Improve Your Energy and Health in 5 Easy Steps

Have you ever heard of somebody NOT wanting to improve their health? I haven’t. But what I do hear are a whole lot of excuses as to why they cannot; all the reasons that keep their hands tied, while health somehow eludes them. These rationalizations usually include gripes such as “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t have the money”, “I don’t know how”, “I don’t like vegetables”…and the list goes on. Am I judging? Not one bit; in fact, I was pushing the same hot air no more than 4 years ago. But after being tired of hearing my own lame excuses over and over again, I finally just jumped in head first and have never looked back! I found that convenience seems to be the biggest issue which holds us back; let’s face it…we’re an extremely lazy society. And interestingly enough, the reason why we are so lazy is that we simply lack the proper nutrition to fuel us in the first place; it’s a terrible cycle to be stuck in.

The thought of giving any extra effort beyond our daily “duties” makes us sick to our stomachs. Well, worry no more. I’m going to tell you how you can start getting onto the health track with a small handful of ingredients and a blender. Thats right, I’m talking about smoothies. But aren’t smoothies just another food fad like…fondue? Sure, if you’re only going to have one every other month when you go meet up with your “healthy friend” at Jamba Juice. But what if you could truly take your health back on your own? What if you could find 5 minutes each day to create a simple meal that fully nourishes you with whole food, can be dumped into a “to-go” cup and tastes amazing…would you shift your perspective?

I make a lot of smoothies. So many, in fact, that I have a backed up list of recipes I’ve yet to post on my site. I’ve always had a system when it comes to making them; but as complicated as many of my concoctions can be, you really don’t need all of the ingredients that I use in order to make a great smoothie for yourself. You also don’t need an insanely expensive blender; when I first started, I used a very affordable yet amazing machine by Kitchen Aid . You can snag it between $80-$130 USD on Amazon. We’ll go into further detail on ingredients below but for now, let’s do a quick reality checklist to see what you actually need get started:

Blender: This is what you’ll use to create your smoothies. Buy it once, use it everyday.

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Liquid Base: This is the foundation of every smoothie. Whether it be Filtered Water, Coconut Water, Tea or Non-Dairy Milk, this will be the liquid component.

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Baby Greens: In order to take advantage of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which plants provide, you’ll want to get in your greens. Buy bagged; From “bag to blender”, no cooking required.

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Fruit – Not only do fruits add sweetness and flavor but they also contain many antioxidant and energy benefits. Stock up on Bananas and bags of frozen berries.

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Protein – When I first converted to a plant-based diet I was constantly asked where I get my protein from (and actually still do). Some of the best sources of protein to put into your smoothies will come from nuts, seeds and superfood powders. Some of my favorites are Hemp Seeds, Cashews, Flax Seeds, Hemp Powder and Spirulina. Another great thing to have on hand is a large tub of clean, plant-based Protein Powder (about 20 servings worth). One of the cleanest and most powerful brands that I have ever tried comes from Vega. See which products are right for you. My top 2 choices are Vega One and Vega Sport.

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That’s it in a nutshell. But if you’re really low on cash, groceries and/or time…all you really need is a liquid base and the protein powder. Super simple…super fast…super good! If you just keep those simple handful of ingredients on hand, you can’t lose. And if you want to step it up a bit (after you’ve become a smoothie wizard) refer back to these simple steps and tips for guidance.

1. Liquid Base
The first thing to always go into the blender is the liquid. Measurement markers are usually right on the blender jar, so no need for an extra measuring cup. A good rule of thumb is 8-12 oz, depending on how thick you want your smoothie to be. If you want to be able to drink it faster (on the go), you can always add more liquid for easier drinkability. If you’re in a pinch, filtered water is the easiest choice. Coconut Water is also an excellent choice for hydration and electrolyte replenishing qualities. For texture, creaminess and added nutrition, use a nut milk such as Almond, Hemp, Cashew or Coconut Milk; these are normally supplemented with B-12 and Vitamin D (which are crucial if your diet is plant-based). For the advanced “en-smoothiast”, you can even use chilled teas, health tonics, pressed vegetable juices, aloe juice, etc.

2. Baby Greens
The second step is adding your greens to the liquid. I have found that “baby” varieties work best in the blender due to their soft leaves which break down much easier…even in blenders that are less powerful than the holy grail Vitamix or Blendtec models. As far as convenience goes, you can’t beat baby greens because you can buy them in the market already prepped in a bag or container. Just bust it open, grab a giant handful and toss it into the blender with your liquid base. You can use baby varieties of Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Arugula, Spring Mix as well as many other varieties of fresh farm micro-greens and sprouts. Many people complain about not being able to eat enough servings of greens throughout their busy days; well this is your chance to pack it in there and get it down easy. Once you’ve tossed a couple handfuls in the jar, put the lid on and blend on the high setting until all the greens are completely blended. You should end up with green liquid and no tiny green bits.

3. Fruits and Veggies
My smoothies are primarily fruit based, aside from the greens. I do this on purpose because I also drink extracted vegetable juice daily. I “eat & blend” my fruits and “eat & juice” my vegetables. The reason I do this is due to the high sugar content in most fruits. If you blend the fruit, you keep the fiber which will help slow down the absorption of the sugars. Blend your fruits and juice your veggies! So, for this step I almost always start with 1 Banana OR 1 Avocado; it will give the smoothie it’s velvety texture. If you’re looking for creamy but would rather go without the extra sugar; go with the Avocado (packed with healthy fats, vitamins and aminos). Now throw in 1 handful of berries OR 1 piece of fruit (Apple, Orange, Pear, etc). The possibilities are endless; don’t be afraid to use your imagination. Once you’ve added these ingredients, blend on the “crush ice” setting to break up the fruits and then slowly switch over to the high setting. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea if its too thick (add more liquid) or if its too watery (add some ice cubes).

4. Protein Powder
Many seasoned en-smoothiasts go without protein powders but since I am a vegan, I definitely make sure I cover my bases and add it. I’ve also been working out quite a bit since my weight loss, so I’m trying to build some muscle as well (why not?). And if you’re trying to take as much of the guesswork out of smoothie-making as possible, protein powder is the easiest, quickest way. One serving can cover a good portion of your nutrition needs; just be certain that it’s a good one. Theres a lot of junk out there disguised as healthy supplements. Make sure you research and read labels. It should be plant-based, nutrient dense, high in protein, made from clean (whole food) ingredients, chemical free, non-gmo and on top of all that…taste really good! That said, I’ll do you a solid and save you the search. Look no further than Vega’s line of nutrition products. And since we’re talking convenience and essentials, we may as well be talking about Vega Essentials. 20 grams of plant-based protein, 3 servings of greens, 25% daily value of Vitamins and Minerals, 16% daily Fiber, 1g Omega 3s and only 130 calories per scoop. It’s available online, your local Pharmacy and now even Target stores. The price is not bad either; around $2 per serving which is less than a trip to the donut or coffee shop (do I even need to compare the health benefits of those food choices?)

5. Optional Mix-Ins (for when you become a pro)
I find smoothies to be a great opportunity to mix in other superfoods from nature that can increase the nutritional value of this meal in a glass. Of course, at first, you may just want to go with quick and simple shakes (steps 1 -4). That said, save this extra info for when you’re a seasoned smoothie pro and want to upgrade. Myself, I don’t think I’ve ever made a smoothie that did not at least contain some Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds. These seeds are so very important to everyday health…vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, Omegas; they are a powerhouse on their own. Based on what my body feels like, I will also add in a superfood supplement (or 2, or 3). Superfoods are berries, herbs, teas, mushrooms, etc that are found from all over the world. Each one has a unique nutrition profile and can help maintain different parts of the body. Their packed with antioxidants which the “basic” groups of popular produce simply do not contain. It’s always best if you can find the whole food itself; but if, like me, you simply do not have access…bags of the pure powder will do just fine. Some of the ones I use are Reishi, Lucuma, Goji, Camu Camu, Acai, Spiralina, Matcha, Hemp, Cacao and Maca. Other mix-ins to consider are soaked nuts, oats, quinoa, dates (pitted) and good oils such as Coconut or Hemp.

So, as long as you have a blender, some liquid and a excellent plant-based ingredients, you truly cannot fail at making a nutritious smoothie. Make this a new everyday habit to replace a small meal or some other habit you’d like to avoid. Before you know it, you’ll start feeling better and wondering what else you can incorporate into your health regimen. Now pour that amazing smoothie into a tall glass and toast to your newfound health!

Cashew Chive Cream Cheeze

One thing I can’t seem to find as a vegan is a good Cream Cheese substitute. After trying store brands and continually being let down for one reason or another, I set out to make my own. This is super simple, delicious, vegan and gluten-free. You can spread on toast, bagels, baked potato or even a dollop on Pasta…it’s all good! 

 
1 Cup soaked Raw Cashews

2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast

1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

splashes of Water (as needed)

1/2 bunch Chives (chopped)

Himalayan Pink Salt (to taste)

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder (optional)

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Soak Cashews overnight in a bowl of filtered water. Strain water and add Cashews to a high speed Blender or Food Processor. Add the Nutritional Yeast and Vinegar. Blend while adding tiny splashes of water to the mixture so the mixture smoothly blends. Don’t over-water or you will ruin the creamy texture. You may need to frequently stop/unplug the blender to stir the mixture and push into the blades before continuing. Once you get the perfect texture, transfer the contents to a small container with an airtight lid. Add in your seasonings and the Chives. Combine well and taste. Re-season if desired. Place lid on tight and refrigerate. Should be good for 3-4 days. 

Minestrone Soup (Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo)

One of my favorite foods to prepare (especially during the colder seasons) is soup. I make many soups; some traditional, some invented, some on the fly but all are vegan, organic and delicious! I consider myself kind of a “soup wizard”, if you will.

Minestrone has always had a warm place in my heart and stomach. It’s chunky, full of flavor and is a super satisfying meal in a bowl. It runs the gamut in it’s variety of vegetables, legumes, pasta and it’s rich, tomatoey broth. Sometimes I change this recipe up a bit with different beans, juice pulp broths and sometimes I’ll even throw in some Italian style Tofurky Sausage (to get that subtly spicy, fennel bite in there).

I can assure you that if you use only the freshest and cleanest ingredients, you will truly taste the difference. Sure, you can get this from a can or a restaurant but nothing beats being in complete control of your food!

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Onion (diced)

1 large Zucchini (chopped chunky)

1 – 2 Cups Green Beans (trimmed/halved)

2-3 stalks Celery (diced)

3 cloves Garlic (minced)

4 cups Vegetable Broth (from juice pulp or homemade)

4 cups Filtered Water

1/2 Cup Red Kidney Beans (cooked or canned)

1/2 Cup Small White Beans (cooked or canned)

1 can (28oz) Crushed Tomatoes

1 cup shredded Carrot

1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley

3 tsp Dried Oregano

1 tsp Dried Basil

1/2 tsp Dried Thyme

Giant bunch of fresh Baby Spinach

1 Cup small shell Quinoa Pasta

Himalayan Pink Salt (to taste)

Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Directions:

Pour oil into a large stock pot and heat on medium. When the oil is hot enough, add the onion, celery, garlic, green beans, and zucchini and sauté for about 5 minutes or so. 

Now add the broth, water, tomatoes, beans, carrots, herbs and spices. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. 

 Add the Spinach and Pasta and cook for another 20 minutes or so (or until Pasta is aldente). Adjust salt and pepper to taste. (makes a huge pot and feeds many; freeze extra and store for future meals)

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!

Curried Chick Pea Leek Soup

I know it’s not quite autumn yet but I love soup more than you could imagine. At first I was just gonna throw together a plain old Potato Leek but came up with this evolved version which is packed with protein instead. Really fragrant and spicy too. Yuuuuuum 😘👌
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1 Tbsp Coconut Oil

2 cans Organic Chick Peas

4 Organic Leeks (trimmed, cleaned and chopped)

1 Clove Garlic (minced)

3-4 Cups Veggie Broth (depends on texture you desire…less broth for thicker soup)

2 Tbsp Curry Powder

1/4 tsp Cayenne Powder

1/4 Cup finely chopped Cilantro (stir in + garnish)

Himalayan Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)

handful of Pumpkin Seeds (to garnish)

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Heat oil in a large stock pot on Medium heat. Add in garlic and Leeks, stirring occasionally until soft. Now add Chick Peas and hit with a bit of Pink Salt and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes more and add in broth, Curry and Cayenne. Stir again to combine liquid and spices. Cook about 5 more minutes until just bubbling and Chick Peas are nice and soft. Remove from burner and (in batches) pour soup into blender or food processor. Begin on low speed! (you don’t want hot soup on your face, body or ceiling). Once all soup is blended and creamy, pour back into stock pot and heat through on low/med heat. Taste and season again to preference. Stir in chopped Cilantro and serve. 

“CHEEZY” MEXICAN CHICK-FREE OMELETTE

It’s been over one year now that I went 100% vegan. As a lacto-vegetarian (for over 20 years) I enjoyed eggs quite a bit (possibly too much). Since going vegan, I’ve experimented with all manner of egg substitutes such as Tofu scrambles, breakfast sandwiches; heck, I even made Tofu Florentine with a plant based Hollandaise Sauce I came up with. But the one thing I’ve missed out of all of it were those late Diner excursions where I’d order up a gigantic veggie and cheese Omelette. Or the many times I made them at home and smothered them in Salsa and Sour Cream. Those damn things were my weakness. Although, I’m not interested in ever going back to my old self…I can still recreate some of those memories from a brand new perspective. That said, in the spirit of overcoming past addictions and celebrating new cruelty-free, healthy habits; I came up with this extremely satisfying dish this morning.

There is plenty of margin for error when making an Omelette (I know this, as I’ve unsuccessfully attempted this once before), so I did some more research in hopes of finding a more tried and true batter for such a task. I came upon the Chickpea Omelette recipe by Fork & Beans. My version has definitely been spiced up and altered slightly but the basic foundation for the Omelette itself is entirely their creation (pure vegan genius if you ask me).

Well, don’t let me stop you from strengthening your breakfast game; get on with it. Remember to try and have fun in the kitchen and never be afraid to experiment with flavors (thats how we learn).

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“CHEEZY” MEXICAN CHICK-FREE OMELETTE
Adapted from: Fork & Beans
Makes 2 Large Omelettes

BATTER
3/4 Cup Garbanzo Bean Flour (Chickpea Flour)
3/4 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3 tsp Nutritional Yeast
1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
1/4 tsp Ancho Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
Salt & Pepper to taste

FILLING
1/4 of a Red Onion (chopped)
4 Large White Mushrooms (sliced)
1/2 Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
3-4 Green Onions (chopped; reserve some for topping)
2 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro (chopped)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 Slice of Field Roast Chao Tofu (or fav Vegan Cheez)

TOPPING
Your fav Salsa
Green Onion
Avocado Slices
(and/or whatever else you damn well please)

#1. Prepare the batter by combining all batter ingredients in a pourable bowl or large measuring glass. Use a whisk but do not over-mix; it should be pourable but still somewhat thick (like a good Pancake batter). Set aside.

#2. Add some Olive Oil (or Water/Veggie Broth if you don’t cook with oil) to a large, non stick frying pan and heat on Medium. Meanwhile, prep all filling ingredients. Now add them (except for the vegan cheese) to the pan and lightly sauté them until just tender. Transfer the cooked veggies to a bowl and set aside.

#3. In the same heated pan, add some more oil (water/broth). Now pour half of the batter into the center of the pan and gently rock the pan back and forth to spread out the batter more. You don’t want it too thin or too thick (pancake thickness or slightly thinner).

#4. Break apart your cheez slice into small pieces and arrange them to cover one half/side of the cooking batter. Scoop up 1/2 of the filling mixture and spread it out on the same side of the omelette (on top of the cheez). Continue to cook the Omelette for about 2 minutes; you should start seeing bubbles through the top and hardening edges (again, just like a pancake). Now gently fold over the bare side of the Omelette to cover the cheez/veggie mixture side.

#5. Cover the pan with a lid and remove from heat. Allow the trapped steam to continue cooking the Omelette through for about another 5 minutes or so. Clean messes up and such while you wait. Repeat all steps for the second one.

#6. Plate your awesome Omelette! Top it with your favorite Salsa, Green Onions and Avocado Slices. Other topping ideas are Fresh Cilantro, Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Vegan Sour Cream.

Enjoy!