Fall for Pumpkin Protein Balls this Season (See What I Did There?)

I look forward to October every year for one simple reason: it’s Pumpkin Everything Season! And despite living in Southwest Florida where the temperature rarely drops below 60 degrees, once autumn shows up on the calendar, I morph into that girl.

pumpkin-everything-season

Yep, I’m basic apparently. So sue me. Fall is a glorious time. And pumpkins are a direct result of that gloriousness.

These seasonal superfoods are rich in Vitamin A to promote vision health, Fiber to increase digestive regularity, Antioxidants to support immune function, Potassium to stimulate post-workout energy and Carotenoids to reduce skin aging effects.

Plus, they get all the Instagram likes, so…

But I digress. If you wanna experience those nutritional benefits for yourself, not just during autumn but year-round too (Why isn’t the PSL Summer Edition a thing? Looking at you, Starbucks!), might I suggest these no-bake Pumpkin Quinoa Protein Balls.

They’re perfect for a healthy plant-based breakfast or afternoon snack. And, all basicness aside, they taste like fall is supposed to taste. *insert brown leaf emoji*

I rest my case.

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls

yields 2 dozen protein balls

Ingredients:

1 can Pumpkin Purée (organic)

1 tbsp. Sunflower Butter (organic)

1/3 c. Rolled Oats (whole grain)

1/4 c. Quinoa (organic)

1 Apple (peeled & diced)

1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Spice

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 tsp. Ginger

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls-ingredients

 Preparation:

  1. Cook the quinoa according to its package instructions, then set aside.
  2. Combine the pumpkin pur√©e, rolled oatssunflower buttercinnamon, ginger and pumpkin spice in a mixing bowl.
  3. Slice the apple into small chunks, then stir into the pumpkin mixture.
  4. Add the cooked quinoa to the pumpkin mixture, then stir these ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  5. Divide the batter into bite-sized balls and place in the freezer for 1 hour before serving.

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls-batter

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls-before-photo

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls-after-photo

So. Much. Yes.

Yes Please to Cheese-less Mac & Cheese!

For¬†the past couple months, I’ve been switching over¬†to a dairy-free lifestyle. Which actually hasn’t been that hard¬†of a transition. Well…except for one detail.

Guys, I love cheese.

And it’s not until I stopped eating cheese that I began realizing just how many recipes include the stuff. Craving some comfort food? Good luck sans the cheddar. In a Mexican mood? Not without that pepper jack. How about a Greek salad? Umm…don’t forget the feta.

Sure. I could simply omit cheese from these dishes, but where’s the pleasure in that? There’s gotta be another solution. At which point you’re probably thinking:¬†Yeah, genius. It’s called vegan cheese.¬†Touch√©. But I’m new at this dairy-free business!

Besides, I’m not about scouring Whole Foods for nutritional yeast. Or soaking cashews in water for three¬†hours. Or you know…whatever.

The point is I’m lazy and need that cheese fix¬†like yesterday.

Which is the inspiration behind my own formula: Minimum Patience + Maximum Desire = Liquid Gold Sauce in Under 5 Minutes.

vegan-cheese-sauce

In¬†keeping with a¬†minimalist theme, I opted for the pre-sliced¬†variety. So, after comparing ingredients in multiple brands, Chao¬†made the final cut. It’s tofu and coconut-based without any preservatives or GMOs. To sum up, I’m fangirling.

Yep. Over tofu and coconuts. I mean…we’ve all been there.

Something else I’m¬†fangirling over: mac & cheese. And quinoa. Because I’m a wellness blogger. And. We. Eat. Quinoa.¬†So,¬†that combination is how¬†Cheese-less Broccoli Quinoa Mac & Cheese¬†became a thing.

And my taste buds lived happily ever after!

broccoli-quinoa-mac-and-cheese

Ingredients:

1/2 Broccoli Head (chopped into florets)

1 cup Dairy-Free Milk (Unsweetened)

2 Vegan Cheese Slices (of Preference)

1/2 cup Quinoa (Organic)

1 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbsp. Spelt Flour*

1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder

1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

*spelt contains gluten, so if you need a GF alternative, check out these options.

quinoa-mac-and-cheese-ingredients

Preparation:

  1. Cook the quinoa on your stovetop, following the package instructions.
  2. Pre-heat a saucepan on another stovetop burner, bring to medium, then add the milk, flour, olive oil, garlic and sea salt.
  3. Stir until the consistency thickens, then add your preferred vegan cheese and stir again until melted.
  4. Pre-heat a smaller saucepan on yet another stovetop burner, pour in about 1 inch of water, bring to boil, then add the broccoli.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, then cover your saucepan and steam the broccoli for 5 minutes.
  6. Combine the broccoli and quinoa, then pour the vegan cheese sauce on top, and stir to distribute the flavors evenly.

quinoa-mac-and-cheese-collage

Yeaaaaah. I¬†know what you’re making for dinner tonight. Don’t even pretend otherwise. But like…it’s¬†healthy¬†mac & cheese. Why wouldn’t you make it for dinner tonight?

shrugging

Exactly. *drops wooden spoon*

Breadless Toast: Madness, Genius or Just Plain Deliciousness?

Today’s kitchen creation is being served with a confession on the side.

I’m not a bread person.

Did you even know that’s a thing? To not like bread? My secret shame. Nope, can’t even order avocado¬†toast for¬†Sunday Brunch despite my all-consuming avoddiction (P.S. that word DOES¬†exist. Look it up).

But *insert sigh of relief* order is now restored to the galaxy because¬†I’ve discovered a breadless alternative‚ÄĒsweet potato toast. A.K.A. the latest foodie trend currently taking over my life. Forreal.

And if plant-based + gluten-free + downright delectable sounds like the ultimate jam, then prepare for a takeover on your life too.

I rest my case. Times three, in fact. Because you’re about to experience…

sweet potato toast three ways

Just grab a¬†sweet potato, then go culinary crazy¬†with¬†all¬†the¬†fixings. And here’s some inspo to get those creative juices (not to mention, appetite!)¬†flowing.


Ingredients:

sweet potato toast savory ingredients2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 small can Chickpeas

1/2 tsp. Ground Paprika

1/4 tsp. Ground Cumin

1 Juiced Lemon

                             sweet potato toast sweet ingredients

2 tbsp. Chopped Raw Almonds

1 tbsp. Organic Almond Butter

1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1/2 Sliced Apple

sweet potato toast spicy ingredients

1/2 tsp. Sriracha Sauce

4-5 Spinach Leaves

1/2 Hass Avocado

1/4 tsp. Sea Salt

                                                                                                                   


 Preparation:

  1. Cut the Potato into 3 slices about, 1/4-inch thick, leaving the skin on.
  2. Put each slice in a toaster and cook for 5 minutes, or until the texture becomes pliable but still firm.
  3. Drain and rinse the Chickpeas, then transfer 1/2 into a food processor.
  4. Add the Lemon and 1 tbsp. Olive Oil, then puree this mixture until a hummus consistency forms.
  5. Place the remaining Chickpeas on a foil-lined baking sheet and pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Drizzle them with 1 tbsp. Olive Oil, Cumin and Paprika, then cook in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the Chickpeas become crispy.
  7. Spread the hummus over the first Potato slice and top with the roasted Chickpeas to make savory toast.
  8. Chop the Almonds coarsely and slice the Apple, then spread Almond Butter over the second Potato slice.
  9. Top with the Apples, Almonds and Cinnamon to make sweet toast.
  10. Mash the Avocado until a guacamole consistency forms and spread over the third Potato slice.
  11. Top with the Spinach and Sea Salt, then drizzle on Sriracha to make spicy toast.

Seriously…moment of silent introspection for these wondrous little tubers.

Alright, moment over. Girl’s gotta eat!

Make Your Mornings Count With a Dash of Matcha Madness

So, guess I’ve been feeling the Eastern vibes lately. Between last week’s Korean Boribap recipe and this week’s love letter to all things matcha, I should probably just book a flight to Asia. Donate to my travel fund, and I’ll get right on that!

No takers? Shocking. Fine then…living vicariously through my taste buds isn’t the worst consolation prize. Lucky for this girl, my fianc√©’s sister did go to Asia recently, and she brought me back some authentic ceremonial-grade Japanese matcha.

Talk about earning brownie points with the future sis-in-law. Give me pretentious sounding superfoods, and I’m your friend for life. Well played, Kristin…well played.

If you’re a matcha virgin, it’s literally just powdered green tea. Observe:

matcha powder

But what makes it so freaking fabulous? Check out these impressive stats:

  • Yields more antioxidants than any other superfood including goji berries, acai, kale and spinach.
  • Contains a powerful blend of essential nutrients like fiber, chlorophyll, zinc, magnesium, and Vitamin C.
  • Strengthens immune function, promotes anti-inflmmatory benefits and works like a natural detoxifier.
  • Boosts the metabolism to burn calories more efficiently, and regulates healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Reduces physical and mental stress, enhances concentration and balances fluctuating mood states.

Way to kick some nutritional ass, Matcha! And that’s why I jumpstart each morning with this little green powerhouse I’ve become *slightly* dependent on. Sure, you can drink it like the socially acceptable human you are. OR you can get creative, steal a chapter from my cookbook…

And breakfast will never be the same.

matcha for breakfast

MATCHA GINGER OATMEAL

Ingredients:

1 cup Cashew Milk (unsweetened)

1/2 cup Whole-Grain Oats

2 tsp. Matcha Powder

2 packets Stevia (organic)

1 tsp. Almond Butter (all-natural)

2‚Äď3 pinches Sesame Seeds

1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger

Preparation:

  1. Pour the Cashew Milk into a small saucepan and preheat the stovetop burner on a medium-high setting.
  2. Add the Oats and stir occasionally until the mixture begins to boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue stirring until the texture thickens.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the stove, add the Matcha, Ginger and Stevia, then stir to combine.
  4. Transfer the oatmeal into a serving bowl, then top with Almond Butter and Sesame Seeds for extra crunch. (NOTE: feel free to use whatever toppings you prefer…I just choose sesame seeds in keeping with our Asian theme!)

matcha oatmeal before pic

matcha oatmeal after pic

MATCHA BLUEBERRY PANCAKES

Ingredients:

1 cup Cashew Milk (unsweetened)

3/4 cup Spelt Flour (or, a GF alternative)

1/3 cup Fresh Blueberries

1/2 tbsp. Matcha Powder

2 packets Stevia (organic)

2 tsp. Almond Butter (all-natural)

Preparation:

  1. Pour the Cashew Milk and Spelt Flour into a mixing bowl, then stir vigorously until no lumps remain.
  2. Add the Blueberries, Matcha and Stevia into this batter, then stir again to combine.
  3. Preheat the stovetop burner on a medium-high setting, place a griddle on this burner and coat with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Ladle the batter in small batches onto the griddle, allow to cook about 2 minutes on each side, then transfer the pancakes to a serving plate once they’re done.
  5. Spread the Almond Butter over the pancake stack and garnish with leftover blueberries, if desired.

matcha pancakes before pic

matcha pancakes after pic

Reader Poll (just because I’m curious): Do you cook with matcha, or are you a purist who thinks tea is for drinking, thankyouverymuch?

So, What’s the Deal With that “Buddha Bowl” Bandwagon?

Lately, my entire Pinterest feed has turned into one continuous love letter¬†to the gloriousness that is a¬†Buddha Bowl. I’ve been hearing this term used more and more in wellness circles, but it’s taken me awhile to join the “Buddha Bowl Bandwagon.” Well, until last weekend anyway.

On a random Saturday night, the fianc√© and I were embroiled in our usual debate: should we make dinner reservations, grab some take-out, or just raid the fridge?¬†Laziness won out (’cause my spirit animal is a 65-year-old in threadbare sweats who¬†calls “lights out” before 10pm), so we settled on Option #3. Then,¬†inspiration struck‚ÄĒHey…I’ll make one of those Buddha Bowl things!

So, through¬†trial-and-error, I debunked the basic formula and concocted my own variation. And now that I’ve graduated¬†from¬†Buddha Bowl virgin to Buddha Bowl addict, I’m passing this formula along to you.

(WARNING: contents might cause obsession!)

how to make a buddha bowl

1. ¬† Building Blocks‚ÄĒWhat Components Will You Need?

  • The¬†Base:¬†choose a whole grain like quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, wheatberry or farro.
  • The Greens:¬†choose leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, chard or watercress.
  • The Protein:¬†choose a plant-based protein like chickpeas, almonds, beans, tempeh¬†or tofu.
  • The Extras:¬†choose veggies like sweet potato, broccoli, asparagus, carrots or avocado (okay…not a veggie, but still delish).
  • The Dressing:¬†choose a sauce¬†like the flavor bomb pictured above. Wanna make it? Then, stay tuned…

2. ¬† Assembly Required‚ÄĒHow Do You Put It All Together?

  • The First¬†Layer:¬†cook the whole grains according to their package instructions, then spread¬†onto¬†the bottom of your bowl.
  • The Second Layer:¬†arrange¬†a handful of leafy greens over the whole grain base.
  • The Third Layer:¬†oven roast the protein source (or, leave raw if desired and¬†safe to consume), then arrange over the leafy greens.
  • The Fourth¬†Layer:¬†steam the veggies until tender, then¬†arrange over the leafy greens.
  • The Top Layer:¬†drizzle the sauce to evenly coat the veggies. Oh, and here’s that recipe I hinted at earlier…blend together¬†1 red pepper, ¬† ¬† ¬† 1 garlic clove,¬†2 tbsp. lemon juice,¬†1 tbsp. olive oil,¬†1/2 tsp. paprika,¬†1/4 tsp. turmeric,¬†1/4 tsp. coriander¬†and¬†1/4 tsp. cumin.¬†Viola!
buddha bowl finished product

couldn’t resist posting ANOTHER shot of my finished product in all its glory

Alrighty. That’s the gameplan, people. So, welcome aboard that Buddha Bowl Bandwagon‚ÄĒwhere dinnertime dilemmas have met¬†their match!

Superfood Spotlight: Edamame Goes Green for Spring

With the weather warming up‚ÄĒor¬†heating¬†up¬†if you’re a Sunshine State dweller like me‚ÄĒin preparation for¬†glorious spring, this time of year makes me crave all things green.¬†Especially in the kitchen, amiright?!

And because I’m feeling Green Goddess-y at the moment, my latest recipe sorta resembles a leprechaun explosion. St. Patrick’s Day is next week, after all! The perfect appetizer¬†for a weekend¬†cookout, this fresh and vibrant take on hummus¬†is also loaded with plant-based protein.

Gotta love health benefits disguised as flavor bombs, so feature this superfood spread at your next happy hour. Talk about a hit throughout swimsuit season!

Note: The recipe yields 6-8 servings, so you might need to adjust the ingredient count for larger gatherings. 

superfood snacking edamame hummus

Ingredients: 

1/2 c. Edamame (shelled)

2 tbsp. Grapeseed Oil

1 Garlic Clove (minced)

1 Lemon (juiced)

1/2 tsp. Cumin

1/4 tsp. Sea Salt

2 Thyme Sprigs

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat a saucepan, filled with about 1 1/2 cups of Water, on a high stovetop setting.
  2. When the water reaches a boil, add the Edamame and reduce to a simmer until the they have cooked thoroughly.
  3. Turn off the heat and drain the edamame through a colander, then transfer them into a food processor or blender.
  4. Add the other Ingredients to the food processor or blender, then puree until smooth.

Serving Suggestion:

For a gluten-free alternative to store bought crackers or pita bread, enjoy this¬†Hummus¬†with sliced avocado and julienned tubers‚ÄĒlike carrots or parsnips.¬†This is also a deceptively delicious way to entice the kiddos with fresh veggies during those after-school snack attacks!

How to “Dress” Up Your Daily Fruit & Veggie Quota {Guest Post}

According to research backed by the American Heart Association, people who habitually consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables experience a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. In fact, this study revealed that, of the 2500 test subjects monitored, women who ate about 9 daily servings and men who ate about 7 were 26% less prone to develop clogged arteries in older age.

In addition to supporting cardiovascular wellness, fresh produce contains essential nutrients like protein, antioxidants, fiber, and a plethora of other vitamins and minerals. So, incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet can yield balanced wellness and physical longevity.

The simplest, most straightforward way to boost your fruit and veggie intake is to replace that typical lunchtime sandwich with a crisp, colorful salad. Then, top it with this healthy homemade dressing which features the antioxidant-loaded nutritional supplement, Nutri Maqui. Your heart, immune system and other vital organs will thank you for giving them the nourishment they crave!


Nutri Maqui Superfruit Salad Dressing

Nutri Maqui salad dressing ingredients

Ingredients

 ¬Ĺ cup Grapeseed Oil

1 tbsp. Nutri Maqui Superfruit Juice

1 tsp. Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard

¬Ĺ tsp. Lemon Juice

Nutri Maqui salad dressing preparation

Preparation

  1. Pour all ingredients into a small decanter, then whisk until they are thoroughly combined.
  1. Chop a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and raw nuts (e.g. carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, raspberries, avocadoes, almonds, cashews), then arrange them over a bed of leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale, arugula).
  1. Drizzle the dressing on top, then toss the salad to evenly distribute all ingredients before serving.

So. Many. Colors. Amiright?!

Nutri Maqui salad dressing before   Nutri Maqui salad dressing after


Huge thanks to Nutri Lifescience, LLC, for supplying the research, content and graphics for this post.