Vegan Ricotta Recipe

It doesn’t get any more simple or delicious for dairy free cheese than this!

I first tried out vegan tofu ricotta this past Christmas with my family. I was rolling out and cutting some fresh made pasta for lasagna and also making eggplant rollatini. Growing up I spent holidays with both my Mom’s and Dad’s family which, while both big and fun, meant lots of food. My Dad’s side is 100% Italian so Christmas Eve, Christmas, the day after Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are memories of fun with cousins aunts and uncles around lots of fish, poultry, and of course pasta and cheese.

{If you still are confused about soy and think you should avoid it, watch this}

More ingrained in my memory are Christmas Eve’s with my Dad’s parents at our house. Lasagna was standard and something I always looked forward to! My mom’s whole family even still talks about my grandmothers famous eggplant too (among other dishes).

Going dairy free and being a dietitian advocating for little to no processed flours and staying away from pan fried foods isn’t the easiest with these roots. So, to honor my traditions and enjoy the dishes we have all always loved, I healthified our feast as for the first time my family celebrated Christmas at me and my hubs house!

First, I’ll go with sharing the easiest recipe and then share the others in the future. There is so much you can do with this Tofu Ricotta on a weekly basis and I highlight its versatility below. I recommend adding it to your Sunday food prep rotation!

Tofu Ricotta (V, DF, GF)

Ingredients:

1 14-16 ounce package non-GMO extra firm tofu
1 Tbsp olive oil (I use tubby olive Tuscan herb)
3 large cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 med lemon
1/2 C packed fresh basil
2 tbsp packed fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp fresh or 1/4 dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional: 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Directions:

Drain the water from the tofu package without squeezing out excess.
Add all ingredients to a food processor or high quality blender.
Pulse about 15 seconds then scrape sides of the container.
Pulse an additional 10 seconds.
If consistency is too dry, add 1 tbsp water at a time, pulsing 10 seconds between until desired consistency is reached.

Eat just like you would any ricotta or try one of my favorite ways below!

On garbanzo flat bread pizza

Mixed with red sauce over veggie noodles

On a sprouted grain toast for breakfast or a snack

Mixed with buffalo cauliflower and mushrooms to stuff a vegan calzone

In honor of my grandmother, in eggplant lasagna or rollatini!

I hope you enjoy this ricotta, in many ways, as much as me, my family and my clients!

Black Bean Polenta Cakes

Cinco de Mayo is coming! I can’t wait to enjoy some Mexican Food and Margaritas on Thursdsay… not that I ever need an excuse to eat Mexican and have skinny Margaritas though:)

We make lots of Mexican and Mexican inspired plant based dishes in the Jones household. There aren’t really any great Mexican restaurants in Bucks County so when we crave this cuisine (which is quite often) and aren’t in Philly, we put our chef hats on and whip up some homemade salsa, guacamole, and add jalapenos to everything!

This dish was a creation for Tim’s birthday. Since Mexican is the type of food he would choose if he could only eat one type for the rest of his life, it is easy to decide what dishes to make or reservations to book when we are celebrating something for him. It has a perfect blend of textures from soft, to creamy to crunchy and perfect balance of flavors from savory, to sweet, to spicy and acidic. Make as a meal with the larger sections or as a fun appetizer in rounds!

I started with the black beans in the slow cooker. No easier way to prep these things with lots of flavor! I made a bigger batch than what is needed for this dish but leftovers are great for anything. Throughout the week we add them to salads, on top of sweet potatoes, or have with a random grain and vegetable for a meal. They are super versatile and if you have another recipe you’ll want to make with them next week instead, store in a Pyrex in the freezer.

Later in the day, I roasted the pepper and baked the chips in the oven together. While they were in there it was easy to make the guac and quick pickle the onions. You’ll have extra guac too – thank God. It is never worth it to make enough guac for only one eating sesh!

I made the polenta last but it may make more sense to do it early since it needs time to cool. You can make in whatever nonstick container you’d like!

While there are a lot of components and it seems overwhelming, if you take it slow, they are actually really easy steps for a meal that anyone can accomplish!

Black Bean Polenta Cakes {V, DF, GF}

Ingredients

Slow Cooker Black Beans (will have leftovers):
1.5 Cups dry black beans
3 Cups water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
dash salt

Baked Plantains:
1 large green plantain
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin

Guacamole (will have leftover):
2 avocados
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 – 1/4 cup onion, minced
1-2 jalapenos, minced
1/4-1/2 medium tomato, diced very small (about 1/4 cup)
1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 dashes of cumin & garlic powder
Fresh ground black pepper & sea salt to taste
Juice of 1 lime wedge

Polenta:
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon avocado oil

Quick Pickled Onions:
1/2 medium red onion
1/2 Cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 Cup water

Other:

1 large red bell pepper
Optional: Grass fed sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Slow Cooker Black Beans
Add all ingredients to your slow cooker and stir
Set on high for 8 hours

Roasted Red Pepper & Plantain chips
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Place the whole pepper(s) on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
Turn the pepper every 10 minutes and remove when skins are completely wrinkled and the pepper is charred.
Remove from the oven and place peppers in a bowl, immediately covering with foil or the top of a cooking pan.
Set aside for at least 10 minutes, or until the peppers are cool enough to touch.
Remove the stem, peel and seeds.
Slice pepper into thin strips

While the roasted red pepper is in the oven, prepare the plantain chips.
I like this easy recipe.

With both the red pepper and plantains in the oven, prepare the guacamole.
The guacamole directions are here from a previous post.

To prepare the polenta, boil the vegetable broth in a medium pot.
Slowly add the polenta while whisking.
Reduce heat to low and continue whisking until polenta thickens.
Cover the pot and continue to cook.
Stir the polenta well every 5-10 minutes, scraping the sides.
Cook for a total of 30-40 minutes.
Stir in the olive oil and remove from heat.
Spray desired pans with olive oil cooking spray.
Pour the polenta evenly into two 12-cup muffin tins, two cake pans, or one of each.
Let cool in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

While the polenta is cooking or cooling, quick pickle the onions.

Add the vinegar, water, honey and thinly sliced onion to a small pot and stir.
Bring to a boil, stir well, and then turn off the heat.
Let sit until you assemble the dish.

With a small rubber spatula, carefully remove the polenta from the muffin tins or, if in a cake pan, cut into six pieces and carefully remove and place on serving dish.
Next, top the polenta with 1-2 tablespoons of the slow cooked beans.
Add 1-2 pieces of roasted red pepper.
Add 1 tablespoon guacamole and pickled red onion.
Top with a polenta chip.

Serve and enjoy!

If having as a mean you definitely want to add some greens!!

What is your favorite Mexican dish? Would you prefer it with a Mexican beer, margarita, or sangria? I am a marg girl all the way!

Also, in case you missed it, I have a giveaway running until 4 PM today! In honor of Snap Kitchen Philly opening their second Main Line location in Villanova today, we are giving away:

  • $50 Snap gift card plus
  • A class pass and towel from Philly HIIT Squad
  • A class pass to Barre 3 Rosemont
  • A $21 gift card to Bulldog Yoga

To enter, follow my blog and leave a comment below on why you love or can’t wait to try Snap Kitchen!

For bonus entries, like my new Facebook page and/or my Instagram post on the giveaway.
Not sure what Snap Kitchen is? Read my review here.

Snap giveaway

Sports Nutrition Research & Products in Portland: SCAN Symposium Review Part II

My first Portland post was focused on the amazing food in this sustainable city. This post is going to highlight the conference I attended as well as the sports nutrition companies and new products that I discovered there too. SCAN is the Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition dietetic practice group (DPG). It is the largest DPG under the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics so it even has three sub-units (sports, wellness, eating disorders). I have been volunteering for the sports sub-unit doing social media for over four years and have been the head of the social accounts for three years now. So, if you’re following @SportsDietetics on twitter, that’s me and a great team of volunteers creating content! I was live tweeting the conference all weekend too – thank God for hootsuite!

SCAN RD’s are the best RD’s cause they want to eat healthy and exercise! But seriously. You would be surprised how many RD’s are not committed to an active lifestyle. This is the only nutrition conference that I go to where there are morning exercise activities each day, and those activities are ridiculously well attended. Yay fitness!

While I already talked about my time outside of the conference, I thought I’d share another pretty Portland pic. It is a nicer way to start a post than by showing a pic from inside the Hilton conference rooms!  Here is a shot from my walk around town Thursday afternoon.

Friday

I skipped the group walk this morning for a workout in the hotel gym. I hit some weights an they even had TRX there! Well done, Hilton. Finished it off with some much needed foam rolling after sitting for hours on a plane the day before. I grabbed some Stumptown coffee at Hop City in the hotel and got ready for day 1!

Keynote Part I was titled “”The Science Behind the Multi-Systemic Health and Performance Benefits of Exercise in Aging Athletes”. While Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD, FRCPC did a great job explaining his research on endurance exercise’s mitochondrial preservation, he also touched upon the benefits of strength training. While the slide below offers his take aways (and some humor – we are all aging), he simplified the application recommending a bare minimum of 3 “endurance” and 3 resistance sessions per week to slow the aging process. Both cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal movements are necessary for functionality and longevity at a cellular level!Keynote part II, if you didn’t alrady see on my Instagram, was given by Amby Burfoot, Runner’s World editor and 1968 Boston Marathon winner. He is running today on the 48th anniversary of his win! He gave us great perspective on the lack of sports nutrition knowledge in his prime. Fun fact: he ran his first cross country race in high school in bowling shoes because that is all he had!

Next, I helped man the SCAN table at the exhibit hall and finally met Cara who volunteers with the social subunit and has been does a great job picking up SCAN’s Instagram and Facebook activity. It was great hanging with her during sessions as we frantically tweeted, retweeted and made sure our devices were charged! During the first break, California Almonds provided their trail mix spread that they give at most conferences they attend. The candied almonds are most addictive so I always try to only grab a few!

I had a little bit of time to browse around the other vendors. BiPro was back this year and has a new protein product that due to its amino acid content they claim will improve sleep as it enhances recovery. I am not a huge whey fan and cannot tolerate it myself but, if you choose whey, this product has natural ingredients and is NSF Certified for Sport. Super important with the shady supplement industry!

Next, I listened to the Sports Subunit chair and Professor at West Chester University, Chris Karpinski, speak about how to build a sustainable sports nutrition program for small college’s. I am always interested in what Chris has to say as many of my nutrition students at Bucks Community College transfer their with an interest in sports nutrition. I always let them know she is their go to when they want experience. She is doing a great job over their with no funding and willing undergrad and graduate nutrition students!  She touched upon how UVT and Central Washington are doing with their small programs and minimal budgets too. It’s not all glitz and glamour unless you are attending or working at a DI school with lots of $$$! They are few and far between.

A concurrent session on commitment therapy was going on in the other room. It was focused on cognitive coaching so that clients make changes that last.
Time for another short break before lunch. I stopped by and chatted with Evolve this time! This new protein beverage on the market is completely plant based with natural ingredients. The stevia flavor is a little bit strong for my liking but this is still a great alternative for student athletes with busy schedules that can’t have dairy and need something quick post-workout. After speaking with the rep we are going to try to get some product in for the Bucks athletes.   While not everyone needs fish oil, athletes with asthma are found to benefit from more Omega-3. If you are taking it, Nordic Naturals is the brand I recommend most. I also, while not a huge supplement advocate, always recommend vitamin D3. They have it paired with their omega 3 or on its own. 

Lunch was provided by EAS so I knew going into this session, they may be promoting some of their own products. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not too salesy and they gave some good info on more deception in labeling in the supplement industry. Note that your BCAA supplement claiming “zero calorie” is full of it since amino acids are protein and protein has calories! They also highlighted that many companies do not count the calories coming from isomaltose which is a carbohydrate previously thought to be incompletely absorbed. Research shows it is absorbed as an energy source and it therefore provides calories. If they added 20 grams to your product well, that is 80 calories they aren’t counting!

The next session I attended was on sustainability in the shopping cart. I am a huge advocate for sustainable living and highly recommend you follow Kate Geagan, green nutrition expert (follow her on twitter)! At the same time, a session on effective evaluation of research was going on. Not all media claims have research to back them up but even those that do do not always have good research backing them up! Check out the quality of your sources and actually read through their methods, statistical analysis and results. What does the whole body of research on that subject show? That is more important than what we find in one study. The lunch provided wasn’t bad at all. They served wraps but the vegetarian option on wheat included asparagus and brussel sprouts inside. Yum!

Another snack break and exhibitor break. RD’s do not go hungry! I skipped this one as well as most of the next session on no calorie sweeteners. We had not eaten too soon before and I really did not care what splenda had to say. #Sorrynotsorry. I went for a walk becase it was gorgeous out! Sunny and high 70’s – no way I could stay inside all day.


The next session was on a super important topic that is often mis-interpreted in the media: orthorexia and pathological exercise. Yes, kale is healthy. 12 Cups of kale isn’t. Yes, exercise is good for you. Not when it consumes your life and throws other parts of it off balance. Here are some take away slides.

Next, the SCAN awards reception was on the top floor of the hotel with this beautiful view! It was sponsored again this year by the Raspberry council. Hope Barkoukis received the Achievement Award. Hope will be serving as the Director-at-Large for the Academy Board of Directors after years of making SCAN what it is today. Linda Van Horn recevied the Distinguished Scholar Award, Sharon Smalling the Excellence in Practice Award and Tanya Halliday, the Student Award.
 And, because dietitians take pictures of food and not people, here is the spread. veggies and hummus with spicy salmon and vegan rice balls. Topped with raspberry compote of course! After the reception I headed out with one of the SCAN social volunteers and an RD to be getting her MS at West Chester. We walked through Pioneer Square and down to the river to see how pretty it was at night! 
  Saturday 

I definitely already mentioned this but, Amby, who spoke the day before, ran with us for the SCAN morning run. A huge group turned out to jump start their morning in 8 minute, 10 minute or walking pace groups. I broke off with a group including Kim and Heather into 9ish pace and Amby was off. “Ran with him” for a hot second. He is pictured below with Eve, who has been active with SCAN forever.

Today’s first session was on the dietary guidelines and new recommendations for diet patterns for cardiovascular health. While the guidelines stripped the original suggested verbage on sustainability, they at least have better recommendations than before for looking at diet patterns and the whole diet approach versus “good food vs bad food”. Here are some takeaway slides.
    We have some work to do on fruit and veggie intake and reducing added sugars, saturated fats and sodium!

  Next, I stayed in Ballroom I to hear ” Controversies in Fueling Ultra-Endurance Athletes: Insights from Early Humans to the Drive-Thru Window” while another session on Sustainability of Seafood was going on. I have to say I wish I was in the seafood session. It was cool to see the extreme’s of fluid loss and the ability to replenish glycogen with different foods after an ultra-endurance race such as an iron man triathlon but, I can count on one hand the clients I have that race under these conditions. Fueling them is also so specific to the individual based on what they are able to tolerate during their race. I can use some of this data to help them understand the importance of that fuel though.
The next session on sensory science was more exciting than I anticipated and that is completely attributed to the interactive nature. it is important for RD’s to understand the different palates of our clients so that we can coach them to try new foods, prepared in different ways and understand why it is easier for some people to overeat compared to others.
Unfortunately, most people are not appreciating food for it’s nutritional quality!
   We tasted strips to see if we found them bitter or not. I was surprised in the session to see that most people did not taste anything while I had a bitter taste in my mouth for a good half hour later! This meant that I am apparently a “super taster”. They said most super taster’s are less likely to enjoy fruits and vegetables or, it takes them more time to acquire the taste. I can say that I am not a huge fan of bitter greens and it takes everything in me to choke down beet greens instead of tossing them. I guess this is why! Behind the strip in the picture below are two bags of salted sunflower seeds. The one with lower sodium was actually salted with new micro-spheres of salt that are made to taste saltier than regular salt. This is done without adding chemicals… YAY and can be big for the food industry in reducing sodium content. 

It is no secret that I played hooky for the lunch session and most of the one right after to eat at Prasad with other RD’s and hit up the super cool Saturday Market. When in Rome (Portland)!

Afterwards I made it back for the second part of Nanna Meyer and Janet Rankin’s talk on benefits for sustainability and health through local food and active transport. It was awesome to see how much money Portland has saved through making biking an easy form of transportation in the city. They also mentioned Open Streets Chicago which caught my attention as Open Streets Philadelphia is a huge movement right now. On social media they then said they have a big announcement soon. Excited to hear about it!

The last session was titled “Taking Nutrition Business Online, Legally”. I was really excited about this one since I do some distance counseling but it really didn’t deliver. In the first 5 minutes the presenter said she would not be talking about legal issues since she isn’t a lawyer. I did work for most of the rest of this session while pulling small quotes to tweet here and there😦.

The other exhibitor I didn’t yet mention that had great new products to offer was Kashi! Their new hemp peanut bar was delicious and I am excited for their plant based protein powders to hit the market soon. I made some bran muffins last night and added the packet of “vanilla vinyasa” powder to it and both me and the hubs them! can’t wait to try the other flavors I brought home.

img_3284-1

Sunday

The last day started out back on the top floor for yoga with Heather from Spright! I had already spent a lot of time with Heather the day before and was super excited for her to lead our morning yoga sesh. It was an awesome workout and I wish I had her awesome yoga playlist for days I Namaste at home.

I took a quick break from warrior II to snap this pic for @sportsdietetics social media. After CO springs yoga view last year and this one this year, Charlotte yoga next year has a lot to live up to!

After yoga I ran (literally, it was only a half mile) to mother’s bistro for breakfast which I reviewed on Friday. You need to go there. I then spent time packing up all my stuff in the room and getting organized before hitting a session by Katie Knappenberger, Northwestern’s RD and one of their ATC’s. Complete opposite of Chris’s talk on Friday, this one showed what you can do for DI athletes with all the funding you need! They are even using a DEXA for body comp. Still, they could use more RD’s so a big benefit is working together as a team. RD’s and ATC’s should really be supporting one another’s efforts and it is a great takeaway for RD’s just getting started to build relationships there as much as possible.

The last snack break was sponsored by Kashi and was full of organic goodness. I was stuffed from my ridiculously amazing breakfast but snagged some trail mix for later. I used some of the sweet potato cereal and added in organic coconut, organic tart cherries (good work impressing sports RD’s there Kashi), organic cacao and pumpkin seeds.

I stuck around to hear Karen Ansel, RD media expert speak about pitching to editors. She provided good tips for knowing your editor and your audience so that you can set yourself apart. RD’s are already recognized by national magazines as the nutrition experts but, we need to be able to deliver information the way that particular magazine already does.

From there, I headed out for a hike because, PORTLAND. I really wanted to see some waterfalls but didn’t have the time for it. The max train got me to the part in 10 minutes and I spent some time with nature to decompress after a long weekend of learning.

   In closing, Portland was fabulous. I learned some new information, met new RD friends, and was inspired by all the great things dietitians are doing in the industry! To top it off the airport even bid me farewell on a healthy note.   
And I couldn’t not show you this deliciousness from Petunia’s that I ate on my layover…

Til next time, PDX!

Healthy Food and Yummy Treats in Downtown Portland: SCAN Symposium Review Part I

Important highlights from my trip to Portland last weekend…

1. A healthy dietitian eats dessert. 

Want proof? Search #SCANsymposium in instagram. Donuts like woah (you can see my dessert choices below though). #Flexibility #NoOrthorexiaHere

2. There is not enough time to eat all the yummy things!

If you weren’t following along on instagram and twitter April 7-10,  I was there for my favorite annual conference, the SCAN Symposium. I’ll give you more on the conference, it’s activities and conference related food and products on Monday but, today I am chatting about the food and fun that anyone can enjoy in a short weekend there.

In case you don’t have time to read about everything, here is a quick list of the places I am going to be detailing from my trip. I have only ever said this in the case of Austin, TX before but, I recommend all of them! These are now officially my two favorite foodie cities in the US.

Hop City Tavern
Stumptown Coffee (must drink)
Powell’s Bookstore
Prasad
The Saturday Market (must do)
Made Here Portland
Brew Dr. Kombucha
Clyde Common
Ruby Jewel
Urban Farmer
Mother’s Bistro (must eat)
Petunia’s Pies and Pastries (must eat)

Now for the details… I flew in from Philly on Thursday and after some annoying flight issues got me there a few hours later than expected, the beautiful scenery from the plane helped me forget that I was up since 4 am east coast (1 am west coast) time. I took the super easy MAX train downtown, walked a short 1/4 mile to check in at the hotel, and ran right back out the door to explore! I made a loop down to the river and back up the easy to navigate streets to see some landmarks. I am still amazed by the greenery in a city paired with the flowing river by the water with snow capped mountains in the background. Gorgeousness everywhere! Plus, there was no traffic. What city has empty streets? Portland. Cause everyone bikes or trains or walks everywhere. I got over 20,000 steps everyday. Here are some pics I snapped while walking around.

 

I had packed enough snacks to get me through breakfast and lunch but didn’t expect travel to take as long as it did so I was super hungry. I made my way to the famous “food cart spot” and grabbed a vegan taco for, I kid you not, $1.50. Now, it wasn’t the best taco I’ve eaten but, I felt I checked a Portland must off the list and satisfied my hunger until dinner a couple of hours later.
 

 

Next, I made my way past some cute shops, parks and restaurants to Whole Foods to pick up some essentials for the room. I had forgotten that SCAN feeds you all weekend so I really shouldn’t have gotten more than a couple of apples and bananas but, I did get a locally made Kombucha on tap there too, so that made it all okay.

 

 

Confession: I hardly ever read books. Not because I don’t have several piled up to read but because I am so busy that all I read is scientific research studies and health articles. Good thing I enjoy that! I was reminded on the trip that audio books are an option and may have to try them. Anyway, I stopped by the famous Powell’s Book Store and explored the variety of new and used options and sat in their cute cafe/reading area a bit to recharge (literally, my phone needed to be charged). I had seen earlier (thanks Insta) that Kim was in today too so I reached out for us to do dinner together. Thankfully Kim is also an east-coaster and wanted to lay low tonight after a super long day of traveling. We met at Hop City Tavern, the yummy bar/restaurant in the Hilton where we were staying, and it was awesome getting to know each other better over good eats! We sat at the bar and Kim had a local brew while I had a Pinot Noir Portlandia. Usually not my first wine choice but a client had said it’s a great Pinot Noir region so I went with it and it was delish! We shared a pretzel (pic on Kim’s review) as well as this beet and potato hash w/ an egg (sans bacon). Great minds really do think a like and we each had the shredder salad too! It was a yummy blend of cabbage, kale, broccoli, dates, almonds and a vinaigrette.


Hit the hay early so we could be energized for the weekend and I naturally woke up around 5 cause it was really 8 my time. Yay for sleeping in! I hit the gym and answered emails on the elliptical, did some weight and TRX (yup, TRX in a hotel gym!) and woohoo! got to foam roll to end out my sesh. Super helpful after a long day of stiff travel on a plane the day before.

Friday was packed mostly with SCAN food – I was busy covering all the sessions that day including a sports nutrition focused lunch presented by EAS so, while the food was yummy, most of it was nothing to rave about. Again, I will mention that in a second post on the conference Monday. I do have to give a shout out to Purely Elizabeth though.  The single serve original ancient grain oatmeal I picked up at whole foods has NO sugar, 10 g protein and 7 grams of fiber. I added in fresh grind PB from Whole Foods and a banana and was set to recover from my workout and was energized for a long day of learning.

Day 2 was a little more exciting on the food scene. SCAN did a great morning bridge run. I did about 3.5 miles with a group that broke off in a 9ish minute mile pace and then did an extra couple of miles with Heather who I am so happy to have met!

Post run I needed Stumptown Coffee which was offered right in our hotel at the Hop City quick serve area. I had it the day before too and it did not disappoint. I got a smaller Americano than the day before and this yummy breakfast sandwich. The menu had an egg sandwich with bacon and cheese on white. Look what you get when you ask for substitutions! Whole grains, avocado, and tomato. Bam. 

After morning sessions, Kim asked if I wanted to hang with another group of RD’s and do lunch out and about rather than the lunch session. The topics being covered I knew well and the session right after was not big in my practice so, I obviously explored outside on the gorgeous 80+ degree day. Anna and Megan from Eat with Zest are local to Portland and suggested Prasad. This adorable vegan place in yogapearl wellness studio was amazing. Great environment and great Betty bowl w/ millet and jalapeno cashew dressing.
  

From there we stopped at the Made in Portland Store. It was awesome. {The amazing hot sauces I bought were too big though and didn’t make it through security. Their mailing system was down. I almost cried.}

Next we explored the super fun Saturday market. If you are in Portland on a Saturday, you HAVE to go experience this! If I wasn’t running back for afternoon sessions, I would have stayed longer and gotten some handcrafted cute jewelry but I browsed with some of the girls, grabbed a local ginger kombucha on tap and headed back.

That night I went out with Kim and Heather to Clyde Commons. It had a great vibe but since we were sitting up stairs it was a major food pic fail. We shared some spicy popcorn that I was surprisingly impressed by and I had a their cocktail of the day which w tequila based. No idea what else but do remember yumminess and a cute crystal glass! Below you can see my food pic fail of wild caught salmon over a garlic puree and fiddlehead ferns & crunchy farro. The salmon was good but not amazing. The fiddlehead ferns were adoreable and delicious. I need to find these in Bucks County!

Kim reallly wanted to hit up Ruby Jewel ice cream so I was just hoping there would be a dairy free version. There was! “Chocolate covered banana” here meant banana ice cream. Win! Thanks Portland food gods for understanding my #dairyfreeprobs.

We walked back to the hotel and while it was a long day it was still a little early. I had plans to meet up with a non-blogger RD not on social media who was with some high school friends in the area (crazy, right), so I stopped by the well known Urban Farmer in the mean time. One just opened up in Philly but it in no way is as cool as this one in the Nines hotel. Yes, I already ate but with all of today’s activity, convinced myself that a side of Brussel Sprouts with pear butter and pinot shallot. I really feel crazy saying this and I am so sorry but… they were better than Yardley Inn‘s. I never thought I would say that. Sorry YIG I still love you!!
  

Sunday started out with SCAN yoga (again, more on Monday) and because I had heard rave reviews all weekend, I ran from there to Mother’s Bistro for breakfast as soon as they opened at 8. Let’s be honest, too. After 2 days of info overload, and the conference sessions not being as great the last day (they do this on purpose), it was okay to skip the first session for an amazing breakfast. First, how freakin’ cute is this place?!

Second, this mug! The organic fair trade french pressed coffee in it was fab too (and they gave me a to-go cup for the rest) but I seriously called my mom on the walk back to the hotel. I feel like I don’t even need to tell you what this breakfast is and the pic just makes you want to eat it but, it is their tofu veggie hash with a side of freshly made sourdough. Perfection. Take me back!
  I hit two more sessions and then headed back out for a hike cause, Portland. I really wish I had made it to a waterfall but I took what I could get. The max train brought me right to Washington Park/Forest Park and a jog with lots of stops for pictures was awesome. It is so green and beautiful! My favorite area that I explored was the Magnolia Trail in Forest Park where the trees were in bloom in so many different colors! The trail was really windy and pretty too.


   I headed back, showered and packed up before Kim and I headed out for one last delicious meal. We were unsure of what to do for lunch but I was sure that I wanted to stop at Petunia’s Pies and Pastries. What we didn’t realize is that this bakery also had lunch and that the entire menu was vegan and gluten free. Whhhhat???? When you hear a bakery is famous and a must-do but you didn’t even see that it was vegan and gluten free, it must be awesome. When they have a vegan barbecue veggie bowl, you decide to get lunch too. So we both got the same meal (again) and shared some cornbread. The meal was better than the crumbly cornbread but that didn’t stop us from getting dessert to go. Really, I wanted to get like 10 things to go. I am super indecisive to begin with and then they just kept bringing out more desserts and setting them in the display. If you live in Portland I envy that you can go here daily and that you walk so much that it fits in with your calorie needs.

Seriously, look at all of these options! I went with the cookie sandwich that was filled with a espresso bourbon vanilla icing to have on the plane and a vegan salted caramel square to bring home…

Oh. Em. GEE. Later on, after Kim and I split off at the airport and my hot sauces were confiscated at security (I forgot about the fluid size rules), I decided it was time to treat myself. Unfortunately my layover was shorter than expected too and I maybe ate the caramel square for dinner. Dietitians don’t have perfect diets either. And we like sweets too:)

Who has been to Portland? What are your favorite restaurants, hikes and treats? I am definitely going back and want your recs!!!!

Battle of the Seeds

With how much I love chia and hemp seeds, I was thrilled to have so many products to try after expo east last fall. Chia, flax, and hemp seeds are my go to non-fish omega-3 recommendations. They are so so easy to add to oats, smoothies, salads, baked foods, and bars and packed with lots of nutrition. While not used as easily as the form of omega-3 you get from a piece of salmon, they are super rich in omega-3 ALA that your body can convert into EPA and DHA.

Chia seeds are also a good source of calcium and soluble fiber, helping slow your digestion and absorption, keeping you feeling full, minimizing blood sugar spikes and also aiding in cholesterol removal.

Hemp seeds are so hot right now! They’ve been in my diet for years now but just keep on gaining popularity. Hemp seeds have a great fat profile with an excellent ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. They’re also rich in iron (hello female athletes!), magnesium and zinc and therefore support your blood system, energy metabolism and fluid balance.

While I’d rather clients add them to their diet in their whole form, it is important for me to have convenience foods to recommend when others are still working on changing lifestyle habits and haven’t yet committed to making their own bars with them! Convenience foods have a place in my life too since I am so busy and very often on-the-go during a normal work week or flying for a conference, work, or even sometimes fun, about once a month. While I have some convenience snack and breakfast ideas already posted, here are my top omega-3 picks!

Favorite Seed Bars

Health Warrior Chia Protein Bar

Peanut cacao was awesome after a workout one day. Or so I thought. Then I had another busy day where I was driving from  Bucks to a corporate wellness seminar.  Full lunches don’t sit well before I speak so I grabbed the other bar I had gotten for the road. I went for a bite without even realizing the product flavor and before I could identify coconut, my taste buds were dancing and my eyes were certainly widened from the extreme yumminess. The cocoa and coconut are both super strong but blend so well for this emergency snack in this car!


I like this brands original chia bars too (especially coconut flavor) but, they are better for a quick snack when you know you’ll have a meal in a bit or for pre-workout. They are filling but not quite as much as the ones with the protein. I also like the texture of the protein variety more too and wish there was less added sugar (albeit brown rice syrup) in the small chia bars. chia

Seed Bar Runner Up: Evo Hemp Cacao Bar

Want to win over my taste buds? Just blend dates with cacao and you’re off to a great start. Evo Hemp did this and blended in some hemp protein, hemp seeds and cashews. You won’t get much closer to a homemade hemp protein bar!

evo hemp bar

Seed Bar Honorable Mention: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Heart Bar

Delicious and filling but 9 grams of added sugar is a bit much and there was a teeny after taste. This was my favorite flavor in comparison to the chocolate and apple cinnamon (pictured below).

hemp bar

 

Favorite Seedy Snack

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Heart Bites

These guys have an unbelievable crunch which is why I think I love them so much more than the bars that got runner-up above! The perfect amount of sweetness with a touch of sea salt makes them a great snack. I do recommend having half a serving and pairing with a piece of fruit or some roasted edamame if you’re looking for more protein.

Seedy Snack Runner Up: Flackers (Savory Flavor)

I already introduced you to flackers as a great convenience snack. They actually are more versatile than the Hemp Heart Bites and have no added sugar but the hemp bites are just so delicious and give that little sweet taste I am usually searching for mid-afternoon. Still love you flackers!

Favorite Hemp Protein Powder

Manitoba Harvest Chocolate Hemp Pro 70

If you’ve tried hemp protein powder before in a smoothie, it can be kinda gritty and chalky. Yuck. Not this one! Manitoba Harvest claims it is the first water soluble hemp protein, which is what gives it so much more of a creamy texture, able to be mixed into whatever you’d like! Since trying it mixed in my oats below, I have had it in smoothies (mixed w/ banana, PB & almond milk OMG) and Nancy’s soy yogurt. Game changer.

hemp pro choc

Hemp Protein Runner Up: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro Original

This was my first favorite hemp protein and still my #1 when I make any of my homemade energy bars. The first time I used it was in my Cashew Cookie Hemp Bars and its still a staple today. #KillinIt Manitoba Harvest!

hemp pro fiber

Favorite Loose Hemp Seeds

Just Hemp Foods Hulled Hemp Seed

I feel like a traitor because Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts were my first hemp love. I tried Just Hemp Foods for the first time at Expo East and the creamy texture was just amazing. I have to say I still switch between both brands (basically whatever is on sale is what I get) but Just Hemp has a teeny tiny edge in my eyes with these seeds. The brand also sells crunchy hemp seed snacks! The one brand I haven’t been happy with when it comes to hemp seeds? Navitas Naturals. Love literally every other product I have purchased from them but the one time I got the hemp seeds, I have had some almost non-chewable hard pieces (pebbles?) and that was a turn off. I will still to their cacao, maca and other products and leave hemp seeds to Just Hemp and Manitoba!


Who has another seed snack or product for me to try? Always love suggestions:)

Quick, On-the-go, Real Food Breakfast

Each year my life gets busier – which is a good thing professionally (and personally since I love what I do)! But, it also means I am relying a lot more on prepping ahead and when I don’t have time to make my own energy bars from scratch, I’m finding minimally processed, whole food based convenience foods. I already have a post on some great convenience snacks, but here I want to talk about convenience for my favorite meal: BREAKFAST.

Breakfast is an extremely important meal and one of the easiest to skip if it isn’t a habit for you and if you aren’t getting enough sleep. Research shows that missing breakfast may increase calorie consumption later in the day, and may hinder your metabolism early on. Plus we know people are not able to use their brains as effectively without this AM meal. That means poor attention span, reduced retention and memory as well as decreased productivity. This all translates into worse grades for kids (or adults) in school, and a sub-par job at work! Here are some of my favorite quick breakfast ideas for the workweek. This post highlights my go to convenience foods for breakfast as well as easy prep-ahead breakfast items that will be ready when you’re running out the door.

Convenience Items & Use

  

Go to convenience item: Food for Life brand English muffins or Bread

Why: Food for Life’s Ezekiel products use a variety of grains rather than just wheat to make bread. In addition, the grains are sprouted, which enhances the nutrient content and availability to the body, and they are not refined like flours in typical store bought breads. Due to the lack of processing and organic harvesting of the grains, many people who typically react to wheat or grains in a negative way end up with no negative side effects. Whole food convenience at its best!

Try:

-7 sprouted grains English muffin topped with organic peanut butter, sliced banana, hemp seeds

-Cinnamon raisin English muffin topped with raw almond butter, hemp hearts, blueberries

-English muffin with cashew butter, banana, cacao nibs

Allergic to nuts and/or peanuts? Try sunflower seed butter on toast!

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Go to convenience item: RxBars

Why: Their slogan is “no BS”. I love that! So many bars look healthy and have tons of claims but then there’s added sugar and ingredients you can’t pronounce. With RxBars, ingredients always include egg whites, dates, nuts, and spices/seasonings. That’s it! You’ll get 12 grams of protein, a serving of fruit, and healthy fat. Even though I prefer you eat the yolk when you eat eggs, this is a good way to sneak protein in on-the-go.

Try: 

-Pair with a piece of fruit such as a large apple to get a close to 300 calorie breakfast. I don’t recommend this every day but, it’s great “emergency food” to keep around.

-Post workout on the go? Traveling? Pair with some roasted edamame and raisins. It’s easy to keep in your gym bag or travel bag!

Go to convenience item: Nancy’s organic cultured dairy or soy yogurt (or other plain yogurt)

Why: It’s the first soy yogurt I’ve had that tastes great, even plain. The fact that all of their varieties are organic is a plus. It means no hormones for the cow’s milk yogurt and no GMO’s for either. Why no added sugar? Cause you’re sweet enough already! But seriously, you don’t need an extra 3-4 teaspoons in 6 ounces of yogurt!

Try: 

-As you can see below I added a teeny bit of sweetness by mixing in another convenience item, Justin’s nut butter. 

-Add strawberries, hemp seeds and cacao nibs.

-You can also pair w/ 2 tbsp chia, flax or pumpkin seeds and 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries

Go to convenience prepped foods: Buckwheat Oat Pancakes or Waffles

Why: If you prep my fave breakfast recipe ahead of time {just like many of my clients do}, they’re ready to be heated up from the freezer or thawed in the fridge to have cold if you’re really in a rush. The buckwheat is much more filling than white or refined flours due to its fiber and protein. It’s also rich in iron and magnesium, both important for energy metabolism.

Try: 

-With hemp seeds, banana, coconut and crunchy PB. They’ll taste just as good even if they don’t look as pretty as this one:

  • Spread some PB on top of one and roll a small banana inside to make a wrap
  • Top with blueberries and almond butter – delicious!

Go to convenience prepped food: Frittata or frittata muffins

Why: Why not have a serving of veggies in the morning with your protein? It helps you get a nutrient boost and stay full longer. As mentioned above, eat the yolk!

And yes, those eggs w/ veggies in a muffin tin that you see all over Pinterest are fine heated up. You can even put them in the freezer!

Try:
-Pair w/ a piece of fruit and serving of flackers 
-Paired with a pre-baked potato, sweet potato, purple potato… any colored potato. 

Go to convenience prepped food: Hard boiled eggs

Why: An even easier way than the above to get protein and essential nutrients in the morning! This is an especially good option if you’re on the go after a morning workout.

Hard boil on the stove, in a muffin tin, or even in this counter top egg boiler that someone at the NAC at my food prep class just told me about!

Try:

-Paired with hummus and a piece of fruit 

-Paired with an Ezekiel English muffin and apple

-On the side with whole grain cereal

-Paired with a pre-baked sweet potato

You can feel free to use any of the above combos for a light lunch or dinner too! Brinner is always a good idea when you’ve had a long day!

What are your favorite breakfast and convenience foods?

Raw Cashew Cacao Goji Protein Snacks

My first National Nutrition Month 2016 creation is um…. YUM! After spending a zillion dollars on Whole Foods delicious raw cacao goji energy bites I thought I should probably just make my own! While they didn’t come out quite as dense as the ones in Whole Foods bulk section, I kind of liked the texture of these better! As you can see, they can be made into bars or balls easily, whichever your heart desires. I am a huge coconut fan so I rolled the balls in coconut for some extra flavor, texture, and to elevate the eye candy effect.

What I think I love most about these is the zero added sugar! Nope, not even a drop of maple syrup or honey and you definitely won’t miss it.  Since it is National Nutrition Month, it is a perfect time to curb those sugar cravings.

You can definitely enjoy this antioxidant packed snack any time of day but, I found it especially delicious and energizing before my workout earlier today. The benefit here though is the added pea protein. While it doesn’t make the bar/ball a high source of the nutrient, it is better than none and can help keep you a little more satiated than a typical fruit & nut bar.

Raw Cashew Cacao Goji Protein Snacks {V DF GF}

Ingredients:

1 C dates and raw cashews
1/4 C raw cacao
1/4 C soaked goji berries
1/2 C pea protein
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tbsp vanilla
Dash salt

Directions:

Add dried goji berries to a 1/4 C measuring cup and cover with water.
While they are soaking, measure out other ingredients and add to a food processor or high quality blender.
After about 5 minutes add the goji berries, including the water in the measuring cup.
Pulse until all ingredients are well blended and a ball forms in the machine.

For bars:
Dump the mixture onto wax paper.
Fold the wax paper over the mixture and then roll with a rolling pin so that it doesn’t stick. (See picture below)
Roll to desired thickness. I prefer 1/2-3/4 inch high. 
Cut into bars of equal size. Place in a storage container and keep refrigerated.

For balls:
Roll equal pieces of the mixture in your hands. If desired, roll on unsweetened shredded coconut.

Notes: I individually wrap the bars in the wax paper so I can easily grab them as snacks to-go throughout the week. For this batch, I cut the excess from the sides to form a perfect rectangle for the bars, and what was removed, I rolled into balls instead of re-rolling etc.

Hope you love them as much as we do in the Jones household!


Want to try another homemade energy bar recipe? See my other posts:

Peanut Cacao Energy Bars (tree nut free)

Cashew Cookie Hemp Energy Bars

Date and Nut Bar