Trendy, Healthy + Cheap AF : CBD Chocolate

If you know me, you know I love chocolate. I mean chocolate at any time of day is perfection. But is there a more satisfying moment then being snuggled up on our couch, noshing on decadent dark chocolate (#selflove)?

Lucky us, there is no better time to celebrate this seductive treat than Valentine’s Day. Whether you are treating friends, a lover or your badass self I have the trendy hack that is sure to impress without the stress.

CBD has become the buzz word on any newsfeed, coffee shop or health food store but what is all of the hype about?! The skimmed down version is that CBD has been found to be a cure all for anxiety, stress, pain relief, insomnia and PMS. Its calming effects without the typical “high” help you stay level-headed throughout your day or help you wind down at night. Manufacturers have been launching CBD products in almost every category due to its mild flavor and ability to be mixed easily into concoctions.

Since chocolate has antioxidants and well… makes everything that much better it is the perfect host for everyone’s new favorite oil.

DSC00398.JPG

Sakara Life Hemp Chocolate ($39 30 chocolate pieces) and To Whom It May ($30 box of 4) are creating delicious CBD chocolate that you can purchase online. While Sakara goes the classic low sugar route, To Whom It May is creating elevated flavors that will drive your taste buds wild. The truth is these chocolates are delicious but it does take quite the chunk out of your wallet. So I have found a way to get the best of both worlds, making a cheaper version of CBD chocolate without sacrificing flavor.

I chose to flavor my bar with tahini swirls, thought I would tackle two trends in one with this cheap AF hack. But make it your own, adding mix-ins like chili powder, popped quinoa or toasted nuts.

CBD Chocolate Tahini Bark

DSC00410.JPG

Ingredients

  • 1 72% dark chocolate bar

    * ( I used Trader Joes for the $ but chose your favorite bar! Tahini pairs well with raw chocolate too)

  • 1 tsp CBD oil

  • 1 tbsp Tahini

  • 1 tsp coconut oil

  • Pinch Sea Salt

Instructions

  1. Over a double boiler melt chocolate with 1/2 tsp coconut oil. In a small bowl combine tahini with 1/2 tsp coconut oil. Microwave for 15 seconds to soften.

  2. Once chocolate is melted, stir in CBD oil. *CBD will evaporate at high temperatures so it is best to add off the heat.

  3. Pour onto a parchment lined sheet try to your desired bark size. Place into fridge for 5 minutes to chill.

  4. Drizzle the softened tahini onto the chocolate and swirl with a toothpick. Sprinkle with sea salt and place back into the fridge to harden.

  5. Cut into squares or break apart and enjoy!

So let’s break it down while our mouths are watering. My CBD Chocolate bark costs $4 per bar (9-12 pieces)!

  • Trader Joe’s 72% dark chocolate $1.79 for 3 bars

  • Tahini $7 per jar, $0.40 per serving

  • CBD Oil $37 , about $2 per serving

  • Coconut Oil $8, about $0.10 per serving

That is a savings of over $8 per bar. The other benefit of mixing your own batch is that you are in control, adding more or less CBD as well as mixing up the add ins! So get creative and share with me what you create!

Trendy, Healthy + Cheap AF : Kitchari

Ready for the next must try trend that you can make easily and cheaply at home?! Well, Kitchari [kich-uh-ree] one of those dishes that you can never quite pronounce, but always ready for more. Kitchari is an ancient ayurvedic recipe that has gained popularity with the trends of detoxing, gut health and anti-inflammatory diets.

IMG_3042.jpg

Some have sworn this dish has reversed gut health, digestive problems and removing toxins from the body. Let’s see how these simple ingredients can really make these changes.

The Ayurvedic Diet - it is an ancient diet that is centered around food as medicine. The practice is designed around three ‘body types’ (or doshas), which each have their own set of food guidelines to follow. There is Vata, Pitta and Kapha. [ Find your own Dosha and learn more with this quiz ]. In theory each of the doshas require a different set of nutrients to perform at the optimal level and achieve balance. However, Kitchari is said to be ‘tri-doshic” which means it is a whole and balancing food for every person!

The winning combination of rice and lentils creates a complete protein when eaten together. Providing all of the amino acids your body needs to perform optimally aiding in stabilizing blood sugar, energy and mental clarity. Kitchari is known to improve your ‘agni’, which is known as your digestive fire. Your agni determines how you digest and absorb nutrients. An imbalanced agni can result in an accumulation of toxins and malnourishment. Adding Kitchari to your diet can help restore the balance in your gut and improve absorption.

Once proper absorption is achieved, toxins are unable to penetrate the blood stream and can be easily removed and eliminated by the body. And lucky you, this dish packs 15g of fiber per serving, so those toxins will be eliminated in no time!

IMG_0041.jpg

Kitchari can be used as a detox, similar to a juice fast, consuming kitchari for each meal throughout the day. Following this detox for up to a week allows your gut to fully reset and turn into a nutrient absorption machine. Or simply add kitchari into a healthy routine and add a serving or two to your week, for a mid week balance.

Ok ok you get it, its good for you, its protein and fiber packed and delicious. So without further ado here is another trendy, healthy and cheap AF recipe to add to your recipe book.


Kitchari

What you need:

  • Sauce pot

  • 1 c Yellow Lentils or Red Lentils

  • 1/2 c Brown Rice or White Basmati Rice

  • 4 c Vegetable Stock or Water

  • 2 tsp Cumin *

  • 2 1/2 tsp Turmeric

  • 1 tsp Fennel seed *

  • 1 tsp Coriander *

  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

  • 1 tsp mustard seed *

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil

* These spices can be whole or ground, if you are trying to stay on the cheap side reach for ground I won’t tell!

Instructions:

In the sauce pot add 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat, add all spices and allow to cook until fragrant.

  1. Add in rice, lentils and stock.

  2. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, until all of the water has been absorbed and lentils are cooked through.

  3. Serve immediately or cool and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Pro tip: Serve it up with wilted greens or steamed vegetables to give you an extra boost of nutrients

F82D6E41-1850-4E95-81BC-AF37D6005D0B.JPG

Our homemade kitchari cost: $4.70 for 4 servings!

  • Yellow Lentils or Red Lentils $1.00

  • Brown Rice or White Basmati Rice $0.50

  • Vegetable Stock or Water $2.00

  • Cumin $0.15

  • Turmeric $0.15

  • Fennel seed $0.10

  • Coriander $0.10

  • Fresh Ginger $0.20

  • Mustard seed $0.10

  • Olive Oil $0.30

Ok, I’ll let you go to the grocery and get started on this detoxifying recipe.

Squashing Chili Standards

Wow, how is it October over already?!

With the turn of a new month that means the experimentation for the best vegan chili must come to an end. This challenge has not only cleared my sinuses but helped me understand the heart of a good chili.

Before I took on this challenge, chili was just an excuse to empty my pantry with a sprinkle of chili powder. Now, I understand the difference between bases, stocks and found a method to accomplish that ideal umami flavor every bowl. Sure it takes a little more effort, but homemade stocks and chili pastes are worth the effort.

I began this challenge on the premise of 5 rules for an ideal chili. After my testing, it is time to rewrite the rules so that you can create the best fail-proof vegan chili every time.

4 Rules for the Best Vegan Chili

  1. Stock is boss. Homemade vegetable stock will add umami that is usually missing in a store bought veg stock. Check out the two stock recipes I stand by here and here. In a rush? Fortify your store bought stock with dried shitake mushrooms, miso and toasted walnuts. Allow to boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes. strain and use.

  2. Chile paste or bust. Making your own chile paste allows for your to control the heat and flavor profiles of your chili. Chili paste allows for depth of flavor in your chili, as the various chilis hit your tastebuds you will get heat, smoke and char that can mimic the “meaty“ profiles of traditional chili.

  3. Beans, beans the magical fruit. Beans add body, creaminess and texture to your chili. This enhances the heartiness of the dish without interfering with flavor. Make sure your beans are sturdy and never overcooked. *If using canned beans make sure to add them in last so that they do not break down.

  4. Minimal tomato. Tomatoes add a slight sweetness to your chili base, enhancing the flavors of the chilies. However, I suggest stick to the paste, canned diced tomatoes can add too much water to your base interfering with the umami of your stock.


Without further ado below is the fourth and final vegan chili of this October Chili Challenge. I have combined my favorite components of the previous chilis - like rich chocolate, thick chile forward base and meaty jackfruit - into a full bodied and hearty chili.

DSC00149.JPG



Butternut Squash and Jackfruit Chili

Yields 6-8 servings

chli.jpg
  • 6 ancho chilies, rehydrated

  • 2 monita chilies, rehydrated

  • 2 jalapenos

  • 6 oz tomato paste

  • 1 large yellow onion, small dice

  • 1 cup carrots, small dice

  • 1 cup celery, small dice

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 cup butternut squash, about 1 large squash, ½ inch dice

  • 1 green bell pepper, ½ inch dice

  • 2 tbsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • ½ tsp ground ginger

  • 1 can jackfruit

  • 2 cans beans, I used black beans and red kidney beans

  • 3 oz dark chocolate

  • 5 cups Brown Stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Place jalapenos on a sheet tray and roast for 15 minutes, until tender and starting to slit out of the skin.

2. Soak dried chilies in boiling water, for 30 minutes, until rehydrated and pliable.

3. Drain and rinse jackfruit, place into a small bowl and shred into bite size pieces. Toss in 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika and salt. Place onto a sheet tray and roast for 20-25 minutes until slightly browned.

4. In a large soup pot, heat 3 tbsp olive oil and add diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic and salt. Sauté until vegetables are tender and onions are translucent.

5. Add cumin, oregano, paprika and ginger. Allow to toast for about 2 minutes until fragrant.

6. Add diced butternut squash and bell pepper. Reduce heat to medium, to avoid burning,  allow to sauté for 10 minutes.

7. In a medium bowl or blender add tomato paste, jalepenos, chiles and ¼ cup water. Blend until smooth, adding more water if needed.

8. Add the chile mixture to the soup pot stirring to combine.

9. Add 4-5 cups of brown stock. Allow mix to cook on low until butternut squash is cooked through 10- 15 minutes.

10. Add in roasted jackfruit, drained beans and dark chocolate. Stir to combine.

11. Simmer for at least 10- 20 minutes for flavors to melt together.

12. Serve it up! Top it with diced avocado, red onion and cilantro.  





Ancho Average Chili

Next up on the chili challenge is decoding a classic Texas Chili.

We all know everything is bigger in Texas… but did you know how seriously they take their chili? Chili is Texas’ State Dish, also known as the Bowl of Red, gained its popularity out of necessity for all of the Cowboys looking for a hearty, warm dish after a day of labor. In order to keep tradition alive, the regulations on what can be called a Texas Red Chili is a strict rule book.

Regulations:

  1. Diced beef.

  2. Beef stock.

  3. Chili paste for the base.

  4. Thickened with Masa (corn flour).

  5. No tomatoes, no beans, no vegetables.

Well clearly turning this dish vegan, violates some MAJOR qualifications. But what fun are rules if you can’t break them?!

In this vegan version I changed it up a little.

1.     Diced beef. —> Tempeh and mushroom mix.

2.     Beef stock. —> Brown stock.

3.     Chili paste for the base.

4.     Thickened with Masa (corn flour).

5.     No tomatoes, no beans, no vegetables. —> Well, honestly this rule needed to change anyway.   

I will admit this chili does not have the coat-your-mouth fattiness of a traditional Texas Chili, but the flavor and texture profiles are spot on. With a mix of spicy and lightly smoked chilies the base of the chili has a great depth of flavor with a heat that slowly rises to the surface. The sauce is thickened just enough to coat the diced tempeh, soaking up the flavors of the chili for that slow cooked meaty feel.

Check it out for yourself. (And if you’re really into breaking the rules, spoon it over quinoa or cauliflower rice)

Vegan Texas Chili

Yield 6-8 servings  

DSC00091.JPG
  • Dried chile: 3 Ancho chile, 2 Monita chile, 4 guajillo chile

  • Fresh chile: 2-3 fresno chile (depending on desired spice), 1 jalapeno

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 6 oz tomato paste

  • ¼ cup water

  • 1 yellow onion, small diced

  • 1 green bell pepper, small diced

  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 2 8 oz packages of Tempeh, ½ inch dice

  • ¼ cup tamari

  • 1 tbsp honey (or maple syrup)

  • 6 portobella mushroom caps, 1 inch dice

  • 3 tbsp Masa flour or corn flour

  • 4-5 cups of Brown Stock (recipe below)

  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar

 

1.     Dice the tempeh into ½ inch pieces. Transfer to a plastic bag and add tamari, ½ tsp cumin and honey. Shake to combine and set aside to marinade for at least 1 hour.

2.     To start the chili paste, toss fresh fresnos and jalapeno in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until just roasted and starting to pop.

3.     In a medium bowl, place dried chiles and cover with hot water. Allow to sit for 25-30 minutes until softened.

 

4.     While the chiles are soaking, in a large soup pot heat 3 tbsp olive oil. Add diced onion and pepper, saute until onions are translucent. Add 1 tsp cumin and paprika, allowing to toast for 1 minute. Remove and set aside.

5.     In the same pot, add tbsp olive oil and sear diced portobella mushrooms, season with salt. Cook until tender and lightly browned, approx. 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

6.     Next, sear the marinated tempeh. Place an even layer of the tempeh down to ensure that each piece can brown. This may take two or three rounds.

7.     Remove the tempeh and add to the cooked mushrooms.

 

8.     Back to the paste, remove the stems and seeds of the softened and roasted chiles.

9.     In a medium bowl (or blender if using), add cleaned chiles, ¼ cup water, garlic and tomato paste.

10.  Using an immersion blender, blend the chile mix until it is a smooth paste. Set aside.

 

11.  In the same soup pot over medium heat, whisk together 1 cup of brown stock and 3 tbsp of masa. Allow the mix to come to a shallow boil. The sauce will appear thickened and should coat the back of a spoon.

12.  Add the cooked onion mix, chile paste, mushrooms, tempeh and white vinegar. Cover with 4 cups of brown stock, until the ingredients are just covered. Add up to 1 cup more of stock if needed.

13.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil. Reduce the chili to a simmer and allow to cook for at least 1 hour. The longer the chili is allowed to simmer the better the flavor.

14.  To serve it up, garnish with scallion, avocado, parsley or (dairy free) sour cream.

 

DSC00067.JPG

Brown Stock

Yields 8 cups

  • 2 yellow onions, rough chop

  • 1 carrot, rough chop

  • 1 parsnip, rough chop

  • 1 cup dried shitake mushroom

  • 4 cloves garlic, whole

  • 1 bay leaf

  • ½ bunch parsley

  • ¾ walnuts, toasted

  • ¾ cup French lentils, uncooked

  • 2 tbsp miso  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.     Rough chop vegetables, toss in olive oil, salt and miso paste.

2.     Transfer to a sheet tray and roast for 45-60 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and starting to caramelize.

3.     In a large soup pot, add roasted vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to a bowl, cover and let simmer for at least 2 hours.

4.     Once the stock liquid is a dark brown color, remove from heat.

5.     Strain the liquid and throw out solids. Store in fridge for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 4 months.





Pip Your Bowl

Rise and shine, this smoothie bowl is sure to get any morning poppin' . 

IMG_0551.jpg

Not only is this bowl easy on the eyes, its high in antioxidants, probiotics, anti-inflammatory agents and protein. This bowl gets its vibrant color from Maqui Berry a nutrient dense berry found in Chile. Similar to acai, maqui berries are high in antioxidants, anti-bacterial and anti- carcinogen properties, aiding in cell function and detoxification. Maqui berry has also been found to lower and maintain blood sugar levels, especially for those with diabetes. 

Now smoothie bowl toppings are equally important as the smoothie itself... right? I decided to elevate ordinary granola with this Coffee Dusted Popcorn' Granola. This granola uses Pipcorn's Sea Salt mini popcorn kernels to achieve the perfect balance of sweet and salty granola to pair with this tropical bowl. Pipcorn uses natural heirloom corn kernels to pop their mini popcorn, which is perfect for snacking on its own and added to recipes to pop it up a notch. 

Ok I'll put a spoon in it, time for you to check out the recipes below for yourself! 


Coffee Dusted Popcorn Granola

Yield 6 cups

IMG_0598.JPG
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Pipcorn, Sea Salt
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 tsp reishi powder
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 10 dates, pureed 
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp almond butter, melted (or nut butter or your choice)
  • 3 tsp instant coffee
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl combine oats, popcorn, nuts, reishi, coffee and chia. Stir to combine and set aside 
  3. In a food processor, pulse dates with a 1 tsp water to blend in to a paste. If larger chunks remain that is ok. 
  4. Add the melted coconut oil, dates, nut butter and maple syrup to the dry mix. Stir until all ingredients are evenly coated. 
  5. Evenly spread mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly toasted and crunchy.
  6. Set aside to cool.

 

Maqui Berry Smoothie Bowl

Yield 4 cups

  • 2 bananas, frozen
  • 1/2 cup coconut yogurt
  • 1/4 cup pineapple
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp Maqui Powder
  • 1 scoop protein powder of your choice ( I used Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides) 

Directions

  1. In food processor, or blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth. 

To assemble:

Pour smoothie mixture into a bowl, top with fresh cut fruit and Coffee Dusted Popcorn Granola. Enjoy!

0DBB1FAD-3D88-4E37-AA13-5E7EF9CF0388.JPG

 

 

 

One Year and Counting

IMG_0880.jpg

It’s official I have been out and about in the culinary real world for ONE whole year. Time has flown by (seriously, what day is it?!) But exactly one year ago I took my final cook tech exam at the Natural Gourmet Institute before being sent on my way into this insane, intense, passionate, terrifying yet rewarding industry. ‘Post-grad’ life has been one for the books as I go through waves of inspiration and self-doubt trying to establish myself as a cook.    

 

Can’t Take the Heat

Working in a kitchen is nothing yet everything I expected. Through popular media the life of a professional cook is glorified as a passion driven career where you do what you love every day and take pride in your final product. Sprinkled with the horrific examples of the angry chefs and injuries that cooks subject themselves too every day.

Now, I was a culinary school graduate with no idea what to do next. Keep cooking? Find a ‘normal job’ in marketing? I was lost. I convinced myself I could make it as a cook. I knew how to poach an egg, braise vegetables, make bread and break down a chicken. I could do anything, right?

Wrong.

My first externship after school was 3 weeks of realizing I was not cut out for the job. I worked Garde Manger (salad and cold appetizer station) at Cookshop, a farmers-market driven restaurant serving amazing American fare. I had never worked in a restaurant and had no clue what I was doing. I was lucky the chef even let me on his line! Day one, I learned how to read tickets… yes, I really knew NOTHING. I was there to assist the cook who ran the station. I helped prepare ingredients, pick herbs and watch and learn the rhythm of making hundreds of salads while plating beef tartar, shuck oysters and pipe filling for deviled eggs. Needless to say, the first week was an overwhelming disaster. Luckily the team at Cookshop was so helpful and supportive. I am sure I caused more trouble than help but they always smiled and moved on to the next order. By the end of my three weeks I was shucking oysters (with minimal injury) and making salads without being ‘sent back’ by chef.

To be completely honest I thought my time in a kitchen was going to be over after my externship. I thought there was no way I could run my own station. I just wasn’t good enough. But with a little advice and a huge push I decided to give it another go and work at Cookshop’s sister restaurant Vic’s.

Fast forward, I have now been at Vic’s for just under one year! To say there was a learning curve would be a massive understatement. I showed up with a nervous and bruised ego, to run the garde manger station on my own (luckily, no oysters). The beginning was rough, riddled with tears, burns and a little yelling every now and then. Everyday was a blow to the ego, a “what the F*** am I doing here kind of a day.” But yet again, the team had my back. Everyone was eager to help and encouraged me to keep going.

Then it started to fall into place. Shifts became less hectic, I could set up my station in time without running out of prep, I could plate desserts and salads at the same time. I was feeling confident, until BAM I was promoted to the next station… hot appetizers. Stuck in the middle of the open kitchen so every diner could watch me under pressure. There was a lot of, ‘the vegetables are under salted,’ ‘the carrots aren’t hot,’ ‘there’s no shine,’ ‘the vegetables look dry,’ ‘Emily, I missing 6 corns, 3 carrots and a farinata!’… aka a flash back to my first month. But if there is one thing I have learned through this processes is that if you keep your head down, try your hardest and build a sense of confidence you can get through the push.

Now, I have moved onto my 3rd station… I can’t believe it. I still stumble over tickets and cause a mess of the kitchen but I am learning. Every day I put in my best effort, try to understand the ins and outs of the kitchen, soaking up any information given to me. That is a part of the rewarding side of the job that leaves you yearning for more, if you push yourself hard enough you can achieve radical results.

Long story short, popular media hasn’t quite nailed it. They forget to portray the crazy hours, never seeing your friends that live outside of the restaurant, holidays in the kitchen and constant self-doubt. They leave out the family you build when everyone is pushed to their limits, the power of a team and the intoxicating feeling of getting through a rough night. And they forget the strength of the people you work with, who work 21 hours in a day to make ends meet without ever complaining. It’s not easy, not always fun but there is something that makes it worth it.

 

In Other News

Through the ups and downs of my year in the kitchen I have considered quitting, looked for completely different jobs and thrown myself into new hobbies in order to alleviate the pain of everyday kitchen life. Which has left my posts and inspiration for The Fresh Slice non-existent the past few months. (Oops.)

In my social media absence, I did add a few new exciting projects to the books. I completed the second level of sommelier classes at the International Wine Center. Wine has always been a place of interest for me, especially in its connection with food. I was thirsty to know more, expand my understanding and verbiage of international wines and how to accurately pair them with food. Knowing next to nothing walking through the door, except that I love Savion Blanc, the next 9 weeks were whirlwind of information and tastings of amazing wines. The class was incredible. It provided a broad spectrum into the wine world, explored new grape varieties, trends in the market and of course food pairings. Now, I am not on the path of Master Sommelier (yet) but I am excited to share some of my findings with you in future posts.

IMG_2244.jpg

Lastly, I have taken on a new side hustle with This Pie is Nuts. A local gluten free, vegan and paleo company making individual pies and granola. The company was created by the amazing Diana Pappas who has single handedly grown the business for the past 2 years. All of our products are entirely out of the nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Basically, the most nutritious pie out there. With new and exciting plans in the future we are working to build This Pie is Nuts into something big. Keep an eye out, or take a bite and order online.

So woop there it is, the whole crazy, exciting, intimidating and wild year is over but one thing has remained the same… food is still the passion of my life. From cookbook lined shelves to restaurant hopping through NYC I am still hungry and I can’t wait to see what I can bring to you this year.

As the great once said, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interest in it.”- Julia Child.

 

  

Recap: Natural Expo West

The Natural Products Expo West is officially over, which means 3 days of samples, amazing product launches and mindful brands have come together to share their take on how consumers should nourish their bodies. As I promised I scoured through the exposition floors in order to seek out the upcoming trends that you need to know. Take a minute and explore my take on the top 8 trends for 2016. 

1. Sustainability

Sustainability has been a buzz word among many industries for the past 5 years as consumers become increasingly aware of our impact on the environment and how to improve. Similarly in the food industry, many restaurants increased their focus on sourcing local, organic ingredients and utilizing every aspect of the ingredient. As a natural progression, food manufacturers are taking note and looking for ways to use every part of their ingredients in order to eliminate waste. 

Kimchi companies such as, Farmhouse Cultures, and Not Your Mother's Kimchi have taken their classic fermented products and created a sustainable new way of offering the same probiotic benefits in a drinkable form. They have bottled the excess probiotic-rich fermenting liquid so that you can drink your way to gut health with one simple shot. 

The sustainable transformations didn’t stop there, Forager Project, traditionally a pressed juice company launched 4 flavors of vegetable tortilla chips. You may be thinking, ‘vegetable chips aren’t new’ but Foragers’ method for utilizing their ingredients stole the show. They have created each of their 4 flavors from the excess vegetable pulp that is created during the cold-pressing process. By utilizing the pulp they have transformed their waste into a delicious, crunchy and nutritious snack. 

2. Algae

No longer scum of the sea, algae is making a debut as a nutritious superfood that adds an earthy, savory flavor to many products hitting the market. Spirulina and chlorella seem to be the buzz worthy algae for manufacturers due to their milder taste and vibrant color. These algae are packed with vitamins, minerals and protein that are easily absorbed by your body. Not only do they work to nourish our bodies they also aid the detoxing process by improving gut health and vitamin absorption. From protein bars, tortilla chips, popcorn and chocolate bars algae brings a new twist to snacking your way to health. 

Find out more about algea such as spirulina and take part in The Fresh Challenge!

3. Spice is still King

Last year companies rolled out exotic spices and flavors to pump up the heat in their products and this year was no different. As the sriracha obsession continues to grow and our curiosity with all things painfully delicious, spice continues to be the focus of natural food companies. From jalepeno, habanero and sriracha EVERYTHING, I hope you have a glass of milk handy (non-dairy of course) because things are about to get hot in here. 

4. Gut Health

From probiotics, prebiotics and fermented food and drinks its all about the gut. Due to decades of consuming highly processed and nutritionally impaired foods the health of the micro biome in our gut has diminished, increasing dietary inflammations, sickness and poor absorption of nutrients. Thankfully natural food companies have taken note and found various ways to add live cultures and healthy bacteria back into our diet. 

Kimchi and sauerkraut still have their moment in the spotlight at this years show, companies such as Wildbrine and Farmhouse Cultures are serving up new flavor combinations and ‘gut’ shots from the fermenting liquid. 

Kombucha is the new pressed juice… walking down the aisles of the expo it was impossible to miss a kombucha company that was launching new flavors or a new formula. As a huge kombucha fan (I kind of live on the stuff) it was exciting yet overwhelming. With so many options how are you supposed to pick the best kombucha brand?! I think for now you have to go with your gut [ ;) ]. The smells and flavor of kombucha can be off putting for some, so switch it up and try different brands to see which one fits your palate. Health-Aid and GT’s are my go to’s all of their flavors are delicious and they have really improved my gut health.

Suja Juice is getting on the probiotic bandwagon with the launch of their new probiotic waters in 4 light and refreshing flavors. Each flavor is made of a blend of vegan probiotic cultures and cold-pressed fruits each flavor was delicious but Ginger Lime gets my vote for best pick. 

Now we have all heard of probiotics in fermented kimchi, kombucha and supplements but I know the sour, feet-smelling can be hard to get on board with.  But don’t worry, YumButter is mixing up the gut health scene with an approachable almond butter protein + probiotic blend. The almond butter is delicious, easy to spread and contains 10g of protein per severing! It is the perfect way to sneak probiotics into your day without the, “you’ll get used to it,” encouragement. 

5. The Super Take-over

For those that know me, you know I’m all about superfoods… pretty obsessed. But apparently I’m not the only one, manufacturers are putting superfoods in just about everything! From power bars, crackers, popcorn, chocolate and beverages, ‘superfood’ was the buzz word of the Natural Expo this year. Now what is a superfood?! It is any whole food that is naturally nutrient dense aka it packs a big nutrient punch in a little package. Adding superfoods to everyday meals or snacks is a simple way to increase your daily vitamin, mineral, protein or omega-3 fix and companies like Larabar, Natives, Activate Living Foods, MamaChia and Hemp Hearts are taking note. Although they are all amazing, the superstars this year were chia seeds, hemp seed, goji berries, maca root, cocao, turmeric and ginger. Not only will these products fill your nutrient voids, they also taste too good to be true. So, get ready for the newest superheros on the block because they are here to stay. 

6. Got (non-dairy) Milk?

Milk is a huge part of our life, whether we believe it or not. Cereal, pastries, cheese, ice cream, coffee, yogurt, sauces, frozen yogurt, batters, butter… ok you get it, without even blinking an eye you easily have 2 servings of dairy at every meal! However, with the overwhelming consumer shift towards sustainable, ethical and nutritional foods there is a need to find a better alternative. Almond milk has been on the rise, gaining popularity for its delicious flavor and ease of conversion as a milk substitute. But this year the focus was on expanding the non-dairy craze with macadamia nuts, hemp, flax, coconut and veggie milk. From the classic drinkable milk to yogurts and frozen desserts non-dairy is the move with companies such as Califia Farms, Milkadamia, Go Veggie Milk, Vixen KitchenNadaMoo and The New Barn you can’t go wrong.

7. Return of the Familiar

Last year exotic flavors and spices from around the world were the push for consumers to expand their spice drawers and become ‘foodies’. But this year the pendulum is starting to swing back to more familiar mediterranean flavors of lemon, rosemary and truffle (but don’t worry there is still plenty of spice to go around!) and I am not complaining. These flavors are bright and comforting and easily paired with your other favorite products. You can see this trend in mixed nuts, popcorn, crackers, chips and protein bars. Rediscover the familiar like never before. 

 

 

 

8. Alternative Proteins

Similar to the non-dairy transformation, sustainable, ethical and nutrition focused consumers have created a shift for meat-less proteins. But I am not talking about faux-meats this time. Crickets are getting the more exposure than the days of Jimmy Cricket’s debut. That’s right. CRICKETS. Cultures around the world have been eating these crunchy protein packed bugs for centuries and it’s our turn test it out. Crickets are an inexpensive and sustainable source of protein containing 65% protein, more iron than spinach and minimal water requirements, crickets may be the food of the future. But don’t freak out… companies like Exo and Bitty Food’s are bringing you the benefits in an approachable way through chips, bars and protein powders. Close your eyes and take a bite, your tastebuds may surprise you. 

 

 

 

 

Monthly Myth Buster

Vegan Misconceptions

#4 "You can't eat out anywhere"

Another complaint of both vegan and non-vegans is that you can’t go out to eat ANYWHERE! I am not going to lie, being vegan does make it more difficult to go out to eat and our options are limited but it is not impossible, I promise. The trick is knowing how to order and think of options that can easily be substituted in the kitchen. Here is my fail-proof guide to dining out on a vegan diet.

food.jpg

 

1. Get comfortable making changes to items on a menu. Yes you may feel needy, picky, difficult or annoying at first but the reality is, the restaurant is there to serve you. They want to offer options that will satisfy your palate (as much as they can) in order to keep you happy with the hopes that you’ll return and refer others. As long as you know what needs to be substituted for your needs, they will usually try to accommodate.

2. Read the menu thoroughly (possibly before hand). Look at the sides, entrée accompaniments and salad toppings they offer in the restaurant. They may not pair roasted vegetables or beans with their salads offerings… but if you notice that the meat or fish entrees are served with grilled vegetables and/or beans, you’ve found a solution so ask to mix and match. HOWEVER, be mindful that traditionally roasted vegetables, soups, sauces and grains are finished with butter for service, ask if they can be prepared in olive oil to avoid any confusion.

3. Call ahead of time. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free diners are becoming more prominent and restaurants are eager to accommodate. When making the reservation inform the hostess that you have a vegan diner and ask if accommodations can be made. If the restaurant is strict on substitutions they will let you know right away.

4. Choose ethnic cuisines. Restaurants offering traditional cuisines are more likely to have non-meat and cheese laced options. Explore Indian, Thai, Mexican and Filipino restaurants many dishes are easier to alter for a vegan diet.

If all else fails (or it’s veg choice ;) ) choose a vegetarian restaurant. There are plenty of vegan, vegetarian and/or raw restaurants around the country that are redefining how ‘healthy’ should taste. Happy Cow is an amazing resource when you aren't sure where to look, plug in your location and Happy Cow will find you a vegetarian- friendly restaurant near you. 

Here are a few of my go- to vegetarian restaurants in some of my favorite parts of the U.S.

 

Everywhere else… we are getting there - if you have suggestions for vegan restaurants you love, please share in the comments below.  And for even more, check out this Thrillist list for the best vegetarian restaurants in the country. 

 

5 Fail-proof Tips for Holiday Menu Planning

‘Tis the season… to host a huge party, drop a pie on the floor and overcook your entree. It happens every year, as you pass the Christmas light-lined avenues or step foot into a department store high off fragrance gift-set fumes you start to get the holiday bug. And you have the BEST idea… “I’ll host a holiday party for all my friends!” Once the invites are out and anticipation running high, it hits you. You’ve never hosted a party and your five course menu with specialty cocktails and assortment of desserts requires an army of elves to pull off.

Don’t worry, these 5 fail-proof menu planning tips will bring the joy back into your holiday party planning.

1. Keep it simple. Even the simplest recipes can be show stoppers. Don’t wait for the holidays to make the most complicated and involved recipe that you know will impress your guests. Making a recipe with multiple components for the first time is stressful enough, throw in 3 courses and a room full of people and it spells disaster. Instead, choose recipes that you are comfortable with (or at least have made once or twice before), to ensure smooth execution. If you’re worried your go-to recipes won’t impress, dress it up your garnishes. Use edible garnishes such as pomegranate seeds or herbs to brighten a soup or salad, infused oil to drizzle over entrees or gold dust to sprinkle over desserts.

 

2. Limit the spread. With inspiration from Pinterest, Instagram, Food Network or Food52 it is easy to find 20 recipes that you know your guests will just LOVE. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Choose 5 recipes with color, flavor and texture variations that will satisfy your guests’ taste buds without the fuss.

For example:

Appetizer: Polenta squares w/ sundried tomato tapenade  {yellow, red, creamy, soft, salty, nutty} 

Salad: Kale vegan caesar salad topped w/ baked chickpeas and cherry tomatoes {green, brown, red, crunchy, umami}

Entree: Lentil loaf, mashed sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts {brown, orange, green, meaty, salty, crispy, warm}

Dessert: Classic apple pie  {golden brown, flakey, warm, sweet, spiced}

3. Preparation is key. Don’t be caught in the kitchen as guests are arriving, you need to have fun too! Read through the recipes you've selected days beforehand and see what you can prep ahead of time. Most recipes can be broken down and prepared in advance that way all you have to do is toss it together and throw it in the oven hours before the party. (What to make ahead of time: pie crusts, croutons, salad dressings, vegetable prep, dips and spreads.)

4. Leave it to the professionals. When you are the host you need to highlight your strengths. Which means doing what you do well and letting someone else take care of the rest. Appetizers and dessert are the easiest courses to seek outside assistance. If you know you won’t have time to make an appetizer grab an amazing hummus with crudite and pita chips, or put together a rustic cheese platter. Never been able to make the perfect pie? Don’t chance it, order a pie from your favorite bakery. In the end, delicious food is delicious food your guests won’t know the difference.  

5. Make yourself a drink. Take a deep breath, you’ve planned a simple and delicious menu that is all prepared and warming in the oven. All you have have left is plating with the perfect garnishes. So go ahead, get those creative juices flowing and treat yourself with a cocktail. You’ll have your guests wondering how you pulled off an amazing dinner party without breaking a sweat.

Bonus: Brush it offOkay, so you followed all the tips, stuck to simple recipes that you could make ahead of time BUT they still didn’t turn out picture perfect. Brush it off, in the end it’s just food. Worst case scenario your family and friends put their Instagram accounts on hiatus for the night and chow down on delicious lentil loaf “crumbles” or pumpkin “pudding” in a pie tart shell. Laugh it off, dig in and make memories!

 

Monthly Myth Buster

Welcome to The Fresh Slice’s Monthly Myth Buster series where each month we will highlight a food related myth that has been plaguing our plates and cook up an understandable solution to the problem. This is a place for you to finally get the truth about what you are eating.

What food questions do you want answered once and for all? Share with me in the comments below or submit your question HERE. Soon enough, you’ll see your question answered in a future Myth Bust post!

VEGAN MISCONCEPTIONS: Part 1

vegan label

I’ve heard it all… “I could never be vegan.” “How do you live without cheese?!” “NO animal protein, NO WAY!”

Trust me I get it, removing two large food groups from your diet is no easy feat. BUT it’s also not as painful, famishing, cult-like or tasteless as many assume. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, which is why I am here to expose the biggest vegan misconceptions.

 

#1. “All vegans are apart of an EXCLUSIVE environmental, animal- loving, hippie cult.”

Vegans get a bad rap for being environmental extremists who judge everyone who consumes meat. Although it is true we love the environment and animals (let’s be honest… who doesn’t?), there is not a vegan pledge of allegiance that forces us to shun and shame those who choose a different diet. People decide to become vegan for various reasons such as, health, allergies, intolerances, toxic imbalances or environmental concerns.

Let’s turn the table… have you ever been out to eat with family, friends or strangers and been questioned for an hour about your decision to order a turkey club sandwich or 20 oz steak? Well, ordering a salad without cheese or veggie burger will have your guests asking questions like; “where is your protein?,  aren’t you hungry?,  you know, not eating meat won’t stop the industry.” To be vegan should not be a political check box or a stereotype created to shame people for reading a nutrition label before purchasing a product. The vegan community is about creating and sharing delicious, health-supportive food that will benefit you as well as the environmental community around you.  

So drop your forks and eliminate the stereotype that all vegans are drinking the same (unrefined sugar-free) kool-aid. No judgment, just food and awareness.  


#2. “So you only eat salad?”

Bowls full of fresh greens, veggies and nut cheeses? I don’t see the problem but for those of you who can’t stand the thought of eating salads daily don’t worry, following a vegan diet doesn’t mean you need to trade in your slice of pizza and Chinese take out.

Stop focusing on what you CAN’T eat and focus on the what you CAN eat. Luckily, there are still four more food groups you can enjoy including grains, beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables. Due to the endless ways to cook and enjoy these basic food groups I am going to start from the beginning and offer suggestions for a typical day + my grocery picks when I need to get out of the kitchen.

Breakfast Options

Lunch Options

  • Vegetable Chili
  • Hummus and grilled vegetable sandwich
  • Vegetable sushi (Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s always have great options)
  • Bean burrito with guacamole (vegan burritos or burrito bowls at Chipotle are always delicious)

Dinner Options

  • Vegetable and tofu stir-fry
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce ( Get more out of your pasta with Tolerant Foods bean based vegan, gluten free noodles)
  • Veggie burger with all the fixings (My go to patty choices? Hot Dang, Dr. Praegers) 

Dessert Options

Snack Options

 

Not drooling? Check out my Pinterest feed for more inspiration and try something new, you may surprise yourself.

Look out for next month’s Myth Buster, I’ll be diving into the misconception of protein in our diets and more.