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Not Cheese, Nacho Cheese

As you may or may not have noticed I’m on a bit of an experimental food kick. So, this post is all about making a classic late night snack food healthy, plant based, and – best of all – GUILT FREE!

What might I be talking about? You guessed it (or you read the title) – Nacho Cheese! Now, I’m not talking the kind of cheese you may find on fancy nacho’s from your neighborhood “I’m working really hard to be fun and hip” restaurant that is actually some smoked gouda béchamel. No. My friends, I’m talking the crappy kind of nacho cheese you find at a college football game. The kind that you literally feel clogging your arteries as it goes down your gullet. That is the kind of cheese I am trying to create here. But, you know, minus all of that artery clogging good(?)ness.

So, after much research and taking into consideration the fact that most vegan cheese’s contain cashews – to which I am allergic – I came up with this recipe!

Vegan Veggie Nacho Cheese

  • 1 sweet potato – Or 2 carrots
  • 1 potato
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper 
  • Scallion (green onion)
  • Salt to tast (will probably be around a 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 Cup (about) water
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil or some other kind of oil 
  • 1/3 cup Salsa or diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeño (optional) 
  1. Boil a medium size pot of salted water. Wash off potatoes and chop them up.
  2. Toss potatoes into boiling water and cover. Let steam for about 15 min.
  3. In a food processor or blender, place roughly chopped green onion. Use all of it (aside from the roots) so that the flavor really comes through.
  4. Next, add all seasonings and nutritional yeast to the food processor. Lightly pulse or stir a few times to be sure everything is evenly combined. 
  5. Once potatoes are fork tender, add those into the food processor along with water, oil and salsa. Blend until smooth and creamy!
  6. At this point you could be done, OR, you could add in some diced pickled jalapeño. Either stir these in or add them and run the food processor one more time if you don’t want to have any surprising spicy chunks. 

And… VOILA! You have some delish Vegan Nacho Cheese! 

I was so pleasantly surprised by how this recipe turned out and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, as well as any modifications you try to improve upon this recipe! Thank you for reading, until next time peeps!

XOXO,

Em

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Chickpeas – The New Wonderfood?

It seems all the health-conscious internet can talk about right now is how great chickpeas are. I have seen YouTube videos and Pinterest posts galore about the wonderful things that this unassuming bean can do, so, I decided it was time to test them out!

The first recipe I came across was for Vegan Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies, making that the natural selection for my first attempt at baking with beans. I took to my handy Ninja and got pureeing! However, I may have overwhelmed it by adding everything in at one time so the puree turned into more of a slightly masticated mush. (Patience is a virtue I rarely have.) This left my attempted desert rather chunky… though the flavors were good, the texture was definitely less than desirable.

After my first, not so fabulous, attempt and making chickpea cookies I was eager to try my luck at a different sweet delicacy – the meringue. Luckily, I had saved the liquid from the can of beans, as it was the main ingredient in the recipe for Auqafaba Meringues. (AKA – Bean water.) I know this doesn’t sound the most appealing, however, with some research I found that this murky substance really does appear to be magical!

So, I turned to YouTube (as it always seems to have to answer) and was blessed to find a great recipe and demonstration  for Aquafaba Meringues. I was as shocked as you likely are to find out that one of the worlds more classy desert choices can be made with, you guessed it, bean water! So, here  ya go!

 

The recipe I used for the Meringues was this one by Alton Brown as it was easy to follow and simple.

My little strawberry topping was a sort of an afterthought, but it really was delicious so here is how I made it:

Lemon Lavender Strawberries:

1 1/2 Cup strawberries

1 Tsp dried lavender

1/4 Cup simple syrup

Lemon juice to taste 

  1. Quarter berries (or chop however you feel) and place in bowl 
  2. In a small sauce pan (or microwave safe bowl) combine 1/4 water and 1/4 cup sugar and stir until dissolved – This is the simple syrup!
  3. Add lavender to simple syrup and place in a closed container to steep 
  4. Once, your simple syrup has gotten enough of the lavender flavor, pour over berries and toss until evenly coated.
  5. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top and…

Voila! You have made a yummy tart, sweet, and floral topping – perfect for any light summer desert OR on it’s own as a yummy fruit salad! 

For a first try I’d say this well pretty well – especially in comparison to my intentionally chunky chocolate chip cookies! There was very little I would change aside from perhaps cooking them a little closer to the recipes instructions. I grew impatient of letting them sit in the oven, so the way the settled wasn’t quite right. But aside from that I was so happy with them! (and my little strawberry topping) More impressively, had I not been the one making them, I would have never known that they were made with bean water instead of eggs!

This recipe would be great for a tea party, dinner party, or just for a party of one! Especially, if you have friend or family (or if you yourself) have either voluntarily or involuntarily had to remove eggs from your diet! I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments if you try this or any other chickpea recipe!

Thanks as always for reading! 🙂

XOXO,

Em

What graduation was like: A story told mostly through food

These past few weeks have been insane. But, the plus side to entering the real world is that all of your family and friends are there to feed you and try to keep you from thinking about the strange shock that arises when you realize homework won’t just start up again in August. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly pumped to have completed my Undergraduate career and realize I am lucky to, not only, have gone to college, but also, to have my family there to celebrate and support my work along the way.

Though, an odd emotion has accompanied all of the excitement and satisfaction. This emotion is some confusing mixture of emptiness because undergraduate studies are no longer part of my life, excitement that my hard work paid off and that schoolwork is done for at least a year, and confusion about how I am going to occupy myself now outside of the 40-50 hours of scheduled work I have per week. Is there a name for this odd emotion? I know I can’t be the only person to experience it…

Regardless, I have been exposed to so many new foods in this past week with all of my friends and family wanting to celebrate that I figured I’d show you some of them! I mean really, what better way to try and understand your feelings than through food?!?! (I realize there are better ways, but this has really been quite a nice way!)

First things first: the big, fancy, obligatory Italian meal was awesome! We ate at this great place called Lidia’s on Smallman St. in the Strip District. It. Was. Fabulous! While everyone’s food was DEE-lish the dish that truly stood out was the Duck Ragu Gnocchi. Luckily, I was the member of our party to have ordered this, so aside from letting everyone taste, it was mainly all mine! I would 10 out of 10 recommend this meal to anyone who is looking for a hearty, modern take on a reliable Italian classic. I had it with a light, but fulfilling Sauvignon Blanc, which, much like this dish, was an unexpected but delicious combo!

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The next night we went up to the iconic Mt. Washington to see the sunset which made for some great photo ops of the horizon.

We ate outside on the deck of the Shilo Grill, which was unexpectedly part of the Harris Grill franchise. Though, had we not been told that by our fabulous server, I’d have been completely unaware because the quality of service and food surely felt like a small, privately owned restaurant! I got two drinks, a Blackberry Basil Gin Fizz which was AWESOME! And another that was some sort of Strawberry Lavender Mojito, this was not very good but I think it may have been a completely different drink because it tasted more like the way their Pink Lemonade cocktail sounded than it did the drink I ordered. Alas, things cannot exist without balance, ya win some ya lose some and all that. 🙂 My meal, Eggplant Napoleon, was awesome though and a great vegetarian option (one of the many on their menu!)

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This post seems to be getting long, so I can save some of the other highlights from my graduation celebrations and start of life in the real world for these next few weeks! Who knows, maybe the nostalgia will give me some closure as the reality that college is done, at least for now, starts to set in. They say denial is the best coping mechanism, right?

I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know your thoughts below!

XOXO,

Emmie

Nothing Broke but Spring DID Break

Spring Term is about to end for me. Which means, that I am about to be thrust into the real world. That meaning, the world of working and paying for things with REAL money instead of loans. Moving away from a college campus and, by way of that, most of the friends I have made in the past 4 years. These amount other things like the prospect of graduate school and the infamous FUTURE… have me quaking in my Bean boots!

Needless to say, I am in need of some distraction from the ridiculously high stress levels. So! Here comes some nostalgia about a super awesome Spring Break with some of those great friends!

Preface: We stayed in Gatlinburg, TN in this AMAZING renovated cabin, filled floor to ceiling with incredibly endearing bear decor. However, the only images of the inside of that cute cabin are located in a rather embarrassing house tour video that I, along with some others, made while enjoying a noticeable amount of alcoholic beverages. I may upload a voice over version of this short film to my YouTube channel at some point, but it will take some heavy editing first. Regardless! Here are some of the highlights from our Spring Break trip to the Smokey Mountains and beyond, enjoy!

IMG_0284Laurel Falls – We climbed down this steep, stone trail to get up close to the falls. Surprisingly enough only one (who will remain unnamed) actually fell in said falls!

IMG_0055This lovely little babbling brook welcomed us at the base of Mt. LeConte… lets just say the rest of this hike was not quite a quaint. IT. WAS. STRENUOUS!

IMG_0089At this point Stephen was still following close behind me and my enthused efforts to reach the peak… those efforts and our pace quickly slowed once we realized just how far it was to the top.

IMG_0198You may be thinking: “Wow, it looks like she’s almost made it!”. You would in fact be wrong, because this picture was taken with still about a 1/3 of the way to go. But, it was a gorgeous view so that makes up for the pain, right?!

IMG_0111Just some happy, camping, ants on a literal log!

IMG_0115C’mon this is just too pretty! Right? There were some terrifying falling cliff icicles but the melting ice close to the top made for some lovely images!

IMG_0039This was taken before we even reached the Smokey Mountains when we stopped to picnic at New River Gorge in West Virginia. We also saw an eagle or a hawk or something majestic like that.. but, I am not a skilled enough photographer to have captured its beauty. So, this picture of the gorge bridge will have to suffice!

The final two pictures of this quick tour through my senior Spring Break trip are from the final stop we made in Nashville. (Probably my fave US city) We stayed at a gorgeous Air B&B that was sandwiched between a ton of recording studios and decorated with old records and memorabilia from record labels. It was such a treat!

While I took hundreds of pictures on this trip, these are some of my favorites. Let me know what you think!

XOXO,

Em

4 Ingredient Four-get About Winter Cocktail

For many of you living in the North East, you know that Winter is more of a lifestyle than a season. This time of year can be particularly menacing for your travel plans and if you don’t enjoy winter sports (or at least the snow) then you’re pretty much going to be miserable for 4-5 months.

I, fortunately, embrace Winter and all that it brings, but those of you who don’t may be thirsty for some sort of escape. Well have no fear, I have found a remedy for your seasonal-affect disorder AND dissatisfied tastebuds!
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This vacation in a mason(jar) cocktail has appeared just in time to get you through the notorious February Freeze! I came up with this cocktail the other night because I was feeling disinterested in the usual Kraken and Coke, and I must say it was one of my better concoctions! four-get-about-it-shaker-ingredients

I have a known knack for getting creative but have a significantly lower success record for creating cocktails that S. likes. However, he thoroughly enjoyed this one, so I figured it was worth sharing!

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(Disclaimer: I am not certain if he liked it due to flavor or the fact that it was quite strong and we hadn’t yet eaten dinner…) Regardless, it was a winner so here y’all go:

Four-Get About Winter! 

Makes: 2 (rather strong) Cocktails

Ingredients:

1 Cup (8oz) – Sweetened Lemonade (I recommend from the mix so you can control the level of sweetness)

4 oz  Vodka (doesn’t need to be good quality)

1 Navel/Large Orange (peeled)

1 Cup (8oz) – Decent-Quality White Wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)

*Optional 5th Ingredient* – Either shake with ice or, if you’re less dedicated to the name’s pun, use frozen tropical fruit mix to chill and add more flave!

How To:

  1. Slice and peel orange and place in shaker with either frozen ice or fruit, vodka and lemonade. 

  2. Shake mixture until shaker feels quite cold. 

  3. In two glasses (I used mason jars for cute-ness), equally divide the cup of white wine.

  4. Top off wine with the lemonade, fruit/ice, and vodka mixture. 

  5. Cheers! And, Enjoy Responsibly of course! 😉 

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Did you try it? Are your Winter Woes remedied? Let me know what you think in the comments! ♥

XOXO,

Emmie

 

My 5 Tips to a Healthy Lifestyle

First things first: Long time no see peeps! I realize it’s been quite a long while since I last checked in. I could easily give you a myriad of reasons as why that is, but, instead I think it’ll just be easier for me to apologize and just move on ahead with this post!

So, I am sorry I’ve been gone for so long! I hope you can forgive me and that we can go back to being besties!

Now, onto today’s post:

We are well into this new year and by now you may be close to letting that drive to a “New Year, New You” slip away and getting lost behind the hustle and bustle of what has certainly been a bumpy start to 2017.

Before you let those hopes get lost in your busy lives, just take a minute to hear my few tips to a healthy lifestyle that help me stay on track and live a healthy lifestyle even with the stresses that accompany an undergraduate senior as she maintains a full course load, 3.9 GPA and a 30 hour-work week!

  1. First of all, take time to care for yourself! This can be anything from painting your nails, to doing a face mask, to listening to music, to having 10 min of media “time-out” time during the day. One of the most important things I’ve learning is that you must be mentally stable in order to be happy with your successes. You can reach that 4.0 semester and still be dissatisfied if you aren’t feeling happy and life yourself. And really, whether it be good grades or getting a promotion at work, unless you are doing these things for yourself and because it makes you happy, these accomplishments will simply feel like a to-do list rather than a success. (Trust me, I’ve been there money is inciting but if you aren’t in it for the right reasonings you won’t be as happy as you deserve to be.)
  2. Find a hobby. Find something that is completely different from your job, or maybe even not so different from your job if you are lucky enough to love what you do, and really delve into exploring this thing. Growing up I always had music and at times, after declaring my Music Major, the last thing I wanted to do after three hours of music theory homework was to come home and play more. During these times, I would bake and ever since whenever I feel stressed or really burnt out and music, or self-care aren’t enough baking fills that void. Now, I still loved music but after having it taken from a hobby and made into what felt like a job, in which I had to compete impress my peers and had immense pressure to succeed, I needed some space. This brings me to my third tip:
  3. IT’S OKAY TO NEED SPACE! In this time of history there is an overwhelming amount of pressure to be constantly around people. Now for some of those lucky ducks who are true extroverts you are probably thriving in this 21st century lifestyle and you can disregard this tip. But for the many others out, like myself, there who are feeling truly overwhelmed. Know this: it is totally and 100% okay to need time alone. This is something that I have grappled with feeling guilty about for many years and only recently did I realize you don’t need to feel guilty to want to be alone. And if the people you choose to call friends are really good friends they will understand because realistically they also like to have alone time from time time. Remember, there is a BIG difference between taking time to be alone and being lonely. So, don’t let people assume you are lonely if you can be enough entertainment and can satisfy your needs without the help and company of others!
  4. Exercise! I have always been an active person. I played sports, took Karate lessons, and was generally high energy, however, when I went to school a few years back I fully embraced the I’m a college student now I’m too stressed to work out mindset. That is until about six months ago. I got super involved with outdoor activities, like tennis and running, over the summer and made it a goal to stay active even into the depths of a bitter Pittsburgh winter. This goal has totally met, if not exceeded, the expectations I had when it was first set. I feel better, both physically and mentally, and working out has become a great hobby and stress relief for me. I recommend taking some type of group workout class if you don’t feel you’ll be able to maintain a routine during busy times. I find having friends and others around, who are also aiming to better themselves mentally and physically, really help hold me accountable not only to work harder and push past the tough, tiring times but also simply make it more fun!
  5. Eat well. I am a firm believer in the philosophy of: you get out of your body the same effort that you put into it. This mean is you don’t put good things in, nothing good will come out. So, if you want to feel good on the inside and outside, you should be giving your body good foods and nutrients. These good foods and vitamins and other factors of a healthy lifestyle are vital because, your other healthy changes will only be half-way felt if you are still eating toaster pastries and burgers 24/7. I have to admit living on a college budget (which essentially means a negative bank account for the next 10 years) eating healthy sounded initially intimidating.But, I now realize this was yet another excuse and assumption that I have since proved false. Don’t get me wrong there are some stores and places that often up-charge to make healthy items more expensive (likely with the goal of making these items feel exclusive) but realistically eating well should not break the bank! As someone with numerous food allergies I have first hand experience with the frustration that accompanies seeing a $6 jar of sunflower seed butter next to a $2 jar of peanut butter. But, it is important to realize that yes gourmet nut or no-nut butter’s are going to more expensive but you don’t have to go gourmet in order to go good. Use coupons and shop around at places like Aldi and Sam’s club where you can buy staples like Oats and Veggies in bulk at a fraction of the price. Experiment with freezing fruits and veggies and lean proteins. Try a generic brand of coconut milk. And READ THE INGREDIENTS LIST!

I hope that these tips are helpful and I would love to hear your comments on how you stay healthy both mentally and physically. I am also always open to questions and will answer them to the best of my ability and as quickly as possible!

I hope you are staying sane in this crazy atmosphere that 2017 has created thus far, I know I am trying my best but we shall see! I suppose its a good thing I’ve started this blog with the understanding that things might get weird from time to time!

Later for now alligators!

XOXO,

Emmie

The “WolfPack” Takes Vegas

No, sadly there will be no cameo’s made by the real deal “three-best-friends”of the Hangover “Wolfpack” on our family trip to Las Vegas… at least none planned… But, Zach or Ed or Bradley if you are in the area hit me up that would be one heck of a birthday present! ;P

Two years in the making “Peffer’s Take Vegas”, as my father and uncle have so aptly named, is the cumulative celebration of many exciting recent and upcoming occasions so we are going all out on this trip. Whilst we will be staying in a hotel, obviously, aside from the very first night so I will try and video document our all-nighter shenanigans of that first night and upload that so you can see what we do! ( I have heard all-nighters in Vegas are quite common… however, I have never pulled an active all-nighter so we shall see how I do!)

Any ways, as if I haven’t said it enough: I am going to LAS VEGAS BABY! Which means a full few days of good food, good times and *predictably* good weather! Now all of those things are also easily found in Pittsburgh, but recently the good weather part has been lacking due to a seemingly very confused climate. I am so incredibly excited to share my outfits, activities and the great food that we will be eating so there will likely be some new more lifestyle-ish posts coming off of this trip (provided I don’t get swamped with school work once we return *fingers crossed*), so stay tuned for the details on what doesn’t stay in Vegas; though anything does go so we shall see!

Peace out for now!

XOXO