Pumpkin Spice Almond Treats

October is here and I am happy!  October is my favorite month because I love fall, halloween, and everything pumpkin spice flavored/scented. To celebrate the start of fall, yesterday I made raw vegan pumpkin spice almond treats. These almond treats have all the sweet flavors of fall and are full of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamin E.  I made this and ate 2 for breakfast along with pumpkin spice banana nicecream (frozen bananas, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin spice flavors) but you can eat them as is for a snack or dessert.

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Ingredients:

  • 10 pitted, medjool dates
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground vanilla bean or vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger
  • optional- you can also add 1 tbsp. pumpkin spice “butter” spread from Trader Joe’s (its vegan!) and adds a bit more sweetness

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until the mixture is sticky and moldable
  • Mold into balls, bars, or squares and enjoy or refrigerate. These treats taste best at room temperature, so when you’re ready to enjoy them, take them out of the fridge 30 minutes-1 hour before.

P.S.- to make the pumpkin spice nicecream, see my earlier post on “the best vegan breakfast” and combine frozen bananas and canned pumpkin puree in a food processsor. Add the spice mixture above (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger) and enjoy.

-Jess

 

Rest and a Fresh Recipe

Have you ever changed your diet and felt amazing…only to go back to how you were eating and feeling before?  It can be hard to stick with eating healthy, even if we feel the benefits.  I often wonder why this is, and I’ve noticed that for me I’m a creature of habit and habits are hard to change, especially when you’ve been doing something or eating something for so long.

I mentioned in early August that I was taking a break from drinking coffee.  I quit coffee cold turkey and was coffee-free for over 35 days until I decided to indulge in an iced coffee. For the next week, I was drinking about a cup of coffee in the AM.  I also got on average about 4 hours of sleep each night that I had drank coffee in the morning.  Although caffeine shouldn’t affect my sleep so much, it does and I came to the conclusion that I’ve become extremely sensitive to caffeine and (for me) it just isn’t worth it any more.

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Of course I documented my iced coffee indulgence!

I’m happy I realized coffee was affecting me in a negative way instead of drinking even more coffee to make up for lack of sleep, which is something I used to do on a daily basis.  I’m also happy to share what I learned during this self-realization coffee experiment: don’t beat yourself up!  If you slip up on a health goal, diet, or exercise routine, etc., instead of berating yourself and feeling like poo, simply note the difference in how you physically, mentally, and emotionally feel when you’re doing something good for yourself vs. how you feel when you do something that doesn’t benefit your overall health.  Then, decide which feelings you’d rather feel.  In my case, if I kept drinking coffee, I’d probably feel energized for a few hours, but ultimately miss out on sleep and feel really tired at work, in class, and during my free time.

Being coffee-free also made me realize the importance of eating energizing foods.  I pride myself on practicing what I preach, but sometimes quick convenience foods are an easy option that I rely on.  These foods are ok in a pinch, but real, wholesome, unprocessed foods provide so much more.  I’ve decided to share a delicious meal filled with fresh veggies that I made recently.  It took me about 10 minutes to make the entire meal and it’s packed with fiber, lycopene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and deliciousness.

Zucchini Noodles with Tomato-“Cheez” Sauce

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Ingredients (serves 1-2):

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 vine-ripe tomatoes (or use about 1-1.5 cups of ripe cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. basil
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 5 kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews

Directions: * you will need a food processor and a vegetable spiralizer (or buy spiralized zucchini at a supermarket)

  • Spiralize the zucchini into spaghetti-shaped noodles and set in a bowl or plate
  • Using a food processor, blend the tomatoes, spices, cashews, and olives together for about 3-5 minutes, or until a sauce consistency appears
  • Top the noodles with the sauce and use whatever garnish appeals to you
  • Enjoy, and take care of yourself!

 

-Jess

Feed Your Soul!

I’m finally done with another semester of being a nutrition student, yay! This semester was probably my toughest one yet because of the amount of courses I decided to take, along with yoga teacher training, balancing a job, and trying to fit in time for my own yoga practice. One thing that definitely helped me this semester was fitting in time to de-stress. Yoga helped, as did some other activities, such as baking, spending time outdoors, and curling up with a good book. If you find yourself overwhelmed, I recommend doing some activities that take your mind off whatever is stressing you out. During my finals week, I realized how important it is to do things that feed your soul instead of focusing either exclusively on work/obligations or doing things that provide a sense of fleeting fun.

Although technically the following recipe isn’t a “baked good”, it still kept me occupied in the kitchen and turned out to be a really healthy, filling little treat. Coming up with cheaper alternatives to my favorite packaged snack foods is now an official hobby, so I present to you, my raw balls. Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. These delicious balls are made of (mostly) all raw ingredients and are chock full of healthy, plant-based fats and fiber. They also make a great present if you haven’t bought your holiday gifts yet.

 

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Chocolate Chip Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups medjool dates (make sure you take the pit out of them!)
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s sells a vegan version)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine pitted dates, nuts, and vanilla extract. Transfer to a food processor and process/pulse for a minute or two. The mixture should be easily moldable with your hands. If the mixture is too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon, and continue to use the food processor. If the mixture has too many nuts and won’t mold together with your hands, try adding a few more pitted dates. Transfer back into the large bowl and add chocolate chips. Mold into ball shapes with your hands and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pitted medjool dates
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder

Directions:

Combine pitted dates, nuts, dried cherries, and cocoa powder together and transfer to a food processor. Process until blended for about a minute of two. If the consistency is too dry and the mixture won’t mold with your hands, try adding a few more dates. If it’s too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon. Transfer to a bowl and then using your hands, mold the mixture into ball shapes and refrigerate. Enjoy!

-Jess

Would You Follow a Raw Food Diet?

If you follow food and diet trends, you’ve probably noticed that the raw food craze began a while ago with adherents swearing by its weight loss and healing properties. I first became intrigued of raw foodism several years ago when I was a strict vegan, but I couldn’t commit to it for an extended period of time. Now, I find myself cooking (or un-cooking) more raw food dishes, but I’m still not a raw vegan for the record. The raw food diet promises many things, but is it all too good to be true? Not necessarily. First, let’s discuss the “rules” one must follow on this diet.

Rules of the Raw Food Diet

If you’re following a 100% raw food diet, nothing on your plate can be cooked above 140°F. Grains are typically not included in this diet, unless they’re raw (under 140°F). Dairy and meat are not usually included because of the risk of pathogenic bacteria that spreads at low temperatures. Most of your meals will come from your own preparation because most restaurants, delis, and other eateries don’t have too many raw options. The diet is mainly fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, extra virgin oils, and sprouted raw grains and legumes.

Health Benefits

Because it is so high in fruits and vegetables, the raw food diet has many benefits. To start, you’re going to get more vitamins and minerals at a lower calorie intake than if you obtain your calories from processed, enriched/fortified foods (processed foods, such as cereal and bread, which have vitamins and minerals added to them). The high water content of fresh fruits and vegetables may lead to a lower calorie intake because of how filling these foods tend to be. Less processing of food typically means that use of oils will be limited because cooking is kept to a minimum. Fiber intake tends to be very high on this diet, which is also a major benefit, as most Americans do not meet their daily fiber requirement.

Anecdotally, many people who follow the raw food diet not only mention the above, but also claim to be healed of various health issues. Research has yet to prove anything substantial, but the high phytonutrient content of fruits and vegetables, along with fiber, has been proven to lower the risk of several cancers and heart disease.

Pitfalls of the Raw Food Diet

Convenience may be an issue on this diet, as going out to a restaurant and trying to find something other than a salad may be an issue (but if salads are your thing, go ahead!). Many raw food dishes require specialty kitchen items such as a vegetable spiralizer (to make raw vegetable “noodles”), a dehydrator (which cooks food to a temperature lower than 105°F, a food processor (to make gourmet raw meals), and a juicer or blender. Adequate protein may be difficult to achieve on this diet without some planning. As mentioned in previous posts, most people need just under 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight (to find your weight in kg, divide pounds by 2.2). Calcium and Vitamin D intake may also be low, so if that’s a concern for you (especially if you’re a woman) and you want to try the raw food diet, you may want to add a Calcium and Vitamin D supplement.

My View of the Raw Food Diet

I think this diet has many benefits, but also falls short in several nutrients. The “science” behind this diet is also faulty, as some claim that cooking destroys essential enzymes in food that the body needs. The reality is our digestive system produces the enzymes which break down our food. Any enzymes present in raw foods are destroyed in the acidic environment of our stomach, before absorption of nutrients even occurs.

Still, with so many people claiming that raw food has changed their lives, I can’t be too hard on this one. If you can envision yourself living as a raw foodist for a while, then I say, go for it, or if you just want to try it, be my guest. I’m slightly biased on this one because of my past as a strict vegan, and I admit I tried this diet for a month in 2008, but didn’t really feel any different, however I’m still intrigued. As a result, I made some (mostly) raw vegan treats this weekend and I’m sharing the recipes below! I used a dehydrator (that I purchased in 2008—yep, I went all out during my raw food trial) but if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can either omit the cooking part and eat these as is, or freeze for a frozen treat.

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The goodies in my dehydrator!

The goodies in my dehydrator!

(Mostly) Raw Vegan Almond-Brownie Bites

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw almond meal (you can find this at Trader Joe’s or usually at your local health food store)
  • 2 dates (pitted), pulverized in a food processor with ¼ cup or less of water (you want a paste-like consistency)
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce or, peel and cut an apple, pulverize in a food processor until paste-like (the latter is the more authentically “raw” option)
  • 1 oz (or about 20) almonds, cut or crushed
  • 2 tbsp. chocolate chips

Directions

  • Process dates and water in a food processor
  • Measure almond meal, cocoa powder, and almonds and add to a bowl
  • Add dates, vanilla extract, applesauce, and chocolate chips, and mix together to the dry ingredients.
  • The mixture should be like a thick cookie dough. If the ratios are off, you can add additional almond meal by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Form into balls using a tablespoon and place on a dehydrator sheet. If not available, enjoy as is, or place in the freezer for 20-60 minutes.
  • Dehydrate for 2 hours and then let dry overnight.

Raw Vegan Almond Raisin Bites

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Ingredients

  • ¾ cup raw almond meal
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (or make your own apple-paste using the method listed above in the previous recipe)
  • 2 dates, pitted, and pulverized with some water in a food processor (you want a paste-like consistency)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 tbsp. raw almond butter (I bought mine at Trader Joe’s)

Directions

  • Process the dates and water in a food processor
  • Measure almond meal and put in a bowl
  • Add applesauce, dates, vanilla extract, and almond butter to the almond meal.
  • Add raisins and mix until a thick cookie dough consistency is reached. If the mixture is too thin, add additional almond meal by the tablespoon. If too thick, add a little applesauce.
  • Form into balls using a tablespoon and place on a dehydrator sheet. Again, if unavailable, enjoy as is, or place in the freezer for 20-60 minutes.
  • Dehydrate for 2 hours and then let dry overnight.

Enjoy!

-Jess