Creamy Chocolate-Banana Smoothie (Dairy-Free)

I have to say that smoothies are one of my all-time favorite foods. And this time of year just shouts “smoothies”—okay, let me just insert here that I will and do eat smoothies ANY time of the year, but summer is an especially wonderful time for these delicious cold treats. Warm weather; ripe, plump produce around and about; it just…goes together. Needless to say, I’ve been slurping up some kind of smoothie almost every day over the last month and there’s no sign of letting up any time soon. (My poor blender doesn’t stand a chance.)

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite combinations so far.

Creamy Chocolate-Banana Smoothie (Dairy-Free)—Taste and See

The banana, avocado, coconut milk and almond butter provide a creamy texture without the use of dairy (although you can definitely use dairy if you’d like). And the chocolate and honey make it taste amazing. This dessert-type smoothie is perfect for an after-dinner treat.

Creamy Chocolate-Banana Smoothie (Dairy-Free)—Taste and See

Creamy Chocolate-Banana Smoothie
(Makes 2 servings)

  • 1 frozen banana, extra-ripe
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 1/2 cups milk of choice (I like to use homemade coconut milk)
  • 2 Tbsp almond butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey (more or less to taste)
  • dash of sea salt
  • 4-6 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Enjoy!

Looking for a breakfast smoothie? Give this green breakfast smoothie a try!

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Summertime Taco Salad

Salads are one of my favorite meals to eat. I love how light they are and it’s a great way to get in lots of vegetables. My salad craving is especially strong  during the summer when there’s gobs of produce everywhere.

But my husband isn’t a fan of salads. We’ve tried a few different things, but it’s usually a no-go.

So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that he will eat taco salad.

Taco Salad—Taste and See

Needless to say, almost every week or so over the past month, we’ve been having taco salad for dinner. Not only is it tasty, but it’s very simple to put together.

Taco Salad—Taste and See

This salad can be easily tailored to fit what you like. I like a big bowl with lots of greens, a variety of vegetables, meat, and a simple homemade dressing (actually it’s usually just olive oil and lemon juice) sprinkled on top. Josh likes a plate with some lettuce, a few select vegetables, meat and cheese on top with no dressing. So make it your own. I’ve included an outline below that can be easily adjusted to fit any and all preferences.

Taco Salad—Taste and See

Doesn’t it just make your mouth water?

Enjoy!

Summertime Taco Salad
(3-4 servings)

  • 1 lb ground meat (I like beef or turkey)
  • Homemade taco seasoning (I like this recipe)
  • Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • Diced tomato
  • Diced avocado

Optional:

  • Diced bell pepper
  • Green onion
  • Black olives
  • Shredded zucchini
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole (in place of avocado)
  • Refried beans (omit for Paleo and GAPS)
  • Shredded cheese (omit for dairy-free)
  • Sour cream (omit for dairy-free)
  • Favorite homemade dressing (I usually just add extra-virgin olive oil and a splash of lemon juice—the seasonings flavor it so well that it doesn’t need much).

Cook ground meat in skillet over medium heat. Once thoroughly cooked, drain and place back in the skillet. Add taco seasoning and filtered water (somewhere between 1/2 to 1 cup) and simmer over low heat to warm mixture. Meanwhile, wash romaine lettuce and chop or tear into bite-size pieces. Place desired amount of lettuce in each dish and add diced tomatoes and avocado (and any other toppings). Top with warm meat mixture (and dressing, optional).

Have a favorite salad? Please share!

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Grape Slushy

When I think of summer, I think of a lot of things, but one of the top that comes to mind are cold treats. Ice cream, smoothies, snow cones—these are perfect for a really hot day.

I remember when I was little, on certain days during the summer, a white truck with really loud music would slowly chug down the road in our neighborhood. And everyone knew what that meant—SLUSHIES! We would flag the truck down, give him our money and in return, get our choice among the available flavors.

Even if you didn’t have the slushy coming to your doorstep like I did, you still don’t have to go very far to find them. Sporting events, convenience stores…they are everywhere, and especially during this extremely warm season.

But unfortunately, most slushies (like many other cold treats that are out and about) are just not healthy. High fructose corn syrup, sugar and preservatives are a few of the culprits that make these worth skipping. But on a brighter note, slushies are very easy to make at home. As long as you have access to a blender (I think even a food processor would work), then you can whip one of these up in no time.

I chose to make a grape-flavored slushy mainly because grapes are my favorite summer fruit. But you can experiment with other fruits such as watermelon, strawberry, mango or even a fruit combo. Just be sure to adjust the amount of ice (some fruits are more liquidy than others so more or less may be needed).

Grapes (which are actually considered a berry) contain many nutrients and minerals, including Vitamins C, K and A, potassium, iron, copper and manganese. Additionally, they are full of antioxidants, loaded with enzymes and high in water content (which is helpful for hydration). It’s safe to say that these little guys are pretty nutritious.

Even if that doesn’t convince you, I’m pretty sure the pictures will. So without further ado, let me introduce the delicious grape slushy.

Grape Slushy

Grape Slushy 1

Grape Slushy 2

I only have two words of caution: Brain.freeze.

Enjoy!

Grape Slushy
(makes 2 servings)

1 cup red grapes
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 to 2 1/2 cups of ice (roughly 11-12 ice cubes from standard ice tray)

Place grapes and coconut milk in blender and blend until smooth. Add in ice and continue blending to desired consistency.

What’s your favorite summertime fruit?

Sources and further reading on health benefits of grapes:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/8-healthy-facts-about-grapes
http://www.livestrong.com/article/509099-nutrition-benefits-of-red-grapes/
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271156.php
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (p 47)

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Fitting In Fitness: Benefits of Regular Exercise and Four Easy Ways to Work It Into a Busy Schedule

Do you ever feel like it’s just really hard to work in exercise? I know I do. When I was working a 9-5 kind of job (being a stay-at-home mom is still work, just a different type) it always seemed hard to fit it all in: Come home. Change. Go workout. Come back. Cook. Clean. It gets tiring really quickly. And of course, I always thought “I could work this in better if I had a different schedule.” Um, think again. Even with being at home all day (again, still work!), I have trouble keeping up a consistent routine of strenuous physical activity. During the very small window of free time I have, I usually just want to plop down in front of the TV…

rebounder1

So why is exercise important again? (i.e., Is it really that necessary? Everything else feels more necessary…and I’m already tired…) We all know at least one big reason: It helps manage weight. But there are a whole host of other very important reasons we should be intentional to exercise regularly. Exercise has been shown to:

  • Relieve stress
  • Detox the body
  • Manage and/or prevent disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Boost immune system
  • Improve mood
  • Increase energy
  • Help depression and anxiety
  • Improve sleep

With all of these benefits in view, exercise should be moving up to the top of our priority list (and I applaud those of you who are already there!). But then comes the question of how to add it to your probably already over-booked schedule, and in such a way that it will be a consistent pattern. This is easier than you think. Below are four pretty basic and inexpensive ways to work in physical activity:

  1. Walking—This is the most obvious, and probably easiest, way to get more physical activity into your day. It’s a nice way to unwind and you can usually do other things like chat with friends, enjoy the outdoor weather, catch up on TV shows or reading (if using a machine such as a treadmill). It doesn’t require any gear or special clothing or a certain place. In fact, during the summer while I was pregnant with my son, I would go to the mall just to walk (and enjoy some window shopping!) when it was too hot to be outside.
  2. Mini-Trampoline (also referred to as “Rebounding”)—This is probably my personal favorite. Not only is rebounding easy on your joints, it helps drain your lymph nodes and detox your entire body. It’s very easy to do in the convenience of your home and is also quite fun. (Here’s a great article on the benefits of Rebounding).
  3. Exercise videos—This is a very convenient way to get physical activity integrated into your routine. Exercise videos can be done during anytime of day or night and in the convenience of your own home (or just take them with you if traveling). They generally require little to no equipment or accessories and there are tons available to fit what you need (Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, basic aerobics, just to name a few).
  4. Everyday tasks—There are many practical ways to increase physical activity, such as gardening, rearranging furniture, cleaning, mowing with a push mower or helping a friend move. These tasks not only fulfill a practical purpose, but can increase our daily physical activity. What this looks like for me right now is toting (and soon-to-be chasing) my infant son around our house.

One final note—making intentional choices to add activity instead of avoiding it will go a long way. For example, choose the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the back of the lot rather than circling over and over for the closest spot. Walk to the mailbox instead of picking it up while pulling into the driveway. There are tons of small things we can do to simply be more active. And while none of these are very much in and of themselves, together they can add up.

How do you fit exercise into your schedule?

Sources
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/staying-active-full-story/
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389
http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression
https://www.wellbeingjournal.com/rebounding-good-for-the-lymph-system/

 

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