Spicy Green Bean Tamale Hummus

spicy green bean tamale hummusThis recipe utilizes the 6 key ingredients used for cooking tamale meat: peppercorns, ancho chilies, guajillo chilies, bay leaf, pumpkin seed and sesame seeds. Traditionally, the meat (usually shredded pork) is stewed in these spices and seeds. As with most things involving meat, the overall quality of the dish comes from the spices and seasonings that give it flavor. Case in point: if not for steak marinades and sauces, it seems safe to assume that more of us would go veg.
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Cooking Smart: Brussels Sprouts + Greens

brussels sprouts green kale

One thing you can do to significantly reduce your bill = cook smart. Whether your stove is gas or electric, or if you’re in a tent in the woods with only one match: here’s how you do it.

Object Lesson A: Brussel sprouts and greens
Let’s say you have brussels sprouts and some greens that have wilted slightly and/or would taste much more satisfying cooked. You have a pot to cook in with a lid, and a knife of some sort.

Trim brussels sprouts of any soiled leaves. If you have a knife, chop off the base of the sprouts (which can tend to be dirty).

Boil sprouts in enough water to cover them. Cover with lid to bring water to a boil more quickly. Once the water begins to boil, lift the lid and add a few shakes of salt if you have it. This will help tenderize the sprouts and reduce overall cooking time. Boil covered for 6-12 minutes. If you like them a bit softer, err on the side of 12.

Turn off heat and remove sprouts with a spoon or strainer, leaving the vegetable water in the pot. Immediately throw your greens into the pot. Cover with lid, allowing the heat from the water/vapor to cook the greens. The salt in the water will also tenderize the greens, allowing them to cook quickly and serve while the brussels sprouts are still warm. Serve with the broth/leftover water to warm your insides and to maximize nutrient intake. The brussels sprouts and broth taste taste delicious as is, but also when lightly seasoned with lemon juice and black pepper.

brussels sprouts greens brussels sprouts and kale brussels sprouts and greens

More Cooking Smart recipes to follow…

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Lettuce Wraps + 2 Types of Hummus

vegan lettuce wrapsPeople regularly ask why I use legumes i.e. chickpeas, black beans, lentils, and the occasional soy product in the recipes I post. This is a complicated question to answer in a brief response to a comment, so it seemed logical to incorporate a more detailed explanation of my diet/lifestyle and whether or not it’s paleo, what I consider paleo, etc. into this post.
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Green Bean Salad with Crushed Red Pepper

This recipe is inspired by something I found online when I Googled “green bean salads”. I found one that had a spicy and citrus-y flavor profile, with crushed walnuts. I’m allergic to walnuts, so I used pumpkin seeds instead. Since walnuts taste semi-sweet and pumpkin seeds do not, I added 1/16 tsp stevia extract to compensate. Also, in place of red pepper-infused olive oil I topped the salad with crushed red pepper flakes (the kind generally used as a pizza topping). Unlike the recipe that was its inspiration, this one is oil-free and calls for only 5 ingredients. Continue reading

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Romaine and Cucumber Salad with Pepitas, Cranberries, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

pumpkin seed romaine cucumber salad
To follow my 5 Salad Dressings ≤ 5 ingredients post, here is a salad ≦ 5. Most ingredients can be found at your average run-of-the-mill grocery store, and the salad as a whole tastes great with my oil-free balsamic vinaigrette.<--more-->
I just now realize how holiday-ish this recipe is. Pumpkin seeds, cranberries…Thanksgiving, anyone? Bookmark it for next fall. Tell your friends.

for the Balsamic Vinaigrette:


1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried basil
Juice of 1 meyer lemon

This should make enough for two to three meal-size portions of salad. Ingredients in the salad i.e. dried cranberries and garlic have distinct flavor profiles and are meant to stand out. In other words, excess dressing might throw off the balance.

for the Salad:


1 head romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped
2/3 cup shelled pepitas/pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cucumber, finely chopped
1 tsp granulated garlic, or more to taste.

Mix. *Tip: throw all ingredients into a large pyrex container with lid. Cover tightly and shake. Remove lid, add dressing, and shake again. This method works well, and doubles as an arm workout.

*Things to consider: The recipe calls for granulated garlic, not garlic salt. Be sure to observe the difference. Granulated garlic is sold for under $1 per ounce, on the spice rack at Mexican markets or the “Hispanic Foods” section at grocery stores. Look for ajo in 1 or 2 oz plastic packets.

If you buy unsalted pepitas/pumpkin seeds, you might want to add a bit of salt to taste. I used salted pepitas for this recipe, so naturally I didn’t need any extra. To stay on the safe side, avoid the task of determining the perfect ratio. Just provide a salt shaker and everyone can doctor the salad to their liking.

I think this salad is genius, but I’d like to hear other opinions. If you try the recipe, please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

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5 Salad Dressing Recipes ≤ 5 ingredients

perfect salad
I’ve traveled a lot, in many situations where access to a blender was nil. Whether it was a motel room with a mini fridge, or a hospedaje with bars on the widows; a hostel dorm with a shared kitchen, a tent, or my car, I’ve managed to make every salad dressing on this list with as little as a pocket knife and a mason jar. That’s not to say they’re simplistic. These recipes can transform something as basic as shredded cabbage into a flavorful and satisfying meal.
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Your Grocery Bill & How to Reduce It

paleo vegan shopping

Is a paleo-vegan diet more expensive than a “conventional” vegan diet, or a lacto-vegetarian diet? Is it more financially straining to maintain a vegan or paleo-vegan diet than a lacto-ovo or ovo-vegetarian diet? Even though some people–myself included–don’t consider egg consumption “vegetarian”, I’m including it in the comparison here because many self-proclaimed vegetarians do eat eggs.

While I think it’s common knowledge that protein-rich and nutritious foods i.e. broccoli, or beans purchased in bulk, cost a lot less per pound than any cut of meat above grade D, the argument that “a vegetarian diet is expensive” continues to rear its head in all its irrational and outdated glory. So, this post will include certain rebuttals to that argument.

Moreover, the plethora of “meatless monday”-esque books circulated among mainstream audiences in the recent past e.g. Forks Over Knives and The Omnivore’s Dilemna lead me to believe those books and others of a similar genre at least kind of, sort of turned those readers (or readers of the hype surrounding those books) on to eating less meat and/or caring about where their food comes from. Meat, when raised “humanely” or “grass-fed”, or kept in something other than a cage or stall merely twice its size during its meager and miserable lifespan before slaughter, costs a lot more than broccoli, dried beans, or other vegan protein sources.

For resources and tips on maintaining a paleo-vegan diet without breaking the bank, keep reading.

1. Take advantage of the government

The USDA publishes reports on the cost of vegetables and fruits, per pound, per region, complete with spreadsheets, bar graphs, and pie charts. Here is a PDF of the most current report.

2. Shop with your inner skeptic

Buy in bulk, but do your homework first and think critically. Before buying 4lbs of raw cashews or almonds because they’re “on sale”, look at the cost per ounce. Sometimes sales can be deceiving. Do you typically rely on sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds as your main protein source? Are you drawn in by the $2 off nuts when seeds provide the same nutrients and cost $10 less per pound? Also, sales often happen because a product is nearing its expiration date.

3. Organic isn’t always the the answer

Eating organic is of course ideal, in most cases. I’ve learned, after living in various states and countries, to see the benefit in buying locally-grown vegetables and fruit (even when the farm in question hasn’t received a certification regarding its organic status) as opposed to organic produce from New Zealand sold at high-end, gourmet natural-foods stores in Guatemala, Mexico, etc. that cater to tourists. A local crop sold at the mainstream grocery store, open-air market, or direct from a farm is typically cheaper and fresher, with a significantly lighter carbon footprint.

4. Know what’s in season by month


broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangerines, turnips


broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangerines, turnips


artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, pineapples, radishes, rutabagas, turnips


artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, pineapple, radishes, rhubarb, spring peas


apricots, artichokes, asparagus, cherries, lettuce, mangoes, okra, pineapples, radishes, rhubarb, spring peas, strawberries, swiss chard, zucchini


apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, corn, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, peaches, strawberries, swiss chard, watermelon, zucchini


apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini


acorn squash, apples, apricots, blueberries, butternut squash, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, winter squash, zucchini


acorn squash, apples, beets, butternut squash, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, figs, grapes, green beans, lettuce, mangoes, mushrooms, okra, peppers, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tomatoes


acorn squash, apples, beets, broccoli, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cranberries, grapes, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkin, rutabagas, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, turnips, winter squash


apples, artichokes, avocado, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, chestnuts, cranberries, diakon radish, fennel, guava, kiwi, kumquat, lemon, winter squash


apples, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cranberries, dates, endive, escarole, fennel, grapefruit, kale, kiwi, leeks, lemoms, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, oranges, papaya, passion fruit, persimmons, potatoes, radicchio lettuce, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tangerines, turnips, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash

5. When in doubt, DIY

Hypothetically, let’s say you really enjoyed certain foods as a kid or in the more recent past that you can no longer afford or don’t want to buy on principle because you consider them outrageously expensive. For example, the sprouted almonds that cost $16-$20 per pound, or the plastic containers of Just Peas that cost $17.79 per 8oz container. Raw almonds are easy to sprout, and cost a lot less than $16 a pound i.e. $5. Peas, for example, you can find for less than $1 per pound frozen, at many retailers in the states—and can be easily dehydrated in an oven to mimic the aforementioned Just Peas.

6. Ignore the hype

On the shelves at many mainstream grocery stores exists a vegan “cheese” or faux-meat section stocked with marinated tofu, seitan steaks, tempeh; boca burgers, garden burgers, etc. in addition to a lot of other renditions I assume are up-and-coming and I haven’t heard of yet—and I won’t knock until try. I’m generally of the opinion that pizza doesn’t require cheese or any commercial mock-version of it. From prior experience and attempts at vegan recipe development I learned that nutritional yeast, seeds, lemon juice, and a bit of finesse can make a cheese-like sauce or “cheez” that won’t break the bank—and tastes a lot better than the packaged, store-bought variety. To make your own (while saving $$$) you must bypass the pricy cashews and almonds, even if they’re on sale (see tip #2). Go for seeds instead. They’re cheaper, and nuts aren’t nutritionally superior.

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DIY Spa Day

Do you need time to relax and unwind from the stresses of everyday life? Does your hair feel lifeless or brittle, no matter how many brands of conditioner you try? Does your skin feel too dry? Too oily? Is stress causing breakouts or inflammation? Do your nails feel brittle?  Tired of giving yourself a manicure only to watch the polish chip off the day after? Are you fed up with the split ends in your hair? Breakage? Damage from flat irons or curlers? Recovering from a perm or straightening treatment? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might benefit from a spa day.

Unfortunately, that will likely cost upwards of $200. Not to mention the $50+ in products you’ll be encouraged to buy. I’ve nothing against going to the spa in theory. I’ve done it. I once spent $150 for a semi-permanent hair straightening treatment (which I don’t recommend, by the way. At the end of this post I’ll explain why). In a nutshell, going to the spa or salon is a) expensive, b) potentially damaging to your hair, skin, and nails, and c) even when natural and organic, many contain at least 10 ingredients you can’t pronounce and often contain unidentified fragrances and parabens (chemical preservatives used by the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries). Just because the label says 100% vegan (not tested on animals) doesn’t mean it’s safe.

*Disclaimer: the point of this post is NOT to suggest that stylists, estheticians, or other spa and salon industry professionals aren’t skilled, or that going to the salon or spa is inherently bad.

On that note, let’s begin.

1. Spa Water

DIY Spa Day waterOne of the novelties of going to the spa is the cucumber & lemon-infused “spa water”.


1 standard cucumber or 3 lemon cucumbers
1 lemon or 2 limes
1 apple or orange, optional

*Note: You can also use fresh mint leaves, grapefruit, strawberries, ginger root, or even lemongrass for variety. Strawberry and mint make a good combination. If using ginger root you can omit the lemon in the original recipe.


Peel and slice the cucumber. Slice the lemon or lime. Add to a large pitcher filled with water. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours OR ice the water first if you’re short on time, strain out the ice, and then add the cucumber+lemon and other ingredients if applicable. Keep it chilled throughout your spa treatment. You can refill the pitcher several times throughout the day; discard after 24 hours.

2. Exfoliate

Many commercial scrubs contain fillers, parabens, and artificial dyes. Even those of the natural variety often contain ingredients that I’d rather not exfoliate my face with. Certainly, paraben-free and dye-free facial scrubs exist…on the shelves at Sephora and in boutique spas. I don’t want to deter anyone from purchasing a 4oz bottle of ground adzuki beans for $34, but I will give you the recipe to make it yourself for $2 in under 10 minutes.

First, let’s talk about the adzuki bean. It pains me to read about or see adverts for everyday items posing as ‘new breakthrough technologies in face cream!’ when it’s really just a handful of new chemical compounds combined with shea butter, with the upper body of Gwyneth Paltrow photoshopped onto a backdrop of some glamorous cityscape. Edit: I respect Gwyneth Paltrow and admire her career. This isn’t about her or any other actor. It’s about the illusions mirrors we gaze into when we look at the ads or stare at the model on the box of haircolor before we open it, put on the gloves, and proceed to subject ourselves to pungent chemicals masked with artificial floral fragrances. I don’t mean to refer to body image or self esteem, because that would require its own article. It’s the facade I’m concerned with. Take for example, adzuki beans. They sound exotic, right? Like something you would need to cross the seven seas (or embark on a very lengthy plane ride) to obtain. The cosmetics industry (even the natural sector) cashes in on this. In the midst of writing this article I took a break and walked to the market down the street to buy black beans and cabbage. Right next to the bags of black beans, pinto beans, white beans, and habas/fava beans, I saw red beans. They were not kidney beans. The store clerk described them as “small red beans”. Intrigued, I bought them instead of the black beans. I haven’t cooked them yet (they are soaking as I write this) but judging from their appearance they are adzuki beans. After a few minutes on pubmed and wikipedia, it is confirmed. Adzuki beans are small red beans. They are simply two different names for Vigna angularis. In the midst of finding this out I came across a pop-up ad for small red beans at Lucky (grocery store chain in California) on sale for $1.79 per pound. The point is, $34 4oz bottles of adzuki bean scrub are flying off the shelves at upscale retail stores labeled with alluring copy and eye-catching graphic design, while the prototype for the same thing is sold at generic grocery stores for under $2.

To DIY you will need a coffee grinder, a food processor, or high powered blender. I have tried this with a NutriBullet, a Cuisinart blender, an 1980s Oster coffee grinder from a garage sale, and a cheap Hamilton Beach coffee grinder I bought 3 years ago at Target. The Oster coffee grinder worked best. I don’t recommend buying one new, since the 1980s model is stronger and more efficient. I’ve seen them on Ebay for $10.

Adzuki Bean Exfoliant

Suitable for all skin types, especially acne-prone skin.
Ingredients: adzuki beans aka small red beans. Start with 2 Tbsp dry beans, to test out your coffee grinder/blender/food processor. Ideally, the ground beans should resemble the consistency of coffee grounds for a french press (a course grind). Once the desired consistency is achieved, use immediately or store for later use. To apply, mix a heaping tablespoon of ground beans with 1 Tbsp water. This recipe is great to exfoliate the body as well.

…To be continued. Next post: Facial Toner

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