Month: November 2014

My Husband Faces His Fears…And Celebrates with This No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie {Vegan, Gluten-Free}

Sometimes we experience moments in our lives that are so profound, so impactful that we can’t help but be affected by them.

I experienced one of those moments today.

Bill and me

My husband, Bill, faced some of his biggest fears today as he humbly yet commandingly held the attention of a room full of people, sharing his story of growth through community over the past 6 years.

When our pastor and friend, Ryan, called Bill 3 weeks ago to ask if he would share his story at church, he stepped up to the challenge, despite his fears and reservations.

Like many people, Bill has had a lifelong fear of public speaking. And like most men, he wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to share his thoughts and feelings with a room of over 100 people. When Bill was first asked, he panicked and decided he needed some proper training, so he spent the following twenty minutes googling public speaking courses. He found some good ones, but they were all UK based (Here’s some great public speaking courses to attend in London if these are of interest to you!). However, I managed to calm him down and he came round to the idea of no training and just practicing with me instead.

Being emotionally vulnerable isn’t something our culture encourages men to do, and those who do put their fragile egos at risk.

Bill opened up by highlighting the irony of how he can easily speak in front of a room of elementary school students in his job as a phys ed teacher, where conversations typically consist of debates over who did what, who likes whom or who has to go to the bathroom.

Speaking in front of a group of peers is an entirely different ballgame.

He shared how he used to be terrified of speaking in public. He would intentionally sit on the outskirts of a room full of people in our small group, sometimes dozing off as a result of the heat in the room, hoping to go unnoticed and not be asked to contribute to the discussion.

He talked about how he grew in his understanding of what it really means to be a man in a guys’ group he was a part of through our church as he studied the book The Way of the Wild Heart.

He got choked up as he shared how he felt years of emotional burdens lifted as he and the guys in that group shared their stories and struggles with each other.

He opened up about the impact of a retreat we went on last September on our ability to communicate more effectively and lovingly as a couple.

In Rhinebeck, New York for the Getting the Love You Want couples retreat

In Rhinebeck, New York for the Getting the Love You Want couples retreat

Sometimes what we are so afraid to share with other people is the very thing that will connect us to them, the very thing they are so frightened to unveil themselves.

Sometimes it just takes one person with the courage to be vulnerable.

I’m so proud of my husband for being that person.

I’m proud of the man Bill has become and the leader he is in our relationship, in his job, and in our church.

I’m proud of the example he sets for what it means to be a humble, teachable, gracious, forgiving, kind, caring and loving man.

I’m proud to be his wife.

Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky.

I wanted to celebrate him and what this milestone means, so we grabbed brunch at one of our favorite places – Atwater’s – and I gave him a card letting him know how proud of him I am.

When we got home, I served him this pie. Bill and I both love the combo of peanut butter and chocolate, so we had eyed up this recipe before. I thought today would be the perfect day to make it for him.

If you like peanut butter and chocolate, you need to know about this pie. Talk about an indulgence! It’s chocolately, peanut buttery (trust me, it’s a word), and decadent.

no bakepeanut butter pie IMG_7936

Tempted to try it? Click here for the recipe**! I used cacao powder (not cocoa powder) because it has more health benefits! Click here to learn more about why CACAO is better than COCOA.

**I added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the filling. For the crust I ground up 1.5 cups of whole almonds in my food processor until it was a fine consistency because I didn’t have any almond meal. Then, I just added the other crust ingredients to the food processor to combine them before pressing it into the bottom of the pie plate.

Rachel’s Healthy Holiday Gift Guide: Part 1 {My Budget Friendly Favorites & Seasonal Splurges!}

In the spirit of transparency, I wanted to let you know I am promoting these items because I regularly use them in my house and can personally attest to their quality and usefulness. I am not being paid by any of these companies to promote their products. The links I’ve included below are simply to make it easier for you to find the product, but you can shop around for the best deals, especially on Black Friday & Cyber Monday! I find that Amazon tends to have the best deals, so a lot of the links are to Amazon. 🙂


One of the keys to eating healthy, nourishing food is to make being in the kitchen FUN. With all of the toys and gadgets I get to use while I’m cooking, I have a blast in my (small) kitchen and make quite a mess :).

If you’re looking for some fun, health promoting gift ideas, you’ve come to the right place! Now, photo socks are one of the most versatile gifts you can get as you can put any images you like on them, so this could be a pretty affordable idea if you’re on a budget; you can just choose food themed pictures! In fact any custom gift ideas would be a good path to go down, anything wins when it is unique to the recipient! But if it’s cooking equipment in particular that you want, I’ve got you covered there too. I took a look around my house and pulled out the kitchen gadgets and cookbooks I use and like the most and wanted to share them with you. I’ve accumulated these over the past few years – many were gifts, others we bought ourselves.

We order most of our kitchen equipment and super foods from Amazon because they really do have the best deals, and we get free 2-day shipping with our Amazon Prime Membership but other retailers may have better buys for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

For today’s post, I’m sharing my Budget-Friendly Favorites ($25-$50) and Super Splurge Staples (>$100) gift/wish list ideas. Next week I’ll share ideas for stocking stuffers and great gifts under $20 as well as some of my favorite cookbooks!

My Budget Friendly Favorites (<$50)

  1. Paderno Spiral Slicer
  2. Cuisinart Hand Stick Immersion Blender
  3. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
  4. Cuisinart Mini Food Processor
  5. Thermos
  6. Rival Crockpot
  7. Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker
  8. Pyrex Glass Bowls
  9. Corningware Cookware/Bakeware
  10. Food Network Magnetic Measuring Spoons


Paderno Spiral Slicer. This is a game changer. AND it’s less than $40! 🙂 If you have cut out or are trying to cut down on eating things like pasta, this gadget is a must have. In our house, we cook gluten-free, so our go-to option for pasta is usually brown rice pasta (made from brown rice and water) OR this new kind made from beans and lentils (only ONE ingredient!).

But pasta can be SO much more fun when you make it out of things like zucchini, yellow squash, and other veggies. You can still use your favorite sauces, whether you like marinara, pesto, or caulifredo AND you get at least one extra serving of veggies to boot. Not a bad deal! I used to use a spiral slicer made by Joyce Chen, but this one by Paderno took over the #1 spot for me.


Cuisinart Hand Stick Immersion Blender. I love to make soup. This gadget is clutch if you like to make soups (and dips, spreads, pesto, dressings, etc.).

I remember the first time I tried making pumpkin soup about 4 years ago, I ended up with a very unhappy blender and soup ALL OVER THE COUNTER, cabinets…and me. I had to pour it in the blender in small batches, so it wouldn’t blow off the top. This gadget is GREAT for making blended soups that need to be pureed. Simply cook the soup as you normally would in a pot on the stove and then put the stick blender attachment in the soup and pulse away! After about a minute, your soup will be blended together and you won’t have to deal with the mess that I did.


Lodge Cast Iron Skillet. It took us a while to buy one of these because we didn’t want to have to spend the time “seasoning” it in the oven before its first use. Looking back, that was a bit of a lame excuse because this skillet makes food taste AMAZING!

Whether we are searing a chicken breast to lock in the juices and flavors, sautĂ©ing onions and greens for our mini frittatas, or making a sweet potato hash, we LOVE this skillet. Cast iron skillets come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but we have the 3-quart combo from Lodge. It’s surprisingly affordable, too.


Cuisinart Mini Food Processor. I bought mine at Home Goods for under $30, but you can find these on Amazon, too. Or maybe as a Black Friday deal 🙂 This gadget is handy for making smaller batches of things that need to be processed without pulling out the 11-cup food processor. It makes it easy to chop small batches of onions, garlic, nuts and seeds, single servings of 2-minute banana ice cream, and my go-to paleo parmesan cheeze.


Thermos. So, remember back in grade school when everyone had matching plastic lunch box and thermos sets? Well, good news! They make adult versions. The thermos is one of the BEST tools Bill has to squeeze a hot lunch in to his sometimes 10-minute lunch breaks as a teacher. He simply heats up the food at our house in the morning and pours it into the thermos. Four or five hours later when lunchtime rolls around, he has HOT food. No microwave needed. It also keeps food cold, so sometimes he uses it to transport smoothies instead. We both have one and wish we’d thought to get one sooner!


Rival Crockpot. This is a great tool for “set it and forget it” meals. From chilis and stews to homemade applesauce and oatmeal, this device is one of the cheaper options and makes meal prep EASY and pretty mindless. You can prep a meal the night before and when you wake up, everything is magically cooked! I will be sharing a recipe for a crockpot lentil chili soon, so stay tuned!

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. I loved ice cream as a kid…and had it every year for my birthday cake through my late 20s when I found out that dairy products were the culprit of nearly 2 decades of sickness. The good news is that I didn’t have to “give up” ice cream entirely…just dairy-based varieties. Making your own ice cream when you have one of these things is surprisingly simple. You just blend the ingredients in your blender, pour it in the ice cream maker, and let it do its thing!

Pyrex Bowls & Corningware Cookware/Bakeware. I thought I would lump these two together, since I use the Pyrex bowls to prep and store food and the Corningware dishes to cook or bake it. These are almost ALWAYS on sale on Black Friday at either Macy’s or Kohl’s, so that’s the time to snag them. Unlike plastic, which can leach harmful chemicals into our food, glass won’t take on the taste or color of whatever foods you store inside of it. You can also more quickly identify what the foods are inside of your fridge when you use clear glass containers. We’re big fans of both of these and highly recommend them for any kitchen!


Food Network Magnetic Measuring Spoons. I am a bit of a messy chef (Bill can attest to this big time!), and one of things that tends to get lost in the shuffle in a cluttered, tiny kitchen are measuring spoons. That’s why I love these little guys. There’s a magnet in the middle that keeps them all stuck together. The other great thing is that there are two sides to each spoon – one that is rounded and another that is oblong, making it easier to reach into any jar, regardless of the shape of its opening. They are a little pricy, but I got them at Kohl’s when I had some Kohl’s cash lying around 🙂

Super Splurge Staples (>$100)

  1. Vitamix Blender or Blendtec
  2. Cuisinart Food Processor
  3. Breville (or Hurom or Omega) Juicer
  4. Nesco Food Dehydrator or Excaliber


**The Joy of Blending Blog wrote a post about where to get the best Black Friday deals on these blenders…check out the post here!**

Vitamix Blender. Yup, I’m on the bandwagon. This is my #1 favorite kitchen gadget. Everything they say about this blender is true. It is SO worth it. Even if it means setting aside some money every month (or putting it on your wish list!), a high-powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec will become your favorite kitchen appliance.

Whether you’re blending smoothies (no more green chunks!) or dips or making your own soups, ice cream, or almond milk, a high-powered blender is KEY for creating a smooth, creamy consistency. Smoothies have never been better, and I can put all sorts of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and super foods in them, knowing they will all be pulverized! I have the TurboBlend VS (variable speed) version. I definitely recommend it over the 2-speed option. You can buy one a lot cheaper by getting a refurbished version from Vitamix. We got ours as a gift last Christmas, and it was ordered from Amazon.

I know people who also swear by Blendtec blenders (similar concept but with more automated settings than the Vitamix), so here is a link to check out those if you’re interested.


Cuisinart Food Processor. I got the Cuisinart 11-Cup Food processor as a gift about 5 years ago. At the time, I didn’t cook much, so it sat in its original box for about…2 years 🙂 Oops!

I had no idea what I was missing. I use my food processor weekly to make everything from homemade donut holes and kickin’ buffalo dip to homemade Rolos, cauliflower mashed potatoes and chocolate hazelnut Nutella truffles. I use the shredding attachments to effortlessly shred cabbage, carrots, apples, zucchini, and Brussels sprouts. Go for the biggest cup size you can fit in your kitchen 🙂


Breville (or Hurom or Omega) Juicer. I got this as a birthday gift a few years ago, and I love it! For the price, it’s a decent juicer, although you will get more juice out of your fruits and veggies if you buy a higher end one like a Hurom or Omega. Reason being, they are “masticating” juicers that squeeze the juice out more slowly (otherwise known as a slow juicer) vs. pulverizing/shredding the produce like this (centrifugal) Breville one does. If you can afford the Hurom or Omega, go for it; otherwise, try the Breville. When I feel something coming on, especially this time of year, I whip up a juice with greens, celery, lemons and fresh ginger and down it, and it helps me boost my immune system and flood my bloodstream with health-boosting nutrients.

Nesco Food Dehydrator. This was a birthday gift from my hubby. You can use it to make everything from kale chips and crunchy seeds and nuts to fruit roll-ups and jerky. Dehydrating food allows you to keep it “uncooked” (below 115F) while removing the water, so it is crunchy and tastes just like it was baked. By keeping some of our food raw, we keep the enzymes and nutrients intact that are often lost or greatly reduced by cooking. If you have your sights set on the BEST dehydrator and think you will be using it a lot, this Excaliber one is top of the line.

What’s on your holiday wish list?

Sign Up for My First LIVE Cooking Demo on December 5th: Energy-Boosting & Inflammation-Busting Recipes!

I’m SUPER excited to share this post (and am pinching myself that this is actually happening!!). 🙂

I’m ready to kick off my FIRST event to share what I’ve learned about how to use food for energy and healing along with 6 yummy recipes that you’ll get to try and learn how to make yourself.

I wanted to make sure YOU, my loyal blog followers, knew about it before anyone else.

On Friday, December 5th from 7:00-9:00 pm, I will be hosting a LIVE 2-hour, interactive healthy cooking demo in the Overlea/Fullerton area in Baltimore. Check out the description below to see what you can expect if you come! I have space for 8 people, so make sure you sign up below if you want to be a part of it 🙂

Inflammation-Busting, Energy-Boosting Upgrades


Creamy Alfredo sauce. Cheezy pesto. Chewy pecan pie bites.

What do all of these foods have in common?

#1 – They’re decadent and delicious.

#2 – They’re nourishing, satisfying, and anti-inflammatory.

#3 – They’re gluten-free and dairy-free.

#4 – You’ll learn how to make all of them (plus 3 more recipes!) if you join my cooking class on Friday, December 5th!

For many of us, inflammation is triggered by foods we eat every day and is one of the main reasons many of us are prone to getting sick or holding on to weight.  Symptoms we think are “normal” because they’re common – like asthma, allergies, pain, swelling, joint pain, reflux and even headaches – can often be linked back to inflammation, a “fire” inside our bodies.

From overcoming chronic bronchitis, acid reflux, and ear infections to achieving long-term weight loss, clear skin, and all-day energy, I’ve learned the secrets to eating in a way that helps the body “cool” the fire inside, and I want to share them with you!

Photo courtesy of Photography by Kat

Photo courtesy of Photography by Kat

Join me for this interactive, 2-hour workshop as we explore:

  • The top foods that trigger inflammation and keep us sick and overweight AND foods that fight or “cool” inflammation in our body
  • How to make a kale salad that will convert any kale hater into a lover
  • How easy it is to make your own noodles…out of zucchini!
  • The gadget I use to make mincing garlic a cinch and get rid of that lingering garlic smell on your fingers!
  • The secret ingredient in my creamy Alfredo sauce
  • A quick recipe that a recovering Parmesan cheese addict uses as a substitute
  • My favorite sweet treat that creates a caramel taste and texture…naturally!

**The cost is $40 per person and includes the demo, tastings, recipe packet, and handouts. The class can hold 8 people, so sign up below by noon on December 4th if you want to reserve your spot!**

Pecan-Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole {Paleo, Vegan}


From butternut squash soup and roasted Brussels sprouts to pumpkin spiced anything to comforting chilis and stews, I LOVE fall food!

We had a Thanksgiving lunch at work this past week, and one of the dishes was a sweet potato casserole topped with pecans. That’s what inspired me to create this dish.

I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes and pecans, especially since both are so nourishing and fueling to our bodies.


Sweet potatoes have lots of health benefits. They are…

And, the most unscientific benefit…


Mashed sweet potatoes + pecans = sweet, creamy, crunchy and satisfying…comfort food at its finest.

You don’t even need any super fancy gadgets to make this Pecan-Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole, just a basic hand mixer.

Sweet potatoes name

Pecan-Coated Sweet Potato Casserole

This dish is one of our family favorites at Thanksgiving or anytime you want to highlight the flavors, colors and textures of fall. 


  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (unsweetened)
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt


  • 1 cup pecans (chopped)
  • 3/4 cup almond flour or almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3-4 tablespoons coconut oil (solid, so it crumbles)
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Pinch sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.

  2. Poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, or until fork tender. Allow to cool slightly then peel the skin off the sweet potatoes.

  3. Reduce oven temperature to 350F. 

  4. Place the sweet potato pulp, coconut milk, maple syrup, ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, ginger, nutmeg, and sea salt in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, until thoroughly combined and fluffy. Taste and adjust sweetness/spices if needed.

  5. Grease an 8×8 baking dish with coconut oil (or grass-fed butter or ghee) and pour sweet potato mixture into the dish.

  6. In a separate bowl combine the pecans, almond meal/flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt with your hands until it comes together as a crumble.

  7. Sprinkle pecan mixture on top of sweet potatoes and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned. Serve warm.

If you prefer to steam the potatoes instead of roasting them, use this method.

Do you have a favorite sweet potato recipe?

Feel free to share it below! I love hearing from you 🙂

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes: Gluten Free, Dairy-Free, Paleo

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! It’s my favorite food holiday and a wonderful time to reflect on what matters most and what we value and appreciate.

I have a lot to be thankful for, including all of YOU who have been SO supportive of me and my continued work on this blogging adventure.

I am SUPER excited to spend most of the day in the kitchen Thursday preparing yummy and nourishing food for my family. I love them and want them to be well!


I love how colorful the Thanksgiving plate can be, how amazing our house smells as everything is cooking and all of the flavors are coming together, and taking the time to reflect on what matters most to me.

Here are a few of the recipes I’ve shared on the blog before (and some I haven’t!) that would be perfect for your Thanksgiving dinner 🙂 Just as a little reminder, all of these recipes are dairy-free and gluten-free, so just about anyone can enjoy them!

Thanksgiving Recipes

  1. Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale and Almond Parmesan
  2. Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  3. Butternut Squash and Quinoa Harvest Salad
  4. Taste the Rainbow Kale Salad
  5. Pecan-Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole
  6. Paleo Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares
  7. Maple-Glazed Delicata Squash
  8. The Ultimate Gluten-Free Bread Stuffing {Paleo}
  9. Cran-Apple Quinoa Salad
  10. Paleo Pumpkin Muffins & Bread
  11. Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnuts
  12. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
  13. Green Beans Almondine
  14. Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash
  15. Brussels Sprouts with Shallots, Cranberries & Pecans
  16. Protein-Packed Pumpkin Spice Dip
  17. Melt In Your Mouth Apple Crisp
  18. How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnuts

People often ask where I look for recipes when I’m trying to come up with ideas. Here are a few of the blogs I will be getting inspirations from this Thanksgiving. Check out the recipes and let me know if you end up trying out any of them!

Healthy & Gluten-Free Recipes from The Detoxinista

I love so many of her recipes and try out at least one of them every couple of weeks. I’m excited to try out her Clean Green Bean Casserole (cut back on the sodium – it’s a LOT!), No-Bake Pumpkin Pie Tarts, and Grain-Free Stuffing, but she highlights a full list of 10 of her favorites here, so be sure to check it out!

Grain-Free Thanksgiving from Against All Grain

I made a recipe for a dense, moist (everyone’s favorite word, right??) pumpkin bread that I saw blogger and author, Danielle Walker, post on Facebook and brought it to my church for our annual Thanksgiving dinner tonight. SO worth it!

Not only that, but Danielle is offering a completely grain-free Thanksgiving recipe ebook for sale on her website for less than $5! Many people who have digestive challenges feel better when they at least temporarily eliminate grains from their diet.

Against All Grain's Pumpkin Bread (Nut-Free, Grain-Free & Dairy-Free!)

Against All Grain’s Pumpkin Bread (Nut-Free, Grain-Free & Dairy-Free!)

Nourishing Meals by Tom Malterre

What caught my eye was this mouth-watering picture of an Apple Cider & Herb Brined Turkey. This Wild Rice Stuffing recipe with apples, cranberries, and sage looks (and sound tasty), too, so I may try it!

I also happen to think the two Nourishing Meals cookbooks are FANTASTIC, and I highly recommend them.

Our Paleo Thanksgiving by realfoodwithdana

I’ve been following Dana’s work on Instagram for the past few years and have gotten to meet her in person at the Natural Products Expo East several times. She focuses on paleo recipes (no beans, grains, dairy, refined sugar or processed foods), and she is fun and funny, too. If you’re not already following her on instagram, you can do that here.

In this post, she shares over 50 paleo-friendly, mouthwatering Thanksgiving recipes that you will definitely want to check out to upgrade your menu.

Nomtastic Thanksgiving Recipesfrom nomnompaleo

I love the playful vibe of this blog and appreciate how simple and fun their approach is. Their Roasted Garlic Autumn Root Vegetable Mash, Brussels Sprouts Chips (um, yes, please!!) and Cran-Cherry Sauce are all on my list of menu possibilities.

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes from oh she glows

Angela posts amazing recipes (and beautiful photos). I made my own version of a sweet potato casserole tonight but think this one looks pretty awesome, too! This Gooey Pumpkin Spice Latte Chocolate Pudding Cake sounds as incredible as the pictures look and may be worth trying.

And now for a little gravy on top…

For whatever reason, I’ve never been a fan of gravy, but I know it’s most people’s favorite thing about the meal, so here is a recipe for a gluten-free gravy and another for a vegan mushroom gravy recipe to check out! Both have good reviews. Bon Appetit also wrote a simple post about how to make gluten-free gravy, and you can check it out here.

What’s YOUR favorite Thanksgiving dish? Feel free to leave a comment below 🙂

Zucchini Pasta with Cauli-fredo Sauce!


The past two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind.

I haven’t felt quite like myself because I’ve been stretching myself too thin.

All of the projects I’ve been working on have been amazing opportunities, but when I said, “yes” to them separately about 2-3 months ago, I didn’t realize they would ALL end up happening within the same week in November.

I have SO much I want to write about and a ton of new recipes to share, but a few wise friends and family members have suggested that I s-l-o-w d-o-w-n a bit and take a moment to breathe amidst this craziness.

That’s why you may notice fewer blog posts until things calm down and my schedule gets back to normal in the next 2 weeks or so.

One of the things I’m working on is a series of posts about “My Favorite Things,” where I’ll share my favorite gadgets, stocking stuffers and cookbooks, just in time for holiday shopping 🙂

I’m also working with a web designer to do some pretty cool things to this blog over the next few months, and I’m really excited to see what happens with that!

I can’t write this post without mentioning that my husband has been nothing short of a saint over the past few weeks in particular, and I’m so incredibly grateful for his support, encouragement and patience. I am very, very blessed.


Although I’ve felt stretched and stressed lately, I’ve gotten to do some really fun and exciting things…many of which were milestones that I couldn’t have imagined happening a year ago!

  • I trained the staff of a local restaurant to understand the differences among some current dietary trends and types (like paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan)
  • I facilitated a documentary movie night at my church where a group of about 20 of us watched Food, Inc. and enjoyed some healthy snacks, including my favorite caramel apple dip and this kickin’ buffalo hummus
  • I taught my FIRST full cooking class in my friend’s kitchen for a party at her house. I showed the group how to make my favorite kale salad, caulifredo zucchini noodles (recipe below!) and hazelnut truffles.


The process of planning out and prepping for a cooking demo is intense, and I have a new appreciation for anyone who has their own cooking show and what goes into making that happen.

Phew! It’s definitely a lot of work…but I LOVED having the opportunity to teach the group through hands on cooking.

The most rewarding part of the whole experience was hearing people say things like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” and “I’m shocked by how good that tastes.” 

It’s so fun to see people get excited about eating nourishing food!

We got to play with my NEW favorite kitchen toy (a Paderno Spiralizer) during the demo as we made our own zucchini noodles in seconds. I’ve included a video below for how to use it.

Zucchini noodles are a great alternative to pasta because they don’t spike our blood sugar or contain gluten like most pasta. You’ll be AMAZED at how similar the texture is to pasta…you can still twirl it on your fork, too! The spiralizer is something you’ll want to add to your wish list.

We topped the zucchini noodles with this creamy cauliflower alfredo sauce. It’s a variation of a recipe I shared earlier this year, but I made some tweaks to improve it! I think you’ll love it.





  • 4 zucchini, spiralized using this awesome gadget! (You could also sub in your favorite gluten-free pasta of choice – we like the Tinkyada brown rice pasta)
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil

Caulifredo Sauce

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, ghee/clarified butter or grass-fed butter
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (here’s how to break apart a head of cauliflower in seconds!)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 generous pinch of pepper, to taste
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1.5 tablespoons)


  1. Sauté the minced garlic in coconut oil or butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Allow to cook for a few minutes, until the garlic is tender and fragrant but not browned.
  2. Add the 1 cup of water to the saucepan, along with the cauliflower florets, and bring the water to a boil. (The water will not cover the cauliflower, but that’s okay.) Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot for 12-15 minutes or until the cauliflower is fork-tender and very soft.
  3. Transfer the entire contents of the saucepan into a blender or food processor, and season with salt and pepper. Add in lemon juice and onion powder. Process until very smooth and creamy, with a texture similar to traditional cream sauce. (Always be careful when blending hot liquids– the steam pressure can blow the lid off your blender!).
  4. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve hot. If it seems thick, add more water. If it seems dry, add a liberal drizzle of olive oil.
  5. Place spiralized zucchini in a medium-sized frying pan greased with coconut oil, and stir for 3-4 minutes or until zucchini takes on a cooked pasta texture, sort of wilted and soft. Be careful not to overcook.
  6. Transfer zucchini noodles (AKA “zoodles”) to a plate or bowl and pour sauce on top. Sprinkle this 3-ingredient paleo parmesan cheeze on top and start eating!

Rainbow Super Food Kale Salad {Paleo}

Today’s post is inspired by Skittles.


Whenever I hear the phrase, “Taste the Rainbow,” I always think of Skittles.

They were one of my favorite candies as a kid, especially the purple and red ones!

Not so fun when you reach a wet hand into a bag of Skittles after an hour of swimming at the pool in the summer though… 🙂

Okay, so this post isn’t exactly about Skittles, but this recipe and the chewy bite size candies do have one thing in common…


They are both very colorful…and look like a rainbow!

I taught a group of a dozen coworkers how to make this kale salad last week and they LOVED it!

In fact, there wasn’t any left for me by the end of the demo – which is a good sign! Here’s what one of my coworkers said about the salad:

“I have a new appreciation for kale. I never eat it but the salad today was so good. I also want to start making my own dressings and that was fabulous.”

See what I mean?? You have to try this salad!


So, what inspired this recipe?

I’m currently going through a certification program to become a Culinary Nutrition Expert, and one of our assignments has been to focus on a particular health condition and come up with recipes and meal plans that would help someone with that issue.

I chose inflammation.

If you’ve ever had any kind of “itis” (dermatitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, colitis, rhinitis, gastritis, arthritis, thyroiditis, etc.), you’ve dealt with inflammation.

Our body is really smart, and it’s naturally designed to protect us from harm.

At its most basic level, inflammation is the body’s response to an attack from a “foreign invader,” such as an injury, infection, bacteria, or virus. It’s designed to help us fight the bad guys, so we can stay healthy.

We want our body to respond with inflammation temporarily when we do something like sprain our ankle or scrape our knee. Inflammation brings a rush of blood, nutrients and fighter white blood cells to the area to start the repair and healing process.


For many of us though, inflammation is driven in part by the food we eat (and don’t eat). Most of the Standard American Diet (abbreviated SAD) is full of pro-inflammatory processed, refined foods loaded with chemicals most of us can’t pronounce and would be more likely to find in a lab than a farmer’s market.

If we can reduce inflammation, we set ourselves up to be much better at preventing or delaying disease and even getting to a healthy weight. Dr. Mark Hyman has written extensively about inflammation and how to reduce it. Click here to learn more from him.

The key dietary recommendation to heal or “cool” inflammation is to consume an unrefined, whole food (ideally organic), high fiber, plant-rich diet, which naturally stabilizes our blood sugar (and energy levels!) – another key to keeping inflammation at bay.

When I was creating this recipe, I focused on making it an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, something that your body would love for you to eat…and that would taste amazing.

Crunchy, creamy, sweet, and the slightest bit salty, this salad has all of the flavors and textures we crave and love.


I’m about to get a little nerdy here, but just go with it 🙂

The healing foods in this recipe contain anti-inflammatory compounds like antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids that not only help us reduce inflammation but also boost our immune system, slow the aging process, sustain our energy, and regulate our weight.

Here are just a few reasons why you’ll want to upgrade your diet and add in this super nourishing salad that’s loaded with immune, beauty and energy-boosting ingredients!

  • Avocado, hemp seeds, tahini, pumpkin seeds, and extra virgin olive oil are excellent sources of anti-inflammatory fats that are not only good for our body but also for our brain (our brain is 60% fat!).
  • The sulfur-containing compounds in garlic are also anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting.
  • Leafy green vegetables like dino kale contain flavanoids and antioxidants that reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Isothiocyanates (eye-so-thio-CYA-nates), sulfur-containing phytochemicals found in red cabbage, regulate the body’s inflammatory response.
  • Turmeric contains over two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, the most powerful of which is the antioxidant curcumin, which gives it its bright yellow color.

Ok, now that you’re super stoked about eating anti-inflammatory foods, here’s the recipe! Bring it to your next potluck or holiday party – it’ll be a hit!

taste the rainbow salad



Taste the Rainbow Kale Salad

This is my #1 favorite salad of all time and is always a hit at parties and potlucks. Packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients and full of flavor, this salad will turn any kale hater into a fan in no time!

Creamy Lemon Tahini Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or raw honey)
  • 1 tablespoon tamari ((gluten-free soy sauce))
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled and minced)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin)


  • 1 bunch kale (dino kale is best)
  • 1 cup purple cabbage (shredded)
  • 1 cup carrots (shredded)
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 avocado (diced)
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds (shelled)
  • 1/4 cup goji berries or dried cranberries
  1. Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a bowl OR place them in a blender for 30 seconds until smooth. Taste and make adjustments to dressing, if necessary. Add a few tablespoons of filtered water to thin it out if needed. I like mine thick.

  2. In a large bowl, place kale greens and add dressing. Massage dressing into kale leaves for about 2 minutes (until volume reduces by about 1/3). Add purple cabbage and toss to coat. Let sit for 15-30 minutes, so the dressing can continue breaking down the kale and cabbage.

  3. When ready to serve, add in shredded carrots, pumpkin seeds, avocado, hemp seeds, and goji berries (if using). Toss to combine.

This salad will stay good for about two days in the refrigerator. The heartiness of the kale greens prevents it from wilting like other salads would.

Double this recipe if you’re bringing it to a party!

You can add in any vegetables you like. Try this salad with some diced bell peppers, chopped broccoli, cooked sweet potato cubes or other vegetables. To make more of a complete meal, add in your favorite animal or plant-based proteins (chicken, salmon, lentils, beans, tempeh). Chickpeas or white cannellini beans would pair well with this salad.

What’s YOUR Lollipop Moment? {A Tribute to A Special Mentor}

I was inspired to write this post after listening to a 6-minute TEDtalk during a morning walk.

A beautiful tree in my neighborhood.

A beautiful tree in my neighborhood.

I’ve started waking up a bit earlier than usual and spending 15-30 minutes of my morning walking around my neighborhood listening to these inspirational and motivational talks from experts around the world.

I’ve listened to dozens of them over the past few years.

Today’s was different.

It was only 6 minutes and 14 seconds long. But it had an impact on me.

As I’ve written in other reflective posts, eating nourishing food is only part of the equation to being in optimal health and thriving. We have to look at what’s going on in our mind and soul, too, and make sure we’re nourishing that on a regular basis.

Eating all the broccoli in the world won’t make us well if we’re miserable on the inside.


That’s one of the reasons I try to look outside of myself regularly, whether it’s through conversations with friends or family, quiet time, a perfectly timed message at church, listening to things like TEDTalks or reading books by people I admire and respect. I’m always open to learning from other people’s perspectives and experiences.

I took a lot from today’s TEDTalk. The speaker told one story but said more in his 6 minutes than most people can convey in a 300-page book or an hour-long podcast.

The premise? Each of us has the power to be a leader, to change someone else’s life.

The speaker recounted a story of what happened when he went out of his way to make a new student at his university feel welcomed. The lasting, lifetime impact of his simple, brief action (which he admits forgetting) had on this woman’s life was remarkable.

Here’s the TEDTalk. This will be the most well spent 6 minutes of your day, I promise you.

At the end of the talk, Drew asks the audience, “What’s your lollipop moment?”

Who in your life has influenced or impacted you in a way that literally changed your life, your perspective, your career, your health?

Have you let them know?

I’ve had the privilege of being mentored by some remarkable people through my school years and in my career.

One person in particular stands out to me. I met her in college.

I was a sophomore majoring in psychology and had enrolled in an intro to sociology course. I had heard good things about the professor, Dr. Lauren Dundes.

I looked forward to going to her class every week. She made learning fun and interesting. I loved her quirky and energetic demeanor, animated facial expressions and gestures, and all of the stories she recounted and used as learning tools. I hardly remember her looking at notes or a textbook. She knew her subject matter that well.

One day in class, she was telling us a story about social perceptions, and she held up something that would forever change my path in the field of nutrition and behavior.

It was a copy of Nutrition Action Healthletter.


Not exactly prime reading material for most 19-year olds, but it was for me.

After class, I approached Dr. Dundes. “I get that newsletter, too,” I told her. That conversation is what sparked our realization that we had a mutual interest in health and nutrition. It was the beginning of my pursuit of health as a career.

Over the next three years, she supported me in setting up two research studies and writing three papers that were published in academic journals.

For one of them, I was measuring Apple Jacks, M&Ms and Hawaiian Punch consumption by my peers at McDaniel College. The College even wrote an article about us in the school’s publication called “The Hill” magazine…including our semi-goofy pic below 🙂

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 9.04.27 PM

I had the passion and the tenacity to “go for it” but only because I had the support, enthusiasm, and passion from Dr. Dundes.

I had never really reflected on the impact she had on my life until now, until hearing that 6-minute TED Talk. But doing so makes me realize just how special people are who cheerlead for us and make it clear how much they believe in us and what we can accomplish.

I was thrilled to hear from her over the past few months, as she is now an avid supporter of this blog and has told me how certain information I’ve shared here has impacted her life and her family.

In appreciation for someone who took time to make a difference in my life, my career, and my well-being, I’d like to make a tribute to this special person.

Dr. Dundes,

Thank you for believing in me.

Thank you for making me feel like my interests and passions mattered.

Thank you for the hours you spent talking with me in your office, reviewing and editing yet another draft of a publication, and encouraging me to do big things with my life.

You made me feel like I could do anything, that there was nothing stopping me.

Thank you for seeing something special in me and for nurturing it.

I know that this passion for health and nutrition has been in me since grade school, but without the support and encouragement of someone like you, I don’t know that my path would have gone the direction it did.

Many of us live our whole lives never knowing how profound our impact on other people has been.

I thought you should know.

Thank you.

Who in YOUR life has impacted you in a profound way? Have you let them know?

Take time today to do that. Whether it’s a phone call, a letter, an email or an in person conversation, let people who have shaped and influenced your life know.

5-Minute Chocolate Hazelnut “Nutella” Truffles {Vegan, Paleo}

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I was always a little weirded out by the Ferrero Rocher candy, each piece individually wrapped in gold foil.

As a kid and teenager, I was more interested in things like Sour Patch Kids, Twix, and Peanut Butter M&Ms than some mysterious, fancy, gold-wrapped chocolates.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what a hazelnut was either.

I never knew if I was pronouncing it correctly either.

Apparently, I’m not alone. Over 20,000 people have watched the YouTube video for how to pronounce “Ferrero Rocher.”

Including me 🙂

Inspired by the concept of a hazelnut truffle and a recipe I found on the blog Running on Real Food, I decided to make my own chocolate hazelnut truffles.

I made these treats today for a group of a dozen of my co-workers as part of an “Upgrade Your Holiday Party Dishes” cooking demonstration at our office. They were a HIT!

In the demo, I showed the group how to make super simple Kickin’ Buffalo Hummus, an immune-boosting “Taste the Rainbow” Kale Salad (recipe to come!), and these fudgy Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles.

They take about 5 minutes to whip up, too. Try these at home, and bring them to an upcoming holiday party or event. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

truffle 2

IMG_7758 IMG_7764

Adapted from Running on Real Food


  • 2/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 10 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in water 10 minutes
  • ÂĽ cup raw cacao powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ÂĽ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2-3 teaspoons 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt (I’m sure it’ll work with the coarse kind, but I used fine)
  • 18-20 whole hazelnuts, lightly toasted – set aside (do not blend into dough)
  • Optional: 1/3 cup hemp seeds, chopped & toasted hazelnuts and/or toasted coconut for rolling/coating


  1. Drain water from dates.
  2. Add all ingredients from the hazelnuts through the sea salt to a food processor.
  3. Process until well mixed together but while there are still small pieces of hazelnuts. You may have to stop and scrape down the sides with a spatula or break up the ball that forms, so everything is blended.
  4. Roll dough into small balls, wrapping each ball around a whole, toasted hazelnut.
  5. Roll truffles in hemp seeds, chopped hazelnuts, or coconut or just leave them “as is!”
  6. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes or until firm.

Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

Quinoa Broccoli Salad with Tangy, Creamy Dressing {Vegan, Gluten-Free}

Did you know that broccoli is one of THE most healing, healthful foods we can eat?

Tom Malterre, one of my favorite nutritionists, has been so bold as to call it “The DNA Whisperer” in his fascinating TEDTalk.


I’ve written about the incredible health benefits of broccoli in another blog post (which also features my favorite “crack” broccoli recipe – aptly named due to how addictive it is).

Click here for that recipe and to learn more about the cancer-fighting, immune boosting, detoxifying benefits of this tree-like vegetable.

Broccoli is coming in season locally, so I wanted to find some new and interesting ways to use it aside from the usual steaming it or tossing it in a salad.

Since removing dairy from my diet a few years ago, I’ve been especially driven to come up with creamy dressing recipes. This one uses tahini (sesame paste) and raw cashews to create creaminess, which paired nicely with the light and fluffy quinoa and roasted broccoli.


The trick was making a big pot of quinoa at the beginning of the week, which we’ve since used for a southwest black bean salad, pumpkin breakfast cereal, and now this recipe.

It’s a big time saver to cook once and then use the ingredient 3 times. You can do that with any grain at the beginning of the week (brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat).

(In case you missed it, here’s how to cook quinoa 🙂 )

One of my colleagues who tried this recipe on her own had this to say about it:

“Whoa, Rachel! This salad was excellent! First, it was easy to make, which, as a non-cook, I totally appreciate. The flavor is what really impressed me. The sweetness of the cashews, the umami of the tamari, and a bit of heat from the crushed red pepper married so well together! I’ll definitely be adding this one to my personal recipe collection!”

Tangy creamy quinoa broccoli salad

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  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted (coconut oil is my prefered oil for cooking since it’s more stable at high temperatures while olive oil is best for raw or low heat preparations)
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked (Here’s how to cook perfect quinoa!)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • Optional: almond slices, lightly toasted


  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours in water (or overnight) then drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss broccoli in oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until golden brown and softened slightly but still bright green, about 15 – 20 minutes.
  2. While broccoli is roasting, prepare dressing. Transfer the dressing ingredients to a blender and blend on high until creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  3. When broccoli is done, remove from oven and transfer to mixing bowl. Add quinoa, drizzle with lemon juice and toss to combine.
  4. Pour 1/2-2/3 cup dressing over the broccoli-quinoa mixture and stir until evenly coated.
  5. Top with toasted almond slices, if you prefer (for an extra crunch!).
  6. Serve immediately (for a warm salad) or chill in fridge for at least two hours.

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