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

Happy National Watermelon Day!

Everyone loves watermelon!  That is why it’s appropriate to have a National Food Holiday for this delicious summertime fruit.  I have so many wonderful memories growing up (in the South) and eating watermelon – usually at a family picnic or gathering.  It’s one of the most satisfying fruits out there.  It’s sweet, crunchy, and full of water!  So refreshing.  I can honestly say, it’s the fruit I go to for that reason.  But when it’s hot out and I’m at a picnic or BBQ, have gone for a long walk/run or I’m just plan dehydrated, it’s the first thing I want and go for!!!

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Watermelon is about 92% water (hence the name), packed with nutrients, and it’s good for you.  Watermelon has gotten a bad wrap for so many years and it’s time to change it today, on its National Holiday!  Eaten at the right times, in moderation and combined with other ingredients it’s the most perfect food!

In a 2-cup serving you get:

Studies have shown that there are many health benefits including:

  • Heart Health:  The high levels of lycopene are good for protecting cells from damage and may help lower heart disease.
  • Anti-flammatory Properties:  Again, the lycopene levels in this fruit is an inhibitor for varies inflammatory processes and is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals.
  • Hydration:  92% water, this super fruit will keep you hydrated and the juice is a good source for electrolytes.
  • Digestion:  Although on 1% fiber, this small amount can help support the body in the digestion process.
  • Skin and Hair:  The Vitamin A is great for your skin and only a cup of watermelon has 1/4 of your daily-recommended intake.  Vitamin A helps keep the skin and hair moisturized and encourages new growth.
  • Muscle Soreness:  Due to the high levels of amino acids and arginine, which helps with circulations, if you drink watermelon juice before your work out, it has been known to reduce next-day muscle soreness.
  • Cancer Prevention:  Antioxidants and Lycopene aid in the prevention of certain cancers.  Watermelon is high in both and studies have shown this fruit, like others, aids in the avoidance of prostate cancer (for one).

I’m sold!  I knew I loved this fruit!  And now I have even more reasons to love it other than the taste and how refreshing it is.

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Watermelon is VERY versatile.  It can be blended into a drink, grilled, served plain, and put into salads.  I remember when I was a kid my Father would sprinkle salt on it, and I just didn’t understand.  Blah.  Salt and Watermelon.  Why mess with a perfect thing I would think to myself!   And now, I love mixing it up with different fruits, veggies, dressings and cheeses.

Here’s a simple summer salad I’m sure you’ll serve up tonight or at your next neighborhood BBQ.

Watermelon and Basil Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette 

Ingredients:
6 cups cubed Watermelon
4 ounces crumbled or chunked feta
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Directions:
In large bowl, place watermelon in and sprinkle feta and basil on top.  In small container, place remaining ingredients and shake well until combined.  Drizzle dressing on top of watermelon.  Add a touch of salt and pepper and toss to combine.

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It’s that simple.  You can really play around with this recipe too.  If you don’t like basil, add mint.  If you don’t like feta, add mozzarella.  Use your imagination.  I’ve even served this same recipe over a bed of arugula and it was amazing.  Add protein of choice and dinner is served!

Enjoy!

Food, health, Lifestyle

National Mac-n-Cheese Day!

I gotta tell you, I love the holidays.  All of my family and friends getting together.  The food.  The drinks.  The laughter.  All good stuff.  The typical holidays weigh pretty heavily in the months of November and December, getting the best of everyone!!!  But we take the good with the bad and deal with it because we know in the end we have a great time.  What’s even more exciting is there are more holidays to add to you calendar due to the National Food Holidays to celebrate.    Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July have nothing on the Donut and Pizza!  So many wonderful treats to celebrate.  And as someone who enjoys food, a celebration is in order!!!

Only July 14th, we get to celebrate National Mac-n-Cheese Day.  And what’s not to celebrate?  It’s one of the most classic American dishes out there.  It’s probably one of the first food memories I have!  It’s bubbly, cheesy, chewy and with the little bit of crunch on the top.  You really can’t beat it.  My sister is the master at this dish in our family.  (Sorry Mom!).  She has never made a bad batch and her kids can easily take out a double batch.  (Well, with my help!!!).  It comes out for many of the holidays and my nephews’ and niece’s birthdays.  It’s a crowd pleaser.  No wonder Mac-n-Cheese has its own National Holiday!  Who wouldn’t want to celebrate this golden delicious treat!

Where did Mac-n-cheese come from anyway?  It’s formal title, Macaroni and Cheese, is an English dish consisting of cooked macaroni pasta and cheese, most commonly cheddar cheese.  It’s been known to add other ingredients such as bread crumbs, meat and veggies.  Traditional Mac-n-Cheese is a casserole baked in the oven, but can also be cooked stove stop.  (I’m sure many of you are thinking of the blue box!!!)

Now that we’ve gotten that straight, how does a girl that is eating clean get to celebrate this National Holiday with the rest?Can a classic be recreated to support my more healthful eating habits?  And I guess the bigger question is, do I recreate it at all?  Why not have the real thing on the National Holiday?  The beauty of NOT being on a diet is I can eat the things I want.  I do enjoy Mac-n-Cheese, and honestly have the real deal maybe once a year.  So for today, National Mac-n-Cheese Day, I’m celebrating just how versatile it is and how it can be altered to fit any lifestyle!!!

To the Good Stuff!  This recipe is the old fashioned style with easy steps to follow.  I like the classics.  This can be altered even more to support your dietary needs too.

Gluten Free Mac-n-Cheese
Ingredients:
2 cups gluten-free elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dry/powder mustard
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 cups shredded cheese (I like really sharp)
Optional Topping:
1 cup crunched corn flakes
1 tbs melted butter
Optional Flavor (let your imagination go wild!):
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Tapatio/favorite hot sauce

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Directions:
-Heat oven to 350 degrees
-Cook macaroni as directed on package.  DO NOT OVER COOK.
-While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in large sauce pan over low heat.  Stir in flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

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-Cook over low heat, stirring continually, until the mixture is smooth and bubbly; lower heat.
-Stir in almond milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil for one minute.
-Stir in cheese.  Stir until cheese has melted.

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-Drain macaroni and gently stir into cheese sauce.  Then transfer into ungreased 2-quart casserole.
(If adding topping, add crushed corn flakes directly on top of mac-n-cheese in dish.  Drizzle with melted butter.)
-Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes until bubbly.

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Please note that although gluten-free and quite delicious, it isn’t low-fat!!!  Too much of a good thing is sometimes just too much!!!  Eat with veggies to a complete meal!  The entire family will LOVE!

ENJOY!