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February 2016 · Rachel's Nourishing Kitchen

Month: February 2016

Curb Cravings with Crunchy Cacao Nibs {Plus 7 Recipes to Try!}

For the video version of this post, check out my Facebook page!

Either way, make sure you hit up the awesome recipes at the bottom 🙂


Let’s pretend it’s 3:00 in the afternoon.

What’s something a lot of people crave right about now?


Did you say CHOCOLATE?

The reason why might surprise you!

Many of us start to notice a dip in our energy levels and attention spans and the cumulative impact of stress throughout the day by mid-afternoon. Why not give our body a boost in energy, feel good chemicals and relaxation at the time we need it most? Why not enjoy some chocolate?

High quality dark chocolate that contains a high percentage of cacao (ka-KOW) is packed with magnesium.

Magnesium is known as the relaxation and anti-anxiety mineral, and most of us are deficient in it. Not only that, but in times of stress and high demands, our body needs it more than ever. Sources of magnesium include spinach, oats, beans, pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, sesame seeds.


The key is to use QUALITY chocolate. I’ve written before here about why I became a qualitarian and what it means to be one. As the word suggests, I encourage you to focus on eating the highest quality food you can, especially when it comes to things like chocolate – the darker and purer, the better.

One of the purest forms of chocolate we can eat is cacao nibs.


These bitter, crunchy chocolate bits are peeled and crumbled from dried, whole cacao beans. They are PACKED with nourishing, fueling goodness! When we hear about chocolate being good for us, these little guys take the prize. One ounce (about 1/4 cup) of cacao nibs contains:

  • 35% of the recommended daily value of relaxing magnesium
  • 6 GRAMS of fiber, which fills us up and keeps things moving in our digestive system. Only about 3% of the population eats the adequate minimum intake of fiber, even though it is one of the main disease fighters, blood sugar regulators, and energy stabilizers out there
  • 4 grams of satiating protein
  • Over HALF of the recommended daily value of copper and manganese, trace minerals that help us with formation of tissues (like bones and skin), energy production, and blood sugar balance.

You can find them in the natural food aisle of your grocery store, but I find the best deals at HomeGoods or online at Amazon or Vitacost. Wegmans, Whole Foods, and MOMs Organic Market carry them as well.

You can enjoy cacao nibs in trail mix, cookies, chocolate bark, brownie bites, sprinkled on top of smoothies or avocado pudding (recipe coming!), and as a topping for my chocolate walnut brownies.

Check out SEVEN of my favorite cacao nib recipes below!

Click the picture to get to the recipe.

PB Oat Bites CoverIMG_2208Mint Choco Chip Bday Ballssuper food trail mixcherry choco biteschococherrybanner2barkmain

Listen to the Whisper: Why I Fired My Doctors

What makes someone a “good” doctor?

Do they fill a prescription for you without needing to see you?

Do they give you their cell phone number?

Are they available after hours?

Do they have short wait times?

Maybe you answered, “yes” to all of those questions.

I would like to suggest we ask more important questions.

Do they help you stay well?

Do they optimize your health?

Do they explore the root causes of your symptoms?

Do they treat you like a person instead of a patient?

Think about yourself for a moment.

Do you ever deal with headaches? Fatigue? Bloating? Sore throat? Anxiety? Indigestion? Constipation? Allergies? Bronchitis? Sinus infections? Acne? Joint pain? A cough that won’t go away?

For the most part, when we’re feeling unwell, we either self-medicate using sites like TreatHeadaches which offers tonnes of advice on how to deal with all kinds of headaches and migraines, or seek the help of a physician. We schedule an appointment, spend more time in the waiting room than in the doctor’s office, and often walk out with a prescription or a referral.

We temporarily “get better”…until we get sick again.

I don’t envy doctors. They are in a tough spot these days. It’s almost as hard for them as it is for hospitals that have to recruit them. However, this task can be made easier if you use a service like Avidian Recruitment in order to find the best doctors to fill vacancies.

They are tasked to do more with less, follow time-consuming and often complex protocols mandated by the insurance industry, and are so overbooked they have limited time to spend with each patient. I believe most of them have chosen health care as their profession because they genuinely want to impact lives and help people.

But, as patients, we’re not feeling heard.

An analysis from the journal Family Medicine found patients speak for an average of only 12 seconds before being interrupted by resident physicians. Over the course of the average 11-minute visit, the patient typically gets only four minutes of airtime.

Four minutes.

That’s less than the commercial break of your favorite TV show.

We’ve accepted that this is okay.

But it’s not.

The current system isn’t working.

Doctors’ hands are tied, as they aren’t reimbursed for spending an hour with patients to gather what could be key information that could ultimately help them identify the root cause of their illness. Not only that, but a majority of the current medical school training is geared toward disease progression, diagnosis and treatment, not prevention and healing. As a result, many of us remain in a state of less than optimal health and accept that as reality.

It’s “normal” to have headaches, get the flu, and be tired every day…isn’t it?

We can come up with reasons why we feel the way we do. But, what I’ve learned by listening to dozens of people’s stories is the importance of listening to the whispers our body sends us.

I’ve learned this in my own life. I had deemed it “normal” to get ear infections every year. At one point in my life it was “normal” to have a surgery on a bi-annual basis; I had six before the age of 16 to “fix” issues in my ears and sinuses. It was “normal” to get bronchitis twice a year for over five years. It was “normal” to have acid reflux every day and take medicine for it for ten years.

Normal Commong

I didn’t question any of it for the longest time.

And neither did the nearly one dozen doctors I was seeing.

As I started to reflect, learn more about the body as an integrated system, and have conversations with people who had healed themselves, I started to realize that “dealing with it” wasn’t my only option.

About three years ago, as I learned more about the pivotal role of food in helping us be well, I started becoming frustrated by the conventional, diagnose-and-treat health care system and the physicians in it.

Why were none of them asking about me and my life? What I was eating? What might be at the root of why I was seeing them?

They were quick to prescribe a medication, send me to another specialist, or run another diagnostic. And, to be honest, like most patients, that’s what I thought I wanted.

“Just give me the quick fix, doc.”

None of them offered me what I needed most at the time.

Permission to ask questions.

A listening ear.



Hope that I could be well.

Hope that I wasn’t “destined” to take medication for the rest of my life.

Hope that my body was resilient and wanted to be well; if only I would get out of its way.

It was during that time that I started parting ways with doctors who had been diagnosing and treating me for most of my life, masking symptoms without attempting to get to the root of what was wrong.

I met a few holistic health coaches, who first opened my eyes to the potential for healing as a result of their education and their own healing journeys. I experienced the benefits of “removing the tacks” myself (eliminating trigger foods like dairy) and noticed how quickly my body responded.

The first winter I went without congestion stunned me. Could it be possible? Did I not have to deal with these recurring health issues all the time?

Over the next year, I would be introduced to and served by a number of health care practitioners who would change my life, help me regain and restore my health and vitality, and influence the direction my career has taken.

They helped me listen to my body’s whispers.

body smart

From a local chiropractor trained in integrative health to my integrative medicine doctor / acupuncturist and functional medicine nutritionist to the latest addition to my health care team, an integrative medicine dentist, I now feel heard.

They know me as a person, not a patient.

They ask me questions instead of just telling me what to do.

They spend time with me rather than rushing me out the door.

They understand the body as an interconnected system, not a disjointed set of symptoms.

They are humble and don’t assume they know it all; they encourage me to tap into my intuition and signals my body is sending me.

A lot of people turn to alternative healing methods as a new way of treating mental health issues as well as other illnesses. For example, a good friend of mine uses CBD oil as a way of combatting her anxiety and depression. You can Read More about the potential health-boosting benefits of CBD oil on websites such as

I am healing.

I have hope.

So, what about you?

Have you been to a doctor for testing because you’ve felt something isn’t right but were then told, “Everything’s fine!”…even though you know it’s not?

Are you feeling like something is “off” but don’t know who you can turn to to help you figure it out?

Do you want to partner with a practitioner who will listen, seek to understand you, spend time with you, and help you heal and find hope in your situation?

I’m not willing to wait for the health care system to figure this out. It could take a very long time. Instead, I’m taking my health into my hands and am encouraging you to do the same.

If you live in the Baltimore area, here is a list of practitioners I trust, who will listen to you and help you get to the root of what’s wrong. If you’re outside of this area, use this link from the Institute for Functional Medicine to find a “root cause” practitioner in your area.

Whatever you do, hold on to hope.

Believe healing is possible.

And remind yourself of this truth.


Easy Peanut Butter Oat Energy Bites {Video}

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

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



Such a good treat 🙂

Sooooooo good!

PB Bite

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

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

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

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

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

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

PB Oat Bites CoverPB Oat Bite

No-Bake Peanut Butter Oat Balls

These delicious peanut butter oat balls make a great snack or part of your breakfast! I use cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips to keep the sugar content down, but you could also use mini chocolate chips if you’d like!

  • 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup honey (You can use 1/2 cup for a lower sugar count!)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao nibs (or mini dark chocolate chips)
  • Pinch fine grain sea salt
  1. Set the peanut butter and honey at room temperature for about 15 minutes to warm up and for the PB to soften. If the peanut butter is too hard, you can also soften it by gently heating it in a small pot on the stove top with the honey.

  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir with your hands to combine. It will be messy (but fun!).

  3. To help the mixture “set,” put the dough in the fridge about an hour, so it is easier to work with. It’ll seem too wet, but don’t worry, that will make it easier to work with once it’s had time to come together. It’s easiest to start making the bites using a cookie scooper, but you can also shape them into balls using your hands and then gently roll them. Store them in a glass container in your fridge or freezer.

I use raw cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips because they add a nice crunch and don’t have all the sugar from chocolate chips.

Celeriac: Give This Ugly Vegetable a Chance

Avocado. Eggplant. Sauerkraut.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Smashed Celeriac by Jamie Oliver

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

celeriac puree.jpg

Autumn Celeriac Puree by food52

Cauliflower Celeriac Soup by Cook Eat Paleo

Easy Celery Root Fries by The Spunky Coconut

Rosemary Roasted Celery Root & Carrots by Everyday Health

Roasted Root Vegetables with Tomatoes and Kale by Simply Recipes


Photo used with permission from SimplyRecipes


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



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