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Chia-Chai Vega Protein Pudding {Giveaway!}

April 30, 2014

Chia Vega Protein Pudding | Espresso and Cream

Now that the weather is getting a little warmer and summer is right around the corner, I’ve been thinking more about warm-weather meals and snacks. Okay, it’s still rainy and chilly in Minnesota, but I’m anticipating summer weather soon! For me, that means drinking lots of smoothies and eating lots of chilled snacks, like chia pudding.

A few weeks ago I picked up a new-to-me vegan protein powder and was really turned off by the flavor of the powder. Usually, I’m a total Vega devotee when it comes to protein powders and nutritional shakes, and I seriously regretted my decision to spend some major cash on a competitor’s product that I didn’t care for at all. The good news? After sharing my misfortune with the Vega team, they offered to send me a jar of my favorite Vega One Vanilla-Chai Nutritional Shake and host a giveaway for you on Espresso and Cream! (see more about that giveaway below)

When my Vega arrived I was excited to put it to good use. A few nutritional highlights about the Vega One Nutritional Shake:
-15 g protein
-6 g fiber
-1.5 g Omega 3
-Dairy, gluten and soy-free
-No artificial sugars or added sugar

Instead of making a smoothie (like I said, still too chilly) I made a chia pudding. I’ve been on a huge chia pudding kick lately, and adding a boost of protein with the Vega seemed like a natural addition. To smooth out the mixture, I blended the pudding in a food processor to break up some of the chia seeds and give the pudding a more pudding-like texture. Oh, and I added in a little almond butter as well because almond butter makes everything better, right?!

Chia Vega Protein Pudding 2 | Espresso and Cream

Now let’s get to the giveaway, shall we? The Vega team sent along a little starter package to give to one lucky E&C reader. It includes:
-5 day supply of Vega One in their most popular flavors (vanilla, chocolate and berry)
-Recipe book
-$5 coupon for your next purchase of a Vega product
-Water/smoothie bottle
-Reusable Vega tote bag
-1 box Vega One Nutrition Bars (in your flavor of choice)

You have three ways to enter! The giveaway is open from now until Monday, May 5th at 5 am. I’ll announce a winner later next week. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Chia-Chai Vega Protein Pudding
Recipe type: snack, breakfast
Serves: 4
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 scoop Vega Vanilla Chai protein powder or other Vega flavor of choice
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Stevia to taste (I used 3 packets)
  • 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (optional, omit if you want a vegan treat)
  1. In sealable plastic container, combine chia seeds, almond milk and protein powder. Stir until very well combined. Cover with lid and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. After refrigeration, add chia mixture to blender or food processor along with the almond butter, vanilla extract and stevia to taste. Blend 2 to 3 minutes or until some of the chia seeds are broken up and almond butter is well combined. Mixture will only be semi-smooth and still have some whole chia seeds.
  3. Divide mixture into four bowls. Top each with ¼ cup Greek yogurt, if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.



Cheesy Farro-Broccoli Bake

April 14, 2014

Cheesy Farro Broccoli Bake 2 | Espresso and Cream

Let’s be honest, the amount of cooking that’s been going on in our house lately has been minimal. But as life slowly transitions back to “normal” (and no, it still doesn’t feel normal if you really want to know) it feels good to do things that come naturally, to create something out of raw ingredients and nourish the body. Plus, eating take-out and snack-y type foods can only keep you going for a certain amount of time. Sometimes you just have to get in the kitchen and cook.

I didn’t grow up in a house where we ate a lot of casseroles, and consequently I don’t cook a lot of casseroles to this day. However, there is something about being able to toss all your ingredients together and throw it in the oven when hunger strikes that I find so comforting. Dinner is ready when you need it to be, cheesy and comforting and semi-healthy, too, minus the cheese part. The cheese is absolutely not healthy, but makes this dish taste amazing.

My favorite use for a casserole is to make it on Sunday and have lunches for Joe to take to work for the rest of the week. I grilled up a package of chicken breasts and made this casserole, then divided the chicken and casserole among four containers, a complete meal ready to be tossed into a lunch container when we’re busy and running out the door in the morning.

Cheesy Farro Broccoli Bake 1 | Espresso and Cream

Cheesy Farro-Broccoli Bake
Recipe type: Side Dish/Vegetarian Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Make this dish a meal by topping with grilled or baked chicken breasts.
  • 1 cup farro, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, blanched
  • 2 cups Italian blend cheese, divided
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup 2% or full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, if desired
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch pie plate or square baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the all the ingredients until well-combined. Spoon mixture into baking dish.
  3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.
  4. Alternate method: If you're looking for a more traditional casserole-type dish, I would suggest substituting the Greek yogurt for a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup.


Chana Saag with Kale

February 11, 2014


One of my favorite traditions at work is our monthly cookbook club. It’s so fun to select a book, pick a recipe and get together with a bunch of other people who love to cook and discuss what we liked and didn’t like about said book. Sometimes it’s an incredibly successful cookbook club, sometimes it’s only okay.  But that’s the point, right? It’s so rare that I get a chance to make more than one or two recipes out of any given cookbook, so getting to taste 10 to 15 recipes at once really gives a feel for what the book is about and the quality of the recipes.

Our most recent selection was Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The book is entirely vegan but the part that really knocked my socks off was the fact that I feel I could serve these recipes at a dinner party to vegans and non vegans alike. The recipes were warm and comforting and incredibly filling. Although there is a fair amount of chopping and slicing and dicing involved in all the recipes, they were all fairly easy to prepare and didn’t require many specialty ingredients. Bonus: I don’t think “vegan cheese” or “vegan meat” was used once!

I left cookbook club this month feeling like I had eaten Thanksgiving dinner, though I didn’t feel weighed down or gross (albeit a little too full) like I sometimes do over the holidays. The food was nourishing, light and hearty all at once, and I fell in love with Isa’s casual and funny way of writing a cookbook.

The Chana Saag with Kale that I made for cookbook club was universally one of the favorite dishes that was prepared, and I couldn’t wait to make it again in my own kitchen to share with you. I tweaked the recipe slightly, mainly by adding more kale and slightly different spices to suit my tastes, but the recipe is incredibly forgiving and easy to adapt based on what you have on hand. However, I would strongly suggest not leaving out the lime juice, because the hit of tangy citrus really brings this dish together.

Chana Saag with Kale
This recipe is adapted from a recipe of the same name from Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I fell in love with Isa's version, which calls for kale instead of the more traditional spinach. Kale is heartier and holds up better, which is important for leftovers. Since this makes a lot, there are bound to be leftovers! I like this dish heavy on the kale, but feel free to use less if you aren't a huge fan of kale.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt (plus more to taste at the end)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, more or less depending on desired heat
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) light coconut milk
  • 8 cups chopped kale
  • Juice from 1 lime
  1. In large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned and softened. In small bowl, combine curry powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, garam masala, turmeric and cayenne. Add spice mixture to onions and cook 1 minute more to toast the spices.
  2. Add in the juice from the tomatoes to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot. Add the chickpeas to the pot along with the tomatoes. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once.
  3. Add in the coconut milk and heat through.
  4. Add the kale and cook 5 minutes more or until kale is cooked and softened slightly.





Peanut Butter Chia Breakfast Pudding

February 10, 2014


Let’s talk about breakfast. It is, after all, the most important meal of the day, but you already know that, don’t you? I’m always amazed at how many people don’t eat breakfast. Maybe that’s because I go to bed each night thinking about what I’m going to eat each morning for breakfast.

Breakfast gets your ready for the day and prepares you for whatever challenges you may face. Take, for example, when I put too much shredded beef down the disposal all at once on Saturday and it led to a major clog in our basement drain when all the beef tried to go down the pipe at once. Yeah, can you imagine how happy my husband was about that? I imagine he’ll be even less pleased when we get the plumber’s bill today. Thankfully. I had a large, healthy breakfast to keep the hangry (hangry = hungry + angry) at bay while dealing with said plumbing issues.

Since we haven’t been able to use the sink in our kitchen, cooking has been reduced to zero this weekend. We’ve been eating down leftovers from our fridge and freezer and using paper plates, bowls and silverware. This chia pudding has also been on rotation since it doesn’t require a pot/pan to prepare and is incredibly filling. It makes you feel like you can take on the world and fix all the plumbing issues. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but you get the idea.


If you’re new to the chia pudding game, don’t be afraid of their less than stellar appearance. The chia seeds plump up as they sit in liquid like milk, water or yogurt, taking on a gel-like consistency similar to tapioca. Chia seeds are packed with fiber, omega-3s and calcium, among other things. Plus, when you’re eating them you just feel super healthy. That’s got to count for something, right?

Since a lot of people (including me) are interested in nutrition when it comes to breakfast recipes, I did a rough calculation of the nutrition information in this recipe, not including the bananas or dark chocolate chips and assuming you’re using stevia instead of brown sugar.

Peanut Butter Chia Breakfast Pudding
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
Creamy chia pudding made with almond milk and peanut butter is the perfect breakfast when topped with sliced bananas and dark chocolate chips for a bit of decadence.
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon creamy natural peanut butter
  • 1 packet stevia or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Toppings such as sliced bananas or dark chocolate chips
  1. In small bowl, stir together the almond milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, stevia, vanilla and cinnamon until well combined. Continue to stir for 1 minute longer.
  2. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) until the chia seeds are plumped and mixture is thick. Top with banana slices and dark chocolate chips before serving.

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Curried Sweet Potato Hummus

January 10, 2014

It seems like we’ve been in a constant state of football watching over the last three weeks. Does anyone else feel that way? Not that I’m complaining considering my love for football rivals that of my former football player husband. With bowl games and playoff games and the like, we’ve been doing a lot of entertaining as well.

When it comes to entertaining for bowl games and playoff games, I like to keep things pretty simple. Last week I made a big pot of my mom’s amazingly easy chili and served it with corn chips and cheddar cheese. It meant I could keep the soup hot in the slow cooker, people could help themselves when they were hungry, and I could focus on watching the game instead of tending to guests. Which perhaps makes me a bad host now that I think about it.

I’m also a huge fan of serving dips like hummus and layered taco dips because they’re equally as easy and a little more substantial. In the name of mixing things up, I decided to add a little creaminess and sweet flavor to my most recent batch of hummus by using cooked sweet potato and a sweet curry our friend brought back for us from the Philippines when he was home for Christmas. The flavors played so nicely together that I had to find a similar type of curry if you’re interested in buying some for your home. Just follow the link below for a similar curry to the one I used!


Sweet Potato Hummus 
Makes about 2 cups hummus
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet and spicy curry powder (such as this kind)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less depending on the heat level you like)
1/2 medium sweet potato, peeled, cooked and cut into cubes
2 to 4 tablespoons water
Salty chips (such as pita chips) or veggies for dipping

In food processor, combine chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, curry powder, salt, cumin, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Blend or process until well combined and smooth.

Add the sweet potato and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until smooth. Add enough water to reach desired consistency. I used about 2 tablespoons because I like my hummus a bit on the thicker side. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate.

Happy Cooking!

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