Galaxy Power Balls

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Unicorn-everything is taking over the food world! These started as my take on this trend, but quickly changed into these stunning Galaxy Balls once I started mixing and creating:

I couldn't get over the stunning colors and how the cashew pieces blended together to look like little stars! To create these, I made two different batches of my now-signature-snack: a Raspberry Coconut Power Ball + a Blueberry Lavender Power Ball. Both are sweetened only with the natural sugars from the fruit inside, are vegan, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly, and are the most perfect fuel before & after a workout. Plus, they're crazy easy to make + stunning to look at! Otherworldly, you might say!

To start, gather all of the ingredients (recipe below), make the two (natural!) colors seen above, grab a platter, and start rolling! To create the fun, swirl-y pattern, simply grab a bit of each, squish them together, and roll between your hands to form a ball. If they crumble, just wet your hands and try again. If you use the E3Live Black Majik, you'll achieve darker Power Balls (the blue powder will mix as you roll). You can also add more colors and roll a second time: get creative! I made each one a little different by taking different amounts of each, smushing the two colors together to form a third, and carefully rolling each one. Consistency in size is key, make them beautiful (you so deserve beautiful snacks)!

If you like to go the extra mile, or if you like a bit more sweetness, try rolling them in (colored!) coconut. I like to take the tiniest drop of Grade A Maple Syrup or Agave Nectar, roll the ball between my hands to make it sticky, and roll it in coconut. If you happen to have E3Live Blue Majik (available here!), mix a small amount (less than 1/4 teaspoon should do the trick!) with 1/2 cup of coconut for a fun, ice-blue color!

These Power Balls are filled with goodness, easy to make, travel well, and the taste? Out of this world. In the spiritual world, galaxies symbolize seeing the bigger picture in life + a powerful journey of enlightenment. Cluster galaxies, like these Galaxy Power Balls, symbolize focusing on the present. So, close your eyes, take a bite, and focus on your amazing now. Enjoy the moment!

 

Galaxy Power Balls

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo-Friendly // Makes ~32 Power Balls

Ingredients:

(For the Raspberry Coconut)

  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Raspberries
  • 5 Dates, soaked
  • 1/2 Cup Cashews
  • 1 Cup Coconut
  • Splash of Pure Vanilla Extract

(For the Blueberry Lavender)

  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Blueberries
  • 5 Dates, soaked
  • 1/2 Cup Cashews
  • 1 Cup Coconut
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Lavender Buds
  • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
  • Splash of Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon E3Live Blue Majik (optional, for the lavender color)

*Optional: 1/4 Cup Black Sesame Seeds (I didn't add these this time, but I will next time to get a darker, more "galactic" look! I use black sesame seeds in a lot of my Power Balls + love them!)
*Optional: Grade A Maple Syrup or Agave Nectar + extra Coconut for rolling.
*Optional: Power Dust or Spirit Dust from Moonjuice take these to the next level! Just sprinkle some into one or both batches!

 

Method:

1. Add the dry ingredients from the Raspberry Coconut column (coconut & cashews) to a food processor and process into a flour. 
2. Add the wet ingredients from the Raspberry Coconut column (raspberries, dates, vanilla) to the "flour" and pulse to combine. You may need to scrape the sides once or twice to fully combine the ingredients. 
3. Transfer to a bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill.
4. Repeat steps 1 & 2 with the ingredients from the Blueberry Lavender (dry ingredients first, then add the wet). If you're opting to use the Black Sesame Seeds, take half of the Blueberry Lavender mixture, add the seeds, and pulse to combine to form a third color. 
5. Grab a platter and get rolling! Grab a bit of each color, squish them together, and roll to form into a ball. Add any extra color to create a fun, galactic look.
6. If you'd like, roll each ball in coconut for a different look: either wet your hands or dab the tiniest drop of Grade A Maple Syrup or Agave Nectar onto your hands, roll the ball between your hands, and then roll in the loose coconut. If you'd like to create a blue coconut, just add a tiny bit of the E3Live Blue Majik into the coconut and stir to combine.
6. Place in a refrigerator to chill for at least one hour before devouring. This will allow them to set and to achieve peak deliciousness!

My boyfriend made this for me over a year ago, and I finally have the opportunity to use it for something! :)

My boyfriend made this for me over a year ago, and I finally have the opportunity to use it for something! :)

Let's Get Glowing

This post was inspired by a 2-part video series that I did with Pedal On Beauty in which we chatted about our favorite fitness-industry beauty tips for skincare & nutrition. Check out the videos at the bottom of this post!


Everywhere we look, advertisements for beauty products and supplements promise to give us a youthful "glow;" to tighten and clear our skin, to reverse aging, and to quickly + seemingly effortlessly give us the bright, dewy complexion we yearn for. Magazines, stores, and websites are filled with these "quick fixes," yet so many of us continue to suffer from a number of skin conditions like acne, dry skin, blackheads, or a lack of said "glow." This is because our skin is a living, breathing, detoxifying organ! It needs to be fed, nourished, taken care of, and loved from the inside out

In addition to getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water, managing stress, balancing hormones, and cleansing your face, the number one thing that you can do for healthy, radiant skin is to optimize your diet to feed your skin from the inside to show on the outsideYou literally are what you eat. Our skin is the last organ that receives nutrients from the foods we eat, so "an apple a day" isn't going to cut it (but it's a start!). 

Let's chat about what foods to avoid and what foods help us thrive. Keep reading, because I have THREE Beauty Smoothies for you to try at the end of the article!


Foods to Avoid

I bet you can guess what is on this list before you even read it! This is nothing you haven't heard before, just a friendly reminder that if you really, truly want radiant skin, you need to make some shifts in your diet and lifestyle. If you "can't" commit to a complete avoidance of these "foods" (you totally can!), commit to an 80/20 mindset: eat healthy 80% of the time, and enjoy mindfully 20% of the time. When possible, make healthier choices (swap almond milk for dairy milk, enjoy one cocktail rather than 5, etc). If this becomes a challenge, ask yourself which is more important to you: the cupcake or the glowing skin. The abs or the third margarita

What are the excuses that you fall victim to, and are they really what you want? Write them down, take them in, and make a choice. It's all in our priorities. If you want it, make it happen!
 

  • Dairy
    The majority of humans react negatively to dairy for a number of reasons. The two biggest being: 1) you are not a baby cow, and 2) our bodies stop creating the enzyme that breaks down lactose, lactase, when we are between 2-5 years old. Our bodies simply cannot digest it! This is because this is when we are supposed to stop drinking milk and start eating solid foods! Did you know that we are the only species to drink milk (not to mention that it's milk from another species) into adulthood?

    Simple solution: substitute with non-dairy milk! There are so many options available today (almond, hemp, soy, cashew, macadamia), and it's simple to make it yourself at home! I wrote a blog post as to how to make your own (which also shows you how to make a healthier matcha latte)! Cheese fiend? Daiya, Miyoko's Creamery, Treeline, and Kite Hill (and many others) make really amazing alternatives. You can find non-dairy yogurt (my favorite is Daiya Greek Style), non-dairy chocolate (most dark chocolate doesn't include dairy and is actually good for you!), and my Healthier Mac & Cheese is not only delicious and healthy, but it's completely dairy-free! Check it out here.
     

  • Sugar
    Nutritionally sugar does nothing for us. In fact, what it does do is cause brain fog, weight gain, bad skin, inflammation, cravings, lethargy, raises our blood pressure, causes countless diseases and depression, and so much more. It's addictive and it's deadly. Avoid added sugar at all costs. If you need help, I have created a 4-Day Sugar Detox to help you. Learn more about it here + read testimonials & FAQs here! I used to add six (!) sugars to my coffee and eat multiple desserts in one sitting. If I can do it (and honestly love it), you totally can, too!

     
  • Processed and High-Glycemic Foods
    A general rule-of-thumb when it comes to eating mindfully is to avoid anything that comes in a box, anything that has unpronounceable ingredients, and anything that comes in an unnatural form (white bread versus whole grain bread is one example). Keep it simple!

     
  • Fast Food & Junk Food
    Did you ever wonder why you can eat 20 chicken nuggets, a large milkshake, and two double cheeseburgers and still want more? Or, you momentarily fill up, but you're hungry (maybe even hangry) again 20 minutes later? Well.. it's because it's not food. When you eat foods that are fake, processed, loaded with GMOs and MSG, and full of sugar, your body doesn't process them as food! It simply brushes them aside, stores them as fat, and sends a signal to your brain that you are still hungry because your body recognizes them as "foreign substances.

     
  • Alcohol
    I know you don't want to hear this, but your alcohol habit is reaping havoc on your skin! Alcohol dehydrates the skin, inflames facial tissue, causes redness, destroys collagen, damages the liver, and is toxic to the cells that detoxify our body. Not only that, but if you are drinking cocktails or mixed drinks you are also consuming massive amounts of sugar! I used to love Moscow Mules, and then I found out that each one has about 55g of sugar! No thank-you.

    Simple Solution: stop! I started replacing my alcohol with kombucha, and I am loving it!
    Another Solution: drink BETTER and drink LESS. If you must indulge, go for one glass of red wine or one clear beverage (gin, tequila, and vodka) with a smart mixer (kombucha is amazing here as well, I now sub this for ginger beer in my healthier Moscow Mules!). Then, balance as best you can with two big glasses of water.

Foods to Embrace

Now that the hard part is over, read on to see which foods are best to get the glow! Our skin thrives from vitamins (B, C, & E especially), minerals (iron and zinc are biggies), healthy fats (with special emphasis on omega 3s), fiber, phytonutrients, and protein. Remember to also drink lots of water! How much? Find out here.

  • All Fruits & Vegetables
    Seriously. Eat the rainbow, and eat as much of it as you'd like! The more (natural) color that you add to your plate, the better!
    Some of my favorite glowing skin power houses: leafy greens, avocado, berries, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, sweet potatoes, seaweed, pumpkin, pomegranate, carrots, citrus, and papaya.
     
  • Nuts & Seeds
    Good fats are the building blocks of healthy cell membranes. They keep our skin hydrated and youthful.
    Be sure to get enough of both omega 3 & omega 6 EFAs (essential fatty acids) by eating foods like walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds. 
     
  • True Whole Grains
    Carbs are not the enemy! "True" whole grains are very low on the glycemic index (this helps to maintain a steady flow of insulin), full of powerful antioxidants like biotin and rutin, and contain massive amounts of fiber (for healthy digestion).
    Some of my favorites are sprouted and ancient grain breads/tortillas, amaranth, quinoa, barley, farro, oats, brown rice, and millet.
     
  • Spices/ Superfoods/ Adaptogens
    Add as many of these to your diet as possible! I love to toss these into soups, dressings, smoothies, chia puddings, protein bars and more!
    My favorites for glowing skin: ginger, turmeric, spirulina, cinnamon, nutritional yeast, paprika, maca, lucuma, and acai.

My Favorite "Beauty Smoothies"

(From L to R: Berry Orange Sunset, Spa Day, Green Watermelon)

 

Berry Orange Sunset

I throw this one together a lot. It's great for an early morning boost, a spin on your normal orange juice, or on a hot day when you need a little extra energy.

Ingredients:
(Makes 1 Large or 2 Small)

  • 1 Orange
  • 2-3 Carrots
  • 1/2 Grapefruit
  • 1/4 Pineapple
  • Handful of Berries (I used blueberries and cherries in this photo)

Method:

1. Juice the carrots, orange, grapefruit, and pineapple in a juicer (smooth) or high-speed blender (a bit chunky, but more fiber, you can also strain if desired) to desired consistency.
2. Pulse berries in a food processor.
3. Pour juice into tall glass and top with berries! You can mix them in or let them "bleed" into your sunset! 

 

Spa Day

I created this recipe for a client who wanted a "spa day in a glass," and wanted me to use as many "powerful things" as possible. This one is the most involved of all three, but is nice for a fancy, at-home spa day!

Ingredients:
(Makes 1 Large or 2 Small)

  • 1 Cup Homemade Nut Milk (walnut or almond)
  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Watermelon
  • 1 Cup Spinach
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Kiwi
  • 1/4 Cucumber
  • 1/2 Cup Blueberries
  • 1/2 Lime
  • 1-inch Knob Ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon frozen Acai
  • 1 Teaspoon Aloe Vera Gel (optional!)
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Moss Gel (optional!)
  • 2 Teaspoons Spirulina
  • Pinch Cinnamon + Sea Salt

Method:

1. Add it all to a high-speed blender and blend to desired consistency.
2. Garnish with a thin cucumber slice for that fancy "spa feeling."

 

Green Watermelon

This one is perfect for a hot day or after a killer workout. It's super hydrating, delicious, and easy to throw together fast! I usually take this one to the beach (sometimes with watermelon vodka).

Ingredients:
(Makes 1 Large or 2 Small)

  • 1/2 Watermelon, fresh or frozen (frozen for icy!), cubed
  • Big Handful Spinach
  • 1 Green Apple, cored & chopped
  • 1/2 - 2/3 Cup Coconut Water (I like to fill it up about 1/3 way to the top, the amount you choose will depend on how thin you would like your drink, how much watermelon you have, and how much extra hydration you'd like!)
  • Juice from 1 Lime
  • Big Handful Mint

Method:

1. Toss it all in a high-speed blender and blend to desired consistency.
2. Serve in a glass with frozen watermelon chunks and fresh mint.


Closing Tips:

1. DRINK MORE WATER.
2. Exercise often (and cleanse your face afterward!).
3. De-stress.
4. Get your Zzz's.
5. Smile! We all look our best when we are smiling :)

If you'd like to learn my skincare secrets, check out the videos below! The first one is "What's In Your Gym Beauty Bag?" + the second one is "Nutrition & Skincare."


    Why Making Your Own Is So Much Smarter

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    In a previous post I mentioned how I used to think that drinking 1-2 Grande Unsweetened Soy Green Tea Lattes from Starbucks a day was a "smart choice." It wasn't until I realized how much sugar was in them (34g.. and that's without sweetener or whipped cream!) that I looked into how I could make my own at home. Not only is it super simple and delicious to do, but it saves a bunch of money! 

    Matcha is an incredible source of antioxidants, amino acids, and chlorophyll (this is where it gets it's stunning green color). It's relaxing, helps us to focus, and is incredibly delicious. Matcha is a great replacement for coffee, as it does contain caffeine (it's also just great as a treat!).

    To make a homemade matcha green tea latte, you'll need:

    • Homemade Nut Milk (see below!) or your favorite Non-Dairy Milk
    • Matcha Green Tea Powder
    • A whisk (bonus points for bamboo!),
    • A milk frother or a blender
    • Your favorite, cozy mug

    Homemade nut milks made from activated [soaked and/or sprouted] nuts (and/or seeds!) is a super easy and incredibly decadent way to get your good fats, vitamins, minerals, and protein. Plus, when you make it yourself, you can sweeten it just the way you like (or don't like), add your favorite spices, make new concoctions (pistachio mint milk, lavender hemp milk, hazelnut cacao milk...), make it any color (pink and blue are my favorites), and most importantly you know exactly what is going into it. You are in control of what you put into your body, which is so powerful.

    • To start, choose your base (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, etc), which can be one or a combination of seeds/nuts.
    • Next, soak your base* in a bowl or mason jar for 3+ hours, or as long as overnight.
      * Some bases, like hemp seeds and sesame seeds, don't need to be soaked.
    • Once soaked for at least three hours, rinse and add to a high-speed blender. Cover with water,* add a pinch of pink or sea salt, a splash of vanilla (optional), and any add-ins (I love to add 4 soaked dates and a sprinkle of cinnamon). Blend to combine.
      * The more water you add, the more "liquidy" your milk will be. For example, if you add just a bit of water, you'll have coffee creamer consistency (yum!). Usually, the ratio for a normal "milk" is 1 cup base (soaked nuts/seeds): 4 cups water. Play around with this ratio and see which you prefer!
    • From here, you'll need to strain your milk. I use a "nut milk bag," which you can find in any natural foods store (Whole Foods or Mom's Organic Market are two examples) or online for less than $10. I've had mine for years, and even though it's stained from making a turmeric milk experiment (oops), it still gets the job done. You can also use a really fine sieve or cheesecloth. Grab a pitcher or large bowl and pour the blended milk through the bag. Once the majority of the liquid is through, squeeze the bag to release the rest of the liquid. You'll end up with "nut pulp" that you can use in a number of ways (I love to add the pulp to protein shakes for a little extra oomph, use it to make raw cupcakes (!), or use it in these Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Bars).

    Homemade nut milk stays fresh in the refrigerator for 5 days. My current favorite recipe makes four cups:

    • 1 Cup Almonds, soaked overnight
    • 1/2 Cup Brazil Nuts, soaked overnight
    • 4 Cups Filtered Water
    • 4 Dates, pitted and soaked
    • Splash of Vanilla, 3 Shakes of Cinnamon, Pinch of Pink or Sea Salt 

    Homemade Matcha Green Tea Latte

    Serves 1

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 Cup Hot Water (not boiling!)
    • 3/4 Cup Homemade Nut Milk or Favorite Non-Dairy Milk
    • 1-2 Teaspoons Matcha Powder
    • Optional: Sweeten with a drizzle of Agave Nectar or Grade A Maple Syrup
    • Optional: Extra Sprinkle Matcha Powder &/or Spirulina Powder, to dust

    Method:
    1. Add matcha powder and a small amount of the hot water to your favorite mug.
    2. Whisk to create a thick paste. If using a sweetener, add now.
    3. Froth nut milk with a milk frother or simply add nut milk to a blender and blend to froth (this is what I do).
    4. Pour milk slowly into cup, and stir to combine. 
    5. Dust with extra matcha, spirulina, or your favorite adaptogen for extra magic. Enjoy!


    If you're loving the DIY, check out my posts for why & how to make your own PB&J Protein Bars! They're raw, vegan, paleo, and gluten-free! I also created Red Velvet Valentine's Day Protein Bars for Flywheel Sports, check out the post here.

    My Heart Is So Full.

    Yesterday, Mark and I hosted our second Mooove & Gobble Charity Retreat at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in New York. It was an Earth Day for the books, to say the least! Not only did we reach our fundraising goal (and pass it!), we had the most amazing day. One participant even said it was the best day of her life, and I can't help but agree with her!

    Mooove & Gobble Charity Retreats are modeled after a "do good, feel good," intention: to give back to yourself via a heart-pumping, super fun bootcamp workout, nourishing, vibrant plant-based food, time with the sweetest rescued animals, and time to rejuvenate and clear your mind in nature. Our events are not for profit, all proceeds after the cost of food go directly back to the sanctuaries that host our events. If that isn't what Earth Day is about, I don't know what is!

    For each M&G Retreat, I plan a plant-based menu that is seasonal, delicious, and stretches the dollar as far as possible. I buy everything that I need at Whole Foods the day before so the produce will be the freshest and cleanest available. I pay attention to what is on sale, and I make swaps to save money when possible (like switching blackberries for blueberries). I know a lot of people think that you can't shop at Whole Foods without spending your "whole paycheck," but I beg to differ. I created an entire, nourishing meal (infused waters, soup, salad, hors d'oeuvres, main dish, and three different kinds of my protein-packed Power Balls) that I can be proud to serve for 28 people for less than $250. Not only that, but Whole Foods Wynnewood donated all of their culled produce (the stuff that passes the sell-by datefrom the entire week to the animals! They filled my car with crates upon crates (see first photo, this is only some of it!) of fruits and vegetables for the animals of Woodstock. I can't imagine how much money this saved the sanctuary in feed/treats, so a HUGE thank-you goes out to Whole Foods Wynnewood again (this is their second time supporting our work in this way! THANK-YOU!).

    We traveled to Woodstock the night before our event to prep the meal and to set-up the space. I have cooked professionally in the past, but my team has not, so I have to give another huge thank-you to my sous chefs Mark, Dom, and Katya for staying up until 3am prepping all of our food with me! You guys are the B E S T!

     

    • MOOOVE

    For the Mooove portion of our event, Mark led the group through an indoor/outdoor bootcamp-style workout while DJ.ADAM.LINK hit us with the latest and greatest tunes. My favorite part of the hour-long sweat sesh was when Mark added everyone's "least favorite workout moves" into his routine. It kept everyone guessing, laughing, conquering challenges, and having a blast until the final rest at the end of his workout. If you haven't taken his classes at Unite Fitness in Philadelphia, definitely check him out!

    Post-workout, the group snacked on three of my protein-packed Power Balls (Raspberry Coconut, Dark Chocolate Orange, & Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter) before heading out on a tour of the sanctuary.

    • GOBBLE

    Post-sanctuary tour, we sat down to a vibrant family-style meal on the misty, rustic deck in the trees overlooking a winding river in the valley below. We chatted about our favorite animals, how sore we were from Mark's workout, and how refreshingly stunning Woodstock's sanctuary truly is. On the menu for this retreat:

    This event couldn't have gone more perfectly. Thank-you so much to everyone who participated and donated, thank-you to Whole Foods & Treeline Cheese for your support, and thank-you to everyone at Woodstock for giving us the chance to make a difference in the most fun way possible! 

    For all of the photos, check out our Mooove & Gobble Retreats page!

    From the bottom of our full hearts, THANK-YOU!

    Start Here.

    The number one question that I receive about wellness and eating right is, "so, where do I start?" The second, usually, is "well, what do YOU eat in a day?"

    Here's the thing: as much as I would love to toss a few one-liner's at you, share my lunch with you, and change your entire life, it's not going to happen in five minutes. Wellness is a journey that we're all embarking on from completely different starting points with varying personal challenges. For some of us the transition will be easy, and for others it might not be. And that's okay! We've all been raised differently, we enjoy different foods, we work in different industries, we have different goals, we encounter different challenges, and our hobbies are different. What works for me might not work for you. What will work for you, though, is the path that you discover for yourself

    The number one thing that you can do, right now, is start. Do something, anything, to start your journey. Most people underestimate what they are capable of. Stop wishing and start creating! What brought you here? What is your goal(s)? How much do they matter to you?

    Here are my top five wellness tips (number five is a freebie and a call-to-action at the end to help you get started). Oh, and if you really do want to know what I eat every day, I've started posting some of my meals and tips on my Instagram Stories! If you don't already, follow along @pandahamandah !

     

    • Eat Simply.

    Keep. It. Simple. Eat the foods that we were intended to eat: the ones that grow from the ground or up in the trees! You can get these from any Farmer's Market, CSA, neighbor's backyard (ask first;)), or in the outer aisles at the grocery store. Bonus points for eating local and/or seasonal foods! Avoid foods that have been processed (think white bread (boo) versus whole grain bread (yay).. one of my favorite quotes is, "the whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead"), avoid foods that contain added sugars (choose an apple over bottled apple juice with added sugars and preservatives), and, for the most part, avoid foods that come in packages. 

     

    • Eat the Rainbow.

    Aka: eat a variety of foods! Every color gives us different goodness, whether it be vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, or hydration... we need it all! The easiest way to do this is to eat a rainbow every day (bonus if you can pull this off with every meal, but baby steps). Make it fun by tracking your rainbow (see the freebie below!). This is especially easy and FUN if you have kids: make a game out of it, and they'll be begging to eat their fruits and vegetables (I'm not kidding: I have taught every age, from pre-school to high-school. It really does work!).

    * The right & left photos are from my Spring Shift e-book. The middle photo's recipe can be found HERE.

     

    • Drink Water.

    If you wait until you are thirsty to drink, you are already dehydrated! Not only that, many times "hunger" is actually hydration in disguise. Start every day with a glass (or two!) of water with lemon (lemon aids digestion). Carry a reusable water bottle with you and keep it full! Drink two glasses of water for every caffeinated drink (or alcoholic drink) that you enjoy. Better yet, find out exactly how much water that you, personally, need every day by doing some simple math (told you I'm a teacher!):

    • Multiply your weight by Two Thirds (0.67)
      Example: 130 lbs x 0.67 = 87 Ounces of Water Per Day
       
    • Add 1.5 Cups (12 oz) of Water for every 30 minutes of exercise
    • If you have a caffeinated beverage, double the size of the beverage to rehydrate
    • Example: Today I worked out for 60 minutes and had one 16 ounce coffee. 
      87 Ounces + (12+12+32) = 143 Ounces of Water Per Day*
      *which is a little over 1 Gallon (1.117), which is TOTALLY DOABLE!

     

    • Eat With Love

    I wrote an entire blog post about this. Every single time you eat, eat with love. Be happy with every choice that you make, whether it's healthy or "not-so-healthy" (read more about that in the previously mentioned blog post). Food is our fuel, our nourishment, and our medicine, and we should treat it that way! When you eat, take the time to sit down, slow down, be grateful, and eat with all five senses. Chew slowly. Savor every morsel. Try closing your eyes as you chew: you'll notice every flavor and every texture.  Whether you eat with loved ones or alone, enjoy every bite! When you begin to feel full, stop (the body doesn't tell us we're full for about :20 minutes, so if you begin to feel full, you are already overfull!).

    *The recipe for my (Healthier) Truffled Buffalo Mac & Cheese (right photo) is RIGHT HERE! The green juice, my personal favorite, is from my Spring Shift e-book.

     

    • Hold Yourself Accountable

    Write down your goals. Make a plan, and make it happen. If it matters to you, you'll do it! Plan your meals, pack your lunch (or know of a few healthy spots near your work), track your meals, track your workouts, tell your friends, and track your moods. Don't count calories, count colors! When I work with clients, we begin by learning our patterns: 

    • What are our "go-to" foods? Which do we LOVE, which do we crave, and which do we just hate?
    • Do we consistently skip certain meals (like breakfast)?
    • Are we eating enough/ not enough?
    • How do our meals, snacks, and drinks make us FEEL?
    • Are we drinking enough water throughout the day?
    • Are we sleeping enough? Are we moving enough?

    From here, I ask clients to journal his/her eating habits and moods before/after eating for a week. Nothing is counted other than the foods consumed (drinks included). From there, we learn and we take action.

    I recently created a Food Journal for someone I'm working with (see example below!), and would love to share it with you for FREE. The 3-page PDF includes a weekly meal planner (you can toss this on your refrigerator or on your desk), a daily food journal, and a notes page for daily reflection. When you download the file you can keep the size as-is (it will print out large, as a standard-sized sheet of paper), or you can print it at 50% so as to make it more of a "journal" size.

    When you first journal (you can totally keep this up after you set your goals!), you should eat as you normally do, "good" or "bad." You'll only learn if you're honest with yourself and can truly see what habits you fall into! Sometimes, we don't notice our patterns until they are staring us in the face. It is then that we can take action, make changes, and shift towards our best selves! I hope this helps you begin your shift. Tag any take-aways, journal posts, or food pics with #theshiftwellness, I'd love to see them!

    In my example, I successfully ate every color of the rainbow, drank 8 bottles of water, and had 3 caffeinated beverages (one was a matcha latte, which I color-coated to remember!).

    In my example, I successfully ate every color of the rainbow, drank 8 bottles of water, and had 3 caffeinated beverages (one was a matcha latte, which I color-coated to remember!).

    How To Use This Food Journal:

    • Log the date at the top, and add any notes that you feel are important to know (for me, I note the classes/workouts that I have that day, which does affect the food & drinks that I will need).
    • Track everything you consume, drinks included! Small handful of M&Ms? Log them.
    • Remember to pay attention to your mood before & after you eat.
      For example, I LOVE to grab vegan fast food, but when I previously tracked my moods I noticed that beforehand I would always be really excited and hungry, but afterward I usually felt lethargic and down. I realized that I ate this way when I was in a rush or having a stressful day, but that eating these "foods" only made my day worse after the few minutes of enjoyment I received from eating them.
    • Track the colors that you eat (from natural sources! A bag of Skittles does NOT count) in the top right. You can color them in (fun), or just X them out. You'll start to learn which colors (antioxidant phytochemicals) you miss regularly, so you can start to add them in.
    • Track your water consumption in the bottom left, and any caffeinated beverages in the bottom right. Again, you can color them in or simply X them out.
    • The "brain" symbol is to track your sleep.
    • The "dumbbell" symbol is to track your workouts. you can simply even put an X if you only care that you DO workout that day.

    Get Yours Below!! 

     

     

    Go Em, It's Your Birthday!

    If you're not local to Philadelphia or know me personally, you might not know that I have the best job on the planet aka I am an indoor cycling instructor at Flywheel Sports. One of the many things that I love about my job is the people that I am lucky enough to meet on a daily basis. I could easily write an entire blog about all of the amazing people, all of my amazing friends, that I have met in my 4+ (!) years working, sweating, and tapping-it-back at Flywheel. But, I won't (yet). This post is inspired by and dedicated to one of those incredible riders who has become a great friend of mine since meeting her in class in 2015. Not only is she always full of energy, at the top of the Torqboard, and woo-ing up a storm, but she is also one of the sweetest, friendliest people that I have ever met. Her name is Emily, aka Fitzaroni, and she is a rider at our Bryn Mawr location (although she does make exceptions and come to Philly to ride with me once in a while!).

    We met in 2015, and through a little social media searching I found "our" first photo together:

    Okay, so it's technically a photo of me with a mini-vegan cake. But! I took and posted this photo to show one of the many reasons why our #flyfam is the best: Emily and her husband were near a vegan bakery (which is over an hour away from Philadelphia), remembered that I (at the time just "one of their instructors," I'm sure) was vegan, stopped in, and got me something. How sweet (literally) is that?!

    Since then, Emily has become a regular in a number of my weekly classes, has taken her fair share of my theme rides, participated in and supported our first (and maybe our second?!) Mooove & Gobble Charity Retreat, and has become one of my good friends. On my birthday, her and a few of my other amazing riders (Tuesday Night crew!) threw me a post-class birthday party complete with vegan cupcakes, champagne, gifts, and so much love. I really am so lucky to know all of these amazing people.

    Anyway! I found out it that was her birthday (because her and her husband took my class at Incline Running on her birthday, pictured above (another best job in the world)), and I knew that I wanted to return the favor. Here's the thing: as much as I love a good cupcake (or 3), I am a health coach and would be providing post-workout snacks as the instructor. So, I made my cupcakes vegan, gluten-free, raw, and bite-sized

    I know what you're thinking, but stop it. "Treating yourself" should not actually mean hurting yourself by loading up on sugar and empty carbs. Treat yourself to goodness, and you'll receive goodness in return. These treats are packed with real fruit for natural sweetness and with nuts and coconut for good fats and protein. They're delicious, and you only need one (or maybe two after a hard workout ;)) because they are nutrient-dense and satisfying.

    Happy Birthday, Emily!

     

    No-Bake Vanilla Almond Cupcakes with Creamy Chocolate Icing

    Vegan, Gluten-Free, Raw // Makes ~40 Mini Cupcakes

    Ingredients:

    (Cupcakes)

    • 4 Pears, peeled, cored, & chopped (about 2.5-3 cups)
    • 1.5 Cups Coconut Flour (you can buy this or you can pulse shredded, unsweetened coconut in your food processor until fine, like a flour)
    • 1/2 Cup Firmly Packed Almond Pulp (from making homemade nut "milk;" you can sub 1/2 cup almond flour or another 1/2 cup coconut flour)
    • 1/2 Cup Bee-Free Honee (see below), Grade A Maple Syrup, or Agave Nectar
    • 1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
    • Splash Pure Vanilla Extract
    • Pinch Sea or Pink Salt
    • Optional: Dates, to sweeten (3-5 should be enough if this isn't sweet enough for you, but keep in mind that the frosting sweetens it up a lot!)
    • Handful of Finely Chopped Almonds, to garnish

    (Frosting)

    • 2 Cups Soaked Cashews
    • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa or Cacao
    • 1/2 Cup Coconut Butter/Manna (you can use the solidified stuff from the top of a can of coconut milk, see below)
    • 3/4 Cup Bee-Free Honee, Grade A Maple Syrup, or Agave Nectar
    • 5 Dates, soaked & pitted
    • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
    • Pinch Sea or Pink Salt

    Method:

    1. Add the chopped pears to a food processor and pulse until smooth, like an applesauce consistency. 
    2. Add the coconut oil, honee, almond pulp, vanilla, and sea salt and pulse until smooth.
    3. If you have a large food processor, add the flour and pulse until smooth. If yours is smaller or just really not that good (like mine), add wet mixture and coconut flour to a large bowl and either mix with your hands or beat with an electric mixture until you have a crumbly dough. If it seems dry, add a splash of water. It won't look like normal cake batter, so don't panic! It should stick together and easily form into balls when squeezed. 
    4. Line a mini-muffin pan with liners, fill each with a 1" ball of batter, and press firmly to flatten. Since you're not baking these, fill them to the top!
    5. Place cakes into freezer to set for at least one hour.
    6. To make your frosting, simply combine all ingredients into a high-speed blender and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust spices/sweetness accordingly.

    7. Place frosting in refrigerator to chill and slightly firm up for at least one hour.
    8. Frost your cupcakes! You can simply spoon the icing on top or use a piping bag to make beautiful swirls, this frosting frosts nicely! Also, no excuses if you don't have a piping bag, because neither did I:

    Sometimes you have to get creative!

    Sometimes you have to get creative!

    9. Garnish with chopped almonds (simply pulse almonds in a food processor a few times).
    10. Place iced cupcakes in refrigerator until ready to eat. Enjoy!

    More Unicorn Lattes, Please

    I've been making colorful lattes for a while: matcha lattes, turmeric lattes, and even beetroot lattes. My love affair with beautiful, delicious drinks dates back to about ten years ago when I would get 1-2 Grande Green Tea Soy Lattes at Starbucks.. a day. I assumed that I was making a "smarter" choice than my friends who opted for Frappuccinos, and mindlessly went back again and again.

    The thing is.. according to Starbuck's website, a Grande (Medium) Green Tea Soy Latte is filled with sugar: 34 grams, to be exact! And, unless you ask for it to be made unsweetened, it will be made with a few pumps of their Classic Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid), which adds another ~20g of sugar. That's 54 grams of sugar for a "smart" choice! That's more than a 16oz bottle of Coke! Damn!

    (I checked their website, and I could have gotten Grande Coffee Frappuccinos with Soy Milk for 51 grams of sugar! My friends were actually making "better choices" with their dessert-drinks! While I was checking out nutrition facts, I poked around a bit and found other grande drinks with upwards of 70 grams of sugar per serving. For a medium beverage. Unbelievable!)

    Once I discovered this, I started making my own green tea soy lattes at home with homemade nut milks sweetened with dates, vanilla, and cinnamon (or unsweetened almond milk) and unsweetened, organic matcha powder. Depending on which nuts you use (my favorites are almond, cashew, and Brazil nuts, which all are roughly 3g of natural sugar per cup of nuts) and if you use dates to sweeten (I usually add 2 or 3 dates to my nut milks, which makes the entire quart of nut milk have roughly 8-12 grams of natural sugar, 4.5 grams per date), you're looking at less than 4 grams of (natural!) sugar per "grande" green tea soy latte. That's 50 LESS grams of sugar per drink, not to mention no chemicals, no preservatives, and no line. Win!

    Two things happened once I started doing this:

    •  I lost weight. Without doing any extra exercise or changing anything else about my diet. I didn't even try, and it just came right off: about 7 pounds! I remember going into one of my favorite shops two weeks after I stopped going to Starbucks, and being asked so many questions by the girls at the front about what I did: I simply stopped drinking sugary coffee drinks!

    (Photos from 2011, the same day I realized that I lost weight from nixing my green tea soy latte habit!)

    • I saved money. A Grande Green Tea Soy Latte costs somewhere between $4-6 dollars, and I was drinking two a day (sometimes more). Over one week, this added up to roughly $70! 

    Okay, now that you have my back story, let's get back to the unicorn lattes.

    I finally made it to The End in Brooklyn to try their Unicorn Latte! I felt like such a fangirl!

    I finally made it to The End in Brooklyn to try their Unicorn Latte! I felt like such a fangirl!

    Unicorn Lattes are magical drinks that are not only vibrant and delicious, but also filled with goodness (think antioxidants, super foods, adaptogens, and sometimes even healing crystal-infused teas). I recently found out about them via an online blog post, and now I can't get enough:

    So far, I have made yellow (turmeric based), pink (beetroot based), green (matcha based), and purple (no photo, but blueberry and acai based!). I have plans to create the rest of the rainbow soon. It's so fun!

    For now, here's how to make my cotton candy pink, beetroot-based, unicorn latte. Enjoy!

     

    Pink Unicorn Latte

    Vegan // Serves 1

    Ingredients:

    • 1 Cup Homemade Cashew Milk* (or non-dairy milk of choice)
    • 1+ Teaspoon Beetroot Powder OR 1 Tablespoon Beet Juice
    • Optional (adds color & a hint of sweetness): 1 Tablespoon Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup from my Spring Shift E-Book OR 1-2 Soaked Dates
    • Optional: Adaptogens of Choice (I love Lucuma Powder, Maca Powder, or Satchels of Beauty Dust from Moon Juice!)
    • Dusting Powders: The more color, the better! Mine has Turmeric Powder, Matcha Powder, Beetroot Powder, and Blueberry Powder
      *Homemade Cashew Milk: Handful Raw, Soaked Cashews, 2 Cups Filtered Water, 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla, 1-2 Soaked Dates, Pinch of Sea or Pink Salt (Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender and strain with a nutmilk bag)

    Method:

    1. Warm a saucepan over medium heat. Add milk and beetroot powder (or beet juice) and whisk to combine. You can adjust the amount of beetroot powder to desired color. You can make this super light pink or bright red!
    2. Once warmed, add to a blender and blend to combine (if using my Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup or dates, add them now!). You can also add in  any adaptogens in at this time. I sometimes add Lucuma Powder or a satchel of Beauty Dust from Moon Juice. Make it frothy!
    3. Pour into your cutest mug and sprinkle dust to your heart's content! You can also omit the dusting if you'd like to simply have your brightly colored latte (they're both stunning!).

     

     

     

     

     

    Where & What We Ate in Thailand (As Vegans)

    Pardon my absence, I was on holiday in Thailand!

    The most frequent question that I am asked when I travel is what I eat while I'm away, both because I am a health coach/fitness instructor and also because I personally follow a vegan (whole foods, plant-based) diet. I have only been back for two days, and have already been asked this question at least ten times! So, this post is dedicated to our favorite meals over the past two weeks: where we ate (my boyfriend is also a vegan fitness instructor), what we ate, and our tips as to how to (best!) eat in Thailand!

    Also, to be fair, please know that we spent one full day in Bangkok, multiple days in Chiang Mai, one full day in Phuket, and one week in Ko Lanta. Additionally, this post is only about food: more about what we did on our travels to come in a future post!

    • Bangkok: Ethos Vegetarian Restaurant

    We started our trip in Bangkok. After traveling for roughly 24 hours (and, unfortunately but not surprisingly, being let down by the airline's "food") we really needed a good meal. Luckily, our hostel was within walking distance of Ethos, so we decided to give it a try.

    We were thrilled when we arrived, because Ethos is everything that you imagine a restaurant in Thailand to be: it's located in an alleyway, you remove your shoes upon arrival and are seated on comfortable cushions on the floor, the colors surrounding you are are bold and beautiful, friendly stray cats love to come in to say hello, and every single fruity drink comes with the most stunning flower as a garnish. 

    The menu was extensive (at least 8 pages long!) and offered everything from authentic Thai food to 10 different kinds of whole-grain vegan pancakes. One of the things that I personally loved about Ethos was that the menu offered Thai pronunciations and nutrition tips on every page:

    In the end, we tried a little bit of everything as a table: Pad Thai, Green Curry, Mango & Banana Pancakes, Steamed Vegetables, and a number of sides, smoothies, and drinks. I got a little crazy and ordered a drink that was a combination of a coffee and a pina colada (although I should have known that those flavors totally don't go together. One can only dream!). 

    Our Suggestion: get the green curry and a fruit smoothie.
    Everything that we ate was delicious, but nothing even compared to the curry. It was the best curry that any of us has ever tasted! Our friend John ordered it, and he only got to enjoy 1/5 of it because we all kept going back for more! The fruit smoothies (skip the coffee colada) were some of our favorite of our entire trip, and we went back to get more of them later that evening.

     
    • Chiang Mai: Amrita Garden & Mellow Bar

    THIS RESTAURANT.

    Imagine if Anthropologie decided to open the most delicious, amazing macrobiotic vegan cafe of your dreams. Well, it exists in Chiang Mai! I am absolutely in love with everything about this restaurant: the food, the ambiance, the vibe, all of it:

    Amrita Garden (and their Mellow Bar across the street!) also offers an extensive menu filled with the most incredible food and nutrition tips! I really appreciate Thailand's attention to nutrition, and love how they share this information with their guests. While in Chiang Mai we dined with them twice and tried a little bit of everything, from the first soy lattes of our trip (most coffee shops don't have non-dairy milk, unfortunately) to vegan cheese plates, the biggest salad of all time, and to an ume plum rice ball (I had to get it because of the emoji!).

    Aside from some of the best food of our entire trip, the vibes at Amrita Garden are almost like a spa treatment: you sit amongst the most beautiful plants, listen to calming music, get your own fan (this was clutch!), and have the choice of sitting on cushions, swings, or at garden tables. Amrita Garden is a family-owned restaurant, and you can really taste the love that they put into all of their food. This is a must-visit if you find yourself in Chiang Mai!

    Our Suggestion: We loved everything we tried (seriously), so I really don't think that you can make a bad choice here! If you're a coffee fiend like me, Amrita Garden has an entire coffee menu, and everything that I tried was perfect. The one struggle that I had in Thailand was getting my coffee fix, so take advantage of their offerings! The vegan cheese plate was the best I have ever had, so definitely give that a shot as well!

     
    • Chiang Mai: Lost Lounge Psychedelic Vegetarian Restaurant
    Not sure what's going on in this photo...

    Not sure what's going on in this photo...

    The Lost Lounge offered another really memorable dining experience: you remove your shoes and sit on really beautiful cushions, plants surround you, the walls are filled with vibrant artwork, our table was covered in healing crystals and candles, and the vibes were funky and relaxing (somehow at the same time). 

    The Lost Lounge is a vegetarian restaurant, so unfortunately many of the offerings were not available for us to personally try (sour cream, cheese, dairy, and eggs are in many of the dishes). We really wanted to try the nachos (our friends tried them and raved about them), but instead went with drinks, curry, and a dish called "Satan's Stems," which was supposed to be an incredibly spicy pulled-mushroom dish. All of the dishes had really fun names, and I regret not taking a photo of some of them!

    We loved our drinks and enjoyed our food, but were let down by Satan's Stems: they were not spicy at all (after all of the hype we were really surprised!), and everything else on the plate didn't pair with the dish (they actually really clashed, and we didn't love the taste of the produce). We loved the mushrooms themselves (they were slightly breaded and cooked perfectly), and wished that we could have ordered another side of just them!

    Our Suggestion: go for cocktails and to chill.
    The Lost Lounge makes a great cocktail, all with clever names, so definitely get one if you drink (if you don't, they have a number of really delicious smoothies and juices)! Curry seems to be the way to go at most places in Thailand, and was our favorite dish at this restaurant as well. If you like spicy, ask for "Thai Hot," because they (and many other places) went with what we found out is referred to as "Westerner Hot," which is essentially as mild as it gets. Think zero spice, and it's probably even more mild than that. Oh, and if you go to the bathroom, bring your shoes! The floor is nothing more than a bunch of stones (and was very wet with what I'd like to pretend was water, but we all know otherwise), which is super cute but really hard to walk on!

     
    • Chiang Mai: Elephant Nature Park (an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center!)

    When we first committed to our trip to Thailand, the first thing that we did was book a visit to Elephant Nature Park. Elephants are abused in so many ways (circuses, riding/tourism, illegal logging, street begging), and Elephant Nature Park does so much to help as many rescued elephants as they possibly can. When you book a trip to the park you can choose to simply visit or volunteer, and all of your money (and any additional donations) go to support the incredible work (and love!) that they tirelessly carry out/give every single day. I'll be posting more about our visit in another post. In the meantime, learn more about their efforts and/or visit or donate by clicking here.

    Before we headed to the park, we loaded up our backpacks with goodies (aka junk) from 7-11 just in case they didn't offer much in terms of vegan food, but wow were we wrong!

    Every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Elephant Nature Park offered an entirely vegetarian (mainly vegan!) buffet filled with authentic Thai foods, fresh fruits, and countless other deliciousness! It was actually the longest buffet that I have ever seen, anywhere: it went on and on and on! Not only that, they offered snacks throughout the day that always included bright purple Butterfly Pea Tea (so good!) and cookies, and they always had fresh water, coffee, and tea available (they even gave us reusable water bottles and cute water bottle carriers to refill with!). They also had a cash bar where you could buy beer, alcoholic drinks, extra snacks, and ice-cream.

    The entire time we visited the park, we were never hungry. Not only that, every meal came with animal friends (ENP also rescues dogs, cats, buffalos, and other animals!) coming to the tables to say hello. All of the meals were enjoyed on their deck, which overlooked the park: every time you looked up you would see elephants enjoying their day, dogs playing in the distance, and the most stunning sunrises and sunsets. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    Our Suggestion: GO (and don't worry about brining snacks)! You won't regret it.

     
    • Chiang Mai: 8Adventure's Jungle Trek with a Village Stay

    The second thing that we looked into once we committed to a trip to Thailand was trekking. It took us a long time to decide on a company (too many offer elephant riding, and we didn't want to support that), but finally went with 8Adventures

    I've got to admit, as excited as we were to trek through the jungle, our expectations for this were rather low (and we're totally not downers!). We were coming off of the amazing experience at Elephant Nature Park, and didn't think anything could top it. Plus, 8Adventures is relatively new, and we couldn't find too much information on them. Luckily, we went with our gut (which is always the move!).

    Once again, we made the silly decision to load up our backpacks with junk from 7-11 and with four vegetarian hamburgers that we found at a stand in Chiang Mai that prepares vegetarian food for monks (these were actually really good, more on them later!). We hopped on a bus to 8Adventures, and as soon as we arrived we were greeted with this:

    Huge plates of steamed vegetables, fresh salads (with a vegan dressing that they prepared specially for us!), a giant mound of rice, and lots of pineapple and cold water sat before us, and we couldn't have been happier! We almost didn't finish (rice is so filling!), but our guides told us that we needed the energy for the trek and made us finish our meals (haha!). Once we fueled up, we set off for one of the most epic parts of our entire trip to Thailand: a trek through bamboo forests, lush jungle, coffee plantations, waterfalls, and questionable bridges to the village all the way at the top of the farthest mountaintop, Huay Kukap.

    I can't recommend 8Adventures and this jungle trek/village stay enough! While I will go into more detail in a future post, I have to tell you that this exceeded our wildest expectations (and then some!). The guides we had were extremely knowledgable, all about having a good time, taught us so many things, and were the most incredible hosts I have ever had the pleasure of staying with. When we arrived to Huay Kukap, we were welcomed with two cold Changs, candied tamarind, and a stunning sunset as a reward for our 4-hour hike to the top:

    We sat on a log with the locals and some cute dogs, watched the sunset, and headed to our home for the evening. This is where we had the most delicious, most romantic (and completely vegan just for us!) meal of our entire lives, prepare by our guide Thom's wife, Pu:

    This meal was unlike anything either of us have ever experienced. Aside from being made with so much love, it was served to us on a deck overlooking the entire valley with a sky full of stars above us (you miss out on this in the city!). In the distance, you could see the lights of Chiang Mai, but up where we were dining was incredibly peaceful, the perfect temperature, and the night was ours. We feasted (I've never been given so much food!) on the best tofu I have ever tasted, stir fry, vegetables, rice, dipping sauces (that weren't "Westerner Hot," and wow were they spicy!), fresh fruit, and lots of cold water. Believe it or not, more food came out after this picture was taken!

    After we ate, Thom, Pu, and some locals (and some dogs!) came to join us on the deck. We learned that Pu is also a vegetarian, and had been very excited to create a meal for us! We chatted the night away before heading to our home for the evening. Before we knew it, daylight (and another perfect meal) was upon us:

    For breakfast, Pu prepared curries, rice soup, fresh fruit, sticky rice with mango, and various cookies. She also brought out coffee and orange juice for us. It was another love-filled, perfect meal, and exactly the fuel that we needed to tackle the 4.5 trek back down the mountain!

    After our trek, we arrived back at 8Adventures to another lunch! This one was similar to the first meal (salad and fruit), but instead of rice and vegetables we enjoyed a vegetable and tofu curry dish. Needless to say, it was beyond delicious.

    Our Suggestion: GO (hungry)! I cannot recommend 8Adventures enough.
    (Oh, and Pu literally laughed, about five different times, at the snacks and the vegetarian burgers that we had brought along! She was hilarious!)

     
    • Random Finds & Some Tips from Chiang Mai
    • Row 1 Photos: We stayed at a few different hostels/hotels so as to try different things, but we really enjoyed the breakfast buffet at De Lanna Hotel. It was filled with fresh fruits, steamed vegetables, muesli, fresh fruit juices (I loved the pineapple!), and espresso. They also made really delicious cocktails at the poolside bar!
    • Row 2 Photos: The Fern Forest Cafe is absolutely stunning. We didn't have time to eat there unfortunately, but we did stop in for super delicious fresh fruit smoothies and espresso.
    • Row 3 Photos: Sense Massage & Spa! We're not fancy people, but you can't visit Thailand without treating yourself to a massage (or four). We were lucky enough to stumble upon Sense, and we ended up visiting twice while we stayed in Chiang Mai. They treat you to tea and snacks before and after your treatments, which always begin with a foot scrubbing and foot massage (which is heavenly when you've been walking around barefoot for a week!). Sense is a must-visit if you're looking for a Thai massage!
    • Row 4 Photos: (1) Fresh fruit smoothies are everywhere, but this combination of kiwi and mint (okay, and some gin) was incredible. The man who made it had a little shop filled with young coconuts, fresh fruit, and the occasional kitten. (2) A big tip for veg(etari)ans traveling in Thailand is to follow the monks! Even if a restaurant doesn't specialize (or even offer) vegan food, every stand/cafe/restaurant is used to cooking for monks and is happy to accommodate you! We followed a group of monks and found a vegetarian stand with delicious (albeit heavy!) authentic Thai breakfast foods (and those vegetarian hamburgers that I mentioned earlier). They even had local Kombucha in a variety of flavors (oolong was great!). (3) Many coffee shops had vegan cookies and pastries available (even though they don't have dairy-free milk)! How cute are these?!
    • Row 5 Photos: 7-11 carries about 20 different kinds of soy milk. If you ask for soy milk at any coffee shop, they'll direct you to 7-11 (and ask you to come back and happily make you a latte). The thing is, not all of them are vegan. In fact, the majority of them contain milk powder (like that chocolate Lactasoy which I bought on another vegan blogger's recommendation! Luckily I didn't drink it, but I had been really excited for some chocolate milk!). Some labels include English, but the majority do not. I found that the milk in the first photo, the combination of soy and almond milk, tasted the best, didn't curdle in coffee, and was 100% vegan. 
     
    • Phuket: Atsumi Raw Cafe

    Getting to Atsumi was an adventure, to say the least. We were staying at the Eco Hostel Phuket (highly recommend!), which was a :30 minute drive from the restaurant. In the states, we're used to driving :30+ minutes to get food (sometimes even longer). In Phuket however, everyone (and I mean everyone) laughed at us for choosing to commute that far to a restaurant! No joke, I believe we had a total of nine different people laugh at us (people were actually calling others over, showing them the address, and laughing together!) before we finally got a cab to Atsumi! It was hilarious, but it did end up taking us a lot longer than :30 to finally arrive. By the time we did, we couldn't have been hungrier!

    Our next "setback" was that everything that we had wanted to order was unavailable. It took us 4-5 tries to finally order something that they were able to make from the menu (and while we were ordering, we were destroyed by mosquitos). But, once we finally found menu items that were available, our waiter brought us bug spray (!), and we settled in for an incredibly filling meal.

    We went with fresh fruit smoothies, papaya soup, beet ravioli, a chocolate & coffee tart, a chocolate walnut brownie with avocado ice-cream (when it first came out it was missing the ice-cream that we had been most excited for, but we asked about it and they brought it out), and iced soy lattes. Everything was delicious, even the beets (I really dislike red beets, so hats off to them)! 

    Our suggestion: Go for coffee and dessert.
    Don't have your heart set on a particular dish, and be ready to try something new based on what they do have available (I really dislike beets, but truly loved their raw beet ravioli!). The papaya soup is really refreshing, and their desserts are some of the best either of us have ever had. Mark doesn't like chocolate (??), but he couldn't get enough of the chocolate tart. Oh, and wear bug spray!

     
    • Ko Lanta: KUNDA Vegetarian/Vegan Cafe

    If you've ever imagined the most stereotypical vegan restaurant (in a good way), KUNDA is it! The ambiance of this restaurant is nothing short of magical: it's like a mash-up of a lush garden, a funky yoga studio, a really tuned-in Mom's knick-knack cabinet, and the coolest shop you've ever been in that sells things like healing crystals and incense. Any picture that you find online doesn't do it justice; it's stunning.

    KUNDA's menu was very.. not Thai. They offered pasta, chocolate shakes, veggie patties, and their Karma Special, which is simply described as "you get what you deserve."  

    While on Ko Lanta, we only visited KUNDA once. We tried to visit again on a Wednesday, but they were closed (their hours read otherwise, so we were pretty bummed!). We got their chocolate shakes (what we came back for on Wednesday), an iced soy latte for me, vegetable pasta, and their Karma Special (how could we resist?!).

    Our Suggestion: go for the chocolate shakes, if you're in need of some good, energizing vibes, or if you're really hungry!
    The chocolate shakes were heavenly (and Mark liked his, which is impressive for his non-chocolate-loving tastebuds!). I drank mine in about three minutes! The portion sizes are huge on top of the fact that everything that they serve is very nutrient-dense, so definitely split a dish with a friend. We ate about half of the pasta and maybe 1/3 of the Karma Special, and I felt like I was going to explode for a good two hours afterward! We would have loved to know what the Karma Special was (our best guess is homemade breads, hummus, salad... and we have no idea what the other thing was, even though it was good!), but we never had the opportunity to ask. 

     
    • Ko Lanta: Happy Veggie

    Do you know that feeling of euphoria when you discover your favorite restaurant? Enter: Happy Veggie:

    Once we found Happy Veggie, we didn't eat anywhere else (I mean it, we went for breakfast and dinner every single day). Happy Veggie has it all: the sweetest, most attentive owner, Thitima, the best food, the BEST coffee, three super cute cats, a fun atmosphere, and great vibes.

    I'm pretty sure we tried 90% of the menu..

    .. and everything was amazing.

    The coffees were the best I have ever had in my life, and here's the kicker: they're not even on the menu! Next door to Happy Veggie is a super cute coffee shop, Kaya, which we had been excited to try after dinner on the first night. Unfortunately, we hung out way too long (the vibes were so good!) and Kaya closed before we were able to pop over. We asked Thitima if she served coffee, and she offered to make us some, even though it's not on her menu. We asked if she'd include soymilk (I guess most people don't do that here, because she giggled a little bit when I asked), and she happily obliged. When she returned with our coffees, she gave us a little demonstration as to how she made them, asked us to smell them (so good!), and waited to make sure that we enjoyed them. Oh, we enjoyed them. We came back twice a day every day after to get them again!

    I could write for days about our trips to Happy Veggie, so instead, here are a few highlights:

    • On the second night, we experienced an island downpour while enjoying our dinner in our Thai gazebo! It was so much fun!
    • Thitima has three sweet cats who warmed up to us quickly: two of them joined us for dinner on separate occasions!
    • On our last day, Thitima was out on a produce run when we arrived for breakfast. Her staff is very sweet but do not speak English, so they actually called her on a phone and had us order with her! We had offered to wait until she returned, but they preferred that we ordered so they could start prepping our meal! How nice is that?!

    Our Suggestion: Go, go, go! Order anything on the menu (and a coffee with soymilk!), and you will be happy!
    My personal favorites were the yellow curry, the pumpkin hummus sandwich, the fresh fruit salad, the spring rolls,  every single fresh fruit smoothie that we tried (every day is different!), and the coffees!

     
    • Other Great Finds/Tips for Ko Lanta

    Ko Lanta was nothing short of a dream-come-true:

    • The Fin's Stoned Bar was our go-to evening spot, all the way at the end of the beach. We walked there every night, it took about 20 minutes, during or right after the sunset. The owners, bartenders, and regulars were some the nicest people that we met on our trip! Every night they couldn't have been more excited to see us, they watched football (soccer) with us, played pool with us, chilled with us, taught us about Thai boxing, and made the best drinks (definitely get a Fin's Stoned Cocktail!) and vegetable spring rolls! 
    • Sundowner's! Very rarely will I suggest cocktails (I didn't drink for three months prior to this trip, more on that in a future post!), but the locals make some of the best drinks that we have ever tasted (and the sunsets here are like nothing you have ever experienced before!). Every place that we went surpassed our expectations.
    • Get the Vegetable Spring Rolls, the Fresh Fruit Platters, the Warm Bananas in Coconut Milk, and the Curry.. everywhere. As long as you ensure that they sub fish sauce with soy sauce (or simply omit it), everyone makes an incredible curry!
    • Drink from a Coconut. You know you want to!
    • Drink plenty of water!
    • PICK UP YOUR TRASH. Better yet, take trash bags with you when you go to the beach, fill them up, and leave the beaches cleaner than you found them! 

    Shift Into Spring!

    A seasonal shift is almost upon us! Monday, March 20th is the first day of Spring! Can you believe it?! To celebrate, I have created my first of four seasonal e-books: Spring Shift (!!). Eating locally and seasonally is one of my number one tips when I am asked for how we should eat to thrive. This 30-page instant download e-book is filled with tips on how to use seasonal produce with OVER 25 original plant-based recipes, useful cooking and prep techniques (how to sprout and how to salt-roast, for example), and a stunning color photograph for every single recipe (isn't it the worst when cookbooks don't have photos?!). Every aspect of this entire book was created with love by me, from the recipes, to the photographs, to the layout of the book: it truly is a labor of love. I can't wait for you to dive into it!

    As I was creating this guide, I was mindful of a number of things:

    • Waste Not!:
      - If a recipe calls for half of an ingredient, another recipe will use it up. 
      - A number of recipes use ingredients created by the prep of another (ie. carrot pulp that is created from the Carrot Orange Ginger Juice can be used in the Spicy Carrot & Tofu Sofritas (with a Kiwi & Roasted Tomatillo Salsa) and/or in my Carrot Cake Power Balls (yes, Flywheel, these were part of my display for our birthday celebration!). 
      - Anything that creates extra (like a dressing) will be used again in another recipe(s).
    • Be Real!:
      - Every recipe uses ingredients that can be found at any Farmer's Market or grocery store during the Spring months (March, April, May).
      - I don't ask you to use any "weird" or hard-to-find ingredients (and if I do, they are absolutely optional).
    • Keep It Simple!:
      - I clearly love to cook, and have cooked professionally in the past. I love to try new ingredients, new techniques, and I'm not afraid of a challenge. I also realize that you are not me. So, every recipe in this book was created to be achievable by anyone and everyone. I kept it simple and give detailed, step-by-step directions (I even asked multiple people who "cannot cook" to confirm, just in case I got overly ambitious).

    This e-book includes two juices, three smoothies, five breakfasts, five lunches, five dinners, three starters/snacks, four desserts, and a number of dressings, jams, and other "mini-recipes," all of which use seasonal ingredients and that are intended to help you transition (and thrive!) from Winter into Spring. 

    For just a $20 investment in your health, Spring Shift can be yours. I hope this e-book inspries picnic lunches, garden parties, and your best version of you and your loved ones. Happy Spring!

    Also, if you're interested in a complete Spring Cleaning for your body and mind, I am offering a "Spring Cleaning Combo Pack" that includes my Sugar Shift Program + Spring Shift Guide for a discounted price. Learn More + Purchase!

    Happy Birthday, Flywheel! + A Power UP Ball Recipe

    This past weekend, Flywheel Sports celebrated it's 7th Anniversary, and our Center City location celebrated it's 4th birthday! I can't believe that it's been FOUR years! FOUR amazing years of playlists, sweat, sprints, jogs, hills, tapbacks, woo's, theme rides... FOUR years of absolutely LOVING my job. I can't tell you how many times I am in the middle of class and can't stop smiling because I am taking everything in and LOVING every single second of it (and every single rider in class; you guys are the best!).

    For our birthday celebration, I had the opportunity to combine my passions and make post-workout snacks! 

    The snacks were a hit, and I had quite a few requests for the recipes, so! I'm sharing... one of them (for now ;)). 

     

    C(HOCOLATE).R.E.A.M. #FLYTUNES, aka
    Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Protein Power Balls

    Vegan, Gluten Free // Makes 15-20 Balls

    Ingredients:

    • 1 Cup Coconut
    • 1 Cup Almonds
    • 1 Cup Cashews
    • 1 Scoop Chocolate Cinnamon Protein Powder (I buy this at Whole Foods, but any vegan chocolate protein powder will work!)
    • 1/2 Cup Peanuts
    • 4 Tablespoons Peanut Butter
    • 4 Tablespoons Grade A Maple Syrup OR Agave Nectar
    • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
    • 1/4 - 1/2 Cup Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Chips
    • Splash Vanilla Extract
    • Pinch Pink or Sea Salt
    • Cocoa or Cacao Powder, to dust

    Method:

    1. Combine all ingredients, except cocoa/cacao powder, in a food processor and pulse to combine. You may need to scrape the sides and re-pulse a few times. You are looking to create a sticky, gritty, not-completely-smooth texture. If your mixture seems a bit dry, add a drizzle more coconut oil. If your mixture seems too wet, add a small handful coconut or nuts.
    2. Roll the mixture into 1" balls using your hands, and place onto a tray. 
    3. Once all balls are rolled, take a small handful of cocoa/cacao powder and dust the balls to add a little extra color and chocolate flavor.

    4. Chill for :20+ minutes to firm up.

     

    A Beautiful "Disaster"

    One of my favorite things about experimenting in the kitchen is working through the "mistakes" that I make. More often than not, these mistakes tend to lead me to some of my best recipes. Seriously! Take my FAVORITE way to eat grains, for example: that beautiful bowl of nourishing goodness that you see above was supposed to be a broth. Yes, a thin broth. As the base was simmering, I was organizing my grains.. which happen to be on a shelf above the stove. So, naturally, I dropped an entire mason jar of farro into the pot!

    Farro, by the way, is awesome. Aside from being full of fiber, protein, B vitamins, and iron, it also has the most perfect texture. It's chewy AND not chewy at the same time (does that even make sense?). It's also a little more expensive than some of the other more popular grains out there, so you can imagine my discontent when I dropped a full mason jar of the stuff into a simmering pot of vegetable broth and kombu (the "King of Seaweed:" a nutritional powerhouse that improves digestion, improves thyroid function, and will make the most amazing broth that you have ever tasted!). Womp.

    Womp not! The farro soaked up the broth beautifully, the flavors of the add-ins (mushrooms and leeks) paired perfectly, and the taste?! Unbelievable, to say the least. Every single bite is a burst of nourishing deliciousness. I also decided to reserve the kombu strips that I was simmering and turn them into "noodles" by chiffonading them:

    So cute, right? 

    This recipe makes a lot, but you can also do a lot with this recipe! It is delicious on its own, but it is also amazing as a base for a grain bowl (you can add baked tofu, veggies, and avocado), in soup, in a Buddha bowl (add a protein, some greens, and some beans)... I even like it in tacos! Get creative!

     

    Nourishing Kombu Grain Bowl

    Vegan // Makes a LOT, roughly 6-7 cups: lunches for the entire week? Done.

    Ingredients:

    • 6 Cups Water
    • 5 Dried Kombu Strips
    • 2-3 Green Ends of Leeks, chopped* 
    • 1/2 Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
    • 2 Cups Mushrooms, chopped
    • 1-Inch Knob Ginger, minced
    • 2 Cups Farro, rinsed

    * When using leeks, you traditionally discard the green ends. Don't throw them out! Save them for broths! You can also use the white parts, but I love using the ends this way so as to not waste them! Once they've been simmering in broth, they will be more tender and fine to eat! If you prefer to remove them, simply leave them as long pieces so they are easier to remove.

    Method:

    1. Add everything to a large soup pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for at least one hour. 
    2. Remove kombu strips using a slotted spoon and set aside to cool (you can place them in a bowl or a tray with high edges since they will be very wet). Allow the "broth" to continue to simmer.
    3. Once cooled, chiffonade the kombu and return it to the pot. Stir to combine.
    4. Most of the liquid will be absorbed by this time, but there will be a bit remaining. Enjoy it! I really love this farro in broth! The rest will absorb in the next hour or so.

     

    It's Time to Mooove & Gobble!

    I am so unbelievably excited to announce that our second Mooove & Gobble Charity Retreat will be taking place at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary on Earth Day, April 22nd, from 10:30am-4:30pm!!

    Mooove & Gobble Retreats are day-long events created with a “feel good” intention: to give back to yourself while giving back to others. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, who tirelessly provide sanctuary to the more than 350 (!) rescued animals in their care.

    Woodstock Animal Sanctuary is stunning, to say the least. The sanctuary itself sits on 150 acres of farmland in High Falls, New York which are surrounded by the Catskill Mountains and adjacent to the most picturesque, winding river. Don't let the snow fool you, though: the average temperature in the area in late-April is between 52°-58°F, which is perfect for an (all levels!) outdoor bootcamp workout with Mark!

    Speaking of your workout, your truly life-changing day will look something like this (stay up to date on our Facebook Page!):

    • Check-in / Introductions
    • Bootcamp Workout with Mark (with live music by DJ ADAM.LINK!)
    • Break / Post-Workout Refreshments
    • Guided Sanctuary Tour & Animal Cuddle Time
    • Seasonal, Rejuvenating Plant-Based Lunch Prepared by Me!
    • Sanctuary Stroll / Free Time
    Look at this fuzzy baby!!

    Look at this fuzzy baby!!

    More details coming soon, but in the meantime:

    (1) Reserve your tickets! Remember, proceeds benefit Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and space is limited!
    (If you can't make it to the event but would like to support our cause, there is an option at check-out to make a donation for any amount to the sanctuary. We are extremely grateful for every donation, big or small!)
    (2) Decide who you want to snuggle first!
    (3) "Like" Our Facebook Page to stay up to date with all details!
    (4) Check out the photos from our first event! & Read the recap from our first event!
    (5) Check out area accommodations (there are some amazing, affordable getaways) if you'd like to make a weekend out of it! 
    (6) Check out area restaurants. Be warned: there is an all-vegan chocolate shop that has the best chocolates I HAVE EVER TASTED.

     

    We hope to see you there!! We're looking to have carpools from Philadelphia (if you're interested in carpooling, let me know!) and other areas (details to come). If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email me at amandah@theshiftwellness.com !

     

     

    Curry-Glazed Tempeh Tacos FTW

    During the winter months I am all about curries. I just love how bright and flavorful they are, and nothing beats a steaming hot bowl of something delicious when you get home and are looking to warm up from the inside out! While a big, comforting bowl of my Thai Red Coconut Curry with Crispy Baked Tofu & Vegetables really never gets old, I always want tacos. Literally, always. So! Enter the most amazing marriage of two of my favorite things:

     

    Curry-Glazed Tempeh Tacos with Avocado Crema

    Vegan // Serves 2, with extra tempeh leftover for tomorrow's lunch!

    Taco or Burrito? Not sure, but it's so good either way, so who cares?

    Taco or Burrito? Not sure, but it's so good either way, so who cares?

    Ingredients:

    • 2 Large or 4 Small Sprouted Grain Tortillas
    • 1 Cup Black or Forbidden Rice, cooked (notes in step 4 below)
    • 1 Package Organic Tempeh (I love Lightlife brand)
    • 1/3 Cup Mango Chutney (eventually I will post a recipe for one, but we had Sukki's brand on hand, and it went perfectly! We bought it at Whole Foods Market)
    • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil

    (Curry Glaze)

    • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
    • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
    • 1/2 Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 Red Pepper, chopped
    • 1/2 to 1-Inch Knob of Ginger, minced
    • 1 Tablespoon Thai Red Curry Paste
    • 1/2 Can Organic Full-Fat Coconut Milk
    • 1/4 Cup Organic Vegetable Broth
    • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce (I use Nama Shoyu)
    • 1 Teaspoon Rice Vinegar
    • 2 Teaspoons Sriracha Chili Sauce
    • Spices: Curry Powder, (1+ Teaspoons), Turmeric (~1/2 Teaspoon), Smoked Paprika (~1/2 Teaspoon), Sea or Pink Salt (if needed), Pepper (to taste)

    (Avocado Crema)

    • 1 Ripe Avocado
    • 1 Handful Cilantro
    • Juice from 1 Lime
    • Drizzle Olive Oil
    • Sea or Pink Salt and Pepper, to taste
       

    Method:

    1. Prepare the Tempeh Marinade
       - 
    Warm coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat.
       - 
    Add onions and garlic.  Saute until fragrant and slightly translucent. If the skillet gets dry, add another drizzle of coconut oil. Stir in red pepper and ginger.
       - Add curry paste and spices (except salt) to skillet and stir to coat. 
       - Add coconut milk, vegetable broth, and soy sauce to skillet. Lower heat to medium-low.
       - Add rice vinegar and sriracha, stir to combine.
       - Taste. Add extra spices, soy sauce, or sriracha sauce to taste, salt if needed. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes on low heat before removing from heat.
       - Pour slightly cooled mixture into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. This is your marinade!

    2. Steam Tempeh: Remove tempeh from packaging, slice into desired shapes, and place in a steam tray or colander over a saucepan with an inch or two of boiling water. Steam for a few minutes, flip, and steam for another few minutes. Steam for approximately 10 minutes.

    3. Marinate Tempeh: Remove tempeh from steam tray and place with prepared marinade. You can place it in the original (cooled) skillet to save a dish, or add everything to a casserole dish or Tupperware container to marinate, ensuring that the tempeh is completely covered. Let marinate for as little as :30 minutes or as long as overnight.

    4. Cook Rice: If using black rice (so delicious and JAM PACKED with goodness!), the ratio is 1.5 Cups Water for every 1 Cup Rice. Make sure you rinse the rice well before adding it to the water and bringing it to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook 20-25 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 more minutes.
    5. Prepare Crema
    simply combine all crema ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend to combine. If you like cilantro, add a lot! If it is too thick to blend, simply add a little more olive oil.
    6. Cook Tempeh: Warm coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add marinated tempeh to skillet and cook for ~5 minutes (you're looking for a nice, crisp, golden color with some dark searing on the edges) before flipping and doing the same on the other side. Feel free to add extra marinade if desired.

    7. Assemble! Warm tortillas in the oven and make nice, even lines (so you get a little of everything in every bite) of the rice, tempeh (2-3 pieces), avocado crema, and mango chutney. You can also drizzle extra sriracha and/or add cilantro leaves for a garnish. Enjoy! 

    One For The Swolemates

    If you're anything like my boyfriend and I, you'll be working up a sweat (with us?!) on Valentine's Day. Red wine and chocolates sound lovely, but we both know that all you really want is some yummy Valentine's Day-themed protein.

    Enter: Red Velvet Chocolate-Chip Power Balls, weighing in at:
    | 187 Calories, 13g (Good) Fat, 6g Protein, 2g of Fiber, & 7.5g (Natural) Sugar |
    each, these will surely power your Flywheel Sports class (& hello I have a DJ coming for the PM class!) with me or your Unite Fitness class with Mark.

    Sad fact: "Red Velvet" is nothing more than chocolate with red food coloring. Even worse? Red food coloring (Carmine, Cochineal Extract or Red 2, Red 4, and Red 40) is either CRUSHED BUGS, COAL TAR, and/or PETROLEUM BYPRODUCTS. I'm not kidding! It makes even less sense when you think about all of the beautiful reds that we have in nature, that not only look beautiful but also come with nutritional benefits. One example: beetroot powder. Beetroot powder is made from.. beets. That's it! It's rich in antioxidants, calcium, fiber, folate, potassium, and manganese AND it's red. Stunningly red (with no crushed bugs or petroleum byproducts). Win.

    So, about these power balls... shall we?

     

    Red Velvet Chocolate-Chip Power Balls

    Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo // Makes 12 Balls

    Ingredients:
    (For the Balls)
    Feel free to get creative and add superfoods and/or adaptogens, sub dates for the maple syrup (3-5 soaked dates), or double the protein powder (you may need an extra drizzle of coconut oil if you do).

    • 1 Cup Cashews
    • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Organic Coconut
    • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
    • 2 Tablespoons Organic Grade A Maple Syrup
    • 1 Scoop Chocolate Protein Powder (I used Vega One All-In-One in Mocha)
    • 1/4 Cup Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Chips (look for 70%+ Cocoa)
    • 2 Teaspoons Beetroot Powder
    • (Optional) 1 Teaspoon Lucuma Powder

    (For Rolling)

    • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Organic Coconut
    • 1 Teaspoon Beetroot Powder
    • (Optional) Extra Drizzle Coconut Oil and/or Maple Syrup and/or Filtered Water

    Method:

    1. In a food processor, process the cashews, coconut, and coconut oil until you get an almost-butter, approximately 1-2 minutes. You may need to scrape the sides once or twice.
    2. Add the protein powder, maple syrup (or dates), beetroot powder, and lucuma powder (if using) and process again. You may need to scrape the sides once or twice. This step should take less than 1 minute. You are looking to create a sticky "dough." If needed, drizzle a little extra coconut oil or maple syrup (but check before doing so, because the "dough" will be piece-y but formable).
    3. Transfer mixture to a bowl and fold in chocolate chips.
    4. Roll the sticky mixture into 12 balls and set aside.
    5. In a small bowl, toss the coconut and beetroot powder. You should get a really fun pink color, but feel free to add more beetroot powder to create a deeper red!
    6. Roll the balls into the coconut to coat. If the coconut doesn't stick, simply wet your hands and try again. You can also drizzle extra coconut oil or maple syrup if needed.

    Doesn't that look like a little face?!

    Doesn't that look like a little face?!

    These are seriously delicious and super portable. Why not surprise your swolemate at your workout(s) on Valentine's Day?! 

    The Easiest Dessert You Will Ever Make + A Failed Attempt At Said Easy Dessert

    Chocolate Bark. All it is is melted chocolate + toppings.. and it's amazing. Even better, it is good for you.. if you use the right ingredients.

    Seriously! High-quality dark chocolate is a superfood, packed with antioxidants, soluble fiber, flavanols (plant-based nutrients), and minerals. Consumed in moderation, dark chocolate is a great addition to a balanced diet because it is naturally lower in sugar than it's more processed counterparts (milk chocolate and all of those colorfully-wrapped bars at the convenience store) and allows us to satisfy our chocolate cravings in a positive way. Dark chocolate is naturally rich in flavor: the higher the percentage of cocoa (the better the chocolate), the richer the taste. As a result, only one or two pieces (not the entire lot) will satisfy your chocolate craving.

    When buying dark chocolate, look for chocolate that has a short ingredient list with no added sugar or preservatives, is 70-99% cocoa, made from cocoa butter (not palm oil), and is not processed with alkali (or "dutched"). Opt for brands that are fair-trade and organic when possible (this is usually advertised right on the bar). I find all of my dark chocolate at Whole Foods and Mom's Organic Markets. They both have a wide variety to choose from. Some, like Endangered Species Chocolate, even donate to charity with your purchase (and have cute animals on the wrappers). 

    For this post, I decided to make two barks: (1) a dark chocolate classic bark with whatever toppings my boyfriend wanted, and (2) a more "fancy" white chocolate-style bark with a swirl of bright pink chocolate, dried strawberries, goji berries, adaptogens, and edible flowers. First up, a bark for my Valentine, Mark:

    Mark and I are both full-time fitness instructors in Philadelphia. We live with our rescue pup, Harriet, in Center City, and spend most of our time together dancing around and laughing. When I asked him to pick the toppings for his bar, he decided that he wanted..

     

    Crystalized Ginger & Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bark

    Vegan, Gluten-Free // Makes the amount shown in the first photo (chocolate serving sizes?!)

    Ingredients:

    • 1 10-14oz Bag or 3 Bars of High-Quality Dark Chocolate
    • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (optional, but wonderful)
    • Toppings! Choose literally anything that you love. For this bark, I used Crystalized Ginger and Pistachios as per Mark's request, a small handful of each.

    Method:

    1. Warm a saucepan over low heat while you line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. Chop up your toppings!


    2. Add chocolate and coconut oil (if desired) to saucepan and stir constantly, slowly melting. You want to be careful not to burn the chocolate, so keep the heat low and stir! Melt until almost smooth and remove from heat.
    3. Pour the melted chocolate onto parchment paper and spread evenly with a spatula. Make it as thin or as thick as you want. 
    4. Toss on your toppings and place in freezer to set,

    5. Remove from freezer, lift chocolate block out of pan with the parchment paper, and snap apart! That's it! 

     

    Onto my failed attempt at "fancy" Valentine's Day bark..

    One of my favorite things about Mom's Organic Market is that they always carry new and really fun vegan items. The last time I shopped, I came across vegan white chocolate (!) bars. I bought three, even though they were $7/each (I know..), and loaded up my basket with beetroot powder (natural food coloring!), red superfoods, and edible flowers. I couldn't wait to create.

    My original idea was to do the same recipe as above, but to have two batches of melted white chocolate: one that I kept white, and one that I colored to a pink or red color with the beetroot powder (I actually hate the taste of beets, so this is a fantastic way to get the benefits and beautiful color). From there, I planned to swirl the two colors together to make a super-Valentine's-Day-style marbled bark. 

    Quick nutrition lesson: white chocolate is not healthy (I'm sorry). It's not even chocolate, really, because it doesn't contain any cocoa solids (which is what makes dark chocolate is good for you!). White chocolate is simply cocoa butter, sugar, milk or cream, and flavoring. Even this fancy vegan white chocolate that I found, for $7/pop, was "cocoa butter, cane sugar, coconut, tapioca syrup, sea salt, sunflower lecithin, and vanilla bean." Sure, it was organic, but this bar has no nutritional content on the labels. I was so distracted by vegan white chocolate that I didn't even noticeRemember to read your labels, and if there is no label.. stay away.

    After coming to terms with the fact that I was now creating something super sugary for a wellness blog, things just continued to crumble, because this chocolate did not melt. It curdled up into a little ball of sadness, and all I could see were dollar signs floating away. To salvage, I made it into a beetroot caramel by whisking it up with a ton (like, more than a full cup) of vegan cream, beetroot powder, and some coconut oil. I was able to create something.. but it's definitely not bark (it's more like a white chocolate taffy):

    While it was delicious (I'm not going to lie), here's what I would like to share:

    1. KEEP IT SIMPLE. The dark chocolate bark is incredibly easy to make, is nutritionally beneficial (granted, I did add crystalized ginger), is affordable, and is easy to find in most stores.
    2. JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS "VEGAN" OR "ORGANIC" DOESN'T NECESSARILY MAKE IT HEALTHY. Read. Your. Labels. 
    3. IT HAPPENS TO ALL OF US. I am a health coach and I have been vegan since I was 11.. and I still get duped!

    If you'd like to make a "fancy" bark for your Valentine, my suggestion would be to either make a dark chocolate bark with his/her (or your!) favorite toppings (Mark loved his bark!), or to use the toppings from my failed bark (strawberries, goji berries, edible flowers, and beetroot powder). Adaptogens mix amazingly well into melted chocolate, so feel free to mix in your favorite superfood powders as well.

     

    Happy Valentine's Day! 
    If you're in the Philadelphia area, don't forget about my HEARTBEETS DJ RIDE at Flywheel Sports Bryn Mawr on Valentine's Day at 5:45pm with DJ.ADAM.LINK! Schedule here!

     

    Almost forgot about my strawberry model...

     

     

    DIY for BAE

    February is here, which means Valentine's Day is right around the corner: a day when flowers, chocolates, and dinner reservations are ridiculously overpriced and extremely hard to come by. So, why not DIY?

    Believe it or not, delicious, beautiful chocolates are super simple to make at home. When you make your own, the results are way more meaningful than just dropping $50 on a random box from a local store. Plus, you choose everything from the ingredients (organic, fair-trade, allergen-free) to the flavors (you can keep it simple with the flavors that always sell out at the shops, or get creative with all of your Valentine's favorite flavors*), to the colors, and in how you package them. 
    * just wait until you see my Valentine's favorite flavor combination in my next post!

    The process is as easy as 1,2,3:

    Step 1: Choose your chocolate. If you want to make these sneaky healthy, opt for a dark chocolate that is 70% or more pure cacao or cocoa and not processed with alkali. Additionally, dark chocolate is richer, so you won't need to eat the entire tray to feel satisfied. I went with a dark chocolate that is 85% Cocoa, Organic, Vegan, Fair-Trade, and Non GMO. When melting, I stir in a little coconut oil to thin and to add extra good fats and coconut flavor. This coconut oil is optional, but I find that this easy extra step makes them even better.

    Step 2: Choose your filling. You can make this classic and opt for a peanut or almond butter, or get more creative. I went with a coconut butter, goji berry, and strawberry filling to get a Valentine's Day pink color (recipe below) and to sneak in some superfoods. The only thing that you need to ensure is that your filling is substantial, more like a butter than a caramel, so it doesn't ooze all over the place. 

    Step 3: Create and give (or eat)! See recipe below (and feel free to interpret in your own way to make these truly yours!).

     

    Strawberry-Goji Dark Chocolate Coconut Butter Cups

    Vegan, Gluten-Free // Makes 12 Chocolates

    Ingredients:

    • 1 Bag Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Chunks or Chips (10-14oz)
    • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
    • 1/4 Cup Organic Coconut Manna or Butter*
    • 1/4 Cup Organic Coconut
    • 5-10 Strawberries (add more for a darker color)
    • 2 Tablespoons Goji Berries
    • Optional: Adaptogens mix into melted chocolate really well! My favorites at the moment are Lucuma and Maca. One of my favorite companies, Moon Juice, sells a "Sex Dust" that would be perfect for this: Seriously.

    *Store-bought, scraped from the top of a Coconut Milk can, or DIY by adding coconut flakes to a food processor and processing until a butter is formed!

    Method:

    1. Line a mini-muffin pan with mini-muffin liners. 
    2. Warm a saucepan over low heat and add chocolate, stirring constantly, to slowly melt. You want to ensure that you don't burn the chocolate, so melt until almost completely melted and remove from heat, continuing to stir. 
    3. Spoon 1 Tablespoon of melted chocolate into each liner, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner. Place in freezer to set for 5-10 minutes.

    4. While your chocolate sets, create your filling! To make my version, place all ingredients (coconut manna, coconut flakes, strawberries, and goji berries) into a food processor and process until you have a consistency of a damp butter. To thicken, add more coconut. To thin, add more strawberries and/or a drizzle of coconut oil or milk.

    5. Spoon a small dollop of filling into the center of each liner (see above). A heaping teaspoon is the perfect amount!
    6. Set in freezer to set for another 5 minutes.
    7. Remove from freezer, and top each liner with the remaining melted chocolate. A tip: fill them all the way to the top! I tried all different levels, and the ones filled to the top seemed to look the most like "real" butter cups.
    8. Place in freezer to set. These keep well in the refrigerator once set. If you opted to add coconut oil to the melted chocolate, ensure that you have these at room temperatue for a minute or two before biting: you can totally eat them this way (I did!), but if you hold off for just a minute or two, the melt-in-your-mouth consistency is perfect.

    Optional: I had extra filling, so I filled a few liners with the strawberry filling, tossed in some cacao nibs, and covered with more melted chocolate. They came out almost like strawberry cheesecake bites! If that's not your style, why not dip a few strawberries in any extra melted chocolate?!

    Happy Valentine's Day! Remember: Valentine's Day-style surprises like chocolates, flowers, and fancy dinners shouldn't come just one time a year! Surprise your Valentine year-round; why not make these today when your love is least expecting it?!

    If you're in the Philadelphia-area on Valentine's Day, you should absolutely come to my HEARTBEETS DJ RIDE at Flywheel Bryn Mawr! 5:45pm. DJ.ADAM.LINK and I will be tearing it up on the bike! We'd love for you to be our Valentine

    Let's Juice, Yellow Edition

    My love affair with juicing began in 2011 when I worked at lululemon and all the craze was juice cleanses. Being curious and loving everything food-related, I decided to try one.. until I found the cheapest cleanse to cost roughy $100/day (and you were expected to do this for 5 days). I'm not made of money, and I also know how much produce costs. So, being the person that I am (I used to get kicked out of class all of the time for asking "too many questions." This is one of the main reasons that I became a teacher, but that is a story for another time. But, students out there? ASK YOUR QUESTIONS), I decided to create my own juice cleanse. I did already own a juicer (I bought it when my roommate and I were doing P90X in 2009) and enjoyed juicing, but it was never a regular thing.. until after this cleanse.

    If you want to see what a "food blog" looked like in 2010/2011, and probably have a good laugh, take a peak at my juice cleanse post. In summary:

    • I did the entire 5-Day cleanse and spent less than $100 on fresh, local produce.
    • I even had fruits and vegetables left over!
    • I wasn't hungry, but I did crave foods that I could chew.
    • I learned a thing or two about juicing in regards to flavor combinations in addition to realizing that we lose a lot of fiber when we juice, which has led me to live a life full of juices AND smoothies.

    While juice cleanses are a great "quick fix," wellness is a journey. If you have a few days to relax in the warmer months before a really important meeting on the beach, juice cleanses are fantastic. You'll lose weight, your skin will brighten up, and you'll feel lighter. But, the minute you start eating again, you're going to gain the majority of that weight back (you'll keep the glow if you transition back in with raw, awesome foods). My suggestion is to add juices into your normal routine when you'd like a pick me up, a burst of nutrition, a quality snack or meal-on-the-go, or a delicious and healthier mixer for cocktails.

    My favorite way to juice is by color. If it's a gloomy day or I just need a burst of energy, yellow is the way to go. Expect to see every color of the rainbow in the near future!

     

    Yellow Sunshine Juice

    Vegan, Gluten-Free // Serves 1 (large) or 2 (small)

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 Pineapple, skin removed and cored
    • 1 Mango, skin removed and pitted
    • 1 Yellow Pepper, stem and seeds removed
    • 1 Yellow Apple (I used Opal), cored
    • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
    • 1-inch knob of Ginger
    • Optional: a few shakes of ground Turmeric or a small piece of fresh Turmeric

    Method:

    IF USING A JUICER: Simply juice all ingredients together! Garnish with a lemon slice for some extra sunshine! After this photo, I tossed in one of my Greens Cubes and let it slowly melt and swirl into my juice- it was magical!

    IF USING A BLENDER or FOOD PROCESSOR: Blend/combine all ingredients together. Then, strain the pulp using a nut bag or cheesecloth (recommended) or a sieve (if you have a super thin one). If you like thick drinks, you can also just go ahead and leave this as-is (it'll technically be a smoothie, but who cares!). 

    My boyfriend tells me that this is overexposed, but doesn't it just scream sunshine?! I'm fine with it.

    My boyfriend tells me that this is overexposed, but doesn't it just scream sunshine?! I'm fine with it.

    Healthy Nachos?!

    For the majority of my life, I was a 50/50 girl: 50% health nut, 50% eat-whatever-I-want. To me, "it's all about balance" was a way to justify eating way more junk food than I knew I should be eating. I thought it was cute. Mathematics aside, 50/50 is NOT balance. Think about it: can you really give just 50% effort to your training for a big race and expect to place (or even finish)? Can you decide to study only 50% of the material for an important exam and expect to do well?

    In wellness, and in most situations, balance is about doing your best the majority of the time and being okay with the fact that the rest of the time doesn't have to be perfect: rest, learn, and, well, eat-whatever-you-want.

    Ever since I woke up and realized that a green smoothie on Sunday (followed by mimosas and pancakes at brunch) isn't going balance out my five PBRs and large pizza from Saturday, I've made it a point to recreate all of my favorite "treats" into things that I can be happy about eating, and have slowly become more of an 85/15 girl. I feel better, I'm happier, and I'm still eating whatever I want.. like these nachos:

    A friend of mine recently posted a paleo-friendly version of nachos on Instagram, and I loved his idea of using thinly sliced and baked sweet potatoes in place of crisps! Genius. Once I saw it, my brain started spinning with ideas for my own version. Before I knew it, I was in the kitchen. Here's what I came up with:

    • The crisps: sweet potatoes, thinly sliced & baked to perfection. Obviously, not my idea. Thanks, Bob!
    • The meat: my raw/vegan walnut and chickpea* "taco crumbles."
    • The cheese: leftover butternut squash "cheese sauce" from my Healthier Mac & Cheese.
    • The toppings: diced tomatoes, avocado, and jalapenos. Classic, and in no need of an upgrade.

    These nachos are amazing. Aside from being delicious and perfect for a Netflix binge for the big game, they're filling in a good way: they fill you up without making you feel like a slob, and you stay fuller longer (so you're not constantly pausing your episodes or missing plays to raid the cabinets for everything/anything else to eat).

     

    Healthier Nachos

    Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo* // Serves 2

    Ingredients:

    • 2 Sweet Potatoes (I used one purple and one jewel)
    • 1-2 Tablespoons Coconut or Olive Oil
    • 1 Tomato, diced
    • 1 Avocado, diced
    • Handful of Cilantro, to garnish

      (For the "Taco Meat")
      * If you are paleo, omit the chickpeas and sub coconut aminos for the soy sauce.
    • 2 Cups Walnuts
    • 1 Cup Chickpeas
    • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce (I used Nama Shoyu)
    • 2.5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
    • 1 Clove Garlic
    • Spice Blend: 2 Teaspoons Chili Powder, 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin, 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika, 1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric, 1/2 Teaspoon Coriander, a few twists Freshly Ground Pepper
    • 2/3 Teaspoon Kelp with Cayenne (see photo, optional, but awesome! This is in place of salt)

    (For the Butternut Squash Cheese Sauce)
    If you made my Healthier Mac & Cheese, you'll have the perfect amount left over for this!  If you're just making this, you can follow the recipe below, and either cut the recipe down to 1/3 or make it as-is and save the rest for a Mac & Cheese night, to mix into pasta, or to smother on sprouted bread with mashed avocado and Sriracha on a chili night! 

    • 1/2 Medium-Sized Butternut Squash (roughly 2 cups)
    • 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
    • 1 Can Full-Fat Organic Coconut Milk (~13 oz)
    • 1/2 Cup Cashews, soaked for 2+ hours
    • 1/2 Yellow Onion, sliced
    • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
    • 1 Cup Nutritional Yeast
    • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
    • 2 Tablespoons Whole-Grain Mustard (or your favorite Dijon)
    • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
    • 1 teaspoon Turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
    • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper & Sea or Pink Salt
    • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
    • Optional: 2-4 drops of Liquid Smoke for a deeper flavor (this was a last-minute addition and was pretty good!)

    Method:
    (If making the cheese sauce, skip to step 6, begin there, and then jump back up to step 1 once complete)

    1. Preheat your oven to 275.
    2. Wash, dry, and thinly slice the sweet potatoes into rounds. You may opt to use a mandoline if you have one, but be careful!
    3. In a large bowl, toss the rounds with 1-2 Tablespoons Coconut or Olive Oil to coat. 
    4. Place the rounds on lightly greased baking sheets in a single layer and bake, flipping halfway through. Mine took about :30 on each side, but play around! Every oven is different. Once the rounds begin to brown and curl at the edges, remove from heat and set aside to cool and crisp!
    5. In a food processor, combine walnuts, chickpeas, soy sauce, olive oil, spice blend, and garlic and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

    6. If making cheese sauce, follow the directions below. Otherwise, skip to step 7.
        - Begin by roasting your squash (you can choose to boil peeled and cubed squash for 20 minutes to save time, although I love the flavor that roasting brings out of it! Plus, I think it smells like creme brulee!). Preheat your oven to 450.
        - Place halved and seeded squash onto a lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil (about 1 teaspoon). Rub the oil in to cover the squash. Bake for 1 hour, and set aside to cool completely.
        - Warm a skillet over medium heat. Add coconut oil, onions, and garlic, and saute. Stir occasionally. Cook until fragrant, golden, and slightly translucent, about 5+ minutes.
        - If squash has cooled, use an ice-cream scoop or spoon to scoop flesh out of squash. Add to blender.
        - Add the remaining ingredients: coconut milk, cashews, onion and garlic mixture, nutritional yeast, lemon, mustard, and spices to blender and blend to combine. Taste. Adjust seasoning as desired. 

    7. Assemble! Layer the sweet potato crisps at the bottom of your dish, top with walnut and chickpea crumbles, tomatoes, and avocados, and pour on the cheese sauce! Garnish with cilantro and any extra toppings that you love!

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    My Favorite Food Hack + My Favorite Green Smoothie

    "What kind of health coach doesn't like greens?"

    It's true. I don't particularly love greens. I like some of them (okay, just kale), but I kind of really do.. highly dislike the rest. The struggle is real, though, because I understand that they are the single most important thing that I should be eating on a daily basis. Greens are alkalizing, mineralizing, and detoxifying. They provide protein and fiber, and are packed with so many important vitamins and minerals. Greens create that "glow" that everyone craves so much. Simply put, they have it all.

    Here's the thing: I don't believe in eating foods that you hate. Fueling our bodies should be a positive, rewarding relationship, and hate has absolutely no place in it. So, what do I do? I hide them.

    One of my favorite ways to hide my greens is in juices and smoothies. I combine them with flavors that I love to balance out the bitterness that I don't particularly enjoy. This way I am able to pack them into vibrant, nutrient-rich blends in such high quantities that I only have to drink them once a day. But, I have gotten so creative with my ability to hide them that I actually crave these smoothies. How cool is that?

    This smoothie is my favorite for three main reasons:

    1. It is so easy to make.
    2. The color is gorgeous.
    3. It is unbelievably delicious.

    If you're like me, you buy greens at the store with every intention of creating the most amazing, nourishing salads throughout the week. But, every time you prepare food, you pass them over. Before you know it, they're wilted, and you have failed. Again.

    Not true! Do this: toss them into a high-speed blender (I have done this with kale and spinach many times, I haven't tried other greens yet) with coconut water and blend until liquified. The amount of coconut water will vary based upon how many greens you use, but you shouldn't need more than 2/3 cup. Once blended, pour into ice trays and freeze! Now, you have a solid base for all of your green smoothies that will not go bad! You didn't waste any food, and smoothie-prep doesn't get any easier.

    My Favorite Green Smoothie: Citrus Greens

    Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo // Serves 1-2*
    *Fills two of the pictured above 16oz mason jar. Sometimes I drink a giant one as my breakfast, and other times I split it into two smaller jars, one for me and one for my boyfriend. 

    Ingredients:

    • 2/3 Cup Coconut Water
    • 1/2 Avocado, frozen
    • 4-6 Greens Cubes
    • 1 Orange
    • 1/2 Cucumber
    • 1/2 Green Apple
    • 1/2 Grapefruit
    • 1/2 Lime
    • 1-2 tabs Blue-Green Algae (optional, but fantastic addition)

    Method:

    1. Simply blend all ingredients together in a high-speed blender. Add more Greens Cubes or another 1/2 frozen avocado for a thicker consistency or add more coconut water for a thinner consistency. 

    Why You Should Make Your Own (Damn) Protein Bars

    This is your daily reminder to read your labels! So many protein bars out there sound so good it's hard not to buy them all in bulk and switch to an all-bar diet: mint chocolate chip, peanut butter cup, fudge brownie, chocolate-covered pretzel (gets me every time).. the list goes on. The thing is, some of these "healthy options" are made with whole ingredients, and some are not. Some are made with a few, simple, understandable ingredients, and some have an ingredient list way too long to scan over as you grab it and toss it in your backpack on the way to your workout. Some are jam-packed with protein, and some are jam-packed with sugar (yes, some of this sugar is from natural sources like dates or fruit, but way too many others list sucralose, fructose, cane sugar, and various syrups as their sugar sources. Or, they use fruit, but it is sweetened. Yes, sweetened fruit sadly exists). There are two fantastic ways to know if you are getting a high-quality bar: you can read the label or you can make your own.

    Aside from a nutritional standpoint, making your own bars saves money, saves waste material (think about all of the protein bar wrappers that you, as just one person, have thrown away in your life), and potentially even saves time. There has been many a busy day that I had to make a special trip out of my way to grab a protein bar between classes so I had something to eat. When I was working 15 hour days, I did this at least one time a day, if not more. And usually, when rushing around, you don't have time to find a Whole Foods and read the labels.. you go into the closest gas station or bodega and grab what looks the healthiest (or the most enticing). Plus, you know you're going to like the flavor that you choose because you choose what goes in it. Nothing is worse than scarfing down a bad "fudge brownie" bar (how do they mess that up?!).

    I've made way too many varieties of protein bars to list, so expect this to be the first in a series of protein bar options. This specific one was made to mimic one that I tried and really loved recently: a raw peanut butter and jelly protein bar with only four ingredients. It was delicious. It also didn't really have that much protein, but did have 19g of sugar. I knew I could do better.

    I used the same ingredients listed on the package (dates, nuts, unsweetened dried fruit) and protein powder. I decided to do a comparison of my bar to the original bar and three other popular "healthy" bars (see below). I did my best to cut my bars into an average size of the other four bars, and made sure that all of my calculations (don't worry, I'm actually a math teacher!) were as correct as possible:

    • "Bar 1" is available at Whole Foods Market and all of the local natural foods stores. It was my all-time favorite protein bar (and I'm sure that we will meet again). I used to eat at least 5 a week. Sometimes, I would eat two a day. It tastes like a candy bar (now I understand why).
    • "Bar 2" is available everywhere. You have eaten this bar. In fact, the most unhealthy person that you know has eaten this bar. It comes in about 5,000 flavors, but for this comparison I chose to use the "Peanut Butter & Jelly" variety.
    • "Bar 3" is the bar that I had, loved, and based this recipe and post off of. It is the most well-known "raw" bar on the market, and is available at Whole Foods Market and all of the local natural foods stores. You have probably had this bar. I used the Peanut Butter & Jelly variety for this comparison.
    • "Bar 4" is another bar that is available pretty much everywhere: Whole Foods Market, natural foods stores, gas stations, Starbucks.. you name it. This is another one that I guarantee that you have had many of, and another that comes in many, many flavors. For this comparison, I chose to compare my bar to their "Peanut Butter & Jelly" variety.

    It's unbelievable how much junk makes it's way into "healthy" foods! Also, why does sugar come in thousands of names? Now that you know better, try these: they're raw, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, and Whole 30 approved, and are super easy to make. They're also trainer boyfriend-approved (I got to eat two of the twelve)!

     

    Easy Homemade Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein Bars

    Raw, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo // Makes 12 Bars 

    Ingredients:

    • 2 Cups Raw Nuts*
    • 2 Scoops (~1 Cup) Protein Powder (check your labels! I used Vega One)
    • ~1 Cup Dates (I used 19 dates)
    • 1/4 Cup Dried, Unsweetened Cherries
    • 4 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (you can sub Water or 2 T Coconut Oil & 2 T Water if you'd like)
    • Optional: A few shakes of Cinnamon and/or Unsweetened Cacao


      *I used a mixture of Almonds (1/2 Cup), Brazil Nuts (1/2 Cup), Hazelnuts (1/2 Cup), Peanuts (1/4 Cup), & Cashews (1/4 Cup) but you can absolutely use just one kind: I just had a lot of extras taking up space on my shelf!). If you are doing Whole 30, skip the peanuts!

    Method:

    1. Process the nuts into little pieces in a food processor.
    2. Add the protein powder and dates (and cinnamon &/or cacao if using, I added two shakes of cinnamon because I saw it on my counter) and process until well combined. 
    3. Slowly add the coconut oil (or water) to the food processor until the mixture looks sticky and begins to pull away from the sides. You may use more or less, but 4 Tablespoons was perfect for me.
    4. Scoop mixture onto a parchment-lined 8x8 baking sheet, and press firmly to flatten evenly.
    5. Set in freezer for :45 minutes - 1 hour.
    6. Cut into bars or fun shapes and enjoy! These stay together nicely in the freezer or in the refrigerator, and travel well in Tupperware.