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HEX Ferments: The Difference, The Flavor & The Future

This is the second part in a two-part series. Did you miss the first post? To learn about the start, the art and the heart of HEX Ferments, click here

I had the privilege of interviewing Meaghan Carpenter, one of the founders and owners of HEX Ferments, a fermented food and drink company located in Baltimore. I was drawn to her story because of how her company embodies the core of my food philosophy – to connect with our food, where it comes from and how it makes us feel; to savor our food, prioritizing quality and taking time to enjoy it; and to nourish our bodies with vibrant, life-giving food.

The Difference

So, what makes HEX Ferments different than other fermented foods and drink companies? Meaghan had a lot to say about that and was passionate about the quality of what they create.

We source and ferment for peak flavor. […] We work with layering flavor. Our staff are all trained in the culinary field. We’ve hired people that know how to work with flavor. We don’t use a lot of dried spices. We use a lot of fresh herbs and spices and we source from local farms for about 90% of our produce. That helps us to get the foods that are the freshest and at the peak of their flavor and nutritional profile.

The health benefits of HEX’s products vary greatly from most products on the market, especially in the case of something like pickles. Most pickles on the market are made with vinegar, which acts as a preservative to make them more shelf stable. It’s used as an instant acidifier.

hex-picklesUnfortunately, most vinegars are denatured or killed, so the nutritional benefits of fermented food are lost; there’s no probiotic component to vinegar pickles. The way HEX produces their products preserves the nutritional integrity and gives us the host of benefits we expect.

HEX naturally ferments their products through the process of lactic acid fermentation, which creates the beneficial microbes that characterize pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. The next time you’re in the market for a jar of pickles or sauerkraut, make sure you read the label. You want it to be a “living food” with live cultures, no heat and no vinegar.

Not only does HEX prioritize using high quality ingredients and best in class fermentation practices, but they are also particular about the vessels in which they make their products. Unlike most large companies, they don’t use plastic barrels lined with plastic to ferment. When you’re creating a food that acidifies itself, you’re creating a lot of microbes that are really powerful that can eat away at plastic. Because of that concern, the team at HEX ferments in stainless steel, which also helps to keep their products tasting the same as well. That is considered the gold standard for how to ferment.

What I was surprised to learn next gave me another reason to take pride in having HEX Ferments as one of our own. They are the only fermented food company in the U.S. that makes and sells everything at their storefront. This gives their customers a unique experience and the ability to taste and smell everything and talk to the people who have a hand in making the food.

The Flavor

People often come up to the stand and aren’t shy about their feelings toward fermented foods, “I hate sauerkraut.”

Instead of being flustered or offended, Meaghan responds gently, “I’m sorry to hear that. That just means you haven’t had really good sauerkraut. You can learn to like sour.”

If you’re new to fermented foods, it can take a little while to adapt to their naturally sour taste, but Meaghan gave me some suggestions that could help.

  • Pickles are a great way to start because most of us are already familiar with them and have tried them before. Try some cucumber pickles or other pickled vegetables.
  • Try kombucha. It’s an easy entry point because it often has a bit of sweetness to balance the sour, and people tend to like its fizziness.
  • Their carrot confetti made with pickled carrots is a good starter and converted a former sauerkraut hater into a weekly customer.
  • Mix and eat things like sauerkraut with food. If you eat salad, instead of adding dressing, take a few tablespoons of the kraut, chop it up, mix it into your salad and add some olive oil.
A few bottles of HEX's brightly colored kombucha

A few bottles of HEX’s brightly colored kombucha

So, how much sauerkraut should you eat? What amount of kombucha is best to drink?

Start small. Keep in mind it is a living food and you’re introducing billions of bacteria into your system.

Meaghan suggests starting with one tablespoon of kraut or kimchi a day with food (i.e,. chopped up on a salad, as a condiment, mixed in with grains and beans, on a sandwich, etc.) and see how your body reacts. Her stepmother swears by breakfast consisting of an English muffin with peanut butter and HEXs juniper caraway sauerkraut. I can’t say it appealed to me, but Meaghan’s enthusiasm about it might get me to try it!

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Sauerkraut pairs nicely with tacos in this dish with Clavel’s tacos and watermelon radish pickles

For kombucha, Meaghan recommends starting with four to six ounces on an empty stomach in the morning. This has helped her and others with chronic constipation.

As with any food, slow down and pay attention to how your body responds and then increase the amount you’re eating or drinking or stay where you are. Over time, it’s likely you will be able to eat more.

The Shop (Where to Find It!)

To learn more about HEX Ferments and their upcoming events and for locations where you can find their products, check out their website at www.HexFerments.com.

Locally, you can find their products at MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Graul’s, and Eddies Market as well as at the Waverly Farmer’s Market in Baltimore on Saturday mornings.

fullsizerenderIf you’re in the DC area, swing by Each Peach Yes! Organic Market at Capitol Hill, or the Arlington MOMs Organic Market for a jar of their famous kraut or kimchi. Hex also has a presence at the Silver Spring Farmer’s Market and Bethesda Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings.

If you’d rather skip the trip to the store or market and order online, you can order their products through Washington Green Grocer, Relay Foods, Hungry Harvest, and Hometown Harvest.

The Future

HEX Ferments is experiencing a ton of growth and will be expanding to a larger production space just down the road from Belvedere Square, where their storefront will remain. They will gain over 1,000 square feet of space.

A sneak peek at the new space

A sneak peek at the new space

They have plans to teach a few workshops in the fall and look forward to introducing more people to the art of fermentation. I’ll be sure to keep you updated about those events through my Facebook page and this blog.

Over the years, Meaghan and Shane have grown to appreciate and embrace all that Baltimore has to offer. They look forward to continuing to build community through HEX Ferments, as they invite us to connect with our food, how it makes us feel and where it comes from; appreciate food as beauty and art; and nourish our bodies with living, healing food that will leave us looking and feeling our best.

Have you tried HEX Ferments products? Do you have a favorite? Feel free to share below!

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HEX Ferments: The Start, The Art & The Heart

I had the privilege of interviewing Meaghan Carpenter, one of the founders and owners of HEX Ferments, a fermented food and drink company located in Baltimore.

I was drawn to her story because of how her company embodies the core of my food philosophy – to connect with our food, where it comes from and how it makes us feel; to savor our food, prioritizing quality and taking time to enjoy it; and to nourish our bodies with vibrant, life-giving food.

The Start

What is this place?

Aside from what she had seen in John Waters’ movies, Meaghan Carpenter knew little about Baltimore when she moved here on a whim 12 years ago. The heat and humidity of Charm City in August and her cockroach-infested apartment weren’t the welcome she had anticipated when she picked up her life in Minneapolis to relocate here. She says “a boy” brought her here, but she stayed for a different boy, Shane, who’s now her husband.

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Over the years, Meaghan’s initial impression of Baltimore has faded, as she has grown to appreciate and embrace her new home.

I feel like Baltimore is this really incredible city that is this melting pot that never seems to fully merge. People come from all over the place. But everybody has a pretty strong identity here. It doesn’t feel like a homogenous city at all.

Meaghan always loved food, grew up spending time in the kitchen with her parents, and worked in restaurant kitchens for years but never considered food for a career.  Both she and Shane have been connected to fermented food since childhood. They grew up eating the harvest from their parents’ vegetable gardens and learned the art of canning at a young age (“You can only eat so many cucumbers, zucchini and carrots” Meaghan confessed.).

They were raised eating sour foods, a taste most Americans have not developed. It was their early introduction to sour, fermented foods that would eventually influence the business they formed together nearly four years ago, a fermented food and drink company called HEX Ferments.

When Meaghan was in college, she was part of a natural foods store co-op and learned how to make simple kimchi and sauerkraut. She noticed it helped the digestive issues she had in college that stemmed from her very poor diet. When she started sharing simple meals of rice, beans, steamed veggies and sauerkraut with the co-op staff, she noticed by how much better she felt. She carried that with her and it would come in handy years later.

schlossmanhex0422It would take two transatlantic trips to the U.K. before Meaghan and Shane would delve more deeply into the art of fermentation. Both she and Shane spent some time separately in Ireland, where Shane worked on organic farms in Wales and saw a different side of fermentation – wines, meads and preserved foods – the side most of us are more familiar with here in the States.

It was in Ireland that Meaghan first learned about the sour, tingly, fermented drink called kombucha. She fell in love with it, and as soon as she got back to U.S., she put out a flyer asking who had the culture needed to brew kombucha. Meaghan was in luck. She learned the simple instructions for how to do it and has been making kombucha for the past 15 years, well before the recent kombucha craze started.

Years after Meaghan’s introduction to kombucha, she and Shane quickly realized that when they got together, they loved playing with flavors and having food experiments. They had a garden and had an overabundance of cabbage and decided to make sauerkraut. So Meaghan dug out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, a book she first learned about through the co-op, and they got to work. Since then, they’ve visited Sandor’s farm in Tennessee and have been mentored by him along with another husband-wife fermentation team from the Cultured Pickle in Berkeley, California.

hexplusculturedI loved what Meaghan had to say about what happened once they embarked on the journey to come together and explore the art of fermentation:

We instantly got rehooked into it all. Once you make fermented foods and you learn about it, there is the potential to get bitten by its mystery and magic, and there’s no turning back. Once you’re hooked into it, that’s it. It’s an obsession. We became totally and immensely obsessed.

Their friends loved what they made and suggested they open a business, but Meaghan and Shane were hesitant. They were enjoying their hobby and didn’t think they wanted to have a business doing it, even though Shane had been in business for himself since the age of 17.

But sometimes your calling finds you, and if you’re meant to do something with your life, it can be nearly impossible to escape. Meaghan was working at a desk job where she was “totally bored”. She was also teaching and making art, but she was not satisfied and found herself researching how to start a fermented foods business. Fueled by their newfound obsession and bolstered by Shane’s entrepreneurial skills, they decided to go for it and start HEX Ferments. It’s been nonstop ever since.

The Art

Meaghan designed the HEX Ferments logo and partnered with a fellow MICA alum to render the logo and set the vision for their brand. The inspiration for the name comes from Hexology folklore, which uses signs and symbols to protect relationships, secure the harvest, and ward off the unwelcome. In the same way, fermented foods protect and support our body, digestion, immune system and overall health and well-being.

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Through her work, Meaghan has the opportunity to combine her two loves – food and art. She doesn’t see a separation between the two and credits her art education at MICA with her visual, creative problem-solving skills, which have served her well in business.

I see what we do as art. We get to play with flavors, and textures, and colors and beautiful objects and we get to put them together and let them slow cook, also known as ‘ferment’.

The inspiration behind unique flavor combinations, like Juniper Caraway Kraut, Carrot Confetti, Lover’s Truce Kimchi, and Butterfly Lime kombucha, often stems from whatever is in season.

The HEX team scours articles, recipes, and books for inspirations as well and considers their experiments a form of play. Meaghan said naming them is like naming a child and she and the team come up with names together.

hex-kraut hex-kraut-jarsFor Valentine’s Day, an abundance of local beets inspired the creation of a complex kimchi called Lover’s Truce. And when Meaghan was given green tea and saffron tea from Afghanistan by her brother-in-law, it wasn’t long before Saffron kombucha was born.

Meaghan flavor preferences vary seasonally, so she didn’t have a go-to kraut or kombucha. If she had to pick, the plain sauerkraut that is currently at the peak of its ripeness and the Carrot Juniper kombucha were at the top of her list.

Customer buying habits are more particular. Some customers shop by color (i.e., “I only buy things that are red.”) while others have their standby flavors like Garlic Oregano and never waver from them. At times, Meaghan and Shane will come up with make something that’s “super crazy” in a small batch, and people will eat it up and come back months later looking for it. They like to keep things fresh, fun and seasonal.

The Heart

When I have the opportunity to talk to people about food and hear their story, what I gravitate toward most is their food philosophy and the language they use around food.

My approach toward food is to invite people to be curious about eating – to connect with why we eat, how it makes us feel and where our foods comes from; to savor food and make eating a joyful experience; and to nourish our bodies with energizing, life-giving, real food, so we can look and feel our best.

When I asked Meaghan about her philosophy around food, I discovered that we share a similar approach and both prioritize being connected to our food along with nourishment:

I see food in different levels. I see food as culture. I see food as commodity and food as nourishment. The level that we operate in is all three. HEX sees food and our food system in a holistic approach. We need to address the entire system of what brings food, nourishment and culture to our plate.

I couldn’t agree more.

It’s a privilege to have a company right here in my hometown that is so committed to upholding the integrity of their food and nourishing people every day.

Stay tuned for the second post in this series to learn more about what makes HEX’s products different from everything else on the market, get some tips for how to incorporate these foods into your diet, and get a sneak peek at some plans for HEX’s future.

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Join Me LIVE for 2 Cooking Classes in Baltimore in October

Fall has always been my favorite season.

I love the colors, the weather, the crisp air, and, of course, the food.

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Laura Toraldo Photography

But fall hasn’t always been a time of optimal health for me.

I used to suffer from seasonal allergies, which meant taking Claritin or Zyrtec, and I couldn’t make it through the fall and winter without dealing with multiple bouts of congestion, post nasal drip, sore throats, and bronchitis. I always had a steady supply of Mucinex, Throat Coat, and Advair inhaler discs. For a third of my life, I also dealt with acid reflux, which meant popping pills at Thanksgiving and Christmastime, in particular, because of all of the rich food I would overeat and then pay for later.

Because I know what it’s like to feel sick and not at my best, I’m passionate about sharing what I’ve learned and experienced as my health has been transformed over the past five years. I no longer take any medications, can get through the whole winter with NO congestion, and don’t deal with post nasal drip, allergies, reflux, or bronchitis.

If you had told me five years ago that that was possible, I would have been skeptical and cynical, but because I now live that reality, I know that it’s true and possible.

Changing my diet has been at the root of why my body has begun healing and continues to heal.

For centuries, food has been used to prevent illness, relieve symptoms, and even cure disease. I’m now in a position of optimizing my health, so that I can continue to feel energized, have glowing skin, and build a strong immune system.

I will be teaching a two-part cooking class series about Healing Foods at the Institute for Integrative Health in Baltimore on Thursday, October 6th and 13th from 6:00-8:00 pm, and I would love for you to join me LIVE

REGISTER HERE

Laura Toraldo Photography

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Laura Toraldo Photography

We’ll explore the power of food and discover how it can be used to prevent and alleviate inflammation, strengthen our immune system, and enhance our energy and vitality. Through recipe demonstrations as well as nutrition and cooking tips, I will show you how to eat for optimal well-being. Everything will be dairy-free and gluten-free, and you will find out why during the class.

University of Maryland nutrition researcher Chris D’Adamo, PhD, will be joining me for both classes to offer commentary and answer your questions. He’s a wealth of knowledge and it’s an honor to partner with him again.

Want to join us? Click the button below.

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**There are a limited number of spots for these classes, and they are filling up, so if you want to snag your seat, click here to register! The early bird discount of $50 for BOTH classes ends on September 15th, when the price will go up to $60 for both classes. This is the best deal you are going to find for this type and quality of class in the area!**

If you have any questions, please email me through this link, and I will get back to you. I hope to see you there! 🙂

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Laura Toraldo Photography

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Sundried Tomato Basil Quinoa Salad {Gluten-Free}

We’ve been making the most of the last days of summer and have spent just about every weekend and multiple nights a week hanging out with friends and family.

We also went to the Zac Brown Band concert on Friday night with thousands of other people, and it was AMAZING! I highly recommend seeing one of their shows if you get a chance. Their music is fun, upbeat, and makes you want to dance!

Zac Brown band

Because of all of this, I’ve really felt like a little social butterfly lately…and I’m loving it!

As someone who used to prefer being alone over being with people, I’m enjoying all of the socializing we’ve been doing. One of the commitments my husband, Bill, and I made at the beginning of the year was to be more intentional about spending time with friends and other couples, even during what is often a busy week.

Why the focus on so much more social time?

In his book Wellbeing, Tom Rath writes about the importance of social time in reducing our stress and worry and boosting our wellbeing. To have a thriving day, we need 6 HOURS of social time.  That includes time at work, home, with friends, talking on the phone, and even sending email (scrolling through Facebook doesn’t count) – anything that gives us an opportunity to directly connect with another human being. If six hours sounds kind of daunting, even three hours of social time cuts your chances of having a bad day to 10%. That’s reason enough for me to be more social!

We had a socially-packed day this past Sunday and easily hit the 6-hour mark by spending a few hours at church in the morning, going to a friend’s party in the afternoon, and visiting my in-laws that evening.

The party we went to on Sunday afternoon was a potluck-style party, so I decided to bring a new recipe that I had first taste-tested with my friend, Jeanne, on Friday night.

I was inspired to make this recipe when I was munching on the Tomato Basil version of Chickpeatos, one of my favorite snacks and a great substitute for croutons.

“Hmmm, wouldn’t it be great to combine those flavors into a salad?”

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So, off I went to experiment with a combo of sundried tomatoes (oh my gosh, so good!), fresh basil and a base of quinoa.

This recipe looks like Christmas in a bowl with its red and green accents, so it’s a perfect way to celebrate the transition from summer to cooler weather. You’re going to love it!

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Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa, rinsed in a fine mesh strainer
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped (I use these)
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or oil from sundried tomatoes jar)
1/2 cup Watusee Foods Tomato Basil Chickpeatos

Directions

  1. Combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until almost all of the water is absorbed. DO NOT STIR QUINOA. Remove quinoa from heat and leave covered for 5 minutes to steam. Remove lid and fluff with fork. Set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic together, then whisk in oil.
  3. In a large bowl, toss quinoa with sundried tomatoes, beans, and basil with dressing and top with Chickpeatos.
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Tropical Mango Lime Coconut Balls {Vegan, Paleo}

Of all the recipes I create, this kale salad, this sweet potato and egg casserole and these no-bake bites and balls are the most popular.

I love the no-bake bites because they’re packed with an energy-boosting combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats, and the possibilities for flavor combinations are endless! I’ve made about a dozen different versions of these little bites, but I wanted to try something different with this recipe.

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Because of the warm weather, I’d been enjoying this Caribbean Island Breeze smoothie with frozen mango and was inspired to make a no-bake bite using some of the same ingredients.

I’ve taste-tested these little gems with over a dozen people, and they’ve been a hit each time! With sweet mango, tart lime, creamy coconut, and a zing of ginger, these bites are full of flavor and fun to eat.

You’re going to love them 🙂 

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Tropical Mango Lime Coconut Balls

Yield: 32-36 balls

Ingredients

1 cup raw cashews
2 cups + 1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup hemp seeds
1/4 tsp + pinch fine grain sea salt
1/2 tsp grated ginger root
1/2 cup dried mango, softened slightly in warm water for about 10 minutes, patted dry with a paper towel, then coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
zest of 1 lime

Directions

  1. Put cashews, 2 cups shredded coconut, hemp seeds and sea salt in the food processor and process (about 30 seconds) until it reaches a coarse meal.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to food processor and process until evenly combined. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times.
  3. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll in shredded coconut. Freeze or refrigerate in a glass container.
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Basil Pesto Hummus {Vegan}

Summer is full of vibrant colors and bold flavors. I just love this time of year! Today’s recipe highlights one of my favorite summer herbs that is in season right now and seems to be in everything.

Basil.

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I had some basil leftover from making this Basil Walnut Pesto and wanted to try something new and simple, so I decided to add it in to a basic hummus recipe.

We served it to our friends Lisa and Brody, and their son Beckett, at a recent dinner at our house…and everyone loved it! Bill brought it to school this week for a back-to-school potluck, and it went over well there, too.

The recipe starts with the basic hummus ingredients – chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil – and upgrades it by adding in an underrated but super potent herb packed with health-promoting benefits.

Just a few of the body-boosting properties of basil are listed below:

  • Its flavonoids protect our cells from damage and help protect our DNA
  • The oils in basil leaves have strong antibacterial properties, naturally reducing the likelihood of contracting a food-borne illness
  • Contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can provide relief for anyone with inflammatory conditions like arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions
  • Rich in Vitamins K and A, which act as powerful antioxidants that protect our heart

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Basil Pesto Hummus

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Put garlic, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, water, and sea salt in the food processor and process until evenly combined. You may need to scrape down the sides. Add basil leaves and process again.
  2. Stream in olive oil through hole at the top of the food processor and run for about 60 seconds until smooth. It may seem a little loose, but if you put it in the fridge to set, it will thicken. If needed, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin it out.
  3. Store in the fridge in a glass container and serve with raw veggies or chips.
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Easy Apple Pie Bites

I’m SO happy to be back in my kitchen!

After spending two weeks in upstate New York and the Pacific Northwest for vacation, Bill and I were both looking forward to being home.

We hadn’t been home for 48 hours before I was busy experimenting with new recipes. This one turned out to be a big hit with my husband’s men’s softball team (and their fans!).

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I’ve made about dozen different recipes for no-bake energy bites, so I was trying to come up with a flavor combo I hadn’t tried before.

Sooo, I tried apple pie in August…why not? 🙂

Our friend, Matt, said these were the best things I’ve ever made, so I knew I had to share the recipe with all of you…and the quick video for how to make it. My husband, Bill, has been a BIG help making techie things like this happen.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla powder
  • 1/2 cup apple, peeled and chopped (Granny Smith works best)
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup Medjool dates, pitted (DON’T use deglet dates…they’re not as chewy!)
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Directions

  1. Add oats, walnuts, almonds, spices, and salt to the food processor and process for about 20-25 seconds or until it reaches a coarse meal.
  2. Add the vanilla, apples, raisins, and dates, and process until it forms a ball. You may have to stop the processor, break apart the dough chunks and process again a few times to blend it all together.
  3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll in shredded coconut. Store in fridge or freezer.
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Simple Beauty-Boosting Salad with Pesto Dressing

One of my favorite parts of my job is spending time with employees and showing them how delicious and doable it is to eat well. I love the look of surprise on their faces and the comments they make when they try something they assumed wouldn’t taste good.

(Like this chocolate avocado mousse!)

For a recent cooking demonstration with a client in DC, we focused on beauty-boosting foods – food packed with colors, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other anti-aging nutrients and benefits.

We started with this Tropical Breeze Smoothie and then made the salad below for our main course, followed by my 5-minute chocolate avocado mousse topped with blackberries for dessert. Everyone had a great time and raved about the recipes.

To be totally honest, I came up with this salad the day before the class when I was in DC and eating my lunch from Chop’t, a salad place at the train station. I was admiring their seasonal Greenmarket Grain Bowl made with radishes, cucumbers, a mix of lettuces and a lemon basil vinaigrette.

Since the focus of the demo I was teaching the next day was about anti-aging, beauty-boosting foods, I knew that was the inspiration I needed to come up with this recipe. The good news is that you don’t HAVE to use these exact ingredients – just use a variety of vegetables that are in season and serve them with a yummy dressing, like the pesto one we made.

Here are the health benefits of some of the ingredients we used according to nutritionist, Kimberly Snyder, in her book, The Beauty Detox Foods.

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Cucumbers: This is one of the top beauty-boosting foods we can eat. Cukes are packed with enzyme-charged water, B-vitamins and electrolytes to help us flush out the kidneys, reduce bloating and build radiant skin from within.

Radishes: Help cut and dissolve mucus in the digestive tract, so nutrients can flow freely throughout the body. They are in the mustard family and act as cleansers and detoxifiers in our body.

Scallions: Onions contain compounds that stimulate the production of the most important antioxidants the liver uses for detoxification (glutathione). They also contain quercetin, an antioxidant that counters the effects of premature aging.

Zucchini: Rich in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compound, vitamins and minerals, this summer squash is not only good for our bodies but it’s also fun to prepare when you use a spiralizer.

To make things a little more exciting than usual, we spiralized the zucchini and diced and sliced everything else. (This is the spiralizer I have). We topped it off with a pesto sauce that I usually serve with pasta or as a topping for cucumber slices as an appetizer. You can thin it out a bit by adding a little more oil or water and use it as a dressing. We just took it straight from the food processor and mixed it in.

The finishing touch was a sprinkling of Tomato Basil Chickpeatos (my FAVE roasted chickpeas). The bag was gone in a matter of minutes. I use them instead of croutons, and the rest of the crew is on board with that idea now, too, which is awesome to see!

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Ingredients

1/2 pound mixed greens
2 zucchini, spiralized (or cut into thin strips)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 cucumbers, chopped
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
1 package of sprouted beans (we used lentil sprouts from MOMs)
1 cup Tomato Basil Chickpeatos
1/2 cup basil walnut pesto

Directions

  1. Mix all salad ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add dressing and toss to combine.
  3. Top with Chickpeatos and enjoy!
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Healthy Dining in Portland: An East Coast Foodie’s Guide

Whether you live near Portland, Oregon, have plans to go there sometime soon or are looking for ideas for future vacations, you’ll want to read this post! (Or just scroll to be tempted by the amazing food in the pics!).

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When we booked our trip to Portland, Oregon several months ago, and I told people we were going there, their responses were unanimous:

“You’re going to LOVE it there!”

“You’ll be with ‘your’ people.”

By “my people”, they were mostly referring to foodies that have some food preferences not so easily accommodated here on the East Coast (i.e,. gluten-free, dairy-free, organic). Portland is known for being a very allergen-friendly food city, so you can go just about anywhere and find gluten-free, dairy-free options.

Whenever Bill and I travel, we look for three things:

  1. Delicious, nourishing food
  2. Farmer’s markets
  3. Walkability & hiking

IMG_7081Portland happened to have the trifecta, so we couldn’t wait for the trip to begin. During the six days we were in Portland, we made the rounds and tried over a dozen different eateries, all of which offered and often specialized in gluten-free, dairy-free options that tasted as good as, if not better than, the originals.

If you’re traveling to Portland (or if you live there and want to check out some new spots) AND are looking for nourishing and delicious options, use this list as your guide.

Portland Farmer’s Market

Portland State University, SW Park & SW Montgomery; www.portlandfarmersmarket.org

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We had heard that this market was all the rage and were stoked to check it out on Saturday morning. We liked it so much that we spent three hours there. I love the energy of farmer’s markets. The people. The sounds. The colors. This market was no different.

We also made friends with one of the volunteers, Steve, who gave us some pretty stellar recommendations about places to check out while we were staying in Portland. It always pays to talk to the locals, the people who will send you somewhere other than the places all the tourists go. They tend to be way better (and less crowded).

What We Ate / Drank

  • Chai Donut (Petunia’s Pies & Pastries)
  • Everything Bagel (New Cascadia)
  • Honey Mama’s chocolate bars (Sample every chocolate! We bought a 4-pack)
  • Lentil Dal (Portland Curry Co.)
  • Strawberry Ginger Kombucha (Symple Foods)

Harlow Restaurant 

3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland; 971-255-0138; www.harlowpdx.com

IMG_71580C19EC8E-E8BF-43D9-8524-042A4B24666FIMG_6965Considering we ate here three different times and sat in on a cooking demo they did at the Farmer’s Market, this became our go-to spot. Everything they sell is gluten-free and dairy-free (win!), and they source their ingredients from local, sustainable sources.

We went there for breakfast twice and lunch one time but could have easily spent every meal there because they have such a variety of delicious options including smoothies, juices, bowls, salads, and sides. Their sister shop, Prasad Cafe, has a few locations downtown and their menus are pretty similar, so we were happy sticking with Harlow but would definitely check out Prasad on our next go around.

What We Ate

  • Betty Bowl (with a perfectly poached egg)
  • Chipotle Chili Bowl
  • Turmeric Toddy (iced or hot – I had both – SO GOOD!)
  • Strawberry Short Stack
  • Outlaw Scramble
  • Mercy Blues
  • Pesto Garden Scramble
  • Trail Mix Cookie

Portobello Vegan Trattoria

1125 SE Division Street, Portland; 503-754-5993; http://portobellopdx.com/

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Delicious. Italian food…Vegan.

Say what??

How could a restaurant with cuisine based entirely around cheese, pasta and bread possibly have options that a gluten-free, dairy-free eater (and her husband) could enjoy?

They did! We’re so glad we gave this place a shot. I’m glad we didn’t let its not-so-fancy storefront deter us from checking out what ended up being one of our favorite meals of the entire trip. For starters, our server, Corinn, was sweet and spunky as can be and guided us through the menu. With a variety of gluten-free options (including pizza!), we had plenty of options to choose from and enjoyed every single one – so much so that two dessert-lovers like us didn’t have room for dessert.

What We Ate

  • Beet Tartare with New Cascadia Gluten-Free bread (even Bill said that bread tasted BETTER than the regular bread)
  • Kale Caesar Salad
  • Tom’s Pizza on gluten-free crust
  • Bliss Tea

Blossoming Lotus

1713 NE 15th Ave, Portland; 503.228.0048; www.blpdx.com

FDC8891B-EBB2-4A9C-A3ED-85A23370021AWe picked a beautiful day to check out this restaurant in the Irvington neighborhood. Another dairy-free, gluten-free find, we were drawn in by the pictures of their live nachos on Instagram and Yelp! and knew we had to include them on our self-guided food tour of the city.

What We Ate

  • Live Nachos (man oh man were these good!)
  • Curry Bowl
  • Lotus Benedict

Departure

525 SW Morrison St, Portland; 503-802-5370; http://departureportland.com/

IMG_7155We’re Top Chef fans and have watched just about every season of the show. One of our favorite seasons featured Gregory Gourdet, who is now Executive Chef of Departure Restaurant. His inspiring story of becoming sober and prioritizing nourishing, quality food in that process was certainly one draw to bring us to this trendy rooftop restaurant in the heart of downtown. That, and Farmer’s Market Steve highly recommended it, too!

I loved that they provided both vegan and gluten-free menus in addition to the standard menu, so there was no shortage of options for appetizers, entrees or desserts.

What We Ate

  • Tandoori Spiced Scallops
  • Kani Avocado Roll
  • Shaved Collards Salad

Verde Cocina

Multiple locations; Portland Farmer’s Market; www.verdecocinamarket.com

0BB50060-A2CA-4E70-9E86-44324C75E942Farmer’s Market Steve came through again when he recommended we check out this place for a meal. Fresh, bright Mexican food with handmade, corn tortillas. Bill had a dish for breakfast at the farmer’s market and we liked it so much that we went back for a happy hour at their main restaurant a few days later.

What We Ate

  • Buenos Dias Breakfast
  • Sweet Potato-Black Bean Salad
  • Carne Asada Taco
  • Guacamole & Tortillas
  • Gringas con Mole

Nong’s Khao Man Gai

Multiple locations; http://khaomangai.com/

IMG_7147People flock to this food cart for what might seem like too simple of a dish. But simple done well and with the highest quality of ingredients can be simply delicious…and it was. They had a gluten-free option, too, so I was in!

How’s this description for your taste buds?

Poached, organic chicken with rice simmered in chicken stock and Thai herbs, served with sauce of fermented soybeans, ginger, garlic, thai chilies, vinegar, house made syrup and soy sauce. Garnished with cucumbers and cilantro, and accompanied by a light soup

What We Ate: Chicken & Rice with sauce (Khao Man Gai)

a.n.d. Cafe

5420 E Burnside St, Portland; 503-233-4550; http://andcafepdx.com

IMG_7150This was our last official stop and was a welcome meal after running a 5k through Portland that morning. Once again, we were given a whole menu of delicious dairy-free, gluten-free options. This place was a bit off the beaten path but well worth the run there!

What We Ate

  • Full Nest with 2 poached eggs
  • Hashtastic with a poached egg

Slow Squeeze Juice Bar

2880 SE Division St, Portland; www.slowsqueezejuice.com

IMG_6795Another gem at the Tidbit Food Farm pod, I swung by Slow Squeeze while I was waiting for my waffle to be finished. The turmeric tonic made with fresh turmeric root, carrot, spinach, apple, cucumber and ginger caught my eye and gave my immunity and digestive system a nice boost before enjoying my Smaaken waffle.

What I Drank: Turmeric Tonic

KURE Juice Bar

Multiple locations; http://kurejuicebar.com/

IMG_7146 IMG_6875This was another gem and a place we hit up twice on our trip – once for lunch, and then the next day for breakfast. They use organic ingredients and are, like so many other places in Portland, gluten-free and dairy-free, so I had lots of options to choose from. No matter time of day it is, you can find something at Kure to give you a nourishing energy boost.

What We Ate / Drank

  • Vietnum Bowl (recommended by Britt from Harlow)
  • Full Moon Salad
  • Eisenhart Smoothie
  • Bowl of the Gods Acai Smoothie Bowl
  • Green eLemonator Juice

Greenleaf Juicing Company

Multiple locations; http://greenleafjuice.com/

IMG_7153Another juice, smoothie, and acai bowl in the heart of Portland, I decided to check it out after seeing their menu of steamed soups. They use a broth of fresh-pressed vegetable juice – celery, carrots, etc. and steam it with an array of vegetables before blending it all in a high-powered blender. It was a little windy the day we stopped by, so a cup a soup was a perfect between-meal snack to hold me over.

What We Ate

  • Zen Shot
  • Spinach & Cauliflower Steamed Soup

Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

610 SW 12th Ave, Portland; Saturday Farmer’s Market; 503-841-5961; http://petuniaspiesandpastries.com/

A gluten-free, vegan bakery. It seemed too good to be true. It was our first purchase at the market, and while we were debating which goodies to purchase, a local came up to the stand and said, “They have the best donuts at the market,” as he noshed on a bagel from New Cascadia, a 100% gluten-free bakery. We were sold. Now, I wouldn’t say this was the most nourishing stop on the trip (after all, we were eating donuts!), but it was one that gave me the opportunity to try a food I hadn’t eaten in years, so why not? Live a little 🙂

What We Ate

  • Chai Donut (yes, please!)
  • Chocolate Mousse Donut

Back to Eden Bakery

2217 NE Alberta St, Portland; Tidbit Food Farm Food Truck Pod; 503-477-5022; www.backtoedenbakery.com

IMG_7152A gluten-free, vegan bakery. Again, I was in heaven! At the recommendation of our AirBNB hosts, whose son is gluten-free, we checked out this place…twice. They have a food cart at what was arguably the best food cart pod for healthy options (Tidbit Food Farm) as well as a storefront in the Alberta neighborhood. We went to both because…why not?

What We Ate

  • The Alberta Park Sundae
  • Peanut Butter Toffee Bar

Smaaken Waffles

2880 SE Division St, Portland; www.smaaken.com

IMG_7157In retrospect, our trip to Portland gave me an opportunity to indulge in some foods I never eat at home because of the lack of places that make them in Baltimore. If I want waffles, I have to make them myself or use Simple Mills boxed mix (so good!), so it was nice to have someone make me one for a change. ALL of their items can be ordered with gluten-free and/or vegan batter.

This was one of the food trucks at the Tidbit Food Farm & Garden (arguably the best food cart pod in Portland!).

What We Ate: I had the special, which was a gluten-free waffle with roasted beets, arugula, and an egg (subbed that in instead of the chèvre). It was fun and messy to eat…and delicious.

Vtopia Restaurant & Cheese Shop

1628 SW Jefferson St., Portland; 971-271-7656; http://vtopiancheeses.com/

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Shortly after posting a picture of our cheese plate from this place, my friend Yvette texted me, “The cheese plate is vegan?!?!?!? No lo creo. No entiendo!!” (Translation: I don’t believe it. I don’t understand!).

When you don’t eat dairy, cheese is one of the foods you miss because, well, nothing else really tastes or feels like cheese…except cheese. Having said that, vegan chefs have gotten incredibly creative with their recipes to reinvent the texture, consistency and tang of dairy-based cheeses by using ingredients like raw cashews.

What We Ate: Cheese Plate with 5 cheeses: Chive & Dill, Peppercorn Brie, Cheddar, Caramelized Onion Camembert, Chocolate Strawberry Brie with gluten-free bread, fruit compote, and pickled vegetables

Salt & Straw

Multiple locations in Portland and Los Angeles; http://saltandstraw.com

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Sometimes you wonder if the long lines outside of popular eateries are just another tourist trap. We decided to take the risk and wait in the 20-minute line (there was ALWAYS a line)…and it was so worth it.

Since I was a kid, my favorite ice cream has been mint chocolate chip. I had it in every birthday cake for as long as I can remember (you know, the Carvel cakes with the chocolate crunchies?).

Since removing dairy from my diet, finding a respectable mint chocolate chip ice cream that doesn’t have a funky aftertaste has been a challenge. So I was skeptical but open when I found out that one of Salt & Straw’s vegan ice cream flavors was none of there than Petunia’s Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream.

HOLY COW! It was worth the wait in every way. It lived up to every expectation – smooth, creamy, minty, crunchy, chocolatey and downright delicious. I didn’t want the magic to end.

Maple Parlor

3538 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland; 503-206-4757; www.themapleparlor.com

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Conveniently, it was a block away from Harlow, which made it the perfect stop for our first dessert in Portland. Not only do they have paleo ice cream options (the peanut butter hard serve is to die for!), but they have a toppings bar that is entirely gluten-free. Score!

What We Ate: Twist of Cashew Maple & Peanut Butter Cashew soft serve with Oregon Berry Compote and Granola

Eb & Bean

1425 NE Broadway Portland; 503-281-6081; www.ebandbean.com

IMG_7154Ice cream is such a treat for me because I rarely eat it but absolutely love it. Finding this gem right around the corner from our lunch visit to Blossoming Lotus was one of the highlights of our sweet treat experience in Portland.

What We Ate: Twist of Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding and Coconut Caramel Cream soft serve flavors topped with Honey Mama’s CocoNoNut bar and gluten-free, vegan cookie dough crumbles

Townshend Tea House

Multiple locations; www.townshendstea.com

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We stopped by this tea house on our last night there and were wowed by their tea selection. I’ve never seen so many tea options in my life! They sell tea, kombucha and coffee, and the vibe is super cool. I wish Baltimore had a place like this!

What We Drank

  • Tummy Tamer Tea (post Portobello dinner)
  • Chamomile Mint Tea

Places to Check Out Next Time

  • Ava Gene’s
  • The Bye & Bye
  • Gigi’s Cafe
  • Prasad
  • Xico

Non-Food Fun

IMG_7080Clearly, we like to eat…but we also like to do other things! Check out the list below for some fun ideas for things to do around Portland:

  • Cannon Beach (the rock from The Goonies movie!)
  • Cascade River Gorge
  • Living Room Theater
  • Powell’s Book Store
  • Saturday Waterfront Market
  • Bike Rentals (Nike has orange bike rentals throughout the city)
  • Jet Boat Tour (recommended but we didn’t get to do it)
  • 4T Tour (recommended but we didn’t get to it)
sesame-cookies-miller

Raw Blueberry Cashew Gelato & Sesame Tahini Cookies

Did you know that the same foods that support our heart and help it heal can also boost our mood? Foods that help one part of the body tend to be good for others as well.

During a recent Heart Healthy Happy Hour hosted by the Institute for Integrative Health in Baltimore, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Michael Miller, preventive cardiologist, speak about the importance of taking care of our heart, so we can feel good, be well and live longer. For a recap of the top three tips he shared (and a video that will make you laugh until you cry), check out the last blog post here.

To enhance the presentation and bring it to life, his wife, Dr. Lisa Miller, a podiatrist and chief recipe creator, showed everyone how to make the two recipes I’m sharing with you in today’s post. They are perfect for summer, refreshing, colorful and delicious!

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During his presentation, Dr. Miller highlighted some of the top 50 heart-healing, mood-boosting foods, and the recipes prepared highlighted nearly a dozen of those ingredients. For the health benefits of these ingredients, check out my last blog post.

As with all of the recipes on my blog, both of these recipes are dairy-free and gluten-free. The first is raw and both are vegan. Enjoy 🙂

Raw Blueberry Cashew Gelato

blueberry-gelato

Ingredients
1/4 cup raw cashews (preferably soaked overnight in salted water)
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 tsp maca powder (optional)

Directions

  1. Drain cashews (if soaked) and discard soaking liquid.
  2. Place all ingredients in blender as listed and blend until smooth and uniform resembling gelato/ice cream. A high-powered blender works best for this. Add a tablespoon spoon or so of almond milk if it isn’t blending easily enough but keep it minimal so the dessert stays thick.
  3. Pour into pretty cups and serve immediately.
  4. Top with your favorite granola or a sesame tahini cookie, if desired.

Sesame Tahini Cookies

sesame-cookies-miller

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup tahini
1 tsp almond extract
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda.
  3. In a small bowl, blend tahini, maple syrup, almond extract and oil.
  4. Blend dry and wet ingredients together.
  5. Add in sesame seeds.
  6. Form dough into 1” balls and flatten slightly.
  7. Bake at 350F for about 8-10 minutes until lightly brown.

Once cool, you can can dip 1/2 of the cookie in melted dark chocolate and place in the fridge to harden. Otherwise, serve them as a side to the raw blueberry cashew ice cream!

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