Hungry Haley

it's more than food


Honey Mustard Chickpea Farro Salad for Two (Vegan option, Dairy-free)

Entree, Lunch, Salad, VegetarianHaley Hansen2 Comments

Here to save you from a lunch-routine rut with colorful, flavorful Honey Mustard Chickpea Farro Salads! These come together in less than 20 minutes and can easily become your favorite simple, tasty, and nourishing weekday lunch.

Honey Mustard Chickpea Farro Salad for Two (Vegan option, Dairy-free)

Lunches can be confusing. How much do I want to eat? What do I want to eat (duh)? Am I more of a snack or a substantial meal kinda person? How will I transport my lunch? And of course, when will I find the time to eat it? One last question: am I taking lunch too seriously? It’s an important matter. I spent years in junior high and high school eating sandwiches every. single. day. and right now I’m just not into that. Like, I have a kitchen in which I cook dinner six out of seven nights a week and leftovers are almost always a thing, so lunch should be manageable. Shouldn’t it?

Class starts at noon everyday this quarter, and I’d sure as heck eat in class if they weren’t such stressful classes. I want to enjoy my food, thank you. I don’t want to eat my lunch while learning about paracentesis (look it up) or while sifting through pages and pages and pages of research articles on the effect of a high-fat diet on endurance exercise performance. Every minute throughout these classes feels like a mouthful, so I’d prefer not to add a literal mouthful to the equation.

I walk from my house to school each day, which takes maybe 20 minutes one way, and if I discipline myself well enough to leave on time, it’s quite an enjoyable walk. The return home, however, is a different story. You know, I imagine it’s like the drive home from work for you grown adults/full-time office professionals - there’s traffic, you’re tired, you’re hungry, and you just want to be home. I understand. Passersby might think I’m a training for the Olympic speed-walking team, just watching how quickly my legs move in anticipation of being at home with food.

Food. Lunch. That’s what we were talking about! By the time I make it back home, I want food and I’d really appreciate it as soon as possible, please. But the thing is that it’s mid-late afternoon and now I’m confused and asking myself some of those aforementioned questions all over again. My trusty go-to’s are carrots and hummus, toast, pasta salad, or those leftover roasted veggies from last night. All filling options, but nothing satisfying for my current cravings, which is an actual lunch: a balanced meal with carbs and protein and fat and, of course, flavor and texture and color. Aesthetic and a fancy name maybe with some specialty ingredients from Whole Foods or something are bonuses.

I first made this salad right after I made and ate an actual lunch for the first time in weeks, so I admired it’s beauty and then packed it up to eat over the course of the next few days. If my friends were into as into food as I am, I would’ve, like, snap-chatted this to all of them. Instead, I texted a picture to Mom and Uncle Tom - two of my foodie bff’s (adult version? I don’t know) - with a full breakdown of all the ingredients and how I made it.

GENIUS IDEA, HALEY - you should post this on your blog! I love my thoughts sometimes. Here ya’ go, lunch-lovers!

Honey Mustard Chickpea Farro Salad for Two (Vegan option, Dairy-free)

Makes 2 servings

For the salad:
1/2 cup uncooked farro
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups organic curly kale
2 large organic carrots, peeled and chopped into thin discs
1/2 ripe avocado
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 lemon, cut in half
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish
Crushed red pepper flakes, for garnish (optional)

For the honey mustard dressing:
2 tbsp. brown mustard
2 tbsp. raw honey
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt

1. Cook the farro. In a small saucepan, stir the farro with 1 cup filtered water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, stir, and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated - the grains will double in size and may be . Then remove from heat and set aside.

2. Assemble the bowls. Divide the kale evenly between two bowls and drizzle each portion with 1/4 lemon wedge and 1 tsp. EVOO. Massage the lemon and oil into the kale leaves until they soften and turn a bright green color. Next, divide the chickpeas evenly between the bowls, followed by the carrots, avocado, and red onion.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing until smooth. Drizzle this evenly over the salad bowls, and then top with sea salt and pepper, fresh chopped cilantro, and crushed red pepper (if using).

4. Serve immediately, or pack in airtight containers and store in the fridge for up to one week until you’re ready to eat them. They make perfect weekday lunches!

5. Enjoy!


Double this to make four salads - meal-prep for the week!

Honey Mustard Chickpea Farro Salad for Two (Vegan option, Dairy-free)

Veggie Chili Super Bowls with Cheddar-Parmesan Bites (GF)

Entree, GF, VegetarianHaley Hansen1 Comment

The Super Bowl, to me, is as good as the company and the snacks. The half-time show comes next, then the entertaining commercials, annnnnd then the actual game. Please, don’t tell me you’re surprised.

Veggie Chili Super Bowls with Cheddar-Parmesan Bites (GF)

I’ve never been a fan of football, really, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. My guess is that, when I’m capable of hosting my own Super Bowl party (which I someday will, despite being totally removed from football culture), guests will just know I’ll be in the kitchen. Sure, I’ll make my way out to socialize, watch a few commercials and of course the half-time show, and assess the liking of the food. But for the majority of the time, if you need me, come to the kitchen and if I need you, I’ll get you an apron.

Last year, around this time, I was buried deeper than ever before in school work (basically taking 7 classes and volunteering and working part-time), and we won’t talk about that too much, but the constant - literally c o n s t a n t - presence in my mind of genetics + foodservice management + anatomy + metabolism drove me almost insane. And I say “almost” because I discovered the Bon Appetit Foodcast in the midst of all that rigid science and I firmly believe it saved my life. In the span of three months that was the most challenging quarter of all of college, I think I listened and re-listened to 80% of the episodes. Much of that time was also spent multitasking walking to and from campus, just so you know that I wasn’t a totally sad, isolated human being.

Veggie Chili Super Bowls with Cheddar-Parmesan Bites (GF)

One of the first episodes I listened to was allllll about the Super Bowl. Carla Lalli Music, Adam Rapoport, and Gabe (sorry, Gabe, I don’t know and can’t find your last name on the internet, but you’re awesome!) discussed, argued about, and described the intricacies and traditions behind their favorite Super Bowl-themed recipes. From chicken wings to beers, from gumbo to bahn mi sandwiches, these three opened my eyes to a whole new feeling of enjoyment around food. It felt fun and I desperately needed fun with all the dry talk of iron absorption and elementary school lunch programs and bones in the upper thigh and alleles. It felt approachable and I loved that because only a few months before, I decided to focus the blog on sweets only after feeling sooooo not talented in the savory realm of food.

Finally, I felt inspired. I didn’t just feel it, actually. It rolled out of me in the most genuine form of laughter, even when listening to three food experts I’ve never even met. It shot through my veins, keeping me going during my 10-hour days on campus. It gave a new edge to my passion. Bon Appetit, Carla, Adam, Gabe - if you’re reading this, please know that your podcast has changed my life and I’m probably not the only person to feel that way.

Veggie Chili Super Bowls with Cheddar-Parmesan Bites (GF)

There was an undefinable set of standards I was trying to meet for each savory recipe I came up with, and finally, I was able to cook without that pressure. Cooking should feel approachable, exciting, and inspiring for our individually creative brains. This year, I challenged myself to come up with something Super-Bowl-themed to highlight Brazi Bites - an unbelievable, authentic Brazilian cheese bread - and felt so stumped until I released myself and my creativity from some made-up set of standards even I couldn’t describe. And I chose Brazi Bites because they, too, cook from their culturally inspired, individual creativity. They are approachable, yet tasteful. They are exciting, inspiring, and absolutely delicious.

I don’t know what my plans are for the Super Bowl this year, but I know I want to encourage others to cook without standards. I want to share authenticity rooted in tradition, and also beaming with creativity, the way Brazi Bites do.

Makes 4 servings

1 medium white onion, diced into 1/2” pieces
1 small zucchini, chopped into 1/4” rounds and then quarters
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped curly kale
2 tbsp. avocado oil (or grapeseed oil)
1 15-oz. can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
2 15-oz. cans low-sodium beans, drained and rinsed (I used black beans and pinto beans)
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 bag Cheddar & Parmesan Brazi Bites
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup shredded grass-fed white cheddar cheese
1 ripe avocado
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Thinly sliced radish, for garnish (optional)

  1. Begin by cooking the veggies. Heat a large (10-12”) cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add the 2 tbsp. oil, swirl, and let this heat up for about a minute. Sprinkle in the chili powder and spices to the oil - this is called blooming and it enhances the spice flavor. Then toss in the chopped onion, cover, and cook until translucent and lightly charred, about 8 minutes.

  2. Add the minced garlic and chopped zucchini. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the zucchini has softened and lightly charred. Add the kale, cover and turn the heat to low, and cook until it turns a vibrant green color. Season with sea salt and pepper.

  3. Now, pour in the crushed tomatoes and beans and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let the chili cook for about 8-10 more minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so.

  4. Preheat the oven to 400F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

  5. Place the frozen Cheddar-Parmesan Brazi Bites on the baking sheet, leaving about an inch between each bite. Bake these according to package directions - 18-20 minutes at 400F.

  6. Assemble the chili bowls when the Brazi Bites have about 5 minutes left. Scoop the chili into bowls and top with shredded cheddar, avocado, fresh cilantro, and sliced radish.

  7. Remove the Brazi Bites from the oven and serve alongside the warm chili. They’re perfect for dipping or just enjoying as a complement.

  8. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week or in the freezer for one month.

  9. Enjoy!

This post is sponsored by Brazi Bites - all opinions and statements are my own. Thanks for supporting my blog and passion for cooking!

Veggie Chili Super Bowls with Cheddar-Parmesan Bites (GF)

Simple Honey Whole-Wheat Biscuits

VegetarianHaley Hansen2 Comments

If you've never tried homemade biscuits, this is the place to start and the place to stay. These Simple Honey Whole-Wheat Biscuits are flaky, soft, buttery, and absolutely perfect!

Given how it’s gone in years past, I assume this year I’d get as much use out of a 2018 reflections/intentions/goals/etc. blog post as I did out of my Foodservice Management textbook (hint: I opened it once when my teacher warned the class she’d be giving a quiz the following day). I’ve never been one to make a New Year’s Resolution, nor have I been one to stick to journaling and meditating everyday, but I do enjoying thinking back and looking forward. So, I find myself in kind of a weird spot this time of year, with all this talk of reflecting and setting resolutions.

Simple Honey Whole-Wheat Biscuits

2018 was, in short, probably the hardest year of all 22 of mine. A bold statement, not a happy one, but a true one. It started on an unstable foot that took months to regain strength. And when those muscles finally did, when they were moving and functioning and hopeful for a long walk in what seemed like the “right” direction, the ankle twisted unexpectedly and more severely than ever before, and almost all sense of direction was lost. The recovery and healing process began shortly thereafter, and for anyone who’s gone through such therapy, you know the struggle I speak of (this is all a metaphor, by the way - here’s the actual story).

The heaviest, most challenging quarter of my college career kicked off the New Year and left me scraping my empty tank for any drop of energy within the first few weeks. I had no time for friends. I was far from family. I spent every weekend in coffee shops with my textbooks and computer, either memorizing everything in the body for anatomy, hating the study genetics, finally finding some interest in micronutrient metabolism, or researching institutional foodservice equipment. Sigh.

Simple Honey Whole-Wheat Biscuits

My closest group of friends in the history of… my entire life graduated and separated. Of course, we all still keep in touch, but we said goodbye to our cute little neighbored townhouses and (for most of us) the last time we will ever live with such amazing best-friend-roommates. I remember moving my stuff - literally, everything - out of that apartment for a week straight and schlepping it over to the new place, bawling my eyes out every single time (I’m not kidding). Girls, if you’re reading this, that two-year-period of living together was the very best part of my college experience, and one absolutely unforgettable memory so full of laughs, talks, and everything I could have ever asked for and more.

If you’ve kept your attention here this long, thank you for devoting such care to the rough parts of my year. Here are the happier parts!

I finished my last full year of college! Just three more months and ya’ girl is a college grad, baby.

Hungry Haley turned four years old! Four whole years of my life I’ve fallen more and more and more in love with cooking and baking and writing about those and writing about life. Here’s to many more.

My relationship with food and exercise is at an all-time high. I see food for so much more than its nutrition facts and I cherish exercise for benefits beyond just a calorie burn.

I spent four months baking in a local café, learning how to make coffee cakes and scones and muffins and several other goods the community here savors every morning. It’s an honor and a pleasure!

I finished my first full TV series in, like, 10 years. This Is Us - a real tear-jerker, but definitely worth it!

The cookbook!!!

Simple Honey Whole-Wheat Biscuits

Okay, I’m done reminiscing now. I think we all say this every year because it’s almost always true - this year went by so fast. Another 365 days have come and gone. 2018, you weren’t that great to me, but I acknowledge and thank you for the beauty you did bring. 2019, please be better than 2018. :)

Makes 12-13 biscuits

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour*
1 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. pure honey
1 1/3 cup Lifeway Whole Milk Kefir
1 1/2 sticks grass-fed butter, frozen

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients - the flour, baking powder and baking soda, and sea salt. Grate the butter into the dry ingredients and use your hands to stir it in, making sure it is evenly incorporated.

  3. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the pure honey and kefir, and then pour this into the dry ingredients. Stir to combine, and then use your hands again to gently bring the dough together. It will be slightly crumbly and a little dry, which is what it should be. Do not overwork the dough - stop kneading when it the texture is even throughout and the dough as whole sticks together.

  4. Lightly flour a clean surface and a rolling pin. Roll out the dough until about 1-1 1/4” thick and use a round cookie cutter or cup to cut the dough into circles. Place these on the baking sheet with about an inch between each biscuit and bake for 23-25 minutes. Depending on the diameter of your biscuits this baking time could increase or decrease slightly. Keep an eye on the biscuits while they are in the oven and remove when the edges are golden brown.

  5. Cool for 4-5 minutes before taking them off the pan. Serve immediately, and store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days at room temperature, up to two weeks in the fridge, or 1 month in the freezer.

  6. Enjoy!


*If you don’t have or can’t find whole-wheat pastry flour, use half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.

This post is sponsored by Lifeway Kefir - all opinions and statements are my own. Thanks for supporting my blog and passion!

Simple Honey Whole-Wheat Biscuits

Tomato Basil Skillet Pizza Bites (GF)

Appetizer, VegetarianHaley Hansen1 Comment

This post is sponsored by Brazi Bites - all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting my blog!

I strolled through the Anaheim Convention Center at Expo West last year with intention to meet up with some friends and stop and say hello to a small list of companies I work with. Other than that, I spent my time at new-to-me booths with intention because my time is limited now, and in my fourth year of blogging, I’m not here to work with every company that reaches out to me (if you have “keto diet” or “weight loss” in your name or introduction, don’t waste your time on me!).

Tomato Basil Skillet Pizza Bites (GF)

All business matters aside, I also stayed mindful with samples - vendors are not shy in asking (begging?) you to try a sample of their products. A lunch of protein bars and coconut yogurt and chips didn’t sound good to me, so I politely declined most offers. Just when my stomach felt ready for some food, I passed by the Brazi Bites booth and took a couple steps to get a second look. The cutest little dinner-roll-looking bites sat on each tray and the vendors handing them out just smiled. I wanted to know more.

After some back-and-forth conversation, I took a bite into what I now knew was a family recipe for Brazilian cheese bread, or Pao de Queijo. They were GOOD. Like a dinner roll, but moist and flavorful from the addition of cheese, herbs, and spices. And naturally gluten-free!

Tomato Basil Skillet Pizza Bites (GF)

Something pulled me away from the booth, I forget what exactly, but I did not forget about Brazi Bites. How could I have? I’ve eaten my fair share of bread in my 22.5 years of life, and these are not just little bites of cheese bread, or at least not what we know in America. Food fascinates me everyday, and even more so when the cultural background plays such a significant role in the dish.

Fast-forward to about a month ago, when Brazi Bites emailed HungryHaley about a recipe collaboration. I read “Brazi Bites” in the email subject line and practically jumped out of my seat in excitement. Immediately, I began the recipe brainstorming process, but it wasn’t until after I completed my final exams that I could actually get in the kitchen with Brazi Bites and put my ideas to the test.

Tomato Basil Skillet Pizza Bites (GF)

This recipe is a third time’s the charm kinda’ thing - I tested my first idea twice, determined to make it work because of this beautiful cheesy sweet potato sauce that baked over the top of the Brazi Bites. But alas, I had to throw that recipe away when the bites came out… well, not their best in both trials. So, I ditched that idea and came up with this one - it’s ten times simpler, tastier, and prettier (because we eat with our eyes first, you know).

The hours I spent on this recipe only make me love it more, and only make me more confident that you, too, will love it. It’s meant to be an appetizer/shared dish, so either invite yourself to a party and bring it along or plan your own party and cook this up for your guests!

Tomato Basil Skillet Pizza Bites (GF)

Makes 1 skillet, about 4-5 servings

1 bag 3-cheese Pizza Brazi Bites
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp. oil (I prefer avocado or grapeseed here)
1/4 cup sharp white cheddar cheese
Fresh chopped basil, for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and place a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet inside.

  2. Once the skillet is heated, place about 3/4 of the Brazi Bites on the skillet. Evenly distribute the sliced cherry tomatoes throughout, between the Brazi Bites. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are blistered and the Brazi Bites are golden.

  3. Remove the skillet from the oven and shred the cheese over the top. Broil on high for 3-4 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted and lightly charred. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

  4. Sprinkle the chopped basil and salt and pepper over the top and serve immediately - it is best eaten when hot, fresh from the oven.

  5. Enjoy!

Tomato Basil Skillet Pizza Bites (GF)

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)

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)

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. 


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)

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)

Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Sweet Potato Wedges (GF)

Appetizer, VegetarianHaley HansenComment

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

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

Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Sweet Potato Wedges

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

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

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

Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Sweet Potato Wedges (GF)

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

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

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

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

Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Sweet Potato Wedges (GF)

Makes 1 serving 

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

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

Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

Salad, VegetarianHaley HansenComment

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

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

Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

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

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

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

Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

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

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

Simple Summer Panzanella Salad


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


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


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


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

Monday (today) 

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

Tuesday (tomorrow)

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

Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

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

Simple Summer Panzanella Salad

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

Makes 4-6 servings

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

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

Goat Cheese and Kale Wrap w/ Blackened Tempeh

Lunch, Wrap, VegetarianHaley HansenComment

Someone just asked me what my signature dish is. 

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

Goat Cheese and Kale Wrap w/ Blackened Tempeh

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

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

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

Goat Cheese and Kale Wrap w/ Blackened Tempeh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 2 wraps

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

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