Easy superfood dark chocolate bark. (5 minutes!)

chocolate bark vegan pomegranate superfood

I have been making a batch of this chocolate bark every week and keeping it in the fridge, enjoying a few pieces each night as an after dinner treat.  Silky and rich, with tons of different flavor nuances just like a good wine.  With lots of polyphenols and antioxidants, dark chocolate is a healthy treat.  Just make sure you’re eating 70% or higher cacao content to ensure that you’re reaping all the healthy benefits chocolate has to offer.  Cacao has a specific antioxidant, epicatechin, that lowers the risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.  Some researchers even consider epicatechin an essential vitamin.  It reduces inflammation, improves blood flow, and elevates nitric oxide in the blood ( this is what Viagra does- no wonder chocolate is considered a love food) .

This bark is infinitely customizable and only takes about 5 minutes to put together. The one I made today was sesame seed (gives a savory quality to it, almost like chocolate covered pretzels), coconut flake, hemp seeds, pomegranate arils, flaky sea salt, and almonds.  Almonds are my favorite nut to use because they give the biggest crunch payoff.  Get a pretty tin to put it in and it makes a wonderful last minute gift, too.

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Superfood Dark Chocolate Bark.

8 ounces or so (2-3 bars) dark chocolate, preferably 70% or above and organic (I prefer Scharffenbergers (not organic but no-gmo soy lecithin) or Green&Blacks)

Any or all of these healthy toppings:

hemp seeds

coconut flakes (toasted or not)

sesame seeds

almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or cashews

pomegranate arils, freeze dried raspberries or strawberries, dried cherries, goji berries, etc.

flaky sea salt (like Maldon)

Rig a double boiler: fill up a large saucepan halfway with water, then place a heatproof mixing bowl over the pot.  Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Start the water boiling and chop up your chocolate.  It doesnt have to be super tiny pieces, just a rough chop will do fine.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (aka the best invention ever) or parchment paper.  Now put all your chocolate in the bowl of your double boiler.  Stir with a rubber spatula until thoroughly melted.  Pour your chocolate onto your lined pan.  Spread the chocolate out with your spatula until it is the thickness you desire.  I like it thin so I spread it out a lot.  Sprinkle all your desired toppings over.  Pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden up.  Peel the chocolate carefully off of the silpat/parchment and break into coarse pieces.  Store in the fridge or freezer for a snappier chocolate, or keep at room temperature (no hotter!) in an airtight container.  If you give it as a gift it would be a good idea to seperate the pieces with parchment paper so they dont stick together.

My personal favorite: Scharffenberger 70% cacao.  Their 85% is AMAZING too.  Rich, nuanced chocolatey flavor with NO acrid/bitter flavors that I taste in many dark chocalates from other brands.  Green & Blacks is my second choice, organic, and more widely available.

scharffenberger bittersweet

Enjoy!

Love,

A.

Creamy berry-almond breakfast smoothie.

berry almond butter smoothie

I have been loving this smoothie for breakfast lately!  I love oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast, but sometimes I just want something sweet and creamy.

This smoothie takes 2 minutes to make in the morning (no cutting fruit or anything!) so its ideal for when you’re in a rush but want something good for you too.  It has tons of healthy, filling fats from the almond butter and antioxidants from the berries.

I equally love this smoothie made with a frozen banana instead of the berries.  It is seriously like a milkshake this way- the banana makes it super creamy and sweet.

The hint of almond extract in this is so delicious.  It elevates the other ingredients and makes a basic smoothie a little more fancy.  If you’re not a fan of almond flavor (like my husband), try vanilla extract instead.

Almond breakfast smoothie. (serves 1)

1c unsweetened almond milk

1/2 c frozen berries OR 1 large-ish frozen banana

1 heaping tablespoon almond butter

5 drops stevia OR sweetener of your choice

1/8t almond extract OR 1/2t vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!

Much Love,

A.

P.s. Kids are into it too 😉

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Simple kale fried rice.

kale fried rice

I love kale.  Its probably my favorite winter green.  Something about it is very comforting, very grounding.  I have a hard time digesting it raw, so I usually cook it lightly and it tastes so delicious.  My kids, on the other hand, will only really eat greens in smoothie form and mild spinach is their favorite.  Im not complaining- my kids are very adventurous eaters- but I would like to get a little variety in them now and then.  Its so beneficial to rotate your greens to avoid a buildup of anti-nutrients and to get a wide variety of nutrients.  Kale is something I grow every fall/winter and it is forgiving of a black thumb!  You can even grow it in a pot.  Also, kale is an amazing, inexpensive nutritional powerhouse that has a pretty mild taste when cooked- unlike, ahem- swiss chard, my most hated green.

This very simple, loose “recipe” is so delicious and will easily adapt to whatever you have around.  This is the only way I can get the kids and husband to eat kale.  Try it at your house and see how it goes over!

kale fried rice.

1 large head of kale, stems removed (I prefer smooth dinosaur kale but use whatever type you like)

leftover brown rice (crucial- freshly cooked rice will NOT be the same)

2 cloves garlic, minced (mince and let sit for 10 minutes to increase allicin, a protective compound in garlic)

1/4c minced onion or shallot

3T coconut oil

2 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal

Tamari or soy sauce or coconut aminos– adjust amount to your liking.  I probably used about 1/8c.

Sesame oil, a tablespoon or two

Sesame seeds, for sprinkling on top

Optional add ins: minced carrot, edamame, frozen peas, chopped green beans, minced broccoli, beans sprouts, cilantro- whatever veggies you/your kids love!  Just make sure any veggies are chopped small so that they will cook in time.

First, chiffonade your kale- the thinner the better.  The best way to do this is to stack all the leaves on top of one another, loosely roll them up, and slice very thinly across.

Heat up the coconut oil over medium heat, add the onions or shallots, saute for a few minutes until they are translucent, and then add the garlic.  Stir and saute for about 30 seconds or so until garlic is fragrant- take care not to burn/brown it or it will be bitter.

Add in the cold brown rice and stir it all up.  Turn up the heat to medium high and let cook without stirring for about 3 minutes.  You want the rice to crisp up a bit but not burn.  Stir the rice, then pile the kale (and any optional veggies youre adding) on top and let cook for another 3 minutes without stirring.  Add in the soy sauce, sesame oil, and green onions and stir well.  Let cook, stirring every minute until the kale/veggies are softened to your liking (I did about 2 minutes but feel free to cook more)  Let cool slightly, spoon into bowls, and top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Note: This keeps and reheats very well so feel free to make a large batch for the week!

*A quick note:  I have a seemingly endless line of things demanding my attention in this current time of my life.  However, I love the blog and will continue to update it as much as possible.  I am shooting for once a week posts on Monday night, maybe more.  I have a few posts I want to do about natural healing and remedies I have been experimenting with.  Please bear with me as I adjust.  Thank you for reading!  I appreciate all of you.

Much Love,

A.

kale

Asparagus with an orange-almond pan sauce.

asparagus orange almond thyme roasted

I dont know about you guys, but I LOVE asparagus.  Locally grown asparagus has a short season around here, so when its available I like to eat it all the time.  Its a great source of Vitamin K, B vitamins, and folate AND its on the clean 15 for pesticide residue.  The way I normally always eat it is oven roasted because its fast and easy and requires minimal cleanup.  But tonight I was craving something a little fancier.  Thumbing through my Cooks Illustrated (did I mention this is the best standard cookbook ever?) I found this little gem: a quick orange-almond pan sauce for steamed asparagus.  Uh, yes please?  This came out so delicious: a little citrusy, a little sweet, and a nice textural crunch. It looked beautiful too- would be great for a dinner party side.

orange almond thyme asparagus cooks illustrated

Pan steamed asparagus with an orange-almond sauce: (serves 4)

You will need:

2.5T olive oil

1/4c sliced almonds

1/2 cup orange juice

zest of one small orange

1T white wine

2t minced fresh thyme

2T minced shallot

1t white vinegar

2 bunches asparagus

salt and pepper, to taste

Drizzle 1T olive oil in a large skillet and heat until oil is shimmering.  Add almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until almonds are golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add orange juice, wine, and 1t thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is slightly thickened, 5-7 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and stir in 2T minced shallot and 1t white vinegar.  Spoon sauce into a bowl and set aside.  Rinse skillet and wipe dry.  Add 1.5T olive oil to skillet and heat until oil is shimmering.  Add half of asparagus to pan and then add the other half, pointing the second halfs spears the opposite way.  This allows the asparagus to cook more evenly.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Remove lid and plate the asparagus.  Spoon the sauce over the asparagus and zest the orange over it.  Sprinkle the rest of the chopped thyme and serve!

 

Also, my basic everyday recipe for asparagus is below if you’re interested:

Oven-Roasted Asparagus:

Preheat oven to  400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and place washed and trimmed asparagus spears on top.  Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to evenly distribute the oil onto each spear.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, pop in oven and roast for 6-15 minutes, depending on how thick your spears are and how well done you like your asparagus.  Keep checking it and take it out when its to your liking.  I like to squeeze a little lemon on top after its cooked.  Also I sometimes throw a few whole green onions in with the asparagus while it cooks.  They come out a little charred and have a lot of deep flavor.  Cut them all up and toss with some wheat berries or brown rice, avocado, and herbs = a super quick and tasty lunch.

roasted oven asparagus green onion

lemon-lime chia A G U A F R E S C A

chia seed limeade agua fresca natural gatorade

Its been a rough couple of weeks over here, hence the lack of posts.  Storms, eye infections, sprained toes and general want-to-pull-your-hair-out mayhem that comes with having two small children.  This week has been mostly sunny and fairly warm (up to 77 one day!!) and all the fruit trees are budding out.  It seems that spring has come, albeit early.

The warm weather has got me craving a some cool drinks and I have been making a staple of mine- chia limeade.  Chia has so many health benefits (calcium, fiber, omega-3s, antioxidants) and is great to fill you up a little in between meals.  I drink it a lot at work between food breaks.  This drink is easy to make and keeps well in the fridge for a few days.  It is fabulous to take on a hike or run or to drink during/after a workout as it has fiber, water, simple carbs and electrolytes (a great replacement for the artificial gatorade people at the gym like to chug)

chia seed limeade organic natural sugar free gatorade

chia limeade (makes 2 servings, 16 ounces total)Juice of 1 lime + 1 lemon

3 soft medjool dates OR maple syrup to taste, or even splenda to make it sugar-free

2 cups of pure water

pinch of salt, or to taste (optional, this is for electrolyte value if using as a workout recovery drink)

2.5 T chia seeds

1. IF USING DATES, soak them in the water for 5 minutes.  Then pour the dates and the water, plus the citrus juice and salt into a blender and blend thoroughly until smooth.  If you are very picky about texture you may want to strain the resulting mixture.  If your blender is good it should be totally smooth though.  Pour mixture into a mason jar.  IF USING MAPLE SYRUP, simply mix it with the water, juice and salt in a mason jar.

2.  Add the chia seeds to your jar, screw the top on TIGHTLY and shake shake shake shake!  This is crucial to not getting any lumps.  Let it sit for a minute and then shake vigorously again.  Place in the fridge and leave it for at least 30 minutes so the chia seeds can hydrate.

3. ENJOY!  Shake thoroughly before you drink it.  Since it is totally natural the contents will settle to the bottom.

To switch up the flavors:

berry:  blend a handful of berries with the liquid before adding chia.

melon: blend a few chunks of melon with the liquid before adding chia.

coconut: use coco water instead of plain water

hibiscus: brew hibiscus tea, let cool and use instead of water (this makes a lovely pink red color and is full of anti-oxidants, you may be familiar with hibiscus through Starbuck’s ubiquitous passion tea.)

tamarind: add a teaspoon or two of tamarind paste to the liquid and mix thoroughly before adding chia.

Much love,

A.

Gingery sesame-soy vinaigrette + a simple salad to serve it on.

asian carrot romaine apple salad sesame gingerI have been craving salad after salad this winter.  I think it is because I crave the vibrant colors and raw textures of summer produce.  Bright and colorful salads are a sweet spot in winter.  Packed with color and therefore nutrition, they are a great way to get your family’s veggies in!  Serve with a simple soup, baked sweet potatoes, or a quinoa dish and you have a complete meal.  This is a simple and quick salad to put together as a side yet it looks beautiful and it is so good!

The dressing is a sweet ginger-soy vinaigrette that keeps well in the fridge.  A few years ago I started making my own salad dressings and I’ve never looked back.  They are SO much more delicious than any store-bought dressing and you know exactly what goes in them!  Pictured below is the leftover dressing I had after using it on 2 adult salads and 1 kid salad.  Probably about a cup leftover.  You could easily double the recipe so you could keep it on hand for future salad-eating.

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Sesame-ginger vinaigrette:

1/3c rice vinegar (unseasoned)

1T sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

small piece of ginger, minced (about 1/2-1t, depending on your taste)

1T toasted sesame seeds

2 1/2T soy sauce

1/4c brown sugar

1/3c oil, I used avocado oil

1 thinly sliced green onion

1T fresh orange or tangerine juice (optional-if you dont have any on hand, dont sweat it)

Whisk all ingredients together and pour into a mason jar to store.  Oil will separate so make sure to give it a good shake before you use it otherwise you’ll only be getting oil.

I served this over a simple salad of romaine, sliced rainbow carrots, chopped pink lady apple, and a little thinly sliced red onion.  It would also play well with Napa cabbage, asian pear, tangerines/oranges, cucumber, avocado, or spinach.  Use whatever you have on hand!  The beauty of cooking is in experimenting and making the recipe your own.  Enjoy!

Love, A.

Roasted brussels sprouts with homemade sweet chili sauce.

brussels sprouts roasted sweet chili

Brussels sprouts have been my latest obsession.  They are delicious, healthy and so cute!  There is a booth at my farmers market that sells huge beautiful stalks of them for five dollars.  I have been buying them every week and roasting them with a little oil, salt, and pepper.  So simple yet so delicious.  I love to roast them because it brings out a little sweetness in them and they retain their lovely texture (and nutrients) this way.  My mom used to boil them when I was a kid and I hated them because they were so soggy.

I came across a recipe for sweet chili glazed roasted brussels  over at Bleubirdblog.com and decided I had to try them this way.  They are amazing and a real hit around here with everyone.  I have made them 3 times so far and plan on making more this week.  Sweet, salty, soft but a little crunchy and browned in spots, they are a must try.

Roasted brussels sprouts with sweet chili sauce.

Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half (use however many you’d like- I used about 5 cups)

1-2T oil of choice

Salt and Pepper

2 heaping Tablespoons sweet chili sauce (recipe follows)

2t fish sauce (totally optional, tastes great without it)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or foil).  Toss brussels sprouts in a large bowl with the oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread brussels sprouts out on the pan and place in oven.  Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the sprouts are browned a little on the edges.

While the sprouts are roasting, make your sweet chili sauce (or use store-bought).  I make it at home because its super easy and I know exactly whats in it.

Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

3 Red Fresno chilis (jalapenos work just as well but the sauce wont be red), stems removed and coarsely chopped- remove the seeds if you want it less spicy

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/4c white vinegar

1/2c sugar

3/4c water

1t salt

1T cornstarch

2T water

Blend the chilis, garlic, 3/4c water, sugar, vinegar and salt in a blender, pulsing as you go.  You don’t want it to be totally smooth.  You want little pieces of chili and garlic still intact.  When you have reached the desired consistency, pour it into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Mix the cornstarch and 2T water in a small bowl until fully combined.  Add mixture to the pan and return to a boil, whisking constantly until mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes.   Remove from heat.

Take 2T (heaping) of the sweet chili sauce and mix it withe the fish sauce, if using.  Remove the brussels sprouts from the oven after they are done and toss them with the chili sauce mixture.  Return them to the pan and roast in the oven for another 5 minutes.  Take them out and serve!  I ate mine with a herb and pepitas quinoa and some cucumber and avocado dressed with lime.

roasted brussels sprouts quinoa herb

Macrobiotic rainbow bowl + a tahini-soy dressing

macrobiotic bowl vegan

This bowl is seriously amazing.  Its fast, nutritious, vegan, gluten-free, and can be raw.  Best of all, you can use whatever veggies you have in your fridge to make it.  If you want it totally raw, omit the rice.  It’s all good- the more, the merrier.  What unifies it all together is an amazing tahini-soy dressing with LOADS of umami flavor.  I had leftover sauce and ended up dipping raw veggies in it the next day.  YUM.  Both my kids were loving it too.  Enough said.  The sauce recipe comes from a website that I love for raw vegan inspiration: rawfoodrecipes.com

In the bowl:

Julienned carrots

Pea shoots

Red cabbage

Microgreens

Wakame seaweed

Brown rice

Avocado

Other things that would be amazing: kale/spinach, legumes, kelp noodles, zucchini noodles, sweet potato, kimchi, sauerkraut, cucumber, asparagus…really anything.

“Knock-off Dragon Sauce”

  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 clove garlic

Blend all ingredients until smooth and drizzle over your bowl!

Arent these turnips and carrots just gorgeous? (this photo is completely unedited by the way!  Nature in all her glory.)

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I packed them for a snack at work and dipped them in the leftover sauce.  My co workers think I’m quite weird with all my “different” veggies and fruits.  Many of them had never heard of a turnip.  I think they’re weird for eating the same crap all the time.

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