Spoonable Vegan Caramel (a recipe you’ll want to save)

As a Functional Nutritionist, you may be wondering why I’m sharing a recipe for sweets… for an amazing spoonable vegan caramel, in fact!

Everyday, I work with people who are trying to figure out what foods they can eat to support their health. What foods trigger symptoms? Which ones enhance energy and reduce pain? The relationship with food becomes challenging. It becomes confusing.

When you follow an anti-inflammatory diet or most any dietary approach, you may come to categorize foods as good and bad. The “food as fuel” mentality may feel like a mantra. Being mindful of what you eat is good practice, but there is always room for balance. Food is social. It is comfort and pleasure. Eating is sensual and tactile. Fuel alone, it is not… and buying into that is buying into imbalance and denying yourself the primal human experience and relationship with food. With the holiday season upon us and New Year’s a breath away, remember that it is normal to enjoy food. Even on the strictest diet, pleasure can be part of the plan.

This spoonable vegan caramel is a recipe you’ll want to save. It keeps in the fridge and freezes well so you can make a batch and enjoy it when you desire something sweet.

 

Spoonable Vegan Caramel

⅓ cup coconut sugar (light brown sugar can be substituted but is more processed)
½ cup pitted dates
½ cup unsweetened plain non-dairy creamer
¼ cup vegan butter (Forager is my favorite brand)*
¾ teaspoon salt

1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, creamer, and butter. Whisk until combined and bring the mixture to a boil. Once sugar dissolves, reduce the heat to medium.

2. Simmer mixture for 7 minutes, whisk every 2 minutes. Once caramel is bubbling, check temperature with candy thermometer until it reaches between 225 to 230 degrees. Add salt.

3. Carefully transfer the sauce to a food processor or high-powered blender. Add the pitted dates one at a time and blend until smooth with desired consistency. You may not need all of the dates.

4. Scrape into a pyrex container or freezer safe mason jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.

*Alternative – substitute the vegan butter with sunflower seed butter, cashew butter or macadamia nut butter

 

5 Ways to Enjoy Your Caramel

There are a million ways to use this caramel sauce, but here are some of my favorites:

  1. Dip slices on fresh apple.
  2. Drizzle it over thick yogurt and granola.
  3. Stir a spoonful into a latte (Coffee, Dandy Blend and Chaga lattes all feel more decadent with this addition)!
  4. Mix equal portions caramel and unsweetened nut butter. Use this as a dip for fruit. The fat from the nut butter helps lower the glycemic impact.
  5. Use as a topping for raw vegan cheesecake filling. Make my favorite raw cheesecake by soaking 1 cup of raw cashews in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain the cashews and blend them with ¼ cup water, ¼ cup plain unsweetened vegan yogurt, 10 drops plain liquid stevia, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Pour into cups or ramekins and chill in fridge or freezer for 30 minutes to firm up. Top with caramel and dust with cocoa powder or graham cracker crumbs (use gluten free vegan ones if you are gluten free!)

Great Gluten Free Dinner Rolls

Sometimes a good, carby, crusty roll is the perfect addition to a meal. For me, the Thanksgiving table is a place where dinner rolls are needed. If you need a good gluten free, dairy free and an egg-free option – try these great gluten free dinner rolls. They’re so good, you may find yourself enjoying them with breakfast or lunch too! Double the recipe (you’ll thank me!)

 

Great Gluten Free Dinner Rolls

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar (I like coconut sugar)
  • approx. 1 cup brown rice flour or your favorite gluten free blend (add a little more if dough is too sticky)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, ghee or butter (based on your preference and any allergy needs)
  • 2 eggs OR 2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flax meal combined with 6 Tbsp hot water)
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  1. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by lightly oiling each muffin cup.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast and sugar. Stir until the yeast and sugar dissolve. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside for 10 minutes. The mixture should get foamy as the yeast activates.
  3. Place flour, starches, xanthan gum and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment.
  4. Whisk the oil, egg or flax egg and vinegar into the water/yeast  mixture. Then add this mixture to the stand mixer with the flour.
  5. Mix with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together and forms a sticky, soft texture.
  6. Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to portion the dough into each of the 12 muffin cups. Set the pan aside and allow the dough to double in size. If you use flax egg, the dough may take up to 45 minutes to rise.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375*
  8. Bake the rolls in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crusty

Tasty 10-minute Meals That Are Healthy Too

Even if you’re a meal-planning pro, everyone has those days when being able to have a meal on the table in a snap is a relief.  Enter some tasty 10-minute meals that are healthy too!  When you see how easy and fast it can be to get healthy food on the table, you’ll understand why I feel like your fairy Godmother sprinkling the glitter of happiness and health your way!

Fresh, seasonal veg, canned beans, tomato sauce, herbs… wait til you see the magic that can happen with simple, fresh ingredients and a smidgeon of time.

Zucchini Pizzas with Veg and Greens: 

Zucchini PizzaPlace 1/4 inch thick slices of zucchini on a large baking sheet. Brush each lightly with olive oil. Layer with thinly sliced tomato.  Sprinkle with dairy-free cheese shreds (or your favorite mozzarella).  Scatter chopped veggies (onion, bell pepper, mushroom, olive). Broil 5-7 minutes or until top is hot, edges crispy, cheese melted. Remove from oven, top with arugula. Note: slice zucchini in rounds for pizza circles or lengthwise for a flatbread feel.  Alternatively, slice zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seedy bits.  Then stuff the hollow with your pizza ingredients and broil to warm through.

 

Veg Skillet:

bean and veg skilletToss 2 cups pre-sliced mushrooms in a large skillet, season with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano to taste. Add 28 oz. diced tomatoes (with their liquid) + 1 cup chunky Salsa + 1 can steamed lentils or black beans (rinsed, drained).  Stir in 10 oz. frozen corn + 1 cup sliced zucchini or bell pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 8 minutes. Serve with a generous amount of minced cilantro or parsley.  Note: Easily turn this into a delicious soup by adding a carton of organic broth — a cup of cooked quinoa and a handful of chopped spinach or kale makes this a hearty and nutritious soup.

 

Herbed Chickpea Salad:

chickpea salad on greensDrain 1 can (28 oz) garbanzo beans/chickpeas (reserve liquid for another use).  Toss the chickpeas in a large bowl with the juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove of garlic (peeled and minced).  Mix ingredients together and adjust seasoning if needed.  Serve on a bed of mixed greens.  Sprinkle the top with 2-3 Tablespoons of hemp seeds.  Here’s another version that is a favorite in my house!

 

Quick Fresh Rolls: 

fresh veg in chard leavesWash 1-2 leaves of purple or green cabbage or swiss chard (per serving).  Slice out the thick part of the stem if needed.  Mash the flesh of 1/2 an avocado per serving — season with salt, pepper, garlic, lemon or lime juice.  Lay out the cabbage leaves and spread some avo mash on each one.  Top with sliced baked tofu, tempeh or roasted chicken or salmon (or your favorite clean protein).  Add a slice of pickle or fresh cucumber and roll the contents up in the leaf.  Eat!  Note: prepared hummus can be used in place or mashed avocado or in addition to it!  Broccoli slaw mix is another great filler.

To make this meal without cabbage or chard leaves, try it with rice paper wrappers.  Quickly rehydrate one wrapper at a time in a shallow pan of warm water.  Remove promptly and lay the wet wrapper on a clean kitchen towel.  Fill per directions above and wrap up like a burrito or an egg roll.  Rice paper wrappers are shelf stable and make a great addition to any pantry for quick, healthy fresh rolls!

 

Noodle Bowl: 

noodle bowl with vegCook soba noodles in boiling water for 8 minutes — or soak thin rice noodles in hot water until pliable — drain and set aside.  Meantime, whisk together 2 Tablespoons each miso paste, lime juice, water, sriracha (optional). Put cooked noodles in serving bowls.  Add shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, grape tomatoes, snap peas.  Add cubes of cooked protein like tofu, tempeh, chicken, fish, beef, etc if desired. Top with a drizzle of the dressing and fresh minced cilantro, green onion, jalapeno or sprouts if desired.  Note: A little natural peanut/almond or sunflower butter added to the dressing can make for a delightful Thai inspired flavor.  Some minced ginger or ginger juice also tastes nice.

 

More tasty 10-minute meals that are healthy too… What is your go-to creation?  Comment below!

Healthy Eating Tips Every Vegetarian Needs to Know

Healthy Eating Tips Every Vegetarian Needs to Know

Are Meatless Mondays intriguing?  Wondering what vegetarians eat and how vegans get protein?  Tasty, healthy, socially conscious plant-based meals can be part of any diet… and yet, this dietary approach is always prompting a lot of questions.  How about digging in a little with me as I share the healthy eating tips every vegetarian needs to know?

What is a vegetarian diet?

  • A vegetarian diet is one excluding meat, poultry and seafood.
  • A fully plant-based vegan diet is further excluding eggs and dairy.

Now, you might be thinking that vegetarian diets all include a lot of vegetables… right?  Unfortunately, not all do.  There are plenty of junk foods that are vegetarian and vegan.  Oreos, twinkies, potato chips, mashed potatoes, french fries, processed meat substitutes, etc are all junk food options.  Grains, nuts, and plant fats are also vegetarian and vegan.  Occasionally, those foods are okay, but a diet of those alone is lacking!  While we think that the terms “vegetarian” and “vegan” are health conscious, they do not necessarily mean “healthy.”

Well-planned, balanced, nutrient-dense vegetarian and vegan diets, on the other hand, focus on plant foods that are packed with nutrients.  This type of diet can be appropriate for people of all ages including infants, children, teens and pregnant and breastfeeding women, adults and seniors.

Are there health benefits?

Yes! First, vegetarians often have healthier body weight, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure than non-vegetarians.  In addition, rates of heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes is also lower in plant-based eaters. These health benefits may result from higher intake of fiber and phytonutrients from fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, and nuts along with lower intakes of saturated fats.

Healthy Plant-Based Foods

Vegetables:

  • Veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Choosing vibrant colors, especially orange, red and dark green ensures that your diet will contain plenty of vital nutrients.
  • Broccoli, bok choy and collard greens provide calcium; Spinach, iron and bell peppers, Vitamin C.  The list goes on and on!
  • Fresh is best, frozen is fine.  Most frozen produce is flash frozen at the peak of freshness so you do not lose any nutrition AND you get the benefit of the best flavor!
  • For canned veg, be looking for brands that don’t add salt.  Choose BPA free cans to reduce exposure to those extra toxins.

 

Fruits:

  • Colorful, seasonal fruits supply fiber, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants that help your body fight free radicals and stay healthy.
  • Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits, including fresh, frozen and canned with no added sugar.
  • Berries are low glycemic, meaning they do not trigger a big spike in blood sugar when eaten in moderation.  Their fiber content is part of the secret that maintains blood sugar balance.

 

Grains:

  • Whole grains can be part of a healthy diet.
  • Quinoa and millet are high in protein and gluten-free.
  • Wild rice, buckwheat and gluten free oats are packed with fiber and nutrients.
  • Steer clear of refined flours, pasta and breads in favor of whole grain options.
  • Some people are sensitive to gluten, lectins and phytates.  These are natural components of most grains.  If you feel tired, bloated, achy or otherwise “off” after eating grains, this may be an issue for you.

 

Proteins:

  • It’s a myth that vegetarians have a hard time getting enough protein!
  • All plant foods are made up of amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein!
  • Just like gorillas can get their protein from grasses and plants, so too can you!
  • Beans, peas and lentils are packed with protein and have the added benefit of iron, zinc and fiber.
  • Nuts, seeds and soy products are also great choices.
  • My favorites, quinoa and hemp contain all the amino acids to make a complete protein!

Fats:

  • Healthy plant-based fats promote brain health and have cardiovascular benefits.
  • Fats are needed for fertility and to create easily passed stool too!
  • Coconut oil, avocado and avocado oil and olive oil can be part of a healthy diet.
  • Nuts and seeds are also sources of healthy fats.

 

Dairy:

  • Dairy milk, yogurt and cheese contain calcium but it is a form that the body cannot easily absorb.  On the other hand, non-dairy alternatives are fortified and don’t include the risks of hormones and animal by-products.
  • Nuts milks, hemp milk, oat milk, coconut milk and soymilk are all readily available.
  • Rice milk is another option.  However, it tends to be overly sweetened and is generally not an everyday choice.  All rice is a natural source of arsenic.  Some varieties contain more than others.  In general, rice should be an occasional food.

 

Beautiful, Healthy Plant-based Meal and Snack Ideas

A healthy vegetarian or vegan eating style depends on variety. Here are some ideas to get you started.

 

Breakfast

  • Spread mashed avocado on a slice of whole-grain or gluten free bread and top with sprouts and hemp seeds for a balance of protein, fat and fiber!
  • Spread almond butter on a whole-grain toasted bagel and top with thin apple slices.
  • Soaking ½ cup gluten free oats overnight in 1 cup non-dairy milk and topping with nuts and fresh fruit or dried cranberries in the morning makes for a quick breakfast
  • Whole-grain toaster waffle topped with blueberries and tahini

 

Lunch

  • Veg burger or falafel with non-dairy cheese, mushrooms, tomato, lettuce and pickles on a whole-grain bun
  • Salad: leafy greens, cut-up vegetables, beans or tofu, fruit, nuts, hemp seeds
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread with carrot and celery sticks
  • Avocado roll with seaweed salad and miso soup

 

Dinner

  • Start with chili made with beans, lentils and quinoa. Then, top with shredded non-dairy cheese and add a side of cornbread and salad
  • Whole-grain pasta with tomato sauce plus vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and onions) and a gorgeous green salad
  • Pizza with or without cheese, topped with your favorite vegetables and arugula
  • Tacos or burritos filled with beans, corn, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cilantro and avocado
  • Vegetable stir-fry with quinoa
  • Butternut squash soup with a mixed salad and whole grain flatbread
  • Use baked russet or sweet potato as a base.  Then, top with sautéed mushrooms, broccoli and melted Daiya cheese and chives.  Or, try hempseeds, avocado, minced parsley and pine nuts.

 

Snacks

  • Hummus with pita wedges, celery sticks, bell pepper strips and carrots
  • Prepare and keep sliced veggies and fruits in the fridge for quick snacking and meal prep.
  • Top a bagel with nut butter
  • Coconut Yogurt layered with crunchy granola, hemp seeds and sliced fruit
  • Enjoy a cup of vegetable soup and whole grain crackers
  • Mashed avocado topped with crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt

 

What is your dietary approach?  Is plant-based eating something you would try?  Sharing is caring… do you have any other healthy eating tips every vegetarian needs to know?

Want a copy of these tips in a handy pdf? Click here for instant access –> Healthy Eating Tips for vegetarians

4 Simple Nutritionist Approved Ways to Get Started when You Feel Stuck

4 Simple Nutritionist Approved Ways to Get Started when You Feel Stuck

Do you have a desire to improve your health, but you find yourself not knowing where to start?

Does a holistic mind, body, and soul approach feel good to you? Let’s walk through some basics that may be just the thing you need!

Making small changes and shifting based on how your body responds is a simple way to get started on your health. The goal is balance, right?  Having the energy to do the things you desire, while feeling really good and being productive so that you can be your best self… You deserve that!

Now, you may think that untangling health imbalance is complicated… and it can be!  But, getting started is quite easy.

Here are my 4 Simple Nutritionist Approved Ways to Get Started when You Feel Stuck:

#1. Identify Areas That Need Support

The very first thing you need to is to identify the areas where you need support. Do you struggle with digestive issues or acne or PMS?  Are you getting enough sleep? Do you need to lose a few pounds? Or maybe you need time management strategies to help balance time for work, home, social life and self-care?

#2. Track The Basics

Jot down how you sleep, how you feel, your energy level, when you poop (and the quality of your poop).

Why journal?  Easy – taking a mental note doesn’t let you review and assess. Actually jotting down the basics lets you actually SEE what’s going on rather than guessing.  It may seem overwhelming to journal like that… and if it does, I want you to ask yourself what’s more overwhelming: jotting down a couple things during the day or continuing to feel off your game and not knowing what to do about it?

The beauty of this step and this “ask” is that it’s all about your individual path to wellbeing; no one else’s.  You

#3. Track Your Diet

Before you raise your hand and point out that this is another thing to jot in your journal, know that I get it… this is a slightly bigger ask.  Thing is, this is no more difficult and really doesn’t take much time.  Just jot down what you eat in addition to basics or use an app like MyFitnessPal, to track your diet each day (BONUS points if you track what you’re doing for fitness too!)

Thing is, you don’t have to track forever.  This is a for now thing.  This is a couple of weeks thing.

Doable, right?

#4. Assess and Respond with One Shift

  1. You made a list of a few things that you think need support.
  2. You tracked the basics for a few weeks.
  3. The next thing to do is review your work and assess the situation.

It may surprise you to see that you feel snippy the day after you eat dairy or have less energy on days when you drink less water.  Be on the lookout for shifts in focus and memory when you have a difficult night’s sleep and look for changes in your poop around your monthly cycle (yep, that’s a thing).

Once you have the data, one or two things will probably stick out.  It may be obvious what action to take to support yourself.  For example, if you bloat or breakout after eating dairy, then the logical step would be to ease off the dairy.

If nothing sticks out, go back to your list of things that you know need some work.  My suggestion is to experiment for a few weeks and see what happens if you avoid gluten, dairy, caffeine and processed sugar.  Those four things are known troublemakers that can disrupt hormones, sleep, digestion/absorption and blood sugar.  So many health issues are rooted in those four factors.

Why This Process Works

This process is similar to the model I use as a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner.  The ART of Functional Practice includes Assessment, Recommendation and Tracking.  Basically, we can’t know what steps to take until we have a clear picture of what’s happening.  It’s why I don’t recommend particular supplements or targeted strategies to people in the produce aisle and the same reason neurosurgeons don’t diagnose people at the dinner table.  Trusted practitioners take the time to use the tools and training that we know will get results and ensure your safety.

Tapping into the Functional process provides you with a framework not only for action, but for success! Take the four simple steps outlined above and get started. You’ll see that it’s easy to step out of overwhelm when you break it down and start slow. Track your basics and use that information to improve your quality of life as you continue your journey to overall wellbeing.


Start your journey from stuck to health savvy.

Action Steps:

  1. Download your free journal page by clicking here (no strings attached – it’s instant access!)
  2. Print as many copies as you need AND commit to use them for at least 2 weeks.
  3. Post below and let me know if you like the worksheets and if this strategy is helpful.

Making a ton of changes all at once can actually cloud the picture!  Try the 4 simple ways I outlined above and get started when you feel stuck… your mission is to start small, keep it simple and keep it up!

10 Things to Keep in Your Pantry if You Want to Make Healthy Meals Fast

The better your kitchen is stocked, the more choices you will have at dinnertime. Here is a list of 10 things to keep in your pantry if you want to make healthy meals fast.  Most are shelf-stable, but a few require refrigeration.

10 Things to Keep in Your Pantry if You Want to Make Healthy Meals Fast

  1. Canned or aseptic pack beans: versatile and convenient. Beans like chickpeas, kidney, cannellini and black beans add protein and nutrients to salads, pastas, quinoa or rice dishes and soups. Puree them to make dressings, sauces, and dips. For veggie burgers, mix with cooked rice or quinoa, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, or nuts.  Mash, shape and bake until crisp on the edges.  The recipe here is one of my favorites – if you try it, post a picture to Facebook or Instagram and tag me!
  2. Bottled/Jarred pasta sauce: great for a quick and easy pasta meal (avoid hidden sugar by reading labels!) To make sauces taste fresh, sauté minced garlic in olive oil, add the sauce and simmer. Season with dried herbs like cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne. Top with fresh basil.  A splash of wine can deepen flavor further.
  3. Quick-cooking grains and pastas: rice noodles, kelp noodles, konjac noodles, quinoa, pre-cooked brown rice, chickpea pasta, soba (buckwheat) noodles. Toss with olive oil or sauce.  Cold noodle salads with peanut sauce, sliced veggies, and torn basil.  Add to broth with a baby spinach for a quick soup.
  4. Oats: Blend oats with water to make creamy oat milk.  Mix with an equal amount of water before bed and you will have breakfast ready to go. Roll oats with nut butter and hemp seeds to form snack balls.
  5. Cooked polenta: available in a log shape that you can open and slice. Great topped with marinara sauce, chili or sautéed greens and veggies.  Polenta can be cut into crouton shapes, baked until crispy and used as a crunchy topper for salads and soups!
  6. Hemp hearts: Neutral, almost nutty tasting plant protein with healthy omega-3 fats and micronutrients. Blend with water for hemp milk or a smoothie base.  Make dips and dressings by blending with a little water until smooth.  Season with salt, pepper, and herbs for a variety of flavors!  Sprinkle on salads.  Mix with herbs and sprinkle on pasta for a cheese alternative.
  7. Boxed coconut milk: I love boxed coconut milk for a couple of reasons.  First, it is easy to separate the coconut cream from the coconut water.  Coconut cream makes a quick dessert topping sweetened with a little stevia or maple syrup.  Make a yogurt substitute by mixing coconut cream with a squeeze of lemon juice and the contents of a probiotic capsule.  The versatility does not stop there.  Coconut milk can be blended with any fruit you have on hand to make a simple smoothie.  It is a great addition to a lemony broth for noodles; just add a sprinkle of chili pepper for a Thai inspired noodle dish!  Add curry powder and a bit of plain tomato sauce for a delightful curry sauce that you will want to lick off the spoon! (The brand I linked is my favorite – no additives or preservatives.)
  8. Coconut wraps: A shelf-stable pantry alternative to tortillas. Make burritos, fajitas, and quesadillas.  Use them for wrap sandwiches, layered casseroles, or super thin and crispy pizzas.
  9. Jarred artichoke hearts: These tender veggies have great flavor and can elevate a dish from familiar to fancy!  Drain, rinse, and eat.  Add them to pasta, salads, or toss with beans to make a simple meal.
  10. Nuts: Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, pecans, cashews… Add these to salads. Blend with beans for a creamy dip or dressing.  Chop fine and add to veggie burger mix for better texture.  Make nut milk.  Blend with broth and white beans for a creamy soup.  Chop and mix with minced mushrooms, onion, and taco seasoning for an easy raw taco “meat.”

 

Build Your Pantry

Take the stress out of mealtime.  Start building your pantry.  Adding shelf-stable items that are versatile can make mealtime a breeze.  It is also a comfort to have staples on hand that are not only nourishing but also tasty.  Start with these 10 things to keep in your pantry if you want to make healthy meals fast.  Check back for the next blog in this series that will share fridge and freezer basics.

 

Get More Great Tips AND Recipes

I love helping to take the stress out of mealtimes!  If you have not already, signup for my mailing list below to get exclusive recipes and more simple strategies like this list of pantry staples.  I want to help you use nutrition to support and improve your health.  We are in this together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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