Recipes: Fresh salsa, 3 ways

Nothing says “summer” like salsa. Every time I take a bite of fresh tomato salsa or homemade guacamole I feel like I’m poolside or oceanside, basking in the sun and relaxing. Even if I’m just standing at the counter trying to enjoy a quick snack while my children tear apart the house around me.

That’s why I have an arsenal of salsas in my cooking bag of tricks. It’s like a vacation in a bite. Today I’m going to share three quick recipes for fresh, savory-and-sweet salsas for you to enjoy poolside or counter-side, or wherever you may need a pick-me-up on a humdrum day.

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Recipe: Hold-the-Tuna Salad

Here’s a fresh, tasty lunch idea that will appeal to you meat-free folks: tuna salad minus the tuna, with all the flavor and fixin’s of the original but completely vegan. Instead of tuna, the base is made of nuts and seeds, soaked, chopped and flaked to mimic the texture of tuna salad to a T.

When I excitedly tried to share this recipe with some of my family members, they eyed me dubiously and said, “Why don’t you just use tuna?” A valid point, I suppose.

For me the answer is simple: Because I don’t like tuna, or any other fish. I never have. Plus, I don’t like mayo. That’s two strikes right there, no need to go for a third. Continue reading

What is a plant-based diet?

When people hear “plant-based,” they often think of piles upon piles of leafy greens. In fact, when I tell people that I have switched to a plant-based diet, I am pretty sure they imagine me eating bowl after bowl of raw broccoli or gigantic salads without dressing.

If that’s what people think, I can see why the idea of plant-based eating is so unappealing.

The truth, thankfully, is much different.

A plant-based diet is not solely based on vegetables, and you don’t have to go completely vegan or even vegetarian. A whole-foods, plant-based diet is made up of a variety of foods found in nature. The idea is to consume them as close to whole as possible, not processed beyond recognition — but not only eaten in their raw, natural state, either. These foods form the ingredients for some of your favorite dishes — soups, breads, burritos, you name it. When made from scratch instead of consumed in processed, sugar- and chemical-laden, ready-made, store-bought packages, your favorites become some of the healthiest foods you can eat. All it takes is a little slicing, dicing, blending, and sauteing, and voila!  Nature’s most delicious offerings become your new family favorites.

The other day, for example, I ate onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, vegetable broth, white beans, and kale for dinner. But I didn’t eat them like this:

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Photo Credit: Minimalist Baker

 

 

I ate them like this:

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Photo Credit: Minimalist Baker

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Recipe: Quick banana pancakes with coconut whipped cream

Nothing sets the tone for the day quite like a scrumptious breakfast. I’m a full-time mom to three little ones, so none of us have to rush out the door quickly in the mornings — but that doesn’t mean I have all the time in the world to fuss over breakfast, either. I’m steadily finding that happy medium, though: I’ve built a repertoire of quick, healthy, and utterly delicious breakfast recipes to get the day started off right, fast.

Today I’m sharing my recipe for quick banana pancakes, which are naturally sugar-free, require just four ingredients, and are speedily made in the blender. Seriously, these are lightning-fast to make. The only real waiting time is while they’re on the griddle. But the real bonus for me is that these banana pancakes are wonderfully healthy and can be made with any type of flour you like, whether whole wheat, white, or something gluten-free. You can even make them without flour, if you choose, but I find that they take longer to cook without the flour and the pancakes end up a bit rubbery. The addition of just a 1/4 cup of flour gives these the light, fluffy texture we all love in a pancake.

I’m also including the recipe for my new all-time favorite topping: coconut whipped cream. Now that I’ve discovered it, I don’t think I can live without it. I use it to top all my breakfast goods — waffles, German pancakes, oatmeal, you name it — and it goes great with dessert. It has all the creamy fluffiness of traditional whipped cream with just a light coconut flavor that’s not the least overpowering. It’s a vegan favorite, and since it’s dairy-free, sugar-free, and packed with the essentials fats our brains need to function, that means it’s good for you and guilt-free. A total win!

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The secret to cooking brown rice (and why you should switch)

Do you know the difference between white rice and brown rice? (Did you even know there is a difference?)

The simple answer is, white rice is brown rice that’s been processed. White rice has been milled so that the bran and much of the germ has been removed, according to Organic Authority, “reducing fiber and nutrient content drastically. The grain is further polished to take away the remaining layer of germ (called the aleurone layer) which contains essential oils.” Since the nutrients have been stripped, white rice is often “fortified,” meaning that manufacturers go back and add in synthetic vitamins and minerals, making them even more processed and far less natural.

Brown rice, on the other hand, is a whole grain. Only the outer layer (the inedible husk or the hull) has been removed, so all the nutrients are still intact. No further processing necessary.

 

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Recipe roundup: 3 savories and a life-changing sweet

The thing I am asked most frequently about my whole foods, plant-based diet (aside from, “So, wait, are you vegan now?”) is for tasty new recipes. This is reassuring, actually, because it must mean I’m not considered some crazy, crunchy health-food nut after all — that there’s actually a very broad interest in cooking fresh, homemade food, and that people trust me enough not to lead them astray in my recommendations.

Well, I’m happy to oblige. Here’s a look at three savory dinner recipes and one sweet treat that I’ve made in the past few months that I thought were just delicious, along with notes on any changes I may have made. More to come!

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup from Choosing Raw

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Photo credit: ChoosingRaw.com

 

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Undercover Vegan Eggnog

There are some things you just can’t live without at Christmas. Invariably, many of these cherished traditions center around food. And why not? The holidays are a time for gathering with friends and family, laughing and telling stories (and for us, playing games that have a tendency to get a little, shall we say, irreverent). In my opinion, it’s not a time for counting calories; it’s a time for being merry and enjoying all the season has to offer.

But now that I’ve discovered just how much my body dislikes dairy, I was heartbroken to think I’d have to skip out on my mom’s famous eggnog this year. Seriously, if I were an emotional woman, tears might have been shed. This is how much I love her eggnog — creamy, rich, frothy, delicious eggnog — and how much I couldn’t live without it this Christmas. Continue reading

A whole day of whole foods

One of the biggest hurdles to switching to a healthy foods lifestyle is, quite obviously, knowing how to eat. More specifically, it’s hard figuring out how to get from where you are to where you want to be — or even what that ideal looks like.

There are a lot of really great diets out there, but even more that are just nonsense recycled year after year. (I mean, you do realize that Paleo is just the Atkins diet with new marketing, right?) What makes sense to me is whole foods and clean eating. There are a lot of ways that people define these two terms (check out 100 Days of Real Food for some great info), but basically it just means you try to eat actual food that’s grown out of the ground, plain and simple. Nothing processed, no chemicals, and often without any animal products. The goal is to keep the food in as close to its natural state as possible, because the more you break down a food item, the more nutrients it loses. Continue reading

3 new ways to eat hummus

I really like the idea of hummus. It’s easy to make, goes great with veggies or crackers, is a bit exotic, and is packed with protein. But the thing is, I don’t actually like it.

Despite my efforts, I can’t get over the fact that it’s just mashed garbanzo beans — and I hate garbanzo beans. They may sound all cute when called “chickpeas,” but they’re not fooling this girl. In fact, I really dislike pretty much any and all legumes. It’s the texture, not necessarily the taste (though there’s not much to love in the taste department, either).

Since switching to a mostly plant-based diet, I make the sacrifice for the sake of protein. I’ve tried several variations of the basic chickpeas-olive oil-garlic-cumin-lemon juice recipe, which are fine but not fabulous for me. But that all changed when I stumbled onto some alternative hummus recipes that I am shocked to say I not only love, but crave. Like, can’t-stop-thinking-about-it, gotta-get-to-the-store-NOW-to-buy-more-chickpeas kind of crave. I even made up a new recipe myself, which is officially my favorite hummus ever. And now I’d like to share these gems with you. Continue reading