My brother and sister-in-law gave me a NutriBullet for Christmas to replace my tired old Magic Bullet. Since 2014 began, I’ve been on a smoothie kick, blending up different concoctions each day for at least one of my meals. Some of my smoothies have turned out so yummy while others I probably won’t repeat. Regardless, I’m giving my body a powerful nutritious punch with each one. Today, I’m sharing with you my favorite smoothie I’ve made so far this month.
Reasons I love smoothies…
- Requires no skill in the kitchen
- Leaves minimal mess
- Easy to digest
- Promotes detox
- Unlocks nutrients from fibrous fruits and veggies
- Hides all kinds of nutritious goodies
- Gets large amounts of fruits and veggies into one meal
- Kids like them
I don’t drink sodas or sports drinks, so I keep all kinds of teas on hand to drink when I need a change from water or infused water. Chai is the word for tea in other parts of the world. When I hear the word Chai, I think of the spiced milk tea that originated in India and is made of black tea, milk, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, pepper, cloves, and a little something sweet. Its signature flavor is both warming and soothing but with a little kick to get me moving in the morning. I love it so much that I decided to take it to a smoothie.
In my “reasons I love smoothies” above, I listed “hiding all kinds of nutritious goodies”. In this smoothie, I tried a new hidden gem recommended by my Airrosti doctor…cauliflower. Cauliflower is a cancer fighting, liver cleansing cruciferous veggie that does not change the taste, texture, or color of the smoothie. In fact, my kids unknowingly drank cauliflower in their smoothie this morning. Rob wasn’t super keen on the idea of trying to sneak it in, but I decided to experiment anyway, and they didn’t say a word. I also added greens to this smoothie, but that is nothing new. I throw greens in every smoothie.
I used my basic smoothie formula to come up with this Double Chocolate Chai Smoothie: 1 cup liquid like almond milk or coconut water, greens, creamy fruit like banana or mango, additional fruits and veggies, a little healthy fat, a little protein, a little fiber, a little stevia, additional nutrient boosters like cacao, maca, goji, acai, etc., and spices and/or flavorings.
To make this smoothie, I blended a cup of unsweetened almond milk, a handful of spinach, a handful of cauliflower florets, a banana, a tablespoon of almond butter (sunflower seed butter also works well), a scoop of chocolate protein powder, a tablespoon of finely ground flax seeds, a dropper of liquid stevia, a tablespoon of raw cacao powder, and chai spices: cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and pepper. I topped it with a little bit of dark chocolate bits (cacao nibs is another great choice).
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- handful of greens
- handful of cauliflower florets
- 1 banana
- 1 tablespoon almond or sunflower seed butter
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
- 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seed
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- dropper of liquid stevia (I used vanilla flavored)
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon cardamom
- ⅛ teaspoon cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- handful of ice
- optional: dark chocolate bits for a garnish
- Combine all ingredients in a Vitamix or other blender, and blend for 30 seconds.
Happy New Year! My family celebrated Christmas with my parents in Santa Fe, where my mom greeted us with all kinds of yummy gluten and grain free treats and meals. My brother and I both eat gluten and mostly grain free for health reasons, and my mom has embraced our new way of eating wholeheartedly with gusto! Her fridge and freezer were full.
My favorite was her toasted coconut granola. I’ve tried many a granola in my day and this one is by far the best. It is grain free, and every bite is packed with crunchy goodness – minerals (zinc, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper, and manganese), healthy fats, protein (the amino acid tryptophan), and fiber that help satiate your hunger and boost your energy while keeping your blood sugar stable. Plus, cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant that also regulates your blood sugar, so you can avoid those spikes and drops, which lead to unnecessary eating, brain fog, and crankiness.
With 2014 and my daughter’s volleyball season in full swing, we are always in need of a quick energy pick me up in the form of some kind of snack. It’s so tempting to swing by the most convenient fast food place to fill her up, so I trying to have on hand some hearty and nutritious snacks for before and after practice and during tournaments. My daughter gives Grandma’s granola two thumbs up.
Another perk to making this granola is that I have most of the ingredients on hand at all times. I buy my nuts, seeds, and dried fruit in bulk and store them in my extra fridge in labeled glass containers. The kids always have access to combining different nuts and seeds for a personalized trail mix snack, and I always have them available for adding to salads, meals, and toppings. Here’s a peek inside my fridge…
Simple directions to make Grandma’s Toasted Coconut Granola:
The first step in making this granola is to process the cashews, macadamia nuts, and slivered almonds in a food processor just slightly. I think I pulsed my processor no more than 5 or 6 times to barely brake up the nuts.
Next, I transferred the processed nuts into a large mixing bowl and added pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, and toasted coconut flakes. Toasted coconut flakes is one of my new favorite things, and I think quite possibly why this granola is such a hit. I love to snack on these dried coconut flakes by themselves or add them as a topping to anything. I’ve heard (although I haven’t tried yet) of eating them like a bowl of frosted flakes cereal. I can see how it would resemble the taste and texture and be delicious!
The third step is to combine the coconut oil, maple syrup, maple sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a small pitcher. I warmed the mixture slightly to melt the coconut oil and drizzled it over the nut and seed mixture.
I stirred to thoroughly incorporate the sweet liquid with the nuts and seeds.
Lastly, I preheated the oven to 300 degrees and spread the mixture out on a parchment lined baking sheet. I baked the granola for about 35 minutes, removing it from the oven a couple of times to stir.
- 1 cup toasted coconut flakes
- 1 cup cashews
- 1 cup macadamia nuts
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup pine nuts
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons maple sugar
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
- pinch of sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Slightly process cashews, macadamia nuts, and slivered almonds in a food processor, and then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Add toasted coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts to the bowl.
- In a small pitcher, stir together maple syrup, maple sugar, coconut oil, pumpkin pie spice, and salt, and then warm slightly until the coconut oil melts.
- Pour the maple syrup mixture over the nut and seed mixture, and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Spread the granola on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 35 minutes, removing from the oven during baking time several times to stir.
Last year, three people gave my husband a tin of gingerbread cookies from World Market. My family loves gingerbread, and they love cookies, so these seemingly innocent crispy little delights soon became like crack for my family. By the time Rob brought home the third tin, I’m pretty sure he sighed “Nooooooooo….”, as he pictured losing control over his late night munchies. Between my two kids and Rob, they polished off all three tins before we left for Santa Fe for Christmas. Sometimes I feel a little deprived in my gluten free life, but after watching the addiction unfolding under my roof, I was actually thankful that trying one of these gingerbread cookies wasn’t an option for me.
I was in World Market last week, and when checking out at the register, two people came up and asked the store clerk where to find the gingerbread cookies. He pointed to no less than five places where four feet tall mountains of the tins were displayed. I decided to ask him how the gingerbread cookie sales were going this year, and I was not shocked to learn hundreds had been purchased already this Christmas season. Crack people, I’m telling you, those things are like crack.
Even though I was deprived the experience of World Market gingerbread cookies, I love to make anything with gingerbread flavor. The signature flavor of gingerbread comes from the type of sweetener used – blackstrap molasses. I LOVE blackstrap molasses – its earthy sweetness and the many nutrients that come along with such a delicious food.
While it’s true that sugar and natural sweeteners in general are not healthy to eat regularly, small amounts of sweet treats are part of life, a part that if missed out on for too long can lead to cravings and binging. Christmas is a particularly tempting time to indulge in sugary foods, but the good news is that it is a short season of the year. My personal way of approaching the sugar that comes with Christmas is to partake in small amounts, making sure to get plenty of healthy veggies and protein too, so I stay grounded and feel good while enjoying the season. And, I also substitute natural sweeteners that do a good job making desserts taste good but at the same time are gentler to my body, giving me a boost of nutrients while my taste buds enjoy.
Blackstrap molasses is a sweetener that has quite a few nutrients that are good for you. Blackstrap molasses is made during the process of refining sugar cane into white table sugar. It is the dark liquid left over after the refining process, and it contains a truckload of important energizing minerals for your body in large amounts. Molasses is known for its high iron content (it contains 20% of the daily recommended amount in just one tablespoon!). Iron is a mineral crucial for maintaining optimal energy, as it is used by your body to make hemoglobin, which is the protein in red blood cells that picks up oxygen in your lungs and carry it to all the cells in your body. Iron is also a key part of enzymes that keep your body producing energy and your metabolism revving. In addition to iron, molasses has quite a bit of calcium, which is important for muscle contraction (including your heart), nerve impulse conduction, and of course healthy bones and teeth. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to indulge and eat something sweet, I feel a whole lot better about choosing something sweetened with molasses than white sugar.
Molasses has a strong, bittersweet taste and can be substituted for other sweeteners in recipes besides gingerbread. Substituting molasses changes the taste of the recipe, as it is a much bolder, robust sweetener. Below are simple substitutions:
- 1 cup molasses for ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup molasses for 1 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup molasses for 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup molasses for 1 cup honey
- 1 1/3 cup molasses for 1 cup white sugar
I love the aroma of gingerbread almost as much as eating it, so I made this gingerbread pudding cake in my slow cooker, so my whole house would fill with the rich smell. The cake turned out very moist, and I enjoyed it by itself and also as a topping over coconut milk ice cream.
To start, I used a standing mixer to cream together ghee and maple sugar. Ghee is clarified butter that is a casein free and lactose free alternative to butter. If you cannot tolerate ghee, try substituting coconut butter or coconut oil for the ghee. I used maple sugar, but coconut sugar also works well. Maple sugar is made from maple syrup and contains the important minerals manganese and zinc, which is needed for healthy immune function. Maple sugar is yet another natural sweetener that also gives something good to your body.
While the mixer was still on, I added two eggs and vanilla. I scraped the sides of the bowl often until the eggs and vanilla were fully incorporated into the creamed ghee and maple sugar mixture.
Next, I whisked together blackstrap molasses and water and set aside.
For the dry ingredients, I combined almond flour, unmodified potato starch (sweet potato flour works well too), baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and sea salt.
Turning on the mixer again, I alternated adding the molasses-water mixture and the dry ingredients. After the wet and dry ingredients were fully incorporated, I poured the gingerbread pudding cake batter into the greased slow cooker and set the temperature to low. Before covering the slow cooker, I sprinkled the chopped pecans over the top.
About two hours later, I tested the cake with a knife to make sure it was cooked through. I turned off the slow cooker and let it sit for about 15 minutes before scooping out a serving.
- ½ cup ghee
- ⅓ cup maple sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla
- ¾ cup blackstrap molasses
- 1½ cups water
- 1½ cups almond flour
- ½ cup unmodified potato starch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon sea salt, to taste
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- Using a mixer, cream together ghee and maple sugar.
- Add eggs and vanilla to the mixer, and mix together with creamed ghee and maple sugar.
- In a small bowl, whisk together molasses and water. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine almond flour, potato starch, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt.
- Turn on the mixer, and alternate adding the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients.
- Mix together until both wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Grease the slow cooker with coconut oil, and pour the gingerbread pudding cake batter into the slow cooker.
- Set the temperature to low, and sprinkle chopped pecans on the top before covering.
- Cook for 2 to 2½ hours.
- Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
I have a serious chocolate addiction. The darker the better. You can imagine my delight to read David Wolfe’s book Superfoods and find that he includes raw cacao (what chocolate is made from) in his list of the ten healthiest foods on the planet. How fantastic is that? I can now feel no guilt in indulging daily.
But not all chocolate is the same. To get the full health benefits of raw cacao, it needs to be just that. Raw…unprocessed…unaltered…pure. Cacao is the richest source of magnesium you can find. Over 2/3 of the population does not get enough magnesium in their diet. Magnesium is good for your nerves and muscles, your immune system, your bones, and your heart. It helps with lots of biological processes like regulating your blood sugar and your blood pressure, and it elevates your mood. Seriously, cacao actually does improve your mood. No wonder I reach for the chocolate when I’m stressed out and hormonal.
When picking out chocolate, I choose a variety with a high percentage of cacao. The higher the percentage of cacao, the more you benefit from all of those antioxidants. The flavonoids (the dark pigments that act as powerful antioxidants) in cacao are more numerous than other rock stars you hear about like green tea, red wine, and blueberries. A diet rich in flavonoids reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Extremely dark chocolate – the kind with almost 100% cacao – is pretty bitter. I have grown to love the bitterness of cacao, even enjoying raw cacao nibs sprinkled on chia pudding and other things, but I still crave that creamy, sweet dark chocolate too. These dark chocolate avocado truffles satisfy my sweet and creamy craving as well as my love for dark chocolate, and the best part is I can make them in a jiffy.
I start with a perfectly ripe medium sized avocado. I cut it in half, remove the pit, and mash it in a small bowl.
Next, I melt the dark chocolate chips in the microwave for about two minutes, stopping after one minute to stir. I chose Sunspire Organic Fair Trade dark chocolate chips because they are gluten, dairy, and soy free.
I combine the melted dark chocolate with the mashed avocado and then add a few droppers full of liquid stevia, raw cacao powder, and a little bit of vanilla. Stevia is a zero calorie sweetener that is actually an herb which contains antioxidants and works to cleanse the pancreas and regulate blood sugar. I avoid buying stevia blends like Truvia, Stevia in the Raw, and Purevia because they are processed and contain other additives like dextrose, maltodextrose, erythritol, and rebianna. I buy Sweet Leaf liquid stevia because it is pure and the least processed. Plus, it comes in a liquid version that is free of inulin (an irritant to some) and combines better with other ingredients.
I refrigerate the chocolate mixture for about thirty minutes, so it is easier to mold into balls. Then, I use a small spoon to scoop one chunk at a time into my hands and shape it into a ball. Lastly, I roll the dark chocolate balls in raw cacao powder. These dark chocolate avocado truffles turned out fantastic. Rich and decadent for those who love chocolate as much as I do.
- 1 medium ripe avocado
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 3 tablespoons raw cacao powder, split
- 3 droppers full of liquid stevia
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- Mash the avocado in a small bowl.
- Melt the chocolate chips for two minutes in the microwave, stopping after one minute to stir.
- Combine the melted chocolate with the mashed avocado, and add one and a half tablespoons of the raw cacao powder, stevia, and vanilla, mixing together until smooth.
- Refrigerate the chocolate mixture for thirty minutes.
- Using a small spoon, scoop chunks of the chocolate mixture into your hands and form into balls.
- Roll the balls of chocolate in one and a half tablespoons of the raw cacao powder. Makes 12 - 15 truffles.
- Store in the refrigerator for a firm truffle or on the counter for a softer truffle.
Easy peasy. That is what this breakfast is. After a fun girls trip to Miami, I made a big batch of pumpkin chia pudding so the morning of my re-entry would go just a little bit smoother. I liked it so much that I’ve made it my breakfast every day this week.
Backing up a little bit…so I went to Miami this past weekend for the first time ever. I had no idea it could be so much fun! I went with a great group of girls (my soon to be sister-in-law was one of them), and we had the best time. I will be returning again for sure…maybe for my 40th birthday next year?? Anyone want to join me??
Any time I travel, I lose control over what goes in my food. Because I’ve been eating healthy for so long now, my body craves fruits, veggies, nuts, eggs, fish, etc. and I pretty much continue to eat that way even away from home. But when I’m on vacation, I’m on VACATION! I make it a point to try new foods and enjoy those foods I don’t eat every day, especially desserts, and I do so completely guilt free. Adopting a healthy diet will never last if you try to do it 100% of the time. I shoot for eating the healthiest foods 90% of the time and allow myself to have a little FUN the other 10%. Food is a big part of life, and I do not want to miss out. Vacation always comes to an end, and I will be back at home eating my kale in no time at all.
After a weekend as enjoyable as the one I just had, it always feels good to get back home and do a little mini cleanse. Chia seeds are an effective detoxing food. Each of those little bitty seeds swells up and absorbs anything in its path while passing through my digestive system, acting like a little vacuum or broom, ridding my body of toxins along the way. Plus, chia seeds contain lots of valuable nutrients and electrolytes, and because they are also soluble fiber (meaning they absorb water and liquid), they move slowly through my digestive system, promoting hydration and helping my body retain those electrolytes.
When I got home on Sunday night, I made a basic chia pudding. I combined 1/3 cup of chia seeds with 1 cup almond milk (coconut milk works too) in a sealed container. I love these glass containers I picked up from The Container Store. I have a ton of them and use them to store all of my nuts and seeds in the fridge. Nuts and seeds go rancid within a few months, so because I usually buy them in bulk, it’s important to refrigerate or freeze them.
The next morning, I combined the chia pudding with a can of organic pumpkin (in a BPA free can), pumpkin pie spice, and English toffee stevia in the small Vitamix container. I blended the ingredients together in the Vitamix to make a creamy pudding. This recipe makes about 4 servings, and the pudding stays good when stored in the fridge for about 4 to 5 days.
I chose to sweeten the pudding with stevia (a super sweet herb from South America) to minimize sugar (even natural sugar) upon returning. Whenever I travel, sugar seems to be my main indulgence, so after coming home, I’m ready to break away from it. Stevia is a smart choice because it has absolutely no sugar, not even natural sugar. In fact, it has no calories at all! And there’s even more good news. Stevia goes further to actually benefit your pancreas help your body regulate blood sugar.
As toppings, I chose a honeycrisp apple and walnuts but feel free to shake things up and get creative with your toppings. Here’s a few ideas for inspiration: berries, banana, pear, peach, plum, mango, pineapple, figs, mandarin oranges, pistachios, slivered almonds, coconut ribbons, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, sesame seeds, pomegranate seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, dried mangoes…and the list could go on…
- ⅓ cup chia seeds
- 1 cup almond or coconut milk
- 1 can organic pumpkin
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2-4 droppers of English toffee stevia
- 2 apples, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- The night before, combine chia seeds and almond milk in a sealed container and put in the refrigerator.
- The next day, combine chia pudding with the can of pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and English toffee stevia in a Vitamix, and blend until smooth.
- Divide pumpkin chia pudding into 4 bowls, and top with chopped apple and chopped walnuts.
I found this apple bumpkin breakfast bake from The Foodie and The Family while searching for some new paleo breakfast ideas for the kids. Before each school year starts, I vow that I am going to send my kids off with tummies full of good nutrition, especially enough protein to carry them through until lunch. And because they are in charge of what they choose at their school’s cafeteria for lunch, I have no idea if they are refueling with anything of substance in my absence (one of mine is known to make a lunch out of condiments). Hence the reason breakfast becomes that much more important in laying a good foundation for their morning at school and beyond.
Even though I have come to the point of not really missing bread after years of eating gluten free and now grain free, my children really REALLY like those big starchy breakfasts…muffins, pancakes, waffles, toast, etc. Even though this hearty breakfast recipe is really more of an egg strata, it tastes sweet and almost presents like a coffee cake.
My first attempt at making this apple bumpkin breakfast bake did not go over well with my kids. “Mo-om…I don’t really like it…it’s too…I don’t know…egg-ie for me”. (For the record, I thought it was delicious!) Nothing infuriates me more than using a dozen pasture fed fresh eggs plus all kinds of other healthy organic ingredients only to be met with such a tough critique of what I was sure would be our family’s next favorite breakfast. Ugh… back to the drawing board…but I’m not giving up.
Too egg-ie, huh? Well, let’s just fix that. I made a few adjustments to the recipe, and this time it was a hit. The best part of this breakfast is that it makes 12 servings, so it feeds our family breakfast for at least two mornings of the week. Plus, I can make it the night before so no need to wake up an hour before the family to get breakfast on the table.
The first steps in making the apple bumpkin breakfast bake are to preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with coconut oil.
Next, I chopped three apples and spread them out in the baking dish. I chose honeycrisp apples because they are my family’s favorite, but any variety will do. Although honeycrisp apples are the best type to enjoy raw, they are pretty tasty baked too. Fall is the season for apples and the only time of year for fresh honeycrisps.
I combined the bananas, eggs, pumpkin, coconut milk, almond flour, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in the Vitamix and blended until smooth and creamy, stopping a few times to scrape the sides. When choosing canned food products, I check for BPA free on the label. I picked up this BPA free canned pumpkin at Whole Foods and a can of Native Forest BPA free coconut milk there as well. BPA stands for bisphenol-A – a type of chemical found in plastic products like water bottles and the linings of food cans. Too much BPA exposure messes with your nervous system (your brain) and is a hormone disruptor, as it mimics the natural hormone estrogen.
I poured the egg mixture over the apples in the baking pan and topped with slivered almonds and shredded coconut ribbons.
Lastly, I baked it for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the eggs were set.
- 3 apples, chopped
- 3 bananas
- 8 eggs
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 can pumpkin
- 1 can coconut milk
- ¼ - ½ cup maple syrup, to taste
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- ¼ cup coconut ribbons
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with coconut oil.
- Spread chopped apples in the baking dish.
- Combine bananas, eggs, almond flour, pumpkin, coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in the Vitamix, and blend until smooth.
- Pour egg mixture over the apples in the baking dish.
- Sprinkle slivered almonds and coconut ribbons on top.
- Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the eggs are set.