Category: Nourish (Page 1 of 4)

Vegan Carrot Cake Smoothie

Since I’ve been feeling better, I’ve been back in the kitchen experimenting with recipes. My most recent hit was this vegan, gluten-free carrot cake muffin topped with creamy cashew icing. If you haven’t already tried it, you totally should!

It’s been a while since I posted a new smoothie recipe, but since I was already tinkering with the ingredient profile for carrot cake, I thought I’d try coming up with a carrot cake smoothie.

Some recipes come together easily, and after one or two attempts, it ends up tasting good. This smoothie took about six attempts before I came up with something that I really liked! I have to give a shout out to my friend, Kat Downs, who writes the awesome blog, Crunchy Kat, for being willing to be a recipe tester for me! She will be featured in my next blog post, so I’m really excited for you guys to meet her.

In the meantime, give this tasty carrot cake smoothie recipe a try. You might be surprised to find that it contains a secret ingredient you won’t even taste that will give you an extra serving of vegetables. When I think of upgrading what I eat, this is one of the easiest ways to do it!

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Vegan Carrot Cake Smoothie

If you like all the flavors of carrot cake as much as I do, you're going to love this creamy, dreamy smoothie!

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 zucchini peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons raw cashews
  • 1 Medjool date pit removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 piece frozen or fresh pineapple Trust me, this makes a difference!
  • 1 frozen banana

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients through almond milk to the blender and blend until smooth.

  2. Add frozen fruit and blend until creamy. 

Recipe Notes

For some reason, I find that the smoothie turns out a bit creamier when you combine all ingredients besides the frozen fruit FIRST and then add it, but you can totally just blend everything at once. That's just my preference 🙂

3 Beautiful Smoothie Bowl Recipes to Try

I’ve been a fan of smoothies for years because of how many nutrients you can pack into one meal. But I’ve also noticed something you may find to be true as well.

I tend to drink them fast. Like, under two minutes fast.

That’s a lot of food entering your stomach at an unnaturally fast rate, which can lead to things like bloating, gas, indigestion, and overeating. You can drink fruits and vegetables at a rate of about two cups per minute when you get them through a smoothie. This can undermine your body’s capacity to recognize that you’re full because the body needs about 20 minutes to register that you’re satiated once you start eating.

So, what’s one idea for slowing down your smoothie drinking pace?

Put it in a bowl!

Yup, make a smoothie bowl.

It’s not that complicated either. All you’re really doing is using slightly less liquid (1/4-1/2 cup less than usual), so you end up with a thicker consistency that can be poured into a bowl instead of into a glass. It’s also important to use thickening ingredients like chia seeds, avocado, frozen banana, soaked raw cashews, and even peeled zucchini to reach your desired consistency.

Now, I do have a few words of caution and something you’ll want to keep in mind when going this route. Smoothie bowls are often topped with heaps of granola, honey, maple syrup, nuts, a whole banana, etc., which makes for a pretty picture. But, on top of all of the ingredients that are already in a smoothie, this can be overkill, so use your toppings sparingly. Try not to overdo it. Notice how your body feels and adjust accordingly! Less is more 🙂

Check out the three smoothie bowl recipes below that I’ve previously posted on my instagram page. If you’re looking for even more smoothie bowl inspiration, here is a list of nine smoothie bowls from Greatist and 11 from Buzzfeed!

Berry Good Smoothie Bowl 

Ingredients

1 tsp flax seeds or flax meal
2 teaspoons hemp seeds
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon coconut butter (optional but tasty!)
1 teaspoon vanilla powder or extract
1/2 tsp raw honey
1 cup baby spinach
1-1.5 cups almond milk (start with one cup for a thicker bowl)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries

Directions: Blend all ingredients, except the berries, in a high-speed blender for about 15-20 seconds. Then, add berries and blend until smooth, adding additional almond milk, as needed, until it reaches your desired thickness. Pour into a bowl and top with additional berries and a sprinkle of hemp seeds.

Shrek Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients

1/2 cup frozen mango
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 tsp fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 small avocado
1 cup baby spinach
1 scoop unflavored protein powder (I like Vital Proteins and Bulletproof Collagen Protein because they are flavorless!)
1/2 tsp raw honey
1-1.5 cups water (start with 1 cup and add more as needed)

Directions: Blend everything together until you reach a smooth, thick consistency. Pour into bowl, sprinkle with shredded coconut, and serve with a spoon!

Berry Chocolate Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients

1 cup frozen mixed berries (strawberries and raspberries)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1.5 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Medjool date, pitted
1 scoop unflavored protein powder (I used Vital Proteins)

1 – 1.5 cups dairy-free milk (start with 1 cup and add more 1/4 cup at a time)

Directions: Put everything in a blender and blend for about a minute or until smooth. Pour into bowl and sprinkle with goji berries and cacao nibs.

So, what about you? Are you a fan of smoothie bowls? Do you have any favorite recipes? Feel free to share them below!

Simple Vegetable & Chickpea Soup

Nothing hits the spot on a cold winter day like a warm and cozy bowl of soup. This recipe has quickly become one of our favorites and is one we’ll be making again soon.

About five years ago, I was trying to get to the bottom of years of acid reflux, frequent colds and congestion and seasonal bronchitis, so I removed certain foods from my diet for about 10 days. It was during that time and in the months that followed, that I discovered dairy products to be the #1 trigger of my sinus and respiratory issues. Once I removed dairy, my health issues practically disappeared.

It was amazing.

I had been learning about the health benefits of food for years at that point. But I never realized how connected my diet was to why I got sick so often and wasn’t feeling my best.

Since that time, I’ve continued to “clean up” my diet with the goal of feeling as good as possible as often as possible. I take supplements and probiotics to repair and restore my health after taking years of antibiotics and acid reducers. In addition, I’ve found that foods containing gluten trigger me as well, so I steer clear of them.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been taking my body through an experiment. It’s kind of like an investigation to better understand why I’ve been feeling a little “off” for the past few months. Because I wanted to get to the root of what my body is trying to tell me, I’ve been following the protocol in the book The Elimination Diet. It’s written by renowned nutritionist, Tom Malterre, and his wife, Ali Segersten, who also authored the Nourishing Meals cookbook.

One of the recipes I tried was for a simple vegetable soup. I used the concept behind the soup as my guide and created my own version of it, which I’m sharing with you today.

It’s full of nourishing, calming, anti-inflammatory ingredients that promote healing and a sense of warmth and comfort. It makes enough to feed 8-10 people, so we like to make it at the beginning of the week to take care of 4-5 meals for both of us. You can enjoy it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and serving it with a few hunks of avocado on top is especially delicious!

Veggie Lover Chickpea Soup

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups celery, chopped
2 cups carrots, chopped
2 cups cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme OR 1 tsp dried thyme
8 cups sodium-free vegetable broth (check out my super EASY recipe here)
3 cups kale, destemmed and chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons Herbamare OR 1 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a 4 to 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining chopped vegetables, beans, thyme (if you have it) and vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add kale, parsley, salt and pepper, and simmer for 5 more minutes.

This soup serves about 8-10 people.

We store it in glass mason jars. If you are going to freeze it, leave about 2 inches of room at the top of the jar to allow for expansion in the freezer.

The Easiest Kale Salad Ever

I’ve been making this salad recipe for OVER FIVE YEARS and can’t believe I’ve never shared this recipe with all of you before!

It’s the simplest recipe and the first way I ever tried eating kale.

If you’ve ever been turned off to eating kale because it tasted bitter or was difficult to chew, give this recipe a try. I bet it will change your mind!

Most of us don’t crave salads this time of year because the weather has gotten colder for many of us. As a result, we tend to be drawn to more warming, grounding foods like soups, stews and chilis. Because I tend to eat seasonally, I’m more apt to saute or steam green veggies or throw them into soups, stews, or frittatas instead of having cold salads everyday.

When I do want a salad, I opt for heartier greens like kale, Swiss chard, or peppery arugula in my salads instead of lighter, more watery greens like romaine or Bibb lettuce.

Another benefit to eating a salad like this in the winter is that it is packed with immune-boosting ingredients. Since 70% of our immune system is located in and around our digestive system, what we eat really does matter!

  • Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, which have antiviral and antibacterial effects. Their pungent, bitter flavors are health-promoting and detoxifying.
  • Lemons have antiviral and antimicrobial activity
  • Garlic may help the immune system function better during times of need such as in cancer
  • Chickpeas are packed with protein and fiber that keep us feeling full and our blood sugar balanced, which helps keep inflammation at bay

Not only is this salad loaded with ingredients to keep your immune system strong, but it will stay fresh in the fridge for at least two days! Check out the recipe below, and feel free to change it up by adding your favorite toppings.

Easiest Kale Salad Ever

Ingredients

1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and leaves torn into pieces
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
A few pinches of coarse sea salt
Fresh black pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced

Optional add-ins
2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, massage lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic into kale leaves with your hands until they start to turn dark green and shrink by about 1/3 in size. If you’re using nutritional yeast, toss it in with the greens. Store salad in fridge for about 30 minutes to allow lemon juice to break down bitterness in greens.
  2. Add chickpeas and sunflower seeds and enjoy!

Chocolate Hazelnut “Ferrero Rocher” Truffles {Gluten-Free}

Last weekend I went to a Christmas party with a group of friends and shared these tasty sweet treats for the first time. They went over REALLY well!

I actually made a version of this recipe two years ago but wanted to come up with a new and improved version that was more authentic and closer to the real thing.

If you’ve ever had one of those fancy, gold-wrapped hazelnut chocolates by the brand Ferrero Rocher, you’ll see where the inspiration for today’s treats comes from. I’ve always been unsure how to pronounce the brand, and apparently I’m not alone. Over 20,000 people have watched the YouTube video for how to pronounce “Ferrero Rocher.”

This recipe takes a few more steps than a typical recipe I make, but I can assure you it will be worth every minute! Try these at home, and bring them to an upcoming holiday party or event.

I hope you enjoy them as much as we did 🙂

Yield: 21-24 truffles

Ingredients

24 hazelnuts, lightly toasted
1 cup raw hazelnuts
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 cup Medjool dates, pits removed
1 tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown rice crisps
3/4 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips
1 tsp coconut oil

Directions

  1. Set the toasted hazelnuts aside in a bowl. Then, grind 1 cup hazelnuts, cacao powder and salt in a food processor until it reaches the texture of a fine meal.
  2. Add dates, maple syrup, and vanilla and process until a dough starts to form. Pour brown rice crisps into the food processor feed tube or hole while the processor is still running, just until crisps are incorporated (you still want pieces of the crisps to be visible).
  3. Turn off food processor, remove dough and shape it into a large ball. Remove 1-inch pieces of dough and shape into smaller balls. Wrap each ball around one of the toasted hazelnuts and press with your fingers to seal. Set balls aside on parchment-lined baking sheet or small cutting board.
  4. In a double boiler (glass pyrex bowl positioned over a small saucepan filled with 1-2 inches of water over medium heat), melt chocolate chips and coconut oil, stirring until smooth and silky. Turn off heat and allow steam to continue warming the chocolate. Roll balls, one at a time, in the chocolate and remove using a toothpick. Place chocolate-coated balls on parchment paper.
  5. Once all balls have been coated in chocolate, put them in the freezer to set, about 30 minutes. Store in your fridge or freezer.

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.

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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!

10 Tasty New Food Finds from Natural Products Expo East 2016

What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been!

From the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore to the Culinary Nutrition Expert Retreat in Toronto, a Holistic Health Conference in Madison, Wisconsin and the New Jersey Veg Fest yesterday, and teaching a few workshops in between, I’ve been on what felt like a natural health tour of North America.

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I’ve also gotten some clarity around how I want to focus and what I want to share. I feel drawn to go deeper on this blog than I have been in the past few months. I’m grateful for your patience with me as I’ve been a bit less regular with posts over the past month, but the clarity I’ve gained during that time was worth it.

One of the reasons you’ve told me you come to me with questions or follow me on Instagram and Facebook is to be up to date on the latest and greatest natural food products that I use in my own home and recommend to you. I know one of the most frustrating aspects of starting to eat well and remove foods like dairy and gluten is the overwhelm you feel when you step into the store and blankly stare at a wall with 20 options for one product.

How do you know which to choose?

I’m here to make it easier AND to introduce you to some fun, new products before they hit stores. For the past three years, I’ve attended the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore as Press because of how much this community supports my efforts on social media (THANK YOU!).

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I want to pay it forward by sharing with you my top finds from the expo. As with all of my recommendations and recipes, they are all gluten-free and dairy-free.

I think you’ll be excited to see what is going to be coming to grocery stores in the coming weeks and months!

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1) Hilary’s Eat Well Breakfast Sausage Patties

I first found out about Hilary’s Eat Well veggie burgers two years ago at my first Expo. To be honest, I wasn’t someone who ate veggie burgers; I thought they were pretty nasty and full of a bunch of ingredients I wouldn’t have in my own pantry.

These burgers are different. They are one of the ONLY foods we have in our freezer at all times. Bill loves to have them for breakfast, topped with an egg or on top of a sweet potato hash, and we also love them toasted and then crumbled up on a salad. I featured these burgers in my mason jar salad recipe at the end of the summer. They are SO good!

To make things even better, they now have a breakfast sausage version. It contains all real food for ingredients (i.e., no weird soy protein isolates) AND is dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and egg-free. The two versions I tried were Apple Maple and Spicy and my favorite was definitely the Apple Maple.

Where to Find Them: Click this link to find a store near you where you can buy all of Hilary’s Eat Well products.

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2) Farmhouse Culture Ginger Beets & Kraut Krisps

Since over 70% of our immune system sits in and around our digestive system, eating fermented foods is one of the best things we can do to boost our immune system, not get sick, clear up our skin, reduce bloat, and have regular bowel movements (at least 1/day!).

I’ve been a fan of Farmhouse Culture’s Kimchi and Sauerkraut for about a year now and a few months ago I started taking their Gut Shots to support my digestive and immune systems. When I stopped by their table and saw their new branding (love it) and their new products, I was stoked!

The ginger beets were amazing and would be delicious chopped up and put on a salad or just eaten as a snack. But one of the coolest snacks I tried all day was the Kraut Krisp. With almost 50% sauerkraut, organic corn masa and a shelf stable probiotic blend in the seasoning mix, this is a chip you can feel good about eating. The dill pickle is amazing! I’m hoping to see both of these yummy foods in my local store soon!

Where to Find It: Here is the link to their Store Locator. On the link is a Product Request form that you can print out and take to your local store!

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3) Beetnik Organic Frozen Meals 

We discovered beetnik Organic frozen meals about a year ago.What I love about them is that they are made with real, whole food ingredients and taste more like a homemade meal than a frozen one.

They are Bill’s #1 go to choice for lunch at school when he hasn’t packed leftovers or planned ahead. As an elementary school teacher, he’s lucky if he gets 20 minutes to enjoy his lunch, so convenience is key, but so is staying fueled and energized throughout the day.

Bill has liked every single one he has tried, and I know he’ll be excited to check out some of their new flavors like Ragu Alla Bolognese, Pollo Alla Cacciatora, Organic Lemon Chicken with Cauliflower Rice, Organic Shepherd’s Pie with Grass Fed Beef, and Organic Beef Chili with Sweet Potato. The first two are pasta sauces, and the last three are paleo-friendly and grain-free.

Where to Find Them: I buy them at MOM’s Organic Market or Roots Market, but you can use this store locator to find them near you.

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4) Miyoko’s Creamery {Dairy-Free Cheeses}

When you stop eating dairy, one of the things you miss the most is the creaminess of cheese. Fortunately, food has come a LONG way, and brands like Miyoko’s give us the opportunity to get that beloved texture back 🙂

At the Expo, they were sampling their Smoked Farmhouse, Fresh Loire Valley and Double Cream Chive cheeses as well as a few others. They also have Garlic Herb, Sundried Tomato Garlic, Winter Truffle and Herbs de Provence varieties. Organic cashews are the base of their cheeses and give them a rich and creamy texture

Where to Find It: I buy mine at MOMs Organic Market or Whole Foods but you can use this store locator to find where they are sold near you!

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5) Soul Sprout Snacks

After undergoing a rebranding from Two Moms in the Raw (who I’ve written about here) to Soul Sprout, these snacks are better than ever. They have granola bars, almond butter truffles, nut bars, grain-free cereal, and almond protein crackers.

Their plant-based snacks are made with sprouted ingredients and have recently undergone a makeover in the ingredient list. They used to use agave as a sweetener but upgraded to coconut sugar, which is less controversial and even more delicious.

Where to Find Them: I buy mine at MOMs Organic Market, but Whole Foods and The Fresh Market carry their products as well. Look for them at your local grocery store or shop online on their website here.

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6) Jackson’s Honest Chips

I first tried these chips at Expo East two years ago and fell in love. They have become our go to chip and I’ve introduced them to dozens of people through my workshops and cooking classes, and my coworkers are kind of obsessed with them, too. They’re perfectly crunchy and incredibly satisfying.

The founders of the company created the chips as a result of helping their son recover from an illness doctors couldn’t diagnose or treat. They discovered how powerful coconut oil was in his healing and use it as an ingredient in all of their chips. My favorite variety is the sweet potato chips, but they introduced two *new* products at the Expo – Maple Cinnamon Sweet Potato and Rippled Red Heirloom Potato Chips. All I can say is YUM.

Where to Find Them: I buy mine at MOMs Organic Market, Wegmans or The Fresh Market, but you can find them near you using their store locator here.

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7) Cappello’s Cookie Dough

I first fell in love with their chocolate chip cookie dough two years ago at the first Expo East I attended. Their cookies are gluten-free, dairy-free, and grain-free and use almond flour as the base. They introduced three new kinds of dough at the expo: Double Chocolate, Lemon Zest and Ginger Snap. I have a pack of each sitting in my freezer right now along with some of their fettuccine and lasagna sheets that I can’t WAIT to use!

Where to Find Them: I’ve bought their products at MOMs Organic Market and Whole Foods Market, but you can find them near you using this locator.

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8) Simple Mills Crackers & Baking Mixes

I fell in love with Simple Mills baking mixes when I met them at Expo East two years ago. They have the best boxed bread mix, pancake and waffle mix, cake mix, muffin and cupcake mix, and pizza dough. I use their bread mix to make this delicious paleo-friendly, gluten-free stuffing, perfect for the upcoming holidays!

At the Expo, they were introducing their new almond flour crackers. My favorite is the Sun-dried Tomato Basil version, but they also have a Fine Ground Sea Salt and Rosemary & Sea Salt variety. You HAVE to try them!

Where to Find Them: I buy their products at MOMs Organic Market, Target, Home Goods (hit or miss!), or online at Amazon. Use their store locator to find them near you.

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9) Forager Dairy-Free Yogurt

I used to eat yogurt every day growing up. I didn’t like sandwiches as a kid, and yogurt was one of the few foods that was easily portable and filled me up. It took me 25 years to figure it out, but the yogurt I was eating wasn’t the healthiest. It was usually full of lots of sugar and the brands I used to buy (Yoplait and Dannon) rank as two of the BOTTOM FIVE of a list of 129 yogurts rated by the Cornucopia Institute here.

Most dairy-free yogurts have a funky texture and more gelatinous than smooth and creamy. Fortunately, companies like Forager are beginning to step up their game and bring us delicious dairy-free yogurts that taste closer to the real thing. I loved how velvety smooth their cashew milk-based yogurt was and think you will, too!

Where to Find It: I’ve found their other products at MOMs Organic Market, so I’m hoping they will carry the yogurt soon! You can find out more on Forager’s website.

img_827010) Coco-Roons Superfood Cookies

I have to admit it – I used to hate coconut. At Halloween, every Mounds bar or Almond Joy went straight into the trash. No thank you! Over the years, I’ve come to love coconut no matter what form it takes – coconut flakes, milk, oil, and butter. It’s so rich and full of flavor.

One of my favorite desserts are the Coco-Roons made by Wonderfully Raw. My usual go-tos are the brownie and vanilla maple versions, so I was super excited to find out that they rebranded AND introduced two new flavors at Expo – Salted Caramel (YESSSS) and Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Where to Find Them: The best deals are at Home Goods, but you can also buy them at MOMs Organic Market, The Fresh Market, Whole Foods, and Safeway. Check out their store locator for more store options!

Well, that’s a wrap, friends! Those are my first ten finds. I think you’ll love them and can’t wait to share another round of awesomeness in my next post!

HEX Ferments: The Difference, The Flavor & The Future

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

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

The Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Flavor

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

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

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

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

A few bottles of HEX’s brightly colored kombucha

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shop (Where to Find It!)

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

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

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

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

The Future

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

A sneak peek at the new space

A sneak peek at the new space

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

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

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

HEX Ferments: The Start, The Art & The Heart

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

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

The Start

What is this place?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Heart

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t agree more.

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

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

Raw Blueberry Cashew Gelato & Sesame Tahini Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

Raw Blueberry Cashew Gelato

blueberry-gelato

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

Directions

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

Sesame Tahini Cookies

sesame-cookies-miller

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

Directions

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

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

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