How to Make Exercise Part of Your Lifestyle

How to Make Working Out Part of Your Lifestyle | A Couple Cooks

We are thrilled to bring you a new post in our Healthy + Whole series on a topic we haven’t covered much in this space: exercise.  Along with diet, fitness is a significant part of a healthy lifestyle. While we tend to focus on balanced, healthy eating in our regular content, we’ve found a balanced approach is an essential part of the conversation that should be highlighted as well. To do so, we bring you Ashley McLaughlin of the blog Edible Perspective: a knock-out food photographer, recipe developer, fitness guru, and most importantly, a dear friend of ours. We couldn’t agree more with Ashley’s balanced approach to integrating working out into everyday life. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and make sure to check out Ashley’s blog for her stunning recipes and photos!

All photos by Ashley McLaughlin Photography

 

Hello, hello!

It’s such an honor to be guest posting on A Couple Cooks today. Sonja + Alex are two of my favorite people ever, and I absolutely adore this blog. I was lucky enough to meet them a few months back and just didn’t get enough during their short visit. So since we can’t hang out all of the time, I do things like bug them on Google messenger and take over their blog, instead.

My favorite part about Sonja + Alex’s blog is how they seamlessly integrate such diversity into their post topics. It’s not just about the food, but an overall approach to a living a healthy and happy life. So today I’ll be talking about working out and staying active and how I make that part of my everyday lifestyle.

I’ve always been a pretty active person. I think it started from playing sports growing up and throughout high school. Our high school workouts were pretty intense, and this is when I learned how to lift weights, gain speed, jump higher, build strength, etc. I’ve always felt like those were important tools to learn at that age and they’ve stuck with me throughout the years. They gave me a good foundation to build from and made me realize how good it feels to be active, consistently.

How to Make Working Out Part of Your Lifestyle | A Couple Cooks

Since high school, my workouts have varied greatly. In undergrad (OH-IO!), I was a gym rat. The gym was free, it was close to home, and it was easy an easy option. For four years I lifted, rode the bike or elliptical machine, and also speed walked around campus trying to make it to class on time. I didn’t really have the time or energy to get creative with my workouts, as most of my time was spent in the architecture building.

Then, for most of grad school I actually didn’t work out. I would go through little phases of running or lifting but wasn’t consistent at all. There just wasn’t enough time! In my last semester of grad school, though, I was introduced to a hot vinyasa yoga class and fell in love. This happened at the same time when my husband Chris and I were starting to be more mindful of our eating habits. We were fairly healthy before then, but decided to start making small changes after becoming more educated on our food system, organics, sustainability, animal welfare, etc. A few of the first steps we took were cutting down on our processed food intake, making more meals from scratch, lowering our meat consumption, and eating more vegetables. We started small and made improvements that made sense to us.

This is the time when I really started to create balance and diversity in my workouts. I wasn’t as focused on how many calories I was burning, but more on how good my mind + body felt when I left each yoga class. I felt strong, mentally and physically. It was a major turning point in my way of thinking about working out. I wasn’t working out to burn off the previous night’s dessert, but to clear my head and gain strength.

How to Make Working Out Part of Your Lifestyle | A Couple Cooks

So for the past 6 years I’ve maintained a very active lifestyle and it’s felt extremely natural. It’s part of my daily routine and is something I don’t give much thought to. It just happens. Staying active keeps me sane, especially since I work at home by myself. There isn’t any one routine or strategy I follow for my workouts. I don’t count calories I eat or calories I burn. I like to switch things up and make sure I’m enjoying whatever I’m doing. Because if I’m not enjoying it, why am I doing it?

Whether it’s walking the dogs each day, cruising around town on my bike during the summer months, hopping on my road bike for a long ride, snowboarding during the winter, or hiking in the mountains with friends, I love any and all time spent being active outside. It lets me soak up some vitamin D. It lets me clear my head. It lets me breathe fresh air. It makes me calm.

How to Make Working Out Part of Your Lifestyle | A Couple Cooks

I also like to incorporate more formal workouts into my routine a few times each week. This could be anything from riding our stationary bike at home and doing a few sets of pushups, to getting to the gym for a strength training sesh or swim at the pool. I’ve also recently become obsessed with The Dailey Method barre classes. It clears my head and centers me like no other workout I’ve ever done, plus, it’s incredibly challenging physically. (You can typically save a lot of money on barre/yoga/etc. classes by volunteering to work the front desk!)

Over the years I’ve learned not to stress about missing a workout, or even two or three. If I only have time to walk the dogs, hop on the bike for 15 minutes, or do 3 sets of pushups, that’s okay. It equals out with the days of more intense workouts. My focus is on an overall picture of good health. It includes my physical health and mental health. It includes what I’m putting into my body and how I’m staying active. It includes rest and downtime. It includes ice cream + chocolate. It’s about balance and showing myself kindness.

This is my way of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

How to Make Working Out Part of Your Lifestyle | A Couple Cooks

How to Make Working Out Part of Your Lifestyle | A Couple Cooks

 

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Deluxe Butternut Macaroni ‘n’ Tease

macncheese5

I’m over winter, but winter definitely isn’t over. Although I really can’t complain about the balmy temps here in Denmark, it’s dark and damp and I would probably pay a lot of money to see the sun right about now. And my heart does go out to all my family and friends freezing their tooshies off stateside. Yikes! I’m here to help. Or at least, this recipe is here to help.

Like most kids, I ate a lot of macaroni and cheese growing up, the kind that came in a blue box with the magical, neon orange flavour powder. Sometimes my mom would toss in a few slices of bell peppers and cocktail wieners and my brother and I felt like kings. Kings! Those were the days. In fear of falling short of that level of awesomeness, I haven’t actually attempted to make mac ‘n’ cheese on my own past the days of high school. Until recently this winter, a gnawing hunger for warmth, comfort and nostalgia took hold and just wouldn’t let go. If you’re anything like me (a human) you’ll love tucking into this tasty meal every week until spring hits.

So, what makes this mac ‘n’ tease a tease? It’s vegan! Not one speck of cheese or milk or butter or cream in sight. Nope. Instead the delectable sauce is a winning combination of roasted butternut squash and garlic, creamy butter beans, and cheesy nutritional yeast. Although not exactly like the cheese sauce of yore, it is still completely smooth and creamy, rich, unctuous, and deeply satisfying when combined with fat noodles and the most amazing non-breadcrumb-topping made out of sunflower seeds. That’s right.

Deluxe Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese // My New Roots

Nutritional Yeast: A Cheesy Tease
Although the name is slightly unappealing, nutritional yeast is a delicious and versatile seasoning to have in your pantry. Made from a single-celled organism called, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, the yeast is grown on cane or beet molasses, fermented, then deactivated with heat to stop the growing process. The yeast is sold both as flakes and powder (use half the amount of powder if a recipe calls for flakes). The natural colour of nutritional yeast is vibrantly golden. The flavour is often described as cheesy, which makes it a perfect substitute for dairy products in dressing and sauces. I sprinkle nutritional yeast on popcorn, salads, sandwiches, soups, blend a little into hummus and other savory dips. Because of its high nutritional content, many people treat nutritional yeast as a food supplement.

First and foremost, nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B-vitamins, and in many cases B-12 (though not all brands, read the label to make sure). Our bodies need B-vitamins to convert food into energy, keep stress at bay, alleviate insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, PMS, and mood swings (so, kind of important). Nutritional yeast also contains high amounts of protein with 4 grams per tablespoon, and contains 18 amino acids. It is a good source of dietary fiber, folic acid, selenium, and zinc. It is gluten-free and vegan.

In North America nutritional yeast is available at natural grocers and bulk food stores. In the UK, it is sold under the brand name Engevita; in Australia, it is called savory yeast flakes; in Scandinavia it is sold as yeast flakes or B-yeast / B-gær (due to the high B-vitamin content). Among cool kids, nutritional yeast is referred to simply as nooch. Drop that bomb at your next vegan potluck for major street cred. It should also be noted that nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast, dry active yeast or baking yeast. Do not use these as a substitute for nutritional yeast in any recipe. It will be gross.

If you suffer from Candida or suspect that you have yeast issues, not to worry. Nutritional yeast is totally safe and will not infect you or exacerbate yeast conditions. It should be avoided however by those that are allergic to yeast and yeast products, like bread products, grapes and beer.

Deluxe Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese // My New Roots

The shape of pasta you use for this really matters. I chose a large, deeply ridged, tubular pasta that said “macaroni” on the package, but it’s much closer to rigatoni if you ask me. Rigatoni, penne, classic macaroni, ziti, or even conchiglie (shells) would work here, as the ultimate goal is to get as much sauce in and around each noodle as humanly possible. In fact, I guarantee when you make the sauce you’ll be questioning my recipe amounts – there is a lot of it, people. But once you pour it over the cooked pasta and start stirring, it magically disappears into the nooks and crannies only reappear later in your mouth, like a rich and savoury flavour explosion from heaven. Tubes work best for obvious reasons, but I’ll let you decide how you want your sauce delivered. And I hope that it goes without saying that you should make an effort to find the most high-vibe pasta you can. There are so many on the market these days, even at regular grocery stores, so no excuses! No white pasta!

Deluxe Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese // My New Roots

And yes, there is topping. In keeping with the gluten-free theme I went with a Sunflower Crumble Topping that I am quite chuffed about. It’s savoury, crunchy, and totally takes this meal to the next level – better than breadcrumbs I tell ya! And it’s delicious not only on mac ‘n’ cheese, but garnishing avocado toast, grain salads, and roast veggies. You may have a little extra of the topping, but my casserole dish is relatively deep and narrow compared to most, and I wanted to make sure you had plenty to cover the top of yours. If you want to save time and skip steps, the pasta and sauce alone is super delish all on its own. But. The topping.

After cooking up this meal, I looked around the kitchen at the dish carnage and shrugged my shoulders. You know why? So worth it. Yes, you will use pretty much every cooking element and piece of equipment you own, but make it a Sunday project, invite some buds over and have them clean up. You did cook them a totally awesome meal after all, it’s the least they can do. 

Deluxe Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese // My New Roots


My New Roots

Aroma 20-Cup (Cooked) Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer, Stainless Steel Review

Aroma 20-Cup (Cooked) Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer, Stainless Steel

  • Number 1 Rice Cooker Brand in the US
  • Perfectly prepares 4 to 20 cups of cooked rice and automatically keeps it warm for hours
  • Easy-to-use digital controls for white rice, brown rice, programmable steam and keep-warm
  • 15-hour delay timer is perfect for flexible meal planning
  • Nonstick inner cooking pot removes for quick cleanup in the dishwasher
The Aroma 10-cup (uncooked) 20-cup (cooked) digital rice cooker food steamer is truly a meal making powerhouse. Not only does it make perfect rice and steam delicious meats and vegetables, but it also features a programmable slow cook function. Set it to slow cook up to 10 hours for an amazingly tender roast. Surprise the family with a delicious jambalaya that takes just minute to prepare. Steam chicken and broccoli while cooking brown rice for an easy, healthy meal in one pot. The meal making o

Price: $ 27.90

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How To Pack Food For A Weekend Away In An Hour! (Plant-Based)

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We’re off to a wedding, a birthday party, my in-laws, and then to visit my grammy (Adriana gets to meet her Great-Grammy!) over the long weekend. This means we’re going to clock a ton of hours on the road, so I am coming prepared! Even though a lot of our meals will be made for us (such as dinner Saturday and Sunday night), I like to fill in the blanks by packing some light meals and healthy snack options to have on hand.

After I made the recipes Eric said, “Whoa, that didn’t take you long at all!” – and he was right, it took me just over 1 hour to prepare 4 recipes. Granted, I was going turbo mode, but still. I purposely selected quick and easy recipes (many are from the 2-day meal plan) which I also tend to have most of the ingredients for in my fridge and pantry. And if I don’t have all the ingredients I just improvise! So when Eric commented on how quickly the packed foods came together it struck me that this would be fun to share on the blog. I hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse into what I’m packing for a weekend away. (Keep in mind this isn’t intended to cover all of your meals – just to supplement when necessary. Feel free to tweak it as you see fit.)

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What I made (click the links to the brought to the recipe!):

  1. Chickpea Salad with butter lettuce “wraps”
  2. Gazpacho (amazing for summer – no cook and super refreshing)
  3. Energy bites – I’m still perfecting the recipe in the photo above so rather than sharing it before it’s ready, I recommend you try these amazing Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites! <—a fav!
  4. Vegan Overnight Oats (note: I doubled this recipe, plus added 2 extra tbsp chia seeds, and 2 small chopped bananas for more volume. If the mixture gets too thick, you can thin it with a bit of almond or coconut milk)

Not shown: I’m also packing a few of my Coconut-Cardamom Overnight Oat Parfaits for the car! If I had more time I would’ve also made a batch of my Lightened Up Summer Granola.

What else I packed:

Hummus, portable fruit, homemade maple cinnamon almond butter (or store-bought), my favourite crackers, food for Adriana. Eric says he’s bringing the Vitamix to make green monsters at his parent’s house. Who is this guy? I don’t know how we’re going to fit everything in the car…especially with a stroller, baby stuff, and my shoes for every terrain (rustic, outdoor wedding!). Should be interesting…

Tips:

– These are my go-to glass storage containers. Mason jars also work lovely!

– Pack several ice packs to ensure the food stays cool and fresh. You don’t want to arrive at your destination with room temperature food.

– Pack the energy bites on top so they don’t get squished.

– You can improvise with these recipes a lot. I make all kinds of versions of Gazpacho, the energy bites, and the chickpea salad. For this chickpea salad I didn’t have any celery so I just used a whole red bell pepper (diced) instead. It’s pretty forgiving so don’t worry!

– Pack the gazpacho in a thermos if you want to save room in the cooler. Otherwise a large 2-quart mason jar will hold the batch.

energybites

Ok, now I’m turning it over to you. Which foods do you like to pack for trips? Share your favs below!

Well guys…I seriously cannot believe it’s August 1st. *still in a 2015 time warp* I hope you are enjoying the dog days of summer. Soak it up and have a fun + safe weekend!!

Oh She Glows

Grilled Vegetables with Quinoa + Tomato Sauce

Grilled Vegetables with Quinoa + Tomato Butter Sauce | A Couple CooksGrilled Vegetables with Quinoa + Tomato Butter Sauce | A Couple CooksGrilled Vegetables with Quinoa + Tomato Butter Sauce | A Couple Cooks

In our home, summertime = grill time. It’s one of Alex’s favorite pastimes to fire up our charcoal grill, and one of mine to eat whatever comes off of it. But since grilled food is heavy on the meat and we’re “mainly” vegetarian eaters, how does that work? Is a vegetarian grilled meal a veggie burger or tofu dog?

Vegetarian or plant-based grill recipes can actually be quite creative, we’ve found. A heaping mound of grilled vegetables is one of the best taste treats in the world, each veggie with its own unique charred, smoky flavor. Add some sides with a bit of protein, and you’ve got a fantastic summery patio meal.

After we made this meal on a weeknight and shared a photo of it on Instagram a few weeks ago, several of you asked for the recipe. Your wish is our command! Alex makes this meal frequently in the summer, so I followed him around to document his method.

A few notes on the recipe:

  • If you make all the components in this recipe, you’ll dirty a fair amount of pots and bowls. If you have a charcoal grill, the recipe takes about 1 hour to make, so make sure to try it on a night where you have sufficient time and energy for cooking and cleanup. We like to make a double or triple batch and have leftovers throughout the week.
  • Alex can make this recipe by himself quite easily, but I’d need another person’s help to pull this one off. If you’re not a seasoned home cook, you may want to try this with another helper, or make sure to leave yourself sufficient time for the recipe.
  • You can use any vegetables you’d like or have on hand; we’ve listed the veggies we used below. Some favorites we did list were button mushrooms and green onions, which are also great options.
  • This recipe uses our version of Marcella Hazan‘s famous tomato butter sauce. To make it vegan, substitute olive oil for the butter (but definitely try the butter if your diet allows!).

If you don’t yet, follow us on Instagram! We love hearing your feedback on what recipes you want to see.

More Vegetarian Grill Recipes

Mains

Sides

Grilled Vegetables with Quinoa + Tomato Butter Sauce
 
by:
Serves: 4

What You Need
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (San Marzano, if possible)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 8 pounds whole vegetables (we used 1 head cauliflower, ½ head broccoli, 1 yellow pepper, 1 green pepper, 2 small zucchini, 2 medium sweet potatoes, 8 small red and purple potatoes, and 1 yellow onion)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
  • 1 pinch cayenne
  • 15-ounce can cannellini or white beans (optional but recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

What To Do
  1. Preheat a grill to medium high heat (if you’re using a gas grill, you can preheat a bit later). Start a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Start the tomato sauce: Peel and half the onion. In a small sauce pan, add tomatoes, onion, 5 tablespoons butter, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, while preparing the remainder of the recipe. When the sauce is done, remove the onion.
  3. Start the quinoa and cook it while preparing the remainder of the recipe. When it is done, fluff it with a fork, then cover and leave warm in the pan until serving.
  4. Meanwhile, chop vegetables into large strips or chunks, keeping them fairly large for easy grilling.
  5. When the large pot of water is ready, parboil the crunchier vegetables, such as potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower, until they are softened. We grilled regular potatoes for 12 minutes, sweet potatoes for 8 minutes, and cauliflower and broccoli for 5 minutes in the same pot (simply drop the longest cooking vegetable in and stagger the start times accordingly).
  6. When the vegetables are boiled, place them together with the fresh vegetables in a large bowl. Add up to 3 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil, up to 1 tablespoon kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and 1 pinch cayenne; stir to combine. The veggies should be coated but not soaking in oil and lightly covered in salt.
  7. Drain 1 can of cannellini or white beans. Place the beans on a square of aluminum foil, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon dried basil. Fold over the foil and seal the packet on all sides.
  8. Add the vegetables and packet to the grill; cook until veggies slightly charred and tender, about 8 minutes per side. The bean packet can be removed when warmed.

 

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Wine2Go – The Foldable Wine Bottle Review

Wine2Go - The Foldable Wine Bottle

  • The Foldable Wine Bottle
  • Holds a full bottle of wine
  • Reusable, Flexible, Foldable
  • BPA Free, Zero Taste Transfer, Easy Fill Wide Mouth
  • Perfect for: Concerts, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Boating, People Watching, Tailgating, or Kickin' it at the park
No glass, No worries. Leave the bottle at home!
Wine2Go is a foldable, reusable, disposable,100% recyclable, leakproof wine bottle to easily take wine and other beverages on the go. It's a pliable, liquid-tight container that takes wine to parties, BBQs, picnics, concerts, tailgating, parks, lakes, beaches, hiking, and more. Simply fill Wine2Go, stow it, and go! No more broken glass bottles during transport or losing bottles at events. When ready for a glass of wine, unscrew the cap, pour, a

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Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Alaska…stole my heart. Last month, Alex and I took an epic trip there as part of a family vacation; my sister and her fiancé flew in from Burma and my parents from Minnesota. We met in Juneau, my sister’s fiancé’s hometown, and spent time with his parents. Having locals as tour guides was fabulous, and is hands down my favorite way to explore a place. The houses we rented were both true gems, and the scenery — well, you’ll just have to take a look. Hiking, fishing, bird-watching, drinking coffee, spotting whales, flying over towering mountain peaks, meandering in quiet rain forests — we couldn’t have asked for more. I’ll narrate a bit, but will leave the photographs to do most of the talking. (In a separate post, I’ll cover Skagway and Glacier Bay.) Hold onto your hats.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Our first house in Juneau

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Day 1 – we embark on a fishing trip with gear from our rental house and my sister’s fiancé Evan as our guide. My #1 bucket list item is to “catch a fish and eat it”, and I’m ready for this trip to fulfill my dream. (I’m a city girl through and through, so this is a big deal.)

 Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Mainly I caught leaves and seaweed, and tangled the line. But it was beautiful.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks  Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau is in a temperate rain forest, and many of the trees are covered in moss.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

View from the porch of our house, on to Mendenhall Glacier

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

We’re at it again, this time me and my dad. No dice. But we had precious father-daughter time, which has been few and far between after I moved away from home.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Glad our rental house had rubber boots! They are all the rage in Juneau, men and women alike.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

A hike through the rain forest near Mendenhall Glacier…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Spontaneous selfie! It’s not often we’re all on the same continent.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

My sis and me…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Another gorgeous hike outside of Juneau…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

The food was fabulous! Our favorites were The Rookery and Salt (below). Below is truffle fries, quinoa and beet salad, ensalada caprese, halibut ceviche, and a house salad with crispy chickpeas.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

We toured Alaskan Brewing Company with a family friend, which was a treat! Their Smoked Porter is pretty brilliant.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple CooksJuneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

After trips to Skagway and Glacier Bay (which we’ll share soon), we settled into a second house in Juneau.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

We celebrated July 4 on the water…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Back to our little red house with a view…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

My favorite part of the mornings: a slow cup of coffee with our Aeropress.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple CooksJuneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks  Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Our last day in Juneau was one of the most beautiful I’d seen. Another gorgeous hike, a short drive outside of Juneau…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

And, my last chance at fishing. This time my sister’s fiancé and his dad showed me the ropes.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

They each got a salmon. I was starting to feel discouraged…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Until…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

It was just a little guy, but it still counts, right? (I’ll have bigger fish to fry on the next trip.)

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

The view from our deck on the last day was stunning.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

I can’t wait to return to this magical part of the country. Thanks to my parents for arranging everything, to my sister for coming home, and for her fiancé’s parents for being the best tour guides we could imagine. Let us know if you have any questions about Juneau! We can provide links to the houses we rented if that is helpful.

Other Travel Posts
Arches National Park + Monument Valley, Utah
Flagstaff, Arizona
Traverse City, Michigan
Santorini, Greece
Amalfi Coast: Positano, Capri, & Ravello, Italy
Rome and Naples, Italy
Cambodia and Laos

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Coconut-Cardamom Vegan Overnight Oat Parfait with Blueberry Chia Seed Jam

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Food photography has been sparse in my house these days (Now, if we’re talking baby photography on iPhones, well let’s just say I’m killing it.) Lately, I only have 15-20 minutes for food photoshoots, so I’ve learned to be super quick when it comes to snapping pictures. I used to be militant about using my tripod, but I haven’t pulled it out in months. I used to give photoshoots a bit of planning before diving in, but that rarely happens anymore. It’s taken me a while to realize that my expectations of how things should be done aren’t always practical for the stage of my life that I’m in. This applies to life in general too. I’m going to do what I can and try to be a bit easier on myself. Perfectionism kills creativity. It’s also the killer of fun! If I only have 10 minutes to snap some photos, so be it. I’d rather share a little bit than nothing at all.

I started off this photoshoot using this darker background – it’s a scratched up piece of metal signage I found at an antique market last year (the front of the sign says “DO NOT ENTER”). I thought it was going to work perfectly, but I actually found it to be too moody for this recipe. It just looks too dark for the light, summery mood I was going for.

veganovernightoats-0041veganovernightoats-0049

So I switched to my trusty slab of white quartz instead. It’s the surface I’ve used the most in the past year. It’s heavy as heck and I actually managed to dent the hardwood with it one day (*headsmack*). Anyway, I like this clean and fresh feel much better even though the lighting wasn’t the best because I shot at noon when the sun is overhead. The inspiration for the photo came from Ashley. She did a cool multi-jar shot with homemade milk for my cookbook. Too much fun!

veganovernightoatssquare-0059

In Lightroom, I made minor edits to the photo: increased clarity, exposure, whites, saturation, and removed blue and adjusted temperature. It took me about 30 seconds. There are things about the lighting I’m not super happy with and I probably blew it out too much, but oh well. Gotta pick your battles!

This is the same photo before editing…50 shades of grey!

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So that’s where my head is at with photography lately. I’d love to spend more time on it again, but right now I’m rolling with doing it under a time crunch. I’m beyond excited that Ashley is shooting the photography for my next cookbook. I honestly can’t imagine doing over 100 photos again with a baby crawling at my feet (and stealing the food). You guys are going to be blown away by the photos in the next book. We’ll have to show you some sneak peeks!

Now, finally onto the food. This is my newest overnight oat parfait creation. Six to seven years later, I’m still making vegan overnight oats on the regular. I’ll often make a large batch that lasts 2-3 days in the fridge. Or sometimes I eat it all in one day because I just can’t help myself. It’s so easy, perfect for the summer, and endlessly customizable. Make it parfait-style in portable jars and you’ll have snacks for days. Toss it in your bag and run out the door. Bring one for your friend and he/she will love you even more.

If you haven’t tried overnight oats layered with chia seed jam, you really must. It’s divine. This would be great with granola on top too.

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Coconut-Cardamom Vegan Overnight Oat Parfait with Blueberry Chia Seed Jam

Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free

Overnight oats are getting fancy up in here! Coconut milk, oats, and chia seeds are mixed with ground cardamom, cinnamon, and maple syrup, and then layered with blueberry chia seed jam and sliced pear. You’ll want to eat this for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner! Chia seeds don’t lie. Also, can I just say how awesome a layer of vegan ice cream or banana soft serve would be in this?

Yield
4-6 small jars
Prep Time
15 Minutes
Cook time
25 Minutes
Total Time
40 Minutes

Ingredients:

For the blueberry chia seed jam:
  • 550g frozen blueberries (about 4 cups + 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, or to taste
  • Dash fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
For the vegan overnight oats:
  • 1 (15-oz) can full-fat coconut milk (yes you can use light, but full-fat is super creamy and delish)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (use gluten-free if necessary)
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom , or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
  • 1-2 small ripe pears, diced (for layering)

Directions:

  1. Prepare the chia seed jam: In a medium pot, stir together the blueberries and maple syrup until combined. Add a dash of salt. Simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered, for about 8-10 minutes until softened (the berries will release a lot of water during this time).
  2. Add the chia seeds and stir until combined. Continue simmering and stirring frequently (reducing heat if necessary to avoid sticking) about 8-15 minutes longer, until most of the water cooks off and the jam reduces in volume. it will look thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the  lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, uncovered, and into the fridge until cool, for at least a couple hours. For a quicker cooling method, pop the jam in the freezer, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until cool.
  4. For the vegan overnight oats: In a medium container (with a lid) or in a medium bowl, stir together the entire can of coconut milk, oats, chia seeds, maple syrup, cardamom, and cinnamon until combined. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours, or overnight, until the oats soften and the mixture thickens. Stir to combine before using.
  5. Layer the chia jam, overnight oats, and diced pear into small jars. Secure lids (or cover with wrap) and store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. The chia seed jam will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Also, leftover jam can be frozen in plastic baggies and it thaws beautifully.

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PS – Thank you for your enthusiasm regarding my 2-Day Meal Plan! I’m so thrilled by your response and hope to do another in the future.

Oh She Glows

Asparagus, Fennel & Spinach Soup + Topping!

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In our house, soup is rarely served without some kind of topping. It’s almost like a yin and yang thing, we start talking about soup and the conversation automatically moves on to topping suggestions. I guess it’s a pretty natural thing since we eat a lot of soup and prefer it to be a more complete meal, instead of just a starter. The toppings does not only add a different texture and flavor to the soup, but also some more stomach filling proteins. To be honest, I think we spend more time working on the toppings then on the actual soup on most occasions. It’s the same principle as we have with oatmeal toppings. They are just essential.

Here are a few of our favorite soup + topping combinations from earlier blog posts: Sweet potato and red lentil soup with aubergine and kale topping, Carrot and tomato soup with corn ceviche topping, Spinach and kale soup with tahini dressed chickpea topping.

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We found a huge bunch over-priced asparagus in the market the other day and for some reason decided that it was a good idea to spend our last money this month on asparagus instead of a new set of clothes for Isac. So we walked home and made soup. We went for a smooth and quite mildly flavored soup and allowed the toppings to have more punch in flavor and texture. We only chose green-ish ingredients for the topping. Yup, there we go again, choosing ingredients by color. But it actually turned out fantastic. It’s got a lot of crunch from the pumpkin seeds, flavor from parsley and the asparagus tips, richness from the lentils and sting from the chili. I ate the leftovers without the soup straight from the fridge. I’ve spent most of this post talking about the topping, but the soup is pretty good too. Quick, simple, delicious and with a clear taste of spring. If you don’t have any fennel at home, you could add a few potatoes instead, or other spring vegetables of choice.

We also made a quick cashew cream to go with the soup. We often just add a few dollops yogurt into our soup but cashew cream is a nice and rich vegan alternative. If you just remember to pre-soak the cashew nuts, the cream is done in no-time. As a side note, I just tried adding some cashew cream on top of my latest smoothie and it wasn’t bad at all.

So, go make your vegetable market guy happy and buy a bunch of asparagus. Make soup, whip up a cashew cream. And for goodness sake, don’t forget about the topping!

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Asparagus, Fennel & Spinach Soup (Vegan)
Makes 4 smaller servings or 2 very large

We keep a jar of toasted pumpkin seeds in our kitchen and almost always have some cooked lentils ready in our fridge. It’s a good tip as it makes it a lot easier to create small quick meals like this.

1 pound / 450 g green asparagus
2 tbsp coconut oil or butter
6 thin spring onions or 1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic

1 small fennel bulb (or 1/2 large)
1 large handful spinach

2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon
salt & black pepper

Lentil & Pepita Topping
The reserved raw tips from the asparagus
1 cup cooked puy lentils (1/2 cup uncooked, boiled in water for 18 minutes)
1/2 cup dry-toasted and salted pumpkin seeds / pepitas
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 green chili, finely chopped (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil

Cashew Cream
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/2 cup filtered water
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt

Trim the tough end off the asparagus. Cut in diagonal pieces, 1/2 inch / 1 cm thick. Save the asparagus tips for the topping. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Finely chop onion, garlic and fennel and add to the the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the asparagus, stir around and let fry on low/medium heat for a minute, then add spinach, water/stock, apple cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the topping. Carefully pour the soup into a blender or use a hand blender to mix until smooth. Taste the soup, add more water or salt and pepper if needed.

Preparing the topping: Finely chop the asparagus tips and the parsley and place in a bowl together with the boiled lentils and the toasted pumpkin seeds. Add chili if your prefer it a little spicy. Pour over some olive oil and stir around until it’s all mixed well.

Preparing the cashew cream: Cover the cashew nuts in water and let soak for at least 3 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse and place them in a blender. Add the filtered water, lemon juice and salt and mix until completely smooth. Taste and add more salt or lemon if needed. Or water if you prefer it runnier.

Serve the soup with a generous portion of lentil topping on top and a few drizzles of cashew cream or yogurt. Enjoy!

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PS. If you want some more inspiration on what to do with asparagus, check out this Spring Buckwheat Salad from last year and this Grilled Asparagus with Quinoa from two years ago.

 

Green Kitchen Stories

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