Monday, April 30, 2012


Chocolate. Just the word makes some people [like my prior self] go a little crazy. I admit, I used to be an addict. The smell of chocolate would make my mouth water and taste buds jump.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine met and quickly fell in love with her now husband just months prior to his military deployment over seas. Without giving away too much of her story [which is now published and a book I highly recommend if you are looking for a good read], this particular friend decided to fast from sweets for the whole of his leave. A few of us decided to join her in her endeavor [misery loves company right?] and thus began our year long furlough from sweets, including chocolate.

Oh how the first weeks were tough. Each time I thought of the "pain" [yes, I realize this is an extremely exaggerated use of this word, especially in this context], I was reminded of both the woman who had to say good bye to the man she loved and the man who was time zones away doing a job with little glory, immense sacrifice, and a lot of hard work. My meager sacrifice paled in comparison to what these two people were going through. But it was a sacrifice - one that kept me connected in a small way to these two people I care about.

One of the unexpected benefits of this fast was that, as time passed, I noticed my cravings change. I went from dreaming of sugary snacks and desserts to wondering where on earth all the fruit had gone. I longed for berries in a way I never had. Peaches were a pure delight and melons - well don't even get me started. It seemed this fast was slowly detoxing my body and teaching it to yearn for the best the earth had to offer in it's raw, unadulterated form. As the loss of something I once held dear morphed into a gain I never saw coming, I was reminded of what a little sacrifice and a bit of faithfulness can bring.

This is a lesson I haven't forgotten, one that has really impacted the way I view desserts and sweet snacks now. Rarely, and I mean very rarely, will I add sugar [including sucanat] to a recipe. Dried, whole dates have recently found their place as my go-to sweetener and soon fresh stevia leaves will rival their number one spot. Honey and maple syrup also grace my kitchen and come out when a little extra sweet is necessary. A little aside, honey also happens to be an effective allergy remedy. I combine it with bee pollen to beat those nasty spring time sneezing and faucet nose episodes.

This recipe was born of this - my desire to use whole foods in their purest available form to create a delicate, decadent dessert. It is a tribute to a couple of friends who have taught me much about grace, sacrifice, love, and a deep faith in the provision of God - something they continue to do to this day.

If you are interested in the story I am referring to [which you should be!], go here.


1/2 c. organic, extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil
1/4 - 1/2 c. creamed honey [to taste]
2 tbsp. raw cacao powder [or replace with 2 tbsp. carob powder if caffeine or chocolate is an issue]
2 tbsp. carob powder + more for powder coat
1/4 - 1/2 c. ground flaxseeds [I go heavy on the flax but you'll have to adjust to your taste preference]
1/4 - 1/2 c. shredded coconut [optional, you could also add a nut butter]
pinch of sea salt

Combine all in a medium size glass bowl. You will probably need to use your hands to really get everything mixed together well. Break off tablespoon sized portions and form into balls or logs. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and freeze 10 minutes or until firm. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Lately I have been combing all of my recipe books for plant-based, whole foods recipes using mainly local, seasonal ingredients [see this post to understand why local has become really important to me]. Turns out there are quite a few out there.

In honor of earth day I thought I would share one of my favorites. It's extremely simple, filling, and unexpectedly delicious. This recipe comes compliments of Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson [author of the blog "101 Cookbooks" and Super Natural Cooking] and happens to be on the cover of the cookbook.

This earth day may you find yourself outside admiring the flowers, trees, grass, bugs, birds, dirt, air, water, and all else natural and good within this planet. May you gaze up at the stars in awe that something so much bigger than you and me is going on around us. May a deep gratitude flow from you and may you find ways to preserve what you've seen.

And may you whisper a prayer of thanks to the creator of it all.

Happy Earth Day.


6 -8 small potatoes or 3 -4 larger ones, cut into small cubes
1 - 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
pinch or two of finely ground sea salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1 medium size sweet onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 - 4 c. of cooked white [or Northern] beans. drained and rinsed

1 head of green or purple cabbage, thinly sliced

In a large cast iron skillet or wok, heat oil. When oil is warm, not smoking, add potatoes. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Cook until just soft, stirring frequently, about 5 - 7 minutes. When soft, add onion and garlic and cook an additional 3 - 5 minutes. Add cabbage, mix, and cook until cabbage is soft with a little crunch remaining [or to your preferred texture]. Don't worry if the cabbage seems to overflow. It will shrink as it cooks. Stir occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

This will make a large batch allowing for leftovers!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


We all have that dish. A favorite meal that, no matter how hard we try, we just can't get out of our diets [okay, we're really not trying that hard]. One of mine is chicken salad. In the last few years the only time I indulged was when I either made it myself or visited my favorite restaurant, Marie Catrib's. However, within the last few months some of the main ingredients have rendered themselves either inedible for me [think eggs in the mayonnaise or soy in the vegenaise] or have intentionally found themselves outside of my "will eat" list, chicken being the main one here.

I won't bore you with a lot of detail but through much soul-searching, time, nutritional researching / reading, and a lot of conviction I have turned to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

I tell you this more as encouragement. Many of us have undergone [or are considering] dietary shifts. Foods we once loved and craved are now collecting dust on grocery store shelves we no longer visit. Through trial and error new foods have entered our palette and our taste-buds have warmed up to the idea of this edible shift.

Sometimes it's easy to look at yet another challenge and think "I really don't have the energy for this again". The busyness of life and the many voices hankering for our attention crowd out that small whisper in our soul that cheers "you can do it! you can make this change too!". Maybe that voice is saying find local, organic pasture raised meat and dairy products. Maybe it's telling you to give up meat and animal products completely. It could be begging you to replace those pre-packaged snacks [even if they are "healthy" ones] that have conveniently become snack time mainstays with whole fruits and vegetables. This voice might be pleading with you to ease up on the caffeine, sugar, or alcohol. And maybe it's simply urging you to find that next step in your health journey. Whatever it is for you, know that I am with that voice saying "Yes! You can do it!".

So, in honor of next steps, here is mine. A meatless, mayonnaise and vegenaise-less version of chicken salad from Super Natural Every Day. Thank you Heidi for helping me find a replacement for a much loved meal of mine and helping my "next step" feel a little lighter.           


Note: Heidi's recipe calls for yogurt which I replaced with soaked cashews and water. 

3 c. cooked chickpeas
1/3 c. chopped red onion
1/2 c. chopped celery
2 tbsp. fresh dill or 2 - 3 tsp. dried dill
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2/3 c. soaked cashews*
1 c. pure water
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. lemon juice and zest
2 c. salad greens
sliced gluten-free bread or gluten-free flat bread [optional]

Pulse 2/3 of the chickpeas in a high-powered blender or food processor until the peas are just broken. Place in a glass bowl and stir in the onion, celery, and dill. Set aside.

In a blender combine mustard, soaked cashews, just enough water to cover the cashews [appx. 1 cup], salt, lemon juice, and zest. Blend on high until very smooth.

Combine 2/3 of the cashew dressing with the chickpea mix. Add more if necessary to fully cover. Toss in remaining whole chickpeas and stir. Let stand 5 - 10 minutes.

Serve on gluten-free bread, flat bread, or a bed of salad greens.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Okay, so it's Monday. The week is just kicking off, your "To-Do" list seems endless, there are piles of laundry to be folded, a sink full of dishes, and, oh shoot!, no more diaper wipes. Can't a person get a break here?! It is only Monday! If this sounds familiar then know you are not alone. Even with the best intentions some days or weeks just go like this. An incessant, continuous feeling of playing catch-up.

It's true, some days it's hard enough to simply get your pants on right [or remember to put them on at all!], not to mention food in the bellies of those you love. We all have them and on those days a breakfast like this is priceless. It beats the drive-thrus, boxed or frozen pastries, and sugar-laiden cereals [let's really be honest here, these offerings are not real food]. A recipe like this stashed away in your skinny jean back pocket [okay, okay, sweat pants] allows you the peace of mind that at least you got one thing right this morning - good, healthy, nourishing food into mouths you care about the most. Breakfast - check!

My toddler loves these. You can make a batch or two ahead of time, freeze some, refrigerate some, and eat some! Adjust them with ingredients you love and please make them your own!

Oh, and if you are having a crazy head-spinning day, take a minute to bring yourself into the present. Notice tangible things around you. Most of all, take a few deep [and I mean deep - from your gut] breaths, grab a cup of chamomile tea, and relax. Remind yourself that it will all get done one way or another, it always does.


2 c. old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1/2 c. millet flour [or garbanzo, brown rice, etc.]
1/2 c. tapioca flour
2/3 c. dried fruit [I like a mix of cherries + currants + and cranberries - fruit sweetened not sugar sweetened if possible]
1/2 c. crushed nuts [walnuts + hazlenuts is wonderful]*
1/3 c. freshly ground chia seeds
3/4 c. flaxseed mix**
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 c. grapeseed oil [you could probably use coconut oil, melted, as well]
3/4 c. dates, soaked + soaking water*** or 1/2 c. honey [if you plan to give this to your toddler, make sure he / she is over a year of age prior to using honey]

1/4 - 1/2 c. of applesauce

1 c. shredded carrots or zucchini [if you use frozen zucchini make sure the water has been squeezed out once it has thawed]
1 c. chopped apples or pears

Grease a 8 x 11 glass baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients: oats, flours, dried fruit, nuts, chia meal, flaxseed mix, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a blender or food processor blend oil, dates and soaking water, and 1/4 c. of applesauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine wet and dry ingredients. It may take a little time to get this completely mixed and you may end up just using your hands. Add more applesauce if the mixture is too dry. It should be thick and moist.

Fold or knead in carrots and apples.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, pressing down to level the top using your hands or a spoon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned and knife or toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool for at least 10 minutes.

*You can easily crush whole nuts by placing them in a ziploc bag on a cutting board and "hammering" them with a sturdy pan.

**Flaxseed mix: 1/2 c. freshly ground flaxseeds + 1/4 c. freshly ground sunflower seeds + 1/4 c. freshly ground pumpkin seeds. Place all in glass jar, cap, and shake well to blend. This is a wonderful way to get omega-3 essential fatty acids using whole foods. You can double the recipe and store the remaining mix in the freezer for a week or so. Add it to other things as well like oatmeal, muesli, veggies, and smoothies.

***Place dates in a glass jar and cover with water to an 1" above the dates. Soak overnight. To shorten soaking time you can use boiling water and let soak for 10 - 20 minutes or until very soft.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Aaahhh, kale. Need I say more? For me kale is synonymous with spring, and clean, and flavor, and all other things good but in case you haven't familiarized yourself with the wonderful taste of kale, this is for you!

One of my daughter's favorite foods is kale. She loves it any way - chipped, sauteed, fresh from the garden, in soups, with mashed potatoes, juiced, you name it. In her mind it really doesn't matter. I am fully aware of how lucky this may seem but in truth I have been very intentional in the way I have introduced foods to her [and my husband has been a great support in this]. Many of her first solids came in green [go here if you are interested in food introductions].

Of course, over time kids will develop tastes of their own but if you are struggling to get your child to eat green veggies please keep at it. A little here, a little there. Sneak it into whatever you can think of. Make a goal to find a way to have kale, spinach, chard, and other leafy greens with at least one meal a day and work up from there. Start by concealing it if you need to and don't mention it when someone asks "what's in this?". The more your child has green veggies the more they will get used to it. Contrary to common belief, you really can change taste preferences. It may take a little time and planning but health is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family. And don't forget, pack the greens in yourself. Your child [or children] are watching you. This is especially important when they are young and impressionable. You are the one they look up to right now. Make sure the example you set is one worth following. Let your actions be their guide in addition to your words.


Well allow me a few minutes to try and change your mind. Thus far, kale takes the number one spot above all other vegetables in antioxidant capacity. Like other leafy greens and veggies in the brassica family [think cabbage, broccoli, etc.], kale contains powerful cancer-fighting compounds that help prevent some of the most common cancers today [breast, cervical, colon]. It's sulfur content boosts detoxification [great spring and fall food!] by triggering the liver to remove free radicals and other toxins found in our bodies. This happens when you chew, chew, chew and is a great example of the importance of thoroughly chewing your food [think upwards of 25 chews per bite]. It also makes a great detox food because it eases lung congestion commonly found during times of seasonal shifts.

Leafy greens, kale specifically, are packed with calcium, iron, vitamins A, C, K, chlorophyll, beta-carotene [in really high amounts], lutein and zeaxanthin [super important for your eyes] along with a bunch of fiber and protein.


It seems that any nutritionally-minded blog or cookbook has a recipe for kale chips, each hosting their own unique twist on this crunchy green favorite. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I decided to share a few of my favorite kale chip recipes along with some fool-proof tips on how to make them. Oh, and kale chips are a great way to introduce kale into your, and your family's, diet [hint, hint!].

GreenThyme Kitchen: Garlicky Kale Chips

My New Roots: Totally Addictive Kale Chips

Whole Living: Baked Kale Chips

To any of these recipes you can add a little tahini, balsamic vinegar, paprika, ginger, chipotle powder, and / or smoked sea salt. Essentially, get creative and use flavors you already love!


1. Use a salad spinner to wash and spin-dry torn / cut kale pieces. This should help get rid of most of the water post-wash.

2. From the spinner, lay the kale pieces on a kitchen towel and use a second towel to pat dry. The goal is to get each leaf completely dry.

3. I have found an oil sprayer [a pump spritz bottle that you fill with oil, pump, and spray] is the best method to apply oil. This keeps the oils from saturating a few kale pieces and missing others. After each piece is sprayed, use your fingers to massage the oil into each piece, both sides.

4. Use your fingers to sprinkle sea salt, garlic powder, or any other seasonings. This offers far more control.

5. Remember that each oven is different and baking times may not be what are listed in the recipe per your oven. Be sure to check the chips frequently and pull them out of the oven when they are bright green and crispy. Brown = over done.