Sizing Up Smoothies & Juices

Growing up, my mom would make carrot juice everyday. There would be various kinds of carrot juice: carrot and beet, carrot, ginger, and apple, carrot and…you get the point. There was always carrot juice.  She would make me a big glass of it, and I’d either gulp it down super fast or go out on my front porch and pour it onto the grass. And this was how I was introduced to juicing. IMG_7448[1] Over the years, I’ve not only acquired a taste for vegetable juices, but now thoroughly enjoy them.  It could be just me, but I can feel the juice cleaning out my body as I drink it, seriously.  As with many things that are good for you, it takes a little extra time to make – but no more than 15 minutes for everything, from rinsing to chopping to juicing to cleaning. IMG_7438[1] Juicing is a great, arguably the best, way to detox the body. Juicing removes the fiber from the vegetables and fruits, allowing the body to soak up all of the vitamins and minerals without using extra energy needed to break down nutrients. Since the body is “bypassing” the digestion process, the body is able to focus on absorbing all of the goodness from the plants. If you’re looking to be motivated, even if you’ve already seen it, check out the documentary, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  Here is a link to the trailer http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/ It’s unbelievable.

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Whereas juicing is limited to vegetables and fruits (I tried spooning in spirulina to my juice once and it was definitely not successful), the art of smoothie making is just that. An art.  The creations that can be done to a smoothie are sometimes awe-inspiring – rainbow layers, granola and chia pudding bases, banana ice cream floaters, the list goes on. For now, the simple smoothie will suffice.

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A smoothie is more substantial because it still contains all of the fiber, making it more of a meal. There are plenty of options to add to your smoothie, too: nuts, seeds, spices, nut milks, nut butters, powders…Smoothies can be jam packed with protein, fiber, complex carbs and healthy fats.

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If you’re scooping in a dollop of yogurt, consider coconut milk yogurt instead. It also has live, active cultures, and it’s delicious, dairy free, and unlike Greek yogurt, it isn’t harmful to the environment. This is one of many articles that explains the harmful role Greek yogurt plays in our environment: http://modernfarmer.com/2013/05/whey-too-much-greek-yogurts-dark-side/

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So whichever you prefer, juicing or drinking smoothies, doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you’ve made a conscious decision to improve your health, which in turn, will improve your happiness : )

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Recipe for Juice shown above:

  • 10 large carrots
  • 2 apples
  • 1/2 large beet
  • 1 inch piece of ginger

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Recipe for Simple Smoothie shown above:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup almond milk*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tsp spirulina
  • 1 Tsp acai powder

Add everything together and blend!

*If you don’t have almond milk, increase water to 1 cup.

Tips for juices and smoothies:

Juices –

  • Include stalks/stems when juicing leafy greens.  The juice mostly comes from this area; the leaves usually just wind up in the disposal area.
  • Different vegetables and fruits heal various ailments and conditions.  Research which fruits and veggies are best for your needs, or feel free to contact me.

Smoothies – 

  • Freeze fruits to make a more frosty smoothie – I peel, dice, and freeze bananas, mangoes, and pineapple
  • Be wary of adding bottled fruit juices; even juices that say 100% juice contain flavor packets and sit in factories for months at a time

Happy Drinking! What are some of your favorites to add to juices and smoothies?

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Pantry Essentials

With so many healthy food options on the market, it can be quite overwhelming when trying to figure out which foods you should line your kitchen cabinets with.  Chia seeds or flax seeds? Almond milk or soy milk?

image credit: http://chandanadeekshith.com/
image credit: http://chandanadeekshith.com/

The truth is, it’s very easy to spend a lot of money on all of these items, but many of these healthy staples last awhile – like protein powders.  I’ve made a quick bullet list of items that I always have at any given time.  Of course, I tend to go crazy and have some wacky ingredients roaming the shelves of my kitchen, but for the sake of keeping it simple, well…I’ll keep it simple.

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Protein Powders for Smoothies

Many conventional protein powders that can be bought in “health food/vitamin stores” contain some crazy fillers.  Stick with the natural powders.  I order most of these online.  I like:

  • Organic Hemp Protein (Ingredients: Organic hemp protein – catch my drift?)
  • Spirulina – This rich-green colored algae has more protein pound for pound packed into it than any other food, including meat!

Other powders I have that I add to my smoothies are:

  • Acai Powder
  • Cacao Powder (And if this list was in order of taste preference – this would be number 1. I use it a lot – smoothies, desserts, oatmeal, hot chocolate, you name it….But it also has unbelievable health benefits and contains high amounts of antioxidants and magnesium)
  • Maca Powder

*When possible, buy these powders raw and organic.

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Beans and other Legumes

  • Chickpeas/garbanzo beans – My personal favorite.  Besides hummus, I add these to rice, salads, desserts, and my special chickpea “tuna” sandwich which I will share soon, too.
  • Black beans, white beans, kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Split peas
  • Tempeh

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Nuts, Grains & Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Almond meal (flour) – replaces typical flour and is made from just ground up almonds
  • Cashews
  • Walnuts
  • Steel cut oats
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa – A seed, not a grain, is a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids.  For this reason, quinoa is an important food source for those who do not eat meat.
  • Chia seeds – Of all the foods listed on this page, this is the one I use the most.  Chia seeds are extremely versatile; I put them on rice, oatmeal, smoothies, toast, and use them to make pudding and as a substitute for eggs when baking.  These little guys are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and more. Chia seeds can hold up to 10-12 times their weight in liquid.  Because of this reason and other health reasons, I prefer chia seeds to flax seeds. And if we’re comparing chia seeds to dairy, these seeds contain 5 times more calcium than milk.  They deserve their own post because there is an endless amount of information on them.
  • Ezekiel Bread – Speaking of toast, this is the type of bread I buy.  It’s flourless, is made from sprouted whole grains, and is absolutely delicious.  There are a few good brands of this type of bread, just as long as it contains sprouted whole grains.  They’re usually all together in the bakery aisle.

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 Fruits & Vegetables*

  • Avocado – Includes just about every health benefit under the sun; I eat at least one a day – I’m addicted
  • Bananas – Goes into almost every smoothie and many desserts I make
  • Beets – A blood purifier
  • Blueberries – Loaded with antioxidants (I buy frozen when they’re not in season)
  • Carrots – Loaded with vitamins and anti-aging benefits
  • Garlic – Helps fight against infections within the body.  When a recipe calls for one garlic clove, I use close to the entire bulb.  Blame my mother.
  • Ginger – Contains anti-inflammatory properties
  • Lemons/Limes – Cleanses the body from the inside
  • Onions – I use these on a daily basis in sauces, soups, and rice
  • Spinach and Kale – Goes into everything from salads to smoothies to sautes
  • Sweet Potatoes – Loaded with vitamins, fiber, and potassium to name a few

*It really is important to buy certified organic fruits and vegetables; however, it can also be quite expensive.  Though this is not a rule of thumb, many fruits and vegetables that have thin skins are more susceptible to pesticides.

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Spices

  • Turmeric – Contains anti-inflammatory properties
  • Cinnamon
  • Curry – A combination of spices, I add curry to a lot of soups and rice bowls
  • Red Pepper – Helps boost metabolism

quote - enjoy the little things

Miscellaneous

  • Almond Milk (Unsweetened) – I tend to stay away from soy products, like soy milk, unless they’re fermented (like tempeh and miso) and/or do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Coconut Milk Yogurt – contains live active cultures which helps digestion
  • Dairy-free chocolate chips – great when baking (I use Enjoy Life brand)
  • Earth Balance – replaces butter when you don’t eat dairy (and tastes better)
  • Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Maple Syrup
  • Turbinado Sugar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Pumpkin Risotto

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I eat a lot of brown rice.  I make about 15 cups each time and keep it in the fridge for the week.  Even Roscoe eats rice and beans for dinner every night.  Depending on what I’m in the mood for, I’ll add different things to my rice each night.

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I was looking in the cabinet for coconut milk when I came across pumpkin puree and thought I’d try a little coconut and pumpkin concoction.  I had bought the pumpkin puree thinking that I would use it to try out some cookie recipes, but I guess that will have to wait 😉

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This rice came out perfectly.  It’s the kinda rice that you would eat when you’re out to dinner on vacation, sun-kissed from the day and maybe a little buzzed from the Malibu. It’s creamy, it’s sweet, and it’s savory…and it’s easy.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1.5 cups pumpkin puree, which should only contain 100% pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp peeled and grated ginger, about a 2 inch piece (or 1/2 tsp ginger spice)
  • 1 Tsp curry
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 Tsp salt

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1. On medium to high heat, heat the oil in the pan for one minute.

2. Then add the diced onions, stirring for about two minutes, or until translucent.

3. Next, stir in the 2 cups of brown rice.

4. Add in the coconut milk, pumpkin puree, water, ginger, curry, and salt.   Whisk together until completely blended.

5. Once this comes to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

6. Gently stir in the peas and beans.  Cover and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Once the heat is turned off, let the rice sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

8. Add in the parsley, stir, and enjoy!

Makes 7 cups cooked.

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Do It Yourself (DIY) Dresser Repair

My neighbor’s elderly mother had given us her old furniture last year.  The furniture was gorgeous; it was high quality, durable, and had that certain old-fashioned flair that I love oh so much.  The dark stain was out of date, however, and it definitely had its fair share of nicks and bruises.

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I started researching DIY projects and ideas.  So, one weekend, I sanded, painted, and distressed one of the smaller dressers that she’d given to us.  Then, I did the same to the two end tables.  They looked gorgeous and I was very impressed with myself, but there was still the large dresser that I needed to accomplish.  My procrastination set in, and the large, bruised, nicked, yet beautifully designed dresser sat in the corner of the bedroom unloved and neglected – until of course, this weekend, when I poured all of my energy into giving my dresser what it deserved, a much needed makeover!  Not only did it come out better than all of the other pieces, but it ties the whole room together and adds an extra touch of serenity.

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Banana Nut Bread

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I have been buying (organic) bananas in bulk lately because there are so many decadent desserts that are just that much better with bananas – not to mention smoothies! Since the bananas are better when they’re overly ripe, for taste and health reasons, I like to buy bananas a lot so I have ripe ones and some that are on their way to ripeness and beyond!

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I was supposed to make this bread a few days ago but was just so busy, I told myself I would make it over the weekend.  Well, for those of you who know, this winter has been crazy cold and snowy, but the last two days have been absolutely gorgeous and I was enjoying most of it by being outside with the fam – Justin and Roscoe.  Needless to say, it quickly became Sunday afternoon and my bananas were on the verge of becoming fruit fly heaven.

Justin, Roscoe, and me
Justin, Roscoe, and me

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I’ve never tried out this recipe before, and I literally just began pulling ingredients out of the cabinets that I thought would make for a delicious banana bread.  The only thing I was a little short on was maple syrup.  I had just about one third of a cup left and I wanted to add more sweetness.

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I decided to try out the bottle of molasses sitting on my windowsill and it worked super well in this bread.  The end result was a banana nut bread that is chewy, sweet, crunchy, and gooey.  The warm, oozy bananas were just the right ying to the walnut’s crunchy yang. And yet another plus, your home will smell amazing for the rest of the day.

So enjoy! And let me know how yours came out!!

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Ingredients:

  • 6 overly ripe bananas
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp Chia seeds
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tsp Almond Extract
  • Coconut Oil for greasing pan

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a blender or food processor, combine all of the ingredients EXCEPT two of the bananas, raisins, and walnuts.

3. Chop the remaining two bananas.

4. Once blended, add in the walnuts, raisins, and chopped up bananas.  This will give the bread added texture.

5. Grease the bread pan (9 x 5 x 3) with coconut oil (or oil of your choice).  Pour in the banana bread batter and cook for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check the bread by sticking a knife into the center – if the knife comes out clean, your bread is done!  Let it sit for 15 minutes to cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balancedbella Mushroom Burger with Garlic Aioli Sauce

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This has been my go-to sandwich for a couple of years now, vegan or not.  It’s a great meal when you’re in the mood for a messy, two-hands-kinda-sandwich.  The flavors blend together deliciously, and without using too many ingredients, this makes for a quick and easy lunch or dinner.  I usually make these about once every two weeks, and it so happens I’m making them tonight for a few of my girlfriends coming over – I’ll be pairing them with some baked sweet potato wedges. I’ve even made these into an appetizer by cutting the cooked mushrooms into smaller pieces and using mini rolls and toothpicks. IMG_9403Ingredients (Makes 4 Burgers, Total time: 30 minutes):

  • 4 Portobello  Mushrooms, destemmed
  • 1 cup Vegan Mayo * (I like Vegenaise)
  • 14 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 4 multigrain rolls
  • Optional toppings (Avocado, Tomato, Kale/Spinach)

*If you don’t have or use vegan mayo, another option I’ve created before is using one can of Cannellini or Garbonzo beans, rinsed and drained, the juice of one lemon, one tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar, and one tablespoon of Tahini.  Add all ingredients into a blender/food processor and voilà!

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Steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Remove the stems from the mushroom caps and clean each cap with a damp paper towel to remove any excess dirt.

3. Place all four caps on a baking sheet, stem/bottom side down. (Make sure to use a baking sheet with sides so the juices do not drip off the pan while cooking.)** Drizzle just a small portion of the olive oil and balsamic vinegar onto the mushroom tops, saving most of the oil and vinegar for the other side of the mushroom.  Rub the mixture into each top, then flip the mushrooms over so their tops are down and you’re looking at their bottoms. Drizzle the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar into each mushroom.  (Their centers usually absorb much of the mixture.)  Massage the oil and vinegar into each cap.  Sprinkle salt and pepper onto each mushroom (to your taste).  Place the mushrooms into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Begin to prepare your garlic aioli sauce!

4. Garlic Aioli Sauce: On a cutting board, peel 14 cloves of garlic (sometimes I even use more), and mince, or chop finely.  Add the garlic to one cup of vegan mayo and squeeze the juice of one lemon on top.  Mix thoroughly with a spoon.

5. If you’re adding toppings such as avocado or tomato, begin slicing them now while you’re waiting for your mushrooms to finish cooking/cooling.

6. Once cooked, let your mushrooms cool down for 5 minutes while the juices set in.  Dip each roll into the juices from the pan, smear some garlic aioli sauce onto each bun, and begin to build your burger…enjoy!

**If you are adding onions, an easy option is to slice some up and add them right to the baking sheet, drizzling some of the oil and vinegar mixture onto them.

And So It Begins…

I can read for hours upon hours about nutrition – superfoods and their benefits, as well as foods which contain mind boggling additives like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial sweeteners, partially hydrogenated oils, toxins and poisons, to name a few. Starting this blog gives me an awesome excuse and a reason to read even more…not to mention an outlet since I’m pretty sure not all of my Facebook friends wish to read articles such as “Why You Should Never Drink Milk,” as they’re in the middle of eating a slice of pizza. And although I think my dinner creations are masterpieces, I’m also pretty certain that many of my Instagram friends could care less. Hence, the creation of the balanced bella blog and instagram.  I’ve been creating and testing out new recipes for so long, I’m pretty stoked to get to share them now. Also, I get to use my nifty little camera to photograph these edible projects of mine.