Pizza Bread

I have recently acquired two kitchen appliances that I’m obsessed with: an automatic bread maker and a food dehydrator. As you know, I like to bake my own bread. While the bread maker actually takes longer from start to finish than it takes me to crank out a loaf manually, I like being able to dump in my ingredients, push Start, and forget about it. My bread maker came with a recipe book that has inspired many variations on my standard bread formula.

Today’s variation incorporates tomatoes that I dehydrated with my other favorite new appliance, my dehydrator. I asked for one for Christmas mainly to make my own dried fruit. Buying it premade often means signing up for excess added sugar, oil, or salt. I’m happy that I can now control those ingredients myself. The dehydrator also makes veggie chips, all-natural fruit rollups, and all kinds of other yumminess!

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Ok, back to the bread. I played around with my bread formula to come up with a loaf that incorporates all of the flavors of pizza without the cheese. This rendition incorporates a bit of nutritional yeast flakes (also found in my last post, nacho “cheese”) that really do add that much-sought-after cheesy flavor.

You’ll notice that I’ve included the directions for making the bread by hand, should you not own a bread maker. Otherwise, follow the instructors on your appliance. 🙂 Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: YEAST BREAD

Makes 1 standard size loaf

  • 3-4 cups of flour, plus more for dusting your workspace–> I’m using 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 ¾ cups bread flour, and ¼ cup nutritional yeast (nooch is not flour, but has a similar dry consistency).
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed –> I’m using hulled hemp seeds instead.
  • ½ tsp salt –> I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1 tbsp oil –> I’m using some of the extra virgin olive oil that my sundried tomatoes are packed in.
  • 1 ¾ cups very warm water (hot, but touchable) –> My bread machine requires less water, so I’m using only 1 ¼ cups, but I would maintain this amount for a manual loaf.
  • Up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (optional) –> I’m using nearly ½ cup chopped sundried tomatoes + 1 tsp turbinado sugar, ½ tsp dried basil, and ½ tsp dried oregano.

Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer (you can make the bread entirely by hand, but it will be a little workout!). Thoroughly clean and dry your countertop and sprinkle with flour. Have any specialty ingredients of choice nearby to eventually knead into your bread dough. Lightly oil a large bowl and a loaf pan.

Combine 3 cups of flour (including nooch, in my case), salt, and yeast in the mixer on low. Add any additional spices or sweeteners, if using. Add the water and oil to the dry ingredients and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl before starting the mixer. Start on low speed and increase the speed as the dry ingredients become incorporated into the wet.

Add all of the flaxseed (hemp seeds in my case) and then, additional flour gradually until your dough forms a minimally sticky ball on high speed. I can tell that the dough is ready for kneading if it is still somewhat sticky to the touch, but does not stick to the mixing bowl itself when whipping around on a high speed.

Flour your hands, remove the dough, and place the dough onto your floured countertop. Knead the dough, adding small amounts of flour as necessary, until it makes a smooth ball. If you are adding ingredients like sundried tomatoes, stretch the dough open 3 times throughout the kneading process to sprinkle in ingredients before folding over the dough and kneading again. Knead for 5-7 minutes total and then place the ball into your oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

This is what my assembly looks like just before starting the bread machine:

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After 45 minutes, punch down the dough, reform into a loaf shape, and transfer it into your oiled loaf pan. Cover the dough and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In the time that it takes the oven to preheat, your dough will rise again and then be ready for baking. Bake for 35 minutes. The bread should come out of the loaf pan fairly easily and onto a wire rack to cool.

Need more pictures of the bread making process? Check out my original bread post!

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Guiltless Nacho Cheese

No, the title of this post is not a mistake: You CAN load up your nachos with gobs of ooey-gooeyness and NOT stress about what you’re eating. What is this orange slime that I poured all over my nachos? What is it made out of? How is it that orange? How much salt is in this? Those days are done.

I have concocted a number of formulas for vegan alternatives that are just as satisfying as dairy: creamy pasta sauce, mousse, frosting, whipped cream, etc. I have never, however, claimed that they are the same; vegan cheese just isn’t cheese. Period. What matters to me is that my vegan rendition is delicious, nutritious, and an adequate—if not superior—substitute for the real deal.

Today, I’m walking you through a vegan nacho cheese that is seriously going to blow your mind. The color is the same, the texture is the same, and the flavor is on point, as spicy as you’d like to make it. The best part? No guilt: This cheese sauce is potato-based. Who knew “nacho cheese” could be healthy?! (Remember, when not slathered with greasy, cholesterol-laden dairy products, potatoes—even white—are an extremely healthy source of fiber and vitamin C.)

Many of my formula ideas come from Instagram. I follow some amazing vegan bloggers that post a wide variety of sweet and savory drool-worthy pictures and recipes. Every time I’ve seen nacho cheese come up, I’ve scrolled past. There’s no way it’s anything like nacho cheese, I thought. I finally decided to match a batch and I was dead wrong. (Big thanks to @bestofvegan and @silviaryan for the inspiration!)

Travis is always skeptical when I create a formula that is meant to replace a perfectly palatable animal-based version. He figures, why not just eat real cheese if that’s what you’re craving, but at the same time, realizes that doing so is not the most sensible choice for the body. Thus, he keeps an open mind. I can say with confidence that Travis’s perspective on nacho cheese is now forever changed – he said that all my vegan rendition needed was a pinch of salt and it was legit. He can be quite critical (in a helpful way), so if he approved, it’s gotta be good.

Some tips: The type of potato/carrot you use will certainly influence the flavor and color of your nacho cheese. Point being, I wouldn’t use purple. 🙂 The sweetness from either a yam, sweet potato, or carrot balances out the spices…or extreme spiciness if you like it hot. I have only made this cheese with a russet and carrot combo and the sauce was not at all sweet. It would certainly be a bit sweeter with a sweet potato or yam, but even then, I don’t foresee this sauce tasting even close to dessert-like. Finally, you can easily transform this into a queso dip by adding fresh diced tomatoes and peppers.

I promise that you won’t be disappointed with this formula. Pour this nacho cheese over organic, all-natural, low-sodium chips or layer in a burrito bowl and dig in. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: NACHO CHEESE

  • 1 medium potato (or the equivalent in fingerlings or another small potato variety) OR 1 large sweet potato or yam –> I’m using 1 russet.
  • 1 large carrot (if you’re NOT using sweet potato/yam) –> I’m using it.
  • 1 cup unsweetened, unflavored plant milk –> I’m using almond.
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • Salt and Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste –> I’m using about ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt and a dash of cayenne pepper.

Put your cashews in water and soak for at least four hours (I usually do overnight).

Peel your potato(es) and carrot, if using. Cook using the method of your choice (steam, boil, bake, etc.).

Drain and rinse your cashews. Place in a blender with cooked potato(es) and carrot (if using) and all remaining ingredients. If necessary, add more milk until you’ve reach the desired consistency, keeping in mind that you then may need to adjust your seasonings to prevent the sauce from becoming bland.

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Use immediately or store in the fridge (does keep well!). May require more milk when reheating.

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Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Power Bars

Nolan has decided that his favorite food is chocolate. “Chocolate is a good snack, Mom.” Nolan wants chocolate on or with almost everything he eats. Thankfully, his mama is hip to the word on dark chocolate, which is all he’s ever had. Like a lot of people, I grew up on milk chocolate, which I think most would agree is richer and more palatable. Dark chocolate is an acquired taste, but now that it’s all I eat, the rare instances when I have milk, my tastes buds are blown away by how cloyingly sweet it is.

Why make the switch from milk to dark? Many milk chocolate treats contain sugar and milk as their primary ingredients when it is the cacao bean that contains the powerhouse nutrients. Once you get past the slightly bitter and certainly less sweet taste of dark, you can now consume chocolate that provides true health benefits. Dark chocolate that is 72% cacoa or greater is jam-packed with protein, fiber, and antioxidants. It is heart healthy and can boost brain power, too. YUM!

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Of course, like all sweets, we can’t overdo it with even dark chocolate. Cacoa does contain fat and when made into a chocolate bar, for instance, also contains added sugar. Point is, a little bit of dark chocolate every day—yes, I eat it every day folks!—is not only not going to hurt you, but will provide you with powerful nutrients. Opt for fair trade whenever possible.

What do I say when Nolan wants chocolate? I give it to him. Not in unlimited quantities and only after or in conjunction with another snack or meal, but like me, he eats it every day. (For the parents out there who may be wondering about amount, if the average dark chocolate bar is three ounces, he has half an ounce or less in a day. Hopefully that helps you to visualize the quantity!)

Today’s rendition of my power bars also incorporates a touch of pink Himalayan sea salt, which is loaded with minerals. A little bit is ok. 🙂 If I didn’t sell you enough on giving dark chocolate a try, Travis said that these power bars are one of the best things I’ve ever made. So, there’s that. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: POWER BARS

Yields 9 square bars*

For the dough:

  • 1 cup uncooked whole grains –> I’m using ¾ cup wheat berries (learn about wheat berries by checking out my multi-grain salad formula) and ¼ cup ground flaxseed.**
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried fruit (without added oil) –> I’m using pitted medjool dates.
  • ½ cup nut or seed butter (nuts/seeds only) –> I’m using sunflower.
  • 2 tbsps natural liquid sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • Extract and/or spices to taste (optional) –> I’m using 1/8 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt.

Garnish ideas (up to ½ cup):

  • Raw seeds
  • Raw finely chopped nuts
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Melted dark chocolate to pour over the top (which will re-solidify after chilling) –> I’m using 3 ounces of 72% cacoa + a sprinkle of pink Himalayan sea salt.

*Double the recipe to make double the bars, or, to achieve thicker bars.

**Yes, I know that flaxseed is not a whole grain. Just wanted to add a little texture and different nutrients to the bars today. 🙂

Turn your whole grains into flour using your food processor or blender (my Vitamix has a dry blade pitcher).

Then, combine the flour and your remaining ingredients, except the garnish. Run until a thick, pliable dough forms. You will probably have to scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula at least once.

Turn the dough out into a mixing bowl. Use your hands to combine half of your garnish (unless it’s melted chocolate) and to break up any clumps of dried fruit and/or butter. Firmly press the dough into an 8 x 8 pan lined with wax paper.

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Evenly distribute the remaining garnish, pressing into/pouring onto the top of the bars.

To melt dark chocolate: Use a double boiler (not the microwave). Fill a sauce pan with about an inch of water and turn it up to medium high heat. Place a glass bowl containing your chocolate on top of the pan. Stir chocolate occasionally until it completely melts. BE CAREFUL OF ANY STEAM COMING UP FROM THE SAUCE PAN.

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Chill the bars for at least 2 hours before cutting into the desired size and shape. Store in the refrigerator.

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Garden Update II

I’ve written a few times now about how maintaining your own garden can save you tons of money on fresh produce and also allow you to control how your produce is grown (i.e. organic). Our backyard garden has seen its ups and downs as Travis and I continue to learn about making it work in arid Arizona, but most of our plants are going strong. My last update included tomatoes galore and wonderberries!

Winter in Arizona means success for entirely different crops. It’s citrus season here. We recently planted a baby lemon tree which we didn’t expect to produce for several years. Here at only a couple of feet tall, we already have one lemon. Woo!

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Another impressive plant in our garden that has been thriving in both summer and winter is this awkward basil tree. We bought a standard basil plant from Trader Joe’s two years ago and planted what was left of it after nearly picking it clean. There is something about where we decided to plant it in our backyard that is apparently the perfect year-round climate and moisture level for basil. We harvest from this plant rain or shine, cold or hot.

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As you know, we also have a potted herb garden in the front of our house. Some of our herbs have not survived winter, but a few are still green, including this bright parsley plant. Up until recently, I was also regularly harvesting various types of mint leaves for holiday desserts (check out my peppermint cookies and mint chocolate chip brownies, both made with real fresh mint leaves).

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Next, we have a lemongrass plant that just won’t quit. Like the small basil tree, we planted lemongrass years ago and it is nearly the size of a shrub now. We’ve harvested leaves to flavor food and make tea, but I’m thinking I may need to venture into the natural soap and candle worlds. Anyone have tips for DIY bath, body, and home fragrance products?!

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Finally, I’m excited to show you our purple potato plants (excuse the slight blur…I was taking pictures with two-year-old Nolan running around the yard!). The potatoes themselves are, of course, growing underground, but what you see on the surface indicates the progress beneath. Travis says that once flowers appear on these plants and then they die off, that it’s time to dig up the potatoes – I can’t wait. Let me add that growing potatoes couldn’t be easier. Have an old-looking potato with spuds blossoming? Bury it in the backyard and you’re well on your way to more potatoes.

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One of the easiest ways to be healthier (and save money!) is to DIY. Happy gardening!

Staying on Track During the Holidays

I am pleased to report that while I didn’t see a decrease in numbers on the scale this week, I’ve noticed my body starting to tone up and change shape. After my previous failed jogging attempt, I decided to hold off on trying again until this week. So, in the past week, I focused on continuing to do some light toning with hand weights and ab exercises.

The real victory for me in the last seven days was getting back into my skinny jeans! I hadn’t attempted to wear them until this past Saturday and was excited to see that they slipped on easily and fit just as I remembered them. At six weeks post-partum, I’d say that’s not bad.

The holidays—and my December birthday—won’t stand in the way of my progress to reclaim my pre-baby body. Today, I’m offering some tips that have worked for me and will hopefully get me all the way through the New Year:

Eat more raw plants. If you tuned in for my one-week raw food challenge, you know that it resulted in an easy three-pound loss and left me feeling more energetic than I have in months. I strategically took on the challenge at a time when my weight loss plateaued, hoping to kick-start my metabolism and continue to achieve my goals. It worked, and I even succeeded in sticking with it despite Thanksgiving falling in the same week. I am not suggesting that you give up eating cooked foods – there are so many that are highly nutritious, besides being darn tasty! What works for me is to plan ahead. Since cooked foods are higher in calories and generally less nutritious than raw, if I know I’ve got a decadent cooked meal coming up, I try to eat raw only (or pretty close) the day or two leading up to that meal.

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I don’t splurge like I used to, but I still do to some degree. You won’t see me eating any turkey, but I’ll probably have a good two helpings or more of vegetarian (but probably not vegan) green bean casserole. I won’t “pay” for this indulgence later because I was proactive about making room for the splurge. My thirty-first birthday was last week and let me tell you, I didn’t hold back on more than one piece of cake and a whole bunch of cocktails. 🙂 I was sliding into my skinny jeans just two days later…

Offer to host. The holidays are a time for more frequent family gatherings and parties with friends. Chances are, you’ll attend at least a couple of events from November to January and there will probably be an abundance of meat and dairy served at the majority of them. If you want to control how you are partying this season, offer to host.

I’ve written several posts—starting with Nolan’s second birthday party—about hosting a non-vegan crowd with a totally vegan menu with great success. When guests come to my house, they know that they will be eating an entirely vegan meal that also extremely healthy and satisfying. No one complains and there is always at least one dish served that guests are truly raving about. When I host potluck-style, I never have to ask my family and friends not to bring meat; they just don’t. The respect that in my home, I don’t eat it, and there’s never a discussion. They typically bring dishes that are vegetarian and I never bat an eye – not everyone eats as strictly as I do and it won’t hurt me to go off the beaten path now and again.

Make your own satisfying treats. What many Americans—myself included—love about the holidays is the opportunity to eat special foods that they don’t prepare year-round. Every year since childhood, I look forward to my mom’s traditional Christmas cookies, which are definitely not vegan…and I will definitely be eating a few. 🙂 Surely you’ve indulged in a treat or two already and we aren’t even halfway through the holiday season.

So, don’t be left out. Make treats. Be a part of the holidays. Just do it on your own terms. I’ve proven time and time again with my dessert formulas that you don’t need butter and eggs to make a rich dessert.

Coming up on the blog before Christmas: thumbprint cookies made with leftover cranberry sauce and my classic chip cookies with peppermint. I’m starting a new cookie tradition—Nolan needs something to leave for “Santa,” after all—and not missing out on any of the holiday fun.

Many Americans gain significant weight over the holidays – you can still enjoy yourself without being one of them. 🙂

A Fresh Take on Beans and Rice

Let me start by saying that I LOVE the combination of beans and rice! B&R makes for a filling square meal, packed with protein and fiber. B&R also serves as a versatile base for a number of dishes, from curry to the burrito bowl. Today, I’m using quinoa in place of rice and adding yellow squash for a fresh take on a classic duo.

In Monday’s post, I touted the salad, which I hold responsible for helping me to lose baby weight and keeping me fit in general. While lately I have been consuming salads composed primarily of raw produce, I really enjoy salads with cooked elements, too. My multi-grain salad is among my faves and the formula behind my twist on B&R.

This southwestern cooked-but-cold salad also features raw yellow squash. Yellow squash—sometimes referred to as summer squash—contains high levels of vitamin C, beta carotene, and lutein. It is also an excellent vegan source of iron and folate, which are commonly found in large quantities in animal products. In addition, I find that the texture is more appealing when left raw, leaving more of the nutrients intact.

Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: MULTI-GRAIN SALAD

Serves 4-6

  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock –> I’m using water as I don’t currently have any stock on hand.
  • 2 cups dry grains –> I’m using white quinoa.
  • 2 cups chopped fruit and/or veggies -> I’m using 1 ½ cups yellow squash, ¼ cup corn, and ¼ cup diced sweet peppers.
  • Dressing of choice or a combination of herbs/spices and salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using the juice of one lime, a splash of olive oil, a splash of agave syrup, and the seasoning combo I use in my chili, in a lesser amount. I sprinkle the spices from one side of the bowl to the other; that’s how I often “measure.” 🙂
  • TODAY’S EXTRA: 1 ½ cups black beans.

Rinse your grains before cooking in order to remove any possible dirt or dust.

If you’re using a variety of grains: Because different grains have different cooking times, you may approach this in two ways: cook them all in the same pot, in stages, or cook them separately and combine them later. If you’re not sure about the grains you are using, research their cook times and even better, experiment in your kitchen.

If you’re using one grain, as I am today, find out how long it takes to cook and get it into your stove top pot or rice cooker. I use a rice cooker because I find that it reduces sticking to the bottom of the pan with just a few occasional stirs, but you can certainly cook your grains in a pot on the stove top, stirring more regularly.

While your grains are cooking, chop your fruits/veggies, drain your beans (in today’s rendition), and prepare your dressing and/or seasonings.

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I usually leave the lid to my rice cooker off for the last few minutes to speed the cooking liquid absorption process. When there is no liquid left, your grains should be done. Place the cooked grains in a bowl and chill in your fridge, uncovered and with occasional stirring to allow heat to escape more easily, until at least room temperature (about 30 minutes). If the grains are hot, they will par-cook your produce, which we want to keep raw. When cool, combine the grains with your other ingredients. Consume cold and store in the fridge for 3-5 days, depending on the shelf life of the produce used.

Leftover Pumpkin Puree?

If you butchered and baked your Halloween pumpkins or stocked up on the canned stuff as it went on sale before Thanksgiving, you probably have pumpkin puree leftover from preparing America’s favorite dinner. You could whip up a batch of my pumpkin super food muffins or incorporate the puree into a savory application.

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I introduced my creamy vegetable pasta sauce to you with the loved and loathed eggplant. At the time, I hadn’t tried the formula with another vegetable, so I wasn’t sure how this pumpkin sauce would turn out. I’m happy to report that it was a success! I served it atop pasta to the guests at my Thanksgiving dinner (which we hosted early because my mom was in town visiting her newest grandson) and it was the most-talked-about dish of the evening.

If you have a blender and a box of pasta, you’re ready for this decadent and healthful pumpkin “cream” sauce to make an appearance at your next dinner. I’m using oat milk in today’s cashew cream, one of the sauce’s star ingredients. Oat milk is naturally on the sweeter side of plant milks, so it compliments pumpkin nicely, as we are often used to using it in sweeter culinary concoctions. Bonus: One serving of this particular oat milk will provide you over a third of your recommended daily calcium and two grams of dietary fiber. Not bad.

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Scoop up your leftover pumpkin and put this quick and easy dinner together in minutes. Nutritious—especially if you use a whole grain or vegetable pasta—and resourceful, I’m happy to help you use every bit of your leftover Thanksgiving eats. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: CREAMY VEGETABLE PASTA SAUCE

Makes sauce for 1 box of pasta*

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped raw vegetables –> I used 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree. (This translates to approximately 2 cups of raw chopped vegetables, since it is already cooked and pureed down.)
  • ½ cup cashew cream (soak raw cashews overnight and blend with just enough water/plant milk/veggie stock to form a thick cream) –> Because pumpkin has a strong flavor, I used extra cashew cream: 1 cup cashews + 1 ½ cups oat milk.
  • 2 tbsps nutritional yeast –> I opted out of this, figuring it didn’t mesh well with pumpkin. It worked out, but for most other vegetables, I would include it.
  • 1 tbsp acid (i.e. vinegar, mustard, citrus juice, etc.) –> I used whole grain mustard.
  • ¼-1 tsp seasoning (i.e. fresh/dried herbs, spices, etc.) –> I used ½ tsp dried sage and ¼ tsp ground nutmeg.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste –> I used ½ tsp salt and about 4 turns pepper.

Peel (if necessary) and chop your vegetables. Steam, roast, or boil to cook. While your vegetables are cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare your pasta of choice. When the vegetables are finished, combine with all other ingredients (except the pasta, of course!) in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.

 

DSC_2572Pour atop your pasta (or use in another application) and enjoy immediately for most desirable consistency. It will keep just fine in the fridge, but will dry out a bit.

 

 

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.

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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!

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No-Bake Power Bars

Love my power balls formula? I think you’ll like my power bars even more! While I believe you could take the power ball dough and spread it into a pan to make bars, I decided to develop a formula that was even more specific to this alternative shape.

Additionally, personally, I’m looking for something different in the way of texture in a ball versus a bar. I enjoy the power balls with a softer, creamier center, like a truffle. I think that the bars are best with a crunch. Of course, with Fresh Formulas, there are no prescriptions—just guidelines—so it’s up to you to play around with the flavor and texture combinations that you enjoy best.

Today’s power bars will combine crunch and more fall flavors: cranberries and pumpkin seeds, to be precise. Surely you’ve heard that the cranberry does wonders for the urinary tract system and it is loaded with antioxidants, plus vitamin C and fiber. Pumpkin seeds are a less well-known super food, often in the shadows of flax, chia, and hemp seeds. These super seeds, however, contain an even higher protein content than the more talked-about seeds and are also packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals…too many to list even! ‘Tis the season to find these amazing little nutrient powerhouses in abundance.

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After carving our Halloween pumpkins, Travis immediately took to roasting the seeds (which can also be eaten raw). We put them in an airtight container in the pantry and he’s been eating a few here and there. I’ve found that I cannot digest whole (chewed, obviously) pumpkin seeds, so I am trying processing them into a flour to see if I have better luck. They are just too darn good for your not to get creative.

One other tidbit… This formula calls for unsweetened dried fruit (I would like to control the sweetener used in the bars), but my dried cranberries are sweetened. Unless you dry them yourself (I’m in the market for a fruit dehydrator, if anyone can recommend one!), you aren’t likely to find these sour mini-fruits unsweetened. So, I’m improvising and cutting out the two tablespoons of added liquid sweetener. I recommend tasting the bar dough as you go to ensure that it is palatable. We aren’t going for dessert, but some sweetness is part of what makes similar premade bars delicious enough to spend $3+ for just one. 🙂

Save money and control quality by making power bars yourself. From gathering ingredients to cutting the bars (not including chill time), it took me less than twenty minutes to make these while attending to the needs of two boys under the age of three. You can do it! Enjoy.

FORMULA BASE: POWER BARS

Yields 9 square bars*

For the dough:

  • 1 cup uncooked whole grains –> I’m using rolled oats.
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried fruit (without added oil) –> I’m using cranberries.
  • ½ cup nut or seed butter (nuts/seeds only) –> I’m using peanut.
  • 2 tbsps natural liquid sweetener –> I’m not using any.
  • Extract and/or spices to taste (optional) –> I’m not using any

Garnish ideas (up to ½ cup):

  • Raw seeds –> I’m using 1/8 cup roasted pumpkin (roasted only because Travis roasted them before I had this idea!) and 1/8 cup hulled hemp seeds.
  • Raw finely chopped nuts –> I’m using ¼ cup almonds.
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Melted dark chocolate to pour over the top (which will re-solidify after chilling)

*Double the recipe to make double the bars, or, to achieve thicker bars.

Turn your whole grains (and in my case, the pumpkin seeds) into flour using your food processor or blender. Then, combine the flour and your remaining ingredients, except the garnish. Run until a thick, pliable dough forms. You will probably have to scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula at least once.

Turn the dough out into a mixing bowl. Use your hands to combine half of your garnish (unless it’s melted chocolate) and to break up any clumps of dried fruit and/or butter. Firmly press the dough into an 8 x 8 pan lined with wax paper. Evenly distribute the remaining garnish, pressing into/pouring onto the top of the bars.

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Chill the bars for at least 2 hours before cutting into the desired size and shape. Store in the refrigerator.

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Clean Eating Equals Progress

It has now been two weeks (yesterday) since baby Oliver was born. Per my post last week, I’m letting you in to my journey to get back in shape via a plant-based lifestyle. This week, I’m sharing a new progress pic, an assessment of my commitment to my personal goals, and my top clean eating tips.

I’m now 131.5 pounds, down from 136 last week. I’m just five and half pounds (and some toning!) away from my pre-pregnancy weight and eighteen and a half pounds away from my pre-babies weight, which, as I mentioned previously, I may or may not ever hit. The body changes a lot after having children and that is not at all bad. I also believe that the numbers on the scale are not the only indication of wellness success.

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Overall, I’ve been sticking to my goals. I skipped my twenty-minute walk outside on my first day alone with both kids. Honestly, I was just too tired to chase around my two-year-old with my two-week-old strapped to my chest. This is ok; exercise should be a regular habit, but something that I can incorporate routinely into my day. If it doesn’t fit one day, I’m not going worried about regressing.

Healthy eating comes easily to me, but eating regularly has proved challenging with the needs of the kiddos and exhaustion taking over my body. I’ve found that while I’ve made smart choices, I’m going too long between meals/snacks. I always make up for lack of eating early in the day later in the day, but I need to get back into the swing of grazing rather than gorging. I’m more of the six-small-meals-a-day type, rather than aiming for a structured breakfast, lunch, and dinner only. Smoothies help to keep me on track: meal in a glass!

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I’m also proud to report that I’m taking my own advice and making meal prep a priority. For the times that I just don’t have the energy to prepare a meal on the spot, I’ve got my family covered. In addition to a huge batch of butternut squash mushroom risotto that Travis whipped up, we also baked a boat load of potatoes. Nolan scrubbed the skin clean (awww) and we dusted each potato with a small amount of olive oil and pink Himalayan sea salt before wrapping in foil. THIS is the way to keep the baked potato the nutrient powerhouse that it should be – sour cream and cheese are yummy, but seem to overshadow the high levels of vitamin C and fiber that the potato has to offer.

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Here are my tips for making clean eating more accessible:

Garden. I’ve previously shared with you the steps to creating your own garden. While the startup is a task—buying gardening supplies, tilling land, planting seeds, and waiting for growth—the payoff is HUGE. We have saved so much money growing our own produce. These newly-planted beauties cost us $36 (even cheaper when we start from seeds) and will yield fresh herbs and vegetables as long as we tend to them. The flowers attract bees to keep pollination going, so we’ve got them in the backyard, too. Gardening is easier than perhaps it looks and makes for a beautiful, fragrant addition to your property. We garden organically, of course.

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Do it yourself. Gardening is one way that you can take control over what you eat and ensure that your food is “clean.” Clean has many connotations, but for me, means as pure as possible. If I’m gardening, I’m not using pesticides. If I’m baking bread, I’m not using preservatives. If I’m adding sweetener to a dish, I’m not using refined white sugar. If I’m preparing a salad, I’m not using a premade dressing. And the list goes on…

DIY takes more effort, but it saves money and guarantees a healthier product if you prioritize high quality ingredients. I recently read an article about a study on the cost of plant-based living. The study showed that plant-based living was cheaper than an herbivorous diet. While I doubt this is true for every vegetarian/vegan, it definitely is for me. If I were going to eat meat, I’d be going for grass-fed, hormone-free, etc., which is even more expensive than the already expensive antibiotic-laden variety. It pays—or at least, saves!—to eat plants…literally.

Keep it simple. When I introduced my veggie wrap formula last week, I emphasized how important flavor and texture are to my palate. I’ve never denied that foods containing animal products can be absolutely delicious, so in order for plant-only versions to compare—and hopefully, exceed—they need to be loaded with taste and appealing in texture. What I’ve come to discover is that this doesn’t need to be complicated. The longer that I develop Fresh Formulas, the more that I rely on fewer and/or simpler ingredients to pack a big punch.

I made this tomato salad for a snack today. It contains roma tomatoes, fresh basil, lemon juice, and a pinch each of garlic powder, onion powder, fresh ground black pepper, and pink Himalayan sea salt. It was scrumptious and filling, and not in that I-ate-too-much-turkey way.

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Think about the food labels that you’ve seen. You should be able to recognize every item listed in the ingredients section. If you can’t, you’re not keeping it simple.

Nature really has a lot to offer. Have you ever grown your own basil? Even if you’re not ready to dive head first into gardening, invest in a small pot and plant some basil in it. Its smell alone is pretty darn amazing. It’s the very plant that Travis and I grew first and now we have an elaborate potted garden in our front yard and a traditional garden in the back. And, it’s simple.

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I LOVE when a reader contacts me to share his/her progress on the journey to a healthier lifestyle. I have a few emails/messages that I’ve saved for my own inspiration. We are all in this together – keep at it! 🙂