Category: How To (Page 1 of 3)

8 Tips for Eating Healthy on the Go

Would you be shocked to hear that almost 20% of meals eaten in the U.S. are eaten in the car?

Sometimes, when I share this statistic, people are surprised it’s not higher, but notice the word MEALS. We’re not talking about the occasional snack or latte. One out of every five meals eaten in this country are eaten in the car while we’re driving.

It’s as though we’ve made food one of our last priorities, settling for what is convenient above all else. In doing so, we’re bypassing the power of digestion by rushing through meals at the same time we’re operating a vehicle. We’re making quick feel-good food choices when we eat away from home, not realizing that we could just as easily pick a nourishing meal that tastes delicious.

I’m here to help. Because I’ve learned how to do it, no matter where I am. My hope is that applying these ideas will boost your confidence in making choices that nourish your body and brain and don’t break the bank. You’ll be able to walk away from the table feeling satisfied instead of stuffed.

It’s totally possible to eat well, even when you’re on the go as often as I am. Here are my top tips for how to make it happen no matter how busy your life is or where you’re traveling.

1) Become a Menu Detective

Restaurants use lots of creative language to get us to order certain items off the menu. But we can outsmart them if we know what those words mean. Take a look at the two lists below. One contains words that describe foods I do my best to avoid because of how I feel after eating them (not good) and the other is packed with adjectives that I opt for when I’m making a selection off the menu.

Eat This: Roasted, Baked, Braised, Steamed, Poached, Broiled, Grilled, Pan-Seared, Sautéed (ask for less oil), Stir-Fried (ask for less oil)

Not That: Creamed, Fried, Smothered, Tempura, Crispy, Breaded, Charred

If you see a menu item prepared using one of the “Not That” options, ask your server if they can prepare it using one of the “Eat This” options above. If the food is fresh, there should not be any reason why they can’t accommodate your request.

2) Plan Ahead and Pack

Did you know that if you pack your lunch every work day and you work for 30 years, you would save $112,000?

That’s A LOT OF MONEY.

Remember back in grade school when you had a lunchbox and a thermos? They make them for adults! You can buy an inexpensive lunchbox at Target, Home Goods or on Amazon, among other places. I also bought a thermos that I use to put reheated leftovers in to keep them warm until lunchtime. I also pack smoothies, and the thermos keeps them cold for several hours as well.

This is the thermos I have. I like it because it has a folding spoon built into the lid!

Here are some ideas for what to pack in your lunchbox:

  • Oatmeal with berries and nut butter
  • Overnight oats like these three recipes from my blog
  • Smoothies (thermoses keep food cold, too!)
  • Leftover soups, stews, chilis (this is our #1 go to)
  • Mason jar salads like this one
  • Canned wild caught salmon with brown rice and sugar snap peas or served on top of a salad
  • Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store served with a salad and quick cooking brown rice
  • Bean/lentil and rice blends from Eden Organics (sold at MOMs Organic Market, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Target). I like to add in some sautéed spinach
  • This simple Chipotle-style burrito bowl

3) Snack Smart

I also like to have snacks on hand for when I haven’t planned meals and need something to sustain me between meals. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Fresh veggies with hummus, guacamole, almond butter (cut up celery & carrots and put in glass baking dish with water in fridge, swap water after 1 week = fresh veggies for 2 weeks)
  • Fruit: apples, clementines, pears, grapes; apples or pears with almond butter / peanut butter / sunflower seed butter squeeze packets
  • Trail mix like this recipe
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
  • Crispy roasted chickpeas (brands like The Good Bean, Chickpeatos, Saffron Road, Biena)
  • Forager Project yogurt topped with Purely Elizabeth granola
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers pretzel sticks or crackers with Wholly Guacamole packets, nut or seed butter, or hummus
  • Some of my favorite brands of bars that use whole, real ingredients are Ever Bar, KIND (opt for 6 grams or less of sugar), Soul Sprout, Paleo Krunch, Rx Bars, Hemp Heart Bar. Ideally you want less than 10 grams of sugar along with some fiber and protein. My hubby’s faves are Epic Bars and Mighty Bars.

4) Know Where to Go

When you’re on the road and need to stop or are meeting someone for a meal, knowing where to go is half the battle. It sets you up for success to go to a place that serves nourishing food. I intentionally seek places that are farm to table or that prioritize using fresh ingredients.  You can use the apps in Tip #5, but the ideas below should help you, too.

  • Hit up the salad bar or “to go” counter at a grocery store. Try Whole Foods Market (especially Health Starts Here options), Wegmans or Harris Teeter ($4, $6, $8, $10 meals). If we can find a Whole Foods while on the road, we know we’re golden.
  • Go global and try Indian, Thai, Greek or Mexican food. Other cultures tend to eat more colorfully than we do in the U.S. They also are much more liberal with flavorful herbs and spices, which can enhance a dish. As a gluten-free, dairy-free eater, I find that Indian or Middle Eastern restaurants are packed with lots of options I can enjoy!
  • Pick a place that lets you customize your order and fill your plate with lots of veggies. Try places like sweetgreen, Cava Grill, Chipotle, Qdoba, Roti, Chop’t, freshii, Baja Fresh, and Nalley Fresh.
  • Starbucks is my go to breakfast place because I can get steel-cut oatmeal with nuts. I sprinkle some cinnamon on it and often travel with packets of almond butter or sunflower seed butter that I squeeze and stir in to the oatmeal to make it creamier and heartier.

If you’re in the Baltimore area, check out my healthy Baltimore dining guide, which sums up my top places to eat in my hometown!

5) There’s An App for That!

When I’m traveling and don’t know where to go to find a healthy meal, I use a few apps on my phone. I wrote about each of them in this blog post, but thought I’d mention them while we’re here:

  1. Happy Cow
  2. yelp!
  3. Food Tripping
  4. Healthy Out
  5. Eat Well Guide

I highlighted the two I use most often. Happy Cow is great because it highlights plant-based options, which is how I eat, but yelp! is often more inclusive. When I’m searching in yelp!, I use words like “vegan, gluten-free, farm to table, organic, healthy” to find places that will align with my eating preferences.

6) Modify the Menu

Yup. Be that person.

The way I look at it, it’s your money and your body, so you can decide what you eat, so you feel the way you want to feel, even if you’re not cooking it yourself.

I look at the menu as a list of everything that is back in the kitchen. If I see a dish that has a side I don’t want but see another dish with one that I do (maybe roasted Brussels sprouts instead of mashed potatoes?), then I politely and graciously ask the server if they can swap them out.

Sometimes I create a meal from scratch using a variety of ingredients on the menu. I make sure I tip the server a bit extra and ask them to thank the chef. Almost every time, my request has been accommodated.

Remember, it’s YOUR body and YOUR money. Ask for what you want. The worst thing they will say is, “No.”

7) Upgrade Your Order

No matter where I am, I try to keep a simple formula in mind when deciding what to eat: 50% veggies; 25% starchy veg or whole grain; 25% protein (plant-based or animal). It helps me pick meals that are colorful and packed with antioxidant-rich foods. This plate from my health coach training is a visual of that. I opt for half the plate veggies vs. fruit, as most restaurants don’t serve my prefered fruit (berries) with meals.

Image from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition

Here are a few additional tips to help you upgrade the quality of your meal and make it more nourishing:

  1. Hold the bread. Ask for raw veggies instead. You are better than the cold, stale dinner roll!
  2. Start with a salad or broth-based soup
  3. Load up on veggies and ask to swap your starchy side dish for an additional side of veggies. Roasted veggies are my favorite!
  4. Ask for a veggie side dish as your appetizer. Roasted Brussels sprouts, anyone?
  5. Ask for vinaigrette on the side. See if they will give you lemon juice, red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar and olive oil so you can make your own
  6. Add as many veggies as possible to a sandwich or burger and forego at least half of the bun. Lettuce wraps are all the rage these days!
  7. Make the best choices for condiments. Opt for things like guacamole, mustard, salsa, hummus, tahini, and chimichurri.

8) Be the Anchor

In his book, Eat Move Sleep, lifestyle expert Tom Rath shares a simple tip that has stuck with me ever since I read it.

The first person to announce what he or she is ordering sets the anchor for the entire group. If the first person ordering chooses a healthy option, it puts a little pressure on everyone else to do the same.

If you’re committed to nourishing your body with what you eat, be the first one to order when you go out to eat. Your decision will influence the rest of the people at your table. Maybe there are other people you’re dining with who were tempted to get a cheeseburger and fries. When they hear you place your order, they give it a second thought and instead order something that will nourish them and make them feel good for more than 10 minutes they’re eating it.

I typically look up the menu ahead of time if I’m going to a place I’ve never been. That way, I don’t even have to look at the menu when it comes and be tempted by something other than what I know what will make my body feel its best (and taste good, too!).

Give it a try the next time you go out to eat; be the anchor!

And, that’s a wrap! I hope those tips give you some ideas for how to better nourish your busy lifestyle no matter where you are.

Which one stuck with you the most? I love hearing from you!

6 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally

It’s that time of year again…cold and flu season.

It’s funny how the flu is the only illness that gets a whole season named after it, isn’t it?

What changes this time of year that increases our susceptibility to getting sick? Are colds and the flu inevitable, or can they be prevented?

As someone who used to come down with bronchitis, sore throats, and sinus congestion multiple times a year, I know how inconvenient and uncomfortable being sick is. Over the past few years, the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle and diet boosted my immune system, so I rarely got sick and felt better than ever. Even my husband, an elementary school phys ed teacher, who is exposed to countless sick kids every day, stays well, too.

I can usually get through this time of year without getting sick, but this winter has been a tough one for me. I got sick – sore throat, feeling totally run down, and a bit feverish. Not the full-blown flu, but I felt pretty crappy. I am the worst patient and hate being sick! But my body was sending me a message that I wasn’t taking care of it, so I got run down as a result.

Looking back, I can attribute my weakened immune system to NOT doing all of the things I’ve outlined below on a consistent basis. When I’m following these steps, I don’t get sick. My immune system is strong and fights for me.

So, what are the secrets of those who stay well?  What if we could naturally boost our immune system, so we could thrive through instead of simply survive this time of year? Can we do more to protect ourselves than solely relying on the flu shot and a bottle of hand sanitizer? Most of the medications we take just suppress symptoms but don’t get to the root of why we’re sick. They also interfere with our body’s natural healing process. And we all know washing our hands is certainly important, but…

We can do better.

Here are six tried and true steps you can take to supercharge your immune system and stay well in the winter.

1) Catch Some Zs

Lack of sleep (usually staying up to late) is the #1 trigger for me to get sick.

Though not the most glamorous piece of guidance, getting adequate, quality sleep is one of the best things we can do to boost our immune system. Our body uses sleep as a time to rest, repair and restore itself, so when we shortchange ourselves, we compromise our body’s ability to fight back. Sleep disturbances not only reduce our immune response but have also been linked to increased susceptibly to the common cold. One of the best things we can do if we start to feel like we’re coming down with something is to prioritize sleep and get a few extra hours of shut-eye.

Since millions of people have trouble sleeping, try one of these tips to better sleep:

  1. Check out The Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus’s book, The Power of When, to understand how to optimize your daily activities and sleep based on what he calls your “chronotype.” Click this link to take a quick quiz to identify YOUR chronotype.
  2. Set your phone to Night Shift to reduce exposure to stimulating blue light. If you have an iPhone, go into Settings — Display & Brightness — Night Shift. I have mine set to turn on at sunset and turn off at sunrise.
  3. Take a warm bubble bath or lavender epsom salt bath. Taking a bath before bed raises our core body temperature. Stepping out of the bath drops our temperature, which stimulates the release of sleep-promoting compounds. The magnesium in the epsom salts have a calming, anti-anxiety effect, too.
  4. Set your room temperature to 65F. You know how hard it is to sleep in a room that is too warm. A cooler temperature promotes better sleep.
  5. Use the Calm app to find a soothing meditation or relaxing adult bedtime story to prepare you for rest.

2) Begin with the Gut

They might look like Cheetos, but these puffy tubes are actually bacteria. Did you know that bacteria cells outnumber human cells 10:1? That’s right. We’re mostly bacteria.

Because 70-80% of our immune cells are located in and around our digestive system, one of the first places we should focus on to boost our immunity is our “gut.” The bacteria in our gut play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of our immune system and our Western diet, rich in processed packaged foods, and the overutilization of antibiotics has been linked to gut dysfunction and imbalances in our gut bacteria

Increasing our consumption of prebiotics and probiotics is one way we can boost our digestive health and, therefore, our overall health. Prebiotics are fermentable fibers that feed probiotic bacteria. Sources of prebiotic foods include buckwheat, chicory, burdock root, onions, garlic, asparagus, green tea, and blueberries, to name a few. We also want to increase consumption of traditional probiotic-rich foods like miso, natto, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir to promote a healthy gut.

Another option is to take a probiotic supplement. If you do, make sure you go with one that is high quality and proven effective. This review of the top probiotic supplements should help you.

3) Supplement with Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a powerful immune system regulator. Some experts even suggest that the collective reduction in sun strength and exposure (one of our primary sources of vitamin D) this time of year is what sets most of us up for reduced immunity. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to increased susceptibility to infection, colds and the flu, and many Americans are deficient in this immune-boosting nutrient. 

 The best form to take is vitamin D3. Most supplements are D2, so make sure you check and get D3. Recommendations vary, although the Vitamin D Council suggests 1,000 IUs (international units) for children and 5,000 IUs for adults daily. Vitacost is a great resource for supplements, including D3.

See your doctor to have your vitamin D level checked. It should be at least 30 ng/ml and closer to 50 ng/ml or more for optimal health and cancer prevention. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it should be consumed with some source of fat for optimal absorption. Check out the chart below from the Vitamin D council.

4) Eat Your G-BOMBS

Chronic stress depletes our body of nutrients, so upgrading our nutrition to support our body is especially critical during this time. All of us have heard about the importance of having a colorful diet, but this catchy acronym from Dr. Joel Fuhrman puts a new spin on that age-old advice.

G-BOMBS stands for Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds. I’ve written in more detail about them here. These nutrient-dense foods are packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that work together to supercharge our immune system. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower have antiviral and immune-boosting properties. 

Compounds from onions and other members of the allium vegetable family, like garlic, leeks, shallots and scallions thin mucus and have been found to have anti-asthmatic and antibiotic effects. Beans are rich in prebiotic fiber that helps feed the good bacteria in our digestive system. I eat beans almost every day. Believe it or not, mushrooms are also a significant immune booster and have strong antiviral and antibacterial properties. For more about the power of mushrooms, check out the TEDTalk below.

Whether you enjoy them in salads, smoothies, soups, stews, stocks, steamed or sautéed, eat your G-BOMBS to boost your immunity. Most recipes on this blog are packed full of G-BOMBS. Here are a few GBOMBS-rich soup recipes.

5) Chill Out

This time of year is characterized by heightened levels of stress from travel, holiday shopping, reduced exercise, increases in consumption of alcohol and sugar-laden foods, family get-togethers, time management, and, for many, holiday blues and depression. Do what you can to increase your resiliency to stressors because stress significantly suppresses our immune function.

If you want to thrive through the winter, make time for relaxation and fun, whether it takes the form of meditation, yoga, massage, a mani/pedi, dancing, taking a day off from work, a soothing epsom salt bath or calling a friend, going on a date, playing a game, or spending time in nature, even if it is chilly outside.

You can also just watch this video and search “laughing babies” on YouTube for instant stress relief!

6) Move Moderately

As the weather gets colder, we tend to spend more time indoors and less time moving. Moderate exercise may have a protective effect on the immune system, while excessive exercise and overtraining can depress our immune response.

I love this infographic from Precision Nutrition that gives all the details on exercising when you’re sick.

If you feel like you’re coming down with something, mild to moderate movement is the way to go. Try a dance class like tai chi, yoga, dancing, Nia,or go for a brisk walk, jog or indoor swim. My favorite place to take classes like this in Baltimore is Movement Lab.

So, there you have it! If you want to stay well this winter, thrive instead of survive, and feel the best you’ve ever felt, follow these tips to supercharge your immune system.

Is there anything I’m missing? Any tips you swear by that help you stay well? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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. This year, I’ll be making this gluten-free stuffing, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, roasted garlic cauliflower mash, and these 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! 🙂

thanksgiving-cover

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.

brussels-salad-angle

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, JOIN ME at Movement Lab for a 90-minute dance jam on Thursday morning at 10:00!

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!

How to Have an Easy Weeknight Dinner Double Date {+ Kitchen Update!}

Are you looking for some ideas to make dinners a little more exciting? If you’re like us, you tend to wait until the weekend to get together with friends around mealtime. But why not change it up and build that into your week?

In today’s post, I’m going to share the steps for planning a no-fuss weeknight dinner date with your friends or family based on a cool experience Bill and I had last week. I hope you’ll be inspired and excited by this idea and feel encouraged to change things up during the week.

Before we dive into that, I have a kitchen update to share! 🙂

We’re about two weeks into our kitchen renovation, and things are coming along nicely. The demo is finished, the floor tiles have been laid, the electric is wired, and the walls are painted.

We’re expecting the cabinets to arrive on Tuesday and the whole job to wrap up in about two weeks!

kitchen update.jpg

Versatile Gray is the “Greige” paint color we chose for our kitchen (looks so good!). Aren’t these kitchen towels PERFECT?! And our floor tiles have been laid down and grouted (but not yet cleaned!)

We’ve essentially moved our kitchen to the basement, which happens to be completely finished AND has an extra fridge and sink (serious perk). While it’s not the most convenient set-up, we have just about everything we need to continue to make meals each week using our blender, induction cooktop, and food processor.

At the beginning of the construction process, Bill and I thought it would be a neat idea to become dinner crashers while our renovation was being completed, so we weren’t making dinner in the basement every night.

Our friends and family offered to take us in for a meal or two, and it has been so much fun! It’s given us an opportunity to be more social during the week, something we had not prioritized before now. Here’s the process we followed for having an awesome weeknight dinner date!

Step 1: Pick Your Peeps

Last week, we got together with our friends Kiersten and Zach for a dinner double date. They are in the midst of their own transition, as they’re in the final weeks of preparation leading up to their April 30th wedding. They’re foodies like us and appreciate a wholesome, nourishing meal, so we thought we’d bring the ingredients to them and make the meal together for a weeknight dinner double date!

group shot.jpg

With our lovely hosts (bride and goom-to-be!) after our delicious meal

Step 2: Choose Your Meal & Shop (from Home!)

I’ve had the opportunity to partner with Relay Foods, a healthy online grocery store that carries everything from organic, local produce to pantry staples, snacks, treats, and even personal care products like soaps, shampoo and lotions.

They have a cool Meal Planning feature on their website that lets you search for recipes by category – One Pot Meals, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo, Dairy-Free, 30 Minutes or Less, etc. You can just use it as its own recipe search and use your own ingredients, but if you want to streamline the whole process, click “Add to Meal Plan and Review” when you find a recipe you like. Your cart will automatically update with the ingredients needed for the meal.

We chose to make this Black Bean Soup with Kale Slaw. The cost of all ingredients for a full dinner plus leftovers for four people was about $30. Depending on where we go out to eat, a single dinner and tip can cost that much…for one person! Also, cooking once and eating twice makes meal planning more doable and less intimidating because you’re saving money and time.

relay foods bag .jpg

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Black Bean Soup with Kale Slaw recipe here

Step 3: Pick Up Your Grub (or Have Them Delivered!)

My husband, Bill, was on spring break last week, so he picked up our bags at a nearby pick-up site, but you have the option for Relay to deliver to your house an unlimited number of times each month for $19/month. 

Want to try out Relay Foods? Click here to save $20 on your first order of $60 or more.).

Step 4: Make the Meal & Enjoy!

The day of our pick-up, I got an email from Relay that contained the full recipe we were making that night, so once we arrived at Kiersten’s house, we gave everyone a task to do to make the meal come together. We chopped, diced, shredded, and sauteed the ingredients for this warm, grounding soup topped with a bright, refreshing, perfect-for-spring slaw.

This meal was rich in GBOMBS, which are some of the most nourishing, protective, and healing foods on the planet; food like kale, red and yellow onions, garlic, cabbage, and black beans. That is a recipe for whole body nourishment!

Here is the link to get the full recipe for the Black Bean Soup with Kale Slaw. Try putting a few slices of avocado on top for some creaminess!

bill tasting soup

Bill tasting the soup and preparing the colorful kale slaw!

Even though I personally LOVE the idea of going to the grocery store, sometimes I’d rather order my groceries from home. If you’re one of those people who gets anxious at the thought of stepping foot in a crowded store, then I’d recommend giving Relay a try.

Also, because you’re auto-populating your grocery list based on ingredients in the meals you select, you will only be buying what you need, which makes you less likely to waste food and more likely to save money!

I also ordered a small gift for the bride-to-be that she was excited to receive – a bag of Hudson Henry Granola and  a box of Numi chamomile lemon organic tea.

gifts

If you’re making a dinner for friends or family for a special occasion or just as an excuse to hang out, it’s nice to bring a small gift along, especially when it’s in the form of food.

If you want to host a weeknight dinner date and are curious about trying Relay Foods as an option, follow this link to get $20 off your first order of $60 or more.

Sunny Cran-ola Bars {No-Bake, Nut-Free, Gluten-Free}

One of my coworkers has peanut, tree nut and coconut allergies, so I challenged myself to make something she could enjoy along with everyone else for a cooking demo I taught today at work.

That’s how these bars came to be.

They’re slightly sweet, salty, tart, crunch and chewy – lots of tastes and textures to keep your taste buds happy!

bars on plate

The main ingredient is sunflower seed butter, which is where this recipe gets its “sunny” name. I’ve written about Sunbutter in a previous post here. You can find it at any grocery store (often in the natural food aisle) and at Target and Walmart. Target sells it in single serve to go packets, which is super convenient.

I shared a variation of this recipe back in the fall for a healthy snacks for kids cooking class but changed it up a little bit, so you wouldn’t need a food processor to make it. I also swapped out cranberries for raisins and used less sweetener overall.

This recipe comes together in about 5-7 minutes, so it’s easy to make in a pinch for an energizing snack!

cran cover

Yield: 20-24 squares

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole rolled oats (I love Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free brand)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup sunflower seed butter (or peanut butter)
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon honey (add more if you want sweeter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Water, as needed

Directions

  1. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper. Combine oats, cinnamon, sea salt, pumpkin seeds and cranberries in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat sunflower seed butter and honey on medium-low, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  3. Pour liquid over oats and stir with a spoon or your hands to combine. If it’s too try, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until it sticks. Once everything comes together, press mixture into lined pan, using the back of a spatula or excess parchment paper to press it down and flatten the top.
  4. Refrigerate for at least an hour to set. Lift parchment from pan and cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

How to Make Your Own Granola {Video}

Let’s get back to basics.

With all of the talk and media buzz about the latest and greatest superfoods, sometimes we lose sight of how amazing some of the most basic and familiar foods are.

That’s why today is all about OATS!

oats

Whether you know them by oatmeal raisin cookies, a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or as a common ingredient in granola, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve eaten oats before. The oats I recommend buying are whole rolled oats (rather than the packets or “quick oats.”). If I want a chewier texture, I’ll change it up and use steel cut oats.

Oats are PACKED with some pretty awesome body and brain-boosting benefits:

  • With more soluble fiber than any other grain, oats help us stabilize our blood sugar, energy and mood AND help slow digestion and increase feelings of fullness
  • The contain compounds that help lower our cholesterol, which is why they are commonly recommended as a heart healthy food.
  • Second only to quinoa in protein content, oats contain a variety of amino acids, which serve as the building blocks to everything from our skin, hair and nails to our enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters
  • Oats are rich in antiinflammatory and antioxidantrich compounds that protect our body and our brain

Oats are the star of today’s video that shows you how easy it is to make your own granola using everyday ingredients. It takes less than 5 minutes to assemble and only about 30 minutes to cook. Once you see how simple it is to do yourself, you won’t want the store-bought stuff!

Check out these other posts about two more granola recipes I’ve shared before:

granola closeup

Easy Trail Mix Granola

Ingredients

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup shaved coconut
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup honey or 100% pure maple syrup (or a combo of both!)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or goji berries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add cinnamon and sea salt and stir to combine. Add honey, coconut oil and vanilla and combine with a large spoon or your hands until all of the pieces are coated and begin to stick together.
  3. Press granola onto a lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes, removing the pan to turn the granola with a spatula every 10-12 minutes. For more clumps, firmly press granola onto sheet with the back of your spatula or spoon after you toss it for the first time and don’t toss it again.
  4. When granola begins to smell fragrant and is starting to turn golden, remove it from the oven to cool. Once cool, add dried fruit and toss to combine. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.

If you want granola that clumps together more, substitute 2-4 tablespoons of whisked egg whites in place of some of the oil. 

Easy Peanut Butter Oat Energy Bites {Video}

My coworkers are the best taste testers. When I’m experimenting with new recipes, they are the brave ones who often try them out and give me feedback before I post them on here.

So far, this is the feedback I’ve gotten about these tasty bites:

YUMMMMMM

Delicious

Such a good treat 🙂

Sooooooo good!

PB Bite

Making these Peanut Butter Oat Energy Bites is super simple, fun (and messy!), and they are easy to take and eat on the go. You can enjoy these as part of breakfast, a snack or even dessert!

Most oat energy bites have coconut in them, and I know a lot of people aren’t the biggest fans of coconut, so I thought I would do some tinkering to make this recipe coconut-free.

The subtle saltiness from the peanut butter, sweetness from the maple syrup, nuttiness from the flax seed and crunch from the cacao nibs make these treats fun to eat.

I made this video to show you exactly how to make them!

Because you really need to get in there and get your hands sticky and messy, if you have kids (or just want to feel like one!), this is a recipe you’ll want to try.

For the full list of ingredients (and more mouthwatering pics), see below.

PB Oat Bites CoverPB Oat Bite

Yield: 3 dozen bites

Ingredients

  • 2 cups gluten-free rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup 100% grade B maple syrup or honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs
  • Pinch of fine grain sea salt IF your peanut butter is unsalted

Directions

  1. Set the peanut butter and maple syrup out at room temperature for about 15 minutes to warm up and for the PB to soften. If the peanut butter is too hard, you can also soften it by gently heating it in a small pot on the stove top with the maple syrup.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir with your hands to combine. It will be messy (but fun!).
  3. To help the mixture “set,” put the dough in the fridge for 30-60 minutes, so it is easier to work with. It’ll seem too wet, but don’t worry, that will make it easier to work with once it’s had time to come together. It’s easiest to start making the bites using a cookie scooper, but you can also shape them into balls using your hands.  Store them in a glass container in your fridge or freezer.

Celeriac: Give This Ugly Vegetable a Chance

Avocado. Eggplant. Sauerkraut.

Most of us can think of certain foods that we don’t like or refused to try at one point. As a recovering picky eater, I was often afraid to try new foods, especially foods that looked or sounded “weird” to me.

Sauerkraut, eggplant and avocado were all foods that I wouldn’t even try at one point in my life but have learned to like, and, in the case of avocados, LOVE.

We’re told not to judge something without getting to know it, but, let’s be honest, most of us do. One vegetable that I had seen multiple times and was curious but afraid to try because of how strange it looked was this…

celeriac

Celeriac (say, sa-LAIR-ee-ac) also known as celery root.

It’s a relative of parsnips, carrots and parsley, and its taste resembles celery but is slightly sweeter, nuttier and milder. It’s a great source of filling fiber and also contains quite a bit of vitamin K, which supports heart and bone health.

This root vegetable isn’t always easy to find here in the U.S. (I get mine at MOMs Organic Market or Whole Foods), but if you can find it, it’s worth trying! It can be served the same way as a potato (mashed, roasted, sliced into fries, steamed, and as a component in soups and stews), so it’s really versatile.

Check out the video below to learn how easy it is to get the skin off of this less than beautiful root veggie and for a few more tips about how to prepare it!

Then, try one of the celeriac-centered recipes below:

Smashed Celeriac by Jamie Oliver

Celeriac Mash by Paleo Leap. This is the recipe I made, but I added about 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, used 4 cloves of garlic, and used veggie broth instead of chicken stock.

celeriac puree.jpg

Autumn Celeriac Puree by food52

Cauliflower Celeriac Soup by Cook Eat Paleo

Easy Celery Root Fries by The Spunky Coconut

Rosemary Roasted Celery Root & Carrots by Everyday Health

Roasted Root Vegetables with Tomatoes and Kale by Simply Recipes

roasted-root-vegetables-tomatoes-kale-vertical-a2-1200

Photo used with permission from SimplyRecipes

 

Which recipe do you want to try? Do you have another you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment below!

 

 

GBOMBS Spaghetti Squash Saute + How-To Video {Gluten-Free, Paleo}

I’ve been on a squash kick lately! From roasted butternut squash to creamy kabocha squash soup and even squash “pasta,” winter squash is one of my favorite foods because it’s versatile, delicious and nourishing.

Today we’re going to take a look at a squash that many of us have heard of before but might have been too intimidated to try making ourselves – spaghetti squash!

As someone who loved twirling pasta on my fork as a kid, this is a food that is fun to eat and play with…and it has lots of body-boosting benefits, too!

IMG_7154

Winter squash is packed with antioxidants that support our body from the inside out – vitamin A for our skin and eyes, vitamin C for antioxidant protection, fiber for fullness, and folate, a B vitamin that supports our body’s production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters.

For more info about the awesomeness of spaghetti squash, click here.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that it tastes just like spaghetti (because it doesn’t…it’s a bit crunchier and a tad sweeter), BUT it does give you a similar experience and is basic enough to be paired with a variety of sauces – from pesto and marinara to pad Thai.

Check out my video below for the step-by-step instructions for how to prepare spaghetti squash and then buy some for yourself, so you can make one of the recipes below! It’s easier than you think 🙂 If you’re more of a picture person, check out this post I wrote for step-by-step pictures and directions.

I’ve included a recipe below for a winter veggie saute full of GBOMBS like shallots, garlic, dino kale, beans, berries and pumpkin seeds. Here are a few additional spaghetti squash recipes for you to try:

Spaghetti Squash Saute.jpg

Ingredients

1 large spaghetti squash
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots, sliced
1 bunch dino kale (AKA lacinato or Tuscan kale), destemmed and chopped
1/4 cups water
1 15-oz can no-salt added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Slice a line down the length of the spaghetti squash, about a half-inch deep or make several slits round the squash to allow steam to release. It’s usually too hard to cut in half at this point unless you have a really good knife.
3. Put the squash in a 9 x 13 baking dish in the oven for 25 minutes, so it can soften enough to easily cut it in half. Remove squash from the oven and let it cool enough to handle it. Cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
5. Put the squash cut-side down in the baking dish and fill the bottom of the dish with 1/2 cup water. Return squash to oven for about 30 minutes or until the squash easily pulls away from the shell. Let the squash cool and then scrape out the inside into strands with a fork.
6. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté shallots in ghee (or oil) until fragrant, about 4-6 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30-60 seconds. Add spaghetti squash, dino kale and 1/4 cup water and toss until the kale is wilted but bright green. Add beans and toss until heated through then add cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Remove from heat and sprinkle with 1 1⁄2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

Yay for Tempeh! Why We Love This Plant-Based Protein

I had never heard of tempeh until about two years ago when I was about to enroll in a Culinary Nutrition program.

One of the recipes my instructor, Meghan Telpner, had on her blog that I was curious to try was for Orange Maple Tempeh.

orange maple

I had never heard of tempeh (say TEM-pay).

I had no idea what it was.

And I wasn’t exactly jumping to try it because it sounded and looked, well…weird. I haven’t always been one to try “weird” foods, but I had gotten to a point in my food journey that I was more open than ever before.

What’s the worst that could happen? I wouldn’t like it? I was okay with that.

The rest of the ingredients in the recipe sounded so good that we decided to gave it a shot.

I’m so glad we did! It’s now one of our FAVORITE dishes…including my meat-eater husband, Bill. This is one of his go-to meals. If we had only five meals in our rotation for the rest of our lives, this would be one both of us would pick.

So, what exactly IS tempeh?

Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans (keep reading!) and is an excellent source of easily digestible, plant-based protein (15 grams per 3 ounce serving!) and fill-you-up fiber. Tempeh is a probiotic food, so it helps our digestive system (AKA our “gut”) produce healthy bacteria.

Having a healthy, well-fed gut is important for a strong immune system, so we want to make sure we’re including probiotic-rich foods in our diet. As I’ve shared before, 70-80% of our IMMUNE SYSTEM sits in and around our digestive system, so what we eat is critically important to our overall health, well-being and feeling good.

Tempeh has a “meatier” and denser texture than tofu and a mild, nutty taste, so it feels more like meat in a recipe than tofu does. If you’re a tofu hater (I’m not a huge fan of it), then give tempeh a shot. Tempeh can be baked, sauteed, grilled, and chopped up to be added to things like chili, salads, and stews. It can be a little tricky to figure out how to work with it the first time, but this post from onegreenplanet breaks it down into 5 easy tips:

5 Tips for Making Amazing Tempeh Dishes

Another perk is that tempeh is also a LOT cheaper than meat. One block of tempeh at my local market (MOMs) is $3.00. Not a bad deal for something that can serve as the main dish of a meal. We always make sure to buy organic tempeh, since the majority of soy crops these days are genetically modified. You’ll find tempeh in the refrigerated section of your grocery store next to the tofu.

Ready to give this lesser known protein a try? Here are our top two most favorite tempeh recipes (and great places to start for first-timers!). Click the picture to get the recipe.

orange maple.jpg

BalsMapleTempeh

And here are a few more tempeh recipes that we want to try.

Have you ever tried tempeh? Have you found any recipes you like that you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment or question below!

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