Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille

I have been meaning to begin posting restaurants for a long time now (like, at least a year). Blue Sage this past Friday gave me the extra push to spend the time! As important as it is to eat real, it’s also important to enjoy food!! I do both daily, every time I eat, and believe you can dine away from home healthfully whether you’re in your home town or traveling for business or leisure.

Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille // Eat Real Live Well // Bucks County

I’ve lived in Bucks County for almost four years now, and have always known that Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille existed. I am embarrassed to say that the outside appearance of the place in Southampton (envision small space in dated looking strip mall on a busy road) kept me from trying it out. After hearing good things via social and other media, Tim and I decided it was time to give it a try! Since I refer to my diet as 90% vegetarian, I don’t know how I thought I could go wrong with a BYOB that’s stayed opened for thirteen years on an all vegetarian menu. So, when we arrived we saw it was actually really cute inside, and by the fact that every table was full and there was a line of people waiting for food to go, we knew we were going to have a good meal. We sat and looked at the menu and had no idea what to order. This was not because nothing sounded good but because literally every menu item sounded good and everything we saw going by to other tables looked amazing. We started with an appetizer (even though our appetites wanted to start with three) and decided on the “Tartare”. Here is the menu description:

“Tartare
Of avocado, red lentils, roasted corn, fresh basil, ginger; coco malanga dipping chips”
Blue Sage "Tartare w/ Coco Malanga Chips"
We were pumped about the dish but the chips didn’t look like anything special. We were wrong. Coco malanga where have you been all my life?! Coco malanga, we came to find out is basically taro root. If you’re still confused, it looks similar to a sweet potato (see picture here) but has a more earthy taste in my opinion. At Blue Sage they slice the root very thin and fry them right there – clearly it was a flash fry because these chips were super thin and crispy with absolutely no excess oiliness. The tartare itself tasted super fresh with clear flavor of the roasted corn. The basil and ginger added more complexity and since I am not an official food critic, cannot do it justice with a description on a blog.
Entree’s took a while to choose. I could tell the waitress was getting annoyed with my indecisiveness. I finally decided on the dairy free “Poblano” and Tim chose the “Havana Quesa”.
“Poblano Roasted bell pepper filled with grilled eggplant caponata, roasted tomato-pumpkin seed pesto over brown ‘butter’ spaghetti squash and roasted corn gravy”
Blue Sage "Poblano" // Eat Real Live Well Roasted eggplant caponata stuffed bell pepper // Blue Sage // Eat Real Live Well
This meal was just ridiculous. And while I absolutely loved the eggplant and bell pepper with the crispy pumpkin seeds on top, the spaghetti squash in the roasted corn gravy was my favorite part. Ate every bit of it. (Second picture is just the pepper sliced open to see that awesome eggplant)
“Havana
Grilled whole wheat tortilla with moterey jack, adobo black beans, mango and cilantro. Served with avocado roasted corn salsa, and baby greend in chili lime vinaigrette”
He was pleasantly surprised that it also came with guacamole.
Havana at Blue Sage // Eat Real Live Well Blue Sage Havana Quesa // Eat Real Live Well
While I didn’t have a bite of the quesadilla due to the cheese, I can comment on the fact that Tim stopped speaking for awhile as soon as it was delivered. And it also says something about that chili lime vinaigrette, that he finished every bit of the salad before taking a single bite of the quesadilla. I tried the salad and guac. Both amazing.
Now dessert. Did we need to order dessert? Nope. Did we sort of have to? Obviously… There were two vegan options and we settled on the “Hazelnut Toffee Basket”
“Chocolate buttercream mousse, hazelnut toffee tuille, bruleed bananas and candied pecans”
Hazelnut Toffee Dessert at Blue Sage  Hazelnut Toffee Basket // Blue Sage // Eat Real Live Well
Another OMG. They lied about the mousse because I think its actually fudge. Thank God this wasn’t a huge portion, because even with us splitting it, the richness was significant enough for us to split with another person too. Despite this, it was good enough that I could have eaten the entire thing myself. So if you go there, do yourself a favor and never ever order a dessert for yourself – always share!
Needless to say, we’ll be heading back here a lot and are adding it to our Bucks County favorites list (alongside Yardley Inn and Sprig & Vine). Their website is under construction, but their current menu is listed on their Facebook page (the ones on urbanspoon and other dining sites are outdated).

Kelly Green Protein Smoothie

Eat Real Live Well // Kelly Green Protein Smoothie

I’ve been making green smoothies for a few months now since it’s gotten warmer and have finally found the perfect blend of ingredients! Sure, I want to recover from my workout be it a run, spin class, or some weight training, but more importantly, post workout food needs to be delicious!!

I am not big on supplements, but Garden of Life Raw Vegan Organic protein is an exception! It is made out of sprouted grains and processed in a way that preserves essential nutrients. The original flavor contains no stevia but the others do. I find stevia upsets my stomach and gives me a headache, so “natural” or not, I personally opt to stay away from it.

Kelly Green Post-Workout Protein Smoothie (Veg, DF, GF, raw)
Makes 1Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup frozen mango (70 g)
1/2 Cup frozen strawberries (70 g)
1 scoop Garden of Life Raw Protein (original)
1 tsp Navitas Naturals Maca root powder (optional but adds amazing flavor)
1 Cup Silk Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
2 Cups fresh spinach
Dash vanilla extract

Directions:

I think the order in which you add the ingredients makes a difference in ease of blending (unless you have a vitamix of course, which I don’t – if you want to buy me one send me an email and I’ll gladly give you my address). I add the spinach & fruit first, then protein & maca, and finally the milk and splash of vanilla. Blend as long as you see fit so that its smooth in your blender, bullet or any other smoothie making machine you may have! I find less than a minute is perfect to get the right consistency, somewhere between smoothie and green juice, but a little more on the smoothie side.

 

Eat Real Live Well // Kelly Green Protein Smoothie

 

Since this is only about 2oo Calories, its a great post workout snack to drink up within an hour of exercise. Have a normal sized meal within 2-3 hours of your workout too.

Nutrition Information:

Servings: 1
Calories: 200
Total Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 23 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sugar: 11 g
Protein: 21 g
Sodium: 205 mg   9 %
Potassium: 480 mg 10%

Vitamin A: 57%    Thiamin: 6 %               Riboflavin: 53 %
Niacin: 5%              Vitamin B6: 7 %          Vitamin B12: 125%
Folate: 33 %          Vitamin C: 98%          Vitamin D: 125 %
Vitamin E: 77 %    Calcium:52 %                Iron: 15%
Zinc: 19%                 Copper: 35 %               Magnesium: 23 %
Phosphorus: 7 %   Omega 3: 0.11 g  (6%)

**Vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns

Tips to shop organically, sustainably and more humane

Eating Real Starts Way Before the Grocery Store

My philosophy to always Eat Real also pertains to the way food is produced, not just whether or not it has been overly processed or not. The majority of people never think of how a piece of food got to their plate, and there are even kids today who don’t understand that fruits and vegetables come from plants that grow out of the ground. Without this knowledge how can we make informed decisions about what is best to put in our body? Unfortunately, it can seem more costly to purchase healthy food, never mind organic foods. In fact, those with low food security are 4 times more likely to think it costs more to eat healthy. Dietitians are here to prove that thought wrong! While this post focuses on purchasing tips for real food, there are sites and resources to help with the meal preparation. A meal for a family off the McDonald’s dollar menu may seem logical, but you can make a meal for a whole family that is healthy for under $5. Here are some tips on the Slow Foods USA $5 Challenge website as well as some more ideas that support this initiative from Eating Well Magazine.

 

tomato plantTips to shop organically, sustainably, and more humane // Eat Real Live Well fresh tomato sauce // Tips to shop organically, sustainably, and more humane // Eat Real Live Well

 

Pesticides in Food

Some people ask which foods are most important to buy organic. While I personally choose to buy organic whenever possible (and notice a significantly different taste in apples and bananas to the point where I won’t eat non-organic) there are times for people when economically it is more difficult. Certain crops retain more pesticides than others and a “dirty dozen” list has been created from the most recent research on organic produce. The Environmental Working Group puts out the list on pesticide residue each year. Here is the current “Dirty Dozen” list:
Dirty Dozen (Buy these organic, they retain the most pesticides!)

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Bell Peppers
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Summer squash

If you think about all the chemicals added, here is what you get:

 Tips to shop organically, sustainably, and more humane // Eat Real Live Well

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) created a website to let you know what chemical pesticides are in and on your food and how they impact health negatively. According to their website, What’s On My Food? “is a searchable database designed to make the public problem of pesticide exposure visible and more understandable… We link pesticide food residue data with the toxicology for each chemical, making this information easily searchable for the first time.” Download the app to your phone too!

http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/

Genetically Modified Foods

Most Americans don’t know that their foods are genetically engineered, so pointing out which foods are more likely to be genetically engineered is step 1. Only certain crops are approved by the FDA to be grown genetically engineered. If you see these crops or foods containing them, and do not see the Non GMO Project Verification symbol or Certified Organic symbol, they are likely genetically engineered:

  1. Canola
  2. Corn
  3. Soy (edamame, tofu etc)
  4. Sugar Beets (“sugar” on ingredient lists)
  5. Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash
  6. Papaya
  7. Alfalfa

Animal products such as beef, dairy, chicken and eggs are tricky because they are likely given feed that is made from genetically engineered corn, soy, alfalfa etc. The “natural” label on your meats doesn’t mean much unless as above, you see Non-GMO Project Verification or the USDA Organic Seal.

The Non-GMO Project unfortunately isn’t regulating all of our produce yet, but can help you choosing shelf stable foods that might not be organic but at least are not genetically modified. There is a free iphone app for the non-gmo project that shows foods and brands that are non-gmo. More and more brands are being verified and added to their list regularly! http://www.nongmoproject.org/

Info on the increased resistance to genetically engineered corn and how it is/will impact our environment http://blog.ucsusa.org/is-this-sustainable-agriculture-resistance-to-engineered-bt-corn-on-the-rise

Humane Treatment of and Natural Raising of Animals and Seafood

This actually correlates with the nutrient quality of your foods too. For example, eggs coming from from Free-Range or Pasture Raised chickens (that see the light of day) have 3-6 times more vitamin D than eggs coming from conventionally raised chickens (indoors in cages or just indoors in crowded pens or barns). Wild caught salmon contains more omega-3′s than farm raised. Grass fed beef contains more omega 3′s that cows fed corn too, but also has a dramatically lower E. Coli count!

Certified humane labels are popping up more and more: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/. I don’t consume red meat or much poultry but if/when I do eat chicken, I make sure it came from a local farm that has their animals outside and able to run freely or has a certified human or other animal welfare certification. Eggs are the animal product I consume most frequently, and Pete & Gerry’s organic and certified humane brand is sold at BJ’s Wholesale for just $3.99 / dozen. My husband still consumes red meats on occasion and we like to get it from the local farmers market.

Finally, if you are on twitter or pinterest, I have become pretty active on the social media sites and post articles/info and retweet a lot of the more important news on the food industry and food policy. You can follow me @eatreallivewell or on pinterest here is my food safety/technology board: http://www.pinterest.com/EatRealRD/food-safety-technology-agriculture/

The concern for most is the cost of organic. This is very much due to the cost of certification and the fact that the government subsidizes non-organic crops. Here are some links and tips. Keep in mind, organic snacks still contribute calories, fat, sugar etc to your diet! An organic cookie is still a cookie!

1) Shop the “dirty dozen” for produce I listed above.

2) Choose rBST/rBGH free milk even if its not organic – Wawa recently went back to not giving their cows hormones and trader joe’s is a safe bet too. Here a list a blogger compiled of 30 hormone free brands: http://mommygoesgreen.com/2013/04/are-your-dairy-products-hormone-free-30-dairy-brands-that-are/

3) Choose grass fed beef and free range poultry… but eat less of it. The added cost will balance out and benefit your health. A 16 ounce package of dried organic black beans costs just $2.49 at Wegmans. This can give you close to 3 lbs of beans. How much would 3 lbs of meat cost you as a protein source?

4) Shop at local farmers markets: talk to the farmers and see how they raise their animals and crops. Many of them practice organic methods but don’t pay the money for certification. Because they are local you don’t pay for transportation costs too. The Wrightstown farmers market runs april through the weekend before Thanksgiving and several of the farmers there use organic methods but do not pay for certification so they can keep costs down for us! Some local farms that have ingredients popping up on restaurant menu’s & are in stores like the new Organnon’s in Wrightstown are Blue Moon Acres (who had a free food fest a few weeks ago), None Such Farm, Blooming Glen Farm, Anchor Run, Pennypack farm and more.

Find other local farms at http://www.localharvest.org/.

5) Choose grocery store natural brands. Nature’s Promise at Giant tends to be the least expensive. Trader Joe’s and Wegmans aren’t as convenient in terms of location for most of us that live in or near Newtown, but definitely are the most economical in terms of natural foods.

6) Shop at wholesale clubs: BJ’s & Costco offer organic and humanely raised beef and even organic produce. I buy organic romaine, mixed greens, potatoes, onions, garlic, bananas, apples and even certified humane eggs (when it isn’t farmers market season) at BJ’s frequently. Compared to Giant where 16 oz organic mixed greens cost 6.99, they are only 4.39 at BJ’s.

7) In January 2013 Whole Foods started a movement to show communities that you could shop their economically. The whole foods website and twitter account even highlighted a blogger project where they had bloggers with a family of 4 purchase all organic food at whole foods for their whole family for $100 per week and blog all of the recipes/dishes they’ve eaten all week on just that food. The stores have reduced prices drastically since first opening. Here is a blog post entitled Eating Near the Poverty Line at Whole Foods.

8) Buy in bulk! You can get rice, beans, nuts, dried fruit, oats etc that are organic for much cheaper than the conventional version if you go to the bulk section at Whole Foods and bag what you want :) Wegmans has organic bulk foods too but they tend to be more expensive.

9) Clip & print coupons!
http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons/
http://www.horizondairy.com/ (coupon at lower left of screen)
http://www.mambosprouts.com/coupon-gallery   You should also sign up for mambo sprouts emails as they send other coupons sometimes too
http://www.stonyfield.com/user?destination=coupon - you have to sign up at stonyfield but they have a great rewards program too.
http://www.simplyorganic.com/simplyorganic/documents/coupons.php Spices
Earth’s Best baby food rewards program: http://www.earthsbest.com/content/earths-best-loyalty-program

10) In store coupons
Check the ones in Giant when you first walk in and pick up the “Nature’s Marketplace” in the natural foods section at Wegmans.

 

Also the EWG’s list of the dirty dozen endocrine disruptors: http://www.ewg.org/research/dirty-dozen-list-endocrine-disruptors

If you would like to follow along with what goes on in food policy on a regular basis from supporting GMO labeling to banning bee pesticides and getting artificial dyes out of our foods, here are some sites to go to or sign up for newsletters on:
http://www.panna.org/

http://www.organicconsumers.org/

Let me know if you have any questions!

Spring Food Prep

Spring Food Prep

Whether it’s not procrastinating on a homework assignment, creating an elevator speech, or making some meals and snacks ahead of time, being prepared helps us when life throws us a curve ball or when it’s just crazy busy in general! As I covered in my first food prep post in the fall taking some time once per week saves time and stress later. When it comes to making decisions about food, you can’t ignore them or put them off. We need to eat at least three times per day in order to feel physically and mentally well. When we make the right decisions, we may not consciously give ourselves enough credit to reinforce those good decisions but unconsciously they are balancing our mental well being, making our brain more sharp, making us feel happier and more energetic. Being prepared with meals and emergency snacks helps us make the correct dietary decisions during crunch time and then influences the rest of our abilities for the day and week.

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If prepping ahead is not something you are in the habit of doing or you are not ready to tackle, read the beginning of my fall post where I highlighted what needs to be done before you commit to planning out your meals (ex: start with a list like the one to the left). Earthbound Farm Organics gives similar tips too.

While prepping food is a major part of my life most Sundays, I have made a commitment to post a new week of food prep each semester. At this point, my students have learned a lot about the science of nutrition, specifically what essential nutrients are, why they are important for the body’s metabolic processes, and where to get the nutrients from. However, we are just now getting to the application. There is no one diet for everyone and to improve health, each individual person needs to focus on small goals/changes that they can make to change bad habits into good ones for the rest of their life. A diet is simply a pattern of eating. What can you do to improve your pattern?

In addition to the above, I always have the follow fresh and ready to eat foods on hand:

Apples, bananas, clementines, nuts & seeds, nut butters, raisins & dates, and not so fresh but still fairly clean rice cakes.

 

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Here is how prepping went:

Sunday morning we decided to have pancakes. I made my buckwheat pumpkin pancakes but used applesauce instead of pumpkin. For the two of us, the whole recipe makes enough for Sunday and a couple of days during the week. You can either cook them all, freeze, and reheat in the toaster or you can cover the batter with press and seal and make fresh the next couple of mornings. I like to make them fresh when I can because then I can add different things for more variety. One morning I added walnuts and banana and topped with peanut butter and this morning I added chopped dark chocolate, unsweetened dried coconut & hemp seeds and drizzled some local honey on top.

20140408-125906.jpg banana walnut buckwheat pancake  Banana, chocolate, coconut buckwheat pancake

Crockpot black beans

After breakfast and the gym and right before church I threw 3 C dry black & pinto beans, 6 cups water, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 chopped onion, 1 tsp cumin and pepper in the Crockpot and set on high for 8 hours. When they’re done you can mash or use an immersion blender to really get the “refried” texture, or you can just leave as is and they’re still really good. Throughout the week we add these to salads, potatoes, or have with a random grain and vegetable for a meal. Super versatile and if you are a family of less than 4 I recommend freezing half for another week. Also, if you don’t own a slow cooker I don’t know what you’re waiting for. These things are a gift from God to save us all a ton of time.

 


Late afternoon
potatoes and sweet potatoes went in the oven as did asparagus and a chopped red bell pepper for the frittata. I also thinly sliced fresh beets and tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper and baked them. It saves time and energy ($) to cook as much in the oven at once as you can.
While those were in the oven on the stove top I quick cooked some garbanzo beans from dry for hummus, a cup of brown rice, and a package of Trader Joe’s quick cook farro.
With all of that going, I chopped garlic for the guacamole, hummus, soup, and sauce as well as chopped onion for the guac, soup & sauce and jalapenos for the guac. It saves time to chop everything at once so you don’t have to keep going back. With the cutting board out this was a good time to chop carrots and celery for snacks.

When the asparagus & pepper were ready I chopped them and threw them into a bowl with thawed spinach to let cool. The beet chips were all set and went right into a container.

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Food processor came out and I made simple date & cashew energy bars. There’s simple and more fresh than larabars, though I do like my cashew “cookie” hemp bars a little better!

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I put the rice away for sushi night Wednesday and used that burner to cook organic green beans from frozen. Drizzled a little Tubby Olive Tuscan Herb on top with some pepper and those were done in minutes. I then started the white bean soup (but you can prep any soup!) which was also quick since it was vegetarian and while it was cooking made a quick red sauce for the farro.

green beans 20140408-125857.jpg 20140408-194553.jpg

Last steps of food prep were making the hummus in the food processor, smashing up the guacamole, and cooking the frittata. Here is a hummus recipe I have up but you can also just throw in garbanzo beans, garlic, salt, pepper, tahini and water, pulse and you’re done. I always have extra garbanzo beans so we can have them on salads. Here is an easy guacamole recipe too. Make it in the storage container so you don’t have to wash an extra bowl. For the frittata, I added 6 eggs to the spinach, asparagus and red pepper mixture and cooked in a large non stick eco pan on low so it wouldn’t burn but would cook through. You can also bake frittata’s. I cut it into 6 pieces and stored in a pyrex in the fridge. Tim eats it for lunch and I even had some with already baked potatoes after a workout one night as dinner.

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The prep I did not do Sunday was crockpot oats Wednesday night so breakfast was ready early Thursday (and Friday) morning for us. 1 Cup steel cut oats, 2 cups almond milk, 2 cups water, cinnamon & vanilla. Low for 8 hours. DONE. Added cacao nibs, coconut, hemp hearts and sunflower seed butter and had some mango on the side.

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Things we still prepared during the week:

We still have to pack lunches every night but its a lot quicker when you just ladle soup or farro into a pyrex and throw lettuce and veggies in another container for a quick salad. Below is the bpa free silicon salad dressing containers I picked up recently at Bed Bath & Beyond too. No one likes soggy salads at work!

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Wednesday was salad & sushi night. After having a salad easily with pre-washed lettuce and some oil & vinegar, we took the already prepped rice and simply chopped up some avocado & shredded some carrot. We rolled out the sushi and had some pickled ginger, low sodium soy sauce & chili sauce on the side. To add protein we also split a package of organic frozen edamame that was easily heated up in a pot in minutes.

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Hope you are feeling inspired to start prepping on your own. I promise its so much better to only have to reheat food after a long work and/or school day! While it seems like a lot of work above, it only took about 3 total hours which would have added up to a lot more cooking breakfast and dinner each individual day of the week. You’ll also spend less time doing dishes! If you already prep, maybe there are some new ideas above too. As my students already know, I am always open to comments and question. Have a healthy weekend!

Grow Your Own! Seed Starting for Summer Produce

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from people about eating healthy and organic food is that it costs too much. While I beg to differ and will be posting more this week on how shopping for healthy versus unhealthy food can be much more economical, no one can deny there is nothing more cost effective and fresh than growing your own food! Even if you don’t have much outdoor space, you can still grow small plants like micro-greens or potted herbs. I highly recommend, that if you have kids, to get them involved in planting so they can see where their food comes from- it will definitely increase the chances of them trying and liking the veggies and herbs as well.

When living in the northeast it is best to plant seeds indoors 2 weeks-2 months before planting outside (depending on the plant). I wish I had started some of my seeds a couple of weeks ago but with how long this winter has been, I think the timing may be just right. According to the woman at the garden center (Carousel Gardens in Wrightstown) this past week, it is okay to plant not only lettuces outside but the radish seeds I purchased too. Pictured below are all the seeds I have for this season. Last year the tomatoes turned out great and I have always had good success with jalapenos and herbs. New to our garden this year will be the tomatillos, radishes, and oregano. I am also trying wheatgrass for the first time but am growing it inside. Over the past couple of years I have gotten the seeds from Whole Foods and Fresh Market.

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At carousel gardens I also had to pick up a little more seed starting soil since I only had a little left from this year. To really grow organic plants, you also want to get organic seed starting soil as well as organic fertilizer.

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Now for actually planting. I hadn’t saved enough old egg cartons (reuse when you can!) so I bought a couple of seed trays as well at Carousel Gardens. All you need to do is fill each tray with seed starting soil , add some water to moisten the soil and then add your seeds as directed. For most seeds you’ll just want to add one per section but for others, like oregano, a pinch of seeds is necessary. Each seed pack will give specific instructions on how many to add and how deep to plant as well as how early to start seeds inside or plant outside.

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To tag the plants I cut up old business cards (again, reuse when possible :) ) and added to each row. I planted a couple extra seeds compared to what I would like to plant outside in case some of the plants don’t grow and so I can give an extra to my mom for her much larger veggie garden by the time she visits for Easter.

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For any indoor seeds, keep them in a warm area and cover with plastic or paper until they sprout. The remove whatever they are covered with but keep in a warm and sunny area until the ground outside is ready for them.

Once the herbs above are ready (oregano, basil, cilantro) I will likely transfer them into pots to save space in the ground for planting lots of  tomatoes, beans, jalapenos, radishes and lettuces .

Below is the wheatgrass before I covered the seeds. It should grow in a couple of weeks so it can be a pretty decoration for Easter and then a good addition to make juice and add to smoothies.

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It may still feel chilly outside most days (especially with that wind!) but time is ticking so plant your indoor seeds ASAP! Here is a list of what seeds can be planted in March-April. Many cool weather crops will be able to be planted in May or June as well.

March-April: pepper, shallot, eggplant, cherry tomato, tomato, basil, peas, cabbage, cucumber, squash, snap beans, bean poles, leeks, beets, brussel sprouts, carrots, asparagus, garlic, onions, and broccoli

Here’s a site that will tell you when to plant certain seeds based on your location: http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/PA

What are your favorite herbs and veggies to grow at home?

Baked Vegan Lentil Loaf

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Lentils are one of my favorite protein sources, especially green lentils. They provide tons of fiber and iron and are very versatile. I’ve used them in sloppy Joe’s and burgers, and often just throw them on salads or potatoes but this lentil bake is one of both me and Tim’s favorites now. He even says it tastes a little like meat! The original recipe that I adapted this from can be found here from “clean eating mama” but I made it a little spicier without the added sodium of hot sauce and also made it a little easier in terms of herbs by using a dried blend. Added carrots and pumpkin (or sweet potato) give the dish a carotenoid boost too!


Baked Vegan Lentil Loaf
(GF, V, DF)

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Ingredients
(see below for beneficial properties of these ingredients):

2 Cups cooked organic brown rice
1 Cup dry green lentils
1/2 Cup dry red lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small-medium onions, diced
1.5 cups tomatoes, diced (can use canned but choose low sodium)
2 carrots, grated
4 ounces tomato paste (or 2 Tbsp concentrate)
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (can sub mashed sweet potato or butternut squash)
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 – 1/4  tsp crushed black pepper

Directions:
-Cook rice with water according to package directions. I typically prepare one cup dry and have a little left over after adding 2 cups to the recipe.
-Cook the lentils with about 4 cups of water but add extra if they seem too firm once all water has been absorbed and/or evaporated
-Heat oven to 375 degrees F
-Heat oil over low-medium heat and add the garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes (do not let garlic turn brown)
-Add the onions and tomatoes, stir and cover for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-Add the shredded carrot, stir and turn off heat. Let Sit covered for a few minutes
-Food does not stick to the baking dish I use for this meal easily but if yours is any different, grease with a very small amount of olive oil (9×11 or larger for thinner slices)
-Add all the prepared ingredients to a large baking dish
-Mix in the tomato pasta, pumpkin, and all seasoning and stir well until mixture is consistent throughout

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-Place dish, uncovered into oven and let bake for 35-45 minutes (I generally go for the longer amount of time to get the loaf more crispy on top)
-Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes

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-Use a knife to cut and serve up with a spatula

Serving Options:

-Slice up by itself with a side of green beans or other veggies
-Dish up a slice onto bread or roll of choice
-Enjoy atop mixed greens (as below)
-Dice and add to a wrap (love in a TJ brown rice wrap w/ nutritional yeast)

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Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Lentils don’t get as much attention as they should. Per 1/4 C dry serving, at only 180 Calories, lentils provide more protein and iron than beans. You’ll get lots of B-vitamins from this legume, especially thiamin and folate. They’re also a great source of choline, potassium and many minerals. Lentils are high in both insoluble and soluble fiber; soluble being the type that helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. Green lentils provide much more fiber than red though so while I used a mixture of both in this recipe, I use green more often.

Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. It is often forgetten that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

Rice provides a good amount of Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Vitamin C, Riboflavin & Manganese. You can also get phytochemicals like quercetin (great for your immune system and lungs) & several carotenoids. Purchase organic rice as it is not as likely to be contaminated with inorganic arsenic.

Onions & garlic are part of the same family, providing the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health. Onions also provide Vitamins C, B6 and folate.

Carrots and pumpkin are most known for the role in eye health. This is because they have a high content of Vitamin A and other phytochemical carotenoids which not only support your eyes but also skin, hair and antioxidant systems. They are also high in Vitamins C & K and the mineral potassium. Pumpkin also contains a good mount of fiber. Antioxidants work to keep your heart healthy and potassium is important for fluid balance and plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure.

Cayenne contains capsaicin. Capsaicin has long been used for decreasing joint pain and inflammation topically but in the body may aid in appetite control, metabolism and intestinal inflammation. Oh and you aren’t the only one who gets a runny nose from spicy food – these peppers can all help clear your sinuses!

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Nutrition Information (without lettuce or other toppings):

Servings: 8 (*Athletes may want to split into just 4 servings)
Calories: 240
Total Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: < 0.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: < 0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 43 g
Fiber: 11 g
Sugar: 8 g
Protein: 12 g
Sodium: *300 mg 13 %
Potassium: 675 mg 15 %

Vitamin A: 30%     Thiamin: 25 %        Riboflavin: 8 %
Niacin: 15 %            Pant Acid: 15 %       Vitamin B6: 20 %
Folate: 2 %              Vitamin C: 30 %      Vitamin E: 10 %
Calcium: 6 %           Iron: 25 %                 Zinc: 20 %
Magnesium: 20 %   Copper: 50 %           Selenium: 7 %
Manganese: 66 %   Phosphorus: 20 %    Omega 3: 2 %

*Sodium content if using canned tomatoes. Will be much lower with fresh tomatoes. Athletes should add 1 tsp salt to recipe if using fresh tomatoes
**vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (Dairy Free)

Spinach and artichoke dip has become a very popular appetizer whether at restaurants, parties or just at home with family. While spinach and artichokes are healthy veggies, the average dip contains so much cheese and saturated fat though that you can hardly call it healthy. I’ve attempted several times in the past to make a healthier version and finally on Super Bowl Sunday, I got it right! This easy lightened up version has great flavor and a creamy texture without shocking amounts of fat and sodium.

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Dairy Free Spinach & Artichoke Dip (GF, V, DF)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small-medium yellow onion, sliced thin or diced
2-3 cloves garlic
1.5 Cups/250 grams cannelini, great northern or other white bean, prepped from dry (or 1 can rinsed & drained*)
Half of 12 oz jar artichokes ( I used trader joe’s marinated artichokes)
1 Cup cooked organic spinach from fresh or frozen
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Fresh ground black pepper & sea salt to taste
Optional: 1/8 – 1/4 cup cashews, blended in food processor to a grated parmesan consistency

*Purchasing tip: If I do purchase canned, I buy beans at Trader Joe’s because they do not contain BPA. A risk of using canned foods is that the cans are lined with the carcinogenic chemical BPA. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, click here for brands that are BPA free.

Directions:
-Heat oil in a pan over low-medium. Add sliced or diced onion, stir well and cover. Let cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to caramelize the onions. If onions stick to pan, add 1 tbsp water, stir and reduce heat to low.
-Add beans, garlic and onions to food processor. Pulse for 45-60 seconds or until well blended. If very thick at this point, add 1-2 tablespoons of liquid from the jar of artichokes and pulse another 15-30 seconds or until you achieve a creamy consistency.
-Next add the artichokes, spinach, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper. Pulse about 15-20 seconds or until well combined.
-Place in a ceramic serving dish and heat in the oven (or a toaster oven to save energy!) at 350 for 5 or more minutes to desired temperature. If you are adding “cashew parmesan” sprinkle on top before placing in the oven.
-The dip should keep for about 4-5 days.

-Enjoy your healthy spinach and artichoke dip with chopped veggies and baked chips for dipping. I love using carrots and Trader Joe’s organic “reduced guilt” tortilla chips that have 3 grams less fat per serving compared to regular. You can also use the dip as a spread for toast with eggs in the morning or on a wrap or sandwich.

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Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Onions and garlic provide the phytochemical allicin, as well as sulfides, which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health and act as antibacterial agents. Onions also provide Vitamins C, B6 and folate.

Spinach provides lots of Vitamin C as well as calcium, thiamin, iron, B6, zinc, copper, riboflavin & magnesium. Phytochemicals provided include isothiocyanates, sulforophane & indoles – these can act to aid your immune system as well as reduce inflammation to aid in muscle recovery and heart health.

Artichokes are high in Vitamin K and the B vitamin Folate. They are also a great source of fiber and contain potassium and magnesium. They have also been found to be high in antioxidant phytochemicals that protect the heart.

White Beans are an excellent vegetarian source of protein and contain a high amount of fiber. Like other beans, they also provide several B vitamins and a variety of minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and copper. Beans contain antioxidant phytochemicals such as lutein, epicatechin, quercetin and proanthocyanidin – which have been found to benefit eyesight, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system.

Oregano actually contains manganese, iron and Vitamins A & K. It can also benefit your immune system as its phytochemicals like thymol are anti-bacterial.

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