Garden Of Life Protein Blondies + Greenie Smoothie [Vegan + Sugar Free]

Drop your protein powder scooper and step away from the blender…

Cause I think I found THE most efficient, delicious and well-rounded plant-based protein powder known to NAMB kind! And I must share with you. That is my duty.

You see, a mere few weeks ago, Garden Of Life graciously sent me some awesome samples to try out for my blog. I’m a sucker for a) healthy vegan products, b) hip, modern company branding and c) anything free. I have tried a multitude of different vegan protein powders but Garden of Life takes it to another level. Most that I’ve tried are great sources of plant based protein usually containing 3 or less ingredients such as brown rice protein, pea protein and even sacha inchi protein. While some have made my recipes quite awesome, there were some that tasted like unappetizing cardboard and didn’t agree digestively. Needless to say, they were giving me my adequate amount of protein intake, but I didn’t want to consume anything that made my stomach bark and meow.

Unless you’re a physical athlete or working out immensely, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the lack of protein in your everyday diet. The overall focus should be about getting a healthy balanced amount of nutrients and vitamins. Of course, some may need more of one than the other, but ultimately, it’s about that fine balance. You know, the one that makes you feel oh-so-good overall.

Eating a variety of a bountiful, beneficial and nutrient dense whole foods is key to a healthy lifestyle. While vegan protein powders are not typically as essential as consuming whole foods such as fresh organic greens, lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds and nuts, they serve a purpose in providing a sizable punch of protein efficiently and effectively for those who are health conscious like me. Personally, I consider them to be “health enhancers or boosters” more than supplements or replacements for real food. If you pair a fabulous protein product with your usual array of healthy foods, your food really can’t get any more super than that! So essentially, it’s ideal to opt for a protein powder/supplement that’s on par to a whole food source to really make it worth your while.

Garden of Life‘s line of Raw Protein and Organic Plant Protein both have the necessary check points of a high quality, whole food protein product that your insides can trust (and happily digest!)

Let’s face it – you deserve the best!

Raw Protein and Organic Plant Protein both have many admirable factors to say the least. What I love about Garden of Life’s products, besides the obvious fact that they provide clean protein, is that they offer a plethora of vitamins and minerals your body also needs and contain zero synthetic fillers and preservatives. Ingredients that don’t stress you out! The Raw Protein products are raw (duh!), certified organic, vegan and contain live probiotics (good bacteria), enzymes like proteases, essential amino acids, fat soluble vitamins like A, D, K and E and a bunch of sprouted goodness like flax seed sprouts, quinoa sprouts, lentil sprouts, buckwheat sprouts, broccoli sprouts to name a few. Let’s just say that there’s a whole lot of goodness in there! See for yourself here. Oh yeah, I should probably tell you that there’s about 17 grams of plant based protein per serving. That’s a good deal for the amount of very few calories. You can choose from 4 flavours – chocolate, vanilla, vanilla chai and raw original. For my recipes below, I used vanilla chai as it was my most favourite palate-wise and worked flawlessly in my blondies.

*Note: I’ve chosen to be ironic by using a raw protein powder for a baked good instead of the smoothie.*

Organic Plant Protein’s formula is a bit similar. The powder isn’t raw and it’s grain free but still has the same endearing qualities like being certified organic, vegan, nutritional and high in protein of course. For about 100 calories worth of a serving, there’s less than 1 gram of sugar (no added sugar and sweetened with stevia), roughly 3-4 grams of fiber and carries about 15 grams of plant strong protein. You also got some pea seeds in there, some flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds which all come together beautifully to balance and level out your blood sugars. What’s more is that they threw in some superfoods in there like moringa and baobab for that extra mineral and anti-oxidant kick. There’s 4 different flavour options and they’re all deliciously earthy tasting, smooth and versatile. The flavours are subtly apparent but the hint of sweetness to them isn’t overbearing but rather fortifying. Smooth Energy was my go-to because it contained a type of naturally caffeinated tea called Yerba Mate and added Vitamin B12 (warranted for vegans and vegetarians like me.) I must say, it’s less chalky than it’s cousin Raw Protein and more appetizing to throw and mix in a beverage like in my smoothie below.

All in all, they’re both worry-free, reliable options when searching for a standard protein powder product to call the one. Find a product that works for you and your preferences. Experiment with different recipes to keep things fun and interesting. I’m here to tell you that consuming protein powder doesn’t have to be boring!

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BLONDIES (use organic and preservative free ingredients whenever possible!)

1 1/2 cups of gluten free flour blend (I used buckwheat flour and brown rice flour with a bit of coconut flour)

1 tsp of baking soda

1/4 tsp of coriander

1/2 tsp of cinnamon (I like to use a little more)

1/4 tsp of cardamom

1 pack of Raw Protein Vanilla Chai protein powder

1/4 tsp of guar gum (optional but keeps ish together)

1/2 cup of unsweetened almond or cashew milk

1/4 cup of cold pressed virgin coconut oil (melted)

3 tsp of alcohol free vanilla

6-10 packs of stevia (use your taste bud discretion)

1 cup of vegan, stevia-sweetened dark chocolate (chunks or chips – your call!)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8 x 8 square baking pan with some oil.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Except chocolate! Mix together wet ingredients in another bowl.

Stir to combine both bowls into one. Fold in chocolate chunks/chips. Don’t be stingy! Next, spoon the batter into the greased pan and smooth down with a spatula or the back of your spoon. Add more chocolate if you please. And please do.

Bake the blondies for 16-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes before slicing into desired squares. Bite, devour and repeat.

Then enjoy this smoothie:

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GREENIE SMOOTHIE

Half of a small frozen banana

1/4 cup of frozen strawberries

Handful amount of baby spinach (I say the more the better!)

1 generous scoop of Organic Plant Protein Yerba Mate Smooth Energy

2 tbsp of raw cashews

1 tbsp of chia seeds

1 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

4-6 ice cubes (I usually more cause I like it creamy!)

Blend it. Love it. Drink it.

Super Lentil Veggie Tacos [Vegan + Bad Fat Free]

Who says taco nights only have to be on Tuesdays?

Secretly, I wish taco night was every night. Taco Monday, Taco Wednesday, Taco Sundays, Taco errrday. These hearty and nourishing tacos were made (on a Saturday) so that I was able to stuff as many tacos in my face without feeling guilty about it.

The trick to making a hearty meatless bunch of tacos is to choose dense ingredients that are deep and rich in flavor – and of course, satisfyingly filling. Think chickpeas, beans, lentils, avocados, sweet potatoes, organic quinoa….the possibilities are endless and delicious!! The goal when loading up your perfect taco is to create an interesting and tasty abundance of flavors and textures. By mixing these ingredients with savory spices and your favourite preservative free fresh salsa you’ll have a crave worthy taco for any night of the week. Not just Tuesdays! You can’t tell, but I’m already drooling.

These tacos are not only vegan, they’re also absolutely bad fat and cholesterol free (cause some fats are good for you) and so substantial that your tummy will thank you. Thought I can’t guarantee that you’ll stop at just eating one. 😉

Warm lentils simmered in crushed minced garlic pair so well with the tangy, mildly spiced salsa by Green Mountain Gringo. They’re salsa is non GMO, versatile and made with natural unprocessed clean ingredients. No sugars, artificial or funky stuff added. See for yourself here!

I chose to use brown lentils as the main base because they’re fulfilling (even for the meat eaters out there) and they offer a plethora of heart health nutrients and vitamins. Being “bad fat free”, these magical legumes also help to lower cholesterol since they contain high levels of soluble fibers. The (soluble and insoluble) dietary fibers found in lentils have also shown to help prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like IBS and diverticulitis. Lentils are also high in good protein, stabilize blood sugars and an excellent source of iron and energy (good carbs).

I’ll now leave you with the recipe of awesomeness. You’re welcome. Happy taco eating!

Green Gringo

What you’ll need:

1 cup of washed and drained whole brown lentils (try not to use canned lentils if you can)

1 medium yellow onion, minced

4-5 garlic cloves, crushed then minced

1/2 large bell pepper, chopped

1/2 tsp of chili powder

2 tsp of cumin powder

2.5 tsp of dried thyme

1/2 tsp of smoked paprika

1 tsp of oregano

Dash of cayenne pepper

1.5 cups of Green Mountain Gringo salsa (medium or hot – your call!)

1 tbsp of lime juice (or lime squeeze)

Heat 1/4 cup of filtered water in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onions for a few minutes until nicely browned and softened. Stir in the minced garlic. Stir for 2 minutes. Throw in bell peppers and spices. Mix well. If the pan starts to dry up a bit, add a few more teaspoons of filtered water. Pour in salsa. Add the washed lentils and stir well to mix. Add enough water to cover the lentils. Bring the lentils to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and let lentils cook until they are very tender and fully cooked. Add more water if needed but no more than 1/2 cup at a time. Don’t add too much because you want the lentils to be hearty not liquid-y. Add in lime juice or squeeze one lime over mixture. Stir until well cooked and flavorful to taste. Remove from heat. Assemble organic taco corn shells with raw baby spinach (or any leafy greens of choice) and stuff desired amount of lentil mixture. Top with more salsa. Enjoy!

Scary Dairy Industry + ‘Cruelty Free’ Cinnamon Roll Super Milk! [Vegan, Sugar Free]

Got Milk? 

These guys sure do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj324R9R_NQ&feature=youtu.be (Warning. Some explicit content!) 

While you’re there, check this one out too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZcUrWAK-8Q (Sorry!)

Don’t like what you see, do ya? After all, you’ve been brainwashed by the dairy industry’s propaganda to believe that the main source of calcium is by consuming milk (and milk products) and by drinking the recommended glass of it a day (or 3 according to the USDA), you’ll grow up to have strong, healthy bones.

So yes, you do need cow’s milk to be healthy – if you’re a baby calf! :/

The meat industry has been under some major scrutiny (and for good reasons) for their colossal factory farm system and practices of raising cattle in immoral confinement, yet the animals in the dairy industry are arguably just as guilty. In their haste to sell you their products, the dairy industry has created an obsession over the importance of dairy products (also known as liquid meat) which in reality does more harm to the body and our planet than good.

There has been extensive scientific studies on the many harmful cumulative effects of consuming AND producing dairy – whether organic or not. In actuality, there is no reason for us to consume cow’s milk—and there are a host of important reasons to avoid it. Here are some that I’ve gathered for you to help you pass up that glass of cow’s milk:

1) Less dairy equals better bones. Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Asia and Africa) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.

2) Calcium may (or does) raise cancer risk. Some studies have proved that with higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products can potentially increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent. Dairy product consumption increases levels of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-1) in the bloodstream. IGF-1 is a potent stimulus for cancer cell growth. High IGF-1 levels are linked to increased risk of prostate cancer and breast cancer. Nowadays, milking cows are given antibiotics and most are also injected with a genetically engineered form of bovine growth hormone (rBGH). A man-made or synthetic hormone used to artificially increase milk production, rBGH also increases blood levels of the insulin-growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in those who drink it.

3) Not everyone can stomach dairy. Approximately 75 percent of the world’s population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products — a problem called lactose intolerance. You may not show the common symptoms, but try taking it out of your diet and see what happens! 😉

4) Adding dairy foods to your diet would only supply more calories, fat, animal protein, cholesterol, sodium, microbes, and chemical contamination—ingredients that may contribute to even more health problems and trigger inflammation such as allergies, sinus problems, diabetes, chronic constipation, asthma, autism, skin issues such as eczema and irritable bowel syndrome.

5)  Amy Lanou Ph.D., nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine states, “The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak, and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost nonexistent.

6) Milk is a very strong earth pollutant: it is about 400 times more polluting than untreated sewage. To put it another way, 1,000 gallons of milk has the same polluting potential as the untreated sewage from a town of 7,000 people.

7) So yes, dairy farms and factories pollute the earth and also accountable for the huge amounts of CO2 emissions, land degradation, water consumption and water contamination. They also contribute to the slaughter of more than 250,000 dairy cows per year.

8) ALL cow’s milk (regular and ‘organic’) has 59 active hormones, scores of allergens, fat and cholesterol that either occur within the milk naturally as the cow develops it OR it has synthetically been injected into them. Most cow’s milk has measurable quantities of herbicides, pesticides, dioxins (up to 200 times the safe levels) and up to 52 powerful antibiotics. Milk also contains blood, pus (about 750 million pus cells allowed by the FDA), feces, bacteria, viruses and traces of anything (both toxic and non) the cow eats too. Yes, while some raw, whole, organic milk eliminates concerns like pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and the effects of homogenization and pasteurization — but these benefits don’t outweigh dairy’s potential health risks overall.

9) The amount of money the government spends to promote the dairy industry is roughly 550 million just in America alone! Each marketing buck spent boosts sales by an average of $8, for an annual total of an extra $4.6 billion in government-backed sales of meat, dairy, and eggs. If that wasn’t enough, the U.S. government also spends on average more than $30 billion in subsidies for animal products such as dairy, and only a fraction of a fraction of that much on fruits and vegetables. That’s just sad. In addition, some of the “experts” who have helped create the recommended food pyramid actually work for the dairy industry, which makes the US Department of agriculture’s recommendations reflect industry interests (aka money), not science or the public’s best interests.

10) The life of a Western cow ain’t a pleasant one. While female calves are slaughtered or kept alive to produce milk, male calves are often taken away from their mothers when they are as young as 1 day old to be chained in tiny stalls for three to 18 weeks. Male calves, who cannot be raised to themselves become dairy cows, are slaughtered early on in life for veal. The dairy industry is the backbone of the veal industry – without it, the routine slaughter of calves could not continue. Just like veal calves, dairy cows who cannot produce milk due to exhaustion or disease are of no use to the dairy industry. Instead of “wasting resources” (feeding, sheltering), these cows are transported to factory farm feeding facilities to be fattened up, then slaughtered for meat.

One of the best methods to battle practices you don’t support is to vote with your dollars. Or as I’d like to say, “Vote with your fork!” Opting out from dairy altogether is definitely an ideal option and it’s a lot easier than you think. Nowadays, you can almost always find milk alternatives in your grocery aisle. You can choose from a number of delicious non dairy alternatives such as almond milk, hemp milk, organic soy milk and rice milk. Or – make your own! Be your own almond milk man. Don’t eat meat but can’t live without cheese or butter? Try making your own homemade cheese made from nuts like cashews and almonds. Rather than slathering your food with salty butter, try going for organic virgin coconut oil!

What about calcium and the benefits of milk we’re told are good for us? While calcium is a necessary nutrient, we can easily get enough of it from plant based foods. The most healthful sources of this vitamin can be obtained from eating green leafy vegetables and legumes, beans, seaweed and nuts. You don’t need to rely on dairy for healthy bones either. If you want strong, healthy bones, getting plenty of exercise and vitamin D (about 2000 IU or more depending) daily is key. Remember, dairy is not vital for good health nor is it sustainable.

Go dairy free and see what it can potentially and positively do for you. Trade in that glass of chocolate milk you crave in the morning and instead opt for a delicious vegan cinnamon roll protein milk beverage that’s nutrient dense, immune boosting and cruelty free. And then if someone throws a “Got milk?” at you (whether in a paid advertisement or from someone who wants it for breakfast) smile and let them know that you know better!

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What you’ll need:

1.5 cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (homemade or an organic brand of your choice – always unsweetened!)

6-10 ice cubes

1 pouch of vegan protein powder unsweetened vanilla flavour (Brown rice or pea protein works best!)

1 tsp of organic cinnamon powder

1 tbsp of ground flax

1 tsp of chia seeds

Optional: pinch of stevia to taste (my protein powder usually contains some so I usually leave this out)

Another great option: raw cacao nibs, a pinch of vanilla bean powder

Add all ingredients to your Magic Bullet or high speed blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with more cinnamon if desired. Enjoy! x

Cacao Flax Cookie Bites

Let’s give indulging a whole new meaning!

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It is okay to indulge once in awhile. However, that doesn’t mean you need to resort to a sugar laden, simple carb based, no good for your body treat!

These cookie bites are vegan, wheat/gluten free, preservative free, naturally sweet, protein rich and healthy in good fats. Nothing more, nothing less. The best part about these nourishing delicious bites? You can have more than one and NOT feel an ounce of guilt or deprivation. You deserve to eat well and feel good – without the compromise!

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What you’ll need:

1/2 cup of buckwheat flour

1/4 cup of vegan protein powder, either pea protein or brown rice protein (no sugar or preservatives added!)

1 tbsp of organic virgin cold pressed coconut oil

1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp of vanilla extract (sans alcohol)

A pinch of baking soda

2 tbsp of organic ground flax

1 tsp of organic chia seeds

1/4  tsp of cinnamon powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients until well combined. The dough will be sticky and that’s normal.

Using your hands, roll some of the dough in between your palms and make into a desired round shape. Slightly flatten cookies on a lined parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-14 minutes. Remove batch from cookie sheet and let cool.

In the meantime, prepare cacao sauce!

What you’ll need:

4 tbsp of organic virgin coconut oil, melted

3 tbsp of raw organic cacao powder

1 tsp of vanilla extract (sans alcohol)

Stevia (adjust to sweet tooth)

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Place in fridge and allow to set and thicken a little. Don’t leave in the fridge for too long or else it will harden! Drizzle over cookies and enjoy!

*You can also melt a pure 100% cacao bar, sweeten it with stevia and use that as your drizzle!*

Redefining 100% Natural – YES Please!

Today, I read a fantastic article on News.Mic about how many companies are labeling their products as “all natural” when in actuality, they’re far from that. The article talked about many unverified health claims from businesses like Snapple, Quaker Oats and Kashi using marketing tactics like claiming to use “all natural” ingredients or phrases such as “no artificial flavors or preservatives” and even “100% healthy and natural”. However, if you’re like me and carefully read every label, you know that all your left with in these products is loads of added sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup), toxic chemicals and synthetic substances like maltodextrin and my favourite, the ridiculous and unidentified natural flavors. That’s natural? No, it’s misleading.

Apparently the word natural doesn’t mean anything anymore. This is one of the most emotive words used in food marketing and consumers are being duped by many marketers who are constantly abusing it. Chances are, they probably don’t care about the public’s optimal health and how their “natural” ingredients can affect our long term health in the end. It’s being inaccurately thrown around and used inappropriately in order to make up for the harmful ingredients added and made to believe that they are acceptable to consume. At this point, the word means about as much as “real” does, especially when it comes to food marketing. This is why I’ve expressed on my blog 100 and 1 times about how truly important and crucial it is to read your food labels. Do not be fooled by the large bold words splattered on the front box stating to be wholesome and good for you. Even catch phrases like gluten free, low fat, half the amount of salt, can all be used to deceive you into buying their sugar/chemical laden products.

While some ingredients listed may be “naturally derived” from sources like soybeans, corn and canola oil, these ingredients aren’t the safest to consume and almost always manufactured artificially and manipulated. For instance, a company like Nature Valley can promote their granola bars as “100% natural” because the ingredients it contains like high maltose corn syrup is derived from corn (and most likely from GMO corn). But they ignore the absolute unnatural process it takes along the way to create this “natural” syrup. All this means to me is that foods that are genetically engineered or used with toxic chemicals are permitted to be labeled as natural. Unfortunately it is a processed sugar and should definitely not be marketed as a healthy, wholesome snack. Period.

[Eating] natural is such a nebulous thing these days but you can navigate and redefine it. Eat whole foods (you know, broccoli, spinach, mother nature stuff), buy products that only contain real quality ingredients, look for organic which means something substantial and avoid products that dub themselves as natural but use ingredients unpronounceable and misrepresented. Take the time to distinguish between the good and the bad. Remember that your health relies on it.

There’s a new premium drink in town! And they’re helping to redefine what it means to actually be ALL NATURAL.

YES Drinks has a promise to their customers – everything they make will always be 100% natural (and about 85% organic), they’ll only use the highest quality ingredients, there will not be any shortcuts taken, no preservatives, artificial ingredients, stabilizers or flavor extracts used and will always be kept 100% plant based. Oh yeah, and no added sugars! Yay!

The handcrafted drinks are a natural and healthy alternative to many sugary (and sugary-healthy) beverages and snacks. They are naturally sweetened with stevia and contain absolutely no funky stuff. What you see is what you get. All of the delicious beverages are cold pressed low in calories, gluten free, vegan and contain familiar super foods like organic chia seeds, raw sprouted rice protein, coconut milk, turmeric and psyllium husk. They’re also a delicious way to get a large helping of natural protein and fiber. They won’t cut corners so that we are only left to enjoy increased vitality with the most nutritious and great tasting all natural ingredients. A company that truly knows what’s best for us to achieve optimal health.

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Simple to read and you know exactly what you’re getting. Just how it should be.

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I like the Belgian Cocoa Hazelnut “Milk” and the Vanilla Charge the best! They boast so much flavor (real natural flavors) and I feel great after having a few sips. The bottles are so convenient to have on the go and you can swap your morning coffee with one of these bad boys for a more beneficial wake up call! Which flavor will you say YES to?

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