Your Questions

Avocado Mousse (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Dear Leah Renee, 

I’ve heard about avocado’s being used in smoothies and in place of butter in recipes, so are there some good desserts to be made with them too?  ~Nikki, PA 

Yes!  Avocados can be used to make guacamole, spice up a sandwiches, thrown into a smoothie for a creamy finish and dose of healthy fats, and in place of unhealthy or processed ingredients in recipes.  But here, they hold their own and carry the dessert recipe all by itself.  

Avocado mousse.  Yes, you can actually enjoy chocolate mousse minus refined sugars, cream, and dairy products.  

You will need these items: 

  • ingredients avo mousse1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup pure cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk*
  • 2 TB date paste (soaked dates & blended into a paste)
  • 2 TB pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Any toppings (if) you want!  I used slivered almonds for some crunch and garnished with a strawberry.  

*if your almond milk is not the unsweetened variety, you can cut back on the syrup.  A little taste test will let you know!  A packet of stevia can also be used in place of the date paste and/or maple syrup. Please feel free to experiment with any other sweeteners you prefer (honey, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar…)

Toss everything in a bowl, a food processor, or high speed blender:

ingredients in bowl

 

I used an electric hand mixer in a bowl since there weren’t that many ingredients.  Using a rubber spatula, I scraped the bowl clean and filled my glass with the decadent, yet healthy, avocado mousse I just made: 

 

choc avo mousse complete

What are your favorite avocado recipes?

 

 

 

Savory Carrot Muffins (Gluten Free, Low Carb, Refined Sugar Free)

Dear Leah Renee, 

I like to buy large bags of carrots but usually end up throwing a couple away at the end of their lifespan…any ideas what to do with the extra?  Thanks. ~Tamara, IL

The question of what to do with leftover carrots comes up a lot!  I too seem to have an abundance of them!  This recipe will help you (tastily!) use some up.  I know you’ve already made these carrot crackers I posted a while back, and this soothing carrot ginger miso soup, it’s time for something new.  If carrot cake had a healthier sibling, it would be this savory carrot muffin.  If you don’t have a big sweet tooth and want something that’s going to be a good breakfast muffin or mid-afternoon snack, you’ve found your match.

ingredients, carrot muffins

Ingredients (organic when possible): 

  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup raw honey or pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 6 TB coconut or grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

mixing ingredients together

 

carrot muffins stirred well

What to do: 

Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix all the ingredients together well in a large bowl.  When all the ingredients are nicely mixed together, pour or place ingredients in to a greased muffin tin.  I used a mini-muffin tin so I got double the amount (well, not really, but it felt that way!).  Bake for 20 minutes. Let it cool, just a little bit, before enjoying!

muffins to go into oven

Yours will be larger if you use a regular muffin tin!  They will raise more too–I accidentally left out the baking powder!!!  I never said I was perfect 😉

 

carrot muffin, mini

 

How do you use up your leftover carrots?!  What’s your favorite carrot recipe?

Chocolate Bliss Balls Recipe (Raw, Vegan, Gluten Free)

Dear Leah Renee, 

What’s a simple dessert ball recipe?  I’m not a baker by any means, so if you have something that requires minimal effort and is quick, it would be appreciated!  ~Debbie, WA

I like easy recipes, and this one fits the bill.  If you’re craving something sweet (and have already made the black bean brownies and raw cookie dough bites a million times now), here’s another one to add to your recipe book.  Full of chocolatey goodness, it’s not so bad for you either.  Certainly better than putting away a bar of commercial chocolate!  It’s got protein, fiber, and antioxidants.  The best part: it’s no-bake and simple to make.

Here’s what you’ll need (honey is optional if you like it extra sweet):

Bliss balls ingredients

Take 1/2 cup cashews, 6 soaked dates (just soak them in almond milk or water for a couple hours, or use un-soaked if that’s all that’s available), and cacao powder in a food processor or blender.  I used my Vitamix, but I’d rather have used a food processor since it’s more difficult to scoop out! Blend until smooth, or in my case, a little chunky, either one is fine!  Exhibit A:

bliss balls in vitamix

 

Transfer to a bowl (have a little taste and see if the sweetness is to your liking. If you like it sweeter, add a TB of raw honey): 

bliss ball dough

And roll into balls (that’s the fun part):

chocolate bliss balls

You can enjoy them this way, or roll them in cacao nibs (I ground mine finer), goji berries, maca powder, coconut flakes…whatever you like!  But, I like chocolate, so the opportunity to add more won 🙂

Bliss Balls

Share with others, or consume them all yourself (not all at once, of course) 😉

 

What’s your favorite healthy(er) dessert?

 

 

Antioxidant Summer Salsa

Dear Leah Renee, 
I usually purchase all my condiments because I’m kind of intimidated to do it myself. Salsa doesn’t seems too hard but I don’t know where to start.  Do you have a recipe you like?  Thanks! ~Lilly, MI
I just love making my own condiments at home.  We don’t always have time, the ingredients on hand, or the no-how, but with just a little planning and preparation you can make your own in no time! You’re right, homemade salsa is pretty easy, especially pico de gallo.  What makes it taste the best is the quality and ripeness of the tomatoes you use.  Depending on the season you’ll find the sweetness of the salsa will vary.
Tomato varieties
For this recipe, I used better boy tomatoes.  My personal favorite are heirloom tomatoes (you can use beefsteak red heirlooms for this recipe), but those are not always available.  Roma are a good option too.  Always organic when possible!
Chopping pico de gallo
Here’s what else you’ll need including those yummy tomatoes, pico de gallo ingredients:  
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • pepper to taste
  • squeeze of fresh lime

pico de gallo in progress

Directions: 

In a medium bowl, combine all your chopped and diced ingredients.  Add garlic and onion powder followed by salt, pepper, and squeeze of lime.  With a spoon, stir until all ingredients are nicely mixed together.

Note:

  • When chopping tomatoes, all juices that naturally get onto the cutting board are to be poured in with the tomatoes themselves.  This gives the pico de gallo extra flavor and heartiness.
  • This recipe can be served chilled or left out for a while at room temperature.  Tomatoes provide the most beneficial antioxidant, lycopene, at room temperature or cooked.

pico de gallo salsa finished

Serve with homemade tortilla chips and you’re good to go!

A Plant-Based Diet Isn’t Just for Vegans

Dear Leah Renee, 

I want to incorporate more vegetables and “whole foods” into my diet but I don’t want to be completely vegan or anything.  Can I have the best of both worlds?  ~Denise, CA

Good for you!  The power of vegetables is indisputable.  Study after study has found that eating more plant based foods contributes to greater health and well being.  Have high cholesterol?  Eat more veggies.  Diabetes?  More veggies.  Overweight? More veggies.  OK, you get the point.

veggie crudite at TFK

Our society loves to put label things. Heck, we like to label ourselves. It gives us a sense of belonging and a way to define our lifestyle. But you don’t have to; you can think a certain way, eat a certain way, or dress in a particular way that can vary from one day to the next.  You can love yoga but not be a ‘yogi’.

Case and point: just like any other category in your life, your diet too can be diverse.  You don’t need to commit to one way of eating all the time, every meal, every day. If it’s made up largely of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains, that doesn’t mean if you crave a burger you can’t have one!  No judgments!   I think the world we live in makes it a little difficult anyway.  You can go sugar free (I’m not talking about Splenda here, I mean sugar–real or fake) but still have a treat now and again.  Or a glass of wine!  It doesn’t mean you’ve fallen off the bandwagon and need to throw away your habits overall.  You really can have your cake and eat it too.

  “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” ~Albert Einstein

breakfast bowl with hemp seeds

There’s a lot of people that may even want to break out of the vegan mold, but have an identity that goes along with it that’s difficult to move past. On the contrary, there’s also a lot of people who may want to go more plant-based (like yourself), but friends and family they associate with and the lifestyle they lead could be altered and confused by that, making it difficult to start implementing changes.  We are not the only ones who label and judge ourselves, others do too.  But…that’s OK 🙂 Let them.

Here’s a short list (it is truly endless!) of some plant-based foods to stock up on:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Leafy Greens
  • Starches
  • Legumes/Beans
  • Nut Butters
  • Seed Butters
  • Avocados (because that’s in a league of it’s own, right?!)
  • Soy (fermented like tempeh)
  • Whole Grains (rice, oats, quinoa…)
  • Oils
  • Veggie Stocks
  • Cocoa Powder (you like that one, don’t ya!)
  • Pickled & fermented veggies
  • Milks (coconut, almond, etc)

Regardless of what kind of lifestyle you lead,  it will vary throughout the years depending on your age, your emotions, your friends, you interests, and schedule.  No matter what goes on, making whole, plant-based foods a big part of your diet, even if it’s gradual, is one of the best choices you can make for your health!

eat food not too much

 

Skin Care Product Review: Beautycounter

If you are familiar with some of my past blog posts, you know that I take great caution in what I put on my skin.  In my post about parabens in our skin care products, I only merely scratched the surface when talking about just some of the toxic ingredients we put on ourselves every single day.   We are exposed to thousands throughout the course of a day thinking we’re doing something as simple as moisturizing!  I’m always on the lookout for products that deliver the full package: clean, organic, effective, and safe.

image

You can imagine my excitement levels when I met a girl, Sydney, at the gym who introduced me to a clean line of beauty and skin care products I’d never heard of, Beautycounter.  I was very interested in learning more about them by what she was describing to me (completely non-toxic), and the miracle it worked on her skin.  When I got home I looked them up and read the founder of Beautycounter, Gregg Renfrew’s, story which really resonated with me.  She described the motives behind her starting the company last March, after watching “An Inconvenient Truth”.  That was a real eye-opener for her to begin removing so many of the toxic chemicals that we have in our life each day without even thinking about it.  Skin care was no different.  And unfortunately, here in the US, there’s little to no regulation on the ingredients that enter the products we use so often.  For instance, the EU has banned 1,300 chemicals used as ingredients in beauty products while we have banned all of 11!  Every one of Beautycounter’s ingredients is listed on their label, which is not even a requirement by law. When I referenced the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in my post on parabens, I emphasized the importance of their toxicity level ranking system–and all of Beautycounter’s products are a 0, 1, or 2 on the scale.  Anything 2 or under is considered non-toxic and safe.

Routine Clean, Beautycounter

So, I decided to try out BeautyCounter for myself since it sounded pretty amazing.  I was looking for a new face wash anyway–perfect timing.  The first product I tried out was “Routine Clean” cream cleanser.  I love that on their label it doesn’t even say “ingredients” before it lists them—it reads “transparency”.  Clever.  And the packaging is as clean as their products, a minimalist approach. When trying out the face cleanser, I found I only needed a small amount and I really liked the way it felt on my skin.  My face was very clean after a little application and a few rinses with warm water.  Any and all reminisces of makeup I had on that day vanished.   I’m a fan!

hydrate cleanser, beautycounter

I went on to test out two more: their “Hydrate” everyday body lotion, and the perfect match with it, the “Lustro” body oil.  The two combined made me skin so soft and, well, hydrated.  Because they use pure essential oils in their products, the scent is subtle and clean smelling.  I don’t like anything that’s overpowering (both because I am sensitive to them and tend not to like many of scents anyway), so these are perfect.  The Lustro body oil scent I ordered was jasmine, but again, subtle.

lustro body oil

 

I will definitely be expanding my Beautycounter line at home since these were a success!  I like knowing I’m supporting my own health and safety, and supporting companies that care about the same.  If you would like to order some Beautycounter products of your own, you can find click here on Sydney’s website where you will find the entire range of products they offer.  She also posts product info and promos on her Instagram site @balancing_pretty. 🙂

Sweet-Curbing Antioxidant Rich Drink

Dear Leah Renee, 

I get a sweet tooth at night and more than anything want something comforting and yummy.  I usually go for a piece of candy or chocolate.  Any suggestions? ~Fiona, Aus.

Me too!  I’ve seen and heard of many ways to curb a craving.  Go take a walk, breathe, have a glass of water, eat something bitter, have one of those food-like products that’s ‘sugar free’ or ‘fat free’ so you’re not having a ton of sugar or fat (not a fan!).  But really?  Late at night?  I highly doubt you’re going to jump out from under your blanket on the couch to go for a stroll (in which case you may just land at the local fro-yo shop anyway), nor are you going to pound back a glass of water for fear of getting up every hour of the night.  And lets not even entertain those other products!

My suggestion is one that I have and happen to personally love.  Here it is: 

almond milk turmeric drink

 

All you need is a few simple ingredients: 

  • 1 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 TB Ginger juice (if you don’t have a fresh batch of this handy, you can use some powdered ginger)
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan on medium heat, warm up the unsweetened vanilla almond milk for 3-5 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.  You don’t want to bring it to a boil in order to keep all the powers from the ginger juice, turmeric, and cinnamon.

If you’re not already adding some turmeric to your regimen, this is a great way to start!  Turmeric is a powerful spice full of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.  It contains curcumin, a phytonutrient which can rival prescription medications in its ability to reduce inflammation in the body.  The cinnamon helps to alleviate blood sugar spikes and will keep you feeling calm and restful through the night!

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite way to curb a sweet tooth?