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I'm Crystal Vaughn

a classically trained chef taking holistic plant-based nutrition on a grand adventure through North America. When I’m not creating in our traveling kitchen, you can usually find me on my yoga mat or a hiking trail.

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I never really understood the whole pumpkin craze that arose at the beginning of every fall.  The only pumpkin I would usually see came out of a can and ended up in a pumpkin pie, which I never really liked. 

The last couple of years I have been getting in the kitchen and experimenting with this seasonal vegetable and I am really growing to love it.  Here is another seasonal treat that is great for replacing your overly sugared and processed store bought cereals and granolas. 

This is a little more savory than most granolas and it is another reason I like it so much.  It is great for breakfast with homemade almond milk or as I have it here: served over a banana with a dollop of almond butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop it is a perfect time to get inside and try some new recipes.  But still take some time to enjoy the autumn colors.  Bundle up and go for a hike!  We went exploring in the Dolly Sods this weekend.  Even though a lot of the trees had already lost their leaves it was a beautiful fall day to be outside. 

Pumpkin Spice Granola with Pecans and Cranberries
Makes about 5 cups


1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch ground gloves

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups gluten-free rolled oats

1/3 cup quinoa or millet (uncooked)

1/2 cup pecans

1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

3 tbsp hemp seeds

3 tbsp flax seeds, freshly ground

1/2 cup dried cranberries (sweetened with apple juice)


1. Preheat oven to 250°.

2. Combine pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, spices and sea salt in a small pan over medium-low heat.  Stir until combined and remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl stir together oats, quinoa, pecans, pepitas, hemp seeds and ground flax seeds.

4. Add pumpkin mixture to bowl and stir until thoroughly coated.

5. Spread mixture onto a large parchment paper lined sheet pan.

6. Bake for 1 hour or until starting to brown and get crispy.

7. Remove from oven and stir in dried cranberries.

8. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. 

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Oct 09, 2014


Fall is definitely my favorite season.  I was even lucky enough to experience two falls this year!  I visited Patagonia during fall in the southern hemisphere and it was pretty amazing.  I love hikes this time of year, when there is a slight nip in the air and the leaves are starting to change.  This weekend we spent time outside enjoying the season.  The leaves weren't quite starting to change near one of my favorite hiking spots but I'll share this photo from a couple years ago of Hudson enjoying the view!

Once fall rolls around you start seeing pumpkin everywhere and it seems like everyone can’t wait to get a pumpkin spice latte.  The sad truth is this is way more unhealthy than you probably imagine.  Food Babe did an investigation on it a few weeks ago and I will not be hitting up the local Starbucks for one of these anytime soon.  It isn’t possible to get it dairy free and there isn’t actually any pumpkin in it.  So basically your most beloved fall Starbucks drink is a total fraud. 

Please don’t fret we can cure that craving easily in your own home!  Here is my delicious and healthy version that you can make in your own kitchen.  And there is actually pumpkin inside.  Oh yeah!

I am not much of a coffee drinker because I don’t handle caffeine very well so I decided to make this version with chai tea but it can definitely be made with coffee as well (we actually tried it this weekend and it was just as delicious).  I do really love coffee but I can’t quite get on board with decaf because the chemical extractors that are typically used to release the caffeine.  I am still looking into the water extraction process so I may have more information on that in the future.

Okay, back to the latte.  All you really need to do for this drink is brew up some chai tea (or coffee/espresso) and whisk together some non-dairy milk, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, a little vanilla powder and some spices (pumpkin pie spice would work well here).  Heat the pumpkin mixture and then froth it up.  I have a manual milk frother and an attachment on my immersion blender.  This step is totally optional but it gives it the traditional latte feel.  And it is kind of fun playing barista sometimes.


Pumpkin Chai Latte
Makes 2 Lattes


3 tbsp pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups oat milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)

2 tbsp maple syrup

1/8 tsp vanilla powder (or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground ginger

pinch of ground nutmeg

1 to 1 1/2 cups brewed chia tea


1. Brew chai tea.

2. In a small saucepan whisk together pumpkin puree, oat milk,  maple syrup, vanilla powder and spices.  Heat until barely starting to simmer.  Then remove from heat.

3. Optional step:  Froth the pumpkin mixture with an electric or manual frother.

4. In your mug add 1/2 to 3/4 cup chai tea and fill the rest of the way with the pumpkin milk mixture.

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Oct 01, 2014

No food takes me back to Nice like socca does.  It is such a simple thing but so delicious.  Socca is basically a chickpea pancake and is a wonderful street food of the South of France.  

One of the best things about Nice is the open air market, the Cours Saleya in Vieux Nice (old Nice), which was just blocks away from my apartment.  There is always an abundance of fresh produce and it's possibly the reason I fell in love with Nice on my first backpacking trip across Europe. 

The self proclaimed “Queen of the Market” Chez Thérésa makes the best socca around.  There would always be a line but it was well worth the wait!  A man would fix it off site, load it on a small trailer attached to his bike and then pedal it through the small pedestrian streets.  She would then heat it over a large fire bin, cut it up and serve it with olive oil, salt and pepper.


I missed this dish so much I knew I had to create it at home.  My recipe has changed over time as I came up with what worked best in my kitchen.  It has become a staple in our house and we have it almost every week.

The main ingredient is chickpea flour.  Over the last few years this has become more widely available in grocery stores but it is easy to buy online as well.    

Socca is pretty versatile.  Sometimes I like serving it with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Other days I add toppings and treat it like a flat bread or pizza crust.  Today we enjoyed it for lunch topped with hummus, caramelized red onion, spinach and aged balsamic vinegar alongside a chilled Rosé.  What tastes more like the South of France than a nice Rosé from Provence?  Not a whole lot. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe and a little peak at the South of France.  It will always feel like my home across the Atlantic.  Do you have any fun travel stories or recipes you brought home with you?  Please share in the comments below!

Serves 2


1 cup chickpea flour

1/2 tsp herbes de Provence (or other dried herb mixture)

1 1/4 cups water

2 tbsp olive oil, separated

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste


1. In a bowl mix chickpea flour, dried herbs, water, 1 tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Whist together until completely combined.  You can mix this up anywhere from 24 hours to 30 minutes ahead of time.

2. Preheat oven to 450°.  Put a 9x13 casserole dish or sheet pan in the oven as it heats.

3. Once heated, remove the casserole or sheet pan and line with parchment paper.  Then pour in mixture.  Make sure the batter goes out to all corners.

4. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until firm and starting to brown.

5. Remove from oven, pierce with a fork, drizzle with about a tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cut as desired.


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