Month: March 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Cinnamony Snickerdoodle Smoothie {Paleo, Vegan}

I always loved Snickerdoodle cookies as a kid.

My brother Zack and I would go to The Great Cookie whenever we were at the mall to buy a few of their warm and soft but perfectly-crunchy-around-the-edges Snickerdoodle cookies.

Fast forward a few decades, and snickerdoodles are now one of my husband Bill’s favorite cookies. My mother-in-law is known for her snickerdoodles, so he’s done quite a bit of taste testing 🙂

I looked around online to see if I could learn anything about where these tasty treats come from and came to the conclusion that “snickerdoodle” comes from a really long German word for “cinnamon sweet roll.”

snickerdoodle soothie

I have plans to make another snack ball treat inspired by snickerdoodles (here’s the recipe for those!), but in the meantime, I thought I’d give a snickerdoodle smoothie a try! I was surprised by how much cinnamon I had to put in to get the flavor I wanted, but I was happy with the final version 🙂

The tahini (sesame paste) in this smoothie is a good source of calcium, iron, heart healthy fats and protein. Learn more about tahini in this post about my Top 10 Pantry Essentials. Tahini also adds some creaminess. The hemp seeds are another source of healthy fat and protein, which we need to help balance our energy and blood sugar levels.

Cinnamon – the signature ingredient in Snickerdoodles – is a naturally sweet tasting spice that helps us regulate our blood sugar, which is key for sustained energy. Check out the top 10 proven health benefits of this super spice from the folks over at Authority Nutrition.

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Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 Medjool date, pitted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (learn how to make your own here)
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions

Put all ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy, about 45-60 seconds.

What was your favorite treat as a kid? Let me know below, and I’ll try to recreate it in a healthier way! 

Addictive Cinna Mocha Fudge Bites {Paleo, Vegan}

I’ve made this recipe four times in the past two weeks, so consider yourself warned 🙂

These little treats are incredibly addictive.

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If you’re looking for a sweet treat chocolate fix, you have to make these!

You’ll feel like you’re biting into a rich, decadent piece of dark chocolate fudge, so it might only take one of these little guys to satisfy your craving. You can whip them up in less than 10 minutes, too. They are very easy to make!

In addition to being loaded with anti-inflammatory walnuts, antioxidant-packed cacao powder, and blood-sugar stabilizing cinnamon, the secret “mocha” ingredient is detoxifying Dandy Blend.

I dedicated a full post to Dandy Blend earlier this week, so check out that post here to learn more and order samples to try for yourself!

dandy blend

I was inspired to make this recipe after I had been experimenting with other chocolatey treat recipes (including these Chewy Cherry Chocolate Brownie Bites!).

I remembered seeing fudge and brownie recipes that included coffee, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Adding a slight coffee taste (this is coming from someone who doesn’t like coffee!) to a chocolate recipe takes the flavor to a whole new level! I know you will love these as much as we do 🙂

mocha bites banner mocha bite

Yield: 16-18 bites

Ingredients

2 cups raw walnuts
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted (about 10-12)
1 heaping tablespoon Dandy Blend
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Add walnuts and salt to food processor and process until finely ground, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add dates, Dandy Blend, cacao powder, coconut oil, vanilla and cinnamon to food processor. Process until combined – about 60 seconds.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Using your hands, form into small round balls, rolling them in your palm. Sprinkle with additional cacao powder, if you’d like.

**Store in a glass container in the fridge (or freezer) for up to two weeks – if they last that long! They will start to melt at room temperature because of the coconut oil, so keep them cool 🙂

What are your favorite healthy sweet treats? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Curb Your Coffee Craving: Upgrade to This!

My earliest memories of coffee are of Saturday morning trips to Belvedere Square Market with my mom after her aerobics class.

Burgeoning burlap sacks of coffee beans lined the floor of the market and the aroma filled the air.

To this day, Belvedere Square is one of my favorite places to go in all of Baltimore and is now the site of my FAVORITE chocolate place, Jinji Chocolates (check it out if you haven’t yet!) and two of my top places for a healthy meal in Baltimore.

A box of melt in your mouth chocolate from Jinji

A box of melt in your mouth chocolates from Jinji

I know I’m a minority when it comes to not being a fan of the taste of coffee, but my husband and other friends, family and coworkers couldn’t think of any other way to start their day.

For many people, it’s the taste and habit of drinking coffee, but for others, caffeine is queen.

Caffeine is a big draw, as many of us are walking around a bit more sleep-deprived than we’d like to admit and have gotten used to being in a state of feeling artificially energized all day.

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I get it. 

Our lives are demanding.

We’re pulled in multiple directions at any given time, and making it through the work day, getting everything done around the house, and still having time for fun, friends, family and fitness can feel exhausting. Sometimes we feel like we need something to help us get it all done.

The truth is, caffeine affects different people differently. It’s when we become dependent on it to function that it can have a negative impact on our health, artificially stimulating us all day and running our adrenal glands dry.

Here’s a video by a clinical nutritionist that answers the question, “Is coffee good or bad for me?”

If you’re looking to kick caffeine, want to change up your morning or evening routine, or are ready to boost your health by making an upgrade, you have to give Dandy Blend a try.

So, what is Dandy Blend and why is it so, well, dandy?

Dandy Blend is a healthy, instant herbal substitute for coffee that’s caffeine-free. Thousands of people use it as an alternative to coffee because the blend of herbs that are used to make it tastes remarkably similar to coffee.

dandy blend

I’ve been sharing it with friends, coworkers and clients for the past few months, and quite a few people have already happily made the switch…including my husband, Bill!

Not only that, but because the ingredients have detoxifying properties, many people can make the switch without the unpleasant withdrawal side effects that often follow quitting coffee.

Pretty cool, huh?!

So, how do you use Dandy Blend?

  • For a light tea: add 1 level teaspoon per 8 ounces hot water.
  • For a rich, full-bodied coffee-like flavor: add 1 rounded teaspoon per cup hot water.
  • For a strong, coffee- or espresso-strength beverage: use 1 tablespoon per cup hot water.

Technically, you can use hot or cold water (or almond or coconut milk), but I prefer hot.

I’ll be sharing some of my favorite recipes that use Dandy Blend throughout the week – the first of which is for a SUPER delicious mocha fudge ball. You guys…they are SO good! 🙂

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Don’t just take my word for it, check out what Dandy Blend customers have to say about this awesome coffee alternative:

I was pleasantly surprised! I have to admit, I was a skeptic. I’ve tried other non-coffee bean hot drinks and was disappointed. However, Dandy Blend tastes as close to real coffee as you can get!

Dandy Blend is the only coffee alternative that actually tastes better than real coffee.

Dear Dandy Blend, I LOVE YOU!!!! An avid coffee drinker for decades, when I was told by a doctor earlier this year I needed to get off coffee, I almost needed counseling! So, I tried Pero, Cafe’ Roma, Bru, and Cafix, but YOU GUYS TAKE THE CAKE! I love that it’s strong, like-coffee, no acid, no caffeine, and no gluten! Thank you so very much!

You can buy Dandy Blend online at Vitacost, Amazon or iHerb or at MOMs Organic Market.

And you can order a sample of Dandy Blend to try for yourself for just $1 on the Dandy Blend website. $1 will get you 2 samples! Click here to order.

If you end up trying it, please come back and leave a message to let everyone know what you think!

Comforting Curried Lentil & Rice Casserole {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

Mashed potatoes. Ice cream. Pizza. Mac & cheese.

We tend to crave these foods. They comfort us. We have really great memories of them from a young age.

Broccoli. Brussels sprouts. Carrots. Spinach. Butternut squash. Collard greens. 

Not exactly the same effect, right?

Many of us grew up thinking that only the foods in the first group can taste good and make us feel good.

What if the same foods that “comforted” us also nourished us? It’s possible!

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Our body has an amazing ability to adapt our taste buds and preferences, even for those of us who consider ourselves picky eaters.

Trust me. I get it. For most of my life, I was one of the pickiest eaters you would ever meet! I was loyal to my egg noodles, parmesan cheese, chicken fingers, and broccoli. Sauces / soups / salads / seafood / sandwiches / dips / dressing / ethnic food?…no thanks!

I didn’t eat any of it.

Now, Bill and I eat lots of foods that not only make us feel good but also nourish our bodies.

I’m excited to share one of my NEW favorite, Indian-inspired recipes with you! I just made it for the first time last week, and Bill and I loved it. It’s one of the tastiest, most warming and wonderful meals we’ve ever made. We had it for a week and never got sick of it. You have to try it!

Keep in mind…

  • You will do very little cooking. The only thing you actually take time to cook in this recipe are the onions (mixed with spices).
  • The rest of the meal is “set it and forget it.” Once you’ve cooked the onions, you pretty much dump them and all of the other uncooked ingredients into a casserole dish and leave it alone in your oven until it’s finished cooking. It’s almost impossible to mess this one up!
  • This recipe makes A LOT of food. Perfect if you’re having lots of friends over for dinner or want a meal you can cook once and eat about 4-5 times. I cooked it in a deep lasagna pan.
  • Don’t be intimidated by longer ingredient lists. Just because an ingredient list looks longer than you’re used to doesn’t mean it’s more difficult to make. A lot of the time, our ingredient lists may appear longer because half of the ingredients are herbs and spices. Fortunately, they don’t make the recipe take any longer to prepare but do add tons of flavor! Just make a list and pick them up on your next shopping trip.

casserole bannerIngredients

a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil OR coconut oil (we used coconut oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh turmeric, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups french lentils or green lentils
1 cup long grain brown rice
5 cups water
1 can coconut milk (full fat)

Click here for the full recipe from Nourishing Meals!

Fancy Pants Curried Cauliflower Steaks & Mash {Paleo, Vegan}

When it comes to eating well, one of the key things we’re told to do is “eat the rainbow” and include a variety of brightly colored foods in our diet.

I totally agree, but the unfortunate part is that advice leaves out foods that are well…white and colorless.

Like cauliflower.

Cauliflower doesn’t get nearly as much love as its green buddy broccoli, but it should!

It’s just one of the many health-boosting, inflammation-fighting, detoxifying foods in this recipe.

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I was inspired to come up with this dish when I was doing an assignment focused on anti-inflammatory foods for the Culinary Nutrition program I finished this winter.

If we can reduce inflammation, we set ourselves up to feel better, look more alive, prevent disease and even get to a healthier weight. Dr. Mark Hyman has written extensively about inflammation and how to reduce it. Click here to learn more about it from him.

For this dish, I wanted to use as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible, including cauliflowerturmeric, ginger and garlic.

  • Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable, contains the antioxidant sulforaphane, which is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Here’s my first post about cauliflower and the rest of its amazing health benefits.
  • Turmeric contains over two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds with curcumin being the most potent.
  • Ginger extract regulates pathways that halt the activation of genes involved in the inflammatory response.
  • Allium vegetables like garlic contain sulfur compounds that prevent inflammation in the body.

This recipe puts a creative spin on “steak and potatoes” by using cauliflower “steaks” and “mash.”

I was inspired to share this recipe that puts a vegan-friendly spin on a specialty dish just like the crew at the Wynn Las Vegas.  New York Times Bestselling author of The Conscious Cook and vegan chef Tal Ronnen creates vegan and vegetarian menus for every restaurant at the Wynn, and I hope to have the chance to try his food firsthand one day. Since not everyone (myself included!) can make it to Vegas for a fancy meal, making a dish like this one is the second best option!

**Don’t let the ingredient list intimidate you (it’s mostly spices!). Also, I was VERY thorough on the directions and have included step-by-step pictures of the process below to help you visualize how it works. Give it a shot!*

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Ingredients

1 small head garlic
1 teaspoon coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 large head cauliflower
Sea salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ginger root
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup reserved water from steamer
Black pepper, to taste
Juice from 1 lemon
1⁄4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Small handful of parsley, chopped

Step-by-Step How To Photos (Written Directions Below)

How to Make Cauliflower Steaks

How to Make Cauliflower Steaks (Directions Below!)

How to Make Cauliflower Mash

How to Make Cauliflower Mash (Directions Below!)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Peel and discard the papery outer layers of the head of garlic. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch from the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Pour 1 teaspoon of oil on top and tightly wrap the head of garlic in foil or parchment paper. Place directly in oven, and roast for 30 minutes or until soft to the touch.
  3. While the garlic is roasting, remove the leaves and trim the stem end of the cauliflower, leaving the core intact. Using a large knife, cut the cauliflower from top to bottom into two 1-inch-thick steaks. Season each steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside loose florets for the cauliflower mash.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the cauliflower steaks until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and red pepper flakes. Brush the mixture onto both sides of the cauliflower steaks. Roast steaks in oven, about 15 minutes.
  6. While the steaks and garlic are roasting, put the loose cauliflower florets in a steamer basket over 1-2 inches of water in a pot. Cover and steam until cauliflower softens (about 10-12 minutes). You should be able to stick a fork through it easily. Set aside 1/3 cup of the steam water.
  7. Put steamed cauliflower in a food processor and add 1⁄2 of the head of roasted garlic (squeeze each clove out by pushing on the bottom of each one after you’ve let it cool). Add olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and reserved cooking water to the food processor. Pulse until smooth. Taste, and add more garlic if you prefer.
  8. Remove cauliflower steaks and garlic from oven. Place half the cauliflower mash on each plate, top with a cauliflower steak, and then squeeze lemon juice over each steak. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley over each steak, and ENJOY!

Healthy Shamrock Shake {Paleo, Vegan}

My favorite St. Patrick’s Day memories were spent down in Savannah, Georgia during and after college over spring break.

Their annual parade is one of the biggest St. Patty’s Day shindigs in the South. It was a lot of fun, and Savannah is a beautiful city – definitely worth the trip if you’ve never been!

My friend Lindsay and I in Savannah for St. Patty's Day circa 2006

My friend Lindsay and I in Savannah for St. Patty’s Day circa 2006

It’s that time of year again – time for all things green and Irish. Time for some signature, seasonal food and drinks. One of my absolute favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, even gives the holiday a shout out in one of his hilarious skits:

“How are we supposed to know St. Patrick’s Day is coming up without the Shamrock Shake? Thank you, McDonald’s.”

McDonald’s isn’t my favorite, but I love minty foods as much as the next person (and celebrated just about every birthday of my childhood with a Carvel mint chocolate chip ice cream cake).

To help me make the most nourishing choices, so I can feel my best and most energized, I strive to follow a few food principles from Michael Pollan that simplify what and how to eat for optimal health. Here are 3 of my favorites:

  1. Avoid food products that have more than 5 ingredients.
  2. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
  3. Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

McDonald’s Shamrock Shake has a whopping 54 ingredients and as much sugar as almost three 20-ounce Cokes. And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure most third graders would have trouble pronouncing the word, “carrageenan,” one of the controversial ingredients in the shake.

The good news? You can make a healthier, nourishing version yourself. This is a Shamrock Shake you could enjoy every day…guilt-free!

shakebanner mintbottle

Ingredients

1/4 avocado
3 tablespoons hemp seeds
1 heaping cup fresh baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract OR 1 drop certified pure peppermint essential oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 soft Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup ice
1 cup almond milk

Directions

Blend all ingredients until you reach a smooth and creamy consistency

I’ll have to tinker with it a little bit to get it to be more like a thick “shake” vs. a smoothie consistency, but if you’re looking for something green and minty to celebrate the holiday, try the recipe!

The next time you’re craving a Shamrock Shake, make one yourself! 🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Chewy Cherry Chocolate Brownie Bites {Gluten-Free, Paleo, Vegan}

Chocolate + peanut butter = awesome

Chocolate + caramel = awesome

Chocolate + sea salt = awesome

Chocolate +…just about anything = awesome!

I recently wrote about my favorite chocolate place in Baltimore, which features combinations of chocolate most of us would never think of that happen to taste aaaamazing.

In the spirit of yummy chocolate treats, today’s recipe features chocolate + cherries, another winning food combo that doesn’t get enough love.

My friend, Anna (check out her photography site!) recently posted an action shot of her daughter Paisley after enjoying this chocolate-covered cherry smoothie.

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Bill and I have been making that smoothie a lot lately for breakfast, and the flavors in it inspired today’s recipe for chewy cherry chocolate brownie bites.

YUM.

Several ingredients in these brownie bites are anti-inflammatory, health boosting and super satisfying, including almonds, walnuts, and cacao powder.  Those three foods also made my Top 11 Sweet Treat Staples pantry list.

Cherries are known for their inflammation-fighting, antioxidant-rich properties, and their tart flavor works really well with the slight bitterness from the chocolate and the sweetness from the dates.

My friends and coworkers, Michela and Jillian, were all over these when I brought them to a party last week. Jillian called them Cherry Bombs, which is pretty appropriate since they are like an explosion of flavor! 🙂

cherry choco bitescherry bomb

Yield: 20-24 bites

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted (about 10-12 dates)
  • 3/4 cup dried bing cherries, unsweetened (Trader Joe’s sells these cheapest)
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt + a pinch

Directions

  1. In a food processor fitted with the “s” blade or a coffee grinder, process the cacao nibs until they are broken into smaller pieces. Set them aside.
  2. Put the almonds and walnuts in the food processor and process until finely ground, about 45 seconds.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the mixture becomes sticky – about 2 minutes.
  4. Form into balls about 1 inch in diameter, and roll them in the crushed cacao nibs for some crunch! Store them in the fridge. They taste even better after they’ve had a chance to sit for a couple of hours, so all the flavors can meld.

From Under Armour to Belvedere Square: Jinji’s Inspiring Journey to Pure Chocolate Bliss

In case you missed the first post in this series about my favorite chocolates (and my #1 indulgence), click here. This post tells the story behind the chocolate and its inspiring owner and creator, Jinji Fraser!

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Born in Germany (her dad was in the military) and raised in Baltimore, Jinji grew up without any particular interest in food.

She credits her uncanny smell memory with many of her creative inspirations.

Her first food memory is one that she draws on a lot for inspiration and is a key part of one of her favorite treats – Chocolate-Covered Date Poppers stuffed with raw honey, crunchy cacao nibs and sea salt.

date popper

The inspiration? Honeysuckles.

As a child spending her summers in Alabama, she and her brother would spend hours lying by her grandmother’s endless chain link fence, interwoven with honeysuckles, pulling them off one by one and soaking in the sweet nectar.

Inspiration can literally come from everywhere […] Inspiration is everywhere all the time.

As we sat at the table during the interview, she saw a bag of popcorn lining the counter of one of the food vendors and told me it made her think about her new corn-infused chocolates and how they would taste different if she incorporated popcorn instead of corn flakes.

Her creative wheels are always turning; she’s open to being inspired.

Jinji’s start in the chocolate business came in a rather unexpected way.

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The Turning Point

After graduating with a college degree in Communication and Culture and completing her health coaching training through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she returned to Baltimore, eager to become a nutrition counselor and teach classes.

Her first corporate job after college was working at Under Armour. At that point, she had no inkling she would a) have her own food business and b) have anything to do with chocolate.

One of her roles at Under Armour was designing nutrition and fitness programs for kids with Living Classrooms, a non-profit organization based in Baltimore.

living classrooms

As she was doing that, she had her first “aha” moment:

You know what? I’ve gotta do food. This is what I want to do.

With nothing holding her back or tying her down, Jinji left her corporate job and went out on her own. She started organizing events around food and got connected to the local healthy food and chef community, including Daniela Troia, owner of Zia’s Café & Plantbar (another favorite place of mine at Belvedere Square).

The turning point in her career came one night during an event she had organized at The Black Olive that centered on creating a delicious raw food dinner to introduce people to that way of eating.

Throughout the night, Jinji kept stepping over a postcard that was turned over on the ground. Eventually, she heeded the urge to pick it up and flip it over (after all it was her event and she knew she should at least pick up the trash). The card was advertising raw chocolate workshops.

I can’t imagine what compelled me to actually look into this thing. This is totally not me to go do this thing.

But she did, and it changed her life and career forever:

I went to this workshop that wasn’t very good. It didn’t need to be good. All I needed was to see this thing, to see chocolate being made and to see that process of making it and the amount of work that goes into it. I just needed to see that. And once I did, I said, ‘This is what I’m supposed to do. This is what I’m going to do.’

Jinji has been “completely in love with chocolate ever since.”

Her father, Guy, who retired from the military after 38 years of service, came on to help her with the finances and logistical and administrative details.

Jinji and her dad

Jinji and her dad

He’s a big heartbeat of the business,” she says. He’s also a welcoming, friendly face. I always look forward to seeing and chatting with him when I’m looking for my chocolate fix 🙂

The Path

Like most successful people, Jinji’s path has not been an easy one. I asked her what barriers she’s faced in business.

“ALL of them,” she said.

Her greatest challenge was figuring out how to work with chocolate and turn it in to decadent and carefully crafted bites of bliss.

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Chocolate is so emotional. You have to get that in order to work with it […] It’s never the same from one day to the next. […] It takes on whatever energy you have. I swear it does. It knows how you feel, and it reacts to that […] When I was starting out, I don’t know that I really understood that. I thought it was just like candy, like everyone else does […] but I didn’t really get that there’s something much deeper to it than that.

When she first started, she would get stressed out trying to make the “perfect” piece of chocolate.

Eventually, she learned that if she was patient, wasn’t in a rush, took her time, and just loved the process of what she was doing, it was so much easier to work with.

melted hazelnut

I’ve found the same to be true in my career and life. When I feel like I’m forcing things to happen, it’s exhausting. It doesn’t feel easy. And often, it doesn’t feel quite right.

When I’m patient, enjoying the process and allowing myself to be “in the zone,” on the other hand, I feel alive, and I’m fully present and being the best and truest version of myself. I’m all of me, and things just flow. Whether I’m teaching a workshop, leading a cooking class, or speaking to a room full of people about WHY health matters, it comes easily to me, and I shine.

Think about what makes YOU feel most alive. What comes easily to you? What feels right and natural? Pay attention to that. Do more of it. Be open to what “ease” is trying to tell you.

The Future & “The Nod”

I asked Jinji what’s next and how she envisions her future, given the success she has had in such a short period of time since opening her business.

She wants to travel, see the world, and most importantly, connect.

I feel like enough people love chocolate that they could be connected by chocolate. I feel like enough people would be open to this world that I’m creating right now. There’s just so much happiness in it.

I really just want to travel. I want to get other kinds of inspiration. I want to taste things. I want to share with people the things that I’m doing. I want to keep teaching and doing workshops and talking to people and really just connecting people with chocolate.

chocolate class

But don’t worry, Baltimore, Jinji’s chocolates will always have a home here.

In some capacity, the chocolate will live on in Baltimore because I love Baltimore and I love what I’m doing here, but that’s not my story, that’s not the end of my story at all.

It is so much bigger than Baltimore. It has to be. It just has to be. I really have this dream of just seeing the entire world and all of the people out there […] I love what I’m doing. I love people.

Jinji loves what she does and is grateful for it.

I come and I make chocolate all day long. As bad as life could ever get, at the end of the day, I make chocolate for a living.

One of the greatest joys of her career has been meeting so many chefs and other people who truly love food, including her crew from Belvedere Square.

We have this saying, a couple of chef friends of mine: ‘At the end of the day, we do it for the nod.’ When someone eats something that we’ve made and they just nod, we’re like,

‘That’s the moment, that’s the thing, that’s why we do it.’

If you want to try Jinji’s chocolates, here’s where you can buy them, but to get the best of the best, visit her shop at Belvedere Square Market.

box of chocolate

Baltimore’s Best Chocolate {AKA The Purest Chocolate You’ll Ever Eat}

Dark chocolate and caramel have a special place in my heart.

When I was a kid, I remember going to Wockenfuss Candy in Baltimore with my mom and being treated to their dark chocolate caramels.

The buttery caramel would melt in my mouth, as the rich, dark chocolate shell cracked and coated my tongue.

As I’ve made changes to my diet over the past five years, I’ve still maintained a bit of a sweet tooth.

I’d be fine if I could never have chips or crackers again, but chocolate? I’d have a hard time with that one.

truffles

In most restrictive, “diet and deprive,” calorie-counting approaches to eating, chocolate has been pushed to the periphery and isn’t something most of us think we “can” eat if we’re trying to be well.

One of my goals in writing this blog is to share ideas for “upgrading” our diet to nourish our body and transform our lives.

For me, chocolate – PURE chocolate – is an integral part of a nourishing diet.

When it comes to chocolate, quality counts – all chocolate is not created equal. That’s what sets chocolate apart – the quality of the ingredients and how it’s made.

In the heart of Baltimore is one such chocolate maker, someone who pours her heart and soul into everything she creates.

She’s an artist, a scientist and an inventor. She and her team lovingly and intentionally craft each piece of chocolate, and as one of her biggest fans, it makes a difference.

I first tasted Jinji’s decadent chocolates about a year ago on a trip to Belvedere Square – my favorite place to spend time in Baltimore.

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I was intrigued by the sign that read, Pure Chocolate by Jinji and grew even more curious as I saw some not so common flavor combinations: Chocolate Covered Date Poppers, Caramel Fudge, Hazelnut Fudge, Orange-Infused Truffles.

I could tell something was different about these chocolates and the person behind the counter.

One day, I introduced myself and quickly connected to Jinji, the friendly, vibrant creator of these chocolate joys.

We started talking about nutrition and food, and I soon learned that she graduated from the same health coach training program I completed in 2013.

jinji and dad

She had a passion for translating what she had learned about the health benefits of foods like raw cacao, coconut, fruits, herbs, and superfoods into an edible form.

She grew animated and passionate as she talked about her chocolate and about food in general – how so many of us make food this bad and forbidden thing.

And how we’ve given a bad name to something that can be so pure, beautifying, even nourishing.

Over the past year or so, I’ve made many trips to Jinji, always open to trying her latest creations but also staying loyal to my favorite staples like the chocolate-dipped caramel fudge, chocolate-covered date poppers (Medjool dates stuffed with raw honey, crunchy cacao nibs, and a pinch of salt and then enrobed in a thick dark chocolate shell), and pecan turtles.

The creamy caramel fudge!

The creamy caramel fudge!

Truffles galore! They're always so creative and decadent.

Truffles galore! They’re always so creative and decadent.

All of the chocolates are dairy-free, gluten-free and contain no refined sugar.

They’re raw, which means all of the antioxidant, nourishing power of the chocolate and other ingredients are left intact.

The quality of ingredients and low and slow nature of the process are what set Jinji’s chocolates apart.

Every single piece is made by hand with the highest quality ingredients.

If you’re a person concerned with purity in product, you’re getting the purest piece of chocolate you could possibly have.

She knows exactly where everything comes from, including her beans, which are sourced from growers in Ecuador, who she first met at a chocolate show in Paris.

cacao beans

I wanted to know who was growing our beans. I wanted to know that they were treated well. I wanted to know that it was a renewable resource in that area, that the ground was treated well.

After “tasting every single thing that sweetens things,” Jinji opted for a three-sweetener flavor profile, including mesquite for smokiness, lucuma for fruitiness, and coconut blossom for sweetness.

I asked her how she creates such a velvety, smooth texture to her chocolate.

“Low and slow” was her response. They put their ingredients in a stone grinder for nearly 24 hours and then temper it (alternate raising and lowering the temperature) to try to “coax out all of the flavors, all of the textures, everything that it’s capable of, bringing it to its full potential” before they put it into any molds.

The result? A rich and creamy, melt-in-your mouth bite bursting with flavor.

My new favorite is the peanut butter stuffed figs dipped in dark chocolate.

Pb stuffed fig

OH MY GOODNESS. You need to know about these figs.

Already a fan of what she was creating, I wanted to learn more about Jinji, how she got her start, how she was trained, where her passion and inspirations come from, and what makes her chocolate so different, so special, so incredibly delicious.

She was kind enough to sit down with me to share her story. After getting to know her and her chocolate better, I enjoy it even more than I did before!

I’m going to share with you Jinji’s journey. It’s an incredible story and one that I hope will encourage you to imagine what’s possible in your life, to start paying attention to everything and be open to its purpose.

If you want to try Jinji’s chocolates, here’s where you can buy them in Maryland, Virginia and DC, but to get the best of the best, visit her shop at Belvedere Square Market.

Creamy Rosemary Sweet Potato Soup {Dairy-Free, Paleo, Vegan}

Creamy foods are comforting and satisfying.

Since removing dairy products from my diet, I’ve had to get more creative about ways to recreate the silky texture that dairy provides.

soup

One of the best ways to do that is using cauliflower, one of the GBOMBS vegetables (AKA some of the best foods we can eat!).

These roasted garlic cauliflower mashed “potatoes” and this creamy caulifredo sauce are some of my favorite ways to use cauliflower to create creaminess!

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Because winter feels like it is never going to end here on the East Coast, I’ve been in hibernation mode and have been really into soups lately. I thought I would try blending cauliflower in with a soup to make it creamy and delicious without the downsides of dairy, so that’s what brings us to this recipe!

This soup is simple to make and uses basic ingredients that are easy to find at any grocery store or farmer’s market.

We used Japanese sweet potatoes, which is why the soup is white instead of orange, but any sweet potato will work.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think! 🙂

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Ingredients

Directions

  1. In an 8-quart stockpot, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Saute onion, garlic and a 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cook until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes, rosemary, and vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, add the cauliflower and cover the pot with a lid. Reduce the heat to a simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and black pepper. Using an immersion blender or regular blender*, blend until very smooth.
  6. Return soup to pot and whisk in the maple syrup. Add more sea salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Keep the soup warm over low heat until ready to serve. Top with fresh cracked black pepper and a few lightly toasted pumpkin seeds, if you’d like!

*NoteIf using a blender, vent it either by removing the lid’s pop-out center or by lifting one edge of the lid as you blend. Drape the blender jar with a kitchen towel. Blend the soup in batches, filling the jar about 1/3-1/2 for each batch.

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