Saturday, June 28, 2014

Raw Vegan Carrot Cake Balls

Happy Sunday!  I meant to post a “Gratitude Tuesday” dedicated to my yoga practice earlier this week, but my phone had other ideas and actually deleted the whole thing before I was able to save it.  Oopsie!  Oh well.  I suppose one benefit of practicing yoga is the calm mind that allowed me to shrug it off and say, “well, I guess I’ll start over another day”.  I really did NOT feel like starting it over that night.  Trust me. 


So, instead, I’ve decided to give you a little healthy recipe for the weekend.  I always loved carrot cake growing up.  Not kidding, it was a toss-up between that and German chocolate cake every birthday.  I could never decide.  Being a vegan these days, the traditional carrot cake featuring cream cheese icing, is off the table.  Honestly, I have serious ethical issues with dairy these days.  I’ve written a whole blog post about it.  But now that I know a thing or two about making delicious raw desserts, I’ve created my version of an on-the-go bite-sized snack ball that reminds me of one of my favorite cakes.  These are soft, gooey, sweet, with just a hint of spice.  And did I mention that they’re raw, vegan, and sugar free?  Yep, I’d say they’re just about perfect.  But I’ll let you be the judge…



4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 cup soft dates (I used medjool.)

¼ cup hemp seeds (walnuts, pecans, almonds would all work if you don’t have hemp seeds.)

1 ½ cups oats (I try to always use the gluten-free kind)

Thumb of ginger

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

2-3 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes


Start by adding the roughly chopped carrots to a food processor and pulsing until you have rice-sized pieces.  Then add all other ingredients and process until they form a sticky dough.  Sprinkle the coconut flakes into a shallow dish.  Take 1-2 tablespoon-sized globs of dough and form into balls, then roll them in the coconut flakes.  Refrigerate for at least two hours to firm them.  Enjoy! 


I actually had three of these AFTER my morning smoothie this morning.  You know, because I obviously needed dessert.  Ha!  That’s the best part about guilt-free foods.  You can have them any time you feel the need. 


I’m still tweaking this recipe and may try adding raisins next time for a little more intense flavor.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  Have a fantastic weekend, and eat something green!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Simple Creamy Detox Soup

My digestion wasn't feeling so good today.  I'm not sure what was causing it, but I decided to give my tummy a little break.  When I came home, I took a look inside the fridge and threw some stuff in the blender.  It turned out very tasty, so I'm sharing it with you guys.  It took, literally, minutes to prepare, so I'm sure I'll be adding this to my go-to recipes for busy nights.

Simple Creamy Detox Soup

2 cups leafy greens (I used spring mix.)
1/2 a large cucumber
1/2 red bell pepper
2 green onions
1/4 red onion
10 spears of asparagus
1/4-1/2 cup cilantro
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic 
1" piece of jalapeño 
1/2 avocado
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt

Roughly chop cucumber, bell pepper, onions, and asparagus, then add to blender with the greens, jalapeño, garlic, lemon juice, water, and cilantro.  Blend until smooth, then add the avocado, cumin, and salt.  Process until creamy.  Serve as-is, or top with something crunchy like hemp seeds or dried onions.  You could add other spices if you'd like or more jalapeño if you like it extra hot.  Toss in more veggies if you'd like.  The great thing about these raw green soups is that they're so versatile.  Have fun with it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Garden Adventure 2014: In the Beginning...

Peppers, tomatoes, purple kale, and some tiny pumpkins making an appearance.

Growing up, we always had a large garden at the bottom of our sloped yard.  I remember picking tomatoes and cucumbers every summer, and making the freshest salads with them.  I'd say that's likely where my love of raw food began.  I'll never forget that one year when we planted the cucumbers too close to the watermelons and ended up with the biggest cucumbers I've ever seen and the least flavorful watermelons.  Ever since, I've been extra careful about the spacing between those two.  Now that I'm a homeowner, and since I eat a lot of fresh vegetables, I won't live without a big garden full of my favorite things. 

Squash blossoms!  Is there anything prettier?

This year, I've been on a mission to grow as much as possible in my little city lot.  Since we eat salads almost daily, I've dedicated one bed completely to greens: spinach, kale, Swiss chard, romaine, and beets.  They've grown so fast that I'm already planting a second round for next month's harvest.  I am in LOVE with the colors in that bed!  There's something magical about walking outside and seeing bright green next to dark green next to hot pink.  I think I could sit in that section of the garden all day admiring its beauty.  

From left:  spinach, Swiss chard, kale, romaine.

One of my favorite things to grow are tomatoes, but not just your standard red bulb.  I discovered heirloom tomato varieties a couple of summers ago thanks to the farmers market, and fell head over heels.  The best, to me, are Cherokee purples.  They have such a soft, delicate flesh with a sweet, slightly tangy flavor, and I can't get enough.  This year, I've planted two of them, along with some Old Germans, which are a yellow/orange striped variety.  I'll let you know how they taste once I have some.  Those are my experimental type this year. 

My Old Germans hanging out in the garden with some cucumbers enjoying the morning shade.

As far as the rest of the garden beds, I have snap peas that are coming along beautifully, squash, okra (since my hubby would like to sustain himself ONLY on it), red bell peppers, cantaloupe, purple kale (because, obviously you can never have too much color in salads!), and cucumbers.  I also planted two pumpkin plants which I've never grown before, so we shall see what happens.  

I still need to run string for the peas to climb, but they're doing great!  And my okra is gorgeous, if I do say so myself.

There's also a mystery brewing in my garden.  I ordered some heirloom seeds and started them in pots, but only a few took, and once I planted them in the ground, I'd forgotten what was in each one.  Oopsie!  So, I have one plant that I'm nurturing which looks like a tomato plant, but since I also had purple tomatillos planted in that tray, I'm not sure which one made it.  I guess we won't know until it makes fruit.  It's all part of the fun, I suppose.

The strawberry bed and pots of lovely goodies ready to take off.

In the back yard, I've got a lovely wooden table from Tractor Supply where I've planted my newest strawberries.  These are a late-season blooming variety, so I hope to see some fruit this summer. Fingers crossed.  I had two other plants from last season which we moved into a big metal tub and set on one side of the table.  I'd grown a couple of celery starts in my window from my kitchen scraps, but they now reside on the table, as well.  Along side those, is my Greek oregano and a pot of flowers.  I'm pretty excited with how it turned out.  

Celery, grown from my Trader Joe's scraps, and oregano.

On the front porch, I have a couple of herbs and some large flower pots.  I started basil and cilantro from seed, and they seem to be doing ok.  Since they were each only coming up on one side of their pot, I put a flower in the other side for some color.  The large flower pots were my mom's idea, and I just love how they turned out.  Vincas accompany marigolds or New Guinea impatiens and a spikey grass, and sweet potato vines dangle down the front.  I think sweet potato vines are about the prettiest thing you could grow.  The colors are so vibrant!  Our porch is rather large, but had been totally bare until now.  My next project will be finding second-hand furniture I can spruce up for a nice seating area.  We live on a very-main street, so I want to have excellent curb appeal.  The landscaping is quite nice, but we still need some color out there.  

Moving indoors, I have plenty of pretty green houseplants, which were all gifts when our daughter was born last year.  I was so proud of myself when I finally separated the mixed planter and they all lived!  I've never been known for my green thumb, but it's come a long way in recent years, as you can tell.  On a sewing table by the front window, I have stevia (which I have no idea how to care for), more basil (because you can never have too much), a struggling parsley plant, and a romaine "branch" that I really need to just eat since it's not doing well inside.

Basil!  Parsley and stevia take backstage.

Fun fact, romaine will reach for the sun if it's grown indoors and you'll end up with six-foot tall, straggly lettuce. Not cute.  

See...  Not enough direct sun.  Kinda reminds me of Jack & the Beanstalk.

So, that pretty much sums up what my gardening adventure looks like at the moment.  I still have some heirloom corn and a few watermelon plants to get in the ground if I can find someone who'll let me borrow a tiller for about ten minutes.  I'd like to do an update each month of how the garden is doing, so stay tuned for progress reports.  

P.S.  I picked the first strawberry of the season this morning.  Technically, it was the second.  A bird beat me to the first one.  

What are you growing this year?  Anything interesting?  I'd love to hear what's going on in my readers' yards.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to Travel and Stay Healthy


Last week, Little Miss Charlotte and I packed up the car and headed to my hometown for a few days.  We had plans to visit with my dad, brother, sister-in-law, adorable nephews, and grandmother, plus, attend a reunion of my camp buddies who I hadn’t seen in 15 years.  Yes, I’m one of those people who still thinks the 1990’s were ten years ago, and it makes me feel really old to think it’s been 15 years since I’ve seen someone.  Anywho, to complicate things, I joined a 9-day raw “celebration” that started on June 1st.  We were calling it a “celebration” instead of a “challenge” because we wanted to focus on the positive aspects of eating 100% raw instead of making it sound like something difficult.  I was committed to staying ALL RAW on this trip, so I had to plan ahead.  I managed to stick to my plan and didn’t have a single cooked morsel the entire trip.  It was a completely raw vegan vacation.  (Vegan may not be accurate considering the turkey who I inadvertently helped commit suicide on my drive home, but I didn’t eat him, so I think it still counts.)  So how did I do it?  Here are my tips for a healthy road trip whether you’re attempting to stay raw or not:


Pack as if you’re going camping.  By this, I mean to bring everything you will need.  Pretend you’ll be staying in an RV with limited amenities.  This works far better is you’re driving, not flying, of course.  (Unless you can afford the insane overweight fees.)  I have a Baby Bullet blender that was a baby shower gift, and it’s wonderful for packing on trips.  It’s compact, but works really well for making smoothies.  I also packed my julienne peeler, a sharp knife, coconut oil, protein powder, chia seeds, raw cacao powder, maca powder, spirulina, as well as plenty of actual produce.  My thinking was that I would have everything I needed to make nutritious smoothies, if I didn’t have anything else to eat.  Chia seeds and spirulina are awesome to have when traveling because the chia seeds are super filling and don’t require anything besides water, and the spirulina is packed with minerals and vitamins to keep your immune system firing when traveling compromises restful sleep.  Basically, in a pinch, without any other green vegetables, you’ve got instant chlorophyll in a bag. The weekend before we left, I made raw corn-red pepper chips and “smoked” almonds in my dehydrator to bring along as snacks, and I made the sundried tomato wraps from Nouveau Raw.  (They’re very easy and have a texture very similar to corn tortillas.)  Since I knew I’d be doing plenty of smoothies on the trip, I made a big batch of fresh almond milk the night before and packed it in a Tupperware pitcher with a tight lid.  As far as produce, I packed ripe bananas, since most stores don’t have ripe ones sitting around.  I took along apples, dates, berries, and mangoes.  I eat lots of fruit this time of year, so I was prepared to continue that trend.  I also packed the ingredients for my favorite salad dressing, since I knew I’d be eating salads every night if I could.  For Charlotte, I pre-cooked some brown rice, edamame, and veggies, plus took a couple of avocadoes.  She mostly eats what I prepare for myself, but she loves to have some heavier stuff once in a while.


Find healthy shopping options ahead of time.  There’s a health food store in my hometown that’s been there since my mom was a kid, and it’s a great option for stocking up on vegetables and raw food supplies.  When we got to town, they were my first stop.  As a bonus, they had organic local lettuce on sale while I was there, so I bought a bag for each evening I’d be in town.   We loaded up a cart with lettuce, raisins (for Charlotte), chia superfood bites, some Raw Revolution bars, loose-leaf black tea (which was super cheap, by the way!), organic cherry tomatoes, and fresh ground spices.  I also filled two gallon jugs with High-Oxygen water.  I’d never had it but thought it would be good to try in such circumstances, given that the quality of the county water is “iffy” at best.  My second day there, I made a trip to the grocery store and grabbed a few extra things, like cherries and grapes.


Set your intentions and communicate them with those you’re visiting.  I was posting my raw celebration meals on Instagram and Facebook every day before I left, so my friends knew I’d be continuing to eat raw during my visit.  My dad, however, doesn’t use those forms of communication, so I just let him and my stepmom know that I was part of an online group who had vowed to eat all raw vegan food for nine days, so I wouldn’t be interested in going out to eat.  I told him that if they wanted to go anywhere, though, I’d be happy to join them and just not partake.  They decided to stay home and have healthy fresh-cooked meals each night instead, which I think that was a good thing.  My stepmom is a great cook, by the way, so I don’t think Dad was missing out on anything by skipping the Mexican joint.   All in all, no one even questioned what I was eating.  At the reunion, there were tons of hotdogs and chips (Ew.), so I just packed a cooler with grapes, cherries, strawberries, bananas, and a Raw Revolution bar.  Charlotte and I munched on that stuff while everyone else ate what was provided.  Funny enough, one of my friends had brought her two-year-old daughter, and she kept snatching our food.  I’m telling ya, the kids know. 


If all else fails, consider it an impromptu fast.  I know it’s not easy to just skip meals.  After all, I’m breastfeeding a toddler!  But there’ve been occasions when there wasn’t anything appetizing available at a social function I attended, so I just drank lots of water and waited until later to eat.  As a matter of fact, those occasions are the reason I pack so heavily now.  I’ve learned my lesson, so even if it’s just a few hours at a friend’s house down the street, I’ll still squirrel away a  raw food bar or a couple of bananas.  Eating beforehand is also a good habit.  That way, you won’t be tempted by unhealthy options. 


Basically, my days went like this:  Cacao, banana, almond milk smoothie with chia seeds, protein powder, and maca for breakfast.  Lunch was either a salad with tomato, onion, and avocado topped with tahini-lemon dressing or just fruit.  And dinners were a huge salad topped with cucumber, red pepper, tomato, onion, avocado, almonds, and a tahini-lemon dressing.  I didn’t have much variety on this trip, but that’s ok.  I had a plan and I stuck to it.  And if you’ve tried Bonzai Aphrodite’s “Tahini Dip that Done Stole My Heart”, you’ll understand how not-boring my salads were.  That stuff is like crack!  I also munched on the chia bites, dates, and fruit throughout the day.  I had my raw corn-red pepper chips or a tomato wrap with my salad to make it more filling. 


I feel like I did pretty good at staying healthy on our trip.  I’ve done it before, but usually it involved a lot of dehydrated food, which I get tired of after a while.  I just don’t feel as good when I’m eating them a lot.  My body needs lots of high-water food to feel it’s best, so this trip was far better with all of the salads and smoothies.  Charlotte took it upon herself to have most of her food second-hand, meaning she mostly nursed the entire trip.  It was actually really nice since my milk supply had dropped last week due to extra work and not being able to pump as often.  She ate plenty of fresh fruit and even shared my salads.  Her favorite thing, by far, were my chips.  If she even saw the bag, she went nuts.  I think we may have a new staple food around our house. 


When you’re as routine as I am, being able to stick to that routine can make a huge difference while traveling.  I’ve had many trips when I didn’t do that, so my digestion got all wonky, and I ended up with a cold after returning home.  Traveling can be very hard on the immune system, so having a plan and following through with healthy eating keeps your body in fighting shape.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gratitude Tuesday: The Positive Side of Social Media

These days, we hear a lot of negative press when it comes to social media.  Whether it's bullying, unrealistic expectations caused my media messages constantly bombarding us, or just plain ole spending too much time behind a screen rather than outside, it seems everyone has something bad to say.  While these concerns are definitely founded, I'd like to take a moment to highlight a side of social media that I've found to be incredibly helpful.  

I don't get out much.  I'm the mom to a very energetic toddler, so I'm limited when it comes to venturing out.  Making friends isn't a priority right now.  When it comes to leaving the house, my requirements are that Charlotte must be welcome, and I have to be home before bedtime.  That isn't exactly conducive to parties and social gatherings. As a vegan and a raw chef, I love making my own food and knowing what's on my plate.  This, however, complicates social gatherings.  I am pretty good at finding vegan options in non-vegan restaurants, but sometimes it's very difficult.  Being one who doesn't like to make things too complicated, I just try to stick to places I know are veg-friendly, but some folks aren't too keen on my choices.  I've been amazed, though, at the outpouring of support for vegans and raw foodies online. It's been wonderful to see the number of people eager to offer recipes or answers to questions.  The sense of community is so uplifting.  I can ask a question in the comment section of a favorite blog, and within minutes, there are ten people all offering help.  Without the online community, I wouldn't even know another vegan.  With, I've found many other raw vegans in my area with whom I'm able to share meals and experiences.  These folks seem to be some of the most upbeat and positive people I've ever known, too.  Since connecting with them on Facebook, my news feed is filled with positive messages and beautiful photos.  It's truly inspirational!  

Thanks to Instagram, I'm building my own little group of healthy eaters, as well as finding and sharing delicious recipes.  I've even had "likes" from some of my favorite bloggers, a few who are following my little ole page.  Finding others who share your interests is so much easier this day in age.  I'm currently doing a 9-day Raw Celebration with the community at More With Dara, a forum set up by Dara Dubinet (check out for info) to connect her fans.  The group is absolutely amazing!  These people are so supportive and just sweet, loving souls.  During this celebration, we are all consuming 100% raw vegan foods and sharing our experiences.  It's such a blessing to log in and see everyone's colorful meals and their health improvements.  I get ideas and inspiration daily from connecting with these other health-conscious people.  And I know, if at any point in my journey, I start to doubt whether I can do this, or even if I just have a tough day, they'll be there to offer wisdom and cheer me up.  

Personally, I've made a choice to use my Facebook and Instagram, as well as this blog page, as a force for good.  I try to post positive messages or something to make people smile every single day.  It's important to me that I'm contributing something happy to a sometimes sad and scary world.  My hope is that it will inspire others to do the same.

Maybe, instead of cursing social media, we use it as a source to do good and connect with others doing good in the world.  There's a plethora of nastiness on the internet, but we can choose what we see and do with it.  And of course, we can always just turn it off when things get too negative.  So, this week, I'm grateful for online communities who make the world a less lonely place for this hippy mom.