Month: November 2016

8 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Thanksgiving {+ Dozens of Recipes!}

I have so many positive memories of Thanksgiving from growing up – the giant glazed donuts from Woodlea Bakery we got every year for breakfast, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and helping my mom peel apples for her signature three-apple pie.

We never did anything too extravagant, and it was usually just the five of us – my parents, me, and my brother and sister – but Thanksgiving was a special day in our house. Now that I’ve grown to love cooking so much, it’s become my second favorite holiday after Christmas. Some of my favorite crowd-pleasing, gluten-free, dairy-free recipes to make are gluten-free stuffing, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, roasted garlic cauliflower mash, and pumpkin cheesecake.

I wanted to offer up some helpful tips and tricks to support you on Thanksgiving Day. Most of the websites that give tips for Thanksgiving just tell you to use healthier versions of your favorite staples, avoid going back for seconds, and watch your alcohol consumption. While I agree that all of those recommendations are useful to some extent, I’m here to offer something different, something more inviting and life-giving.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! 🙂

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1) Be Present & Enjoy It

Thanksgiving is meant to be a time to come together with friends and family to celebrate the abundance and blessings in our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy pace most of us keep throughout the year. For at least this one day, we can choose to pause, reflect, and be present. Enjoy the day. Savor the meal.

Part of being present means being aware of our body. If you’re going to eat something, OWN IT. Notice how it smells, tastes, and feels. Notice the signals your body sends you. Are you really hungry or do you just want something to do? Your body will let you know when it is no longer hungry. Pay attention to it. Take a break. Save the leftovers.

2) Eat Breakfast

When we know we’re going to be eating a lot later in the day, many of us will skip breakfast or eat too little early in the day to “save up” for the afternoon. Instead of skipping breakfast, which will lead to overeating later, have a nourishing breakfast to start your day. Try one of these 25 breakfast recipes, like this pumpkin spice oatmeal or this quick and easy black bean scramble.

3) Upgrade Your Recipes

All of us have family favorites that aren’t likely to be replaced anytime soon, but I invite you to give a new side dish recipe a try. I put together a collection of nearly 30 nourishing, delicious, and upgraded Thanksgiving recipes in this blog post. You won’t want to miss the maple-roasted Brussels sprouts, shredded Brussels sprouts salad, pumpkin spice dip, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, or pumpkin cheesecake.

You can also check out this post by Adventures of a Sick Chick for a list of paleo Thanksgiving recipes, featuring my gluten-free stuffing!

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Shredded Brussels sprouts salad with walnuts

4) Taste the Rainbow

Most Thanksgiving plates look pretty one-note with lots of browns and whites and a little bit of green or orange. Focus on filling your plate with as many colors as possible. This sweet potato casseroleshredded Brussels sprouts salad, and butternut squash and quinoa harvest salad will all add color to your plate!

The more colors you have, the more fiber is on your plate, the fuller you will feel, and the more nourished you will be. If you have kids, encourage them to count the colors on their plate and celebrate who gets the most.

5) Reallocate Your Plate to 50 / 25 / 25

That’s the ratio I recommend to “up” the nutrition of your plate. Half of the plate filled with vegetables (i.e., greens, salad, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) with some room for fruit, 25% protein (i.e., poultry, meat, seafood), and 25%  fiber-rich starch (i.e., sweet potatoes, squash, corn, grains). I’m a big advocate of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate below, which is a visual representation of the 50/25/25 ratio.

harvard-healthy-plate

6) Slow Down

I hear a lot of people (me being one of them!) say things like, “But you don’t understand, it’s just that I LOVE food.” It’s given as a reason why we eat so much. Here’s something to consider from author, Geneen Roth, one of my favorite writers and truth tellers:

When you love something, you spend time with it.

Boom.

Man, she is always so spot on.

If you really, truly love food, spend time with it; take time to connect with your food. Pause before you eat and offer gratitude for the farmers who grew it or raised it, the money you have to purchase it, and the hands that prepared it. So often we forget about the process our food goes through to get from the farm to our fork. If you want to cut down on discomfort later that day, slow down and chew your food thoroughly before taking the next bite. 

7) Take a Digestive Enzyme

If all else fails and you realize you’re not going to follow any of the steps above, give your digestive system some support and take a digestive enzyme. This is kind of like the last-ditch effort. I almost feel like I’m advocating for overeating by putting this one in here, but I also think it could help a lot of people. When we overeat, we put a lot of extra work on our digestive system and don’t have enough enzymes to break down the massive amounts of food we’re eating. Some of my favorite digestive enzyme brands are Rainbow Light, DigestGold, and Garden of Life. You can find them on Vitacost.com.

8) Move Your Body

Moving your body helps stimulate digestion and regulate your blood sugar – something that is usually out of whack due to the amount of food most of us eat on Thanksgiving. 

Start a new family tradition focused on movement. Take a walk Thanksgiving morning for at least 30 minutes and try to do the same after dinner. Find a Turkey Trot 5k in your area on Active.com. Or, if you’re in Baltimore, check out the classes at my favorite place to get movin’…Movement Lab!

Some of Baltimore's Nia community with a few amazing Movement Lab instructors

Dancing with some of Baltimore’s Nia community with a few amazing Movement Lab instructors

Do you have any helpful tips to share to make Thanksgiving more nourishing for your body, mind and soul? Feel free to comment below!

Be Somebody’s Mary: The Kindness of a Stranger

We’re in a time of tension, emotions, and division in our country in a way that I’ve not yet experienced in my lifetime. In the midst of this time of uncertainty, it can be easy to fall into the mode of complaining and noticing what isn’t working, what we don’t like, why we’re angry.

All of this negativity makes it easy for us to lose sight of all the goodness in our lives. Yet, kindness continues to abound.

We just have to notice it.

What we focus on expands. If we want to be happier, we have to reflect on the things that bring us joy. If we want to be more selfless, we have to practice gratitude and appreciation regularly.

If we want there to be more kindness in the world, we should be the first ones looking for ways to put it there.

Videos like this one and this one, showing incredible acts of kindness are going viral on social media, a clear indication that we are hungry for hope that the world is still good and that people are still kind.

An act of kindness from a stranger prompted Daniel Lubetsky, the founder of KIND Snacks, to give his company its name. I’ll never forget hearing the story of how their name came to be. If you’re not familiar with it, check out this video. It’ll make you think differently every time you see a KIND bar. It’ll make you want to be kind.

(Oh, and if you’re not already following me on instagram, head on over and “like” my page because I’ll be doing a giveaway there from 11/21 through 11/23.)

The story I want to share today is about something that happened in my life that showed me just how kind and gracious people can be. I hope it uplifts you today.

I was en route to Madison, Wisconsin to go on a retreat with my nutritionist, who has been instrumental in my healing journey. We were on separate flights but due to arrive in Madison within minutes of each other.

The weather in Baltimore was stormy that night, and as I was boarding my connecting flight in Atlanta, she called me to tell me she missed her connection flight and wouldn’t make it to Madison until the following morning. I’d be on my own with transportation and the hotel room. When all was said and done, it was going to cost me upwards of $300 for the drive to and stay in the hotel for what would ultimately be less than eight hours. I couldn’t justify the expense, so I told her to cancel the reservation. “I’ll figure something out,” I assured her.

As I sat on the plane, racing against the clock and the “Please turn off your cell phones” announcement, I frantically searched for a reservation on AirBNB. But my cell phone battery was dying, and my charger was in my luggage overhead with nowhere to charge it. The AirBNB search wouldn’t go through due to a weak signal, so as my flight took off out of Atlanta, I headed to Madison unsure of where I would stay that night.

Once we landed at around 9:30 p.m. and were waiting to deplane, I turned my cell phone back on and saw that the battery was a 1%.  Oh, no. Not now. Please, not now.

I looked toward the back of the plane, searching for a friend I’d made in line in Baltimore. She was a fellow healthy foodie and had just returned from several months of backpacking in Europe. “Maybe I could find a way to stay with her,” I thought. But she was nowhere to be found. I was talking through my concerns with the guy sitting next to me on the plane, but he couldn’t be bothered and didn’t seem to care, so I was left feeling a bit alone and helpless.

“What am I going to do?” I thought.

As everyone was getting out of their seats and pulling down their luggage, a gentleman from a row back who had heard me talking about my situation asked if I’d figured out my lodging.

I couldn’t hold it back at that point and despite my best efforts, tears started slowly streaming down my face. “My phone is dead. I don’t know anyone in Madison. I don’t have a place to stay.”

He reached down to a woman sitting nearby and asked her for a tissue.

As she reached into her purse to hand me a tissue, she gently put her hand on my arm and said, “I have a spare bedroom, if you’d like to stay at my house tonight.”

madison-bedroom

“Are you sure?” I asked, as I turned to face her, wiping the tears from my eyes. I tried to give her an out, not feeling confident that a complete stranger would want to help me: “But I have to be in downtown Madison early tomorrow morning.”

“It’s not a problem,” she assured me. “I’ll just drop you off before work.”

So, off I went to stay with a total stranger for the night, still feeling guilty for burdening her with my request.

We chatted the entire drive home. She told me about her husband, how they met and her love of traveling. As we pulled into her garage, I thanked her again for being so kind to me, and apologized for the inconvenience. She reassured me I wasn’t a burden and said she has a daughter close to my age and hoped that if she were in a similar situation, someone would do the same for her.

Mary’s cute little dog, Rosie, and her husband, John, came out to greet us. She informed her husband that they were going to have a visitor that night and then greeted him with a hug and kiss, “Happy Anniversary,” she said.

Oh geez, Rachel. Really? On their anniversary?

They assured me my presence was not a problem, and John greeted me warmly and invited me into their home. They offered me a drink, set me up in their guest bedroom, and had hot tea waiting for me in the morning.

Mary drove me to the retreat, as she mentally prepared herself for the conversation she was going to have at work that morning. It would be her first time telling an employee that he was being let go. She could have used more time and head space to focus on that, but instead, she went out of her way to take me to where I needed to go.

She dropped me off at the hotel, and in the midst of what was an incredibly windy day, stepped out of the car to take a picture with me. “Thank you for everything. I don’t know what I would have done without your help,” I told her.

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Me and my new friend, Mary

We’ve since stayed in touch via social media, and I will be forever grateful to her for her generosity and thoughtfulness that night and for her willingness to help a total stranger in need and show kindness to a fellow human being.

So, as we approach this week of thanksgiving, I invite you to pay attention.

Pay attention to kindness.

Share those posts. Share those videos. Share those stories.

And pay attention to people. Listen to what they’re saying and what they’re not saying. Notice what they might need. Where are you being pulled? What is your gut telling you?

Do they need a smile, a laugh, some money, food, a blanket, a kind word or maybe a hug? Be open to how you might be called to be a light to someone else, someone you might never expect.

In this season of thanksgiving and kindness, be somebody’s Mary.

Pure Genius Brownies & Blondies: Upgrade Your Sweet Treats

When I was in college, one of the nicknames given to me by my husband’s fraternity brothers was “Betty Crocker.”

I grew up baking with my mom and neighbor, Miss Muriel, and it was always something I enjoyed. I was known for making Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookies, GIANT chocolate chip cookies, and cookies and cream brownies in college. I wasn’t exactly into healthier baking back then, but the cookies and brownies were always a hit!

Since I’m all about upgrading what we eat, so we can eat tasty things AND feel good about it, I share dozens of sweet treat recipes on this blog. And as much as many of you like making things from scratch, sometimes it’s nice to have store bought options when you’re short on time or just want to try something new.

What if there was a company that could take one of our favorite sweets – brownies – and upgrade them by adding in some fill-you-up fiber and protein? And what if they put all of that goodness into one little package that actually tasted good?

For all of you with kiddos, what if you could find a dessert that you felt good about putting in your little ones’ lunchbox, knowing it was school-safe and nut-free and had some nourishment in it?

Meet, Pure Genius brownies and blondies.

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I first tried these at the Natural Products Expo East last fall and became a fan. They were recently named the NEXTY award winner for best new sweet or dessert at Expo East 2016.

I couldn’t believe that the FIRST ingredient in both the Deep Chocolate Brownie and the Chocolate Chunk Blondie was…chickpeas!

You’d never guess that every Pure Genius brownie and blondie contains more than 40% garbanzo beans (chickpeas). And we’re talking whole beans, not flour.

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Believe it or not, YOU DON’T TASTE THEM AT ALL! All they do is add protein, fiber, and a nice soft texture to these tasty treats. Here are a few more reasons why you should give these brownies a try:

  • They’re gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, dairy-free, and nut-free (perfect for nut-free schools and kids with food allergies!)
  • GMO-free (verified by the Non-GMO Project as not being genetically modified or made with genetically modified ingredients)
  • They taste great and have a nice chewy texture, unlike most gluten-free brownies, which are often crumbly. My husband, who also has a sweet tooth, loves them as well, especially the blondie.
  • Each hefty bar has under 200 calories, 3 to 4 grams of protein, 3 to 4 grams of fiber, and only 11 grams of sugar.
  • They have an expiration date! Real food is supposed to go bad and rot, and these will, too. If a food lasts on a shelf for six months or more, is it really something we want to be putting in our body if we want to feel our best?

So, where can you buy these bean-based brownies?

  • Visit Pure Genuis’ website here. I’ve got some good news for you! Use code RACHELSKITCHEN for 20% off all online orders. The code is valid through November 30, 2016.
  • Buy on Amazon: Chocolate Chunk Blondies or Deep Chocolate Brownies.
  • Find them at your local Whole Foods.

Have you tried Pure Genius brownies and blondies before? Let us know what you think below!pure-genius-brownieblondie-brownie

Pecan-Coated Pumpkin Spice Bites

Isn’t pumpkin the best?

Pumpkin seeds, pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin, pumpkin fudge, pumpkin-spiced anything. If I can find a way to get pumpkin or pumpkin pie spice into it, I will.

I’ve made this delicious pumpkin spice dip multiple times over the past few weeks and have been trying for the past two years to come up with a pumpkin energy bite recipe.

It took me a half a dozen attempts before coming up with this winner 🙂

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I like to think of these no-bake bites as triple pumpkin bites because I used just about every component I could – pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie spice, and a teeny bit of pumpkin puree. They’re like a taste of fall in every bite – pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, and all things pumpkin.

I’m grateful to my friend, Jenn, for gently nudging me today to take steps toward publishing an e-book with a bunch of my no-bake bite recipes.

“Do you think anyone would buy it??” I asked.

“YES!!!” she responded, without hesitation.

She said it would be so much easier to make my recipes over and over again, sooooo I committed to doing it! THIS will be one of the recipes in that e-book! Stay tuned for more news about that before Christmastime 🙂 (SO EXCITED!)

In the meantime, enjoy these little bites of fall.

pumpkin-spice-bites

Pecan-Coated Pumpkin Spice Bites

Ingredients

Coating

  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Dough

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas), shelled
  • 1.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

Directions

  1. Combine 1/4 cup pecans and 1/2 tsp cinnamon in food processor until small hunks of pecan remain. Pour into medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine pecans, pepitas, spices and salt in a food processor and pulse until it reaches a fine meal.
  3. Add vanilla, dates and pumpkin puree and process until everything is combined. Remove from food processor and shape into a large ball.
  4. Tear off 1-inch hunks and roll into a ball between your palms. Roll ball in pecan mixture and store in glass container in the fridge. You can also freeze them!

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