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!

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Tone Up Tuesday: Incline Interval Pyramid (of death)

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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

Meatless Monday: Mango, Avocado, and Black Bean Salsa Recipe (Gluten Free, Vegan)

Mango Avocado Salsa

Last weekend, I took my first ever solo road trip to visit my best friend, Carolyn, in Atlanta. Granted, in retrospect, a 6 hour drive is really not that bad, but for someone who had only driven a long distance solo once before, it was a bit daunting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually love road trips, I just don’t like driving. Of course when I first got my license (omgg sweet 16, like #driving), driving was grrreat because, to a 16 year old, driving means freedom. But to a 23 year old, driving means dealing with idiots who don’t know how to drive, leg cramps, ass cramps, neck cramps, and road rage. I love being in the car… as a passenger. As a kid, my parents and I would take road trips all the time. In fact, as much as we traveled, the first time I was on a plane wasn’t until I was around 10 years old, and that’s only because you can’t drive to Paris. Therefore, I’ve perfected the art of being a passenger. I can sit silently and stare out a window for hours on end, although road trips are exceedingly more fun if you have someone to chat with (hence my dislike of solo road trips).

But road trips as a driver? As the only driver? I had always been ambivalent of such trips, even though this says nothing about my qualities as a driver- I’m a safe driver, an efficient driver, a smart driver… I just don’t like it. Furthermore, the thought of driving hours and hours alone always makes me fear falling asleep at the wheel (which I’ve, thankfully, never even come close too, but stress-over-everything Nika must always consider worst case scenarios… I get that from my mom) or dying from boredom, figuratively or literally (boredom=sleepy=peril). My brain is so optimistic, eh?

bridesmaids

Prior to this trip to Atlanta, I had one other solo road trip experience- driving the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Livermore (about an hour east of San Francisco). So you may be thinking “uh that’s a 7-8 hour drive, why did you even bat an eye about driving to Atlanta?” Well, for one, I split the trip into two days. And secondly, I drove on the Pacific Coast Highway, and driving alongside this was just awful, let me tell ya.

Pacific-Coast-Highway-California-1 Unknown

Regardless, I made it Atlanta and back without a hitch. Well, except the Starbucks detour on my way down there that set me back an hour. Seriously, what is it about Starbucks that compels us to seek out the caffeine gods at all costs? At the midway point of my drive, I searched for nearby Starbucks, and my iPhone informed me there was one 30 minutes away in Athens. Awesome, lead the way, Siri. Except that bitch Siri led to me a random ass Family Dollar parking lot with no Starbucks (or major forms of Starbuck-like civilization) in sight. Le sigh. The nearest Starbucks then was another 30+ minutes away and was, naturally, no where close to the interstate. I had already wasted 30 minutes on this coffee endeavor and didn’t even really want it at that point, but it was the principle of the matter- I had already hemorrhaged precious travel time driving to find this elusive skinny cinnamon dolcé latté with soy milk, so I had to get one now, regardless of the cost. Long story short, I finally got my coffee, but lost an hour to this excursion. On the other hand, on the way home, I got my coffee before I even got on the interstate (ha! take that!) and then powered through, saving 30 minutes off my ETA. Now that I knew that I could handle a solo road trip, I pretty much felt like a BAMF, sup.

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Plus the whole thing was totally worth it because I got to be reunited with my best friend since 6th grade, Miss Carolyn, the lovely lady who brought you this recipe. This girl is my favorite, and even though we are now separated by six hours of interstate and state lines, she knows me better than anyone. Forget merely finishing each other’s sentences, we don’t even need to verbally communicate because we have mastered the art of the conversation via look, which was quite convenient in class during high school.

  Carolyn and Nika

Therefore, my trip to Atlanta to see Carolyn is the inspiration for today’s recipe. Carolyn introduced me to her avocado, black bean, and corn salsa, and I was hooked. I knew I had to make it as soon as I got home, and I wanted to add my own twist to her mouthwatering recipe- mango, red pepper, and cilantro. Other than those three ingredients, everything is identical to the Chef Carolyn original.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Ingredients
2 avocados
2 tomatoes
1 can of black beans
1 can of corn
1 mango
½ onion
¼ cup red pepper, chopped
1 lime
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (I used a pomegranate infused one)
Cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Add 1 can of black beans and 1 can of corn to a large bowl
2. Dice 2 avocados, 2 tomatoes, 1 mango, ½ onion, and ¼ cup of red pepper and add to the bowl.
3. Add the juice of 1 freshly squeezed lime and 1 tbsp red wine vinegar.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cilantro (if desired).
5. Mix together well, evenly distributing the ingredients. Eat with chips as a dip, eat it solo as a salad, or use it as a topping! It’s delicious and versatile.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Beans and corn, the base to this delicious concoction.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Add two diced tomatoes. I was fortunate enough to be able to use some organic homegrown tomatoes from my mom’s garden.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Add diced onion. I used ½ of a medium-sized onion, or you could use a whole small onion.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Now things are getting good. Dice two ripe avocados and add to the bowl.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Time to get fruity- dice one ripe mango and add to the salsa.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Finishing touches: add the juice of one freshly squeezed lime, 1 tbsp of pomegranate red wine vinegar, and your cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well for an even distribution of delicious ingredients.

Mango Avocado Salsa

If you can manage the patience to not eat it straight from the bowl (this is the most difficult step of the recipe), plate as desired and garnish with some fresh cilantro.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Strawberry Mango Lime Infused Water

Strawberry Mango Lime Infused Water

Well, I have a new beverage addiction: infused water. I know, I know, I’m a little late on the infused water bandwagon. I always thought plain water was just fine by me; being a potable purist, I scoffed at the notion of needing anything other than simple H2O to dress up my water… until a TRX pal let me sample this lush libation, this rejuvenating refreshment, this sweet nectar of the fruit Gods. I should have known this combination would be Kryptonite for me: fruit and water? Basically all Nika needs to live? Sold. So, bored one day at work, I was browsing Target’s website for some new sulfate and fatty alcohol-free shampoo, conditioner, and body wash (more on this later… better for both your hair and your skin). Being a stubborn Taurus, I scoff at the notion of paying for shipping on online purchases. I am such a bull-headed brat on this issue that I will buy miscellaneous items that I don’t really need (but want haz) to reach the minimum for free shipping. Enter the $19.99 Fruit Infusion Pitcher à la Target.

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Bonjour mon ami, enchanté. Enchanted, indeed, was I with this little device. As soon as my Target box arrived on my doorstep, I did my happy package dance. Don’t you miss getting real mail? Sure, emails, texts, Facebook messages are just fine and dandy, but don’t you miss coming home to letters in your mailbox? Handwritten mementos? Picturesque postcards? I surely do. But, alas, the only thing I come home to is oodles of junk mail, bills, and the occasional J.Crew catalogue. Therefore, I have learned to love online shopping; it’s quite a cathartic and delightful experience. First, you get to online browse, which is honestly the most entertaining part of the whole process. I’m a nerd, so I love researching everything that I buy. Reading reviews, comparing prices, comparing items, reading ingredients… I do it all. Then, I create a joyous yet completely irresponsible and irrational wish list of MUST HAZ ALL THE THINGS. Then I take a glance at the total, throw up in my mouth a little, and begin to delete all the shit that can live without. But honestly, often the most fun part of online shopping is just toying with the thought of having all these things. Do I really need 3 new facial moisturizers? No, but I like the idea of getting to try them all. Do I really ice pop molds? Actually, maybe, but I’ll hold off on these. Do I really need two new pairs of shoes? …(crickets)… Nika? ….. Nika, really? Shhhh… Do you even have any more room on your shoe rack? No… but I can make room… So your actually going to get rid of some shoes? Well, maybe… No… but I can put them on the floor! And start a new rack! Mm, yeah, I highly doubt you even have room on the floor, considering this is what your closet looked like FIVE MONTHS AGO and I know you’ve collected another handful of new additions since then. Sadly, this isn’t even all of them…

IMG_1859 IMG_1862

Shhh, rational part of my brain. Just think of My Precious….

My Precious Shoes Okay, well maybe I’m hopeless when it comes to shoes, but I digress. Then, after you finally decide on this Christmas list of items, you get to anxiously await Santa’s arrival on your doorstep. This equates to me obsessively tracking my package down to the minute, refreshing incessantly until that joyous “Delivered” checkmark appears next to my tracking number. Next, I rush home (after going to the gym, of course) to yank open my front door to gaze upon that glorious cardboard present courtesy of moi. Inevitably, I spend the remainder of the evening either staring lovingly at my new purchases, trying them on, using them, wearing them, eating them… whatever the case may be. 

Regardless of the circumstances, I received my infusion pitcher the other night, hastily ripped it from its cardboard confines, and began concocting fruity combinations to create. After being out of town for the better part of a week, my fresh fruit supply wasn’t as abundant as usual, but I was still able to gather a mango, some strawberries, and part of a lime to use in my infusion pitcher. I cut all the fruit up, placed it into the center container, and filled the pitcher with fresh water. I let this amalgamation of fruity flavors chill and infuse overnight in my refrigerator until the water took on a reddish orange tint, as pictured above.

The result? Delicious. All the fancy fruit flavor of store-bought flavored water without all the added sugar and weirdo ingredients and preservatives. In essence, my new obsession. Fruit and water? Well, that’s a much healthier obsession than my footwear fetish.

Turkey Burgers on Gluten Free Buns (Gluten Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free)

Turkey Burger on GF BunI made these tasty little mamacitas the other night from scratch. There’s something about a homemade turkey burger that really hits the spot. My recipe for turkey burgers is simple yet delicious; All you’ll need is some organic ground turkey, red pepper, onion, gluten free panko breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. I incorporate these ingredients together by hand in a large mixing bowl, form them into hockey puck sized patties, and drop the patties into a skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. I typically cook them 8-10 minutes per side, flipping once.

Turkey Burger on GF Bun

I served these scrumptious turkey patties on a gluten free vegan bun… ohmygosh. I can’t even tell you the last time I had a bun… or any bread for that matter. Bread that is gluten free and vegan is quite hard to find, as most of your typical GF brand breads contain egg (grrr). So, as of recently, the only bread-like products I’ve had have been gluten free wraps that never keep their form and break instantly when you try to roll them and GF vegan waffles. However, I discovered a treasure during my last trip to the Good Foods Co-Op: Schar GF Classic White Rolls…dr_schar_white_rolls

Cue the heavenly music, because these babies were like a shimmering pot of gold at the end of the aisle. Additionally, I purchased some of their multigrain bread, but they also have baguettes (omg), sandwich rolls, ciabatta, deli style bread, and BAGELS. I didn’t see any of the bagels (with flavors such as cinnamon raisin, mmm) at the Co-Op, but I’ll have to take a closer look in the frozen section, because I definitely need to try those. As far as taste, these buns (or “rolls” as Schar calls them) are incredibly delicious and the closest thing I’ve tasted to the “real thing.” I lightly toasted the buns before topping them with my turkey burgers; they’re a little hard to fit into the toaster, but if I lightly flatten the pre-cut rolls with my hand, they’ll glide into my toaster like Cinderella’s slipper.

Turkey Burger on GF Bun

And what would a turkey burger be without some toppings? So I sliced some fresh avocado (can’t go wrong with that green goddess!), sprinkled a pinch of Daiya Pepperjack Cheese, and drizzled some organic ketchup on top. I served this handheld delight with some steamed broccoli and some Kettle cooked BBQ chips to complete the summer grill out ambiance.

Turkey Burger on GF Bun

The burger was melt in your mouth delicious and the gluten free bun was better than the real thing- tasted delicious and actually held its shape without crumbling into a gluten free mess. The avocado was the perfect accent to the savory turkey burger, and the organic ketchup added a lovely bite of acidity to the meal. I could have done without the cheese, even though there was so little on there that I could barely taste it. I used to be a complete cheese addict and cheese snob, but now, especially when it comes to fake cheese, I’m mainly like “meh, no thanks.” Cheese, real, fake, or otherwise, is cool, but do you really need it? Nah. What you need are fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains… just sayin’. Either way, regardless of your opinion on cheese or your favorite toppings, try out these homemade turkey burgers and go find some Schar bread- you won’t be disappointed!

Mango Lime Guacamole Recipe (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Mango Lime Guacamole

Sometimes the best creations come from a simple spark, a spur of the moment thought that ignites into creation. Quite often I enter the kitchen with no real plan, like an artist approaching an easel with no image in mind. I’ll stop, take a deep breath, and look out upon all the ingredients at my disposal- fruits and veggies poised like nature’s vibrant paints. Last night, I scanned the fruit bowl on my counter and spotted avocados and mangos that needed to be eaten quickly before the damn gnats creep in and take over. Hmm, avocados… well, guacamole, obvi. I love guacamole… Maybe I’ll do a whole Mexican theme tonight. But what about the mangos? I love mango salsa.. but don’t have any tomatoes. What about… mango guacamole? I consulted my fellow guacamole-loving friend, who was doubtful and, at best, ambivalent of this combination. I just nodded my head saying, no, no trust me on this. This is legit, I think this exists. Spoiler alert: it does exist, and it’s delicious.

Mango Lime Guacamole

Two avocados halved with the seed removed. I’ve found that the best way to remove avocados from their pesky shell and pit is to cut them straight down longitudinally (top to bottom) until you hit the pit. Next, twist the two halves until they separate, and one half will contain the pit. Pop the pit out. Lastly, if your avocado is ripe (like mine were), you can just peel off the skin, which is nice because you don’t have to deal with any fancy knife work.

Mango Lime Guacamole

Peppers and onion and avocados, oh my. I love to take pictures of my guacamole (or whatever dish I’m making) before I mash up all the ingredients because you can really see all the beautiful, vibrant colors.

Mango Lime Guacamole

 

Ingredients 
2 ripe avocados
1 ripe mango
⅓ cup diced red pepper
¼ cup diced onion
1 tbsp diced Anaheim pepper
Juice of ¼ lime
1 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Cut two ripe avocado and remove the seed. Add to bowl.
2. Dice ⅓ cup red pepper, ¼ cup onion, and 1 tbsp of Anaheim pepper and add to avocado.
3. Season with desired amount of salt and pepper.
4. Using a fork, mash the avocado and mix in the peppers.
5. Skin, slice, and dice one ripe mango. Add to the guacamole.
5. Add your tablespoon of cilantro and squeeze ¼ of fresh lime over the guacamole. Mix again to incorporate the mango, cilantro, and lime.
6. Serve with tortilla chips, gluten free crackers, raw veggies, or as a compliment to your entrée!

Review of Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen, Lexington, KY

Vinaigrette Vegan Power Salad with Chicken

Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen is a new restaurant off of Leestown Road that describes themselves as a “fast casual salad shop serving fresh gourmet salads.” As the first salad shop of its kind in Lexington, it’s causing quite a stir. My eyes widened in excitement as I heard the announcement of their opening because, as a health-conscious nutritionist that struggles to find restaurant options that are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and mammal-free, salads are my mecca, especially when they’re packed with hearty, fresh ingredients. When I looked at their menu, my heart skipped a beat when I saw their Vegan Power Salad. A restaurant option that doesn’t require me to make a million adjustments to the ingredients and then still worry about any hidden dairy or egg?  I was sold, and I knew I had to make the pilgrimage to this salad mecca.

I ordered the Vegan Power Salad, which consists of spring mix with Napa cabbage, quinoa, chickpeas, carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, sweet peppers, roasted sunflower seeds, and edamame. Somewhat ironically, I added grilled chicken to this vegan salad and swapped the salad’s standard Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette for their Blackberry Sorghum Vinaigrette. My mom ordered their Orange Blossom Salad, a mixture of romaine and iceberg mix with Napa cabbage, crispy rice noodles, edamame, snow peas, carrots, and cucumbers with a Honey Orange Sesame Vinaigrette. They also had a tempting assortment of lemonades, including Sweet Baby Watermelon, Blackberry Mint, and Lemon Rosemary.

The Food:
I really enjoyed my salad- the ingredients were really fresh and crisp. I loved the edamame and chickpeas in the Vegan Power Salad- it’s so nice to see some vegan sources of protein out there. Further, I knew I had to order this salad when I saw the quinoa- finally a place in Lexington that uses quinoa in salads! It adds such a great texture to the greens, and it’s a wonderful source of protein and fiber. Additionally, the tomatoes and cucumbers were really tasty! So often restaurants use pathetically pale insipid tomatoes and wimbly, watery cucumbers in their salads; thus, it was refreshing to get some quality ingredients. You really get a lot of salad at Vinaigrette, as they fit a lot of greens and lettuce into those deep metal bowls (which is a cute idea, by the way). I drizzled my salad in their Blackberry Sorghum Vinaigrette, a delightfully rich and smooth dressing with a hint of fruit and sweetness, but not overly saccharine or tangy. I definitely enjoyed this vinaigrette and got a second cup of it to finish off my lettuce (they’ll give you as much dressing as you need). I tried both their Sweet Baby Watermelon and Blackberry Mint lemonades. The Blackberry Mint was pretty good, but, oh my, the Sweet Baby Watermelon… SO GOOD. I could drink that all day. I love the taste of watermelon, and Vinaigrette perfectly captured the delightful sweetness of fresh watermelon in this crisp and refreshing lemonade. Overall, I was very satisfied (both with the taste and quality of the food and also with how the salad satisfied my hunger).

The Atmosphere: 
The interior is quaint and adorably appointed. There is great texture and warmth to the interior: rustic brick, barn wood, metal chairs, wooden tables, subway tile… the interior gets a definite thumbs up from me. However, the seating is almost absurdly minimal- there are three tables, three! I understand they are a new business and pressed for space, but finding a place to sit was a challenge. At lunch time, all of the tables inside were occupied, their tables outside were occupied, the benches were occupied, the tables in front of the neighboring Orange Leaf were occupied, and some people were sitting on stray chairs with their laps. My mom and I, along with several other patrons, had to walk around the corner to the patio of Firehouse Subs to be able to sit down. Not that it’s horribly inconvenient, but it was awkward, as the manager of Firehouse came outside to tell all the Vinaigrette patrons (who stand out with their large metal bowls) that, essentially, we couldn’t sit there but she would let us finish eating before she kicked us off the patio. So be cautious of the lunch rush and consider getting your salad to go if you are planning on trying out Vinaigrette during peak hours. However, the staff of Vinaigrette was exceptionally friendly, upbeat, and helpful. Even when I asked to add chicken to a vegan salad and inquired which of their dressings were gluten free and vegan, they were happy to answer all my questions and definitely added to the warm and inviting atmosphere at Vinaigrette.

The Prices: 
Vegan Power Salad $8.95
Add grilled chicken $3
Orange Blossom Salad $8.95
Seasonal Lemonade $3
Our total for lunch ~$26

The prices are reasonable, but you will pay more than your average quickie salad due to the quality and customizability of the ingredients. If you get a salad, and only a salad, you could scrape out of there for under $10. However, if you want to add any additional toppings, especially proteins, or if you want to indulge in one of their tantalizing lemonades, you could be over $15 for one person. As someone that rarely eats out and always packs her own lunch, it will be more of an occasional treat than a regular occurrence, but it is convenient to find somewhere that prepares healthy food in front of you.

Overall: 
I really enjoyed Vinaigrette- the food, the drinks, the atmosphere, and the business. It’s a little out of my way, but it will definitely be a top contender for future lunch dates! Want to learn more, see more pictures, and see what others have to say? Head on over to their Facebook page.

Note: I received no compensation for this review and purchased my own food. However, I would never be opposed to some complimentary salads or lemonades… you know, for taste-tasting purposes 😉

❤ Nika

Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate Espresso Protein Bar Recipe

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Holy espresso chip batman, these bars are amazeballs and contain 10g of protein and 4.5g of fiber for only 245 calories and 4g of sugar! I dare you to find a comparable protein bar in the store (spoiler: you won’t. They are all loaded with sugar.) Plus, the majority of the fats in this bar are healthy unsaturated fats (think omega-3s, polyunsats, and monounsats!) from heart-healthy nuts, seeds, and oats.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Nutrition LabelI just… I don’t even know how to begin to transcribe the taste of these slices of heaven. Should I start with the gooey, rich chocolate? Or perhaps the way the taste of espresso permeates the dense oats? Or maybe I should begin by describing the way that chopped walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds add an airy crunch to the multifaceted texture of these bars? Or how the hints of cinnamon unite chocolate chips and freshly ground coffee in mocha paradise? It’s like a Bonk Breaker Espresso Chip Bar… but better. Chewy oats, crunchy nuts and seeds, rich chocolate, and smooth espresso. Earthy, grainy, sweet, savory. It’s a granola, it’s a protein bar, it’s a dessert, it’s an edible mocha latté, it’s a powerhouse of nutrition, it’s…. the Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate Espresso Protein Bar.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Ingredients
2 cup gluten free rolled oats
¼ cup brown rice flour
2 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp flax seeds
¼ tsp sea salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup Plant Fusion Cookies n Creme Protein Powder
3 tbsp ground coffee
1 tsp brown sugar
¾ cup unsweetened plain almond milk
¼ cup epsresso almond butter
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup vegan chocolate chips

Serving Size: ~12 bars

Time: 10-15 minutes prep, 25 minutes baking at 350ºF

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2. In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients: rolled oats, brown rice flour, chia seeds, flax seeds, sea salt, cinnamon, protein powder, ground coffee, and brown sugar. Mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, combine your wet ingredients: almond milk, almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Whisk well until almond butter incorporates with maple syrup and milk, forming a lovely, gooey almond butter syrup.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Fold in ½ cup of vegan chocolate chips.
5. Line a medium-sized baking pan with parchment paper. Using a large spoon, scrape the bar “batter” into the pan and spread out evenly using the back of the spoon.
6. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Chocolate should be melty, oats should be lightly toasted, and the bars should be firm yet springy to the touch.
7. Let cool for 10 minutes, remove the slab o’ protein bars from the baking pan and place on a cooling rack for at least another 10 minutes. Be sure the bars have cooled before cutting to ensure that the bars won’t break or crumble when cut. Cut into desired number of bars (I divided my slab into 12 bars).

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)Organic Flax Seeds and Chia SeedsBrown Rice Syrup

Start by measuring your dry ingredients- 2 cups of certified gluten free rolled oats, 2 tbsp chia seeds, 3 tbsp flax seeds, ¼ cup of brown rice flour, 3 tbsp of ground coffee beans, ¼  tsp sea salt, 1 tsp brown sugar, and 1 tsp cinnamon.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Add dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

Chopped Walnuts

Measure 1 cup of walnuts and briefly place them into a food processor or chop them by hand. Add to the other dry ingredients.

Plant Fusion Protein Powder

Grab your favorite protein powder. I used 2 scoops (roughly ½ cup) of Plant Fusion’s Cookies and Creme protein powder- this is my absolute favorite brand of plant-based protein, and it tastes divine. Plant Fusion is rich with plant-based protein complete with all essential amino acids provided by quinoa, amaranth, yellow peas, and globe artichoke. This protein powder contains Bromelain and Alpha-Galactosidase, which aids digestion (no more bloated protein belly!). Plus, the cookies and creme flavor really added an extra hint of chocolate and creaminess.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Mix together all the dry ingredients in your large bowl.

Almond Butter Silk Almond Milk

Now, onto the wet ingredients: ¾ cup unsweetened plain almond milk, ¼ cup of almond butter, ¼ cup of maple syrup, and 1 tsp pure vanilla extract. I found a miraculous treat at the Co-Op the other day- Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter… I couldn’t believe my eyes. With coffee grounds swirled in rich almond butter, it was the perfect addition to these Chocolate Chip Espresso bars. However, you can use whatever almond butter you have on hand, as this delight is a tough find! My favorite almond butter is Justin’s Honey Almond Butter, mmm. You can use any plant-based milk you prefer, but I enjoy almond milk the most, particularly Silk’s unsweetened original- tastes the best and has the least amount of sugar.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Combine all of your wet ingredients and whisk or mix by hand until the almond butter thins out in the maple syrup and forms a fluid yet viscous glue for your protein bars.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients. Mix by hand very well to ensure all the oats and flour are incorporated into the bar batter.

Vegan Chocolate Chips Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Grab ½ cup of your favorite vegan chocolate chips and fold into your batter. I used these Chocolate Dream Semi-Sweet baking chips, and they were a rich, gooey, and delightfully melty addition to my protein bars!

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Using a large spoon or spatula, spread your bar batter into a baking pan lined with parchment paper and spread out evenly.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan) Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Bake for 25 minutes at 350ºF. Remove, take a big whiff of the oaty cinnamony, vanilla-y mocha magic. Let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Remove the slab from the pan and cool on a cooling rack for another 10-15 minutes (this will help prevent your bars from cracking or crumbling when you cut them). Cut your slab into your desired number/size of power protein bars!

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Sample one… just one… Close your eyes and savor this delicious creation full of protein, fiber, and omega-3s . They’re delicious, but they’re so filling that they keep you from going crazy and chowing down! I ate one bar and was satisfied for hours! And, now, let us commence the gallery of food porn…

WIAW: Fajita Chicken and Veggies Served Over Brown Rice and Quinoa (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free)

Fajita Chicken and Veggies Over Brown Rice and Quinoa

This dish was really simple, but my friend and I enjoyed it quite a bit! I was planning on cooking dinner and thus brought over an assortment of possibilities (I never travel light, clearly). We had already made some homemade guacamole to serve with our chips and salsa, so I decided to carry on the Mexican cuisine theme. I cut up some chicken breasts and sautéed them in olive oil. Once the chicken was cooked, I added a can of roasted tomatoes and half a packet of fajita seasoning (if you buy the pre-made seasoning packets, be sure to get ones that don’t contain wheat!). While the chicken and tomatoes simmered, I sautéed some fresh broccoli, red pepper, green chili pepper, and red onion in some olive oil and added it to the chicken and tomato fajitas. After simmering the entire fajita concoction for several minutes, I served it on top of a bed of brown rice and quinoa and squeezed some fresh lime over the entire thing.

This take on fajitas was simple, easy, yet delicious! I had intended on serving as true fajitas (with tortillas and rice on the side), but I had forgotten to pack my tortillas (I said I never travel light, I never said that it was effective!). Either way, this was quite the tasty and satisfying dish. The chicken and vegetables really ignite with the fajita seasoning, and the splash of fresh lime juice really brings out the taste profile of the dish. I’ve recently become quite addicted to topping things with a splash of freshly squeezed lime juice, it makes everything taste so light, summery, and fresh! ¡Buen apetito!