Fork Worthy Nachos

So…I’m officially an adult! I made it through my first full, 40 hour work week.  Part of me feels like I’m still a (semi) irresponsible college student just doing a summer internship. It still doesn’t feel quite real, but I’m sure it will very soon. Possibly as early as tomorrow, when I have to forgo a day off to go into work to help cover severe weather. That’s exactly what I hope to be doing with my career eventually, though, so I’m excited. And at least I get to sleep in!

Nachos aren’t totally a kids-only food, are they? If so, then I guess I’m technically a kid because I love ’em.

Hold on. Aren’t nachos like the exact opposite of healthy vegan food? A pile of fried corn chips smothered in (usually) super fake and gooey cheese sauce, and topped with greasy ground beef and too much sour cream…not exactly my kinda fare. But I’m not talking about baseball game or Taco Bell or even Qdoba-style nachos. No, I’m talking about fork-worthy nachos — ones with plenty of veggies, fresh guacamole and salsa, aka adult – appropriate nachos.

These are those nachos. These are the nachos I choose to eat. Maybe they’re not technically nachos, because they involve no cheese at all (real or vegan) and you kinda have to eat them with a fork. Because they’re messy. And they’re mostly toppings. And sure, nachos aren’t nachos with a chip of some sort, but let’s be real, it’s all about the toppings. Because who wants a big plate of corn chips? Not you…because you’re an adult. You eat your veggies willingly, and you utilize silverware as needed.

But I promise I won’t tell your mom if you eat these with your hands…

Here’s to being an adult!

A beautiful mess.

A beautiful mess.

Fork Worthy Nachos (vegan, gluten free)

  • tortilla chips (I use Way Better Snacks sprouted sweet potato tortilla chips)
  • veggies, sauteed or raw (I used spinach, orange cauliflower and bean sprouts here)
  • spices (I used cayenne, onion powder and a little pink sea salt)
  • coconut or olive oil, to saute
  • beans (I used chickpeas, but black beans would be great too)
  • extras (pico de gallo, avocado/guacamole, pumpkin seeds, etc.)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat up coconut or olive oil. Add in veggies and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Add in beans and spices and continue cooking. Add in more veggies, if desired. Remove from heat and pour over tortilla chips. Top with salsa, guacamole or whatever you like. Makes 1 serving.

Do you like nachos? 

 

 

Kale Me Maybe [recipe].

So…this weather. I can’t complain too much, considering how much the East coast has been dumped on with snow and freezing rain lately. When you East Coasters were huddled inside hoping the polar vortex would just leave, I was enjoying the sunshine and 60-degree weather with an iced tea in hand. Sorry not sorry, guys.

But now I feel for you. After a few glorious days of well-above-average temps for Colorado this time of year, we were graced by the presence of snow. Okay, like an inch or two at the most. But I was getting ready to store my sweaters and boots until next fall. Guess I’ll be keeping them around for a little while.

Whether you’re so over the snow, were shocked by a dusting of it after spring-like weather or you’re already sunbathing and wearing sandals, you’ll enjoy these kale chips. They’re inspired by Mexican hot chocolate, which is a fun spin on the classic winter drink. Recipes vary, but it basically involved cocoa powder, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Sweet and spicy is totally my thing, so I had to take these flavors and transform them into a magical coating for kale chips.

Of course, I made them raw vegan friendly. I started a raw challenge at the beginning of this month, and honestly, I don’t have any intentions of stopping once February has left. I feel so great with a diet based around raw veggies & fruits, nuts & seeds and fun superfoods. And hey, if I can make it through one of the coldest months of the year (though we’ve been pretty lucky here this year) eating fully raw, I can certainly do it into spring and summer!

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can certainly bake these kale chips. Personally, I prefer dehydrated kale chips as they stay perfectly crispy without any burned bits. Either way, kale me maybe and make these chips!

Sweet, spicy and crunchy!

Sweet, spicy and crunchy!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Kale Chips (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

  • 1 medium bunch curly kale
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 tsp because I like them spicy)
  • sprinkling cinnamon
  • stevia, to taste (if you want a sweet and spicy kale chip)
  • 2 tbsp expeller pressed extra virgin coconut oil
  • warm water, to thin

In a large bowl, mix cacao, cayenne, cinnamon, stevia and melted coconut oil until combined. Add in warm water slowly, until mixture is liquefied but somewhat thick. Rinse kale and tear into small pieces and place in bowl with spice mixture. Massage spice mixture into kale leaves and set aside for 20-30 minutes to marinate. Place kale on Teflex-lined dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 105-118 degrees for 2-3 hours, or until desired crispness. Store in airtight container.

Do you like spicy foods?

Recipe submitted to Raw Foods Thursdays.

Bacon for Raw Vegans? [recipe].

My carnivorous (seriously, she HATES veggies and many fruits too) sister is a bonafide bacon-lover. She and my dad are currently in Chicago as she auditions for musical theatre colleges and they’re planning on going to a bacon restaurant this week. A. Bacon. Restaurant. What is wrong with America that we glorify shameless, unhealthy meat eating to the point that there are restaurants with a bacon theme?

Getting off my soap box, I realize a lot of people like bacon. Vegetarians and vegans alike, even. If that weren’t true, there wouldn’t be so many faux bacon products out there. I used to eat them occasionally, not really to replicate bacon (because let’s be honest, those products don’t and also I have no desire to eat meat or its imitations) but just to get that flavor. I think it’s the salty, smoky, sweetness that makes people go gaga over bacon. So why can’t raw vegans enjoy this flavor combo too…in a healthier form?

Enter…coconut bacon! I’m definitely not the first to think of this (though I wish I was) but many recipes out there aren’t raw or quite as healthy as this one. I’ve got nothing against maple syrup (love the stuff, actually) but for the sake of staying raw and no-added-sugar, I nixed it for homemade date paste and dehydrated my ‘bacon’. I think I like it better dehydrated than baked, because it keeps the texture perfectly crunchy.

Homemade 'bacon', fresh from the dehydrator.

Homemade ‘bacon’, fresh from the dehydrator.

Coconut ‘Bacon’ (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free, no-added-sugar)

  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (can increase amount for more ‘bacon’)
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut aminos (can sub tamari for non-raw version)
  • few drops liquid smoke
  • 1 tbsp date paste (soaked dates+a little water blended)

Mix aminos, liquid smoke and date paste in a bowl until combined. Add in coconut and stir until coconut is covered. Spread coconut flakes onto Teflex or parchment paper lined dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 118 degrees for 2-4 hours, or until coconut is crisp. Makes 1 cup.

BLA lettuce wraps with the coconut 'bacon'.

BLA lettuce wraps with the coconut ‘bacon’.

You can just eat the ‘bacon’ by the spoonful if you want, but it also makes a delicious addition to BLA (‘bacon’, lettuce and avocado) lettuce wraps, salads, sweet & salty desserts and basically anything that needs a little ‘bacon’!

Recipe submitted to Raw Food Thursdays

Have you ever tried non-meat alternatives to bacon? 

Oxymoron Bagels [recipe].

Bagels. Oh bagels. Bagels and I have a love-hate relationship. See, I like the texture of bagels, how doughy and chewy they are, and they remind me of my childhood. When we’d go camping, sometimes my dad would drive into town and bring back a dozen bagels from Einstein and my family would eat them for breakfast and lunch. My favorite flavors back then were chocolate chip (that hasn’t changed) and asiago (hold the cheese, please). I haven’t had a donut in a good 3 or 4 years. Thinking about them now, they’re too carby and filling and most of them aren’t gluten free (and the ones that are probably aren’t that good, or are made with eggs). But sometimes, a girl’s gotta have a bagel. Spread with homemade cashew cheese, or dipped in peanut butter mixed with real maple syrup.

So how do I get my bagel fix now, as a health-conscious, clean eating, (mostly) gluten free vegan? Homemade GRAIN FREE bagels, of course!

Now, grain free bagels. That may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, amiright? I mean, bagels are all about the gluten, the carbs. How exactly does a grain free bagel work? Being completely honest, these aren’t exactly the same as those carby bagels you knew and loved, but they’re pretty darn close in texture for being made from coconut flour, and they taste amazing (especially warmed up) and best of all, they’re a lot more fiber-full and nutritious than those empty calorie cream-cheese-slathered bagels from bagel shops. And I’m more than happy to devour these, because they’re mini (so they’re a lot cuter–that’s just how things work) and I finally made a grain free vegan baked good that didn’t totally fail on me!

Awww look, mini bagels!

Awww look, mini bagels!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

  • 2-3 tbsp flax, ground
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4-1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1-2 tbsp raw honey
  • 2 tbsp melted extra virgin coconut oil
  • cinnamon, to taste (I used a lot!)
  • 2-4 tbsp raisins (I used a mix of raisins and chopped dates)
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place foil or parchment paper on a baking sheet. In a food processor or stand mixer, process the ingredients from flax through almond milk until combined. Add in each remaining ingredient, one by one, until dough is formed. You may have to add a little more coconut flour or a little more liquid to get it to be the right consistency. It shouldn’t be too dry or too wet, but you should be able to form it into balls without it falling apart or being too sticky. Form dough into a large ball between your hands (you may have to wet your hands with a little coconut oil), divide the ball in half and divide each half into 4 separate, smaller balls. Roll each of the 8 balls in your hands, place them on the lined baking sheet and form each into a ring, pressing your thumb into the center of each to make a bagel hole. If the dough starts falling apart, use your fingers to reform the rings. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until bagels are starting to brown. Makes 8 bagels.

 

What is or was your favorite bagel flavor?

Eating Healthy on Vacation.

Vacations are fun. Vacations are relaxing. But vacations can also be stressful, especially if you live a healthy lifestyle. Vacations are generally a break from the norm, and can mean taking time off from our usual routines. But it doesn’t have to be all bad, nor does it have to make us feel guilty. After all, vacations are meant to be enjoyable. But how are you supposed to take your healthy habits with you on your trip?

I usually go on vacations once or twice a year, sometimes by plane and sometimes by car. Eating healthy while on vacation takes some planning, especially for airplane trips, but it can be done, and it doesn’t have to be hard!

Airplane.

With all the rules and regulations on airlines nowadays, it can seem almost impossible to know exactly what to pack. I recently got back from a trip to Wisconsin, and my family and I took Southwest Airlines to get there and back. The nice thing about Southwest is that they don’t charge for carry-ons, so you can bring a carry-on and a purse and be okay. Going through security with food can be a hassle, so it’s better to keep some things in your checked luggage. I brought some plant-based protein powder packets (great for traveling!), stevia packets and some Larabars in my checked bag, and they all survived the trip just fine. In my carry-on I made sure to bring a Larabar for easy snacking once I got to the concourse and it went through the x-ray machine without a hitch. Powders and liquids should be stored in your checked luggage and double-bagged just in case they spill. Dry, prepackaged healthy snacks like protein bars, raisins and nuts are great for your carry-on so you don’t starve on your flight! And remember, you can always get water once you get past security and on your flight.

Greens packets mixed with bottled water and nuts make for easy, portable snacks.

Greens packets mixed with bottled water and nuts make for easy, portable snacks.

Car.

Car trips make things a lot easier on the food packing front, but space can still be an issue. If you aren’t sure if your vacation spot will have a decent grocery store, stock up on essentials beforehand and bring a cooler for perishables. Carrots, cherry tomatoes, bananas, grapes and celery make for great, mess-free car snacks and are easy to store. Cans or boxes of beans are a go-to source of protein (just make sure to look for no salt added beans…and bring a can opener) and frozen veggie burgers (get whole foods-based burgers like Sunshine burgers) are great if you have a cooler, or freezer at your destination. Almost anything goes for food on car trips as long as you have enough room to store them!

At your destination.

Whether you’re flying or driving, you may want to stop at a grocery store to get the stuff you left behind. Single-serve items are ideal, so you don’t waste a big container of something. Protein powder packets, trail mix from the bulk section and nut butter squeeze packs are great options for traveling. If you’re going to be staying for a week or longer and you know you’ll finish it up or be able to bring it back with you, you can buy larger containers of products. Buy things that are healthy and as whole foods-based as possible, but are also easy to prepare. Again, things like raw bars, canned beans, prewashed produce and almond milk make meals a breeze. When I was on my vacations this summer, I didn’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen making my meals, so I stuck with healthful things I could whip up in a few minutes.

Some of my staples for my recent trip were sweet potatoes (can be cooked quickly in the microwave, or over a campfire for a better flavor), canned lentils (low sodium), organic lettuce, baby carrots, berries, bananas, protein powder packets, gluten-free granola, Larabars, organic peanut butter, almond milk, sprouted tortilla chips and greens packets. I was staying with family during my trip, so I had lots of fridge space, but if you aren’t so lucky, make sure to bring a cooler and fill it with ice regularly.

Eating out.

Eating out can be a big part of vacations. On my trip to the mountains earlier this summer, my family and I ate out for dinner every night and made the rest of our meals in the condo. On my trip to Wisconsin, we ate out with family twice for dinner and twice for lunch and made the rest of our meals wherever we were. In my normal life, I eat out maybe once or twice a month at places with lots of healthy options but in Wisconsin, those options were few and far between. As a gluten-free vegan, my options were even more limited. My solution to this was to either make sure to eat enough beforehand in case there were no options for me, or to bring along snacks. I ended up getting a side salad (no dressing) at one place and veggie fajitas with salsa and guacamole at the other. Both weren’t my favorite meals out, but I made do and enjoyed the company instead of focusing on the food. For lunches out, I was lucky enough to be able to find Qdoba on the road both times so I could get my usual salad bowl with black beans, salsa and guacamole.

Fast casual places like Qdoba and Panera have plenty of healthy options like this naked taco salad, made vegan.

Fast casual places like Qdoba and Panera have plenty of healthy options like this naked taco salad, made vegan.

If eating out is a highlight of your vacation, you can still enjoy and indulge while staying healthy. If possible, try to eat out for only one meal a day–this saves on costs and helps you eat healthier. At the restaurant, pick something that sounds good to you and if needed, supplement with something healthier, like a salad or some soup. Enjoy that part first and when it comes to the main dish, you’ll only need to eat until you feel satisfied and there’ll be no need to feel guilty. Have dessert if you really want to, and remember that vacation is a time to enjoy yourself. If you eat unhealthily one night, don’t beat yourself up about it. Move on and make healthier choices the next day. On the other hand, don’t feel bad if you eat healthfully your entire vacation. If you’re enjoying the food you eat, who cares if it isn’t indulgent or ‘bad’? Eat what you like, enjoy your surroundings and move on. Vacations are about more than just food!

What are some healthy eating on-the-go tips you have?