Month: July 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

Deliciously Dairy-Free Mini Cheesecakes…3 Ways!

Incredibly Creamy. Magically Melt-In-Your-Mouth. Deliciously Dairy-Free.

Cheesecakes…without cheese?

Chocolate peanut butter cup cheesecake

Chocolate peanut butter cup cheesecake

Since I look and feel my best without milk products, cream, and cheese but still like foods to have a creamy texture (especially desserts, dips and sauces!), I find healthy, alternative ways to prepare them. All of the recipes on this blog are dairy-free (i.e., no milk from mammals!).

This is one of those recipes that I tried on a whim, never having made dairy-free cheesecakes before.

I know it sounds crazy to think that raw cashews could possibly turn into a base creamy enough to imitate cheesecake, but somehow it just works.

Peanut butter cheesecake

Peanut butter cheesecake

These little treats turned out SO great. I was pleasantly surprised. I would have eaten the whole pan of them on my own. 🙂

About 10 friends and coworkers and my hubby tried these and raved about them…they were shocked that the base was made of cashews!

Deliciously Dairy-Free Mini Cheesecakes…3 Ways! (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

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Chocolate peanut butter cup and blueberry lemon swirl cheesecakes

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes then drained)
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • Pinch sea salt

Part 1: Basic Filling

  • 1.5 cups raw, unsalted cashews (soaked in water 4-6 hours then pour off the water and rinse the cashews)
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons full fat coconut milk (for the creamiest texture, scoop the cream off of the top when you open the can)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

Part 2: Filling Options (You can just use the basic recipe and prepare them as is, but I made these 3 variations, and they turned out well. My favorite was the peanut butter one!)

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Peanut Butter: Add 3-4 tablespoons natural peanut butter (peanuts and maybe salt as the only ingredients) to the basic filling. Taste it, and add more peanut butter until you reach your desired peanut buttery taste.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup: Follow steps for peanut butter cheesecakes above. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips on top (I use Enjoy Life brand) or shave some dark chocolate on top. Green & Black and Theo are two of my favorite brands of dark chocolate! Look for >70% cacao content.

Blueberry Lemon Swirl: Bring 1 cup of blueberries to a boil in a small pot, stirring constantly, smashing the blueberries with a spoon as you stir. Turn heat to medium low. Mix 1 tablespoon of water with 2 teaspoons of arrowroot powder or cornstarch and mix it in with the blueberries. Continue stirring and mashing until the mixture becomes gel-like. Set the blueberry sauce aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Directions

1) Add dates to a food processor and blend until it forms into a ball. Remove from container and set aside.

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2) Add nuts to the food processor and process until finely ground. Add date ball back in and blend until a loose dough forms – it should stick together when you squeeze a bit between your fingers. Add a pinch of sea salt to taste.

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3) Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of the crust into the bottom of a silicone muffin pan and press with fingers, small glass or the bottom of a spice bottle (this worked best for me). Set in freezer to firm up.

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4) Add all filling ingredients to a blender and mix until very smooth. If you don’t have a Vitamix (you don’t need one!), blend them for a minute and then liquify or puree until silky smooth.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If adding peanut butter, add to the blender and mix until thoroughly combined. Leave it as a peanut butter cheesecake OR sprinkle a few chocolate chips or shavings on top.

If flavoring with blueberry sauce, wait and swirl 1 teaspoon of it on top of plain cheesecakes before freezing.

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5) Divide filling evenly among the muffin tins. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until hard – about 4-6 hours.

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6) Pop the cheesecakes out of the muffin pan and set them out at room temperature 15-20 minutes to thaw them out. They taste best (and creamiest!) when thawed out, but they will melt if you leave them out beyond about 40 minutes, so watch them carefully!

The cheesecakes will keep in the freezer for 1-2 weeks.

The cheesecake trio thawing out, so we can devour them!

The cheesecake trio thawing out, so we can devour them!

This recipe is adapted from the easy vegan cheesecake recipe from Minimalist Baker. 

Why I Became a Qualitarian…And How It Changed My Life

People often ask me how and what to eat. I’ve been asked the following questions:

“I’ve heard you should only eat 9 almonds a day…Is that true?”

“Is it really okay to eat frozen fruits and vegetables?

“What kind of bread do you eat?”

“Should I be eating paleo? Vegan? Vegetarian? Raw?”

We have a tendency to want to label the way we eat and what we eat. It makes sense because it provides a shortcut, and we love shortcuts because they make life a bit easier.

If I had to answer the question about what to eat or what “diet” I’m on, I’d borrow a word coined by Dr. Mark Hyman and say this:

I’m a qualitarian who focuses on eating unprocessed, fresh, whole foods that are – when possible – organic and locally grown or raised.

And, in the wise words of Michael Pollan, I strive to “eat food, not too much, mostly plants, especially leaves.” leafy green veggies…not leaves from a tree 🙂

In addition, because of my personal health history and what I’ve learned about my body over the years about the impact of two foods on my health, I avoid milk products and wheat.

I leave room for indulgences like birthday cake, high quality dark chocolate, or a homemade cookie or cupcake, but I focus on eating nourishing foods most of the time because I feel most energized and alive when I doI like feeling good.

I choose to do what I do because of how it makes me feel.

Feeling good on my 30th birthday...celebrating another special year of life at a nearby French restaurant with my hubby!

Feeling good on my 30th birthday…celebrating another special year of life at a French restaurant with my hubby!

I’ve been encouraged and motivated by all of the benefits I’ve experienced since becoming a qualitarian:

  • I’ve lost and kept off 20 pounds for over 4 years
  • I naturally stay within 3-5 pounds of the same weight
  • I have sustained energy all day long (no caffeine needed and no 3:00 crash!)
  • My skin is clearer than it’s ever been and is blemish-free 99% of the time. (I had dry skin most of my life and some mild adult acne in my early 20s, so this is a big deal for me!)
  • I rarely get sick, and if I do it’s not for very long
  • I no longer have seasonal allergies or suffer from sinus congestion
  • My digestion has improved tremendously (almost no more burping, bloating, or gas!)
  • I’m medication-free for the first time since I was a teenager and no longer have acid reflux/heartburn

This food list by one of my favorite nutrition and health experts – Dr. Junger – captures the gist of what I eat (since people sometimes want specifics!), but I eat things outside of this list as well, so these are just the general guidelines by which I make food choices rather than absolutes.

My qualitarian “diet” focuses on fruit, veggies, beans, gluten-free grains/cereals/pastas, nuts and seeds, free-range/grass-fed animal meats/eggs as well as vinegars, oils, herbs and spices for flavoring and cooking.

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned since changing what and how I eat and delving deeper into studying nutrition is that most of us are overfed yet undernourished.

Most of what we’re eating is so nutrient-deficient that our body tells us to keep eating – it’s not being “fed” what it needs. What we’re eating actually depletes our body of nutrients, making us work even harder to replace them. It’s only when we start taking in nourishing food that contains nutrients we need to thrive that we can really start to feel full and satisfied.

I’ve found that following a few clear and simple Food Rules from Michael Pollan’s book of the same name (GREAT book!) helps to keep me on track.

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1) Eat food, not too much, mostly plants, especially leaves.

I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I make plants a priority at each meal. Upgrading my diet to include lots of plants has been a key to me keeping off weight and not getting sick. I focus on incorporating a variety of leafy greens because they are anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, oxygenating and contain disease-fighting, anti-aging compounds. Overall, I eat more vegetables now than I ever have before.

I treat veggies more like the main course and the other foods (grass-fed meat, gluten-free grains, beans, etc.) as the side dishes.

2) Eat real food.

What’s real food? Something that grew in the ground, on a tree, or in a field OR was at one time alive and moving on land, air or water. The life in food makes us feel alive.

So much of what we eat today isn’t real food, it’s a food-like substance. We wouldn’t find the ingredients in a normal person’s pantry…they’re more likely to be found in a chemistry lab.

The remaining rules will give you a better idea of how to tell if something is a real food or food-like substance.

Eating real food means enjoying lots of fresh fruits and veggies!

Eating real food means enjoying lots of fresh and colorful fruits and veggies!

3) If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

Did someone have to wear a surgical mask and a full body suit to manufacture your food? Would you even recognize your food as food when it is being “created” like this American favorite?

Focus on eating real food vs. what was processed in an industrial plant. It’ll have fewer chemicals, your body will know what to do with it, and you’ll look and feel better and more energized.

4) Eat only foods that will eventually rot.

In general, the faster a food spoils, the more nutrients it has and the better it is for you. If a processed food stays “fresh” on the shelf or in your pantry for a year, what’s in it that’s making it last so long? Most likely lots of chemicals, preservatives and other harmful additives that overburden and damage our bodies.

Check out this story about a man who kept a McDonald’s burger for 14 years and how well it was preserved.

5) Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients.

This is a great rule of thumb to follow. Is it a hard and fast rule with no exceptions? No, but try to keep it in mind the next time you’re grocery shopping or cleaning out your pantry. Forget about the pretty marketing on the front of the package and go straight to the ingredient list. Aim for foods with fewer ingredients, ideally 5 or fewer.

If you want to take an initial step and make healthier choices when it comes to processed foods, check out this super cool, free app on your phone. If you have kids, have them use it and strive for “Bs or better,” just like they would in school.

The Fooducate app. Download it on to your phone today!

The Fooducate app. Download it on to your phone today!

6) Avoid food products that contain ingredients a third-grader can’t pronounce.

Assuming we’re not talking about the genius third-graders who are winning the national spelling bee, if a third grader can’t pronounce it, chances are it is not a real, whole food. In other words, it probably won’t give you lasting energy, help you lose weight, or keep you healthy.

Sodium benzoate or monosodium glutamate (MSG), anyone?

7) Cook.

We’ve lost touch with where our food comes from and how it is prepared. We all feel pressed for time these days, but most of us (myself included!) still find at least an hour a day to be online, watching TV, or on social media at home. Cooking doesn’t mean you have to be a fancy chef either. Just focus on using simple ingredients with simple preparations. Start with something like this burrito bowl or one of these smoothies.

We always make time for the things that matter. If we want to be in the best health possible, cooking matters. 

I had to throw in ONE final bonus rule…

8) If you eat real food, you don’t need rules!

Focus on eating more whole foods that don’t come in packages. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store or, better yet, the farmer’s market. Eat food that was once alive. 

This way of eating can fit into even the busiest life. It can (and should!) taste delicious. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. Check out this post for tips on how to eat organic without going broke. For links to all of the recipes I’ve posted on this blog, click here.

Caribbean Island Breeze Smoothie {Vegan, Paleo, Dairy-Free}

This smoothie takes me back to August 2011 when my hubby and I were relaxing poolside on our honeymoon in Jamaica.

We tried all different kinds of mixed drinks while we were there and loved the island flavors. We also enjoyed fresh fruit every day, including papaya, pineapple and mango. The island was beautiful and definitely felt like paradise!

On the beach in Jamaica, mon!

On the beach in Jamaica, mon!

Fast forward almost three years, and Bill and I have found a way to bring some of those island flavors to our kitchen through our cooking AND smoothie making!

We enjoy a smoothie just about every day for breakfast because it fills us up for hours and is a quick and easy way to get a concentrated source of anti-aging, disease fighting, energy-boosting nutrients into our diet. For all of those reasons, it’s also one of the ways I effortlessly regulate my weight. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of green smoothies.

In today’s smoothie, I used a variety of super healthy ingredients that come together to bring you a taste of paradise 🙂

Coconut Water

Think of coconut water as the new Gatorade…but healthier! Gatorade is loaded with chemicals, refined sugar and artificial colors and flavors that don’t nourish our bodies. Coconut water is a great natural source of electrolytes – minerals in our blood and body fluids that carry an electric charge, which affects the amount of water in our body, muscle function, and a variety of other processes.

Harmless Harvest makes my favorite coconut water (which I just found out Safeway sells! Whole Foods, MOMs and Wegmans sell it, too). This site has a great post about the top 10 ways your body benefits from coconut water. To learn more about the best coconut water brands click here.

Leafy Greens

A curly bunch of kale!

A curly bunch of kale!

Leafy greens are one of the most nutrient-dense, disease-fighting, health-promoting foods in the world, foods we should eat a lot of on a daily basis. They are detoxifying (clean us out!), antiinflammatory (cool the body), cancerfighting, oxygenating, alkaline (reduce acidity in our body), and loaded with anti-aging antioxidants and nutrients.

It’s important to rotate your greens, too. Variety is the spice of life 🙂 Check out this link for tips on how to do that. I like to rotate between kale (baby and regular), spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard and Romaine lettuce.

Pineapple

The magic of pineapple is an enzyme called “bromelain” (say it, “BRO-ma-lane”). This enzyme breaks down proteins and foods and is a natural detoxifier (AKA body gunk cleaner outer). It also helps improve circulation and reduce mucus, which builds up in our digestive system, sinuses, and respiratory system. Clearing out mucus is important for overall health and beauty. Pineapple also contains manganese, which promotes skin healing and overall skin health.

Chia Seeds

Ch-ch-ch-chia seeds! You can find these at any health food store, Wegmans, Trader Joes or online at Amazon, Vitacost or other stores.

Ch-ch-ch-chia seeds! You can find these at any health food store, Wegmans, Trader Joes or online at Amazon, Vitacost or other stores.

These teeny tiny seeds are a beauty detox and anti-inflammatory super food. They swell to 10-15 times their original size when combined with liquid and form a gel, which helps to keep us feeling full and hydrated for hours.

Since they contain lots of fiber, they help balance our blood sugar and keep energy levels up. Their gel-like consistency promotes optimal digestion and keeps things moving in our digestive system (trust me, we want to keep things moving!).

Lastly, they contain high levels of antioxidants, which help counteract the damage of things like stress, poor diet, smoking and other health stressors, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for balancing hormones and nerve functions.

Bananas, shredded coconut, and mango are a few other ingredients in this smoothie that are loaded with health benefits, too, but let’s just get on with the recipeTo learn more about the health benefits of any one of those foods, check out this link for the World’s Healthiest Foods.

Caribbean Island Breeze Smoothie

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Print

Caribbean Island Breeze Smoothie

Inspired by the tropical flavors from our honeymoon, this smoothie is packed with nourishment and will keep you full for hours!

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 2
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 2 cups filtered water or coconut water
  • 2 cups baby spinach loosely packed
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1 banana peeled and frozen
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds or hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 avocado flesh
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender, in the order listed above, and blend for 30-60 seconds until the smoothie is fully blended.

Recipe Notes

**If you don't have a high powered blender, try blending just the liquid and greens FIRST and then add in the other ingredients once the greens have blended.**

tropical-breeze smoothie

Ooey Gooey Triple Berry Peach Crumble (GF, DF)

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This is hands down one of the richest, most decadent desserts I’ve ever made. It was EASY, too.

I loved the Tripleberry Smoothie from Orange Julius when I was a kid, and this dessert is an even better version of that.

Berries are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They are…

  • Anti-inflammatory (reduce inflammation, reduce disease and weight!)
  • Cancer fighters (one of the top GBOMBS foods!)
  • Fiber-filled and low in sugar
  • Loaded with anti-aging and beautifying antioxidants, vitamins and minerals

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The juice from the peach berry filling bubbled up on the sides of the dish during baking and oozed out beneath the crispy, crumbly crust once it was plated. The dollop of velvety whipped cream to finish it off melted into the warm topping.

Oh my ooey gooey berry goodness. 

I tried to make this dessert last as long as possible because it was so good. I brought some into the office to share with my co-workers (who are so supportive of what I do!), and they enjoyed it as well.

Honestly, it got gooier (is that a word?) over time and tasted just as good the third day as it did the first.

You have to try it for yourself! 🙂

Triple Berry Peach Crumble (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

This is one of the most delicious desserts I've ever made!

This is one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever made. Topped with some yummy coconut whipped cream!

Inspired by the Wild Berry Crumble Recipe from the book Undiet.

Fruit Filling

  • 6-7 cups fruit of choice (chopped roughly the same size). I used the following combo:
  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 1.5 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 peach
  • Optional: 1/4 cup raw honey (use regular if you can’t find raw)
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot starch (It’s used as a thickening agent like cornstarch but won’t get all gelled up when it cools. You can sub in cornstarch if that’s what you have)

Topping

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats (cheap at Trader Joe’s!)
  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw honey (use regular if you can’t find raw)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix together the fruit, arrowroot starch, and honey (if using) in a bowl and then place in a glass baking dish or pie plate. I used a 9 x 13 baking dish. There’s no need to coat the dish with anything before baking.
  3. Mix topping with your hands until slightly crumbly and sprinkle by hand over fruit mixture, spreading evenly.
  4. If the fruit doesn’t look completely covered, sprinkle on additional flour, nuts/seeds until the fruit is covered.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

I topped it with a silky, rich and creamy dairy-free whipped creamClick here for the recipe and step-by-step tutorial for how to make your own healthy whipped cream!

You saw the pretty plate before...here's the plate after :)

You saw the pretty plate before…here’s the plate after 🙂 Crushed it!

Mexican-Inspired Black Bean Quinoa Salad {Gluten-Free}

It’s summer, and you know what that means?

Cookouts!

When the weather is warmer, we often crave lighter, more cooling foods. For that reason, I like to prepare healthier alternatives to the heavier potato, egg and pasta side salads we typically see at picnics, potlucks and cookouts.

If you want a quick and delicious dish to bring to your next cookout or potluck, give this one a try! It’s packed with plant-based protein, healthy fats, filling fiber, and TONS of flavor.

It also gave me a reason to use these beautiful spring onions 🙂

Aren't these pretty?

This recipe was inspired by one from Angela, who writes an amazing blog over at ohsheglows. She just came out with her first cookbook, too! It’s on my wish list.

I made a few tweaks to the salad itself and the dressing based on the flavors we like.

The original recipe called for 3 times as much cilantro, but I find cilantro to have a very strong taste, so I reduced it. I also tossed in some creamy avocado and added a little more flavor to the dressing by throwing in some chili powder and a subtle pinch of cayenne pepper.

As always, Bill added a few shakes of hot sauce on top of his bowl and liked it so much that he went back for seconds! Success 🙂

Cumin-Lime Black Bean Quinoa Salad

This salad was delicious. Bill went back for seconds AND had leftovers for lunch the next day! Servings: 6

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (or 3 cups cooked). Click here for how to cook perfect quinoa every time. You could also sub in brown rice instead.
  • 1 thumb-sized piece kombu (find it in the Asian aisle of the grocery store)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans (or 1.5 cups cooked), drained and rinsed. We like the brand “Eden.”
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, grated/shredded (about 1.5 cups)
  • 4 green onions/scallions, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Rinse quinoa under cold water in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Set quinoa aside.
  2. Add ghee to medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute 3-4 minutes or until they start to soften. Then, add garlic and saute 1 more minute.
  3. Add quinoa to pot along with kombu and 2 cups water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover about 12-15 minutes or until you see little white tails pop off the quinoa and no water remains. DO NOT STIR the quinoa during this time.
  4. After cooking the quinoa, dispose of the kombu piece, and let the quinoa cool for 10-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork if needed.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, drained and rinsed black beans, cilantro, carrots, green onions and avocado.
  6. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour the dressing onto the salad, and toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Make the salad the day before your next cookout, potluck or party, and the flavors will come together even more once you serve it. If you make it ahead of time, throw the avocado on just before serving, so it’s as bright green as possible.

Chunky Monkey Peanut Butter Chocolate Milkshake (Dairy-Free)

If you…

Are a chocohalic craving healthier sweet treats.

Love the taste of peanut butter and chocolate, especially in cool, creamy desserts.

Don’t want to deal with the bloating and tummy ache that usually follows a thick, dairy-based milkshake…

Then you have to try this chunky monkey peanut butter chocolate milkshake!

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Peanut butter + chocolate is one of my absolute favorite food combinations, and they come together wonderfully in this recipe.

I was inspired by a recipe I found on The Detoxinista’s website for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake and put my own spin on it to come up with what is now one of my favorite smoothie shakes.

I subbed in raw cacao powder for the cocoa powder. Raw cacao powder is loaded with disease-fighting, anti-aging antioxidants along with tons of other vitamins and minerals.

Because it’s not heat-treated like traditional cocoa powder, cacao powder has more nutrients intact. It’s our go-to add-in to give smoothies, shakes and desserts a chocolatety tasteThis is where we buy cacao powder, but you can find it at any health food store, Wegmans, and even at Home Goods.

This smoothie shake tastes so creamy, rich and decadent that you won’t believe it’s healthy. Like all of my recipes, it’s dairy-free, so it’s easier on your stomach and digestion than milk/yogurt/ice cream-based shakes.

Goodbye, tummyache…hello, tasty shake! 🙂

Chunky Monkey Peanut Butter Chocolate Milkshake (Dairy-Free)

Peanut butter chocolatey goodness!

Peanut butter chocolatey goodness!

Servings: 2 (cut recipe in half for a single serving)

Ingredients* (see notes below)

  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk, homemade or store-bought
  • 2 frozen bananas (Make sure you peel them before freezing them. We keep a stash in our freezer)
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed/flax meal
  • 3-4 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 3 large Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1-2 handfuls baby spinach (you won’t taste it, I promise!)
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender for 30-60 seconds, starting with the liquid first.
  2. Sprinkle some raw cacao nibs on top for a little extra crunch!

A few notes about the ingredients:

  1. We buy Silk Vanilla Unsweetened almond milk when we don’t make it ourselves. Making it is surprisingly easy though!
  2. The fiber and omega-3 fats from the flaxseed help to fill you up and give your body a dose of brain and heart healthy fats.
  3. When we buy peanut butter, we buy brands that have no added sugars, oils or salt. Ideally, the only ingredient on the ingredient list will be “peanuts.”
  4. If your dates are hard, soak them in warm water for 10 minutes to soften them up before blending. It will make it easier.

Zucchini Basil Pesto Sauce (Watch Me Make It!)

I LOVE pesto. It’s my favorite Italian sauce for pasta, veggies, and even chicken.

Anything with basil and garlic in it is bound to taste good, right?

Most pesto sauce recipes are loaded with oil, cheese, and pine nuts, all of which can be clogging to our bodies if eaten in excess. I’m a huge fan of pine nuts and love the way they taste, but there are one of the most expensive nuts you can buy, so I wanted to share a recipe that uses walnuts instead.

This recipe also includes a “surprise” ingredient that you’ve probably never seen in pesto…zucchini!

Zucchini adds creaminess to the sauce and boosts its nutrient content.

I like serving pesto over top of zucchini pesto noodles AKA “zoodles.” (click the link for a “how to” demo!).

Oil-Free Zucchini Basil Pesto Sauce

The completed pesto sauce!

Ingredients

1 cup diced zucchini (no need to peel it!)
1 handful fresh basil leaves (about 3/4 oz.)
2 garlic cloves (the recipe called for 4 cloves, but I found that to be wayyy too much, so I would use 2)
½ cup raw walnuts
3 tablespoons water (the recipe calls for a 1/4 cup, but I found that slightly less – 3 T works best)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

*I also added in about 2-3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast to give it a little more of a “cheezy” flavor, but you can taste test it yourself and decide whether or not you want to add that in!

Click here for the super simple directions from one of my favorite bloggers and fellow health coaches, The Detoxinista. You can also watch my How To video below!

The Easiest Chocolate Chip Cookies You'll Ever Make (Gluten-Free, Too!)

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Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies?

I have lots of memories baking with my mom as a kid and eating gobs of Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough by the spoonful with my brother.

When I found today’s recipe and saw how simple it was (and how basic the ingredients were!), I had to give it a try. I welcomed the addition of peanut butter into the mix because peanut butter makes just about everything taste even better 🙂

The dough is free of refined white sugar, the usual 2 sticks of butter, and white flour in a traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe, but make no mistake, even without those ingredients, these cookies are DELICIOUS, and I bet you already have ALL of the ingredients in your pantry!

I gave a fresh just-out-of-the-oven cookie to Bill, and he took one bite, gave me a look that said “holy cow these are awesome” and then proceeded to finish off the rest of cookie in a single bite! We will be making these simple cookies again and again, and I guarantee you (and your kids) will love them.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Servings: Our batch made about 18 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup creamy peanut butter, unsalted (preferably organic)
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (we used honey)
1 whole egg, or a flax egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 tsp vanilla extract* (I added this ingredient to the original recipe)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (We use Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels since they are free of dairy, gluten, and soy and contain only 2 ingredients)

*As you’ll see where I starred above, I added about 3/4 tsp of vanilla extract (what cookie is complete without vanilla?!), and I think that helped to further enhance the flavor. Click here for the full recipe from The Detoxinista!

Healthy Snack Alert! 5-Ingredient No-Bake Fig Newton Bites

My hubby loves Fig Newtons.

His claim to fame? He can eat them by the sleeve. Quite a feat!

After checking out the ingredient list on a package of Fig Newtons, including the whole grain ones we used to buy, I decided I wanted to find a healthier way to create a similar taste and texture but without all of the processed ingredients in the traditional fig cookies.

We make it a priority to nourish ourselves with high quality, wholesome food because we want to be around for each other in as optimal health as possible for a long time 🙂

How do I decide whether or not something is a nourishing food choice? I’ve found it helpful to follow some of Michael Pollan’s food rules:

  1. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
  2. Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients.
  3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in a pantry.

I love the simplicity and directness of his common sense approach to eating! 

The core ingredients in this Fig Newton bites

The core ingredients in these Fig Newton bites

Now, back to the bites!

These Fig Newton Bites are awesome for a few reasons:

  • Only 5 ingredients
  • No baking required
  • They taste like the filling of a Fig Newton!

You could easily whip up this simple recipe with your kids in a matter of minutes. The combination of protein, fiber, healthy fats and a touch of salt makes these a great choice for a filling and healthy snack.

My husband, Bill, has been bringing the bites with him as a snack to the summer camp where he works as a counselor. In fact, the other day he gave one to another counselor, who responded by saying he was surprised by how good they tasted…and has asked for more each day Bill brings them!

5-Ingredient No-Bake Fig Newton Bites

IMG_5208

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dried figs (remove the hard stems)
  • 1 cup walnuts halves
  • ¼ cup flaxseed meal*
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

You can find flaxseed meal in the gluten free aisle of any grocery store, online, or at Home Goods!

Click here for the full recipe from another blogger, The Lemon Bowl.

My 30 Truths @ 30

Celebrating my first birthday 30 years ago in my parents' backyard! That standup piano must have been my introduction to music!

Celebrating my first birthday 30 years ago in my parents’ backyard, surrounded by friends, family and neighbors.

I’ll be 30 tomorrow. 

I’ve been tremendously blessed over the past 30 years and am incredibly grateful for all of the amazing people whose paths have crossed mine during that time.

I’ve been loved by and learned countless lessons from my family, friends, neighbors, church communities, teachers, classmates, co-workers, clients, and those I’ve been privileged to serve.

I’ve grown and been stretched through school, work, sermons, retreats, service, health coach training, and studying abroad.

Last weekend, my husband, friends and family schemed together to throw me a surprise party to celebrate my 30th. They ordered food, treats, and an amazing carrot cake from my favorite places (Great Sage & Jinji chocolates), hung rustic birthday banners in my favorite colors, made quinoa/veggie centerpieces, and truly surprised me.

I felt loved and special.

A few shots from my surprise party. They got me!

A few shots from my surprise party. They got me!

Due to the encouragement of a wise friend, I gave myself an extended weekend by taking off today and tomorrow, so I could have an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned over the first 30 years of my life and to help me refocus going forward.

Last night, Bill and I were looking through pictures to print out and hang up on the walls in our basement. I have to admit that I was a bit saddened by one of the first realizations that crossed my mind as I was reflecting.  

Over the past year or so, I’ve been taking more pictures of food than I have of the people in my life.

This is true despite the fact that I’ve intentionally spent more time in community in the past 5 years than ever before – having friends over for dinner, hosting our small group from church, meeting up with friends while Bill catches up with his buddies, and expanding my family through marriages and births.

Sure, the nature of what I do, including writing this blog, lends itself to taking way more pictures of food than I ever thought possible, but it’s no excuse.

I’ve had some time of quiet reflection today to take stock of what I’ve learned through all of the wonderful people in my life and from transformational books I’ve read to come up with “My 30 Truths @ 30.” Here they are:

  1. If you value it, you will find time for it.
  2. We are more alike than we are different. We all need to feel valued, accepted and affirmed. (Brene Brown)
  3. Shower yourself and other people with grace. We’re all doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are.
  4. Don’t rely on outside forces to confirm your reality. Be an intentional creator of your life. (Danielle LaPorte)
  5. If you have been called in a specific direction, you have all the skills you need to be successful. (Andrea Beaman)
  6. There’s plenty of healthy food that tastes good. You don’t have to eat what you don’t like.
  7. Improvement is a far more realistic goal than perfection. (Brene Brown)
  8. Don’t compare yourself with other people. Comparison is the biggest form of unhappiness. (Robert Notter)
  9. Allow yourself to feel worthy. You are worth it. You are important. You are worthy of your desires. (Danielle LaPorte)
  10. Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. (Oprah)
  11. Everything that has happened in your life has happened for you, not to you. Tune in to that distinction. (Marilena Minucci)
  12. The energy of your food creates your energy. Fuel your body with real food, food that was once living, as the life in food gives us life.
  13. In the heart of the pain is the healing. (Paul Epstein)
  14. Everything that feeds us doesn’t come on a plate.
  15. Don’t quit your daydream. Live the life you have imagined.
  16. Get out of your own way.
  17. Allow yourself to honestly and boldly respond to the prompt, “Wouldn’t it be great if…” and then go do that thing.
  18. Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be. (Rick Warren)
  19. You can’t be all things to all people. Your best will be good enough for some and not enough for others. That’s okay.
  20. Take as good care of yourself as you do your pets. (Bernie Siegel)
  21. Be who you came here to be. (Carol Roth)
  22. You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors. (Brene Brown)
  23. Be nice to yourself. It’s hard to be happy when you’re with someone who’s mean to you all day.
  24. What you put at the end of your fork is more powerful than what’s at the bottom of any pill bottle. (Mark Hyman)
  25. We are not alone in our struggles. We are not the only one. (Brene Brown)
  26. Ask and answer this prompt, “If I didn’t have to do it perfectly, I’d try…
  27. Everyone’s perception is not a clear objective reality, but it is a perception worth hearing.
  28. It’s not about “being healthy.” It’s about what health allows you to do. Health is a means, not an end. (Annemarie Colbin)
  29. When your reason “why” is compelling, you’ll figure out how.
  30. Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. (Howard Thurman)

And one to grow on…

31. Take more pictures of and with people 🙂

Celebrating summer with my Link Group from church

Celebrating summer with steamed crabs & my Link Group friends from church!

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