Vegan Mint Oreo Brownies with White Chocolate Mint Frosting

20120426-203348.jpg
Am I in the middle of a diet cleanse? YES! Then Laura, what are you doing?!

I’m celebrating. These are not for me (although I did have to sample them to be sure they were edible). These are for my wonderful boyfriend who today finished his first semester of college! Calm down, I’m not dating an 18 year old. He is age appropriate, I promise!

He loves chocolate, mint, frosting, white chocolate and mint Oreos, so I wanted to make him something really special that would combine all his favorite things. And I do believe, these are the best treats I have ever made in my life!

What we have here is a vegan brownie, which ended up being the best brownie I have ever eaten. I don’t know if mint Oreos are vegan or not. I was too scared to read the nutrition label. Let’s assume they are not, but these are special occasion brownies so I’m throwing caution to the wind here!
Top that with a mint buttercream frosting with some added white chocolate so it’s nice and dense, almost fudge-like. Finish it off with some more mint Oreos and you have yourself a real winner!

These brownies would be good on their own as well or even without the Oreos. Totally up to you!

I live at a high-ish altitude so these are high altitude brownies. I will give low altitude directions at the end.

For the brownies:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 cool mint Oreos, crumbled

Preheat oven to 365 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients. Then add in the water, oil and vanilla and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup vegan butter, softened to room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons almond milk
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
18 cool mint Oreos, crumbled

With a mixer, combine the butter with 2 cups of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of almond milk. Combine until smooth. Add in the extracts and more powdered sugar and more almond milk. Add sugar until you get the right consistency. The chocolate chips will make the frosting much stiffer. Next, melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave or on the stove top. Add to the frosting and mix until smooth.

Once the brownies are cool go ahead and frost away! Be gentle spreading the frosting so as to not tear the brownies.

Top with crumbled Oreos. Party time!

For low altitude bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Increase the sugar to 2 cups.

Advertisements

The 3 Week Cleanse

Today I am finishing up my second week out of my 3 week long cleanse and I feel GREAT!
My cleanse does not involve cayenne pepper or lemon juice or any pills. It is a purely plant based food cleanse designed to remove inflammation from the body and get it running smoothly again.

Why am I doing this?
I have a couple nagging injuries that just refuse to go away. My ankle has been hurting for at least 2 months now and I suffer from chronic neck pain. Inflammation is the culprit for both these injuries. Taking 3 weeks to let the body heal and re-set is good to do 2-4 times a year, particularly when the seasons change.

What is the cleanse?
I have talked about it on here a couple times before, it is from the book Quantum Wellness by Kathy Freston. In her book she writes about how making changes to our diet and life will some day result in a “Quantum Leap”, and you won’t know when that will happen or what it will be. I first did this cleanse 4 years ago and sitting here today I know I have made my leap. My life is profoundly different than it was 4 years ago. I absolutely love my life and it all started with this little 3 week challenge. I set out just to do this to test my toughness and ended up changing my life.
The Cleanse:
No sugar
No caffeine
No alcohol
No gluten (including oatmeal)
No dairy or anything containing casein
No meat
No animal products of any kind (including eggs, butter etc)
No foods that contain any of the above ingredients

Is that tough to do? YES! Especially the first time I did it!

The past two weeks I have been living off my Green Smoothies for Breakfast, Tomato Basil Pesto Pasta for lunch, Hummus and carrots for a snack and my Avocado, Strawberry Quinoa salad for dinner. So I’m hardly suffering!

Giving up caffeine and sugar all together is really hard. Every day I have to turn down a brownie or cake or some yummy treat. It’s tough, but after 2 weeks I am feeling really great!
I have been waking up before my alarm and my neck is starting to feel better. My body just feels happier overall and the longer I keep it up the easier it is to turn sweets down. Coffee on the other hand, I can’t wait to get back to enjoying 🙂

So what do you think? Does this sound like a fun challenge? What’s the worst thing that could happen? You could start to feel really great and have more energy?

Basil Cilantro Pesto

Here is another quick and easy recipe perfect for summer nights when you don’t want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen. Everything just goes in the blender and the outcome is a delicious, fresh, healthy pesto without any cheese.

Ingredients:
1 lb brown rice pasta

4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (I don’t worry too much about exact measurements here. It’s always good!)
1 bunch of cilantro
2/3 cup almonds
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice (I use the stuff in a bottle)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
Place all the ingredients for the pesto in a blender or food processor. Blend! If it’s too thick to blend add a little more water.

Look at all those veggies!

20120422-222449.jpg

Transformed into deliciousness!

20120422-222542.jpg

20120615-201602.jpg

Your skin is your largest organ

Did you know your skin is your largest organ? Pretty crazy huh? Think of all the things our skin goes through…scrapes, scratches, bruises, sunburns, shaving, oh man we put it through a lot!

So the skin is a living organ that absorbs whatever we slather on it. This concept has been in my head for years so I have made a conscious effort to buy “natural” body lotions, whatever that means. There is still a bunch of crazy stuff in there that I definitely would not want to ingest.

Then I came across a website that rates how healthy or unhealthy beauty products are. Scary.

One thing I have done for quite a while now is a “coconut oil meditation”. I slather myself in coconut oil-tons of it. Let it soak in for about 20 minutes. During that time I meditate. Then I hop in the shower just to lightly rinse off then pat dry with a towel. This is an Ayurvedic treatment used to re-balance the body or the “doshas”.

I always love the way my skin feels after doing that so I started thinking, why not just use a little coconut oil as my body moisturizer instead of lotion? It’s only 1 ingredient, and it’s something I would eat, why not?

So I ditched my regular body lotion and now I just slather on a little coconut oil! I absolutely love it! I smell like a giant girl scout cookie, all I’m missing is a little chocolate drizzle! My skin feels nice and soft all day long, and when I sweat I don’t turn into a slippery lotion mess like I did with regular body lotion.

A jar of coconut oil is about $10 but a little goes a long way so price wise it’s less expensive than body lotion. And health wise, I think it’s a much better choice!

20120501-211831.jpg

Roasted Veggie Primavera

As a former vegetable hater I am always very proud of myself when I make something really loaded with veggies. And usually I shy away from big chunks of veggies, I’m more of a hide vegetables so I don’t know I’m eating them kind of gal. But this is a pasta dish which automatically makes it fantastic, and roasting the vegetables really brings out the sweetness. This dish will easily give me lunch for the week, maybe more.
Modified from Appetite for Reduction

Ingredients:
1 lb brown rice pasta
1 lb zucchini, cut in quarters the long way and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 lb yellow squash, cut in quarters the long way and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 lb asparagus, coarse ends discarded, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 red onions, sliced
2-3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
12 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray.
Place all ingredients except for the pasta and vinegar in a very large mixing bowl and stir to incorporate everything.

20120416-194624.jpg

Spread the veggies out on the baking sheets and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

20120416-194745.jpg
That’s a ton of veggies, I know! Don’t be scared, it will cook down!

Now prepare the pasta according to directions. When it’s done, rinse and set aside.

Remove the veggies from the oven and stir/flip them. Bake for 15 more minutes or until your desired tenderness level.

When the veggies and pasta are done add everything back to that big mixing bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, stir to incorporate and enjoy!

20120416-195103.jpg

Workout of the Week

The workout for this week is simple, but very challenging! It will not take very long to complete which makes it a great workout for a day when you are short on time. There is no time limit, the goal is to complete it as quickly as possible. There is no equipment needed, just a place to run. I recommend going to a track- one lap around is 1/4 mile. Or you can just run around the block, or whatever!

The workout:
10 burpees
10 v-ups
10 mountain climbers
1/4 mile run (not shown in video)

Complete 4 rounds as fast as possible.

That good looking man in the video is Justin. He created this workout so I thought it would be fitting it he demonstrated the moves. Plus, he is so good at burpees 🙂

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

These are some goooood balls! A reasonably healthy alternative to actual cookie dough, yet somehow they taste almost exactly like cookie dough! I keep some of these balls in the freezer at all times, ha! My jokes here are seriously endless so I will just get straight to the recipe.
Taken from ohsheglows.com

20120409-214336.jpg

Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup salted cashews
1 cup regular oats
1 1/2 cups spelt flour (or whatever flour you want)
10 medjool dates, pitted
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup chocolate chips, melted for dipping

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, process the cashews and oats into a flour like consistency. Add the flour and salt and pulse a few times to combine.
Add the dates and pulse to a fine consistency.
Pour in the vanilla and syrup. Process until the mixture comes together in a ball. Too wet, add more flour. Too dry, add more syrup.
Now it’s time to add the chocolate chips. You can do this a couple different ways. You can transfer everything to a large mixing bowl and stir the chocolate chips in, that is the proper method. I however hate to dirty large mixing bowls and I like to live on the edge. So, I leave everything in the food processor and do a combination on pulsing the chocolate chips in and stirring them in.

Now, roll the dough into little balls and place on the baking sheet.
Melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth.
Dip the top of each ball in the chocolate or use a spatula to swipe some chocolate across the top. Or you can use a toothpick and dip each ball.

Store in the freezer, thaw to refrigerator temperature or room temperature before eating.

Drink your Veggies for Breakfast

I have posted this before, but since it’s warming up and becoming smoothie weather I am posting it again! There is no right way or wrong way to make smoothie, the options are endless. This is my go-to green smoothie since the blueberries cover up the green color of the kale and the banana covers up the kale taste. One thing is for sure, if you eat/drink kale for breakfast, you should feel very proud!

Ingredients (I estimate everything)
1 frozen or fresh banana (hint: peel the banana, cut it up, then freeze it in a baggie. I learned that the hard way)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter
1-3 stalks of kale, leafy part only, not the stalk (about 2 handfuls, more depending on brave you feel)
1/2 cup almond milk (whatever milk you want to use is fine, or use water)
1/2 – 1 cup water

Blend away!

20120408-212437.jpg

Tomato Basil Pesto Pasta

Here is a quick, easy and extremely yummy pasta dish. I like to make this in the summer because it throws together quickly so I can spend more time outside having fun! The sauce is so easy to make, by the time the pasta is cooked the sauce will be ready.

Ingredients:
1 pound brown rice pasta

2 15 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes OR 1/2 jar of spaghetti sauce (I use kirkland signature but use one that does not have added sugar or corn syrup)
1 cup slivered or chopped almonds
2 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 cups basil, packed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Step 1: Get your water boiling for your pasta and cook according to the package directions
Step 2: Toast your almonds. Set your oven to broil, spread the almonds out on a baking sheet, place on the top rack in the oven and broil for about 5 minutes, watch to be sure they don’t burn (don’t forget about them either)

20120408-211107.jpg
Step 3: This step isn’t absolutely necessary but it does really improve the flavor. But, if you really don’t have the time just skip to step 4. In a small saucepan over medium heat sauté the garlic, salt and pepper in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic starts to sizzle.
Step 4: Add all the sauce ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add to cooked pasta.

20120408-211152.jpg

20120408-211221.jpg

Refreshing Summer Salad with Grilled Tofu

Whenever I make Summer Rolls I usually make this salad either at the same time or the following day to use up any leftovers. It’s so nice and refreshing and easy to put together.
Adapted from Appetite for Reduction

Ingredients:
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons agave nectar
3 tablespoons Thai chili sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice (I use bottled lime juice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped, stems and all
1 cup diced mango
1 8 oz package vermicelli rice noodles
1 huge or 2 regular size cucumbers
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1 package tofu, grilled (directions below)

In a large mixing bowl combine the water, agave nectar, chili sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro, mango and onion. Add in the cucumber, stir. Last, fold in the noodles, tofu and peanuts and try to work everything in together. Serve as is or over lettuce.

20120401-223235.jpg

First, get the tofu going. This is my favorite way to prepare tofu. Preheat a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan. How much oil will depend on what kind of pan you are using. You just need enough so the tofu won’t stick to the pan.

Basic Grilled Tofu
Start with 1 package of extra firm tofu, the kind in the refrigerated section, not the vacuum packed stuff on the shelf. Cut it into about ¼ – ½ inch dice. Add the tofu to the pan and gently spread it around. Be careful to not smash your tofu. Let it sizzle in the pan for about 10 minutes. By now it should be starting to turn a golden color. Sprinkle some tamari or soy sauce on the tofu and gently stir it coating all the pieces with sauce. Let it cook 5-10 more minutes until your desired level of crispiness is achieved. From here your tofu can go anywhere!