Chaga Chai Tonic (Hot)

One of my favorite healthy treats to prepare daily are Medicinal Tonics. Always plant-based, served hot or cold; all varieties of medicinal tonics are born from the ancient healing practices of many different cultures around the world. Some of the more popular therapies come from Ayurvedic Medicine (India), Chinese Herbalism and Native Americans. These cultures depended heavily on preventing and curing the ailments of their people by extracting the nutrients from various plant species and utilizing their unique health benefits into the form of a tea. In many cases, a mixture of carefully chosen plants and herbs can be used alchemically to solve multiple issues.

In the modern day, these practices still hold strong but in much smaller, scattered communities; usually limited to those interested in health and longevity. Mainstream medicine has done away with herbal treatments and focus only on prescription chemicals and surgical therapies, all while the nutritional value of our food is destroyed by the high profit companies who crowd our supermarkets with processed food-like products, filled with refined sugars, additives and preservatives. It’s no wonder why Cancer, Heart Disease, Respiratory Disease and Diabetes top the charts for leading causes of death. Our attention is primarily focused on the Healthcare industry, when it should be on the Food & Agriculture industry. Prevention is the key word here and that has EVERYTHING to do with food. And from where I’m sitting; fresh pressed juices, blended smoothies and superfood tonics are ALL very strong ways we can prevent illness and disease.

Take for example this hot, creamy tonic I made today. It’s something you can drink everyday as a general “wellness” beverage. It is the very essence of prevention because of the carefully chosen ingredients. But it tastes so good, you’d probably have no problem replacing your usual Coffee or Tea with this. Sometimes I go very simple and straightforward; other times I like to experiment and add some complexity to address more than one health issue. For this tonic, I’ve borrowed therapeutic and culinary ideas from multiple cultures to create something that not only tastes wonderful but is packed with vitamins, minerals, iron, protein, magnesium and healthy fats. It is a powerhouse of antioxidants, polysaccharides and phytonutrients. It’s got heart healthy, immunity-boosting, anti-viral, digestion, liver, skin and cognitive function benefits; and with none of the over-stimulating effects found in coffee, tea or other caffeine products.

So, do yourself a solid and check this out…your body will thank you for it.

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16 oz Freshly Brewed Chaga Tea
4 Dates (pitted)
1/4 Raw Cashews
1/4 Raw Pepitas (shelled)
1/2″ Fresh Ginger (peeled)
1 tsp Reishi Mushroom Powder
1 Tbsp Lucuma
1/4 tsp Ground Cardamom
1/4 tsp Ground Allspice
1/4 tsp Ground Clove
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup

Brew Chaga Tea according to package. When steeped long enough (usually 30-40 minutes), pour into a small pot on Med/Low to bring heat back up. Add Dates, Cashews, Pipitas and Ginger to pot. Bring to a low boil and then back down to a gentle simmer (the idea is to soften/soak our nuts, seeds and ginger so they will blend easy). While the Tea mixture is simmering, prepare all of your dry ingredients and add them into your blender. After the Tea mixture has simmered for about 10 minutes or so, carefully pour it into the blender with the dry ingredients. Add the Maple Syrup. Mixture is very hot; so take care in making sure the lid is properly held down. Carefully start the blender on low speed, slowly working up to the highest speed. Blend until very smooth (up to 1 minute or more depending on the blender). Pour into a mug and enjoy!

Chocolate Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream

I scream. You scream. We all scream…because it’s almost Halloween. Well, that and because ICE CREAM! And hey…what can I say? I woke up this morning with ice cream on my mind. “For breakfast”? Well, sure. A nutrient rich ice cream with the flavors of Autumn sounds splendid. “But aren’t you tired of Pumpkin Spice”? Nope. And let’s be straight here, making ice cream is not all that different than making a smoothie either; so file away those “I don’t have time” complaints right now.

It’s creamy, sweet and spicy all in one spoonful! And after you taste this, you’re probably going to want to throw away all those chemical and dairy-laden treats in your freezer; you won’t need them any longer. Escape the carton and enter a new world of wholesome ingredients. Did I mention that we’re adding Vega One to it as well? This is not only going to give it that rich chocolaty flavor but it’s also going to give you 20 grams of premium plant-based protein, 6 servings of greens, 50% daily intake of food-based vitamins and minerals, 25% DV fiber, 1.5 grams of Omega-3s, Antioxidants and 1 billion CFU Probiotics. I don’t know about you, but thats enough to make me want to escape “carton captivity”.

So, why don’t I hate on Pumpkin like everyone else is right now? Because I don’t see it as just a seasonal “flavor” to infuse into store-bought junk food and refined sugar-bomb lattes. Pumpkin is actually a very nutrient dense fruit from the berry family (betcha didn’t know that!). It’s high in Potassium, Fiber and Vitamins A/C and is very heart healthy. The beta-carotene in Pumpkin (as well as the other fruits/veggies of the orange variety) is known to support the eyes and prevent degenerative damage. Also, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition has shown that beta-carotene can be a beneficial rival in the development of both prostate and colon cancers.

Theres a bunch of reasons for you to go make this recipe and eat it. You can sit here and weigh them all out or I can just scream ICE CREAM! I’m sure that’ll get you up on your toes.

Ingredients
2 Bananas (peeled/chopped)
1 Cup Pumpkin Puree
2 Medjool Dates (pitted)
1 serving Vega One Chocolate Protein
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Nutmeg

Instructions
1. Place Bananas and Pumpkin Puree in a covered bowl and store in the freezer for at least 2 hours to freeze.

2. After Bananas and Pumpkin are frozen, put them in the food processor along with the Medjool Dates. Pulse a few times to begin breaking down and then set to high speed until the mixture begins to get creamy (this step may take a while depending on how frozen the ingredients are). Once it’s smooth stop processing.

3. Now add in the Vega One and dry spices and process again on high speed until combined well.

4. Scrape all of the creamy goodness out of the container and into a bowl. Top with sliced Cranberries and Coconut shavings if desired. Now eat it before it gets too melty! You can also transfer the mixture to the freezer while you clean up to allow it to stiffen a bit.

The Bitter Blend II – A Tart Return (Grapefruit, Pomegranate & Lime Smoothie)

Have you ever heard of a “Smoothie Sequel”? Well, this may be a first…or a second? I’m already confused! In any case, hopefully you remember my original Bitter Blend Smoothie from last year; it was a real zinger! And we already know that Grapefruit is on top of his game as a tenacious free-radical fighter, but I’m here to tell you that “sour” is back with a vengeance and this time he brought a couple of new pals with him! Say hello to Pomegranate; aka the “King of Antioxidant Fruits”, one of the fiercest of cancer opponents and a true defender of the immune system. Oh yeah, and that other little green sidekick? His name is Lime. Don’t ever underestimate his potential to help destroy obesity, strengthen skin and decimate high blood sugar levels. Together, this is one gutsy team who will get the job done.

Coming soon to a blender near you…yup, just like that one sitting on your kitchen counter 😉

Ingredients

1 Cup Almond Milk
1 serving Vega One Nutritional Shake (Coconut Almond or French Vanilla)
1 Frozen Banana
1 Grapefruit (w/ pith)
Seeds of 1 fresh Pomegranate
Juice of 1 fresh Lime
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds

Preparation

1. Add all ingredients into blender jar.

2. Blend on high setting until smooth.

3. Pour into a large, tall glass. Enjoy!

Why “Eat the Rainbow”?

I was drinking my Blueberry post workout shake this morning while contemplating an article that I recently read by Ronnie Landis called “The Color Code of Food“. We’ve all heard the term “Eat the Rainbow” before but how important is this? Well, it turns out that it’s really important. You see, the entire plant family consists of main color groups (similar to that of a rainbow). Aside from looking really cool, these pigments actually serve a greater purpose; in fact, each individual color provides unique health benefits all to their own. Plant pigments come from metabolic molecules called Flavonoids. These molecules are known to pack super antioxidant power which aid in the maintenance, repair and vitality of the many functions of the body.

For instance, Red foods are beneficial to the heart and circulatory system. The green family takes care of the lungs, respiratory and immune systems. Yellow is for the skin and digestive system. And my favorite; Purple is exclusively fuel for the brain, memory and helping fend off certain cancers. We have Anthocyanin to thank for that! Anthocyanin is the flavonoid which gives certain plants, fruits and berries their vibrant, purple color as well as a host of free-radical crushing power!

That said, one of my all-time favorites from this family are Blueberries. Originally, I loved them mostly for their taste but have come to learn of the massive health benefits they provide. From fighting cancer and diabetes to preventing aging and improving blood pressure; they’re oxidation’s worst nightmare. Blueberries also help protect our LDL (bad cholesterol) from oxidizing, a process which can usually lead to heart disease. And lastly, one of the benefits that led me to write this in the first place; these berries help reduce muscle damage after a tough workout. This means a shorter recovery time between workouts. Who doesn’t want that?

To see for yourself, try out this quick and easy recovery shake after your next workout and start on the path to upping your rainbow intake!

BLUEBERRY OAT RECOVERY SHAKE

8 oz Almond Milk
1 Banana
1 Cup frozen Blueberries (if fresh, add some ice cubes)
1/4 Cup Whole Grain Oats (Raw)
1 serving Vega Sport Vanilla Performance Protein

Blend all ingredients on high speed until smooth. Drink up and enjoy!

Peach Pie Smoothie w/ Aquafaba Lemon Meringue

Ok, so I cheated a little 😉 I normally don’t add any sugars to my smoothies except for the occasional tablespoon of Pure Maple Syrup. Well this was the exception. I had these luscious Peaches just waiting to be used for something creative and then it hit me…Peach Pie Smoothie! Peaches have a healthy dose of antioxidants and phenolic compounds that help fight both obesity and inflammation. The fuzzy fruit packs a vitamin C boost, helps lower cholesterol and is heart healthy. I blended this beautiful fruit with other super healthy ingredients such as Banana, Whole Grain Oats and Vega One French Vanilla Protein; not just because they are all so good for you but because they also compliment the Peaches and really drive home the “pie” flavor.

As I was gathering all the ingredients for the smoothie, I kept thinking “Peaches and Cream”…I couldn’t seem to shake the thought of it. I thought of going for the usual Coconut Cream that you get from the Coconut Milk can after refrigerating overnight but I didn’t have any in the fridge. I also wanted something lighter and fluffier…almost like a meringue. The problem is that meringue is basically just egg white and that doesn’t mesh with a die hard vegan! For kicks, I looked up vegan meringue and I kept seeing this weird word “Aquafaba“. When I finally read what it was, I was almost shocked. It’s the water which is packed into a can of Chick Peas. Apparently, it’s lately been becoming all the rage in the vegan community as an egg substitute which can be mainly used as a thickening agent in recipes which call for eggs. The water can be used from other canned legumes but Chick Peas are really the best choice (flavor and texture).

The water (brine) in the can becomes a thick, emulsion as it sits with the Chick Peas…almost like an egg white consistency. On it’s own, the flavor is fairly neutral. It’s such a new idea, the science community hasn’t even done a nutrition profile on it yet. Although, the developers of this natural egg replacer are currently raising money to do one. I’m assuming that the water must absorb many of the properties of the Chick Peas themselves; which include Protein, Fiber, Iron, Calcium, Complex Carbohydrates (the good kind) plus a host of vitamins as well.

All the recipes I had read for the meringue were pretty much the same; except most of them require being baked at a low heat for like 2 hours or more for a really stiff setting. I wanted something quick, so mine still stands up but it’s more of a whipped cream texture. As you’ll see it’s just 4 elements…the Chick Pea Water, Organic Powdered Sugar, Vanilla Extract and Lemon Extract. When all of that is whipped with a high speed whisk for about 15 minutes, you get a wonderfully light, sweet garnish to top off your smoothie. You can even stir some into the smoothie itself for a creamier texture. This is definitely one of my favorites of the summer so far, I hope you try it and enjoy. Keep it up!

For the Smoothie:
8 oz Cashew Milk
1 Frozen Banana
1 Large Fresh Peach (skin on, stone removed)
1/4 Cup Raw Whole Grain Oats
1 serving Vega One French Vanilla Protein
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1 Tbsp Chia Seed

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high setting until smooth. Add some ice or more liquid to adjust preferred texture.

For the Meringue:
15 oz Aquafaba/Water from one can of Organic Chick Peas (Non-BPA lined can)
1 Cup Organic Powdered Pure Sugar Cane
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Lemon Extract

Preheat oven on Broil setting (optional – you can simply eat the raw Aquafaba whip…I just enjoyed the light toasted look and flavor).

Place ingredients in the bowl of a high speed mixer w/ Whisk attachment (or hand mixer) and whip ingredients on high for about 15 minutes until mixture is light, fluffy and peaks begin to form (at this point you can put a dollop on your smoothie OR continue to get the toasty look).

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and put small 1/4 cup size dollops of the mixture until sheet is filled (leaving plenty of breathing room around each). Place in oven on top rack and allow meringue to lightly toast/brown. Do not overheat…you pretty much have to sit and watch it because it will brown fairly fast (within minutes). When done, remove from oven and scoop one of the dollops off the sheet and place on top of your smoothie.

Refrigerate all remaining cream and use again as a meringue or as a simple whipped topping.

Chris’s Banana Bread Smoothie

Around here my Banana Bread was kind of a big deal. Whenever I used to make it, the family attacked it right when I took it out of the oven. Since going vegan and clean, though, all I have left are the fond memories of this sweet treat. This dessert depression ended today when I stepped into my smoothie lab and got crackin’. After experimenting some, I succeeded in capturing the true essence of Banana Bread in the form of a healthy shake.

But don’t get it twisted, this creamy, sweet and aromatic smoothie is actually preventive medicine in disguise 😎🌱💪🏼. It’s loaded with Potassium and Manganese which are beneficial to your heart, skin and bones. It’s a fantastic way to tame high blood pressure and cholesterol.
 
The spices not only add a decadent flavor profile to the smoothie but are rich in antioxidant compounds which help make this a free-radical fighter, anti-inflammatory and digestive aid. Not to mention, plenty of fiber and plant-based protein to boot! How does it taste? pfffffttttt….AMAZING!!!!

8 oz Cashew Milk
1 Frozen Banana
2 Medjool Dates
1/4 Cup Whole Grain Oats
1/4 Cup Walnuts
1 Serving Vega One French Vanilla
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Ground Clove
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
pinch of Himalayan Salt

Blend all ingredients until super creamy and delightful. Enjoy!

BLUEBERRY ORANGE QUINOA SMOOTHIE

For the last 3 days I’ve been suffering from a pinched nerve which has caused muscle inflammation and spasms in my neck. This was all due to sleeping the wrong way (on my stomach with head turned 90 degrees). On my quest to heal and rebuild these damaged muscles I’ve been resting, stretching, hydrating, taking Turmeric, Ginger and icing. Admittedly, I also leaned a bit on the help of a prescription muscle relaxer to help take the edge off (man has the pain been fierce). But to also help kickstart my recovery I’ve been drinking smoothies with Vega Sport recovery powder as it is packed with Glutamine, BCAAs and of course protein. Together, these are the building blocks for our muscles and are paramount in repairing and building new muscle tissue.

To add in some extra powerful ingredients I chose: Blueberries which are high in antioxidants and known to help aid in the recovery of damaged muscle tissue. Orange which helps boost the immune system and reduces inflammation. And let’s not forget Quinoa which packs a plant based punch of protein to help build new muscle.

So, whether you’ve injured yourself or just overdid your workout a bit, don’t underestimate the power of plant based nutrition. The right combination will get you back in the game in no time. Keep it up!

8 oz Cashew Milk (or other nut milk)
1 Frozen Banana
1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
1 Orange
1/3 Cup Quinoa Flakes
1 serving Vega Sport (Vanilla)
1 Tbsp Acai Powder
2 Tbsp Flax Meal
2 Tbsp Hemp Seeds

Blend all ingredients on high until smooth. Drink it. Love it.