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March 2017

Gluten Free Recipes Snack Vegan Vegetarian

Lightened Up Caramel Corn

March 17, 2017

Lightened Up Caramel Corn
(AKA What I’ve Eaten for Breakfast for the Last Week)

Caramel Corn

In the last 2 years I feel like popcorn has really made a comeback. Popcorn is not my favorite snack, but I really like the unhealthy types, like caramel corn. I sometimes have to have Jon hide a bag from me so that I don’t eat it all in one sitting. I have no problem with treats, but I found myself at the grocery store putting the bag back on the shelf because I was so turned off by the ingredients. I just felt like sugar shouldn’t be the first ingredient in popcorn. Sugar should be the first ingredient in gummy bears or licorice.

Caramel Corn 2

Then I found Whole Foods Kettle Corn and holy moly, I couldn’t resist. It sells out fast; so if you see a bag, grab it and get an extra one for me! I’ve casually (read: not at all casual) asked my local Whole Foods when they receive shipments. And that’s when I realized, I have a problem. (By the way – It’s Wednesday and Friday for the Des Moines crowd).

Caramel Corn

Making caramel corn is so much easier than I thought. Sure, this recipe is a little long-winded, but that’s just me. In any case, here are a few notes:

  • I tried one version with all maple syrup and another with half maple syrup and half brown sugar. Both were good, but I preferred all maple syrup. Let me know which one you prefer. (The first pic of the little pot is the option without the brown sugar)
  • I originally wrote the recipe with 2 tablespoons of butter, which Jon preferred, but it was well, too buttery for me. I found myself wiping my hands on my pants after every handful. #slob
  • You need more oil than you think when popping the kernels – After 4 rounds of burnt, half-popped popcorn, I finally realized my mistake.
  • Speaking of the half-popped popcorn – what do you think of those brands that sell it that way intentionally? Maybe it’s my Irish teeth, but I’m not a fan.


Vegan Caramel CornLightened Up Caramel Corn
Serving: About 4 cups of popcorn 

1 tablespoon coconut oil or canola oil
¼ cup of popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon of vegan butter, like Earth Balance or organic butter
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of almond milk
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon of salt, plus more for seasoning


  1. Preheat the oven to 250° (225° if you’re using a convection oven) and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Make the popcorn: In a medium sized pot (about 4 quarts), heat the oil on medium-high heat for about a minute. Take the pot off the heat and add the popcorn kernels to the pot and cover. Count to 15 and place it back on the heat. When the kernels start to pop, shake the pot every few seconds. When the kernels slow popping, remove from heat and take the cover off to let the steam out.
  3. Make the caramel sauce: In a small frying pan or small pot, add the vegan butter, maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla extract, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Heat on medium high heat and bring the sauce to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir the sauce with a fork often. The sauce will reduce to a syrup consistency.
  4. Place the popcorn in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the caramel sauce into the bowl (a few tablespoons at a time), stirring between adding the caramel.
  5. Spread the popcorn out on the baking sheet, season with a pinch of salt, and bake for 25 minutes.

Question: What’s a junk food you just can’t control yourself around?

Gluten Free Recipes Vegan Vegetarian

Vegan Bolognese

March 9, 2017

Vegan Bolognese
(AKA – It’s just sauce and some beans, but really good)

Vegan Bolognese 4

I’m a “To-Do List” person. I make a to-do list every Monday morning for the week. I’ve done the same method for about 6 years. I’ve tried some fancy planners, but nothing works better for me than a blank sheet of white printer paper with “To Do” written at the top and the days of the week going down the side, unevenly spaced out written in my chicken scratch. Usually my to-do list has work related stuff, things that need to be done around the house, and mundane chores that I do without prompting but like to scratch off anyway – I know I’m not alone here (Hi Kaitlin!).

Then there are the items that never leave the to-do list and remain on the list for several weeks:

  • Return pillows
  • Look into dance class
  • Give meditation another chance
  • Learn to make a great pasta sauce
  • Stop eating so much pasta
  • Change blog name to – Pasta Recipes Only

Vegan Bolognese 1

A few weeks ago, on a family ski vacation, it was pasta night. I am usually thrilled with plain pasta sauce. I have been known to take several spoonfuls from the Rao’s jar. We had several options going – a Bolognese, a gluten-free pasta, and a veggie option (we’re high maintenance and know it). I peered over into the pot that my brother was stirring. It was filled with much more substance than the basic marinara sauce that I was making. Admittedly, I was a bit jealous.

So I started to doctor up the sauce that I was responsible for. I was a little sheepish as I presented what I thought was basically crushed tomatoes with leftover beans. Turns out crushed tomatoes and leftovers are a hit!

Vegan Bolognese 2

As mentioned, you could easily take a jar of pasta sauce and add a few cans of beans to it, and that’s totally fine if that’s what you do (that’s what I usually do), but I feel that making your own sauce is a right of passage. For some reason I look at it as an accomplishment. And after the several recipe tests that I’ve screwed up, this outcome is certainly an accomplishment, especially after the night we basically had ketchup and pasta for dinner.

A few notes on this recipe:

  • Beans – You can use canned, but I thought the ratio of beans to sauce was a little heavy. I like to make my own beans – they don’t fall apart as easily and taste much better.
  • When you make your pasta, save a cup of starchy water before draining the noodles. Adding a half to a full cup helps give the sauce some body and it clings to the pasta better.
  • The herbs and spices can certainly be adjusted. I like a spicy sauce, so I added some extra red pepper flakes and a touch of cayenne.
  • I added a little lemon juice at the end of the sauce to brighten the taste without adding more salt.

Vegan Bolognese 3

Vegan Bolognese
Serving: 2 ½ cups of sauce

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, separated
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 teaspoons of salt, separated
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon of cayenne
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of organic crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh basil (about 6 leaves, not removed from the stem)
1 sprig of fresh oregano (optional)
1 teaspoon of lemon juice (optional)
1/3 cup of dry garbanzo beans, cooked
1/3 cup of dry black beans, cooked
1 pound of pasta


  1. In a medium size pot on medium heat, coat the bottom of the pot with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the diced onion to the pot and a teaspoon of salt. Stir occasionally for about 7 minutes or until translucent.
  2. Add the dried spices and minced garlic. Stir for about 3 minutes, not letting the garlic brown. (You made need a little more oil at this point, but once the tomatoes are added, they will deglaze the bottom of the pan, removing the pieces that are stuck).
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, and stir in the bay leaves, fresh basil, and fresh oregano. Add a teaspoon of salt and another tablespoon of olive oil. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then cover and bring down the heat to low. Leave the sauce on low for an hour or longer, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove the aromatics (bay leaves, fresh basil, and fresh oregano) and add the prepared beans to the sauce. At this point taste the sauce – you may want to use the lemon juice or add more salt.
  5. Prepare your pasta and combine it with the sauce. Don’t forget to add ½-1 cup of the pasta water to the sauce. I recommend preparing this dish with a sautéed leafy green, such as swiss chard, spinach, kale, or broccoli rabe. Garnish with your choice of topping – you’ll see hemp seeds in the above pictures.

PS – This meme from MyTherapistSays made me laugh until I cry emoji
MyTherapistSays Meme


What’s on your To-Do List?