare you. (bet you can't). 

    Red Pepper and Spinach Chilaquiles (GF option)

    My first forkful of chilaquiles was a from a diner-sized plate from none other than a local diner itself. I guess you can order chilaquiles for lunch - at the time, I didn't know what they were, but the menu description of this breakfast-nacho-esque dish made my brain go mushy thinking about how delicious it sounded. Thankfully, the waitress kindly accepted my order and didn't give chilaquiles (normally a breakfast dish) a second thought. 

    I, however, have given them a million second thoughts since the first bite. A couple months later, while my close friends and I vacationed in Tahoe for a couple days last December, two of them cooked some authentic-to-the-bone (or to the refried bean?) chilaquiles for us all for brunch, and again, my breath was taken and my stomach was at a loss for words. From that moment on, I knew I needed to make these myself. 

    Red Pepper and Spinach Chilaquiles (GF option)

    But, as with most recipes I find/enjoy/want to recreate, I can't just leave them as they are. They must be tweaked and messed with and recreated to nestle themselves nicely into my blog. Duh. 

    Okay, so round three of chilaquiles is this recipe, and it wasn't planned. The Sunday before finals week should not allow time for recipe experimentation, right? Wrong. Very wrong. When a recipe I had originally planned to post this week pooped out on me, I panicked for, like, half a second. Then, the thought of warm, saucy, cheesy, lightly spicy chilaquiles tapped me on the shoulder and hugged me before I could even begin to stress out more than I already had all day over the mechanism of selenium metabolism. 

    Just an hour later - my apron tied around my waist and tastebuds geared up for the tastiness to come - chilaquiles were going down in my kitchen and I felt more excited than I had in weeks. A lot of my thoughts throughout the cooking process specifically, as opposed to baking, are mostly hesitant questions about whether or not I should chop this vegetable like that or add this ingredient now or later, and so on. I kinda' like that. It keeps thing excitingly creative and spur-of-the-moment, two qualities I haven't applied to many other areas of life in the past couple months as I've been too far buried in muscle anatomy and foodservice management strategies. I digress. 

    At the end of it all, my third ever dish of chilaquiles - also my very own excitingly creative and spur-of-the-moment version - brought about a smile and booty-shaking I needed, but didn't know I needed until I felt it. Tasted it. Loved every bite and every component and every minute I subtracted from other items on my to-do list to dedicate to chila-friggin-quiles. 

    Red Pepper and Spinach Chilaquiles (GF option)

    I hope you dedicate some time to these chila-friggin-quiles in the near future.

    Makes 3-4 servings

    8-10 corn tortillas*
    2 tbsp. oil
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    1 small red onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 15-oz. can enchilada sauce (or homemade)
    2 cups fresh spinach
    2-3 organic eggs
    1/3 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese
    1 avocado, thinly sliced
    1-2 radishes, washed and thinly sliced
    1 handful fresh cilantro
    Optional: thinly sliced jalapenos

    1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the corn tortillas into triangles (one tortilla will make about 6 triangles) and toss on a baking sheet with 1 tbsp. oil to coat. Spread them out in an even layer and bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn the oven temperature up to 450F. 
    2. Heat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet (the latter is my new bff, so I recommend making the investment if you haven't yet) over medium heat and coat with remaining 1 tbsp. oil. Add bell pepper, onion, and garlic and cook until tender and lightly charred. You may need to cover for a minute or two to allow them to steam just a bit. 
    3. Once the veggies have cooked, stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted. Pour in half of the enchilada sauce and half of the baked tortillas, and stir to combine. Continue adding enchilada sauce and baked tortillas and stirring until all is in the skillet. 
    4. Use a large spoon or spatula to gently make little holes in the veggie-tortilla mixture and crack an egg in each (make as many holes as you have eggs). Bake at 450F for 8-10 minutes, or until the whites become almost firm. Remove from oven and cool slightly. 
    5. Top with cheese, sliced avocado, radishes, cilantro and jalapenos (if using). Serve immediately and store any leftovers in an airtight container. 
    6. Enjoy!

    Adapted from here.

    * For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free corn or flour tortillas. 

    Red Pepper and Spinach Chilaquiles (GF option)

    Ham and Chive Cream Cheese Sandwich

    Entree, LunchHaley HansenComment

    The classic childhood favorite - ham and cheese sandwich - gets a flavor-packed upgrade here. An easy-to-whip-up Chive Cream Cheese adds depth and richness to slightly sweet ham, stacked between thick-sliced whole-grain bread. Ideal for weekday lunches, no matter your age! 

    The downhill slide off a sugar-rush never tasted so delicious. 

    And by sugar-rush, I mean the four-month-long baking spree during which chocolate-chunk bread pudding and salted caramel brownies and sweet buttery coffee cake (oh my!)  became staples. My sweet tooth is undefeatable - then again, I haven't actually tried too hard to defeat it in a while, nor do I foresee such an attempt anytime soon... ever. 

    I cannot identify from where the inspiration for this sandwich came, other than the herb cream cheese spread of which I was sneaking (shamelessly so) spoonfuls into my mouth while assembling everything needed for this shoot. For a friend's birthday dinner party a few weeks ago, I was told to bring an appetizer, side, or dessert. Knowing the other guests would expect me to bring a decadent dessert, I tossed back and forth between cookies and brownies. Then, I somehow landed on buffalo cauliflower wins. Thennnnn, I ended up on zucchini fries. And finally, I brainstormed a recipe that requires not a single minute on the stove or in the oven (because I remembered the amount of midterms and quizzes I should actually have been studying for) - mini sweet peppers with herb cream cheese spread. 

    Ham and Herb Cream Cheese Sandwich

    The cream cheese is here and needs no explanation because it's cream cheese and it's unbeatable. The Greek yogurt is here because cream cheese is thicker than the gyri of the sheep brain I dissected in anatomy a few weeks ago (sorry if that was TMI) and needs a thinner, lighter complement. Plus, protein and healthy bacteria practically define Greek yogurt. And I love nutrition like I love my morning cup of coffee - can't live without it. 

    My spur-of-the-moment peppers fit right in with store-bought hummus and veggie trays and cheese, sausage, and cracker plates. Immediately I felt thankful for the midterms and quizzes that steered me away from spending more time on buffalo cauliflower.

    Ham and Herb Cream Cheese Sandwich

    For the next week, I dipped crisp sticks of celery and fresh mini sweet peppers into leftover herb cream cheese and could not - could n o t - wait for the minute I got my hands on the best whole-grain sourdough and deli sliced ham for a sandwich with a not-for-the-faint-of-heart helping of this herb cream cheese. 

    Again, I cannot identify from where this inspiration came, and with it a craving for more savory things here. But, I won't spend too much time digging for that answer. Instead, I'll chase the craving as per usual and see deliciousness I can conjure up.

    Makes 1 sandwich 

    For the sandwich:
    2 slices whole-grain bread
    2-3 oz. thinly sliced sliced ham
    1 cup spinach leaves

    For the herb cream cheese:
    8-oz. block of cream cheese, softened
    1/3 cup greek yogurt
    1 handful chopped chives
    salt and pepper, to taste

    1. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, yogurt, chives, and salt and pepper until smooth and fluffy. Set aside. 
    2. Toast the bread (if desired) and spread a spoonful of chive cream cheese on each slice. Top with spinach leaves, then sliced ham, and the other slice of bread. 
    3. Serve immediately and enjoy!
    Ham and Herb Cream Cheese Sandwich

    Sheet-Pan Chicken, Chickpeas, and Veggies

    Entree, GFHaley Hansen1 Comment

    If your weeknight dinner routine needs an exciting and tasty, yet simple and quick recipe, this Sheet-Pan Chicken, Chickpeas, and Veggies recipe is exactly that. In less than 40 minutes and with only a few dishes needed, a satisfying, healthy dinner for the whole family is served. Crispy chickpeas, seasonal veggies, and juicy chicken thighs come together to make a weeknight meal taste gourmet. 

    Weeknight dinners haven't, until now, meant much more to me than weekend-night dinners. What's so special or different about cooking on a Tuesday versus cooking on a Saturday? I've always wondered. 

    Then, 17 of quite possibly my most mentally challenging college units stepped in and answered that question in a jiffy. I now understand the feeling of coming home after 8 hours spent on campus - most of those in class, the remainder spent in the library (a horrible study location I'm attempting to force myself to love) - and wanting a simple, quick dinner that doesn't require more brain energy. Lately, even roasted sweet potatoes sound a bit more than my brain can handle. Oh, and I'm impatiently hungry at 5:30 PM nowadays. With a bedtime of 10 PM at the latest, I've adjusted to what seems like such an early dinner-time. 

    Sheet-Pan Chicken, Chickpeas, and Veggies

    This sheet-pan recipe represents not only my version of a sort of weeknight meal-prep (because leftovers are almost always present when cooking for one), but also a head-over-heels-in-love marriage between the two foods groups to which I owe most of my GPA: plants and protein. I know, plants have protein, but I like a little more. 

    Complex diagrams of iron's transport through the digestive system and absorption into the body, long lists of brain regions and spinal nerves and sheep eyeball components, and studies on studies on studies of chromosomal inheritance patterns and blah blah blah (genetics is my least favorite class and I will never understand why I'm required to study it at such an in-depth level) use up all of my brain's glucose stores by the end of the day. Like, ALL. No survivors left behind to get creative in the kitchen for dinner. Heck, by the time Saturday comes around, I'm still replenishing my stores to be able to sit here and write this. 

    So, if my stories a) aren't interesting and/or b) don't tie together at the end, you know why. 

    Here, let me try to grab your attention again. These are some fun facts I retained from my classes this week! DID YOU KNOW: 

    1. that it's possible for a chromosomal male to develop into a phenotypic (in other words - physically appearing) female? I didn't. 
    2. that humans tend to have more sensory receptors on the face than on the leg or forearm? I didn't.
    3. that rats, unlike humans, produce a specific gene in their intestines that makes them less susceptible to cardiovascular issues than humans? I didn't. 

    Okay okay, here's the recipe.

    Sheet-Pan Chicken, Chickpeas, and Veggies

    Makes 4-5 servings 

    1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed and lightly patted dry
    ~1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    2 small bunches of broccoli, chopped into florets
    1 medium red onion, diced into 1" pieces
    2 tbsp. oil (I prefer avocado or grapeseed for high-heat cooking) 
    1 tsp. ground cumin, plus extra for the chicken
    1 tsp. garlic powder, plus extra for the chicken
    3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, plus extra for the chicken
    Sea salt, to taste
    Fresh parsley, for garnish

    1. Preheat the oven to 425F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 
    2. In a medium-size bowl, toss the chickpeas with 1 tbsp. oil and 1/2 tsp. each of cumin and garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper. Add a pinch of sea salt and toss to coat. 
    3. Spread the chickpeas in an even layer on the baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes, stirring once halfway through. 
    4. While the chickpeas cook, toss the chopped broccoli and onion in the bowl with 1 tbsp. oil and 1/2 tsp. each of cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Add a pinch of sea salt and toss to coat.
    5. When the chickpeas are done, distribute the broccoli and onion evenly amongst the chickpeas and bake again for 10-12 minutes. 
    6. While the veggies and chickpeas cook, prepare the chicken. Lay the thighs (or breasts) flat on a cutting board and simply lightly sprinkle a bit of each spice (cumin, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and sea salt) over the top of each thigh or breast. 
    7. When the veggies and chickpeas are done, lay the chicken over the top, spreading each thigh or breast about 2-3 inches from one another. Bake for another 12-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. You can turn the oven on to broil for 1-2 minutes at the end, if desired, for an extra crisp. 
    8. Remove from oven and serve immediately with fresh parsley. 
    9. Enjoy!
    Sheet-Pan Chicken, Chickpeas, and Veggies

    Cauliflower Skillet with Avocado Cashew Crema (Vegan, GF)

    GF, Appetizer, VeganHaley Hansen2 Comments

    Skillet-roasted cauliflower topped with an Avocado Cashew Crema - what could be better? Cauliflower tenderizes and crisps up in the cast-iron skillet, and the creamy avocado cashew sauce adds a flavor and texture dimension that perfectly compliments it. This simple veggie dish is delicious on its own, or served alongside an entree any time of year. 

    When it comes to savory recipes, I try. I really really try. Like, I aspire to have Kate's simplicity and Andrea's creativity. My parents - or "Santa", should I say? - bought me several cookbooks for Christmas (thanks, guys!), which I piled atop the several more I've purchased for myself as "rewards" for a) studying hard for an exam and/or b) earning a high score on that exam (it's more often the first than the second). My new favorite night-time relaxation activity is just to plop myself on the couch with two or three of these in front of me and flip through page after page after page, turning into a sponge to absorb anything and everything I can.

    Cauliflower Skillet with Avocado Cashew Crema

    On other nights, when I realize I haven't quite taken more than four or five steps out the door at all that day, Barnes and Noble is where it's AT, people. More often than not, I'm in my pajamas/comfy clothes by this time and in no way motivated enough to change into something I feel like I should wear out of the house. But pajamas/comfy clothes make sitting on the floor in Barnes and Noble reading through books like Brunch at Bobby's and Nutritious Delicious that much better. I know, my Friday nights as a college student are c r a z y. 

    Cauliflower Skillet with Avocado Cashew Crema

    Point of the story: I TRY to create dinner recipes and lunch recipes and appetizer recipes because I love eating those just as much as I love eating cookies and brownies and cake (more or less). But I am not good at it, guys. I close whatever book it is I'm reading to give myself a minute for the creative juices to flow, but my mind doesn't have many savory-recipe-juices to flow. If that makes any sense/doesn't sound weird. 

    If there's a how-to method for this kind of thing, please point me in its direction. I'll pay you in cookies. 

    Coming to this realization is simultaneously opening my eyes to the "niche" for which I'd been searching for what feels like five-ever. Mostly sweet baked goods: breakfast items and dessert items made with nutrient-dense ingredients AND soul-satisfying ones. And then a few savory things (for when the cookies and coffee cakes overwhelm): some simple black bean burgers and my favorite roasted sweet potato wedges

    Nights spent reading through cookbooks will continue, whether or not they help me expand my savory cooking skills. Yeah, I like the sound of that :) 

    Tell me, what's YOUR favorite Friday night relaxation activity? What's YOUR favorite veggie side dish? Leave a comment below!

    Makes 2-3 servings

    For the cauliflower:
    1/2 large cauliflower head, cut into florets
    1 tbsp. oil (I recommend avocado or grapeseed oil for high-heat cooking) 
    a pinch of salt and pepper
    Avocado Cashew Crema
    Crushed red pepper flakes, for garnish (optional)

    1. Preheat oven to 425F and place cast-iron skillet on the middle rack in the oven. 
    2. Toss cauliflower florets in the oil with salt and pepper. Spread over the skillet in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack. 
    3. Stir the florets around in the skillet and bake for another 10-15 on the top rack in the oven. 
    4. If the florets aren't browning by now, broil them on high for 2-3 minutes. Keep a close eye on them because they can burn quickly! Remove from oven and cool slightly. 
    5. Prepare the Avocado Cashew Crema while the cauliflower cools. Drizzle over the top of the cauliflower and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. 
    6. Serve immediately and enjoy!
    Cauliflower Skillet with Avocado Cashew Crema

    Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Quiche

    Haley HansenComment

    Sweet and savory butternut squash plus bright, vibrant kale combine in a one-dish recipe for quiche to make breakfasts, lunches, and dinners simple and tasty. Serve your guests for a brunch gathering, and they'll beg for the recipe. Prep this dish for weekly meals, and you'll take meal-prep to a whole new level.

    Homemade whole-wheat pie crust looms over me like the anatomy and physiology series in my nutrition curriculum at Cal Poly. Pie crust tastes better, though. Still, both are intimidating feats I know I'll need to conquer sooner rather than later. Today, I chose the pie crust, and in a month, I'll take the first step in conquering anatomy and physiology. Baby steps, people. Baby steps. 

    Each time I've needed a pie crust for whatever reason in the past few years, I've relied on a pre-made whole-wheat one from Sprout's. That, however, was when I lived with my parents who live near a Sprout's. I do not. Whole Foods is my alternative up here in SLO, and therefore my store of choice this morning when I went out on the hunt for quiche necessities. If you've been to both, you know they share similarities in terms of products, so it seemed justifiable to me to assume that I'd be able to find this pre-made whole-wheat pie crust at Whole Foods. 

    Wrong. I scanned the freezer section for this pie crust and found nothing. My stubbornness didn't let me just grab the traditional pie crust - I love deep, nutty flavor of whole-wheat flour. My eyes went from the two pie crusts to the bag of whole-wheat flour and stick of butter already in my basket and back. How hard can a homemade pie crust really be? 

    Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Quiche

    Six seconds of contemplation passed before I told myself to suck. it. up. and make the crust at home. Plus, I feel like my grandma will be dang proud of me (mostly because I'm using butter instead of coconut oil). 

    I pulled the recipe up on my computer immediately upon walking into my kitchen - only four ingredients required! Dude, you totally got this. Sift the flour, cube the butter, drizzle the ice water over the top, and mix. Mix a lot. Oh, and you will get dough underneath your fingernails. Embrace it! Once the dough comes together, halve it, wrap both in plastic and refrigerate. 

    Here comes the arm workout I wasn't expecting. After flouring my kitchen counter (do it, otherwise your dough will stick), I whipped out my rolling pin - a shiny marble one I'm way too in love with - and got rollin'. The edges split apart a bit, so be ready for that, but don't let it freak you out. Pie crust are supposed to be flaky and kind of crumbly, right? Hence, the cubed butter. Keep pressing the edges together and rolling, and pressing the edges back together and rolling again until you've got a somewhat round circle about the circumference of your pie pan. Carefully - I repeat, carefully - lift the dough into the pan and press all around. 

    Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Quiche

    Because I felt extremely accomplished at this point, I figured some artsy decoration would only elevate the feeling, so why nottttt take a fork and make pretty edges around the rim of the crust? 

    The rest - the organic eggs, the roasted squash, the vibrant kale, and the creamy goat cheese - fell to the back of my mind, as I focused so much energy into the crust. It's not alllllllll about the crust, though. In fact, if we're talking beauty, it's way more about the rich, colorful center of the quiche than it is the beige crust, ya' know? 

    Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Quiche

    Then, I baked. I let cool. I admired my hard work on both the crust and the filling. I cut a slice and took a bite. And with that, I understood that maybe I wasn't "wrong" in assuming Whole Foods would have the exact pre-made whole-wheat crust I wanted. Maybe it was just God's way of convincing me it's time to kick things into gear and prep for a pattern of conquering things I haven't been sure I ever would be able to. 

    Makes 1 quiche, about 8 slices

    For the butternut squash:
    1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
    1 tbsp. olive oil
    Salt and pepper, to taste

    For the quiche:
    Whole-wheat pie crust (I used this recipe), or a similar store-bought version
    6 eggs
    1/3 cup half and half
    1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
    3/4 cup roasted butternut squash cubes
    1 cup steamed kale
    1 tsp. garlic powder
    1/2 tsp. paprika
    1/4 tsp. cumin
    Sea salt and pepper, to taste

    1. Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
    2. In a bowl, drizzle the olive oil over the butternut squash cubes and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Stir to combine. Bake for 20 minutes, flip, and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork and crisp around the edges. Remove from oven and cool. 
    3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare the whole-wheat crust as instructed according to your chosen recipe. Press into the pie pan and use a fork to create the curst design around the perimeter. Set aside. 
    4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, goat cheese, and spices. Stir in the butternut squash cubes and steamed kale. 
    5. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the pie pan over the crust. Bake for 45-47 minutes, or until the center fells firm and doesn't jiggle. Remove from oven and cool before slicing. 
    6. Serve immediately and store leftovers in an airtight container for up to one week. 
    7. Enjoy! 

    Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Sweet Potato Wedges (GF)

    Appetizer, VegetarianHaley HansenComment

    Garlic compliments sweet potato like a loving husband tells his wife how beautiful she is. Have I convinced you of this combination yet? Topped with bold white cheddar cheese, these roasted sweet potato wedges are a healthier baked version of the restaurant classic!

    Even when I force myself to create a savory recipe for the blog, I still gravitate towards something sweet (hence: sweet potato). 

    Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Sweet Potato Wedges

    This transition into more of a baked-goods-blog came about as I, more and more, began noticing a burnt smell every time I cooked, as I struggled each night to brainstorm a recipe for dinner, as I faced the fact that I'm really not a creative cook. Like, yeah, I bake some chicken thighs that I really like, I can whip up a mean salad, I have a couple handy meal-prep-ish recipes I turn to weekly, but I just don't have the savory-tooth. Oh, and I think it's worth mentioning that I've burned garlic more times than I care to count. 

    I'm writing this at 9 PM, three hours after Thanksgiving dinner and two hours after dessert. My first 100% non-restricted Thanksgiving surpassed expectations I didn't even know I had because I didn't even know such a freedom could exist. Turkey, green bean casserole, mac n' cheese (!!!), cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, stuffing, sweet rolls - I wanted some of it all. None of it landed on my plate to show the host politeness in accepting the food she cooked. This year, I promised myself I'd listen to my body. And that I did. 

    Try everything, I sure did that, as well. Mac n' cheese took the gold at first bite, in my opinion. Buuuuuuut... 

    Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Sweet Potato Wedges (GF)

    ... I was ten times more ready for chocolate sweet potato pie and homemade oatmeal raisin cookies (coming soon) and dark-chocolate frosted almond butter chickpea blondies. AND my stomach was about ten times as full when dessert rolled around as it was before we even started eating. That says something. 

    Whatever that says, it's a blessing because if I hated sweets and couldn't cook, well, I wouldn't be sitting here continuing this whole blogging thing I've got going on. I also wouldn't be pondering tomorrow's breakfast - leftover hearty oatmeal raisin cookies? Mmmhm. 

    But because I whooped my own butt these past few months squeezing out every last bit of savory creativity I had, I can't just trash those recipes and turn only to baking chocolate-chip-this and banana-bread-that. Ya' know? It's a pride thing. And since "balance" for me is a combination of both sweet and savory, usually leaning more heavily on the side of the latter, I'll give a little bit of both. 

    For the non-sweets, lately I've been digging anything with cheese on top, inside, or anywhere nearby. Thankfully, my stomach handles dairy like a champ, so I'll be covering my sweet potato wedges in creamy, melty, sharp cheddar cheese from now on! 

    Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Sweet Potato Wedges (GF)

    Makes 1 serving 

    1 large sweet potato, washed/scrubbed and dried
    2 tsp. garlic powder
    1 tbsp. avocado oil
    Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
    1/4-1/3 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
    Fresh cilantro, for garnish

    1. Preheat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
    2. Slice the sweet potato into wedges no larger than 1" thick. Toss in a bowl with avocado oil and sprinkle with garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper. 
    3. Transfer to baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, flip, and bake another 10-12 or until tender when pierced with a fork. 
    4. Remove from oven and top with shredded sharp white cheddar. Broil on high for 3-4 minutes and cool before serving. 
    5. Top with fresh cilantro and enjoy!
    Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Sweet Potato Wedges (GF)

    Grilled Turkey, Gouda, and Greens Sandwich

    Lunch, SandwichHaley HansenComment

    Not your average grilled cheese, this loaded sandwich exceeds all expectations. Creamy smoked gouda plus hearty sliced turkey and refreshing greens makes for a grilled cheese sandwich that can't be beat! 

    This is more than just a grilled cheese with extra protein and thick-sliced bread. 

    I look at it as a reflection of my growth, and also my return to... me. Throughout the past couple of years, I've gone through several shifts in not just my diet, but also my relationship with food and my body. Going from highly restrictive eater (for 2-3 years), to vegetarian (for 6 months), to vegan (for almost 2 years) took a heavy toll on my sense of self that I didn't realize until now. 

    Letting food dictate my life, I lost a lot of energy for my passions - cooking (and cooking all foods), exercising, reading, writing, and more. I'm not trying to be a Debbie-Downer in any way, but rather an encouragement, so let's get to that part. 

    Grilled Turkey, Gouda, and Greens Sandwich

    I've said before that I finally feel more and more like the girl whom God desires me to be, but I have to say it again because it just feels so true. It's not that I feel like who I used to be because who I used to be never knew such freedom. Who I used to be never felt such peace. Who I used to be never thought she could know and love a self like the self God has introduced to her. 

    Growth in such a way - one that pulls you FAR out of a comfort zone - can be absolutely terrifying. First, it can feel like a potential destruction of your reputation, whatever that be. Then, it can feel totally, completely, almost painfully uncomfortable (duh). And finally, with faith, it will - yes, WILL - feel... well, right. 

    Grilled Turkey, Gouda, and Greens Sandwich

    Anyway, I don't want to be all serious in this post because borrrrrrrring. Also, I just read through Bon Appetit's latest issue, in which writers reveal and discuss the top 10 restaurants in America, the #1 of which happens to be a dive-y sandwich place that serves stacks of mayo + tomato + sunflower seeds + herbs and riffs on bologna sandwiches that actually taste good and other mind-boggling, mouth-watering items I couldn't stop reading and raving about yesterday as I laid on the beach with my friends (who were way less than interested in the funky sandwiches). 

    I closed the magazine feeling inspired and hungry for not just sandwiches, but spiced up sandwiches that re-create old favorites and tell their stories with every bite full of flavors and textures. When making this sandwich, I had none of that. Really. It was kind of just a sandwich (in contrast to the first line of this post) that I threw together because the combinations sounded good that day. Now, though, as I reflect, I see that it was both unintentional and intentional - unintentional on my part, and intentional on God's. HA wow. Ain't that crazy? 

    It's deli turkey and cheese stuffed between slices of thick bread and grilled, but it's more than that, too. Ten years ago, this was my childhood self's absolute favorite sandwich (made by Mom, of course), and was usually served beside Campbell's tomato soup for dipping. Five years ago, the cheese would've been removed because dairy has fat (and that fat was seen as "bad" by the self that consumed me at the time) and no oil would've been used to grill and create a buttery crisp. One year ago, no sandwich would've even existed in my diet because, well, because turkey and cheese are not vegan. 

    Ahhhhhh! My heart is unbelievably happy with this seemingly simple sandwich because it shines the spotlight on the work of God's hands that removed a controlling diet mentality and a paralyzing fear of foods. 

    Grilled Turkey, Gouda, and Greens Sandwich

    What is representing you growth lately?! Tell me more below!

    Makes 1 sandwich

    3-4 oz. sliced deli turkey
    1 oz. smoked gouda
    1-2 tbsp. honey mustard (regular mustard works)
    Your favorite greens (I used collard greens)
    2 thick slices whole-grain bread
    Oil or butter, for the pan

    1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with oil or butter. 
    2. On both slices of bread, spread even amounts of honey mustard. On one slice, lay the cheese, then greens, then turkey and place this slice into the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.
    3. Cook until cheese is mostly melted and top with the other slice of bread. Flip the sandwich, carefully and using a spatula, and cook on the other side until golden brown and crisp. 
    4. Remove from heat and slice in half. Serve immediately. 
    5. Enjoy!
    Grilled Turkey, Gouda, and Greens Sandwich

    Easy Falafel Salad w/ Tahini Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    Salad, Lunch, VeganHaley HansenComment

    Crispy homemade falafel over fresh greens - a salad with more flavor and texture than ever! Whip this Easy Falafel Salad with Tahini Dressing up in less than 30 minutes for a refreshing Middle-Eastern-inspired lunch or dinner with tons of veggies. 

    There's just something about wearing an apron that makes me feel - excuse my French - baaaaaada$$. 

    That feeling used to come from my track uniform/workout clothes (high school years). And before that, it was my keychain with my car keys on it (teenage years). Anything before that doesn't fit into my memory anymore, so don't ask. 

    But, back to the apron. My mom always used to ask me, whenever we'd begin prepping for dinner, if I wanted to put one on, too. "Ehh, no I'm okay", I'd respond, not really seeing the point in wearing one unless we planned to throw flour at each other or something. 

    Lately, though, I've worn my apron almost every single day. Every. Single. Day. And I refuse to take it off until absolutely necessary. In other words, I'm tied up in my apron from about 8 AM until sometime around 3 or 4 PM. It's absolutely awesome. 

    I'm not always working with messy ingredients (like in the case of this falafel salad), so the apron technically isn't necessary. However, it's become a sort of uniform for me. With my apron on, I know it's game-time. Maybe that sounds weird or lame or old-fashioned of me, but I freakin' love it. I wrap the strings around my waist, tie a bow in the front, and can somehow put away for the time-being all other items on my to-do list, all other commitments yearning for my attention. 

    Easy Falafel Salad w/ Tahini Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    In my apron, I first fell in love with cooking. I helped my grandma make her signature raspberry jam years ago. I whipped up endless batches of Christmas cookies for Mom's friends and Dad's coworkers. I conquered my first ever batch of fluffy vegan cinnamon rolls. I tried my hand at a less-fried version of falafel and succeeded. 

    My apron has taken the place of my track uniform and my keychain. Hooray for growing up! 

    My apron made prepping this salad that much more enjoyable, meaningful.

    Easy Falafel Salad w/ Tahini Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    Speaking of this salad...

    Do you LOVE falafel as much as I do? I suppose I should ask first if you even know how much I love falafel? If you don't, well... it's inexplicable. In other words, it's the true kind of love. Even though it's fried (a cooking method I usually try to avoid), I just can't say no. Wrap it up it a warm, homemade pita pocket and OHMYWORD I'm practically begging on my knees. 

    But, like, salads are good, too, right? Because sometimes that pita adds that much more heaviness to an already filling meal. Besides, nothing beats crisp greens in almost-triple-digit weather! 

    Makes 2 salads

    2 large carrots, chopped
    1 cucumber, chopped
    1 large tomato, chopped
    mixed greens
    Homemade Falafel (one batch is fine)
    Tahini Dressing
    Cilantro and parsley, for garnish

    1. Once all the veggies have been chopped, the greens have been washed, and the falafel and tahini dressing have been prepped, all that's left to do is toss the ingredients together in bowls!
    2. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with fresh herbs before serving. Enjoy! 
    Easy Falafel Salad w/ Tahini Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    Chicken Sausage, Zucchini, and White Cheddar Tacos (GF)

    Entree, TacosHaley HansenComment

    Tacos loaded with juicy chicken sausage and crisp zucchini, and sprinkled with creamy aged white cheddar cheese are a twisted Taco Tuesday must - prepared in just one pan in under 30 minutes.

    As I prepare for my senior year (!!!!) - emphasis on the fact that I am four years deep into college - I experienced something most other students probably experienced their freshman year: sometimes, movie theatre popcorn + ice cream sandwiches + carrots = dinner. 

    I am so for-real right now, it's almost not even funny. Except it really was funny because my best friend, who also thrives on a diet of mostly healthy foods with the occasionally cherished donut or 5th glass of wine (mhm) or third slice of the cheesy, greasy Costco pizza we all know and love. We sat in the movie theatre - and I should mention we had free tickets because we wouldn't have paid to sit in comfy chairs and watch a rom-com we could find on Netflix soon enough - with our medium-sized bucket of buttery popcorn and giggled. 

    We giggled with childlike excitement at the reclining chairs you'd only think to find at a store like Brookstone, at our hands simultaneously reaching into the bucket for popcorn, at the similarities of our best-friendship to another's romantic relationship (we like boys, but we do spend copious amounts of time doing together doing "couple things"), and at the pure joy that radiated from our smiles and echoed from our non-stop laughter. 

    Chicken Sausage, Zucchini, and White Cheddar Tacos (GF)

    That being said, my frequent "fancy" dinners (as the college students who consider popcorn + ice cream dinners a regular thing) deserve attention. I shine the spotlight on this one, specifically, because not only did I never see it coming - I was vegan, if you're new here - but also because chicken sausage. 

    Chicken. Sausage. 

    Did you know - you probably didn't - that, when I was a kid, Santa used to fill my stocking with Wisconsin sausage? Mmmmmhm. Again, I'm so for-real right now it actually is funny. Because I don't know anyone else - excuse me, I don't know any other once-vegan college girls like myself - who used to receive sausages as a Christmas gift. And, I should add, cherished said sausages as one of their favorite gifts. 

    Chicken Sausage, Zucchini, and White Cheddar Tacos (GF)

    I'm still crossing things off my "non-vegan to-do list", as I call it, and I felt such childlike excitement like the kind in the movie theatre the other night when I purchased a package of chicken sausages for myself. At first bite, I almost wanted to apologize to something or someone for deserting my once-favorite food for years. 

    Movie theatre popcorn (with the butter, people... WITH the butter) and ice cream sandwiches were on the to-do list as much as the chicken sausage. Despite their vast differences, I cherished them almost the same. Though I enjoyed these tacos as a single girl and the popcorn + ice cream with my best friend, I find the enjoyment of both stemming from a breath-taking sense of actual freedom around food. 

    And with that, I can say nothing more, except that chicken sausage is fantabulous (especially this brand) and this cheese is phenomenal (also because it is semi-affordable if you find this one) and, as much as I hope you include treats like ice cream and movies purchased mostly for the comfort of the reclining chairs, I hope you spend quality time playing around in the kitchen with foods you love and foods you've not loved but want to try. 

    I GIVE YOU TACOS (the best ones I've made at home myself *toot toot*). 

    Chicken Sausage, Zucchini, and White Cheddar Tacos (GF)

    Makes 2 servings

    2 chicken sausages, sliced
    1 large zucchini, chopped (about the same size as the sausage pieces)
    1 garlic clove
    1/2 tsp. cayenne
    2 oz. white cheddar cheese
    6-8 corn tortillas
    3 tbsp. oil, divided (I use grapeseed) 
    1/2 small red onion, diced
    Cilantro, for garnish

    1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with 2 tbsp. grapeseed oil. Saute the garlic until golden brown and then add in the chicken and zucchini. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until lightly charred. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. 
    2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and coat the pan with remaining oil. Carefully lay in the tortillas and pan-fry until golden-brown on each side. Transfer to a plate and set aside. 
    3. Assemble the tacos - evenly distribute the sausage and zucchini atop each tortilla, then top with red onion, cilantro, and salsa. Grate the cheese over each taco. 
    4. Serve immediately with any additional toppings (I recommend hot sauce!). 
    5. Enjoy! 
    Chicken Sausage, Zucchini, and White Cheddar Tacos (GF)

    Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

    Salad, VegetarianHaley HansenComment

    If you haven't yet added grilled hearty whole-grain bread to your salads, then meet this Simple Summer Panzanella Salad. It's a refreshing, satisfying, and exciting combination that isn't just lettuce and veggies. Enjoy!

    I'm currently working on releasing from my mind the fact that this post should've been finished two nights ago and posted yesterday morning. Oops. 

    Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

    Once again, I'm here in San Luis Obispo, my favorite place in the world (as of right now, at least), as I decided to make this a long weekend trip to visit my girls. And once again again, we made zero plans and somehow found more fun and laughter and adventure than we ever have. Weird, huh? That being said, I did have some plans to squeeze in a little blog-work over the weekend, but those were squashed by last minute decisions to go star-gazing or line-dancing or late-night-chit-chatting until 1 AM.

    My inner worker-bee wanted to scream when I chose my friends over the blog, but God held my hand (as always) and led me with comfort into the innumerable blessings He weaves into my friendships. The wine and mojitos might have helped with that, too, but it was mostly God - let's be honest. 

    There's something about SLO that God is using to change me. He changed my heart big time last year, when I finally discovered the realness of His beauty and the meaning of life with Him, but that wasn't all He had planned. As I drove up here the other night and passed the "San Luis Obispo - 7 miles" sign, I felt my heart take a deep breath and sigh with the most contentment it has in a long time. Actually... that might've been a record-breaking amount of contentment. 

    Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

    So much so that when I talk about my love for SLO with my friends, it almost sounds like I'm really considering where a serious relationship is going. Like, that what's-next-for-us-because-I-really-like-you stage. Like, I've-never-felt-this-way-about-any-place-before feeling. Like, I-can't-imagine-my-life-elsewhere type thing. 

    Like, I-want-to-soak-up-every-last-drop-of-it-before-we-part feeling. In other words, I want to spend minimal time on my laptop and maximum time appreciating what God gives me here. Want to know what I've been up to this weekend? YAY I'm so excited to share with you! 

    Simple Summer Panzanella Salad


    Trip to Cambria and Cayucos with a picnic and a stop at Brown Butter Cookie Co. with Grace (bff, as I call her) + lazy afternoon + dinner at the farmers' market + line dancing alllllllll night. 


    Chill morning + afternoon walk along the beach with a friend and a latte + ice cream cookie sandwich (!!!!) + pizza and good music and good friends (and new friends) + star-gazing. 


    Farmer's market + half a hike (only half for me because of the wounds) + another lazy afternoon + a friend's grand opening for his new gym + dinner with bff + more dancing, but not in lines (more like in loud, crowded bars). 


    Early morning walk + church + wine-tasting (also !!!!!) + well, recovering from wine tasting. 

    Monday (today) 

    Catching up a little bit on life + bbq-ing with friends. 

    Tuesday (tomorrow)

    Heading out, hopefully for the last time ever, and counting the days until I can come back! 

    Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

    Moral of the story here: I've found "the one" in terms of home. I hope you have/do soon too! 

    Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

    Good thing I can make this panzanella salad no matter where I am because it's daaaaaang good, too. 

    Makes 4-6 servings

    1 loaf whole-grain bread, sliced
    1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
    1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
    1/4 cup olives (green or kalamata)
    4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
    4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    Fresh basil
    Salt and pepper, to taste

    1. Use 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to lightly brush each bread slice (both sides). Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and grill each slice until charred on both sides, then remove from pan and set aside to cool. Once cooled, chop into thick 1-inch cubes. 
    2. Combine the tomatoes, feta, olives, and basil in a large mixing bowl and stir in the bread cubes. 
    3. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Refrigerate or serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to one week. 
    4. Enjoy!
    Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

    Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries (Vegan, GF, Paleo)

    Appetizer, VeganHaley HansenComment

    Not the least bit fried, but still the crispiest "fried" zucchini! This baked version of a classic is healthier AND easier - made with almond flour and simple spices. These Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries can be served as a party appetizer, mid-day snack, or delicious side to a dinner entree. 

    Career change: done. Well, I should say "decided", because "done" would mean I'm also done with school and the actual adult-ing process of obtaining a career. 

    In fact, I still haven't God's clear picture of what He wants my career to be. All I know is that I've decided to steer in a direction different from where I was previously going. My next step is discovering down which path I want to head in that new direction. 

    Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries (Vegan, GF, Paleo)

    This kind of reminds me of making a decision at a restaurant...

    • assess my current condition: how hungry am I? 
    • assess the restaurant's options: what's on the menu? 
    • tune into my body's cues of what sounds good: this usually means waiting for my mouth to water at the thought of any particular menu item. I think it works pretty dang well. 
    • and finally, narrow down my choices to one (maybe two) items and go from there. 

    I've already completed steps one and two: I know that I'm not hungry for all that an RD credential requires. I know that the menu of my career offers pllllllllenty of alternate options. Now, step three: what, of this "alternate career" portion on the menu sounds appetizing? Holistic nutritionist? Ehh, probably means more school. Nutrition teacher? We'll see how much patience I have for teaching the same thing over and over. Farmer? Maybe... probably not. Full-time blogger? Too much time on scrolling through social media and trying to figure out how to convince Google to show me off to readers. 

    Cafe owner? Picture this: lattes of all milks decorated with art of all shapes and sizes, fresh-baked scones and muffins and turnovers and pop-tarts (Dad's favorites), breakfast burritos and loaded sandwiches and veggie-loaded salads prepared with only local ingredients, and smiles and laughter practically R.O.F.L.-ing out the door as community members and visitors form lines out the door (okay maybe I'm getting ahead of myself there).

    Ooooh, now my mouth is watering. 

    Okay, but how does one go about a situation in which the menu item sounds appealing beyond belief, yet larger than what he/she can put down in one sitting? Sure, take some of it home is always an option, but I've never been good with that - give me a task and I'll go all in 'til it's all done. Oh, maybe I can split this dish with someone else? Who wants to open a cafe with me? How stinkin' cute would my future husband and I be, working side-by-side to make this local, family-owned and -run cafe the community's go-to for fresh, local, satisfying food they can always count on?

    Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries (Vegan, GF, Paleo)

    Dear future husband, come out come out wherever you are! I'm in need of a business partner to make this thing seem real and achievable - I know n o t h i n g about opening a restaurant. 

    In the meantime, I can start by rough-drafting a menu, right? Menu item #1: these baked zucchini fries. I'm feeling accomplished already, and my appetite is certainly liking this idea for a career :)

    Makes about 2 servings

    1/3 cup almond meal
    1 tsp. garlic powder
    1 tsp. nutritional yeast
    1/2 tsp. cayenne
    1 tsp sea salt
    2 flax eggs
    1 large zucchini
    Your favorite dip, for serving (I used this mayo)

    1. Preheat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
    2. Chop the zucchini in half, and then slice lengthwise as pictured above, doing your best to avoid the center (high water content). 
    3. Prepare the flax eggs in a small flat bowl and combine the dry ingredients in another bowl. Lay the zucchini strips, one at a time, into the flax eggs and roll them around to coat. Then, into the almond meal mixture, rolling again to coat.
    4. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from oven when they are golden brown and firm. Set aside to cool slightly before serving (with your favorite dip, if desired). 
    5. Enjoy! 
    Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries (Vegan, GF, Paleo)

    Cauliflower and Spinach Mac n' Cheese (Vegan, GF)

    Pasta, Entree, VeganHaley HansenComment

    I had a really bad habit and I just kicked it right where the sun don't shine and it felt SO dang good. 

    What was my naughty habit, you ask? Since I don't have an alarm clock (read: don't feel it necessary enough vs. my iPhone to spend money on), I rely on my iPhone's alarm app, so I keep my phone in my room relatively close to my bed. 

    BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. It blares each morning and I reach over to shut it off. Except, I don't just leave it at that. Instead, I usually grab it and start the stupid mindless scrolling immediately. UGH. For a while, the social-media-proponent inside me argued that my 6-AM-scrolling wasn't a big deal, just a relaxing way to ease myself out of sleep-mode and into get-shiz-done-mode.

    Now, however, the self-loving and mindFUL woman I am (or am like 75% of the time - we all have our bad days, right?) recognizes that social media is not the most gentle, encouraging way to wake up. This woman basically stomped her foot down, squashed the social-media-proponent and said "enough is enough". I spend enough time scrolling and posting and liking and commenting each day - I don't want it to be the very first thing I do in the morning before my soul can even say "good morning" to God. 

    I DO want to wake up to God. I want to wake up with gratitude, not envy. I want to wake up with peace, not anxiousness. I want to wake up with confidence in His love for me, not insecurity in whatever social media tells me is "less-than" about myself. Don't you? 

    “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way to go, for to you I entrust my life.”
    — — PSALM 143:8, NLT

    For about the last week or so, I've been setting my phone on Airplane Mode about 30 minutes before bed, spending some time in the word, and falling into a peaceful sleep. My alarm goes off 7-8 hours later, my phone stays in Airplane Mode in my room, and I grab my Bible and devotional and head outside for some quiet-time (coffee in hand, duh). Not until around 8 or 9 AM do I turn Airplane Mode off. I know that sounds still very early in the morning, which it is, but by that time I've already finished my reading, my workout, and usually my breakfast, so I'm feeling strong and confident and ready to be social. 

    Cauliflower and Spinach Mac n' Cheese (Vegan, GF)

    By that time, I've let God's Spirit fill me up before anything can come and try to suck the life and joy and hope from me. 

    To simplify this... think: 

    • drink water before a long run to prevent dehydration 
    • pack lunch/snacks for a long day of work to prevent hunger and/or hanger
    • study x amount of time before an exam to prevent a low score
    • fill up on gas before a road-trip to prevent an empty tank on an open road

    Those seem to be logical steps to take to prepare for certain events and prevent other events from happening. Yet, why did I not take necessary steps to prepare for my day and prevent feelings of _____ (insecurity, loneliness, etc.)? That answer brings up a whole 'nother topic, so I'll just leave it at that and let your mind roam through thoughts of how you begin your morning and therefore set the tone for the rest of your day. 

    PS I've been reading Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling" devotional alongside my own Bible readings for the past year-and-a-half-ish - highly recommend. The Lord definitely works through Young on a daily basis to reach the reader, wherever he/she is in that moment. Check it out here!

    Oh, and another really fun way to begin is by making vegan mac n' cheese. Just sayin'. You should try it. 

    Makes 4-6 servings

    1 box Banza cavatappi (or your favorite pasta)
    Cashew Cheeze Sauce
    1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
    1 tbsp. grapeseed oil
    1 tsp. garlic powder (2 garlic cloves, minced)
    Spinach, thawed if frozen
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    Fresh cilantro, chopped

    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Strain and let cool.
    2. In a nonstick skillet, over medium-high heat add 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil. After 1-2 minutes, toss in the cauliflower and garlic. Saute until charred and tender. Set aside. 
    3. Combine pasta, cauliflower, and spinach in a large mixing bowl and cover with Cashew Cheeze Sauce, stirring to coat evenly throughout.
    4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cilantro. Serve immediately and store leftovers in an airtight container for up to one week. 
    5. Enjoy!
    Cauliflower and Spinach Mac n' Cheese (Vegan, GF)

    Baja Black Bean Taco Salad w/ Creamy Lemon Avocado Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    Vegan, Lunch, SaladHaley HansenComment

    Currently adjusting to the realization that the place I'd thought of as "home" for so fifteen years is no longer my home. Whoa. 

    Baja Black Bean Taco Salad w/ Creamy Lemon Avocado Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    In 2003, my family and I moved from Minnesota (where almost our entire family and all of our friends surrounded us) to California. By doing the math, you'll calculate that I was seven years old at the time and my brother was about ten. He found the transition significantly more terrifying and unfair (as any young boy would) than I did, yet I still felt as though I was stepping into the unknown, mostly because my child brain barely understood the concept of the United States. 

    Since the summer of 2003, we've lived in and loved Southern California, for the most part. That other unloved part is the traffic, the heat, and the "vibe" we feel, which is too complicated for me to explain. However, I grew up there. I found my first real best friends as I started second grade and walked alongside them through the rest of elementary school. I attached to a different group of friends in junior high and found out about who Jesus is. I entered high school and got my period and played sports and rode the teenage-rollercoaster-of-emotions over and over. I battled my eating disorder and found my first boyfriend and, with him, my first kiss and my first love. I graduated high school and committed to college. 

    Baja Black Bean Taco Salad w/ Creamy Lemon Avocado Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    And then... I went to college, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, if you're wondering. The first segment of my first year away from home was saturated with tears of homesickness and feelings of not belonging. Once those tears dried feelings dissolved (which is easier than done, as always), I found the group of sisters in Christ God had waiting for me to push me towards Him and towards growth and the better version of myself. 

    The two years in between then and now have not been absent of tears and homesickness, by any means. Neither, though, have they been absent of discovery (of self and other) and recovery, of smiles and laughter so strong it hurts, of trial + error and finding faith in it all. San Luis Obispo has captured my heart, no doubt about it, but I've been reluctant to call it "home", for reasons I don't even know.  

    Baja Black Bean Taco Salad w/ Creamy Lemon Avocado Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    I chose to spend this summer in Southern California, to take a break from SLO and rent and blah blah blah. Despite the busy-ness of SoCal, for some reason I feel like I can hear myself think a bit more than I can in SLO (probably because I don't spend much time with anyone else besides myself and my parents). That's what has always pulled me back to SoCal - the comfort. 

    But it's feeling too comfortable now. Like, boring-comfortable - a bean bag chair that sinks when I sit in it, a mattress without any structure or spring. In other words, there is nothing to challenge me or offer much opportunity for growth. AND, for the past fourteen years, my family and I have made few community connections (though those few are still going strong and wonderful as could be). 

    Baja Black Bean Taco Salad w/ Creamy Lemon Avocado Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    San Luis Obispo, though... my goodness. There's been growth beyond expectation, friendship beyond imagination, and comfort surpassing any level I ever thought I'd need. I found, through God, what a life of freedom instead of slavery around food feels like. I found my best friends/sisters in Christ (which, four years ago, I thought of only as pretend). I found my passion for food and cooking intertwined with health and fitness. 

    I found my home. This is home. 

    Home isn't where I was born or where my family is or where I grew up or where I spent my teenage years. Home is the place I can't - physically, emotionally, spiritually - be separated from for more than a month, the place where my best friends are not too far away, the place where I'm connected to my community, the place where I found and feel most at peace and in love with myself. 

    Home is San Luis Obispo. I love home. 

    I just had to get that off my chest because I'm SO happy about it and couldn't help but share it. 

    Anyway, about this salad - insanely easy to throw together and unbelievably delicious! Perfect for quick lunches, summer picnics, and even taco toppings! 

    1 15-oz. can black beans
    2 cups finely chopped purple cabbage
    1/2 cup diced tomatoes
    2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    salt and pepper, to taste
    extra cilantro, for garnish

    Creamy Lemon Avocado Sauce + non-dairy milk

    1. Toss the salad ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. 
    2. Whisk the sauce and non-dairy milk until a thin, dressing-like consistency is reached. Pour over the salad and toss again to combine. 
    3. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and then serve. 
    4. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days (any longer and it will smell baaaaaad, believe me). 
    5. Enjoy!
    Baja Black Bean Taco Salad w/ Creamy Lemon Avocado Dressing (Vegan, GF)

    Goat Cheese and Kale Wrap w/ Blackened Tempeh

    Lunch, Wrap, VegetarianHaley HansenComment

    Someone just asked me what my signature dish is. 

    Umm... uhhhhh... OH CRAP. I don't have a signature dish. How does a blogger who's been doing this for three years not have a signature dish? 

    Goat Cheese and Kale Wrap w/ Blackened Tempeh

    That's just a snippet of my inner dialogue when that question came to me. You can just imagine how many times throughout the rest of my day that question pestered me. Quite a few! How does one even come up with a signature dish? What if you're the only one who likes your signature dish enough to call it a signature dish? 

    I guess I should by asking what the standards of a signature dish even are. Wikipedia says that a signature dish is "a recipe that identifies an individual chef... it should be unique and allow an informed gastronome to name the chef in a blind tasting..." So, if a blind-folded friend of mine were to be spoon-fed several different dishes, he/she should be able to identify which is mine?

     I have no idea. What's my cooking style? What are my go-to flavors? I'm getting a bit stressed, if you can't tell. Do any of my favorite bloggers have their own signature dish? Should I even be stressing? 

    Goat Cheese and Kale Wrap w/ Blackened Tempeh

    Maybe I should just start by constructing the block of terms I want to come to mind when people think of me: creative, simple, enticing, appetizing, nourishing both nutritionally and emotionally, balanced, unique. Isn't that how every blogger - maybe every person, for that matter - wants to be thought of? Probably. 

    If there's one thing I think I have nailed-down in this whole "signature" thing, it's my writing. Readers and family and friends always tell me they can practically hear my voice when they read my writing. Welp, I guess that's step one, right? They also tell me they know my photography style. Step two: check. 

    Step three (that darn signature dish): unchecked. Blank. Can I fill in this blank more than once? After all, I create recipes of all types - breakfast, baking, sandwiches, salads, entrees, desserts, and drinks - and I'm somehow supposed to pick just one? Ugh. That's like asking me what my favorite food or my favorite thing to cook is (I usually just say "sweet potatoes") . I don't knowwwwww. I like pretty much everything! And I like everything I make! 

    Okay okay, I'll stop stressing and just pick a few. Here are some of my favorite dishes: 

    1. Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Rolls w/ Coconut Cream Icing (Vegan)
    2. White Bean Salad Sandwich (Vegan)
    3. Cajun-Spiced Crispy Chickpea Sweet Potato Stir-fry (Vegan, GF)
    4. Whole-Wheat Blueberry Almond Cookies
    5. Cauliflower and Spinach Mac n' Cheeze (Vegan, GF)

    Obviously I'm diggin' this wrap, too, because goat cheeeeeeeese. And the tempeh is pretty bomb diggity, might I add. For now, I'm going to munch on this, brainstorm recipes, and hope God gives me a bangin' signature dish. 

    Makes 2 wraps

    1 block tempeh, sliced
    Honey Ginger Marinade
    2 whole-grain tortillas (I prefer these)
    1/2 avocado, slcied
    2-3 tbsp. goat cheese
    2 cups chopped kale
    1 tbsp. olive oil
    1 tbsp. grapeseed oil, for the pan

    1. Begin by pouring a batch of Honey Ginger Marinade over the tempeh strips and refrigerate 4-8 hours. 
    2. When the tempeh is ready, heat grapeseed oil in a skillet over medium heat. I lightly scraped off some of the marinade, as it was very thick and wouldn't allow the tempeh to cook through (you can save whatever you scrape off). Lay the tempeh strips in the pan and cook about 2-3 minutes each side, or until browned and crisped. Remove from heat and set aside. 
    3. In a bowl, combine the olive oil and kale and massage until tender. Set aside.
    4. Spread goat cheese evenly among the two tortillas, down the middle of each. Lay 1 cup of kale on each tortilla, followed by avocado strips, tempeh, and a bit of marinade, if desired. 
    5. Roll tortillas tightly and slice in the middle. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for the next day. 
    6. Enjoy!
    Goat Cheese and Kale Wrap w/ Blackened Tempeh