Chickpea is the New Black

Classic, transformable and the perfect choice for any occasion, chickpeas are the little black dress of the legumes. Just as New Yorkers have deemed black the fashion staple that slims your figure, while providing just enough edge to be worn day and night. Chickpeas have mastered the same sex appeal. Now don’t get ahead of yourselves, I am not saying lets all go rogue and cover ourselves in chickpeas BUT I think it is about time we fully appreciated the versatility of the protein and fiber packed bean. 

A chickpea is so much more than a substance to be blended into a creamy, delicious hummus. The chickpea has a unique consistency that makes it the perfect ingredient to roast, fry, mash, bake and even turn into meringue! 

The Skinny

Like all beans and legumes chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are packed with protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates are the perfect addition to your diet. In fact only 1 cup of chickpeas provides half of your daily recommended fiber and 15 grams of cholesterol- free plant based protein. 

The boost of protein and fiber will have your GI tract groovin’. The fiber found in chickpeas is primarily insoluble fiber, which means it is not broken down during digestion helping your gut move the excess waste more easily and quickly. The remaining soluble fiber found in chickpeas is broken down by the bacteria in the colon to be digested into extra energy stores for the surrounding cells, improving colon health and decreasing the risk of colon cancer.

The high concentration of fiber and protein in chickpeas guarantees that you’ll be satisfied and nourished for whatever you day has in store.

Dress it Down

Chickpeas don’t require any accessories to make it delicious. you can simply eat them straight out of the can or boil them at home with an assortment of your favorite aromatics to reach full flavor potential. Simply toss them into a salad, side dish or alone. I am loving this Buddha Bowl by Minimalist Baker, its the perfect way to pump up your protein routine. 

Looking for a little more crunch? Toss your the chicks with a touch of oil and your favorite spices and roast them at 350 degrees until light golden brown and start munching. 

 

 

Dress it Up

Just like a good hair day, sometimes you need to cook up a little something special to add some va va voom to your plate. And chickpeas can do just the trick. Transform your beans into veggie burgers packed with your favorite spices and vegetables, bake them into falafel or a delicious creamy chickpea salad. Test out a few of my favorites like chickpea gyros, smashed chickpea salad and falafel!

 

The Show Stopper

So we have covered the obvious ways to add chickpeas to your daily routine without losing their identity. But we all have those days when we need to pull out the LBD that will slay like Beyonce. Luckily the chickpea holds the power to make Sasha Fierce weak at the knees.

Aquafaba is the newest vegan trend that is revolutionizing vegan baking. Aquafaba, refers to the soaking liquid from the chickpeas, either homemade or canned. The starches and proteins left in the liquid after soaking provide enough structure that it can be WHIPPED like egg whites! The whipped aquafaba is perfect for meringue, macarons, cakes or even mayonnaise! I have to admit I was a skeptic. Thinking, “even if this does work, it is going to taste like beans.”  But boy was I wrong! When I tested the classic meringue they came out light, fluffy and delicious. I did notice aquafaba is slightly more temperamental to work with than egg whites, but an awesome dairy free substitution. Check out these berry pavlovas!

But the transformation does not stop there, chickpeas can be ground into a delicious gluten free flour that can be added to quick breads, cookies, cakes, pancakes, waffles, you name it! The flour has a sturdy texture and nutty flavor that adds body to gluten free baking. However, using 100% chickpea flour can make your sweets taste chalky, so make sure to cut the chickpea flour with another flour such as rice or oat flour. For a savory twist check out these Farinatas or go classic with this Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. 

Don’t take my word for it. Take the #FreshChallenge and explore the versatility of chickpeas without losing your unique sense of style. Share your recipes photos and thoughts on social @TheFreshSlice. 

The Fresh Challenge : Hemp

For this month's Fresh Challenge sit back, grab a spot on the couch and pack a bowl... of HEMP seeds! 

Hemp is a all around plant- based power house of nutrients that can be added to smoothies, salads, baked goods and well... just about anything! 

Protein Hit - Hemp hearts contain 10 grams of protein per 3 tablespoon serving. The protein found in hemp is a complete protein and easily digestible! 

Fiber Fire - Add more fire to your belly. These little seeds are full of fiber to aid your gut health and digestion. The standard diet is lacking in this nutrient as we chips in snacks instead of fruits and vegetables, but hemp can help swing the pendulum in a better direction. 

Omega-3 Good-Good - Protect your heart and improve your brain function with a daily dose of Omega- 3 fatty acids. Adding omega- 3's to your day helps reduce inflammation, reduce your risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. 

The best part about this challenge? Hemp is easy to find anywhere these days from raw hemp hearts to milks you can take the challenge out of this Fresh Challenge. Just in case you need more direction when the munchies kick in, here are a few of my blazin picks. 

 

 

 

The Fresh Challenge : Spirulina

Keep away from the wrath of the leprechauns and go green this month with spirulina. Spirulina is a powerful blue-green algae that will boost your daily nutrient intake, detoxify skin, improve energy and aid digestive health. With 2000% more beta carotene than carrots, 4000% more iron than spinach and 280% more antioxidant strength than berries, spirulina is the ultimate addition to your diet. This super- algae is an easy addition to smoothies, desserts, snacks or even salad dressings. 

 

Protein Boost

Spirulina is a nutrient dense algae composed of 60% protein, B vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium and manganese. However, what sets spirulina apart from other plant based proteins is that it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids our bodies require to digest and utilize for optimal cellular function. In fact, 1 tbsp of spirulina powder contains 4g of protein with only 20 calories and 2g of carbohydrates. 

Anti- aging

This algae is more than just a protein powerhouse, it has also been found to have substantial anti-aging properties due to its high percentage of beta carotene, antioxidants and phycocyanin. Phycocyanin is the active ingredient in spirulina that is responsible for its bright blue- green color. Phycocyanin is a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant that fights free radicals in the body while reducing the production of inflammatory molecules. Move over carrots… beta carotene levels in spirulina are 10 times more concentrated than those found in carrots, making spirulina a one-stop-shop for anti-aging from the inside out. 

Gut Health

There are countless detoxifiers and digestive aids hitting the market these days but few target the micro biome of your gut to remove toxins quickly and effectively. Well, spirulina does just that, the blue-green algae stimulates the growth and function of beneficial flora while suppressing bad bacteria in your digestive tract. This promotes proper digestion and the removal of toxins and heavy metals in your bloods stream. The stimulation of beneficial gut flora also improves digestive conditions such as constipation, candida and leaky gut syndrome. 

Energy

Lastly, spirulina’s antioxidant, protein and vitamin rich properties make it a compact energy booster. Some studies have shown that regular consumption of spirulina may improve endurance and reduce muscle fatigue among athletes. 

How to use

Raw spirulina can be found in tablet or powder form by companies such as go raw and Sunfood.  Due to the algae's strong earthy flavor is best when paired with sweets fruits such as bananas, mango, pineapple, dates or berries in smoothies or juices. If dessert is what your craving, add a spoonful of spirulina powder to raw chocolate brownies, truffles or chia pudding for a depth of flavor and boost of nutrition. Don’t have a sweet tooth, no worries. Spoon some into your oatmeal in the morning with a sprinkle of sea salt and handful of nuts, toss it with your popcorn or add it to salad dressings. 

For the purest out there, you can dissolve a tablet or spoonful of powder into a glass of water and drink it straight! But keep a glad of water handy because the dark blue-green color will temporarily stain those pearly whites if not washed down. 

Spirulina is gaining popularity among the health food scene and can be found a various prepared snacks and drinks. Check out Go Raw Sweet Spirulina Bar, GT's Multi-Green Kombucha, Roobar's Spirulina + Chia Protein Bar or Vosges Matcha + Spirulina Dark Chocolate

The Fresh Challenge : Maca

It’s that time of month again… to add something new to your diet and rev-up your healthy 2016. Just in time for Valentine’s Day we are showcasing Maca for its vitamin-packed, libido enhancing and energy boosting qualities.

maca love.jpg

Maca is a root native to Peru, also known as “Peruvian Ginseng”. Maca is most commonly found as a powder in grocery stores and health food stores, making it an easy addition to your daily routine. It is important to buy organic maca powder to avoid fillers or imposters - my go-to brands are Sunfood, Navitas and Vega.

Now let’s talk about the benefits of Maca…

  1. It’s potent in vitamin B, C and E, calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium. All of which are essential minerals if you follow a plant-based diet.

  2. A natural love potion, maca has been found to increase libido and endurance, especially in men. While maintaining an even hormone balance and improving fertility in women.

  3. This superfood can improve energy and stamina levels throughout the day.

  4. It improves mental clarity and focus as it reduces mood imbalances such as depression, anxiety or mood swings.

  5. So long to PMS! Maca can reduce irritability, cramps and hot flashes caused by menstruation and menopause.

Added Bonus: The hormone balancing properties found in maca have shown a positive effect on reducing hormonal acne and improving skin tone! How about that for positive vibes?!

Need some ideas about how to incorporate maca into your day? From energy bars to smoothies to ice cream - there’s no shortage of ways to fit this into your daily diet. 

In the spirit of Valentine's Day I have an easy recipe that is perfect as a dessert to share or to show yourself a little love.

image1 (1).JPG

Maca Dark Chocolate Bark:

12 oz dark chocolate       1/3 cup dried cherries

1 tbsp coconut oil            1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes

1 tbsp maca powder        1/4 cups cocoa nibs

1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped    

1 tsp sea salt

  1. Over a double boiler melt 8 oz of the chocolate. < If using a microwave melt in 30 second increments, stirring between each until melted >

  2. Once melted, add in remaining chocolate, coconut oil and maca powder. Stir until fully melted and smooth. 

  3. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat

  4. Pour the chocolate onto the prepared surface and spread into an even layer using a spatula. You want your bark about 1/4 inch thick. 

  5. Top with the dried cherries, almonds, coconut, cocoa nibs and salt to evenly cover the surface. Let on the counter to harden but if you just can't wait to take a bite, pop it in the fridge for 15- 20 minutes. 

  6. Once the chocolate has set, break it apart and enjoy! 

NOTE: Too much maca can add a slightly chalky taste to your food so take it easy. A little goes a long way with this superfood, only one tablespoon a day is recommended. IN FACT, it is important to build up your tolerance of Maca due to its potency. If you are new to the product start with ½  a teaspoon and work your way up to a full tablespoon over time.