Easy Vegan Swaps

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Thinking about going vegan? The switch is easier than you think! And if the thought has never crossed your mind, maybe it should. Becoming a vegan is not only one of the best things you can do for the environment (20% of pollution comes from the meat industry!), but also for your health. Going vegan, even part-time, has been shown to reduce the risks of many diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even arthritis! While going vegan isn’t for everyone, it clearly has its benefits!

Read on for some super easy (and still tasty!) swaps to make in your kitchen to make your lifestyle transition smooth sailing!

  • Replace an egg (in baking) with:
    • 1/4 cup of applesauce
    • 2 tbs ground flaxseed + 1 tbs water
    • Mashed banana
    • 1 tbs chia seeds + 3 tbs water
  • Replace milk with:
    • Almond or Coconut milk
    • Applesauce
  • Replace your meat burgers with:
    • Black bean or quinoa burgers
  • Swap out mayonnaise with:
    • Avocado
  • Use (firm) TOFU in place of meats
  • Replace ground beef in tacos with….. Lentils!
  • Instead of butter, use:
    • Olive oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Avocado
    • Applesauce

Try swapping out some ingredients in the next non-vegan recipe you try and tell us how it goes!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Healthy Halloween Treats!

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The weather is cooling off, leaves are starting to change, and pumpkin patches are open for business – Halloween is just around the corner! Whether it is your little one’s first Halloween or you’re a veteran of this night of pumpkins, glitter, and masks, there’s sure to be plenty of treats.

While the occasional Halloween treat never hurt anyone, the standard packaged candy can actually be a bit of a trick, piling on sugar and processed ingredients. If you are looking to throw a Halloween party or play date for your children and their friends, it’s easy to make healthy treats that are just the right amount of sweet and spooky. Kids can also jump in the kitchen to help create these yummy snacks, extending the Halloween fun!

Healthy Halloween Recipe: Spooky Strawberry Banana Ghost Pops

4 ripe bananas
½ cup unsweetened strawberry jam
1 cup unsweetened coconut
16 semisweet chocolate chips
8 dried cranberries
8 popsicle sticks

1. Peel your bananas and cut each in half

2. Cut a slit in the bottom of each banana piece and insert a popsicle stick

3. Wrap the bananas in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about an hour, or until firm

4. As bananas are freezing, heat your jam on medium heat until it reaches a syrupy consistency

5. Dip the banana in the jam to coat it in a thin layer

6. Roll the banana in coconut or sprinkle it on by hand

7. Decorate your banana ghost with chocolate chips for eyes and a dried cranberry mouth

8. Repeat for all eight banana pieces

9. Place your bananas back in the freezer for fifteen or twenty minutes to firm back up – then your healthy ghosts are ready to go!

For some more fun recipes like “Snack-o-lanterns” and pretzel bones, check out this list from Spoonful (http://spoonful.com/halloween/best-halloween-recipes-gallery)

Written by: Amanda Dunham

Sources:
Ghost Banana Pop recipe – Tom’s of Maine blog (http://blog.tomsofmaine.com/index.php/healthy-halloween-treats-spooky-strawberry-banana-ghost-pops/)

Grain Spotlight…Buckwheat!

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Photo credit: Ervins Strauhmanis

As more people have begun adopting gluten-free diets due to allergy, intolerance, or other health-related reasons, alternative grains have experienced a boost in popularity. One of these is buckwheat, which, despite the name, is not related to wheat at all. The “fruit” of the buckwheat plant is actually more like a sunflower seed, with one seed inside a hard outer hull. Buckwheat flour is made from the white, starchy endosperm, and kasha (or buckwheat groat, as it is sometimes called) is the hulled, crushed whole grain most commonly used in cooking. The flowers of the buckwheat plant are also very attractive to bees and are used to make a dark honey.

Like many grains, buckwheat is a good source of protein and fiber, providing about 5.7 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fiber per cooked cup. Buckwheat is also high in manganese, a micronutrient needed for many chemical reactions throughout the body. Some studies have shown that diets containing buckwheat and other grains are linked to a lower risk of high cholesterol or high blood pressure. These effects are partly due to buckwheat’s supply of flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and also help to prevent excessive clotting of blood platelets.

 If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative or just want to experiment with another nutritious grain, there are many ways to use buckwheat in cooking and baking. Buckwheat flour can easily be a substitute for regular white or wheat flour in muffins, breads, cookies, or as a thickener for soups and sauces. You can even grind your own at home using whole buckwheat and a spice or coffee grinder (ideally one with at least 200 watts of power, as buckwheat hulls are harder than other grains). The flour should always be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, while the grains can be stored in an airtight container in any cool, dry place. 

 The cooked grains can be used as a plain or seasoned side dish, as a hot breakfast cereal with milk, or as a replacement for rice given the similar texture and cooking methods. They’re an excellent addition to soups, cooked or cold salads, stuffings, stir-fries, or any other dish you would like to add some complex carbohydrates and protein to! 
 
Buckwheat can even be made into baby food: just thoroughly whisk together over low heat 1-2 cups of water for each 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour. For older babies or toddlers who can chew, try a kasha cereal by boiling 2 cups of water, adding 1 cup of kasha and returning to a boil, then reducing the heat to low to let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes as you stir occasionally. This can be served on its own or easily mixed with fruit, fruit purees, or milk.
 
One of the most common uses of buckwheat around the world is for buckwheat flour pancakes. Here’s an easy, vegan, gluten-free recipe!
 
Vegan Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pancakes
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup white or brown rice flour
2 tablespoons ground flax
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon date sugar (or other sweetener)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 
1. Sift the buckwheat flour and mix together with all dry ingredients.
2. Add the milk and vanilla and mix well.
3. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then add any fruit or nuts as desired.
4. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto a greased griddle or pan and flip the pancake when bubbles form on the surface. Cook until golden brown on each side.
 
 
What’s your favorite way to cook with buckwheat?
 
 
Written by: Lauren Mesaros
 
Sources:
Recipe adapted from Helyn’s Healthy Kitchen

Tofu Tips!

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Ahh, tofu! Known as a vegetarian’s go-to for some protein and also known as this weird looking white stuff that you pick up in the store and say “what the heck can I do with this?”.

If you’ve never eaten tofu, you should definitely start! Before I dish out some recipes, let’s do some Tofu 101. Tofu, according to wikipedia, is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is filled with protein and iron, and low in calories and fat! The taste is pretty bland though, which means you must season or marinate it to give it any sort of flavor. The lack of taste gives you the freedom to make it whatever you may crave – sweet or savory!

There are a few types of tofu. We are only going to list the fresh tofu, and not the processed, because we should know by now that processed foods shouldn’t be in our diet! Fresh tofu consists of silken and firm.

  • Silken – Also referred to as “soft” tofu. This is a Japanese styled tofu because of the way it is molded through a silk cloth. It has a much softer, silkier texture than firm tofu and it crumbles very easily. Since it has an almost pudding-like consistency, it is often used in desserts, dressings, purees etc.
  • Firm/Extra Firm – The name says it all. Rather than being soft, it has a firmer texture due to the bean curds being drained and then pressed into blocks. This tofu is more commonly seen and can be used in stir fries, soups, bakes, scrambles etc.

Here are some super easy and super delicious recipes using tofu – great for kids and adults alike! As always, make sure to buy organic and non-GMO!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tofu Mousse

  • Puree 1 package silken tofu.
  • Heat 1/3 cup organic dark cocoa powder and 1/4 cup water in pot. Slowly add in 1/4 cup all natural granulated sweetener (I use maple sugar flakes or sucanat), 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of all natural peanut butter and stir until smooth.
  • Remove from heat, and add pureed tofu. Chill for at least an hour. Serve with any toppings you would like!

Crispy Tofu Nuggets

  • Preheat oven to 350. Spray baking sheet with olive/coconut oil.
  • Cut 1 package of firm tofu into nugget shapes of your choice.
  • Fill 3 bowls with: 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour, 2 eggs beaten, 1/4 cup favorite breadcrumbs.
  • Dip tofu nuggets into flour bowl, then egg wash, then breadcrumbs and place on pan.
  • Bake nuggets for 15-20 min, serve with favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!

Breakfast Tofu Scramble

  • Heat skillet over medium heat, coat with olive/coconut oil.
  • Chop desired veggies (peppers, mushrooms, spinach, onions, carrots etc.)
  • Cook veggies and 1 package soft tofu (crumbled) along with salt, pepper, and any other spices you wish for 6-8 minutes or until your liking.
  • Bonus: For on-the-go mornings, create a breakfast burrito with tofu scramble and ezekiel/whole grain wrap!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Exposing & Explaining: Tricks to Healthy Snacking Habits

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Did you know 25% to 33% of daily energy intake among adolescents is from snacking? That’s a pretty big part of their diet! With childhood obesity rates growing each year, it is the parents’ duty to educate and teach their children healthy eating habits. Let’s face it, packaged snacks are EASY! Most of them are cheap too, which doesn’t make it any easier to not buy that pack of Oreo’s your kids are pulling on your pant leg for. Unfortunately, most packaged snacks and products are extremely processed and have no nutritional value. How do we get our kids to want good snacks, like fruit and veggies, and not want the bad stuff, like chips and cookies?

The trick to getting our children to become healthy snackers is something I like to call Exposing & ExplainingE&E has worked for me many times in the past (it even works on adults!) and is so simple to do, that you’re probably thinking “Wow, that’s it?”. Yes, yes it is. A lot of us adults know a decent amount of nutritional information, and if we don’t know something then we can just look it up on the internet. The point is, we are educated and know an apple is better for you than a bag of chips. But you’re children might not!

1: Exposing: Let your children know what a Big Mac is, what a Twinkie is, what a bag of cheese puffs are. If you as a parent show your children all sides of the food industry, they won’t be as curious as if they did not know what something was. Chances are they are going to be invited to birthday parties where chips, cupcakes, pizza, candy etc. are available. The chances of them choosing to eat those foods go way down if they already know what they are vs. a child who has no idea what a Laffy Taffy is. I’m not saying to feed your kids these foods, but just to expose them and get them familiar with what we have available on this planet. Take the curiosity away!

2: Explaining: Once that curiosity is gone, just briefly tell your kids why that food is “icky”, unhealthy or why we don’t like it. Refrain from using the term “bad”, because you want them to make their own decision on why the food isn’t good for them. Categorizing a food as “bad” lets them know it isn’t good, but it doesn’t tell them WHY. For example, if I was trying to get a child to choose an apple over chips I would first tell them I don’t eat chips because I don’t know where they come from, and are made with chemicals my body cannot digest. Then I would ask them back: Would you want to eat something that was made with chemicals? Putting it in a question makes the child think and decide for themselves. State basic facts as to why things are healthier than others, rather than just saying this is healthy/not healthy.

Simple, right? That’s what I thought. Give it a try and let us know how it goes! Healthy snacking habits are only an E&E away!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Photo Credit: puregreencoffeeinfo.com

Back To School Fuel

School is back in session! Whether you are sending your tike off to pre-school, half-day kindergarden or 2nd grade you want to make sure they are ready to start the day. You don’t have to make a gourmet breakfast to fill up with the essential nutrients for prime learning, you just have to get creative. Check out some healthy, fun (and easy!) ideas below!

Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Mug-Cake

Mug Cakes – What child wouldn’t want cake for breakfast? And guess what the best part is? It is filled with whole grains and protein with no added sugars so their brain is ready to work! Perfect for those hectic mornings we all have, it can also be taken on the go!

Try this chocolate nut butter mug cake (YUM!). Mix the following ingredients together:

  • 3 tablespoons oat flour
  • 1 tablespoon organic cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon almond/coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • PINCH of salt
  • 1 egg white OR 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)
  • 3 tablespoons almond/soy/coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite nut butter

Once mixed, poor into greased mug (I usually spray some coconut oil) and microwave for 1-1:30 min. Eat out of the mug or slide it out onto a plate to make it fancy. Feel free to top with chopped nuts, berries and/or some greek yogurt!

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English Muffin Breakfast Pizza – A great way for your kids to create their own breakfasts! Toast an Ezekiel english muffin and top with whatever their little hearts desire! To get even more flavor, feel free to pop these bad boys in the oven until they are toasted to your liking! Some ideas to get you started are below.

  • Peanut Butter, Bananas, and a drizzle of honey
  • Cream Cheese, Apricot Reserves, and Almonds
  • Nutella, Strawberries, and Raspberries
  • Greek Yogurt, Blueberries, Peaches and a sprinkle of Cinnamon
  • Flavor Burst! Avoacado, Tomato, and Arugula topped with crumbled Feta and a touch of balsamic glaze

What are some fun ways that you play up breakfast in the morning? Let us know!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Photos: thenovicechefblog.com, chow.com

Have a Happy Labor (Day)!

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Happy Labor Day everyone! In celebration of the hard working people, we also want to recognize all the mom’s out there! Being a mom is one of the most important “jobs” in this world, and too little do they get the thanks they deserve! So, Happy Labor Day to you too, moms! We wouldn’t be here without ya (literally)!

Mother’s have the wonderful task of giving birth, and although it may be an amazing time, it sure isn’t easy. Below are a few tips and tricks to jumpstart the process of labor and make it as smooth as possible. Check them out!

Eat Some Dates Studies have shown that women who ate dates regularly during their pregnancy had a very short labor and easy birth. Dates contain a compound that mimic the hormone oxytocin – responsible for causing those lovely contractions.

Evening Primrose Oil This oil can be taken in a gel capsule and is sworn to work by midwives and naturopathic doctors. The oil is supposed to help dilate the cervix and prepare the body for birth. It also helps in clearing up the skin, and easing pain on joints!

Take a walk! A nice, long walk is a great way to speed up the labor process. It has been said to help the baby drop and prepare for birth. Not only is it a stress reliever, but staying active during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do! Keeps the body in top shape, and if you do certain exercises (such as kegels) to strengthen your pelvic floor, giving birth will be a breeze! 

Pineapple Although there is no proof in the pineapple, doctors still recommend it for a labor stimulator and hey, many women have even said it works! Be careful not to eat too much because acid levels are high and can cause heartburn or an uncomfortable stomach.

Load up on the H2O! It is so important to stay hydrated during labor. Your body is working overtime and you need to keep those muscles and cells in tip top shape so they can do their job. Before, it was not recommended to drink fluids before/during labor, but now doctors and hospitals have actually seen less complications when women were properly hydrated. 

If you’re about ready to pop, try one or more of these strategies and let us know how it goes! Have a happy labor, and a Happy Labor Day! We appreciate you, moms!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Source: babble.com