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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)

Pan-Fried Falafel (Vegan, Grain-free)

GF, VeganHaley HansenComment

Really funny story, Like, hilarious. Ready?

Pan-Fried Falafel (Vegan, Grain-free)

I created this recipe last summer and then two other recipes using this falafel - a hearty pita sandwich and a refreshing summer salad. Since then, I've been so focused on picking my brain for new recipe ideas (and also school... duh) that I just haven't thought about making my favorite falafel until today. In the middle of cooking up the components of a grain bowl, I stirred together tahini and lemon juice and - long story short - my dressing failed and I just could not bring myself to waste the tahini mixture. 

FALAFEL. Of course, I just so happened to have all the ingredients on hand to make said falafel. It's like this whole tahini mishap was meant to be, huh? But wait - there's more. I opened my blog to search through my archives for this falafel recipe, only to be utterly confused when my screen shocked me with the classic "404 error - This page doesn't exist" thing. 

Pan-Fried Falafel (Vegan, Grain-free)

Oh. Good. I told you all to make this falafel for both the sandwich and the salad, but never told you how to make the falafel. Sigh. 

So, here it is - the long-awaited falafel recipe. I apologize in advance for any similar mistakes I may make in the future and I hope you still come back for delicious eats! 

Makes about 12-14 falafel

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and dried
2 flax eggs
2 tbsp. tahini
2 tsp. brown mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup almond meal, plus more if needed
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
3-4 tbsp. avocado oil (or other high-heat oil) 

  1. In a high-powered blender or food processor, pulse everything from the chickpeas to the almond meal until the mixture starts to come together. It shouldn't be sticky, but it shouldn't be crumbly - somewhere in between. 
  2. Next, add in the parsley, nutritional yeast, and spices and pulse again until combined. Form the dough into portions just smaller than a golfball, then gently flatten them into 1/2"-thick rounds. Refrigerate these at least one hour. 
  3. When ready to cook, heat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the 3- tbsp. oil. Use 3 if you prefer less crispy edges, and 4 if you prefer crispier edges. Let this heat for about 2 minutes before adding the falafel. 
  4. Carefully place about 5 falafel (depending on the size of your pan) into the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crispy around the edges. Repeat with the remaining falafel. 
  5. Serve immediately and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. Enjoy! 
Pan-Fried Falafel (Vegan, Grain-free)

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)

    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)

    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