Spiced Almond Butter Stuffed Dates

Spiced Almond Butter Stuffed Dates

Spiced Almond Butter Stuffed Dates

AIN’T it the best when you stumble upon new ways to prepare the foods that have become your tried and true staples? Not only does it keep mealtime exciting, but experimentation in the kitchen makes adhering to a healthy lifestyle sustainable in the long run. 

Dates have been my sweetener of choice for many a smoothie and raw treat over the years. Their fantastic taste and nutrient dense profile (excellent source of iron, magnesium, carbohydrates, and protein) make them a welcome addition to soups, baked goods, nut milks, and a host of other delectables.    

Almond butter is a creamy, protein-rich spread that is super satiating.  I always recommend almond butter over the ever-popular peanut butter because peanuts are highly susceptible to contamination.  Peanuts grow underground in oftentimes humid, moist conditions, making them prone to mold growth.   Aflatoxin, a carcinogen associated with liver cancer, is a toxin produced by certain strands of molds that have been found on peanuts.  I use almond butter in smoothies, on toast, and for desserts like my D’vine Chocolate Mousse, and now as a stuffing for dates!  

Thank you Instagram, specifically @miamy, for the inspiration to try this much-appreciated new take on two of my kitchen staples: dates and almond butter.  Why I never made this dish sooner is beyond me, but you can bet this will be my new go-to snack when those afternoon sweet cravings hit :).

Spiced Almond Butter Stuffed Dates
 
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Quick and nutrient dense treat that is perfect post-workout snack or dessert
Author:
Recipe type: vegan dessert
Serves: 2-4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup medjool dates
  • ½ cup almond butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • Sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom to taste
Instructions
  1. Slice dates down the center and remove the pits
  2. Add spices to nut butter
  3. Put nut butter in a pastry bag or ziploc bag. Cut the bottom corner off of the ziploc bag and squeeze the nut butter out into that corner.
  4. Squeeze nut butter into the date

From Garden to Pantry: Rooting DC 2014

rooting dc 2014

EVENTS like Rooting DC make me proud to call Washington, DC my hometown! Organized by DC Greens, this all-day urban gardening forum featured dozens of interactive workshops, cooking/food preservation demonstrations, and panel discussions. As evidenced by the hundreds of people (close to 1,000!) in attendance, DC is home to a thriving sustainable food scene. I am grateful for the opportunity to have shared my passion and expertise by presenting my workshop, “From Garden to Pantry: Using Herbs to Create Vibrant Food & Health,” at such an important community event.   

Ever since embarking on my personal health revolution five years ago (my how time flies!), herbs have played an integral part of my wellness routine.  I regularly include them in my Green Smoothies and I love creatively experimenting with them in raw/cooked dishes for their tastes and numerous health benefits.  As a child, I can recall watching my father, who hails from Jamaica, brewing dried bay leaves into an aromatic tea to soothe upset tummies. I was reminded of this, my childhood introduction to herbal medicine, in preparing for my Rooting DC workshop and included it among my featured recipes. For my PowerPoint presentation, including the recipes for Caribbean Bay Leaf Tea, the Glowing Green Smoothie, and Quinoa Tabbouleh, please click here

SNOW DAY ESSENTIAL: VEGAN FRENCH TOAST

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Almond-crusted tofu french toast, the perfect compliment to a cozy snow day!

Just like movies call for popcorn, snowy days call for French Toast.

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Last week, DC saw yet another snow fall.  This cold, sometimes unpredictable weather has me craving foods that are hearty and comforting…and let’s admit it: sometimes I simply want something sweet! Coated in protein-packed tofu/slivered almonds and drizzled with maple syrup, this iconic brunch-food-turned-vegan totally fits the bill.

Tofu French Toast Ingredients

french_toast ingredients labeled

 

As you can see, I used multi-grain whole wheat bread since that’s what was on hand. But you could also substitute with millet bread or any other gluten-free bread if you wish to avoid gluten.  For those who don’t do soy– whether it’s due to allergies or nutritional dogma (I generally fall into that camp, but more on that in a future post) — check out Love and Lemons’ recipe for French Toast which is also vegan.

Get the goods below!

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ARE YOU A MARTYR FOR YOUR CAUSE?

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It’s practically a badge of honor to work yourself to the bone in the name of [insert soul-stirring cause here].  

Often, we millenials are told that since we’re young, now is precisely the time to sacrifice our personal desires in the name of professional pursuits.  And when you neglect your personal life in your quest to change the world, well, it’s even more noble.  But what happens when you’re on the other side of 30, and you’ve been hearing that rhetoric upwards of 10 years? Just when, exactly, is the “appropriate” time to seek balance in your life? 

These questions and more were the focus of “Martyrdom in Social Change: Seeking Personal Sustainability.”  This group coaching event was held at PunchRock DC and hosted by life and professional coach Sarah Brooks and UnSectored, a community platform that facilitates discussions on re-thinking social-change.  

Sarah and the folk from UnSectored created an inviting, safe space for attendees to share their views on a topic that hits close to home for many, but doesn’t get much airplay. We kicked off the discussion by sharing the beliefs that lead us to sacrifice our personal lives in the name of advancing “the struggle.”  People cited fear, worry about disappointing others, seemingly endless work, high expectations, an attitude of scarcity…and more fear. Then, we broke up into smaller groups to further the discussion around strategies for finding more balance.

My group included the founder of a global education non-profit, a UMD student/intern with UnSectored, a local entrepreneur, a project coordinator at Ashoka, a Media/PR Director, a government worker passionate about climate change, and me: a former legal advocate turned health coach/budding social entrepreneur.  Despite our varied professions and backgrounds, all agreed that a shift in perspective is crucial in order to cope.  Instead of focusing on endless “To Do” lists, back away from the laptop and celebrate your progress to date.    

Another theme that emerged was the importance of self-awareness, especially as it relates to what recharges you.  If you’re on the extroverted side of the spectrum, perhaps prioritize spending time with friends and family since extroverts tend to feed off quality time with people. For the more introverted, consider penciling in weekly alone time.

Sounds simple enough, right?  Actually, sometimes it’s not.  One recent graduate and self-described extrovert shared that she didn’t anticipate how important down-time would be for her.  A few months into her first full-time gig, it clicked: the networking happy hours and the parties simply weren’t doing it for her after a long week in the office. Due to being surrounded by extreme extroverts at work, “me time” was instrumental in helping her decompress.  For a friend who is an introvert, one-on-one meetings with friends and small get-togethers over good food are very energizing.  Moral of the stories here: figure out what works best for you and map out your time accordingly.  

We ended the evening by re-grouping and sharing the insights that came out of the smaller discussions. Nuggets of wisdom included: success isn’t measured by the number of work hours you log in, there’s more than enough stuff to fill your day…if you let it, focus on the 20% that’s most important to you annd your mission, accept that the remaining 80% will be influx. Although the event targeted the social change sector, I believe there was a story, tip, or strategy that would resonate with virtually everyone since most of strive greater balance.

It was extremely refreshing to connect with other passionate people on the grind.  I look forward to attending future events hosted by Sarah Brooks, Unsectored and PunchRock DC.  

A BLOG REBORN: LIFEBYLARNIES.COM

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After I graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school, I set out to become the Perez Hilton of nutrition bloggers. Okay – slight exaggeration. But there is something that turned me on to this health thing: blogs. So I created my own in the hopes it would do the same for others. Fast forward a handful of posts, and LifebyLarnies suffered an untimely death. Blame lack of preparation, poor planning, and perfectionism gone bad.I’m pleased to announce that LifebyLarnies will be resurrected from the WordPress graveyard in February 2014 after a year-long blogging hiatus. Reflection and self-coaching before the New Year helped me overcome my writing blocks. Read on for a few simple tips on how to avoid the pitfalls that prevented me from blogging in the past.

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A YEAR IN REVIEW: 2013

2013 had me knee-deep in the personal development trenches.  Without a doubt, it was my toughest year yet, and, as I’ve been known to say: life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Depression stemming from the loss of loved ones cast a shadow on many days, even months of my 2013.   I poured far too much energy and emotion into a roller-coaster ride of a romantic relationship.  In the career realm, I let fears paralyze my growth.  Coaching grants me the opportunity to utilize my gifts – a relentlessly analytical mind, highly intuitive & empathetic nature, passion for personal development & nutrition, and creativity – in the service of  others.  And I love it.  But instead of launching my coaching practice, I opted for a financially “safer” alternative.  An alternative that wasn’t very rewarding.  I got me a job.   Ultimately, somewhere along the line, I checked out…of life.  I stopped caring about the things that make me, ME.  Worst of all, I stopped caring for myself.
This summer, in the throes of the lowest point of my 2013, I made a choice. 
I decided that the best way that I could honor the ones I have lost was simply to live.  Stop merely existing and truly LIVE.  All of the mourning won’t change anything.  However, I had the choice to use the grief as a motivator — to reclaim my life.  “We don’t get over our grief, we change our relationship to it” – Lyn Prashant
 
Last month, I began some hard core reflection.  Happy Black Woman, Rosetta Thurman, created an Annual Review Guide with questions that helped me realize that I had not been living in alignment.   I made a number of choices and treated myself in ways that were not in line with my values. I snuffed out my intuition.
In 2014, my intention is to cultivate the following – authenticity, peace, and connections.
My first step in this process (authenticity!) is sharing with you my struggles during 2013.     My intention with this blog is to share with you the golden nuggets I’ve learned and the ones will continue to learn along the way.  As the cliche goes, life’s a journey.  In openly and honestly documenting my development, I hope others will find inspiration, solace, and empowering knowledge.

GREEN SMOOTHIE SHAM? ON WHY ONE DIET DOESN’T FIT ALL

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I’ve been known to extoll the virtues of Green Smoothies to many a friend and client — hell, even to strangers!  So when my yoga teacher posted Meghan Pearson’s Huffington Post article, “Is the Green Smoothie All It’s Cracked Up to Be?” I was intrigued to say the least.  My initial reaction: “ummm, what’s not to love about these cups of glowing green goodness?”

Conventional green smoothie dogma tells us that green smoothies are powerful detoxifiers that serve as a practical way to incorporate large quantities of pre-digested nutrient-dense greens into the diet.  Green smoothies are especially useful for people who aren’t salad lovers, those looking for an easy portable breakfast, or for parents dealing with picky kiddies.   Benefits: weight loss, cleansing at a cellular level, increased energy, clearer skin, and improved elimination (yeah, you read that right!), and a host of other good stuff.

However, after reading the Huffpo article and the blog post by Matthew Remski (an Ayurvedic teacher/yogi/therapist) that inspired it, to my surprise, I realized that I agree with Mr. Green Smoothie critic.  As much as I love Green Smoothies and raw foods in general, I recognize that people with certain body types (pitta/vatta types) will not fare well on a diet high in raw foods.  Furthermore, for those of us in the East Coast and similar climates, raw foods are most appropriate during the Spring and Summer months when produce is most abundant .  A cold cup o’ green smoothie first thing in the AM simply may not make sense for those of us who dwell in regions with cold winters.  So while I don’t think that Green Smoothies are a sham and definitely do live up to the hype, we green smoothie enthusiasts should recognize that there’s a time and a season when they are most appropriate.   Continue reading

2ND CAUSE LEADERS CAMP

raw coconut cacao macaroons

raw coconut cacao macaroons

Saturday was Green Smoothies, whipping up (and dining on) Middle Eastern fare, improv exercises, group coaching, and mapping out future projects. The occasion? The second Cause Leaders Camp, an all-day coaching extravaganza specifically designed for DC change makers who are ready to make a shift and to impact the world, but could use a little inspiration, coaching, and tips to jumpstart the process.  I, along with three other amazing coaches, had the pleasure to connect with a small group of wonderful and passionate women with interests spanning food justice, environmental policy and caring for our aging populace.

This was my second time serving as the Health Coach for the camp and I absolutely loved preparing a healthy vegan lunch and sharing tips on increasing your energy and vitality through food.

We opened the day with yoga, meditation, and Green Smoothies prepared by yours truly :).  I modified my food guru Kimberly Snyder‘s recipe for the Glowing Green Smoothie by using baby Spinach as the base and adding in alfalfa sprouts, and pineapple for a fun summery twist to the classic recipe.

After yoga/meditation, the ladies got clear on their vision, while I put the final touches on the day’s vegan lunch so that campers could dine on food that was fresh as possible.  The menu was simple and featured both raw and cooked foods with a Middle Eastern flare: Garbanzo Bean soup, Four Herb Millet Tabbouleh (below), and raw coconut cacao macaroons (pictured above).   Continue reading

RECIPES TO GET THE GLOW: RAW VEGAN MANGO LASSI

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Ever since picking up Sarma Melganinis’ “Living Raw Food” recipe book from my local library a good two years ago, I’ve wanted to make my own raw yogurt. Sarma’s recipe for coconut yogurt intrigued me, but I couldn’t get over the idea of supporting the growth of bacteria (although these are beneficial bacteria, duh).

A few weeks ago I finally mustered up the courage to make my very own homemade raw vegan coconut yogurt!!!

This ancient process of culturing the beneficial bacteria that are critical to maintaining the proper function of our digestive and immune systems – is actually surprisingly easy and only requires a handful of ingredients (see below). Just be sure that all of the materials used (the blender, wooden spoon, and glass container) are squeaky clean. Tip: I used boiling water to sterilize all materials.

Tools

High-speed blender

Wooden spoon

Meat and water of 1 mature coconut

2 capsules of “Culturelle” probiotics (find ‘em in the freezer section of Whole Foods)

Glass container with lid

Preparation

Warning: mature coconut meat is extremely tough. For me, it was a bit of a struggle to extract the meat. This would be the only down-side to this recipe. Check out this tutorial from the Naughty Vegan for step-by-step instructions on how to do so.

Blend coconut meat and water in high-speed blender; place in glass container.

Open up 2 probiotic capsules and stir contents into blended coconut meat mixture and cover.

Place container in warm dark place and let sit over night.

Tip: Little bubbles in the container let you know the culturing process is underway!

The Verdict: After waiting overnight for the probiotics to do their thing, I took a bite, but wasn’t too keen on the taste of my newly minted yogurt :( It was very thick with an almost starchy taste. My sister didn’t like it either! Talk about disappointment!

I tried tossing in some roasted buckwheat and drizzling some vanilla stevia….but I still wasn’t a fan of my creation. Determined not to let my yogurt go to waste, I turned to trusty ol’ google to see if I could get some ideas to fashion up a yummy recipe for my home-made yogurt. I then came across a recipe for a traditional Indian drink made out of mangos and yogurt: Mango Lassi. While I enjoy Indian food, Mango Lassi was totally foreign to this Jamaican/African American woman. However, I love mangos and so I decided to give it a shot. I actually really enjoy remixing random recipes I find on the internet and making them my own and in accordance to my tastes and nutritional philosophy.

Below, is my raw vegan, sugar-free take on the traditional Mango Lassi drink. Boy was I pleasantly surprised at the taste!!! It’s a filling and refreshing smoothie that left my skin positively glowing for the next few days. The glow can be attributed to all of the beneficial bacteria from the yogurt :). I definitely plan on making this again soon!!

Raw Vegan Mango Lassi

2 cups frozen organic mango chunks

1 cup coconut water

1 cup raw coconut yogurt

1/8 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 cup mangosteen (completely optional. I had some in house so I added it for sweetness)

Benefits of Coconut Meat/Water:

Antiviral, antifungal, and antioxidant properties

Regulate healthy hormone production

Increase metabolism and aid in weight loss

Support healthy cholesterol formation in liver

Rehydrate body/replenishe electrolytes

Calm urinary tract infections

Improve Crohn’s, IBS, and other digestive disorders

Rejuvenate your skin and prevent wrinkles

Helps promote stable blood sugar levels

So…now you know how it’s done, would you try making your own yogurt from a raw coconut?

ON CONQUERING EMOTIONAL EATING

It started out like any other Tuesday/Thursday afternoon in this, my era of post-law firm employment.  Forever multi-tasking, I was listening to a recorded lecture for my Integrative Nutrition program while deep cleaning yoga mats for my yoga studio’s work-study program.  Debbie Ford, internationally recognized expert in personal transformation and human potential, was speaking on creating a life you love.

In a talk full of humor and palpable sincerity, Ms. Ford urged the audience to completely and utterly accept themselves, for she warned: “What you resist, persists.”  Rather than seeking to change those parts of us that we, or society, have deemed less-than desirable, Ford suggests that we embrace our complete humanity.  She also reminded us that traits we might consider “negative” — her example was “bitchiness” — can be necessary or even helpful in the right circumstances.

One of the most valuable parts of the lecture, for me at least, was Ford’s explanation of our tendencies towards self-sabotage.  Specifically, she cited the wisdom in the adage “The guilty seek punishment.”  And right there, sitting cross-legged in the midst of stinky yoga mats and deep-cleaning solution, something clicked.  I realized I had been punishing myself with food.  Continue reading