Tagged Thanksgiving

RECIPE: The BEST Cranberry Sauce (with a twist!) – Healthy, Vegan, Gluten Free

The holidays are upon us! A time for festive decoration, plenty of social events with coworkers, friends, and family, and a plethora of seasonal food favorites to enjoy.

If you’ve visited this blog before (or are subscribed to my YouTube channel), you have already gotten a taste for some of my go-to recipes for this time of year like:

I recently realized that the popular side dish and condiment, Cranberry Sauce, was missing from my growing arsenal of holiday recipes! So, now is the time to fix that.

Not only is the following recipe incredibly easy and with minimal ingredients, but it has an extra twist of flavor thanks to the mango juice, spices, and alternate sugar (like coconut). Plus, including apples and pears bumps up the nutritional value by increasing the vitamins, fiber, and flavonols to make your body one happy machine.

 

img_0689

 

Whatever you do – I beg you – never, ever choose those processed tin jars filled with a solid cylinder of cranberry jam. Then again, I can assure you that once you make this recipe you will never want to go back.

Without further ado, here’s this simple and amazing recipe! Try it out and let me know what you think… and feel free to share the link with others, too :)

 


The BEST Cranberry Sauce… with a twist!

Ingredients

  • 1¼ cups coconut sugar, light brown sugar, and/or cane sugar (I will usually use a third of each or whatever I have on hand)
  • 16 oz fresh cranberries (two 8-oz bags)
  • One Fuji apple, peeled and chopped
  • One Bartlett pear (slightly ripe), peeled and chopped
  • One cup mango nectar or juice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg or allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Rinse and drain cranberries. Measure out the mango juice.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, and mango nectar to a boil on high heat. Cranberries should begin to pop and coagulate with the liquid.
  3. Lower heat and let simmer for 10 minutes before adding chopped apple and pear. Also add spices.
  4. Let simmer together another 5 minutes or so, until all incorporated (but apple and pear should maintain their form and not mush up).
  5. Serve warm or let cool and refrigerate overnight if you prefer serving cold cranberry jam… It’s delicious both ways! This will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a week, though I’ve never had it last longer than a few days :)

Steps in Photos

img_0690

img_0691

img_0694

img_0697

img_0696

img_0698

img_0701

 

ENJOY!

 

Rich, Delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake (RECIPE) – Easy, no bake, dairy-free, vegan!

This is one of my go-to recipes when it comes to last minute requests for dessert, which is exactly what happened on Christmas this year. I was asked to bring a dessert the night before the big day – well after all the grocery stores were closed. Seeing as I normally have all of the ingredients on hand that are needed to put this Pumpkin Cheesecake together, it was easy breezy.

Too delicious to set up for a food photo shoot. Paper plate it is.
Too delicious to set up for a food photo shoot. Paper plate it is.

This dessert turns out super rich, indulgent, creamy, and cheesecake-y… despite not having any dairy whatsoever. Unless you let everyone know this is a plant-based dish, no one will guess that cashews are the “cheese” up in this cake. Not to mention, there are virtually no dirty dishes, give or take a few measuring utensils, because everything goes straight into the blender with no bowls or mixing necessary. It’s also fast to prepare since all you do is blend for a couple of minutes until it becomes nice and creamy.

The hard part is the waiting time for this to set, which still isn’t even that bad at only an hour or two.

Yaaaas this Pumpkin Cheesecake deserves a porcelain plate. But taste > aesthetics.
Yaaaas this Pumpkin Cheesecake deserves a porcelain plate. But taste > aesthetics.

All that said, it’s important to remember this is still an indulgent dessert. Just because it is made with more nutritious and quality ingredients than any store bought (or even traditionally made) cheesecake, doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all to have a handful of giant slices and nudge it off as okay since it’s “healthy“. I mention this because whenever I concoct any food things – whether it is a main dish, appetizer, dessert, drink, anything – I noticed many people assume it is a “healthier” or “lighter” version and, therefore, it’s okay to overindulge. This isn’t the case, as the macro-nutrients (namely, fat and sugar) do still add up which means that sometimes my versions aren’t necessarily lower-calorie versions. They’re just better quality options than others.

Treat any dessert like dessert, and any main dish as a main dish. Eat until your just about satisfied and avoid stuffing yourself. Treat this Pumpkin Cheesecake like you’d treat any special dessert or high-fat-high-sugar treat. (Hint: That means it may be best for your waistline to keep this recipe in your arsenal for potlucks or special date nights. Once you taste it, you’ll see why… It’s really freaking good and tough not to eat the whole thing yourself!)

20151215_123102
High quality ingredients does NOT always equal lower calorie treats!

Now, get to makin’… and make sure you enjoy each bite!

EASY, DELICIOUS PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

For the filling:

  • 2 cups raw cashews (soaked in cool water overnight, or use boiled water and quick-soak for an hour)
  • ½ cup 100% pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • Juice from one lemon (about 3 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Scant ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • A good pinch of salt
  • tsp. Chinese five-spice powder *this is my secret addition for pumpkin pie, too! Adds a touch of special!
  • Optional: ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted (to sprinkle on top when serving)
  1. Place all of the above ingredients (except coconut flakes) in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour the creamy filling into a prepared graham-style pie crust, or into a raw crust (recipe below).
  3. Place in the freezer for ~2 hours or until solid.
  4. To serve, remove from freezer and let thaw enough to cut through (about 20 minutes before serving). To avoid the cheesecake from getting too soft, don’t leave out for more than an hour and keep any uneaten portion stored in freezer (it may get too soft in fridge). This will easily keep in the freezer for up to a month, I imagine… Though it’s never lasted more than a week at my house!
  5. ENJOY! :)

NO-BAKE, RAW PIE CRUST RECIPE

  • 1 cup raw almonds (or 1 1/4 cup almond flour) *Pecans would be great, too!
  • 1 cup of packed, pitted Medjool dates (about 15 medium sized dates)
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/16 tsp ground ginger
  • Needed: A spring form pan, if possible, Otherwise a pie dish or even 8×8 baking dish works.
  1. If using a spring form pan, line the bottom with parchment or wax paper (and cut into a circle).
  2. If using whole almonds, place them in a food processor and grind until it becomes a coarse flour (photo below). *If you’re using the almond flour, skip to next step.
  3. Remove ground almonds from food processor and set aside in a bowl.
  4. Place dates in food processor and process until they soften and one big sticky ball forms (photo below).
  5. Add ground almonds back in with salt, cinnamon, and ginger, and continue processing until the texture becomes small crumbles that easily stick together when you press them between your fingers.
  6. Pour the crust mixture into the spring form pan (or pie dish, or baking dish), and press down with your fingers until it covers the entire area (photo below). *Wet your fingers with a little bit of water if you find it’s too sticky.
  7. Pour in your favorite pie filling (like the Pumpkin Cheesecake above) and you’re good to go!
Line your spring form pan…

20151215_122852

Grind up those almonds…

20151215_123606

Process the dates until a ball forms…

20151215_124813

Add ground almonds back in and process to reach this consistency…

20151215_125042

Press crust into bottom of pan…

20151215_125622

Pour in the pumpkin cheesecake filling and smooth with the back of a spatula…

20151215_132748

let set, cut, serve, and enjoy! :)

20151215_193757

Classic Sweet Potato Casserole with a twist (RECIPE) – Dairy free, Vegan, Delicious!

Did you know that the delicious and sugary Thanksgiving dish we know and love – the sweet potato casserole with browned marshmallows on top – was created by the marshmallow lobby in the early 1900’s? (You can learn a little more here.)

20151126_164036

I know, that may slightly tear away some magic from this classic dish. But the fact is, so many popularized, American foods that aren’t actually nutritious or beneficial – such as marshmallows – have simply become what they are due to smart advertising. Instead of getting too into the psychology and economics involved in the food industry (and further crapping on anyone’s marshmallow-loving parade), let’s just learn a little bit about marshmallows and where they came from.

Originating in ancient Egypt, marshmallows were a honey-sweetened candy made using the sap from the marshmallow root plant. It was soft and chewy, and used medicinally for ailments like sore throats.

Fast forward a few hundred years to the 19th century, and the labor-intensive methods of extracting marshmallow root sap made manufacturers come up with new processes (and involve new ingredients) which brought us to how we know the marshmallow today – as a light, fluffy, campfire treat which also tops the holiday sweet potato casserole.

Today’s version of the confection no longer contains the source ingredient of it’s name – marshmallow root – but instead, it is made up of a stabilizing protein such as gelatin (or agar, in Vegan versions) and sucrose (often with high fructose corn syrup).

20151205_235408

That said, there is nothing wrong with incorporating the better quality versions of marshmallows when making this crowd-pleasing dish once or twice a year. I use Dandies mini marshmallows, which contain no corn syrup, no gelatin, and no genetically modified ingredients. And, yes, they taste EXACTLY like your classic, name brand marshmallows – if not better.

As for the secret ingredient that gives this casserole a twist? Well, that would be mango juice of course.

20151205_235356

Most “classic” recipes call for heavy cream, which is meant to contribute creamy richness. It doesn’t really alter the flavor, but it does bring in a LOT of unnecessary fat and calories. You won’t find heavy cream or ANY dairy within this recipe, which has been a hit at many-a-holiday-dinner time and time again.

A Helpful Hint: If you choose go to back to your traditional sweet potato casserole recipe after trying this one (dare I say, doubtful?) try substituting canned coconut milk for your heavy cream. Though it will not lessen the overall calories or fat content, it will maintain the same creamy consistency and add a complimentary touch of flavor. All while being more plant-based friendly and allergen free.

If you just want to make a great sweet potato mash, you can stop before step 4 below and enjoy as is. It is just as delicious (and plenty sweet) without the marshmallow topping!

Sometimes the deliciousness can't wait for a photo opp, as shown here.
Sometimes the deliciousness can’t wait for a photo opp, as proven by the devoured portion above.

CLASSIC SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE RECIPE (with a twist)

  • 3 lbs Sweet Potatoes (about 4 large or 5 medium spuds)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mango juice/nectar *I’m sure pineapple or orange juice would work, too… but try to find mango!
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut sugar or light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, chopped
  • Half a bag (5 oz.) of quality marshmallows *I use homemade, locally made, or Dandies mini-marshmallows
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  2. Wash the sweet potatoes in the sink and pat dry. Pierce the tops of the potatoes with a fork, 2-3 times, before placing (holes up) on the baking sheet. Put in the oven for about 45-55 minutes, until sweet potatoes are fork tender and syrup begins to ooze out from the holes. Remove from oven and let cool until they aren’t too hot to be handled (usually 15-20 minutes).
  3. Lower the oven to 375 degrees F. Grab your 8×8 glass baking dish (metal is fine too, I’m sure – and 9×9 would also work). Peel the potatoes, putting the yummy orange flesh straight into the baking dish. Mash well with a potato masher or large fork. Add the vanilla extract, mango juice, sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt. Mash and mix together until all incorporated.
  4. Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to even out top of the mash. Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly all over the surface. Then do the same with the marshmallows.
  5. Place on center rack in oven and bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes, or until marshmallows begin to turn golden brown. Remove, let cool slightly, and enjoy!

*You can also make the dish ahead of time. Simply cover the mash in the baking dish after step 3 and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When ready to bake, remove from fridge for about 20 minutes to take the chill off and preheat the oven. Then add pecans and marshmallows, and bake as instructed above!

20151126_164045
Impromptu dinner paparazzi – starring the BEST sweet potato casserole!

Slow-Cooker Thanksgiving Chili

I know we are already well-beyond our tryptophan comas, but I still had to share this delicious and EASY recipe with everyone since it got such rave reviews from the members at the Anytime Fitness where I train and lend a helping hand.

Rather than re-typing it out on here, I attached it in the same handout format that I originally made. This way, you can just click on and print to size (either in a new window, or right click and hit “print”). Easy, breezy.

Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below! And, of course, Happy-Deliciously-Belated-Thanksgiving!

Super easy, super delicious, super festive ANY time of year!
Super easy, super delicious, super festive ANY time of year!

Exposure, updates, and Thanksgiving.. Oh my!

This is a little bit delayed as I have admittedly been slacking on keeping up with my posts, but the mission to Open a Trader Joe’s in Ormond Beach, Florida has gotten some more exposure recently thanks to the Daytona Beach News Journal!

 

I know, the bath-salts kind of stole my thunder…

 

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read and sign the petition at the page linked above. Also, like our page on Facebook to get updates and, as always, share with your friends. As of right now we are at nearly 1200 signatures… and the initial goal was 1000! The new goal is to keep on obtaining as many signatures and as much support as possible to have this lovely, health-happy petition ready to send out in the first week of December. I don’t know about you guys, but I feel really awesome about this. We are definitely proving to be a strong force of a community that knows the benefit of healthful, affordable eating. I honestly couldn’t be more excited and grateful for each and every person backing this little idea I had a few short months ago. I’ve said it a hundred times, but each of every one of you are more awesome than you know.

 

In other waaay less exciting news, I’ve updated a few different pages on this site (including the About Us, Personalized Services, and Links & Love tabs) and invite you to browse around and check things out. I will be the first to admit I’m no graphic designer or webmaster, so if things aren’t aligned or formatted correctly, it’s definitely a work in progress! I may even change the entire design of the site to make it easier to navigate and more appealing. If you have any suggestions, definitely don’t hesitate to contact me as I am always open to new and improved ideas from those who are actually web-design savvy! :)

 

Besides that, I am making it a point to have at least one weekly blog post beginning now. Get ready for new recipes, interesting research finds, entertaining pictures, my venture updates, contests/giveaways, and other random thoughts I can’t help but share. One thing is for sure, I hope to brighten your day, encourage contemplation, and share love with each and every one of you.

 

By the way, is Thanksgiving Live! on Food Network the equivalent to the Super Bowl to anyone else, or am I just that much of a culinary nerd? Coincidentally, I came across this today…

 

Personally, my reaction involves more drooling less yelling.. But you get the idea..

 

Everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving and thank YOU for all you do, because you ARE amazing!