How much fiber are you actually getting a day? It’s recommended that we get between 25-35 grams, but most Americans are consuming half that amount. I thought I was doing pretty well until I tracked my meals for a few days and realized I was coming up a bit short. Even I have to take a moment once in a while to re-evaluate my choices when I’ve slipped into the same daily routine. So to kickstart our day, I came up with a breakfast that provides a major boost first thing in the morning.
Meal prepping for a client a few weeks ago who follows an Ayurvedic diet, I had an idea to turn my favorite ~golden milk latte~ into a chia pudding breakfast. It was immediately client-approved at first bite, and now it’s here on the blog for you to enjoy, too!
This recipe makes 6 portions that are 1 1/2 cups each. See recipe notes for how to make just one portion.
Why is fiber important?
Long story short, a high-fiber diet is associated with good heart health, is essential for digestive health, and can reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Basically, the longer waste stays in your body, the more toxins you absorb, so not eliminating regularly can really increase your toxic load and lead to illness. Fiber is the key that gets the engine moving.
Keep in mind that if you’re going from 0 grams daily straight to 30, you may experience some digestive upset as your body isn’t used to that amount of fiber just yet. Track your food for a few days to get an idea of how much fiber you’re eating normally, then adjust your portions from there.
Ever seen a chia pet? Yup, they’re the same seeds that grow in your favorite terra cotta Bob Ross pot.
Little did you know that Bob Ross’s hair was full of nutritious secrets: A whopping 10g of fiber per ounce, along with 4g protein, enough omega-3 fatty acids to nearly rival a salmon fillet, and plenty of free-radical-fighting antioxidants. This combination of fiber, protein, and fat makes a well-rounded breakfast that will help keep you satiated until lunch and keep cravings at bay.
Chia seeds also contain over 4x the amount of calcium of cow’s milk, so don’t think you’re missing out by letting the seeds soak in non-dairy alternatives (my favorite is coconut milk).
9 cups homemade* almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
2-3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 ½ cups chia seeds
Place almond milk in a large bowl. Add 2 tbsp maple syrup, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon and whisk until combined.
Stir in chia seeds. Let sit, and whisk every 5 minutes for about 15 minutes, or until chia seeds are suspended evenly in the liquid and mixture has thickened. Taste and add up to 1 tbsp more maple syrup if needed.
* To make your own almond milk, blend 1 cup almonds with 4 cups water and strain through several layers of fine cheesecloth or a nut milk bag.
Let chill at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge for the best consistency.
To make one serving: Add 1½ cups almond milk, 1-2 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp ginger, ½ tsp cinnamon, and ¼ cup chia seeds to a mason jar. Seal and shake vigorously every few minutes to avoid clumping.
I know that as a nutritionist I’m expected to LOVE kale… and I do enjoy it in some applications (like my roasted veggie + kale salad), but it’s certainly not my favorite leafy green. I do, however, love kale chips because I’m a snacker, and rather than mow down a box of Cheez-Its, these are my go-to because I know all I really want is something crispy and salty to mindlessly munch on—and you can never have too many veggies!
There are a bunch of ways to flavor them, but I wanted to share the basic recipe so you could experiment from there. You can go with just salt and pepper, but I like to add lemon juice for a little more tang and some gut-healthy nutritional yeast to add some Vitamin B12 and, more importantly, CHEESY flavor.
Speaking of cheese, did you know kale has more than 2x the calcium as dairy? It also has anti-cancer properties, helping to reduce oxidative stress (thanks to its antioxidants) and break down and destroy cancer-causing agents with a phytonutrient it contains known as sulforaphane.
You may be saying, “All sounds good, but kale makes me bloat.” I feel you. This is often due to a sugar that cruciferous vegetables contain called raffinose, which produces extra gas as it breaks down and can make you feel bloated. This comes with the territory, unfortunately, but the stronger your gut health, the less bloating you will feel, so it may just take some time getting used to having this type of vegetable in your diet if you’re not used to it already.
One more thing before I lose you—for those dealing with thyroid issues, roasting up some kale chips is a good way to get in crucifers. While crucifers are super healthy, detoxifying foods, those with thyroid issues are often instructed to avoid them. Cooking kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and other similar veggies, however, reduces the goitrogenic substances that you want to avoid.
And now I’ll leave you be to enjoy this healthy snack:
Tear kale leaves off of stems into bite-sized pieces.
In a large bowl, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over leaves. If using, add lemon juice here as well. Massage the ingredients into the kale with your hands to ensure the leaves are coated.
Lay out on a baking sheet in a single layer (I like putting the leaves face down). Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top, if using, then bake 8-9 minutes. Your oven may vary and they burn quickly so keep an eye out starting at 8 minutes.
All the cool kids are drinking kombucha now, but the rest of the world has been on trend for a couple thousand years already. If you’re new to the home-brewed ‘booch game and want to dabble in some DIY, you’re gonna have a ton of questions about methods and looks and smells and tastes. Below, I try to answer all of them for you and share my way of doing things.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is fermented tea. Essentially, you make sweet tea and add a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (also known as a SCOBY) to the mix. The tea ferments as the yeast and bacteria feed on the sugar, creating a probiotic drink beneficial for gut health, as it helps feed the good bacteria in your gut for better digestion and energy, among its many healing benefits. Gut health is important because 75% of our immune system lives in there, so a compromised environment in the gut can affect many other systems in the body, like digestion, mood, energy levels, and skin.
Here is a basic recipe you can print. I go into more detail on each step below that.
8 bags of organic tea (or 8 servings of organic loose-leaf tea)
2 cups of starter (leftover from a previous batch), or 1 plain store-bought bottle of kombucha
Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.
Add the tea bags and brew according to instructions. After it's done brewing, remove the tea bags or strain the loose-leaf tea and let cool completely.
Add cooled tea to gallon jar with starter or store-bought kombucha and drop SCOBY in the jar as well.
Cover the jar with a thin, breathable fabric to let air circulate, and secure with a rubber band. Place away from direct sunlight in a warm, dry place where it won't be disturbed for at least 7 days and up to 3 weeks.
To make a batch, you’ll need:
Thin, breathable fabric (or a nut milk bag)
14 cups filtered water
1 cup organic white cane sugar
8 bags organic tea (or 8 servings organic loose-leaf tea)
2 cups starter (leftover from a previous batch), or 1 plain store-bought bottle of kombucha
1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.
2. Add the tea bags and brew according to instructions. An easy way to do this is to tie the ends of the tea bags together and drape them over a wooden spoon that sits across the pot so they dangle in the water and you don’t have to fish them out. After it’s done brewing, remove the tea bags or strain the loose-leaf tea and let cool completely.
3. Add cooled tea to your gallon jar (disinfected with white vinegar), along with the starter or store-bought kombucha, and with clean hands, drop your SCOBY in the jar as well. Do NOT put your starter or SCOBY in hot tea; you’ll kill off all the good stuff that makes this whole process work!
4. Cover the jar with a thin, breathable fabric to let air circulate, and secure with a rubber band (or place a nut milk bag over the jar and tighten the drawstring). Cheesecloth may not work here unless you have many layers, otherwise fruit flies may sneak their way in.
5. Place away from direct sunlight in a warm, dry place where it won’t be disturbed. I let mine sit on top of the fridge, but you can store yours in a cabinet if you have space. Let it sit for at least 7 days and up to 3 weeks.
Here’s everything I could think of you asking (and questions you actually sent to me). If I missed anything, feel free to comment. There are no stupid questions. Chances are if you’re wondering, someone else is too! I suggest skimming through all of them before beginning your first batch, just in case.
Where do I get a SCOBY?
If your ‘booch circle runs deep, you can get one from a friend, and sometimes you can even find them on Craigslist or neighborhood Facebook groups. You’ll notice as you brew that a new SCOBY will form and may be attached to your original SCOBY; the more you brew, the more you’ll have, and the more you can share with friends. You can even cut it in half to give away (at least three inches is a good enough size to brew with), but it’s alive, so apologize to it first.
Alternatively, you can buy a bottle of plain kombucha at the store and let it sit out covered (but uncapped) at room temperature to keep fermentation going, and those slimy bits you usually see at the bottom of the bottle will eventually form into a little SCOBY.
If you’re leading the charge amongst your pals, consider buying a kombucha starter kit (I got this one for Christmas one year and never looked back). You can also purchase dried SCOBYs that you can reconstitute, but I like ’em moist.
how can I tell if my scoby has gone bad?
Throughout brewing, you’ll notice stringy brown bits forming around your SCOBY (that’s its beard, they grow up so fast). You may also see a white film or bubbles—these are all normal and with every batch you’ll notice something different. It can be pretty obvious when mold occurs, it’s our denial we have to cope with.
Spots (black, white, brown, and especially green), fuzziness, and powdery patches are all mold and are all found on the top of the SCOBY, which is the part that’s exposed to air and thus more susceptible to mold. It will not occur underneath. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything but throw the whole thing out if it’s been compromised. Don’t freak out though, it doesn’t happen that often if you follow directions. Feel free to post a pic in my Facebook group if you need a second opinion.
Do I throw out the SCOBY when I’m done?
NO. If you’ve decided to end your kombucha-brewing days, hand it over to a friend or try to offer it up on Craigslist before tossing it (yes, there is an audience for this). If you’re planning to continue, you’re gonna need a SCOBY Hotel. This, my friends, is a glass jar of all your SCOBY children chilling in a bath of your homemade booch. Keep it covered with kombucha (or filtered water, but start with a little kombucha) and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it again.
How do i prepare my brewing jar?
Wash the jar thoroughly with soap and hot water and let dry completely. Then, pour some white vinegar on a paper towel and wipe the inside down to disinfect the glass.
Can i use tap water?
I would not use straight tap water. I want my water as watery as possible so I filter it to get rid of any chemicals like chlorine (which is used to kill things, and our SCOBY is alive) or anything else that may be lurking in there waiting to potentially disrupt fermentation.
what kind of tea do i use?
Organic, for starters. What’s the point of spending weeks to make a batch if it’s just going to deliver pesticides into your system? The probiotics don’t outweigh the downsides there, IMO. I use plain black bagged tea. Loose-leaf is cheaper but bagged tea makes for less of a mess, so that battle is up to you.
You can also use green tea or white tea, but avoid flavored teas as the extra ingredients may interfere with the fermentation process. You can flavor your brew later; doing it during the first round, especially if adding things like fruit, can open up more of a possibility for mold, especially if you’re leaving it to ferment for a few weeks. Herbal teas are not recommended, as they don’t contain enough of the nutrients the SCOBY needs to continue thriving batch after batch.
Do I really need a starter?
No, but I recommend it to help the brew along. Always save some of your batch to go towards your next one. If you’re just getting going, your kombucha kit may come with some starter, or you can purchase a plain bottle of kombucha at the store. Adding a starter helps make the environment acidic and keeps mold out, which is hugely important so you don’t ruin your whole batch. But sometimes mold happens—prepare yourself for the possibility, and if so, you gotta dump it and try, try again.
What kind of sugar do I use?
Regular white granulated sugar will work fine, but let’s go all natural—pick up some organic cane sugar.
a whole cup of sugar? what kind of nutritionist are you?
If you brew properly, the yeast will feast on most of the sugar (along with the caffeine), and what’s left is minimal and makes the batch tolerable enough so that you don’t have to choke it down. Use a plastic pipette to taste-test. If it’s too sweet, it needs to ferment longer.
For some perspective, I only buy kombucha in the store if it has 2-3g remnant sugar on the label. On your first go-round, pick up a plain bottle with little sugar at the store to compare to your brew so you know when it’s ready.
how do i really know that the sugar and caffeine are gone?
As mentioned above, sugar is relatively easy to gauge based on taste (though you won’t have an exact amount), but caffeine is more difficult to assess. Unless you want to spend money on a pricey hydrometer or slightly less pricey Accuvin tests, it’s okay to assume that there is only a minimal amount left if you come out with a successful batch.
does it matter what utensils I use?
Yes. Once the SCOBY and starter brew are in the mix, do not use any metal from there on out. I can’t find anything on the science about it, but the hippies say metal can damage your booch, and I believe them, so use a wooden or silicone spoon for stirring. For tasting, I use a plastic pipette to suck up the liquid and either squeeze it into a cup or…directly into my mouth.
how do i know if my scoby is actually working?
If you’ve done it right, you should notice growth within the first couple days. Particularly with jars that are wider than the SCOBY itself, you’ll see a thin film begin to cover the surface of the liquid, which will eventually grow and thicken the longer you let it ferment. It’s actually fascinating to watch over time, and if you look closely you can see all of its super-thin layers (kind of like the rings of a tree). You’ll be so proud of your new offspring. My last batch grew a MASSIVE new SCOBY that was double the size of the original I used to brew with in both length and width.
Every brew is different, too, depending on room temperature, sugar ratio, etc., and you’ll notice the SCOBY looks unique every time. They all have different personalities and vary in size, slime, and color, just like real children.
my scoby isn’t big enough to cover all the liquid. am i screwed?
No. As mentioned above, it’ll take care of the problem itself by growing its own protective seal, aka a new SCOBY that’ll act as your own personal kombucha pool cover.
my scoby sunk to the bottom of the jar. Did I do something wrong?
No. Sometimes the SCOBY likes to hang out at the bottom in the beginning. It’ll eventually rise to the top.
my scoby is floating sideways in the middle of the jar. Did I do something wrong?
No. Sometimes the SCOBY likes to go for a swim in the beginning. It’ll eventually rise to the top.
what is the ideal temperature for brewing kombucha?
I entered a contest recently that focused on using cacao in new and different ways. Fudge, admittedly, isn’t a revolutionary use of cacao, but I thought infusing it with rosewater was pretty nice, and the petals were so Instagram-worthy.
Well, I didn’t win (someone else made chocolate TORTELLINI), but it was a good excuse to put a new recipe out into the world. If you’re not into the funky ingredients, just use the base of the recipe (coconut oil, almond butter, cacao powder, maple syrup) and follow the same directions.
This is a really nice, easy-to-make treat right before bed if you’ve got a late-night sweet tooth. It’s ketogenic (#fatbomb), so all the good-for-you fat won’t spike your blood sugar, and there’s very low sugar in it anyway. Cacao also has built-in relaxing qualities thanks to magnesium, and contains a little bit of tryptophan as well, which converts into the feel-good hormone serotonin. We want to use raw cacao powder, not processed Hershey’s cocoa powder, as it contains the highest concentration of antioxidants and little caffeine compared to roasted cocoa. Make your desserts work harder for you!
Rose is a new ingredient in my recipes. I’ve become obsessed with adding it to everything since I started making this healthy hot chocolate combo from fellow CNE alum Jessica Grosman. Aside from it being my middle name, which adds to my love for it, rose is a wonderful herbal remedy for stress reduction, anxiety, and immunity. It may also help with regulating menstruation (you can make a tea by steeping the dried petals). I got my petals from Harvest Co-Op in Central Square (Cambridge) and they can also be found at Cambridge Naturals in Porter Square.
Whisk all ingredients except rose petals together until smooth. Use an immersion blender if the almond butter needs help incorporating.
Pour into mold of choice, or bottom of a loaf pan to about ½ inch high and sprinkle rose petals on top.
Freeze until set, 15-20 minutes for softer fudge if you just need your fix ASAP, at least an hour for a more candy-bar-like snap. If it's in a loaf pan, take it out at 20 mins to slice into bars or triangles while it's still soft.
I store mine in the freezer, but it can be stored in the fridge. Room temp will melt the coconut oil and things will get messy.
I’m not vegan, but I lean towards eating that way most of the time, and part of my experiments with making plant-based swaps in my favorite meals has brought jackfruit to my plate. I’ve seen it used as pulled “pork” and have had it smothered in BBQ sauce on a salad at Veggie Galaxy, but I had never tried it at home, so I ventured to the Super 88 Market and got myself a few cans to play around with.
Jackfruit is a fairly neutral-tasting, ginormous tropical fruit that’s part of the fig family. You probably won’t find it fresh in the Boston area, but the canned version in brine works great for savory applications. I prefer using this as a meat replacement over processed soy frankenfoods, and in this recipe it’s a substitute for shredded chicken, rich in fiber, Vitamin C, and several B vitamins. Our protein will come from the cannellini beans in this dish.
Jackfruit comes canned in syrup as well, so make sure you double check that you have the young green ones in brine. Also, this really is more savory than anything; don’t try to put the brined version in desserts. I tried it thinking it would be neutral enough if I rinsed it well, but came up with what looked like an apple-chicken pie. Such is life with culinary curiosity. Learn from my mistakes.
If you’re unable to find fresh tomatillos, canned will work fine, or green tomatoes with a bit of lime juice.
This is a warming recipe for cold nights that’ll make your mom proud with all the green in your bowl. Don’t forget to bake up some corn tortillas for dipping!
1 lb tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into wedges
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 can diced green chilis
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Heat water in a skillet until boiling. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add jackfruit, and cover for about 10 minutes, until the fruit softens and can be shredded with a fork or your fingers. Drain, shred, and set aside.
Meanwhile in a blender, puree broth, ⅓ of the tomatillos, green onions, cilantro, and garlic until smooth. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat oil on medium heat and add onions and cumin. Cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add remaining ⅔ of the tomatillos and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.
Add broth mixture, green chiles, oregano, and salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add jackfruit and cannellini beans and cook for 30 minutes.
You don’t realize how much bang you can get for your buck until you get a spiralizer. Who knew there were so many noodles hiding inside of a regular sweet potato? Whereas we’re used to sitting down to a baked potato and devouring the whole thing in one sitting (nothing wrong with that), spiralizing really stretches out your ingredients, especially when you can add a few more vegetables in the mix to make it more exciting.
This recipe feeds two and cooking it in plentiful ghee helps keep you full until the next meal (plus, it’s delicious).
Sweet potatoes are rich in the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene, which converts to Vitamin A, an important nutrient for gastrointestinal and skin health, as well as immunity. Vitamin A is also anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer, and the darker the potato, the more of these compounds it contains (if you can find purple sweet potatoes, go for those too, it’ll make a wild-looking noodle dish).
Sweet potatoes are antioxidant-rich foods that, contrary to popular belief about potatoes, can help stabilize blood sugar and are actually a fine option for diabetics. Additionally, they’re a good source of Vitamin C, which I think we all could use a little more of this stressful time of year. Our bodies deplete Vitamin C when we’re stressed, so it’s extra important to get it in your diet when you’re not feeling so hot.
This recipe is super easy and a great way to get some veggies in at lunch or dinner. I use a Paderno spiralizer I got on Amazon. I like how it has suctioned feet to stick to the counter while you’re working, and it’s pretty simple to clean.
Remove stems from kale and tear or chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss in a bowl with grapeseed oil and salt. Massage with your fingers and make sure all pieces are coated.
Over medium-high heat in a large skillet, saute kale for 3-4 minutes until crisp. Set aside, spread out on a plate (if in a pile, the steam will cause them to wilt).
In the same pan, reduce heat to medium-low, melt 2 tbsp ghee and add onion and mushrooms. Cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute, until fragrant. Add vegetable broth with sweet potato and stir to coat. and saute for about 7 minutes until desired softness is reached. Stir in parsley and remove from heat.
To serve, place sweet potatoes in a bowl and top with crispy kale and pumpkin seeds.
This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. If you purchase through my link, I may get a small percentage of the sale to help fund Good Witch Kitchen.
‘Tis the season for pumpkin spice! Cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, allspice – these are the reigning flavors of fall and if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth well before Thanksgiving rolls around, these Pumpkin Pie Balls are a delicious, all-natural way to get your fix.
This recipe uses carob powder, which can be used interchangeably with cacao powder if that’s what you have, but it will be a little more chocolatey. I just wanted a hint of its rich flavor.
Some notes on nutrition:
Carob: Although similar to cacao, it’s actually a legume (whereas the cacao bean is a “seed” of the cacao tree). The powder is high in fiber and protein and is an excellent source of B Vitamins, calcium, copper, calcium, manganese, potassium, and magnesium. Potassium is particularly important for those with high blood pressure.
Pumpkin: The rich color in pumpkin is from its carotenes, which are protective against many cancers as well as type 2 diabetes. They are a good source of Vitamin C and fiber as well.
Sugar: These pumpkin pie balls are naturally sweet and only contain a little over 12 grams of sugar for the whole batch, from the pumpkin, coconut, and maple syrup. That’s about 0.4g of sugar per ball. You are free to remove the maple syrup for zero added sugar, particularly if you are using cacao powder in place of carob, which is sweeter.
These were a big hit at the NEMPAC Halloween Party last night, and I hope you will enjoy these at home for your next celebration!
½ cup unsweetened coconut, pulsed in food processor until small
2 tsp carrot juice (optional)
Pulse oats in food processor until coarse and crumbly. Add pumpkin, carob/cacao powder, coconut, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and salt, and pulse until combined and creamy. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Optional: While the mixture chills, if you want to dye the coconut coating you can stir in carrot juice with the coconut, spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and dehydrate in the oven for about 30 minutes until dry again, stirring halfway.
With wet hands to avoid the dough sticking to you, roll into 1-tbsp-sized balls, then toss in the coconut coating until covered. Repeat until you're finished, and enjoy!
Do you have a morning routine? One that doesn’t involve spraying your hair with dry shampoo and flying out the door with a bagel hanging out of your mouth? I’ve been really interested in other people’s routines and have been reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, on the things that novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and more do each day to set themselves up for success.
I drink a LOT in the morning; hydration is a big part of my routine. The first thing I do every day, and most constant part of my daily ritual, is reach for a bottle of water. This is the one thing I can’t live without; I feel so much more awake and refreshed when I drink 2-3 cups right when I wake up. You can fill it up the night before and keep it by your bed so it’s ready for you in the morning, and sip on it while you get ready for work.
If I have it available, I’ll take a daily shot of fire cider for gut/immune health as well, otherwise, it’s a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted with water. It’s definitely an eye-opener and once my current batch of kombucha is finished fermenting I’m going to try and make my own. Speaking of kombucha, I drink a glass of that as well if I have some while I sit down to start work. (Stay tuned… I’ll be posting a ‘booch guide in the near future.)
Somewhere in there, I make breakfast and herbal tea (I rarely have caffeine… I KNOW. I’M ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE). Lately, it’s been a couple soft-boiled eggs with black beans, salsa, and spinach. A truly lazy meal, but it works! If not that, it’s usually some sort of spinach-based smoothie or a coconut yogurt bowl like in the photo above. I’m a creature of habit.
I then check my email, go through my to-do list in Asana, and get to work. Depending on how I’m feeling, I either tackle the easiest things first or get started on the big projects if I’m already energized and focused. The earlier I wake up, the more focused I am, especially if nobody else is online and it’s easier to focus on things that require a lot of my attention.
Other than that, there are some new things I’ve been trying to add to my routine that haven’t fully made their way in yet. The big one is NOT looking at my phone before I can even fully open my eyes.
We’re all guilty, and I’m definitely working on it. For about a week straight I committed to keeping my phone on airplane mode through the night and not taking it off until 30 minutes after waking, during which time I’d read a book and wake up in the natural morning light instead of having a blue beam shining into my eyeballs telling me how many unread emails I have to get to. It was great, but I let it lapse a bit and am still trying to make it into a habit. We can’t all be perfect!
On the weekends if the weather’s nice, I’ve been trying to get out and take a short, 15-minute walk around the block within the first hour of waking as well. It’s really nice to take in the fresh fall air, especially when the neighborhood is quiet. The picture above is one of my running routes and where I go for longer walks.
So that’s all. It’s not super exciting, and as much as I love a good maca-chaga-superfood-latte-elixir-smoothie [insert 10 more buzzwords here], my routine is pretty simple.
What things do you like to do for yourself in the morning?
Here’s a recipe I made for the 10-Day Energy-Boosting Meal Plan that got cut—not because it wasn’t delicious, but because it didn’t align with the goal of making meal prep a breeze. These apricot bars do take a good chunk of inactive time, but prepping them is actually pretty quick, so if you plan on spending a rainy day at home, these are perfect for tossing in the oven while you get cozy on the couch with some tea.
These bars are packed with energy-boosting ingredients like pumpkin seeds and hemp hearts, and aren’t as loaded with sugar as the granola bars you get from the store. They also happen to be grain-free, taking advantage of the seeds’ monounsaturated fats that give slow-release energy for more fuel between meals.
It’s important to use unsweetened dried fruit. Natural sugar is fine, but you want to avoid those that have added sugar by being sweetened in apple juice, for example. The fruit is just sweet enough on its own. If apricots or raisins aren’t your jam, feel free to experiment with other dried fruits like cranberries and cherries. Just make sure they’re similar consistency; things like dried apple or mango won’t provide the same results.
Pumpkin seeds contain B vitamins necessary to metabolize the energy supplied by carbs, protein, and fat, as well as nutrients that support energy production in the body like phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and copper.
Hemp hearts are the shelled portion of the hemp seed, and are much softer than the seed itself. Make sure you use the hearts, the full seed is quite hard and not easy to chew. The best price I’ve found for them so far, and the most accessible place, is at Trader Joe’s. These contain important omega-3 fatty acids and are anti-inflammatory. Paired with pumpkin seeds, both are a good source of protein as well.
¼ cup + 2 tbsp fresh orange juice (about 1 large orange)
1 cup pumpkin seeds
Pinch of salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp coconut sugar
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
½ cup golden raisins (or dried cranberries/cherries)
3 tbsp hemp hearts
Soak dried apricots in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes.
Soak chia seeds in orange juice in a separate bowl and set aside to gel for at least 5 minutes.
Place apricots and 3 tablespoons of their soaking water in a food processor and pulse until a paste forms, you may need to scrape down the sides with a silicone spatula. Add half the pumpkin seeds and pulse a few more times until seeds are chopped up.
Place in a bowl and add gelled chia seeds and remaining ingredients. Mix well, and spread evenly on the bottom of an 8” square pan lined with parchment paper. (Alternatively, use a baking sheet and form into a square shape — they don’t have to be perfect.) Freeze until firm, then pull parchment out of the pan and place on a baking sheet. Using a large knife or a bench scraper, slice into 8 bars.
Preheat oven to 200° and dehydrate bars for 2-3 hours. Bars should be well held together but pliable. Let cool.
Have you ever wondered why we switch from peanut butter to almond butter when we’re trying to be healthy? It’s often one of the first changes people make, but a lot of them don’t even know why they do it, and it’s not often explained. ⠀
Before I continue, just note that peanut butter is not BAD for you (as long as it’s just peanuts and maybe a little salt), but heres why nut butters are the go-to instead. By the way, peanuts are legumes, not nuts. Confusing, I know
Aside from being a heavily pesticide-sprayed crop (a big aside, as the pesticides used on peanuts contain possible carcinogens and hormone disruptors) peanuts are susceptible to mold as they are grown underground. That mold can produce aflatoxins, which are carcinogenic compounds.
The amount we’re exposed to in peanut butter is low level, but if you’re using it a lot of the time, switching to a nut-based butter may be a better option to avoid chronic exposure. You can search for brands whose peanuts are manufactured in drier environments (thus less likely to grow mold), but that’s not exactly realistic when you’re trying to get in and out of the grocery store.
Peanuts are also high in omega 6, a fatty acid that our bodies do need, but we already get PLENTY in the Standard American Diet and when it’s not in balance with omega 3 intake, it creates inflammation in the body. ⠀
So there you have it – a brief explainer. Next time you fork over $8 for some alternative butter, you know why!
There are lots of options to choose from if you’re moving away from peanut butter, however. Here are a few benefits of some of the nut and seed butters I’ve tried:
As mentioned, this is the most popular alternative to peanut butter. It’s not cheap, but it’s often the least expensive. I like to get mine either fresh-ground at Whole Foods or my local health-food store (Harvest Co-Op), or go for Trader Joe’s. It’s a bit more savory than peanut butter, but still works just as well in its place in baking, smoothies, and snacking.
Almonds are an excellent fat and protein source and contain antioxidants known to reduce the risk of certain cancers. They also contain potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and Vitamin E. Unblanched almonds have been found to reduce LDL cholesterol as well as the risk of heart disease.
This is a little harder to find, but I’ve purchased it at Target under their Simply Balanced brand. It has more of the sweetness we often seek in peanut butter so I find that it’s a better substitute if the sweetness is what you’re craving. As with above, it can be used in baking, smoothies, and snacking just as you would with the peanut version.
Cashews are also a great source of good fats, but not as high in protein as almonds (though they still are a good source of protein). They contain all the same nutrients as above, as well as biotin, a vitamin that’s beneficial to your skin, hair, and nails.
Mixed Nut Butter
A friend of mine found this at Trader Joe’s recently. It’s a delicious mix of dry-roasted almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans. Since there’s a big mix here, I won’t go into all the benefits as I don’t know how much of each ingredient is used, and most of them are already mentioned, but I really enjoyed trying this one. The Brazil nuts really stand out and it’s a very interesting alternative if you’re just used to the admittedly bland quality of regular almond butter.
This is a powder made from pressed peanuts (to remove the oil) that I was into when I was a slave to MyFitnessPal and was counting every last gram of fat I ate. I would add it to my smoothies to get the peanut butter taste without all the calories, and if that’s what you want, go for it. It’s also decent as a protein powder, with 5g per tablespoon.
If you want to use it as a “butter” however, you have to add water to it, and it doesn’t really work the same way and it definitely wouldn’t substitute well in baking. This is not a good alternative for me, unless it’s only the flavor I’m seeking.
If you’re allergic to nuts, sunflower seed butter has become more popular recently. It’s not my favorite substitute, but if you’d literally die eating almond butter then it’s pretty great. It has a bland, tahini-ish taste to me, but sprinkle some cinnamon on it or put it in a smoothie and you won’t even notice. Make sure it contains sunflower seeds only (salt is okay), not sunflower oil, which is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
Sunflower seeds contain protein, Vitamin E, magnesium selenium, B vitamins, iron, fiber, and so much more – they are a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory alternative to peanuts.
Did you know all the reasons why almond butter is the go-to? What’s your favorite alternative to peanut butter?