Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

Should dips be classified as it’s own food group?? I certainly wouldn’t mind.

Should dips be classified as it’s own food group?? I certainly wouldn’t mind.

Get in my mouth.

Get in my mouth.

I'm SUCH a "dips" person. Give me all the dips. Especially around this time of year — holiday parties and endless hors d'oeuvres (yeah, I had to Google how to spell that) totally put me in my happy place. Unfortunately, 80% of awesome dips contain dairy, so I am on a mission to tackle some of my favorites to create creamy versions without getting any milk or cheese involved (like my dairy-free Buffalo Chicken Dip — one of my most popular recipes)!

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • 1 can artichoke hearts (drained)

  • 1 cup soaked cashews

  • 1 can white northern beans

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • ½ onion

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 cup spinach

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Salt and pepper, to taste (I use about 2 tsp of each)

Directions:

Soak cashews in water overnight or for at least 6 hours, until soft and creamy. When ready, drain any excess water, and add to a food processor or blender, along with all other ingredients except for spinach. Pulse until smooth and creamy. Roughly chop the spinach into small bits and stir into the mixture. Scoop mixture into a small baking dish (I used a 8x8 ceramic dish, as pictured) and bake at 375 F for 25 minutes. When ready, drizzle some extra EVOO over the top for presentation. Serve warm with celery, your favorite chips, or pita bread!

Sweet Potato Casserole (Paleo, Vegan)

Those toasted pecans though… *heart eyes*

Those toasted pecans though… *heart eyes*

Can you believe it’s already Thanksgiving week?? Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and for the past couple of years I’ve been on sweet potato patrol! Last year when I came up with this recipe kind of solidified the magic of coconut milk to me. The coconut milk in this actually makes it better than a kind using regular milk and butter, in my opinion! This is my favorite Thanksgiving dish to make and just happens to be paleo and vegan, but don’t worry — none of your relatives will be complaining about the ‘healthy’ factor because it’s freaking delicious. The recipe is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require any fancy flours — just a handful of everyday ingredients that you turn into a creamy dreamy naturally sweetened sweet potato casserole! P.S. Since it’s Thanksgiving week and everything, I wanted to take the chance to let you guys know how grateful I am for each one of you for reading this, and to everyone who has made and enjoyed one of my recipes! You guys keep me inspired to keep creating. SO much love! Now, onto the recipe :)

Sweet Potato Casserole (Paleo, Vegan)

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes

  • 1/4 c maple syrup

  • 1/2 can coconut milk

  • 1/2 tsp of salt

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (+ any other desired spices to taste — I like adding ground ginger, too!)

Topping

  • 1 1/2 c pecans or pecan pieces

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

  • 3 tbsp maple syrup

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Peel and boil the sweet potatoes in a pot of water for about 20-25 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes and mash together with the coconut milk, salt, cinnamon and optional other spices until creamy and smooth. Transfer to a baking dish (I use a 10x10 square ceramic dish but something slightly larger would work too) and spread around pan ensuring evenness on top.

For the topping, toss together pecans with melted coconut oil, maple syrup and cinnamon and sprinkle over the sweet potatoes. Bake at 400° F for 15 minutes before serving!

Pumpkin Soup (Whole30, Vegan, Paleo)

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This time of year, I’m all about the squash and pumpkins (wait — is pumpkin it’s own thing or just a type of squash? * Googles * — apparently a pumpkin is a type of squash, so. #themoreyouknow) Anyhow! This past month or so, I’ve posted a squash soup recipe and I’ve posted a roasted pumpkin seed recipe. Since soup is my favorite thing to eat this time of year and I’m obsessed with squash and pumpkin (still staying in separate categories in my mind…) It only makes sense that now it’s time for a creamy, dreamy pumpkin soup post! I can’t take the credit for this one though — this recipe is actually my mom’s! I’ve loved this soup ever since she made it when I was young, so I’m excited to share the recipe with you and hope you love it too. This soup is awesome because it’s super simple and delicious while also being super healthy, nutritious, and just happens to be vegan/paleo/whole30!

Pumpkin Soup (Whole30, vegan, paleo)

Ingredients:

  • 2 small “pumpkin pie” pumpkins

  • 2 yellow onions

  • Olive oil

  • 2 quarts chicken stock

  • Rosemary

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Optional: roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Slice the 2 pumpkins into wedges, drizzle with olive oil, and roast for 45 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork.

While the pumpkins roast, dice the yellow onions and sauté them in a stock pot until they are soft and slightly browned, Add in 2 quarts chicken stock, cooked pumpkin scraped from its shell, 2 tsp Rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Puree with an immersion blender and simmer 20 minutes. Optional: if you have some roasted pumpkin seeds on hand, sprinkle them over the top for a crunchy garnish!

Soaked & Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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Isn’t fall just the greatest?? Apple orchards, pumpkin patches, hay rides, oh my!

Isn’t fall just the greatest?? Apple orchards, pumpkin patches, hay rides, oh my!

Got pumpkins? Save the seeds! Besides being the perfect seasonal crunchy salty snack (my absolute fav — where my fellow salt-tooth’s at?), roasting pumpkin seeds makes your house smell absolutely amazing. Word of warning: while the steps to this recipe are simple, the process is quite slow due to the soaking. But honestly, I find it to be almost therapeutic in some ways. Soaking seeds before roasting them is a step that technically can be skipped, but shouldn’t. Seeds, nuts, lentils, and grains all have properties in them that make them hard to digest. Through the process of soaking, these properties are broken down, making them much easier on your stomach!

Soaked & Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • Pumpkin(s)

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • water

  • salt and pepper

  • optional: spices of choice (I love using a combination of chili and garlic powders!)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and cut open your pumpkin to scoop out the pumpkin seeds (if you don’t want to partake in this slimy step — a kid would probably love to!). Rinse them in a colander to get off as much of the orange pumpkin insides as you can. No need to be a perfectionist here — some orange slime left behind is totally OK.

Now for the hands-off part — soak the cleaned seeds in a bowl with warm water and a large pinch of salt for at least 12 and no more than 24 hours. Drain and give them one last rinse before leaving them out to dry (I usually leave them on a baking sheet or large plate lined with paper towels overnight). Told you this wasn’t a quick process ;)

Once the seeds are dry, preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and toss them in some olive oil until lightly coated. Next, spread out on a baking sheet, making sure the seeds have enough space and aren’t overlapping too much, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and your favorite seasoning (you can’t go wrong with chili powder)! Roast in the oven for 50-60 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

Creamy Curried Lentil Squash Soup (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Creamy Curried Lentil Squash Soup
Creamy Curried Lentil Squash Soup

This recipe is one I did not plan on posting today — namely because I made it for the first time yesterday and usually my recipes require a few tweaks before getting ready to post. This one though… this one was a one-hit-wonder! By that I mean, it turned out absolutely perfectly and the only thing I would have done differently was add a bit more water to start (an easy enough write-in)! Since yesterday was the coldest day of Fall so far here in Minnesota, I was craving a warm a creamy soup I could make fast with ingredients I had on hand. Since I almost always have lentils, carrots, coconut milk in the house and just happened to have a seasonal delicata squash too, this is what I came up with (and I was honestly REALLY surprised with the results — trust me, I would NOT be posting this if it was just "alright”!!) So without further ado, heres how to make a delicious, nutritious, and creamy Curried Lentil Squash Soup!

Creamy Curried Lentil Squash Soup

  • 2/3 cup lentils (I used green in the picture, but red or yellow would make for a prettier color)

  • 4 cups water

  • 3 carrots

  • 1 small delicata squash (or 1/2 of a large one)

  • 1/2 a yellow onion

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 1 tsp yellow curry paste (I LOVE the “Mae Ploy” brand)

  • 3/4 tsp salt (more or less to taste)

  • 3/4 tsp pepper (more or less to taste)

  • Optional: Add a squeeze of lime and/or a few handfuls of shredded kale (pictured above) for added taste and texture!

Chop carrots into 1-inch pieces. Halve the delicata squash, scoop out the seeds, and chop into one-inch pieces as well (no need to remove the skin — it’s edible!). Roughly chop up the onion. Add all of the ingredients to a medium stock pot, bring to a boil, then let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour an hour, stirring frequently.

When done, vegetables should be tender and ready to blend with an immersion blender! For the creamy dreamy soup you see above, this step really can’t be missed — if you don’t have an immersion blender, a regular blender will be a bit more work, but will do just fine! Let the soup cool for a bit, then blend the until smooth.

As a final step, taste the soup and see if it needs any extra salt or pepper! You could also add a squeeze of lime and stir in a few handfuls of chopped kale for added taste and texture. Hope you love it!

Ranch Chicken Thighs (Diary Free, Gluten Free, Whole30, Paleo)

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Hey, it’s Lucia from Essential Omnivore! I’m so pumped to be guest blogging today and share this dinner that I made on a whim one night and then ended up hunched oven the cooled pan exclaiming “ok but how did this turn out so good??” You know those types of recipes? The surprise ones? Yeah.

And bonus—quick and speedy dinner alert. Even though it’s summertime, I think there’s something to be said for low effort oven dinners; all these chicken thighs require is a quick mix with your favorite ranch seasoning (or you can make your own and boy, double or triple the amount so you can always have a little ranch on hand!) and quality mayonnaise, then into the oven and whoa, while you’re sipping iced tea on the porch, just a few minutes later… dinner.

Ranch Baked Chicken Thighs (Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Whole 30, Paleo)

  • 1 pound chicken thighs (skin on, bone-in or skinless, boneless)

  • 1/3 cup avocado or olive oil mayonnaise (Primal Kitchen or Sir Kensington’s are perfect!)

  • 3 tablespoons ranch seasoning (Primal Palate is superb, or make your own [see notes section])

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet and set aside. While the oven preheats, mix the mayonnaise, ranch seasoning and vinegar in a large bowl until evenly combined. Place the chicken thighs in the bowl and using your hands, mix them until all are evenly coated.

Now here’s where there are two choices: if you’re using skin on, bone-in chicken thighs, place them skin-side down on the wire racks, and bake them for 20 minutes, then flip them to be skin-side up and bake for an additional 20 minutes. If you’re using skinless, boneless chicken thighs, simply place them on the wire rack and bake them for 20 minutes flat.

Once baked through, take the chicken thighs out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve over a bed of greens and sliced carrots, if desired!

Other Notes:

Conventional ranch mix seasoning packets typically have added milk, soy and thickeners, as well as flavor enhancers that some people react negatively to. This is why it’s so awesome to be able to mix up your own from the cupboard, or purchase from an organic spice company!

Homemade Ranch Seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley

  • 1 tablespoon dried dill

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Gluten and Dairy Free? The "Why" Behind Leaving Certain Ingredients Out

The Why Behind Gluten and Dairy Free.jpg

Because I’m a food blogger, people tend to ask me a lot about my diet.

To which my knee-jerk response goes something like “I don’t eat healthy all the time! I eat junk food too!” #Relatable. Just because I blog the “good stuff” doesn’t mean I’m the face of dietary perfection. It’s more like, since I struggle with healthy eating myself, I’ve created a resource to help me and others like me with it. Ya know? But here’s the thing: I do cook a lot at home now, much more than I used to. And since home is the place where I have the most control over ingredients, I tend to make a lot of my meals with quality, pastured meat sources, lots of fresh organic veg, and without wheat/gluten and dairy. Why?

Well for starters, have you ever heard a person be like “wow, I really could use some more dairy and wheat in my diet -- it’s really lacking in those areas!”

...I haven’t. In fact, before I changed my diet for the better, dairy and wheat/grains in general made up a significant portion of what I ate (shoutout to cheese and cracker snacks, yo). Dairy + grains are convenient, tasty, and can be found in abundance in most restaurants, convenience stores, and kitchens across the nation. So my aim is to make my food blog a place where people can go to get new ideas for alternative, healthy, anti-inflammatory recipes to feed themselves and their families, whether they’re going through a strict Whole30, have certain food allergies, or just want something to balance out their pizza nights out.

Speaking of Whole30, tons of my recipes are Whole30 approved. I entirely support the Whole30 and any other elimination-style diet that aims to help you identify the foods that make you feel crummy and the foods that make you feel your best. If you have any sort of symptom that is affecting your life negatively, whether it be physical pain, high blood pressure, anxiety or depression, etc, I beg you to try and get your food right before popping prescription pills. This is alternative health 101, even though there is nothing “alternative” about it. People using readily available foods and herbs as a first line of defense against disease and degradation is a practice as old as time. In fact, a problem I have with western medicine is the complete lack of acknowledgement that some people simply do better without certain food groups in their diet. Paying attention to how your body reacts to certain foods is admirable. You aren’t “crazy” or “wanting attention” just because you feel better cutting out something like gluten even though you aren’t a full-blown Celiac.

The thing is, there is no one diet that is right for everyone. Let me repeat: no one diet. Is right. For everyone. You can watch 20 different Netflix food documentaries and be convinced that VEGANISM, GRAIN FREE, no, KETO is right for you. But you know what each one of these documentaries doesn’t do? Provide well-rounded, non-biased evidence. Nothing rubs me the wrong way like a documentary that starts out with the absurd comparison of serving your children cigarettes for breakfast as a metaphor for the eggs (I’m looking at you, What the Health).

Here’s a secret: your ancestry and genetic makeup usually plays a huge role in what types of foods you’ll thrive on.

Where are your ancestors from? What were some traditional foods that your ancestors ate, before boxed cereal and other readily-available foods were a thing? Most people ate some sort of fermented food (kimchi, fermented fish, or sauerkraut, anyone?), most probably ate an abundance of locally grown vegetables and yes, animal products (which kinds and how much totally depends on local availability). Got eskimo heritage? You’ll likely thrive on lots of oily fish. Are your ancestors from the tropics? Lots of fresh fruit and coconuts might make you feel your best. In any diet, veggies are your friend -- but should they be cooked? Raw? Take a look at how your ancestors likely prepared them and try that.

Here’s another secret: your intuition is much more powerful than you think.

Really tuning into how your body reacts to the things you feed it is a skill that will serve you well for the rest of your life and will leave you less reliant on things like counting calories or macros. When we’re feeding our bodies the whole foods it really craves, we are giving it the building blocks it needs to heal and repair itself, and it will not do things like hold on to excess weight. You know who the masters in intuitive eating are? Babies! Although I don’t have experience with this personally, I’ve heard they are really in tune with what foods they want based on the different nutrients they need at the time, at least before their taste buds are hindered with the more addictive processed sugars and prepackaged snack foods. The more whole foods we eat, the more we will connect with our bodies’ intuition about what we really need. Addictive, processed foods throw that intuition out of whack.

Me, personally? Despite my abundance of gluten-free recipes on here, I surprisingly do pretty well with most gluten/wheat! While it’s is no longer a staple in my diet due to other healthier foods taking its place, I do still love bread and eat it from time to time. As for dairy, I WISH it didn’t affect me negatively but alas, it does. I’ve struggled with acne my entire life and the biggest thing that affects it is dairy. (I wish I knew this when I was a teenager!) Also -- crazy thing -- symptoms of anxiety/depression go hand in hand with dairy for me. Weird, right?? But I still eat cheese from time to time. I’m lucky that I do not have a life-threatening dairy allergy and can still indulge without facing too many negative consequences (unless I go overboard and have cheese like everyday for a week)!

Gluten and diary can be inflammatory ingredients for many people, especially those with compromised gut health. Are they bad for everyone? No! But my blog is a place for people seeking different options. A resource for people who are looking to cut down on processed foods in their diet, people embarking on a Whole30 for the first time, or people who, due to their dietary restrictions, get asked “what can you eat?” all the time. This isn’t me saying avoiding gluten or dairy is the way to go for everyone. Heck, I don’t even eat this way 100% of the time! This is just my way of providing a helpful resource in an area I see a gap (aka recipes that don’t involve cheese, wheat flour, or noodles). As for universal approaches to nutrition, how about drink more water? Eat more veg? Now those are some one-size-fits-all approaches I can 100% get behind!

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September Enrollment for the Nutritional Therapy Association is now open! If you are interested in learning more about nutrition and have any questions about their program or about becoming an NTP or NTC, feel free to shoot me an email, I'd be happy to answer any Q's :) dinnerminimalist@gmail.com

5-Minute Cowboy Caviar (Grain Free, Vegan)

5-Minute Cowboy Caviar
5-Minute Cowboy Caviar (grain free, dairy free, vegan)

Easy appetizer alert! This is go-to side dish can be eaten alone or with chips, and is easy to whip up in a pinch. With any leftovers, you can really jazz up a cut of meat by spooning some over the top to make it look like you really tried! Basically, this is a fool-proof, 5 minute recipe that's great to bring to a party in a pinch or to whip up when you're craving a fun snack. Bonus for summer: no heat required as it's no-cook!

5-Minute Cowboy Caviar (Grain Free, Vegan)

  • 1 and a half cans of Black Beans

  • 1 yellow bell pepper

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 2 Roma Tomatoes

  • ½ red onion

  • 1 cup cilantro

  • ¼ c apple cider vinegar

  • ¼ c Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 1 tbsp salt

  • 1 tsp Cumin

  • Optional: Add some heat with some Cayenne pepper or Red Pepper Flakes!

Mince the garlic finely. Chop the bell pepper, tomatoes, and red onion into roughly half-inch pieces. Roughly chop the cilantro, leaving out the stems. Add these to a bowl with salt, cumin, apple cider vinegar and EVOO and stir it all up! Serve alone or with chips. Serves a crowd -- this picture shows only about 1/3 of the total amount this recipe makes!