an almost vegan cardamom coconut cream pie

A cardamom coconut cream pie made with cashews - a healthier version of your holiday favorite. | This Brown Kitchen

Happy Thanksgiving week, y’all! While Christmas is my favorite holiday when it comes to all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it, Thanksgiving reigns supreme in the food department. All the menu planning and table setting gets me so excited that the holidays have arrived and really just brings me so much joy. What are y’all eating this year? I’m keeping it simple this go around, sticking to the classics (i.e. mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce) while leaving room to experiment with some more fun recipes come Christmas dinner. Honestly I’m just here for the mashed potatoes. I could dive into a cloud of potatoes and be the happiest person around – I mean, what’s not to love about buttery and fluffy potatoes? Since I’m in charge of all the cooking, that also means I’m tasting and nibbling at things all day long. My brother has caught me multiple times over the years eating spoonfuls of the mash during the day before dinner. I just love them so much!!! 

A couple people have asked me how I handle the holidays and times of indulgence since I stick to a pretty healthy regimen the rest of the year. Honestly, I am such a huge #treatyoself proponent and that’s the mindset I use when it comes to holiday treats. I mean obviously don’t eat a thousand Christmas cookies and then wonder why you feel like garbage, but eat a cookie here and there, add those marshmallows to your holiday party cocoa, serve yourself a little bigger piece of pie if you want it. I really do think life is all about the balance, and one day of indulgent eating for the holiday isn’t going to ruin your life, especially if you don’t eat those things on a regular basis. Just get back on track after and understand what your body needs to feel its best. I hate feeling like I can’t have something, so when someone offers me a little holiday treat I take it, being mindful of when my body actually wants and needs something and when I need to cool it and serve up a kale salad. 

A healthier coconut cream pie made with cardamom, coconut, and cashews. | This Brown Kitchen

This lightened up cardamom and coconut cream pie is what holiday dreams are made of. | This Brown Kitchen

This lightened up cardamom and coconut cream pie is what holiday dreams are made of. | This Brown Kitchen

So speaking of balance, this is where this pie comes in. It’s a Coconut Cardamom Cream Pie with a Pecan and Coconut Crust. OMG. I’m not usually one for lightening up foods for the holidays, those recipes never turn out quite as good, but I figured I give it a shot when it comes to dessert. I feel like dessert is easier to lighten up and retain the taste and flavor than the main course. Agree or disagree???

Since I have the biggest sweet tooth in all the land, I wanted to see if it was possible to create a holiday pie that was slightly healthier so I could indulge more. LOL. And this guy was a winner on all fronts. There are a few places where you might notice the healthy swap outs, namely the crust, but it’s still a delicious and not too sweet dessert that satisfies that itch for sweetness. I love all things coconut, and there’s basically coconut in all layers going on here. The base is actually rendered with cashews, similar to a cashew cheesecake, but it’s creamier and lighter thanks to the coconunt milk that keeps it from getting too solid like some of those vegan cheesecake recipes I’ve tried. And that cardamom?? Don’t even get me started. It’s one of my favorite spices that has one of those subtle sweet and floral flavor to it and it’s just so perfect for this time of year. You could use cardamom powder here, but I think having the little broken pieces of fresh cardamom seeds make this pie so much more delicious. As for the crust, I kept it simple with shredded coconut and pecans pulsed in a food processor with a little coconut oil. You could try your hand at a graham cracker crust or a date-based crust if you are a fan of those little fruits (I am NOT – so I didn’t use dates here). This is also an ALMOST vegan pie if you left off the whipped cream, so at least your vegan friends could have a yummy pie at the holiday too. If you either left out the whipped cream (which would be sad) or subbed in coconut whipped cream – which I heard Trader Joe’s carries now?? – then you’ve got yourself a vegan coconut cream pie. You can tell it’s healthier than the original, but in a good way.

Now what are you doing? Go gather the ingredients and get to baking (I mean refrigerating? Because this is a no-bake pie!). Happy Thanksgiving!!

This lightened up cardamom and coconut cream pie is what holiday dreams are made of. | This Brown Kitchen

A cardamom coconut cream pie made with cashews - a healthier version of your holiday favorite. | This Brown Kitchen

A cardamom coconut cream pie made with cashews - a healthier version of your holiday favorite. | This Brown KitchenA cardamom coconut cream pie made with cashews - a healthier version of your holiday favorite. | This Brown Kitchen

A healthier version of your favorite coconut cream pie - made with cashews, coconut, and cardamom. | This Brown Kitchen  A healthier coconut cream pie made with cardamom, coconut, and cashews. | This Brown Kitchen


coconut cardamom cream pie

time – overnight + 30 minutes prep       yield – 1 pie

ingredients ::

for the crust –
2 cups of pecan halves
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons of coconut oil

for the filling –
2 cups of cashews, soaked overnight/at least 8 hours
1 18oz can of coconut water (I used this brand)
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
separated cream from two cans of coconut milk**
seeds from about 4 – 5 cardamom pods (about a teaspoon or so)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

directions ::

  1. measure 2 cups of cashews into a large bowl and cover with water. set aside and let sit overnight, at least 8 hours.
  2. add the coconut water and sugar into a stovetop pot and bring up to a simmer over medium-high heat. reduce the coconut water to about half the amount until it’s slightly syrupy, about 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (it won’t be as syrupy as a simple syrup)
  3. while the syrup is cooking, prep the crust. In a food processor, add the pecans and coconut flakes. Pulse until they start to come together. Add the coconut oil and continue to pulse until the mix is crumble-y in texture. The mix should come together and hold slightly when pressed in your hands. Add additional coconut oil if necessary. 
  4. in a 10″ pie dish, press the crust mix into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides. Place in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes while preparing the filling.
  5. rinse the cashews and add to a high power blender with the coconut water syrup, coconut milk cream**, cardamom seeds, vanilla, and salt. blend on high until smooth, tasting and adjusting cardamom and vanilla flavor as desired.
  6. grab the pie crust from the fridge and pour the filling in. Spread the top out evenly and place in the fridge to set overnight until it holds its shape.
  7. to serve, top with whipped cream (homemade or store bought) and toasted coconut flakes. Enjoy!

**Ashlae from Oh Lady Cakes has a whole post on how to get this coconut cream from a can. Check out the post on how to get that perfect separation so you can use delicious coconut cream in your recipes.


I did a juice cleanse and this is what happened.

I did a juice cleanse with Juice So Good and this is what happened. | This Brown Kitchen

I’m one of those people who’s willing to try any wellness trend at least once. Hey, I don’t want to write any idea off until I try it myself. So suffice to say, when the Juice So Good team reached out and asked if I wanted to try one of their juice cleanses I of course said yes. For someone who is a proclaimed juice-lover, I’ve never actually done a juice cleanse before. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to try, but I never got around to it. And truth be told, the idea always kinda scared me. Could I – someone who freaking loves food – go three days without eating anything and sustaining myself off juice?? Turns out I can and I did. For y’alls reading pleasure, I have here my thoughts throughout my cleansing experience.

Monday

830am – Literally spent 5 minutes trying to open my bottle of green juice. Is this some kind of foreshadowing for how this cleanse is going to go?
1245pm – Wow I’m not actually hungry yet, maybe I have more will-power than I thought. I do miss my midday snack though.
2pm – This lemon cayenne juice is straight FIRE. (in the best way possible)
410pm – Okay. I couldn’t even finish this beet juice because I’m so full from drinking liquids all day. Who knew I could make it even this long without eating??
626pm – So this is when I should be eating dinner. Instead I’m drinking a cashew milk. I mean it’s good cashew milk but now I kinda wish I could eat food off of a plate.
804pm – I just drank so much tea to keep myself from remembering how this is my late evening snack time. Mmmmm snacks.

Tuesday

745am – WHY AM I SO TIRED. I feel like I’m wearing foggy goggles and could probably stay in bed and sleep for another 8 hours. Y THO.
830am – Okay green juice. Give me life. I need all the life.
940am – Alrighty I’m feeling better after that sunshine juice – but man I wouldn’t mind having a sandwich right now. Mmmmm. Bread.
1137am – I don’t want this beet juice. But I need to drink this.
142pm – This Cayenne Lemonade is everything. I love this drink. I feel like it cleanses my soul.
242pm – All about this green tea. I feel like Kermit when I drink tea. Like I’m sippin’ on that tea.
445pm – Carrot juice. Yes. It’s like my favorite vegetable – I basically consider this an orange super juice.
629pm – YAAAAS CASHEW MILK. This stuff is liquid gold literally bless the juice mavens.
813pm – Okay. I. Am. Hungry. It only took my two days to feel actually hungry and now I would like a pizza. But I just have to get through tomorrow. UGHHHH.

Wednesday

725am – While I am actually hungry, I do feel light and airy and like I could rule the world.
847am – Green juice yes. While I am sipping this I am plotting my breakfast tomorrow. Eggs and avocados and bread I cannot wait.
1130am – I AM HUNGRY.
1257pm – Literally I have to get through only half a day more. Cayenne Lemonade fuel me now!!!
114pm – Legit will continue making this lemonade for myself because I’m addicted now.
337pm – What if I make a grilled cheese tomorrow?
520pm – Boiling up this quinoaaaaa, packing up this tupperwareeee, getting ready for tomorrow’s bowllllll.
647pm – The last cashew milk. I will miss you most of all, dear friend.
858pm – I’m going to sleep now so I don’t think about food and make it through the night.

I did a juice cleanse with Juice So Good and this is what happened. | This Brown Kitchen

I actually quite enjoyed the experience and was surprised by how far I got without feeling actively hungry. I did realize how often I do snack as a form of filling the time when I didn’t have the option to, and maybe that’s because I work from home and the kitchen is always right there. I woke up on the morning after my cleanse feeling refreshed but also ready to eat. You don’t really appreciate the joy of foods until you cut them out, but now I love and am trying to be more present about the foods I eat and the process of eating. Would I do it again? Sure. But not for a while. Maybe at some point in the new year I’ll plan for another juice cleanse, but like I said in my Instagram stories, I don’t think a juice cleanse should be a long term practice and isn’t a long term fix. I think it’s a great wellness practice that can really help you reset in your health practices and makes you super aware of your daily practices. So here I am – one juice cleanse deep, and feeling ready to take on the world.

Thanks to Juice So Good for providing me with their 3 Day Juice Cleanse!

a sheet pan quiche + october thoughts (and a giveaway!)

sheet pan quiche recipe with kale and goat cheese and a cookbook giveaway!

sheet pan quiche recipe with kale and goat cheese and a cookbook giveaway!

*The giveaway in this post is in partnership with Workman Publishing.

Let’s talk October, shall we?

I’m currently writing this from my favorite corner of Minneapolis – Spyhouse Coffee – and feeling so energized after a crisp fall walk around Lake of the Isles with some of my favorite people in the world. As much that has changed over these last few months, it’s amazing how some things can never change and being in a certain city and a specific place can make it seem like everything is the same as it has always been. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of Sunday’s I spent in this corner of Spyhouse while living in Minneapolis, typing away on this computer, calling my mom and having her tell me couldn’t hear me with the background noise, sipping on lattes, planning blog recipes, and seeing each season in the city from this window. It’s almost comforting to know that as much as some things change, there are certain experiences and places that give you the experience of feeling that everything is right. There is so much that feels wrong in the world right now, and to find my little corner of my coffee shop still giving me the feeling and sense of completeness has me with a giant smile plastered on my face.This is the kind of energy I needed to go into the last quarter of the year (yup, that’s corporate America coming through in me!) and finish out strong. After one more trip up here to Minneapolis in two weeks and then a chance to return to my beloved H-town, these last few months are going to fly by, and I can’t help but feel reminiscent on all that has happened over the last year while sitting in this spot that I spent so much time in. Oh, nostalgia. 

Other life-happenings? I’ve discovered the joys of dry-brushing (blog post to come about my full experience – still experimenting with this habit), I’m spending more time trying to commit to a solid workout routine which is hard for someone who hates workouts other than yoga and spin class, and have started a morning meditation routine. Meditation has always been something that I’m interested in, as I always figured most of my yoga-time is pretty close I was kind of wrong and have discovered how intentional you need to be with meditation. Like, it’s really hard, y’all. I’m about to try the calm app so will update with my thoughts.Other than wellness-focused things, people in my new Northern California home are all coming together to help those who have been affected by the wildfires. If you’re looking for a way to help, there’s a great list here :: How to Help Those Affected by the Northern California Wildfires.

sheet pan quiche recipe with kale and goat cheese and a cookbook giveaway!

sheet pan quiche recipe with kale and goat cheese and a cookbook giveaway!

Alright, now on to the food. It’s a sheet pan quiche and it is pretty freakin’ genius. I got a copy of Raquel Pelzel’s new book – Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless – in the mail a couple weeks ago and was super excited to try out one the recipes. If you didn’t know, my least favorite chore in the whole world is doing dishes. Ironic, because obviously when I shoot food there is a whole sink of dishes waiting for me after, but here I am. I just think it’s the worst task to do at home and would rather do anything else than have my hands in the sink rinsing and scrubbing dishes. UGH. So I get this book and the title alone has me sold. You’re telling me these recipes require the absolute minimum in dishes? Sign me up. There are some amazing recipes in the book like one that shows how to cook pasta in a sheet pan—like No-Boil Mac and Cheese, how to cook soups in a sheet pan, and of course desserts like a Pear Galette and a Sticky Toffee Pudding. Literally so stoked to try out some of these recipes.

So I took a little poll on Instagram about which recipe to share here with y’all first and this quiche won. I’m actually super glad it did because that meant that I had breakfast to eat for the whole week after making it hahaha. I made a few healthier substitutions in the making of this recipe and it tasted amazing, so I’m sure if you kept all as is – it would be even more so. I swapped kale out for the spinach, left out the gruyere and heavy cream, and only used one extra egg yolk. Y’all this dish was still so good and I can’t wait to make it again because it’s so easy. The most genius part of this recipe was the caramelized onions that you make IN THE OVEN. Like you don’t need to keep checking up on a stove top pan and stirring them every so often to get those beautiful sweet onions. Literally obsessed with this new method. 

And lucky for you I’m giving away a copy of the book – Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless – and a Zwilling Pro Vegetable Knife!!! **This giveaway is now CLOSED. Thanks for participating!**

sheet pan quiche recipe with kale and goat cheese and a cookbook giveaway!

Sheet Pan Suppers Cookbook Giveaway | This Brown Kitchen

You can also purchase a copy of Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless on Amazon!


slab quiche with spinach, goat cheese, and caramelized onions

serves 4 to 6

ingredients ::

1 medium-size red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
All-purpose flour, for rolling
1 sheet thawed frozen puff pastry
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Guyére cheese
2 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

directions ::

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees G.
  2. Place the red onion on a rimmed 10 x 16 inch pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with the thyme and spread into an even layer. Cover the sheet pan with aluminum foil (you may need 2 sheets), crimping it tightly around the edges to seal, and roast the onions until they are soft, about 20 minutes. Uncover the pan, stir, and continue to cook until the onions are very soft, sticky, and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove the sheet pan from the oven, sprinkle the onions with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and transfer them to a plate to cool completely (reserve the sheet pan and any grease or seasonings left in it for step 4.)
  3. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
  4. Lightly flour your work surface and put the puff pastry on top. Lightly roll out the pastry to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the pastry to the reserved sheet pan – it should just cover the bottom. With a fork, prick the dough all over, then place the sheet pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  5. Whisk the whole eggs and egg yolks to combine in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk and cream, and add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and sprinkle half the Gruyére over it. Add the onions in an even layer and then the spinach followed by the remaining Gruyére. Pour the egg filling over and crumble the goat cheese over the top.
  6. Bake the quiche for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and continue to bake until the filling is set around the edges and bounces back to light pressure in the center, 20 – 25 minutes.
  7. Turn the broiler on to high and adjust the oven rack to the top position. Move the quiche to the top rack and broil until browned, about 1 minute (watch the quiche closely as broiler intensities vary). Remove from the oven, slice, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Excerpted from Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless by Raquel Pelzel (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2017.

what is ayurveda?

learning the basics of ayurveda | this brown kitchen

I’ve started to get questions from people on Instagram and people IRL about what Ayurveda is and why I’m talking about it. So I figured now was a better time than any to have an actual informational post about it and how I’m incorporating it into my life. 

It all started this year when I decided that one of my intentions was to focus on wellness. After some different trials and errors along the way figuring out what kind of practices were applicable to my life that I could actually continue, I landed upon Ayurveda. To be clear, I’ve known about Ayurveda forever, I mean come on y’all this isn’t new to me – I’m Indian for pete’s sake. What is new to me is formulating a practice around its fundamentals. What started as an informational search of how to incorporate Ayurvedic eating into my life turned into a look of how to follow it as a full on lifestyle. So that’s how we ended up here.

Now to the actual question – what is Ayurveda? A brief and topline answer to that question is that Ayurveda is a traditional and almost sister science to yoga, that emphasizes wellness as a way to heal the body and bring balance to life, body, and mind. Ayurveda is based on the idea of achieving that balance in our bodily systems through our diet and exercise.

The thing that I’ve come to love most about this way of living is that Ayurveda is totally personalized to you and your mind-body type, and what it’s comprised of, while focusing on balancing the different aspects of your body through food and exercise. This is where the idea of the doshas come in. Doshas reflect the three main forces of nature – wind, water, and air – and each one of our bodies is made up of a certain combination of the three. So yes – this is about where I lose people in conversation because they start to think, “wow, I had no idea Ruch was such a hippie-dippie person”. FALSE. First of all, I am not a hippie now and not even close to becoming one. To go divulge into a mini tangent, the reason I want to share my experience with Ayurvedic practices is for the sole reason that I’m not learning or practicing it in the mountains of India. I’m learning about it here in America because my culture is a mix of Indian and American. I get to view a completely different experience of immersing myself in the practice because of where I live and how I grew up, and for me it’s kind of like this crazy adventure of discovering a part of my heritage but being able to share it in a way that everyone not from India can understand too. 

So the first part of incorporating Ayurveda into your lifestyle is to figure out your Dosha type – the three different types are Pitta (fire), Vata (air), and Kapha (earth-water). Each person has a unique combination of these three types and those types guide how we should eat, exercise, and live. For reference, I’m a Pitta – Kapha, leaning highly towards the Pitta side, which is why you will see more and more recipes here and on Instagram that follow the guidelines of that type. 

While this is  super top-line definition of Ayurveda and what constitutes its practices, I at least wanted to start the conversation and share a little background with y’all. I’ll be sharing more over the next few months, covering different topics within Ayurveda, and hopefully you can learn from it too. Let me know if you have any questions about what I’m doing with this practice or if you just want to say hello!