Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs

We’re stepping a bit outside the Thanksgiving box today.

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is the perfect vegan side dish for Thanksgiving.

Because, although not a traditional holiday side dish, this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely worthy of a spot on your holiday table. It’s full of dried cranberries, whole grains, white beans and seasonal fresh herbs like fresh rosemary, sage and thyme and literally is a Thanksgiving explosion in your mouth. You’re going to get this one on the menu STAT.


I’ve been a big fan of grain salads for quite a while now, as evidenced by this Spring Fava Bean and Burrata Grain Salad, this Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad and this Herbed Grain Salad with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans. I love them because they are filled with a ton of healthy ingredients and filling to boot. The whole grains give them plenty of heft to make them completely suitable as an entire meal, although they are equally delicious (and the portions go a bit further) if you serve them as a side dish among all the other delicious things you typically serve up for a holiday meal.

I’m not joking when I say tell you this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs tastes like your entire Thanksgiving menu in a bowl. Sure, there’s no turkey in there (although you could easily add some and I wouldn’t be one bit upset about it) but just the cranberries and the fresh herbs alone are enough to mentally transport you to arguably the most well-known food holiday of the year. I love allll the fresh herbs, but there’s also just something about fresh sage in a recipe that really screams fall and all the deliciousness that comes with it.

A bowl of this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is filling enough to be a delicious vegan holiday meal.

As far as making the dish goes, it couldn’t be easier. Not only does it come together fairly quickly (the longest step will be cooking up the grains) but it can also be made in advance and served cold or at room temperature, which means it’s easy to fit into an already busy cooking and kitchen schedule once T-day rolls around.

For the whole grains, I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous because they were what we had on hand, but feel free to use other varieties such as quinoa, barley or even wild rice. I also added in some toasted pine nuts, and I highly recommend you do not skip this step, even if you want to sub in some other type of toasted nut for that little extra crunch. (Pecans? Almonds? So many possibilities.)

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is an easy, make-ahead side dish for the holidays.

I would also like to point out that said Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely vegan, which makes it a delicious, healthy, high-protein option for anyone in your group that may have certain dietary preferences. It’s a great way to serve them up some protein and filling flavor without having to bend over backwards making some sort of interesting Tofurkey creation.

Since I was developing recipes so far in advance this holiday season due to our little one’s arrival, I served this up as a side dish at my mother-in-law’s birthday celebration we held down here in Santa Barbara at the beginning of October. Let’s just say my sisters-in-law were already requesting I make it as our contribution to the Thanksgiving meal when we go celebrate with them in a couple of weeks.  I hope you decide to add it to your menu as well!

Serve this vegan Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs as a hearty side dish or light, healthy meal during the holidays.

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is the perfect vegan side dish for Thanksgiving.
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Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs
Prep Time
10 mins
 

This festive vegan side dish is full of filling whole grains, protein-rich white beans and pine nuts, and the freshest herbs of the season. 

Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked grains of your choice (I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous)
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans Great Northern or white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to two days before serving.

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs | CaliGirlCooking.com

Sleepytime Lavender Milk

This one’s for all my sleep-deprived mamas out there!

A mug of Sleepytime Lavender Milk is the perfect bedtime treat for a good night's sleep.

Or sleep-deprived anyone, for that matter. After all, who doesn’t want a warm, comforting glass of lavender- and vanilla-scented Sleepytime Lavender Milk after a long and tiresome day?


Even though by now I’m very much hoping we’ve welcomed our little girl into the world, since I’m writing all these posts in advance all I can do is guess that at this moment I’m in that awkward state of delirium and bliss as we work to adapt our lives to this new little miracle we created. I can also guess that I’m craving all the comforting foods (and all the sleep!) to help us get through this special transition that I hear goes by in the blink of an eye.

Being the foodie that I am, I spent a lot of time during my pregnancy reading up on the best foods to eat while pregnant, after pregnancy, while breastfeeding, etc. One of the most helpful books I read about postnatal diet (and care in general) was The First 40 Days by Heng Ou.

A warm mug of Sleepytime Lavender Milk will help give you a perfect night's sleep.

It spends a lot of time talking about how other cultures welcome new babes into the world, which frequently happens to be by the mother and baby retreating to their home and just plain RELAXING for the first 40 days after birth, allowing others to help with common household duties and cooking so that the mom can recover and the new family can spend time getting used to one another.

It also talks a lot about foods that will help get the mother’s digestive system back on track and recovered from labor, while providing important and helpful nutrients to the baby via breastfeeding. Many of these foods are warm, easy to digest and full of nourishing ingredients like homemade broths.

I’ve made a couple of soups that we have waiting in the freezer to defrost at a moment’s notice, and of course there were also these Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups that I have waiting for us (as oats are known to promote lactation.) I haven’t figured out a way to make this Sleepytime Lavender Milk in advance, but it’s so easy that we can whip it up fairly quickly whenever the mood strikes.

Warm Sleepytime Lavender Milk comes together quickly and easily for any after-dinner treat.

Here’s how we do it: Simply put a small pot of your favorite milk on the stovetop laced with some honey and half of a whole vanilla bean. Then you’ll need to get your hands on some culinary lavender and cheesecloth to make your own little sachet. This easy sachet will sit and soak in the milk as you heat it up on the stove, much like steeping a tea bag.

That’s it! Incredibly easy and the perfect healthy treat for after dinner to get you in the bedtime mood. It’s bright and early in the morning here but I’m already looking forward to whipping up a batch of this Sleepytime Lavender Milk tonight. How about you?

Sleepytime Lavender Milk is a healthy alternative to dessert.

This post contains affiliate links.

A mug of Sleepytime Lavender Milk is the perfect bedtime treat for a good night's sleep.
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Sleepytime Lavender Milk
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

This warming drink is laced with comforting lavender, honey and vanilla - It's the perfect bedtime treat for a great night's sleep!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 2 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or your favorite milk)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 of a whole vanilla bean
  • 1 tablespoon culinary lavender wrapped in a small square of cheesecloth
Instructions
  1. Place milk, honey and vanilla bean in a small saucepan over medium heat. 

  2. Add lavender sachet to milk and bring to a heavy simmer.

  3. Turn off heat and let cool slightly before serving.

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Who’s ready for a healthy, festive smoothie to kick off the weekend?

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie is filled with tons of healthy ingredients yet tastes just like dessert!

Meeeee!!! And guys, this Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie is one for the books. It’s creamy, smooth and perfectly sweet, with all the fall flavors you could ever imagine in one frosty glass. It’s certainly won me over as my smoothie of choice for the next couple of months, and I’m pretty sure it will be yours too once you give it a shot.


I mean, who knew that something so full of healthy ingredients could taste so dreamy? We’re talking pureed pumpkin, cooked sweet potato, yogurt, etc. plus everything you’d add to your favorite pumpkin baked goods like pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, maple syrup and vanilla extract. If you’re a pumpkin-lover, you seriously can’t go wrong with this one.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of nutrient-loaded smoothies for my first meal of the day. Although the hubs and I usually go for this Power Protein Smoothie, sometimes (if we’re feeling like we need an extra hit of hydration) we go for this Recovery Smoothie. And now that we have The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, we have just the smoothie to turn to for the entire fall season!

You can top The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie with some granola and fresh fruit to turn it into an even heartier breakfast.

Let’s talk about these ingredients real quick, because I’m guessing you probably did a bit of a double take when you saw the words “sweet potato” up there. Just trust me on this one. They are seriously THE perfect addition to this smoothie, not only for some extra creaminess and a touch of sweetness, but also because they (along with the pumpkin) add a HUGE dose of Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, plus an assortment of B vitamins and inflammation-fighting potassium.

Now you tell me, who doesn’t want a breakfast that is this healthy but tastes like a decadent dessert?

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie is the perfect healthy fall breakfast that comes together in a flash.

The other great thing about The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (besides how delicious it tastes) is that it’s equally enjoyable served two different ways:

  1. You can drink it straight up from a glass with a straw OR
  2. You can top it with some granola and extra fruit (maybe even peanut butter?) and make it into a tasty smoothie bowl.

It’s up to you, pick your poison!

I hope you all have a wonderful fall weekend filled with lots of delicious pumpkin food and drink!

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie is the perfect healthy weekday breakfast for fall.

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie is filled with tons of healthy ingredients yet tastes just like dessert!
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The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This pumpkin pie smoothie takes all of your favorite flavors of fall and turns them into a healthy breakfast perfect for any day of the week!

Course: Breakfast
Servings: 2 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 bananas, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled, cut into chunks and boiled until tender
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve smoothie in two glasses with a straw or in bowls topped with your favorite smoothie bowl toppings.

Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink

Thirst quenching to the max!

This Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink is a naturally sweetened alternative to all those sugary sports drinks out there.

To be completely transparent here, I’ve started writing these posts a bit in advance since our little girl could be making her entrance into the world any day now. I came up with this Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink recipe in the hopes that I could have some on hand when I start going into labor. (My days of overly sweetened Gatorade are behind me.) For the latest updates on whether Baby D has arrived yet, be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!


But seriously, I’m really excited to share this recipe with you, and even more excited to have a hydrating Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink recipe in my back pocket for when I can finally get back to working out at my normal (fairly high) intensity, or even when I just need to replenish after a higher-than-normal level of partying or a long day of travel.

This Homemade Citrus Electrolyte will rehydrate and replenish you after a hard workout!

Staying hydrated hadn’t always been really important to me, but when I was spending almost every waking hour during high school playing volleyball, I learned firsthand what a difference a drink with some electrolytes and potassium can make in performance and recovery.

I think it was my freshman year the first time I experienced extreme dehydration. It was a couple of hours after I had gotten home from a long day of volleyball, and all of a sudden a horrific migraine came on…My eyesight was blurry, I had a horrible headache, and any light or noise just made everything ten times worse. Oh, and the nausea…It was INTENSE. It got so bad that I threw up and the only thing that seemed to make me feel better (aside from laying in a dark, quiet room with my eyes closed for a few hours) was a big jug of cold Gatorade.

I quickly learned that, due to the amount of sweat I was losing during training, I needed to be replenishing my body with more than just straight water DURING these times. I started bringing Gatorade with me to every practice and game, and made sure I sipped on it continuously throughout. Although the dehydration migraines have happened to me a few more times since then, it really is a one-off and I can usually pinpoint why they happened after they do.

This Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink comes together with just a few simple ingredients and is way better than any store-bought sports drink!

Of course, the peak of my athletic days (high school and college, more than 10 years ago) were way before trendy coconut water made its way onto the scene, and I am very happy to now have that as a more natural rehydration option as opposed to artificially sweetened (and colored) Gatorade. Coconut water is now my go-to when I’ve been through an intense workout or feel the need to fill my body with all the good electrolytes and potassium.

This Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink does indeed contain coconut water, but there are a few other ingredients that make it extra-special and hydrating, namely citrus juice, Himalayan pink sea salt and some maple syrup for a touch of natural sweetness.

A frosty serving of this Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink is all you need after a tough workout!

Here’s everything those components contribute to us when put them together in a big ol’ Mason jar and chug it down:

Coconut water – Contains more potassium than a banana

Fresh citrus juice – Also contains potassium and immune-boosting Vitamin C

Himalayan pink sea salt – Creates an electrolyte balance

Maple syrup – Contains antioxidants and fights inflammation

As you can see, not only is this Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink perfect for athletes/workout enthusiasts, it’s also going to be a godsend for me as I go through this crazy thing called labor. It also comes together quickly and can be stored in the refrigerator for at least a few days, so you can prep it and have it on hand at a moment’s notice!

A serving of this Homemade Electrolyte Drink will get you back on your feet in no time.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty excited to have this to sip on during labor and throughout my recovery. It’s such a better alternative than sports drinks and I’m all about getting back on my feet (and in the gym) as soon as I’m medically cleared to do so.

Tell me, do you have any tips for rehydration and/or making it through labor? I’m all ears!

This post contains affiliate links.

This Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink is a naturally sweetened alternative to all those sugary sports drinks out there.
Print
Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This homemade version of a replenishing sports drink has tons of health benefits and way fewer artificial sugars than any store-bought version.

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 drink
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink sea salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 cup coconut water
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar (with a lid) and shake to combine.

  2. Add ice and enjoy immediately or place in the refrigerator to have on hand at a moment’s notice (just be sure to shake again before drinking.)

Homemade Citrus Electrolyte Drink | CaliGirlCooking.com

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar

It’s the final countdown!

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar are the perfect healthy breakfast for busy mornings on-the-go.

Two weeks (plus or minus a few days) until Baby D’s due date and things are getting real. I’m rushing around trying to get a bunch of things done before she gets here, but I’m also trying not to stress myself out too much because I know right now I need to be focusing on relaxing and not being too exhausted whenever I go into labor. I’ve got a few meals (and baked goods) stocked in the freezer and I have to say that one of the things I’m looking forward to the most are these Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar, so naturally I wanted to share them with you!


I’ve had these in my mind to make for quite some time, and I figured there’s no time like the present to give them a shot. I mean, who doesn’t want single-serve batches of brown sugar and maple-flavored oatmeal ready to go at a moment’s notice when they’ve got a newborn baby in their arms?

Not only is it a quick and easy breakfast or snack solution for what I’m sure is going to be a crazy time for us, I also hear oatmeal is good for lactation and, since I’m trying to breastfeed as much as possible, I want to get that milk flowing!

Two bowls of Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal with Maple and Syrup ready to be devoured for a healthy breakfast.

If you’re as much of a fan of Trader Joe’s as I am, then you may have come across THEIR version of freezer oatmeal packs which I absolutely love. I haven’t made them much since I’ve been working from home since I have a little more time (and the hubs likes his Protein Power Smoothie in the morning), but when I was working my 9-to-5 I loved being able to pop them in the microwave for a couple of minutes and have a delicious bowl of non-instant oatmeal on days it would otherwise be impossible time-wise.

There’s really not anything tricky about my version of Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar. In fact, they’re a meal-prepper’s dream come true. You’ll simply cook up some high-quality oatmeal on a morning you have a little extra time, flavor it with tasty (and very seasonally appropriate) maple syrup and brown sugar, dollop a hefty scoop of said oatmeal in some jumbo muffin tins, and pop them in the freezer.

Once they’re set, you can pop them out of their tins and wrap them up individually for an easy grab-and-go breakfast that everyone in your family is sure to love, not just busy breastfeeding moms!

Create your own Make-Ahead Oatmeal Freezer Cups by scooping homemade oatmeal into jumbo muffin tins and freezing!

Seriously, though, they are like a little taste of homey comfort food that you can enjoy on any day of the week. As long as you have a couple of minutes to give the cups a quick spin in the microwave, you’ll be setting yourself up for a REALLY good day with a tummy full of healthy, filling oatmeal that tastes like it took you at least an hour to make.

Now, enough about delicious Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar, on Friday I promised I would tell you about the fun, surprise-filled weekend we had. It was one we’ve had on tap for at least 5 or 6 months now, basically ever since we found out I was pregnant. Chris’ mom’s 70th birthday is this week (tomorrow, to be exact) and we wanted to do something really special for her.

Unfortunately, since I’m ready to pop any day now, we knew we wouldn’t be able to travel to celebrate with her, so we decided to bring the party here to Santa Barbara. We talked all of Chris’ siblings into coming to town (yes, all four of them, even his sister from Texas!) and rented a sweet house just up the road from ours.

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar make the perfect balanced breakfast for a busy morning.

Chris was able to convince his parents to come visit, but mom thought she was just coming to see us and stay at our house. Little did she know that the whole family would be here, and staying at a beautiful vacation home to boot!

Long story short, we had such a great time hanging out with everyone and celebrating my MIL, but now I think we’re ready to slow down and really take in these last few days as a family of two (well, three if you count our fur baby). We have a couple of date nights and lots of relaxing in our future…Any other suggestions as to what we should do to savor these last few days before our little babe arrives? Let me know in the comments below! (And go make some Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar ASAP!)

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar are the perfect meal-prep for busy mornings on-the-go.

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar are the perfect healthy breakfast for busy mornings on-the-go.
Print
Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

These convenient, single-serving oatmeal cups are laced with maple and brown sugar and make the perfect on-the-go breakfast for busy mornings!

Course: Breakfast
Servings: 18 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 cups coconut milk (two 13.5-ounce cans)
  • 8 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Bring coconut milk, water and salt to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add oats. 

  2. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has absorbed into the oats, stirring occasionally, then stir in the brown sugar and maple. 

  3. Spray some jumbo muffin tins with cooking spray and scoop oatmeal evenly into the cups. Place in the freezer until solid, at least a couple of hours or overnight. 

  4. Remove the tins from the freezer and, using a butter knife or small offset spatula, gently loosen the oatmeal cups from each tin. Wrap each cup in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer.

  5. When you’re ready to heat up your oatmeal, take one of the cups, unwrap it and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally if needed and top with any additional toppings you desire. Some of my favorites include nuts, peanut butter and more maple syrup.

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar | CaliGirlCooking.com