Memorial Day is our opportunity to set aside time to honor and thank all of those who died protecting and serving our country. What a sacrifice! I am truly grateful and honor you today.
In addition to remembering our military personnel that gave their lives, Memorial Day marks the beginning of SUMMER! No school…sunshine…swimming…barbeque! We’re officially opening our grill for the season, and we’ll be having this sweet potato salad, a paleo alternative to traditional potato salad, with our meal tonight.
Sweet potatoes are a super nutritious, starchy carbohydrate that are a welcome part of my diet. I’m pretty active, and since I don’t really eat any grains, I need another good source of carbs, and my preference is to get them through a variety of veggies. The great thing about sweet potatoes is that they satisfy your sweet tooth, but the natural sugars they contain are wrapped up in a nice fibrous package, so the sugars are slowly released into your blood stream rather than quickly spiking your blood sugar like sweeteners and grains do. Sweet potatoes can be added to so many things – I like to throw a cooked sweet potato in when making bread. Most sweet potatoes are a rich orange color, which is your clue that they contain a good source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is the precursor to vitamin A. Sweet potatoes also offer plenty of B and C vitamins and lots of minerals like iron, magnesium, and potassium.
The first step in making sweet potato salad is to peel and cube the sweet potatoes and then boil the cubes until they are tender when pricked with a fork. I let them drain and cool on a paper towel lined plate before adding them to a medium sized bowl.
In addition to sweet potatoes, I added some soaked raisins, diced celery, and diced purple onion to this salad.
I’m big into using nuts as a dairy free and vegan way to achieve a creamy texture for soups, sauces, and dressings. To get the creamy texture without the mayonnaise used in traditional potato salad, I combined Marcona almonds, honey, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar in the food processor and processed them with spices until creamy. I went for a Moroccan flavor in the dressing for this sweet potato salad by choosing the spices ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper.
My mouth is watering looking at this sweet potato salad! I am even happier than expected with this recipe! So flavorful and different and delicious! I’ve got a few salmon fillets marinating to throw on the grill later on, and the sweet potato salad is chilling in the fridge to go with. Now to figure out something green to round out the meal. And then of course there’s dessert…hmmm…
- 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- ½ purple onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- ½ cup raisins, soaked in warm water and soaking water discarded
- 2 tablespoons Marcona almonds
- ½ tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Boil cubes of sweet potato until tender when pricked with a fork.
- Drain on a paper towel until cool.
- Combine sweet potato, onion, celery, and raisins in a medium bowl.
- In a food processor, combine almonds, honey, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, water, and spices, and process until smooth and creamy.
- Pour dressing over sweet potato mixture and gently fold into the salad until the ingredients are coated with the dressing.
- Refrigerate before serving.
I can always tell if I’m going to like a restaurant by the after dinner mints waiting at the door. A few local favorites here in Frisco have large bowls of Andes chocolate mints, and those are my favorites. No need for dessert after the meal because my mind is on the creamy little treat I’m no doubt going to grab on my way out. And of course I never take just one.
In my opinion, mint gives peanut butter a run for its money when considering which I like better to pair with chocolate. And one clear advantage of mint – this time of year, my yard springs to life with the stuff. Plus, mint has a few health benefits in its back pocket too. It is a leafy green after all. Mint has long been known to be soothing to the digestive tract and beneficial to those with irritable bowl. Plus, mint has a cooling effect that is useful for skin maladies like burns, rashes, and irritations. Breathing in mint opens the airways of those with asthma, allergies, or a cold, and chewing mint freshens your breath with its anti-bacterial quality. Mint contains some nutrients too: folate, vitamin A and C, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc. So with an abundance of this little gem sprouting in my backyard, I’m looking for ways to use it besides making mojitos.
For this Friday’s treat, I decided to make paleo and vegan chocolate mint fudge. If you’ve ever made traditional fudge, you know what a headache it is to pull off – watching the thermometer closely to achieve that perfect soft ball state. Plus you know the amount of butter and sugar and marshmallow crème involved. This fudge is just as delicious (seriously!) without any cooking or processed sugary ingredients. It takes minutes to make and melts in your mouth just like the real thing.
To make chocolate mint fudge, I started with raw cashew butter. I chose this raw cashew butter by Artisana, and added one cup to my food processor.
Next, I melted (over a double boiler or in the microwave) ¼ cup of cocoa butter (raw coconut oil also works just as well), which is the fat portion of the cocoa bean, so it’s both a vegan and paleo butter, and I added it to the food processor. I like using cocoa butter because it helps out with the chocolate flavor plus gives this recipe the melt in your mouth quality of the fudge I grew up loving.
Cocoa butter is handy to have in your pantry for any candy making, and it is also good for your skin so is ideal for making your own skin care products. Although the type of fat in cocoa butter is in large part a saturated fat, surprisingly, small amounts of this type of saturated fat have been shown to protect your heart in a 2006 American Heart Association Study.
I added 1/3 cup raw cacao powder and ¼ cup maple syrup to the food processor. I always buy pure maple syrup, as the alternatives are highly processed and include other unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. When purchasing pure maple syrup, notice you have the choice of two grades: A and B. Ever wonder what the difference is and if it even matters? Grade A is lighter in color and sweeter in taste with a more subtle maple flavor, while Grade B is darker, less sweet, with a more robust maple flavor. Both are a good source of manganese and zinc, but Grade B, with its darker color, contains more. I always choose Grade B.
Lastly, I flavored the fudge by adding vanilla extract, mint extract, a handful of mint leaves, and a little bit of sea salt before processing the ingredients to form a smooth ball of chocolate fudge. I pressed the ball of fudge into an 8×8 ceramic pan and put it in the refrigerator to harden. The result is a rich and creamy treat that is so good it replaces the traditional fudge recipe in our house. I cut the pan of fudge into small squares, and I store it in the fridge.
- 1 cup raw cashew butter
- ¼ cup melted cocoa butter or coconut oil
- ⅓ cup raw cacao powder
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- handful of mint leaves
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and process until a ball of fudge forms.
- Press into an 8x8 ceramic or glass pan.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Cut into small squares, and store in the refrigerator.
Hello! I’m back after a two-week hiatus from blogging, and I have to say I’ve missed it! Almost two weeks ago, I had an unexpected surgery to remove my infected appendix, so I’ve spent the last ten days focusing on recovery.
If you’ve been following my blog for long, you know that my passion is health, nutrition, and taking care of my body. Ever since I had a rough bout with my health about 10 years ago, it has been my quest to build my body up strong. I am a doer – I like to get stuff done. I also have countless interests to pursue, and my list of round-to-its keeps getting longer. So feeling good and healthy is a necessity for me! And one that has developed into a passion for healthy food, recipes, and practices that nourish my body.
Even though all of this sounds like a very positive thing – and I think it still is – I also realize now that it had led (without me being aware) to the feeling that I can control my life, my health, my body. When my body was sick years ago, I had no control, and it stunk. So the more effort I put into my diet and taking care of myself, the more control I felt I had.
Well, how wrong was I! On Tuesday, May 7th I did not feel good. I just lacked energy in general. When I think back, my energy level had been lagging for about 2 weeks. Those close to me remember me complaining about being tired. So what did I do? Assuming my seasonal allergies were causing inflammation, I focused on what I put into my body.
But by the evening of May 7th, I hurt. I had a constant pain in my right lower abdomen. Thinking it was a cyst on an ovary, which I’ve had before, I took an Advil and went to bed. I tossed and turned until about 12am. The pain was pretty terrible at this point, so after a couple of hours of gritting my teeth, I told Rob I needed to go to the ER. I had the feeling that something needed to come out of my body – a cyst, my appendix – who knows, but something.
After receiving pain and nausea medicines through an IV and having a CT scan of my entire abdomen and pelvis, I was sent home with the conclusion that I must have a terrible stomach virus coming on. I curled up in the fetal position on my couch until about 8:30 when the ER doctor called back. Apparently, when they double checked my CT scan, the second doctor found a little stone blocking the opening of my appendix. So back to the ER I went for more tests. By 4pm, the conclusion was I needed my appendix removed. I had a laproscopic operation (my first surgery ever!) to rid my body of my badly infected appendix.
Due to the nature of infection in an appendix, I was required to have IV antibiotics and follow up at home with 2000mg of two different strong antibiotics (8 pills a day!) for 10 days. Yuck. Have I mentioned how much I hate antibiotics? My body is allergic to 3 common groups of antibiotics – penicillin, sulfa, and quinolones – so it’s clear that I just don’t like them. I credit them (along with my gluten and sugar filled, nutritionally lacking diet) with sending my gut into a tailspin 10 years ago. I believe the gut is the foundation of good health, and I was currently completely wrecking mine and all the work I’d put into building it back up over the years.
Hospitals are a great place to pray. I prayed. The smart part of my brain knew just how life saving these antibiotics were to me. The controlling part of my brain was just plain ticked off. Why was my body sick again? I’m so good to my body!!
Back to my prayer. God, I know you have a plan in EVERYTHING. And I trust you. I sat next to a woman on a plane to Albuquerque for a girls getaway about a year ago. This was probably at the height of my “anti-medicine, I can control everything” moment. She struggled to have children because of a health condition, and she has to be on a strong medicine for the duration of all of her pregnancies. She was on her way to a conference where a holistic doctor was the featured speaker. At a previous event, she had the chance to personally talk to this holistic doctor, and she asked the one question she was troubled by – is it okay that I am taking this medicine while pregnant because I do not want to harm my baby. The doctor gave her this advice “Every day before you take that pill, hold it in your fingers and thank God for this medicine that has allowed you to live a healthy life and be the vessel that brings this new life into the world.”
I’ve never forgotten that story. So, I looked up at the two antibiotics dripping into my veins, and I thanked Him for those medicines.
As of yesterday, I am off the antibiotics and now I begin the quest to heal my gut. I actually began this project while taking the medicines. I took three maximum strength probiotics each day, two hours after each dose of antibiotics. I’m happy to say, by the grace of God (because I can’t control anything, remember?!), that I made it through without stomach upset, yeast infections, or diarrhea.
For my first recipe blog post back in the saddle, I chose to re-post. Creamy asparagus soup was the first thing I craved while recovering. My sweet mom (thank you Mom!) did what moms do – she got on a plane the day of my surgery – so she was here to help me, starting by making me this soup. I had so much fluid in my abdomen and all over (I felt like a football player!), so the asparagus helped take a little of that off. Plus, one of the antibiotics changed my taste buds and left me with a horrible taste in my mouth. The tangy taste of this soup was the only food that sounded good to me.
Good thing it is one of the simplest to make. Start by soaking raw cashews in a little almond or coconut milk in the large Vitamix container.
Second, zest a lemon and add the zest plus the juice to the Vitamix. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Next, cut the asparagus and the onion into one inch pieces, and peel two garlic cloves. Place the asparagus, onion, and garlic in a medium saucepan and add four cups of organic chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegan soup). Let it simmer for about an hour.
Last, add the broth with cooked veggies to the Vitamix, and blend on high for about a minute. Before turning on the Vitamix, cover the lid with a towel to avoid injury. Serve immediately or chill before serving for a cold option.
- ½ cup raw cashews
- ½ cup almond or coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- zest from 1 lemon
- juice from 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 small purple onion, cut into pieces
- 4 cups organic chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegan soup)
- 2 cloves garlic
- In the Vitamix or other blender, combine the cashews, almond or coconut milk, olive oil, zest and juice from a lemon, sea salt, and pepper. Do not blend, but instead let the cashews soak in the mixture.
- In a saucepan, combine the broth, asparagus, onion, and garlic cloves.
- Cover and simmer on low for 1 hour.
- Carefully pour the contents of the saucepan into the blender.
- After putting the top on the blender, place a towel over the top to avoid injury.
- Blend all the ingredients until creamy, at least 1 minute.
I love avocados and I love grapefruit, so when I saw a recipe for grapefruit guacamole in a recent Living Without magazine, I naturally decided to try my own version. Making guacamole is something my whole family does regularly because it is so darn easy. To shake things up, we are always looking for ways to experiment with our guacamole. This time, adding grapefruit segments was the new twist.
Every guacamole starts out the same way – with perfectly ripe avocados. I used two of them in this recipe. In a medium sized bowl, I mashed the avocados with the juice of a lime, sea salt, and a minced clove of garlic. Next I chopped white onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and pecans and added them to the bowl. A local restaurant by Rob’s work that is a favorite of our family includes chopped pecans in their guacamole, so for years we have too.
If ever there is a food I crave with intensity, it is grapefruit. When I was pregnant – watch out. I ate them nonstop every night. My son is now almost as big of a grapefruit fan as I am. To add the grapefruit segments to the guacamole, I started by cutting the grapefruit in half. I ran a small knife around each segment to loosen each one from the peel and membrane. I tried to remove as many seeds as possible while segmenting the grapefruit. Using a grapefruit spoon, I gently scooped out each segment and folded them into the guacamole. I squeezed a couple of spoonfuls of grapefruit juice out of the remaining grapefruit and added the juice to the guacamole as well.
Guacamole can be eaten in so many ways! Of course there is the typical chip and dip appetizer, or try slicing crisp veggies to use for dipping like radishes, cucumbers, or celery. My family likes to use guacamole as a condiment, and spread it on wraps, sandwiches, or burgers. One of my favorites is to top a couple of scrambled pasture raised eggs with a scoop of guac. Let me know your favorite way to eat guacamole!
- 2 avocados
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 1 small jalapeno, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoon chopped pecans
- 1 grapefruit
- In a medium bowl, mash together avocados, lime juice, garlic, and sea salt.
- Add onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and pecans.
- Cut the grapefruit in half.
- Using a small knife, remove segments from the grapefruit and gently fold in the guacamole.
- Squeeze two spoonfuls of juice from the remaining grapefruit and stir into the guacamole.
- Serve with your favorite chip or sliced veggies, or use as a condiment on a wrap, burger, or sandwich.
Growing up, I loved to bake. Chocolate chip cookies were my favorite. More often than not, by the time the cookies were baked, I wouldn’t even be hungry for more than a bite because, you see, I had satisfied my craving by nibbling on the dough in the process. Sometimes I think I my main motivation for making cookies was to eat the dough. Whoever came up with cookie dough ice cream and cookie dough bites is a genius, as these were some of my favorite treats in my sugar-holic, gluten eating days.
Another one of Rob and my favorites to bake was yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Like Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines – whichever boxed variety was on sale. I shared on my “about me” page that before we had children, we were known to bake a yellow cake and eat it for dinner! Yes, I showed absolutely no self control with my sweets. And with two of us living in the same house with insatiable sweet tooths, we were terrible!
So this smoothie (almost like a milkshake!) is right up my alley – flavored like yellow cake batter – buttery, with a cake-y texture and a hint of vanilla and almond.
To achieve the buttery flavor, I used a heaping tablespoon of macadamia nuts and a tablespoon of coconut butter (coconut oil or macadamia nut oil will do). I added a frozen banana and almond milk for creaminess and a dried fig and extracts for sweetness and flavor. If you don’t have a dried fig, a couple of medjool dates will work just fine. I flavored the cake batter smoothie with vanilla and almond extracts.
For a cake-y texture, I added a scoop of Sunwarrior raw vanilla protein powder. Any vanilla flavored protein powder will work, but I like Sunwarrior because it lends a grainy texture that to me, helps the smoothie resemble cake batter. Sunwarrior protein is a combination of cranberry, pea, and hemp protein, and I like that it is vegan, raw, and easy for my body to digest.
Before blending the smoothie, I prepared my glass by coating the rim with honey, and then dredging the rim through dark chocolate shavings. I made the dark chocolate shavings by processing a handful of dark chocolate chips in my Magic Bullet.
I blended the smoothie for at least 30 seconds, so the macadamia nuts and fig would be smooth. What a delicious yet fairly guiltfree dessert with a little added protein boost. To make the smoothie even more guiltfree, add some spinach for a green cake batter smoothie. I promise you won’t even taste the greens.
- 1 tablespoon macadamia nuts
- 1 tablespoon coconut butter (coconut oil or macadamia nut oil will work)
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 dried fig (2 medjool dates will work)
- 1 cup almond milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- optional: honey and dark chocolate shavings to garnish
- Process a small handful of dark chocolate chips in a food processor or Magic Bullet.
- Prepare glass by coating the rim in honey and then dredging the rim in dark chocolate shavings.
- Blend together all other ingredients until smooth, and pour in the prepared glass.