A Sneak Peak Into Some Upcoming Health-Minded Products Hitting Your Markets

A few weeks ago I had a chance to go through and test out some upcoming products that are hitting the market in the health and wellness world. So far, these are my favorites (but I’m still working through them all so I’m hoping the list continues to grow!)

Pure Growth Organic: White Cheddar Popcorn 

Image Courtesy of @PureGrowthOrganics

So, hear me out on this. I really don’t like packaged anything. But, when you’re not the only person in the house and the only person in the house who will cook up her own popcorn snack with kernel (on the stove – remember this), then pre-portioned, pre-packaged snacks are kind of a necessity. I try to keep them out, but honestly, this brand did a great job of combining no crap (yes, that’s a technical) term, with organic ingredients. It’s organic, gluten-free, kosher, with absolutely no artificial flavors or colors. Oh, and the popcorn inside is actually really good too without that powdery cheese sticking on your tongue. (Your kids will also love it because lovable Mickey Mouse is on the box).

Popzup Popper 

Image Courtesy of @Popzuppopcorn

Back to popcorn once more and then we’ll move on. If you’re not already aware of how horrible those popcorn bags are that you stuff in your microwave, then you should probably just read this first. It’s not the popcorn that’s unhealthy, it’s the bag that it’s being cooked in as well as the number of artificial flavors and colors that are added into the mix. Instead of letting popcorn get a bad wrap, Popzup Popper created a reusable microwave popcorn popper. It’s plastic and chemical free, made in America, and comes with non-GMO and gluten-free kernels.  I confess… I don’t have a microwave so I had to use a friends, but when I did, we both agreed – it’s delicious. Go out and buy one of these for yourself and a bunch for your friends and family. You’ll be keeping them healthy and they won’t even realize it!

World of Chia – Chia Raspberry Fruit Spread

Image Courtesy @worldofchia

We all are guilty of wanting that PB&J once in a while, knowing full well that that jam is just packed full of sugar. Enter the World of Chia. These fruit spreads are the perfect alternative to those jams hiding in your fridge. Packed full of chia seeds that add in tons of omega 3 and fiber to your serving, it’s one of my favorite discoveries. Yes, you can make it yourself, but when the craving strikes, it’s super easy to just pull it out of your fridge. Bonus: My kid LOVES it. What does suck is trying to get all the sticky chia seeds out of his hair…

Mario’s Brands – Mario’s Meatball Mix Classic Italiano 

Image Courtesy of @mariosmeatballs

Ok, I’m going to reiterate what I said before – I do not like things that come prepackaged. I’m much more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, but there are just some nights where you’re trying to figure out what the heck you’re going to do for dinner and on a night like that is where I grabbed this meatball mix. I had some ground beef in the fridge, some tomato sauce in the freezer, and a box of pasta. I was ready.

Looking at the ingredients, I decided to half the recipe amount of the mix needed and was delightfully surprised at the outcome. Without having to go through my spice cabinet, or soak some bread, etc. I made meatballs that are pretty close to what your beloved Nonna might make for Sunday supper. Like I said, I went light on the mixture, because I’m weird like that, and the flavors came through loud and clear – in a good way. As for the ingredients, the only negative I would say is that lovely “flavour” at the end of the line. Other than that, I’ll give them a B+!

Savory Creations International – Vegetable Broth Concentrate 

As someone who makes soups quite often and probably doesn’t make stock often enough, this product saved my sanity, time, and my dishes quite a few times. It’s extremely simple – just add it to a cup of water and mix it into your soup – extremely easy to store – tiny little individual packets fit perfectly in the spice cabinet – oh and the best part – there’s absolutely nothing crappy in it (yes, I’m using that word a lot in this post.) Instead of flavorings that you can’t pronounce, you’ll find tomato, mushroom, onion, carrot, and celery extracts, a bit of sugar, salt, yeast extract, and maltodextrin, which is used as a preservative. So, even though there’s no substitute for the real deal broth that you make on your own stove, this is a great alternative for when you’re running low in the kitchen and need some big flavor.

Hak’s – One Pot Cooking Sauce Korean BBQ with Sesame and Ginger

@eathaksThis was my husband’s favorite – probably because I used the sauce with baked chicken wings. First, let me talk about the ingredients. It’s exactly what you would put in a marinade at home: water, tamari soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, onions, garlic, sesame oil, canola oil, green onions, ginger, sesame seeds, cornstarch, crushed red peppers. That is all folks! Seriously. I landed up marinating with the sauce, then baking with it, reserving some of the sauce for an extra coating after baking. It was delicious and honestly, I was really surprise just how much I enjoyed it.

Check out some of these products yourself and see what you and your family think of them. Again, I am a gung-ho make everything yourself girl, but honestly, sometimes I’m just tired and I need some pantry heroes to turn dinner into a reality (instead of a call to takeout).

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The Super Sesame Seed: Getting to Know Tahini With Pepperwood Organics

For those of you who know, I’m a mom to a one-year old. He’s amazing and I love him to death. There are a lot of things that come with being a new mom. The lack of sleep, the choice of going to the gym or taking a nap, choosing between tea and coffee (do you notice my theme of not sleeping?) – but one thing that I wasn’t expecting was how difficult… maybe that’s the wrong word… how feeding my little guy would not be simple.

I can only hope for my hummus to be this smooth and picture perfect!

As he continues to grow up, he keeps trying new foods, going back to his favorites (strawberries, bananas, oatmeal… like every other kid in America), but one item that has saved me from hitting my head with a frying pan because he’s not eating enough of his vegetables has been hummus.

He absolutely loves hummus. And I’m not talking store bought people (if you know me, you know that already). I have an never ending supply of garbanzo beans in my cabinet, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, veggies of all kinds, and the magic ingredient – tahini.

As his love for hummus and tahini grew, so did mine. I became interested in just what made different tahinis unique. What exactly is tahini? What makes one better than the other? Is one better than the other? Do I keep it in the fridge? Can I pour it on everything? What’s the best brand (in my humble opinion of course)?

Here are the answers in that order:
Ground sesame seeds.
The process.
Yes.
Some yes, some no.
Absolutely.
Pepperwood Organics

Ok, I’ll go into a bit more detail now.

First things firs…what exactly is tahini and are there health benefits to this tiny seed?

Tahini is basically toasted, ground, hulled sesame seeds. Think peanut butter, with a slightly different taste. It’s a staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines as well as my house. Used alone or in hummus, baba ghanoush, and even pasta dressings, it’s definitely worth having in your cabinet.

As for health benefits, yea, there’s a lot! Packed with all those healthy fats that your body craves like polyunsaturated essential fatty acids that support your heart and skin, these little powerhouse nuts are also jam-packed with other nutrients from calcium and manganese to protein, iron, and zinc. 

Are there differences in tahini and how do I choose the best tahini possible?

Yes there are. (Don’t worry, I didn’t realize this until I did some research and talked to some industry experts.) Some tahini are made with toasted sesame seeds, some are hulled, some aren’t, there are a ton of variations even though the ingredient label just says “sesame seeds!” Going organic is always a great option and then really, it’s all about your own personal taste. 

To keep in the fridge or not… that is the question! 

You’ve heard that nuts have oil and oils spoil right? I keep many of my nuts (except for my family) stored inside the fridge to prolong their life. I was doing the same thing with my tahini, until I spoke with the owner of Pepperwood Organics who told me nope, as long as you’re using it, it actually stays BETTER at room temperature! 

So about this Pepperwood Organics… 

tahini

Using only White Humera seeds found in Humera, Ethiopa, the sesame has a high oil content, giving it a “smooth, creamy texture.” Think super pourable and spreadable instead of thicker. Pepperwood Organics also uses absolutely no salt in the hulling process of the seeds. Basically, they “figured out how to make an unhulled (whole) sesame butter that tastes amazing, while retaining all the goodness this super seed has to offer.” 

Finally, in order to get a paste, you need to grind it! At Pepperwood, they go ancient, using only stone grinding techniques dating back thousands of years ago instead of metal (I mean do you really want a metallic taste in your food? I didn’t think so.) 

tahini
Picture Courtesy of Pepperwood Organics

It’s amazing what you learn when you go beyond the nutritional label and ingredients. Yes, they tell you a lot, but they don’t tell you the entire story.

I’ll be sharing some of my favorite easy and simple tahini recipes in a couple of days so stay tuned!

tahiniOh and did I mention you can buy Pepperwood Organics from Amazon (or their website with free 2-day shipping)? Yea, it’s not only super affordable, but you don’t even have to leave your house to enjoy it!

As always, Bee Well,

Melissa

Packing In the Protein… Vegan Style

organic vegan protein powder

Let me just start by saying that normally, I don’t do protein powders, whether they’re organic, vegetarian, or vegan. However, there’s always a time when I know I need more than just my normal smoothie routine.

On those particular days, which have become more often then not, where I’m exercising a little bit more and know that the rest of my day might not pack the protein punch that my body craves, I reach for SunWarrior Vegan Protein in combination with all the other smoothie staples that will keep me fuller, longer.

organic vegan protein powderWhy this particular brand in particular? Well, beyond the very cool name (which as a yoga teacher I am particularly drawn to), SunWarrior is everything that I would want in an organic vegan protein powder. It’s soy free, gluten free, dairy free, with no sugar added, and completely vegan. They’re motto of “transforming the planet one warrior at a time,” is pretty spiffy as well.

I tend to be a minimalist, which is why I chose the the natural flavored powder, which when combined with your favorite fruits and veggies, you won’t taste… at all. How many protein powders have you encountered that has that in their repertoire? (Not many!)

organic vegan protein powderThe “Classic Plus” organic and vegan protein powder uses the strength of whole-grain brown rice, pea, chia, quinoa, and amaranth protein – all ingredients that you’ve packed in to your smoothie before, but this time it’s just in one scoop! This American made product that’s created in Utah, has definitely upped my health game.

Head to their website to download your very own Smoothie E-Book that has 52 recipes to get you through the year. Or, try out one of my smoothies on my blog and just add a blast of protein with one scoop of SunWarrior. But since they’ve got me kind of hooked, here’s another smoothie bowl recipe that will have you going bananas!

sunwarrior smoothie recipeKiss the Sun Warrior Smoothie Bowl

1 Scoop SunWarrior Protein
1 Banana
1/2 cup Organic Kefir, Unflavored
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 avocado
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup ice
1/2 cup granola

Mix all ingredients together except for granola. Top your bowl with your favorite crunchy granola or cereal and you’ve got yourself a warrior’s breakfast or power snack!

Sunshine Smoothie Recipe

smoothie recipe

The other day was the first in quite some time where the temperatures climbed into the low 70s. There’s nothing quite like feeling the warm sunshine on your face as you’re working in the dirt.

I spent the day outside after teaching some yoga classes, digging things up, cleaning up the yard, starting seedlings (I know I’m a little late), and really just enjoying the outside with my two dogs (who also got a little spring fever).

smoothie recipe
Picture Courtesy of The Juice Theory

Of course, hard work, especially when you’re using your hands, requires some sort of food to keep you going. I mean, how else are you supposed to get that garden soil ready? For lunch I had an amazing salad from The Juice Theory, an amazing little store that makes some of the freshest and tastiest salads around. I went for the salad special of the day with some avocado. It held me over until my mid afternoon slump when I just had to have something else (especially after having some vines kick some dirt into my mouth). So I made this smoothie with ingredients that I had in the fridge and it’s so good I have to share it with you.

Sometimes creative genius happens when you least expect it!

Enjoy!

smoothie recipe

Sunshine Smoothie
(makes 1 serving)

1/2 cup cooked oats (with some extra water)
1 mango, diced and peeled
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup organic Kefir or yogurt
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

Blend all the ingredients together and you’ve got yourself sunshine in a smoothie!!

Now go take a nap!
Now go take a nap!

A Fast Italian Sandwich As Easy (and Tasty) As Pie

easy italian sandwich

I’m going to be honest here… sometimes I’m super motivated to cook and look for recipes that challenge my culinary skills, maybe use a new ingredient, or an old ingredient in a new way. But then there are other times where I really want something tasty and homemade, but have absolutely no desire to spend more than 10 minutes in the kitchen. Enter this recipe.

easy italian sandwichWith a little help from the store… well, actually a lot of help from the store, this delicious Italian inspired sandwich is super easy, super delicious, super affordable, super pretty, and super quick! Hands on time is about 10 minutes. You can do that. If I could last night, you can tonight.

I usually have about 90% of these ingredients already in my pantry and fridge pretty much all the time. The only time really spent doing actually work is when you’re making the focaccia (using store bought dough and an awesome recipe from The Kitchn) and slicing the cheese (or you can buy it already sliced).

So enough of me blabbering, after all you’re hungry and want your sandwich now.

easy italian sandwich
A Work of Art in Under 10 minutes!

Tasty Italian Sandwich

Makes 4 sandwiches
1 Store bought pizza dough
1 tablespoon of flour
4 Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
4 Roasted Red Peppers (from a jar)
4 Slices eggplant, uncooked
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or 1 tablespoon fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh baby arugula (or spinach)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. While it’s preheating, take the room temperature dough and spread it out over a sheet pan. You can use some flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands (and the sheet pan) and make it a little easier to work with. Basically just use your fingertips to spread it out. “Finger holes” are encouraged. Once it’s spread out across the sheet pan, drizzle with olive, Italian seasoning or fresh Rosemary (I actually used both), red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper. Then use those hands and have some fun with your food, spreading it out to every inch of the focaccia.

Once that’s all set, lower the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F and cook the Focaccia for about 15-20 minutes. Take a peak at 15 minutes because you want it crispy but still a little fluffy on top.

While the focaccia is cooking, take the sliced eggplant (about 1/2 inch thick) and fry in some olive oil on the stove until golden brown on both sides.

Once the focaccia is golden brown, remove from the oven, and cut it into equal size squares.

Now it’s time to assemble the sandwich. One layer focaccia, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, layer with mozzarella, arugula, eggplant, roasted red pepper, top with some flaky sea salt, then finish with the focaccia bread.

Now bite in.

See I told you it wasn’t hard, but it’s so delicious!!!! Worth every 10 minutes!

As always “Bee” Well,

Melissa

Monday March Madness: Enticing Enchilidas

weeknight meals

If you’ve ever had a case of the Mondays, and really who hasn’t, this recipe is sure to beat ’em. Nothing says fun quite like eating a Mexican inspired feast on a Monday night (or really any night of the week). And since it’s one of my favorite months for sports (March Madness!), why not get a little crazy and go big to watch some of your favorite college basketball teams play their hardest.

weeknight mealsFor a night like tonight, I’m making a dish that will raise the heat in hopes that my alma mater, the Monmouth University Hawks, win their game and make it to the big dance. It’s my Enticing Enchiladas.

weeknight mealsI know what you’re thinking. It’s Monday, I don’t have time to make enchiladas! I’m going to be exhausted. I haven’t gone food shopping. There’s too many activities going on. Why don’t we just order in pizza…

Stop right there!

weeknight mealsThis recipe, just like most of my recipes, pack the flavor, but not the time to make it! You’re family will be singing “Ole!” by the end of the night and you’ll feel like a million bucks because not only is it easy, it’s cheap, cheerful, and good for you too!

weeknight meals

Enticing Enchiladas
Serves 4-6 (Depending on how hungry you are!)

2 large or 3 medium sized sweet potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
1 chicken breast, roasted and shredded (optional)
1 handful cilantro
1 jar of your favorite salsa (or feel free to make your own and puree it)
1/2 cup black beans (rinsed and drained if from a can)
8 corn or flour tortillas
1/4 pound monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 jalapeno
1 bunch swiss chard, chopped into bite size pieces, stems separate
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 lime, zest removed and juice
sour cream (optional)
Cojita Cheese (optional for serving)
Sliced Avocados
Hot Sauce

Turn the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and ancho chili powder. Roast for 15-20 minutes until golden. Combine with the chicken (if using), pepper, black beans, chopped cilantro, and lime zest. Taste for salt and pepper.

Take a baking dish and spread an even layer of your favorite salsa on the bottom. On a gas flame or in a dry skillet, heat up the tortillas until pliable, then fill with 1-2 spoonfuls of the sweet potato mixture. Carefully roll up, placing seam side down in the baking dish. Continue until the baking dish is full.

weeknight mealsTop with the rest of the salsa and monterey jack cheese. Pop in the oven at 425 for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.

While the enchiladas are cooking, put a skillet over medium high heat. Place a drizzle of olive oil in the pan with the cumin and then add the stems of the swiss chard. Let cook (without stirring so it gets a char on it) for a few minutes, then add the leaves of the swiss chard. Toss with salt and pepper and cook until you see some charring on the leaves (only a few minutes). Take off the heat and squeeze the lime juice over top.

Serve the swiss chard side and enchiladas with avocados, Cojita cheese, some hot sauce, and sour cream for a full fiesta!

Enjoy and GO HAWKS!

weeknight meals

Craving Pasta, but not the Carbs? Try This…

no carb vegetarian pasta

Raise your hand if you’ve bought a spiralizer… (raises hand). After watching a cooking show and being mesmerized on how easy it was to create beautiful little ribbons with just a simple twist, I was hooked. I envisioned a million ways that I would use this tiny little contraption that I bought for just $12. In my eyes, at that point, I had just reached a new level of healthy cuisine.

no carb vegetarian pastaOh how wrong I was. Have you ever bought something, put it in a draw, only to never let it see the light of day? (Raises hand.) My genius little spiralizer got pushed to the back of the drawer. Catching up with my mandolin and extra large bamboo steamer. That is… until I decided to take action and bring it into my cooking rotation. What I made with it isn’t life changing per se, you already known you can spiralize your veggies, but because it’s so simple, delicious, healthy, vegetarian, light on the hips, and appealing to all tastes – especially those looking for a big bowl of pasta – I had to share.

no carb vegetarian pastaThis recipe is packed with vegetables – I mean packed. You’ll feel so great eating it that when you go for that bite of ice cream for dessert, you’ll enjoy every last bite – no regrets! (Just don’t eat the whole pint, unless you’ve had a really crappy day – then go for it!) I also did a little variation on your normal basil pesto. I had some fresh spinach leaves in the fridge that were about to go bad, so I turned my spinach into a pesto. Delicious!

no carb vegetarian pastaI served my pasta with a quinoa stuffed pepper where I added some of the spinach pesto into the quinoa then baked the peppers with mozzarella cheese on top. Just a suggestion!

no carb vegetarian pastaOh and a side note, if you have dogs, save the leftover “knubs” of veggies for them. My one dog got a kick out of it. He played with it for a few minutes and then gobbled it down. Everyone loves their veggies!

vegetarian pasta

Pesto Veggie Pasta

no carb vegetarian pastaFor the Pesto:
1 cup Fresh Organic Spinach
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (plus more for garnishing)
Olive Oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper

For the Pasta:
4-6 Zucchini and Yellow Squash (Using both creates a really vibrant plate)
3 Carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the pesto, combine everything but the olive oil in a food processor until chunky. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor runs until you get a nice chunky consistency. Taste for salt and pepper.

no carb vegetarian pastaFor the pasta – time to get your spiralizing arm in gear (it’s a workout!) Spiralize all the zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots. Once you have the ribbons, heat a non stick pan to about medium heat, add the olive oil, and saute the ribbons until slightly tender (about 5 minutes).

While still in the pan, add the pesto by tablespoon until you reach a level where the “noodles” are coated with the pesto. Grate some extra Parmigiano Reggiano over the top, maybe sprinkle a few more red pepper flakes over top and I’m telling you, you’ve got a winner!