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Its been raining at least once a day for the past two weeks, I’ve packed away my sandals and busted out my collection of opaque tights and have traded the glory of fresh tomatoes for apples and pumpkin everything. Fall has arrived.

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I love fall vegetables, almost as much as I love summer produce. Almost. I love the saturated colors and the caramelized sweetness you get when you roast them. This particular round of roasted veggies was inspired by a gorgeous romanesco cauliflower I found at the market. A perfect match to the beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips hanging out in my veggie drawer.

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I roasted each vegetable separately; tossing them first in olive oil, truffle salt, and freshly ground pepper before putting them into a 425 degree oven. I go to the trouble of cooking them separately because like my cauliflower to have a little crunch to it and my beets to keep their color to themselves, but you certainly could combine them all and add the cauliflower for the last 15 minutes or so. The result was a lovely rainbow of roasted vegetables…

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I just ate the most amazing salad – full of fresh corn, blueberries, basil and quinoa. Although I usually enjoy the result, I tend to cringe at the idea of putting delicious summer fruits into savory things. I’ll throw an apple into anything – but I’m a purist when it comes to farm fresh nectarines, peaches, apricots and berries. I made an exception for blueberries last night while concocting a quinoa salad to bring for my lunch – and the result was divine. Crunchy  corn and sweet blueberries, paired with a mild balsamic and olive oil dressing, laced with just picked basil and tossed with wholesome quinoa. So good.

To create:

  1. two ears of summer corn – cooked lightly (boil water, add corn, cook 5 minutes and drain) after your corn has cooled, cut from the cob
  2. one pint blueberries, washed
  3. 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (boil quinoa in 1 1/2 cups water, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. set aside)
  4. small bunch of basil, washed and chopped
  5. olive oil, sea salt, balsamic vinegar combined to make about 1 cup of dressing
  6. in a bowl, combine corn, blueberries and basil. toss with dressing. add cooked quinoa. enjoy!

Applying for grad school sucked up so much of my time and energy that I seemed to have settled into a rut eating out while I am at work, and giving in to sugary sweets in the afternoon. Gross. Now that the process is almost completely behind me, I’m committing to getting back on the wagon – making salads to bring for my lunches, going to yoga several times a week, and running (a lot or a little). Summer is on the horizon, and there is no room for winter layers in my wardrobe.

This amazing salad is based on the Emerald City Salad from the PCC deli ( a co-op in the Seattle area). I used to work near a PCC and eat it several times a week for lunch. I quickly learned that it was much more affordable to make it myself…

You will need:

Kale
Chard (I like to use rainbow)
Parsley
A fennel bulb
Red Bell Pepper
Yellow Bell Pepper
About 1 C wild rice

Olive Oil
Minced Garlic
Lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

To Assemble:

Bring 2 C. water to a boil and add the wild rice. Bring to a boil again, lower the heat, cover, and allow to simmer for about an hour or until all of the water has been absorbed.

Finely chop the kale, parsley and chard into a large bowl. Chop the peppers and fennel and set aside.

Make a dressing using the minced garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice.

I like to allow my rice to cool a bit, but not completely so that it wilts the greens a tiny bit. Then add the peppers, fennel and dress. Add salt, pepper and more lemon juice if necessary to taste.

Picture 15Vegan? Gluten free? This book will change your life. If your name happens to be Erin, as mine is, you will be totally stoked because this vegan and gluten free baking genius is also named Erin. I feel like its a good baker omen or something.

I first tested out the book over at my parents house a couple of months ago. My mother and I occasionally like to pull a quick vegan switch on my dad to see if he notices. Its an interesting experiment – try it out on a loved one sometime. We made him the carrot cake cupcakes which are ammmmmmazing. He loved them of course – thinking they were filled with eggs, butter and delicious gluten. I’ve been trying trying to cut out wheat and dairy for allergen reasons for awhile now, and flour substitutes have been tough, often giving a gritty residue to textures that have no business being gritty. Babycakes had me at the first bite.

I promptly *borrowed* the book from my mother so I might try out the vegan, gluten free cornbread. Last fall I tried my own substitutions on a favorite cornbread recipe and failed miserably – producing a rubbery, polenta-like substance. There was nothing bread-like about it. Since I’ve declared this month Wheat Free October, I tested out the Babycakes cornbread this weekend. It was so delicious, I burnt my mouth sneaking a slice (or three) before it had cooled. This cornbread has a lovely crumb people! My only qualm is that I find it a little sweet — so I may try to experiment a little to see what sort of savory cornbread I end up with!

My dear friend M is visiting from New York this week, and in honor of her visit, I’ve made her vegan chocolate cupcakes with (her favorite) lavender icing.

Now, I’ve had cupcakes with lavender icing, but I’ve never actually set out to make my very own before. I searched the web and found a couple of recipes, but nothing truly inspirational. It seemed to be more about the color than the flavor, and I prefer to skip the food coloring.

I decided to experiment.

Dried lavender in hand, I removed the buds and added them to a saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. I brought this mixture to a boil, and allowed it to simmer for about 20 minutes. Ta-da! Lavender simple syrup!

On to the cake.

I’ve tested some pretty excellent vegan cake recipes in my day, my favorite thus far being one which uses both coconut milk and coconut oil.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the wet ingredients. Mix the dry. Mix the wet into the dry. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a fork comes out clean!

Now that my lavender simple syrup has sufficiently cooled, I’m ready to make the frosting. Since I’m not really vegan, and neither is M, I’m going to use real butter and make a version of my mom’s amazing buttercream. If you are vegan, you can easily substitute margarine.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 box powdered sugar
  • lavender simple syrup

At a low speed, mix butter and powdered sugar. Slowly add lavender simple syrup until your frosting reaches the desired consistency. The lavender came across stronger than I had anticipated, so I added a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavors. Frost cupcakes with love, and enjoy!