Baby’s Banana Muffins

I have many readers that have shared with me that my super food muffins are among the first solids (after purees, of course) that they try with their babies.  (I’m flattered, amazing readers! <3)  I imagine this is because in addition to being loaded with super foods, they are easy to tear into small pieces and turn into mush in the mouth similarly to bread.  I typically make the muffins with a little bit of texture—shredded veggies or nuts, for example—but for all of the babies out there that might just be getting used to solids, I whipped up a batch that contains mashed banana as the star.

Don’t get me wrong, these are delicious and nutritious for anyone, and you could always throw in some chopped walnuts if you’re looking for a bit more texture yourself.  I’ve also played around with this formula and made some adjustments to reflect more experimentation in the kitchen.  If you have my original formula memorized like I do, you’ll notice the tweaks below.  🙂

A final note…

Ingredients like nuts, depending on whom you talk to, are not necessarily recommended for little ones.  I’ve read no nuts until age two.  I’ve also read eighteen months, and I’ve read that it might not even matter at all.  If you’re concerned about your baby consuming nuts, seeds, or plant milks made from such ingredients, always ask your child’s pediatrician first.  Then, enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  SUPER FOOD MUFFINS

Makes 12 regular sized muffins

  • 1 cup flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1 cup cooked small grains (e.g. quinoa, kaniwa, millet, etc.) –>  I’m using millet.
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup sweetener –>  I’m using light agave syrup.
  • 1/8 cup oil –>  I’m using coconut.
  • 1 cup raw (fresh or frozen) fruit or veggie –>  I’m using mashed banana.
  • 1-1 ¼ cups plant milk –>  I’m using almond.
  • 3 tbsps seeds (e.g. chia, hemp, poppy, flax, etc.) –>  I’m 1 tbsp each chia, hulled hemp, and ground flax.
  • ½-1 tsp extract (amount will depend on flavor intensity) –>  I’m using 1 tsp homemade vanilla.
  • ½-1 tsp spices –>  I’m using ½ tsp ground cinnamon.
  • ½ tsp salt (optional) –>  I’m not using any.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Separately combine all of the dry ingredients and all of the wet ingredients (include the mashed banana in the wet).

muffin batter

Pour the wet into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon. The batter will be thick and lumpy, but you can always add more plant milk if it seems too dry or dough-like. Spoon the batter into a lined or greased cupcake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Use the toothpick test! Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

2-to-1 Copycat Larabars

Let me start by saying that I think Larabars are absolutely fantastic.  I love the company’s transparency with ingredients and even better, I love how simple the ingredients are.  The truth of the matter is, to buy quick and easy snacks made with natural, whole foods and no preservatives is NOT cheap.  So, true to my Fresh Formula concept, I make my own.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s still somewhat expensive to make Larabars at home, but you save in not paying for packaging and you can tailor the formula to what is on sale in bulk (which is how I purchase all of my nuts and seeds for trail mix and more).  More importantly, you can customize the ingredients to perfect an already pretty darn delicious model.  Of course, I’ve created an easily adaptable formula that works with both nuts and seeds, if you’re concerned about any allergies.

In today’s rendition, I’m using a variety of raw nuts and pepitas.  The pepita is the kernel of the pumpkin seed, which you can see below.  If you checked out my original power bar recipe, you know that pepitas are a powerhouse of nutrition.  I put them in recipes like today’s and throw them atop salads, too.

pepitas

As far as the dried fruit in my Larabar formula is concerned, you’re going to get your easiest process with medjool dates.  When they are fresh, they are soft, creamy, and easy to blend.  Other dried fruits will do just fine, but you may need more of them to achieve the same effect as the dates.

My son (well, my whole family really!) LOVES these.  I pack them in his lunch for school and you can cut them into any shapes you want for your littles.  No added sugar, salt, or oil = delicious and nutritious.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  COPYCAT LARABAR

Makes 16-18 bars

  • 2 cups unsweetened dried fruit –>  I’m using pitted medjool dates.
  • 1 cup raw nuts and/or seeds –>  I’m using a mix of walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pepitas.

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until a thick, pliable dough forms.

dough

Press into an 8 x 8 pan lined with wax paper.  Flatten with your hands.  Cover the dough with an additional piece of wax paper and smooth out the dough (it need not be perfect).

pan

Let chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before cutting.  Store in the fridge for a firmer consistency.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Progress Report and How to Build a Salad

The results are in: I’m down another three pounds and just one pound shy of my pre-pregnancy weight! My one-week raw food challenge yielded exactly the results I expected. Honestly, despite all of the raw produce I eat on a regular basis (and my success this past week), going 90% raw was more difficult than I anticipated. It wasn’t until a few days in that I really got into a groove with snacks and small meals that kept me satisfied.

I found myself eating roughly 40% each raw fruits and veggies, 10% raw nuts, seeds, and butters, and 10% “other” (cooked items, oils/vinegars to dress salads, etc.). I experienced increased energy levels, which is essential these days with a newborn waking several times throughout the night. I found it easy to lose a little bit more weight even though working out did not go as planned.

In my last post, I was beaming about our new B.O.B. jogging stroller and getting back to running again. Well, I tried, and let’s just say I experienced some healing setbacks that I didn’t expect. I thought I was ready for a low-impact jog, but my mind and body had different plans. I did, however, keep with regular outdoor walks, began doing arm exercises with two-pound hand weights, and even got down on the floor for some good ‘ole ab toning. I’m feeling really great and look forward to trying jogging again soon.

DSC_2594

So, how did I consume all of that raw produce in order to feel satiated and energized and achieve the results I was looking for? Mostly, salad! No, we are not talking iceberg lettuce with shredded carrots…I mean big, hearty, versatile salads with flavorful low-sodium/fat/sugar homemade dressings.

Here’s how I build the perfect salad:

Start with a nutrient-rich leafy green base. While there is certainly nothing wrong with iceberg or romaine lettuces, you’ll get more out of a salad with kale or spinach. Leafier greens tend to be more fibrous, so chop them small and/or massage your dressing onto the leaves to make them more palatable. Also, consider greens that you may not have realized you could eat. Travis and I consume the tops of beets and carrots, for instance, either in salads or smoothies.

salad at home

Mix a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies pair well together, allowing you to balance sweetness and freshness. I prefer hard, crunchy fruits like apples or pears in my salads, but there’s obviously no limit to the combinations. This salad—surprisingly, from Chili’s—includes pineapple. Berries make for a delicious addition, too. As for veggies? Really anything goes. I prefer veggies that are palatable in a raw state, but you could even prepare a butternut squash and slice it thinly. Play around with combinations that maximize flavor and nutrition.

Chili's salad

Kick it up with a crunch. Raw nuts and seeds do the job nicely. Whenever possible, opt for those without added oil, salt, or sugar, of course. Even nuts that aren’t necessarily tasty raw—walnuts, in my opinion—take on a whole new life when paired with the right produce and dressing. I will eat a whole bowl full of kale with just nuts/seeds and am totally satisfied.

Make your own dressing. ALWAYS. There are many a tasty option out there in the world of premade dressings, but an abundance of them contain animal products, preservatives, and/or an excess of oil, salt, or sugar. It is simple and fast to make your own dressing. A vinaigrette comes together by mixing acid (mustard, citrus juice, vinegar, etc.) and a touch of oil and/or sweetener, plus salt, pepper, herbs, and spices to taste. Love ranch? Caesar? You can still have creamy dressings using a nut or seed butter as the base. This extra effort is worth it for a healthier salad. Ranch might make veggies tastier, but it takes over whatever health benefits you were gleaning from them without it…

Add cooked elements to make it extra filling. Lastly, your salad will keep you fuller longer if you add cooked beans, lentils, tofu, or whole grains. I especially love to do this when I’m making a burrito bowl. 🙂 Remember, though, that cooked items contain more calories than raw, if you’re trying to watch your weight. Point is, if you’re aiming to eat more raw produce, that is what should be the star. (You can’t go wrong, however, with my multi-grain salad, bean salad, or potato salad for a filling fix that is highly nutritious!)

Salad with beans

During my one-week raw food challenge, I was comfortable eating a lot of salad. In my ordinary plant-based life (60-70% raw produce), I typically eat at least one salad a day, either on its own or in a wrap. If the thought daunts you but you’re trying to eat more produce, start small: carrot sticks and dip (homemade, of course!), apples and peanut butter, etc. Once you find yourself having more energy, you’ll be chowing down on fresh fruits and veggies on the regular in no time!

One-Week Raw Food Challenge

As expected, this week, I plateaued on my weight loss journey. After I gave birth to Nolan, the last four pounds were the toughest to lose and it looks like that is going to be the case again. While I didn’t gain any weight over the past week—plant-based eating works wonders for maintaining a healthy weight, regardless of the intensity or amount of exercise—I didn’t lose any either and I’m not seeing any differences in my appearance.

So, it’s time to take it up a notch. As of Sunday, it’s been four weeks since Oliver was born and I feel mostly healed from childbirth. I’m ready to make my daily walk at least a partial jog. My in-laws hooked us up with a brand new B.O.B. jogging stroller that can hold a child up to seventy pounds, so Oliver—or Nolan even—will be accompanying me for my runs for years to come.

While exercise is important and essential for heart health and weight loss, it is my belief that diet is even more so. As you know, I follow a mostly vegan plant-based lifestyle composed of 60-70% raw plants and 30-40% cooked. Since I have reached a plateau, to accompany gradual changes in exercise, I’m doing a one-week raw foods challenge where I’ll be upping my raw plant intake to 90%.

Eating raw plants is extremely healthy and in many cases, preferred to cooked plants. Most raw plants contain more nutrients than if they were cooked and cooked plants also contain more calories than raw. What?! I’m not a scientist, but in simple terms, according to what I’ve read, when a plant is cooked, it is injected with energy (heat). Since calories = energy, increasing the “energy” in a food is also increasing its calories. Point being, while I don’t count my energy molecules, I don’t need as many of them if I’m trying to lose weight. 🙂 All the more reason to go raw.

DSC_2583

Because I am used to eating mostly raw plants anyway, I am not concerned about feeling satisfied by even more of the raw stuff and less of the cooked. I don’t think I could sustain a 90% raw diet in the long-term because there are so many cooked plant foods that I can’t live without (potatoes, beans, whole grains, etc.), but I know I can do it for a week and expect to see a few more pounds drop as a result.

What are you going to eat? Where do you get your protein?

Some of you are thinking it, so here are the answers:

I’m going to consume a variety of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, nut/seed butters, and plant milks as they are or in easy-to-combine dishes like smoothies or salads. I’ll incorporate grains by putting them dry and uncooked into the Vitamix and turning them into flour. I can use this flour in power balls or bars, for instance, and obtain the nutrients in fewer calories.

There is some level of protein in virtually all plants, but especially high levels in nuts and seeds. I’m not worried about getting enough protein—I never am—and I’m not a bodybuilder, so I just need to make sure to eat an adequate amount for my body type and physical activity level. Protein is nothing to stress about, despite getting this question often. A dietician I follow has written numerous times about how most Americans (even vegans!) eat way too much protein…I’m not a nutritionist, so I’ll leave it at that.

Part of staying full and satiated, for me, anyway, is grazing. The pics in this post exhibit snacks I eat all day long in lieu of three traditionally large meals. Just an idea if you’re not sure how you could make this work. 🙂 Check in next week to see how my raw food challenge went!

DSC_2579

Easy Homemade Granola

DSC_1970

I love granola! It’s versatile, filling, and when made properly, very nutritious. Today, I’m going to walk you through my homemade granola formula that is low in sugar, fat, and sodium, and free from high fructose corn syrup and preservatives found in many packaged varieties.

The staple ingredient of granola is rolled oats. Oats are among the first foods a baby can eat and I figure, if they’re safe for a six-month-old who’s trying food for the first time, they’ve gotta be some really good-for-you stuff. Oats contain more dietary fiber than any other grain and even have cholesterol-lowering properties. Given my history with battling hereditary high cholesterol, I’ve always been in when it comes to this super food.

DSC_1956

Of all of the different types of oats out there, granola comes together best with rolled. Rolled oats are whole grain oats that have been steamed and pressed. They retain more texture in many kitchen applications than instant oats and cook faster than steel-cut oats (which I also love). I buy them in bulk and always have some in my pantry for a quick oatmeal.

In today’s granola, I’m also using raw sunflower seeds. Their flavor is mild and texture crunchy, but easy to chew; Nolan will eat a whole pile of them as is. Sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamins E and B-1 and copper, which benefits skin and hair. In addition, if you’ve got a nut allergy, you can buy sunflower butter as an alternative to peanut, almond, or cashew.

DSC_1957Before you get into making this breakfast formula, you should know that on its own, it is not very sweet. The low sugar content doesn’t bother me one bit since I never eat my granola without fresh fruit on top or with togurt, but you could always add more dried fruit if you want to take the sweetness up a notch. With very little exposure to sweets in his young life, Nolan is perfectly content eating this granola with just plant milk.

A couple more notes… If you don’t have all of these seeds on hand, no worries; you can make the granola without, it just won’t be as nutrient-packed. And finally, whenever possible, make your own juice to avoid preservatives and added sugar.  Enjoy!

DSC_1961FORMULA BASE: GRANOLA

Serves 6

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried fruit*, raw nuts, and/or raw seeds –> I’m using a combination of sunflower seeds, dried cherries, dried cranberries, almonds, and pecans.
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • 1 cup 100% fruit juice –> I’m using fresh-squeezed orange (2) and grapefruit (1/2).
  • 1 heaping tbsp nut butter –> I’m using peanut.
  • 2 tbsp sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Oil enough to grease a cookie sheet or baking dish –> I’m using coconut oil to grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish as it is easier to stir the granola.

*Whenever possible, if you do not dehydrate your own fruit, look for dried fruit that contains little to no added oil or sugar. Also avoid dried fruit that contains sulfur dioxide, as it is not allergy-friendly. See my trail mix post for more info.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Combine juice, nut butter, sweetener, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low and let thicken for about 15 minutes.

DSC_1963

While what I call “the sticky” simmers, finely chop your dried fruit/seeds/nuts, if necessary, and combine with the oats and seeds in a large bowl. When the sticky is ready, slowly incorporate it into the oat mixture as you stir. Spread evenly on a lightly greased cookie sheet or in a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake for 30-35 minutes – or until granola is crunchy and golden brown – turning every ten minutes or so. Let cool completely and store in a tightly sealed container in the pantry.

DSC_1967

Want to make granola bars? Try doubling “the sticky” and spread the complete mixture onto parchment paper. Bake at least 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

The Answer to a Popular Question: What Do You Eat?

DSC_1752

If you’re a vegetarian or even more “extreme,” a vegan, you’ve probably had omnivores ask you questions like these: If you don’t eat meat or cheese, what do you eat? Wait, no eggs either? What’s left to eat? Before I knew what I know about plant-based living, I may have behaved just as incredulously. So, I think it would be helpful to spend a day in the life of a mostly-vegan to see exactly what I eat…and it’s a lot!

As you know, I very occasionally splurge on an item of my former omnivorous diet, be it a bowl of macaroni and cheese (of COURSE that’s what I craved when I was pregnant!) or baklava dripping with honey. On the regular, however, thanks to my getting-better-everyday discipline, these splurges don’t occur. Travis and I pretty strictly refrain from purchasing any animal products for our kitchen. At home, we eat totally vegan, 99% of the time. As I explained in my bio, animal products typically only make their way into our lifestyle when we are out and about, if then.

Parents may also be wondering what my two-year-old eats on a day-to-day basis. As you learned in my post about his second birthday party, he basically eats like we do, although is a little less adventurous with raw vegetables at this stage of the game. Here’s a sample of what I eat in a given day (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Breakfast: unsweetened green tea* and raw fruit:
  • Snacks (2-3 daily): more unsweetened green tea with one or more of the following:
    • raw nuts or seeds
    • dried or raw fruit/veggies
    • homemade trail mix
    • dark chocolate
    • popcorn –> popped on the stove from bulk seeds
    • rice cake with or without nut butter
    • homemade graham crackers
    • homemade hummus with raw veggies, pita bread, etc.
    • super food muffin
  • Lunch: more unsweetened green tea with salad, as is, wrapped in a tortilla, or sandwiched between slices of homemade bread:
  • Dinner: another salad or a cooked or partially cooked plant-based meal:
    • veggie curry
    • chili
    • soup/stew
    • veggie burgers
    • pasta
    • homemade cheese-less pizza
    • veggie stir fry
    • roasted vegetables
  • **Dessert: raw fruit, dark chocolate, or homemade vegan dessert (e.g. cookies, brownies, etc.)

*I drink 3-4 cups of unsweetened green tea daily. I’m sure you’ve heard greatness about this superfood, but just in case you haven’t, you should know that it is jam-packed with antioxidants, has healing properties, and can even help you to lose weight.

**On a regular basis, I don’t eat a traditional dessert like cookies or brownies…not because I don’t like them, just because I can’t always make a dessert as healthy I can a square meal or snack. If I do have a craving for something sweet, I make it myself and you guessed it: it’s vegan and made with smart substitutes (i.e. whole wheat flour and flax seeds for white flour, maple syrup for white granulated sugar, etc.). I will very often, however, have more raw fruit and/or dark chocolate near the end of the day.

DSC_1779

This typical menu may look like a lot or a little bit of food to you. As I’ve mentioned before, because I am eating mostly raw fruits and veggies and whole grains, I can basically eat as much as I want. When I eat a salad, for example, it is often the size of a large mixing bowl, just to give you an idea. The energy level I maintain is such that I am hungry more often and am burning a lot of calories, even when not exercising very intensely. As a result, I eat when I want to eat and as much as I want to, depending on what I plan to consume, of course.

DSC_1764 Here’s a day in Nolan’s life, which you will notice is not much unlike my own:

  • Breakfast: super food muffin and raw fruit and/or togurt (so far, he will eat any fruit in any capacity and the muffins are a great way to hide vegetables that he isn’t willing to try yet)
  • Snacks (2-3 daily): see above (finely chopped/small pieces)
  • Lunch: will sometimes eat the same salad that I make for myself or will munch on cubes of marinated tofu, baked veggie fries, or any one of the cooked meals above
  • Dinner: will sometimes eat another mostly vegetable or bean salad, but is typically always up for a salad made with grains (e.g. quinoa, wheat berries, etc.) or one of the above cooked meals
  • Dessert: raw fruit, every night before bed

DSC_1733

Lately, I’ve been trying to track what I eat so that I can give you the most realistic picture of my lifestyle possible. These are just rough estimates, and amounts certainly vary from day to day based on what is available at the store, what we have in stock, and what’s on our schedule, but here are more of my food stats:

  • I eat 60-70% raw plant-based foods in a day; the rest are partially or fully sautéed, steamed, boiled, or baked.
  • I eat 3-4 different whole grains daily (e.g. farro, quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries, cracked wheat, rolled oats, etc.).
  • I eat 7-10 different fruits daily, in varying amounts.
  • I eat 10-15 different vegetables daily, in varying amounts.
  • I eat 2-3 significant sources of protein daily (e.g. beans, seeds, nuts, etc.).
  • I eat 2-4 significant sources of calcium daily (e.g. plant milk, seeds, green vegetables, etc.).
  • I eat 6-7 times per day, be it snacks or meals.
  • I drink only water, tea, plant milk, or 100% juice with no sugar added (plus alcohol in reasonable amounts, although not daily).
  • I do not count calories, carbs, or fat grams, but do pay attention to amounts of protein, fiber, and iron, vitamins, calcium, etc. and thoroughly read the list of ingredients when I am considering eating something that is packaged.
  • I eat within an hour of waking up and within 90 minutes of going to bed.

DSC_1765

This certainly isn’t the entire picture and life circumstances can change any strong or poor diet at a moment’s notice, but I wanted you to see how fulfilling it can be to subsist primarily on plants. There are endless combinations and methods and I can assure you that there is, definitely, plenty to eat. 🙂

DSC_1758

DIY Trail Mix

Trail Mix II

Trail mix is one of my favorite snacks.  I prefer to make my own for both nutritional and monetary reasons.  Many premixed trail mixes are high in added sugars and oils, or include products like milk chocolate that I no longer eat, or raisins that I will never eat (I loved dried fruit, except raisins…I have no idea why!).  I also find that all too often premade mixes do not contain a ratio of sweet to savory that works for me, usually being either too sweet, too salty, or sometimes, too spicy.  Finally, while the premixed trail mixes boast clever names and yummy flavor combinations, they have a price tag to match.

The key to DIY trail mix is finding what you like, buying sale items in bulk, and combining them on your own, which takes very little time.  I am logging the trail mix that I made for this post under More Recipes because for the life of me, I couldn’t decide on a formula.  This is mainly because what I put in my trail mix in a given week depends on what is on sale in bulk at my local grocer.

Nuts, seeds, chocolate, and dried fruits are expensive, so I never go into making a trail mix with set ingredients in mind; I build a trail mix based on what is on sale.  I typically seek out mostly nuts and seeds, as they are a primary protein and fat source for me.  Chocolate and dried fruits are less of a priority (I eat tons of raw fruit), but I grab them when the price is right.

Whenever possible, all of the nuts and seeds I purchase are raw, as to avoid excess fat and salt.  Today’s mix includes all raw nuts with the exception of roasted, unsalted cashew pieces that were so incredibly marked down, I couldn’t pass them up!

Additionally, whenever possible, the dried fruits I purchase are free of added sugars, oils, and preservatives.  Sulfur dioxide, which is often added to dried fruit to preserve color, is known to cause allergic reactions, so I never buy dried fruit with it listed in the ingredients.  Today’s fruits include dried cranberries that have a touch of added sunflower oil to prevent sticking together and dried pineapple that has no added oil, but does have a little added sugar to balance the tartness.

Trail mix is quite often the only dessert-like item I consume in a day, week, or sometimes, even month, so I add dark chocolate when it’s on sale.  With the decadent milk variety available everywhere, I was never a fan of dark chocolate growing up.  Now that I’ve gotten used to the flavor, I eat it here and there for its antioxidants, and truthfully, don’t much care for ultra-rich, super sweet milk chocolate anymore.

I eat ¼-½ cup of homemade trail mix every day.  It’s filling, delicious, and nutritious (mostly!  🙂 ), and satisfies my sweet tooth with less fat and sugar than a traditional dessert.  Enjoy!

SWEET AND SAVORY TRAIL MIX

  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • ½ cup raw red walnuts
  • ½ cup roasted, unsalted cashews
  • ¼ cup dried pineapple
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries (these were flavored with 100% blueberry juice)
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate covered peanuts
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate covered edamame

Combine all ingredients and store in your pantry in an airtight container for up to two weeks.  If you anticipate going through your trail mix more slowly, store in the fridge as the oils in nuts can spoil.

Trail Mix

What’s in YOUR Kitchen?

DSC_1420

Welcome back! As plant-based living may be new for you – or perhaps you just need new ideas – I thought it would be helpful to give you a tour of my kitchen so that you can see the types of produce I buy and some of the nonperishables that I regularly keep on hand.

The photo that you see at the top of this post is a shot of my countertop, which is often overflowing with produce that does not require refrigeration. I maintain a plentiful stock of bananas, as I use them in many of my recipes and they are among my son, Nolan’s, favorite fruits for snacking. This time of year, I also have an array of citrus, much of which I obtain from neighbors for free. Citrus fruits are ripe for the picking during Arizona’s winter.

You’ll also see in this photo that I have fresh vanilla beans on hand to use in various recipes and to make homemade extract. The basic formula for an extract is the flavor agent plus vodka and involves a long soaking period (another post, another day). Moral of the story? If you have the opportunity to make your own extracts, you’ll find that they are purer and higher in quality than many of the store-bought, imitation varieties. I digress…

Next, we move into my fridge, where you can spy everything from a batch of homemade veggie stock (located under Basic Formulas), to black-eyed peas that have been soaked and are ready for further cooking, a bowl of triple berry togurt (located under Breakfast Formulas), and of course, more produce. We always have a ton of it and get the biggest bang for our buck with a local food co-op called Bountiful Baskets. Through this organization, weekly, we have the opportunity to pay a flat rate of $25 to obtain approximately $50 worth of organic produce. The offerings are seasonal and often local and the contents of the basket are always a surprise. Check out the bountifulbaskets.org or conduct a web search to see if your state offers a similar program.

DSC_1421

On to my spice cabinet, which is my husband, Travis’s, pride and joy in our kitchen! Although the spices and herbs sometimes get misplaced during quick cooking, my hubby generally has them organized by ethnic application (e.g. Italian, Mexican, etc.) or other similarities. For example, mace is located on the exterior of the nutmeg shell; although different spices, they are part of the same fruit and often used together in cooking/baking, so they are grouped together. Yea, I know – our cabinet organization is a bit over-the-top, but with over 60 spices and herbs to choose from, it does well to have them arranged in a way that allows for easy selection.

DSC_1422

When we travel we stock up on herbs and spices that are native to the area and end up saving a ton, as those in jars in the supermarket can be pricey. We are still using, for instance, cinnamon sticks that we purchased during our honeymoon on the British Virgin Island, Tortola, in July of 2011, and turmeric that we bought the following summer when touring a spice farm in Zanzibar, an island off of the coast of Tanzania in East Africa.

Finally, here’s a look into my pantry. First, you can see a variety of oils, vinegars, and sweeteners. It is amazing what these products can do in the way of flavor, even in very small amounts. On the two shelves below those you’ll find staples like beans (dried and canned, no sodium added), seeds, and grains. While I always have quinoa and oats, for example, regardless of price, more expensive items like nuts, dried fruits, and dark chocolate I purchase and stock up on when they are on sale. The flexibility of my formulas and my willingness to experiment with new combinations allow me to create a delicious bite out of whatever I obtain. The very top shelf (not pictured) includes standard baking supplies like cornstarch and baking powder.

DSC_1424

If your kitchen needs a plant-based makeover, consider starting with one or two target areas and make changes slowly, especially if you’re trying to get a meat-and-potatoes spouse or some picky little ones on board. When Travis and I decided to start eating more healthily, the first item we did away with was cow’s milk, which we replaced with almond. Travis, who was a diehard whole milk drinker for years, now swears by almond and I, being lactose intolerant, couldn’t have found a better milk match. Nolan is even more adventurous, drinking coconut and oat milks on a regular basis. If those do not appeal to you, you could try soy, flax, rice, grain, cashew, sunflower, etc. There are lots of options that don’t include added sugar, hormones, or cholesterol and are often higher in calcium than the dairy variety. Plus, you can easily make your own plant milk (we’ll cover that another day, too)!

I hope that a private tour of my humble cooking headquarters has given you some ideas and inspiration so that you are prepared to tackle my formulas (and plant-based living in general) head on. Happy shopping and stocking!