Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola

I’m always looking for healthy and great-tasting food that’s also gluten-free and vegan. This granola is SO good. It tastes like a decadent treat, and is really healthy! It took a few times of making it to get this recipe how I liked it. Even my kids like it. In addition to just eating it by itself, I like to have it in a bowl topped with unsweetened almond milk. The milk turns chocolately–yum!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER GRANOLA

Coating Ingredients
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (I use organic to avoid GMOs)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (I use organic Grade B)
15 drops liquid stevia
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (I use organic)
1/4 cup oil (I use grapeseed oil)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Dry Ingredients
2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats–not instant (I use gluten-free oats)
1 tablespoon ground flax seed, also called flax meal
1/2 cup various nuts and seeds (I like raw sunflower seeds and chopped pecans)

Topping: 1/4 cup chopped dairy-free dark chocolate (about 1/4 candy bar) — sometimes I use dairy-free chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 275°.

-Grease or line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

-Place coating ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk together until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook at a very low simmer for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.

-In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

-Pour the coating mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until everything is evenly coated.

-Evenly spread the mixture in a thin layer on the prepared baking sheet.

-Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

-Remove from oven. While still warm, sprinkle the granola with the chopped chocolate and gently stir. Leave granola evenly spread on baking sheet to cool.

-Store in an airtight container for several days. Freezes well.

I hope you enjoy this healthy, high-fiber, whole foods treat!

More of My Favorite Healthy Products

Because we all are looking for healthy and convenient items to add to our kitchens, I wanted to share more of my favorite healthy products. Whether it’s a busy schedule or just being too tired to cook a made-from-scratch meal, some days we need to make a quick meal or grab something to go. I hope you enjoy learning about these healthy products.

Organic Sunshine Burgers

I love the idea of a convenient, packaged veggie burger, but I have to say that most of the ones I’ve seen have ingredients I don’t want to eat. When I eliminate the ones with dairy and gluten ingredients, what’s left are burgers with overly processed soy and junk. Happily, I’ve found a really healthy and tasty veggie burger: the Organic Sunshine Burger. They have only a few ingredients like brown rice and raw sunflower seeds. Flavors include: Original, Garden Herb, South West and Barbecue (my favorite). It’s so nice to read a label and find just a few natural ingredients. You can sprinkle these burgers with tamari soy sauce or another favorite sauce while cooking. You can find them in the freezer of health food stores.

Newman’s Own Black Bean & Corn Salsa

 

I’m not a big salsa fan, so I was surprised how much I love this salsa. It’s nice and thick, full of black beans and corn, and has just a little bit of kick to it. It actually reminds me more of chili than a salsa. You can find it at most regular grocery stores. It’s great with natural tortilla chips, and on nachos, tacos, etc. So yummy!

Dr. McDougall’s Instant Black Bean & Lime Soup

Yes, this is an “instant” soup. Usually instant soups are bland-tasting or full of gross ingredients. This one is fantastic. I always have several in my pantry to take to work or pack when travelling. Just add the flavor packet and stir in hot water. Make sure to let it sit for the recommended time so the beans soften. It’s very hearty and filling. Dr. McDougall has other instant soups that are OK, but none compare to this winner. I recently got an 8-pack at Amazon.

NOW Drink Sticks

I call this the “healthy Kool-Aid.” My kids and husband like these stevia-sweetened drink mixes. They come in several flavors: Acai Lemonade, Tropical Punch, Berry Energy Tea, and Pomegranate Berry. You can use one drink stick in a 16-ounce bottled water or, do what I do and, use several sticks to make a large pitcher. I like it because it’s all-natural, with no chemicals or preservatives. Plus it’s sugar-free, sweetened only with stevia.  It’s also pretty inexpensive. I’ve seen these drink sticks at the health food store, but I regularly order them from my favorite on-line store, www.swansonvitamins.com.

I hope you’ll try some of these. Let me know what you think of them if you do.

What are some of your favorite healthy products?

Healthful regards,

JILL

My Favorite Healthy Products

When I first started shopping for “health food,” I had no idea what I was doing or if I would like any of these new products. With that in mind, I know that there are many products out there that claim to be healthy and either really aren’t healthy or they taste terrible. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite products that I think work and taste great.

Earth Balance Buttery Spread

This product wasn’t around when I stopped eating dairy 12 years ago. I remember using some yucky substitute that wouldn’t even melt at high heat! So I was VERY excited when it came along. I promise you will love this. It tastes so good that I don’t even tell house guests or my children’s friends that it’s a healthy butter substitute. They all like it. It’s made of 4 different oils and other natural ingredients. I can’t imagine my life without it. I spread it on toast, bake with it, fry with it, and melt it for popcorn. It’s available in health food stores and I’ve even seen it at Walmart. It comes in a few varieties like whipped organic, soy free, and original. The jumbo tub is a good deal so I get the original in a jumbo tub from Earth Fare and just keep refilling my smaller container.

Tamari

Tamari is a naturally-brewed, gluten-free soy sauce with only a few natural ingredients. It’s my go-to ingredient whenever a recipe isn’t tasting quite right. Of course, it’s awesome in a stir-fry but I also add it to soups, casseroles, sauces, almost anything. But keep in mind that tamari is sodium, so using it is just like using salt. Note that tamari is a little stronger tasting than regular soy sauce so a little can go a long way in flavoring a dish. Make sure to read the label for any colorings or other chemicals. Organic tamari is best since it doesn’t contain genetically modified soy beans.

Kukicha Twig Tea

Kukicha twig tea is my daily drink. I like to start the day with a cup of hot tea. Luckily, this tea is also super healthy! Regular black tea is made from the leaves of the tea bush and it contains caffeine and is acidic to the body. Kukicha is made from the roasted branches of the tea bush so it has minimal caffeine and has an alkaline, healing effect. It’s energizing and also helps digestion. It tastes similar to black tea but with an added roasted flavor. I drink it straight but my kids like a few drops of stevia to sweeten it. You can make iced tea with it, too. I only buy the Eden brand which most health food stores carry. You can also order it from my favorite on-line store, Swanson Vitamin (www.swansonvitamin.com). One tea bag makes a lot of tea so use a jumbo mug like I do! To make iced tea, bring 8 cups of water to a boil, turn off heat, and add 5 Eden Kukicha Twig Tea bags. Let steep for at least 10 minutes. Let cool and store in a glass pitcher in the refrigerator. To drink, I add a few stevia drops to a glass and pour in the iced tea. Very refreshing!

 Almond Milk and Coconut Milk 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never been a milk drinker so I mainly use these milk substitutes for smoothies and in baking. I’m sure it makes fantastic chocolate milk, though. I like these two brands. They both work similarly in smoothies and baking so I buy whichever one is on sale. I always have 2 or 3 in my refrigerator. The best price I’ve found on these is at Kroger and Target. Since I like to control the amount of sugar I eat, I always get the unsweetened versions. For using over cereal, I think the Almond Breeze works better. The coconut milk (which doesn’t taste like coconut, just kind of neutral) is a little thicker. Both of these are great milk substitutes.

I hope you find this information helpful and that by learning a little more about these great products, you’ll give some of them a try.

I wish you good health!

Jill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread or Muffins (gluten-free and vegan)

This banana bread recipe is amazing. I guarantee you can’t tell it’s gluten-free and vegan. It even uses coconut palm sugar, a less processed, complex sweetener.

I was a baker in a gluten-free health shoppe so I know how difficult it can be to make great-tasting and healthy baked goods. Sure, you can find some tasty gluten-free goodies, but most of them are very unhealthy with lots of sugar, low fiber, and very processed. I don’t like to use junky ingredients! That’s why I love this recipe. It’s one of my family’s favorites.

Amazing Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I like to make muffins with this recipe. The baking time for muffins is less than the loaves. I freeze any muffins that aren’t eaten the first day or two. I just pull them out as I need them for a quick breakfast or snack. My kids actually like to eat them frozen and cut up in a bowl!  

Muffins bake faster and kids love them!

This may look like a lot of ingredients but is actually an easy, quick recipe. It can be easily halved.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (or muffins)

Makes 2 loaves or 24 muffins.

Dry Ingredients
-2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (you can try another gf all purpose flour but I think Bob’s has healthier ingredients)
-1 teaspoon xanthan gum (may not need to add if already in your flour blend so check label)
Note: xanthan gum can be expensive so if you don’t have any at home, try the recipe without it. I think the flax meal might bind the dough enough to work well.

-1 cup palm sugar (sometimes called coconut sugar)
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-2 teaspoons ground flax meal
-1 teaspoon EnerG Egg Replacer powder (you might be able to leave this out but I haven’t tried it)
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1 teaspoon sea salt

Wet Ingredients
-2 large very ripe bananas–mashed to make about 1 cup
-3/4 cup grapeseed oil (or other light vegetable oil)
-1 cup unsweetened plant milk of choice (almond, coconut, soy, etc.)
-1-1/2 teaspoons vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
-1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

-3/4 cup gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate chips–plus a small handful more to sprinkle on top 
(I like Enjoy Life brand or Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips. Note that not all Ghirardelli chips are dairy-free so check labels.)
-You could substitute chopped nuts for the chocolate chips.

Directions:

– Preheat oven to 350°.
– Grease 2 loaf pans OR fill muffin tins with 24 liners.
– Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to combine.
– In a medium bowl, mash bananas with the back of a fork. Add all wet ingredients to bananas and whisk well.
– Pour wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in 3/4 cup chocolate chips.
– Pour evenly into loaf pans OR fill muffin cups 2/3 full.
– Sprinkle top with additional chocolate chips.

Baking time for loaves: approximately 45 minutes (or when inserted toothpick comes out clean)
Baking time for muffins: approximately 20 minutes (or when inserted toothpick come out clean)


I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Jill

“Quit worrying about your health. It’ll go away.” -Robert Orben

My Favorite Smoothie Recipe

I LOVE a good smoothie. It’s a great way to start the day and keeps me full for hours. Makes a great snack or light meal, too. I don’t have a Vitamix but do have a smoothie-cup-attachment for my Oster blender, which works fantastic. It has its own lid so I can drink right out of the cup. I’m sure a regular blender would work fine, but you may need to stop and stir a few times.

This is my favorite smoothie recipe. I created it a few years ago and it never gets old. You can easily substitute some of the ingredients for what you have on hand and still have it turn out fabulous. Since I use frozen fruit, there is no need for ice cubes that can water down the flavor. Besides tasting great, there is no added sugar in this recipe (just a little from the berries and unsweetened coconut) and lots of fiber, nutrients, and protein. Like all my recipes, this is dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan.

Super-healthy meal in a glass!

 
Coconut Berry Smoothie

-Frozen berries (I like a combination of strawberries and blueberries)
-Unsweetened, unsulphered coconut flakes
-Ground flax meal
-Walnuts, pecans, or almonds
-Unsweetened almond or coconut milk beverage
-Vanilla protein powder (I like Life’s Basics Unsweetened Vanilla with hemp, chia, rice, and pea protein–makes any smoothie taste great)
-Cinnamon
-Liquid stevia
-optional: greens powder (I like Amazing Grass Greens Super Food–This can change the taste of the smoothie but I don’t notice it much in a berry smoothie and the cinnamon helps, too.)

Fill a large glass 2/3 full of frozen berries. Fill glass with milk. Pour into blender. Add 1 heaping tablespoon each of: coconut, ground flax meal, and nuts. Add 2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder, a few dashes of cinnamon, and approximately 10-15 drops liquid stevia. (Stevia is a naturally sugar-free sweetener and is very sweet so start with fewer drops; you can always add more.) Blend on high until smooth. Add more liquid if needed.

Please let me know if you try this recipe and how it turns out!

Take care!

Jill

“If you don’t make time for health, you will have to make time for illness.”  -Hippocrates

5 Simple Things You Can Do TODAY to Improve Your Health

1.  Drink Lemon Water. Start the day with warm water and lemon juice (from ¼ lemon). Even though it is acidic, once digested, lemon juice has an alkalinizing effect on the body and blood. Acidic blood is vulnerable to disease; alkaline blood allows the body to heal. Lemon water can relieve symptoms of indigestion, such as heartburn, bloating, gas, and cramping. Drinking lemon water regularly can aid in cleansing the bowels and stimulate the elimination of toxins and waste products in your liver, helping to purify your digestive system. Add lemon juice to room temperature or warm water rather than very cold water, which can shock your stomach when you drink it.

2.  Fast for 12 Hours a Day. At first glance, this might sound really difficult, but simply means not eating from a few hours before bedtime until breakfast. So, for example, not eating from 8:00 pm until 8:00 am. That doesn’t sound too hard. Giving your body a break for those 12 hours can help you live longer. Twelve-hour fasts can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and increase both HDL “good cholesterol” and beta-hyroxyburyrate, a brain-protective chemical. Twelve-hour fasts give the brain a chance to fight the chemical byproducts of stress and also trim down the figure by decreasing bloat and swelling.

3.  Chew Well and Eat Slowly. As Marilu Henner says, “your stomach doesn’t have teeth!” Chewing is one secret to a long, healthy life. Digestion actually starts in the mouth, especially for carbohydrates. When you chew, you incorporate alkaline saliva. Thorough chewing can help with weight loss, improve your health, and allow your body to get more nutrition from your food. The goal is to chew your foods so thoroughly that you can no longer identify what the food is, based on its texture. Eating slowly gives your brain a chance to realize you are full so you will actually eat less. You should even chew soft food like yogurt. At least one meal per day, sit down, slow down, and chew. Take the time to savor the colors, flavors, and textures of food and enjoy the health benefits of chewing.

4.  Sleep. Your body heals itself while you sleep. Your body produces extra protein molecules while you’re sleeping that helps fight infection and mend your body at a cellular level. Sleep helps reduce the levels of stress and inflammation in your body and can help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. Sleep helps regulate the hormones that control your appetite. When your body is deprived of sleep, normal hormone balances are interrupted and your appetite increases. For adults, 7-8 hours is ideal. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule and create a bedroom environment that promotes relaxation. TV, computers and cell phones can be too stimulating close to bedtime. Every hour of sleep before midnight is worth twice the health benefits as the hours after midnight.

 5.  Walk. The benefits to this simple exercise are endless. Walking can help you lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, raise HDL “good” cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce risk of or manage type 2 diabetes, manage weight, improve your mood, and stay strong and fit. Regular, brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack by the same amount as more vigorous exercise. It helps protect the brain by increasing blood circulation and the flow of oxygen and glucose to your brain. Walking boosts cardiovascular fitness and can increase longevity.  All it takes to reap these benefits is a routine of brisk walking—aim for 30 minutes a day.  

And the best part is that these 5 simple steps that can positively affect your health are FREE (with the exception of a few lemons.) So why not try one of these steps for a week? And maybe add another each week? Before you know it, you will have some very healthy habits.

 Here’s an easy, tasty recipes for you to practice your chewing skills!

 Marinated Black-Eyed Pea Salad

-2  15-ounce cans black-eyed peas (make sure no chemical preservatives–organic is best)
-2 carrots, diced small
-1/2 – 1 cup red onion, finely diced
-1 clove garlic, peeled
-Optional: 1 cup greens, like kale or collard greens (leaves chopped/stems sliced very thin)
-1/4 cup pure maple syrup (organic grade B is my favorite)
-1/2 cup vinegar (like red wine, brown rice, umeboshi, apple cider)
-2 teaspoon natural vegetable oil
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (or to taste)

    Rinse and drain black-eyed peas. Place in a medium bowl along with carrot, red onion, and greens. Cut the garlic clove in half, stick a wooden toothpick through and add to the bowl.
    In a small bowl, add maple syrup, vinegar, oil, sea salt, and hot sauce and whisk dressing until well-combined. Add dressing to bowl of vegetables and toss lightly to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours, stirring every few hours. Remove the toothpick and garlic before serving. Enjoy!

 I hope you have a healthy day!

 Jill

 “Having good health is very different from only being not sick.” – Seneca The Younger, 50 AD

Welcome and Chocolate Treat Recipe!

I’m so excited to have my own blog to share healthy ideas. I truly believe the healthier we are, the happier we are.

I started my health journey 12 years ago. I was overweight after having my second child and couldn’t seem to lose the weight. I saw Marilu Henner on a talk show discussing her book, “Total Health Makeover.” I thought I’d check it out. Well, I read the book over the weekend and immediately started throwing food out of my house. I eliminated meat, dairy, processed sugar, and junk from my diet. The changes were immediate and amazing–weight loss, better skin, better digestion, more energy, healthier outlook on life.

I’ve never looked back. Once I learned how food affects the body, I couldn’t go back to how I was eating before. I’ve gone on to study nutrition and macrobiotics and incorporate what I’ve learned into my family’s diet and lifestyle–which can be quite a challenge. 10 years ago, I started teaching healthy cooking classes. I also coach on-line health classes on Marilu Henner’s web site and do private health consultations.  My passion is to share all I’ve learned about natural, healthy living with anyone who is interested.

I continue to be an eager student of natural health and hope to continue sharing. This blog is just the next way for me to share with others. I hope you enjoy the information here.

Here’s an easy, super-healthy treat I’ve been enjoying lately:

Chocolate Coconut Treats (raw, no added sugar, healthy!)

– 1 cup walnuts (quickly rinsed to clean)
– 1 cup pitted dates (the fresher the better)
– 1/4 cup cocoa powder
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (1/4 tsp. of almond extract is nice to add)
– 1/4 cup unsweetened, unsulphured coconut flakes
– Few pinches sea salt
– up to 10 drops of stevia (to make it sweeter)

Grind walnuts in a food processor (with an S blade). Add dates, cocoa, vanilla/almond extract, coconut, sea salt, and stevia. Mix until finely ground. Place 1 tablespoon in your hand and roll into a ball. Place balls on a cookie sheet and freeze to set. They taste great right out of the food processor, too! I like to eat them frozen–they taste more like a truffle.

I hope you have a healthy day!

Jill

“Having good health is very different from only being not sick.” – Seneca The Younger, 50 AD