Serving Up Sunshine in a Bowl

Hello friends! The last few weeks have flown by, but I finally had a few moments in between chasing the sunshine to sit down and share some of my latest food inspiration. Here in Atlanta we have finally had a few gloriously sunny days that have given a very much appreciated taste of the coming spring season. The week prior was wet, cold and dreary, though I tried not to complain too much given a lot of people had the frozen wet stuff wreaking havoc. Regardless, I'm not ashamed to admit I am one of the many whose mood appreciably lifts when I get to see the sunshine more often than not. The change in weather also gets me more motivated in the kitchen again, too. And a meal just tastes better when dining outdoors!

My mom and dad's dog agrees with my sentiments. I couldn't help but share her sweet face before jumping into some of the tasty food I've been whipping up since my last blog post. Puppies and sunshine: does it get any sweeter?

Well, a little vegan cheezy sauce might just sweeten the deal. When times get busy, a hearty baked potato is one of my fallback meals that I can put together in no time flat. Especially using the pressure cooker to "bake" the potatoes. Broccoli and cheese are of course classic toppings, but I put a plant-based spin on the cheese for a much healthier and lighter finished product. Believe me, though, that sauce was as decadent as it looked despite being made predominantly of sweet potatoes!

I've shared a similar dish before on my blog with a sauce I made from white beans, but I had a huge sweet potato that needed to be used up so I searched the web for a version with that other staple spud. I found this nacho cheese dip that looked perfect. Even better--extremely easy to make with things I keep on hand in my kitchen. You can't beat finding recipes that use ingredients you already stock.

For some extra protein I cooked up black lentils that were also from the pantry, and the broccoli got roasted with some spices in the oven while the potatoes and sauce were prepared. Just a few components, but it all came together for a satisfying and homey meal. I have one last serving left to eat today which will be enjoyed to the very last bite. Leave that nasty boxy of processed cheese spread on the shelf. Try this sweet potato sauce for anything from nachos to dip to just eating it with a spoon...

Of course I've got plenty of the green stuff in my weekly plan, as well. Knowing we had warmer temperatures coming this week, I prepped another staple that I make often for a quick and healthy lunch. There are plenty of variations of a chickpea salad out there, but I'm partial to one with celery and cranberries for crunch and a bit of sweetness, along with raw onion for a bit of punch to the flavor. This one also had raw sliced Brussels sprouts for some extra benefit of the healthy cruciferous veggie.

To play on my "sun" theme, I used a sunflower seed butter dressing and some extra sunflower seeds to finish it off for some healthy fat and nutty flavor. I always have tahini on hand for a creamy dressing, but sunbutter is a nice switch up sometimes to get a similar result. One of my farmers also had my favorite sprout...

Sunflower sprouts! Those are the nice green leaves on the sides of the bowls, though there are plenty more leafy greens underneath. I love sunflower sprouts because they still have that nutty undertone that comes through in a more subtle way than the seeds themselves. They make an excellent addition to any plant bowl!

Finally...mushrooms! I do love my shroom lady at the market, and I have been continuing to try the different varieties she brings. A few weeks ago I bought a bag of Trumpet mushrooms and went digging into my new cookbook from Brant Terry "Vegetable Kingdom." I couldn't resist giving these marinated and slowly baked mushrooms a try.

He says in the book he didn't want to call this "mushroom bacon" as many similar recipes are titled. I can see why, as many of those, while delicious, really don't have quite the same texture or flavor as the pork-based original. However, these flavor-packed morsels of fungus are absolutely addictive! A simple, yet powerful marinade transforms the mushrooms into a bomb of flavor to add to any meal. I honestly am having a tough time remembering even what I added the cooked mushrooms to, I just know they were so good I wanted to buy Trumpets in bulk to make more. If this first recipe I picked was this good, I can't wait to try more of his yummy vegan dishes out of this book.

There we have it. Another little medley of meals to hopefully inspire some of you to keep up your cooking. I always love remembering that sometimes even taking a slightly different spin on a tried and true regular dish can keep things interesting. I say "remembering" because sometimes I forget that I don't have to make new things all of the time. Sometimes one simple new element is all it takes instead of reinventing the whole meal.

On that note, wishing you all lots of sunshine and some warmth on your skin at some point today. Along with some delicious meals of your own to enjoy. Bon Appetit!

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