Total Time: 20 min
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Makes approximately 7 servings
Note: Use raw, organic ingredients whenever possible.
These measurements are flexible; don’t worry too much about being exact.
- 1 1/2 cups raw, whole rolled oats (aka old fashion oats)
- ½ cup hemp seeds
- ½ cup raw nuts, chopped (like pecans, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, etc.)
- ½ cup raw seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, chia, etc.)
- ½ cup dried coconut flakes
- 1-2 tablespoons grade-B maple syrup or raw honey or a combo of both (optional)
- 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg (optional)
- 1 large pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 300º F.
- Add coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and optional maple syrup and/or honey to large bowl and mix together until ingredients are mixed together and oil is liquid. You can also warm the coconut oil and optional honey first so that they are both liquid before adding.
- Add oats, nuts, seeds and coconut to bowl.
- Use your clean hands to mix well and toss to coat; it will be sticky and messy but that’s the fun part.
- Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet(s) and bake for 9-10 minutes, until very lightly toasted. Do not over-bake. I line the cookie sheets with parchment paper for easier clean up.
- Cool before serving or storing.
- This granola can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks.
Note: This is the lower sugar version; if you choose to make it without any maple syrup or honey, there will be a discernible difference. You can add fresh fruit to your morning cereal and “sweeten” it naturally instead!
Tips: Add 1/2 granola to unsweetened yogurt and 1/2 cup berries for a great breakfast or snack. Also delicious with unsweetened almond milk!
Recipe adapted from http://www.elizabethrider.com/easy-healthy-homemade-granola-recipe
Since many people shop at Costco at least some of the time, I thought it was a good idea to make a journey out to the superstore to see what they had that would be “Michelle Approved.” Boy, was I surprised by not only the number of organic foods available, but really great quality foods as well! So I am doing a three-part series (or maybe even more!) on foods you can get at Costco! Series #1: foods I think are SUPER!
1. Blueberries (organic, frozen):
I use these every day for my morning smoothie but they are great in any recipe. I love buying frozen berries because they are always on hand and don’t spoil or get moldy. Blueberries are low-glycemic (which means they won’t spike your blood sugar). They are also full of antioxidants and phytonutrients like anthocyanin which support our brain, heart and eyes. I especially love that these are organic!
2. Chia seed (organic, non-GMO):
I also use these every day in my smoothies but you can add them to soups, salads, cooked grains, and even make this pudding from them! Chia seeds are packed with fiber, omega-3s, and protein which helps stabalize your blood sugar, makes you feel full, and keeps you satisfied. Just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds contains 5 g of fiber, 3 g of protein plus a good amount of magnesium, calcium and potassium.
3. Hemp seed (raw, organic, non-GMO):
Super-duper food here because they are delicious and you can add them to just about anything. These little seeds add a nice crunch and nutty flavor. Since they are seeds and not nuts, these can be a good alternative for anyone with a nut allergy. You can also make a porridge out of them or add them to your oatmeal, smoothie, salad, baked goods or even dessert! Just 3 T. contains 10 g of protein, 3.3 g of Omega-3, and 50% of your magnesium and phosphorous and 25% of your zinc (RDA).
4. Sprouted Pumpkin seeds (raw, organic, non-GMO):
I was so excited to see these at Costco! Why sprouted? Sprouting makes the seeds easier to digest and more of the nutrients available. Also the phytic acid is removed in the sprouting process, so that it won’t block the absorption of valuable minerals in your body. Besides being a good source of protein, vitamin E and the minerals phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc and iron, they are also have anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Pumpkin seeds are great all by themselves or sprinkled on salads, soups, cereals, or added to baked goods or granola. You can also make delicious sauces with ground pumpkin seeds like this pesto or this sauce.
5. Sprouted sunflower seeds (raw, organic, non-GMO):
Sprouted sunflower seeds are also a staple in the house because again you can add them to just about anything. These also pack in the vitamin E, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorous and are a good source of iron, selenium, zinc and vitamin B6. And again, these are sprouted.
6. Mary’s Gone Crackers (organic, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO):
Believe me when I say that these are great crackers, in and of themselves, not just as a gluten-free alternative. I love them because of their great flavor, crunch and whole seed goodness. These crackers just taste and feel a lot less processed than your average cracker. The only drawback? They are a bit pricey, which is why I was so excited to see these at Costco for a pretty good price. These crackers are so delicious and satisfying that you don’t need to eat a lot to feel gratified.
7. Quinoa (organic):
Quinoa has been a popular “grain” option because it is a gluten-free seed, a complete protein, and nutrient dense. It can be used in almost any recipe where you would use rice, bulgur, couscous or wheat berries like pilafs, tabouili or in soups. You can even make a hot cereal out of it. Quinoa can be pretty bland, so if you want to add flavor, cook it in a quality broth instead of water or toast it in the pan before adding the liquid. I also love Heidi Swanson’s Double Broccoli Quinoa Recipe.
8. Coconut oil (organic, cold-ressed, non-GMO):
If you’ve followed me on Facebook, you’ve heard me sing the praises of this amazing and versatile oil. You can use coconut for so many things besides just cooking! As a cooking oil, it is great because of its antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-bacterial properties. It is a type of saturated fat but it is different than the kind found in animal products and is a great oil to cook with because it can handle the higher heats. Coconut oil is also a great healthy beauty product with so many uses.
9. Hemp oil (cold pressed, organic, non-GMO):
This is actually a newcomer to my home. I’ve been eating ground and shelled hemp seeds for a while but hadn’t encountered hemp seed oil. Well, like happens to everyone at Costco, I saw it on the shelf and though, “Hmm, why not?” (Funny how easily that can happen there!) Turns out hemp oil is pretty amazing stuff: not only does is it a good source of omega 3s and 6s but it also contains vitamins A, C and E, minerals and fiber. According to recent studies, hemp seed oil contains beta-sitosterol and campesterol, which have been linked to lower heart attack risk, reduced LDL cholesterol, lower levels of inflammation and have been shown to slow the progression of atherosclerosis. However, it is not a oil to cook with because it does not handle heat well. This is the kind of oil to use for salad dressings or drizzle on top of soups or grilled vegetables after they have cooked. It has a delicious flavor too!
10. Farmhouse Culture Kraut (raw, organic):
Heard about the health benefits of probiotics? These are the healthy bacteria in our body that help keep our digestive system in balance, our immunity supported and even help keep our moods more stable. Sounds pretty good, right? Fermented foods like sauerkraut are excellent sources of probiotics. Almost all traditional diets include a little fermented food in their diet. Mostly this was because fermentation was a way to preserve food but could it be that our ancestors also knew the health benefits of eating a little each day?
Please note that each Costco is different and not all products are available at every Costco. They try to cater to their local community, so you will find unique foods at each store. These purchases were made at the Costco store in Richmond, California (in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay area). If your particular Costco doesn’t carry one of these products, ask!
Also, I am in no way endorsing Costco nor was I paid by Costco for this blog (or any other, for that matter!). I just know that many of my clients shop at Costco and I want to show you all some of the great foods that can be purchased there!
I love Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Want some easy ways to put this into practice? Here are 12 tips for eating more plants and less refined foods:
- Try replacing coffee with green or herbal tea. Green tea is full of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and herbal tea counts towards your water intake for the day! If you are going to drink coffee, be sure it is organic, limit it to one cup a day (or even just to the weekends) and do not add any sugar.
- Reduce chips or crackers and replace them with almonds or walnuts for an afternoon snack (about ¼ cup) or veggie sticks with hummus.
- Add spinach to your meal—it is easy to get organic prewashed baby spinach in most grocery stores. Chop it up, sauté it and add it to almost any meal!
- If you are going to add a salad to your meal, be sure to choose the darker leafy greens and be mindful with the amount of salad dressing and what’s in it—better yet, make your own! Also, add beans or nuts/seeds to a salad for added fiber and protein.
- Avoid products with added sugar or hydrogenated oils—read the ingredients label! You would be surprised where added sugar shows up.
- Choose healthy fats—coconut oil is very good for sautéing, olive oil is good for salads, dressings and lower heats, and flaxseed is great to add to smoothies or take straight (but should always be refrigerated and never heated). Nuts, seeds, olives and avocados are also good sources of healthy fats.
- Buy organic when possible and see the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen to make the best choices if buying conventional (you can also read more HERE from my previous blog post on why it makes sense to buy organic).
- Smoothies are a great meal or snack: choose a quality protein powder and add berries, greens, and chia or flax seeds. See my blog post HERE on quality protein powders and a smoothie recipe!
- Think portions: Remember that a serving of whole grains or pasta is ½ cup, a serving of nuts is ¼ cup, and serving of vegetables is usually 1 cup. It is best to make half your plate vegetables!
- Try cooking a bigger healthy meal on Sunday so that you have leftovers for the week for either lunch or dinner. Soups and stews are great options (like this recipe for Tuscan Bean Soup with Kale)
- If you are going to eat soy, only sparingly eat the processed soy products like soy sausages and burgers as well as soy milk. Instead, opt for tempeh or miso. Tofu can also be eaten in moderation for some people. Always select organic soy products since most conventional soy is genetically-modified and high in pesticides. My absolute favorite tempeh can be found HERE. New to tempeh? Check out the Post-Punk Kitchen’s great recipes HERE.
- Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day! Variety is really good for our bodies and the rainbow of colors in foods contain powerful phytonutrients to give us optimum health. For example, in a stir fry add red bell pepper, carrots, yellow squash, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, purple cabbage, garlic and onions.
What does “plant-based” mean to me?
I love the term plant-based because it seems a lot more inclusive. Plant-based can run the gamut from vegan to vegetarian to pescatarian to flexitarian to someone who eats animal products occasionally. The focus is on an eating plan based on eating mostly plants. I know many people who are very committed to their vegetarian or vegan eating plans and that works great for them. I also know other people who eat a mostly vegetarian diet but may occasionally eat some animal meat. Are they vegetarian? No, technically not. Are they plant-based? I would say so. Plant-based also implies a diet of mostly whole foods that come from plants like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Lastly, plant-based acknowledges the nutritional and health benefits of eating mostly plants. Michael Pollan’s suggestion comes to mind here: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”
What are some of the benefits of a plant-based diet?
A well-planned, nourishing plant-based diet can have many benefits, including:
1. Less impact on the planet. When we eat mostly plants, especially organic, locally grown, seasonal ones, we are making a powerful positive impact on our planet.
2. Fiber! Eating a healthy plant-based diet often means getting much more fiber in your diet which is better for your overall colon health. Not only does fiber help with regularity, but beneficial bacteria in our digestive system need the fiber as well, so a healthy gut comes from getting at least 30 grams of fiber a day. I actually like it if people can get even more.
3. A plant-based diet has been linked to many health benefits, including decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain kinds of cancer.
4. Let’s talk about dairy. Many people are either lactose intolerant or have a dairy sensitivity to the proteins found in cow’s milk. For many people, dairy can be very inflammatory or can cause digestive upset like gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Going off dairy can be a great step towards relieving a lot of these problems for many people.
5. More vegetables! If a person is eating a whole foods diet full of vegetables, then they are going to get all the wonderful benefits including increased fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. I suggest people make at least half their plate vegetables, no matter if they are vegan, paleo, or anything else!
I will say that eating plant-based requires careful thought and planning. Someone could be vegan and eat all junk food, so it is important to look at what you eating. My suggestions include eating mostly whole foods–foods found in the natural state. In particular, I also suggest avoiding eating processed soy, especially soy protein isolate, which also can be very inflammatory. Instead, if you body is okay on soy, stick to mostly fermented soy products like tempeh and miso. Lastly, since we all have individual needs, it is important to see what works best for your body. For example, someone may have difficulty digesting certain carbohydrates or may require more protein. The key is adjusting your eating plan to your current dietary needs. (Having trouble figuring out what that is? Schedule a session with me and we can figure that out together!)
Lastly, want to incorporate a few more plant-based recipes into your week? Check out a few of my favorite plant-based websites!
In honor of World Vegetarian Day, I thought I’d post a copy of my review from the recent episode of “Check Please! Bay Area.” You can see all three reviews HERE or watch the whole episode below!
encuentro café and wine bar creates flavorful, nourishing and delicious vegetarian and vegan food in an atmosphere that is inviting and cozy. The food is always fresh and inventive, the wine list options are well-considered, and the wait staff is ready to answer any questions or offer suggestions. encuentro means “to meet, gather, encounter” and I think that is a perfect description of this charming Oakland dining experience.
Since much of the food is local and organic, their menu changes with the seasons. In general they serve small bites, salads, bruschetta, and then a variety of smaller meals ranging from inventive sandwiches to fresh takes on dishes like gnocchi, quesadillas or polenta. The menu is always interesting and lovingly prepared and really celebrates the quality and flavor of seasonal foods. They also have amazing desserts, some of which are dairy-free, like tiramisu, hazelnut pudding and their amazing chocolate cake.
For my most recent visit, I went there to celebrate my birthday with my husband and three friends. It was so much fun to order so many different foods and share them. The flavors of the food are really highlighted through creative pairings like dates with macadamia nut pate and walnut honey for a lovely appetizer or the bruschetta with roasted beets, hazelnuts, macadamia nut “cheese” and golden balsamic reduction. Each of the dishes offered something both surprising and comforting in their tastes, combining earthy flavors with sweet and spicy in an excellent balance. The dark green salad with kale, arugula, roasted beets, and cashew cheese was perfectly dressed and rich without being heavy; it was also well-plated in a deconstructed style that made sharing a great experience.
Everything in the restaurant is vegetarian and many of the plates can be made vegan. However, rather than finding replacements for meat, encuentro selects quality foods in delicious combinations that really celebrate the wonders and flavor of the food. Since it is also a wine bar, the well-thought out and varied wine list also needs to be acknowledged. One of my favorite things to do is to get the wine flight because you can choose which three wines you want from the list, making it a great way to try new wines or pair different wines with different small plates.
encuentro has managed to make its small location feel open and welcoming with large windows, modern yet cozy eco-friendly décor, and delightful touches like fresh flowers on the tables. It is a great place to make an evening out of, to share food and wine and conversation for hours, or also a good place to come in for a salad, bruschetta and glass of wine. This place can be a special occasion destination or a light meal before or after a show in Jack London.
By the way, if you have ever thought of applying to be on the show, I highly recommend it. I had a wonderful experience. Leslie Sbrocco and the entire staff at KQED were so lovely, gracious and welcoming.
I also want to give a great bow of thanks to my fellow guests that day on the show–Jack the longshoreman and Jill the horse trainer. I had a really great day with you!
The reviews of encuentro start around 18:30!
Summertime is a great season to be enjoying all the fresh fruits and vegetables at the markets. Because it is usually hot, summer is also a great time to eat foods like fresh vegetables and fruits that are both cooling and hydrating. Salads can be great way to eat these, but how do you eat and prepare salads if you are on the go?
Well, I have to share one of favorite lunch ideas, and really, this is one I just can’t stop sharing! Have you heard of salad-in-a-jar? The basic concept is to make your salads ahead of time to save time in the week, but the idea is to use a mason jar to keep the contents separate until you are ready to mix them together. The dressing goes on the bottom and the greens on very top to keep them from getting wilted and wet. Brilliant!
You can really be creative with this idea, but my favorite recipes to get started are found on this great recipe blog called The Yummy Life by Monica Matheny. I love that she starts with cooked quinoa at the base, so you get some great protein and fiber in your salad and the salad dressing gets soaked up there. The recipes are also all gluten-free and vegan. Lastly, not only are the recipes yummy and varied, but she also has some excellent preparation tips.
Take this concept and run with it! The variations and possibilities are endless. You could use brown rice instead of quinoa or no grain at all. What some meat in there?—Then add some grilled organic chicken or smoked wild salmon. I also like to vary the nuts I add to my salads, so one day it will be walnuts and another pistachios. The vegetable choices are endless—green beans, celery, carrots, shredded beets—you name it! You could even add some seasonally fruit like berries or peaches for some added flavor. Lastly, I love that you can make these ahead of time and be ready to grab and go the rest of the week!
Give it a try and let me know what you think!
And for other salad-in-jar inspirations, check out the following: