Honey Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad with Cinnamon Walnuts

The weekends are usually when I tend to experiment in the kitchen. Too exhausted when I come home from work during the weekdays, I stick to simple skillet meals, but on the weekends, my creativity flows and I have the opportunity (and the patience) to play around. We had this butternut squash that was just sitting on our counter for a while, and today it looked like it wanted to be used. Note that this meal should be made when you aren’t super hungry, since it takes about an hour to make, though it was worth it to me! It warmed me up, I got my sweet tooth satisfied with the honey roasted butternut squash, and my veggies!

So what makes this meal so healthiful and spectacular? A breakdown of the ingredients:

  • Kale – All hail the mighty kale! This leafy green plant is extremely nutrient dense, having high doses of vitamin A (206%), vitamin K (684%), vitamin C (134%), and many other vitamins and minerals. It also has antioxidants that help remove free-radicals that form cancer in the body. I’d bow down to this powerful plant!
  • Butternut Squash – Due to its orange color, butternut squash is high in vitamin A. It also as anti-inflammatory properties, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Walnuts – A good source of omega-3 fats, Vitamin E, folate, and melatonin, Walnuts are beneficial for healthy brain functioning. They also support heart health through the amino acid l-arginine.
  • Cinnamon – A wonderful anti-inflammatory, can help lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar levels, this spice is a sweet addition to a meal.
  • Honey – This liquid gold may help prevent cellular damage within the brain. It also helps absorb calcium, which helps our bones stay strong. It is a sweet alternative to refined cane sugar.
  • Sage – Sage has a long history of treating memory loss illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Research has shown that it has improved cognitive functioning in patients with mild to moderate cases of the disease.

Simple ingredients, rewarding health benefits, what more could you ask for?

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad with Cinnamon Walnuts

(makes 6 cups)

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Ingredients

  •  1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 – 3 cups of kale, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. While the oven is heating, place butternut squash cubes in a bowl and toss with honey, sage, and salt and pepper.
  3. In another dish, toss cinnamon with walnuts and set aside.
  4. Place squash on a non-stick (or lightly oiled) baking dish and bake for 40 minutes or until soft.
  5. When there are about 5 minutes remaining for the squash, add the walnuts to the baking dish and continue to bake.
  6. Once the squash is done, set out to cool and add the kale. This will soften the kale up without them turning to crunchy kale chips. Let sit for 3-5 minutes before serving.
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Roasted Sweet Potato and Garlic Hummus

I love condiments. Okay, I love a lot of things, but spreads, dips, and condiments are my go to for meIMG_6419als. They can turn a blah meal into a delicious dish! Hummus is a wonderful spread, and it is perfect for so many foods. You can use it as a dip with pita or vegetables, you can spread it on a slice of bread for a nice melt or have it be the creamy filling of a sandwich. It’s versatile for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Plus it’s a good source of plant protein (but I’ll get to that bit later). Normal hummus doesn’t quite cut it for me though. Original hummus is fine and dandy, don’t get me wrong, but I like to experiment in my kitchen.
Feeling immersed in the season of fall, I wanted to make an autumn hummus. We had a couple of sweet potatoes still. Paired with roast garlic….wow, talk about a flavorful fall hummus! It took a little more time than a normal hummus, but due to roasting the sweet potatoes and garlic, you can really taste those flavors in the spread.

Here are some health benefits of this hummus:

  • Sweet Potato-High in vitamin A, a medium sized sweet potato has 120% your daily intake. Plus 30% your recommended dose of vitamin C. High in potassium as well, these orange delights are great for heart health.
  • Garlic-Possessing antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, garlic is good for fighting infections and boosting your immune system health.
  • Chickpeas-This bean is great for bone health due to its makeup of iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K. Chickpeas are a great source of plant protein, each cup containing about 15 grams and have 12.5 grams of fiber.

Yum yum yum! I made mine tahini free as well, and it still came out tasting deliciously hummusy. I spread mine on a slice of bread and topped it with sauteed kale, onions and mushrooms. Breakfast of champions.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Garlic Hummus

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 can of cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic-peeled
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once preheated, on a baking dish, place whole sweet potatoes and garlic cloves on and roast for 40 minutes to an hour (or until potatoes are soft).
  2. About 10-20 minutes through, remove the garlic cloves and continue baking the sweet potatoes
  3. Once the potatoes are done, remove and scoop out insides into a blender.
  4. Add garlic, chickpeas, oil, lemon juice and water. Blend until smooth.
  5. Add salt to taste.
  6. Store in a mason jar and enjoy.

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Note: If the hummus is too thick and won’t blend, try adding more water until it is a desired consistency.

Carrot Bars-Vegan and Gluten-Free with no refined sugars

This weekend I was in a meal making frenzy. The weather is cool enough now to use our oven, so I was taking full advantage of that. Plus, I was trying to clean out our fridge without throwing anything away. I am a big repurposer, and I suppose that goes for my food as well. We have an apple tree in our backyard that has produced so many apples. My mom has been canning all last week, making pretty much anything with “apple” in the name: apple butter, apple pie-filling, applesauce, etc. She has so many jars made, that she wanted me to make something that used applesauce. Applesauce is a great replacement for sugar or butter in a recipe because it adds moistness and natural sweetness. I also wanted to use up a zucchini we had, which adds additional moistness, plus sneaking some veggies in!

So with zucchini and applesauce at hand, I decided to make a carrot bar recipe that I found. The recipe (found here) calls for sugar, which I decided to omit, as well as making some other minor alternations. The end product was very moist and was just the right amount of sweetness (all natural too might I add). These bars are perfect for breakfast, snack or just on-the-go!

Here are the some health benefits of the ingredients:

  • Zucchini-The fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium found in this vegetable is good for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Applesauce-A better alternative than butter or sugar, applesauce contains fiber and vitamin C.
  • Carrot-Full of fiber, vitamin C and A, Beta-Carotene, carrots improve eye and skin health, aid in digestion, and reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Cinnamon-Loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, cinnamon can help protect against cancers and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Oats-Gaining nutritional benefits such as manganese, selenium, phosphorus, fiber, magnesium, and zinc, they are a healthier option than processed white flour, which removes these minerals.
  • Walnuts-Due to it’s special mix of vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants, studies have shown that walnuts may support brain health. Now there’s a smart idea.

So let’s get baking these good for you bars! Apologies for no pretty picture of the bars…that’s the downfall to baking at night, you don’t get the best pictures!

Carrot Bars

(makes 18 bars)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 2 cups sugar-free applesauce
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the shredded carrot, zucchini, applesauce, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Mix well.
  3. After the wet ingredients are mixed thoroughly, add in the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Spread the mixture in a 9×13 pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until baked thoroughly.
  5. Let cool for five minutes before slicing into 1 1/2″ x 3″ bars.

Note: Keep in a refrigerator to extend the shelf life of these moist babies! I kept them just on my counter wrapped in foil and within only a few days, they started to mold.

Vegan Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I have been on a soup roll these past two days…as well as trying to use up leftovers in my fridge. I noticed a container of wild rice from a previous night. We also seem to have a lot of carrots and celery. That’s about it as far as soup worthy vegetables. When I think of carrots and celery in a soup, I think of hearty chicken based soups. Ahhh, but I am a vegan. We don’t eat chicken. Well, well, well, that is where my other leftover comes into play. I just so happen to have some soy-based chicken strips from Wholefoods. Muhahaha. All my leftover ingredients were just begging to be made into Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. This soup had everything, vegetables, protein and good carbohydrates. Winner winner, chicken and wild rice soup dinner!

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Here are the health benefits of this warming meal:

  • Carrots-We all are aware of carrots being good for your eyes due to its high content of beta carotene and vitamin A, but these properties in carrots also promote healthier skin through reduced wrinkles, blemishes, acne and dryness. It also helps slow down the aging of cells. Hello youth!
  • Celery-One cup of diced celery has 33% of your intake of vitamin K, which is good for building strong bones, preventing heart disease, and helping with blood clotting.
  • Onion-For centuries, people have used onion for its anti-inflammatory properties. Onion also lowers blood sugar, helping regulate it. Oh, and there is this powerful compound called quercetin in onions which is known to help prevent cancer.
  • Wild Rice-Wild rice, unlike white rice, is full of wonderful health benefits such as fiber, which helps our digestion, protein, to help keep muscle mass, zinc for healthy bones, and vitamin C for our immune system (just to name a few).
  • Dill-This flavorful herb is an anti-inflammatory, has calcium which is good for bone health, helps with digestion and respiratory disorders such as congestion and cough.
  • Garlic-Garlic is known to boost immune functions, helping prevent flu and colds. One large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63%. It can also reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Soy-based Chicken-Okay, so I normally don’t like using faux meats or things store bought, but this non-gmo soy-based chicken has 20g of protein per serving size and has 20% my daily intake of iron, which is needed for the production of red blood cells.

The best part is, this soup makes a good amount of servings. Leftovers from leftovers. Oh the irony.

Vegan Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

serves 6-8 cups

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 package Chicken-free Strips
  • 1 – 2 cups wild rice (cooked)
  • 2 carrots-diced
  • 2 stalks of celery-diced
  • 1 clove garlic-minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion-minced
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tbsp dill
  • 1 bayleaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tbsp grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add carrots and celery. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until they become tender.
  2. Add the garlic and onion to the mix, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Pour in the broth and water. Add the wild rice, chicken strips, bay leaf, dill and salt and pepper, bringing the mixture to a boil then letting simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Serve hot and enjoy.

Rustic Sweet Potato Soup with Cinnamon and Paprika

Fall is here! Time for crisp breezes, the changing colors on the trees, sweater weather and soup season. Last night I was home alone, and after a long day of bike riding and crafIMG_6366ting, I wanted to treat myself to a date night in. Since the weather was so windy yesterday, I was very excited to make soup! It is the perfect warming food that is full of flavor and a great way to get your veggies. At first, I was going to make a simple pumpkin soup, but after searching aimlessly through out cabinets and not being able to locate the pumpkin, I decided on the ready-at-hand sweet potato alternative. It was a pretty simple soup to make, but due to my inexperience in souping, it took longer than expected. This was more of an experimentation process than anything, but I thought the end result turned out rather tasty. Paired with a glass of cabernet, some gypsy violin, and candlelight, I’d say there is a second date in my near future.

This soup only uses a handful of ingredients. The sweet potato gives the soup not only its flavor, but its creamy base. I used almond milk instead of broth to add more creaminess to the soup. Originally since I wanted to use pumpkin, I though cinnamon would be a nice pairing. I thought it would still taste good with sweet potato, but I wanted to add a little kick as well, so the paprika did that. As all my recipes go, this one is full of nutritional benefits as well. Let’s discover what they are!

  • Sweet Potato-Sweet potatoes are full of an abundance of vitamin A. One medium sweet potato has over 200% of your daily intake. The Beta-Carotene found in this root vegetable helps fight off diseases and strengthen our eye sight. It also helps ward off cancers. Sweet!
  • Almond Milk-Almond milk contains 45% your daily intake of calcium, which is what we need to help support strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also required for allowing blood to clot and to maintain a normal healthy heartbeat.
  • Cinnamon-This sweet spice has been linked to healthy brain functioning, boosting memory and cognitive development. Also the mixture of calcium and fiber found in cinnamon can help improve colon health and protect against heart disease.
  • Paprika-Having a red color, paprika is full of more good for you vitamin A and carotenoids. It also has iron, which helps support your cell metabolism, resulting in energy production.

Simple ingredients, warms you up, and wonderful health benefits. What more could you want from a soup?

Rustic Sweet Potato Soup with Cinnamon and Paprika

(serves 1)

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Ingredients

  • One medium sized sweet potato
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • Grapeseed oil or Maple Syrup
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of paprika
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. While the oven is preheating, peel the sweet potato and cut it into 1″ cubes.
  3. In a small bowl, toss the sweet potato cubes with either grapeseed oil or maple syrup for roasting.
  4. Bake sweet potato on a baking sheet for 20-40 minutes until soft.
  5. Transfer the sweet potato cubes to a blender and blend with 1/2 cup of the almond milk until smooth.
  6. Transfer sweet potato mixture into a saucepan on medium heat and add the rest of the almond milk, and dashes of cinnamon, salt, and paprika.
  7. Bring mixture to a boil and then let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  8. Once ready garnish with rosemary or sliced almonds.

Enjoy.

Raw Carrot Cake for One

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So this weekend my family is celebrating our September birthdays. Not only is my birthday one that is being celebrated, but my mother and cousin also share birthdays in this month. Being the only Vegan in the family, I will need to be providing my own dessert, since most cakes use egg and dairy (as well as sugar, white bleached flour and all these other ‘not really so good for you’ ingredients).

I actually don’t mind making my own dessert. In fact, I am super excited to make a vegan cake! I wanted to make something raw since it is still a little too warm here for actual baking. I found these tiny creme brulee dishes that were the perfect size for a single dessert portion. How adorable, I get my own birthday cake all to myself! Wanting to use up some carrots from our garden, I thought, “Carrot Cake”! It was super quick to whip up, and I can’t wait to try it tomorrow! Here is the breakdown of all the lovely benefits of this nutritious and delicious dessert:

  • Carrots-We all know carrots have a lot of vitamin A, but aside from that (which is great for skin and eye health), carrots also have vitamins C, B6, K, E, B2, B3, and B1. They have wonderful anti-cancerous properties through their antioxidants and unique phytonutrients.
  • Walnuts-Nuts are a good source of healthy omega-3 fats, which are important for brain and heart health. They also have these powerful and unique antioxidants that may prevent chemically induced liver damage. Walnuts have also been linked to helping with weight control and reducing diabetes.
  • Cinnamon-This amazing spice is chalked full of wonderful benefits. Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties. When we are inflamed, our bodies have a difficult time fighting infections and repairing tissue damage. It is also the cause of diseases such as arthritis. Cinnamon is this powerful fighting spice, which has been linked to reduce the risk of such medical issues like certain bacterial and fungal infections, and lowering high blood sugar.
  • Nutmeg-Like Cinnamon, Nutmeg has helped treat inflammation. It also helps with digestion problems such as diarrhea, constipation and bloating.

Oh and did I mention that all you really need is a blender? Let’s get started!

Raw Carrot Cake for One

(makes 1 personal cake)

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Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 tbsp walnuts
  • 2-3 dried dates or figs

Carrot Cake

  • 1 carrot, washed and chopped into 1″ thick slices
  • 2-3 tbsp water or milk of your choice (soy, almond, coconut)
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp oats
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions

  1. In blender, blend dried dates/figs with the walnuts until a fine paste-like substance is produced.
  2. Using a spoon, scoop out the mixture and with your hands, mold into the bottom of the creme brulee cup (or other small dish).
  3. Combine the carrot slices, vanilla, water/milk, oats, maple syrup and spices to the blender and blend until a well-mixed substance is created.
  4. Scoop out the mixture on top of the crust and set in the fridge to firm for about 1-2 hours.
  5. Garnish with chopped/crushed walnuts and enjoy!

As a side note, I tend to just throw stuff together, not really following a recipe. My tastes maybe different from yours, or your mixture may turn out a little runnier or more dense than mine. If your mixture is quite runny, add more oats or carrots. If your mixture is more dense, add more water/milk. Not sweet enough? Add more maple syrup or honey according to your tastes! IMG_5901

Hydrating Basil, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad

I love herbs! These plants add such an incredible depth of taste to any meal. They turn a dish from meh to yeah! And the health benefits are there as well. My family and I have our own garden, which is a great cost effective way to have delicious and organic vegetables and herbs. Ever since switching to more plant-based meals, I have noticed that my taste buds have become more acute to the subtle differences in the variation of fruits and vegetables, also if they are organic or not. I love organic produce because I can really taste the freshness and flavor in these compared to GMO produce, which is full of chemicals and pesticides that we are putting into our bodies when we eat them.

So anyways, we have an abundance of cucumber this year. Probably because we have had so much rain in Illinois this summer. We also have a ton of basil! Mmmmm, I love me some fresh basil. It is so good in Italian dishes, adding so much freshness to the meal. Normally when I combine cucumbers and tomatoes, I lean towards Greek inspired dishes, but due to the basil I wanted to use up, I blended Greek and Italian….Greetalian? Italeek? Whatever the combo for the two is, I made a refreshing salad that is so simple to make, I feel a tad embarrassed with sharing the recipe. But first, let me share all the wonderful health benefits that this salad gives:

  • Cherry Tomatoes-Tomatoes are full of antioxidants. The antioxidants found in tomatoes have been linked to support cardiovascular, bone, liver, and kidney health. Cherry tomatoes also have tons of vitamins, such as A, C, and B-6.
  • Cucumbers-More wonderful vitamins found here, such as A, B, and C. Cucumbers are also very hydrating, containing 96% water, which helps our bodies flush out toxins. Cucumbers are good for skin health, containing magnesium, potassium, and silicon, that help smooth damaged skin.
  • Basil-This leaf has anti-inflammatory properties, helps support cardiovascular health and bone health due to its high levels of vitamin K and calcium.
  • Red Onion-Onions seem to play into these theme I have going with their anti-inflammatory properties, cardiovascular benefits and support with healthy bones.

So here is the super-duper simple recipe for this wonderfully refreshing salad.

Hydrating Basil, Cucumber and Tomato Salad

makes around 4-5 cups

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Ingredients

  • 1-1 1/2 cups of fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 1 medium sized cucumber, diced finely
  • 1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 a red onion-diced
  • 1/4-1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Serve

I told you! How simple right. Is this even considered a recipe? Anyways, I hope you enjoy! As a side note, I use a high quality balsamic, because I don’t care for the taste of the grocery store kinds. I go to a local olive oil and balsamic shop by my house. They have a variety of different oils and vinaigrette. My go to is this Tuscany Balsamic. I use it for so many of my dishes. Here is the link to their website, but you can also use whatever kind you prefer. I also use a minimal amount of oil and balsamic because I like to taste the flavor of the veggies. (Yes, veggies have flavor). You can adjust to your tastes though. Opa! Bon Appetit. Or whatever those Italeeks or Greetalians like to say.

Spicy Pad Thai Salad

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So I am trying to become Vegan. I am already a healthier than average eater, but a few factors have made me want to try this whole Vegan lifestyle out. For one, I am an animal lover. I always have been but I disassociated from the fact that what I ate was once a living creature. A while ago I stopped eating pig and cow for this reason. I recognized them as creatures like you and me. Pigs are actually more intelligent than dogs and was actually interested in owning a micropig for a while. It didn’t make sense to me to eat an intelligent creature. Same goes for cows. Dairy cows actually have best friends that they graze with. Seeing these and other facts, such as the extreme amount of damage these stockyards due to our ozone layer by producing large concentrated amounts of carbon monoxide, turned me off these once food choices. I also have many friends that are Vegan. A lot of people at the crystal shop I work at are Vegan and it also makes sense to me that as people’s awareness and consciousness shifts, the idea of killing animals for food is inhumane and not necessary for survival. There are so many reasons that going Vegan makes sense to me, from an ethical standpoint, but as well as an environmental and health standpoints.

But just because I am going Vegan, I am not going to skimp out on flavor! I love ethnic food and decided to make this Thai inspired salad. Not only does it taste delicious and reminds me of the classic dish, Pad Thai, but this salad is a lot healthier for you too! Full of yummy ingredients with wonderful health benefits. Let’s find out what they are, shall we?

  • Red Cabbage-The red cabbage in this salad is high in antioxidant levels, which helps reduce the risk of cancer. It is also loaded with Vitamin A which is good for your eye health. Add some Vitamin C for immune system strength. Red cabbage also is very high in minerals that are good for healthy bone health and growth. Plus who doesn’t love a little purple to their plate?
  • Carrots-As well as having lots of Vitamin A and C, carrots have a good amount of fiber, which is great for your digestion tract. Carrots have also been linked to increasing blood flow to the body and are good for high blood pressure. The potassium acts as a vasodilator, which increases blood flow, boosting organ function throughout the body.
  • Cilantro-Rich in Vitamin K, it helps in bone mass building. It’s also got those great A and C vitamins too!
  • Almond Butter-It has copper and calcium, making it a good brain food, not to mention the good-for-you fats, protein, and fiber this yummy spread provides.
  • Sesame Oil-High in zinc, sesame oil is good for your skin, increasing smoothness and elasticity and removing sun spots. It is also contains more good fats for your health, protecting it from heart disease. Copper is also found in sesame oil, which promotes healthy bone growth and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Sriracha-Wait, that “hot” sauce that everyone is raving about has health benefits? Yup. Sriracha’s main ingredient is chili pepper. Chili pepper has been linked to the health benefits of being happier. The chili peppers boost endorphins, making you happier. They also have serotonin, which improves mood and memory. This sauce is also good for the heart, boosting the body’s ability to dissolve blood clots, improving circulation, lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation.
  • Garlic-There seems to be a theme here about lowering high blood pressure, improving your heart health, and boosting your immunity system, because garlic does just that! Garlic also helps your body detox heavy metals and reduce bone loss.

So want to enjoy not only the taste but the benefits of this wonderful healthy salad? Follow my recipe:

Spicy Pad Thai Salad

serves 2

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Ingredients

Salad:

  • 5-6 cups of red cabbage-chopped
  • 1 large carrot-shredded
  • 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro-chopped
  • 1/4 cup of green onions-chopped

Dressing

  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove-minced
  • 1/8-1/4 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ginger

Directions

  1. Combine all the salad ingredients into a large mixing bowl
  2. In a small dish, combine all the ingredients for the dressing. Mix well with a fork.
  3. Add dressing to the salad. Mix in and enjoy.

Well that certainly is easy….

Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Power Bites

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So I have been trying this whole vegan thing recently as well as omitting sugars from my diet…processed sugars at least. I am a woman, and I do have a sweet tooth. Even though I have a taste for sweets, I want to enjoy them in healthy ways. One thing that I have been really enjoying is making different flavor dessert bites. They are made with natural ingredients and are typically raw and vegan. I start off with dates as the substance that binds the balls together, and add in a variety of other ingredients such as nuts and fruits. They are fun to experiment with.

When I share recipes, I like to do my research on the ingredients to find out the health benefits behind them. This bit of information furthers my interests in clean eating, knowing that I am making good decisions for my body.  A few days ago I decided to throw these babies together, Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Power Bites. They only have four ingredients and are so simple to make. Instead of cocoa powder for the chocolaty goodness, I added chocolate protein powder, which gives me an extra dose to add to my total intake for the day. It is recommended that the average woman have around 46 grams of protein a day, while the average man should get 56 grams. The other three main ingredients all have health benefits as well. Dates have so many amazing health benefits. They are high in fiber and are a natural laxative. They also are high in iron, making them good for someone who is suffering from anemia. Since they are high in natural sugars, they give a quick burst of energy, giving the “power” to these bites. The craisins provide more fiber and add to the sweetness factor of these bites. Lastly, the pistachios have antioxidant properties in them. They are also full of protein and good fats, as well as having a lot of copper, which aids in the absorption of iron from foods. A side note: I did not realize that when choosing these ingredients, that they were not only the perfect combo in taste, but in health benefits as well! This is a high fiber, high protein, high energy snack that is great for people with anemia. I should have really called them “Poopy Protein Power Anemia Bites”, but that just doesn’t roll off the tongue very nicely now does it?

Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Power Bites

(makes 8-10 bites)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup roasted pistachios
  • 1/4 cup craisins
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (if you are going vegan, here is a good brand)

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Directions

1. Add 1 cup dates to a blender and pulse until the dates become tiny bits

2. Add 1/2 cup pistachios and pulse until chopped.

3. If the substance is too hard, add a dash (around 1/2 tbsp or less) of liquid such as almond milk, coconut creamer, soy milk, or water to the mixture. You don’t want it too runny, or else the balls won’t hold their shape.

4. Mix in the protein powder.

5. Scoop out around 1-2 tbsp of the mixture. Take a few craisins and add to the mix. Roll into a bite-sized ball.

6. Repeat the previous step until all the dough is used up.

7. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before enjoying!

Farmer’s Markets and Gardens

So I went to the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning. There is something about the small tables scattered with vegetables so freshly picked that they still have dirt on them that invoke my warm and fuzzies. I am a big veggie-aholic. They are packed with so much nutrients, and I can really feel the effects of these great properties when I eat them. In the late spring, my family plants our vegetable garden, so in the summer, we are blessed with an abundance of tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, peppers, herbs, and a variety of leafy greens. Not only are these veggies fresh and at the peak of their nutritional splendor when we eat them, but it certainly cuts down our grocery bill! It’s also so nice not having to drive to the store for these ingredients. I simply just walk outside and *pluck*. Having a garden or even a community garden is a great way to save money, get delicious and nutritious foods, and connect to mother nature. Gardens take a good amount of work to maintain…from watering, tilling, pulling out weeds, etc., but they are so worth it! If gardens are too much upkeep for you, I suggest buying locally and stopping by your farmer’s market. Here are five benefits of going to the farmer’s market:

1. Fresh and Nutrition-packed Produce

Buying from a farmer, you are getting fruits and veggies that are picked at the peak of their ripeness, ensuring the best flavor and nutritional benefits that these products have to offer. Generally, when you buy from a supermarket or grocery store, these products are picked before they have fully matured so that they are able to arrive at the stores and sit for a couple of days, meaning you lose out on a lot of nutritional benefits this way.

2. Organic Produce

When you go to a farmer’s market, you are getting a selection of organic foods that are GMO and pesticide free. Eating produce sprayed with chemicals and unnatural products has serious side effects on our organ health, such as cancer. There have been over 260 studies that have linked cancer to agrochemicals. Eating organically, you are choosing to eat safe and reduce your risk of these diseases.

3. Help the Environment

When buying locally, you are helping to reduce the impact of CO2 omissions that are produced when transporting produce. Since these are local farms, there is less travel, hence a reduced impact on our environment. There is also a reduce of package waste that goes into farmer’s markets as well. Most farmers display their produce in crates and paper bins, leaving non-biodegradable plastic out of the mix.

4. Support your Community

When you buy from a farmer, you are helping support their way of life. Giving back to small farms allows this produce to keep coming in, and you are helping strengthen your community by helping them out. Meet new people, chit-chat with the farmers, and build your relationships with them and your community!

5. Adorable Date Idea

Okay, so this isn’t a “major” benefit, but going to the farmer’s market is such a cute date idea. It’s fun, unique, and there are a lot of things to see. Buy some vegetables with your bae, and go home to cook up a delicious and nutritious meal together!