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Tag: MOMs organic market

My Favorite Good-for-You Crunchy Snack…Chickpeatos!

As you know, I love cooking and experimenting with new recipes.

Most of the time when I do this, I’m pretty successful. But sometimes I end up with duds despite my best efforts.

I’ve tried to make crispy baked chickpeas about five different times with no success!

I’m still open to figuring out a way that works, but when I don’t feel like doing that, I opt for these yummy snacks instead. Although I make a majority of my own meals and snacks from scratch, sometimes I buy stuff in packages.

Like these.

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They’re called Chickpeatos. A fun play on “Cheetos,” one of my favorite snacks as a kid.

One of the co-founders was in medical school when he started making his own roasted chickpeas to curb his afternoon hunger pangs. He shared them with his peers, and the idea took hold.

If you’re from the Baltimore/DC area, you may recognize the former branding of this DC-based company, which used to go by 2Armadillos.

Known simply as Watusee Foods, they’ve created new packaging and branding that’s more attractive, fun and relevant.

Get it? What-You-See Foods?!

I love creativity and transparency, and this company delivers on its promise. You know exactly what you’re getting inside every package. No fillers, preservatives, or ingredients we can’t pronounce.

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Their crispy baked chickpeas are SO GOOD.

I’ve been sampling them at one of the health and nutrition workshops I teach about how to Fuel for the Road and Eat Well on the Go, and everyone is loving them!

As the front of the bag indicates, the rosemary chickpeatos are “Simply prepared with only 5 ingredients.”

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If you’ve read about my top eating guidelines in the past, you know that eating foods that contain a minimal number of ingredients is super important to me.

I apply the same standards for packaged foods as I do for fresh food.

Quality matters.

For that reason, I try to eat as many foods as possible that ARE ingredients (i.e., ingredients in an apple?…APPLE!) vs. foods that are made from lots of different ingredients.

Unlike other crunchy snacks that are usually loaded with a bunch of processed ingredients like genetically modified corn, artificial colors and flavoring, and pro-inflammatory refined oils, Chickpeatos are made from real, whole, quality ingredients. They have a lot going for them:

  1. Organic
  2. Gluten-Free
  3. Vegan
  4. Not genetically modified
  5. Simple ingredients. Here’s the ingredient list for the rosemary version: organic chickpeas, organic olive oil, organic rosemary, salt, organic garlic powder

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They come in four different flavors:

  • Rosemary (my favorite)
  • Tomato Basil
  • Cinnamon Toast
  • Spicy Cayenne

I’ve found Chickpeatos locally at MOMs Organic Market and Whole Foods, and I bet Wegmans sells them, too. You can also buy them directly from Watusee Foods’ website here. It looks like they’re adding a Store Locator functionality soon, so that should help you find them.

I like eating them as a snack OR putting them on top of salads for a nice crunch – just like croutons, only better for you!

Have you ever tried crispy chickpeas? Or maybe, unlike me, have you had success baking your own chickpeas that stayed crunchy and didn’t burn?

Either way, I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment!

Disclosure: I received free snacks in exchange for writing this review, but I loved the product and what it stood for before this opportunity came to be. All opinions are my own, and maintaining the integrity of all content on this site is of utmost importance to me. I will never promote products I don’t love, believe in, and use myself! 🙂

Baltimore’s EmporiYUM: My Top Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Eats

If you love food, Baltimore is a great place to live.

I was born and raised here, and only in the past few years have I come to appreciate all that this city has to offer.

This weekend’s EmporiYUM event downtown was a great showcase of dozens of local vendors and companies who put love and passion into their food.

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I volunteered at the event with a company that my husband and I have used for the past year and a half or so – Hometown Harvest.

They’re a doorstep delivery service of local fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, poultry and other foods from local vendors, including fresh pressed juices, granola, hummus, nut butters, and salsa.

It was fun telling the dozens of people who came through the booth about how much I love their service and how convenient it is for us to wake up on Friday morning with a bag full of produce and cage-free eggs for the coming week.

Hometown Harvest

After hanging out at the Hometown Harvest booth for a couple of hours, I ventured out to visit the rest of the vendors to see what dairy-free, gluten-free goods I could find. (If you’re new to this blog, I eat dairy-free and gluten-free because of what I’ve learned helps my body feel best!)

I also look for foods that are completely in sync with how I prepare my own food and don’t use ingredients like refined oils or sugars.

Here are my favorites from yesterday!

Some are familiar faces that I’ve mentioned before on this blog, but others were newbies and are worth checking out.

Plantbar

Daniela Troia, the owner of Plantbar, is one of my favorite food people in Baltimore and I’ve been a fan of her restaurant in Towson (Zia’s Café) for years.

Now that she’s set up shop with her juice, smoothie and raw/vegan/gluten-free and aptly named Plantbar at Belvedere Market (my favorite place in Baltimore), I’m even more of a fan.

Plantbar had a bright and colorful booth with samples of their coconut bacon and three kinds of fresh, cold-pressed organic juices. Thai The Knot was especially refreshing on a hot day.

Little Baby's

Wandering down a little farther, I stumbled upon a long line for Little Baby’s Ice Cream, which I soon came to find out is an ice cream vendor based out of Philadelphia that will be making its way to the Baltimore market (Whole Foods and MOMs) by the summer.

I was elated to find out that they had a dairy-free, gluten-free option that I could sample called Coconut Tea.

OH MY GOSH IT WAS SO GOOD.

They use coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, and the texture was JUST like regular ice cream.

The only hitch is that they use agave as one of the sweeteners, so I met the owner and suggested it might be worth considering making a version with coconut nectar instead because of the controversy around agave. He was open to it, which was really cool.

Soom Sesame

Making my way across the floor, I saw an eye-catching display for tahini-based dips (made from ground up sesame seeds) from a company called Soom.

I’m a big fan of tahini and use it in my Super Food Kale Salad Recipe as well as this Snickerdoodle Smoothie, so I knew I would be on board with their products.

I sampled a few of their dips and became an instant fan. With flavors like Classic Sesame and Spicy Sriracha to Thai Red Curry and Zesty Mediterranean, these dips were delicious! I asked about the ingredients and found out that they don’t use oils I avoid like canola oil, so that was a bonus! 🙂

They’re not in Baltimore yet but hope to make their way here. You can buy their plain tahini on Amazon though and check out this link for a list of where they sell in the Philly/NYC/DC/Rockville area.

Kate BakesI ventured up the steps to one of the upper levels and met a company I’ve been hearing about from Hometown Harvest for the past year or so – Kate Bakes.

After dealing with years of frustrating health issues herself, Kate was determined to make delicious treats that she could enjoy without gluten, dairy or any animal products. The bars are handmade in small batches using organic ingredients.

She does use agave as the sweetener along with a soy protein powder in the bars, so I emailed her to get more information about that and to see if she has plans for using alternative ingredients in future creations, since I generally avoid those two ingredients. She was prompt, thorough, and honest in her response (all things I really appreciate and respect!):

Currently we’re comfortable using agave for how it behaves in our recipes (texture and flavor profile) as well as it’s low glycemic index. Each bar actually has less than one serving (less than one tablespoon) of agave and the rest of our sugar content comes from the fruit we use in the recipes – bananas, raisins, dates, or cherries.  We use soy for the same reason.  When I was creating the recipes, I actually tried several different protein powders including rice and hemp.  The bars that came out the best (by far) were the ones using soy. Since I personally don’t have trouble with soy (and the list of things I do have trouble with is quite long!) I wanted to use it since I could eat it and felt it created the best tasting product. I know these ingredients may not be for everyone and I really appreciate you asking these questions to learn more.  As someone with a lot of restrictions, I completely understand there are many reasons why people may choose not to consume certain foods.

Click here to buy Kate’s bars online and to read more about her story.

Blind Spot

The next booth on my stop was Blind Spot Nut Butters, who I first found out about through Hometown Harvest. They sell them on their website, but I had never met the owner or tried more than one variety of their nut butters, so I was excited they had a booth at the event.

My favorite flavor is their Birds & Bees Almond Cashew Nut Butter, which is a great add-in to smoothies. Check out the ingredient list: Raw Almonds, Raw Cashews, Sunflower Seeds, Honey, Ground Flax, Millet, Chia Seeds. All real, whole foods. Just the way I like it!

Here’s where you can buy their nut butters in the MD/DC/VA/PA area and online on their website.

Jinji Booth

Tucked away in a back corner (but always with a line) was my favorite Baltimore chocolate maker – Pure Chocolate by Jinji.

I wrote extensively about how amazing her dairy-free, gluten-free chocolates are here and here. She sets up shop at Belvedere Market along with Plantbar and one more vendor I mention at the close of this post – Hex Ferments.

If you like chocolate, you HAVE to know about Jinji. Everything she makes is divine.

Cava Mezze

My second to last stop for the day was Cava Mezze, which makes Mediterranean dips like hummus, tzatziki, harissa, and tapenades. They had a veggie platter and a variety of their dips available for sampling.

I tried the roasted red pepper, spicy and traditional hummus varieties and they were all savory, creamy and reminded me of my semester abroad in Southern Spain. I love that Cava doesn’t use refined oils like canola oil in their products, unlike some other brands of hummus.

Check out all of their flavors on their website here or find them at MOMs Organic Market or Whole Foods.

Hex Ferments

The last stop on my gluten-free, dairy-free, journey brought me to Hex Ferments – a company I’ve known about for just over a year (mainly because they are parked right next to Jinji’s Chocolates at Belvedere Market).

As I’ve been in the process of healing my body and digestive health from years of antibiotics and acid reducers, I’ve incorporated more healing, nourishing foods into my diet, including some things I – as a picky eater – SWORE I would never eat.

Like sauerkraut and kimchi.

Both are fermented foods that support, protect and shield our immune system, digestion and overall well-being.

Hex was sampling their Sea Kraut and Miso Kimchi – both of which were packed with flavor.

Check out their shop at Belvedere Market and remember to “go with your gut!”

And, that’s a wrap 🙂

I do what I can to support local businesses by voting with my dollars and how I spend my money.

As the daughter of two entrepreneurs, I feel particularly compelled to buy local and support small businesses.

I know they appreciate the love and confidence from their customers and that it encourages them to keep doing great work dedicated to helping us be well while at the same time enjoying amazing eats!

Did you go to The EmporiYUM? What were some of YOUR favorite stops? I’d love to hear from you!

Chai-Spiced Yogi Tea: How to Make It Yourself (SO EASY!)

I love tea.

There’s something calming and comforting about wrapping your hands around a warm cup of herbal tea, especially chai tea.

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I used to get chai tea and chai tea lattes from Starbucks this time of year, but my recipe assignment last week for the culinary nutrition program I’m taking gave me a chance to make it myself!

All I can say is WOW.

I had never made my own tea before, but this recipe is definitely a game changer, AND it was super EASY!

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First of all, the recipe makes 8 cups of tea, which is enough for at least half of a week for me. Here are a few more reasons to try this recipe for yourself at home:

  • The spices in this recipe and the ginger are cleansing, healing, comforting, and warming to the body – perfect for this time of year! For more information about the incredible health benefits of the spices in this tea, click here.
  • Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves simmering on the stove smells AMAZING.
  • It’s cheaper than buying tea by the box!

If you’d like, you can also add in your favorite non-dairy milk, but I just drank it as is. Deeelicious!

I’ve already made it twice in two weeks and will be serving it t0 everyone attending my cooking class tonight.

Yogi Tea

Ingredients (8 cups)

  • 8 cups water
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds (pop them out of the pods for stronger flavor (that’s what I recommend) or use whole pods for a milder flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 2 inches fresh ginger root (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • almond milk as desired

Here’s the full recipe from the awesome Meghan Telpner! Just make sure you strain it with a fine mesh strainer as shown above after simmering everything. We don’t want to be eating cinnamon sticks 🙂

*Helpful Hint: I buy my spices in the individual jars at MOMs Organic Market; you can also find them at Roots Market and other natural food stores. It’s MUCH cheaper than buying an entire jar of something when you only need 1 or 2 tablespoons or a few sticks. You can also order spices online, but a natural food store near you should have fresh spices in bulk if your grocery store doesn’t.

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Elevate Your Tailgate: Kickin’ Buffalo Dip!

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Buffalo sauce.

For whatever reason, it’s one of those flavors/foods that I’ve never liked. Just like I’ve historically avoided/been grossed out by cole slaw, creamy broccoli cheese soup, and  guacamole, I’ve always stayed away from anything coated with the vibrant orange sauce.

My earliest memories of buffalo sauce are around having cooking lessons with my elderly neighbor, Miss Muriel. When I was in grade school, she would invite me to her house and teach me to make things like pasta, paper thin sugar cookies, and cheesecake…100% from scratch.

While our creations were cooking or baking, she ordered lunch from Dominos, complete with pizza and buffalo wings. I never liked the taste of buffalo wings, but I didn’t want to be rude (I was a quiet kid), so I just ate a few anyway.

Fast forward about 20 years, and here I am trying to figure out ways to “UPgrade” common foods that most of us eat a lot.

I’ve asked some friends and co-workers, “What’s ONE food that you love that you’d like to have a healthier recipe for how to make?”

The most common answer?

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“Buffalo chicken dip.”

It’s been one of my husband’s favorite party dips as well. Loaded with cream cheese and either Ranch dressing or Bleu cheese, shredded chicken, and hot sauce, it’s not something that works with those of us who get sick from eating or drinking dairy.

So, off I went in search of some ideas and inspirations for how to UPgrade this dip recipe. I came across a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Angela Liddon over at oh she glows.

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Buffalo hummus.

I know, I know. It’s not the SAME, BUT this is my first attempt at making a buffalo dip, so we’re starting where I’m most familiar.

I brought this hummus to work, and my co-workers loved it! They are so great to serve as my taste testers for many of these recipes. I know I can trust them and that they will be honest with me if they don’t like something. Input from my co-worker and friend Michela was one of the reasons I made some tweaks to my original Protein-Packed Pumpkin Spice Dip recipe.

By the way, I’m still committed to finding a dairy-free version of buffalo chicken dip that is tailgate worthy, too. And when I do, I will share it with you 🙂

In the meantime, you should try this recipe. The “kick” comes from the optional addition of cayenne pepper. You can whip it up in less than 10 minutes, too!

buffalo hummus

Ingredients

Yield: 2 cups

  • 1 can (15-ounces) or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (You can use Frank’s Hot Sauce. I used Gator Ron’s Angel Wing Sauce from MOMs Organic Market. It’s made in nearby Bethesda!)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, liquid from beans can, OR water
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste, for serving

Click here for the full recipe from oh.she.glows!

How To Stock A Healthy Pantry: 11 Sweet Treat Staples & Baking Basics (Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)

Nom nom seductive raw chocolate fudge...one of my many yummy sweet treats!

Nom nom seductive raw chocolate fudge…one of my many yummy sweet treats!

When we think of “eating healthy,” images of carrot sticks and rice cakes often come to mind.

I hope that through reading this blog, you’ve come to expand your view of healthy food and how delicious, fun and exciting it can be!

One of the philosophies that shapes my approach to eating, cooking, and baking is the concept of “upgrading and crowding out.” By eating more of the good stuff that nourishes, energizes and heals us, we naturally have less room for the stuff that doesn’t.

In today’s post I want to share some of the staples we always have on hand for all of the sweet treat recipes I prepare (that my hubby loves oh so much!).

As I mentioned in my previous post about my top 10 (gluten-free, dairy-free) pantry essentials, don’t feel like you have to go out and get ALL of these tomorrow.

Just try one at a time – maybe pick a recipe that sounds good that you’ve never made before using that ingredient and see how you like it! You won’t know until you try 🙂

My Top 11 Gluten-free, Dairy-free Sweet Treat Staples & Baking Basics

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Medjool Dates

Why I Love Them: They’re loaded with “keep it movin’ & fill-you-up” fiber as well as dozens of healing, protective, anti-aging, anti-cancer vitamins and minerals (click here for the full scoop on their health benefits!). Not to be confused with “Deglet” dates, which are waxier in texture, Medjool dates are more versatile and flavorful. Dates have become my primary way to sweeten most recipes, as they give sweets a caramel-like texture and flavor…and I LOVE caramel anything. Deglet dates (the ones you’re most likely familiar with) don’t have the same caramelizing effect.

How I Use Them: First and foremost, make sure you remove the pit! All Medjool dates have pits, so squeeze them open, and take it out before using or eating them. I use dates in a lot of recipes: caramel apple dip, healthy donut holes, homemade fudgesicles, dairy-free cheesecakes, chocolate avocado mousse, and almost every smoothie.

One of my favorite snacks is to take a date, split it in half and stuff it with almond butter or peanut butter. You don’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t tried this little bite of caramel bliss!

Where to Find Them: I get a big container of Medjool dates from BJs Wholesale Club, as I’ve found that to be cheapest route to go. Trader Joe’s sells them at a pretty decent price, too. You can also get a good deal on them from Nuts.com (worth ordering something JUST to get the super cool, catchy and creative packaging they use!). Most grocery stores carry them, too – some in the dried fruit section and other stores in the produce section.

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Cacao Powder

Why I Love It: It has more antioxidants than any other food…and gives many of my desserts their chocolate taste! Cacao powder isn’t treated by heat (and therefore damaged) like the more familiar cocoa powder, so its supercharged, health-boosting, disease-fighting antioxidant properties remain intact. Buy it raw and, ideally, organic.

How I Use It: Great in raw or cooked desserts. Try my hubby’s favorite Peanut Butter Cup smoothie or Chocolate-Covered Strawberry smoothie, Chocolate Avocado Mousse, Fudgesicles, Divine Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip, No-Bake Chocolate Fudge, Homemade Rolos, or 2-minute peanut butter chocolate ice cream.

Where to Find It: Wegmans, Whole Foods, and any natural food store like MOMs Organic Market. We get ours online through Amazon Prime. I’ve found that it’s cheaper to buy it on Amazon or Vitacost instead of at the store, unless it’s on sale. This is another product that Home Goods has sometimes, so check out their pantry section the next time you’re there to see if they have it.

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Flaxseed/Flaxseed Meal

Why I Love Them: Known for their anti-inflammatory, disease-preventing, and fat-fighting (AKA GBOMBS!) properties, flaxseeds keep our brain, heart, and joints healthy due to their Omega-3 fatty acid content. Since our body doesn’t produce Omega-3 fatty acids on its own, we need to make sure we’re incorporating them into our diet. Flaxseeds have a nutty flavor and are loaded with fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar (a key to staying energized!), keeps us feeling fuller, and promotes healthy digestion. Flaxseeds are also a great anti-PMS food because of the lignans they contain, which help balance our hormones.

If you buy the whole seeds make sure you grind the seeds before eating them or they will pass through your body undigested.

How I Use Them: You can create something called a flax egg and use it as a substitute for whole eggs in certain recipes. I put a couple of teaspoons of flaxseeds in my morning smoothies, including this seasonal Pumpkin Pie Smoothie and Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie Shake and use it in other sweet treat recipes, including Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Walnut Brownies, and No-Bake Fig Newton Bites. Remember, all of these recipes are also gluten-free and dairy-free!

Where to Find Them: Most of the major grocery stores, every health food store, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Wegmans all sell flaxseed. I’ve also had luck finding them in the food section of Home GoodsAmazon, Vitacost and Nuts.com are always options as well!

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Raw Nuts (especially Walnuts, Almonds & Cashews)

Why I Love Them: Dr. Joel Fuhrman, one of the most respected nutrition experts in the world, classifies nuts as one of his GBOMBS foods (the second “S” stands for seeds and nuts) for their anti-inflammatory, anti-fat storage, disease-fighting compounds. They are a great source of heart, brain & joint health-supporting fats and contain fiber and protein to keep us feeling full and satisfied. Buy them raw/unroasted because they take on different flavor when roasted that changes the taste of a dish (especially cashews) .

How I Use Them: In a LOT of recipes! You can toss a few teaspoons in to your morning smoothie, sprinkle them on top of a salad or a jar of overnight oats, toast them and add them to sautéed vegetables or greens. If you have trouble digesting nuts, try soaking them in water overnight before adding them in to dishes, as that makes them easier to digest.

Here are links to recipes on the blog that uses each kind of nuts:

Cashews: These are one of my MAIN sources of making desserts, smoothies, and even cheesecake taste creamy, decadent and satisfying without using dairy! The key is buying raw cashews and usually soaking them in water overnight. Try these recipes: My FAVE parmesan cheese substitute – Paleo Parmesan Cheese, Caramel Apple Dip, Dairy-Free Nacho Cheese Sauce, Mini-Cheesecakes (DECADENT alert!), and Peaches ‘n Cream Smoothie.

Walnuts: Seductive Raw Chocolate Walnut Fudge, Homemade Donut Holes, Simply Amazing Chocolate Walnut Brownies, Upgrade Kale Waldorf Salad, Zucchini Basil Pesto, and No-Bake Fig Newton Bites.

Almonds: Quinoa Almond & Apple Potluck Salad, Garlicky Lemon Green Beans, Ooey Gooey Berry Peach Crisp, Dairy-Free Cheesecake Crust, Donut Holes and Fig-Newton Bites.

Where to Find Them: All grocery stores sell them, but Trader Joe’s and Nuts.com appear to sell them cheapest. Wegmans also sells big containers of raw nuts, and I just got a giant container of raw cashews there that will last awhile! I store all of my seeds and nuts in glass jars in the fridge to prevent the oils in them from going bad.

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100% Pure Maple Syrup (Grade B)

Why I Love It: We’re not talking about the super processed Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima stuff you grew up pouring on pancakes. Those maple-flavored syrups contain lots of highly processed sugar called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other chemical additives as well…basically not real food ingredients. 100% pure maple syrup has a darker color and richer flavor but also has some minerals and antioxidants intact. Keep in mind that it’s still sugar, which is something we should limit our intake of, but on a scale of “good, better, best,” it’s a better choice than pure white table sugar. Click here for the full scoop on maple syrup from Authority Nutrition.

How I Use It: In addition to raw honey, we use maple syrup as our primary sweetener in sweet and savory recipes. It has turned a Brussels sprouts hater into a lover with this recipe, and I’ve used it to sweeten everything from decadent chocolate mousse and Peanut Butter Bliss balls to the sweet and tangy dressing for my favorite kale salad.

Where to Find It: Every grocery store sells 100% maple syrup, but I’ve had to look a little harder to find the good Grade B kind, which is deepest in color and flavor and best for baking. I usually buy a 32-ounce jar at MOMs for about $14 (see picture above!). It lasts for several months, so I don’t mind spending the money. Trader Joe’s also sells Grade B syrup.

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Coconut Milk (Unsweetened, Canned)

Why I Love It: Since cutting out dairy, I’ve had to find alternatives to cow’s milk, and this stuff is a great option. Coconut milk is rich, creamy, and incredibly satisfying. It’s high in saturated fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are both easily burned by the body as fuel. MCTs are especially beneficial because bile acids (which we usually need to break down fats) aren’t needed to digest them.

How I Use It: In SO many recipes from one of YOUR favorite recipes, the Set-It-And-Forget-It Comfort Food Casserole, to fudgesicles, frittatas, dairy-free cheesecakes, and coconut whipped cream. Coconut milk gives food a really deep, rich flavor and adds a nice creamy texture to any dish. We always have a few cans in our pantry!

Where to Find It: Every grocery store sells coconut milk, and you can find it at stores likes Target, too. It’s usually in the international foods aisle or in the natural foods section. Buy the canned stuff (not the coconut milk in the refrigerated section of the store). The best brand to buy is Native Forest because their cans are BPA-free. BPA is a chemical found in the lining of canned foods that makes its way into the food, so whenever you buy canned goods look for the words “BPA-free.” Also, buy the full fat kind. You can always thin it out yourself with water if you prefer it thinner. Check out this post by Chris Kresser for more info on coconut milk…even how to make it yourself!

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Shredded Coconut AND Coconut Flakes (Unsweetened)

Why I Love It: I should start by saying I used to HATE coconut. Yup, whenever I got those little Almond Joys or Mounds in my trick-or-treat bag as a kid, into the trash they went. It’s only been in the past 3-4 years or so that I’ve taken to coconut in all forms, but I use it in lots of recipes. See the info in the coconut milk blurb above, but also know that shredded, unsweetened coconut is a healthy, natural sweetener to use in recipes because it won’t spike your blood sugar like white sugar will. Coconut also contains high amounts of two fatty acids that have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-septic and anti-fungal properties.

How I Use It: Simple ways to use shredded or flaked coconut are to toss it in with some homemade trail mix, onto your overnight oats, or into your morning smoothie, or even toast it and toss it onto a salad. I use shredded coconut in my kid-friendly healthy donut holes and Caribbean island breeze smoothie.

Where to Find It: The brand I recommend is “Let’s Do Organic.” You can find it at Wegmans, Whole Foods, MOMs Organic Market, any natural food store, or online at Amazon, Vitacost, and Nuts.com. They sell shredded coconut at every grocery store (usually in the baking aisle or health food aisle) and also at places like Target – just make sure you buy the unsweetened kind!

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Raw Almond Butter (Creamy, Unsalted)

Why I Love It: This has been a staple in our pantry for years, and we always keep several jars on hand. Almonds are a great source of protein, healthy fats (food for our brain, skin, heart, and joints!), as well as several other vitamins and minerals like magnesium, vitamin E, and manganese. It’s best to buy almond butter in its RAW form, which means it hasn’t been heat-treated to high temps and is closest to its natural form (AKA blended almonds).

How I Use It: I love this stuff! I’ll add a tablespoon to my morning smoothies for some creaminess, use it in my Gluten-free Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, No-bake Chocolate-covered Cookie Dough Bites, Healthy Donut Holes, Berry Quick Overnight Oats, and Raw Almond Butter Cups. To avoid the oil-dripping-over-the-sides-headache when you first open it, store the jar upside down when you first bring it home. When you’re ready to use it, open the jar and stir – the oil will already be partially blended, which will save you from a giant mess!

Where to Find It: By far, the BEST place to buy raw almond butter at the lowest price is Trader Joe’s. About a year ago, I got word that they were discontinuing it and switching manufacturers…and subsequently bought 8 jars of it, thinking they would be my last. Fortunately, they didn’t discontinue it! Yay! Trader Joe’s raw almond butter sells for $3-$7 less PER JAR than almost any other raw almond butter out there. In other words, it’s worth the trip to TJs to get this stuff.

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Rolled Oats

Why I Love Them: Oats are most known for their high fiber content and its ability to help remove cholesterol from our digestive system that would otherwise end up in our bloodstream. The fiber content in oats also helps stabilize blood sugar, which directly translates into how energized we are (stable blood sugar = stable energy). Oats also contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals that give our body the nutrients it needs. For all of those reasons, oats have been tied to healthier hearts, reduced risk of disease like diabetes and cancer, and more stable energy. For information about all of the health benefits of oats, click here.

How I Use Them: I use oats most commonly in breakfast foods like these berry and pumpkin pie overnight oats as well as to thicken drinks like this PB&J smoothie, make a crust for this berry peach crisp, or in these decadent Peanut Butter Granola Bars.

Where to Find Them: I buy a big bag of gluten-free rolled oats at Trader Joe’s and they last me a long time. Oats have a high likelihood of being “cross-contaminated” by wheat because of where they’re processed, so be careful when selecting oats if you’re sensitive or allergic to wheat. You can find rolled oats (NOT instant or quick oats) at any grocery store or online at Amazon or Vitacost.

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Coconut Flour

Why I Love It: Since we cook and bake without using gluten (found in traditional white and wheat flours), this stuff really comes in handy. Not only is coconut flour gluten-free, it’s also a good source of dietary fiber, safe for diabetics (won’t spike your blood sugar!), high in healthy fats and packed with protein. For even more info about why you should get to know this ingredient, check out this article from Food Matters about the Health Benefits of Baking with Coconut Flour.

How I Use It: In baking recipes. It’s NOT a 1:1 substitution for regular flour, so be sure to follow recipes when you start using it. Most paleo recipes (i.e., no beans, grains, dairy, or refined foods) use it as the primary baking flour in addition to almond flour (another great choice for your pantry!). I used it in these Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes, these decadent Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Balls and in a pumpkin muffin recipe I will be posting later this week!

Where to Find it: This stuff is popping up at more stores each day. Trader Joe’s sells organic coconut flour for $2.99/bag, so that’s where I’ve been getting mine. Whole Foods, Wegmans and MOMs or Roots will carry it, as will any natural food store. I’ve started seeing it in the more mainstream grocery stores in the gluten-free aisle. You can also order it online at Amazon, Vitacost, or Nuts.com. I’m also a big fan of having almond flour on hand, so check out those same places to buy almond flour.

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Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

Why I Love Them: These are one of the most “processed” foods we keep around the house. I like them because they’re 1) allergy-friendly (no wheat/gluten, dairy, peanuts, soy, eggs, tree nuts), 2) not genetically modified, and 3) don’t have artificial anything. The only ingredients are unsweetened chocolate and cane sugar (yay for 2 ingredients!) vs. Nestle morsels, which contain Sugar, Chocolate Cocoa Butter, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavors. I’m all about “upgrading” recipes and finding better alternatives to common foods that we love.

How I Use Them: I might use them in a recipe once a month – again, sparingly – but it’s nice to have an option when a recipe calls for chocolate chips 🙂 I used them in just about every recipe featured in my 5 Favorite Sweet Treats post as well as in Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Balls, No-Bake Cookie Dough Bites, the Easiest Chocolate Chip Cookies You’ll Ever Make, AND in one of the best recipes I’ve ever made – Mini Deliciously Dairy-Free Cheesecakes!

Where to Find Them: In the gluten-free or baking section of Wegmans, Target, MOMs and Whole Foods. I’ve found them cheapest at Wegmans or at MOMs if they are on sale or I have a coupon. Use this link on their website to find which stores sell them near you.

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“Betcha Can’t Eat Just One” of These Way Better Chips!

Doritos, Cheetos, Funyuns, Bugles, Fritos, Pringles, Combos.

These were the snack foods I grew up loving.

As I’ve been on a journey to upgrade my diet and make healthier choices over the past few years, I’ve been introduced to new snack food options, ones that don’t contain 42 ingredients like my beloved Doritos but still satisfy the salty/crunchy desire many of us have.

While I try to eat as many unprocessed, unrefined, whole foods as possible, I don’t do it all the time.

When I do eat something processed, I look for as short of an ingredient list as possible, one that contains ingredients a third grader can pronounce…and ideally has around 5 (not 42!) ingredients.

That’s why I like these!

Way Better Tortilla Chips

Two of our favorite varieties of Way Better Chips

These are two of our favorite varieties of Way Better Chips!

Way Better chips contain 6 ingredients and are made from real foods like sweet potatoes, organic chia seeds, and sprouted quinoa, that are not genetically altered like almost every other snack food on the market today. The sprouting process that their ingredients undergo increases the nutrient value compared to grains and seeds that aren’t sprouted and makes them more easily digestible.

Noocho Cheese with Way Better Sweet Potato Chips - yum!

Noocho Cheese with Way Better Sweet Potato Chips – yum!

Another plus is that these chips are certified gluten-free, so if you have sensitivities to gluten or are gluten-intolerant, you can still enjoy them! 🙂

Way Better makes a lot of different varieties, but we like the Sweet Chili, Sweet Potato and Black Bean chips the best.

Serve them with this awesome dairy-free nacho cheese sauce like we did the other night. Everyone will love it!

You can find Way Better chips at Wegmans, Whole Foods, MOMs Organic Market, The Fresh Market, and even at Home Goods!

Don’t have any of those stores near you? Shop online at Way Better’s website.

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