Eat More Plants! 5 Tips on How to Start

It’s no secret that a plant-based diet is the way to achieve a healthy lifestyle and preserve your body and mind into old age. Well-known plant based diets, such as the Mediterranean Diet, are constantly in the headlines for their role in lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, helping with weight loss, controlling diabetes, providing anti-inflammatory benefits for women with PCOS, and so on. Most people in the United States are raised on a “Western Diet” which is a diet heavier in meat, specifically red and processed meats, as well as refined grains and simple sugar.

Eggplant lasagna made with baked eggplant, topped with tomato and fresh basil and mozzarella.
Eggplant lasagna made with baked eggplant, topped with tomato sauce, fresh basil & mozzarella.

In my years of counseling people in different areas of the country on their diets, I’ve noticed that 1. people tend to eat how they were raised to eat and 2. meat is usually the focus at each meal. The reason I mention the first point is because, although it can be really hard to break a habit, especially a habit that we learned in childhood, there comes a time when adults must be held accountable for their eating habits. At what age can we no longer blame our poor eating habits on our parents? At what point does it shift from naivety to willful ignorance? If you find yourself saying things like, “Well this is how I’ve always eaten,” realize that this is an excuse. Change is not easy, but the choice is yours. Okay, I’m getting philosophical here but my main point is that, if adults tend to eat how they were raised to eat, then we as adults have an obligation to set our children up for success. How? That brings me to my second point.

We need a shift… a shift in our mindset from “meat is the star of the dish and everything else is a side” to “vegetables are the star of the dish and everything else is a side.” Before you stop reading and go grab a cheeseburger, hear me out. I’m not telling you to become a vegetarian, unless of course you’re into that sort of thing. The bottom line is this:

Eat more plants and less meat.

The extended version: eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains and less red and processed meats.

Why?

  • Plants have fiber. Repeat after me: fiber is my friend. Fiber helps to regulate our blood sugar/energy level; it helps build immunity; it fills us up quicker and keeps us full longer; it pulls cholesterol out of our bodies; it prevents constipation and can help control diarrhea; it decreases our risk of colon and rectal cancer; it helps to prevent diverticulitis… need I say more? Most people do not eat enough plants, therefore, they don’t get enough fiber.
  • Meats, specifically red and processed meats, have more saturated fat than their white meat, seafood, and plant-based alternatives. Processed meats (like bacon, sausage, bologna, and hot dogs) can be loaded with sodium and preservatives too, yikes! Saturated fat leads to inflammation and makes us more insulin resistant, which is detrimental for people trying to lose weight and those with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or PCOS.

Tips for Eating a More Plant-Based Diet

  1. Eat 2-3 different vegetables at meals. While we downsize our meat portion we need to increase the plants at our meals so we don’t feel starving, since you should not be starving when eating a healthy diet. It might be a tad overwhelming to overflow your plate with asparagus (not to mention the dreaded “asparagus pee” you’d experience later on) so instead have a variety! Maybe you roast some asparagus, steam some broccoli, and have salad with your meal as well.
    • No time for roasting or steaming? Vegetables can be fresh, frozen, or canned! Microwave freezer bags are amazing, as long as they aren’t filled with a bunch of salty sauce. Don’t avoid canned vegetables, just choose ones that have “no added salt” or “low sodium” and rinse them under water.

      Spring lettuce mix topped with roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, onions, and sunflower seeds.
      Spring lettuce mix topped with roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, onions, and sunflower seeds.
  2. Use half the amount of ground meat you would normally use in a recipe and substitute that other half with plants! For example, when I make stuffed peppers or chili, I cook about 1/2 lb of ground meat then I dice 1/2-1 lb of mushrooms and toss them in with the meat. Mushrooms have a hearty or “meaty” texture and are so flavorful that you won’t even miss the meat. You could also use beans in place of the meat or try mincing onion, dicing zucchini, or shredding carrot and add them to your chili for a veggie-twist.
    • Not quite ready to swap your meats for veggies? Instead, try swapping ground turkey breast for ground beef or use half poultry half beef in your recipe.

      A vegetarian pepper stuffed with cauliflower and walnuts.
      A stuffed pepper filled with cauliflower and walnuts, seasoned to perfection. A dish like this is sure to please your vegetarian and meat-loving friends alike!
  3. Incorporate seafood into your diet. Seafood has so many incredible health benefits and can easily be substituted when you’d otherwise use meat. For example, instead of making chicken alfredo, try shrimp alfredo. If you typically order a burger for lunch, order a tuna sandwich instead. Throw some tuna steaks or salmon filets on the grill instead of your go-to ribeye. If the cost of seafood makes it prohibitive for you, choose frozen or canned options. Also remember, now that the meat portion of your meal is smaller, you can stretch a bag of frozen scallops or shrimp further than before.
Flavorful & healthy tuna in a toasted whole wheat sandwich with spinach, tomato, and avocado.
Flavorful & healthy tuna in a toasted whole wheat sandwich with spinach, tomato, and avocado.

4. Try new vegetables and EAT MORE. Feeling stuck in a broccoli rut? Getting tired of salad? Does the thought of mushy steamed cauliflower make you cringe? My best advice is to try different vegetables in different ways. My favorite way to eat vegetables is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, topped with minced garlic and a dash of salt and pepper, then roasted in the oven. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables and the slight char from the oven gives them structure and crunch. Dee-licious! We all know that a raw onion tastes a lot different than an onion in a soup, right? So before you write off Brussels sprouts or beets forever, try them cooked in a different way than you’re used to. You might surprise yourself!

  • Don’t limit your non-starchy vegetable intake. Load your plate with them AND have a salad on the side. These are the things you want to fill up on and go for seconds on. These are your non-guilty pleasure foods! Examples: lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, radishes, green beans, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, onions, peppers, zucchini.

5. Follow my Plate Method at meals for a visual reminder and to keep it simple.

  • 1/2 of your plate is non-starchy vegetables vegetables
  • 1/4 of your plate is whole grains or starchy vegetables
  • 1/4 of your plate is meat or protein
A delicious bowl of vegetables to include asparagus, beets, and lettuce with salmon and sweet potato on the side!
A delicious bowl of vegetables to include asparagus, beets, and lettuce with salmon and sweet potato on the side!

What vegetables do you love and how do you prepare them!

 

Peanut Butter & Love Letters

Are you a peanut butter junkie? Yes, that’s a thing. If the thought of a peanut-butter-smothered-anything tickles your fancy, then you’re in the club. As a peanut butter junkie myself, I’ve come to appreciate the simple, yet complex, taste of peanut butter made from fresh, wholesome peanuts. Seriously, have you ever looked at the ingredients in most store-bought peanut butters? Many include partially & fully hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, sugar, palm oil… yikes. With peanut butter being an adult- and kid-friendly staple in many households, we have to do better!

If peanut butter is your go-to but you’d just like to have other options, look no further. You can swap peanuts in this recipe for any other type of nut or seed OR a combination! Peanut allergy? No problem, feel free to substitute almonds, sunflower seeds, or cashews for a delicious homemade nut butter that’s sure to please! Looking for a cute gift idea? A jar of homemade peanut butter will make family, friends, and teachers smile.

homemade organic peanut butter
Creamy. Smooth. Homemade. Add chopped peanuts for a crunchy twist!

I love knowing exactly what ingredients are in the food I’m eating and feeding to my family. I was so surprised at how easy it is to make my own peanut butter! The fact that peanuts are fairly cheap made this recipe a no-brainer.

organic peanuts in bulk
Dry roasted organic peanuts. Yes please.

Let’s talk about these nutritional powerhouses: Peanuts.

In a serving of peanut butter (about 2 Tbsp or the size of a ping pong ball) you get:

  • 12 grams healthy fats (monounsaturated + polyunsaturated)
    • These healthy fats are good for our eyes, brain, heart, and hormone production, among other things!
  • 2 g fiber
    • Fiber helps to keep us full longer, keep our blood sugar stable, and keep our bowel movements regular.
  • 8 g protein
    • Protein is necessary for our body to build and repair tissue, including skin and muscle.
  • 200 mg potassium
    • Low levels of potassium can contribute to constipation, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
  • 10% DV magnesium & Vitamin B6
    • Vitamin B6 plays a role in our immunity and metabolism. Vitamin B6 deficiency is linked to depression.
    • Magnesium plays a role in blood sugar control, nerve and muscle function, and blood pressure regulation.
    • Source: USDA Food Composition Database

Peanuts are:

  • Delicious
  • Vegetarian & vegan
  • Versatile
  • Gluten-free
  • Diabetic friendly
organic raw peanuts used for homemade peanut butter
Organic raw peanuts that I purchase in bulk.

So how are love letters related in any way to peanut butter?

Well, back in February of 2010, Ryan volunteered to go to the United States Army Ranger School. We were about 6 months into our courtship at the time so his Army lifestyle was all still new to me. I didn’t realize then that Ranger School is one of the Army’s toughest combat leadership courses. It was over two months long and included intense, physically demanding training paired with food and sleep deprivation. Needless to say, he wasn’t going to be able to visit me or even call me at all while actively training at Ranger School. He said that he would be able to write and receive letters. Letters!

I wrote Ryan a letter every single day he was at Ranger School. I used brightly colored paper and put stickers all over them to bring some cheer into his life and maybe a smile to his face. He had told me that he wouldn’t be given his mail every day. I couldn’t bare the thought of everyone else receiving mail except him, so I wrote him every one of the 63 days he was there.

I received 19 letters from him and as I was sifting through them last night before writing this post, they made me smile, laugh, and cry. They brought me back to our early dating days when I would only see him on weekends that he wasn’t training. He’d drive down to Tallahassee with friends (I was in my senior year at FSU and he was stationed in South Georgia at Fort Benning) and his friends and my sorority sisters would hit it off. The first year of our relationship was a big party. Ryan had told me early on that he would deploy to Iraq when he was done with his initial officer training, so that was always looming in the back of my mind. I vividly remember conversations with my sorority sisters, late in the evening as we all huddled around each others’ bunk beds, where I voiced my concerns about dating a guy in the military. I wasn’t sure I could “handle” a year-long deployment. I didn’t think I could handle dating a guy in the military.

letters from my soldier
The letters I received from Ryan while he was at Ranger School, sent to my sorority house where I lived.

Maybe it was the poems he wrote me or the crossword puzzle he made for me or the itemized list of what I should look for in a grad school (yes, he included “me” on that list since one of my school choices was close to where he would be stationed at the time). Maybe it was how often he called me “sweetheart” or scribbled little hearts and kissy faces in the corner of those letters, designated by an arrow and “I kissed this spot.” Maybe it was the romantic lines in French he included with parentheses to show the English translation, including “Your Dreams are my Dreams” when he wrote about getting a puppy and our vacation we’d take after he returned. Maybe it was all of those things he wrote, but most likely it was because he is the type of man that would write those things, that kept me close to him.

love letter
Letters of love, love for me and for pancakes.

So you may still be wondering, where does peanut butter come into this picture? Remember how I mentioned that an aspect of Ranger School was food deprivation? Ryan was hungry, very hungry, and often his letters would include fantasies of what he was going to eat after he graduated, to include Twinkies, a burger, and pancakes. He would go into detail as to why a certain MRE (meal ready-to-eat) was his favorite and he’d mention things he would want me to include in his care package (that they would receive at the end of the last phase). Included in the items he wanted me to send him were Red Bull and… here it comes… “cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter.”

img_2385.jpg

The moment I read those words I began to panic. As you can see, he wrote that letter on April 12th, which means I didn’t receive it until after that and I had to have his care package to him before the 25th. Back in early 2010, nut butter varieties weren’t a huge craze like they are now. I don’t think you could find honey almond butter or sunflower seed butter on regular grocery store shelves. Needless to say, all I knew at that time was I had to send his package with cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter and I wasn’t sure it even existed. Three stores later and probably a few mmHg up on my blood pressure, I finally found the elusive cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter, thanks to Peanut Butter & Co. I was able to put it in his care package and all was right in the world. He later told me that he and his buddies dipped Snickers bars and Twinkies directly into the jar and devoured the whole thing. I guess you can say it was appreciated.

That brings me to the reason I think of Ranger School any time I think of flavored peanut butter. Since my recollection of Ranger School includes fond memories of love letters and happy reunions, when I made peanut butter for the first time I naturally wanted to make a cinnamon raisin swirl variety. Ryan was the one who actually suggested it. Yes sir!

Underneath the recipe for homemade peanut butter you’ll find my cinnamon raisin swirl recipe. The first time I made it I ate the entire batch. I kid you not. It is so delicious. It took several, five to be exact, attempts to get it perfect. I hope you have more self control than I did so you can share your peanut butter with a friend. Either way, enjoy it!

Bonus, I’ve also included a recipe for Cacao Hazelnut Butter aka kNockoff Nutella. It’s healthier than the store-bought version, it’s chocolatey, and it’s delicious. Put it on a sandwich, dip your pretzels or crackers in it, or make the apple nachos shown below. Cue drool.

Apple slices topped with homemade peanut butter, cacao hazelnut butter, shredded coconut, and cinnamon.
Apple slices topped with homemade peanut butter, homemade cacao hazelnut butter, shredded coconut, and cinnamon.
Apple slices topped with homemade peanut butter, cacao hazelnut butter, shredded coconut, and cinnamon.
Flavors of pure bliss: peanut butter, chocolate, and cinnamon.

Homemade Peanut Butter

Ingredients (Yield 2 cups)

  • 2 cups peanuts (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted)
  • optional pinch of salt (if using salted peanuts, do not add more salt)

Directions

  1. If using roasted peanuts, skip to Step 2. If using raw peanuts, you’ll want to roast them before proceeding. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place your peanuts on a sheet tray in an even layer. Roast for 5-7 minutes or until peanuts become golden and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. Place peanuts (and salt, if using) into your food processor and turn on high.
  3. Each minute or so, scrape the sides of your food processor with a rubber scraper.
  4. In the span of 5-7 minutes, your peanuts will go from ground to chunky to clumpy to a ball then magically, it will transform into peanut butter. You might question whether it will ever happen, but give it time. If your machine starts to overheat, turn if off for a minute and continue.
  5. Once your peanut butter becomes smooth and creamy, turn your processor off, scoop your peanut butter into a jar with a tightly fitting lid and resist the temptation to eat the entire thing… or don’t, it’s up to you.
  6. You can keep your peanut butter in the cabinet if consumed within a week, transfer to fridge if storing longer.

Tip: Use room temperature peanuts to facilitate them releasing their oils. Since I keep my nuts in the freezer, I let them sit on the counter for about an hour before making my peanut butter.

Recipe inspired by Sproutly Stories

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter.
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter. What dreams are made of.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter 

Ingredients (Yield 1 cup)

  • 1 cup peanuts (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted)
  • optional pinch of salt (if using salted peanuts, do not add more salt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/2 tsp to swirl in
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil such as canola or peanut oil, more as needed for desired consistency

Directions

  1. If using roasted peanuts, skip to Step 2. If using raw peanuts, you’ll want to roast them before proceeding. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place your peanuts on a sheet tray in an even layer. Roast for 5-7 minutes or until peanuts become golden and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. Place peanuts, cinnamon (minus 1/2 tsp), maple syrup, and vanilla (and salt, if using) into food processor.
  3. Turn food processor on high and each minute or so, scrape the sides with a rubber scraper. If your machine starts to overheat, turn if off for a minute and continue.
  4. In the span of 3-5 minutes, your peanuts will go from ground to chunky to clumpy to a ball. When this happens, slowly drizzle in the oil, as needed, to thin out your peanut butter until you reach your desired creaminess.
  5. Once your peanut butter becomes smooth and creamy, turn your processor off. Add the 1/2 tsp cinnamon and, without mixing, gently scoop your peanut butter into a jar with a tightly fitting lid. This will create swirls of cinnamon, allowing some bites to be cinnamon bombs in your mouth, while other bites are more mild cinnamon flavor.
  6. You can keep your peanut butter in the cabinet if consumed within a week, transfer to fridge if storing longer.

Tip: Use room temperature ingredients to facilitate them releasing their oils. Since I keep my nuts in the freezer, I let them sit on the counter for about an hour before making my peanut butter.

Bonus Recipe

nutella
Cacao Hazelnut Butter

Cacao Hazelnut Butter aka kNockoff Nutella

Ingredients (Yield 1 cup)

  • 1 cup hazelnuts (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted)
  • pinch of salt (if using salted hazelnuts, do not add more salt)
  • 1/8 cup cacao powder
  • 1/8 cup + 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used whole cows milk)
  • optional 1 tsp oil for creaminess

Tip: Use room temperature ingredients to facilitate them releasing their oils. Since I keep my nuts in the freezer, I let them sit on the counter for about an hour before making my nut butter.

Directions

  1. If using roasted hazelnuts, skip to Step 2. If using raw hazelnuts, you’ll want to roast them before proceeding. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place your nuts on a sheet tray in an even layer. Roast for 5-7 minutes or until hazelnuts become golden and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. Remove skins on hazelnuts by rubbing them together between a paper towel. You don’t have to get all of the skins, just the majority that comes off easily.
  3. Place all ingredients, minus the oil, into food processor.
  4. Turn food processor on high and each minute or so, scrape the sides with a rubber scraper.  If your machine starts to overheat, turn if off for a minute and continue.
  5. In the span of 3-5 minutes, your hazelnuts will go from ground to chunky to clumpy to a ball. When this happens, slowly drizzle in the oil, as needed, to thin out your nut butter until you reach your desired creaminess.
  6. Transfer your finished product into a jar with a lid. You should keep your cacao hazelnut butter in the fridge, as there are no preservatives and your nut butter contains milk.

Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Easy Baked Falafel: A Healthy Twist on a Middle Eastern Classic

My love of falafel started in Key West. My parents would take our family there every summer growing up and we’d walk along Duval Street to explore and eat. We’d rent jet skis and my brother would take pleasure in throwing me off by going really fast then taking a sharp turn. My dad would usually charter a fishing boat and we would fish, snorkel, and enjoy our time in the sun. He always reminds us of the time when my sister and I had our feet hanging off the back of the boat and he casually tells us to bring them in. It wasn’t until years later my dad informed us that he saw an 8-foot hammerhead shark swimming in our direction. I’m glad he didn’t tell us at the time, since I had seen the movie Jaws one too many times at that point and probably would’ve had a heart attack.

My mom was the one who always insisted we get falafel while in Key West. If I remember correctly, that was the only time we ate it. Maybe they didn’t have good falafel in Jupiter. Maybe it became more of a tradition while we were there. I know my mom looked forward to it all year. Needless to say, we’d always make sure to stop at the little stand and get our falafel, wrapped in a fresh pita bread with lettuce, tomato, and Tzatziki sauce. Yum.

Sprouted whole grain pita stuffed with falafel, cucumber slices, tomato, and Tzatziki sauce, garnished with cilantro.
Sprouted whole grain pita stuffed with falafel, cucumber slices, tomato, and Tzatziki sauce, garnished with cilantro.

I found a place in Manitou Springs, CO that served authentic Middle Eastern food. You better believe every single time I went there I ordered falafel because it was so dang good. The place was called The Sahara Cafe and I think I probably ate there 20 times while we lived in Colorado. We took all of our visitors there, because it was delicious but also because Manitou Springs was a really cool town to explore. I went to Sahara a couple times after hiking The Incline, an intense hike that starts at 6,600 feet and goes up 2,000 feet in less than a mile. I had heard about this hike before we even moved there so of course I had to conquer it.

Falafel is a Middle Eastern food and traditionally deep fried. As we all know, deep fried anything is delicious but probably not something you want to eat regularly. Fried foods are not only a lot higher in calories (versus the same food baked or grilled), but also likely contain trans fats, which are the bad fats that you want to avoid. Trans fats contribute to everything from heart disease to diabetes to infertility.

Before you think that you can never enjoy some of your favorite foods again, the good news is that most foods that are traditionally fried can also we baked or grilled– like falafel! This recipe uses the same ingredients as traditional falafel, but is baked in the oven. This allows you to enjoy falafel regularly, as it’s actually a healthy option for the entire family, kids included! So what’s in it?

Garbanzo beans. Fear not carnivores, in 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, you get a whopping 20 grams of protein. The beauty of plant-based protein is that you typically get a healthy dose of fiber too, about 15 grams to be exact. They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals as well. Chickpeas are a great addition to your salad or bean chili but are the star of the dish in falafel.

Fresh herbs. Speckled with green, falafel is not only healthy, but it’s pretty, thanks to the fresh herbs in this recipe. Cilantro and parsley add flavor that make your taste buds sing. Herbs are the best way to add flavor to a dish without adding a bunch of salt. They contain an array of healthy stuff as well, including anti-inflammatory properties and several essential vitamins.

Garlic. Just do a quick online search for the health benefits of garlic and you might be surprised at the millions, yes millions, of articles you find. Garlic has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties and it’s widely used for the tremendous amount of flavor it provides. To put it simply, garlic is good for you: your heart, your blood, and your GI tract too.

The ingredients of falafel minced in the food processor.
The ingredients of falafel minced in the food processor. Almost done!

When I was making my falafel, I probably said 10 times “Mmm it smells so good.” When herbs, garlic, lemon, and onion are minced together in the food processor, the aroma is intoxicating. I wonder if they sell a falafel scented candle… 

Forming the falafel is easy by hand, although I’ve heard they sell fancy falafel-making scoops. I emptied the minced falafel ingredients into a bigger bowl which made scooping by hand easier for me. Bonus: Your hands will smell delicious during this process.

falafel patties ready to be cooked
The patties have been formed, now to be brushed with olive oil and put into the oven.

After I made these for the first time, I broke open a steaming hot falafel and dunked it into a bowl of hummus. Falafel + hummus = a match made in heaven. Ryan is always amazed at my ability to eat food straight out of the oven, when in reality, I just don’t have the patience to wait for it to cool. Most of the time, I can’t even taste whatever I’m eating because I’ve burned the inside of my mouth. Why is it that I continue this habit? I’ll never know.

falafel with hummus
Falafel atop a bed of creamy homemade hummus, garnished with cilantro.

 

Easy Baked Falafel

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 5 cloves of garlic, roasted
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped and roasted
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing pan and brushing falafel

Suggested sides/toppings: Homemade Tzatziki sauce, hummus, cucumber slices, whole grain pita (warmed), sriracha, minced onion, diced tomato, shredded lettuce

Directions: 

  1. Put garbanzo beans in a large bowl and cover with 3-4 inches of water, (the beans will expand as they absorb the water). Let sit for 18-24 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and drizzle some olive oil on a baking sheet.
  3. Place the onion and garlic cloves on your baking sheet, roll the onion and garlic with your fingers to coat with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. The onion will be slightly translucent and the garlic with be slightly charred.
  4. After they have soaked, drain the garbanzo beans and add to your food processor. Pulse the beans alone for 5 pulses to break apart.
  5. Add all other ingredients to food processor and blend until minced (not pureed), scraping down the sides as necessary.
  6. Scoop falafel mixture with your hand and form “patties.” The mixture is very delicate so handle gently. Gently brush the tops of your falafel with olive oil.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, then bake for 10 more minutes.
  8. Enjoy your falafel warm from the oven, dipped in hummus or cool in a pita with cucumber and Tzatziki sauce. Falafel can be frozen, but try to consume within 2-3 weeks.

Adapted from: Just a Taste

Veggie Lover’s Quiche

Tired of boring eggs in the morning? Looking for the perfect dish to bring to your next potluck brunch? This veggie quiche is a game changer. Make it once and you’ll find yourself going back to this recipe time and time again. It’s fresh, vibrant, and flavorful. Quiche is a one-dish meal, making clean-up easy. I also love how versatile it is. You can literally add anything to a quiche, or omit any ingredient you don’t care for, except the eggs of course. You can also eat it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.

This quiche recipe is full of fiber goodness (aka vegetables) and sprinkled with a little bit of tangy goat cheese for flavor. Feel free to substitute feta for the goat cheese, or omit it altogether. Most people don’t tend to think of vegetables as a “breakfast food” but in this recipe, they’re the stars. I love when I can load my breakfast with veggies, as it sets my whole day on the right path.

When we have company stay with us, chances are I’m making a quiche. It’s always a crowd pleaser, or at least I can say I’ve had no complaints. I stock up on pie crusts when they’re on sale and keep them in the freezer. You could make this recipe without the crust and call it a frittata, but the crust makes it extra special and delicious.

Have you ever made quiche? What do you like to put in yours? Let me know in the comments!

quiche2

Veggie Lover’s Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 1 pie crust, preferably without shortening or hydrogenated oil. I love Immaculate brand.
  • 8-10 large eggs, depending on how many people you are feeding
  • Splash of milk, about 1/8 cup (I use whole cow’s milk)
  • 1 oz goat cheese, crumbled (or substitute with feta cheese)
  • About 2 c vegetables*
    • 3-4 mushrooms, sliced
    • 2-3 asparagus spears, chopped
    • 3-4 cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1 handful of fresh spinach
    • 1/2 onion, diced
    • *Other veggies I’ve used include: bell pepper, zucchini, broccoli, potato
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare the pie crust in a pie dish according to package directions. I usually just bake it at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes.
  2. Cut vegetables as indicated above. Add to pan on medium heat with olive oil and garlic. Sauté for up to 5 minutes to slightly soften vegetables and wilt spinach.
  3. Pour vegetables onto plate covered with paper towel to soak excess liquid from vegetables, then transfer to prepared pie crust.
  4. Whisk eggs and milk in a separate bowl.
  5. Add egg mixture to pie dish.
  6. Crumble goat cheese onto quiche. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until center is no longer jiggly.
  8. Enjoy by itself or paired with sliced avocado and a drizzle of sriracha, yum!

Tip: Prepare (cut and sauté) the veggies the night before to make assembly super easy in the morning.

Rice Cake Revamped

If I lost you at the title please stay with me. I know rice cakes can seem like a snack your grandmother might have enjoyed back in the day, but they’ve made a comeback. I always have rice cakes in my pantry because they’re a simple and crunchy snack for when I’m feeling hungry and lazy. Rice cakes themselves are incredibly crunchy, which hits the spot when you’re craving something you really just want to chew with your mouth open. It’s a nice change from carrots and hummus, believe me.

I personally prefer unsalted rice cakes so I can add some peanut butter and get a little creamy, salty combo that way. I never eat a rice cake without cinnamon either. My classic recipe is below, but feel free to experiment with whatever toppings or flavors you like best.

Rice Cake Revamped

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 rice cakes, I like these
  • 1-2 T peanut butter or almond butter
  • Dash of cinnamon

Optional topping include: raisins, dark chocolate chips, coconut flakes, chia seeds, cacao powder

Directions:

  1. Spread peanut butter or almond butter evenly on rice cake(s). Sprinkle with cinnamon and add desired toppings. Enjoy!