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coconut cranberry pecan balls

29 Mar

These are the new favorite food in our house.

They are also from my new favorite cookbook and vegan lent inspiration, Clean Food by Terry Waters.

Willa actually made them first and brought them to the gym as a post-run snack. They made the best snack ever!

They remind me a lot of Larabars….but even better since you can make them in your own home.

They beg to be played with. I think dried cherries would be delicious and dates would be tasty too. For the nuts, cashews might be an interesting option. I’m sure you could swap out nut butters, but I really like the almond butter in this one. I actually made my own almond butter. I used this recipe as my inspiration, but I just used plain roasted almonds and salt.  Ashley’s other nut butters are delicious though – you should check them out.

Maybe some chunks of chocolate would be welcomed? Hmmm…

I have found it’s hard to eat just one of these. However, I’m always completely satisfied after two. They are full of satiating ingredients and do a great job of taming my sweet tooth and my growling stomach.

These treats are a great afternoon snack or a healthy dessert. They taste even better after a hard workout, but I won’t hold it against you if you eat one for breakfast or just because.


Coconut Cranberry Pecan Balls

from Clean Food by Terry Waters

Makes 20-24 balls


1/2 cup shredded unsweetened dried coconut

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup almond butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

To toast the pecans, you can either put them in a dry skillet on the stovetop on medium low heat until fragrant or pop them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. I suggest toasting a few extras for your oatmeal in the morning – it’s awesome.

Place the coconut in a small bowl and set aside.

Add all of the other ingredients to a food processor and process to form a stiff paste.  Taking a heaping tablespoon of dough at a time, form into balls with your hands and roll in the coconut.  Store in an airtight container.

I kept them in the fridge for more than a week and they’re still good!

Oh, and they’re vegan! Shhh….


current inspirations

14 Mar

Have you entered the giveaway? Ends tonight at 5 p.m.!

I’m all of 5 days into vegan lent. So far, I’m loving it. I haven’t had any “cravings” and I’m certainly not starving.

I have shared before my love of cookbooks. In case you need a recap…

I love cookbooks. I own a lot of them. I read them like novels.

You are now caught up.

I thought I’d share the cookbooks that are my inspiration and go-to’s for this vegan challenge.

Clean Food by Terry Waters


This is my newest cookbook and I can’t wait to make just about everything in it. All of the recipes are vegan, but she doesn’t call it a vegan cookbook. It’s really about great recipes made from whole foods that are good for you. Genius.

I recently sampled the coconut pecan cranberry balls (thanks Willa!) and they made the best post-run snack.

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson


Heidi is the author of one of my favorite blogs, 101 Cookbooks. This is her first cookbook and she has a second one coming out next month that I’ve already pre-ordered. I’ve never been disappointed with her recipes. Seriously, they’ve all been fantastic. This cookbook has both vegetarian and vegan options. I’m only bummed I didn’t order it sooner!

Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health


This has been a favorite of mine for awhile. I’ve made a lot of great recipes from this book. Most recently the Spanish Stew with Romesco Sauce. Talk about making vegan sound sexy!  There are many other winning recipes in here.

Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero


I don’t make nearly as many recipes in here as I’d hoped because many of them tend to be complicated. However, there are many gems and when I have more time, I love diving into this one. I’ve featured a couple recipes from the book here: chickpea cutlets and the cashew pineapple quinoa stir-fry. Both are family favorites. This cookbook is also a really fun read as the authors have a great sense of humor.

What are you reading? What cookbook inspires you?

current reads

14 Jan

I had a hard time figuring out what to blog about as a follow up to Anne’s farewell. Is there proper blog etiquette for a situation like this? If so, I’m not aware of it.

So, I’ll just keep it light….as opposed to the normally heavy material that I post here.

While Anne may not be blogging with me, we are still best of friends. In fact, we just saw each other at book club.

With books on my mind, I thought I would share the books I’m currently reading.

Are you shocked that 3 out of 4 are cookbooks? Don’t be. They are novels to me.

The non-cookbook on the pile, The Book Thief, is what we read for book club. I would highly recommend this book. It takes place in Nazi Germany and is told from the perspective of the Germans. I could not put it down and I didn’t want it to end. We all liked it and we had a great discussion (you know it’s good when we talk more about the book than we do just about life). The discussion lead to a lot of googling to refresh our memory of some of the details surrounding WWI and WWII.  I tried to channel my 8th grade history class, but there were a few zillion blank spots. We also watched the movie trailer!

A few words on the others in the pile.

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson – this is a book I’ve been eyeing for a long time. I’m a huge fan of Heidi’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, so I was pretty sure I’d enjoy the book. It’s awesome! The photos are taken by her and the writing is fabulous. She takes you through building a more natural pantry and what to do with those natural ingredients. I have about 35 recipes earmarked so far and have all ready made two of them – and they were terrific. If you are interested in some new spins on healthy food (That don’t taste like cardboard), I would highly recommend this book. She has a new one coming out in April that I’ve already pre-ordered.

Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson- I have many friends that love Nigella’s books, but this is the first to my cookbook shelf. I haven’t even gotten to the recipes yet and I’m loving it. Her writing makes cooking and anything to do with food seem like such a sensual experience. I can even hear her English accent through the words. In fact, if I read it out loud, I think I would have to read it like she talks. I’ll spare all of you. You’re welcome. Her focus is on simple dishes without much fuss. Who doesn’t need more of those for busy weeknights? I cannot wait to dive in.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman – A friend of mine has been telling me I need to buy this book for a couple of months. I think she even pointed her finger at me and made me promise. We eat a lot less meat since the vegetarian summer and with a vegan lent challenge around the corner, I’m building my arsenal of scrumptious dishes. I have barely cracked this one so I can’t give it a lot of kudos yet, but based on what I see, I’ll like it. It gives you a dish and then about 12 different ways to change it up.  I have a feeling it will be up there with Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – one of my go-to resources.

And yes, that’s the latest issue of Food & Wine. I finally just cracked into that last night. While I enjoy reading this magazine a lot, I don’t make a ton of recipes from it. However, in my brief skim, this issue looks like it has some keepers.

So as Anne eluded to in her farewell (tear), there are some potential changes coming down the pipe. Please bear with me and stay tuned! If you have any ideas for things you’d like to see or a possible name change, please let me know.  In the meantime, you can expect my normal random thoughts, recipes, reviews and whatnot.

What’s on your reading list right now?

meatless monday: tuscan vegetable soup

15 Nov

I have a go-to soup that I like to make quite often. Yup- surprise, surprise- it’s an Ellie Krieger recipe! It’s in her cookbook The Food You Crave. I just made it the other day, and looky here I even managed to take a couple pictures before the baby woke up screaming and the other kid garlic-pressed garlic all over my opened cookbook.

Tuscan Vegetable Soup– Ellie Krieger


  • 1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium canellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced, (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small zucchini, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, optional


In a small bowl mash half of the beans with a masher or the back of a spoon, and set aside. {I like to leave more than half of the beans whole.} Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, garlic, thyme, sage, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and cook stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

{raw veggies just added to the pot}

{here are the veggies once they’ve cooked. I always cook them awhile longer than it says here to be sure they’re tender. I find you could use a little more oil, too.}

Add the broth and tomatoes with the juice and bring to a boil. Add the mashed and whole beans and the spinach leaves and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes more.

{I’ve always made this recipe with the ingredients listed, but you could definitely substitute different veggies. This time I didn’t have any spinach so I used cabbage instead. It was a heartier touch than the spinach usually is. Oh, and I’ve always used chicken broth in mine.}

{the finished soup}

Serve topped with Parmesan, if desired.

{I always serve mine topped with parmesan, and with a side of crusty bread.}


Last year on this date: bullet point Sunday by Anne

me, blogging??

2 Sep

I know. You’re probably all thinking that Jen should just go ahead and rename this blog SHE SAID. I don’t really have much to say these days on the topics of dining out, preparing fancy meals, running a marathon, or weeding my organic garden. But alas, here I remain, behind the scenes, contemplating blog posts in my mind and then never getting around to writing them.

So, what have I been doing all summer you ask? Mainly I’ve been mothering my two children- the three year old who’s been in the throes of being THREE, and the infant who’s been in the throes of being pissy about being ignored thanks to the time and effort that I put in with the three year old. Surprisingly, I’ve actually done a fair amount of meal prep this summer. Nothing fancy or gourmet or overly time-consuming, but I’ve been utilizing some nice in-season summer fare and trying to whip up things that are fresh and healthy, and fast. ((Admittedly, I have Nickelodeon and a baby swing to thank for allowing me the time between 5:00-6:00pm most nights to throw together some semblance of a meal.))

Two things stand out in my mind that I’ve made this summer. The first, tabbouleh. Why on earth have I never made tabbouleh before?? I’m not even sure I’ve had tabbouleh until about a few months ago when I got some from Kowalski’s deli (I was told that they have “a lady” who makes it up special for them.) It was very yummy and I knew it would be easy to make, and then I came across a recipe for it in Ellie’s cookbook, and then I just so happened to actually have cucumber and tomatoes and red onion ON HAND from my husband’s OWN GARDEN and unfortunately I was missing a lemon but had a lime so I used that and it was really a very yummy and summery-perfect salad to accompany lunches and dinners for a good five days.

Secondly, this summer I baked something called Blueberry Boy Bait. How great of a name is that?? I’m lucky enough to have in my possession some of my grandma’s recipes, written out in her hand. I remember seeing the Blueberry Boy Bait recipe time and again, and I always thought that it was some really unique recipe that my grandma must have made up or had passed down from her family or something. Anyway, I was visiting my parents in early August and decided I wanted to make this. Turns out I couldn’t find the recipe in my recipe box and thought I was out of luck for making it. My wise father was the one who suggested googling it. I was doubtful; I mean, this was my grandma’s special, unique, one-of-a-kind Blueberry Boy Bait recipe. There’s no WAY it would appear on Google.


If you’re so inclined, take a moment and Google ‘blueberry boy bait’, and in the search results will appear no less than one billion entries for Blueberry Boy Bait. Turns out that back in the ’50s Pillsbury had a baking contest, and some girl made this buttery blueberry cake that made all the young teen guys swoon, and then it was coined Blueberry Boy Bait. Okay whatever, so the whole world knows about Boy Bait, and even better, now I was able to bake it even though my grandma’s recipe was missing. I think I used this recipe- Blueberry Boy Bait from Cook’s Country. The cake was flavorful and moist (if I may use that word in polite company) and buttery, but I think I did something wrong because instead of the blueberries being evenly dispersed throughout the cake, mine all sunk to the bottom. Still tasted good though, kind of like a blueberry muffin in cake form. (Come to think of it, perhaps the sinking of the blueberries was due to me using my mother’s ingredients, which included salted butter and 2% milk, instead of unsalted butter and whole milk. I’m sure the BUTTER was the whole reason. Mom! HA! hi!)

And now, I have a huge-ish zucchini on my counter waiting to be turned into something cake-like with a cream cheese frosting, but I need to be pointed towards a great recipe. That’s where you come in, dear readers. Send zucchini bread/cake/bars recipes my way!

reflections and a new year

17 Aug

Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. I know – you can’t believe I’m that old, right? Me either.  My 20’s don’t seem all that long ago…How exactly did I get to 33?

This past weekend, I was in Chicago at the Healthy Living Summit (recap coming this week of all I learned).  While I was there, I used it as an opportunity to reflect and think about what I want this next year of my life to be about. This might be one of the only times of year I get really reflective. I’ve been saying all summer that after my birthday, the ‘year of Jen’ would begin. However, I needed to figure out what that meant.

Here’s what I came up with. It’s not really a list of goals, but a list of things I’d like my life to be about.

1. Keep it simple and enjoy the moment I’m in.

2. Only do things I’m passionate about

3. Read more

4. Cook more

5. Live a healthy life (future post on what my definition of that is)

6. Blog more (yay!) –  Anne and I are working on some changes to the blog – all good I promise!

7. Family and friends come first.

Nothing on this list is earth shattering, but I  like it. Do any of you have a list like this? Are you reflective on your birthday?

So, let’s get back to the actual birthday. I literally brought it in with a scream. Brette organized a group of some of my best pals to head to ValleyFair.

Why yes, that is Erik Estrada on my T-shirt.

Growing up, this was my favorite place to go. It was such a treat and I was a major ride junky. It was such a fun way to celebrate. However, I will admit, my body cannot tolerate rides like it used to. I’ve been suffering from a major ValleyFair hangover all day and I wasn’t alone. Uneasy stomach, headache, tired, and scratchy throat (from screaming) plagued my day. Totally WORTH it. It was so much fun to feel like a kid again.

The ride that did me in was this giant swing. We were all pretty excited about it before it started.

Then we realized what we were getting into. The photo quality isn’t great here, but I think you can get the general idea.

The swing goes really high! Higher than the sun….

After getting off, I could hardly walk a straight line. I perservered though and kept on a ridin’.

My favorite rides were the roller coasters – especially Wild Thing and Renegade. If you’re ever at ValleyFair – they are musts.

Amanda and I before getting on the Wild Thing.

We were all pretty beat at the end – thank heavens for Ben & Jerry’s!

I was also pretty pumped by a few birthday presents I received. Apparently, my friends know me well.

This is from Meghan – a gourmet meatless cookbook from her favorite restaurant in Philadelphia along with homemade spice blends. I’m so pumped!

Then, my dear friend, Willa, gave me the cookbook, Ratio (which I’ve been eyeing for months) along with a jar of Naturally Nutty’s Pepita Sun Butter.

Jaime brought be a whole bag of produce she snagged from her in-law’s garden including zucchini, peppers, beets, eggplant and the best raspberries ever!

I love that my friends know me well enough to give me food and cookbooks. :) I still have a date with Anne to look forward to coming up in September which I know will be a blast.

This was one of my favorite birthdays! A big thanks to Brette for putting this together. I had such a fun time and it was a great start to what will be a fantastic year.

pineapple – cashew – quinoa stir-fry

25 Jan

I love stir-fry.

Growing up, my mom made it at least once a week with whatever she had on hand in the fridge – usually a combination of either chicken or beef with cabbage, peppers and carrots. I thought it was so exotic.  Seriously, I thought my mom was so cool because she was cooking something so “different”. That makes me chuckle. What makes me chuckle even more is this little fun fact.  Back in the day, I was a bit pickier about my food and refused to have my stir-fry actually on top of my rice. They had to be separate on the plate and I would sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on my rice. I did this until I left home and had to learn how to be a grown-up.

I have experimented with many stir-fries and most of the time I would pick my mom’s over my own, but I think I finally found one I would pick over any other.  It was so good, that I was counting the minutes until lunch today so I could enjoy the leftovers. And, as an interesting twist, it’s vegan!

I received the book, Veganomicon, for Christmas and this recipe will make me go back to the cookbook to try more vegan recipes. For the record, I’m not Vegan or a Vegetarian (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Seinfeld, anyone?). I had heard great things about this cookbook from some friends and I love to have a variety in my diet. I did not miss the meat in this recipe – I wanted to dive into the pan. I made Brette eat it too and he liked it as well – though at the time he was a bit preoccupied with those dang Vikings so I didn’t necessarily get the reaction I had hoped for.

I made some adjustments based on my preferences. I will post the original recipe here with my adjustments written in.

If by chance you’re worried about lack of protein, never fear. Between the quinoa, cashews and edamame, protein is abundant.

Pineapple – Cashew – Quinoa Stir-fry

from Veganomicon, with adjustments from Jen

Notes: The thing about stir-fries is to have all your ingredients prepped before you start because once you start cooking, it goes quick. That’s what I love about a stir-fry, it’s perfect for a weeknight when time is so valuable.

The recipe suggests making the quinoa the night before and making sure it’s cold before adding it to the stir-fry. I made mine and threw it in the fridge while I prepped all my other ingredients which worked fine for me. However, if you have time to make the quiona on the weekend, it would make this all the quicker for a weeknight supper.


1 C. quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 C. pineapple juice (I used the juice from a 20 oz. can of pineapple chunks)

1 C. cold water

1/4 tsp. soy sauce


4 ounces cashews, raw and unsalted (mine were already roasted and salted so I skipped step one. I also only used about 3 oz.)

3 Tbsp. peanut oil (I used canola with great results)

2 scallions, sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 hot red chile, sliced into very thin rounds (I  used a jalapeno with seeds and it wasn’t too spicy. Next time I will try the red chile)

1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 C. frozen green peas or edamame (I went for the edamame since Brette does not like peas and the edamame offered more protein)
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin shreds

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint

10 oz fresh pineapple, cut into chunks, about 2 cups (I used canned because I could get the juice from the same can)

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

3 Tbsp. vegetable stock

1 Tbsp. mirin

Lime Wedges for garnish.

Prepare the quinoa: Combine the quinoa, juice, water, and soy sauce in a medium-size pot. Cover, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Stir a few times, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 12-14 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed. Uncover, fluff, and let cool.

Prepare the stir-fry:

Use a large nonstick skillet (I used a 12-incher) or wok. Place cashews in the dry pan and heat over low heat, stirring them, until lightly toasted, 4 to 5 minutes. (or skip, if your nuts are already toasted).

Remove cashews from the pan, raise the heat to medium, and add the peanut oil, scallions, and garlic. When the garlice starts to sizzle, add the chile pepper and ginger. Sir-fry for about 2 minutes, then add the bell pepper and peas (or edamame). Stir-fry for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the pepper is softened and the peas are bright green.

Add the basil and mint, stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the pineapple and quinoa.

Combine the soy sauce, veg stock, and mirin. Pour over the quinoa mixture. Stir to incorporate completely and coat the quinoa. Continue to stir-fry 10 minutes or so , until the quinoa is very hot (2 wooden spatulas made this job easier).

Sprinkle with cashews. Serve with lime wedges and additional soy sauce to taste.

Serves 4.

Question: What is your favorite stir-fry or stir-fry ingredient? Although this is my current favorite, I would love to hear what you’re cooking up!