Recipes

Peruvian Stuffed Avocado (Palta Rellena)

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With Thanksgiving only a week away, I probably should be posting a healthy stuffing recipe or a gluten free apple pie. Buuuuut that's just not what's inspiring me right now.  Today's recipe isn't seasonal or pumpkiny and has absolutely nothing to do with Thanksgiving. Rather, it was inspired by my recent trip to Peru.

I really enjoyed exploring Peruvian cuisine, but you can only have so many heaping piles of rice and potatoes before you just want a freaking vegetable. One afternoon, while sitting in our favorite corner restaurant in Cusco, I was perusing the menu for something that resembled a salad. I had zero luck with that, but a "stuffed avocado" caught my eye. The picture on the menu didn't look like more than an avo half with a measly scoop of chicken on top. I figured what the hell, it's something other than fries. 

The meal that was brought to me far exceeded expectations. On my plate were three plump avocado halves under a mountain of chicken, veggies, and potatoes, and topped with kalamata olives. 

My first reaction: "This is like a chicken pot pie- in an avocado!"

Second thought: "I have to make this when I get home!" 

Palta rellena soon became my go-to meal when I wasn't up for ordering mystery food. I knew that I'd at least get a good serving (usually two or three) of protein, veggies, and healthy fats. 

Peruvian stuffed avocado (palta rellena)

Makes: about 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 lb baked or grilled chicken
  • 1 cup white potatoes, cut into cubes about 1 cm in size
  • 1/2 cup shredded or chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Kalamata olives for garnish (I used about 1/3 cup)
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  1. Chop potatoes into cubes about 1 cm in size. Add them to a saucepan with enough water to fully submerge potatoes. Bring water to a boil and allow to cook for about 7-10 minutes, or until tender. 
  2. While potatoes are cooking, chop carrots and onions and put them in a medium sized bowl. Add chicken, olive oil, yogurt, and lime juice.
  3. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Use a spoon to scoop the avo out of its skin while keeping its shape intact. 
  4. When potatoes are done cooking, drain the water. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes or run cold water over them to speed the cooling process. Add potatoes to mixing bowl with other ingredients and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. To serve, scoop the salad mixture into the avocado "bowls" and top with kalamata olives.  

Mayonnaise option:

The stuffed avocados that I had in Peru were always made with mayonnaise, like a potato salad. I've never been a mayo fan, hence the EVOO and yogurt substitution. For the mayo lovers out there, you can make this dish more authentic by using mayo instead of the yogurt and oil. 

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Fig and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon Pepper Dressing

Can you feel it? The air is getting slightly cooler, and there are already leaves on the bike path. Even though I love scarves and everything pumpkin, I'm not quite ready to let go of summer. Please Colorado, give me just two more weeks of warm hiking weather and fresh local produce. One of my favorite summer snacks this year has been fresh figs. I love the subtle sweet taste and slight crunch of the seeds.  My latest discovery is how delicious they taste in a fresh salad with goat cheese. After having takeout pizza for lunch yesterday, I was hankering for something more nutritious. So, I whipped up this Fig and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon Pepper Dressing.

Not only are figs lovely on the taste buds, but also highly nutritious. 

  • Figs are rich in alkalinizing minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. 
  • Because of their high fiber and mineral content, figs are an excellent blood sugar balancer. Balancing blood sugar is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and balanced moods. 
  • 100 grams of figs contains about 3.3 g of protein (Murray, 2005.
  • The high potassium content in figs makes them an excellent support for healthy blood pressure.
  • They taste amazing with dark chocolate! (source: me.)

Fig and Goat Cheese Salad

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Ingredients for salad: 

  • 2 cups dark leafy greens (I used a blend of baby spinach and baby kale)
  • 5 Figs, cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup diced red onions
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup cucumbers

Ingredients for dressing:

  • 1/4 cup flaxseed oil or olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

  • Blend the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. It should be a bright yellow color.
  • Mix all the other ingredients and drizzle the dressing on top.

Notes

Even though flax oil offers some fantastic health benefits, not everyone enjoys its slightly bitter taste. Don't be afraid to sub olive oil or go half and half with the oils. IMPORTANT** If you choose to use flax oil, make sure it doesn't heat up in the food processor. Flax is a pretty unstable oil and doesn't do well with heat. Pulse the dressing lightly until blended, and store the extra in the fridge for up to a week.

I highly recommend adding some protein into your salad, such as grilled chicken or garbanzo beans! I happened to have it for breakfast today, hence the side of eggs!

Enjoy these last bits of summer!

Sources:

Michael T.Murray - Joseph E.Pizzorno - Lara Pizzorno - Atria Books - 2005

Peach Carrot Smoothie

I love ordering things online. There's something about waiting a week or two in anticipation, and then felling like a kid at Christmas time when you finally hold that box in your hands. That's exactly what I felt like when my brand new NutriBullet arrived last week. It works waaaay better than my previous blender, and I have gone crazy with blended concoctions. ThisPeach Carrot Smoothie has been one of my favorites so far. With peaches being at their peak right now in Colorado, this smoothie is rich in flavor and provides a punch of antioxidants, vitamin C, aids in digestion, and stimulates detoxification. 

Peach Carrot Smoothie

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: About 2 cups smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium sized carrots 
  • 1 Peach
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger. Powdered ginger works as well, but I would start with less (about 1 tsp) and add more as needed.
  • 3/4 cup water, almond milk, or coconut milk.

Instructions:

  • Blend all ingredients in until smooth.

Notes:

Using water as the base makes it more like a fresh juice.Using milk creates more of a smoothie-like texture and "peaches 'n cream" flavor.

I hope you enjoy this sweet, summery smoothie!

Turkey Stuffed Poblano Peppers

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Do you ever get hooked on a certain food and then end up eating it ALL THE TIME? Right now that food for me is turkey. Why? I have no idea, but I'm just thankful to be craving lean protein instead of the usual suspects (chocolate, coffee, coffee with chocolate...). This past weekend I had a pool party/ barbecue to go to and wanted to bring something amazing to put on the grill. Just a little bit of kitchen creativity yielded these turkey stuffed poblano peppers. The poblanos add just the right amount of kick to the healthy combo of lean turkey, avocado, greens, and quinoa. 

Turkey Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time1 hour

Yield: 4 stuffed peppers (and some leftover stuffing)

Ingredients:

  • 4 poblano peppers 
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup quinoa (sprouted is best)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 giant fistfuls of spinach or other greens
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil, for cooking
  • sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 (unless using a grill)
  • In a small saucepan, add 1/2 cup quinoa to 1 cup water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  • While quinoa is cooking, cut the tops off the peppers and remove the insides.
  • Sautee the garlic, turkey, and seasonings in coconut oil on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, or until the turkey is thoroughly cooked. Add spinach and cook for another minute or so until the greens are slightly wilted but still bright green.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine quinoa, turkey mix, avocado, and feta cheese.
  • Pack the stuffing into the peppers. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the peppers are wrinkly and the skin begins to bubble.
  • Let cool for several minutes. I think they're best enjoyed fresh out of the oven, but they also make great leftovers!

Substitutions:

-Paleo or low-carb: sub roasted sweet potatoes or cauliflower rice for quinoa

-Dairy free: sub nutritional yeast or nuts (or both) for feta cheese

-Veggie: sub lentils and/or mushrooms for turkey

-Play with different spices and fillings! Try adding pesto, broccoli, onions, nuts, or dried fruit to your mix

Nutritional Highlights:

  • Turkey is a great source of lean protein, as well as selenium, niacin, and vitamin B6. It's also particularly high in the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is famous for helping us sleep (that post Thanksgiving meal snooze), but it's also a precursor to serotonin- the chemical that stabilizes our moods. 
  • Poblano peppers are high in vitamin C- just one pepper should meet your daily requirements!
  • Avocados are packed with healthy fats, fiber, and minerals.  These fats are what keep you satiated and ward off carb cravings.
  • Spinach is a powerhouse of micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients. These nutrients aid in almost all of our body's vital functions and are co-factors to a healthy metabolism. 
  • Quinoa is a lovely gluten free seed that serves as a great protein source. Quinoa is one of those rare plant foods that contains all the essential amino acids 
  • Garlic is a sulfurous food, making it an excellent detox agent. It is also great for digestion and boost the immune system. 

I'd love to hear your feedback on this recipes! Leave comments below or reach me directly at zaonutrition@gmail.com

Step by Step Kombucha Brewing Tutorial

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First of all, WHY kombucha? Kombucha is a fermented green or black tea using a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). This fermented beverage contains probiotics that support a healthy gastrointestinal tract. It also contains B vitamins and enzymes which help detoxify the body. This bubbly beverages has been used therapeutically for hundreds of years, but we're still waiting on modern research to catch up.  Kombucha is not for everyone. Many people gain awesome results from drinking it regularly, and some drink it simply for enjoyment of the flavor. Others may not react to it as well or can't stand it's vinegar-y tang. If you're a kombucha newb, start with a couple ounces a day at first to see how your body reacts. Brewing your own kombucha can be a fun project that allows you to cater to your own taste preferences. Not to mention the $$$ you'll save! There are many variations to brewing kombucha, but I am sharing with you the process I use in this step by step kombucha brewing tutorial. 

Make sure to read through all the instructions carefully before starting the brewing process to avoid contamination!

Let's dive in, shall we?

You'll Need:

  1. 3 quarts of filtered water
  2. Black or green tea, preferably organic. Make sure it's pure tea and does not contain any oils (as in earl grey tea) or flavors. If you want a flavored kombucha you can add them in AFTER the brewing process. 
  3. 1 cup sugar- again, preferably organic. I like organic coconut sugar. The sugar is necessary. It's what the SCOBY feeds on to cause the fermentation. If you're trying to avoid sugar, then allow your kombucha to brew for longer. Longer brew time = lower sugar content.
  4. Glass container for brewing. I used a couple of quart sized mason jars which works fabulously. Must be glass!
  5. Airtight containers, if you want to make your kombucha carbonated. Mason jars aren't necessarily airtight, so consider purchasing some glass containers that are made for kombucha/beer brewing. I sanitize and reuse kombucha bottles that I've bought from the grocery store.
  6. Giant pot to boil water in, glass or metal
  7. SCOBY: If you know someone who brews (ahem, yours truly) you can ask them to save you a layer of their SCOBY. (The SCOBY creates new layers every time you brew a batch that otherwise have to be thrown away or stored.) You can also purchase them online. I bought mine for about $7 on Amazon. 
  8. A sample of already brewed kombucha as a starter. If you buy your SCOBY online, it should already have a little bit of this liquid included with it. 

Notes on your SCOBY: Your SCOBY is very much a princess; high maintenance and particular about its conditions. It doesn't like to mingle with other bacteria, nor does it like hot temperatures, metal, plastic, or bright light. Be sure to sanitize everything that comes in contact with your cultures and store in glass containers. 

Part 1: The Brew

1. Sanitize all the utensils you are planning to use. Some soaps have scents or oils that linger even after washing, so boiling hot water is the best sanitizer in this case. Also make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial unscented soap before handling your beloved SCOBY. 

2. Brew some sweet tea. Bring 3 quarts of filtered water to a rolling boil on your stove. Let it boil for a couple minutes to make sure any bacteria is killed. Turn heat off, and add about 5 tea bags. Allow tea to brew for 3-5 minutes (less time for green, more for black). Remove tea bags and add 1 cup sugar. Make sure the sugar dissolves completely.

3.Wait. Remember that whole thing about SCOBY not liking the heat? If you add it now it won't survive. Give the tea a few hours to cool down to room temperature. 

4. Add your SCOBY. Once your tea is at room temp, transfer it to your glass container. Add your SCOBY and the kombucha liquid. Cover your container with a clean cheesecloth or other cloth to keep out bugs and other foreign substances. It does need to air out a bit, so no need for a lid just yet. 

5. Wait again. Store your containers in a warm, dark place. The warmer the temperature, the faster it will ferment. After about a week, you can start tasting your kombucha every couple days until it reaches the desired flavor. When you taste your tea, remember not to let it come in contact with anything that could contaminate it! This includes your mouth, so don't drink directly from your brewing jar. Also remember that the longer you let it brew, the less sugar it will contain and therefore have a stronger acidic taste. 

Part 2: Storage

1. Remove SCOBY: Once your brew reaches your desired flavor, carefully remove the SCOBY and some of the liquid and store in a sanitized and covered glass jar or bowl. Notice that now you have multiple layers on your SCOBY, a "baby" and a "mother" culture. If you choose to brew again, remove either of the layers and use it for the next batch. I prefer to keep the "baby" and toss the "mother" to keep it as fresh as possible. 

2. Carbonate: Transfer your brew into your airtight storage containers. If you want to add flavors, this is the time to do it! Some suggestions are fresh fruit, ginger, or herbal teas. Fasten the lid on loosely to avoid too much pressure build up, and allow to sit at room temp for 3-5 more days. It is during this period that your kombucha will carbonate. It also might be wise to let some of the pressure out every few days by unscrewing the caps and then putting them back on. If you don't want it bubbly, skip this step and store in the refrigerator. 

3. Chill: When the process is complete and your kombucha has reached your desired flavor and bubbly-ness, it is ready to enjoy. Store it in the fridge. If you don't keep it cold, it will continue to ferment! If there is fruit or other flavors added, you can either keep them in, or strain them out at this point. 

4. Repeat: You have everything you need to keep the brew cycle going. Make some more of that sweet tea and use your baby SCOBY and kombucha liquid to brew the next batch. Don't forget to sanitize! If you choose not to brew another batch right away, there are several methods of storing it safely until you use it again. 

Want some more info on live cultures and fermentation? I have found the Cultures for Health site to be very helpful on the topic.

Happy brewing!

Summer Strawberry Vinaigrette

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You know what I think is the key to eating a ton of veggies every day? Delicious dressings and sauces. Seriously, I can eat ALL the veggies if I have a salad dressing or stir fry sauce that I really love. It's even better if I can make them from ingredients that I know are healthy. This recipe actually happened sort of by accident. The ginger man and I were having some friends over for dinner on Monday night and one of the main dishes was a giant chicken salad. I really wanted to go the extra mile and make the dressing as well. On a creative whim I put 5 simple ingredients into a blender and.....the base wasn't on tight enough so balsamic spilled all over the place! Always check your machinery before using ;) Anyway, after that minor mishap I tried again. What I ended up with was a sweet, tart, and spicy dressing that everyone loved. 

Summer Strawberry Vinaigrette

Prep Time5 minutes

Yieldabout1 cup dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 6-7 strawberries
  • 1 raw garlic glove
  • pinch of black pepper

Instructions:

  • Blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until you have a smooth consistency. It should look like a thick, pink fruit smoothie.

Notes:

If you like a sweeter dressing, go ahead and throw a couple more strawberries in there. I haven't tried it yet, but I am curious how this would turn out with other fruits. I'm thinking peaches....?! Give it a try.

This Summer Strawberry Vinaigrette tastes awesome on a salad that includes greens, red onion, bell peppers, avocado, walnuts, and feta cheese. The combination is amazing! Another tasty option is to drizzle this dressing over some apple slices with cheese. 

I have been loving your feedback on Instagram and Facebook! Let me know how you are liking the recipes, AND if there is anything you'd like to see up on the blog.

Happy Thursday!

Guiltless Guacamole

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"I have complete self control when eating guacamole." Said no one. Ever.

 I myself can get down on some serious guac. I could probably eat the equivalent of 4 avocados before I even start in on the meal itself! Avacados are an excellent source of healthy fats, but for those trying to lose weight or watching caloric intake, this delicious dip can be a problem.

So, how can we have our guacamole and eat it too without feeling like we've gone overboard? A long-time client of mine recently suggested a great alternative to the traditional guacamole recipe. What is the secret ingredient you ask??

Wait for it...

Peas!

Stay with me. I don't eat peas, ever. In fact, I tend to think of peas as the vegetable that parents try to get their kids to eat when they refuse anything that's green. So this is me being an open-minded adult about a food that, until now, wasn't even on my radar.  This recipe actually turned out to be quite delicious, and I can barely taste the peas. Not only that, but this "Guiltless Guacamole" provides a bit of added protein: 3 g per 1/2 cup! See below for nutrition facts and nutrient highlights. 

Guiltless Guacamole

YieldAbout 1.5 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized avocados 
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas (I don't recommend canned!)
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper (optional)

Instructions

  • The easiest way to make this is to throw everything in a food processor. For a chunkier guac, puree the peas first in a food processor, then mash it with the other ingredients using a fork.

Notes

For added flavor try including some diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, or cilantro.

Nutrient Highlights:

  • Peas: Fresh peas are a good source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and iron. They are also rich in phytonutrients that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, one of these rare phytonutrients, coumestrol, has been shown to be a significant factor in reducing stomach cancer risk. 
  • Avocado: Excellent source of healthy fast that can help lower cholesterol levels. They also provide vitamin E, B vitamins, fiber, and potassium. (One avocado contains about 3 times as much potassium as one banana!)
  • Garlic: Excellent source of sulfurs, which help aid the body in detoxifying. Garlic is also well-known for its therapeutic properties such as being a great anti-fungal, immune support, and digestive aid. 

Nutrition Facts:

  • Serving size: 1/2 cup
  • Cals: 162
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Carbs: 12 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Sugar: 2 g

I'd love to hear your opinions/variations of this "Guiltless Guacamole", especially if anyone has a good paleo version! Enjoy!

Resources

"Green Peas." Green Peas. George Mateljan Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 June 2015. <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=55>.

Murray, Michael T., Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria, 2005. Print.

Flax Oil Pesto (and 5 reasons to consume flax DAILY)

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I had the opportunity recently to chat with a new friend who is currently managing a tumor by diet alone. As I chowed down on a delicious whole foods meal prepped by this friend and his wife, I was on the edge of my seat listening to his story. Several years back he found out about a large tumor dangerously close to his thoracic spine. Long story short- he decided not to undergo any of the radiation, drug therapies, or surgeries recommended to him. Instead he dedicated himself to a clean diet and has watched his tumor decrease drastically over the years. He even let me see the photos of his MRI's. Pretty incredible. Though it was late in the evening, I was not going to leave his house without finding out what his "cancer-fighting" diet looked like. The details are a story for another day, but I bring this up because one of his daily staples is flaxseed oil. I wasn't entirely surprised. Flax is like nutritional gold, and it confirmed what I already knew about its amazing health benefits. Let's take a look:

  • Heart Health: The high content of omega 3's in flax help clear the circulatory system of cholesterol and fat deposits, minimizing risk of stroke and heart attack. Regular intake of flaxseed has been shown to lower levels of LDL-HDL cholesterol.
  • Mental/Emotional: These omega 3's are one of the brain's essential building blocks and are necessary for maintaining brain and nervous system function.
  • Digestive Health: Flaxseeds contain a unique "gel-forming" type of fiber that helps regulate the movement of food through the intestines, as well as optimizing nutrient absorption. 
  • Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory: The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of flax are their contribution to a healthy cardiovascular system. Oxidation and inflammation are often contributors to a wide variety of other health problems including immune dysfunction, GI issues, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance/ weight gain, asthma, and cancer.
  • Cancer: It is these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that make flax a great preventative tool for cancer. Inflammation and oxidative damage are often contributors to cancer. Studies are showing that because of flax's hormone balancing properties, it is especially significant in risk reduction for breast, prostate, and other hormone-related cancers. The lignans in flaxseeds that have these hormone balancing properties also support phase II detox pathways, increasing the removal of toxins that may otherwise act as carcinogens. 

Adding just 1-2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed or oil to your daily diet is a great way to boost your overall health. Buy flaxseeds whole and grind them in a coffee or spice grinder for optimal potency. Keep ground flaxseeds and flax oil in refrigerator to prevent rancidity.  Add into smoothies, salads, baked goods (bake at lower temperature), or use the ground seeds as a binding agent. My latest fave? Flax Oil Pesto!

Flax Oil Pesto

Prep Time5 minutes

YieldAbout 1 cup pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flax oil 
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed down
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, packed down
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or cashews
  • 1/4 cup black olives
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Be careful not to let your machine heat up too much, as the flax oil is sensitive and we don't want to overheat it.

Notes:

If the flavor of the flax oil is too bitter or strong for your liking, sub 1/4 cup flax oil for 1/4 cup olive oil to tame it down.

I am especially diggin my Flax Oil Pesto with spaghetti squash and feta....

References

Bauman, Edward. 2014. Therapeutic Nutrition. Vol. 2. Penngrove, Ca: Bauman College, Print.

"Flaxseeds." Flaxseeds. George Maljan Foundation, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=81>.

Murray, Michael T., Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria, 2005. Print.

Simple Guide to Homemade Yogurt

Last weekend I held a Gut Health workshop, which always includes discussing the importance of probiotics. The topic of probiotics always leads to yogurt-talk, probably because it's the most well-known source of this healthy bacteria. Making your own yogurt is not only inexpensive, but a great way to include a healthy dose of probiotics in the diet. In healthy individuals, over 100 trillion microorganisms live in your intestinal tract. These organisms aid in digestion, absorption, and production of vitamins B, K, and enzymes. They also help to minimize harmful bacteria. These bacteria cover every part of available surface space from your mouth to your anus. When there is an imbalance or disruption of this healthy gut bacteria, the result can be one or several of the following; 

  • acne
  • allergies/sensitivities
  • UTI’s
  • fatigue
  • compromised immunity
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • headaches
  • sinus problems
  • yeast infections
  • bloating
  • IBS
  • recurring infections

Best ways to restore gut ecology: Eat plenty of fresh veggies, non-allergenic proteins, cultured foods (yogurt, kefir, kombucha), probiotic supplements if needed, pumpkin seeds, garlic, onions, herbs (echinacea, oregano, clove, slippery elm) essential fatty acids, and vitamin C. Consider eliminating/minimizing NSAIDS, caffeine, and refined carbs/sugar.

Simple Guide to Homemade Yogurt:

Prep time: about an hour

Culture time: 8-16 hours

Ingredients/tools:

  • Milk: the amount and type is entirely up to you, as the process will remain the same. I’ve done batches as large as half gallon and as small as a few cups. For this batch I used 1 quart of organic whole milk. (Non-dairy milks such as coconut or almond will not work for this particular process, unfortunately.)
  • 2 Tbsp plain organic yogurt as a starter.
  • A glass mason jar or other glass container to store yogurt in
  • Candy thermometer

1. Make sure to sterilize all equipment and utensils that touch your yogurt. You don’t want any foreign bacteria interfering with the cultures in the yogurt.  Boiling water works just fine for this.

2. Pour milk into a saucepan and heat on high over stovetop.  Stay close by, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn. You want to heat it to about 180 degrees F.

3. As soon as it hits that 180 mark, remove from heat and allow the milk to cool to about 110 degrees. You can speed up the cooling process by putting milk in freezer, fridge, or submerge saucepan in cold water. 

4. Once the milk is at about 110, stir in yogurt being sure to blend well. Lid your container, and find a warm place to store it for about 8 to 12 hours.

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Notes on the culturing process:

The yogurt cultures like the warmth, we’re talking 80 to 90 degrees. The warmer the milk, the quicker the brewing process will take. If you don’t have a really warm place for it, preheat the oven to its lowest setting, about 100 degrees. Turn the oven OFF, place milk mixture inside for 8 hours. The oven will stay pretty warm even as it cools down. Also, the more the yogurt cultures the more tart tasting it will be. If you like really tart yogurt, be sure to let it brew longer and vice versa. Lastly, the MORE your yogurt cultures, the LESS lactose it contains. So if you tend to be sensitive to lactose, let it brew for 12-15 hours!

When the culturing process is finished, store in fridge. The yogurt will firm up even more after being refrigerated. Serve plain or add in sweetener, vanilla extract, and/or any other toppings that tickle your fancy!

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Coconog: Dairy Free Eggnog

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I love the Christmas season. Lights, family, gifts, ugly sweaters, snow. But let's not forget the real reason for the season: EGGNOG! Thick, sweet, spicy deliciousness. Anyone who claims to dislike eggnog is probably lying. For many though, it's the all dairy that keeps them from being able to fully enjoy all the magic of eggnog. In that case, I wanted to attempt a homemade eggnog that is dairy free as well as lighter and healthier than most store bought versions. And I must say...wow. I am 100% confident that you will enjoy this version just as much, if not more than traditional eggnog. 

Coconog: Dairy Free Eggnog

Time: about 15 minutes

Yields: about 1 quart

You'll Need:

  • 2 cans full fat organic coconut milk
  • 4 egg yolks*
  • 1/3-1/2 cup coconut sugar (honey, maple, or agave can be subbed here)
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice

Instructions: 

  • Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl either by hand or with an electric beater. Gradually add in sugar or sweetener as you whisk, about 1 minute. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan mix coconut milk and spices over medium heat while stirring continuously until it comes to a low simmer. Turn off heat for the moment. 
  • Important! Temper the egg mixture before mixing it in with the coconut milk. You do not want scrambled eggnog. To do this, measure out about a cup of your warmed coconut milk. While whisking or beating the eggs, slowly  add in the milk, about a tablespoon at a time. By the time you add in the entire cup you should have a creamy, frothy, even mixture. 
  • Now you can dump the egg/coconut mix back into your saucepan. Heat everything again, and remove from heat just before it comes to a boil, or at about 160 degrees F. 
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  • Remove from heat and either serve warm (with a shot of rum of course), or let cool in the fridge.

Notes: I love the full fat coconut milk, but for a lighter option use lite coconut milk. You can also add in some almond milk after the nog cools to thin it out. Also feel free to adjust amounts of sugar and spices to your own liking. The best time to do this is when it's still warm so everything mixes more evenly. 

*Separating yolks from eggs can be kind of a shit show. I use this contraption to do the job, and it works every time without breaking a yolk. 

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Enjoy!

Sweet and Savory Stuffed Pumpkin

I am kind of like a werewolf, minus the part about transforming into a hairy mystical creature under the light of a full moon. It goes more like this: when the leaves begin to change and the air turns crisp, I morph into a complete fiend for pumpkin. I cannot control myself, so I just roll with it.  So far this season I have made pumpkin maple bars, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, homemade pumpkin coffee creamer, and pumpkin spice smoothies (and that doesn't include the copious amounts of pumpkin items I've consumed that I didn't make myself). I had been debating which one of these I should feature on the blog, until last week I made a new dish that blew all the others out of the water. This one is sweet, savory, pumpkiny, and...it has bacon in it. What more could an autumn-wolf ask for?!

Sweet and Savory Stuffed Pumpkin

Time: About 1 hour total

Serves: 2

You'll Need:

  • 1 pie pumpkin
  • 4-6 organic bacon slices
  • 1 cup chopped spinach or kale*
  • 1/2 cup chopped figs or dates*
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans*
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • salt to taste (optional)

*I like to use a food processor for chopping things. It's easier and faster than using a knife. 

Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut off the stem of your pumpkin, and then slice it in half. Scoop out the guts and seeds. Using a spoon is a nice idea for this, but you're probably gonna have to dive in with your hands. Hold on to the seeds and you can roast them later! Place the pumpkin halves on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour.

In the meantime, mix together the spinach, figs, pecan, and spices in a bowl and set aside. Cut your bacon strips into inch long slices. In a pan over medium heat, fry your bacon pieces until desired level of crispiness. At this point you can drain some of the bacon grease if you don't want it in your stuffing. If you don't drain the grease though, I most certainly am not judging. Throw in your spinach mixture and saute with the bacon for another 60 seconds or so. Remove from heat, and when your pumpkin halves are done, scoop the stuffing into the center of them. If there is extra stuffing, eat it quickly before anyone finds out there was leftovers.

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Enjoy!

Thai Spring Rolls with Plum Sauce

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Every Wednesday evening I teach a hip prehab class at the gymnastics gym where I coach. Right after that class is over, I have to haul ass out to Lakewood to teach a yoga class. If I'm lucky, and if my students don't chit chat too much, I have about 15 spare minutes in between classes that I often use for eating dinner. Totally not ideal, I know, but teaching works up a serious appetite. Or maybe it's just that I always have an appetite...

Anyway there is a Vitamin Cottage right next door to the yoga studio, and most Wednesday evenings I end up stopping there on my way. They have these Thai spring rolls with plum sauce that I love, and so that has become my Wednesday night go-to.

As with every good food find, I can't help but wonder if I can make it myself. And can I make it better than the source I found it from? In this case, I firmly believe I blew Vitamin Cottage out of the water. Try for yourself...

Thai Spring Rolls with Plum Sauce

Makes: about 4 rolls

Time: about 30 minutes

You'll Need

For the wraps

  • Rice Paper (I bought mine at Sprouts, Asian section)
  • Protein (I used shrimp on mine. Chicken and tofu are also great options)
  • Sliced veggies (I used carrot, cabbage, and red bell pepper. Other Asian-y veggies include bean sprouts, cucumber, lettuce, and snap peas)
  • Avocado 
  • Cilantro

For the Sauce:

  • 5 Plums
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Sriracha Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Let's start with the sauce. Slice open the plums and remove the pits. Throw the plums with the other sauce ingredients into a blender or processor and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a saucepan and simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. 

If you haven't already, prepare your meats and chop up your veggies. Once that's done, you're ready to assemble your wraps. So, about rice paper. I found that you need two sheets, otherwise they are too thin and fall apart. We don't want that. Two sheets at a time, soak them in warm water for about 5 seconds. They won't feel soft at first, but by the time to get your fillings in there, they will have soaked up more water and should be flexible enough to roll up.

Strategically place your fillings, making sure not to overfill. Fold the edges in and roll it up, just like you would a burrito. The rice paper should be pliable and sticky by now, and should hold together easily.

Dip, devour, and enjoy this fresh combination of spicy, sweet, and sour!

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Green Chai Smoothie

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I realize that "green" smoothies are very much a thing in the health/fitness world, but I have to confess I'm not really into them. I have nothing nutritionally against smoothies, and in fact they're a great way to get in some extra nutrients for breakfast or after a workout, but I guess I would just rather eat my food. So in my last nutrition workshop when a student asked me what I do for my smoothies, I had to blush and admit that...well...I don't. 

Challenge accepted. I made a green smoothie this week!

I chose to go with a chai flavored smoothie for two reason; the first being that I just love chai. The second is that I don't care for sweet beverages (probably another reason why I don't drink smoothies), and this particular recipe has much more spice than sweet.

Green Chai Smoothie

Prep Time: 5 minutes (when chai is brewed ahead of time)

Yields: about 16 oz

You'll Need:

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup chai (keep in mind chai does contain caffeine, so be sure to buy decaf if you are trying to avoid the jitters)
  • 1/2 frozen banana 
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 2 cups spinach/greens (but honestly, who actually measures their greens? A couple solid handfuls should do it)
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Protein powder (optional)

Brew chai ahead of time by steeping a chai tea bag in 1/4 cup of boiling water for about 4 minutes. Let the tea cool in the fridge. The rest is cake. Everything goes in blender til smooth.  

Variations: Like I mentioned before, I like this recipe because it's spicy rather than sweet. For extra sweetness, make that half banana a full one, and/or add a couple tablespoons of honey/agave.  Also, if I'm going to drink a smoothie, it's gonna have to have some protein in it. Vega brand actually makes a chai flavored nutritional shake that has some protein in it, so there ya go.

I have to admit I really enjoyed the taste of this one. Will it convert me to a full-blown smoothie drinker? Probably not, but I hope you find it useful and tasty!

Superfood Energy Bites (Raw, Vegan, Paleo)

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I am very excited to be teaming up with Prana (Cherry Creek location) this summer to do various nutrition and fitness workshops. The first one is happening this weekend, and in preparation I was on the hunt for a delicious finger food to share.

You know how sometimes you need just a little something...something sweet, but salty, gooey and crunchy, and...chocolaty? And of course healthy, too. Well, these energy bites should satisfy on all accounts. 

This one was inspired by a recent post from one of my favorite food blogs, Detoxinista. These delicious little morsels are full of minerals, antioxidants, protein, omega 3's, and fiber. Not to mention naturally sweetened by only dates and cranberries. I made two variations as an experiment and both turned out great. (I don't know how it happened, but the Berries N' Chia kind of tastes like bubble gum, and I am not complaining.)

Btw, I've been trying out some different superfood powders. So far these are my two faves and are a key ingredient for the energy bites. 

Chocolate Walnut Energy Bites

Makes about 25-30 small chunks

Time: about 20 minutes

You'll Need:

  • 1 Cup pitted dates
  • 1.5 cups walnuts
  • 2 packets (1/8 Cup) Perfect Food brand Raw Green Super Food (chocolate flavor)
  • 1/8 cup cocoa or cacao powder
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1/8 tsp salt

In a food processor, blend the walnuts first for a few seconds. You don't want them too chunky otherwise the mixture won't hold together as well.

Add in the remaining ingredients and process for another 30 seconds or so. Ready? Stuff's about to get messy. Use your hands to roll the "dough" into balls of whatever size you choose.

Keep them as is, or roll them in a layer of cocoa.

Berries N' Chia Energy Bites

Makes about 25-30 small chunks

Prep Time: about 20 minutes

  • 1.5 cups pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 packet Amazing Grass brand "Amazing Meal" superfood mix, pomegranate flavor
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp salt

This one is just as delicious and even easier to make. Throw all the ingredients into the food processor and give it a whirl .

You can also use a rolling pin to flatten the "dough" out on a piece of parchment paper and cut into bars. Enjoy!

Bacon Wrapped Figs

The last couple months have been a whirlwind of change, leaving little time for me to cook, much less blog about it. I think I have eaten takeout more in the last month than I have this whole year so far, and I'm convinced that takeout was invented specifically for when people are in the process of moving! Now I am comfortably settled into my new apartment, but now I face a new challenge: how to cook and prep food in the world's smallest kitchen.

But I can handle the teeny kitchen with great views of Denver and the Rockies.

Several weeks ago I was at a birthday bbq for my gymnastics coach and one of the finger foods served there was bacon wrapped figs stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts. I knew as soon as I bit in that I HAD to make these for the blog. Sweet, gooey figs all snuggled inside a warm blanket of crispy, salty bacon. Want one yet??

I have never liked blue cheese in any form, so I modified mine a little bit. Feel free to put whatever you want in yours, and since there's bacon involved, you really can't go wrong. You could blindly reach for any given food item in your pantry, wrap it in bacon, and end up with a complete success!

Bacon Wrapped Figs

Prep Time:10 minutes

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Serves: I ate most of them myself, so...1?

You'll Need:

  • 10 Dried figs
  • 5 strips of bacon
  • Blue or goat cheese (for this batch I used a cranberry cinnamon goat cheese!)
  • Walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • toothpicks

Preheat oven to 400. Start by cutting the little stems off the figs.

 Then, open them up from the top to create a bowl shape. Now you can easily stuff them with nuts, cheese, or whatever you choose. I used the end of a chopstick to really pack it down in there. Cut bacon strips in half and wrap the half strips around your figs, securing them with a toothpick. Place on cookie sheet or glass baking pan.  

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until desired crispiness.

Devour unapologetically.

baconfigs

Potassium Ice Cream

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Wait...what? Yep, you read it right. 

Backup real quick- why potassium? Maintaining a proper sodium to potassium ratio is key for cell health as well as maintaining fluid and PH balance within the body. A healthy ratio of potassium to sodium intake is about 5:1, but most Americans are consuming an excess of sodium and not near enough potassium, creating a ratio something like 1:20!! Getting some extra potassium in the diet will help improve heart health, reduce fatigue, relieve muscle aches/soreness, reduce water retention/bloating, and is especially beneficial for those who exercise and sweat often

Bananas seem to be the obvious source of K, but did you know that 1 avocado has almost 4 x the amount of a banana? Tomatoes, peaches, chicken, lima beans, and apricots are also great sources.

So, given what you now know about potassium you can either start poppin' the K supplements, or indulge in some creamy, chocolate, potassium ice cream. The decision should be an easy one. 

Potassium Ice Cream

Makes 2 Servings

Freeze time: 1 hour

Prep time: 5 minutes

You'll Need:

  • 2 medium ripe bananas 
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 4 tsp cocoa or cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Honey or other sweetener to taste (optional, I think the sweetness of the banana is enough)

Remove both the bananas and avo from their peels and cut into pieces. Put both in freezer until frozen. Once you've got frozen bananas and avos, it's so easy from there. Put them in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients and blend until you have a nice smooth consistency.

This recipe is absolutely scrumptious, but I'm already fantasizing about other possible variations (coconut, pumpkin, peanut butter chocolate- please throw out your ideas in the comments!

Enjoy, knowing that you're doing a GOOD thing for your body with this one!

Save Your Scraps: Homemade Veggie Broths

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CYMERA_20140330_210042 My favorite part about this recipe is not so much the broth itself, but that it gives me a really good use for all the veggie scraps that would otherwise get tossed. So for the last week and a half I've been saving and freezing all the parts of my vegetables that I don't eat. 

Let's see what we have here....

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Looks like there's some broccoli stems, kale and celery stems, the tops and insides of bell peppers, some chard that was about to go bad, beet green and leaves, onion skins, basil plant stems (leftover from Basil Vinaigrette recipe), jalapeno tops (from Salsa recipe), and some carrot shreds. 

There really is no right or wrong ratio of veggies to water, but for those of you who need some serious structure, here's what I did:

  • About 1 gallon ziploc bag of frozen veggies, packed in
  • 6-8 quarts water
  • Optional Extras: herbs and spices, salt, garlic (I used one clove garlic, about a tsp of sea salt, 2 bay leaves, and a sprinkle of crushed red peppers)CYMERA_20140330_210243

Make sure all your scraps have been WASHED at some point. It's easiest if you just wash all veggies before freezing. Bring everything to a boil in a big pot over the stove. Reduce heat to low and let simmer (covered) for about 2 hours. When broth is done, strain the liquid through a colander into another pot or glass bowl.

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At this point you can continue making some kind of soup with the broth, or store in the fridge for later use. Sipping on veggie broth by itself is a great way to give yourself a big nutritional boost, especially when feeling sick, stressed, or fatigued.  Add a spoonful or two of nutritional yeast in there, and your taste buds and body will celebrate even more!

 

Caprice Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

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CYMERA_20140323_203817Happy Monday! This one is short and sweet, but super yummy. Let's talk about basil for a minute. Basil was a highly respected herb in many ancient civilizations because of its many medicinal properties. As a member of the mint family, basil has similar health benefits to that of peppermint and spearmint. It's a great digestive aid, provides support for the intestinal tract and kidneys, and helps increase blood circulation.  Basil leaves also contain orientin and vicenin, flavanoids that protect against free radical damage in cells.

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For the Salad:

  • 2 Cups spinach
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, whole or diced
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup green onions

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For the Basil Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 Cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth, and pour over salad. You'll definitely have enough for several salads.

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Other great additions to this salad are olives, sun dried tomatoes, or pine nuts. CYMERA_20140323_204931

Salsa: Pineapple Habanero and Easy Tomato

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CYMERA_20140313_135731 Tomorrow is my 26th birthday, and you know what I really want to make? Something rich and chocolaty, smothered in frosting. Topped with bacon. Buuuut...I already decided to make salsas for tomorrow night's party, so I'm stuck with jalapenos and cilantro instead. No chocolate. No bacon. Seriously though, these are actually both really delicious recipes that I'm looking forward to sharing. 

Side note, I got hit with some nasty cold/flu earlier this week. I was freaking out a bit because I didn't want to be sick over the weekend. So I've been slamming this "immune juice" multiple times a day and am feeling almost 100% better already. (This is in combination with a couple 11-hour sleep nights as well!)

  • 2 small oranges, or one big one
  • 1 Tb fresh ginger
  • handful of spinach 
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 large carrot
  • little bit of water to help with blendingCYMERA_20140313_143931

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Ok on to the salsas.

Pineapple Habanero Salsa

Roast time: 30 minutes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Makes about 5 cups salsa

You'll Need:

  • 4 cups chopped pineapple (about 1 medium sized pineapple) (I can imagine that mangos would be a great sub for this recipe....)
  • 1 cup packed cilantro
  • 2 habanero peppers (roasted) 
  • 1 yellow onion
  • sprinkle of cumin
  • dash of salt

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Dice the onion into small chunks, and place on a baking sheet with peppers. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until peppers begin to wrinkle, stirring onions once or twice along the way. Turn oven up to broil, and bake for 3-5 more minutes. You want your peppers to brown and even bubble slightly, but keep a close eye on them while on broil because they go from brown to black very quickly! 

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While peppers are baking, chop up pineapple into small pieces. A food processor does this nicely.CYMERA_20140313_135310

Once the peppers and onions are done roasting take just one cup of the diced pineapple, 1 cup of cilantro, cumin, salt, and the habaneros and blend them in a food processor or blender.

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Note on habaneros: Don't underestimate the heat on these little guys. I recommend removing the seeds. Remember, you  can always add them in later if you still want more kick. Stir this mixture in with the remaining pineapple chunks as well as onions. 

 

Easy Tomato Salsa

Roast Time: 30 minutes

Prep time: less than 5

Makes about 4 cups salsa

You'll Need:

  • 1 - 28 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 4 cups cilantro, packed
  • 1-2 roasted jalapenos (seeds included)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • dash of salt

Everything goes in blender. Done. 

This is a really easy go-to for salsa, and can be even easier if you buy the canned jalapenos rather than roasting your own. You can also add in onions, corn, or beans for extra flair.  

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Whew. I'm actually sweating a little bit just from taste-testing!

Raw Dark Chocolate Squares

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Whew, long time no post! The blog has been laying low for a few months due to some major life transitions both in my personal and professional lives. The good news is that during that time, A Body In Motion received a makeover! Please leave feedback below. Now that things have settled down and I have an idea of what direction I'm going in the blog is back on track, and she's offering you chocolate to make up for the lost time. A few months ago, one of my yogis was sharing with me how she makes homemade raw dark chocolate.  Being the chocoholic that I am I tried it right away, and I've been making it since...well...since my last blog post.  It's so easy and so full of good nutrients that I don't think you can even consider it a treat. In fact, you should probably eat it daily just to be safe!

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Raw Dark Chocolate Squares

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Freeze time: 10-15 minutes

Makes: About 4 oz dark chocolate

You'll Need:

  • 1/3 Cup raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
  • 1/8 Cup coconut oil (let me take this opportunity to encourage organic coconut oil!)
  • 1 Tb Raw honey (I like GloryBee raw organic clover honey)
  • 2 Tb add ins (optional) I love chopping up nuts or dried fruit for this; today I used cashew pieces. A sprinkle of sea salt also tastes amazing. 
  • Plastic wrap

 

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Place coconut oil in a glass bowl, and warm the oil by placing the glass bowl in another bowl filled with warm water. Warm the oil just enough to soften it. Stir in cacao, honey, and add-ins.

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Scoop the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap, and fold the plastic over the top of the chocolate, so that it's sandwiched between the two sides of plastic. Smooth out the chocolate to your desired thickness. Place plastic, with choc mixture inside, in freezer.

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The good news is that it doesn't take long to freeze this little guy. After about 10 minutes, you can easily peel the plastic off and break your bar into squares. Or eat the whole thing. No judgment here. 

Notes/modifications: I like my chocolate reaaaally dark and bitter, so I actually only use about 1/2 Tb honey. Feel free to adjust for desired sweetness. Agave and maple syrup are also yummy alternatives to the honey. I recently tried this recipe with carob powder instead of cacao, and wow...it was tasty! (If you're into carob) Carob is naturally sweeter than cacao, so use less honey or none at all. Also, carob seems to absorb the oil more than cacao does, so adjust by using a little more oil.  Enjoy!

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