Valentine’s Ideas

Dark Chocolate Chip Strawberries

Dark Chocolate Chip Strawberries

It’s been a relaxing and rainy weekend and not much cooking has been happening around here until today. Friday we went out with Josh’s family and had sushi and last night we ordered vegetable hibachi in. It was actually pretty good and you can order it without butter and asked for light on the oil, so it didn’t taste so greasy.

Tonight we had our annual Valentine’s family dinner with my family, and it’s the only time we get to eat in the dining room, so it’s a pretty big deal! It’s a steak dinner so this year I made something that I could have, and my family really enjoyed it as well. I made a vegetable sushi platter for appetizer with several varieties and I saved some of it to have as my meal with roasted veggies and for dessert I made some dark chocolate covered strawberries sprinkled with dairy free chocolate chips. I haven’t been eating chocolate very much since starting to eat HCLF, so these were a treat! They were a great vegan Valentine’s sweet and they were really easy to make.

The sushi is a perfect valentine’s meal to impress. It looks really fancy like you put a lot of time into it, plus it’s delicious and not too heavy. You can add whatever you want inside so it’s versatile and so much cheaper than going out (especially on Valentine’s Day!)

 Vegetable Sushi 

Nori sheets (Whole Foods)

short grain brown rice (almost 1 cup per roll)

2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar per cup of rice

Filling Ideas-

Teriyaki Grilled Portobello, Asparagus, and Carrot- 

1 portobello cap, cleaned

asparagus spears, microwaved for 1 minute

shredded carrots

scallion slices

Teriyaki sauce

  1. Marinate cap in teriyaki for about an hour, then grill on a grill pan until tender. Slice into slices and place back in the leftover marinade.

Avocado, Cucumber, Carrot, Scallion, and spring mix

Avocado, cucumber, avocado, scallion

Avocado, mango, cucumber

Teriyaki Grilled Portobello, Asparagus, Cucumber, Spring Mix

To Assemble-

  1. Mix warm rice with proper amount of vinegar (2 tbsp per 1 cup rice) and let sit for a few minutes until sticky.
  2. Lay nori sheet on a clean and dry surface shiny side down and long ends horizontal, and spread rice with paddle on nori, I leave about 1/2 inch of room on the side closest to me and farthest from me.
  3. Add a little of each ingredient (few pieces of each) about 1/3 way across (near you) in a horizontal line.
  4. Wet your finger and wet the empty space of nori farthest from you to ensure secure sealing.
  5. Start rolling the sushi up while you are holding the ingredients in, squeeze and roll.
  6. Leave it for a few minutes to seal and then use a sharp serrated knife to cut into 3/4 inch pieces.
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with wasabi, ginger, and soy sauce.
Vegetable Sushi Rolls

Vegetable Sushi Rolls

Vegetable Sushi Rolls

Vegetable Sushi Rolls

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

I used the 72% Endangered Specials Dark Chocolate bars from Whole Foods (2 for $5) and melted them with a tbsp of water in the microwave. Yes, no double boiler and so technically wrong, but it works. You microwave for 30 seconds at a time and use a whisk to stir and keep going until it’s totally melted and glossy. Dip the strawberries and twist, then I used Enjoy Life dairy free mini chocolate chips and pressed them on while the chocolate was still wet. Then refrigerate to set up and serve!

2 dark chocolate bars, melted

1/4 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

1 carton fresh strawberries

Dark Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

I teach 2nd grade so I always make my kids a Valentine’s treat every year. I usually make rice crispy hearts, but this year I wanted to make a vegan option. I melted down a few bars of dark chocolate and poured it into a thin, tall container so that dipping pretzel rods was easy. After dipping the pretzel rods, I laid them on parchment to harden and sprinkled them with valentines sprinkles to look festive.

4 bars of 72% dark chocolate, melted over double boiler

1 bag of pretzel rods

Valentine’s sprinkles

  1. Melt chocolate over a double boiler and pour melted chocolate into a tall, thin container.
  2. Dip each pretzel about halfway and then lay on parchment to cool.
  3. Sprinkle with Valentines sprinkles while still wet and cool completely.
Dark Chocolate Pretzels

Dark Chocolate Pretzels

Dark Chocolate Pretzels

Dark Chocolate Pretzels

New Year’s Football Party Food: Vegan Chili, Cornbread, and Brownies, oh my!

Bad Billy's Bean Chili

Bad Billy’s Bean Chili

For the football games on New Years Day, my parents had friends over for a viewing party and so I wanted to make something that we could eat. What goes better with football than chili? Not much. My dad has been making the same chili recipe for as long as I can remember and it’s been passed down in his family so it’s famous in our house. It has lots of meat in it however, so I decided to use the recipe and just modify it to make it with just beans instead. I threw everything in the pot and let it simmer for a few hours until it was dinner time and now I have the Allen’s secret chili recipe, and now you’ll have it too. There’s a special spice blend that you’ll need to make beforehand and then use it in the chili, but it makes enough to last you about 30 batches. This chili is a little spicy, filling, packed with flavor and fiber, and perfect for the frigid temperatures we’re having right now. It’s written as Tokyo Tom’s Chili recipe, so the modified name is now named after my dad; Bad Billy’s Bean Chili. Nice ring to it, huh?

Bad Billy’s Bean Chili

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 tsp Robert’s spice blend

1 tbsp cumin

6-7 tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

sprinkle red chili flakes

2 tsp minced garlic

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

2 15 oz can diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

4 cups vegetable broth

3 cans of tri-bean blend, mine had black, kidney, and white beans I think? or you can just add 3 cans of your favorite beans

  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat and add onions and peppers and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and spices, and let them bloom until fragrant.
  2. Pour in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, and beans then add the bay leaf.
  3. Stir and let it simmer up to 3-4 hours until it’s thickened.
  4. Serve topped with diced avocado or vegan cheese shreds, both were good.

Those are the original recipes, and here’s the recipe for the Robert’s Spice Blend:

4 tsp onion powder

1 tbsp paprika

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp celery salt

1 1/2 tsp garlic salt

1 1/2 tsp ground white pepper

1 tsp ground mustard

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves

Combine all spices and store in an airtight container.

I brought my homemade hummus over for an appetizer and luckily someone brought cowboy caviar so we had enough snacks. Also I made Vegan Cornbread as our side and it was delicious, especially warm and crumbled up in the chili!

Easy Vegan Cornbread

2 boxes of Vegetarian Jiffy Cornbread mix

2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tbsp water, sit and let bloom)

2 tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter spread

few sprinkles of vegan cheddar shreds

  1. Mix all ingredients until well combined and pour into a greased baking dish.
  2. Bake according to the box instructions for about 25 minutes or until edges are getting brown.
  3. While it’s warm, I use a little more vegan butter and spread it on top and it melts to give it a more buttery flavor and gives it a little more moisture.

I also attempted to make one of my old dessert staples, Peanut Butter Brownie Bites but they definitely didn’t add up to what I used to make. I need to figure out how to make vegan brownies because using flax eggs instead of real eggs made my batter boil and it’s like it never really rises or cooks through. It seemed really oily while baking, so I drained some oil off and after I let them cool, I moved them to a paper towel to drain any excess oil. I added some baking powder to the next batch to see if it would help, and all it did was create brownie lava explosion all over the muffin tin. Maybe try a mashed banana next time? What I was left with a very crunchy exterior and a gooey interior. I just decided to keep going with it and see who wanted to be my guinea pigs and gave them a warning about their crunchiness. Surprisingly, people at them and my mom said she really liked them. They are chewy almost like a caramel, but super crispy when you bite into them. I’m not saying they’re the best, but if you want to try them here’s the recipe. Brownies are also something else I need to work on this year! But the best part was the batter, it tastes just like brownie batter and it doesn’t have eggs so you can lick the bowl worry free!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Bites

Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

1 box Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix, or look for one without milk or egg ingredients

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup oil

2 flax eggs

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

1/4 cup mini Enjoy Life chips

  1. Spray a mini muffin tin with oil and preheat oven to 350*
  2. Mix together the brownie mix, water, oil, and flax eggs.
  3. Use a small ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Remove from muffin tins and drain any excess oil on a paper towel and use your finger to make a small divot in the middle of each brownie bite.
  5. Heat peanut butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds until it’s melted and use a spoon to fill each divot on the brownies with a small amount of melted peanut butter.
  6. When cooled, top with some vegan mini chips.

If you’ve figured out the secret to easy vegan brownies, please let me know!


Maple- Cinnamon Apple and Pear Baked Oatmeal -Oh She Glows

Maple- Cinnamon Apple and Pear Baked Oatmeal -Oh She Glows

Maple- Cinnamon Apple and Pear Baked Oatmeal -Oh She Glows

I made this recipe for breakfast this morning from my new Oh She Glows Cookbook and it was a hearty, warm, and healthy way to start the day. I decided not to peel the apples or pear so that it had a little more texture and color and it turned out great. I’m usually not a big fan of oatmeal, it’s a texture thing, but luckily this recipe had enough crunch from the fruit and walnuts to keep me from giving up after a few bites. I know how good oats are for your heart health and digestion so I always try to sneak them in when I can, and this turned out to be a delicious way to incorporate them. I’m sure you can even make it the night before and pop it in the oven to bake in the morning if you have a spare 45 minutes. It might be a weekend meal if you don’t have time for a nice breakfast, it’s usually a protein bar in the car on the way to work. That’s why I really enjoy the days I can lounge in my pj’s with a big mug of tea and a warm and filling breakfast! IMG_9902.jpg

Maple- Cinnamon Apple and Pear Baked Oatmeal -Oh She Glows

Maple- Cinnamon Apple and Pear Baked Oatmeal -Oh She Glows

‘Twas a Very Vegan Christmas- Recipes Included

IMG_9883.jpgAnd what a Merry Christmas it was! Christmas is my favorite holiday, my favorite day of the year, and something I look forward to all year long. Some would say I’m still a 5 year old when it comes to Christmas and I love being the one to still run into my family member’s rooms to wake them up on Christmas morning (earlier than they would like.) Our family has many Christmas traditions that I always look forward to, and I love knowing what fun we’ll have at each event. The holidays are full of fun, food, cheer, excitement, and love and that’s why it’s the BEST time of year.

This year would be a little different in the food department. No longer could I go to the Christmas Eve party and have Chickfila nuggets and brie bites, so I wanted to come up with a menu for all of our Christmas events that would keep us satisfied and feel included in the foodie festivities. I wanted some of the traditional elements that make it feel like Christmas and just adjust the ingredients to a recipe that we could enjoy as well. Thank goodness mimosas are vegan! I tried to not let this menu planning, cooking, and adjusting stress me out so I did what I had to do and enjoyed the results. Here’s the recipes we had this year for Christmas, and I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Annual Christmas Eve Party- Spinach, Mushroom, and Tofu Ricotta Wreath

Spinach, Mushroom, and Tofu Ricotta Wreath

Spinach, Mushroom, and Tofu Ricotta Wreath

This was a beautiful, festive, and delicious party appetizer. It impressed with it’s flavor and it’s eye appeal and it went a long way so a lot of people got to try it out. Did you know crescent rolls are vegan?! I know, what a wonderful surprise. These add a decadent and guilty pleasure feel that you need at any holiday party.  Forgive the picture, I forgot to take one once it was moved to a pretty tray and topped with torn basil, surrounded by fresh parsley, and added a bowl of my favorite marinara sauce (Rao’s) in the middle for dipping. Believe me, it was more appealing at the party, but I was really pleased with how it turned out.

3 cans of Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough

1 bag of chopped, frozen spinach

8 oz baby Bella mushrooms, sliced

1 yellow onion, diced

1 lb container organic firm tofu, drained and pressed

8-10 leaves of fresh basil, torn

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

2 tsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350*. In a food processor, add tofu, garlic, Italian seasoning, nutritional yeast, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend on high until smooth and set aside.
  2. In a skillet, add the spinach, sliced mushrooms, onion and salt and pepper and sauté until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add the tofu ricotta into the skillet and mix with vegetables to make the filling for the wreath. Let cool in the refrigerator.
  4. On a large flat lined cookie sheet, add the crescent roll triangles into the shape of a sun. The wider part of the triangles will be overlapping as the base of the inner part of the wreath and the pointed ends will extend out. I used 3 cans of dough to make a large wreath, but you can make it different sizes depending on how many triangles you use.
  5. Once your filling is cool, start adding heaping spoonfuls to the overlapping section of the triangles until you have a good amount of filling and then fold the pointed ends of the triangles over the filling and tuck under the inner section of the wreath. I used the leftover few triangles to make a bow for the top of the wreath.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes and you have a perfect festive appetizer! 

Christmas Morning – Mini Blueberry Muffins

I used my previous post recipe for easy blueberry muffins and baked them in a mini muffin tin, perfect for popping muffins while opening presents. I wasn’t super prepared to make them because I realized I didn’t have oil so I used the Earth Balance butter baking sticks, and for the eggs I used a mashed banana. They were eaten faster than the store bought muffins sitting next to them!

Christmas Morning Brunch- TJ’s Cinnamon Rolls, “Sausage”, Tofu Scramble, and Cantaloupe

Every Christmas morning, my family hosts a brunch with a few family members at our house and we have the same thing each year. We have Eggs Mornay (hardboiled eggs in a creamy mornay sauce), turkey kielbasa, cantaloupe, biscuits, and Sister Schubert’s cinnamon rolls. Needless to say, I had to come up with some alternatives and I didn’t feel as miserably full and sick this year after a huge brunch.

Guess what? Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Roll dough in a can is vegan! No Sister Schubert’s for us this year, but these were a delicious and fluffy replacement. We baked these and topped with the given icing.

I told my mom to get Morning Star “Sausage” patties for our meat replacement, and didn’t know that they did still include eggs and milk. Sorry we ate them anyway, but I’ll know in the future.

I made a savory tofu scramble with sautéed asparagus and grape tomatoes (Christmas colors, of course!) I sautéed chopped asparagus, halved grape tomatoes, and salt and pepper until soft. I crumbled extra firm tofu into the mixture and then sprinkled with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and turmeric for color. It’s a healthy alternative that still gives you the protein to balance out the mass quantity of sugar and carbs, but doesn’t leave you feeling bloated and sick.

We also had chopped cantaloupe. I took a picture of my plate yesterday morning and then somehow lost the picture during my Christmas phone transition, so just picture it in your heads for now. Here’s a picture of my leftover scramble and I sprinkled TJ’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning on top. Looks kind of like scrambled eggs?

Asparagus and Tomato Tofu Scramble

Asparagus and Tomato Tofu Scramble

Christmas Dinner- Vegan “Beef” and Wine

Vegan "Beef" and Wine

Vegan “Beef” and Wine

Beef and Wine was one of my favorite recipes that has come out of my grandparent’s kitchen. It’s something we always have for big family special occasions and it has a rich, hearty flavor filled with filet, bacon, and red wine. Again, I needed to make an alternative but I still wanted the flavor that I loved and wanted to fit in and still have this dish with the rest of the family. I called my grandma for the recipe and then adjusted it to fit our needs. This is what I came up with, and I actually loved it! It had the same rich flavor from the wine, but didn’t have the greasiness from the bacon and meat. I served ours over bowtie pasta instead of egg noodles. I might add a splash of liquid smoke next time to get the smokiness from the missing bacon. My cousin did a taste test with the two versions, so it’s Allison approved, and I chased many people down with a spoon to have them try it out and they liked it as well! Sweet success!

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 bags of Quorn beefless strips, or your favorite replacement

few tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 c. dry red wine

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp minced garlic

1-2 cups of carrots, sliced

1 lb baby Bella mushrooms, sliced

4 c vegetable broth, low sodium

2 tbsp Vegetarian Better than Bouillon “Beef” flavor

few tbsps of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, sauté onion, carrots, mushrooms in olive oil for about 5-7 minutes and remove from pan.
  2. Toss beefless strips into flour to coat and then dust off excess. Add to a few tbsp of olive oil to dutch oven and add strips and brown. Once browned, remove from pan as well.
  3. Add tomato paste, bouillon, and garlic to the pan and stir for a few minutes to deepen flavor, and then add the veggie broth and wine for the sauce. Dump vegetables and strips back into the pot and stir.
  4. Simmer 2-3 hours until sauce has thickened and vegetables are tender. Serve over pasta and it’s drool-worthy and makes even better leftovers.

    Vegan "Beef" and Wine

    Vegan “Beef” and Wine

I also made Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies and Dark Chocolate bark that I brought to all of our events. They were a big hit, and I didn’t have any to take home with us. They got eaten faster than “regular” Christmas cookies and everyone came to me raving about the bark! I posted the recipes already to the blog. 



Vegan Peppermint and Chocolate Chip Cookies

This was my first time making vegan cookies from scratch and they are amazing! They’re soft, chewy, and chocolatey just like I like them. I added crushed candy canes to the recipe because I’m making them for the holidays and thought they would be more festive and they turned out great. Now I don’t have to buy them from Whole Foods anymore! I used the Earth Balance baking sticks and Enjoy Life mini dairy free chocolate chips. Now let’s see if anyone can even tell they’re vegan at the Christmas parties!

Recipe here

Dark Chocolate Pistachio and Dried Cranberry Bark

Dark Chocolate Pistachio and Dried Cranberry Bark

Dark Chocolate Pistachio and Dried Cranberry Bark

Every Christmas our neighbors bake hundreds of goodies and there’s a stash at my parents house that takes up a good portion of the counter. One of the families makes this pistachio and dried cranberry bark and it’s one of my favorites! I wanted to make it vegan so we could still enjoy it this year, and it was super easy to make. 4 ingredients and about 15 minutes and you’ve got a delicious sweet treat that everyone will love. It’s the perfect balance of salty and sweet. I spread the melted chocolate a little thinner than I would like, so next time I’ll be more careful of that, but it made a lot of bark.

Dark Chocolate Pistachio and Dried Cranberry Bark

1 lb of dark chocolate, I got 6 3oz dark chocolate bars from Whole Foods (just always check chocolate ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain milk fat)

3/4 cup shelled roasted and salted pistachios

1/2 cup Craisins

Sprinkle of sea salt

  1. Start boiling water in a saucepan and then add a mixing bowl on top. Let the bottom of the mixing bowl touch the water, but not the bottom of the pan.
  2. Start breaking the chocolate into pieces and add it to the mixing bowl. It will start melting and keep stirring. This is the best way to keep the chocolate glossy.
  3. Put a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet, and have your toppings ready.
  4. Once the chocolate is melted, spread it out on the parchment with a spatula about 1/4- 1/8 inch thick.
  5. While the chocolate is still melted, add the toppings and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Place it in the refrigerator to set up. This is the best way to get the bark to have a snap.
  7. When it’s hardened, break it up with your hands and enjoy!

    Dark Chocolate Pistachio and Dried Cranberry Bark

    Dark Chocolate Pistachio and Dried Cranberry Bark

Revolution Donuts

Revolution Donuts

We haven’t had donuts since we went vegan so this was a major treat! My friend Chelsea brought Josh some vegan donuts from Revolution donuts and they were amazing! Airy and light with a decadent layer of frosting on top, I’m glad they’re not too close to our house for my jean’s safety. If you’re in the Decatur/Atlanta GA area you need to go grab one, or a dozen!