No-Bake Vegan Peanut Butter Fudge Cups

No-Bake Vegan Peanut Butter Fudge Cups

If you’re looking for a healthy, peanut buttery treat made with minimal ingredients, look no further. These chocolate peanut butter fudge cups can be frozen and enjoyed like a hard shell peanut butter cup or thawed in the fridge for more of a fudge-like consistency. I prefer the latter. They are so yummy at that partially soft, fudgey consistency. This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, and oil-free.

Ingredients:

2/3 bar of vegan dark baking chocolate (I used 4 large squares of Dagoba unsweetened dark baking chocolate.)

1/2 – 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk (or plant milk of choice)

2 scoops vegan chocolate Shakeology (or protein powder of your choice) The flavor of Shakeology really makes this treat extra delicious.

2-3 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste

6 tbsps natural peanut butter

Directions

1. Melt chocolate with 1/2 a cup of plant milk in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave. Settings will vary, so keep an eye on the chocolate, occassionally pausing the microwave to check and mix the chocolate. You will want the chocolate to be fully melted and creamy once stirred.

2. Next, add in Shakeology and maple syrup and mix well to combine. If the mixture is clumpy add more plant milk to achieve a very thick brownie-like consistency. You don’t want to make the mixture too runny, because since this is an oil-free recipe, it won’t hold together with too much liquid.

3. In a silicone muffin tray, place a heaping tbsp of chocolate mixture into each cup (recipe yields 6). Spread evenly coating the bottom of each cup.

4. Place a dollop of peanut butter on top of each chocolatey base. Lift and tap the muffin container on the countertop to evenly spread out the peanut butter, or use a spoon to spread it around.

5. Evenly top the cups with the remaining chocolate. Use a spoon to evenly spread the chocolate to the edges of each cup.

6. Place in the freezer for 3-4 hours. You can enjoy these treats at more of a semisoft fudgey consistency or fully hardened, more like a peanut butter cup. After they set, you can store them in the freezer or refrigerator.

Servings: 6

For more information about vegan Shakeology, health, fitness, the plant-based lifestyle, or working with me as your health and fitness coach, please reach out to me at sproutandblossomwellness@gmail.com or find me on Instagram @sproutnblossom.

Homemade Vegan Sour Cream

Homemade Vegan Sour Cream

When I went vegan, one of the foods I missed most was chilled sour cream, especially on top of soups, chilis, and baked potatoes. But over the years, I have found two worthy replacements: chilled/whipped avocado and this homemade cashew sour cream that I am about to share with you now. There are many variations of this recipe circulating the internet, but this is what I use.

Ingredients:
2 cups raw soaked/drained cashews*
1/2 – 1 cup water**
1.5 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
A pinch of sea salt

*You should soak the cashews in water for at least four hours prior to making this recipe, but I was pressed for time. I actually just put everything in the blender without pre-soaking the cashews, and it still came out great. I have a high-speed blender, so if you do not have a great blender, pre-soaking the cashews is non-negotiable.

**The amount of water you will need will depend on whether or not you soaked the nuts as well as the desired consistency you are trying to achieve. Start with 1/2 cup and work your way up from there.

Directions

1. Place the ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until creamy.

2. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for at least a week.

You can use this as a topping on just about any savory dish. You can also mix this into pasta and potato salads. It’s incredibly delicious. Enjoy!

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Cheesey Macaroni with Chickpeas and Spinach

Cheesey Macaroni with Chickpeas and Spinach

This is a low fat recipe that is also vegan and gluten-free. It makes for a simple yet hearty dinner and can be packaged for lunch throughout the week as well.

Ingredients
2 cups dry brown rice macaroni
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
16 oz of organic baby spinach
1/4 cup plain unsweetened coconut yogurt. I use So Delicious brand*.
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
pepper and sea salt, to taste

*If you cannot find this yogurt, you can use a little unsweetened plain almond milk. To thicken (if needed), you can try adding a bit of corn starch.

Instructions
1. Cook the pasta in a medium-large saucepan following the package instructions. Drain (although not in excess) and return back to pot immediately in its slightly damp state.

2. On the lowest heat setting, add in all of the ingredients and stir together gently until everything is mixed and the spinach is lightly wilted.

This recipe yields 4 small servings for a side dish or two large servings for a meal.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Oat Pancakes Topped with Hot Strawberries

Homemade Oat Pancakes Topped with Hot Strawberries

Pancakes! Most conventional pancake mixes have additives, preservatives, and processed soy and whey in them. If you are looking for a quick, healthy, and delicious alternative to this weekend breakfast favorite, look no further.

Ingredients
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 of one large ripe speckled banana
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
A tiny pinch of sea salt
1 16-oz bag of organic frozen strawberries
Pure maple syrup (optional)

Instructions
1. In a high speed blender, blend all of the ingredients (except berries) to form a light-medium consistency pancake batter.

2. In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat the berries on low, stirring often. They will become a compote-like consistency. Turn heat off and keep covered.

3. Heat a nonstick skillet on low-medium. You can use coconut oil spray to coat the pan too (optional).

4. Pour the batter onto the pan to desired pancake size. Cook on one side until bubbling on the top and the edges are golden brown, then flip, as you would cook any pancakes.

5. Plate finished pancakes and top with the strawberries and a drizzle of maple syrup (optional).

This recipe yields 3 large pancakes or 6 small – good for one very hungry individual or two people. This can easily be doubled for a family of 3-4 people. Enjoy!

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Organic Gluten-Free Vegan Food On a Budget: An Experiment

Organic Gluten-Free Vegan Food On a Budget: An Experiment

When we stop eating crap, we stop feeling like crap. A while back, I wrote a blog article called “Eating Healthy on a Budget: Cut Your Grocery Costs and Feel Amazing.” I priced out healthy food for a family of three for a week for $95.

Well today, I kicked it up a notch and this time I purchased a week’s worth of all certified ORGANIC food for two people from a health food store (in a state where the cost of living is quite high), which is not the most cost effective way to go. I approached it this way on purpose to experiment.

You see, I’m trying to settle the score that “healthy food (and vegan food) is too expensive,” when in fact it can be less expensive than standard American diet food or a meat and dairy based diet. So I purchased these items in the most expensive way possible, and also accounted for vegan Shakeology for two people (two superfood smoothies per day) as well as some convenience foods like organic Amy’s frozen veggie burgers. I also added in $5 to factor in other kitchen staples such as seasonings and condiments used for the week. With that said, my total came out to about $160 (or $80 per person).

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Now, a better way to do this to make this more affordable and practical, is you could easily grow many of your own organic fruits and veggies, pick your own from local organic farms, can and freeze foods, join a CSA or co-op, purchase dry goods in bulk, batch cook, purchase seasonal foods, go to farmer’s markets, shop sales, and do this for MUCH CHEAPER! There are blogs about eating plant-based on as little as $4 a day. And remember, this experiment was done in a pricey manner purchasing organic foods.

You can instead purchase organic when possible or personally necessary; because unfortunately, conventionally grown produce is cheaper. One method is to follow the guidelines of “The Clean Fifteen” and “The Dirty Dozen.” This will help save money as well, if you are flexible.

Trust me. I’m of modest means, and I’m not out of touch with reality. I understand that some families can only afford $50-$75 a week for food and sometimes that’s to feed more people. All we can do is our best. This is not about self-judgement or judgement of others. This is about making health a priority as much as we can within our means.

According to a USA Today report, “The latest numbers for a four-member family: a thrifty food plan, $146 a week; a low-cost food plan, $191 a week; a moderate-cost plan, $239; a liberal plan, $289 a week. Some food waste is built into these costs.”

Expensive foods are usually convenience foods. And with a little time and meal planning, you can reap the health and financial benefits of eating real food you prepare yourself where you know exactly what is going into it.

I would love for you to join my upcoming 30-day health and fitness challenge, “The Glow So Healthy Pre-Summer Challenge” where we will be using PiYo workouts and a plant-based meal plan to reach our health goals (starts May 3, 2015). The kit is $140, and I will be your coach and offer my holistic health coaching services for free. To learn more, please comment or email me for details. I will work with you to help improve your lifestyle habits so you can become the healthiest version of yourself. I hope to hear from you.
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Smoothie

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Smoothie

It’s getting cold outside in the northeast in the U.S., but I still love my smoothies. I have been enjoying this chocolate peanut butter bliss smoothie as my go-to autumn smoothie because it’s rich, packed with protein, and gives me a healthy chocolate fix. I know some people don’t like to use protein powders; I was in that camp for a long time too. I respect that. However, I do well on a natural vegan protein powder added to my morning smoothie. I like the flavor in combination with the fruit and vegetables and it helps me stay satisfied longer.

Ingredients
12 oz water
4 ice cubes
2 frozen bananas
1 TBSP raw cacao powder
3 drops stevia (or sweetener of your choice such as dates, maple syrup coconut sugar, etc.)
1 scoop chocolate vegan protein powder (I use Plant Fusion or Sun Warrior)
1-2 TBSP organic peanuts* or organic peanut butter or 4 TBSP organic peanut butter powder
1 handful organic spinach

*Note: I only recommend using whole peanuts if you have a high speed blender.

Directions
1. Blend all ingredients on high until smooth. Enjoy!

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An Inspiring Look: Lauren Grogan on Health, Yoga, and Self-Love

An Inspiring Look: Lauren Grogan on Health, Yoga, and Self-Love

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Lauren Grogan of
Center Your Health. Lauren is a holistic health coach and yoga teacher who is passionate about life. I wanted to interview Lauren because I find her to be incredibly positive, authentic, and kind. These are qualities that I admire most in others. I also love how Lauren lives a full life and manages to balance everything with grace and organization. After reading this inspiring information, please watch Lauren’s video which is embedded at the end of this interview. Her smile and shining light will brighten your whole day.

1) Thank you, Lauren, for taking the time to allow me to interview you. How would you define yourself to those who have never met you?

You’re so welcome! It’s funny that you ask that question, because I’m at the point in my yoga and spiritual practice where I’m trying to no longer “define” myself! It’s been a very, very difficult process since it’s easy to attach to certain labels or ways to identify ourselves. With that being said, hopefully this brief interview together can help others get a glimpse of who I am at this point of my life and accept me for what I’m all about!

2) You are a holistic health coach (like me ::high five::) and a yoga teacher. What are your coaching/teaching philosophies?

It’s pretty simple, do what’s best for YOU. We’re so conditioned to look outside of ourselves for knowledge or healing but we need to remember that our bodies are designed to heal. We each have an innate wisdom within us that’s always there as a guide, no matter what is going on. We must learn to listen to our bodies, hear what they’re saying to us and give them exactly what they need. I love explaining this to my students/clients in hopes to remind them of the personal strength that resides in each one of them.
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3) From what I can tell, you are an advocate of gluten-free living. Do you recommend this for all people or is this just something that has helped you personally?

The only thing that I advocate or recommend for all people is to eat more veggies! Otherwise, I love explaining to my clients how gluten effects our system (it’s an anti-nutrient that causes inflammation) and then ultimately leave it up to them if they’d like to minimize their gluten intake or avoid it all together. Either way, I support them and always remind them to take it slow. It certainly takes awareness, patience, and practice. If they decide to give gluten-free a try though, I’m thrilled! I’m amazed at the symptoms that clear up in my clients after they’ve gave up gluten such as less body (joint) pain, no more bloating or gastrointestinal issues, weight loss or less headaches. To clarify though, while (in my opinion) gluten stinks, whole grains in general may be pretty disruptive to our health in large quantities. It varies person to person though.

How has going gluten-free been a game-changer for you personally?

Going gluten-free was something I never even considered until I was diagnosed with Hashimotos disease, an autoimmune condition effecting my thyroid function. When it comes to (any) autoimmune conditions, consuming gluten is like pouring fuel on the fire, so it must be eliminated. I realized that I had to finally give it up after my diagnosis. It was a slow and gradual process until I finally could feel the benefits enough to ditch it for good. It was a hard breakup, I must admit, one of the hardest I’ve ever gone through.  However, I’ve NEVER been happier! I breathe so freely each day (have absolutely NO congestion in my sinuses), I can focus and think clearly throughout my day (no more brain fog), I’ve lost weight and my muffin-top disappeared, my face/body in general is less puffy, my keratosis pilaris (a rash on my upper arms that I’ve had all of my life) cleared up, and I almost never have that “stuffed” feeling after I eat a meal (even when I’ve eaten a bit too much!). I’ve had a blast getting creative with prepping gluten-free meals. The best part is it’s made me eat more whole, real foods more than ever before. I’ll make cauliflower crust pizza, spiraled zucchini pasta, stuff half an avocado with tuna salad, enjoy hummus with fresh crudite, or create wraps with lettuce or collard greens. I steer clear of foods like breads, crackers, cookies and other goodies marketed as gluten-free. Let’s be real, that’s straight up junk food. Before I transitioned to gluten-free I viewed it as so restrictive. Now I see how wrong I was to think that since I’ve never been so satisfied or felt better!

4) I have written about being body positive and for people to focus on health and healing rather than their looks/weight alone. What are your thoughts on this topic?

I love that you’ve written on this subject. It’s so important, especially today. Obsessing over looks/weight only encourages unhealthy behaviors towards ourselves and effects our relationship with food. I think it’s so important to truly love yourself. This concept may be foreign to us since we are not encouraged to do this, but it’s an extremely important practice. Changing the way you speak to yourself is a great place to start. Most of us would never speak to others using the tone or words that we use towards ourselves. Part of my morning ritual is applying oil to my whole body after I’ve showered and silently thanking each and every part of my body. “Thank you, feet. Thanks, elbows! Thank you, eyes. Thanks, fingers. Thank you, belly.” It may sound silly, but I’ve grown to love, adore and appreciate so many different parts and aspects of my own body. It’s also helped me realize how grateful I am for the body I’ve been given and for its health. I highly recommend giving it a try!

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Where do you think most people go wrong when it comes to dieting and restrictive eating?

All or nothing thinking. I give so many lectures on different types of diets…just to lure people in, not to encourage them to subscribe to them. They think they’re coming to learn all about a plant-based diet, or even a paleo diet, and while I’ll educate them on it I like to give suggestions of how to take aspects of the diet that they like, “drop the label” and make it their own. Then, there is no longer restrictions and unnecessary pressure – two things that should never be associated with foods in the first place!  Create your own way of eating that’s best for you. 

5) Do you have any recommendations for people reading this blog who might be new to yoga and a little nervous to try a class?

Skip the free yoga class at your gym. While gym yoga teachers may be talented and great, it may not be the right environment for yoga if you’re a newbie. A simple google search for “beginner’s yoga class” in your area will bring up a bunch of local studios. Start checking out different studios and see what classes resonate with you and your schedule. Most studios even offer a discount or free class for your first time. When you attend class, go with an open mind. A true yoga class should be free of judgement and/or competition, so if you’re feeling any of that from the teacher or students (or sometimes even your own mind!) that may not be the class or studio for you. Your yoga practice is your own. It will look and feel different than anyone else’s, and that makes it beautiful and your own. Embrace that and you’ve embraced the essence of yoga…even as a beginner!

6) What is your message to more advanced yogis reading this blog?

I find that there is always something new to learn with yoga each and every time we roll out our mat. This mindset will keep us a beginner at heart when it comes to our advanced practice, remind us not to be so focused on “mastering” the asanas (poses) but rather enjoying them wherever we are that day. I have observed that as most yogi’s practice progresses (including my own!), the ego tends to be overconfident. It’s important to recognize when this happens so that you can realize you’re no longer practicing yoga with ego-driven thoughts. Yoga teaches us to be present and honor the body wherever it is. We must remember the fundamentals of yoga to truly excel in our practice…and that may or may not have anything to do with the asanas!

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7) Is there a personal struggle you’ve experienced in your life that you would feel comfortable sharing, as well as how you dealt with that challenge?

I’ve had a few personal struggles with my health over the years that I can now confidently say that I healed myself. That’s a lot easier said than done though! However, since I’ve done it more than a few times by now, I approach any struggle or health issue the same way and can execute the healing process much faster. I catch myself when I’m being the victim and instead look at whatever I’m going through as a blessing. I look at it as a challenge for me to go through so that I can learn from it and then help others to overcome similar issues. I make sure that I recite positive affirmations each day during my struggles and most of all allow myself the time to practice self care. I make rest and food prep my top priority so that I’m nourishing myself healthfully on all levels. I also reach out to the therapists, practitioners and mentors who I know will be helpful in my healing process. Healing takes lots of inner hard work and patience. After healing my IBS, anxiety disorder, autoimmune and thyroid disease, I feel pretty empowered to take on whatever is next. Our bodies are designed to heal themselves, we just have to realize that and give the body what it needs to thrive! 

8) What inspires you?

Yoga…on and off the mat, because it’s the thing that I resonate most with before anything else. 

Creating…in all different forms keeps me sane and allows me to express myself. 

Food…because I’m a total foodie. 

India…everything about it. The smells, rich colors, the rituals. To me, it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. 

Nature…the colors, the patterns, the textures, the taste! 

Connecting with others…because I make it a point to surround myself with others who leave me feeling empowered rather than drained. 

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9) Can you name one public figure who you admire and share why?

Lately, I’ve totally been admiring Daniel Vitalis of Rewild Yourself. I heard him speak about the domestication of human beings and it blew my mind. I’ve been a fan ever since. He reminds us of that wild wisdom that resides in our DNA which most of us have lost touch with. He’s got an online magazine and informative podcast. Check him out! His girlfriend Ali Schueler, of Wild Woman Speaks, also offers a similar approach that I’m totally jiving with. These past few years I’ve been so intrigued by primal living and working towards making little shifts here and there to get back to a more ancestral way of living.  

10) What are the most important lessons you have learned so far in life?

(Cue John Lennon’s song, Love.)

LOVE. Just love. Love yourself. Love everyone. Love every being. Love everything. Love cures all. Love nourishes all. Love is what we all desire. Love is what it’s all about. Give it, get it, share it, enjoy it! 

Also, my Italian Pop-Pop, Mike the barber, would always say, “The darker the vegetables, the better they are for you.” I have fond memories as a child of watching him tend his garden harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables for us to eat.

12) What are some of your future goals?

Bhakti yoga has been a major part of my life in these recent years and I want to continue diving deeper into the practice as time goes on. My husband and I plan to start a family and I look forward to making that a big part of our children’s lives. Chanting each day has brought me so much joy and satisfaction and I look forward to sharing that with any kiddies we may have. 

Any additional thoughts or comments?

Thanks so much for having me, Mary. I’m so inspired by you, your recipes, your homemade soaps, and your warm, positive message in general. Your smile lights up a room and is unforgettable! 

Thank you, Lauren! Keep shining bright!