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.
Why do you snack? The purpose of a snack is to provide a bridge between the larger meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A healthy snack keeps your metabolism revving along and gives you that precious energy to focus and stay busy and active without losing steam throughout your day. Ideally, healthy snacks are like mini well balanced meals (not just a carb load) complete with protein, fiber, and a little fat. If you are in weight loss mode, focus on foods with fiber, as they are filling but usually low in calories, making a small snack go a long way in keeping you satisfied.
Realistically, do you think about the nutrition aspect of your snacks? Most often I do not! Snacks in my world typically have nothing to do with hunger and have everything to do with me having a craving. Even though I know better than to reach for food when I have a craving, if I’m being honest, I’m still human and I do it. We all do at one time or another. The important thing is not to let cravings take over and allow food to become a stronghold in your life.
Sometimes you need to give in to your cravings, and sometimes your cravings can signal something else is going on in your life – you have another need (spiritual, physical, relational, or occupational) besides food that you should address. So how do you tell the difference between a craving that you should satisfy and a craving that needs to be met in another way besides food? I’ve learned a couple of questions to ask myself that have helped me distinguish the difference.
First, when you have a craving, ask yourself “What type of food am I craving right now?” If the answer is salty or sweet, your body might be sending you a message that it needs something. This is the type of craving that you want to satisfy with a healthy snack.
A craving for something salty can mean your body needs valuable trace minerals. Table salt, which is used in most processed foods today, has been refined and stripped of minerals, so it’s almost pure sodium chloride. But sea salt is a good unrefined choice to satisfy your craving, as it’s chalked full of trace minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, sulfur, phosphorus, bromine, boron, zinc, iron, manganese, copper, and silicon. Choosing a snack seasoned with sea salt can satisfy this craving.
If you crave something sweet, your body is telling you that it needs energy. Before satisfying a sweet craving, make sure to evaluate your food choice so you don’t end up with another craving soon thereafter. Sugary, processed, wheat containing sweets offer little nutrients and break down really quickly in your digestive system, absorbing into your bloodstream at rapid speed. They spike your blood sugar and give you quick energy but then just as quickly as it shoots up, your blood sugar drops and you’re left with another sweet craving. Instead, choose sweet snacks that contain natural sugar like fruit or natural sweeteners like a little honey or maple syrup. And don’t forget the protein, fat, and fiber! Choose sweet snacks that are well balanced, so they give you lasting energy, as they satisfy your need for different types of nutrients. They are also broken down and absorbed at a slower pace, trickling into your bloodstream rather than flooding it, which keeps your sweet craving at bay longer.
The second question to ask yourself when you have a craving is “What do I really need right now?” Many times the answer is not food. Because you feel in your body and also put food into your body, without even realizing it, you can try to cope with your feelings by eating. Common emotions that lead to cravings are anger, frustration, anxiousness, boredom, loneliness, and needing comfort.
When you crave crunchy foods, you tend to be feeling frustrated or angry. There’s something about the noise and the act of chomping that eases those emotions.
When you crave something creamy, you may be needing comfort. Creamy foods are soothing and relaxing.
By asking yourself “What do I really need right now?”, you can examine the deeper root of the craving and appropriately satisfy it. Many cravings are tied to other areas of your life besides food. When you take time to make sure all of you is properly nourished – spiritual, physical, relational, occupational – you will find your cravings lessen and you are on the road to healthy snacking.
These barbeque zucchini chips are one example of a healthy snack choice, providing an energy boost with a naturally sweet food plus some needed nutrients to help you make it through your day. Pair them with a few nuts and seeds, a rolled up slice of turkey, a hard boiled egg, or a piece of smoked salmon to add a little protein.
To start, I made a simple barbecue spice blend with chili powder, sea salt, coconut sugar (maple sugar works well too), paprika, garlic, cumin, mustard, and black pepper.
Next, I cut three zucchinis into 1/8 inch slices.
Next, I preheated the oven to 300 degrees and placed the slices on parchment lined baking sheets. I sprayed a little olive oil over the slices with my olive oil mister and then sprinkled the barbecue spice blend on the zucchini slices and baked them for 40 minutes. I removed them from the oven and flipped the slices. Then I sprayed a little more olive oil on the other side and sprinkled on more of the spice blend. I baked them for about 20 more minutes, watching closely to make sure not to over bake. After 20 minutes, I removed several of the chips from the baking sheet that were good and crispy and returned the rest to the oven to bake for about 5 more minutes.
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1-2 tablespoon coconut sugar, to taste
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon mustard
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 zucchini
- olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- To make a barbecue spice blend, combine chili powder, coconut sugar, sea salt, garlic, paprika, cumin, mustard, black pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl.
- Thinly slice the zucchinis into ⅛ inch slices.
- Mist the olive oil over the zucchini slices, sprinkle the spice blend over the zucchini slices, and bake for 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, flip the slices, mist a little olive oil on the other side, and sprinkle the splice blend over the other side too.
- Bake for 20 minutes more, watching closely not to overbake.
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.
Remember when I said I haven’t met a squash I didn’t like. Well, this became a joke between two very good friends and me. We came up with all kinds of creative ways to use squash in cooking – even the less popular or unrecognizable varieties.
Our favorite use for squash was to bake it into squash bread. I would make loaves of it for each of them, and this recipe is my paleo version of our favorite.
Obviously food is my passion, primarily because of what it can do for my body – the power it has to communicate, influence gene expression, and ultimately heal. But another reason I love food is that so much of life revolves around it. Memories are created and traditions are carried on that include special dishes and foods. Squash bread is part of a memory I have that makes me laugh and brings me back to when I got to spend a lot of time with two people who are very important to me.
To make my squash bread paleo, I used a combination of almond flour and sweet potato flour. I mixed the flour with the rest of the dry ingredients and then added shredded squash, chopped walnuts, and lemon zest and stirred to coat.
I chose yellow summer squash to use in this recipe because it is so plentiful this time of year. Yellow summer squash is not only easy to grow (why you see a plethora of local yellow squash in the grocery, along the side of the road, at farmers markets…), but it is also quite good for your body. It’s yellow color is the first clue that it contains a healthy dose of beta carotene and lutein – two antioxidants especially good at protecting your vision and fighting free radicals. Plus, it provides a heaping dose of vitamin C, folate, and manganese. Manganese is a trace mineral that helps your body metabolize fats, carbs, and sugar and also has been shown to benefit your bones and joints and reduce PMS symptoms like irritability and mood swings.
Next, I beat the wet ingredients together and then added them to the dry ingredients, mixing until well blended.
I poured the batter into a loaf pan and baked the bread for about an hour or until the top looked nice and golden brown. The edges are good and crispy but the inside of the bread is incredibly moist. I hope you like this summer squash bread!
- 1⅓ cups almond flour
- ⅔ cups sweet potato flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 yellow squash, grated
- zest of 1 lemon
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup almond or coconut milk
- ½ cup coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add squash, lemon zest, and walnuts and stir to coat.
- Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix together until well blended.
- Pour in a greased loaf pan, and bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden brown.
- Cool slightly before slicing.
Let me tell you about jicama. Like cauliflower, jicama is wonderful to use in recipes because it’s so versatile. First of all, what exactly is jicama?? Jicama is a sweet, root vegetable or tuber, sometimes called the “Mexican potato” and looks similar to a turnip or radish. It is technically a legume but because it is not the seed but the root, it does not have the anti-nutrients or carbohydrates of beans. Its crisp white flesh can be eaten raw and is often added to salads, slaws, and garnishes, as it lends a refreshing taste and crunchy texture. Kind of reminds me of a water chestnut. Besides being so versatile in recipes, I love that jicama is mainly fiber, so it’s very low in calories (40 calories for a cup!), and because it is a veggie, you know it is packed with good nutrients too – especially vitamin C.
I don’t really eat many beans or legumes. Peanut butter is my one weakness, I will admit. I find beans difficult to digest and not a good protein source for my body. Plus, being little seeds, they contain anti-nutrients that wreak havoc on my gut. If you do choose to eat beans, soaking them overnight and slow cooking them throughout the day will help get rid of those anti-nutrients as well as make them easier to digest.
Besides peanut butter, I must also admit that chickpeas in the form of hummus have been know to be a weakness of mine – such a creamy and tasty snack – and you know how I feel about creamy foods. They’re my favorites. I’ve tried to substitute other fibrous foods for chickpeas in making homemade hummus like sweet potatoes and beets, but I think this jicama hummus will be my new go-to recipe. It most closely resembles the real deal.
I started by washing and peeling the jicama. It was so slippery that I found it difficult, and the end result wasn’t all that pretty. But, the peel is gone and that is what I wanted.
Next, I chopped the jicama into chunks and placed it in my food processor. I processed until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides several times.
I added the juice of a lemon and an avocado, peel removed and cut into chunks. The avocado brings the creaminess lacking in the jicama by itself, and the lemon cuts the sweet taste of the jicama while also helping the avocado stay a pretty green.
I processed until smooth and wow – what a brilliant green color resulted!
Next, I added garlic. I am a garlic girl, so I added a bunch of it. Garlic may make your mouth taste bad afterwards, but the good it does for your body is worth it. The sulfur compounds in garlic are needed for the liver detoxification process, and the sulfer compound allicin, which is responsible for the strong smell and flavor of garlic, is one of the most potent antioxidants. Plus, garlic is a known antibiotic and cancer fighter, especially when eaten raw.
I added a few tablespoons tahini to achieve the robust flavor of traditional hummus, and processed until smooth and creamy. Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds.
Lastly, while the hummus was processing, I drizzled in the olive oil and gradually added the sea salt and cumin. A little drizzle of olive oil for garnish and a sprinkle of paprika, and voila! I dipped cucumber slices in the jicama hummus, but any chopped veggie or gluten free chip would be delicious. I also plan to use this hummus as a spread and condiment with our dinner.
- 1 jicama
- 1 lemon
- 1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 - 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- paprika and olive oil for garnish
- Wash and peel jicama, and cut into chunks.
- Place jicama chunks in a food processor, and process until smooth.
- Add juice from the lemon and the avocado, and process until smooth and creamy.
- Add minced garlic and tahini, and process until smooth.
- While processing, drizzle in olive oil, and sprinkle in sea salt and cumin.
- Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of paprika before serving.