Healthy Homemade Cinnamon-Raisin Granola Bars

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Don’t be mistaken…these aren’t your typical, store-bought granola bars.

 

They’re BETTER! (And HEALTHY too!)

 

Have you every looked at the long lists of ingredients found on many popular granola bars? Chances are, lots of those bars out there aren’t exactly as healthy as you think they are, nor are they as healthy as they’re advertised to be. What’s really scary is that if you’re not careful about reading labels, you may just end up with a granola bar LOADED with high fructose corn syrup, sugar and a slew of artificial ingredients. Unfortunately, since conventional granola bars are such a cheap, easy and convenient snack to have in the cupboard, many people don’t think twice about what’s actually in them. The shocking truth is that some “healthy” granola bars can clock in with almost as many grams of sugar as a candy bar…and you wouldn’t want to start off your morning or fuel your workout with a Snickers or a Milky Way, now would you?

The other issue (for me at least) is that many snack bars and breakfast bars aren’t vegan (they often contain some variation of a milk ingredient).  The other issue I have with all-natural granola bars is their high cost (unlike those other unnatural bars).  While you can find all-natural, healthy, vegan granola bars in specialty stores and in the organic sections of supermarkets, they aren’t exactly cheap. So, between the high price and questionable ingredients, I rarely buy granola bars of any kind. This is such a drag, because granola bars really do make for such a great on-the-go snack and I often wish I had some in the house!

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Today I decided to do just that.

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I have quite a busy week coming up–which means lots of running around, lots of quick meals, and lots of snacks on-the-go. I knew granola bars would be the perfect thing to have on hand for the hectic days ahead but I didn’t want to shell out the cash for the organic, heathy kind. So, this morning, I decided to do a little experiment and make my OWN version of healthy granola bars.

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And wouldn’t you know…

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IT WORKED!

 

These cinnamon-raisin granola bars are all-naturalhealthy, cheaper to make, and can be easily customized…plus they are GLUTEN-FREE and have NO ADDED SUGAR or FAT (Unless you choose to throw some chocolate chips in there…like me ;) ).

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
  • Heaping 1/2 cup whole, pitted, dates (I like the Dole and Sun-Maid brands because they are super soft)
  • 1/3 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (feel free to add more depending upon how cinnamon-y you’d like your bars :) )
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • Dash of salt (can omit)
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoons non-dairy chocolate chips
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Directions:

(Makes 3 bars)

  • Preheat the oven to 340º.
  • Mix together the oats and almond milk in a bowl. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes (or until oats have absorbed most of the liquid and start to get soft).
  • Once oats are ready, blend them with the dates, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a blender/Nutribullet/food processor (etc…).
  • Mix in the raisins and chocolate chips.
  • Transfer to a small baking dish (sprayed with an all-natural non-stick cooking spray), spreading the mixture evenly while pressing it firmly into the dish.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Once cooled, slice into three bars.
  • Drizzle with cinnamon icing if you wish ;) (Omit if you want these to be fat-free and sugar-free).
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Cinnamon Icing:
  • Mix 1/4 cup of organic powdered-sugar, a little under 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of almond milk in a small bowl until smooth.
  • Drizzle over granola bars!
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Healthy, cheap, AND tasty? Now you have NO REASON to feel any granola bar guilt ever again!

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Healthfully Yours,

Ashley Michelle

 

 


Restaurant Review!

Life Alive: Urban Oasis and Organic Café

Dinner date at Life Alive!

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Last week I stumbled upon a restaurant SO UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING that I went back the next day to order the same exact meal all over again. I couldn’t stop thinking about how delicious it was!

 

The restaurant is called Life Alive, and it’s official…

I’ve definitely discovered my latest addiction.

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Now, the funny thing is, this is actually the first REAL vegan/vegetarian restaurant I have ever gone to. Crazy, right?? It’s especially crazy when you consider there are A TON of veggie-lovin’ restaurants around me (just one of the many perks of living near Cambridge), but I honestly haven’t had the chance to test many of them out ever since moving to the area a little over a year ago.

Call me crazy, but I just can’t seem to convince my omnivore friends or omnivore boyfriend to muster up the courage to eat vegetables for dinner! But honestly, I suppose I don’t really blame them for hesitating. If not done right, vegetarian and vegan dishes can easily come up short on flavor and presentation. Life Alive happens to be one of those veggie- friendly restaurants that WILL NOT disappoint in either of these areas. In fact, I’m certain it  CAN and WILL blow anyone’s taste buds out of the water…meat-lovers and veggie-lovers alike! Still need some extra convincing? It’s just as easy on the wallet as it is on the stomach :) .

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Life Alive’s Mission:

To Feed the Vitality of the World…one meal at a time.

Photo credit: www.lifealive.com

“We are here to renew your energy and connection to life by soulfully serving you the most fantastic, vibrant, organic, therapeutic, whole food you could ever imagine in an inspiring environment that honors local artisans, the community, and our global ecology.”– Life Alive

 

Life Alive strikes a unique balance between whole, “good-for-you” dishes and effortless, fast-food convenience. This idea is what strikes me as most important– the notion that in this crazy busy world…it IS POSSIBLE to make healthy choices and to fill up our bodies with nourishing food!  The ordering system actually works much like that at Panera Bread– meaning customers wait in line and order from the many menus displayed behind the counter. Once you place your order, you choose to sit either upstairs or downstairs (on some nights there is even live music playing downstairs) and you are given a number to display on your table. The wait staff then brings your meal right to your seat. The system is incredibly easy, however, picking what to eat is almost impossible! Everything  just looks TOO DARN GOOD. 

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This is how Life Alive breaks down their menu:

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  • Warm Meals: Different variations of veggies, greens, seeds, nuts, tofu, and sprouted legumes served over short-grain brown rice, quinoa, or a mixture of the two.
  • Cool Meals/Salads: Homemade hummus served atop mixed greens and variations of veggies, nuts, and fruit.
  • Warm and Cheesy Wraps: Variations of veggies, cheese, protein, and dark greens nestled in warm-tortilla wraps–these can be made with or without cheese and eggs depending upon your dietary preference. They also carry Daiya vegan cheese option.
  • Soups: Check to see what the soup of the day is :)
  • Sides: Garlic, carrots, celery, cucumber, peppitas, raisins, sunsprouts, sesame sticks, dried pineapple, dried cranberries, goji berries, apple slices, flax oil, hijiki, greens, broccoli, corn, dates, banana, beets, avocado, shredded cheddar, sun-dried tomato, tamari almonds, raw cashews, hard-boiled egg, brown rice, tofu, sprouted legumes, shiitake mushrooms, quinoa, Daiya vegan cheese, lemon-garlic chickpea hummus, red lentil hummus, winter squash hummus-seasonal.
  • Simple Snacks: Fun items like granola, peanut-butter and jelly wraps, celery and peanut butter (etc…).
  • Juices: Fresh pressed juices with ingredients like carrot, apple, cucumber, ginger, beet, kale, celery, lemon, wheatgrass, spirulina, honey, cayenne, garlic, apple cider vinegar, aloe, and maple syrup.
  • Smoothies: Life Alive offers an extensive variety of these thick, frozen, fruity, and creamy drinks which make for a great snack, dessert, or lighter meal (the organic chia-amond milk used is made in-house every day).
  • Simple Beverages: Organic teas, detoxifying lattes, hot chocolate, and wheatgrass shots.
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Looks pretty YUM, huh?

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The BEST part of all is that you can CUSTOMIZE your meal any way you’d like. You can even order any of the salads and bowls as a wrap, a “demi” (half-portion) or as is (in a large bowl). Now, anyone close to me knows I am the QUEEN of customization. Case in point, I’m kind of a waitress’ worst nightmare since I’m ever-changing the sides, sauces, dressings, and  toppings on my meals. Oops! But when my college roommate and I decided to get together for a dinner date, I knew she would appreciate this little gem (she also loves customizable meals!). Thank goodness she just moved to the city, because we ‘ve already started a list of vegetarian and vegan places to test out together :) .
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When we first walked into Life Alive, the first thing we noticed was the busy, upbeat atmosphere. It’s pretty awesome!  Life Alive is more like a “hip café” rather than your typical sit-down restaurant. Plants and paintings line the walls, decorative pillows sit along wall benches,  live music plays downstairs, and the decor is full of vibrant colors. Both of the times I’ve been there the line has been practically out the door (always a good sign!).
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After much deliberation, I finally decided on THIS salad.

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"The Explorer" Salad

Life Alive calls it “The Explorer,” and it’s a blend of high-protein red lentil hummus with sesame sticks, cucumbers, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet corn, spring greens, shredded carrots and beets served with honey wasabi vinaigrette. I also had a side of tofu added on top for some extra protein. Now, the dressing is on the side in this picture, (and I usually keep dressing on the side for healthy dipping) but it didn’t take long before I POURED this healthy dressing all over the greens. It was fantastic! (Note: I actually don’t think this dressing had any oil…but I’ll have to double-check next time I go to be 100% certain.)
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My roommate ordered Life Alive’s signature dish–a warm meal called “The Goddess.”

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"The Goddess" Warm Bowl

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It’s a mix of carrots,broccoli, beets, kale, and tofu served over short-grain brown rice and drizzled with their famous “Ginger Nama Shoyu Sauce.” Nama Shoyu Sauce is the only raw soy sauce available in the U.S. and it’s teaming with live-enzymes and healthy organisms like lactobacillus. It also has much less sodium than your typical soy sauce. Plus, it tastes GREAT.
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We also both decided to order a fresh juice called “Simply Alive” (you can see it in the cute little Ball jelly jars in the picture at the top of this post). The drink is a mix of lemon, spirulina, honey (omit if strict vegan), and pure water.
I ABSOLUTELY ADORED my salad, but the next time I go to Life Alive for dinner…I am definitely ordering “The Goddess” bowl. This warm meal was SO flavorful and yummy I kept wanting to snitch bite after bite right off of my roomie’s plate! Lucky for me, when we took half of our meals to go (the portions are huge!), she was nice enough to let me take some of her leftovers home so I could enjoy them for lunch the next day (in fact…the BOYFRIEND enjoyed them the next day too…and he couldn’t believe how amazing a VEGAN dinner could taste!).
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Not only is Life Alive a tasty place to get a healthy vegan/vegetarian meal, but it’s also a restaurant you can feel good about going to. It serves only healthy and nourishing food…a far cry from many of the restaurants out there today. So next time you’re in Cambridge, Lowell, or Salem Massachusetts, (they have three locations!) be sure to check them out.
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I promise you WON’T be disappointed! :)

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Healthfully yours,
Ashley Michelle
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Life Alive Website

Cambridge, MA
765 Massachusetts Avenue
617-354-5433
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Lowell, MA
194 Middle Street
978-453-1311
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Salem, MA
281 Essex Street
978-594-4644
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Chocolate-Coconut Truffle Cookies

BEST mistake I’ve ever made!

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These cookies were a BIG (delicious) MISTAKE.

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No, seriously.

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I made them by accident! :-o

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There. Now you know my secret!

Before I post a finished recipe on this blog, I typically go through a few unsuccessful cooking attempts and trial runs in the kitchen (a big thanks to the boyfriend for testing out some of the best and worst recipes ever created!). This is large in part because I like to keep the fat and sugar content down as much as I can without sacrificing taste. Plus, since all of my recipes are made from scratch and I tend to come up with many of them off the top of my head, a lot of recipe tweaking needs to happen first in order to get the consistency just right (and if you’ve done some vegan baking before, you know it can be especially tricky to get vegan dough and batter to rise correctly).

These healthy Chocolate-Coconut Truffle Cookies were one of those times when the un-tweaked recipe actually turned out BETTER than the one I was going for.

Originally, I set out to create a single-serving microwave chocolate cake (inspired by my One-Minute Chocolate Maple Banana Cake), but when the batter turned out to resemble cookie dough instead of cake batter, I decided to go with it.

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Thank GOODNESS I did :)

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Or I wouldn’t have ended up with these little gems!

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I swear, they’re just like brownie bites…but BETTER–and, they’re a fabulous dessert to bring to a cookout or summer party. I guarantee no one will EVER be able to guess they are VEGAN (or HEALTHY for that matter!).

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Dry Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole grain flour (spelt, whole wheat, oat etc…)
  • 3 packets stevia
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons all-natural cocoa powder
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons all-natural non-dairy chocolate chips (omit if you want these to be sugar-free)
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Wet Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons all-natural apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of almond milk (or another non-dairy milk– soy, coconut etc…)
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined coconut oil
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Directions:
(Recipe makes about 20 cookies, but you may be able to get a few more out of it…I accidentally ate a lot of the batter–again. OOPS!)
  • Preheat the oven to 340º.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl and set aside.
  • Melt the coconut oil in a bowl and add in the rest of the wet ingredients.
  • Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix just until smooth (do not over-mix).
  • Spoon heaping teaspoons onto a cookie sheet sprayed with all-natural non-stick spray.
  • Bake for 10 minutes (they may look a little underdone, but this is okay).
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Once the little truffle cookies cool, feel free to gobble them up as is, OR, frost them with my Creamy Chocolate Glaze and add a sprinkle of some unsweetened coconut! If you want to go for sugar-free chocolate glaze, make my healthy chocolate bar recipe, but just don’t refrigerate the chocolate sauce–drizzle it allllllll over the cookies instead!
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Of course, I would definitely suggest bringing these along to your Memorial Day party.

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But, if you want to “accidentally” keep the whole tray for yourself…I promise I won’t tell ;)

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Healthfully yours,

Ashley Michelle

 


Oh So Sassy Strawberry Shortcake

Perfect for date night :)

Okay, so I know it’s only halfway through the work week…

but who says date-night is ONLY for the weekends?

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Tonight…BREAK THE RULES.

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Light a couple of candles, cue the romantic music, and grab a fork–because this decadent little recipe is BEST when shared. You now have permission to make Wednesday the sassiest night of the week. 

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Little black dress optional ;) .

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I don’t know about you, but I think strawberries make a pretty sexy addition to any dessert. They’re just sweet enough without being too saccharine, plus, they look  GREAT in red–and every girl already knows if you want to get noticed… you put on some red! Kind of sounds like a dating profile, huh?

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But seriously, what’s NOT to love about a food that pairs so well with champagne? After all, nothing’s better than a date night that includes strawberries and a little bubbly. I mean, there’s GOT to be a reason Victoria’s Secret created a body spray named after this very combination…am I right?

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Now, technically strawberry season doesn’t officially start until June, but when I walked into the grocery store yesterday and was greeted by a sign advertising  a “buy one get one free” special for containers of strawberries, I just couldn’t resist. They looked like shiny little boxes of rubies and to top it off they smelled incredible. Plus, who doesn’t love  a good deal?? Now what’s a girl to do with ALL THESE STRAWBERRIES?

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Immediately my mind began racing with ideas for strawberry-inspired recipes (don’t worry, I came up with a whole bunch of them to share with you in some of my future posts!). But finally, after much back and forth, I settled on one that would be pleasing to the eye, yet simple enough to make on a weeknight (It serves just 2!).

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And I was so due for a much-needed date night ;)

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But before we get to the recipe…I wanted to share some of the amazing health benefits of strawberries. Don’t be fooled by their dainty appearance–these pretty little berries pack a whole lot of punch!

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Health Benefits of Strawberries:

  • Boost immunity: Strawberries are high in vitamin C, which is a fast-acting antioxidant known to boost immunity. Just 1-cup of strawberries will give you 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement! It is important to obtain your daily vitamin C requirement from food, since humans are one of the only mammals who cannot produce it naturally.
  • Fight cancer: Given its high immunity properties, vitamin C can also help to fight cancer (first and foremost, a healthy body is always the best line of defense against any disease). In addition, strawberries also contain a phytochemical known as ellagic acid, which has the ability to suppress cancer cell growth. Strawberries also contain two powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which work to neutralize free radicals that have a negative effect on cells.

**I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “free radicals” thrown around by the news and various health sources a lot lately, but you may not know exactly what they are. Free radicals are actually damaged, degenerated cells that, in an effort to repair and regenerate themselves, end up damaging and weakening the healthy cells around them. This can lead to cancer. This is why it’s important to fight those free radicals with proper nutrition!**

  • Fight aging: Along with its many health benefits already listed above, vitamin C is also crucial in the production of collagen, a known wrinkle preventer. Ellagic acid (also mentioned above) has also been known to prevent inflammation and collagen destruction after skin has been damaged by UV-B rays.
  • Protect your eyes: The antioxidants in strawberries may help prevent harmful cataracts, which can lead to blindness later in life. Our eyes need vitamin C to protect against free radicals from the sun’s harmful UV rays, otherwise the sun can damage our lens. Vitamin C also plays a vital role in strengthening the retina and cornea.
  • Fight cholesterol: You already know ellagic acid and flavonoids/phytochemicals work as anti-inflammatories, but they can also help counteract the effect of LDL (bad cholesterol). Studies have concluded that by incorporating strawberries into your diet, you can reduce harmful blood lipids and oxidative damage—two markers for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Regulate blood pressure: Strawberries are a great source of potassium, a heart-healthy nutrient that can help to regulate, and potentially lower, blood pressure by negating the effects of harmful sodium.
  • Reduce inflammation: Antioxidants and phytochemicals/flavonoids in strawberries may aid in reducing joint inflammation and arthritis. In a study, those who ate at least 16 strawberries a week have lower levels of C-reactive protein(CRP), which is a key indicator that inflammation is present in the body. Inflammation is a precursor to cancer.
  • Aid digestion- Strawberries are a good source of fiber, which is important for healthy digestion. Fiber can also help to fight type-2 diabetes due to its ability to slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This is why strawberries are healthy snack choice for diabetics.
  • Promote pre-natal health:  Strawberries are a good source of folate, the beneficial B-Vitaminrecommended for women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Folate is important in the early stages of pregnancy as it aids in proper development of the baby’s spinal cord, brain, and skull. Folic acid, also found in strawberries, may help to prevent serious birth defects like spina bifida.
  • They keep your middle little!: Strawberries are  low-calorie, low-sugar, low-sodium, and fat-free! One and a half cups charts in at less than 100 calories. They are a perfect addition to any breakfast and serve as a great alternative to an unhealthy, sugar-filled 3:00 pm snack. What better excuse do you need to eat these tasty little guys?

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Oh yea…they also make a HECK of a dessert.

 

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of flour (spelt, whole-wheat, all-purpose, choose whatever “whole grain” kind you’d like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 packets of stevia (or 2 heaping tablespoons of another dry sweetener– feel free to adjust the sugar to your sweet tooth’s preference)

 

Wet Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons apple sauce
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla (The next time I make this I want to try adding a smidge under one teaspoon of almond extract instead of vanilla…the boyfriend isn’t crazy about desserts with a strong, almond-y taste, but I bet it will pair fabulously with the strawberries! Feel free to try it and let me know how it goes :) )
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract (you can replace this with vanilla extract or omit if using the almond extract)
  • 1 teaspoon Earth Balance buttery spread (you can add a couple extract teaspoons if you or your date prefer a buttery, more decadent taste– it will still be lower in fat. Just be sure to decrease the almond milk by a couple teaspoons).

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Directions:

  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  • Mix all the wet ingredients in another bowl (make sure you melt the butter first).
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix JUST until blended (try not to over-mix or your cake may not rise as well).
  • Lightly spray an individual casserole dish with all-natural cooking spray (I use this one, but you could always divide the batter into two tiny ramekins if you don’t have a mini casserole dish. You could probably even make them in a muffin tin! Just be sure to adjust the cooking time)
  •  Pour the batter into the casserole dish (be sure to spread the batter evenly–give the casserole dish a good tap on the counter to fill any empty spots)
  • Cook for 25 minutes (or until the top is light brown and begins to crack. The sides should also turn light brown and will begin to separate from the edges of the dish– every oven is a little different, and I find vegan cakes to be very sensitive to baking time/temperature, so you may need to keep checking on this one).
  • Let the cake cool. One cool enough to handle, slice it in half (across) so your cake resembles two slices of bread.
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 NOW for the fun part!

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  • Add a thick layer of strawberries, strawberry icing (see below), and Soyatoo vegan whipped cream in between the two shortcake slices, then do the same thing on top!
  • To make the strawberry icing: mix together 4 heaping tablespoons of organic, all-natural powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons of almond milk, and a couple teaspoons of all-natural strawberry jam. Then, drizzle it all over your cake! (Add more powder sugar if you want the icing thicker)
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And voila! Instant date night. 

Now, go pour some champagne.

I’ll cheers to that!

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Fabulously yours,

Ashley Michelle

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Sources:

Health Benefits of Strawberries

Wikipedia: Strawberries

Best Health Magazine

Why Cancer and Inflammation?

 


Protein-Packed Confetti Quinoa

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Cheap and Easy…

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It’s only a good thing when you’re talking about DINNER! ;)

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If you happened to miss my post yesterday, I discussed the many sources of plant-based protein out there. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, there are actually plenty of protein sources available to those following a vegan or vegetarian diet. Two of my personal favorite sources of protein happen to be quinoa and edamame. Not only do these taste delicious, but they also have all 9 essential amino acids that the body can obtain from diet ALONE. This recipe below is a quick, easy, and cheap way to toss together a protein source that can be eaten on its own as a meal, added as a side dish, or thrown on top of salads.

It’s so colorful, doesn’t it remind you of confetti?!

The whole recipe makes a pretty big batch, which is great because you can whip it up on the weekend and keep it in the fridge all week long. It can be eaten both hot or chilled. My favorite happens to be the chilled version, but I’ll let you be the judge!

Now you have NO EXCUSES for not getting in your protein ;)

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (you can use water, but the vegetable stock gives the quinoa a ton of flavor. I use Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 cup canned/or frozen corn (thawed)
  • 1 cup shelled edamame (thawed)
  • 1 can all-natural, organic, diced tomatoes (preferably low-sodium)
  • 1/2 cup all-natural, organic tomato sauce (preferably low-sodium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional, but it definitely gives the quinoa a yummy and nutty/cheesy flavor)
  • Sprinkle of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 whole avocado, diced (optional– but adds a source of healthy fat plus some extra protein)
Directions:
  • Heat the quinoa and vegetable stock in a pot on high until it comes to a full boil.
  • Reduce the quinoa to medium heat and cover 10-15 minutes until liquid evaporates. Fluff with a fork.
  • Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl (If making the “cold version,” cool quinoa for an hour in refrigerator and then follow the rest of the steps.  If making the warm version, continue with the rest of the steps now).
  • Add in the corn, edamame, can of tomatoes, and 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Mix well.
  • Mix in the spices and nutritional yeast.
  • Gently fold in the ripe avocado (be careful not to mush it!).

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Pretty easy, huh?

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Healthfully yours,
Ashley Michelle

 

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Very Berry Vegan Pancakes

Happy Mother’s Day to all you FABULOUS Moms out there!

Good morning :)

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Now, go beg your kids to make you THESE.

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Immediately.

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And if you ARE the kid, it’s time to get cooking… you’ll be Mom’s favorite after she takes JUST ONE BITE :)

This breakfast delight is quick, easy, and healthier than your typical pancake, so you really have no excuse NOT to make them. And the best part is, they sound pretty darn fancy, so it will seem as though you spent all morning preparing this tasty little spread.

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Recipe:

(Makes 3 large pancakes)

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup of spelt flour (or any whole wheat flour– you can read why I like spelt here)
  • 1/4 cup of whole grain oats
  • 1 plus 1/3 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon of nutmeg
  • a little under 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 packets of Stevia (or 1 teaspoon of another type of all-natural granulated sugar)

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of all-natural maple flavor (I’m sure all-natural vanilla or almond extract would taste amazing too!)
  • 2/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or another non-dairy milk)
  • 1 plus 1/2 tablespoon of melted coconut oil (You can use another all natural oil, or melted non-dairy buttery spread,  but I think the coconut gives the cakes a distinctly delicious flavor. You could also substitute applesauce for the oil and make these fat-free, but they WILL be a little chewier and less fluffier than normal. I personally prefer either way, but if you are not used to fat-free baking, I’d keep the oil in.)
  •  1 cup of mixed berries (I like the Trader Joe’s Very Cherry Blend– cherries, blackberries, raspberries AND blueberries!)
  • Optional: Top with a drizzle of all-natural maple syrup (I personally think the berries and maple extract give these enough flavor and gooeyness without the syrup, but feel free to add it if you’d like.)
Please Note: The batter will be much thicker than your typical non-vegan pancake batter

 

Directions:

  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and then add in the wet ingredients (minus the berries).
  • **Be sure to add the berries LAST and DO NOT OVER-MIX, unless you want purple pancakes!** (Which actually, now that I think about it, could be quite pretty!)
  • Lightly spray a pan with all-natural non-stick spray and set the stove at medium heat.
  • Spoon 1/3 of the batter into the pan, flattening and molding it into a thick “pancake” shape.
  • Flip after 2 minutes (depending on the strength of your stove you may need to cook a bit longer–but keep checking so you don’t burn your pancake!)
  • Repeat 2 more times with the rest of the batter.
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Now go serve Mom breakfast in bed :)

 

Healthfully Yours,

Ashley Michelle

 

P.S.– As you all know by now, my non-vegan boyfriend has unsuspectingly become my official taste-tester (tough life, I know). So, just to prove these babies were omnivore/vegetarian friendly, I decided to use his new title to my advantage and conduct a little taste-testing experiment (Muahaha!). Before I hit the gym this morning, when the boyfriend was still sleeping, I cooked up a plate of Very Berry Vegan Pancakes and left them on the counter. Wouldn’t you know, when I came home, the pancakes were magically gone. Hmmm…I wonder where they went…

 


Five-Minute Chocolate, Maple, Banana Cake for ONE!

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There's cake under there somewhere...

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If you LOVE quick and easy desserts…get excited.

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Because this recipe is going to BLOW YOUR MIND.

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Best part of all? It takes FIVE minutes to make.

Yup. NO. OVEN. REQUIRED.

Let me guess…NOW you’re excited :)

I came up with this little gem of an idea while rummaging through the cupboards last night desperately trying to find some recipe inspiration. Instead, all I found were a couple of sad-looking bananas, an almost empty container of almond milk,  a few spoonfuls of flour, and the depressing realization that I needed to do some serious grocery shopping this weekend.

But I was still in the mood for a healthy, yet totally DECADENT treat.

That’s when I had an epiphany.

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Single-serving microwave cake.

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This cake is SO good…even non-vegans will DEVOUR it. I promise.

Want proof?

As soon as I took this gooey, chocolaty dessert out of the microwave, I hardly had enough time to glaze it and take a picture before the boyfriend gobbled it up. He even went as far as to say it’s the BEST dessert he’s ever had–and this is coming from a guy who’s not crazy about dessert in general!

All I can say is, good thing I made two so I could keep one for myself ;)

So what are you waiting for? GET BAKING!

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of spelt flour or other whole wheat flour (I like spelt flour because it has only moderate amounts of gluten and it can be tolerated by those who have wheat allergies and/or a wheat sensitivities. However, it is NOT gluten-free and NOT suitable for those with celiac disease)
  • a little under 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 packets of stevia (1/2 teaspoon) or 1 teaspoon of another natural sweetener
  • 3 tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of natural maple flavor
  • 1 teaspoon of Earth Balance (or any non-dairy buttery spread– I actually prefer to NOT use any butter and add a heaping teaspoon of natural, no sugar added applesauce instead, but my boyfriend–who isn’t a fan of low-fat desserts– LOVED the texture of the cake with the Earth Balance better. It’s totally up to you! One teaspoon isn’t that much anyway.)
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized and VERY ripe organic banana, chopped
  • About 2 teaspoons of mini chocolate chips (I like dairy free, nut, and soy free Enjoy Life semi-sweet mini chocolate chips)

Directions:

  • Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add in the wet ingredients–including the banana and chocolate chips.
  • Mix until blended but do not over-mix.
  • Spray a small bowl, or ramekin (anything roughly 1-cup in size) with an all-natural non-stick spray (I’m sure a coffee mug would work, but you may have to cook it few seconds  longer)
  • Pour batter in the small bowl and microwave on high for about 2 minutes (depending on your microwave’s strength, your cake may need to cook a little longer. The top of the cake should give a little when you press down on it and should not be overly sticky/gooey on top).
  • While your cake is cooking…you can whip up the glaze! (See below)

Creamy Chocolate Glaze Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of organic, all-natural powdered sugar (natural maple sugar and coconut sugar will also do–  if you don’t have powdered sugar, just blend regular sugar in a blender for a minute or so until it turns to powder).
  • 3 teaspoons of all-natural cocoa powder (I use the Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 2 teaspoons of almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Directions:

  • Mix all the glaze ingredients together until smooth.
  • Slip a knife down around the cake to loosen it from the bowl, turn it over and pop it out onto a plate.
  • Pour you glaze ALL OVER your Five-Minute Chocolate, Maple, Banana Cake.
  • EAT YOUR FACE OFF.

Healthfully yours,

Ashley Michelle

x

P.S. Technically I categorized this as a dessert…but seeing as it’s the weekend and all…if you really want to eat it for breakfast, I won’t tell ;)

 

 

 

 


BBQ Tofu, Fat-Free Cornbread, & Broccoli Slaw

Sundays and Summer

Do you have a favorite Sunday dinner?

When I was growing up, my family rarely had the opportunity sit down together for a meal during the week. Between after school activities, dance classes, track practices, and homework…we were lucky to eat something while even sitting at all! The only exception to this hectic routine was Sunday nights, when my dad would spend the day cooking a big meal and we would all sit down to eat together as a family.

I have to admit, my dad is a pretty amazing cook. Give him a handful of ingredients (any ingredients!) and he’ll whip up a gourmet meal in no time. Actually, that’s a lie. He would spend the WHOLE DAY taking his time to perfect a recipe…and though waiting was the hardest part, it would always be worth it in the end.

One of these gourmet meals that seemed simple but took FOREVER was Sunday spaghetti. The secret was his simmer-all-day-long, made-from-scratch pasta sauce with a *special ingredient.* Sorry, I can’t tell you what it is!

My dad would begin prepping in the morning and wouldn’t finish cooking until dinner was ready to go on the table that night. Normally, my dad would make the sauce with ground beef, but once I declared myself a vegetarian, he’d set aside a small pot of meat-free sauce just for me. Sometimes he would use the same sauce to make eggplant parmesan…one of my favorite vegetarian (non-vegan friendly) meals before giving up cheese!

It’s been a long time since my family has had one of those Sunday night dinners, but my boyfriend reminded me of them when he spent all day today making his favorite Sunday comfort food– spaghetti and meatballs. I was getting sick of my run of the mill Sunday night salads, so I decided to change it up a bit by putting a healthy spin on another popular type of comfort food…BARBEQUE!

I rarely use the conventional oven to cook my meals, especially on a weekend. Funny, I know. Here I am writing a recipe blog and I hardly use the most important cooking appliance in my kitchen to make myself dinner!  But honestly,  I’m usually so wiped out from going to the gym, running errands, cleaning, testing recipes, and baking healthy treats…that by the time the dinner hour rolls around, I’d rather throw some lettuce in a bowl and call it a day. But today…the boyfriend inspired me. I’ve decided to try something new.

I’ve been itching to wear my new, gold Gap flip-flops but it was rather chilly today in Boston. The sandals will have to wait another day, but who says I can’t eat like it’s summer right now? When I think summer, I think BBQ. I think about summers at the family’s beach house, corn on the cob, campfires, and grilling.

I knew JUST what to whip up– Extra Crispy BBQ tofu, ahhh-maaazing, fat-free, country cornbread, and a side of summer slaw.

Can you hear the summer peepers in the trees and the crackling of the campfire yet?

Believe me…after this meal you’ll be ready to make some Sm’ores (recipe coming soon!)

 

Extra Crispy BBQ Tofu & Summer Slaw: A high-protein, low-fat, twist on a summer favorite!

Serves 2

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 °
  • Take the tofu out of the package and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap tofu in a couple sheets of paper towels, set on a plate and put another heavy plate on top of it as if you are making a tofu/plate sandwich. This will help get any excess moisture out of the tofu before cooking.
  • Put about 1/2 cup BBQ sauce in a small bowl. Do the same with breadcrumbs. (You will probably need more of each but start with this for now.)
  • Put tinfoil on a cookie sheet and spritz with all-natural cooking spray.
  • Unwrap the tofu and slice it into 7 pieces (you can cut it thicker or thinner depending upon how crispy/soft you want it to be).
  • Sprinkle the tofu with garlic powder and onion powder.
  • Take you first piece of tofu and dip it in the BBQ sauce, making sure the entire piece is coated.
  • Dip your BBQ tofu in the breadcrumbs and place it on your cookie sheet. Again, make sure all sides are breaded!
  • Continue coating and breading the remaining tofu slices.
  • Place your cookie sheet/tofu in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes (flip half way through). I like my tofu EXTRA crispy, so if you prefer softer tofu, just don’t keep it in as long.
  • Drizzle some more BBQ sauce (or even all-naural ketchup!) on top for an extra kick!
Summer Slaw:
  • 2-3 cups of broccoli slaw (I use the Trader Joe’s kind)
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of hot & sweet mustard (I couldn’t find a link, but I love the Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 heaping spoonful whole grain Dijon mustard  (I like the Trader Joe’s kind)
  • 2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • Splash of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I usually omit the salt, but feel free to add it in)

 

Ahhhh-Mazzzzing Fat-Free Country Cornbread: Sweet and savory…without the guilt or gluten!

I'm sooo sweet....and FAT FREE!

Dry ingredients:

Wet Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons of apple sauce
  • one 15 oz. can of unsalted corn (leave 1/4 cup for sprinkling on top)
Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 430°
  • Spray an 8×8 pan with all-natural cooking spray
  • Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well
  • Blend all the wet ingredients together (I used a magic bullet to blend mine because I didn’t want my cornbread to have whole bits of corn in it, but I am sure it would taste great either way).
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Pour batter into pan and sprinkle with remaining corn.
  • Bake for  30- 35 minutes or until sides begin to separate from pan. The top should begin to crack and look slightly dry
Now the hard part…
Wait 15 minutes or so until it the cornbread is slightly cooled. Cut into squares, add a smear of Earth Balance if you’re feeling crazy and want to pretend you’re at a backyard BBQ :)

 

Let’s chat!

Did your family have sit-down dinners together every night? What’s your favorite summer comfort food? Aside from BBQ-style food, I’d have to say my favorite summer food isn’t exactly a meal…but more like a snack. To me, there’s nothing more summery than eating Bing cherries on the beach! The fact that you can easily wash your hands off in the water is even better, because those babies are messy and extra juicy :)
Healthfully yours,
Ashley Michelle