Back To Basics Black Bean Soup

This time of year is crazy. I have a million things to do, yet I can’t seem to get anything done. My to-do list pulls me one way while vegan snickerdoodle recipes and Elvis Christmas pull me in the other.

Traffic is complicated, gift shopping is complicated, layers of socks and sweaters and coats are complicated. Maybe that’s why I’ve been craving all things simple. This Black Bean Soup will take you right back to the basics: warmth, comfort, nourishment. That’s all we really need anyway, right?

Back To Basics Back Bean Soup

4 servings


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 cups cooked black beans
  • 3 quarts low-sodium vegetable broth or water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • Fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
  • Nutritional yeast (optional)


Heat canola oil in soup pot over medium heat.

Add onion and saute until golden and translucent.

Add garlic, cumin, chili powder and paprika. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add black beans and liquid. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Puree with an emersion blender or transfer soup to a blender.

Serve with lime, cilantro, nutritional yeast and corn bread if desired.

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Life-saving Fast Lentil Soup

Sometimes you are too busy to think about cooking until you are dangerously hungry. Sometimes you need dinner to be ready, like, now. Sometimes the takeout menu screams your name.

Sometimes pennies need to be pinched and odds ‘n ends need to be used and a trip to the grocery store is just not happening.

Sometimes the sky is gloomy and you are cold and grumpy and you need a meal that will wrap you up in a big metaphorical hug and make it all better.

This lentil soup does the job not sometimes, but every time.

Life-saving Fast Lentil Soup

(4-6 servings)


  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-6 carrots, diced
  • 4-6 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 large pinches of salt, or to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves and toasted bread for topping (optional)


In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute onion, carrots, and celery in olive oil until tender.

Add garlic, thyme, cumin, lentils, broth and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and let the soup simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Serve topped with chopped parsley leaves and toasted bread if desired.

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Less But Better

As we sit sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, discussing simplicity may seem a little off-topic. But as we exchange gifts and help each other accumulate more “stuff”, it is the ideal time to  ponder that less might actually be better.

JWD and I found ourselves engaging in “stuff management” much more frequently than we cared for- decluttering, organizing, maintaining. One night we decided we’d had enough and began a massive purge of our possessions. It was scary at first, but freeing in the end. We now have a strict “one in, two out” policy with new items. We question everything we bring into our lives, whether it’s an object or a time commitment. Read more about our commitment to a simpler life on the LARABAR blog.


Graham Hill’s TED talk always reminds me that less stuff can mean more happiness. In his talk, he introduces the phrase “less, but better”- a phrase I aim to live by.

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Roasted Vegetables with Maple-Mustard Cashew Cream Sauce

They say first impressions are of the highest importance. Within seconds of meeting, your new acquaintance has already formed a near-permanent judgement of you. If a first impressions goes awry, reversing it is an uphill battle. As someone who has encountered many flawed first impression (on both sides of the coin), I am a firm believer in second impressions.

Sure, first impressions are useful. However, on some days we wake up not quite feeling like ourselves. During some moments in life the weight of the world is bearing down on us. And some people just need extra time before they are ready to reveal their true selves. I experience all of these and I bet you have too. We all deserve the grace of a second impression.

For one reason or another, some vegetables make lousy first impressions too. Today I am here to champion for three of these veggies that deserve a second chance: potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and beets.


We’ll start with America’s most popular vegetable: white potatoes. Poor white potatoes bear the dark mark of the evil “white food” category that pretty much every popular diet agrees should be illegal. Nonsense. The potato is a healthful, nourishing vegetable, keeps well in the pantry, and serves as a comforting foundation for any plant-based dinner in a hurry. Just avoid defaming it by drowning it in a deep-fryer. Next, Brussels sprouts and beets. This duo is equated to the worst of punishments that parents enforce upon children. If the only B. sprouts and beets you’ve ever eaten were the canned and boiled versions you were forced to eat in childhood, it’s time to give them a second chance. When done wrong, these two can be oh. so. wrong. But when done right, you will actually crave them. Roasting is the easiest way to lure crave-worthy flavors out of veggies. Much like some people, these veggies need the gift of time to warm up and soften and sweeten.

roastedveg2   roastedveg3

Find it in your heart to grace all three of these misunderstood beauties with a clean slate. A creamy dipping sauce makes this second encounter even better.

Roasted Vegetables with Maple-Mustard Cashew Cream Sauce


    Roasted Vegetables

    • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
    • 1 lb. fingering potatoes
    • 1 lb. beets
    • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
    • salt and pepper

    Maple-Mustard Dipping Sauce

    • 1/2 cup cashews
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
    • 1.5 tablespoons dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • dash of cayenne (optional)


    Roasted Vegetables

    Preheat oven to 400F.

    Prepare Brussels sprouts: wash, cut in half.

    Prepare potatoes: wash, cut into quarters.

    Prepare beets: wash, remove stem base and root “tail”, peel with vegetable peeler, slice into 1/4 inch thick slices.

    Toss prepared vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper.

    Roast on sheet pan for 50-60 min. until tender.

    Maple-Mustard Dipping Sauce

    Soak cashews in water for 2 hours.

    Combine cashews/soaking water and all remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

    Serve alongside roasted vegetables as a dip or drizzle over vegetables.

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    5 Best Vegan Soups

    Allow me to state the obvious: it snowed today. Obvious, but still a little hard for me to wrap me head around. The only logical choice was to stay inside all weekend with warm soup belly and good books. Here are my five favorite soups right now:

    1. Coconut Butternut Squash Soup 

    Recipe and photo by Nava Atlas of


    2. Slow-Cooker African Peanut Stew


    3. Really Good Tomato Soup

    Recipe and photo by


    4. Broccoli Cheeze Soup

    Recipe and photo by Oh She Glows

    broc soup

    5. Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes

    Recipe and photo by


    Enjoy your soup belly!

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    Pomegranate Salsa + How To Deseed a Pomegranate

    Have you ever gone to yoga with underwear stuck to your mat?



    Well, I have. Twice. They were actually stuck to my yoga towel, not my mat. And yes, they were clean.

    I practice hot power yoga which equates to a lot of sweat, so a mandatory yoga towel prevents your mat from becoming a sweaty slip-n-slide. Towel covers mat during class, towel gets sweaty, towel goes into the laundry… towel comes out as a more powerful panty magnet than George Clooney.

    The first time the “underwear incident” occurred, I was completely clueless. Forever running late, I dug my yoga towel out of the clean laundry pile, gave myself a pat on the back for actually WASHING it, and darted off to class. At the studio, I rolled my mat onto the floor, flicked my towel on top of it, and assumed corpse pose… with my yet-to-be-discovered undies perched just to the left of my head. It wasn’t until I stretched back into my first downward dog that I spotted my underwear stuck to my towel in all their purple lacy glory. I thudded into child’s pose and swiftly snatched them and tucked them under my mat. Awkward.

    You’d think I would learn a lesson from “the day I brought my underwear to yoga class”. Nope. It happened again. In my defense, I DID make an effort to leave my undies at home this time. Running late (again), I grabbed my towel out of the laundry and gave it an aggressive shake. One pair of panties flew off. Ha! I saved myself from another embarrassment! As I hurried to the door with my towel in hand, something fell at my feet. Another pair, this one adorned with bows. Phew, that was close. I gave my towel another little shake. Nothing. Off I went.

    At the studio, I squeezed my mat in to a spot next to a friend. As we chatted, I spread my towel out onto my mat and plopped down. Her eyes fell away from my face and on to the ground. “Um, you have a thong on your mat.” Nooo! I recounted the backstory and we laughed together. Then she shared a story involving an underwear-loving sweatshirt and a restaurant. I instantly felt less alone in my public underwear exposure.

    Guess what? Shit happens. Sometimes you slip and fall in a puddle of soda in the middle of a cafeteria (true story), sometimes you are chosen to play Mary in the Christmas play and forget ALL of your lines (also a true story), sometimes you fling your underwear around in public places. Whatever you’ve done to embarrass yourself, you are not alone. Unless they have a black soul, others will not point and laugh. They will shower you with compassion. Don’t let your ego repel it. Accept the compassion and maybe even try to laugh at yourself. Remembering that we are all in this journey of life together, that we are all human, will make you feel better.

    Another embarrassing moment: the time I tried to be a good future-daughter-in-law by contributing a festive pomegranate salad to Christmas dinner. In a hurry (probably late…), I decided it was a good idea to separate the pomegranate seeds while wearing my Christmas best in my mother-in-law’s kitchen right before we needed to walk out the door. I’m sure you can imagine how this ends: bright red pomegranate juice stains on everything from my sweater to the kitchen counter. Luckily the damage was not permanent. In the case of the “pomegranate incident”, I learned my lesson.

    How To Deseed a Pomegranate (without embarrassing yourself)

    how to deseed a pom

    Step 1: Quarter the pomegranate

    Step 2: In a bowl of water, separate the seeds from the white pulp and skin. The pulp will float, the seeds will sink.

    Step 3: Skim the floating white pulp off the top of the water. Drain seeds in a colander.


    No mess!


    Now what do you do with those little sweet seeds? You make this:

    Pomegranate Salsa


    • Seeds of two pomegranates
    • 1 avocado, cut into chunks
    • 1/4 cup feta cheese
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
    • Juice of 1/2 a lime
    • Salt and pepper to taste


    Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix.

    Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Serve with tortilla chips or on black bean sweet potato tacos.

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    Butternut Squash Tofu Noodle Bowl

    61 degrees. That is the current temperature inside our condo. Ah, the joys of being married to an energy efficiency engineer.

    The only logical thing to do under such circumstances is to brew a cup of hot tea, stack on a few layers of fuzzy socks and fire up the oven. This weekend’s recipe roster included two different kinds of cookies, steel-cut oatmeal for the week, roasted vegetables with an amazing cashew curry sauce, cranberry sauce (Thanksgiving is near, can you believe it?!), and two flavors of calzones.

    Oh, and this gem. Butternut Squash Tofu Noodle Bowl. There is something about pasta that warms me to my core. I like to pile on the vegetables to visually pump up the volume of my pasta bowl.

    Butternut Squash Tofu Noodle Bowl

    Ingredients (4 servings)

    • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 4 cups)
    • Canola oil
    • salt and pepper
    • 1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
    • 8 oz. of soba noodles or whole wheat spaghetti
    • 2 handfuls of kale
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 3 tbsp. soy sauce + more for marinating tofu
    • 1 tbsp. tahini (peanut butter or almond butter would also work)
    • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
    • 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
    • Drizzle of honey (about 1 tsp.)
    • 1/3 cup reserved pasta water


    Toss squash cubes with a light drizzle of canola oil and salt and pepper. Roast on a sheet pan in a 400F oven for 30-40 min. or until tender and golden.

    Toss tofu cubes with a few splashes of soy sauce and let marinate for at least 10 min. Spread cubes in one layer on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan and roast in a 400F oven for 20 min. or until browned.

    Boil pasta according to package directions.

    Make the sauce: Whisk together soy sauce, nut butter, sesame oil, honey, ginger, and reserved pasta water.

    Drain pasta, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water, and put it back in the pot with roasted squash, roasted tofu, and kale.

    Add sauce and toss gently.

    Simmer until kale is wilted and sauce thickens slightly.

    Top with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes if desired.

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    Practicing Gratitude

    Science shows us that grateful people are happy people.

    This seems obvious, but let me reframe it. How often do we look inside of ourselves for happiness? How often to we believe that all we need for a happy life lies within us? If you are like me, your answers to these questions are probably “rarely” or “never”. We tend to put all the focus on our problems. Our problems consume our thoughts, our conversations, and alter our perspective on life. The “good” things- as big as a career you love and as small as a sunny afternoon- go unrecognized, undiscussed, and unappreciated.

    Much of how we experience life is based on our perspective. Research estimates that our chosen perspective on life comprises 40% of our happiness. Perspective is a choice- something we have complete control over. If you can shift your perspective, you can control your experience. If you can control your experience, you can have happiness.

    The best method I have found to remind myself to maintain a positive perspective and therefore cultivate happiness in my life is through a gratitude practice. A friend gifted me a gratitude journal several months ago. In the introduction, this journal gives a few valuable pieces of advice:

    1) When things are at the very worst, it is the most critical time to cherish moments of joy. For example, if someone you love dies, there will be pain and grief. Allow yourself to feel it. But also allow yourself to feel and appreciate the glimmer of happiness that comes from telling stories about this person or a moment of unrelated laughter with a friend in the midst of your grieving period.

    2) Always look for the “why” behind your gratitude. This will help identify and reinforce habits that cultivate happiness. For example, I am grateful for my yoga practice. Why? Because I am making time to care for myself and my wellbeing even on the craziest days. We relentlessly analyze the negative, so why not analyze the positive too?

    We have started a habit in our house that we call “5 Things”. Each day JWD and I take turns listing 5 things we are grateful for. They can be anything from a delicious apple we ate at lunch to a meaningful moment with a friend. On some days 5 will feel hard- not because you lack 5 things to be grateful for, but because your perspective is blocking your view. Some days, 5 won’t seem like enough.

    Today as we were walking in our neighborhood, JWD said “Ok babe, 5 things. Go.” Here is what I said:

    1. I’m grateful for the warm cup of coffee I enjoyed as I started writing this post this morning. JWD brewed it and my gratitude stems from feelings of being cared for and feeling safe and relaxed in our home.

    2. I am grateful for the dear, special friends we shared breakfast with yesterday. They are the kind of people who offer thoughtful conversation, genuine laughs, and the inspiration to better yourself. We’ve built a bond that feels more like family than friendship.

    3. I am grateful for my health. Staying healthy is hard in our sedentary, stressed out, “SAD” (Standard American Diet) culture. I am grateful for workouts and sound sleep and nourishing food and that I have the means to make these things priorities.

    4. I am grateful for fuzzy socks and hot tea that keeps me cozy on cold fall nights.

    5. I am grateful for this smoothie. It’s the result of a very fun writing assignment that I will share soon.


    Today is a day when 5 is too few.

    Thanks for reading!

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    Slim By Design

    How do slim people stay slim?

    Right now I am reading Brian Wansink’s new book, Slim By DesignI’m only about halfway through, but I can already tell it is a recommendation-worthy book. Brian’s theory is that it’s much easier to change our environments to be healthier than it is to change our brains (Amen, brother). Brian observed the habits of slim people in their native environments: their homes, restaurants, grocery store, workplace, and schools and discovered that everything from where you store your cereal to the size of your dinner plates can predict your weight.  Some of Brian’s strategies are already standard protocol in my home (fruit bowl front and center!), some are newly implemented based on his compelling research (check out my fridge below).

    All of his advice revolves around one main concept:
    Make unhealthy food less convenient and less visible, and make healthy food more convenient and more visible.

    A few easy things you can do right now to design a slimmer home:

    1) Store all of the snack foods out of sight and put a bowl of fruit on the counter.

    photo (15)

    2) Move all of your produce out of the produce bins and on an eye-level shelf in your fridge.

    photo (16)

    3) Mummify your treats! Simply opening the freezer and laying eyes on that carton of ice cream can trigger a craving, so wrap the carton in aluminum foil so it doesn’t catch your eye so readily. Every time I open my freezer our wedding cake topper taunts me. Although I would never consider digging in to it for fear of cursing our marriage (but mostly because I’m too lazy to undo they 10 layers of plastic wrap), it does trigger a craving for something sweet. So I mummified it in aluminum foil. Craving conquered.

    If you want to know more about Brian’s Slim By Design tips, watch and read here and here.

    It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple steps can make you slimmer!


    And now for that LARABAR giveaway: Congratulations Stephanie Day! Email me at with your mailing address to get your LARABAR goodies!



    Thanks for reading!

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