Wanderlust Trail Mix (Vegan, Gluten Free)

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I love to fly. I especially love traveling through wispy layers of clouds. I half expect to find fairies or angels living among us in the fluff, lounging in this beautiful realm between the earth and stars. But more importantly, I love to travel and explore new places and things. I love to find new things to love. I blame my insatiable wanderlust on the fact I’m a Gemini, always wandering but never rooted.

Except I am rooted. I am rooted in the earth; where I plant my feet I call home.

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Home is not a physical space for me. Instead it’s a feeling of content and comfort rooted in the present moment. So no matter where I go I will always be able to find home. I know this idea can be difficult to grasp, but growing up in an alcoholic home means I didn’t feel safe between the four walls of my house. I couldn’t imagine calling it home because it hurt so much to stay. Instead I felt at home over the waves of the Atlantic. I felt at home eating lotus root in China, and biking through Barcelona. I am at home when I am on the run, exploring the four corners of the earth.

My wanderlust is my home, is my contentment and my happiness. Even if that means taking a day trip to a new hiking trail or national park. It’s the journey of exploring that I enjoy the most, like I said finding new places to love.

Sometimes going home is harder than staying on the move. I am always running and finding a new place and new love to explore. I don’t know if I’ll ever grow out of this, and I hope I never will. I hope I can find someone to share this wanderlust with, children to instill a love a travel in. Because this earth is so big and so small all at the same time. Life is too short to wait till I’m brushing through waves of gray hair to see the world.

My dream is to take you all with me. To show you how big and beautiful the world is. My dream is to meet you all. My dream is to help you learn more about the hundreds of thousands of edible plants that grow on this earth as I learn. I want to help you understand how amazing and beautiful people can be despite what you see on the news or Facebook. I want you to meet people you never thought you would and discover worlds you never knew existed. Because tomorrow is no guarantee. I want us all to live in the present moment and forget pretenses and societal norms.

So as I share this wonderful journey called life with you. I share with you all the beauty and love plants can provide; I hope I inspire you. I hope you take what I have to say and start your own journey, spark your own joy and your own words.

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To spark your wanderlust I give you a nutrient packed trail mix to start your journey right now. Get out, get your shoes and go find a new trail to fall in love with. Just don’t forget to take the trail mix with you.

Goji Berry and Seed Trail Mix

1 Cup sunflower seeds

1 Cup pumpkin seeds

1 Cup goji berries*

½ Cup cacao nibs

 

1.       Feel free to soak and dehydrate your seeds if using them raw if the spirit moves you. Or roast the seeds to have an even greater depth of flavor, just cool before moving onto step 2.

2.        Mix together all the ingredients together and pack in your favorite reusable container for an adventure!

Note: Feel free to add and substitute any nuts or seeds you would like here! Adding an additional ½ cup of toasted coconut sounds divine!

*goji berries can be difficult to find or expensive. But they are low GI if that is part of your lifestyle. If not feel free to substitute with any dried fruit but with the cacao nibs I highly recommend something like tart cherries or cranberries.

Celebrate self love with brownies (gluten free, vegan recipe)

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I catch myself in the mirror sometimes. I watch my hair fall over my shoulders, my lips as I smile. I see the laugh lines around my eyes and the dimples I never thought I had. I see my legs and my feet and I feel grateful for each and every toe, each and every step I take. I feel the air flow in and out of my lungs and for a moment, I love them. I love how the they expand and contract. I am grateful for the very breath in my lungs. And then there are moments, quiet ones that catch me off guard, when I can feel my heart beating in my chest.

I used to hate the resounding thud of my heart in my chest. It had a habit of loving too much and getting nothing in return. My heart was always heavy with sadness and guilt. When the people that were supposed to love me hurt me, what else was I to do with the sadness? Living with depression and growing up in an alcoholic home was a struggle I would never wish on anyone.

It cut me down to by very core and made my heart hurt every day until it went numb. I learned to hated myself and my shortcomings. I felt guilty for doing something for me. I felt guilty doing something for someone other than my dysfunctional family. I felt if I gave love to everyone in the world, someone out there would love me back the way I wanted to be loved. I thought if I gave enough of myself someone would give me back a piece or two to make a whole.

Flash forward several years later and I experience these small moments of love. Catching myself in the mirror and relishing ever step and every breath.

So this year on valentines days I am not celebrating romantic love but self love. I am celebrating the work I’ve done to heal myself and my broken heart. Valentines day this year is about celebrating those moments that I love myself. It goes beyond food, and beyond healing the body. Today is about feeding the soul.

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That being said, I developed this recipe to feed the soul without hurting the body, as most treats are wont to do. True emotional healing cannot happen until the you take care of the body. So, this recipe is to feed the soul and nourish the body. I created a rich, oil free, vegan, refined sugar free and gluten free brownie. Served with chocolate sauce, raspberry compote and soy vanilla ice cream.

This brownie is made with Japanese sweet potato. It’s a white fleshed potato with a purple skin. The flesh tends to be starchier and less “stringy” like a typical orange sweet potato. I prefer the Japanese potato in this because of its higher starch content. But feel free to substitute a regular sweet potato if you can’t find the Japanese or have some laying around.

I hope you make these brownies to celebrate your own self love this valentine’s day. And maybe share some of that love with someone special too.

 

 

Fudgy Vegan, Oil Free Brownies

Yields 9 brownies

2 C (14 oz) Japanese sweet potato roasted whole and cooled

1 C (8.5 oz) almond butter

½ C (4.5 oz) almond milk or non-dairy milk of choice

½ C (1.4 oz) cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

 

Raspberry Compote

1 C (3.65 oz) raspberries (frozen or fresh if in season)

1 Tbsp date paste or maple syrup

 

Chocolate sauce

2 Tbsp date paste

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

Water to make the sauce flow across the plate

 

For the brownies

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

2.       Peel the sweet potatoes and mash them very well in a large bowl. Alternatively, you can mix all of the wet ingredients in a blender or food processor for a smoother consistency.

3.       Add the almond butter and almond milk. Mix until smooth

4.       Add the cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, mix until combined. If you still have lumps feel free to mash some more with a manual potato masher. Since these are gluten free there is no fear of overmixing the batter.

5.       Grease and line a 8”x8” square pan with parchment paper. Pour in the batter and smooth out the top.

6.       Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes until risen slightly and sides pull away from the pan. These brownies are fudgy so the center will be deliciously moist.

7.       Cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting into 9 pieces.

 

For the Raspberry Compote

1.       Place the raspberries, date paste and two tablespoons of water in a pot

2.       Cook until the raspberries start to break down a little

3.       Pour into a clean bowl or jar and cool

 

For the Chocolate sauce**

1.       Mix together the date paste and cocoa powder.

2.       Add enough water to create the consistency you want in the sauce.

 

To serve:

 Warm up the brownie if desired. Top with compote, chocolate sauce and vanilla soy ice cream. I got my ice cream from Trader Joes.

 

*Date paste is made by soaking whole, pitted dates in water and blending them in a blender or food processor until it forms a smooth paste

**Try the sauce on ice cream, or wherever you would use store bought chocolate sauce. I haven’t tried making chocolate milk with it, but I’m sure it would be delicious!

Understanding the power of body awareness (includes a meditation)

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My hands curled around the handles of the foreign weight machine. I take a deep breath and close my eyes before I pull down, engaging muscles I thought I didn’t have.

I didn’t feel like a stranger per se as I walked into the wellness center at my local YMCA. I had used the treadmill, and the bikes. But today was different. I was about to use machines I hadn't used since high school, and in high school I didn't care about fitness or strength. It was easy to forget the information I had learned under the assumption I would never use it.

As one of the trainers walked me through the equipment I began to understand a part of myself I hadn't yet explored.

I tried all the machines at their lowest weight to see where I would need to start before adding more. But as I was trying the machines I kept having to move that pin lower and lower. The weights kept getting higher and for every ten pounds I added I began to understand how strong I was.

40 pounds over weight and I was strong.

40 pounds of weight lost and I was strong.

After I had finished the circuit I was quite proud and ready to come to the gym again, feeling empowered. The trainer said she could see me upping the weights quite quickly. She said that because I was young and "quite fit".

That was the first time someone had called me fit. In all my life I was the fat girl that didn't care. I was the fat girl that was too slow, too weak, too big. I had never thought of myself a fit person but the more I workout the more I see how strong I am becoming.

I can feel my muscles expanding and contracting with each machine. I can feel my heart beat in my chest when I go running. I know when to push and when to pull back. I know when I can go into that yoga pose a little deeper...

The previous blogs I have written have been about the abundance and joy of eating plant foods. I even included some delicious recipes for you to try. This time I wanted to speak to the body awareness I gained by eating plant-based.

After removing the foods from my diet that were making me feel sick and tired everything changed. I became aware of how eating at different times of the day affected me. I began to notice what happened with my workouts when I ate the foods that energized me. I no longer felt the need to drink caffeine in the morning.

This body awareness came about by feeding my body foods that make me feel energized. I also engage in activities like meditation and yoga. I had finally taken back the control I was so desperate for when I was heavier. The awareness I speak to here came about over time. It wasn't something I was expecting to gain but I am grateful I have.

Body awareness can help you become a more intuitive eater. It can also help you understand when you need rest and when you need to get moving. There is nothing deeper than a connection with the self. It is something to cultivate however, and like I mentioned, it takes time.


Body Scan Meditation

If you would like to cultivate body awareness try practicing this meditation. It's known quite often as a "body scan"

Lay down in a comfortable position. This meditation is best done in the morning before getting out of bed or at night before falling asleep. Try to remove all distractions, this is a time for you.

Take a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the nose. If any thoughts float to the surface try your best to acknowledge their existence. then release them on an exhale.

Once you feel you have quieted your mind to the best of your ability turn your attention to your feet. What do they feel like? Are they throbbing from a hard days work? Are they soft? If you are tense take a deep breath and try to release the tension. Spend a few breaths there, really noticing.

After a few breaths you're going to continue up the body the same way. Going from the feet, to the shins, the knees, the thighs, the sacrum or groin, and the stomach and lower back. Then move your way to the chest, the hands, the forearms, the upper arms and shoulders. Finally finish with the neck and the face. Releasing any tension you feel as you notice each part of your body.

Once you are finished take a few deep breaths and then open your eyes. Go on with your day if you are doing this in the morning or prepare to go to bed if you are doing this at night.

It's okay if your mind wanders, it's okay if you have trouble noticing. Meditation is about being present, that's all that matters. With time it will get easier to quiet the mind.

Also keep in mind that sometimes our body can hold onto emotions. So if you feel the need to laugh, cry or feel angry or sad that's fine. Notice it just like you're noticing your body. Acknowledge it and know that sometimes meditation can bring emotions to the surface.

There is no right or wrong way to practice meditation. Try your best to be present and the rest will come. The body awareness will come.

Christmas Memories and Not-Quite Gingerbread Cookie Recipe (Vegan)

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My Aunt’s kitchen table was a mess. The decorated cookies were on every available surface drying. Mountains of plain ones, bowls of frosting dyed red, blue, green and yellow were strewn about.

Sprinkles had found their way into every available crevice like a child had popped open a jar of glitter.

Stockings, Christmas trees and stars of all shapes and colors littered the kitchen. My face was coated in frosting, my hands sticky with cookie crumbs and sugar. A few hours had past full of laughter and intense concentration. We frosted enough cookies for an army, soft and pillowy, the cookies would melt in your mouth. These soft sugar bombs called cookies were the Christmas cookies of my youth.

Don’t get me wrong, those nights spent in my aunt’s kitchen I wouldn’t trade for the world. Those cookies were delicious in their simplicity for sure. But the sheer amount of sugar I consumed on these long nights is too much to handle now. Around this time of year most of us retreat to the warmth of the kitchen. We bake cookies, pies and bread to last us till Spring but they never manage to see the new year. It’s a time for family tradition and celebration whether you’ve known your family your whole life or just met them.

For someone on a plant-based diet this time of year can be difficult to navigate. Especially if you are new to the lifestyle. Because all the sweet treats contain butter and eggs, you can get stuck in this mindset of "can't haves". But instead of looking at this time of year as a time of deprivation it can be a time to create new traditions.

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Gone for me are the sugar cookies of the past except for the occasional treat. I created these cookies as someone whose never been a big fan of dried ginger. Gingery for sure but without the signature burn I dislike from too much dried ginger. These cookies are crisp so you can use this recipe to build a gingerbread house. Or avoid the torture of construction altogether and devour the cookies as is.

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I didn’t use a lot of frosting because honestly, it doesn’t need a lot, it would be a little too sweet. I used some dehydrated lemon zest and some coconut as “sprinkles”. The cayenne adds an interesting note and the coconut oil makes these vegan and super crisp.

Enjoy creating new traditions this year with these “not-quite” gingerbread cookies. Let me know what your favorite Holiday cookies are in the comments below

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“Not-Quite” Gingerbread Cookies

Cookie Dough:

1 1/3 C (6.27 oz) All-Purpose Flour

¾ tsp Ground Ginger

¼ tsp Ground Cloves

½ tsp Ground Cinnamon

¼ tsp Ground Cardamom

1/8 tsp Ground Cayenne

½ tsp Salt

1/3 C (2.45 oz) Coconut oil (solid)

1/3 C (3.87 oz) Molasses

¼ C (1.94) Dark brown sugar (or 3.5 Tbsp-1.5 oz sugar and ½ Tbsp-.5 oz molasses)

 

Icing:

1.5 C Powdered sugar

4 Tbsp Water

1 tsp Vanilla (optional)

1.       If you are making your own brown sugar just mix the sugar and molasses in a medium bowl until moist.

2.       Add the coconut oil to the sugar and blend by hand or with a mixer until it’s light and fluffy. This mix will not get as “fluffy” as a dough with vegan margarine. It’s more important to stop before the mixture becomes liquid as the coconut oil may melt with the friction than it is to get the perfect “fluffiness”

3.       Add the rest of the molasses and blend until combined

4.       Add the flour, spices and salt, blending until a dough forms. I mixed my dough by hand and found that after a while it was easier to dump the dough onto lightly floured work surface and lightly knead the dough together.

5.       Once it’s formed wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for one hour or overnight.

6.       Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. While that is in the fridge mix the icing ingredients* together in a small bowl. I added matcha (green tea powder) to mine to get the green color. But feel free to experiment with other natural colors or use the store bought food colors for your cookies.

7.       Cut the dough in half and roll it out until it’s about ¼ inch. Cut out your desired shapes. The bigger cookies in the pictures took about 7 minutes while the small ones took between 3 to 5. Bake until just down and firm around the edges. They will harden as they cool.

8.       Ice and decorate as desired, enjoy!

 

*Note: the icing ratio is just a suggestion. The consistency you’re going for is an icing that flows freely but doesn’t spread or flood too much when applied to the cookies. To make it stiffer add more powdered sugar, to make it looser add more water.

Orange and walnut salad to beat the winter blues (Recipe, vegan, plant based, gluten free)

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It had rained for a few days last spring when I dug a hole in my back yard and carried the soil back to my porch. There I carefully filled several egg cartons and starter pots. I tucked tiny seeds into the soil so that they could grow. The soil was moist and rough in my hands. Dirt found its way under my finger nails. My eyes were straining trying to make sure that I had covered the seeds.

I watered them and watched them diligently. I even separated them when I found out I had planted too many in each pot, each sprout tiny and green and beautiful. After a few weeks, I planted them in my garden and they shot up into these gorgeous bouquets of green. Sometimes they would catch the sun at just the right moment, they seemed to glisten.

Growing food makes you appreciate where your food comes from.

I began to understand the struggles a farmer can go through to bring in a successful crop. It was terrifying going to sleep at night knowing that there was a cold snap on the way. I wondered what I would wake up to in the morning.

But at the end of the day it's so rewarding knowing that what's on your plate you grew yourself.

Unfortunately, as it's winter and I don’t have the equipment necessary to grow food in the cold. As such, I am dependent on organic farmers for my greens. Learning about the e-coli contaminated lettuce from California had me frustrated. Without romaine a lot of people, vegans and non vegans alike are unsure what to put in their salad bowls.

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But there is hope, luckily Romaine isn’t the only lettuce or green that can grace your salad bowl. Most greens can even be better for you than Romaine. There are greens like spinach, kale, frisee and arugula. Then there are all kinds of herbs and veggies like cabbage and carrots that can also make a delicious salad.

Contaminated lettuce aside these dark days of winter can begin to takes it's toll. The bright flavor and acidity from the orange will help remind you of warmer days. Beat the winter blues and fill your empty salad bowl with a few simple ingredients that will make you smile.

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Salad for the winter blues with grapefruit vinaigrette

Serves 1

 

Salad Recipe

½ C baby spinach

½ C baby kale

½ C of your choice of green (I recommend arugula or I used Trader Joe’s Power to the Greens blend)

½ orange, peeled and sliced (can substitute ¼ C mandarin oranges)

¼ C walnuts Toasted

¼ C Kalamata olives

2-3 Tbsp of grapefruit vinaigrette

 

Grapefruit Vinaigrette

Juice of 1 grapefruit*

Zest of ½ grapefruit

1 tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp salt

1/3 C olive oil

 

For the Vinaigrette

1.      If you want to do this the old fashioned way place the grapefruit juice, salt and mustard in a bowl that is big enough to hold all of the ingredients. Begin to whisk until combined.

2.      Continue whisking constantly as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil to make your emulsion. Do not stop whisking until all of the oil is in and the vinaigrette looks homogenous.

3.      If you would like to do this in a more modern way put all ingredients into a blender and blend until homogenous.

4.      Store in the fridge and use within a week. This recipe makes about 1/2 -3/4 C

For the Salad

1.      To toast the walnuts place them on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes at 350 F, check them often. Nuts can burn very easily. Cool.

2.      Place all of the salad ingredients in a bowl except for the vinaigrette

3.      Toss the salad in the vinaigrette and serve immediately

 

*Feel free to substitute oranges if needed, just use the juice of two oranges instead of one grapefruit. Use the zest of a whole orange as well instead of the grapefruit zest.

 

 

 

Finding the spirit in abundance; what it means to go plant based or vegan

My heart was racing with excitement, my breath caught in my throat as we pulled into the open field. The six or seven tents seemed to be drowning in the green that surrounded them. I felt the warm breeze and smelled fresh earth from the fallen rain the night before. It was a sense of the unknown made me almost giddy. My mother had driven me to my first farmer’s market only ten minutes away from our home. She was not as excited as I was and was merely entertaining me and my insatiable curiosity for food.

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The farmer’s market seemed to be a dream come true for me at the time. There was a variety of produce from beets, to greens, eggplants, carrots and tomatoes. There was local honey and local maple syrup. Everything I saw on the food network when Ina Garten decide to go to the farmers market in the Hamptons. The colors of the vegetables and the people were what was most exciting for me. It was here that I got my first job and it was here that I experienced what cooking with fresh food could taste like.

An Italian woman by the name of Rosita was giving out samples of homemade tomato sauce made with local ingredients. Sweet, tangy, fresh, herbaceous and floral from the basil; I had fallen in love. This was the first experience I had with something whole food plant based. Until then I filled my life and my mouth with canned foods, frozen foods, and foods from a box or a tub. Frozen broccoli with a slice of melted American cheese on it was closest I came to fresh food.

It would be eight more years before I embraced the idea of eliminating all animal foods from my diet. Even after working with the very woman that had opened my eyes to fresh food that day at the farmers market. I enjoyed the sugar, the salt, and the fat that provided me little if any nutritional value but got me through the day. Addicted to the foods that were making me bigger I felt nothing but depressed and self-hatred.

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Fast forward to my last semester of college when I studied Zen Buddhism. It was then that I began to question the diet that had brought me to the dark place I currently inhabited. People assume a Buddhists goal is to reach Nirvana or enlightenment, but a Buddhist's true goal is to end their own suffering- a condition of being a human on this plane of existence.

And that is what I sought to do when I decided to go vegan and then move towards more whole foods. I wanted to feel happy, content and joy all the time- the feelings I achieved when eating only plant foods. I wanted to align myself with my values and feel good doing it. I felt as if I had lifted a veil on my life and I had the freedom to just be.

I found in myself a compassion and love I'd never experienced. Breathing was easier and pains dulled. I began to heal from the inside out, even when I thought I didn’t need healing.

When you eat living, high vibration food you feel alive. It’s beautiful, scary and wonderful all at once. You start to feel the same excitement I did when going to the farmer's market. It’s not an immediate fix- there is no such thing; but the reward is worth it.

The reward of connection and mindfulness to savor that fresh tomato sauce all the time. To feel the life it gives you.

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Reconnecting with my source (the earth) has given me a profound sense of purpose and I want to share that with you. This is a journey I wish to join you on as we both learn to rediscover our true selves through the food we eat.

Never under estimate the power of your food choices. Let’s learn to enjoy the earth and its bounty. Let us find your spirit in the abundance of the earth.