Antioxidant Smoothie

What a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! To top it off, we have a nice, short week ahead of us and before we know it, it’s going to be the weekend again :)

I don’t know about elsewhere, but here in Dallas it was pretty toasty this past weekend with temperatures up into the 90s every day. Thank goodness there’s been a nice breeze–and finally some rain–to cool us off a bit. In order to help stay cool, I enjoyed a bunch of frozen treats over the long Memorial Day weekend. I made a couple of batches of my all-natural chocolatey fudgesicles and I also enjoyed this beautiful Antioxidant Smoothie as a snack. After making–and loving–this smoothie the first time, I made it again, and again, and….you get the picture.

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I just couldn’t get enough of this smoothie! There was just something so amazing about the mix of tart and sweet flavors that made this smoothie so satiating. Not to mention, I just love the rich, purple color!

If we only appreciate this deep purple hue for its beauty, though, we would be selling this smoothie short. The darker color attributed to the blueberries and grapes are also an indication of some seriously beneficial antioxidants. There are many veggies, fruits, grains and spices that sport a darker blue, purple, or red hue and, as a general rule, the darker the color, the more anthocyanins the food possesses. Not only are anthocyanins responsible for these appealing pigments, they and are also believed to have strong anti-inflammatory properties and research has shown that anthocyanins may also provide protection against cancer. Because antioxidants help to combat the free radicals that can cause damage to cellular structures and DNA, consuming higher amounts of antioxidants can be greatly beneficial during the hot Summer months when spending time outdoors and in the direct sunlight is unavoidable. Blueberries in particular are ranked one of the highest among all fruits and veggies for their antioxidant capacities. Grapes are equally stellar due to their wealth of antioxidant nutrients. In fact, grapes contain hundreds of different antioxidant nutrients! Source

I will certainly be making this smoothie on a regular basis this Summer to help keep cool and to protect my body from the damage that can result from the Sun’s harmful rays. Plus, I just can’t help but love how beautiful and tasty this smoothie is! I hope you enjoy it, too!

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Antioxidant Smoothie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 smoothie
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup frozen grapes
  • 1 large banana, cut into chunks and frozen
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries
  • ½-1 cup almond milk
  • ½ lemon, juiced
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender. Begin with just a ½ cup of almond milk and add more if the smoothie is too dense or it’s having trouble blending.
  2. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
Optional add-ons: For a veggie version, add 1-2 cups of chopped kale or spinach. This is a good way of sneaking in extra greens because the sweetness of the fruit will overpower the taste of the veggies. I also like to add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds to the smoothie for a boost of Omega-3s and protein.

 

Veggie Mushroom Burgers

Happy Memorial Day!!

Summer break has begun–or is about to begin–and kids are out running wild, the pools are finally open, and grills everywhere are heating up.

Today is one of those days when grilling out is not just expected, it’s practically required. Burgers, hot dogs, kebabs…and in my case, Veggie Mushroom Burgers.

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When I first decided to stop eating meat, I also thought that I would have to cut many of my favorite foods–like burgers–out of my diet. I couldn’t have been more wrong! There are so many different ways to prepare veggie versions of the foods that I love that I’ll never have to go without! I was also afraid that I wouldn’t be getting enough protein on a vegan diet. And, not surprisingly, that’s the first thing everyone asks me when they discover that I don’t eat meat: “How do you get enough protein?”

I’ve come to discover that the biggest misconception about vegan and vegetarian diets is that there is some sort of protein deficiency associated with the lifestyle. The truth is that I consume TONS of protein on a vegan diet by eating various veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, and, occasionally, legumes. Did you know that one cup of cooked spinach contains more than 5 grams of protein (don’t forget, this is where Popeye got his strength) and one cup of cooked quinoa contains 9 grams of protein?! In fact, on a per-calorie basis, spinach contains more protein than ground beef and is also much more nutrient-dense!  What’s more, just 1/2 a cup of sunflower seeds (which just so happens to be the amount used in this burger recipe ;) ) contains a whopping 14.5 grams of protein!  So, not only is this burger delicious, it’s also packed with protein and vitamins to give us healthy, sustained energy.

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Since it’s Memorial Day and many people will be grilling, I included instructions for grilling these patties. However, they can also be dehydrated for those who prefer to eat their veggies raw. I’ve tried these patties both ways–cooked and raw–and thought that they turned out wonderfully either way.  This time around, I’ll be serving mine with baked sweet potato fries and I have some leftover fudgesicles for dessert! Yum! It makes me drool just thinking about it!

No matter what you’re doing today, I hope that you get to spend some time with the ones that you love. And please don’t forget all of the brave veterans who have made it possible for us to enjoy so many wonderful freedoms. Have a great Memorial Day!

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Veggie Mushroom Burgers
Author: 
Serves: 4 patties
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap, ground in a food processor (approx. 1-1.5 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and ground (3/4 cup)
  • 1 large celery stalk, ground (1/2 cup)
  • ½ of a sweet onion, ground (1/2 cup)
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds, ground (preferably soaked and dehydrated)
  • ⅓ cup ground flax seeds
  • 1½ Tbs. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or Tamari
  • 1 Tbs. tahini
  • 1 tsp. honey (optional)
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • salt and pepper, to season
Instructions
  1. One at a time, grind the mushroom, carrot, celery, onion and sunflower seeds in a food processor (make sure to do each one separately so that everything is ground uniformly). Toss them into a large mixing bowl as you go along.
  2. Next, add the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the ground veggies and sunflower seeds. Using your hands or a spatula, work all of the ingredients together until everything is evenly combined and sticking together (you can add more ground flax seeds to the mixture if it’s not sticking or if it contains too much liquid).
  3. Form the mixture into patties using your hands. This recipe yields approximately four large, thick patties.
  4. Depending on whether you want to eat the patties raw or cooked, there are different ways to proceed: For raw burgers, place the patties in a dehydrator for approx. 4 hours at 110 degrees. To bake the patties, put them in the oven at 350 degrees for approx. 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. To grill the patties, first bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for approx. 15 minutes (to help the patties stick together), then coat them in olive oil and place them on the grill, set to medium-low, and cook, flipping once, until done.
Notes
Serve on top of lettuce, raw bread, or a gluten-free bun and top with all the fixings!

Sources:
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database
www.nutrientfacts.com

All-Natural Chocolatey Fudgesicles

I can’t believe Memorial Day is already here, bringing with it the unofficial start of Summer! After this long weekend, my step-son, Kaden, has just 3 days left of school before his Summer break begins and he’s been excited and ready for a while. In fact, he’s had a daily countdown going on for a few weeks now! I remember being his age and becoming more and more giddy and impatient as the Summer drew near. As a kid, I don’t think there was anything that topped that wonderful, free feeling on the first day of Summer.

For me, today also marks the first of 3 consecutive days off of work! Woohoo! As an adult, that is a good feeling. I usually have Sundays and Tuesdays off (my crazy retail schedule), so this 3-day-weekend is a rare phenomenon for me. And since I start my Masters program next week, I am definitely going to relax and enjoy myself this weekend. It’ll be like a mini adult Summer vacation :) More than anything, I’m looking forward to spending some much-needed time with my family as well as some much-needed time in the kitchen–two of my favorite things! The best part is that most of our family holiday gatherings are centered around food and, like everyone else, we plan on grilling a bunch this weekend.

I love cooking almost everything on the grill, but with temperatures already up in the 90s here, just thinking about the grill makes me hot. This got me thinking, what is a fun, COLD dessert we can all enjoy? Popsicles! Popsicles are good at any age. I was inspired when I saw a popsicle mold on sale at World Market last week. Now I wonder, how have I survived so many blisteringly hot Texas Summers without ever making popsicles?! Growing up, I loved all of the fruity flavored popsicles, but my absolute favorite was always the fudgesicle. I would eat 3 or 4 at a time and we were constantly having to restock our freezer with the fudgy-flavored treats. So, I thought I should christen the new popsicle mold with some delicious, healthy, homemade fudgesicles!

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The best thing about these fudgesicles is that they are made from whole, healthy, natural ingredients–not ingredients that can’t be pronounced and wreak havoc on the body. Better yet, there’s no added sugar–all of the sugary sweetness comes naturally from the fruits. To top it off, these are absolutely delicious and insanely easy to make! The hardest part is waiting for the fudgsicles to freeze. But, you can easily pop these bad boys into the freezer a couple of hours before your dinner and they will be calling out to you by the time you’re done with your (veggie) burgers and kebabs ;)

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend full of family, food and fun….and fudgesicles, too!
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All-Natural Chocolatey Fudgesicles
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 popsicles
 
Ingredients
  • 2 ripe bananas, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 heaping Tbs. raw cacao powder
  • 1 heaping Tbs. almond butter (homemade is best; or you could sub another nut butter)
  • 3 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped (optional, for added sweetness)
  • ⅛ tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Toss all ingredients into a high-speed blender. Start at a low speed and gradually increase until completely liquified.
  2. Pour the liquid into the popsicle mold and freeze for at least 3 or 4 hours.
  3. To remove the popsicles, run the mold under warm water for about 10 seconds.
  4. Enjoy!

 

Pickled Onion and Berry Salad

Phew!! I went for a jog at 6:30 this morning and it was already 75 degrees outside. We’ve had highs in the 90s every day this past week and expect to see more of the same next week, too. If this is any indication of things to come, we’re going to have another sweltering summer.

This is the time of year when all I want to eat is a nice, cold, light meal. It’s a good thing that I love salads. No, really, I LOVE them. I know that probably sounds a little strange because most people don’t have such a strong affinity for salads, but most days I’m satisfied with having a gigantic salad for my lunch because that’s what I crave the most. I might bring some fruit or a soup to go along with it, but the salad is always the highlight of the meal–my favorite part.
20120524-222721.jpgSalads haven’t always held such a warm and fuzzy place in my heart, but then there was also a time when I loathed coconut and thought that Backstreet Boys was the best band in the world. I think it’s safe to say that tastes can change.

My favorite salads usually have some depth of flavor and some texture to them. This Pickled Onion and Berry Salad is the perfect example, with varied textures and a little bit of sweet and spicy. I’ve never made pickled onions before and I prepared a big batch especially for this salad, but I’ve been eating them on everything lately. They’re so easy to make and I actually prefer the softened texture. Not to mention, they are packed with flavor!

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With Memorial Day just a few days away–signaling the unofficial start of Summer–this would be the perfect salad to go along with the delicious barbecued dinners. Just a thought :) I hope you enjoy!

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Pickled Onion and Berry Salad
Author: 
Serves: 1 large or 2 small salads
 
Ingredients
  • ~~Pickled Onions:
  • ½ a large red onion, sliced into thin rounds (approx. 1 cup)
  • ⅔ cup water
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ⅛ tsp stevia
  • salt, to taste
  • red chili pepper flakes
  • ~~Vinaigrette:
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. filtered water
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. ground yellow mustard seed (or 1 Tbs. mustard of choice)
  • ⅛ tsp. cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp. nutmeg
  • ~~Salad:
  • 4-5 cups of mixed greens
  • ⅓ cup cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries (I used apple juice sweetened)
  • ⅓-1/2 cup pickled onions
  • chopped pecans, for topping (optional)
  • vinaigrette
Instructions
  1. For the pickled onions: Place the sliced onion into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Allow the onion to soak for at least 30 minutes to an hour–the onions will really soften up the longer it soaks. Drain off most of the liquid, reserving a little bit. Use immediately or save in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.
  2. For the vinaigrette: Whisk all of the ingredients except for the olive oil together in a small bowl. While whisking, add the olive oil in a slow stream and continue to whisk until fully combined.
  3. For the salad: Toss all of the veggies–including the pickled onions–together in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss until all the veggies are evenly coated.
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Breaded and Baked Eggplant (Eggplant Parmesan’s Healthy Cousin)

I can’t pinpoint when it was exactly that I decided I didn’t like eggplant, but I do know it was many years ago and that I haven’t (consciously) eaten it since. Because eggplant is coming into season, it’s become really hard to avoid in the grocery store aisles. I don’t know what it is, but every time I pass them by, the eggplants seem to call out to me to give them another chance. After all these years of abstinence, I started to question my distaste for the strange purple veggie: have I been judging it too harshly?

So, I finally broke down a few days ago and decided to buy a big, beautiful eggplant. I figured ratatouille would be an easy first recipe for a novice. But after all the time and energy I spent preparing and cooking everything, I could barely finish my dinner. I had even made enough so that I would have leftovers, but just the thought of eating more of that ratatouille made me queasy. Maybe I chose the wrong recipe, or maybe I didn’t cook the dish correctly–whatever it was, that ratatouille was so bad that I actually threw the rest into the trash (and I never waste food).

I had only used half of my eggplant for the ratatouille recipe and had tossed the other half back into the fridge. When I spotted the remaining eggplant a couple of days later, I took pity. I don’t know what compelled me to give that eggplant another chance, but I think it may have been my conscience beating me up for wasting so much food before. This time around I decided I would slice the veggie into rounds, bread it (with dairy-free milk and gluten-free flour and bread crumbs, of course), and bake it. I was inspired by traditional Eggplant Parmesan recipes, but I thought I would give the dish a healthier and more modern twist.

My breading station (please ignore the 70s-inspired marbled countertop):

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The breaded eggplant ready to go into the oven:

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I’m not usually a glass-half-empty kind of person, but I had a nagging feeling that this dish was going to disappoint me like my failed ratatouille. So when I first took the eggplant out of the oven, I was surprised by how amazing it smelled. And with the first bite, I was even more shocked that the eggplant wasn’t just good, it was awesome! I ate everything without even offering a bite to my husband (he usually declines anyway, but I didn’t want to take the chance that he might accept the offer this time).

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So I guess I owe eggplant a big apology. As it turns out, I have been judging it too harshly. I guess I have a lot of making up to do :)

Breaded and Baked Eggplant (Eggplant Parmesan’s Healthy Cousin)
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 medium-sized American (globe) eggplant, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • sea salt, as needed, plus 1tsp.
  • 1 rounded cup almond flour (or gluten-free flour of choice)
  • 1-2 cups almond milk (or dairy-free milk of choice)
  • 2 slices of gluten-free bread (I used millet bread), toasted and ground into crumbs using a food processor
  • ½ Tbs. dried oregano
  • ½ Tbs. dried thyme
  • pepper, as needed
  • olive oil (in a sprayer to coat the breaded eggplant)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a large baking dish into the oven to heat up (this will help to crisp the outside of the eggplant when it’s cooked).
  2. Slice the eggplant into rounds. Generously coat the eggplant slices in salt and allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes to “sweat” out the bitter juices. After 30 minutes, rinse the eggplant slices and pat them dry.
  3. Mix the bread crumbs with the oregano, thyme, 1 tsp. of sea salt, and pepper.
  4. Create a breading station (using shallow bowls or rimmed plates) in this order: almond flour, almond milk and bread crumbs.
  5. One slice of eggplant at a time, coat each side in the flour, then in the almond milk, and, lastly, in the bread crumbs, making sure that plenty of the bread crumbs stick to the eggplant. Once the slices are coated, place them on a sheet of parchment paper.
  6. When all of the eggplant slices are breaded and on the parchment paper, spray each one generously on both sides with olive oil.
  7. Carefully slide the parchment paper onto the heated baking sheet and place into the oven to cook. Bake for approx. 20-25 minutes. Check to make sure the bread crumbs have darkened in color and, when ready, remove the eggplant from the oven.
  8. Serve with homemade* or store-bought marinara sauce. Enjoy!
Notes
*Recipe for homemade marinara sauce coming soon!