2014 Thanksgiving Food & Wine Picks

Hopefully you have gotten all of your Thanksgiving shopping done by now. If not, you can build your list based on some of my favorite foods/recipes below, and if you already have, maybe you can make a couple of alterations to normal recipes to make them slightly healthier than in years past. Regardless, I hope you had or have a less stressful shopping experience than I did today! Mark my word, I will never do Thanksgiving grocery shopping the Sunday before ever again!

Below are some recipes of my own and others I have found on blogs or Pinterest in years past or recently. I have many more ideas for appetizers, side dishes and desserts listed on my Pinterest page if you are still looking for a new and exciting addition to your traditional holiday spread.

Appetizers:

This year we will be spending Thanksgiving with Tim’s family at my sister in law’s, north of Boston. Since we can’t get there until early Thursday, I will be contributing as much as possible by prepping ahead! Wednesday I am going to make both my spicy sweet potato hummus and maple chia candied pecans and walnuts. They will be great for snacking throughout the day while everyone is preparing food in the kitchen!

spicy sweet potato hummus   maple chia candied pecans walnuts
Sweet Potato Hummus                 Maple Chia Candied Nuts

The rest of the family decided to make bacon wrapped blue cheese filled dates for an appetizer too, which Tim and I won’t be having. As an alternative, I decided I will make pistachio stuffed dates that I had pinned on Pinterest a long time ago and never got to trying. I hope they turn out great!

The Bird

While I follow a plant based diet most of the time all year long, I do still eat pasture raised organic eggs regularly and will have some turkey on Thanksgiving! I am very particular though and recommend everyone to purchase a pasture raised or free range bird, preferably local. By now, most of the local birds have probably been claimed at the farmers markets, farms, or small local markets, but Whole Foods still had a wide variety of brands and sizes when I stopped in today. Plus, many were already brined! Localharvest.org can help you find a local farm for future holidays.

Why choose pasture raised? It isn’t just lack of hormones, antibiotics, and fillers. It means that you are supporting a healthier and more humane way of life for poultry, as well as a better environment. Every purchase we make counts towards the type of world we will have in the future. On top of that, you are supporting smaller family run farms that are likely not owned by a larger food corporation making more money than the farmers themselves. Finally, an added bonus is that animals raised in this way taste better. I am not just saying this because I support organic and sustainable practices. The flavor of the meat is fuller and when cooked properly also is more tender. This could mean you’ll be more satisfied from a smaller amount of the meat, reducing your chances of overeating, and then having more leftovers! :)

Delicious Side Dishes

My mother in law will be making her german potato stuffing that she has been making my husbands whole life. Making stuffing from scratch is a treat to begin with over the bagged stuff Americans are accustomed to, but adding some potatoes makes it even better! She will also be making some whole grain bread, cornbread, and cranberry relish.

Don’t go forgetting your veggies though! We will also be having green beans with shallots and almonds, peas, and my contribution will be my Maple Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels & Cranberries that I have been making for a few years now. It is a hit with my family all fall long, not just on this holiday of thanks!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Cranberries

While I won’t be making it this year due to the cranberry relish that we will have, I highly recommend this homemade pineapple cranberry sauce recipe I found a few years back at wellnessmama.com. I usually make it on Thanksgiving but also for other occasions. It doesn’t use any granulated sugar but is still delicious and balances the tart with sweet by adding pineapple juice, a little maple syrup, and elevates the flavor further with orange zest.

If we didn’t already have so many delicious recipes, I would be making these Rosemary Garlic Hasslebeck Potatoes (vegan, gluten free, paleo) for sure!

Desserts

My mother-in-law will be making her pecan pie, and my sisters-in-law found a great recipe for a maple sweetened slow cooker apple crisp. I can’t wait for both! Here is a baked apple crisp recipe I tried earlier in the fall that is gluten free and vegan if you’re looking for a lightened up version. I used double the cinnamon listed, and for the crisp part, used 1/2 cup quick oats, 1/2 cup almond flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour, 3 T maple, 3 T coconut oil, 1/4 C coconut sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. Follow all of the directions they list though and it will turn out great!

I will also be making some peanut butter ginger cookies ahead of time that are from the dessert blogger, Chocolate Covered Katie. Both times I made them I used coconut sugar for the sugar and the stevia part of the ingredients. For the flour, once I used whole wheat pastry and the other time used oat flour. Both worked well! I use frontier brand ginger and enjoy life brand allergen free chocolate chips (1/4 cup) since both times I made these I was bringing them to events. The first was a nutrition talk for parents and the second was to the holiday health challenge kick off I am helping to run at work. Everyone loved them!

While we won’t be making them for Thanksgiving, I have made these Pumpkin apple muffins by Minimalist Baker several times this season already, including for the nutrition talk and holiday health challenge kick off mentioned above. They were a hit both times even though they aren’t super sweet. I have used applesauce instead of canola oil each time I have made them. You can make them into mini-muffins easily by cutting the baking time in half too!

Sustainably Harvested Wines

IMG_6488.JPG

We recently found the brand Vegan Vine at our local liquor store in the sustainable wine section. Tim proclaimed the Cabernet Sauvignon we picked up as his favorite wine ever. While I could describe the wine as rich, fruity, and delicious, I am not as much of a wine expert as I would like to think and instead of pretending to review it, will just give you the description of tasting notes: Aromas of bright berry fruits. Plums, tobacco and a subtle floral note. Full and rich flavors of blueberries, blackberries and dried cherries. Dried plums and a little anise spice round off the wonderfully smooth finish. Moderate tannins. You can learn a lot more about their sustainable practices and see their other wines at theveganvine.com.

The “Cono Sur” Malbec above was also good but almost too smooth. I would recommend it to anyone new to wine and think it would have been perfect when Tim started to drink wine instead of beer! The “Santa Julia” malbec above was really good too, more sweet with a slightly tart taste as well.

Again, I am not an expert here and while wine is my beverage of choice for a special meal, I only like red wines and cannot give the best food pairing advice!

Southwest Spaghetti Squash

Two things I love: Spaghetti squash and mexican food. So why not mix them together? Everyone thinks of spaghetti squash simply as a traditional spaghetti replacement but there are endless possibilities. The mild flavor of spaghetti squash allows it to be prepared in so many different ways and some spice and black beans can really elevate this food! Not in to Mexican dishes but want to try spaghetti squash? Check out my Italian Style Spaghetti Squash w/ a Roasted Seed Recipe and my Spaghetti Squash with Peas and Avocado Walnut Pesto (the latter is my personal fave). This meal was even more delicious because we were enjoying the last of the jalapenos and tomatoes we had grown in our harden this season. So sad to say goodbye to super fresh tomatoes for the winter. :(

Southwest Spaghetti Squash

Southwest Spaghetti Squash (GF, V, DF)

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

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash (3-4 lbs)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3-4 cloves minced organic garlic (about 2 Tbsp minced)*
2 jalapenos, minced
1 habanero, minced (optional)
2 Medium organic red onion, chopped
2 large bell peppers, chopped
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped
2-3 Cups black beans prepped from dry or canned
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

*Purchasing tips: Trader Joe’s sells bags of organic onions for next to nothing! Bulk garlic, organic spinach, and all the spices with * can be purchased at BJ’s and likely other clubs like Costco.

Directions:

Cooking the squash:
This can be done while you prep the rest of the ingredients, or you can cook the squash ahead of time so its easier to throw this meal together during a busy week

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
-Take your spaghetti squash and carefully cut in half lengthwise. The first cut may seem difficult but once the knife is in its a lot easier to cut the rest of the squash.
-Dig out the seeds & pulp (pictured w/out seeds on left below)
-Save the seeds for the roasted seed recipe.


-Set the squash cut side down in a large glass baking dish or on a baking sheet
-Place in the oven and cook about 30-40 minutes (may vary depending on size of squash & oven)

While the squash is cooking, you can prep the rest of your ingredients and get them cooking.

-Heat oil in a large sauce pan, or even stockpot, over medium
-Add the garlic and hot pepper, stir, reduce heat slightly and let cook for about 2 minutes
-Add the onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers, stir and cover. Let cook about 5 minutes, stirring on occasion.
-If using canned black beans, be sure to rinse and drain them well. Add beans to mixture and again stir and cover about 3-5 minutes.
-When the squash is done you should easily be able to stick a fork in through the skin
-Remove it from the oven (or fridge if you prepped ahead) & carefully flip so the flesh side is up
-With a fork, you’ll basically want to “rake” from one side to the other to remove the “spaghetti”


-Add the squash to the bean and veggie mixture and stir well until incorporated. Toss some chopped fresh cilantro and black pepper on top to serve!

Since I don’t/can’t eat cheese, I added some homemade guacamole and cashew “parm” but you could also sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top if you are dairy free too. Tim added Organic Valley pasture raised raw sharp cheddar to amp up the southwestern flavor in his.

Southwest Spaghetti Squash // Eatreallivewell.com

Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Spaghetti Squash isn’t going to provide you with tons of one specific nutrient but it will contribute a balanced amount of most vitamins and minerals to your diet especially Vitamins C & B6. What shines for spaghetti squash is the fiber & healthy carbohydrate content as well as the carotenoid antioxidants.

Black Beans are a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, potassium, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, iron, copper, magnesium & manganese. They also provide calcium. Phytochemicals include lutein, epicatechin, quercetin and proanthocyanidin – these benefit your eyes, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system.

Bell Peppers provide you with tons of Vitamin C (even more per serving than citrus!), lots of Vitamin A and fiber as well as Vitamin E, B6 and potassium. Phytochemicals include lycopene (associated with reduced risk for prostate cancer & heart disease) and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for eye and cardiovascular health.

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. But people forget that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

Red onions are a good source of Vitamins C & B6, folate and even provides potassium & magnesium. Onions are packed with phytochemicals  known to promote cardiovascular and respiratory health.

Garlic provides a lot of the same benefits as onions including the phytochemical allicin as well as sulfides. Research on garlic links it to an improved immune system.

Jalapeno peppers contain capsaicin which 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!

Cilantro may be an herb but herbs have fantastic nutrient profiles too. Cilantro provides vitamins A & K and many antioxidants, especially quercitin. Quercitin is a flavonoid linked to respiratory (great for asthmatics and athletes) and heart health.

Spiced Butternut Squash and Leek Soup (w/ roasted seeds and baked beet chips)

I love pumpkin as my previous couple of posts have shown, but I think I like another source of carotenoids even more. I’m not talking about sweet potatoes, even though I love those year round too, I am talking about butternut squash! It is great roasted because you can eat it by itself, on a salad, on pizza, or even in an omelet, but soup just hits the spot as the weather gets cooler. Many butternut squash soups are absolutely filled with cream, butter, salt, more cream and more salt. Not only are those ingredients that anyone should be limiting in their diet, but they also totally take away from butternut squash’s already great flavor! In this recipe, I compliment that great flavor with garlic, leeks and rosemary. The last time I made the soup , I thought to add freshly baked beet chips and I must say I have to give myself a pat on the back! The sweet yet earthy flavors of the chips were a perfect compliment and added great texture too!

A couple of products I believe really make this soup great are the oil and broth. I recently picked up Roasted Butternut Squash Seed Oil from the Tubby Olive here in Newtown. Tubby is an awesome local business that sells specialty olive oils and vinegars and chances are there is a similar local store near where you live. Specialty olive oils are “in” right now so the stores are popping up all over the US. I hope this trend sticks! Back to this particular oil though — I hesitated to buy the full size when we were there thinking I wouldn’t get enough use out of it but I can use it with pretty much every single fall recipe I make! It was a perfect compliment to this soup but I have also used it with roasted brussel sprouts and onions, in quinoa, and just on salads with the Fall Blend Balsamic I picked up there too.

Now for the broth. I have been using Trader Joe’s brand low sodium, organic vegetable broth for years now. It is very substantial and hearty. No other low sodium veg broth that I have purchased compares, as other brands typically are extremely watery. I will be honest, I hardly ever have time to make my own broth!! This one clocks in at 140 mg per cup. That means less in the entire container than in 1 cup of Swanson brand original!

IMG_6124.JPG

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

1 Tablespoon butternut squash seed oil (or olive oil)
3 cloves garlic, minced
White & light green of 3 leeks, halved and thinly sliced
1 x 2-3 lb butternut squash, pre-baked
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)
4 Cups (1 container) organic low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

IMG_6097.JPGDirections

  • First, heat oven to 350 degrees F to bake the squash. I typically do this when prepping for the week ahead but you can do it the day of too. Carefully cut the squash in half and then scoop out the seeds. Save them and rinse pulp off to roast the seeds as I instruct here in a spaghetti squash recipe. Rub a very small amount of oil on the surface of the squash and bake face down on a baking sheet or in a glass baking dish for 30-40 minutes, until tender.
  • While the squash is baking, mince your garlic, dice the leeks and cut the rosemary.
  • Over low-medium heat, add the oil, let heat and then add the garlic. Let cook 1-2 mintues.
  • Next, add the leeks, stir well, and cover for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the butternut squash, rosemary, and other spices and stir. Immediately add the vegetable broth, cover and let come to a boil.
  • Reduce heat once the soup comes to a boil, and get out your immersion blender*. Pulse the blender on medium until the soup has a creamy consistency. Turn the heat off and you’re done!
    *If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can add the mixture to a blender or food processor, but I recommend letting it cool before doing so, and then heating the soup back up to serve.

IMG_6106.JPGAnd for the beet chips! I don’t need to reinvent the wheel on this one. I started making beet chips intuitively on my own, but don’t need to make a whole blog post on it because other bloggers have posted virtually identical recipes. The recipe I follow is fairly simple and the best instructions and cooking temp I have found to give you online are via “Minimalist Baker“.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium-large beets, rinsed and scrubbed
  • Olive or canola oil
  • Sea Salt + Black Pepper
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary, roughly chopped

IMG_6099.JPG

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place oven rack in the center of the oven.
  • Thinly slice beets with a mandolin (or a sharp knife), getting them as consistently thin as possible. They should curl a little when cut. This will ensure even baking and crispiness.
  • IMG_6103.JPG
  • Divide between two baking sheets and spray or very lightly drizzle with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and the rosemary. Toss to coat, then arrange in a single layer, making sure the slices aren’t touching.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crispy and slightly brown. Be sure to watch closely past the 15 minute mark as they can burn quickly.
  • Remove from oven, let cool. Then serve.

IMG_6123.JPGThey are delicious just dipped into the soup or crumbled up for a crunchy topping. Or on their own. I could probably eat an entire batch without anything else on them.

IMG_6127.JPGSnack on some of the roasted seeds on the side and you’ve got a nice low calorie, nutrient packed snack, side, or appetizer. Happy fall!

Real Ingredients with Real Health Benefits

Each 1 Cup serving of butternut squash you eat provides 4x your Vitamin A needs for the day as well as half of your needs for vitamin C! You’ll even get Vitamins E and some B vitamins from this nutrient powerhouse as well as good amounts of magnesium and potassium. The phytochemical carotenoids & bioflavonoids in butternut squash are known to boost immunity and work as antioxidants that support the hearth, eyes and even work to prevent some cancers.

Garlic & leeks are all part of the same family, providing the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health. Both onions & leeks provide Vitamin C. Onions are also a great source of vitamins B6 and folate while leeks contribute vitamins A & K in great amounts as well as the mineral manganese.

Rosemary contains carnosol which has been found in studies to be an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory compound and carnosic acid that has neuro-protective (brain &nervous system protective) properties. Some studies show it can aid the GI tract too and as an oil, it has also been used for centuries to improve circulation! Per weight it has a high content of nutrients but since we consume small smounts of it, it provides a little folate, riboflavin, and vitamins A & C as well as the minerals iron, calcium and potassium.

IMG_6122.JPG

Energy Bits – Fuel for Fitness and your Immune System!

In honor of the Energy Bits Twitter Chat I will be hosting tonight at 8 PM (follow #poweredbybits) titled “Real Fuel for Athletes”, I thought it was important to let everyone know why I support the company and the product. The first question I often get from people is “what are energy bits?” and then I often hear “I thought you weren’t a big fan of supplements?”. I hope to clear all of this up in this post so you understand what Energy Bits are, what nutrients and compounds they contain and how they aid your body, and why I personally like them! I want to start off by saying I receive NO monetary compensation from energy bits, I use them myself, and also receive no money if you purchase them with my discount code.

Food for travel

The real food I pack for travel w/ bits to boost immunity!

Energy bits are 100% pure, high quality, vegan, non-GMO project verified spirulina algae. I will let the bits website tell you the rest:

“Spirulina is a fresh water blue green algae that was the first plant life on earth almost three billion years ago. Spirulina is so concentrated with nutrition that forty years ago the United Nations declared it to be the healthiest food in the world. Algae’s nutritional profile is so impressive that the scientific, nutrition, sports and medical communities have conducted over 100,000 scientific studies about its health benefits. Spirulina is nature’s equivalent to an energy drink – but since it comes straight from nature (not a lab or production plant), it’s much better!”

The above is why energy bits are not a supplement! Supplements are relatively new in our world and are typically processed heavily in a lab to give high concentration of a particular nutrient or compound. Spirulina on the other hand has been on this earth billions of years, naturally occurs, and contains a great amount of many nutrients naturally. In terms of the benefits of this naturally occurring algae, we will start with its nutrient content:

There is a long list of nutrients found in spirulina/energy bits and I will let you read that on their website. I will point out those that I think are most beneficial though! Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency that occurs in the US, and especially impacts women of childbearing age, kids, and most of all: ATHLETES! To get a boost of iron in just 30 calories that also provide you with an energetic feeling is great for an active person. Many athletes go through their days of training without ever realizing their fatigue-like symptoms are due to low iron stores in the body. Without enough iron, oxygen is not transported properly, therefore impacting oxygen use by muscles, and metabolism. Athletes who are familiar with how VO2 max, or maximal oxygen consumption, impacts performance, should definitely care about iron stores in the body! Another great benefit of spirulina is that its a vegan source of B12, which if you are vegan, you know is very hard to come by. B12 is essential for blood health, brain function and energy metabolism too. The next nutrient many Americans lack that you hear a lot about is omega 3’s. Spirulina contains a fatty compound, GLA, that is converted into omega-3 compounds in the body so you can better manage inflammation, immune health, joint health, and heart health. Finally, I want to point out the natural source of nitrates! Nitric oxide is huge in sports nutrition research right now, and while some research has shown negative health effects from supplements, natural nitrate sources show promise for increase oxygen delivery to muscles and therefore better endurance and recovery. Beet root juice, a food high in nitrates, is getting the most press and use for recovery after exercise right now, and spinach is another great source. I really believe a big part of the increased energy and endurance I feel from energy bits is due to the natural nitrates spirulina provides. While bits provide 5 grams of protein in those 30 calories, it isn’t a ton. However, at the SCAN Symposium Conference I attended in June, even speakers were mentioning that spirulina is something to watch out for as a newly promoted plant based protein source in supplements due to its amino acid content.

I tried bits for a natural energy boost and they delivered there. If taken a half hour before exercise, you never feel a jolt of energy as you would with coffee (and as I would expect with an energy drink though I have never tried and will never try one) and you never feel a crash. What you will notice is that you don’t lose steam as quickly in an endurance workout and you may have some fuel for a little higher of an intensity too.

  Energy Bits photo 1

I signed on as an Energy Bits ambassador back in April after trying the product and being very satisfied with its impact on my training as well as my allergies and asthma. I’ll admit at first, with the couple of samples I got, I wondered if the better endurance during my workouts was just a placebo effect. After talking to a couple of other RD’s who support bits, I decided to listen to my gut and invest in using bits regularly! I quickly found a huge impact on my allergies and asthma, which have impacted my life and exercise every since I was 3 years old. I have found things that trigger my allergies and asthma more than my typically allergens, such as sugar and dairy but have eliminated them from my diet other than a rare occasion in terms of the sugar. Without even realizing it one day, I went out for a long bike ride without taking my inhaler. Normally, I would make it out 5 minutes and be wheezing, need to turn back, and then have symptoms the rest of the day. I was half way through an hour long ride when I noticed I hadn’t taken it and was feeling great. The only difference was that I had energy bits a half hour before. I thought it might be an anomaly. I checked the energy bits facebook page where other ambassadors can communicate and bounce ideas off of one another. Others had already mentioned its benefits for allergies and when I posted about my asthma benefits a few others said they had the same reaction. Have I used my inhaler since? Yes, especially when I run races just in case, but I have noticed a great improvement in my asthma symptoms! To me this is definitely worth the money I spend on energy bits, especially since so many essential nutrients come along with the spirulina.

I hope you’ll join me over on Twitter tonight at 8 PM (Tues Oct, 28, 2014) for the Real Fuel for Athletes chat! I am going to be sharing my favorite real food fuel and recovery foods and would love to hear what yours are too! If you’d like to purchase energy bits, recovery bits, or vitality bits, you can receive 30% off with my discount code: EATREALFUEL .

Twitter Chat Bits

A Healthier Halloween

2014 Update & New Ideas Below!

photo 1

Halloween can and should be enjoyable for both kids and adults. The scary and spooky activities are a fun American tradition, but we shouldn’t have to be scared about our health at the same time! If you’ve ever stumbled to my blog before, you have seen I really believe everything we eat should have a purpose and function in the body – and it should all come from whole foods. That being said, at holidays it is okay to include a few treats, we just need to be smart about them. A couple of things to consider are 1) moderation and 2) ingredients.

Indulging in moderation is key. What is moderation though? It can mean different things to different people. Someone they may think it means having cake once a week instead of every night after dinner! To me it is having cake only at family birthdays, weddings and other special occasions. Our diet should be made up of as many healthful whole foods as possible, with those treats being a once in a while addition.

Ingredients are of a major concern to me and to many parents when holidays like Halloween pop up. Trick-or-treating is a fun tradition and actually encourages activity as kids walk from door to door – again though, what they come home with can be scary! When the aisles at CVS and Target are packed with candy filled with hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors, colors and genetically engineered sugar, it can be difficult to choose what you’ll pass out (or have at Halloween parties) wisely. Here are some snacks I have used in the past, will be using this year, and links to a few articles for even more options.

In 2010 I opted to hand out individual pretzel packets and Annie’s brand organic fruit snacks. You can get a 24 pack of the fruit snacks at BJ’s or Costco for about $10 which is much cheaper than other grocery stores. Kids were definitely more apt to grab at those fruit snacks though and we ended up with leftover pretzels that we don’t really enjoy all that much.

In 2011 & 2012, I continued to hand out the fruit snacks but also got packages of Cascadian Farm Organic kids size granola bars.

This year I decided to give kids some different choices. While most seemed to be happy with the snacks above, I did hear a grunt or two. SO now we are trying a few things. Clif kids organic Z bars now come in the “Spooky S’mores” version this time of year so I picked up some of those. I wouldn’t mind having a leftover one before a workout so it works for us too. I also picked up a package of “UNreal” brand snickers type bars. UNreal promises no hydrogenated oils, artificial preservatives or colorings, and no GMO’s. And finally I picked up some Organic lollipops from Trader Joe’s. The big choice comes with the non-food option. While I realize they aren’t very sustainable, I was in Target yesterday picking up some 7th Generation cleaning products, and saw 6 packs of glow bracelets in the dollar bins. I grabbed a bunch and thought this could be a big hit. They’ll be getting candy at every other house, so seeing lit up bracelets while trick-or-treating might be a nice change for them.

photo 1 

(Lollipop picture above from the Amazon.com listing of the product)

While some people have issues with Clif Brand’s lack of organic certification on all products, the Clif founders really do strive to use the best ingredients they can in their products while continuing to make them affordable. The Clif Kids line is all organic so i think these are a great option, especially since they are Halloween themed! They also have a “Monster Mint” version too.

photo 4   photo 5   photo

The UNReal brand isn’t taking off as much as I wish it would! I by no means am advocating for people to buy candy frequently, but with how many Reese’s and Hershey bars and Milky Ways are purchased, people could at least be buying a version of those candies that have no major red flag ingredients. A brand I love is Justin’s (their packets of almond butter are lifesavers when I travel) but the products are just too expensive to buy a lot of to hand out! My final treat recommendation is to head over to naturalcandystore.com for any holiday. They even have Fair Trade options!

For Halloween parties, there is no need to include candy at all! There are so many options for fun Halloween snacks and meals that are made from real wholesome and good for you foods. My “Eat Right Kids” board on Pinterest has lots of options. Following the Whole Kids Foundation on Pinterest can show you some good ideas too. This blog, called Listotic, has a great post on snack ideas too from mozzarella stick witches brooms to celery mummy tombs.

Below I have a couple more articles on balancing a healthful lifestyle and fun on Halloween. Remember that your kids will be more inclined to listen and limit their intake if they understand why! It’s never to early to start teaching your kids about nutrition and food. Have a Healthy Holiday!

http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Stone-Soup/October-2013/Healthy-Halloween-Snacks-for-the-Classroom/

http://www.ivillage.com/healthy-halloween-treats-kids-will-love/6-a-128659

file:///C:/Users/joneske/Downloads/HANDOUT-Halloween_the_Healthy_Way.pdf

http://www.eatright.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=6442477925

2014 Healthy Halloween Update:

The glow bracelets last year were a HUGE success. Kids were SO excited when they saw them to get one that I don’t even think they looked at the “unreal” brand and trader joe’s candy options we had. I was really hoping to find more glow bracelets this year at Target but they only had glow sticks in the dollar bin, and only 2 per package. I still think it is a good deal so I grabbed a bunch of packages. I also found target to have several other non-candy options too. I picked up temporary Halloween tattoos as well as Halloween bubbles. Tim thinks the bubbles will be a fail but I always loved them when I was a kid so we will have to wait and see what they like and don’t like this year! In addition, I am having the annie’s fruit snacks again as well as some Justin’s peanut butter cups. I am unable to find the UNreal brand of candy anywhere this year (not that I looked that hard, but CVS & target no longer carry them by us). Comment below if you have any other fun non-candy ideas or have seen other natural and organic options out there!

photo

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

IMG_5967.JPG

I love all of the seasons, but you really cannot beat the foods in season in the fall. I likely will have many more pumpkin and squash based recipes in the coming months because there are just so many yummy things to do with those ingredients! As food companies and coffee shops are flooding the market with tons of artificial pumpkin spice “foods” and beverages, I love being able to showcase the much more satisfying flavors of real pumpkin and real spice! Today, I’m highlighting my favorite breakfast food {oatmeal} with a quick recipe that has a kick of pumpkin spice! I am posting the quick oats, single serve version here now plan to post a food prep steel cut slow cooker version in the next couple of weeks too, so stay tuned. Even though the ingredients below are for one serving, you can easily multiply each ingredient by the number of servings you need.

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal (V, GF, DF)

IMG_5973.JPG

Ingredients for 1 serving:

1 Cup unsweetened organic soymilk (or other milk or water)
1/2 c (40 g) organic rolled or quick oats (purchase certified gluten free if you have celiac)
1 teaspoon non GMO chia seeds (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 c pureed organic pumpkin (from home baked or canned*)
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice mix (I use trader joe’s mix)
1/2 tsp organic cinnamon
1 teaspoon cacao nibs (can omit)
1 tablespoon almond butter or other nut butter (can omit)

*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:
-In a small saucepan, boil 1 cup of soymilk (or other milk or water)
-Add the oats and chia seeds at once and reduce heat to simmer
-Stir frequently to prevent sticking – quick oats should thicken within 2 minutes and rolled oats within 5
-Add the pumpkin puree and spices, stir well, and turn off burner
IMG_5992.JPG
-Add in your almond butter (or any nut butter) and cacao nibs
-Again, stir well, and EAT!

IMG_5990.JPG

This makes a quick, easy and filling breakfast any day of the week, but can also be a great night time snack for an athlete looking to refuel and top off carbohydrate stores for training or competition. Combined, the oats, soy milk, and almond butter provide 19 grams of protein to boost the repair process when your body is recovering at night.

Check out my other suggestions for preparing oats here!

Nutrition information per serving (using soymilk, cacao & almond butter):
Calories: 370
Total Fat: 14 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 6 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 7 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 42 g
Fiber: 13 g
Sugar: 2 g
Protein: 19 g

Sodium: 30 mg 1 % Potassium: 575 mg 12 %

Thiamin: 10 %         Riboflavin: 27 %    Niacin: 8 %
Vitamin B6: 12 %    Folate: 11 %
Vitamin C: 5 %        Vitamin E: 30 %    Vitamin A: 17%
Calcium: 13 %         Iron: 45 %             Zinc: 15 %
Magnesium: 28 %   Phosphorus: 22 %

**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

Almond Meal Pumpkin Muffin Recipe

It’s getting colder out, which means… PUMPKIN!! I am not usually a huge fan of muffins and don’t bake nearly as much as I used to, but these are delicious for a snack or to have with breakfast and coffee. I adapted them from a fittipdaily.com recipe by slightly reducing maple syrup, adding more spice, swapping the eggs for flax, and obviously adding some toppings. How can you eat a muffin without toppings?

With a few of them I tested pumping up the pumpkin even more by adding some puree as filling and it was a HUGE success! Skip the fake pumpkin at Starbucks and in every processed food at the grocery store. Get festive this fall with this healthy recipe’s dose of good fats and antioxidant vitamins A and E! If muffins aren’t your thing, check out a list of some of my favorite fall recipes at the bottom of the post ;)

IMG_5777.JPG

Almond Pumpkin Muffins (V, GF, DF)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c almond meal or flour  (pictured below)
3/4 c pureed organic pumpkin (from home baked or canned*)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin spice (I use trader joe’s mix)
2 tsp organic cinnamon
3 flax eggs (need 3 tablespoons ground flax)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons pure organic maple syrup

Optional (but not really) toppings: I recommend finely chopped walnuts, coconut, and cacao nibs
*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.
IMG_5763.JPG
Directions:
-In a ramekin or small bowl, mix 3 Tbsp flax with 8-9 Tbsp warm water and let sit
-Heat oven to 350* Fahrenheit
-Lightly grease muffin tin with olive oil or coconut oil
-Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
-I another bowl, mix all of the wet ingredients together, including the flax eggs.
-Add to the dry and stir until you have a smooth but damp consistency. Here is a pic in the mixing bowl:
IMG_5769.JPG
-Spoon even amounts into a muffin tin. I find to get a normal (not normal per dunkin donuts standards, but actually a normal serving size) that I can only get 10 muffins out of one batch, not 12. 
-Optional (pictured below): press down the very center of the muffins with a rubber spatula and add 1 more tablespoon of pumpkin puree
-Add toppings if you’d like!

IMG_5771.JPG  IMG_5772.JPG

-Place in oven and bake 20-25 minutes depending on your oven’s personality :)
-Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes before taking out of muffin tins

IMG_5780.JPG

Enjoy! And try practice portion control as much as possible!

IMG_5782.JPG

If anyone makes mini-muffins, let me know how they turn out and how long you keep them in the oven for ;)

IMG_5775.JPG

Here are a few other fall recipes that I love to make once it starts to get cool outside!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi from Iowa Girl Eats
-I use half whole wheat flour and half almond meal, and olive oil instead of butter for the sauce

Raw Pecan Pie Tartlets from My Darling Vegan

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes from Seeded at the Table:
-I use whole wheat flour and almond milk for the donut as well as coconut oil and organic sugar for the topping

I cannot wait to try these no bake Pumpkin Raisin Peanut Butter Cups from MJ and Hungryman
or these no bake Pumpkin Pie Cookies listed on the Eat Local Grown site

And a few of my own fall recipes:

Pumpkin Buckwheat Oat Pancakes (make at least 2x/month)
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts & Cranberries (perfect for Thanksgiving dinner)
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Italian Style Spaghetti Squash w/ Roasted Seed Recipe
Maple Chia Roasted Pecans & Walnuts

Nutrition Information (plain without toppings):

Serving Size: 1 Muffin
Servings Per Recipe: 10

Calories: 125
Total Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: .5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 10 g
Fiber: 2.5 g
Sugar: 5 g
Protein: 4 g
Sodium: 130 mg   7 %
Potassium: 240 mg 5%

Vitamin A: 7 %             Thiamin: 7 %           Riboflavin: 13 %
Niacin: 5 %                   Vitamin B6: 3          Folate: <1 %
Pantothenic Acid: 3%   Vitamin C: 2%         Vitamin E: 28 %
Calcium: 8 %                Iron: 8 %                 Zinc: 11%
Copper: 25 %               Magnesium: 18 %   Phosphorus: 2 %
Manganese: 40%         Selenium: 2%

**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