Nutrition News Update 7.29.16

Nutrition News Update

Nutrition News Update

A lot has been happening in the world of food politics this month, so I thought I’d share some links and commentary in case you’ve missed these headlines.

First up, GMO labeling:

GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, have been a hot topic in the food and nutrition world for a few years now.  Arguments against GMOs relate to transparency and unknown implications on health, agriculture and environment.

Pro-GMO arguments state that GMOs help make agriculture more efficient by creating the strongest, most durable, fastest growing versions of foods.  They also use the matter of improving consumer satisfaction – removing seeds, quick cooking varieties and fruit that tastes like ballpark candy.

Marion Nestle does a nice round-up on her blog about the new bill that’s pending for GMO labeling.  There are three options proposed for how the labeling will work – a QR reader on food labels that would require people to have smart phones, a standard symbol developed by the USDA, or a statement that food contains GMOs present on the food label.  The QR reader is the favorite of the food and grocery industry, because they know people won’t actually use it.  QR readers have been around for years now and I’ve never used one. You need a special app, right? Plus, this is just something that the people who are already aware and concerned will use.  The whole idea behind labeling GMOs is to make this information easier and more accessible to everyone, not just the well-informed.

Another round-up of the GMO bill comes from Civil Eats, an excellent resource for all food news.  As with all politics, the language in the bill has resulted in mixed analysis.  Will commercially grown GMO corn, soy, canola and sugar be included in this labeling? The bill defines bioengineering as “genetic materials that have been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques” but what about other modifications? Soda and other super refined products don’t contain any of the genetic material but are still derived from genetically modified organisms. Salmon is genetically modified using genes found in nature rather than those engineered via in vitro technology.

As of now, GMO labeling under this bill is only applicable to food for human consumption, so pet food is exempt.  Restaurants and similar food retail businesses are also exempt from this labeling requirement.

You are what you eat, right? Not according to this bill, since animal derived products aren’t considered bioengineered if an animal was fed with bioengineered feed.

Next up: the new Food Nutrition Label

On a slightly less skeptical note, health has beat industry with the passing of the new nutrition label designs.

Some highlights include a greater emphasis on calories, including a more realistic representation of what people eat as opposed to what they’re supposed to eat.  Research states that certain package sizes influence how much we eat, so for packages that are technically two serving sizes, like a 20-ounce soda, are now listed as one serving.  You might say that this promotes drinking 20-ounce sodas as opposed to smaller portions, but it really makes the nutrition information more translatable for the consumer.  Think about it, do you do the math, even if it’s a simple calculation, when you glance at a food label? No, neither do I.

The new label also features information on added sugars. This is huge, and received a lot of  push-back from the food industry. New labels will be required to include the amount of added sugar in addition to the natural sugars present. So products like fruit yogurts will list the sugars that are naturally present in the fruit and the sugar they add to make your yogurt taste like pudding. This addition is based on research that says “it’s difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of daily calories from added sugars.”

Other changes include the addition of vitamin D and potassium, updated sodium and fiber related to percent daily value, and clearer language around the percent daily value. All changes appear to be heavily based on nutrition research, which in some cases can be misleading (a lot of industry sponsored studies), with improved consumer health as a priority.

Read more here and here. Click here for a side by side comparison of the old and new label.

Finally, Updated School Nutrition Standards: 

School food is a big issue right now.  Childhood obesity stats are driving the campaign for healthier options offered and more in-depth nutrition and food education in schools. While these standards don’t address the educational component, they are a step forward in providing healthier options for kids.

The standards are based on the Smart Snack Standards introduced in 2010 under the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act.  The Smart Snack Standards include whole grain-rich foods, calorie limits for meals and snacks, fruit and vegetable requirements and other nutrient limits. More details can be found on this pdf.

The updated standards put a ban on marketing of products that don’t comply with the Smart Snack Standards of 2010.  Again, there’s some vague language so it’s unclear whether incentive programs like fast food coupons for kids who read a certain number of books or the box-top incentives will be exempt.

The updated standards include outside food brought into classrooms for birthday parties or other celebrations.  Basically, any food item that affects the group rather than individuals will be subject to the Smart Snack Standards.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which provides free meals for children of low-income families doesn’t seem to be affected too much from the updated standards, but that is likely due to the fact that there are already some hefty regulations on the nutrition content of the meals it provides.

See what Civil Eats says on the matter here.

Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pie

Summer is tough. Only because my sweet tooth begs for fudgy brownies and cupcakes loaded with freshly whipped buttercream, but my body is telling me that if I turn on the oven I might actually melt.  All of the usual treats, like cookies and cakes and muffins are replaced with ice cream and popsicles.  The heat forces me to be creative, because y’all know I’m still eating sweets.  This recipe for Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pie is perfect for beating the summer heat and satisfying your sweet tooth.

There’s something super nostalgic about the creamsicle flavor.  I don’t remember it as a favorite from my childhood, but it still takes me back to summers spent by the pool, my hair green from the chlorine.  My parents always have ice cream in the freezer, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed since childhood, so I think we never had any reason to chase the ice cream truck for one of those creamsicle treats.

But about this recipe…

Vanilla Maple Coco-roons - V/GF

Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pies - V/GF

Don’t be turned off by the word “raw”.  This isn’t one of those recipes that makes you dig out your food dehydrator, buried in your basement and launch you into a summer cleaning session that takes three weeks.

The crust of this Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pie is made of Coco-Roons, a raw coconut and nut based cookie, and coconut oil. Although these pies still qualify as dessert, they’re definitely a healthier option than the traditional ice cream truck option.  Both the Coco-Roons and the cashew-based filling are sweetened with pure maple syrup, making this dessert free of refined sugars.  You have to think ahead to soak the cashews for at least an hour before you can make the creamy, velvety filling. Then you pop everything in the freezer and let it set up for at least 4 hours before the real satisfaction of eating can happen.  You can make one huge Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pie, or you can make a bunch of muffin-sized pies (the smaller the pies, the faster they’ll freeze!).

Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pies - V/GF

Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pies

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 30 minutes active, 4+ hours inactive
  • Difficulty: easy
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These summer treats are gluten free, dairy free (obviously) and raw, so they’re a perfect sweet for everyone.  Oh yeah, and the recipe only calls for 7 ingredients!

The Crust:

  • 1 package (6.2 ounces) Coco-Roons (I recommend the Vanilla-Maple flavor or the Lemon Pie Flavor)
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil

The Filling:

  • 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked for at least an hour
  • 1 orange, zested and then juiced
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Combine the Coco-Roons and the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a food processor. Process until crumbly, but when pinched between two fingers the mixture stays together.  Prepare your dish – so if you’re using a normal 8″ pie plate, line it with parchment paper that overhangs the edge slightly. It doesn’t have to cover the entire bottom, just enough so that you can grab the two edges and pop your pie out.  If you’re using a muffin tin to make a 8 smaller, single-serving pies, simply line it with cupcake liners! If you’re making a normal 8″ pie, just transfer the crust mixture into the pie plate and then press down to compact the crust, making sure it’s even. If you’re using a muffin tin, place one tablespoon of the crust mixture in each cupcake liner and then press down to compact the crust.  Place the crust in the freezer while you make your filling.
  2. Wipe out the food processor with a paper towel, it doesn’t need to be perfectly clean.  Drain the cashews and place them in the food processor.  Add 1/2 of the zest from the orange and all of the juice. Add the coconut oil, coconut milk, maple syrup and the vanilla extract. Process for a good 5-7 minutes. The mixture should be super smooth and velvety. Test this by dipping your index finger in and rubbing it together with your thumb, if it still feels gritty, keep blending.
  3. Once you reach that velvety texture, grab your crust from the freezer and pour or scoop the filling into the crust.  For the 8″ pie, you’ll just use all the filling so you don’t need to worry about portioning it.  For the muffin-sized pies, start with about 2 tablespoons of filling in each liner and then evenly disperse the leftover filling.
  4. Sprinkle the tops of the pies with the leftover orange zest and place in the freezer to set.  The pies will be set and ready to devour in about 4 hours!




Ginger Soy Green Beans

Maybe I should apologize for every post being about the garden lately. But I’m not really sorry and I am a terrible liar, so what’s the point? I am totally loving having this full-fledged garden and this time of the year is so exciting. Every day we have something to harvest. Every damn day!  I am so grateful to Josh, since he’s the one who has the green thumb and puts it to work.

green beans

What’s an hour spent pulling weeds, harvesting, watering and pruning if you can jump inside and cook up some Ginger Soy Green Beans in less than 15 minutes? Totally worth it if you ask me.

Although my preferred green bean is one plucked off the stem and immediately sunk into my mouth, a quick blanch and swoosh in a sauté pan with a salty sauce does them good too.  That’s exactly what this recipe for Ginger Soy Green Beans calls for. Blanch the beans for 3 minutes and toss them in a saute pan that’s cooking a sauce made with fresh ginger, garlic and soy sauce. It’s really that simple – less than 10 ingredients, less than 10 minutes.

Ginger Soy Green Beans - V/GF Ginger Soy Green Beans - V/GF

Ginger Soy Green Beans

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Less than 10 ingredients. Less than 10 minutes.

  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (use tamari to make this recipe gluten free)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (sesame would be good too!)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts
  1. Heat a small saucepan with salted water.  Allow the water to boil.  Set up a bowl full of ice water on the side.
  2. Prepare the green beans – snip off the ends and rinse them. Set aside until the water is boiling.
  3. Use a microplane (citrus zester) or the small side of a cheese grater to grate the peeled ginger and garlic.  This makes almost a paste-like consistency for both, saves you the time to mince them by hand and allows them to mix into the sauce better.
  4. Stir together the soy sauce, oil, garlic and ginger in a small bowl.
  5. Add the green beans to the boiling water. Keep a careful eye, they should only be in the pot for about 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat the soy mixture in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  6. When the beans are vibrantly green, pull them out and toss them in the prepared ice water.  Once the soy mixture is simmering in the sauté pan, add the green beans and toss to coat them with the sauce.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Transfer the beans and sauce to a bowl or dish and top with the roasted peanuts.


Coconut Chia & Watermelon Seed Parfaits

Like/Share this recipe until 7/29 to help me win the Watermelon Recipe Contest sponsored by Go Raw! and the National Watermelon Promotion Board!

You guys! It’s one of the most exciting times of the entire year. Sure, it’s hot. Okay, super hot. And muggy. And the mosquitoes are out in full force. But let’s just take a moment to think about the food. Our garden is producing HUGE summer squash, green beans left and right, leaf lettuce, kale, cabbage, and spinach. I am on edge peeking at the roots of our carrot plants, waiting (impatiently) for the day I see a little orange pop up. I might actually faint.

July means sweet corn, early tomatoes, bell peppers, and watermelon. We were a little late to the game this year, but we’ve got three watermelon plants that should be in full swing by the end of the month.

Watermelon is the nostalgic summer food. It starts early, when you’re a toddler, sitting around a picnic table in a soaking wet bathing suit, dripping in chlorinated water, taking a huge bite out of watermelon slices bigger than your face.   Then, as a teenager, you make a fruit bowl, using the watermelon as the bowl. I’m pretty sure it’s a right of passage to adulthood. The early twenties are obviously full of watermelon margaritas. If they weren’t, you should probably get on that. We come full circle here, as I give you a recipe featuring watermelon seeds. I mean, what’s more adult than eating something you were scared into avoiding as a child.

This recipe is for a contest hosted by Go Raw and the National Watermelon Promotion Board featuring watermelon seeds and flesh. This Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait is fresh, creamy, crunchy, juicy, and sweet. Make it ahead of time for a week of nutrition-packed breakfasts. It’s ideal for Sunday brunches and gatherings since you can have it ready a day early and it looks pretty in a glass – with red watermelon flesh, green apples and contrasting granola and coconut chia.

Watermelon Plant

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait - V/GF

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait - V/GF

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait - V/GF

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait - V/GF

Click here to vote for my recipe! 

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 3 hours, mostly inactive
  • Difficulty: easy
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Don’t forget to visit the Go Raw Facebook Page to like or share this recipe – Vegan/GF.

Coconut Chia Pudding:

  • 1 15-ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Watermelon Seed Granola Clusters:

  • ¾ cups Go Raw Sprouted Watermelon Seeds
  • 1 ¼ cups gluten free oats
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup vegan margarine
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 green apples, diced
  • 1 cup watermelon, diced or cut into rings to fit into your glasses
  1. Preheat the oven to 325o
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the coconut chia pudding in a medium sized bowl. Whisk to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until the chia seeds have absorbed the coconut milk and the consistency is pudding-like.
  3. Combine the Go Raw Sprouted Watermelon Seeds, gluten free oats, dried cranberries, coconut flakes, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the margarine and maple syrup over medium heat. Stir until the margarine is melted, then allow the mixture to bubble.  Let the mixture bubble for about 1 minute.  Turn off the heat and add the vanilla extract.
  5. Add the maple syrup mixture to the watermelon seed mixture and stir to combine. The mixture should be moist.  Transfer the granola to a lined sheet pan and spread it out evenly.  Bake for 25 minutes, tossing halfway through so it cooks evenly.  Leave the oven on, as it will be used again.
  6. When the granola is done, gently press it onto the pan with the bottom of a spatula. Allow the mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes.
  7. When the granola is cooled, carefully break it into little clusters. Place the clusters back in the oven for 10 minutes.  This helps the granola stay together.
  8. Allow the clusters to cool completely.
  9. To assemble the parfaits, first check that the clusters are cooled and the coconut chia pudding has thickened. In a small bowl or glass cup layer a generous scoop of the coconut chia pudding.  Next add a layer of watermelon seed granola clusters.  Top with apple pieces. Continue with this pattern one more time, making sure you evenly spread the layers so they are visible from the sides of the glass.  You can continue to layer the glasses as many times as you’d like.
  10. Store in the fridge until ready to eat, these can be made up to a day in advance. Store any extra granola clusters in an airtight container or bag at room temperature.

Remember to vote!

3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie

Some things, like watermelon, are really easy to trace your memories back to the first time (or early times) and be like, “oh yeah, of course that’s where it all started.”  But other things, like coffee, are a little harder. I’m currently having a chicken-or-the-egg type battle with coffee and being busy constantly.  My heart says I love coffee so much, and of course I started drinking it like a fiend because I love it so much.  But my brain is telling me that I started chugging it back in the early days of college, when late night studying was a regular thing and I worked late at Strong Hearts on the weekends (who wouldn’t need coffee to stay up until 3 am slinging vegan french toast?).  In resolution, I’m just grateful that there’s a drink I love that also serves my chaotic and busy life.

3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie - Vegan/GF

Another such drink is this 3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie. Coffee. Banana. Illumin8 Mocha meal replacement powder. The banana adds a little sweetness and bulks up the smoothie.  It’s also the classic on-the-go breakfast fruit if you ask me.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached in my bag and pulled out a banana (the vegan version of pulling a rabbit out of your hat). I made this smoothie with coffee because I’m weird about having two drinks at once, and I’m definitely not giving up my coffee.

Sunwarrior Illumin8 Mocha

The Illumin8 Mocha meal replacement powder by Sunwarrior, was created as an all-natural, no-fuss plant-based protein powder in a market saturated with all sorts of products made with GMO/processed/chemically derived ingredients.  The company’s mission, “to illuminate mind, body and planet…” speaks to me deeply as I strive each day to get closer to a life full of positivity, minimal impact and self-sufficiency.  The Illumin8 meal replacement comes in different flavors, each with the “core 8 nutrients”, giving the product the Illumin8 name.  Plant-based protein from peas, quinoa, chia seeds and more. Complex and gluten free carbs from garbanzo, amaranth and more. Healthy fats, pure vitamins from organic herbs and superfoods – none of those chemically derived vitamins.  Minerals from the sea, probiotics and fiber.  Enzymes present in the appropriate mix to help aid digestion and absorption of all the amazing nutrients in this product.

3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie - Vegan/GF

Be careful, you might think it’s a chocolate milkshake!!!

With all the nutrients packed in the Illumin8 meal replacement you can see why this smoothie doesn’t need any more ingredients.  Start your day off right, it’ll be Friday before you know it.

3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

With only three ingredients this vegan and gluten free smoothie delivers on all of your nutrition needs thanks to Sunwarrior’s Illumin8 meal replacements!

  1. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend on high for 3-5 minutes.  Drink up!


Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches


The Fourth of July, and summer in general, as a child meant lots of family picnics, fireworks, lots of swimming, playing croquet and bocce ball, and of course ice cream.  It also meant a lot of ice cream sandwiches.  I can remember one such event, it must have been a rainy day because we were all piled in my grandparents’ garage.  Grandma Junie was passing around ice cream sandwiches, the classic kind (not these fancy Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches), wrapped in paper, Uncle Mike was telling the story about how he shot the Truphents’ dog – a story which my Grandmother had no previous knowledge and I thought maybe she’d drop dead upon learning this.  I suppose this is the way life goes when you have five boys, all close in age, you’ll learn crazy stories about their goings-on thirty years down the road.

I have never really thought of it much until now, but I have quite a few ice cream memories associated with my paternal grandparents. My grandma used to hang out at the ice cream shop in town, I can’t for the life of me remember if she would eat ice cream everyday, but she drank lots of coffee and it always came with a cup of crushed ice, perhaps why I put an ice cube in my coffee.  When I was going through the elementary school swimming ranks my grandpa told me he’d buy me a banana split if I passed my deep-end swimming test on the first try.  Two conflicting things you should know about me here: 1 – I hate swimming, not that I’m bad at it, because I’m actually pretty good, but I absolutely hate it. 2 – I take tests very seriously, I’m a star pupil and I wear that nerd hat like a crown.  That happened to be the first and only banana split I have ever eaten.

So I think I just made the scientific discovery that preference for ice cream is a trait passed on from generation to generation.  My grandparents loved ice cream, my father loves ice cream, and so I love ice cream.  That’s got to be the way it works.

Store bought vegan ice cream has come a long way since the early 2000’s. Back then it was Tofutti, which to this day my brother Nick will still to go to bat for, but I think it’s just nostalgia, or his weird taste buds (that he also inherited from my paternal grandfather).  So Delicious is my favorite, especially Turtle Trails or the coconut milk Cookie Dough.  Just this year Ben & Jerry’s released almond milk ice cream, which, I typically love to hate these things, but I absolutely love the PB & Cookies flavor.

Despite the ease of buying a carton of ice cream, I still enjoy some homemade flavors.  It’s a little time consuming, since you have to wait for it to freeze, but it allows you the freedom to mix different flavors, to know exactly what is in your ice cream (or what is not).  Don’t limit yourself to a pint of some mainstream flavor, isn’t that what the Fourth of July is about – freedom (to make crazy ice cream flavors!).

Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwich - Vegan

Before we dive into this recipe, I will warn you that it requires patience and will power.  First you start with the ice cream. It only takes a few minutes to make, but it takes hours to freeze up.  While that’s going, you’ll make the peanut butter cookies.  Then you have to let them cool, and try not to eat one, unless of course, you have an uneven number, and in that case, you absolutely need to eat one.  When the ice cream is finally frozen, you have to make the sandwiches, roll them in roasted peanuts and pop them back in the freezer for a few minutes.  But it’s so worth it, promise.

Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 1 hour active, 3-4 hours inactive
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This recipe is a fun twist on your classic ice cream sandwich, with coconut banana ice cream stuffed in between peanut butter cookies.  The cookie recipe is adapted from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, feel free to use you favorite recipe for peanut butter cookies instead.

Coconut Banana Ice Cream

  • 1 15-ounce can coconut milk (full fat, this is no time to be on a diet!)
  • 2 ripe bananas, the riper they are the more sweet banana flavor you’ll get out of them
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Roughly 1 cup of roasted peanuts
  1. Use a blender or food processor to blend the coconut milk, bananas, sugar, corn starch and salt until the mixture is velvety smooth.  Transfer to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Bring the ice cream to a boil, stirring frequently.  Let the ice cream boil for about 3-5 minutes, you’ll be able to feel it thicken as you stir.  Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.  Allow the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes or so at room temperature.  Then, if you have an ice cream machine, follow the instructions and use it to churn your ice cream.  This will significantly speed up the freezing process. Otherwise, transfer the ice cream to a freezer safe (preferably glass) container and place in the freezer.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Use an electric mixer to beat the peanut butter, oil, sugar, vanilla and almond milk together until the mixture is well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on a low speed, add the flour mixture in 1/2 cup intervals. If the cookie dough is really dry, add a teaspoon of almond milk.
  5. Scoop out about a tablespoon of dough, roll it into a ball and use a fork to flatten it (think classic peanut butter cookie here) on the baking sheets.  The flattened cookies should be about an inch and a half in diameter.  Continue to fill up the tray, the cookies won’t spread much, but try to leave about 3/4 of an inch in between each cookie.  Bake for 8-9 minutes.
  6. Let the cookies completely cool at room temperature.
  7. When the ice cream is set up, use a spoon or an ice cream scoop to get about 2 tablespoons of ice cream in a ball. Transfer the ice cream to the bottom of one cookie and top it with another cookie. Apply gentle pressure to flatten the ice cream a little. Roll the sides of the sandwich (where the ice cream is exposed) in the peanuts and immediately place the sandwich back in the freezer (have an empty tray ready).  Continue until all of the cookies and/or ice cream are transformed into sandwiches!
  8. After the sandwiches have been in the freezer and the peanuts have frozen to the ice cream, transfer the cookies to an airtight container, I usually just use gallon ziplock baggies. Keep in the freezer until ready to devour.

I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman – Anansi Boys, it’s a wild story about long lost brothers and a rich family history of gods and super powers.  To keep track of what I’m reading, head over to my Goodreads account or glance at the widget on the bottom right of this page.  What are you favorite summer reading books?


Granola Bar Round Up

Summer is here.  I don’t care what the calendar says. My skin is a few shades darker and my freckles are popping like crazy.  I even have a Teva tan! The weather forecast is consistently in the 80s here in Central Ohio. It’s summer.

Cage the Elephant at Express Live!

Cage the Elephant concert last night at Express Live! in Columbus.

Summer brings road trips, concerts, long days at the beach, and festivals. Even if you’re staying home, the last thing you want to do is cook.  This is why granola bars are the single most important food of summer.  I always have one tucked in my bag, the freezer always has a dozen ready to go when hunger strikes.  Use your rainy days to get in the kitchen and load the freezer up.  Not only do these granola bars whip up really quickly, but they’re loaded with nutrition – whole grains, omega fatty acids, fiber, protein and tons of vitamins and minerals.

Before I started making homemade granola bars I had a notion that they would be really finicky, crumble apart, and I would end up with granola.  But this isn’t the case.  Well, I have had a few recipe flops, but a good recipe will produce solid bars.  In my experience, it’s all about the details.  You’ve got to press the bars before and after baking. You’ve got to use parchment paper. You’ve got to allow them to cool completely before trying to cut them or take them out of the pan.

Here’s a round up of three recipes I have on the blog right now:

Sweet Potato Coconut Granola Bars – This recipe has just 9 ingredients! It’s gluten free, just make sure you buy the gluten free oats.  The sweet, earthy flecks of sweet potato pair perfectly with the nutty, melt-in-your-mouth coconut flakes.  It’s really a match made in heaven.

Sweet Potato Coconut Granola Bars - Vegan Heartbeats

Sweet Potato Coconut Granola Bars

Peanut Butter Banana Granola Bars – um, of course! Banana granola bars were my go-to, until one day I replaced the coconut oil with peanut butter.  The result was life changing.  This recipe only has 8 ingredient! and it’s gluten-free!

Peanut Butter Banana Granola Bars

Peanut Butter Banana Granola Bar mix

Cherry Nut Bars – Here’s another 8 ingredient, gluten free granola bar recipe for you! This one is a little different. It’s a sticky bar that was created to taste like peanut butter and jelly.  It’s my favorite of the bunch, but a little more labor intensive. You have to cook down cherry juice with agave nectar or maple syrup to make a thick, sugary binder for the bars.  It’s so worth it though, these bars are mouthwateringly delicious.

Cherry Nut Bars

Cherry Nut Bars

Happy Eating!


Summer Squash Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Tempeh

With it being summer my weeks are sort of out of whack.  I’m not really sure why, because I have a pretty set schedule still.  Friday mornings are becoming one of my most rewarding times of the week.  I wake up naturally, no alarm.  I make a big pot of coffee and set up my computer in bed. I get to work, and I’m actually productive, none of that pinterest and Facebook black hole, hours down the drain nonsense. I go for my run. I take Rigby on a walk. I clean the house. I shower. I even get some time to meal prep for the weekend. Then all of a sudden it’s 1:30 and I’m exhausted, just in time for work.

Summer Squash Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Tempeh - vegan /gluten free

Those of you who know me, or have been following this blog over the years, know that I am one of those “I’ll relax when it’s all done” people. I’ll be laying in the hammock before work, trying to read a book, and all I can process are the things left unchecked on to do list.  I’ve learned over the years that it’s a lot easier to accept who you are and work with it, than it is to try to change who are you.  I know I feel my best, physically and mentally, when I get shit done. I’m happy and bright. Energized and cheerful.

Life is just balance. Thinking about how you feel and not forcing yourself to do things.  I can’t force myself to relax, and it actually makes my anxiety worse when I do, so I’m better off pushing through!

Summer Squash Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Tempeh - vegan /gluten free

Fridays are a great day to be really productive.  I’m glad I wake up on Fridays ready to kill it.  Then on Saturdays and Sundays, I don’t have to worry about paying bills or cleaning the house, I can just exist. My mind is clearer, so I’m more likely to get my paints out, sit in the garden and draw, or knock out a half dozen chapters of my summer reading list.  This weekend we have the Cage the Elephant concert, which is going to be so much fun.  I bought tickets the second they went on sale in March, I’ve been thinking about this day for months! It’s supposed to rain, so cross your fingers we get the evening dry (not that it’ll stop me from having a good time!).

Summer Squash Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Tempeh - vegan /gluten free

I love today’s recipe because it’s really flexible, I’m trying to teach myself lessons through my food.  You can eat it hot. You can eat it cold. It’s an easy one to throw together at the beginning of the week and portion into lunches for the rest of the week.  Summertime is busy in a different way the rest of the year is busy.  At least for me, I want to be outside all the time. Even if I’m not doing something I don’t want to be inside cooking for hours.  I’ve tried to get creative, making dinners that involve zero cooking, but the biggest thing I’ve been doing is thinking ahead.  When I’m in the kitchen making dinner, I try to think to the next few days – what am I doing, where am I going to be, when will I eat?  If I can throw together a huge salad that’ll last for 3 days, I’m going to do that. If I have some extra veggies and chickpeas, I’ll make a chickpea salad to have in the fridge. The other night I threw together a tofu egg salad on a whim, because it’s perfect for summer and really great for you!  Today’s recipe was the product of one of these kitchen fits where I just started making everything I had so the following days I didn’t have to do more than open the fridge and grab a fork.

Summer Squash Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Tempeh - vegan /gluten free Summer Squash Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Tempeh - vegan /gluten free

Summer Squash Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Tempeh

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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This is a protein packed, gluten-free, flexible summer meal that can be served as the main attraction or as a cold salad.  It goes great with some fresh greens and a garlicky, creamy salad dressing!

  • 1 16-ounce package tempeh
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup quinoa (I prefer white quinoa, I think it cooks the best, but you can use whichever type you prefer)
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 3 yellow squash, cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Fill a microwave safe bowl with water and microwave for 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut the tempeh into 8-12 pieces. I like triangles because they look a little fancier, but squares or little rectangles are fine too.  When the water is done in the microwave, carefully remove it and add the tempeh pieces to it.  Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  This process helps steam the tempeh, helping absorb more marinade and removes some of the bitter, grassiness it can have.
  2. In a larger rectangular dish, like a casserole or a cake pan, whisk together the soy sauce, balsamic, olive oil and the first clove of garlic.  Drain the tempeh from the water, and add it to the marinade.  Toss the tempeh around so each piece is coated.  Set aside to marinade while the rest of the dish comes together.
  3. Heat the 2 cups of water or vegetable broth in a small saucepan.  If you’re using water, add a good pinch of salt.  Bring the liquid to a boil.  Add the quinoa and stir.  Reduce the heat so the quinoa is simmering, not bubbling all over.  Place a cover on the pan, but leave it a little to the side so some steam can escape.  Let this sit for 15-20 minutes.  Quinoa cooks up like rice, so it’s done when the liquid is absorbed, the quinoa looks fluffy and the little tails of the quinoa are out.
  4. While the quinoa cooks, heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan.  Add the yellow squash.  Cook on high heat, allow the squash to soften and get nicely browned.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the jalapeño and the garlic.  Stir to combine and cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Transfer the squash mixture to a big serving bowl when it’s done.  Set aside.
  5. Use the same sauté pan for the tempeh (to avoid a mess of dishes). Cook the tempeh on high heat, add about half of the marinade to the pan.  Allow the marinade to bubble and reduce. Flip the tempeh once, after about 5-7 minutes.  The second side will take about 3-5 minutes to cook and get browned, since there is less liquid in the pan.
  6. When the tempeh is done, add it to the squash.  At this point, the quinoa should be about done.  If it has absorbed all the liquid and looks fluffy, remove it from the heat and add it to the squash and tempeh.  Taste for seasoning, add some salt or a sprinkle of Italian seasoning if you want.  Eat it now, or throw it in the fridge and eat it later!


Save any leftover marinade! You can drizzle it on top of the dish for a little boost of flavor. It’s great on mushrooms and other veggies too.


Happy Eating!


Vegan Curry Chicken Salad

When did curry become a verb? I just did a simple google search for curry chicken salad, and almost every post is named ‘curried chicken salad’.  If it was ranch instead of curry, we wouldn’t call it ranched chicken salad. That just sounds funny.

Language is really interesting.  This is just me talking here, but it seems like if a conjugation sounds good, even if it’s not technically correct, it will stick.  Like curry. Curry is a noun, not a verb, but somehow we can have curried foods, instead of just curry foods. It is like a popularity effect.  Think about slang words,  they sound good so people use them. They become ubiquitous and new generations lose touch with the original words.

Food is often used as a vehicle for language. Especially for easing into deep emotional conversation that most of us have a difficult time with.  Proposals with champagne and fine Italian dining.  Breakups over lattes and muffins. Alone later with brownie batter and chocolate syrup.  Picnics filled with lust. Comfort food at funerals, picture huge aluminum pans of homemade mac and cheese.  Holidays revolve around the dining room table.  Late night pizza means you are bored or stressed from a long day of work.  Beers for ups. Whiskey for downs.

Vegan Curry Chicken Salad

If this vegan curry chicken salad could talk, it would say that you care about eating healthy, but you’re busy. It would say that you are adventurous, like trying new things and you don’t conform easily.  This vegan curry chicken salad is a great addition to your lunch routine.  It can be prepared easily at the beginning of the week, prepackaged in 1 serving containers. Pack a pita or tortilla for an easy way to add some oomph.   That way when Thursday rolls around and you’re steam for the week has reduced to a small puff, all you have to do is reach into the refrigerator. No sacrifices on health, flavor or satisfaction this week.  Did I mention this recipe is gluten free, has only 10 ingredients and zero cooking?

Vegan Curry Chicken Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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10 ingredients, zero cooking, gluten free and vegan! That adds up to a winning recipe in my book.

  • 1 12-ounce package of Beyond Meat Chicken Strips*
  • 1 tablespoon of curry paste*
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2-4 tablespoons of orange juice (if you are using store bought OJ, use 2 tablespoons; freshly juiced, use 4)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup of diced carrots (about 1 large carrot)
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup of craisins
  1. Thaw the chicken strips.  If you are using the microwave, be careful not to cook them.  This product doesn’t do well in the microwave beyond thawing.  The strips sort of melt together, which is not what we want at all! So just nuke them in short intervals, being sure to toss them around until they are no longer frozen.
  2. Whisk together the curry paste, mayonnaise, maple syrup and orange juice in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  3. Add the pepper, onion, carrots, peas and craisins to the sauce.
  4. When the chicken strips are thawed, cut them up into quarter-inch sized pieces.  The Beyond Meat strips have layers that you can pull apart, so I typically pull a few layers apart to make the chunks a little thinner.  Add the pieces of chicken strips to the bowl.
  5. Mix everything together. Taste and add a pinch of salt or pepper if you wish.   Store in the fridge for up to 7 days.

*Notes: I like the Beyond Meat chicken strips because they are also gluten free, but you can substitute any brand here.  My favorite curry paste is Patak’s.  I’ve had a really difficult time finding it since I’ve been in Columbus, so I’ve been using Thai Kitchen brand.  There are a number of different options on the market for curry paste (spicy versus sweet, green versus red).  If you can’t find curry paste, you can substitute 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of curry powder.

Warm Chickpea and Chicken Salad – Vegan

You guys! It’s officially summer! I took my last final of the semester, so despite the fact that the weather has been pouring rain on and off for the last week or so, it really is summer. Hooray!

Instead of spending this first week off binge watching Netflix in my pajamas, I am inspired to create and do this summer. The first stop I made after my final was to the book store to get some summer reading, as I’m eager to read something other than dry scientific journal articles.  I just love wandering around a book store, especially when I’m not looking for anything in particular.

One of my purchases, an artsy magazine titled Flow, features a story on imitation that brought me back to something I ready in Molly Wizenberg’s book, A Homemade Life.  Flow talks about imitation as facilitating learning, a natural human behavior that starts at the beginning of child development.  Molly talks about imitation in cooking, that each new recipe is essentially based on something that was seen, tasted, learned, smelled, etc. prior to this new conception.

Side note: originality.  Maybe more so now than ever, originality is seen as a prized trait. Originality is sort of confusing though. Society values originality, but it also values buying and sporting the popular brands and products. To me, originality is being true to yourself.  It’s taking past experiences, sights and memories and blending them into new. To Molly and Flow, originality is not really possible, because anything you create is going to be biased by everything you already know.

Growing up I always loved drawing, painting and crafting, but I never thought myself any good at it.  It wasn’t until recently that I’ve developed this pride and confidence in my artwork.  Embracing art as an adult means that I haven’t had the formal training or degrees that some artists have had. I find myself constantly combing through other people’s work to find inspiration and clues on how to create things on my own.

mandala flower pot

A flower pot I recently painted with a mandala design.

I do, however, have this depth of knowledge related to food and I hope that others can use my recipes to learn techniques, flavors and confidence in cooking.  Just as it may take me years to draw a dog without actually looking at a drawing of a dog, it may take some of you years to make muffins without looking at a recipe.  The more confident you become, the less you’ll glance at your reference, and the more original your work will become.

Today’s recipe for Warm Chickpea and Chicken Salad is not something that I am imitating. From past experience, eating out at restaurants and reading countless cookbooks, I know that chickpeas, garlic, tomato, artichoke hearts and spinach are going to go well together. I know their colors are going to form a vibrant dish.  This recipe could not be any easier, just 10 ingredients! The next time you’re in need for a quick lunch or dinner, put this recipe at the top of your list.  Warm Chickpea and Chicken Salad is loaded with fiber and protein, low in fat, and rich in vitamins and minerals.

Warm Chickpea and Chicken Salad - V/GF

Warm Chickpea and Chicken Salad - V/GF

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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With only 10 ingredients, this is a go-to lunch.  It’s perfect for those rainy spring days when you’re stuck indoors and want something warm, but light.  Serve it with a crusty piece of bread and a tall glass of lemonade.

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) of vegan chicken strips ( Gardein is a great brand that can be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores)
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup of roughly chopped artichoke hearts
  • 1 tomato, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup spinach
  1. Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Toss in the sliced onions, so each slice is coated with oil.  Let them cook down until they are visibly soft.  Add the garlic and vegan chicken strips. Continue to cook for about 3-5 minutes, covered.
  2. After about 5 minutes, uncover the pan. The chicken strips should no longer look frozen, and should be starting to brown.  Add the chickpeas, artichoke hearts, tomato, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.  Toss everything together.  Continue to cook, uncovered for about 3-5 more minutes.  The tomatoes should start to release some juice, the chickpeas and the chicken will start to brown.
  3. Turn off the heat.  Add the spinach and gently toss all the ingredients together.  Let the salad sit for about a minute, so the spinach can wilt, and then serve it up!

*Beyond Meat products are also gluten free!