Gluten-Free, Vegan Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

What better to accompany your Pumpkin Spice Latte (#PSL) than some protein- and fiber-rich Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix? Loaded with nutritious nuts, crispy cereal and oats, and chewy apples, this is the perfect fall snack at work, before the gym, or anytime you need a little pick me up. Also, with Halloween rapidly approaching this Friday, this trail mix is a great party treat that offers a more nutritionally, texturally, and gustatorily complex update on the classic party Chex Mix.

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

Ingredients
1 ½ cup Cinnamon Chex
1 cup Honey Nut Chex
½ cup Brown Rice Crisp cereal (I used plain, no salt added)
½ cup GF granola (I used Love Grown’s Simply Oats)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup walnut pieces
½ cup pecan pieces
½ cup pistachios
¼ cup almonds
½ cup of dried apples
¼ cup vegan Earth Balance
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla

Directions

1. Combine cereals and nuts in a large, microwave-safe bowl.
2. Add ¼ cup of Earth Balance to a separate microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 40 seconds or until melted.
3. Add 2 tsp of vanilla, ¼ cup brown sugar, and 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice to Earth Balance and stir well.
4. Pour liquid mixture over trail mix.
5. Microwave for 5 minutes, stirring every minute.

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

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Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Fall is here, and what better way to cope with the cooling temperatures than to warm up with some hearty fall recipes? Now, I hate cold weather. Low body fat combined with poor blood circulation in my extremities leads to perpetual goosebumps and bouts of hypothermic shivering. Sometimes, when you catch a chill so severe it seems to creep into your bones, the only way to shake the cold is take a hot shower or eat something that warms you from the inside out. What better way to ready yourself for chilly days than with a festive fall soup? Your house will be filled with scents of roasted butternut squash caramelized with brown sugar, swirls of cinnamon and nutmeg, and warm, baked honeycrisp apples. This soup tastes just as good as it smells, and it smells like something straight out of a seasonal Yankee Candle store. Furthermore, it’s incredibly hearty and filling. Save for 5 cups of liquid, this soup is entirely pureed roasted vegetables. Indicative by its rich color, butternut squash is rich in carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Furthermore, this festive squash is rich in antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, fiber, potassium, vitamin B, and folate. Not to mention that it tastes delicious, with a rich amalgamation of sweet and savory. Because all of the ingredients in this soup are roasted, the fragrant flavors of every vegetable are detectable in each bite. This recipe makes quite a bit of soup (and you don’t need much in a serving because it’s so hearty!), so it’s a great recipe to make in bulk for the week for meal planning.

Ingredients
1 medium-large butternut squash
3 carrots
1 medium yellow onion
½ red pepper
2 medium honeycrisp apples
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
Cinnamon
Pumpkin pie spice
Nutmeg
Brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrupO
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Directions

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1. Cut the ends off of the butternut squash

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
2. Cut the squash in half

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
3. Peel the squash. If you see green streaks, keep peeling

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
4. When the squash is done being peeled, it will be bright orange with no green stripes.

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
5. Cut the peeled pieces in half, scoop out the seeds, and cut into 1 inch cubes

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
6. Coat squash with 2 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp brown sugar, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, and salt and pepper.

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
7. Spread evenly on a baking sheet covered with foil. Place in preheated oven at 425ºF.

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
8. Cook for 45 minutes, turning once midway.

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
9. While the butternut squash is roasting, cut up 3 peeled carrots, 1 medium yellow onion, 2 honeycrisp apples, and ½ red pepper. Coat with 2 tbsp of olive oil, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper, and a dash of paprika. Spread evenly on a pan covered with foil.

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
10. Cook for 25 minutes at 425ºF.

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
11. Put all of your roasted vegetables into a large stock pot. Add 4 cups of vegan vegetable broth and 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk. Use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables (Or, alternately, pour the soup mixture into a blender, blend unit smooth, and then pour back into the pot. Turn heat to medium to warm soup, adding additional seasoning to taste. You’ll likely want to add more salt and pepper. I added a dash of paprika and chili powder to cut a bit of the sweetness, but it’s not detectable. I served my soup with some Harvest Pumpkin Tortilla Chips [gluten-free, vegan] from Food Should Taste Good…. and this soup certainly tastes good!

Enjoy and happy fall!
❤ Nika

Snickity Snacks: Nika’s Favorite Gluten-Free, Vegan Snacks

A snickity snack. A mid-day nom. A tid bit to tide you through. A morsel make your stomach stop grumbling. We all need them, whether it be the mid-morning munchies, the mid-afternoon hump, the pre-workout pump up, or the post-workout recovery. Some equate “snacks” with diet mishaps, a bingeful bag of chips gone in one sitting. Snacks are not diet disasters; in fact, they are essential to staying on track with your healthy lifestyle. However, choosing healthy snacks is crucial for keeping these mini-meals from turning into mishaps full of wasted calories, waistful calories. Snacks can be an excellent opportunity to fit some extra protein into your day or to squeeze in another serving of fruits and vegetables. Today I’ll be sharing with you some of my favorite healthy snacks!

Step one, cover everything in almond butter

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Apple slices and almond butter

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Banana and almond butter

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One slice of gluten free or whole grain bread topped with almond butter and ½ of a banana

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Gluten free or whole grain crackers with almond butter

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Plain rice cake with almond butter and banana slices

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Sliced apple, dipped in almond butter, and rolled in granola

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½ banana, covered in almond butter, and rolled in granola

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½ banana, covered in almond butter, rolled in vegan chocolate chips

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Baby carrots with almond butter

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Celery with almond butter and raisins (or dried blueberries, cherries, etc). Although, most of you know my hatred for celery.

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Whole grain tortilla and 1 tbsp of almond butter wrapped around a banana, slice into bite-sized pieces

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Literally anything + almond butter is delicious

Step two, cover everything in hummus

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– Baby carrots with hummus
– Celery with hummus
– Raw broccoli and cauliflower with hummus
– Sugar snap peas with hummus
– Cherry tomatoes with hummus
– Gluten free or whole grain crackers with hummus
– Gluten free or whole grain pretzels with hummus

Step three, get fruity

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Fresh fruit makes a quick and easy snack. Grab any of the following: apple, banana, peach, orange, or a sprig of grapes.

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Fresh fruit cup. This is one of my work lunch favorites, and it makes a great dessert. I’ll cut up an apple and some strawberries and toss with some blueberries, raspberries, and whatever else I may have on hand (some sliced banana, peaches, kiwi, etc). Usually I eat it plain, or you can top it with some granola.

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Frozen grapes- this makes a great snack or dessert, especially on a hot day. Wash fresh grapes and put them in the freezer for several hours, and they will turn into refreshing mini fruit pops.

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Fruit parfait- choose your desired vegan yogurt (in my opinion, soy is the best tasting out of soy, almond, and coconut) or Greek yogurt if you are not dairy free. If you can, choose Greek yogurt with minimal additives and sugars, as Greek yogurt contains much higher amounts of protein and beneficials probiotics. Top yogurt with your favorite add-ons: fresh cut fruit, nuts, gluten-free granola, vegan chocolate chips… whatever tickles your fancy!

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Fruit protein smoothie: see my classic smoothie recipe here. Choose your favorite frozen fruits, toss in a banana, sprinkle a scoop of plant-based vegan protein powder (Plant Fusion is my favorite), add some organic 100% apple juice, and blend.

Step Four, get salty and savory

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Chocolate Almond Butter Cookie Smoothie (recipe here): almond butter, almond milk, a banana, some cookies and cream vegan protein powder and you’ve got yourself a sweet and savory protein smoothie. Need an extra kick? Add some coffee to turn this into a mocha frappuccino with a protein punch.

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Protein bars/granola bars: Out of all the gluten-free, vegan protein bars out there right now, my favorite is probably the Strong and Kind bar. They taste delicious, have a short (and pronounceable) list of ingredients, and have only 6g of sugar and 230 calories for 10g of protein (whereas other protein bars have upwards of 17-20g of sugar and a laundry list of less-than-basic ingredients). I also like the Pro Bar Core bars (review here) and the Bonk Breakers (review here).

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Trail mix: Trail mix is probably my favorite snack right now, especially for a protein boost before my afternoon workout. My current mix includes: almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, gluten free granola, raisins, dried blueberries, dried plums, dried apples, and vegan chocolate chips.

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10 tortilla chips + salsa, hummus, or guacamole

These are a few of my favorite things… let me know what your favorite healthy gluten-free, vegan snack is! ❤ Nika

Fall Transition Outfit: Boots and Blazers

Fall Transition Outfit: JCrew Schoolboy Blazer, JCrew Pixie Pant, Lucky Brand Boots

This is a slightly different post for me. I know I typically post about food and nutrition, but there are three facets to my blog: Eat. Tone. Love. Thus far, I believe my focus has been predominantly “Eat” related. I’ve dabbled some in “Tone” posts, but it’s hard to put together workout routines when you don’t have a tripod and have yet to coerce someone into filming you. Perhaps the most neglected facet of my blog is “Love,” which I intended to be a smorgasbord of things I love: fashion, clothes, skincare, science, what have you. In the upcoming weeks, you will see more and more posts within this category, including outfit of the day posts (both work and work out apparel), reviews for athletic apparel, and style guides to keep you looking fancy and fit in the gym (I recently went into a shopaholic frenzy for some Nike apparel, so I’ll give you the full run down of all my purchases).

I haven’t been blogging as much recently. Between work, school, social life and both the fun and drama associated for all these, I’ve felt pressed for time for writing. Fear not, I have not strayed from my healthy lifestyle- I still workout daily, cook daily, and function like a lean, green machine. I haven’t abandoned my lifestyle, but I have abandoned you, my readers, as collateral damage. Thus, I have a ton of content to blog about, I just can’t seem to find the time or motivation to type it all out. Thus, my posts may be more picture-based now. In line with that, you can also follow me on Instagram. I’ve been cheating on WordPress with Instagram, but it’s just so much easier to snap a picture and write a caption than to type out a long ass blog entry and recipe. So, if you feel deprived from my lack of blog posts, head on over to Instagram to see what I’ve been cooking up recently.

Now, back to this fall-tastic outfit. The only things I moderately enjoy about cooler weather are boots, blazers, and scarves. Things I do not enjoy about cooler weather? Freezing my ass off (the one downside to low body fat %) and, and this one may come as a surprise, pants. I freaking hate wearing pants. For the longest time, I refused to wear jeans unless absolutely unnecessary. Call me a girly girl, but put me in a skirt or dress and I’m happy. Put me in pants, and I feel weird, constricted, and ugh. Thus, winter becomes a struggle, and I inevitably must give in to pantalones.

Because yoga pants and leggings are not always acceptable attire (dammit. Gym attire FTW), I’ve had to find pants that I can actually deal with wearing. Enter the Pixie Pant from J.Crew- which is basically a socially acceptable, structured legging. My particular pair has pockets and belt loops, you know, so I can pass them off as real pants without sacrificing my need for lack of constraint. I have these pants in black (pictured here) and navy, and I adore them. Another item that I adore is the J.Crew Schoolboy Blazer, featured here in dark gray. J.Crew makes the best damn blazers, and I just added two more lovely ladies to my collection, bringing my grand total to five (black, navy, gray, soft orchid, and fire coral). Structured, stylish, and classically and effortlessly put together, the J.Crew Schoolboy Blazer is a welcome addition to any outfit to make it both fall-ready and business chic. And what would a fall outfit be without some Lucky Brand BootsJ.Crew bling, and my trusted and adored Michael Kors Selma Bag?

Fall Transition Outfit- H&M top, Pixie Pant, Lucky Brand Boots

J.Crew Necklace

Shirt: H&M
Blazer: J.Crew Schoolboy Blazer in Gray
Pants: J.Crew Pixie Pant in Black
Boots: Lucky Brand Boots
Jewelry: J.Crew Necklace
Handbag: Michael Kors Selma in Luggage

Making Smoothies in Bulk & and a Lesson on Adhering to a Healthy Living Lifestyle

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I love a good fruity protein smoothie. Not only are these frozen delights chock full of fruit, fiber, antioxidants, and protein, but they are also a refreshing treat for any moment of your day. Don’t have time to eat breakfast before you leave the house? Grab a fruit protein smoothie and a granola bar, and you’re out the door. Need a mid-day snack? Smoothie. Pre-workout boost? Smoothie. Post-workout recovery and treat to carry you over to the next meal? Smoothie. Dessert? Smoothie.

 TL;DR: Drink smoothies all day errday.

Herein lies the rub- smoothies can be a bitch to make. I follow the same standard recipe every time I make a smoothie- the “Nika’s Classic Fruit Protein Smoothie” (recipe here). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? This smoothie is, in my opinion, the best smoothie because it’s like all the smoothies combined into one- strawberries, blueberries, peaches, mango, banana, cherries, raspberries, apple juice, protein powder… It’s the “everything but the kitchen sink” version of the fruit smoothie. The only downside to this is the prep- simply gathering and preparing all those different types of fruit, most of them frozen, can be a pain in the ass. I’m already pressed for time in the morning, so there’s absolutely no way I’m going to be able to get all the ingredients out, make the smoothie, clean everything up, and drink my smoothie without being absurdly late. My solution to this? Making smoothies in bulk- how to enjoy smoothies all day, errday without blendin’ all day, errday.

My recipe (and I use this term loosely because I never follow a recipe when I make anything, everything is by eye) yields about four smoothies. I can increase or decrease this number by the amount of fruit or by the amount of liquid I add. Typically I make my smoothies in the evening, drink one as a post-workout recovery, enjoy one either in the morning or post-workout the following day, and then I have two more to enjoy. I’ll keep the one that I drink the following day in the refrigerator, but I will freeze the other two so they will keep longer.

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Initially, I was storing my smoothies in Lilly Pulitzer cups, as you can see in the recipe post linked above. Now, that option worked fine at home, but if I needed to transport my smoothies to work or to the gym, it was a mess when they began to thaw. I had thought about purchasing some mason jars in which to store my smoothies, but then inspiration struck- recycle!

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Introducing Argo Tea, my recent obsession. Not only do these teas taste delicious, they come in adorable glass bottles… that are the perfect size for storing smoothies. I haven’t tried all the above flavors because the selection is limited in my town, but I have tried the Hibiscus Tea Sangria (omg, my favorite), the Green Tea Ginger Twist, and the Mojitea (my least favorite, I think the mint tea was a little weird for me). I have a Carolina Honey in my refrigerator that I still need to try, but I’m sure it’s going to be delicious (tea and honey, how could this be anything but amazing?).

After I finish sipping these delicious teas, I remove the plastic label, wash them, and then use them for smoothie shenanigans! They’re great in the refrigerator, in the freezer, at home, in the car, at the gym, at work, in your backpack or purse…. literally everywhere.

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If you’re feeling extra crafty and cute, you could purchase some labels, such as these chalkboard labels, for your jars so you could write the type of smoothie, your name, the date you made it…whatever strikes your fancy!

Cooking in bulk and “meal prepping” are great ways to encourage and facilitate adherence to a healthy lifestyle. So much of healthy living is determination, planning, and foresight. Therefore, this is not merely “cheating” on your “diet.” It’s not like sneaking another dessert that Jenny or Atkins won’t know about… just your little secret right? You deserve/need/want that extra dessert because of whatever fill in the blank bullshit is going on in your life. We are always going to be stressed, pressed for time, running late, running behind, too busy, frantically bouncing through our days dealing with life’s drama and wishing there were more hours in the day. But it’s your responsibility as a person to take care of yourself. So even if no one sees you sneak that extra dessert, you will know- and so will your scale, your pants, your skin, your waistline, and your self-confidence. How many times have you eaten that little extra something and then loathed yourself for it? Berating and beating yourself up? How many times has that actually led to something productive, other than more cheating, more desserts, more missed workouts and poor choices? Being healthy is not a fad, it’s not a diet- it’s a lifestyle. For life. You cheat on your lifestyle and you’re only cheating yourself. Thus, there is no excuse other than your own poor planning for eating unhealthfully.

Oh you forgot to eat breakfast, so you’ll just stop somewhere on the way to work? Let me know how that greasy, artificial animal byproduct fluff claiming to be “egg” tastes cozied up to that plastic square of “cheese” and mechanized Wilbur butt “bacon.” How’s that going to make you feel the rest of the day? Let me know how quickly your indigestion and lethargy kicks in. Instead, keep smoothies in your freezer, protein bars on hand, steel cut oatmeal packets tucked away, and always keep extra food at work.

Oh you forgot lunch, so you’ll just go out to eat or grab something at the cafeteria? False. If you’re not already bringing your own lunches with you to work/school everyday, I am shaking my head at you. This little part of your day is crucial for healthy living. You either have the chance to replenish and refuel your body with something healthy and homemade, or you can clog up your arteries with whatever death du jour Hardees is serving up next door. Even a frozen meal (albeit a healthy, Nika-approved one) is a better option than anything you’ll find in a cafeteria or fast food restaurant.

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If you do have to go out, choose somewhere like Chipotle, where you can get a salad or bowl and choose your own ingredients. Notice how I said salad or bowl and not burrito? Getting a burrito adds 300 calories to your meal before you even put anything in it. On the other hand, lettuce adds a whopping 15 calories as base. For example, the salad I always get at Chipotle (brown rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, chicken, tomato salsa) weighs in at 550 calories, which is no problemo for me due to the amount of exercise I get in a day. That same combination in a burrito is 840 calories… at that point, you’re rivaling the neighboring McDonalds for a calorie count, and your cutesy elliptical jaunt is not going to cover that. Also, if you get cheese and sour cream… I just… I can’t. No. Just no. You’re adding an additional 225 calories that are completely worthless to you. If you’re trying to plan a lean meal at Chipotle, I would also avoid the corn salsa, which carries 85 calories, compared to 20 calories for the other tomato-based salsas.

Living at healthy lifestyle is really not that difficult. Challenging, yes. But really difficult? no. Nor is it some mystical, elusive treasure reserved only for the majestic, rainbow fitness unicorns that poop gluten-free vegan pellets between spinning and Pure Barre classes. With some determination, persistence, research, planning, and preparation, you can accomplish mystical unicorn status as well, and I’ll be here every step of the way to lead you out to pasture.

❤ Nika

‘Tis the season for Pumpkin Spice- or is it?

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Fall is officially here, which means gratuitous amounts of Pumpkin Spice paraphernalia is coming (also, winter is coming… But please, let’s not talk about that yet). The Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has such a cult following that it even has an abbreviation (PSL) and countless Tumblr pages dedicated to capturing the fall-tastic essence of the PSL and various other fall things “white girls love.” Since I’m a Starbucks-drinking, Michael Kors-toting, legging and riding boot-wearing basic white girl, I thought I would embrace my inner basic bitch and indulge in the PSL. Turns out I’m not as basic as I thought- I found the PSL to be mostly hype.

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Gasp. I know, how dare I insult the Pumpkin Spice Life (err… I mean “latte”). I just wasn’t blown away by it- the flavor was meh, and I find most Starbucks seasonal drinks to be far too sugary for my liking. Plus, everyone knows that the Peppermint Mocha is the Queen Bey of seasonal lattes (even though it, too, becomes too sweet for me).

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So what’s a girl to do to get her fall swag on? Fear not, for there is a year-round solution to feed your latte addiction: the cinnamon dolcé latte… A skinny cinnamon dolcé latte with soy milk, to be exact. I’ve already blogged once before about the wonders of the cinnamon dolcé latte (CDL?). Not only does the soy CDL taste better, it contains much less calories and sugar (140 calories and 13g sugar for a grande soy CDL vs 310 calories and 48g in a grande soy PSL). Even more horrifying, if you don’t order your PSL with soy/nonfat milk and you indulge in whipped cream, you’re looking at 380 calories in your white and green cup. Too many of those and you’ll really begin to question if legging as pants is a good idea.

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So enjoy fall- pick pumpkins, wear riding boots and leggings, throw on that J.Crew blazer, rock a chunky scarf, whip out your cashmere tech gloves, but don’t fall victim to the PSL life. This has been a PSA against PSL by the Cinnamon Dolcé Coalition against Lumpy Legging Butt (CDC against LLB? Has a nice ring to it).

❤ Nika

My “I Don’t Feel Like Cooking Dinner” Dinner [Gluten Free, Vegan]

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Some days (most days?) you get home after a long day of working and working out and really have no motivation to stand over a stove after spending an inordinate amount of time chopping up ingredients. Worse still, you live alone or don’t have a S.O./bribable friend around to clean the cacophony of cutlery and cookware you’ve amassed while creating your culinary masterpiece (he who does not cook, must clean… right?). This was the case for me last night, when I arrived at home exhausted (from work), sweaty (from a killer workout at the gym), and pissed (from trying to be a good homeowner by mowing my grass before it got too tall (like last time)… only to find that my lawn mower pooped out on me after only 2 minutes). With a sizable mound of laundry on my bed waiting to be folded, eyes that could barely stay open at half-mast, and a desire to do nothing but collapse on my couch/bed/whatever soft surface I encountered first, I was determined to prepare (not cook) a quick, easy, yet healthy and nutritionally complete dinner. Here’s what I concocted:

– Schar GF multigrain bread with Justin’s Honey Almond Butter and one sliced banana

– Carrot chips with Hope Foods’s Organic Garlic Lentil Dip

– Cubed watermelon and one chopped peach

– Dessert (not pictured): one GF Vegan Schar Honey Gram (45 calories)

With bananas, peaches, watermelon, and carrots, this dinner is obviously very fruit and veggie heavy… just how I like it. I got some nice complex carbohydrates from the GF multigrain bread and enough protein to replenish my fatigued muscles from the almond butter and lentils, which are also a good source of fiber. This no-cook dinner was incredibly satisfying and delicious. The combination of bananas, nut butter, and bread is probably one of my favorites, and this blend was further ignited by the hints of honey in the Justin’s Honey Almond Butter. I love these carrot chips; I’ve always been a fan of baby carrots, but these chips have a great texture and crunch and a larger surface area to encourage dipping. Overall, I was very pleased with this meal- it was quick, easy, delicious, healthy, and required only minimal cleanup (a plate and a knife? I can handle that). Meals like this are proof that there is never an excuse to “cheat” or eat unhealthy- even just for one meal. No matter how pressed for time or tired you are, there is always a healthy solution out there, you just have to you have the strength, determination, and creativity to find it. Thankfully, you have me to help you along the way 🙂

❤ Nika

Labor Day Cookout: Organic BBQ Chicken and Kale Chips [Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free]

Kale Chips

Happy Labor Day, everyone! To me, labor day is a bittersweet holiday- “no more white” (pish posh), the pools start to close, fall seems just around the corner (hello riding boots and blazers), and, here’s the saddest bit, summer is over. Talk about summertime sadness. What’s the best way to bid adieu to summer? Put on a sundress, make some pink lemonade, and have a cookout!

Organic BBQ Chicken and Kale Chips

This is how Nika does a cook out- BBQ organic chicken drumsticks, homemade kale chips, and quinoa and brown rice. Abandon the burger, hold off on the hot dog, steer clear of the soda, and ditch the diet disaster desserts- this is an Eat. Tone. Love. cookout.

I love the way that food tastes when it has been cooked on the grill, so we picked up these organic chicken drumsticks at Whole Foods for our cookout. We marinated the chicken in Stubb’s Original BBQ sauce, which is also found at Whole Foods. Some gluten free, vegan, and all natural condiments and BBQ sauces can taste way off (cough, sorry Annie’s), but Stubb’s BBQ sauce is downright delicious. The original is really stellar, and reminds me of a Sweet Baby Rays with a little less heat (and also lacking the high fructose corn syrup). I’ve also tried Honey Pecan, which was… quite unpleasant, probably because of the ginger (which is not my fav). Regardless, you can’t go wrong with the original, and I’m sure the other flavors, including Sticky Sweet, Spicy, Sweet Heat, Hickory Bourbon, and Smokey Mesquite, are delicious as well.

Stubb's Original BBQ

After marinating our chicken, we cooked our drummies on the grill for about 20-25 minutes, turning routinely until cooked through.

Organic BBQ Chicken

You can also brush some olive oil on your naked chicken breasts and cook them partially on the grill before coating them with BBQ sauce. With that technique, you’ll get a juicier BBQ sauce coating. Our method (marinating in the BBQ before grilling) results in a milder BBQ taste because some of the sauce cooks off, but the BBQ sauce will caramelize and form a nice crunch on the chicken.

Organic BBQ Chicken

Now for the kale chips, and this recipe is my best kale recipe to date. Everyone loved these kale chips, and someone even commented that this was the best way they’ve ever had kale. Why, thank you. These chips had a perfect amount of crunch and chew. Enough crispness without being overcooked. Enough flavor without being overwhelming. As a lover of all chips, the kale chip is the perfect replacement for potato chips- I still get my crunchy side dish, just minus the fat and questionable carbohydrates.

Kale Chips

First, buy some good quality kale, preferably organic, as it is particularly important to buy greens and lettuces organic as they are most susceptible to pesticides. The kale I bought was very leafy, which I think was key to the recipe- lots of surface area. First, cut off the tough spines and stems and discard (or use for juicing). The stems are quite tough and bitter, so using just the leaf will produce a much tastier kale chip.

Kale Chips

Here you can see some of my chopped kale leaves. You can make your chips whatever size you prefer, but keep in mind that they will shrink and shrivel in the oven, so cut your chips a little larger.

Kale Chips

Place your chopped kale leaves into a large bowl. This may look like a lot of kale, but, unfortunately, it really isn’t when you’re making kale chips! You know how you can put what seems like a gallon of spinach into a skillet and still only end up with a cup of cooked spinach? Yep, same concept. I cut up about ¾ of a head of kale for the cookout, which produced the amount of kale chips seen in my picture at the top of this post.

Kale Chips

Coat your kale chips with one tablespoon of olive oil, ¼ tsp of garlic powder, 1/8 tsp of nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper to taste. I use a generous amount of salt, as the salt helps cut the bitterness of the kale.

Kale Chips

Lay your kale chips out on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Taking the time to lay out the chips so they aren’t stacked on top of one another will yield a crispier chip.

Kale Chips

Place kale chips into a preheated oven set at 350ºF. Cook for 10 minutes and remove. Your chips will begin to darken, shrink, and crisp up. Flip the chips over and place into the oven for an additional 5 minutes.

Kale Chips

Om nom nom, healthy kale chip goodness. Not only are these crispy kale chips a perfect side dish or snack, they are low in calories at fat (take that, potato chips), high in fiber, iron, and vitamins K, C, and A, and full of powerful antioxidants. Further, the olive oil adds some healthy unsaturated fats to this treat.

I long to see the day that people show up to cookouts with veggie burgers, organic chicken, bowls of kale chips, homemade salsa, quinoa salads, fruit salads, and healthy vegan desserts. We can make this happen- we can reinvent the American summer cookout, and it starts with you, my Eat. Tone. Lovers! It won’t happen overnight, and you might meet some opposition, but by incorporating healthy yet mouthwateringly delicious recipes like these, you will surely win over even the most stubborn eater.

❤ Nika

WIAW: Vegan Brown Rice Sushi and Spring Roll

Gluten Free Vegan Brown Rice Veggie Sushi and Spring Roll

What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW)

I picked up this gluten free, vegan sushi tray at Sushi Express inside the Good Foods Co Op. This vegan sushi roll is made with brown rice, which is higher in fiber yet lower on the glycemic index as compared to white rice, wrapped around avocado, carrot, and cucumber. This meal also came with a gluten free, vegan spring roll: vegetables wrapped in rice paper and served with a plum sauce. While this tray came with soy sauce, I brought my own tamari sauce to work because regular soy sauce contains gluten (caution!). This meal was delicious and filling. I love sushi- it’s so light yet satisfying. Whenever I eat sushi, I get this lovely satisfied feeling without the heavy fullness associated with most meals. Plus it’s just so fun to eat! It’s like a little meal in a bite! I forgot chopsticks, so I had to eat this sushi with a fork, which is the first time I’ve ever done that. However, I think using chopsticks is, by far, the best method of eating sushi. Even if you’re not a master of the stix, you should give it a shot! It’s the perfect vehicle for getting those delicious rolls of heaven into your mouth while keeping the rice and nori roll intact.

Further, sushi is not only for fish lovers! If the thought of raw fish scares you or if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, there are still plenty of options for you! Which is hard to say for most restaurants or types of cuisine. I enjoy some fish in my sushi, but vegetable rolls are probably my favorite. Plus, you don’t have to feel as squeamish about raw fish and your sushi will keep better (if you’re buying trays like this). Lastly, this tray was about $5.75, which is cheaper than any meal you can find at a sit-down restaurant and far healthier than anything you could find in a chain restaurant or fast food joint.

I loved this lunch, especially paired with a cup of green tea. I will definitely start buying a tray or two of this sushi whenever I stop into the Co Op because they make perfect work lunches!

Tone Up Tuesday: Incline Interval Pyramid (of death)

Girl-Nike-Running-HD-Wallpaper

Hey everyone! Today I wanted to share with you some of the new cardio routines I’ve been doing- incline interval training! Yes, it’s about as torturous as it sounds, but the results are well worth the pain. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is all the rage in cardiovascular exercise because it increases aerobic and anaerobic fitness as well as shredding subcutaneous and abdominal fat. And, because it’s high intensity, your cardio routines can be shorter and still accomplish a greater calorie and fat burn than traditional cardio. This 20 minute workout will have you more sweaty and svelte than an hour on an elliptical. Better fat burn and in less time? What more could you ask for? I won’t lie to you- it won’t be an easy 20 minutes; You’ll have to push yourself, as the incline really adds an extra facet of difficulty to this interval routine. While most of us are used to running on flat surfaces (especially on the treadmill), running on inclines trains different leg muscles and strengthens them more efficiently than on a flat surface. Surface more, the incline can help strengthen and lengthen your calves– who doesn’t want some sexy, lean calves? This particular torture device of a routine that I’ve created also features a pyramid- starting with a warm up, working up the pyramid in difficulty, reaching the peak of “omg I’m dying,” and then working your way back down the pyramid into a cool down. Inclines? Check. HIIT? Check. Pyramid? Check. Killer cardio routine with a guaranteed sweaty slim down? Check!

So grab a treadmill and your favorite running shoes and get to toning with this incline interval training pyramid. 

It’s Tone Up Tuesday. I’m ready to shred it. How about you?

Incline Interval Pyramid (of death)
0:00-1:00 3mph, 0%
1:00-3:00 7mph, 0%
3:00-3:30 Rest
3:30-4:30 7mph, 3%
4:30-5:00 Rest
5:00-6:00 7mph, 6%
6:00-6:30 Rest
6:30-7:30 7mph, 9%
7:30-8:00 Rest
8:00-9:00 7mph, 12%
9:00-10:00 Rest
10:00-11:00 7mph, 9%
11:00-11:30 Rest
11:30-12:30 7mph, 6%
12:30-13:00 Rest
13:00-14:00 7mph, 3%
14:00-14:30 Rest
14:30-15:30 7mph, 0%
15:30-16:00 Rest
16:00-18:00 6mph, 0%
18:00-20:00 Cool Down