Keep It Simple

I feel like I haven’t posted a recipe on here forever! I could blame it on my crazy work schedule (which is true), or the hot temperatures which have kept me far from the oven, but really, it’s just because I’ve been embracing simple foods lately.

My work meals are easy to throw together — Sunwarrior chia puddings+toppings (raisins, stevia chocolate chips, raw nuts), Kit’s Organic bars, fresh fruit, flax crackers, carrots+homemade hummus. Basically anything I can eat at my desk while writing stories for 8 hours. When I get home, I get my workout in and then throw something together for ‘dinner’ (if you can count a meal eaten at 4 pm as dinner…that’s life when you work early mornings). No more elaborate recipes requiring special ingredients. It’s all about things I can make from my pantry staples and put together in 10 minutes or less.

Keepin' it simple at the farmer's market. Locally-grown mini zucchinis and local-made smoked hummus.

Keepin’ it simple at the farmer’s market. Locally-grown mini zucchinis and local-made smoked hummus.

So what have I been eating?

Sweet potato hash.

Sweet potato hash.

Sweet potato hash. Aka heaven in a bowl. Basically I take a sweet potato, peel it, and then chop it up into fine chunks in my Ninja, and blend it with spices (pink salt, nooch, garlic, cayenne). And then I dump it into a pan heated up with a a little coconut oil, add in some spinach and hemp ‘tofu’ when I have it and let it cook up til it’s crispy. And then I top with hummus (either local from the farmer’s market or homemade) and raw nuts and seeds.

Pan-roasted cole slaw (cabbage and carrots) with kelp noodles, spices, hemp seeds and smoked hummus.

Pan-roasted cole slaw (cabbage and carrots) with kelp noodles, spices, hemp seeds and smoked hummus.

Pan-roasted veggies. The spices are really what makes these so craveable. I’ve done it with both cauliflower and cabbage, and both are really good. My go-to spices are pink sea salt, garlic granules, cayenne powder and nutritional yeast. And I just cook the crap out of the veggies over a pan on the stove, because ovens are overrated and I love having a gas range that heats up in seconds.

It's gotta be greeeeeeen.

It’s gotta be greeeeeeen.

Banana softserve. Some days, I really wanted a cold dinner that was more on the sweet side. Enter banana softserve. I think you all know how this works, but I blend a frozen banana with greens (spinach or romaine), some Sunwarrior protein powder and a little almond milk. And then I serve with raw nuts and dried fruit on the side.

Snack plates. When all else fails, and I’m feeling like eating a bunch of random stuff, I go for the snack plates. While my combinations vary, I always include…A) a veggie (usually romaine hearts drizzled with spicy mustard or carrots), B) fruit (berries or watermelon), C) hummus or salsa, D) raw nuts or seeds, E) dried fruit/stevia chocolate chips.

I used to be so concerned about getting tons of variety in my diet, but now I honestly just go with the flow and eat what I crave. It’s so freeing, and it makes for easier grocery shopping trips. I literally buy about 20 or so of the same things every single week, with a few changes here and there. And of course, I still get plenty of variety in the produce I eat…and I’ve been a produce monster this summer so far! I spend about half of my grocery budget on fruits and veggies and I can’t get enough.

Giant produce haul (mostly organic) from Whole Foods.

Giant produce haul (mostly organic) from Whole Foods.

What have you been eating lately?

My Health Hero

Who inspires you in your own health journey?

Recently, I was contacted by the American Recall Center to do a post about my health hero. I thought it was an interesting idea. I think we’re all inspired by someone (or even by ourselves) to be the healthiest person we can be and those ‘health heroes’ deserve a little recognition every now and then!

My health hero is my dad. He grew up in a household that wasn’t very athletic, and as a result, he never really got into sports. Despite that, he always emphasized the importance of staying active throughout my childhood.

He was the one who taught me how to ride a bike. He was the one who would walk with me and my sister to the park and push us on the tire swing. He cheered us on at our dance recitals and soccer competitions. After I participated in a tennis summer camp, he bought his own tennis racquet so he could play with me…and he’s become my unofficial tennis partner over the years. He’s gone on bike rides with me, leads the way on family hikes in the mountains and likes to go for walks around the neighborhood.

My dad LOVES to hike!

My dad LOVES to hike!

Even though he works at a desk job all week, he tries to stay active on the weekends, and I’m so happy that I’ve been an influence in getting him to do that.

I’m also so proud that he’s started to make healthier choices with his eating habits. He grew up in Wisconsin, aka land of cheese and beer, and he hasn’t always been the healthiest eater. But over the past year or so, he’s cut out most processed foods and even though he’s nowhere near vegan or vegetarian (someday 😉 ), he eats mostly fresh fruits and veggies, lean meat and nuts. He loves cookies, but now he only eats ones made with real ingredients from Whole Foods. I love cooking with him, and trying out new veggies–he introduced me to brussels sprouts and parsnips! He’s also very supportive of my plant-based lifestyle and loves eating at vegan restaurants with me.

My dad introduced me to brussels sprouts in 2011 and I've loved them ever since.

My dad introduced me to brussels sprouts in 2011 and I’ve loved them ever since.

Who is your health hero? Why do they inspire you?

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this post! 

WIAW: Foods of the Moment

I like trying new things. It’s the best way to figure out what you like, right? But sometimes, you just gotta come back to old–or new–favorites.

Doing the whole raw foodism thing for the past 2+ weeks has given me plenty of time for experimenting, and it’s helped me figure out what foods are my favorite. So lemme share them with you this WIAW!

Cauliflower ‘Rice’

Random dinner of romaine hearts, homemade guac, cilantro lime cauliflower 'rice' and dehydrated sweet potato fries.

Random dinner of romaine hearts, homemade guac, cilantro lime cauliflower ‘rice’ and dehydrated sweet potato fries.

Dehydrated Sweet Potatoes

Almost like baked fries but even better.

Almost like baked fries but even better.

Carrot Cake Anything

Banana softserve+carrot cake (added in a carrot+raisins+coconut manna) = best dessert ever.

Banana softserve+carrot cake (added in a carrot+raisins+coconut manna) = best dessert breakfast ever.

Fruits and Veggies (of ALL kinds)

Whole Foods produce haul. This makes up at least HALF of my grocery bill.

Whole Foods produce haul. This makes up at least HALF of my grocery bill.

More veggies in the produce drawer. Cauliflower, rainbow carrots, jicama, kale, bell peppers.

More veggies in the produce drawer. Cauliflower, asparagus, rainbow carrots, jicama, kale, bell peppers.

Strawberries, blackberries, spinach and romaine.

Strawberries, blackberries, spinach and romaine.

Fruit bowl. Bananas waiting to ripen, mango, blood oranges, lemon, lime.

Fruit bowl. Bananas waiting to ripen, mango, blood oranges, lemon, lime.

Beautiful blood oranges.

Beautiful blood oranges.

Zucchini ‘Pasta’

Zucchini fettuccine with easy marinaraw sauce (tomato paste+spices+date), olives, homemade pumpkin seed pesto and hemp seeds.

Zucchini fettuccine with easy marinaraw sauce (tomato paste+spices+date), olives, homemade pumpkin seed pesto and hemp seeds.

And zucchini rawsagsna. Layered with homemade marinaraw sauce, raw cashew cheez, kalamata olives and hemp seeds.

And zucchini rawsagsna. Layered with homemade marinaraw sauce, raw cashew cheez, kalamata olives and hemp seeds.

Chia Puddings

Valentine's Day breakfast of cherry vanilla Sunwarrior chia pudding topped with coconut manna and homemade raw brownie bites.

Valentine’s Day breakfast of cherry vanilla Sunwarrior chia pudding topped with coconut manna and homemade raw brownie bites.

Garden of Life mocha brownie batter chia pudding topped with fresh strawberries, coconut manna and raw brownie bites.

Garden of Life mocha brownie batter chia pudding topped with fresh strawberries, coconut manna and raw brownie bites.

Sprouted Mung Beans

Just soak and marinate for a great raw protein source.

Just soak and marinate for a great raw protein source.

Kelp Noodles

Kelp noodle 'stirfry' (adapted from Going Raw book) with rainbow carrots, spinach/arugula and orange bell pepper.

Kelp noodle ‘stirfry’ (adapted from Going Raw book) with rainbow carrots, spinach/arugula and orange bell pepper.

Avocado (in sweet things)

Avocado+Garden of Life+cacao mousse topped with coconut flakes and raisins.

Avocado+Garden of Life+cacao mousse topped with coconut flakes and raisins.

Flax Pancakes

Flax 'pancakes' topped with Garden of Life protein sauce, coconut flakes and frozen blueberries.

Flax ‘pancakes’ topped with Garden of Life protein sauce, coconut flakes and frozen blueberries.

Even though I have a lot of favorites, one thing I love about being raw is getting such a variety of foods in every day. Instead of getting stuck in a food rut, I’m always excited about trying something new and mixing things up so I get in a variety of nutrients!

What are some of your ‘foods of the moment’?

What I’m Making this Thanksgiving (Vegan and GF)

Thanksgiving is a weird holiday for vegans, vegetarians and a lot of other people with food restrictions. The day is alllllll about the food (and family, and being thankful of course) so it can make things awkward if you can’t or don’t want to partake in the usual T-day fare.

This year will be my third as a vegan (well, 2 years ago I wasn’t quite vegan but my Thanksgiving was) and I’ve come a long way since then in terms of meal planning and finding healthier options. I am not a fan of the fake turkey and other meat options, so I’ll be making plenty of vegan and gluten free side dishes for me and my family to enjoy this year. All the recipes I’m planning on making are very friendly to almost any diet–vegan, gluten free and even paleo people can get in on these recipes and enjoy the holiday without having to compromise their health or moral standards. Note: I plan on making some changes to each of these recipes but feel free to check out the original!

Pumpkin & Pistachio Sweet Potato Fritters via Happy.Healthy.Life. (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

Photo from Whole Foods.

Photo by Whole Foods Market.

Sweet potatoes are possibly my favorite food ever, and paired with pistachios/pumpkin seeds and sauteed in coconut oil is even better. The simple ingredient list is a winner, and I plan on pairing these with some kind of PB and maple sauce.

Maple and Date Brussels Salad via Hummusapien (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

Photo courtesy of A Little Saffron.

Photo courtesy of A Little Saffron.

Another Thanksgiving-perfect side dish. What’s not to love about Brussels sprouts shredded to make a salad, then tossed with some dates and maple syrup?

Garlicky Parsnip Mash (vegan, gluten free, grain free, sugar free) via Affairs of Living

 

Photo by Whole Foods Market.

Photo by Whole Foods Market.

I’ve never been a fan of greasy, glue-y mashed potatoes but if you want the tradition factor without all the unhealthy ingredients, look no further than these white potato imposters! Rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin C, parsnips perfectly imitate fluffy potatoes when blended with a few, whole foods ingredients. If you want a cheesy flavor, toss in some nutritional yeast.

Chia Caramel Pecan Pie via This Rawsome Vegan Life (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free)

Photo courtesy of This Rawsome Vegan Life.

Photo courtesy of This Rawsome Vegan Life.

I love all the recipes I’ve tried from this blog, like I’m literally obsessed. I’ve been wanting to make a raw pecan pie for awhile and Emily from This Rawsome Vegan Life has the perfect, totally decadent, Thanksgiving-dessert worthy option for one. Featuring dates, nuts and chia seeds, this pie is the perfect mix of indulgent and healthy.

What are you making for Thanksgiving?

The Ashley Diet

I’ve never been one of those people who believes there’s one ‘perfect’ diet out there that works for everyone. I know I talk about the benefits of a plant-based diet a lot, but that’s because it works for ME, right now. If paleo works for you, or being a pescatarian, or omnivore or whatever, that’s great!

The one thing that bugs me, though, is when people really try to push their diet on other people. It happens a lot within the vegan community, I’ve noticed. The majority of people I follow on Instagram are vegans, especially LFRVs, and some of the commenters on their posts are super pushy about how not only how veganism is the only way to eat, but that you can only eat high carb raw vegan, or eat no added oils, etc. And then, of course, there’s pressure from the Internet as well, like how sugar is a toxin and how salt is bad for you (oh, wait, maybe it isn’t) and all of this conflicting advice can make your head spin.

Well, guess what? You don’t have to listen to all of that. What foods make YOU feel your best? You don’t have to eat to fit within a certain label or category if that doesn’t work for you. For example, I eat local raw honey. A lot of strict vegans shun other vegans who eat honey. According to my nutrition class, honey IS technically vegan because it’s not a product of animal metabolism (such as cow’s milk) but rather a waste product of bees. I classify myself as a vegan, to make it easier to describe how I eat, but eating honey probably makes me a plant-based eater, rather than vegan. I honestly don’t care, because I like honey, and I believe it’s a lot more nutritious than the common vegan alternative, agave.

This bar has honey in it, but I still like it.

This bar has honey in it, but I still like it.

What else do I eat that other groups say is ‘bad’? I’m a big proponent of extra virgin coconut oil–after years of fearing the saturated fat in coconuts, I’ve finally seen the light and realized that coconut oil is one of the best oils to include in your diet. I also eat plenty of other plant-based fats, like nuts, seeds and avocados, that LFRVs would tell me is toxic and horrible for my digestion. Well, after eating a low fat diet for years in fear of fat of all kinds, I’m not going back to that way of eating again. Including a moderate amount of fats in my diet keeps me satiated, as well as keeping my skin and hair healthy. I use sea salt in moderation–I don’t generally buy many packaged foods, and those that are are fairly low in sodium anyway, so I don’t feel bad about adding salt to my homemade guacamole to amp up the flavor, along with spices. Some raw vegans completely eschew spices, even salt-free spices! I love my spices, and I think they can really add depth to a dish.

Roasted butternut squash and Hannah yam with plenty of spices.

Roasted butternut squash and Hannah yam with plenty of spices.

Don’t even get me started on the topic of sugar. I do believe that processed sugar has no place in our diets, but if you like to enjoy sugary desserts on occasion, go for it! When I want to satisfy my sweet tooth, I stick with more natural sugars, like dates, maple syrup and stevia. I eat at least 3-4 servings of fruit per day and I’m a total fruit lover–there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying fruit. I know most of the sugar I consume in a day comes through fruit but sometimes, a girl’s gotta have a Hail Merry raw tart sweetened with maple syrup–and that’s okay! Most of the ‘sweet’ food I consume is either naturally sweet (like fruit) or sweetened with stevia, so I definitely don’t feel bad when I choose to make a dessert with raw honey or maple syrup…or even when I indulge in a delicious vegan cupcake from a restaurant. The point is, consume sugar in moderation and choose more natural sources and you’ll be fine!

A chocolate peanut butter vegan cupcake from my favorite restaurant. This was naturally sweetened, but still amazing.

A chocolate peanut butter vegan cupcake from my favorite restaurant. This was naturally sweetened, but still amazing.

I also don’t feel the pressure to eat certain foods, or brands, unless I genuinely like them. For instance, I tried to get on the kabocha squash bandwagon…it just doesn’t do it for me! I much prefer butternut squash and yams, and that’s okay. I LOVE romaine lettuce and baby spinach and eat them daily, and I eat at least one banana a day (usually in the form of banana softserve) and I like pumpkin but I don’t put it in allthethings. I’ve never tried a Quest bar, and I don’t like oats and that’s okay! I have a slight obsession with Larabars and I go through dates and dried figs and raisins like it’s my job. I actually prefer kelp noodles to regular pasta, and I try to avoid wheat, but sometimes I just need a locally-sourced veggie-filled pizza from one of my favorite restaurants. I’m sketched out by kombucha and I include clean, plant-based protein powders (like Sunwarrior and Amazing Meal) in my regular food rotation even though they aren’t considered real food by lots of people.

I used to feel the need to fit in with bloggers, Instagrammers and the people around me in terms of what I ate. But now, I’ve finally found what works for me and I don’t really care what the newest food trend is. I eat the things that make me my healthiest and happiest, and I’ll let you eat what makes you happy and healthy. Don’t feel pressured to eat something just because so-and-so does, or to stop eating something because some article tells you it’s bad. Do your own research, figure out what works for you, and just eat. 

Do you conform to a certain diet or just eat what works for you?