Chili Mango Popsicles

Chili Mango Popsicles

These chili mango popsicles are super refreshing for summer! Made with a blend of mango and coconut milk sweetened with honey and spiked with lime juice, cayenne, ginger and turmeric for a sweet and complex spicy flavor! It’s the perfect snack with yummy fats from coconut milk to make it more satisfying!

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Coconut Ginger Date Oatmeal

Coconut Ginger Date Oatmeal

This creamy coconut ginger date oatmeal is made extra delish with coconut milk, making a dairy free and vegan breakfast that's packed with whole grains! Sweetened with an easy date syrup so it's no added sugar! With all the whole grains and healthy fats, it makes a satisfying breakfast that's perfect for cold weather months! 

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Red Curry Tofu and Mushrooms with Cauliflower Rice

This rich and creamy red curry tofu and mushrooms is served over cauliflower rice to soak up all the delicious sauce! 

I mean, would you just look at that.

Seriously, this red curry tofu is everything my body wants right now. We got back from New York City last night and our last 24 hours in the city turned into a bit of a cheese fest. Not cheesy as in tacky in a goofy kind of way, but cheese as in my favorite food. It’s basically all we ate for an entire day. We had cheese stuffed soft pretzels, fried saloumi and cheese croquettes, a bagel piled high with smoked fish and dill cream cheese, late night pizza dolloped with giant scoop of fresh ricotta cheese. We ate dinner at AN ACTUAL CHEESE BAR. Yes, this thing exists outside of heaven and it’s called Murray’s Cheese Café. And because we apparently hadn’t enough dairy, there was a stop at The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop for a soft cone dipped in dark chocolate pretzels and hot fudge. When it’s 107 degrees in a concrete city, you eat and drink your way through in an effort to get out of the sun.

(P.S. People who can fix things in NYC, please take some advice from the south – work on your AC game.)

So yeah, I see a lot of bright, fresh, herby, spicy, vegetable-laden, meatless dishes in my future. Not because I’m trying to detox the cheese out of my system, but because that’s what I want. Intuitive eating is cool like that.

This red curry tofu is a nice transition dish from all the cheese, oddly enough. The coconut milk is fatty and creamy, like cheese. And tofu is basically mozzarella cheese. Seriously. You make tofu the exact same way you make mozzarella, except it’s made from soy milk, not dairy milk.

For veggies, I used a mixture of mushrooms, which soak up the delicious curry sauce. If you can get your hands on a variety of wild mushrooms, that’s definitely what I would recommend. I used shiitakes, which has a chewy texture that makes it my favorite mushroom. I also used cremini mushrooms, which are baby portobellos. I like to have lots of different mushroom flavors and textures going on, so if you can get your hand on oyster mushrooms, enokis, or porcinis, throw them on in too!

I served this over cauliflower rice, which is so much easier now that you can find riced cauliflower at grocery stores. I’ve already admitted to liking cauliflower rice more than actual rice, but remember, it’s still not rice so you need some carbs in your dish. I threw in green peas, a yummy starchy vegetable, but feel free to toss in a can of drained chickpeas as well if you need/want a little more. Or, you know, just serve it with rice.

Red Curry Tofu and Mushrooms with Cauliflower Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients

Cauliflower Rice:

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower, avocado or coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb fresh or frozen rice cauliflower, or 1 lb cauliflower florets and stem pulsed in the food processor to make rice

Curry: 

  • 1 lb firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, avocado oil or coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 4 ounces shiitakes, sliced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 1/4 cup full fat coconut cream
  • 4 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 4 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

For serving: 

  • Lime, sliced
  • Freshly chopped cilantro
  • Red chili flakes

Instructions

  1. Wrap tofu with paper towels. Top with a heavy skillet or can to drain for 15 minutes.
  2. Make rice. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes until translucent. Add cauliflower, season with salt and pepper and saute until tender, about 7-10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. While rice is cooking, cut tofu into cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large sided skillet on medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook until golden. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. Ad remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to the skillet where the tofu was cooked and set on medium-high. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and saute 30 seconds. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and saute until tender, 7 minutes. Add coconut milk, curry paste, and fish sauce. Stir in tofu. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Pour in peas and cook another minute to warm through. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve over caulilfower rice with lime, cilantro and chili flakes.

Black Garlic Tofu and Mango Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

These vegan black garlic tofu and mango spring rolls are a unique spin on traditional flavors! Serve with a sweet and savory peanut dipping sauce. 

Before we went to Vietnam last year, I had dreams of learning to create authentic versions of all the delicious food we ate on our trip. Then after a street food tour of Hoi An where we learned just how much time and effort went into perfecting each dish, how street food vendors spend their lives cooking the same dish each and every day, passing their secrets down to their children, I realized authenticity was kind of a silly dream. Now when I'm craving Vietnamese, I go to a local Vietnamese run restaurant or if cooking at home, use the recipes as inspiration, not a rule. Kind of like I did with these black garlic tofu and mango spring rolls! Not authentic at all, but SO delicious and packed with summer flavor.

When we were in Vietnam, we sampled dozens of different spring rolls with different types of rice paper wrappers, fillings, and sauces. Also, using rice paper to make rolls out of shrimp pancakes or grilled pork skewers  with herbs at the table was really common. When I spotted these brown rice paper rolls at Earth Fare, on a whim I decided to whip up spring rolls with what I had on hand.

Impulse buy number 2 - black garlic from Trader Joes. It had been sitting in my vegetable basket at least a week or so while I tried to figure out what on earth to make with it. All the recipes I found were a little too chefy for me (black garlic ice cream....errr, no thanks). In the end, I simply blended it up with tamari to make a simple sauce for pan seared tofu.

If you've never tried black garlic before (I hadn't!), it's a typically Asian ingredient made by slowly caramelizing whole heads of garlic over the course of a few weeks. It tastes sweet and just barely garlicky, more like balsamic vinegar or a savory jam to me. If you can't find it, honestly you could just leave it out and swap flavored baked tofu or plain pan seared tofu. While you can taste the rich and savory flavor it lends behind the sweet mango, fresh herbs and peanut sauce, it's not super obvious, so feel free to let those flavors shine.

Rolling spring rolls can be a little tricky, but the good news is they don't have to be pretty, just edible. Rice paper gets soft with just a couple seconds in warm water, no boiling needed. Layer the ingredients in a line down the middle, fold the edges in, then roll. It's kinda like making a mini burrito!

Black Garlic Tofu and Mango Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Makes 16-20

Ingredients

Black Garlic Tofu:

  • 1 lb block firm tofu
  • 6 peeled black garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Spring Rolls: 

  • 8 ounce package brown rice paper rolls
  • 8 ounce bag cellophane noodles
  • 2 mangos, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and sliced
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups sprouts or microgreens

Dipping Sauce: 

  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil (or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Instructions

  1. Remove block of tofu from container. Wrap with paper towels or a kitchen towel and place on a plate topped with a heavy can to drain for 30 minutes.
  2. While tofu is draining, make the dipping sauce. Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor and puree until well combined. Taste and season with salt to taste. Pour out into bowl and clean out blender or food processor to use for making black garlic sauce.
  3. Blend together black garlic, soy sauce and water until pureed. Set aside. Cut the tofu in half through it's widest part, then cut into thin sticks. Heat sesame oil on medium high heat. Add tofu and sear. Flip every 3 minutes until most of the tofu is crispy and lightly browned. Pour in sauce, cook until thick and mostly of the liquid is evaporated, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside until ready to use.
  4. Cook rice vermicelli according to package directions. Using kitchen shears, cut into the noodles making 3-4 cuts so they aren't quite so long.
  5. Arrange the spring roll fillings (tofu, noodles, mango, cucumber, pepper, mint and sprouts for easy assembling.
  6. When ready to assemble, fill a shallow bowl with very warm water. Dip a rice paper roll into the water, pressing gently to submerge until pliable, about 10-20 seconds. Remove, shake off extra water and place on work space. Press 2 mint leaves down the center of the wrapper. Top with 2-3 sticks of tofu. Top with a small handful of rice vermicelli noodles, cucumber, red pepper, mango and sprouts. Be careful not to overstuff. Fold top and bottom edges over the edges of the filling. Carefully wrap one of the edges not covered in filling over the top of the filling, then roll into a roll, pressing in the edges and filling as needed to keep it compact. Set aside and repeat with remaining rice paper rolls and filling.
  7. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping.

You might also like: 

Vegan Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodle Salad
Vegan Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodle Salad
Curry Salmon Noodle Bowl with Soy-Lime Dressing
Curry Salmon Noodle Bowl with Soy-Lime Dressing
Kelp and Zucchini Noodle Salad with Mango and Peanut Sauce
Kelp and Zucchini Noodle Salad with Mango and Peanut Sauce

Creamy Carrot Soup with Red Curry

This simple creamy carrot soup with red curry is packed with deep flavor and spice. Enjoy on it's own as an appetizer or garnished with avocado and quinoa for a balanced meal. 

When I was in second grade, I received some devastating news.

I learned I needed glasses.

Yes, I was to be a four eyes, a pretty difficult pill to swallow for the new kid who was already pretty, well, awkward. But don't worry guys, I had a plan. Because rumor had it carrots give you perfect vision. So, I basically went a carrot bender.

As an FYI for anyone thinking of doing the same, apparently no amount of carrots can cure a -10.5 prescription. So while I'm still blind as a bat without my contacts, I can thank carrots for making me the genius I am today (kidding!). Or at least, maybe helping me score a few points higher on my spelling test! That's because carrots are packed with nutrients that nourish the brain.

Most notably, 1 cup of carrots contains over 100% daily needs of vitamin A. The hippocampus, part of the brain that's responsible for creating new brain cells (neurogenesis), is loaded with receptors for vitamin A. There's good evidence that vitamin A plays a big role in neurogenesis, which some think plays a preventative role in depression. Studies have linked lower levels of carotenoids, the precursor to vitamin A, with depression.

Carrots are also a rich source of a compound called luteolin, a flavonoid, which has been shown to prevent age related cognitive decline and inflammation in the brain. The same compound has been studied for anti-cancer benefits as well.

Because vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, it's best to enjoy carrots with fat. Preferably fats that also have mood boosting benefits of their own, like extra virgin olive oil, avocado and coconut milk! This rich and creamy soup uses all three for flavor and creamy, sumptuous texture. Serve it with a scoop of protein and fiber rich quinoa for a well rounded meal.

Creamy Carrot Coconut Soup with Red Curry

Serves: About 6

Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 10 medium carrots, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 avocado, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • Chopped almonds, toasted
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add curry paste and turmeric and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots and tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Add enough water to cover, salt and black pepper, cover and let simmer 15-20 minutes until carrots are tender.
  2. Using an immersion blender, carefully puree soup. Stir in coconut milk and adjust seasoning to taste.
  3. Divide between bowls. Garnish with a scoop of cooked quinoa, avocado slices, almonds, cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil.

More recipes featuring carrots: 

Gluten Free Carrot Pecan Muffins
Gluten Free Carrot Pecan Muffins
Fermented Carrot Pickles
Fermented Carrot Pickles
Chipotle Roasted Carrots with Orange
Chipotle Roasted Carrots with Orange

Good Mood Food: Frothy Coconut Chai Tea Latte

This frothy vegan coconut chai tea latte is packed with all sorts of brain nourishing ingredients, like turmeric, mushroom powder, coconut oil and of course, tea! 

Happy blogaversary to me!

This little blog turns three years old today. It's crazy watching my little internet baby grow up, seeing where it started and where it is today.

Since it's a blog and not an actual child, I can look back and laugh at how awkward and unattractive it was in that first year of life. If anyone has been hanging around here that long, you remember the hideous yellow header which morphed into a much less hideous, yet incredibly basic and boring black and white script.

And the pictures. Oh, the pictures! I had an intern shadowing me last week and she asked if I had always been a good photographer. I pulled up my first recipe post which spoke for itself. No, not at all.

I'd like to think the aspect of this blog that would win most improved is the writing and the message behind my writing. When I first started, I was really focused on clean eating. I always had a food loving approach to eating, but I think that message was really hidden by my very nutrition-centric blog posts. Now I find my most interesting, fun to write and most shared recipes are ones that explore our relationship with food. I still chat nutrition science, but I don't care as much about why whole foods help you lose weight, but rather why whole foods make you feel awesome. I truly believe feeling happy and vibrant and joyful is a much more powerful motivator than a number on the scale!

That's why I started my Good Mood Food column, where I explore the science of how food can impact brain health. I'm endlessly fascinated by the relationship between diet and mental health. But even outside of a mental health diagnosis, good food = good mood!

It's been a little while since I shared an 'official' Good Mood Food post, so hopefully this frothy coconut chai tea latte makes up for it. Of all things, it was inspired by the bulletproof coffee trend, which to be honest, I think is overhyped from a nutrition standpoint, but I was curious enough to try a homemade version with coconut oil and thought it was super tasty. I loved how the oil whips up into a creamy drink with a frothy top.

Since then, I've been creating all sorts of frothy hot drinks souped up with ingredients that have health promoting powers. This one is packed with ingredients know to nourish the brain - turmeric, tea, cinnamon, coconut and one secret ingredient I think you'll geek out over  - mushroom powder!

Yes, really! I'm sure I lost a few of y'all at the idea of mushrooms in a cup of hot tea, but stick with me on this one. I first learned about mushroom powder last year at FNCE at an incredible dinner with the Mushroom Council, cooked by celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan. I learned how they grow high vitamin D mushrooms by exposing them to sunlight. The resulting mushrooms are dehydrated and ground into a powder that's been shown to be just as good as supplements, if not better because it's from food!

Vitamin D plays a huge role in brain health. Most known for it's role in bone health, this fat soluble vitamin also helps control the expression of thousands of genes. We know it has many roles in brain function because there are receptors all over the central nervous system for the vitamin. It activates/deactivates enzymes in the brain, reduces inflammation, aids in neurotransmitter growth, and protects neurons. Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression, seasonal affective disorder, dementia and decreased cognitive function. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is quite common afflicting 40% the population and over 80% of blacks (because darker skin makes it harder to form from sunlight).

Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods, making it a tricky nutrient for most people to get enough of. It's particularly hard for those on a vegan diet, since the best natural food sources are fatty fish, eggs, cheese, and butter from pasture raised animals. Mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight are a nutritious plant based source of the vitamin. It's hard to find vitamin D mushrooms on the market (or at least I haven't seem them in Columbia!), so keep an eye out for mushroom powder, which you can find in health food stores or order online. It's so simple to sneak into smoothies or hot beverages, where you can't even taste it at all.

Frothy Coconut Chai Tea Latte

Makes 1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk

  • 1 chai tea bag

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk or cream

  • 1-2 teaspoons honey

  • 1 teaspoon mushroom powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • Pinch black pepper

Instructions

  1. Bring water and milk to a simmer in a small pot. Turn off heat, add chai tea bag and let steep 2-3 minutes.

  2. Carefully fish tea bag out and place tea in a blender with coconut oil, coconut milk/cream, honey, mushroom powder, turmeric, cinnamon and black pepper. Blend 2 minutes until frothy. Serve immediately.

More Good Mood Food: 

Turmeric Smoothie with Mango

Turmeric Smoothie with Mango

Coconut Steel Cut Oats with Chocolate and Almonds

Coconut Steel Cut Oats with Chocolate and Almonds

Homemade Fermented Pickles

Homemade Fermented Pickles

Baked French Toast with Mango Coconut Sauce and Almonds

Enjoy French toast every day of the week with this easy baked french toast, served with a no added sugar mango coconut chia sauce!

Happy National Breakfast Week!

Kidding! I made that up. Although sources (i.e. google) tells me National School Breakfast Week is next month. This week may not be an official holiday, but rather accidentally, I have three easy, whole food breakfast recipes scheduled for the blog. So national holiday or not, that's what I'll be celebrating this week on AADN!

Luckily, with Recipe Redux falling on today, they were totally on board with my self-declared holiday. This months' theme is Break out of Breakfast Boredom - show us the healthy way to wake up your breakfast...or wake up just for breakfast!

As I confessed to my lovely friend Alexis over at Hummusapien last week for her blogger's breakfast roundup, I am absolutely NOT a morning person. Sometimes I set my snooze alarm for another two minutes because I really need to get up and go to work, but I really don't want to get out of bed. In those drowsy, still half asleep moments, two minutes really is life or death. I feel like I'm probably not alone in this boat.

Almost everything I eat for breakfast is something I can reheat and eat or make in less than 2 minutes. With that, it's easy to fall into a routine. Smoothie. Overnight oats. Something eggy. Repeat.

French toast is something I would never make on a weekday, because let's face it, it takes much longer than 2 minutes. If only there was a way I could make it in advance...

Oh hey, there is! This baked french toast essentially makes a french toast casserole, which you can slice up and eat during the week. And actually, the prep work for the casserole itself takes only 15-20 minutes, so this is definitely a batch cooking friendly recipe. I used sprouted grain bread, which is my personal favorite for both taste and nutrition. But feel free to use any type you enjoy or have on hand. For a treat, this would be incredible with challah or brioche.

The mango coconut sauce was one that I came up with on a whim from some ingredients I already had on hand - the rest of a can of coconut milk after making a curry, frozen fruit (always a staple) and chia seeds. If you haven't already noticed, fruit sauces made from frozen fruit and chia seeds are one of my breakfast go tos (see here and here and check back on Friday for more evidence)

For more inspiration to break out of the breakfast boredom, check out the other creations from my fellow Recipe Reduxers below. Eating a nourishing breakfast is such an important way to start your day on the right foot. It gives you the energy you need to make the most of your day, boosts your metabolism, nourishes your brain and sets the tone for making more nutritious choices the rest of the day. If you're stuck in a breakfast rut, it's really easy to turn to fast food or sugary (and not at all filling) cereal, or just skip the meal entirely!

Do you ever find yourself stuck in a breakfast rut? What are your favorite ways to switch up breakfast? 

Baked French Toast with Mango Coconut Sauce and Almonds

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups milk or unsweetened plant milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 12 slices sprouted grain bread
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, optional for topping

Mango Coconut Chia Sauce: 

  • 2 cups frozen mango
  • 1 1/2 cups canned coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoons chia seeds

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla and honey.
  2. Spray a large casserole dish with oil or rub with coconut oil/butter. Spread bread evenly in layers in the baking dish. I cut the bread in half to prevent too much overlapping. As you're layering the bread, sprinkle about 1/3 cup of the almonds between bread layers. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle the top of the french toast with turbinado sugar, if using. Place casserole in the oven and bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
  4. While casserole is baking, heat mango, coconut milk and lime/lemon juice in a medium pot on medium heat. When mango is no longer frozen and mixture is simmering, turn off heat and blend until pureed with an immersion blender. Stir in chia seeds and let sit 5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle casserole with remaining almonds and serve with mango-coconut sauce.

3 Recipes for Mason Jar Soup

3 Recipes for Mason Jar Soup

These recipes for mason jar soups are perfect for packing for lunch! Batch cook on the weekends, store in the fridge, just add hot water, give it a good shake, and you're good to go! Try Italian zoodle with white beans and tomato broth, red lentil coconut curry and miso noodle. 

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Chipotle Sweet Potato Bisque

I’m calling it guys. This is the soup of the fall. Silky smooth and ultra creamy with that whole sweet and spicy thing I love so much. And that soup bling is out of this world.

As much as I try to be one of those people who can just look at what looks beautiful at the farmers market and whip up something tasty on a whim, I’m just not. I need recipes. Hence my extensive cookbook collection. Even if I don’t follow a recipe to a T (I rarely do), I need it by my side for inspiration and support.

If I can brag for a moment, I’d love to share that this recipe was all me! I had some sweet potatoes to use up, chipotle chiies in the freezer and a pretty little organic pomegranate on my counter. The rest was history! I should do this freestyle cooking thing more often!

Also on my list of things to do more often – throw dinner parties. I imagine bringing our friends over for a rustic meal prominently featuring seasonal produce served al fresca. In this little fantasy of mine, our backyard is perfectly landscaped and we have a huge farmhouse table under an old oak tree decorated with hanging mason jars. I would serve this dish for a first course in shallow, white glazed bowls. In reality, we do have a beautiful old oat in our backyard, but the only thing underneath it is a notable lack of grass and lots of dog poop. Sigh, if only my pinterest life could be my real life.

Well, at least I can have this pinterest perfect fall soup.'''

P.S. You can absolutely make this with any type of winter squash you like

P.P.S. If you have any cream hanging out in your fridge after Thanksgiving, use that instead of coconut milk.

Chipotle Pumpkin Bisque

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 small sweet potatoes or 1 medium
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • For garnish: avocado, pomegranate seeds, plain yogurt

Instructions

  1. Poke holes in sweet potatoes with the tines of a fork. Wrap with paper towels and place in the microwave and heat 5-7 minutes until tender.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes total. Add a chili and 1-2 teaspoons of adobo sauce.
  3. Scoop out flesh of potato into the pot. Add broth. Using am immersion blender, puree until smooth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in milk and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve garnished with avocado, pomegranate and yogurt.

Good Mood Food: Coconut Steel Cut Oatmeal With Almonds and Dark Chocolate

Start your day on the right side of the bed with a bowl of coconut steel cut oatmeal with almonds and dark chocolate. Packed with healthy, mood boosting carbohydrates, this meal is the start to a great day! 

When I was in high school, the Atkins diet was all the rage. My friends did it. My parents did it. And because I was under their roof, I did it. Or, at least dinner was low carb. The rest of my diet consisted of frappucinos, chocolate chip cookies from the school cafeteria and turkey sandwiches on white bread. Still, the low carb mentality was firmly engrained in my mind and I thought all these foods were "bad." Not because they were packed with sugar, heavily processed or unhumane, but because they were high in carbs.

The anti-carb mindset might still be in the back of my mind if it wasn't for one day at the mall with a friend of mine. She was in the initial phase of Atkins when you're supposed to eat less than 20 grams of carbs in a day. FYI, the minimum amount of carbs recommended per day is 100-150 grams and the RDA comes out to between 225-325 for someone eating 2,000 calories/day. So yeah, not a whole lot.

After making plans to go shopping, she asked me to pick her up because she felt so horrible she didn't feel comfortable driving. She was so exhausted, we had to stop between each store to sit. When we stopped for lunch at my favorite Italian restaurant (in hindsight, that kind of evil and selfish. I swear this was my friend) she could only order plain chicken with a garlic sauce on the side. She almost cried at the lack of options. My friend was and still is outgoing and hilarious, one of the biggest personalities I've ever met. To give you an idea, the last time we hung out, she convinced our James Franco look-alike server she was a 47-year-old pediatric neurosurgeon and that I once dated Sisqo. Like I said, big personality. On Atkins, she was a shell of her usual self - depressed, quiet, lethargic and generally unwell.

At the end of the day, I came home with some cute new clothes and an unshakeable belief that carbs are a need.

When it comes to brain health, carbohydrate containing foods probably have the biggest impact. As my friend's example clearly demonstrates, your brain needs carbs. Glucose, the breakdown product of carbs, is usually the only source of fuel the brain can use. The wrong type of carbs however, is one of the least healthy foods for the brain. Too many added sugars and refined grains cause chronic inflammation in the brain, affect stress hormones, and cause fluctuations in blood sugar that affect mood and energy levels. High blood sugar levels, even if not at diabetic levels, can cause damage to the small blood vessels in the brain which contributes to depression, anxiety and even dementia.

When it comes to carbs and brain health, quality trumps quantity in terms of importance. The highest quality carbs boost serotonin (aka happy hormone) levels without causing them to crash. Quality carbs are a source of sustainable energy. Anyone who has had a rough night of sleep or forgot their morning cup of coffee knows how low energy can affect mood.

The highest quality carbs? Fresh fruit, beans and lentils, vegetables (including starchy veg), and intact grains.

Oats are one of my favorite grains. I love a fiber and carbohydrate rich breakfast to energize my day. Compared to other grains, oats are an especially rich source of beta-glucan, a special type of fiber that helps lower cholesterol and keep blood vessels healthy. Oats also contain lignans and phenols, two phytochemicals with heart healthy benefits.

I always appreciate the ease and portability of overnight oats. Plus, they're a great make-ahead breakfast, because we know every minute of sleep is precious! Steel cut oats are fantastic, although convenient they are not. Who has 30 spare minutes in the morning? Not I! When I found quick cook steel cut oats at Trader Joe's, I knew I hit the jackpot. Soak these overnight in coconut milk (or the milk of your choice) and they'll "cook" in the fridge. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, feel free to sub regular rolled oats.

Coconut Steel Cut Oats With Almonds and Dark Chocolate

Serves 4

I used coconut milk from the carton, not canned. But if you want a richer coconut flavor, swap some of the cartoned coconut milk for canned. To make it more chocolatey and sneak in extra antioxidants, stir in a couple tablespoons of dark cocoa powder.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups quick cook steel cut oats or rolled oats
  • 4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • Honey or pure maple syrup for serving

Instructions

  1. In a large lidded container, mix oats, coconut milk and sea salt. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. In the morning, warm the oats on the stove or in the microwave for a minute or two, or enjoy cold. Top with coconut, almonds and dark chocolate. Drizzle with a teaspoon of honey to sweeten.

Start your day with these oatmeal recipes: 

Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Granola with Almonds and Coconut
Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Granola with Almonds and Coconut
Vegan Multigrain Breakfast Bake with Blueberries
Vegan Multigrain Breakfast Bake with Blueberries
Chai Oatmeal with Sauteed Pears
Chai Oatmeal with Sauteed Pears

Roasted Bananas with Salted Coconut Cream, Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

Sweet roasted bananas with salted coconut cream, dark chocolate and pistachios is the perfect gluten free and vegan dessert for summer entertaining. 

Fresh fruit as dessert has never been my style. Great for snacking, but as dessert? Nope, not gonna cut it. Whenever I read a nutrition article encouraging people to swap dessert for fruit, I literally want to jump through the screen and kick them in the kneecap. No. Just no.

But when you roast aforementioned fresh fruit in honey, serve it over a lightly sweetened and sea salted coconut cream and garnish it with a crunchy mixture of dark chocolate chunks, toasted coconut and pistachios, then that is a fruit dessert I can get behind.

If you're gonna do fruit as dessert, you probably want to take my advice and roast it first. Concentrating the natural sugar and adding a hint of caramelized flavor takes fruit from tasty snack to droolworthy. Sweet and creamy bananas are a perfect candidate.

Bananas are a great way to enjoy a sweet and creamy dessert with less added sugar. Dense in natural sugars with a creamy consistency, I use bananas to sweeten and replace fats and dairy in all sorts of desserts from cookies to ice cream to bars to milkshakes.

In the nutrient department, they're adding a lot more than just potassium. Bananas contain sterols, a plant compound that's structurally similar to cholesterol, but actually blocks the absorption of cholesterol. They also pack a hefty dose of soluble fiber, a cholesterol lowering type of fiber. Bananas are great for digestion as well as they contain pectin, a type of prebiotic fiber that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria. In one study, eating two bananas a day led to a significant increase of bifidobacterium, a friendly-type of bacteria often used in probiotics. Pectin content increases as bananas ripen, so enjoy those bananas when they're super spotty and sweet!

Roasted Bananas with Salted Coconut Cream, Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

Serves 6

Ingredients

Roasted Bananas:

  • 6 bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

  • 2 teaspoons honey

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Coconut Cream: 

  • 1 14-ounce can full fat coconut milk

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Sea salt

Other Ingredients: 

  • Chopped pistachios

  • Chopped dark chocolate

  • Toasted shredded unsweetened coconut

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. In a small bowl, stir together coconut oil, honey and vanilla. Arrange bananas cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush with the coconut honey mixture. Place in the oven and roast 20 minutes until lightly golden and tender.

  3. While bananas are roasting, combine coconut milk, honey and vanilla in a small pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes until thickened. Once slightly thickened, stir in sea salt to taste. I used about 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

  4. Spoon some of the salted coconut sauce into the middle of a dessert plate. Top with two roasted banana halves. Garnish decoratively with pistachios, dark chocolate and coconut.

Honey Kefir and Coconut Ice Cream

Cool, creamy and tangy, this honey kefir and coconut ice cream garnished with fresh berries, is the perfect treat for a hot day!

I've hurt myself in some pretty embarrassing ways. There was the time in elementary school when I tore the water cap behind my knee while pretending to be injured. It was all a ruse so I didn't have to go to the pool with my neighbor. I ended up on crutches for 2 weeks. Then there was the time slipped on the wet marble floor outside my sophomore literature class in front of, oh, maybe 100 or so people. I fell on my butt, and bruised it so badly I could barely sit for the next week. And of course, we can't forget the three scars on my face from two separate dog bites...in the same week (not from our fluffies of course). The next week I had to go to the Bahamas with stitches all over my face, somewhat traumatizing for a middle schooler already deep into her awkward phase.

This ice cream may be responsible for one of the most embarrassing injuries of my life. Yes, ice cream actually caused me bodily harm and I'm not talking about my arteries.

Scott and I were lounging on the couch watching a really intelligent and deep documentary. Okay, I lied. We were watching The Bachelorette. Anyway, I had just made this frozen kefir the night before and decided to store it still in the ice cream maker in our overpacked freezer. Bad idea.

It was stuck under the ice maker, so I gave it a hard tug. Maybe a little too hard. It came flying out of the freezer and on to my foot.

I let out a loud scream and Scott came running (after hitting pause on The Bachelorette, of course). Woah, it hurt! The pain shot up from my ankle all the way to my knee. Luckily, it hit my foot and not my toes, cause there's no way they would have survived that unbroken.

The next day as I was limping around with my leg wrapped, everyone kept asking me what happened. How awkward to have to say, "Umm, ice cream." I think I was judged. Especially when I was at a student's nutrition presentation where I had served as the outside expert.

Clearly, me and this ice cream didn't get off to a very good start. I could hold that against it, but it's so tasty I quickly forgot about my injury. Especially as I ate a bowl of it curled up on the couch with the cold bowl balanced on my hurt ankle. Multitasking!

If you struggle with mindlessly eating ice cream when a big batch is around (I do!), then you'll love this single serving ice cream maker. We got it as a wedding present and use it all the time in the summer to make mini-batches of ice cream. You can always keep the unfrozen ice cream mix in the fridge and enjoy it freshly made, which tastes best! After dropping my gallon ice cream maker on my foot, I really wish this was the one I used :(

Kefir Ice Cream

Makes 6 cups

Definitely use full fat kefir and coconut for this ice cream, as the higher water content in lower fat dairy will make it icy. You could also swap plain yogurt or buttermilk for the kefir. The vodka helps it keep a better consistency when frozen.

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk

  • 2 1/4 cups plain organic kefir, preferably full fat

  • 2 teaspoons vodka

  • Fresh berries, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and honey together until well combined.

  2. In a medium pot, heat the coconut milk and 1 1/4 cups kefir over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. When the mixture reaches about 150 degrees on a candy thermometer (very hot with steam forming, but not boiling or simmering), remove from heat and pour slowly into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

  3. When ready to make, pour the remaining cup of kefir and vodka into the mixture and stir to combine. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn according to instructions. When the ice cream is very thick, scoop out into a container, placing a sheet of plastic wrap over the surface, and freeze at least 2 hours.

  4. Before serving, let the ice cream sit on the counter 10 minutes to soften.

Indian Shakshuka With Green Chutney

A traditional Middle Eastern of eggs poached in tomato sauce gets an Indian spin with coconut milk, ginger and Indian spices. My Indian shakshuka with green chutney is perfect for breakfast, brunch or dinner!

Egg lovers rejoice!

Last week, the committee that advises government's Dietary Guidelines announced they are dropping the longstanding warning against eating cholesterol-rich foods. The current guidelines are to limit daily cholesterol consumption to less than 300 mg. With almost 200 mg of cholesterol in one large egg, that warning didn't leave much room to indulge in a good sunny side up and over, despite multiple studies showing eggs do not raise cholesterol.

I, for one, was happy to hear this news. Although I clearly promote a plant focused diet, when it comes to animal based protein sources, pastured eggs are one of the best. In fact, nutritionally, I would place them right behind fish. Let's take a look at some of the benefits:

  • Pastured eggs, from chickens raised on their natural diet of grass, seeds, and insects, produce a yolk with over 600 mg of omega 3 fats. These fats are well known for heart health, but also have tremendous benefit for the brain. Omega 3s alleviate depression, improve cognition and have even shown efficacy in the treatment of schizophrenia.
  • Eggs are the richest food source of choline, an essential vitamin that 90% of Americans are not consuming adequate amounts of. Choline is needed to build cell membranes and to produce neurotransmitters, the signaling molecule in the brain.
  • An egg contains 10% daily needs of vitamin A, a critical nutrient for healthy skin and eyes.
  • Eggs are a rich source iodine and selenium, two minerals crucial for thyroid health. An egg contains 20% daily needs of iodine, a key component of thyroid hormones and 30% daily needs of selenium, a mineral which helps activate thyroid hormones. One of the thyroid glands many roles is regulating metabolism, so eggs may be particularly beneficial for weight control.
  • It's true, eggs raise cholesterol - but in a good way! Studies have found eggs can increase HDL cholesterol, the good kind that protects against heart disease.
  • With protein and fat all in a nice little package, eggs are quite filling, especially when compared to the cereal, pastries, white toast and other breakfast items people often eat instead.
  • Although eggs are an animal protein, they can actually help cut back on total intake of animal proteins. Think of it this way, it's not unusual to eat 6 ounces of chicken for dinner. But eating 6 eggs? Unless you're Gaston, that's unlikely.

I encourage you to seek out organic, pastured eggs. Bonus points for locally sourced. Because pastured chickens eat a healthier diet, their eggs contain more nutrients, especially vitamin A and omega 3 fats. Conventional production of eggs is harmful to the environment and the chickens are kept in cruel conditions. To find pastured eggs, check out your local farmers market, or if you're shopping at the grocery store, check out this post I wrote on egg labeling for guidance.

Shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce, may be my favorite way to enjoy eggs. It's a traditional Tunisian dish, now popular all over North Africa and in Israel. Traditional recipes are fantastic, especially when served with spicy harissa or hummus. But I love to use a basic recipe for inspiration and take different spins on it. I've added beans, corn and chilies to make a Mexican version, mixed in squash and pesto for an Italian flair and most recently, created this Indian spiced version!

Indian Spiced Shakshuka

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fingerling potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 28 ounces canned tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 100% whole wheat naan, toasted, for serving
  • Green chutney, recipe follows, for serving

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook 15 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Heat olive oil in an oven safe, large sided skillet on medium high heat. Add onion and peppers and saute until tender and lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, ginger and spices. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes, boiled potatoes, and coconut milk. Simmer 10 minutes. Season with salt.
  5. Make 6 wells in the tomato sauce and crack an egg into each. Place skillet in the oven and bake 15-18 minutes until whites are set and yolks are still runny. Dollop with green chutney and serve with naan.

Green Chutney

Makes 2/3 cup

Ingredients

  • 1½ packed cups cilantro
  • ½ packed cup mint
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 dried red chili or ¼ teaspoon crushed chili flakes
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup coconut cream or yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until they form a pesto-like sauce. Season to taste with salt.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks

Canned pumpkin and coconut milk seem like an unlikely duo, but when blended with herbs, spices and bit of citrus, it makes a rich, creamy and complex pasta sauce. Top with sauteed leeks, mushrooms and peas to make it a meal.  

Since my teenage years, on a semi-regular basis, I've been mistaken for Italian. I've got German, Scottish and Latvian blood, but not a speck of Italian, at least to my knowledge. There's been some awkward moments, like when I was walking through Little Italy and a little old lady spoke to me in Italian...then gave me a death stare when I couldn't respond. Then there was that time a woman in Williams Sonoma asked me how I make pasta from scratch, to which I replied "uhhh, I put it in boiling water." And of course, we can't forget the rumor that went around in high school that my dad was in the mafia. Don't even ask how that one started.

I always presumed it was my olive complexion and dark hair, but after creating this dish, I think I've figured out the source of confusion. Rumor must have somehow got out about my excellent pasta sauce making skills.

If you've made my pasta primavera with cauliflower sauce, dairy free mac and cheese or horrendously photographed but amazingly delicious almost cheeseless pasta casserole, then you know this rumor to be true. This creamy pumpkin sauce blows them all out of the water.

This bowl of pasta was one of the most comforting things I've ever experienced, right up there with fleece-lined leggings and snuggles from my fur babies (one of which is doing a little better - thanks for all your well wishes!). Comfort food to the max. Plus, it's got the whole carb and carb thing going on - never a bad thing in my opinion.

I've used pureed pumpkin in pasta sauces before, most notably my vegan mac and cheese (one of the most popular recipes on this blog). But for this sauce, I wanted it to be almost alfredo-like and silky smooth. And for that, you need fat and lots of it!

I used two sources of fats to create this sauce. First, coconut milk, which adds only a faint hint of coconut flavor that actually melds together really nicely with this sauce. I also mixed in a couple tablespoons of almond butter, although you could use cashew butter or tahini even if you have it on hand. Both of these fats lend a nice mouthfeel to the sauce, but also a complex flavor as well.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms and Peas
Dairy Free Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms and Peas

Speaking of flavor, there's so much going on in this bowl! I added lots of sage, picked from our "herb garden," aka sage garden because that's what took over! Fresh orange juice brightens the sauce and sweetens it a bit as well. The turmeric adds a little peppery flavor, but mostly I added it in for the health benefits and gorgeous color.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks

Serves: 4

Ingredients

Sauce: 

  • 14-ounce can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter

Remaining Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 ounces shiitakes, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 8 ounces 100% whole grain spaghetti (I used quinoa spaghetti)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, whisk together sauce ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add leeks and saute 5-7 minutes until tender. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook until their liquid has released and reabsorbed, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in peas and cook until defrosted and warm. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Toss spaghetti with the sauce. Top with vegetables and serve.

Sexy Strawberry Cream Vegan Milkshakes

Wanna guess my favorite kind of smoothie? One that's really actually a milkshake.

What, did you think I was going to say a kale smoothie?? Pffffttt!

But before we get to this amazingly creamy, dreamy milkshake/smoothie hybrid, I should probably explain why I'm sharing this luxurious treat when everyone in the world is searching for salads and green smoothies. Today, the Miyagi of the dietitian blogger world, Regan Jones (of Healthy Aperture, Blog Brulee, RDs for Disclosure and Recipe Redux fame) turns forty. She has done so much for her fellow dietitian bloggers, and in the process, gaining the respect and admiration of her colleagues. And for that, a whopping forty of us got together to throw her a virtual birthday party by sharing healthy cocktails or gluten free desserts in her honor!

Cue the confetti and champagne toast!

I've said it before, but one of the best things about becoming a blogger was  joining this incredible community. It would be easy for us to view each other as competition, bash and belittle each other, but instead we support, uplift and help each other grow and succeed. Regan is a huge reason for this, really setting the standard for how to treat others within our community. She works with brand contacts to create sponsorship opportunities for us smaller bloggers. She's developed an entire recipe sharing network through Healthy Aperture to highlight the healthy food blogger. She spent an entire year organizing Blog Brulee, an inspiring blogging conference that we all agreed, did so much more than teach us about photography and search engine optimization (although it did that too!). Regan is funny, bossy (in a good way!), motivated, enthusiastic, creative and talented...it's no wonder we all love her so!

Plus, she even shared one of my all-time favorite blogging tips - how to make food look sexy, hence the title.

Regan, wishing you the happiest of birthdays! Thank you so much for all your support and for welcoming me into this community with open arms! The inspiration I gained at Blog Brulee helped make 2014 the best year yet, and I wish the same for you in your fortieth!

Now, on to this milkshake. Err, smoothie. Because ingredient-wise, it has absolutely nothing in common with a milkshake. However if you factor taste and creaminess, it's got everything in common with a milkshake.

Frozen bananas are the secret to getting that milkshake consistency. The creamy, sugar dense fruit not only sweetens the smoothie, but makes it thick and creamy. I added macadamia nuts for even more creamy, fatty mouthfeel. Plus, I love the rich flavor it gives along with the coconut milk.

I used unsweetened coconut milk, the thinner kind they sell by the soy and almond milks. You could use canned coconut milk, which would make it pretty thick, but hey, when has anyone complained about their milkshake being too thick?? Considering the amount of coconut used in the recipe, canned coconut milk would make it a bit of a calorie bomb. A delicious whole food calorie-bomb...but a calorie bomb nonetheless.

To save time, you could skip making the strawberry sauce and blend frozen strawberries into it. But, we know how Regan likes her food sexy, and what's hotter than swirls of bright red, vanilla-scented strawberry bits running through a creamy, white base? Not much. Not much at all.

Sexy Strawberry Cream Vegan Milkshakes

2 servings

Ingredients

Strawberry Sauce:

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon honey

    Shake:

  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk

  • 2 medium frozen bananas

  • 1/4 cup macadamia nuts

Instructions

  1. Place strawberries, vanilla and honey in a small pot on medium heat. Bring to a simmer. mashing with a potato masher or the back of a spoon as the juices release. Simmer for 10 minutes until thickened. Remove and set aside to cool.

  2. Add coconut milk, bananas and macadamia nuts to a blender. Blend until smooth.

  3. Divide strawberry sauce between two glasses, Top with milkshake. Swirl together a bit with a spoon and enjoy!