Fireworks, Food and Farmers Markets

I love long weekends! Especially in the summer — since I work full-time, it’s nice to have an extended break to enjoy the incredible weather and everything else the season has to offer.

My weekend is still going strong, but I thought I’d pop in with a few of my favorite moments from the July 4th weekend. After I got off work on Thursday morning, I didn’t really have any solid plans for my time off, other than to get in my weekly trip to Whole Foods, spend some time by the pool and go for some runs. And I ended up doing all that and more…

Double fisting it after a hot run.

Double fisting it after a hot run.

Lots of cold water is necessary after these hot runs I’ve been going on. One perk of having time off is I can go for a run earlier (like around 10 or 11) so it’s not quite as hot.

This is freaking adorable.

This is freaking adorable.

I love how Snapchat celebrates holidays — this was really cute and brightened up my morning (not that it was bad…how can it be when you have the day off?)

Taking advantage of July 4th deals at the mall.

Taking advantage of July 4th deals at the mall.

I haven’t been to the main mall here since Memorial Day weekend (who am I?) so I knew it was time to return. And I scored some pretty great deals. A cute top from Abercrombie & Fitch for $10? Unheard of, except for during holiday weekends. I’m a sucker for giant purses, so I went to ALDO for my fix. And I got a push-up bandeau bra from Victoria’s Secret because I love strapless styles but this girl needs some padding #ACupProblems. I spent around $50 for all this, which is cheaper than both the top and the purse alone were originally!

My patriotic outfit.

My patriotic outfit.

I’ve seriously worn these shorts every July 4th since I got them a few years ago. I love them, and I had to take advantage of the fact that I wasn’t going to work, so I could wear weather-appropriate clothes.

No watermelon but cherries are patriotic, right?

No watermelon but cherries are patriotic, right?

My breakfast wasn’t totally patriotic, but the cherries made up for it. By Friday, I was seriously running low on food, especially produce, but I made it work. These were the last of some super cheap cherries I found at Sprouts 2 weeks ago and they were incredible!

As for my July 4th evening plans? No photo evidence because it was dark, but I drove to one of my coworkers’ homes to watch the fireworks from his place. He invited a few other people I knew from work, as well as more crazy TV people from other stations in town. It was fun to hang out for a couple hours, but the parking situation and traffic coming home was insane. It would have been an easy commute about 15 minutes up the street from me, but most of that road was blocked off and even when I was leaving around 10:45 (an hour after the fireworks wrapped up), I got caught in traffic jams on another street. Also, I had to park a couple blocks away from his house, which was fine, but walking back in the dark had me a little on edge, especially after some recent assaults across the city. But I made it safe, and my car wasn’t towed, so yay!

Sweet potato salad with hemp mayo.

Sweet potato salad with hemp mayo.

My July 4th dinner was totally ‘Merican, but with a healthier twist. I had a weird craving for potato salad (which I don’t even like), so I decided to whip up my own version using a sweet potato, coconut ‘bacon’ and a homemade mayo made with hemp seeds/water/olive oil/spices. It turned out incredible, so I’m sharing it!

Hemp Mayo Potato Salad (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

  • 1 sweet potato, cut into small wedges (can use white potato if you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 1/4 cup water
  • sea salt, to taste
  • garlic granules, to taste
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum, to thicken
  • 2 tbsp coconut bacon (optional, but really good!)

Place cubed sweet potato in medium pot and pour water about an inch above them. Bring to a low boil; cover pot and lower heat and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes or until potato is fork tender (but not too soft). Drain water and set aside to cool. In a food processor, blend hemp hearts, water, salt, garlic and ACV. Add in xanthan gum if you want to thicken the mayo. Once potatoes are cool, pour mayo over them and stir in coconut bacon. Makes 1 serving. 

I'm obsessed with the farmers market.

I’m obsessed with the farmers market.

Saturday morning started early (well, if you think 8 am is early). But for good reason — I had plans to go to the farmers market! I usually only get to swing by after I get done with work, and by that time, most things are sold out. Getting to the market an hour earlier meant fewer crowds AND better selection. I got some organic potatoes, blackberries (!) and an incredible gluten free vegan cookie. I love supporting local farmers and restaurants and I hope to keep doing so throughout the season. And I WILL be back for more of those cookies 😉

Saturdays are for selfies.

Saturdays are for selfies.

No description needed…

Whole Foods buys (minus unpictured produce).

Whole Foods buys (minus unpictured produce).

And after the farmers market, it was on to Whole Foods! I made my weekly restock trip, and yes, it was more expensive than I planned on, but only because I needed to buy protein powder. I actually got a good deal on that — 2 pounds for $25, when it’s normally over $40! So my grocery trips for the rest of the month should be cheaper. Doesn’t it just feel so good to have a full pantry and fridge again though?

Picnic-style leftovers.

Picnic-style leftovers.

After restocking my kitchen, Saturday’s dinner was a repeat of Friday’s but this time with some watermelon and avocado oil potato chips. If you haven’t tried these, you may not want to…because they’re addicting. I usually prefer sweet potato chips, but these are still healthy because they’re cooked in avocado oil instead of unhealthy canola or sunflower oil and the only ingredients are potatoes, avocado oil and sea salt. And paired with some picnic-style sides (the above homemade potato salad and vegan firecracker coleslaw from Whole Foods) I totally fit in with all the other people enjoying traditional July 4th meals. Except, you know, vegan and gluten free!

That's hot!

That’s hot!

My run on Sunday felt hot, and now I know why! I went around noon, and while the breeze helped, I was still a sweaty mess afterwards. When I checked my phone later, I saw the heat index was 104 degrees! Luckily it wasn’t super humid, so I spent some time poolside both Saturday and Sunday. But check it — today is supposed to be 100 degrees, so who knows what the heat index will be!

Nothing like ending the day with some laughs.

Nothing like ending the day with some laughs.

I have my dad to thank for getting me into Dave Barry probably a good 10 years ago (that makes me feel old). If you’ve never read him, he’s freaking hilarious and you’re missing out. I enjoyed some of his work while chillin’ on my porch waiting to Skype my parents. Best way to end my Sunday!

Is it any wonder July is my favorite month? The 4th is one of my favorite holidays (#historynerd), it feels like the essence of summer and my birthday is at the end of the month. And this year, I’m really looking forward to that. My family is driving out here for a few days and I can’t wait to be with them again after nearly 4 months without seeing them and to show them around! T-minus 20 days til the big day…

How did you enjoy your weekend? 

The Easiest Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Salad Ever

Do you ever get cravings for something that you’ve probably never eaten before? No? Let me explain…

Sometimes I see a recipe on a blog and it looks so good that I want it right there and then. Understandable, right? But some cravings are a little more complicated. Like my craving for tuna salad.

See, I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually eaten tuna salad. Despite liking fish growing up, the idea of tuna salad grossed me out. When people would eat it, I would turn up my nose at the smell. My high school cafeteria served Subway sandwiches and without fail, the tuna salad sub would always be the lone remainder at the end of the lunch period. I think it’s one of those comfort foods for some people, and I’ve never understood why.

But at the same time, I crave the idea of tuna salad. I haven’t eaten fish in years and I’ve always hated mayo–even vegenaise is a no-no for me. But I love that ocean-y taste and creamy texture that tuna salad provides.

I decided to veganize and simplify the classic tuna salad. I know there are plenty of vegan recipes for it out there, but none of them appealed to me. Most of them included vegenaise, or pickle relish, or some other random ingredient that I don’t have and I don’t want to buy for one recipe. So I went for things I already had in my pantry and fridge. Chances are you might have most of these things too! So let’s make tuna salad…vegan & healthy style!

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No-Mayo Chickpea Tuna Salad (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

1 can no-salt chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2-3 large celery stalks, chopped

1 tbsp kelp granules (can use dulse flakes or nori)

1 tsp nutritional yeast

lemon juice, to taste

sea salt, to taste

onion powder, to taste

In a large bowl, mash chickpeas to your desired texture. Add in celery, spices, kelp and lemon juice. Stir until combined. Serve with flax crackers, on toast or on top of greens. Makes ~2 cups. 

Do you ever crave weird foods? 

Meal Prep Monday: Thanksgiving Redux

I’m having fun with these meal prep posts, so I thought I’d make it more of a regular thing here on AlmostVegGirlie!

This week’s edition is a bit of a throwback to Thanksgiving, because I made a couple recipes that are pretty Thanksgiving-y, but the best part is that they don’t require T-day leftovers to make. You can make these recipes whenever you have a craving for some traditional Thanksgiving eats, and they’re pretty adaptable to any diet–vegan, gluten free, grain free and no added sugar!

Groceries

Pantry staple from Natural Grocers and Whole Foods.

Pantry staples from Natural Grocers and Whole Foods.

Luckily I was able to brave the below-freezing temperatures and snow to get to the grocery stores on Friday. I stopped at Natural Grocers for a few things and spent under $20, and then hit up Whole Foods and spent around $55. I finally restocked my bean pasta (I got the mung bean variety this time, and it’s just as good as the black bean), got my new favorite stevia chocolate chips and some weekly staples like no-salt added beans, fresh ground PB and raisins.

Produce from Whole Foods.

Produce from Whole Foods.

Whole Foods had some pretty great deals on produce this week, with avocados 4 for $5 (I got 2), organic pomegranates 2 for $5 (I got 1) and Ataulfo mangoes 2 for $3 (I got 2). And I got my usuals, like bananas, romaine hearts and yams.

Groceries for recipes.

Groceries for recipes.

I also stocked up on some things I needed for recipes I planned on making this weekend. I still have been eating mostly no-sugar-added by default (not saying this will last forever, or even for the 3 weeks I planned on doing it for) as it’s just what I’ve been feeling lately, so I finally bought some date sugar to try out in dessert recipes. I love sweetening things with dates anyway, and date sugar will work better in things that call for cane sugar, so I can’t wait to give it a try.

Meals

Grain free apple cran stuffing, made with the best grain free bread I've ever made.

Grain free apple cran stuffing, made with the best grain free bread I’ve ever made.

The Thanksgiving plate. Thanksgiving veggie burger topped with homemade cranberry chia jam on a bed of spinach. Side of grain free apple cran stuffing.

The Thanksgiving plate. Thanksgiving veggie burger topped with homemade cranberry chia jam on a bed of spinach. Side of grain free apple cran stuffing.

I know I said that Thanksgiving is a not-so-exciting holiday for plant-based eaters, but for some reason I was really craving Thanksgiving flavors this week. It all started when I bookmarked this recipe for paleo-friendly stuffing, and when I realized it could easily be made vegan, I decided to give it a shot. However, I changed it up a lot based on what I had on hand and what I could find in the store, so I’m going to share my recipe here, along with my recipe for a Thanksgiving-inspired veggie burger.

Grain Free Cran Apple Stuffing (vegan, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

Bread

1/3 cup almond meal

2 tbsp coconut flour

1 tsp xanthan gum (can sub guar gum)

1/4 cup tapioca starch (can sub arrowroot)

1/2 tsp baking soda

Himalayan pink sea salt, to taste (I only used a pinch)

1 tbsp almond oil (can sub olive oil, or another nut/seed oil)

1/2 cup water

Stuffing

1/4 cup apple-juice sweetened dried cranberries

1/2 6 oz box of 100% apple juice (like the kid’s size apple juice)

almond or coconut oil, for sauteeing

4 stalks celery, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

2 tsp fresh ginger, minced

cinnamon, pink sea salt and other spices, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F (at a higher altitude, heat to 425). Grease a sheet of foil with coconut oil, and place foil on cookie sheet. In a bowl, whisk almond meal, coconut flour, xanthan gum, tapioca starch, baking soda and sea salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together water and almond oil, and stir in with dry ingredients. Keep mixing until ingredients come together and are a bit sticky. Spread dough out onto greased foil, and spread thin, about 1/2 an inch thick. Drizzle a little almond oil on top, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bread starts to brown. Set aside to cool and harden a little, for about 10 minutes.

Lower the oven’s heat to 350 F. Once bread has cooled, tear or chop into small chunks, and place in a coconut oil-greased baking dish. In a pan on the stove over medium heat, saute the almond oil with celery and garlic, until softened. Add in spices, dried cranberries and apple juice, and continue to cook until mixture is fragrant and starts to thicken. Remove from heat, and carefully pour over bread chunks. Mix all ingredients gently, then cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes.

So you understand just how good the bread part of this stuffing is, I made a second batch of it the next day, this time sprinkling it with cinnamon and date sugar before baking…and I ate several pieces of it the same day. I don’t know how, but this bread has the doughiness and taste of a regular bread without any grains in it at all! That’s why I love experimenting with grain free baking–it’s so different from regular baking (especially doing it without any eggs) but when I finally figure out something that works, it feels amazing. Total nerd status, but I just love cooking!

I was going to share the recipe for the Thanksgiving veggie burger, but while the taste was spot-on, the texture was not. I’ve yet to make a perfect veggie burger–one that tastes good AND holds together without the use of an egg or breadcrumbs. I definitely don’t mind veggie burger crumbs, but they don’t exactly make a great recipe. I can direct you to the recipe I adapted for mine though, on the Post Punk Kitchen site. That one uses lentils as the base, which I would have done if I wasn’t lazy and had time to cook some lentils from scratch.

What’s your favorite flavor of Thanksgiving (traditional or not)? Any tips for making a good veggie burger that holds together well?

Friday Five: T Minus 2 Weeks

Before I start, I want to thank everyone who commented on and emailed me about my last post. I really appreciate all the feedback you gave me about my “no added sugar” plan, and I’m working towards being more flexible with my eating and not letting food become an obsessive thing in my life. Especially around the holidays, when I’m already stressed as it is, and sometimes a girl just needs a Hail Merry miracle tart (which I’ll be treating myself to at the end of finals week).

1. There are just over 2 weeks left til the big day…graduation!

I feel like I’ve been waiting for this day for forever. Okay, maybe not, but it’s been a source of excitement and fear in my life since at least last year. I think getting the opportunity to graduate a semester early, and start my ‘real’ life will be the best Christmas present I get this year–and it just so happens to be right around Christmas. I’ve just got to get through one more week of classes, 2 real finals, 1 take home test and an online final and then I’m there! I know the next two weeks are going to fly by, but I hope I can enjoy them to the fullest. My time in college has been so much more than I could have ever imagined, so in a way, I’m going to miss it. At the same time, I’m ready to be done with school!

2. I’m obsessed with balls.

Nope, not those ones 😉 I’ve been whipping up some Larabar knock-offs in ball form and eating them for snacks, at breakfast/lunch, you name it. My latest creations are PB&J (my favorites, and literally just raisins+no salt/sugar PB), protein peppermint mocha (recipe below!) and cookie dough (almond meal+dates+stevia chocolate chips+vanilla extract). Let’s just say that my Ninja has been getting a lot of love lately!

Some of my 'balls'.

Some of my ‘balls’.

Protein Peppermint Mocha Balls (vegan, gluten free, grain free, raw, no added sugar)

1 scoop Garden of Life RAW Marley coffee protein powder (can sub any coffee-flavored protein powder, or just chocolate and add a little instant coffee)

1 tbsp cacao powder or dark cocoa powder

8-10 pitted dates, soaked 2 hours

3-4 tbsp pumpkin seeds, soaked 2 hours

dash peppermint extract, to taste

In a food processor/high speed blender, process all ingredients until they start to come together. Roll into balls or flatten into bars and enjoy.

3. I am seriously looking into moving to California. Or somewhere else warm.

Not that I wasn’t already, but after this week, I’m considering it even more. Not only did we get 6 inches of snow (not too unusual, and it made it feel more like Christmas, but it made the roads horrible) but we’ve been having Arctic-like temperatures since Tuesday, and they will be continuing until this coming Tuesday. I’m talking daytime highs of 10 degrees at the most, and overnight lows in the negatives. That just doesn’t happen here more than a random day or two, usually in February. The strange thing about Colorado is that we still get plenty of sunshine on these frigid days, so it’s like the weather is taunting us by looking warm but feeling beyond cold. This awful weather has made me just want to stay in and watch Christmas movies #noshame.

This sums it up, basically.

This sums it up, basically.

As does this tweet.

As does this tweet.

4. Some random search terms for your enjoyment.

I haven’t looked at my search terms in awhile, so I knew there was bound to be some, erm, interesting ones. Here are some of the weirdest!

  • drinking olive oil with salt to jump start my period: I would suggest putting that olive oil and salt to better use as a dip for some fancy bread…
  • cappuccino float: I’m not even sure how that would work, but coffee+ice cream is always a winner.
  • how did i spend my thanksgiving holiday for middle school: I haven’t been in middle school for 8 years, so I can’t remember that far back what I was doing for Thanksgiving!
  • selfies gone wrong: If they’re referring to my car selfies, they couldn’t be more wrong!
  • slang saying yaaasss: I personally love slang words, so go for it.

5. My apartment is sufficiently Christmas-ified.

2013-12-05 17.41.082013-12-05 18.23.02

It’s hard being away from home during the holidays. I really struggled with this during my freshman year of college–it was my first time away from home, and I was dealing with all the typical finals-time stress, along with a not-so-great roommate. What’s made my holiday seasons since then a little better (besides living in an apartment on my own!) is having Christmas decorations up and listening to Christmas music as much as possible. My lovely mom was nice enough to decorate my place while I was at class when she dropped me off after break on Monday, and now my apartment is looking pretty festive. Having all that snow helps too (though, lets be honest, I’m sick of it already) and even though I won’t be going home for good (aka until I find a job) until the 23rd because that’s when I’m moving out of my apartment, I can still enjoy this holiday season, while looking forward to the time that I’ll get to be home with my family again. T-minus 17 days until I’m home for Christmas 😀

Do you like to decorate your home/apartment/dorm for the holidays? What’s the weather like where you are–I need some hope that warmer temps will return soon!

WIAW: On Repeat

I’ve been eating a lot of the same things lately. That’s not to say I haven’t been trying new things/recipes, but I’ve been really feeling a few favorites this week, and I’ve been repeating them…a lot.

Banana softserves with various toppings.

Banana softserves with various toppings.

Breakfasts have been of the banana softserve variety for…ummmm…2 to 3 weeks now? Yep, this is one of the longer breakfast ruts, and I’m hoping it’ll last awhile. I love having something cold and fruity in the morning, and this fits the bill. Toppings are necessary, at least in my world, and generally homemade protein balls+homemade coconut butter lately.

Snackplates for snacks...and lunch. Full-size organic carrots, raw flax crackers, fresh pineapple+mango+golden raspberries, homemade PB&J bites, homemade guac from half an avocado.

Snack plates for snacks…and lunch. Full-size organic carrots, raw flax crackers, fresh pineapple+mango+golden raspberries, homemade PB&J bites, homemade guac from half an avocado.

Snack plates have just been super easy to throw together, and I’m loving them for lunch now too. Luckily, my snack plates have evolved from a lot of crackers and chips (I thought they were healthy because they were organic/vegan, but not so!) to mostly fresh fruits and veggies with a few ‘fun’ things that still have plenty of nutritional value. Take the flax crackers–packed with omega 3s, raw and made with lots of veggies. And the PB&J bites were a random thing I threw together in the food processor and basically made from dates, raisins and peanut flour. So good…too bad I ran out of peanut flour!

My mom's hibiscus plant is finally flowering!

My mom’s hibiscus plant is finally flowering!

As much as I loved our old house, I like our new yard because we’ve planted so many flowers, veggies and herbs. I love this hibiscus especially because it’s so tropical and smells amazing. And I’m excited because my Japanese eggplant is flowering, and my hot pepper plants are growing baby peppers!

Awkward OOTD. Only wearing glasses because my contacts bothered my eyes...stupid allergies.

Awkward OOTD. Only wearing glasses because my contacts bothered my eyes…stupid allergies.

I’m starting to feel okay with my body, at least some days. Yesterday was a bit hard, because I chose to wear a bodycon-style dress. I love it, and think it looks cute, but I always feel so self-conscious about how my stomach looks in it, especially after meals. I’ve gotta remind myself that everyone’s stomach expands after eating (duh!) and no one else notices or cares but me. Same with my arms. For some reason, they tend to be my most hated body part, and some days I think they look toned and lean, while others they look huge to me. Working through these feelings and telling myself they’re just temporary helps me avoid getting stuck in a bad body image rut.

Snack plate for snack too! Watermelon, Sunwarrior protein dip, raw zucchini with garlic gomasio (told ya I'm obsessed), raw maple walnuts, blueberries.

Snack plate for snack too! Watermelon, Sunwarrior protein dip, raw zucchini with garlic gomasio (told ya I’m obsessed), raw maple walnuts, blueberries.

Snack time snack plates are about the same as lunchtime ones, only with different veggies and fruit. I’ve been trying to get in veggies at lunch, snack and dinner and have been going strong with that for a couple of weeks. Gotta love fueling up with produce!

Raw vegan goat 'cheese'.

Raw vegan goat ‘cheese’.

I love making raw vegan cheeses. I was never a huge fan of cheese pre-veganism, but now I love homemade vegan cheeses.

Raw Goat Cheez (vegan, gluten free, raw, grain free)

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 1 hour (I recommend longer)

1-4 tbsp water (less for thicker cheez)

1/2 tsp olive oil (optional, adds Mediterranean flavor)

sea salt and black pepper, to taste

In a food processor, blend soaked and drained cashews until they begin to resemble cashew butter. Add in remaining ingredients until combined. Spoon into cheesecloth or coffee filter (this helps thicken and strain the cheez) and place in a small bowl in the fridge. Serve with flax crackers, veggies or on salads. Makes 1/4 cup.

Salads on salads on salads. Organic spinach base, organic chickpeas topped with nooch, homemade guac.

Salads on salads on salads. Organic spinach base, organic chickpeas topped with nooch, homemade guac.

I’ve been getting my daily dose of greens with dinner, in the form of salads. My greens of choice have been baby spinach and chopped romaine lettuce. I’ve been loving chickpeas on salads, guac and nooch (for taco salads), strawberries and balsamic, my raw goat cheez. Anything goes on my salads…well, almost.

Desserts have also been snackplate-y, but with more fruit. And chocolate.

Desserts have also been snackplate-y, but with more fruit. And chocolate.

I’ve either been doing Sunwarrior protein mixed with coconut water as a base for fruit+coconut butter, or mini snack plates with berries, raw cacao powder+coconut oil+a little raw local honey mixed to make a raw chocolate dip, dates and homemade protein bites. Half a Larabar with some fruit has been happening too. I haven’t been 100% raw every day, but I’m trying to stay high raw at every meal, while incorporating some non-raw sources of protein like beans. So far, it’s working for me and I like not having to be so strict with my macros. I feel like I’m eating healthier than ever, and as a result, my mindset around food and my body has been healthier as well.

 

What foods/meals have you been repeating lately?

WIAW: Food Fails & Fashion Talk

I like trying out new recipes, and just new things in general, but unfortunately, they don’t always work out in my favor. I bookmark recipes with high hopes that they’ll be amazing and sometimes they’re not but that’s okay! That’s why I like to throw some new things into the mix but keep some old favorites so I’m never totally disappointed.

Breakfast: cacao banana softserve with Sunwarrior, cacao and lucuma powders, topped with buckwheat rawnola and raw pumpkin seeds.

Breakfast: cacao banana softserve with Sunwarrior, cacao and lucuma powders, topped with buckwheat rawnola and raw pumpkin seeds.

This isn’t really a fail, but more like a weird thing I’ve been doing lately. I used to be able to blend my banana softserve with just bananas, and it would turn out smooth and creamy every time. Now that I’ve been doing add-ins everyday, I’ve needed to add in a splash of coconut milk to get things moving. Not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes the softserve turns out more like a thick soup than ice cream. Trial and error!

Lunch: raw taco salad. Base of romaine, dressed with lime juice and cracked pepper, topped with homemade guac, homemade sprouted and dehydrated corn chips. Side of canary melon and water.

Lunch: raw taco salad. Base of romaine, dressed with lime juice and cracked pepper, topped with homemade guac, homemade sprouted and dehydrated corn chips. Side of canary melon and water.

I’ve been trying to perfect the homemade salad dressing. I love cashew based dressings, but they are sometimes chunkier than I’d like them to be. I just can’t get the smooth consistency down, even though I soak the raw cashews beforehand. At least they taste good, right?

Raw snackplate: homemade buckwheat rawnola in coconut milk, half a chocolate coconut Kit's Organic bar, frozen watermelon. carrot, flax crackers, Thai coconut curry cashews.

Raw snackplate: homemade buckwheat rawnola in coconut milk, half a chocolate coconut Kit’s Organic bar, frozen watermelon. carrot, flax crackers, Thai coconut curry cashews.

Snack plates are never a fail! You just can’t go wrong combining different tastes, textures and macros all in one plate. Like I’ve said before, I’m indecisive when it comes to snacks, and I like having a little bit of everything.

Dinner:: raw teriyaki portobello burger (marinated in coconut aminos+liquid smoke and prepped in dehydrator for 30 minutes) on romaine 'bun' topped with homemade cashew pumpkin seed 'pesto' and fresh pineapple.

Dinner:: raw teriyaki portobello burger (marinated in coconut aminos+liquid smoke and prepped in dehydrator for 30 minutes) on romaine ‘bun’ topped with homemade cashew pumpkin seed ‘pesto’ and fresh pineapple.

I had high hopes for my first raw veggie burger, but sadly it wasn’t that great. I think I just don’t like the consistency of portobello mushrooms if they aren’t cooked well enough or at least drained of their excess water. I found a few recipes for raw portobello burgers but they all called for the portobello to be in the dehydrator for at least an hour. I was running short on time and wanted to eat NOW so I set it in there for only half and hour and it wasn’t so tasty. The toppings definitely made up for it though! I’ll definitely try it again when I have more time to let it sit in the dehydrator.

Dessert: chocolate Sunwarrior protein 'pudding' topped with cacao+coconut oil 'magic shell', raspberries and coconut flakes.

Dessert: chocolate Sunwarrior protein ‘pudding’ topped with cacao+coconut oil ‘magic shell’, raspberries and coconut flakes.

The only fail about this was that I ran out of Sunwarrior a week or so ago and had to wait for my order to come in from Amazon before I could start whipping up raw protein-packed desserts. I used to like the Garden of Life RAW protein powders but they’re really chalky and only taste ok in some things, like banana softserve. Lesson learned: Sunwarrior is the best raw protein powder I’ve found so far!

The BEST raw chocolate I've found!

The BEST raw chocolate I’ve found!

I raved about this bar on Instagram the other day. Such a delicious raw treat, but at $5 per bar (and these bars are about half the size of a normal chocolate bar), it’s a once-a-week purchase that I make last for a whole week. I could easily demolish the whole small bar in one day, but that would be a total wallet fail. Maybe I’ll try to make a version of it at home with the lucuma powder I have, coconut oil, cacao and dates. I gotta say though, as much as I like making things from scratch, some things are better storebought. Like this chocolate. And the Living Intentions raw flavored nut mixes I love.

OOTD June 25: black studded tank (Forever 21), light pink high-waisted shorts (Abercrombie & Fitch), unpictured pink heart pendant and white rose ring (F21), white watch (American Eagle), black sparkly flats (Target).

OOTD June 25: black studded tank (Forever 21), light pink high-waisted shorts (Abercrombie & Fitch), unpictured pink heart pendant and white rose ring (F21), white watch (American Eagle), black sparkly flats (Target).

I feel like my style is really evolving lately, and I like it. Both the tank and shorts are recent purchases (bought within the last 3 months) and prior to this year, I would have never bought either. The tank is the first black thing I’ve ever owned as casual wear and though I’m still not a huge fan of black, I think it works well in small doses and paired with pink or white/black patterned things. The shorts are high-waisted, which I never thought I could pull off–they generally work well on curvier girls and I am…not curvy. They may not be as fitted as they’re supposed to be but I really like them and I think they look great with tucked in shirts or cropped tops.

As I’m getting closer to college graduation, I’m reevaluating my closet. As much as I still like most of it (and the rest I gave away to charity–one good thing that came out of the fires was that I was able to donate some of my summer clothes to fire victims!), some of it screams high school, or at least college. I may or may not donate those things, but I know that they’ll probably be more casual and weekend wear for me. I would like to focus on building a more adult casual wardrobe, but especially focus on finding career wear. I have a few things that I got last year when I started with the campus TV station that are definitely work-appropriate, but I need a LOT more (or maybe just want a lot more…). Before this year, I didn’t have a need for a ton of dressy clothes, and while I never wore the typical college kid yoga pants and sweatshirts, my school clothes are a bit too trendy for the workplace. On-air dress code is generally business casual to business (blazers with pencil skirts, solid sheath dresses, etc.) and I’ve never really had a need for those clothes before, so it’ll definitely be a learning experience for me. Luckily, I don’t mind dressing up as long as I can make my outfits fun with a pop of color and such, so I’m excited for what’s ahead fashion-wise.

Do you ever have food or recipe ‘fails’? If you have a job, what’s your dress code? 

Adventures in Raw: Products I Love

As I’ve been transitioning into and experimenting with a raw foods based diet, I’ve been discovering new products I never knew existed even when I became vegan almost 2 years ago. I’m even finding new-to-me fruits and veggies at the store and it’s making me realize that veganism and even raw foodism isn’t limiting at all–there are millions of possibilities when it comes to food, without relying on animal products.

I’m definitely not a LFRV, so I still include some raw fat and protein sources and I want to share some of those here, as well as produce and seasonings I’ve found to be helpful in transitioning to raw.

Fats

  • Avocados: I can’t believe I used to only eat these in guacamole! Fresh-made guac is still a favorite of mine (my recipe: 1 avocado, juice of half a lime, sprinkle of sea salt, half of a chopped jalapeno, optional cilantro) but I also love taking half of an avocado and drizzling it with raw honey, cinnamon and sea salt. I also want to try out Veggie Nook’s raw coconut-crusted avocado ‘fries’! Avocado is a concentrated source of unsaturated fats, and when added to a salad, can boost the absorption of lycopene and beta-carotene. Even though LFRVs eat overt fats (like avocadoes) rarely, I try to eat a fat or fat-based raw dressing with my salads to boost the vitamin absorption.
  • Cashews: Cashews, though labeled raw, are never truly raw because raw cashews can be poisonous, but I always buy my cashews with the raw label because they are less processed and closer to being raw. Cashews are lower in fat than most nuts, but still provide plenty of monounsaturated fats, and add a creamy texture to raw desserts and dressings. I soak them before using them, and then blend them to make raw cheesecakes or raw dressings and sauces.
Raw key lime cheesecake with a soaked cashews base.

Raw key lime cheesecake with a soaked cashews base.

  • Almonds: Almonds are also a good source of heart-healthy fats, but they also provide trace minerals such as manganese and copper, which are beneficial to a raw diet. They’re also a great source of plant-based protein. I use them in making raw brownies, raw granola and raw almond butter.
  • Coconut: Possibly my favorite raw source of fat, other than cashews. I used to be scared of coconut’s high concentration of saturated fats, but the fat in coconuts is a lot different than animal fats. It’s also much healthier than vegetable-based oils like canola and soy and is very versatile. I use coconut oil in some raw desserts and it makes a quick dressing, coconut butter is great with dates and other fruit, coconut flour is high in fiber and makes a good thickener in smoothies and coconut flakes are amazing for raw coconut bacon!
  • Flax crackers: These are a really great alternative to wheat-based crackers and since they come in a variety of flavors (plus you can make them at home with a dehydrator or oven turned low), they can be paired with almost any dip or sauce. I love the Food on Purpose brand sold at Whole Foods (they’re made in NM, so they may only be sold in nearby states) and the Flackers brand which are on Amazon. They’ve got way more fiber and protein than traditional crackers and are a good source of omega-3s.

Produce

  • Greens: Leafy greens should be an essential part of anyone’s diet, but especially a raw foodie’s. It’s great to get a variety of greens to load up on certain vitamins and minerals, but if you prefer some over others, that’s okay! I personally love spinach, romaine lettuce, kale and bok choy. They make great bases for salads and also work well in green smoothies blended with fruit.
  • Bananas: The staple of many raw foodies, these are often eaten in abundance on a raw food diet, but don’t have to be. They provide a lot of potassium and a feeling of fullness, which helps on a lower fat raw diet where you don’t have many fats to fill you up. I prefer freezing my bananas and then blending them into banana ‘ice cream’.
cacao banana softserve with raw mocha brownie bites and coconut flakes

Cacao banana ‘ice cream’ (made with frozen banana, cacao powder, lucuma powder, 1/2 packet raw vanilla protein powder) topped with homemade mocha raw brownie bites and coconut flakes.

  • Berries: These are the superfoods of the fruit world, and for good reason! Blueberries are especially full of antioxidants and having anti-aging benefits, raspberries are very high in fiber, strawberries provide 150% DV for vitamin C and blackberries are high in folic acid and manganese. Other berries, like acai and goji, are also nutritional powerhouses and generally come in powdered or dried form, but all berries are amazing little fruits!
  • Zucchini: Zucchini has a lot of uses in the raw food world, from ‘noodles’ to hummus. I’ve even made a raw cheesecake with zucchini in it (recipe below–and trust me, you couldn’t taste it). Its neutral flavor lends itself to working well in many dishes, and it pairs well with bolder flavors.
  • Kelp: Kelp and other sea veggies are usually a hidden treasure of Asian cuisine that many raw foodists rely on to get enough trace minerals. Kelp in particular is a great source of iodine, and since many health-conscious people choose sea salts over table salt, they may be missing out on iodine without sea veggies in their diet. Kelp flakes are a great way to season without using salt, and kelp noodles are a rice-noodle like substitute that I personally love!
Raw kelp noodle pad Thai at Tasty Harmony.

Raw kelp noodle pad Thai at Tasty Harmony.

Protein

  • Sunwarrior (warrior blend) protein powder: Raw vegan protein powder isn’t just a dream–it’s a reality with Sunwarrior’s warrior blend. Their protein blend is made up of raw pea, hemp and cranberry proteins (so it’s grain free too!) and is sweetened only with stevia, making it a lot healthier than a lot of other protein powders out there. I love that one scoop is just 80 calories but provides 15 grams of protein, which really boosts my protein intake on raw days. It’s a bit high in sodium but that comes from some sea salt and the raw proteins. I prefer the chocolate flavor and love it in smoothies, chia puddings and blended with frozen bananas for a higher protein raw ice cream.
  • Sprouted beans and lentils: On a truly raw, 80-10-10 style vegan diet, protein is only consumed through fruits and greens, but a lot of raw vegans and other vegans like to sprout legumes to make them easier to digest. I have yet to sprout my own beans, but I really want to make some sprouted lentil burgers soon!
  • Sprouted quinoa/buckwheat/wild rice: These pseudograins are way more nutrient packed than wheat, and provide more protein than many other gluten free grains. They’re all technically seeds, making them okay for a grain free diet and when sprouted, are even easier to digest. I like sprouted quinoa for salads, and I usually soak raw buckwheat groats before I make them into granola in the dehydrator.

And now onto the raw cheesecake recipe! I don’t have a picture for it right now, but mine looks a lot like this picture I found on Tastespace. I’ve already made a raw key lime pie cheesecake and I wanted to do a take on a classic chocolate cheesecake, but with a nutrient boost from the zucchini. It adds no flavor but a great creamy texture and secret nutrition!

Raw chocolate cheesecake from Tastespace.

Raw chocolate cheesecake ,photo from Tastespace. (my own recipe)

Raw Chocolate Cheesecake (vegan, gluten free, raw, grain free)

1 cup almonds (can sub walnuts)

drizzle coconut oil

2 tbsp +4 tbsp raw cacao or carob powder

1/4 cup raisins

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours

3 tbsp maple syrup (can sub coconut nectar for truly raw version)

1/2 small zucchini, chopped

sea salt, to taste

In a food processor or high powered blender, process almonds until crumbly. Add in coconut oil, 2 tbsp cacao powder and raisins until mixture forms a sticky ball. You may need to add a bit (up to 2 tbsp) water or additional raisins. Place this crust mixture into a lined 8″ cake pan and set in freezer for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, blend cashews, maple syrup, zucchini, 4 tbsp cacao powder and sea salt in food processor. Blend or process until as smooth as possible.  Add additional sweetener or cacao as desired. Pour cheesecake mixture onto crust and return to freezer for a few hours or overnight. Remove from freezer for a few minutes before serving and top with fresh berries. Makes 8 small slices. 

What are your favorite sources of raw fats, produce and protein?