Fall Flavors Series: Vegan Caramel Apples + Butternut Squash Curry

This fall, it’s my goal to go to the apple orchard (and to make the boy come with). Who doesn’t love to be surrounded by gorgeous fall foliage, delicious, freshly-picked apples and maybe an apple donut dipped into apple cider?

What’s even better, though, is when you get to take your freshly-picked, local apples and turn them into CARAMEL APPLES. And just in case you avoid dairy, are cutting down on sugar and/or avoiding corn syrup (often found in the caramel of caramel apples), are a vegan or just want a ridiculously easy, delicious, better-for-you caramel recipe — this caramel is perfect.

For a recent dinner party, I used Blissful Basil’s Five Minute Vegan Caramel as a part of a caramel apple “bar.” Imagine a sundae bar with all of the delicious toppings but instead of putting them on ice cream, you dipped your caramel apples in them.

Exciting, right?!

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Vegan Caramel Apples with Toppings

This is a fun, hands-on and healthified dessert that makes a great option for parties. Kids would love this as well — just change out the toppings with whatever you have on hand/enjoy best. Thanks to Blissful Basil’s amazing recipe for making this happen.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tart and crisp apples, such as Granny Smith, cut into wedges
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
  • 1/2 cup [real] maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Toppings: unsweetened coconut flakes, candied ginger, candied pecans, and sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add apple wedges and orange juice to a zip-top bag and store in the fridge until ready to use.
  2. Heat almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, salt and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low-medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool (ideally in the fridge) for 20-30 minutes. Note, you can enjoy the caramel hot but it will thicken up the colder it gets.
  3. “Skewer” apple wedges using wooden skewers, popsicle sticks, or in our case — chopsticks!
  4. Lay out toppings in small bowls with spoons.
  5. Once caramel thickens, let your guests dip their apple wedges in and then choose their toppings.

I’d say these are some happy apple sundae-goers…

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BUT WAIT! It’s not all about the dessert here. There’s also an amazing, easy entree: vegan butternut squash and lentil curry over coconut-lime cauliflower rice. Unfortunately, the curry didn’t photograph so well in the nighttime lighting so there’s no beautiful picture to show you. But just because there’s no photo, doesn’t mean it’s not insane-good.

Also, why have I not made curry in the crockpot before? It’s so easy and the longer you let it chill in the crockpot, the more the flavors meld together and the whole thing turns into this amazing, warming curry.

Butternut Squash and Lentil Curry over Coconut-Lime Cauliflower Rice

The cauliflower “rice” helps lighten this dish up a bit, making it lower carb AND higher in fiber and nutrients.

Curry Ingredients:

  • 2 butternut squashes, peeled, seeded and cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups orange lentils (any color/type would work well here)
  • 1 Tbsp. yellow curry paste
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. turmeric

Curry Directions:

  1. Throw all ingredients in the crockpot and turn to high. Cook for 4 hours, or until butternut squash and lentils are soft.

Cauliflower Rice Ingredients:

  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Cauliflower Rice Directions:

  1. Wash cauliflower, remove leaves, and cut in half. Remove cauliflower “core.” Chop cauliflower into chunks and add about 2 cups worth at a time to a food processor. Pulse for 1-2 second intervals until cauliflower is a rice consistency. You can also grate the cauliflower on a box grater or just chop it up really well for the same effect, sans food processor.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add coconut oil and onions and saute onions for 2-3 minutes. Add cauliflower and saute for about 15 minutes. Add in lime zest and juice, shredded coconut and sea salt. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

Serve the curry over the cauliflower rice. And an expert tip here — make EXTRA and freeze the leftovers in individual containers for later enjoyment. I actually think it almost tastes better when re-heated.

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Fall Flavors Series: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts

Brussels sprouts get an upgrade with toasted hazelnuts and orange juice and zest. This side dish is perfect for the holidays or a random weeknight.

Happy Friday! This has definitely been one of those weeks that feels like it’s never going to end and then, all of the sudden, Friday sneak-attacks and all is good. Isn’t that the best feeling?

A couple of weeks ago, I got to cook dinner for a group of ten awesome women as part of a fantastic event, Your Mat, Our Table. The event brought together women interested in healthy food and fitness by combining a one-hour rooftop yoga class overlooking Chicago and then a multi-course vegan, gluten-free meal made by moi, featuring dishes like my Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad and this yummy Brussels sprouts dish.

The menu utilized almost 100% local foods procured from the Evanston Farmers Market, mostly from Green Acres Indiana and Geneva Lakes Produce.

I was like a kid in a candy store that day at the market — was awesome getting to see, smell, touch and ultimately taste all that great produce whilst chatting with the farmers and other market patrons.

Did I mention the farmers market is my happy place? #nerdalert

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts and Orange Zest

These Brussels are gluten-free, vegan and most importantly, delicious. Either buy a bag of them or, if you’re a glutton for punishment like me, get a stalk or two and saw those puppies right off (try not to cut yourself).

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, washed with outer few leaves removed
  • Zest and juice of one orange
  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Cut ends off of sprouts and then quarter them. Toss with olive oil and orange juice, then spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until slightly charred.
  3. Meanwhile, chop hazelnuts and lay on baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the hazelnuts become fragrant.
  4. Sprinkle roasted Brussels sprouts with orange zest and toasted hazelnuts and serve.

Stay tuned for more recipes from the event, including vegan caramel apples. This Sunday, I’ll be posting the recipe for {crock pot} Butternut Squash and Lentil Curry with Coconut-Lime Cauliflower Rice. Get pumped!