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.

Cake Pops for Your Valentine [recipe].

I like Valentine’s Day. There, I said it. No, I’m not currently in a relationship. Yes, single ladies can celebrate V Day too without being all bitter or hung up on their single-ness.

For me, it’s all about loving the people who are in my life. Friends. Family. Being single just means you can focus your love on those other people, and show them how much they really mean to you. Like for instance, I bought my sister a vegan chocolate donut from Whole Foods and I’m surprising her with it for breakfast tomorrow. It’s the little things like that that mean a lot more than a giant stuffed teddy bear or a cheap box of chocolates.

Then again, I also like Valentine’s Day because it means…more treats for me! Yes, I’m a little selfish but it’s true. I’m bad at sharing the foods I like because A) they tend to be a little expensive (cough cough, raw desserts) and B) did I mention I’m selfish?

If you like to share your food, then these cake pops are for you. A little bit cheesecake-y without the guilt, plenty of cherry and dark chocolate flavor to make them appropriate for Valentine’s Day…or any day, really. And if you don’t like to share–you’re in luck, too. Because that means more cake pops for you.

Someone went a little crazy on the Picmonkey filters...

Someone went a little crazy on the Picmonkey filters…

Cherry Cheesecake Cake Pops (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked 1-2 hours
  • 2 tbsp raw coconut flour
  • handful frozen or fresh pitted cherries
  • 1 pitted date
  • stevia, to taste (optional)
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

In a food processor, pulse soaked and drained cashews, coconut flour and date until combined and cakey in texture. Blend in cherries and stevia and set aside. In a small bowl, mix cacao, coconut oil and additional stevia until mixture is thinned. Roll cashew cherry mix into small balls and dip into raw cacao mix. Place balls in fridge or freezer for a few hours, and serve as cake balls in cupcake liners or poke with lollipop sticks or toothpicks for cake pops. Makes 10 small pops, ~50 calories for 2 pops.

Perfect for your Valentine...or for you!

Perfect for your Valentine…or for you!

What’s one food you don’t mind sharing with others? 

Recipe submitted to Raw Foods Thursday

Grain Free Pizza Crust [recipe].

Remember when this blog was mostly about food? I actually don’t at all regret posting more about my personal life on here. I’m going through a very transitional phase in my life and while I’m enjoying some aspects of it (getting my groceries paid for by my parents is a HUGE perk!) I’m also very ready for something to happen in my life. So look forward to more personal posts on here and maybe on AlmostVegGirlie.

For now, let’s talk pizza. It’s the weekend and for many people, that means letting loose with their eating habits. Nothing necessarily wrong with indulging every once in awhile, but what if you want to keep things healthy but still weekend-worthy? Enter the grain free (and vegan!) pizza crust. And pizza toppings, of course, but I’m leaving that up to you.

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The Best Grain Free Pizza Crust (vegan, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

~2-3 tbsp almond meal
~2 tbsp coconut flour
~1/2-1 tsp psyllium husk (this is necessary to hold the crust together)
~1 tbsp tapioca starch (can sub arrowroot)
~pinch baking soda
~spices, to taste (I used sea salt, lemon pepper seasoning and rosemary)
~warm water (use enough to create a wet dough)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, mix all dry ingredients together. Pour in water slowly, until a wet dough is formed. Spread pizza dough onto parchment paper lined cookie tray, about 1/2 inch thick. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until crust firms up and begins to brown.

To use as pizza crust, lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and top with sauce and veggies. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until toppings are hot. Makes 1 single-serving pizza.

What do you like to put on your pizza?

Addictive (and Healthy) Pasta

When you hear the word ‘pasta’, what comes to mind? Silky red sauce, creamy alfredo, maybe just garlic and butter. Most people don’t automatically think pasta is healthy, and usually it isn’t. Restaurants usually serve it in giant portions, usually made from white flour, and drenched in way too much sauce. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

What if I told you you could make a healthy AND tasty pasta dish from these ingredients: kelp noodles, butternut squash, cashews, nutritional yeast, spinach and hemp seeds? You’d probably tell me to step away from the kale chips–those don’t sound like pasta at all. I’m not completely crazy, though. I based my recipe off a similar one that also features squash and cashews as the sauce base, and there are plenty of squash-based pasta recipes floating around the blog world during squash season. I just made mine a bit more nutrient-dense by swapping out the grain-based pasta for noodles made from a nutritious sea veggie with the texture of angel hair pasta and adding some nutritional yeast to the sauce, as well as topping it with spinach and hemp seeds. The key is roasting the squash and soaking the cashews to get a super creamy and flavorful sauce without the cream. This is a truly healthy vegan comfort meal!

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Cheezy Butternut Noodles (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

  • 1/2 butternut squash, roasted
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4-1/3 cup cashews, soaked at least 3 hours
  • unsweetened almond milk, to thin
  • pink sea salt, to taste
  • spices, to taste (I used garlic & herb and cayenne pepper)
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper (optional, adds some heat)
  • 1/2 bag kelp noodles, soaked and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds
  • handful spinach

In a blender or food processor (I used my Ninja food processor), pulse roasted squash, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, salt, spices and pepper (if using) until combined. Add enough almond milk to thin the sauce to preferred consistency. Spoon 1/4 of the sauce over kelp noodles and warm in the microwave or on the stove. Top with hemp seeds and spinach. Makes 4-5 servings of sauce. 

What’s your favorite pasta sauce?

Stocking Your College Kitchen the Healthy Way

Fridge food.

Fridge food.

College doesn’t have to be about all-you-can-eat dining halls and weekends spent playing beer pong. In fact, it really shouldn’t be about either of those! Yes, it is possible AND easy to eat healthy as a busy college student–it’s all about stocking your kitchen right and prepping when you have time.

A lot of these tips are best for college students with an apartment and access to a kitchen because that’s my current situation, but if you’re a dorm-dweller you can still give these a try or keep them in mind for your first apartment experience.

Produce is the best thing you can spend your money on.

Produce is the best thing you can spend your money on.

Produce may be expensive but it’s one of the best investments you can make in your health. The best part is you can save money on it. Some stores discount their fruits and veggies when they’re about to go bad so you can get a ton of produce and save it for later. Or you can buy produce in season and freeze it it to have year round. Sprouts is my go to store for cheaper produce and they have organics at reasonable prices. Whole Foods is great for specialties and exotics and they’re not always outrageously priced.

Pantry staples.

Pantry staples.

Having plenty of nonperishables on hand is key to saving time and money.  Canned beans (no salt added, just beans and water), nut butters, plant-based protein powders,  dried fruit (no added sugars), no salt no oil microwave popcorn, spices, stevia, dried grains and legumes, tomato paste, coconut oil and almond meal are all things that I keep on hand most of the time. They’re all super simple to prepare and have ingredients I feel good about eating.  They also keep for awhile so they’re worth buying, and anyway,  they’re a lot cheaper than prepackaged stuff!

A typical college food gone healthy!

A typical college food gone healthy!

You can still indulge in college student favorites without compromising your healthy standards. I used to avoid most cereals because they were too sugary or had questionable additives, but once I discovered One Degree Organic Foods there was no turning back. They use sprouted grains (easier to digest than regular ones), coconut sugar (unrefined and low glycemic) and organic ingredients,  among other healthy business practices. Their cacao crisps are way better than cocoa Krispies!

You can still enjoy tthe sweet stuff without a sugar hangover.

You can still enjoy the sweet stuff without a sugar hangover.

If you know me at all, you know I have a MAJOR sweet tooth! But…refined sugar isn’t the best for you. That doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to desserts forever,  you just have to do them smarter. Dark chocolate (the darker the better), Larabars (I looove the chocolate chip ones and the cappuccino flavor), dates with coconut oil and fruit are what I rely on for daily desserts. For more more special occasions (aka the weekend), I make vegan and gluten free desserts made with honey or maple syrup,  oftentimes raw or protein packed and with whole foods ingredients. That way, I satisfy my desire for desserts without feeling bad later!

Eating healthy in college shouldn’t be expensive, boring or hard–just do your healthy eating homework ahead of time, shop smart, prep when you have time and enjoy what you’re making!

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?