Food, health, healthy eating

National Food Holiday’s: Banana Day and Trail Mix Day

Month after month, we get to celebrate our National Food Holiday.  In August there are many to count!  One to two foods tocelebrate daily.  Everything from watermelon, to bacon, to banana and then wrap the month up with trail mix.  So many
recipes, so little time!  

For this week, two celebrations in one.  Banana Lovers (August 27th) and Trail Mix (August 31st).  Best of both worlds combined in my delicious Banana Coconut Trail Mix.

Bananas are a staple in my house.  My husband actually calls them ‘Monkey Sticks’ because “That’s what monkeys eat, he says referring to himself!”  I think we go through a dozen weekly and why not?  It’s a perfectly packed fruit with tons of benefits.  Bananas are perfect for a pre-workout snack, sliced up in your overnight oats, tossed into a smoothie, blending into a recipe for added sweetness or dehydrated to add to your trail mix!!!  Bananas have 422mg of Potassium which is 12% of your recommended daily value.  In addition, they have Fiber, Protein, Magnesium, Vitamin C and Vitamin B-6.  What’s not to love!

Trail Mix can be just about anything you want it to be.  Walk down an aisle of any supermarket and you’ll see 50+ varieties of trail mix.  Savory, sweet, spicy, and chewy.  You want it, they have it!  Now the key to choosing the right one, or in my case making it, it should not have any added sugar or gluten.  It’s just additional calories that you don’t need.  MAKE IT.  if you’re not going to make your own, you can easily pick up your favorite dried fruit and nuts and combine it yourself.

So where did trail mix come from?  Who thought of it?  Horace Kephart, that’s who!  He was an outdoorsman and this was his snack of choice and recommend it to some hikers and viola, the perfect snack was born!  Thanks Horace!  Much appreciated.

Onto my mix.  I bake mine to add some toastiness to it.  It’s a cross between a granola and trail mix.  The reason why I add oats is to give some carbs without having the added sugar.  When you think about trail mix and what you pick out first…it’s the chocolate.  Let’s be real.  Baking it and adding the oats gives it that something extra.  I also add my homemade dehydrated bananas and unsweetened coconut chips.  It’s the tropics on the trail!!!

Banana-Coconut Trail Mix
Ingredients:
2 cup Gluten Free Oats
1 cup coconut chips, unsweetened
1 cup dehydrated banana chips
½ cup raw cashews
½ cup raw almonds
½ cup raw macadamia nuts
½ cup raw pepitas
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Pre-Heat oven to 225 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and salt.

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In another mixing bowl, whisk egg white on high, with hand mixer, until stiff.  Fold in vanilla gently once whites are stiff.

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Then fold dry and wet ingredients together, being careful not to overwork the egg whites.

Transfer to baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper.

Bake for 60 minutes total, stirring every 20 minutes to break up into large pieces.  After the first 20 minute stir, add in the cococut and conintue for 40 more minutes.

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Let cool completely  and then add the dehydrated bananas before storing.  About 30 minutes.  Can be stored for up to 2 weeks in airtight container.

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All you need now is your sneakers and a great trail to enjoy this amazing Trail Mix.  

Enjoy the Holidays!

Food, health, healthy eating, Lifestyle, menu planning

Skip the Diet! Just eat Healthy!

Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be all salads and granola type of foods.  It doesn’t mean you cannot have the joys of indulgent foods. I hear that time and time again, I like the food that I like and that’s it. or What’s the point of eating something I don’t want. I just want to enjoy  life. But in my opinion, healthy eating is an 80/20 choice, you can have your kale and cake and eat them BOTH! Enjoying healthy options most of the time and savoring those foods that we know should be eaten in moderation, 20% of the time. For me, that’s things like pasta, NY style pizza and wine. (I’m Italian, can you tell!).

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Clean Eating has become my lifestyle of choice for the 80% (or more!) of the time. And with that, I’ve taken dieting out of my vocabulary! I no longer eat things like overly-processed foods,rice, flour, deli meats and refined sugar. Dairy is only eaten on occasion. I fill up my plate with fruits, veggies, lean proteins, seeds, nuts and minimal whole grains. For me, beans have taken a back seat as well only due to some digestion issues, but I love them and wish I could eat them. This is my lifestyle and I know I’ve gone wrong in the past over-thinking about the foods I couldn’t have versus thinking about all the foods I could enjoy all the time! It’s not a punishment, it’s a way of life. A better life. I actually feel 100% better when I’m eating healthfully and when I stray on that 20% my body knows it. I’m lethargic, cranky and completely zoned out. It’s a really bad place for me to be. I’d rather eat real, unprocessed foods that are healthful and feel good than eat French fries and feel like crap the rest of the day. Again, that’s why it’s 80/20!

The other thing that has shaped my healthy eating is creating menus for the week. Meal planning has single handedly supported my healthful lifestyle. Not only does it give me a snapshot to what I’m eating for the week, it can support my workout schedule to ensure I’m eating the best foods to give me the energy I need for my more strenuous workouts. In addition to all that, it has actually helped with food expenses in the house. Because I’m creating these menus, I only buy what my husband and I need for the week. No wasted food! It’s awesome.

So what’s in the average healthful day for me? A lot! About 1,500 calories packed with all the nutrition I need. Three meals and two snacks keep me full and satisfied all day long.

For breakfast I usually eat overnight oats. Oats sustain me on my heavy workout days and I feel completely satisfied having them. With only ⅓ cup of oats they are packed with 33g of carbs, 9g of protein and 5g of fiber. It get all those nutrients in just ⅓ cup for breakfast! I top my overnight oats with some strawberries or blueberries (right now they’re in season here) for the perfect morning meal. I add a tablespoon of chia seeds as well to fill me up and keep me fuller longer and because the chia and oats expand so much overnight, I usually split this meal pre and post workout. This is the best breakfast for me to start my day.

For lunch I’ll eat a lean protein with veggies. Usually a salad since it’s been so hot this summer. My favorite right now is arugula with sauteed asparagus and onions, an ounce of feta, tomatoes and two poached eggs. A squeeze of lemon juice tops off the salad. It’s so delicious and keeps me filled up until my snack! (Check out my instagram https://instagram.com/healthylittlesecret/ for the recipe.)

A few hours later, I’ll eat a small piece of fruit with almond butter. Just a tablespoon is all you need to give some extra protein! My other go to snack is a bean free dip that I’ll eat with tons of veggies. Either snack will keep me full until dinnertime. (Spicy Pepper Dip on blog)

Right now in OC we’ve been having a little bit of a heat wave (to put it mildly) so the grill has been my method of choice for cooking dinner. I usually cook wild caught salmon along with kale and zucchini. If you haven’t made kale on the grill you’re missing out. It’s FANTASTIC. A grill basket and a touch of olive oil, garlic powder and salt and pepper to make this easy, light and yummy dinner. (TIP: I make extra salmon for lunch the next day. Nicoise Salad! It’s on my Instagram account as well https://instagram.com/healthylittlesecret/!)

The last snack of the day for me is dessert. Yes, living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean not having something to treat the sweet tooth. For me, that’s DARK chocolate.  I’ve found many varieties that are 85% or higher and taste amazing. I usually get an organic bar and I don’t miss the overly sweet chocolates that I was eating before. One or two squares, that’s all that’s needed to end the evening. I don’t have this every evening, but at least 2 nights a week.

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Now, after reading my menu of choice, does it sound like I’m not living a life or am being deprived? I’m hoping you’re saying NO right now and agreeing that it sounded yummy!!! And you know what, healthy eating is delicious. Now actually living on this lifestyle I crave things like kale and overnight oats! It’s true. My cravings for pizza are few and far between.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately about the obesity epidemic we have in the U.S. Many things stood out while watching that I just cannot get out of my head: One, every person that is overweight knows that eating fast and over processed foods are what’s causing their weight and health issues. However, because it ‘tastes good’ they continue to eat it. Two, a man actually said he knows he’s going to die from eating they way he does, but he’d rather die at 55 and not give up his BBQ. DIE! Three, people feel that eating healthfully is too expensive and they’d rather use their money on other things. I just cannot get those things out of my head.  DEATH. MONEY. TASTE. That’s more important than HEALTH? What is going on here? Are we that brainwashed?

It’s time to break the cycle. I know it’s difficult. I was on the dieting roller coaster for 10+ years. I eventually snapped out of it and got on the road to health! 80/20, it can be done!

Skip the Diet. Just eat Healthy!

health, Lifestyle, recipes

Snack Happy! Spicey Pepper Dip: Bean, Gluten and Dairy Free

I’ve been on this mission to create healthful snacks.  I know my body works best when I eat three meals a day plus two snacks in-between.  If not, I get hangry and that’s not good a good thing.  Never heard of hangry?  Well, I can guarantee you’ve felt it!  It’s when you’re so hungry you get angry and then become one with the refrigerator!!!  ERRR!!!  You almost feel a little out of control mainly due to your blood sugar dropping, and you end up eating whatever you see first vs. something satisfying and healthful.  I don’t know about you, but I like to save up my calories for something really good and not binge hangry eating!!!  80 healthful and 20% whatever you want.  Important not to switch those numbers around and a hangry appetite can do just that!

So the journey began to find a healthful snack.  I’ve tried all kinds of homemade, healthful things…but have begun to get bored.  Hummus with veggies – BORING!  Apple and almond butter – BEEN THERE DONE THAT!  Cheese and celery – SNOOZE!  Although these snacks are very healthy and could absolutely fill my hunger, I was getting bored with them and found my way into the fridge more times than I needed because I wasn’t satisfied!

Above everything else, my body has decided to reject beans.  BEANS.  I could live off chickpeas.  That means no kind of hummus or bean dip.  Ugh, now I’ve really have to think outside the box and figure out something that will cover all my needs:  filling, healthful, satisfying and above all not boring.  What’s a girl to do?

I recently read a fantastic book called The Beauty Detox Foods and was inspired by all the healthful foods you can have in your life and still be satisfied.  (Check out the book if you need some tips on healthful eating.  The author’s vision is clean vegan eating and foods that heal the body.  Love that!  Everything homemade.)

Have you ever had Muhammara Dip?  I hadn’t until I picked up the book.  It’s a traditional Middle Eastern dip packed with walnuts, red peppers, spices and olive oil.  But the author of The Beauty Detox Foods managed to make it healthy by keeping it raw and eliminating the olive oil.

This particular dip totally inspired me to get in the kitchen and test our some new recipes.  I’ve toyed around with a recipe for some time now.  I love to mix it up and have found my version of a healthful pepper dip.  It’s delicious!  It’s spicy, tangy, sweet, and is 100% satisfying.  Goes with any kind of veggie or you could turn it into a spread or thin it out for a healthful dressing.

The base of my dip is roasted cashews.  I’m using cashews for a few reasons.  Roasted cashews add a richness to this dip that regular nuts just wont do.  In addition, cashews, when ground, give a starchy quality that thickens your recipes without actual starches.  It’s great to thicken soups, stews, curries (it’s typically the base of curries) and desserts.  The plus is that cashews have great health benefits.  They are a good source of Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Protein.

Behold, your new favorite snack:

Spicey Pepper Dip

Ingredients:
1 cup roasted cashews
4 small tomatoes, roasted or grilled
3 hatch chilis, roasted and skinned
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp lemon juice (1/2 large lemon)
1 tsp tamari sauce
1/4 tsp salt

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Directions:
Place cashews, sesame seeds, and garlic powder into a high-speed blender.  Blend until it comes to a mealy texture, almost paste like.  Then add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth!

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It’s that simple.  A few minutes and you’ve got the base of a healthful and satisfying snack.  Think about how great this would be at parties in addition to your daily snack.  It’s easy to make in a large batch and with no dairy, it can sit out worry free!

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Some things to note:
**This version of the dip is not raw.  However, you can change to accommodate raw eaters!  Raw cashews, garlic, tomatoes and chilis would be perfect in this recipe.

**I HIGHLY recommend roasting your own veggies.  They take about 10 extra minutes to prepare on the grill or under a broiler.  The chili peppers I did skin, but the tomatoes I just left whole.  If you’re not into that, you can substitute canned fire- roasted tomatoes with green chilis.  But again, TRY to roast yourself.  It’s super easy, I promise!