Carrot Raisin Oatmeal Bites

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Last week, while perusing the Whole Foods coupon booklet, I saw an idea for miniature mac ‘n cheese bites that sounds like a great use for leftover mac ‘n cheese. I plan to try and veganize that one later, but while on the Whole Foods Market recipe page, I came across another adorable idea–oatmeal-on-the-go–and I decided to try that one right away.

The original recipe doesn’t call for any sweetener whatsoever, but I added some maple syrup, which gave it just a touch of sweetness in addition to the carrots and raisins. Zander has been gobbling these up 5 or 6 at a time. He really enjoys them!

Any time I make mini-muffins (we make at least one batch per week, usually zucchini raisin spelt muffins) or in this case, something resembling a mini-muffin, I automatically store half of them in the freezer. If I didn’t, one of two things would happen. Zander would either eat them all in one day, or if I managed to prevent that, half of the muffins would get stale before they could be eaten. This way, Zander can eat the first half while they are fresh, and I can pull out a few for a snack as needed and either let them thaw on the counter or warm them up for 15-30 seconds in the microwave.

Here is the recipe:

CARROT RAISIN OATMEAL BITES
*original recipe by Whole Foods Market; adapted slightly to veganize and based on what was in my pantry

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
1 cup almond milk
2 “flax eggs” = 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds + 6 Tbsp cold water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp Grade B maple syrup
1 cup shredded carrots
*next time, I will try adding a tablespoon or two of chia or hemp seeds, which we always include in Zander’s oatmeal; I just didn’t think of it in time for this batch

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 24-cup mini-muffin pan with spray oil, or use muffin liners.

Mix ground flax seeds with cold water and let it sit to congeal.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, walnuts, raisins, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup until evenly blended. Add “flax eggs” to the liquid mixture, then stir in carrots. Add carrot mixture to oat mixture and stir until evenly blended.

Spoon into muffin cups using a small ice cream scoop. Bake until firm and golden brown on top, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Here’s a photo taken before baking:

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And here’s a photo from after:

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Tropical Turmeric Smoothie

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Lately, I have been sort of addicted to turmeric smoothies. I drink them every single day!

I had no idea how delicious these would taste, but I did know that turmeric is helpful with inflammation and has seemingly countless other health benefits. So when my friend, Lynn, gifted me some of her beautiful fresh turmeric along with a smoothie recipe, I was happy to give it a try.

The timing was perfect, as I am currently recovering from an intercostal muscle strain which requires rest, daily icing of the muscles, and oral anti-inflammatories. I am also currently three days into a two-week juice and smoothie fast, and it’s great to be able to add some variety into my otherwise monotonous repertoire of green juices and smoothies.

I took one of these smoothies to a friend yesterday, and she immediately asked for the recipe. Zander loves them, too! I usually double the recipe to make enough for both of us. This morning, I poured some leftover smoothie into a popsicle mold for Zander, so he’ll have turmeric popsicles for an afternoon snack. He is going to be thrilled!

Anyhow, without further ado, here is the recipe:

TROPICAL TURMERIC SMOOTHIE
*recipe by Ryan Carmody at Heavenly Smoothie Headquarters–lots of other useful info there–check it out!!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk (I use homemade almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 fresh or frozen medium banana (I haven’t been including any banana–I actually just noticed that it was in the recipe! My smoothies have been delicious without banana.)
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil (I sometimes include this, sometimes not. I like it both ways.)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (I use about an inch of fresh, peeled turmeric root–see photo below–it looks like a baby carrot once it’s been peeled!)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger (I use about 1/2 inch of fresh peeled ginger root)
  • a dash of sea salt (I use 1/8 tsp Himalayan salt)
  • a little honey, maple syrup, or stevia (I use about 1 Tbsp Grade B maple syrup)

Optional: (I haven’t tried adding any of these yet, but you may want to!)

  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds or chia seed gel
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1 Tbsp coconut shreds/flakes
  • 1/2 Tbsp maca

Instructions:

Place all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend for around 30-45 seconds or until nice and smooth. If you don’t have a very powerful blender and your coconut oil is in liquid form, you might want to blend everything except the coconut oil first, then drizzle it on and blend for another 5-10 seconds to avoid clumping.

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Creamy Tomato-Basil Pasta

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I’m sorry that I never take the time to properly plate/photograph my food. On most days, it feels like a huge accomplishment just to remember to grab my iPhone and snap a quick photo of something before it gets gobbled up. But please believe me when I say that although this may not be pretty, it tasted really delicious! Another great recipe by Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows. As I always say, if you haven’t already done so, buy her cookbook! You will not be disappointed. Here’s the recipe:

LUXURIOUS TOMATO-BASIL PASTA
*from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, by Angela Liddon

Ingredients:
1/2 cup raw cashews (soaked for 2 hours, or overnight)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
9 ounces uncooked pasta
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced (I omitted, because I didn’t have an onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 1/4 cup minced garlic)
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (fresh or canned, drain juice if using canned)
3 handfuls spinach
1-3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional; I omitted)
1 cup packed fresh basil, finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

Place the cashews in a bowl and add enough water to cover. Soak for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse the cashews. Place them in a high-speed blender along with the almond milk and blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Boil water and cook pasta according to instructions on package.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic for 5-10 minutes, until translucent. Add tomatoes and spinach and continue cooking for 7-10 minutes over medium-high heat, until the spinach is wilted.

Stir in the cashew cream, nutritional yeast (if using), basil, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and pepper, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until heated through.

Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Stir to combine well, and cook for a few minutes until heated through. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. Enjoy!!

 

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Homemade Trail Mix

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In addition to our favorite no-bake granola bars, Zander and I have been going through a lot of trail mix lately. We keep some in the car at all times for post-workout, swimming, or playground energy boosts. I like to buy the ingredients separately in bulk, store them in large glass jars, and mix them as needed using my 1/4 cup metal scoop for quick grab-and-go snacks. I find that a small handful (often consumed while driving from one destination to the other) goes a really long way!

I leave the trail mix in a low cabinet (see photo below) that Zander can easily reach so he can pour himself a bowl whenever he likes. We always use raw, organic, unsulfured, unsalted nuts, seeds, and fruits (scroll down for note on recent Costco discovery!). When I can find them at a reasonable price, I prefer to buy sprouted nuts that have been soaked and dehydrated. Maybe one day, I’ll buy another dehydrator and be able to do this myself.

Here’s our favorite blend (although if it were up to Zander, this would be 100% cashews, or maybe 90% cashews and 10% Brazil nuts–he likes these even better than the dried fruits):

RAW, ORGANIC, UNSALTED TRAIL MIX
*makes approx. 2 cups

1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup Brazil nuts
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries (sweetened with apple juice, not cane sugar)
1/4 cup dried wild blueberries

Below is a photo of the trail mix in Zander’s snack cabinet. The larger jar behind the trail mix contains organic spelt pretzels. Zander has a similar space on the bottom shelf of the fridge from which he can pull things like fresh fruit, homemade granola bars, carrot sticks, or cucumber slices when he is hungry. :)

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I have also just discovered this organic, unsulfured, apple-juice-sweetened blend from Costco, which is available for a fraction of the price of these items in the bulk section, and as soon as we run out of our current trail mix, we’re going to start adding this to the other nuts and seeds instead of the bulk dried cranberries and blueberries. Bonus: there are already pumpkin seeds in this mix, too, so we will no longer need to buy those separately!

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No-Bake Granola Bars

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Zander and I make these delicious and nutritious granola bars about once a week. They are an absolute staple in our home, and I cannot possibly recommend them highly enough!!!

Seriously, it is like eating a chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, but without the guilt. They are ridiculously easy to make, and you get to control the freshness and quality of the ingredients (we always use organic).

So without further ado, here is the recipe–another classic from Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows. (If you haven’t already, buy her cookbook!) :)

CLASSIC GLO BAR
*makes 12 bars, from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, by Angela Liddon

Ingredients:
1½ cups rolled oats
1¼ cups brown rice crisp cereal
¼ cup hemp seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp chia seeds
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp Himalayan salt
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp brown rice syrup
¼ cup nut or seed butter—I prefer raw almond butter, but you could also use roasted almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, etc.
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup vegan mini-chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand)

Instructions:

Line a 9-inch square cake pan with two pieces of parchment paper (one going each way). [NOTE: I use a silicone pan, so there is no need for any parchment paper.]

In a large bowl, combine the oats, rice crisp cereal, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, sesame seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon, and salt and mix. [NOTE: I always pre-measure and let Zander pour and mix the dry ingredients. He loves this!]

In a small saucepan, stir together the brown rice syrup and nut butter until well combined. Cook over medium to high heat until the mixture softens and bubbles slightly, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. [NOTE: I always use LOW heat and never allow the mixture to bubble, because I don't want to kill all of the good enzymes in my expensive raw almond butter. At first, I was worried that the bars wouldn't solidify unless I allowed this mixture to slightly caramelize, but they're just fine even if you don't heat the sticky ingredients to the point of bubbling.]

Pour the nut butter mixture over oat mixture, using a spatula to scrape every last bit out of the pan. Stir well with large metal spoon until all of the oat mixture is coated in nut butter mixture. If using the chocolate chips, allow the mixture to cool slightly before folding in the chips. This will prevent them from melting. [NOTE: I don't mind a little bit of melting, so I add the chocolate chips into the dry mix before pouring in the nut butter mixture. My chips always seem to stay in tact, but to be fair, that's probably because I just barely warm up my nut butter mixture.]

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, spreading it out into an even layer.

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Lightly wet your hands and press down on the mixture to even it out. Use a pastry roller to compact the mixture firmly and evenly. This helps the bars hold together better. Press down on the edges with your fingers to even out the mixture. [NOTE: In the beginning, I just used my fingers to press down the bars, but once I realized how often we would be making them, I invested in an inexpensive pastry roller. I'm glad that I did.]

 

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Place the pan in the freezer, uncovered, and chill for 10 minutes, or until firm. [NOTE: I place my pan onto a baking sheet to help keep it level, and I leave it in the freezer for 15 minutes.]

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Lift the square out of the pan, using the parchment paper as handles, and place it on a cutting board. With a pizza roller (or a serrated knife), slice the square into 6 rows and then slice them in half to make 12 bars total. [NOTE: I just pop mine out of the silicone mold and use a knife to slice the square in half, then slice each half into six pieces.]

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Wrap the bars individually in plastic wrap or foil and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, you can store them in the freezer for up to 1 month. [NOTE: I don't even bother with the individual wrapping. I used to, but now I just layer the bars in four alternating rows of three into a square storage container and put them into the fridge next to my homemade almond milk.]

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Here’s a photo of Zander’s snack from this morning–yum! :)

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Raspberry Limeade (or Lemonade)

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When Alex comes home from work and finds a fresh pitcher of raspberry limeade in the fridge, the smile on his face makes me feel great. Of course, Zander loves it, too, and unlike most store-bought drinks, I can feel good about serving it to him, so everyone is happy!

This drink also takes me back to my childhood when my Aunt Julie served virgin Lime Rickeys to the kids one hot summer day, and I felt so grown up and special. :)

Homemade ‘ades are refreshing, healthy, and really easy to make! We’ve been enjoying them a lot lately; sometimes with limes, sometimes with lemons–they’re delicious both ways. And the best part is that when you’ve emptied your drink, you get to eat the yummy berries at the bottom of the glass!

Here’s the recipe:

RASPBERRY LIMEADE
*makes approximately 4 1/2 cups (I use a 1.1 liter glass pitcher)

Ingredients:

juice of 3-5 limes (or use lemons for raspberry lemonade!), depending on your taste buds and the size/juiciness of the fruit
1/4 cup agave nectar
3-4 cups water (still or sparkling), as needed to fill container (I use a 1.1 liter glass pitcher)
a handful of ripe organic raspberries (for this batch, I used 16 berries)

Instructions:

I usually start by juicing (with a handheld juicer) 3 limes, then add the agave nectar and water, mix, and do a taste test. If it feels as though it needs more zing, I juice another lime and pour it in. For this batch, I used 4 limes. I like to include the pulp, but if you don’t like pulp, just discard it. That’s the beauty of making your own drinks–you get complete control over the ingredients!

Next you simply squeeze a handful of raspberries to release some of their juice into the pitcher, then drop in the squished berries and put the pitcher in the fridge for an hour or two. I used to put the berries in without squeezing them, but one day I realized that doing so really gives an added boost of raspberry flavor. Plus, it’s fun to do, and then you get to lick your fingers. ;)

We typically use still filtered water for our limeades and lemonades, simply because it’s free, but if you would prefer a carbonated drink, use sparkling water instead–it’s delicious!

Add ice cubes, or not–it’s up to you. You could also add all sorts of other things–thin slices of lime or lemon for garnish and added flavor, fresh mint leaves, a splash of fresh-squeezed orange juice, other fresh berries, etc. Just remember to adjust the amount of water you pour in to allow room for these additional ingredients–or even better, use a bigger pitcher!

 

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Yellow Split Pea and Carrot Soup (Crock Pot)

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OK, this soup isn’t fancy, but it’s nutritious, inexpensive, easy to make, and kid-approved, so I’m sharing the recipe! Zander preferred his with a splash of homemade raspberry limeade and a big dallop of cilantro pesto. Alex and I enjoyed ours without those additions. ;)

YELLOW SPLIT PEA AND CARROT SOUP (CROCK POT)
*makes about 3 large bowls of soup for a main dish, or 4-6 smaller bowls for a side dish

Ingredients:

1 cup yellow split peas (I did not soak mine overnight, but they cooked just beautifully anyway)
3 large carrots, chopped (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
4 cups vegan “chicken” broth
1/4 cup minced garlic (we all love garlic, but if you’re less of a fan, just use 1 or 2 cloves, or use onion instead)
a drizzle of olive oil
1 bay leaf (remove and discard before eating!)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp Himalayan salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups chopped baby spinach or other greens (optional)

Instructions:

Add all ingredients EXCEPT the spinach to a crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.

Optional: If you want a more velvety soup, take half of the liquid and blend it in a high-speed blender until creamy, then stir it back into the remaining half just before serving. That way you’ll have a wonderfully smooth soup, but also some good texture with bites of split pea and carrot to chew. You could also just skip this step and eat it straight from the crock pot. Or you could blend the entire thing if you don’t want the texture.

After blending (or during the last 15-30 minutes of cooking, just long enough to wilt), stir in the chopped spinach. The photo above was my son’s portion, and he is anti-spinach at the moment (gasp!!), so there is nothing green in his bowl. I forgot to take a photo of mine with the spinach, but I’m sure you can imagine what it would look like. Totally up to you whether or not to include it. Enjoy! :)

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Homemade Bath Bombs

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What a hilarious process this was!!! I was honestly stunned when, in the end, we wound up with actual, functioning bath bombs.

Zander and I followed this recipe from the NW Edible Life blog without any modifications. Although we didn’t have such beautiful molds, I had really high hopes that our bath bombs would turn out almost as gorgeous as Erica’s. Sadly, there is nothing gorgeous about our bath bombs. It is hard to even tell what they are supposed to be at first glance! However, we had a lot of fun making them, and Zander had even more fun using them in last night’s bath, so I consider this a win and will definitely try it again in the future.

Below is Zander’s mise en place “cooking” station, with pre-measured dishes of citric acid, baking soda, corn starch, epsom salts, water, natural plant-based food coloring, and the lavender/eucalyptus essential oil blend I add to his diffuser every night to help him sleep.

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We used a metal whisk to combine all of the dry ingredients before adding the wet ones. I found that the food coloring and essential oils dispersed more easily in the dough when mixed first with the water. That last part needs to be done really quickly, so I commandeered the whisk when we added the liquids.

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Once everything had been mixed, it took on the consistency of “cloud dough” and was really fun simply to run our fingers through and play with before adding it to the molds.

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We started off using little heart-shaped silicone molds and an extra large muffin tin. We packed everything in very firmly just like the instructions said and did our best to smooth off the tops.

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Much to my surprise, the muffin tins emptied perfectly onto our drying tray, but the silicone molds did not.

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At this point, Zander had long since abandoned me to build Fort #247 of the day in our living room. I made the unilateral decision to pack some of the crumbled mess from the silicone molds into an ice cream scoop to see if that would work.

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I also tried using a 1/4 cup metal spoon. Both worked reasonably well, but in the end, I decided to just hand-roll a few balls, thinking that I would prefer a classic round shape to the half sphere/half egg shapes I had created.

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As instructed, I left the bath bombs in a safe place to dry overnight, but when I went in to take a peek about an hour later, I found that everything was sort of melting and expanding…

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Determined not to give up, I grabbed a regular-sized muffin tin and some unbleached paper liners, then re-formed the gloppy mess above into 12 muffin-sized balls and patted them into the liners. I left for yoga, feeling satisfied that this was the perfect solution.

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Approximately three hours later, I came back to find this!!!

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The “bombs” looked as though they had all exploded while we were gone, and unlike before, they were already quite crusty at this point and definitely not pliable enough to re-shape into something else. So I just left them alone for a few more hours, then peeled off the paper liners and carefully pulled off the outer edges of the crazy exploded muffin tops (which we saved for home use).

When you look at them this way, it is arguable that they vaguely resemble actual bath bombs.

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Zander and I chose the four “nicest” ones for a friend’s belated birthday gift.

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I wrapped each one in plastic wrap (to keep it dry) and then in a square of tissue paper to try and make them look as pretty as possible. Who knows if they will make it to our friend in one piece via the US postal service? Regardless, I am pleased to report that we confirmed during Zander’s bath time that even the ugly broken chunks perform quite beautifully in the tub. :)

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Chocolate Hemp, Chia, & Kale “Frosty”

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All I could think while drinking this–and all I have been able to think for the rest of the day–was that this is surely the world’s most delicious (and sneakily nutritious!) smoothie. It tasted exactly the way I remember a Wendy’s “Frosty” tasting back when I was a little girl, but with none of the guilt! It was rich and creamy, and so thick that I had to get out one of my extra wide (5/16″) metal straws. The regular-sized ones just wouldn’t cut it.

This smoothie was inspired by Angela Liddon’s yummy Creamy Chocolate Hemp Smoothie for Two. I just love Oh She Glows, both the blog and the cookbook! I made a few minor modifications based on what was in my fridge, and voilà, the addictive and oh-so-energizing vegan “Frosty” was born.

I happen to love green smoothies and don’t mind the taste of kale, but for those who dislike kale, this would be an excellent way to sneak in a daily dose, because no-one would ever suspect that there was kale in this drink (so long as you’re using a high-speed blender, such as the Vitamix). The irony is that my son, Zander–who loves green smoothies–will not drink chocolate ones. Isn’t that funny? Oh well, more for me! I don’t need him bouncing off the walls from all that raw cacao powder, anyway. ;)

CHOCOLATE HEMP, CHIA, & KALE “FROSTY”

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups homemade almond milk (or vegan milk of choice)
1 Tbsp Grade C maple syrup
3 Tbsp raw cacao powder
4 Tbsp hulled hemp seeds
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 large bananas (peeled and frozen)
1 large handful of baby kale leaves
approx. 4 ice cubes

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until super smooth.

I had just washed a big bowl of raspberries for Zander to eat along with his buckwheat pancakes for breakfast, and as sort of an afterthought, I plopped one into my smoothie. It was such a yummy combination that I wound up stealing a few more from Zander’s bowl when he wasn’t looking. Shhhh. Please don’t tell him! He’d be really upset with me. OK, so maybe I was wrong about this being an entirely guilt-free drink. ;)

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Beluga Lentils with Garlic Asparagus

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Last night’s dinner was extremely popular! We will definitely be adding it to our rotation.

Alex and I ate ours as pictured above, along with a creamy bowl of Golden Beet Soup on the side. Zander ate exactly zero roasted potato wedges, but he had two big helpings of asparagus and came up with a very interesting twist for the beluga lentils–he added them to his golden beet soup along with a bit of asparagus, which he shredded by hand. Turns out, it was a truly delicious combination! Zander also ate three Sweet Potato Biscuits with his meal (which I made using whole wheat flour).

This dish couldn’t be simpler to make. Here’s how to do it:

BELUGA LENTILS WITH GARLIC ASPARAGUS

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups beluga lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
a pinch of Himalayan salt

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, chopped
approx. 15 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
Himalayan salt to taste
dash of balsamic vinegar

Instructions:

Rinse and soak beluga lentils for about 3 hours. Simmer in vegetable broth and Himalayan salt for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

While lentils are cooking, sauté garlic and asparagus in olive oil, Himalayan salt, and balsamic vinegar for about 5 minutes. Cover and simmer for another 5-10 minutes until asparagus is tender.

After that, how you eat it is up to you! Either serve the asparagus on a bed of lentils, or mix them all together in a bowl of golden beet soup. ;)

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