Hungry Haley

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Entree

Sweet Potato, Sausage, and Kale Hash (Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

Entree, GFHaley Hansen4 Comments

A little bit sweet, a little bit salty, all sorts of delicious. This Sweet Potato, Sausage, and Kale Hash comes together in under 40 minutes - satisfying, simple, and seriously tasty!

The more time I spend in the salty, savory side of the kitchen, the more comfortable I feel and the more I understand what types of cooking I gravitate towards. For so long, I’ve been flipping through my favorite Bon Appetit magazines (literally every single one I can find) and finding myself staring in awe at the creativity behind these recipes, the boldness of flavors and combinations. But I didn’t think I had that talent - whatever it was - to conjure up something to eye-catching and mouth-watering.

Sweet Potato, Sausage, and Kale Hash (Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

I’ve got no professional training anywhere in the kitchen, and yet I feel as comfortable baking as my dog does laying on the couch. Hmmm. My kitchen isn’t the place for the classic sweet, doughy cinnamon rolls or the huge buttery chocolate chip cookies. Mine is the kitchen that stores gluten-free whole-grain flours, coconut sugar and maple syrup, flaxseeds, dark chocolate chips and various nuts and seeds, full-fat yogurt and kefir, and the list of modern-day, healthier alternatives for baking goes on.

Self-taught. That’s the word I’m looking for. Books upon books upon books. Blogs, newspapers, magazines, websites, work experience, personal experience - they’ve all contributed to my knowledge and creativity when I tie up my apron. And there’s passion, too, of course. Lots of it. Confidence in my abilities and my creations is the sum of all that experience, knowledge, and passion.

Sweet Potato, Sausage, and Kale Hash (Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

Whether you’re a food-blogger, too, or just a reader, a restaurant chef or a home-cook, you’ve surely cooked at least one meal in your life and you know the questions that come up just before you sit down to share that with others or just yourself: “Is this even good? Did I cook it all the way? Will everyone else like it? Will they still like me even if this is horrible?” I’m all too familiar with those questions, but I want to conquer my insecurities about cooking. I want to feel comfortable sautéing, grilling, pan-frying, roasting, and presenting a dish. I want to know flavors and vegetables and meats and grains so well that I can just imagine the tasteful combinations in my head, eager to test them out in the kitchen for dinner that night. I also would like to break out of my 75%-of-the-time-rut of roasted sweet potatoes, fried eggs, and avocado for dinner. My excuses are always 1) college (budgeting, limited kitchen space and appliances, etc.) and 2) a busy schedule.

Sweet Potato, Sausage, and Kale Hash (Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

I’ve applied to cooking what I have to baking - I’m not professionally trained in either, but I have a deep passion for both. I don’t bake in any traditional way and my recipes are unique. So, why do I hesitate to confidently say the same about my cooking? Just like my muffins and cookies are my own and not Bon Appetit’s, not Pinterest’s most popular, not paleo, not vegan (not always), not sugar-loaded, or whatever, so my sandwiches and hashes are also my own and not any of those things either. But I still love them. I’m still passionate about them. They’re tried and true and simple, delicious, nourishing, and satisfying.

Sweet Potato, Sausage, and Kale Hash (Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

Makes 2-3 servings

1 large sweet potato, washed, scrubbed, and patted dry
1 medium white onion, peeled
2 cups roughly chopped kale, stems removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pasture-raised chicken sausage links*
3 tbsp. avocado oil (grapeseed oil also works), divided
2-3 pasture-raised eggs
1 avocado
Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or frying pan over medium and cook the sausage until browned, with a few crispy bits. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer the cooked sausage to a plate with a paper towel underneath to absorb some of the grease. Remove most of the grease in the skillet by pouring it into a recyclable can - be sure to leave about 1-2 tablespoons worth in the skillet to cook the sweet potatoes.

  2. Leave the skillet on the stovetop, but reduce the heat to medium-low. Chop the sweet potatoes into 1/2” cubes and place them in the skillet to cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork and crisp around the edges. Season with salt and pepper, transfer these to a bowl, and cover with another plate or lid.

  3. Keep the skillet heated to cook the onion, and add 2 tbsp. oil. Chop the onion into 1/2” cubes and cook until translucent and lightly charred, about 7-8 minutes. Add the kale at the last minute, cover the skillet, and reduce the heat to low. When the kale is a vibrant green and wilted, add the sweet potato and sausage and cover for 5-6 minutes, or until everything is warmed again.

  4. In another skillet or frying pan, heat over medium 1 tbsp. oil and cook the eggs to your liking (i.e. scrambled, fried, sunny-side-up, etc.).

  5. Serve the hash on as many plates as needed, topped with eggs, avocado, fresh chopped cilantro, and salt and pepper, to taste. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

  6. Enjoy!

*If you can’t find chicken sausage, pork will work instead.

Sweet Potato, Sausage, and Kale Hash (Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

One-Pan Roasted Squash and Pepper Dinner (Vegetarian, Dairy-free, Grain-free)

Entree, GF, VegetarianHaley Hansen1 Comment

Allllllright, who’s ready to hear about my week? Anyone? Well, if you’re here, you’re going to hear. Or read, if you want to be technically correct.

Monday was a long day of driving back to San Luis Obispo from Orange County, and when I arrived home, I totally could’ve made it on time to class, but after five straight hours in the car, my cramping legs and butt were all like “NO. PLEASE.” So I listened to them. I gave them the movement they longed for and then went to work to prep all my ingredients for the next morning. By 10 PM, I was fast asleep.

My Tuesday started bright and early, as it always will from now until the end of December (I think, but I’ll keep you updated on that… because I know you’re just dying to know). Class ended at 11 AM, which left me the rest of the day to make sure my time was used efficiently for recipes and studying. However, only one of those actually happened because I think I was a bit too ambitious with my time-efficiency ability, and my day was devoted to studying for my MNT (clinical nutrition) exam. I made it to the grocery store and that was the highlight. It’s always the highlight. I love the grocery store.

Wednesday was the beginning of an uphill climb. More studying, a little cramming in the early morning before class (we had a mini quiz I wasn’t aware of last minute), more studying, a little more cramming before my evening class, and a quick trip into work to prep ingredients for the following morning. And then some reviewing before bed because that MNT exam is tomorrow and holymolyguacamole I’m getting really nervous. Because of said nervousness and not the quietest sleeping environment, Wednesday night’s sleep was far from fantastic, so…

One-Pan Roasted Squash and Pepper Dinner (Vegetarian, Dairy-free, Grain-free)

So, Thursday started off on the wrong foot. The tired foot. The stressed foot. The foot that doesn’t feel ready for this huge exam that everyone in the class is really nervous about which makes me really really nervous. Thursdays are my longest days of the week - nonstop from 4 AM to 3 PM of work, class, then MNT lab. The exam wasn’t the death of me (I’ve already taken different versions of that in various classes, so I know what that’s like), but it was pretty friggin’ hard. I finished with just 20 minutes to spare of the 3-hour test period, rode my bike home, and napped. By 5 PM I found enough energy for some movement, so I rode the bike at the gym to release some lingering stress. And I ended my night by watching this week’s This Is Us with two girlfriends, reading some of The Reason for God, and turning the lights out at 10 PM. Fantastic.

One-Pan Roasted Squash and Pepper Dinner (Vegetarian, Dairy-free, Grain-free)

Friday! Today, finally. I’ve been looking forward to this all week - a morning without rush, with lots of coffee + some sweet potato pancakes (recipe is going in the cookbook) + much-needed planning for the blog and cookbook. I didn’t make myself do anything until, like, noon and I loved it. I wore not an ounce of make-up (which is the most I usually wear, anyway) and only put on a bra to workout. I finished two things on the blog’s to-do list, plus one extra (!!!), three things on work’s to-do list, and even managed to squeeze in a wee bit of studying. And guess what? ETB - estimated time of bed - is 9:30 PM. I’m so ready.

Weeks like this are saved by delicious and simple dinners like this.

One-Pan Roasted Squash and Pepper Dinner (Vegetarian, Dairy-free, Grain-free)

Makes 2 plates

1 large butternut squash
2 red bell peppers
1 medium red onion
1 tbsp. grapeseed oil (or avocado oil)
1 tsp. garlic powder
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
2 organic pasture-raised eggs
2 tsp. grapeseed oil (or avocado oil)
2 cups fresh spinach
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Optional toppings: avocado, salsa, goat cheese or cheddar cheese, nutritional yeast

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. Chop the butternut squash into 1-inch cubes - click here for easy directions - and do the same with the bell pepper and red onion. Toss the veggies in a large bowl with the 1 tbsp. oil, salt and pepper, and garlic powder.

  3. Spread these onto the baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes, then flip and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until lightly charred around the edges and tender in the center. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

  4. While the veggies are baking, heat the 2 tsp. oil in a nonstick skillet and cook the eggs to the desired temperature. Season with salt and pepper and serve on a plate over spinach with the roasted veggies.

  5. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and any additional toppings.

  6. Enjoy!

One-Pan Roasted Squash and Pepper Dinner (Vegetarian, Dairy-free, Grain-free)

Savory Honey Cornbread Waffles (GF)

Entree, GFHaley HansenComment

Two hours of lecture in Community Nutrition, three hours of lab in Clinical Nutrition, and just like that, my first day of my fifth year in college (or seventeenth year of school in general, if you want to look at it like that) is over. Just about 88 days stand between me in regular clothes and me in a cap and gown, baby!

Savory Honey Cornbread Waffles (GF)

I’ve been SUCH a Debby Downer about starting school lately. Like, it’s bad. I apologize to surrounding friends and classmates if my negativity brings you down and I will do my best to change my attitude. I sound like a four year old who’s just been freed from time-out, but I’m actually a twenty-two year old who just wants her degree already. Soon enough, Haley. Soon enough.

Walking through campus yesterday, scanning the passing crowds of students - some texting, some laughing, some rushing from class-to-class - I realized I don’t really recognize anyone. Those I would recognize graduated last June. So, it’s just me and the year-younger class. I’ve grown close with many of those classmates (or, as close as one can grow with classmates, I guess) and those relationships are making the transition from one of the best summers into my final year of school a wee bit easier.

To begin my Clinical Nutrition lab period, my professor introduced herself (even though most of us already know her, thanks to a small major) and asked us all what our post-grad plans are. 99% are pursuing a Registered Dietitian credential. I’m the remaining 1%, indicated by an awkward show of hand… just my own hand. “So, what do you plan on doing?” she followed up. “I want to open my own café and continue blogging and cookbook-writing”, I answered, hoping she would either look interested and maybe ask one or two more related questions, or just move on to her next topic. Instead of both of those, she paused - trying HARD to find some relevance of Clinical Nutrition - and then, “Weeellllllll… I guess Clinical Nutrition will be useful when you want to create compliant Diabetic or Heart-Healthy menus?”

Savory Honey Cornbread Waffles (GF)

It was one of those half-questioning herself/half-questioning me statements. She must have gathered from the look on my face that my awareness that not much of what I learn here will be applicable in my future plans because I just nodded and the awkward conversation ended. Thankfully, several of my classmates follow my blog and have told me they love it (thanks guys!), so I didn’t feel like an outcast as much as I otherwise might have without the support of my peers cheering me on as I choose a rather uncommon career path.

Savory Honey Cornbread Waffles (GF)

When they become RD’s and when I’ve got my café up and running, we can exchange customers and clients. I’ll send them any of my customers with serious health concerns, and they’ll send me their “outpatients” who are ready for delicious and nutritious food. See, it’ll all work out.

Now, only about 87 more days… :)

Makes 4-5 large round waffles

3/4 cup gf flour blend
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 tbsp. flax seed meal
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. oil
3-4 tbsp. pure honey
1 egg
For topping: fried egg, avocado, salt and pepper, fresh herbs

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, water, oil, honey, and egg until combined. Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, flaxseed meal, baking powder, and spices. Pour the wet into the dry and mix again until just combined and only a few lumps remain.

  3. Heat the waffle iron and grease with a little oil if needed. Drop about 1/4 cup of waffle batter into the iron and close, cooking until crisp and golden brown on both sides. Cooking time will vary for different waffle markers, so keep an eye on yours. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

  4. If you choose to add the egg, cook that as you prefer now. Top the waffle with avocado, salt and pepper, and fresh herbs. Serve with the egg and mixed greens.

  5. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to one week, or in the freezer for a couple months.

  6. Enjoy!

Savory Honey Cornbread Waffles (GF)

Baby Broccolini, Falafel, and Barley Grain Bowl

GF, Entree, VegetarianHaley Hansen1 Comment

These comforting Baby Broccolini, Falafel, and Barley Grain Bowls are the most comforting transition from warm summer weather to chilly fall weather. They're simple, inexpensive, and packed with flavor and nutrition! 

A growing cookbook collection hogs half of the shelf space in my bedroom. My Pinterest boards collectively house over 4,600 pins. And my most frequented cooking websites are crowded with online bookmarks. 

I took some time to roughly plan my weekly schedule for when school starts and stomped on the brakes when time for cooking looked slim. Where there's a will, there's a way. With this blog to keep up with, a cookbook to write, and... oh yeah, school to finish (ugh), maintaining a certain level of creativity in the kitchen during the week might be asking more of myself than I should allow. SO. I came up with a plan. 

Baby Broccolini, Falafel, and Barley Grain Bowl (GF)

Every weekend, I'll sit myself down for an hour or two and plan my meals for the week (like, you know, what moms do... except I'm not a mom). Each category - breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks/desserts - will include two recipes from my own supply of recipe-creativity and one (maybe another, if I have time and money) from either a cookbook, Pinterest board, or cooking website. 

My tendency is to dive head first into creating a recipe from scratch, and I too-often neglect the joy of cooking from someone else's recipe. But, like, how stinkin' cool is it to follow along behind one of my favorite bloggers or chefs in their own processes and then savor each bite of the beautiful result, all while furthering my own cooking skills? Duh, Haley. Humble yourself and keep learning from the experts. 

This bowl is a spin-off of one I saw on Cooking Light (I can't find it anymore, otherwise I would link it) - grain bowls are "in" now and that's just fantastic because 1) they encourage us to focus on whole-grains instead of the more processed counterparts like white bread and pasta, 2) grains are usually inexpensive and simple to cook, and 3) these recipes are the comforting-in-cold-weather kind, and cold weather is approaching. Maybe not so much in California as in other states, but hey, 60 degrees can be cold, too. 

Baby Broccolini, Falafel, and Barley Grain Bowl (GF)

Anywho, here's a bowl with some crispy charred seasonal veggies, hearty barley, and lightened up (but still delicious) homemade pan-fried falafel. Eat up!

Makes 3 bowls

2 cups baby broccolini, chopped into 1" pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. avocado oil (or other high-heat oil)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups cooked barley (cook according to package directions)
Pan-Fried Falafel
3 oz. crumbled goat cheese
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 200F. Prepare the falafel according to directions and place in an oven-safe dish to keep warm. 
  2. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the chopped broccolini, cover, and cook for 5-7 minutes until the pieces turn a darker green color. Add the garlic and onions and cover again, turning the heat to low and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes until the onions soften and become lightly translucent and the broccoli is lightly charred. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and stir. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  3. Assemble the bowls - place about 1/2-2/3 cup each of the barley and vegetables in each bowl. Top with 2-3 pieces of falafel, garnish with fresh cilantro and goat cheese, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and serve immediately. 
  4. Store leftovers in airtight containers for up to one week. Enjoy!
Baby Broccolini, Falafel, and Barley Grain Bowl (GF)

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

Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta (Vegan, GF)

Tempeh Pinto Bean Skillet Tacos (GF, Vegan option)

GF, Entree, Vegetarian, TacosHaley HansenComment

These Tempeh Pinto Bean Skillet Tacos are just what Cinco de Mayo celebrations need. They're simple, yet flavorful, plant-based, yet high in protein, and can ready to enjoy in less than 30 minutes! Top them with your favorite garnishes for a little something extra - you will not regret making these, and your friends and family will thank you for them! 

Certain things just happen and bring a gratifying smile to life. This year, the transition from winter to spring didn't take it's normal route - downpours of rain surprised us in mid-March, when we would typically be hanging out in 75-degree sunshine. But I was fine with it because I love rain, especially when I need to study for almost two weeks straight. Transitioning from winter to spring isn't a time of year I look forward to with much excitement - like I said, I love rain, and when spring comes, it almost immediately feels like summer. 

Tempeh Pinto Bean Skillet Tacos (GF, Vegan option)

This year, though... this year has felt anything but normal. I actually don't really know what that words means and how it applies to real-life (outside of its dictionary definition), so I should probably stop using it, huh? The four-hour drive up back to SLO after spending spring break in SoCal absolutely blew me away - the greens and the yellows of the hills seemed to look up at the bright blue sky and they both just nodded at each other, like they knew how stunningly they each complimented one another. I don't know if keeping my eyes on the actual road has ever been so hard. 

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. 

TEMPEH PINTOBEAN SKILLET (1).png

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)

    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

    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
    Salsa

    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)

    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)

    Spicy Black Bean Burgers (Vegan, GF)

    Vegan, EntreeHaley HansenComment

    I've consumed more alcohol (in the form of homemade mojitos, berry margaritas, peach bellini, and red wine) with my family since I came home for summer in mid-June than I have with my friends since, like, ever. The homemade mojitos came with us to a picnic in the park as we watched a modern remake of Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure". The berry margaritas were tossed together while we whipped up Hot For Food's cauliflower buffalo wings. The peach bellini is usually a treat when friends come over for happy hour. And red wine is a thing six out of seven nights a week, ya' know? 

    Spicy Black Bean Burgers (Vegan, GF)

    Oh, and there were even some tequila-soaked strawberries, which were actually a really bad idea to "snack" on. Amateur move on my part. 

    But, can I just say that I'm just enjoying this time and these drinks and this freedom and peace with food? I didn't think I'd ever know what this feels like. 

    I'm still not a beer person, though, and I don't think I ever will be. Kombucha is jut too similar and too much better (in terms of taste and nutrition, if we're considering those two aspects). However, I will almost never pass up a mojito, especially one of Dad's homemade mojitos with fresh mint and exxxxxtra lime juice for an exxxxtra kick. He was a genius and bottled up that batch for us to take to our picnic before Shakespeare in the park in LA. Go Dad!

    When I head back up for school, I most definitely will cooling it on the dranks. Note: dranks are different from drinks. Think of it like this - a mojito is a drank and a mojito-flavored kombucha is a drink. Make sense? Anyway, yeah. Far fewer dranks come September. My body and brain both need better quality sleep and more focus during the night hours while studying and finishing up homework.

    I'm definitely not buying any ticket for the sugar-detox train or any detox train, for that matter, but when the body needs a break, the body neeeeeeds a break and whatever that break consists of is unique to the individual and that's okay. 

    It's fun to say yes and it's good to say no. Every response (and drink and drank) has it's time, right? 

    Enough about alcohol. This burger - it's time and place fit into just about any spot on the calendar. Just black beans, almond meal, a few vegan necessities and a couple spices could not make a veggie burger any easier and any more fit for a backyard BBQ or a meal-prepped weekday lunch. 

    Or, even a sugar-detox, if you're into that. 

    Spicy Black Bean Burgers (Vegan, GF)

    Please don't be into that. Be into these burgers. 

    Makes 3-4 burger patties

    1 15-oz. can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
    1 flax egg (1 tbsp. flaxseed meal + 2 tbsp water)
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tsp. mustard
    1 tbsp. tamari (or vegan Worcestershire sauce)
    3/4 cup almond meal
    1/2 tsp. cumin
    1/2 tsp. paprika
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    Oil, for the pan
    Buns, Cashew Cheeze Spread, spinach (and any other condiments/additions you prefer) for serving

    1. In a food processor, pulse the black beans, almond meal, flax egg, and mustard and tamari. Pulse until slightly crumbly, but sticky and firm to the touch - it should hold together when formed into a patty. 
    2. Add the spices and mix to combine. Form into 3-4 patties about 1/2" thick and, if time permits, refrigerate for one hour. If not, preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with oil. Lay the patties on the pan and cook about 7-8 minutes per side, or until lightly charred and throughout. Remove from heat. 
    3. Serve immediately with buns, cheeze, and spinach. 
    4. Enjoy!
    Karina & Kelly.jpg

    Cajun-Spiced Crispy Chickpea Sweet Potato Stir-Fry (Vegan, GF)

    Vegan, Stir-Fry, EntreeHaley HansenComment

    Confession: I don't know diddley-squat about Cajun food. DIDDLEY-SQUAT. That's keyword for "nothing". I know nothing about Cajun food. 

    Hello, World!

    Cajun-Spiced Crispy Chickpea Sweet Potato Stir-Fry (Vegan, GF)

    I do, however, know that I have a convenient little jar of a Cajun spice mix in my pantry with the surprising ability to turn an unplanned, "wingin'-it" recipe into a red. hot. show-stopper. It's like that lil' spicy dude had my back. Thanks, man. Much appreciated. 

    Now that I'm diving what feels like face-first into this whole (almost) full-time blogging thing, I'm planning like I never have before. I'm constantly brainstorming recipes. I'm making more trips to the grocery store and farmers markets each week than there are days in the week itself. I think that fits the criteria of "face-first", don't you? 

    Cajun-Spiced Crispy Chickpea Sweet Potato Stir-Fry (Vegan, GF)

    As I said in my last post, I'm not working a typical job this summer and I'm not taking classes. I'm blogging. All day, everyday. That phrase has never held more truth to it than it does at this point of my life. But hey, I'm absolutely falling head-over-heels in love with cooking and creating and tasting and surprising myself and embracing food as my passion. 

    I had planned to make this post all about picking up the pieces when plans fall apart because that's not only how this recipe came about, but also how some significant life situations have recently carried themselves out, but everything I wrote just felt so a) dramatic, b) cliche, and c) way too serious to be discussed with a recipe that surprised me in the best way possible. 

    Cajun-Spiced Crispy Chickpea Sweet Potato Stir-Fry (Vegan, GF)

    Food has captured me and flipped me upside down into the very definition of "head-over-heels in-love". For the last seven consecutive days, I've spent at least half the day either in the kitchen or within an arm's reach of something edible, and I've spent almost every minute smiling and thanking God for showing me what peace with food and my body (vs. the diet-mentality) feels like. 

    It feels like biting into mom's fresh-from-the-oven brownies (made with all-purpose flour, not black beans), topped with a melty scoop of cool vanilla ice cream (made with actual sugar, not just bananas) and l o v i n g it. It feels like working your a$$ off in chemistry classes to get only B's and C's, and then finding classes you e n j o y and getting A's. It feels like a glass of wine (the one you swore off before you'd even given it a taste) and a couple bites of this and that with friends and family for happy hour on a warm, breezy summer evening. 

    It feels like - after y e a r s of running away from this, in search of that and back and forth and through the woods and the water and the wind - reaching the destination you doubted for so long ever existed, coming to the mirror you've always worshipped or hated, actually looking in it, and somehow seeing beyond the culturally defined imperfections, directly into the beautiful, passionate, unique, and intelligent human being you were created to be. 

    Wow - that was a mouthful, huh? 

    My prayer is that everyone reaches a place like this. Food is too tasty to restrict, yet too insignificant to fear. 

    :) Thank the Lord for showing me that and for answering that prayer for myself with such grace, mercy, and unconditional love. 

    So, like, this recipe... it makes me feel like I could maybe pleasantly surprise a Cajun-expert if I were to slide this plate in front of him. You can do that, too! Pick up some sweet potatoes, a red onion, and a bunch of kale from your local farmers market. Grab a can of beans, which you probably already have in your pantry. Toss all the spices in, crisp everything up, and serve with that creamy, salty, sweet tahini drizz. 

    Hello, World!

    My friends, I wish you a happy, happy meal time. 

    Makes 4-5 servings

    1 15-oz. can chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
    1/4 cup diced red onion
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 cup chopped kale
    2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped into 1/2" cubes
    4 tbsp. grapeseed oil
    2 tsp. cajun seasoning
    salt and pepper, to taste
    Cilantro, for garnish
    Maple tahini dressing, for serving

    1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and coat with 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil. Toss the chickpeas, 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil, red onion, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning in a bowl to combine, and then toss it all into the skillet. Cook until onions are tender and chickpeas are lightly charred. Remove from pan and set aside.
    2. Coat the same skillet with another 2 tbsp. of grapeseed oil and add in the sweet potato cubes and remaining Cajun seasoning. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork and charred on at least one side. Reduce heat to low, add in the kale and cooked chickpeas, and cook until the kale is bright green and soft. 
    3. Serve immediately, topped with fresh chopped cilantro and a drizzle of maple tahini sauce. Store leftovers in an airtight container for 4-5 days. 
    4. Enjoy!
    Cajun-Spiced Crispy Chickpea Sweet Potato Stir-Fry (Vegan, GF)