Nut Free Fat Balls

Lee From America created a recipe that has taken the health and wellness world by storm. Her fat balls are great for balancing hormones and keeping energy levels stable because they balance blood sugar by incorporating more healthy fats. A diet that's moderate to high in fat and lower in sugar helps stabilize blood sugar, and in turn keeps hunger at bay. There are studies coming out now that demonstrate how a diet higher in fat leads to longevity. Ultimately, only your body will know what kind of diet is right for you, so listen up!

I pretty much always have a batch of these balls in my freezer for pre and post workout and study snacks. I also love having a couple of them in my golf bag during tournaments. They're great for getting sustained energy quickly. These balls are great to take on the go, but if they are not stored in a refrigerator or freezer, they will be soft and won't hold up the ball shape. 

Here's the recipe for Lee's fat balls that I've adapted to be nut free. One of my best friends is allergic to tree nuts, so we made these balls free of cashews and almonds.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon maca
  • 1/4 cup coconut butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/4 cup tahini (smooth)
  • optional: honey, dates, or other dried fruit to taste
  • optional: add your favorite spices 1/2-1 teaspoon at a time until desired flavor is achieved (some of my favorites are cardamom and peppermint)

Method:

  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until a dough forms.
  2. Roll dough in 1-2 Tablespoon sized balls.
  3. Store in freezer or fridge!
  4. Enjoy!

 

Thanksgiving: Grateful for Family

Thanksgiving: a holiday reserved for celebrating food, family, and gratitude. The coziest time of year when the fall air is as crisp as the sunset colored leaves on the ground. Ahh I cannot wait! 

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My family always spends Thanksgiving in retreat mode. We snuggle up under blankets by a fire in between walks (and meals) through rural Tennessee fields. This time spent with family is so precious to me. We get to catch up and tell stories and play family games into the early morning hours. The best part is when we, like every other family on this day of gratitude, gather around the table to share food and memories. 

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This year, my mom gave me the task of preparing several vegan and gluten free dishes. She asked specifically for a whole roasted cauliflower for the "meat" of the dinner. I told her I would also make a crisp slaw and lentil "stuffing." I stepped out on a limb with dessert this year, and the result is unbelievably delicious. 

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My great grandmother is 97, and her health has started to deteriorate. This has been difficult for everyone. My great grandmother has lived a long life. She is full of sass and grit. She's endured a lot in 97 years. Born in 1920, she grew up in rural Tennessee during the Great Depression and World War 2. That's not to mention various family conflicts and crises. She's also had a life full of joy and love. My grandmother and her three living brothers all have children and grandchildren, so my great grandmother has 12 great grandchildren. When I was young, we would go visit my great grandmother and she would almost always have a fresh, warm, chocolate fudge pie waiting. It was my favorite. Gooey in the center, crisp on the top with a flaky crust, one bite and I was in heaven.

I haven't had this pie in years, but when I was talking to my grandmother on the phone a few days ago, I asked her to send me the recipe. She was surprised by this, and said, "You know it has butter and eggs in it." I told her I just wanted to see it. My goal was to make it "Maddie friendly" so everyone at Thanksgiving could partake in delicious pie and memories of our visits to great grandma. I had to do a significant amount of research to figure out how to replace the eggs and margarine. We all know pie is not complete unless you have the perfectly buttery, crumbly crust, and let me tell you, I nailed it with this recreation of my Great Grandma's Chocolate Fudge Pie. Thanksgiving gatherings usually call for pecan, apple, or pumpkin pie, but this year our family's dessert pays homage to our beautiful, strong matriarch. The lessons we have learned from her are beyond counting, and the love she has bestowed on every one of us exceeds measure. This year I'm thankful for the memories I have with my great grandma and for the time I get to spend with the rest of my extended family remembering the beautiful times we've spent in our rural Tennessee paradise. 

Below are the recipes I created for our Thanksgiving dinner this year. I hope you enjoy them, and share them with your loved ones during this special holiday season. 

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

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Ingredients:

  • one whole cauliflower
  • 1-2 Tablespoons avocado oil (or other high heat oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin and paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, salt, and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • one yellow onion 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Remove leaves, rinse, and dry cauliflower.
  3. Add all spices (including garlic) to a cast iron skillet, and warm over medium low heat for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Add warmed spices to a small bowl, and mix in oil. 
  5. Place cauliflower in the cast iron skillet and cover in spice/oil mixture. Make sure to cover the bottom.
  6. Chop the onion, and place in skillet with cauliflower.
  7. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, until tender.
  8. Enjoy!

Black Lentil "Stuffing"

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Ingredients:

  • one delicata squash
  • brussel sprouts (one package)
  • one cup dry black lentils
  • 10-15 medium sized shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • avocado oil

Method:

  1. Start by roasting squash and brussel sprouts at 400F. Lightly cover both the squash and brussel sprouts in avocado oil. The squash should be tender (15-20 minutes), and the brussel sprouts crispy (35 minutes).
  2. Cook lentils according to package instructions.
  3. Chop onion, mushrooms, celery, carrots, garlic, and sage.
  4.  Add onions to a pan with one tablespoon of avocado oil over medium-low heat, and caramelize the onions. Cover pan with a lid, and stir every five or so minutes until onions have become golden and fragrant. 
  5. Add sage to the onions and cook for 5 minutes. 
  6. Add carrots and celery to onions and sage and cook until vegetables are slightly tender. 
  7. Finally, add mushrooms and garlic, and cook until everything is tender, about 15 minutes over medium-low heat.
  8. In a large bowl, add sautéed and roasted vegetables and lentils. Mix together and serve warm. 
  9. Enjoy!

Crisp Fall Slaw

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Ingredients:

The Vegetables...

  • one small head broccoli
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 4 medium carrots
  • one apple
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/4 purple cabbage
  • parsley (to finish)

The Dressing...

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon oil (avocado, olive, grapeseed, etc)
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Method:

  1. Chop all the vegetables and the apple into small pieces. I recommend using a mandolin for the apple, red onion, celery, carrots, and purple cabbage. Add all chopped ingredients to a large bowl.
  2. Add all dressing ingredients to a bowl, and whisk until smooth. 
  3. Pour dressing over the vegetables, and toss until everything is coated. 
  4. Store in the refrigerator. This slaw is best served after 12-24 hours. 
  5. Enjoy!

Simple Cranberry Sauce

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Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • juice and zest of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients to a sauce pan over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Simmer until all cranberries have burst, and it looks like a smooth sauce.
  3. Enjoy!

Great Grandma's Chocolate Fudge Pie

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Ingredients:

For the crust...

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  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup garbanzo (or chickpea) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons coconut oil *not melted*
  • 4 Tablespoons ice cold water
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon coconut sugar

For the filling...

  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup evaporated coconut milk*
  • 3 Tablespoons cacao
  • 1 Tablespoon lucuma
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 flax eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons kuzu

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 350F. 
  2. Add the flours, salt, and sugar (if using) to a medium bowl. Whisk dry ingredients to combine. 
  3. Add the coconut oil, and mix into the flour mixture with a fork until a crumbly dough forms. 
  4. Add the water and continue to mix the dough with a fork until incorporated. 
  5. Put dough in a greased pie pan, and bake for 15 minutes. 
  6. For the filling, beat flax eggs, evaporated coconut milk, vanilla, and kuzu (before adding kuzu, make sure you grind out the clumps with the back of a spoon or with a mortar and pestle).
  7. Next, add applesauce, cacao, lucuma, and coconut sugar, and beat again. 
  8. Pour filling on top of baked crust, and bake for 20 minutes, until firm.
  9. Enjoy!

*To make evaporated coconut milk, add a can of coconut milk to a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 35-45 minutes, until about half has evaporated. Store in the refrigerator. 

Acorn Squash Soup

It's finally cooling down outside, and I'm warming everything up inside. I'm honestly not a huge fan of winter because I hate being bone-chillingly cold. Fall is by far my favorite season. I'm hoping that these mild temperatures continue for a while! 

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One of my favorite ways to warm up on a crisp fall day (or extremely cold winter day) is with soup. Squash soup is one of my favorites because it's easy and it tastes like a decadent bisque. This version of Acorn Squash soup is perfectly thick, creamy, healthy, and easy...only three ingredients!

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Ingredients:

  • one acorn squash
  • cream from one can of coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Method:

  1. Cut the acorn squash in half, rub the flesh sides with a little avocado oil, and place the two sides face down on a baking tray. Roast the acorn squash at 400F for 30 minutes.
  2. Scoop out the flesh of the acorn squash and add it to a high speed blender with the coconut cream and vegetable broth. Blend until smooth.
  3. Optional: Top with crispy mushroom "bacon" (thinly slice and coat shittake mushrooms with avocado oil and salt and roast at 375F for 30 minutes, until crispy).
  4. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Coconut Butter Cups

Happy Halloween! 

I've been posting a lot of dessert recipes lately, but don't worry. I've got some great savory Thanksgiving ideas coming your way very soon! I'm getting ahead of myself... it's not time to get ready for Thanksgiving until after Halloween, and what better way to celebrate Halloween than with my Pumpkin Coconut Butter Cups???

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I celebrated Halloween (twice) over the weekend. One day I dressed up as peanut butter and my friend dressed up as jelly (basic foodie costume I know but it was awesome). The second night, my group of friends dressed up as characters from the Wizard of Oz, and everyone unanimously agreed that I should be the Wicked Witch of the West *insert shrugging emoji* 

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If I'm being completely honest, I haven't bought candy to put on my front porch tonight (I will be spending Halloween in the Library working on a research paper). Last year I intermixed candy with tangerines, and surprisingly, everything was gone from my bowl! I thought the candy would be gone, but the oranges would be left behind, but thankfully, I was wrong. I may grab some fruit (nature's candy...duh) to put out, or I may be a scrooge and leave all my lights off while I type away in the library. 

Thankfully, I made some of these Pumpkin Coconut Butter Cups to share with my family and friends as a fall inspired Halloween sweet treat. I haven't tried the Eating Evolved Pumpkin cups, but I love their coconut butter cups. Their cups were the inspiration behind my cups, and this recipe is pretty spot on. Melt in your mouth homemade chocolate with the slightly sweet, malt, crumbly, pumpkin-y center is the perfect Halloween treat that will keep your paws out of the bowl of candy full of questionable ingredients. 

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Ingredients:

For the Chocolate:

  • 1 cup cacao butter
  • 1 cup cacao powder
  • sweetener (maple syrup, coconut sugar, coconut nectar, honey, etc) to taste

For the Pumpkin Coconut Butter Filling:

  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons coconut butter
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tablespoons sweetener (maple syrup, coconut sugar, coconut nectar, honey, etc)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice

Method:

  1. To make the chocolate, add cacao butter to a double boiler (I just put a metal bowl over a pot of water) and melt at medium heat. Once cacao butter is melted, add cacao powder and sweetener, and mix well.
  2. To make the filling, melt coconut butter on medium heat over a double boiler. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
  3. To assemble, put a thin layer of the chocolate on the bottom of muffin tin liners (recipe yields 12). Set liners in the fridge for 15 minutes to set. 
  4. Next, add about a tablespoon of the pumpkin coconut butter filling on top of the chocolate layer. 
  5. Finally, top the filling with another layer of chocolate. 
  6. Allow to set in fridge or freezer for about an hour. 
  7. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bar

I'm one day late for National Pumpkin Day, but I'm coming at ya with a delicious treat! Of all the delicious foods and flavors, pumpkin is definitely worthy of its own day. I can't get enough pumpkin in the fall, and I'm always sad to see it replaced by mint during the holidays. It's a delicate flavor that's warm and comforting and perfect for crisp fall days. 

I made this for my friend's birthday, so I topped it with Minimalist Baker's Cashew Buttercream Frosting.

I made this for my friend's birthday, so I topped it with Minimalist Baker's Cashew Buttercream Frosting.

Testing recipes with pumpkin the past month and a half has been a bit of a challenge. It's hard to balance it's heavy moisture, and surprisingly difficult to achieve the perfect pumpkin flavor. I posted a version of this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bar on my instagram a few weeks ago because the flavor was too good not to share, but the texture needed some major tweaking. So here it is, the perfected Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bar in all its cozy, pumpkin-y, chocolate-y glory. 

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Ingredients:

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  • 1/4 cup sunflower butter*
  • 1/4 cup tahini*
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 Tablespoons oat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips or chunks

*you can replace these with your favorite nut or seed butter(s)

Method:

  1. In a bowl, mix all wet ingredients (sunflower butter, tahini, maple syrup, vanilla, pumpkin) until well combined. 
  2. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. 
  3. Add dough to a parchment lined (or coconut-oil greased) bread pan. 
  4. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. 
  5. Enjoy!
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Apple Crisp (paleo, vegan, and nut free!)

Have you ever baked something, and at the first taste, wanted to shed a tear of pure delight? Well I did when I made this... this Apple Crumble is cozy fall perfection. You want to know the funny part? I made it when it was 90 degrees outside. I know. It's not actually that funny because the weather has gone haywire and I'm not happy about it. 

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I was in the grocery store earlier this week just grabbing a few essentials when I stumbled upon this beautiful cast iron skillet on sale. My heart skipped a beat, and before I could think twice I was lugging it up front to checkout. Immediately, my brain started spinning with ideas centering around using my new skillet. Now, I have a new weapon (seriously... this thing is HEAVY) in the kitchen, and I cannot wait to throw all kinds of fun recipes at ya! 

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If you don't have a skillet, simply use a similarly sized pan, and monitor the baking time. You may need to bake your treats a little longer or shorter depending on the pan. 

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I think you'll really enjoy this crumble. It's soft, warm, crunchy, and comforting. With a deep, complex, and soothing flavor, it will keep you begging for more. It's great served with dairy free ice cream. My favorites are Revolution Gelato vanilla or cardamom kiss. Did I mention this crumble is completely nut free, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, paleo, and vegan??? You have no excuses for not giving it a shot! I can't wait to hear what you think!

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Ingredients:

For the filling...

  • 5 apples peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, and sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla 

For the topping...

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  • 1/2 cup ground sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup coconut shreds
  • 1 Tablespoon sunflower butter
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
  2. Chop the apples into small, bite sized pieces. 
  3. Add all the filling ingredients to a bowl, and mix well. 
  4. Transfer filling mixture to a cast iron skillet. 
  5. Grind 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds in a coffee grinder, food processor, or blender, until a very fine powder is formed. 
  6. Add all topping ingredients to the bowl (you can use the same one from the filling), and mix well. 
  7. Sprinkle the topping over the apples, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the topping begins to lightly brown.
  8. Enjoy! 

 

Pumpkin Harissa Hummus

90 degree weather in September is not cool... especially when a warm October ensues. 'Tis the season for pumpkins and squash and kale, but the farmer's market is still full of peppers and peaches. I'm ready for cooler temperatures and fiery tree tops. Are you? I'm willing fall temps to come and get cozy in Memphis by making all of the pumpkin things!

Pumpkin is known as a sweet, fall flavor. From latte's, sweet bread, and pie, pumpkin is the ultimate cozy spice to warm you up from the inside out. Why do fall pumpkin recipes seem to always stop at the sweet? I think it's time for some savory pumpkin recipes... Hummus anyone? 

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This hummus is great because it combines the slight sweet, nuttiness of pumpkin with the depth and spice from harissa. Harissa is simply a paste made from chilis and spices. It's as spicy as you want it to be. I used an assortment of mild, medium, and hot peppers, but you can absolutely swap those for one kind of mild pepper for a harissa that won't burn a sensitive tongue.

Harissa Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried chilis (I used an assortment of mild, medium, hot)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
  • oilve or avocado oil as needed
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Method:

  1. Bring a pot of water and your chilis to a boil. Remove from heat and allow the chilis to soak for 1-8 hours.
  2. Remove the stems of the chilis, and add them to a food processor. 
  3. Toast the cumin, caraway, and coriander seeds, in a skillet for a few mintues over medium low heat. Add them to the food processor with the chilis and all the other ingredients. 
  4. Combine in the food processor until desired consistency is reached. Add oil by tablespoon as needed. 

Pumpkin Hummus Ingredients:

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  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1/2-2/3 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • salt and pepper as needed

Method:

  1. Drain and rinse chickpeas, and add them with the rest of the ingredients to a food processor. 
  2. Combine until smooth.
  3. Stir in 3-5 Tablespoons of Harissa. 
  4. Enjoy! 

Raw Granola

Yes, I have done a granola post before, but this one is different. Also, I'm a granola fiend so you better get used to more granola variations. My favorite juice bars around the world all offer some kind of raw granola. For those of you who are unfamiliar with raw granola, it's simply various seeds, nuts, and fruit chunks that have been soaked, maybe sprouted too, mixed with spices and sweeteners, and finally dehydrated in order to maintain the beneficial enzymes found in the seeds, nuts, and fruit. I've attempted raw granola before, and I haven't been able to achieve juice bar quality crunch. This was because I didn't soak my nuts and seeds, and I used date paste to sweeten, which was way too thick and wet. 

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After a semi-successful but not perfect attempt at raw granola a few months ago, I decided to just buy granola from my favorite juice bars. I was a bit defeated by my inability to achieve that singular crunch. After finding yet another raw restaurant in London with unbelievably delicious raw granola, I decided that I had to try making it again. It just so happened that a few days later I stumbled upon Alison Wu's Raw Goji Berry Granola recipe. Finally, I understood what it took to make the perfect raw granola. Soaking the nuts and seeds and waiting patiently for the dehydrator to work its magic is all it takes to achieve that unforgettable crunch. This recipe is great because it's low in sugar and high in fats and protein from the nuts and seeds. It will satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you full all morning (or afternoon if you snack on it like me).

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Ingredients:

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  • 1 cup buckwheat
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup pistachios
  • 1/3 cup brazil nuts
  • 1/3 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/3 cup goji berries
  • 1/3 cup mulberries
  • 4 Tablespoons ground flaxseeds
  • 1-2 Tablespoons coconut nectar or maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 4 Tablespoons water (reserved after soaking the goji berries and mulberries)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Method:

  1. Soak the buckwheat for at least 8 hours and the rest of the nuts and seeds for at least 6 hours. Once they've been soaked, rinse and drain well and place in a large mixing bowl with the ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, and cacao nibs. 
  2. Soak the goji berries and mulberries for 10-15 minutes in warm water. Reserve 4 Tablespoons of the water. 
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (all wet and spices) into a small bowl and mix. Pour the wet mixture over the nuts and seeds and stir well to combine. 
  4. Spread out the mixture on your dehydrator, and dehydrate at 115 degrees for 12-17 hours. 
  5. Feel free to change the spices or nuts and seeds to suit your fancy:)
  6. Enjoy!

Fig Newton Crumble Bar

I love all fruits and veggies (except tomatoes - I know it's weird), but there are a few fruits that I favor more than others. Figs are one of my absolute all time favorites! It's figgin' crazy to me to think that the first time I tried a fresh fig was only two years ago. I have been consuming them like a mad woman ever since! Figs are tricky though; their season is short. I always have a hard time finding fresh figs in Memphis... until I loaded up on three boxes of them at one of our grocery stores a couple weeks ago, and then I was stupefied to stumble upon the last two boxes of figs at the Farmer's Market last week! I currently have a large tupperware container in my fridge filled to the brim with soft, sweet figs, and it's taking a lot of self control to not eat one every time I open the fridge! If you've never tried fresh figs, get your hands on some asap! They are so much better fresh than dried. Their texture is soft and squishy (in a sweet caramel-y kind of way) and not chewy like the dried fruit. You'll need both fresh and dried figs for this recipe, though. 

After I bought the three boxes of figs, my friend suggested that I make fig newtons. That had not even occurred to me! I had plans to eat them plain, on toast, maybe in a smoothie, and definitely as decoration for my chia pudding and smoothie bowls. I used to love fig newtons before I had to go gluten free, so I decided to dedicate some of my precious figs to recreate an old treat. This recipe was adapted from Jay's Baking Me Crazy.

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Ingredients:

For the crust...

  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and ginger

For the filling...

  • 10 dried figs
  • 4-5 fresh figs
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit. 
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the crust in a bowl and mix well. Add half or two thirds of this mixture to the bottom of a bread pan or an 8x8 pan that has been lined with parchment paper.
  3. Place all the ingredients for the filling in a small food processor, and mix until it resembles a paste. 
  4. Cover the bottom layer of the crust with the filling, and crumble the rest of the crust dough on top of the fig filling. Optional: sprinkle a tablespoon on coconut sugar on top of the final crust layer. 
  5. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. 
  6. Enjoy!

Cilantro Tomatillo Dip with Crispy Plantain Fries

In case you don't know me or what I've been up to this summer, I have been traveling non stop. I didn't originally plan my summer with a focus on constant travel, and in fact I was afraid the travel I did have planned wouldn't be enough. Since I'm about to begin my senior year of college, I knew this could possibly be my last real summer. I wanted to fill it with unique experiences. I knew I wanted to go to Colorado and study abroad in London, but now that the summer is coming to a close, I've realized that I visited 15 cities. Various opportunities presented themselves to me, and I said yes to pretty much all of them. I'm so glad I did! I've accumulated stories and memories that I otherwise wouldn't have just by being open and flexible to changing my plans and making an effort to have an epic summer. I am so blessed to have been given these opportunities and I cannot thank my parents enough for supporting me and making it all possible. 

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I'm finally home now, and it feels SO good. I missed my family, dogs, friends, and obviously my kitchen. I've been inspired in numerous ways, and I can't wait to test and share some new recipes. This is a recipe not inspired by my travels. It's one of those that just sort of popped into my head one day and I ran with it! The dip is mildly spicy with a texture that's slightly more creamy than salsa, but still chunky. I've paired it with crispy plantains because I love plantains. I'm hypersensitive to potatoes, so if eat them in excess I start to experience digestive symptoms, fatigue, brain fog, and other unpleasant symptoms. When I first got to London, I had potatoes almost everyday the first week, and it didn't take long for me to recognize that I had gone a little overboard. I've been mindful of my potato consumption since then, and I'm feeling much better! The plantains go well with this dip because they're crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, just like a good fry, but they have a more complex sweet, nutty flavor that highlights the fresh, bright flavor of the dip. 

I hope you also had a great summer! You should give this dip a try, and serve it at a barbecue or football party. It's definitely a crowd pleaser!

 

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Ingredients:

  • 5 tomatillos
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 onion 
  • 1 avocado 
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • salt to taste
  • 2 plantains

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and blend until desire texture is achieved. I blended mine for 2-3 minutes, so it's nice and creamy with a few chunks left behind.
  2. For the plantains, preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Cut the plantains into a fry shape, and lightly coat with avocado oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until golden brown, probably 30-40 minutes. 
  3. Enjoy!

Colorado Travel Guide

Despite what the title of this post suggests, this will not be a guide to the entire state of Colorado. This will, however, be a guide to my favorite area and second home. There are a lot of little towns and villages around here including (but not limited to) Vail, Beaver Creek, Bachelor Gulch, Arrowhead, Edwards, Avon, Glenwood, and Minturn. Both the mountains and the valley offer mouth watering, plant-based dishes and activities galore! Below are lists of my favorite restaurants and summer activities. 

Restaurants (not ranked in a specific order):

1. Green Elephant Juicery is the place to get your raw food fix. Between the smoothies, juices, cheesecakes, chia puddings, acai bowls, salad bowls, nut cheese, and so much more, I have a hard time not going here for every meal!

2. Larkburger has a great portobello burger option for plant-based eaters. They even offer a gluten free bun or a lettuce wrap. While a portobello burger doesn't always sound like delicious vegan comfort food, Larkburger's is decadent when you add a side of their thin, crispy fries. If you're not in the mood for a burger, they also have a couple of fresh, light, and satiating salad options.

3. Maya is home to upscale Mexican food. They have several different flavor options for table side guacamole, and a large plate of grilled veggies is the plant-based menu option. When I dined there recently, I told my server that I was vegan and gluten free, and he offered veggie tacos and black beans in addition to the veggie plate on the menu. I had veggie tacos, beans, and traditional guac, which were all excellent! It's important to note that Maya also has one of the best views in the valley. Located inside the Westin, the restaurant patio looks directly over the Eagle River with Beaver Creek mountain ski slopes as the backdrop. 

4. Nobu Matsuhisa is my favorite restaurant. My parents take me here every year for my birthday, and we savor each bite. While it is one of the more expensive options in the valley, it is absolutely worth it. The space is one large, open room with high, vaulted ceilings, mountain modern decor, and a wall of windows facing the slopes. Perusing the menu is daunting if you have never dined at a Nobu restaurant, but once your server explains the Japanese family style concept, you will have the perfect opportunity to share your plant-based delicacies. I always notify the server that I am vegan and gluten free, and there are always numerous options that he or she will list off for me. The last time I went, we had a large group so we ordered several plant-based and non plant-based items to share, and everyone's favorite dishes were plant-based! Among them were a mushroom sashimi drizzled with sesame oil and garnished with chives, a warm mushroom salad, eggplant with miso sauce, and warm, soft, melt-in-your-mouth tofu topped with crispy fried brussels sprouts. 

5. Blue Moose Pizza is famous in the valley for the best pizza, and rightly so. Their specialty pies are creative and delicious on top of your choice of crusts, which include their original, hand tossed, whole wheat, stone-ground, or gluten free. I always get the gluten free crust loaded with my favorite veggies (even broccoli), and it never disappoints. When we get take out, which is perfect for those lazy nights on the mountain after a full day of skiing, boarding, hiking, golfing, or biking, I'll reheat my pizza for a few minutes in the oven with some Daiya cheese, or I'll top it with nutritional yeast. 

6. Turntable is a vintage diner and old locomotive turntable situated in a small mountain town called Minturn. The interior decor used to be centered around Elvis, Denver Broncos memorabilia, and vintage photos of the town. The booths were vinyl and the menu nostalgic, greasy, comfort food. It has since been remodeled and updated by new owners (who also own Westside Cafe in Vail), and while the interior is now a sleek, comfortable, mountain modern, the menu retains some of the local favorites. The updated menu also includes several plant-based items including steal cut oatmeal, avocado toast, veggie street tacos, a veggie sandwich, and a veggie burger. This is the perfect place to refuel after a long hike.  

Activities (not ranked in a specific order):

1. Hiking

Colorado is full of amazing trails that lead you over rivers, through dense pine forests, aspen groves, meadows dotted with vibrant wildflowers, and even up to steep, rocky peaks. My favorite hikes in this area include Hanging Lake, Pitkin Lake, Beaver Lake, Mount Elbert, and Booth Creek Falls

2. Parks

Edwards is home to a paved trail that lines the Eagle River and Highway 6. Along this trail you'll run into a dog park, skate park, community open space, as well as the village shops. 

Avon is famous for its Nottingham Lake and park. This recreational lake offers paddle boarding, kayaking, or paddle boating. The park around the lake is also home to a kid's playground, tennis courts, frisbee golf, and a paved trail for running, walking, and biking. 

Vail claims a kid's playground near the main lift as well as mountain adventure park at the top of the lift. The adventure park includes zip lining, tubing, a mountain coaster, a climbing wall, a bungee trampoline, and a mini golf course.  

Beaver Creek houses a similar summer activity park at the base of the Centennial lift. The temporary park in Beaver Creek includes a bungee trampoline, mini golf course, and a climbing wall. There is also a frisbee golf course on the mountain. 

These parks are the perfect way to spend an afternoon or an entire day. There are plenty of activities for all ages and interests. 

3. Rafting

Over the years we have tried several different rafting adventures including the standard large rafts, duckies, and paddle boarding. I have even floated down and swum in the river with my friends on inflatable tubes. The rafting adventure that's right for you is completely dependent on the season, your group size, and your desired level of difficulty. Paddle boarding is the most difficult, and you will most likely ride the rapids on your knees; it is incredibly challenging to maintain standing balance on class four rapids. Duckies are a unique blend of standard white water rafting boats and kayaks. You ride the river in small, inflatable kayaks that hold either one or two people. 

4. Concerts 

Be sure to check out the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater located in Vail when planning a trip to the area. Every summer the Vail Valley Foundation hosts a free summer concert series. This is one of the best evening activities: watching a live performance outside in the cool mountain air with views of the sun setting over the ski slopes. You can even bring a cooler and picnic blanket into the venue to relax and watch the concert from the back lawn. 

5. Golf

The mountains and valley are littered with great golf courses both public and private. The private courses include Country Club of the Rockies, Eagle Springs, Cordillera, Frost Creek, and Red Sky. The public courses include Beaver Creek Golf Club, Red Sky (limited access), Eagle Ranch Golf Club, Eagle Vail Golf Club, Gypsum Creek Golf Course, Sonnenalp Golf Course, and Vail Golf Club. There is nothing else quite like playing golf in the summer in Colorado. Morning temperatures in the 40's and 50's and clear skies, it will be 75-80 degrees when you make the turn. The absence of humidity takes sweat completely out of play, so you can focus on those three footers for par.   

6. Bowling

Bōl in Vail is an upscale bowling alley with sleek, modern decor, and TV screens at the end of each lane. Cocktails and appetizers are served while you bowl, making it a leisurely and enjoyable group activity.  

7. Ice Skating

Personally, I have not been a fan of ice skating since the fourth grade when I fell (while standing... not moving) on the ice and broke my wrist. However, Beaver Creek has a beautiful ice skating rink in the center of the village that is open year round.

8. Farmer's Markets

Every weekend in the summer, there are three farmer's markets in the Vail/Beaver Creek area. The vendors sell fresh produce, tie die t-shirts, art, homemade pasta, hats, and so much more. Both the Edwards market and Minturn market are on Saturdays and the Vail market is on Sundays. Be sure to check them out and support local farmers and artisans.

Bonus!

Red Rocks Amphitheater is located just outside of Denver, and is by far the best venue for concerts. It is the only naturally occurring amphitheater in the world, and it is absolutely breathtaking. The rocks are red (obviously) and the city lights of Denver glow in the valley beyond the stage. As the shows are performed, the sun sets and rays of orange and pink light up the sky until the darkness slowly floods over the vibrant colors. The moon appears to rise from behind the silhouettes of the rocks, and illuminates the sky along with millions of stars. Be prepared for the most magical musical experience of your life, and also for the possibility of thunderstorms or rain. 

One Year Vegan Recap

One year ago today I jumped headfirst into veganism. Yes I went cold turkey and went fully vegan overnight (but I had not consumed dairy for three or four years because I knew I was intolerant/highly sensitive to the protein). Friends, family, and acquaintances ask me questions about my lifestyle choice almost everyday. Here's a list I've complied of common questions and my answers. I hope this helps shed some light on my vegan life, and if you have more questions please don't hesitate to ask!

1. How/why did you decide to go vegan?

When I was in high school I noticed that ice cream and cheese were beginning to give me digestive issues. I cut out obvious dairy, but didn't pay attention to labels and sometimes still ate some cheese and crackers (it was my favorite snack). After I started becoming violently ill every time I ate anything my senior year of high school, I knew something was up and I needed to see a doctor. I had a scope and biopsy which came back completely normal, so my doctor diagnosed me with IBS and said I likely had an allergy to the protein in dairy. That was it. I cut dairy completely out of my diet, and started to notice significant improvements. This "limitation" opened my eyes to the world of vegan cheese, ice cream, and butter (which my dairy-eating mom admits are all better than dairy products, so she now chooses dairy free when it's an option). Cutting dairy did not completely cure my IBS although it helped improve some of my symptoms. After cutting dairy I toyed with the idea of cutting all animal products because I was halfway there, but I always decided against it. Last year I was having a conversation with a friend who I hadn't seen in a couple years and who had recently gone vegan. He kept telling me about how great he felt, so I decided I could at least do some research. He told me to check out Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives. Watching those documentaries sparked a passionate interest in me to understand the food industry and nutrition. Researching veganism and the nutritional benefits as well as the environmental benefits convinced me that I should give it a shot. 

2. How do you get your protein?

The vegan world treats this question with a negative roll of the eyes, which I have been guilty of a time or two. However, I think this is a great question to spark more conversations about nutrition in general. Our bodies simply do not require the amount of protein that the media insists we need, and vegetables contain protein. In fact, excess consumption of certain animal proteins can contribute to a loss of calcium in bones due to the high potential renal acid load (PRAL) of those meats. Vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, have a negative PRAL, meaning that they alkalize the body.  Alkalizing your body essentially means that you're eating foods with low or negative PRAL ratings which help your body maintain its natural pH without extra work. Eating an alkaline diet can help reduce inflammation throughout your body which can help with sleep, acne, weight, joint pain, digestion, yeast overgrowth, energy, and more. I personally don't worry about how much protein I get everyday. Everyday looks a little different for me, and I make sure to pack in as many different vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and grains as possible. I have never felt like I was deficient in protein, or any other nutrient (except B 12 which I take in supplement form daily).

3. What do you eat? Is it hard to eat out?

I eat everything (except animal products and tomatoes but the latter is a personal preference). When I'm at home I'll make anything from a simple salad to an extravagant bowl full of my favorite veggies (which include sweet potatoes, kale, brussel sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, and many more). Once you start incorporating more vegetables and fruits into your diet, you won't even notice that the meat is gone, and you'll feel amazing. Eating out can sometimes be difficult, but that's mostly because I'm also gluten intolerant (another piece of the IBS puzzle). When I have plans to go to a restaurant for the first time, I always check out the menu online before I go or I call and ask if they can accommodate me. Sometimes the answer will be that I can have a salad, other times there are several options on the menu from which I can choose. It's always easy to look at appetizers and sides because usually there will be a few options that I can ask for without cheese or butter. If there is absolutely nothing for me to eat (which has happened once or twice) I eat something before I go out or make sure that I have something ready for me when I get home. When you know what to look for and how to prepare, it is so simple. 

4. What do you do when you travel?

Being on a college golf team, I travel a lot. Since I've had dietary restrictions for a few years, I knew that going vegan would mean that I have to be prepared at all times. My team loves to get Olive Garden, which is not my personal favorite since I'm gluten, dairy, meat, and tomato free, so I always pack at least one prepared meal. When I'm short on time getting ready to go to a tournament, I stop by my favorite vegan-freindly restaurant in Memphis and get something to go. I also pack plenty of bars and trail mix (which I prefer to make myself but my favorite brand is Bearded Brothers). Complimentary hotel breakfasts are also not ideal for the gluten free vegan, so I always pack So Delicious or Kite Hill yogurt, chia pudding (recipe below), or a baggie with dry oats and ground flax seeds to mix with hot water. I pack all of this in a very small cooler which I can fit inside my golf bag. In addition to feeling great, my mental game is stronger when I pack my own food because I know that even on the road I am giving my body what it needs to thrive.

5. Do you miss meat?

Nope. It's as simple as that. Yes I grew up eating meat, but as I got older and more conscious of what I was putting in my body I preferred vegetables over meat. Often before going vegan, I would order the vegetable plate at a restaurant or have entire days where I didn't notice that I had gone completely vegan. After about two months on a vegan diet, I got a little bored because I had been cooking pretty much the same things and eating at the same restaurants. There was a short period of time where I thought about incorporating fish into my diet, but I decided to wait a little longer and after about a week I was back on the vegan train loving every bite. It's crucial to switch up your diet. Eating the same foods every day can lead to food intolerance, and variety keeps life interesting!

I hope that this post answered some of your questions about my vegan life, and if you have more please feel free to comment or email me! I'm not trying to convert the world to veganism, but I hope that my story will inspire you to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into your diet. 

Waste-less Granola

I am addicted to granola, especially the kind that has a lot of chunks.

Now that my confession is out, I want to share with you exactly how to make that chunky, crunchy, chewy, warm crack for yourself!

This recipe is adapted from Laura Wright's post on her blog The First Mess. I love this recipe because not only are you rewarded with the best breakfast/ snack ever but you also don't waste  nut milk pulp. When I first started making my own nut milk, I was confused as to how I should utilize the pulp. The past few weeks, though, I have seen a lot of "no-waste" recipes online, so I've started to create a few of my own! 

So without further ado... Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • zest and juice of 1 navel orange
  • 2 thumbs of fresh grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (or sunflower seeds)
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons flax meal
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut flour
  • 2 Tablespoons almond flour
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 5 Tablespoons maple syrup

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. 
  3. Crumble the mixture over a parchment line baking sheet (it will be a little wet) and bake for about an hour or until golden and crunchy. 
  4. Feel free to add your favorite dried fruits, nuts, or seeds in the mix when it's finished. (I added toasted coconut shreds, goji berries, and mulberries.)
  5. Enjoy!

Golden Oats

I love turmeric. I am fascinated with the health benefits boasted by this curcumin-packed spice. For those of you who haven't heard of this magical spice, it has been used in Indian cuisine and medicine for thousands of years. It's full of antioxidants, and it's an anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic agent. Turmeric is also known to stimulate digestion, support the liver, and reduce intestinal permeability. It's full of flavor, Vitamin C, magnesium, fiber, Vitamin B6, iron, potassium, and manganese.

What's not to love? Especially when it adds that familiar richness to your favorite Indian and Thai curries... and it can be sipped on as a tea or golden milk. I have been experimenting with turmeric for the perfect golden milk recipe, but I haven't gotten there yet. I have perfected my Golden Oats recipe, though! It's warm, sweet and savory, and the perfect way to start your day! 

You probably think I'm a little crazy for including black pepper, but don't skip it! The presence of black pepper increases the bioavailability of curcumin seven fold (or more), meaning that you can only gain the health benefits when turmeric and black pepper are consumed together. 

Ingredients: 

(serves one)

  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional but I like the added nutty flavor)
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

Method:

  1. Cook oats (and flax meal) according to package instructions. For the Bob's Red Mill oats, I cook them for 15-20 minutes before I stir in all the spices. 
  2. Once the oats are cooked, add all the other ingredients and stir. 
  3. Leave the oats over heat for another 5 minutes. 
  4. Serve immediately. 
  5. Enjoy!