My blogging experience.

I’ve always loved writing and the idea of producing creative content for others to see. Starting a blog had always been something I’d considered doing, but I never fully perused it because I lacked enough desire and confidence to actually get it going. I’m grateful that my Digital Media class pushed me (by pushed, I mean made it mandatory) to finally start blogging. The topics were infinite and we didn’t really have any boundaries on what we could discuss. It allowed me to make the independent decision to blog about something I was truly passionate about: healthy eating. Being able to pick our topic made the daunting words “semester long project” (which is what our blog was) lose their intimidation. Instead of a chore, blogging for this class became a hobby.

I was able to unlock my creative side; combining my love for photography with my love for food and writing. Blogging compelled me to try new recipes and look even deeper into my health journey. Of course I owe WordPress a thank you because it was an excellent site that made blogging easy. WordPress has a variety of themes to choose from, with many different customizable options that allow the writer to personalize their content. Although I am extremely happy with the my overall experience on the site, I wish there was a mobile option that would allow the writer to format their post for mobile viewing. This way, the post can look the way the writer wants it to on both a desktop and smartphone device.

Advertising my posts on social media not only showed people a side of me they might not have known, but it also allowed me to take my content seriously; as if blogging was my job and I had millions of followers eager to see what I had to say. It also allowed me to appreciate the hard work that goes into blogging. I now have a much more profound level of respect for YouTubers and bloggers alike because I am now aware of how difficult it can be to come up with new content. Of course finding content is only the first step; once you have your topic, the laborious task of writing, editing and perfecting that particular post comes next. While it is a long process, it is a beautiful one nonetheless. I found that the result was always worth the hard work.

Screen Shot 2017-12-09 at 11.42.49 AMI was pleasantly surprised by some of my statistics; especially about the statistics for my most popular week. The week beginning on September 25th and ending on October 1st was my most visited week with a total of 307 views and 210 visitors: how awesome! After advertising my introduction post, “Everything in Moderation”, on both Facebook and Twitter, it’s not hard to believe it was my most viewed post with 175 views in the first week it was posted and 197 views in total. I owe these views to my family and friends; they saw my post on social media and were very eager to read my content. My most popular recipe blog was “An Apple for Dessert” with 57 views in its first week and a total of 68 views. My vegan brownie blog, “Spontaneous Vegan Brownies: Was it a success or failure?”, got the most attention on Twitter with 3 retweets and 10 favorites.

Through this experience, I have become a better writer, a more experienced health junkie and an official, first time blogger. I am extremely grateful that I took a class with a professor that is not only aware of every student’s individuality and creativity, but encourages it. From the beginning, I wanted to inspire others by sharing healthy recipes and it so incredible to have received such positive feedback from my readers. To hear that my blog had inspired someone’s next contribution to a potluck, or that my blog has helped people see that healthy eating doesn’t have to be miserable, has been extremely satisfying. Knowing that my readers were able to take something away from my writing brings me both pride and motivation.  As a Public Relations major, this project allowed me to truly better the skills I am going to need for the future. I was able to practice advertising and speaking to an audience: two important skills I can expect to use in my career. Overall, I think that I will continue blogging because while it has been an efficient way for family and friends to get healthful recipes, it has also been a way for me to document my creations and practice my writing. I can’t wait to see what else is instore for me on this blogging journey.

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Skinny Hot Cocoa (Just in time for winter!)

People in San Marcos, Texas don’t react well to 42° rainy weather. This kind of weather is unbearable in comparison to the warm, humid conditions we have all become so accustom to. We Texans are miserable, extremely cold and refuse to go outdoors. We cope by wearing layers of clothing and drinking hot chocolate. The second it gets cold, I take advantage of the rare opportunity by treating myself to a nice, tall mug of delicious hot chocolate. The good news is that there is a way to enjoy this drink without also enjoying 500 calories.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetNo need to buy sugary, high-calorie hot chocolate mixes anymore. All you need is an alternative milk (I used almond milk), raw cocoa powder (I like Hershey’s Special Dark) and some kind of natural or alternative sweetener. I personally like to use honey, but if you are vegan, you can of course use maple syrup or agave. As a lower calorie option, I also love to have stevia on hand.  By substituting almond milk for dairy, you’re already cutting some major calories. I avoid using a sugary hot cocoa mix by substituting a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder and a touch of sweetness. Healthy hot cocoa? Not even the Grinch could say no to that.

I started by pouring about two cups of almond milk into a small saucepan and bringing it toProcessed with VSCO with c1 preset a simmer. I then added my sweetener and whisked until it was fully dissolved. I followed that with a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder and stirred until there were no lumps. Take the drink mixture off the heat when it is well combined and completely smooth. Of course you can serve immediately, but be careful, don’t burn your tongue!

This recipe really is as easy as it sounds. With such a simple and delicious base made of only three ingredients (almond milk, cocoa powder and a sweetener) this hot cocoa has the potential to be as simple or as fancy as you want it to be. If you want to take your hot cocoa to the next level, buy good quality dark-chocolate chunks and add it to your milk along with the cocoa powder. This will ensure an extremely rich and creamy hot chocolate. For a chocolate-peppermint version, add the same dark-chocolate chunks with the cocoa powder and a drop or two of peppermint extract. After trying this delicious recipe, you’ll never go back to the overly-sweet, high-calorie versions again.

Orange Cranberry Sauce: The citrus twist every cranberry sauce needs

Happy turkey day! Or happy tofu-turkey day if you’re vegan. This Thanksgiving, my family and I traveled to El Paso to visit my mother’s side of the family. Like everyone else, I love to spend time with family I don’t get to see often. It’s especially fun coming back to my west Texas hometown because it gives me the opportunity to shake the rust of my Spanish. I consider myself bilingual, but let’s just say my Spanish needs a little bit of work. Besides speaking Spanish, I can also expect to see every member of the family contribute to the feast in one way or another. Obviously cooking is more difficult when you aren’t in the comfort of your own kitchen but I wanted to feel like I contributed in some way. I decided to lean on my trusted orange cranberry sauce recipe. I have made it the last three years on this holiday and it couldn’t be easier to do!

 

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In the spirit of this holiday centered around food, I decided not to take the healthiest approach with this classic Thanksgiving dish; mainly because I wasn’t in my own home and I didn’t have access to very many ingredients. So what’s unhealthy about it? It contains the devil of all ingredients: half a cup of white sugar. I hope you health freaks can forgive me, but just in case you can’t, I will be suggesting a couple of healthful alternatives towards the end of this post. Plus, if I’m being honest, the cranberry sauce was too pretty not to blog.

It starts with bringing half a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice, half a cup of sugar and half a cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. You can use bottled orange juice but make sure you look for one with no added sugar; the sauce could be too sweet if you go for a sweetened version. When the orange juice, water and sugar mixture come to a boil, add a 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries, thin slices of orange peel and a teaspoon of nutmeg. I like to add the peel of about half an orange and while that may sound like a lot, it does not overpower the sauce. Once the ingredients are added, bring the sauce back to a boil. Lower the heat to medium/low once you see that most of the cranberries have burst. I also like to remove the orange peels at this point. (Tip: keep the orange peels on the bigger side so that they are easy to find. This makes removal easy. Trust me, no one wants to take a bite of forgotten orange peel!) Continue to cook the cranberry sauce until you see it has thickened, then turn the heat to low and let the sauce cook for 3-5 minutes more, ensuring that anymore unecessay liquid is evaporated. (Tip: Remember that this is still a sauce so there is going to be some liquid at the end and because it is hot, evaporation will continue even after it is taken off the heat. Don’t let the sauce turn to a paste!) You can then turn off the heat and serve immediately or store in the fridge for later.

This sauce is sweet and tart with a pleasant citrusy note that takes this classic side to the next level. This is definitely a family favorite that won’t disappoint and because sugar is the only unhealthy ingredient in this recipe, you health freaks have a couple of options. You can start by simply lower the sugar amount until you feel comfortable with the sweetness for a tarter version. You can go even farther by completely cutting the sugar amount in half and adding a couple of tablespoons of stevia to subsidize the sweetness without the additional calories. While completely substituting the white sugar for a natural sweetener is another option, you can also go half and half with the white sugar and natural sweetener for a lower glycemic index. No matter what route you take with the sweetener, one thing’s for sure; you’ll never settle for regular cranberry sauce again!

Honey Roasted Almond Clusters: Fail proof?

thumbnail_IMG_2273Like usual, I was in my kitchen thinking of something sweet to get my hands on. It was one of the chiller nights of the year and the thought of roasting came to mind. I definitely associated roasting with the winter and although it was not winter by any means (it was 65 out) it was a bit breezy and therefore I qualified it as a fally, slightly wintery evening.  All I could think about was my grandma’s roasted, candied pecans at thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Sweet, crunchy and satisfying. Well maybe satisfying isn’t the right word, considering I tend to eat them until the container is empty, but definitely sweet and crunchy.  These particular pecans are awesome, but I knew I didn’t want all the added sugars that came with making them. I decided to take a more wholesome route without the brown sugar and corn syrup: Honey roasted almonds (almonds were the only nut I had handy).

Although this was my first time roasting almonds (or any kind of nut), I knew this wasn’t going to be just another honey roasted almond where the honey is the seventh or eighth ingredient on a label where sugar is the second or third. Honey was going to be the star of this show. Because roasting is a slower process, I set the oven temperature to 240. To make covering the almonds easier, I put about half a cup of pure, organic honey in a medium saucepan on medium heat and brought it to a boil. When the honey was bubbling, I added a splash of vanilla and a little bit of sea salt for taste. Then went in about two cups of whole almonds. I stirred the almonds in the thin honey until the almonds were completely coated in the golden substance. After greasing a baking sheet, I dispersed the almonds evenly throughout the sheet. I then proceeded to put a very good amount of effort into making sure I got every last drop of honey out of the saucepan. I sprinkled some cinnamon and gave the almonds a stir before throwing them in the oven.

thumbnail_IMG_2274  I kept in eye on the almonds, checking up on them every 30 minutes or so. To be completely honest, I wasn’t even sure what to look for. I saw that they were definitely getting darker in color, but I knew that that could be misleading because of the caramelization of the honey. At about an hour and a half I decided to get them out and let them begin cooling.   I would have left them in there longer had my roommate not insisted we watch a movie upstairs. I also figured that undercooked was better than overcooked aka burnt and playing it safe was the route to go. I sprinkled more cinnamon and waited for them to cool. It didn’t take long for the honey to start hardening around the almonds. After about 15 minutes the honey was still tacky, similar to the texture of caramel. When I was ready to go to bed, the almonds were still a bit malleable so I spooned them into an air tight container.

The next day I went to grab a couple and to my surprise they were rock solid; the almonds had hardened in the shape of the container! With a couple of breaks, the almonds were now in sweet, bite-size clusters.  The earthy taste that comes from roasting emphasized the almond flavor beautifully. The honey created a glossy, sweet coating with great crunch and the cinnamon was such an excellent addition because it took the flavor to a whole new level.  Then again, when is cinnamon ever a bad idea? I was hooked instantly; I could not stop eating them. Beginners luck maybe?

thumbnail_IMG_2270Beginners luck or not, the almonds were a complete success. I will be making this recipe again soon and will be trying it on different nuts throughout the holiday season. What better snack to bring to Thanksgiving dinner than some naturally sweetened almonds? I advise evenly distributing the roasted nuts when they are slightly cooled and still malleable into a cupcake tin for uniform, perfectly sweet (and easy to eat) nut clusters.

 

Spontaneous Vegan Brownies: Was it a success or a failure?

After a busy day full of classes and a couple of hours of studying, my roommate and I decided to have a relaxing Thursday evening to ourselves. After all, it had been a long week; we deserved it. Danielle and I decided we were going to lay in bed and watch some of our favorite childhood movies… and make brownies??? As soon as Dan verbalized this awesome idea, we knew there was no going back. Shrek and a fudgy dessert? Thursday suddenly became my favorite day of the week.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetNow, as some of you know, Danielle is a vegan. Obviously, the brownies couldn’t just be a product of your typical Betty Crocker boxed brownie mix; (although you can never go wrong with a Betty recipe) the brownies had to lack in animal products and not in taste. We googled vegan brownie recipes and clicked on the first one we saw. All Recipes was a trusted website of mine because I had used many successful recipes from this exact site while going through an extreme baking phase. The vegan recipe seemed simple enough: all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, water, vegetable oil and vanilla. In fact, I was shocked at how uncomplicated the ingredient list was. No flax egg, chia seeds or apple-cider vinegar? I realized I was mistaking the ingredients in a brownie for the components necessary for a light, airy vegan cake.  While cakes are meant to be fluffy, brownies are a much heavier baked good that don’t require as much attention to detail as a cake because there is not as much of a concern associated with the product’s rising.

Still, the recipe’s simplicity was interesting to me and I saw room to modify its Processed with VSCO with c1 presethealthfulness. I told Danielle that we should try substituting whole-wheat flour for all-purpose flour and coconut sugar for the white sugar. I didn’t know much about either ingredient besides the fact that whole-wheat flour was denser and less processed than AP flour and coconut sugar was lower on the glycemic index than white sugar. Since both ingredients were healthier options, I took the little knowledge I had of them and ran with it. We also decided to get chocolate chips in order to take the indulgence level up a notch. (Here’s a quick tip: When modifying ingredients in a recipe, especially baked goods, it is important to research the effect the new ingredient will have on the finished product. Baking is a very exact science because it is all about the chemical reactions of the ingredients. Changing the measurements of the ingredients or the ingredients themselves can result in an epic fail. Trust me.)

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetWe drove to HEB and bought a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and the ingredients to make the brownies. After a surprisingly quick trip to the grocery store, we returned home and got to work. We grabbed a bowl and began measuring out the dry ingredients. We decided to do a one for one ratio with the flour and measured out two cups of the whole-wheat version. The recipe then called for two full cups of sugar. After measuring out one cup of the coconut sugar and seeing the amount that it was, Danielle refused to put anymore. “We definitely are not putting another cup of sugar!” she said.  I couldn’t help but agree with her; that was a lot of sugar, even for a sweet treat like brownies. After trusting that half the amount of sugar that the recipe called for was all the dessert needed in order to be sweet, we finished adding the cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. We then grabbed a measuring cup and whisked the water, oil and vanilla extract together.

We combined the wet and dry ingredients until the batter looked exactly like thick pudding and added a hefty amount of Lily’s Dark Chocolate Premium Baking Chips. We then dispersed the brown ooey-gooeyness in a greased 9×13 inch pan. Of course, to top it off, we sprinkled more of the vegan chocolate-chips over the distributed batter.

The recipe said to bake the brownies for 25 minutes but I was skeptical. Everyone knows Processed with VSCO with c1 presetthat brownies are better underdone! To be safe, we put the oven timer at fifteen minutes. I checked the brownies at twelve minutes and to my surprise, the brownies appeared done. With a closer examination I saw that the brownies had lost their wet, sheen and were now a dull brown color. This was a good sign since the recipe said they are done when “the top is no longer shiny.” I removed them from the oven after they passed the final examination: the clean-toothpick test.

While the brownies cooled, I got inspired by the leftover chocolate chips. It was time to make a spontaneous ganache! I took half a cup of the chocolate chips and added about a fourth cup of almond milk. I then put the chocolate in the microwave for thirty second intervals, stirring after each time until the chocolate was completely melted and smooth. Lastly, I added some vanilla and a couple of teaspoons of cocoa Processed with VSCO with c1 presetpowder. Because these particular chips are lightly sweetened and cocoa powder is extremely bitter, I also added some agave.

After covering the brownies in the decadent ganache, it was time to give them a try.

The brownies  were lightly sweetened with intense chocolate flavor. The ganache also added a delicious, creamy richness to the baked good. The flavor was there (it didn’t even need more sugar!) but something was off about the texture. Even though the brownies only baked for half the time, they were still more crumbly and dry than your typical, ideal brownie. Why was this?

I immediately questioned the biggest modification to the dessert: the whole-wheat flour. Processed with VSCO with c1 presetAfter researching the differences between all-purpose and whole-wheat flour, I came across some surprising information.  Because whole-wheat flour is less processed than AP, it has both a much denser and coarser texture. According to this Chowhound article, not more than 25 percent of the total flour should be substituted with whole-wheat flour. Yikes. This new information also explained the extreme difference in the recommended cooking time stated in the recipe and the actual amount of time it took for the brownies to cook. In summary, the whole-wheat flour changed the recipe a lot. Were the brownies good? Yes, in fact Danielle was obsessed with them. Could they have been better if more research had been done prior to baking? Yes. Nonetheless, was our sweet-tooth satisfied? Absolutely.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetWhile these brownies were neither a success or failure in my eyes, they did teach me some valuable lessons about the difference in flours and the importance of researching ingredient substitutions. I will be trying this recipe again soon and fortunately for this time, I’ll be more informed.

 

Quinoa for Breakfast with Apples and Coconut Milk

After reviewing Andie Mitchell’s blog, I decided that I had to give one of her recipes a try. While scrolling through her extensive recipe tab early this morning, I decided that breakfast was the obvious route to take. I was determined to find something I had never tried before. I soon came across her Healthy Breakfast Quinoa with Coconut Milk and Apples. Not only am I obsessed with cooked apples, but I am a sucker for anything with coconut flavor. Besides these eye catching ingredients pulling me towards the recipe, I was also intrigued by her untraditional use of quinoa in a sweet breakfast dish. It reminded me of oatmeal: one of my favorite foods. Whether its oats with chocolate protein powder and cocoa nibs or fresh blueberry oatmeal with honey, oats are my go-to food for any meal of the day, especially breakfast. I was interested in the fact that she took an alternate route and made this breakfast meal with an ingredient I usually associated as a base or side in savory dishes.

After a quick trip to HEB to pick up the items I didn’t already have (orange marmalade and nut meg) I began preparing the ingredients. I read over the directions she had listed at the bottom of the blog one more time and began cooking. I started by bringing the quinoa and coconut milk to a boil and then letting it simmer. I would add a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk at a time if I felt like the quinoa looked too dry. While the quinoa cooked, I began melting coconut oil in a separate pan and when that was completely liquefied, added the sliced apples along with some water, the cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. (Tip: Make sure to watch the apples, stirring and flipping them often. I had a couple of slices burn after leaving them on the same side too long.) When the quinoa had softened and about doubled in size, I took the grain off the heat. At about the same time, the apples were golden brown and soft (the same color and texture form my Apples for Dessert blog) and were giving off a sweet aroma.

I took the apples off the heat and stirred in the tablespoon of orange marmalade until all the apples were coated with the sweet gloss. It was time to plate. I placed a large scoop of the quinoa in a bowl along with the apples and some chopped pecans. To finish, I added another dash of cinnamon and some more coconut milk like Andie had recommended.

Like the picture on her blog that had originally caught my eye, the warm, fragrant bowl beckoned me in. While the quinoa had the same satisfying texture I expected, the bowl did not have as much sweetness as I had wanted from a sweet breakfast recipe. Of course this is a healthy breakfast dish and Mitchell even states in her blog that it has “…just the right amount of sweetness from the apples–not too much (we’re still trying to keep it healthy and low in sugar!) but enough for it to be flavorful.” But for a sweet-tooth like me, it was missing the mark. To compensate, I added a small drizzle of pure, organic honey and stirred it in. After this small addition, the bowl was perfect. The orange marmalade added a citrusy note to the apples that I was pleasantly surprised by and in my opinion was complimented by the honey.  The chopped pecans were a nice textural contrast to the soft apples and the classic spice combination tied the entire dish together.

Overall, the breakfast was a deliciously unique take on a beloved grain that completely satisfied my hunger; I was full! I recommend this dish to anyone like me, who enjoys a warm bowl of oatmeal or grits for breakfast. While the sweetness was lacking for me, this does not apply to everyone or even most people; my taste buds love sugar, what can I say? I know many people, including my parents, who would have absolutely loved the dish without the addition of honey. Feel free to experiment! That is what is so cool about trying new recipes, it can always be altered to your own preference! One  Andie Mitchell recipe down, many more to go.

 

 

Food Blog Review: Andie Mitchell

It’s important to remember that you should never stop learning, observing and acquiring new ideas. Coming up with ideas for a blog can be difficult and I believe that finding new inspiration is key to staying on top of your content. This passed week I have focused on looking for inspiration in new places. I came to the conclusion that I don’t read enough outside of the readings required for my classes. Whether it’s food related or not, books are a way to experience something new while making me a better writer at the same time.  I’m also excited to visit the San Marcos farmer’s market soon (look out for a blog post) to see what the local market has to offer.  Lastly, I want to review experienced blog sites with similar content. What better way to get inspired than by seeing content done by professionals with recognized blogs?  This way, I can acquire some inspo and write an honest review for any of you health nuts looking for another blog to follow.

While scrolling online, I came across an article about Andie Mitchell: a writer, blogger, bestselling author and healthy recipe creator. After clicking the link to her blog, I quickly decided that her blog would be the first website I review. Mitchell lost a remarkable 135 pounds in one year after she discovered healthy eating and regular exercising. Talk about inspiring! Mitchell discusses how she began updating the recipes she’d always loved by using lighter, better-for-you ingredients to achieve her incredible weight-loss in her New York Times bestselling memoir, It Was Me All Along. 

At first glance, Andie’s blog is graced with bright colors and beautiful photos of  food while being clean-cut and well organized. Her blog is also user-friendly, with a easily navigable “recipe” tab. Within each recipe blog, she also provides stunning, step by step photos of her recipes, accompanied by honest reviews, insight and ideas. At the end of each post she also presents an ingredient list and simplified instructions on how to recreate the meal. Another component to her blog that I enjoy is that Mitchell encourages customizing her recipes and even gives alternative ingredient options to try.

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By welcoming people to put fourth their health journey in the comments, Mitchell has created a community with her followers that acts as a safe-haven for those looking for knowledge without the judgement.  Both well-written and creative, Andie Mitchell’s blog  is a very real and down-to-Earth place that offers culinary ideas too beautiful not to try. Mitchell has done more than just create a recipe blog; she has helped offer inspiration to health seekers, cooks and bloggers alike by proving that you don’t have to compromise on taste when it comes to eating healthy.

Cauliflower in Trendy Bowls

From Acai bowls to protein bowls to poke bowls; putting food in bowls is definitely the trend. What is it about putting food in bowls that is so darn attractive? In my opinion, it’s the ability to layer ingredients in a way that satisfies both the eyes and the palate. Using wholesome ingredients with bright colors makes the food you eat something extremely appealing, maybe even snapchat worthy. My version of a protein bowl is quick and simple but at the same time offers a filling meal full of vitamins and protein.

Vegetarian version.

While shopping at Sam’s Club the other day, I came across Cauliflower Pearls. I have always been a big fan of cauliflower but not a big fan of the messy process of breaking down the whole floweret. This bag saved me the hassle of breaking it down by conveniently placing the small pieces of cauliflower in a steamtable bag. I knew I wanted to make this cauliflower a component in my bowl. I started by pouring about two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. When the olive oil was hot I poured the entire bag of cauliflower into the pan with about half a cup of water. I covered the saucepan and let the cauliflower cook for about 5 minutes.

Chicken was my choice of protein here.

It was time to take the cauliflower to “flavor town” as The Great Guy Fieri would say. I seasoned with a good amount of salt and pepper and then added two or three teaspoons of cayenne. My love for spice is never-ending and I knew it wasn’t going to stop there. I reached for my trusted Frank’s Red Hot in Buffalo Style and added a generous amount. Lastly, I mixed in two tablespoons of taco-inspired hummus (another Sam’s find). I covered the pan and let the cauliflower cook until it was soft and had a texture similar to cooked rice (about 10-15 minutes).

Vegan version with a veggie patty as the protein.

Once it was taken off the heat and had cooled for a bit, I grabbed a bowl and filled it with spinach and arugula. I added a couple of spoonfuls of the sautéed cauliflower, a scoop of hummus and a hard-boiled egg. The warm, soft cauliflower tasted amazing in contrast to the crisp greens and cool hummus. It was delicious. The next day I replaced the egg with some grilled chicken pieces and was also satisfied by this version. To get my vegan roomie on board, I made her the exact same bowl and replaced the protein with a Morning Star vegetable patty. Eating on the go was made easy because the one bag of cauliflower lasted about three meals. All I had to do was reheat it and go on my way.

What I loved about this recipe was that it had everything you would want in a meal while being extremely customizable. The texture and flavor of the cauliflower as well as the protein choice could be easily changed based on your preferences. Easy, delicious and healthy; talk about trendy.

An Apple for Dessert

Whether it’s because I’m the biggest procrastinator in Central Texas, or it’s because I’m currently lacking the sufficient funds (hello, broke college student); I have not been to the grocery store in over a week and a half. In fact, to put things into

Cut apple into thin slices. (Ignore my scratched up baking pan.)

perspective, I have exactly three apples, a Cliff Bar, a quarter-full bottle of Frank’s Red Hot, cinnamon and half a jar of PB2.  After eating dinner at Chuy’s today, I came home to the biggest sweet craving. Nothing new of course, since my Achilles’ heel is my undying love for sweets. While I can say no to most unhealthy savory dishes, desserts have my self-control by the neck. I’m all for a slice of cake every once in a while, ( and I’ll never say no to a cookie), but for the most part, I like to look for healthy alternatives to satisfy my sugar cravings.  Since there is not a day that goes by that I don’t yearn for a sweet treat after dinner, and because I am somewhat of a health freak, I’ve had to get pretty creative.  Today, with my extremely minimal availability of resources, I’ve had to get especially creative.

Naturally, I turned to the three Honeycrisp Apples left in my fridge.

Danielle’s expensive and surprisingly attractive bottle of syrup.

Very sweet in flavor with an irresistible, undeniably-satisfying crunch, Honeycrisps are not only my favorite apple, but my favorite fruit. Yes, it is a big statement to make in a world where pineapples and mangos exist, but it is one I can make with confidence. There was just nothing that contented me quite like a Honeycrisp. I knew I was on to something. After getting the apple from the fridge, I proceeded to reach for my little container of ground cinnamon hidden in the shadow of my cayenne pepper. What better companion to the apple than ground cinnamon? It’s a timeless pairing. I then asked my vegan roommate, Danielle, for her super fancy

Coat the slices evenly with syrup and cinnamon.

bottle of organic, pure maple syrup (yes, it’s a mouthful). I preheated the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and began cutting half the apple into thin slices. After coating the baking pan with a light layer of coconut oil non-stick spray, I distributed the slices evenly on the pan. I then drizzled about two tablespoons of  maple syrup over the apples and grabbed a spatula to make sure that they were entirely coated with the syrupy goodness. I ended by generously sprinkling both sides with cinnamon. After a pinch of salt, they were ready for the oven.

I let the apples bake for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on them and stirring about halfway through. After 15 minutes, the apples were soft in texture and golden brown in color. I plated the apples and garnished with a little more cinnamon and, (because I was feeling daring), a pinch of cayenne.

Garnish and enjoy. Or, use slices as a garnish on other things. Coconut milk ice cream, anyone?

My thoughts? The apples tasted exactly like apple pie filling with a subtle kick at the end. They were perfectly sweet  and packed with the most incredible cinnamon flavor. Oh, and did I mention the entire house smelled like an apple-cinnamon candle around Christmas? Vegan, all organic, with no processed sugar is definitely something both healthy and delicious. At the end of it, my sweet craving was fulfilled and it smelled like I was living inside a fresh-baked apple Danish. So yes, it was a good night.

 

Everything in Moderation

Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, organic, unrefined, raw. What does it all mean? What are preservatives, anyway? And most importantly, what does being healthy and eating clean really entail? Hi, I’m Alessandra Wezeman and I can tell you from experience that the road to a healthy lifestyle that works for you can be a confusing one. With a plethora of fad diets to choose from and a glut of misconceptions about food, being healthy may seem like a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of time. The truth is, eating healthy doesn’t require expensive grocery trips and a list of torturous restrictions, (spoiler alert, you don’t have to be a raw vegan to enjoy the countless benefits associated with being a healthful consumer). Food is the way we experience life and eating healthy can be a simple, great tasting way to improve both our physical and mental health. It’s time to forget everything you think you know about healthy living and take a more moderate approach towards the nutrition we put in our body.

Believe it or not, there is a way to fit a clean diet into any lifestyle, including a college lifestyle. Last year, I began my first semester as a college student at Texas State. I was officially being thrown out of the house and away from my household’s overabundance of food. Adjusting to life in a dorm meant more than just getting used to sharing a small space with another human I had never lived with before; it also meant getting accustom to a brand new diet. My mom’s chicken roasts felt so far away, while my dad’s famous pork chops seemed like a distant memory. With only a microwave and mini fridge to work with, the typical ramen noodle, easy-mac, peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwiches-for-every-meal college diet was a tempting route to take. Luckily, I had been raised in a household where my parents had made sure to provide my siblings and I with a good understanding about what nutritious food was. Determined to make the best of my small, set allowance and the lack of kitchen appliances, I began researching ways to be healthy on a budget. It was through this experience living in my dorm that I realized that maintaining a healthful lifestyle was achievable in almost every circumstance. Healthy dietary habits definitely didn’t require any extreme lifestyle changes either.

Being healthy didn’t mean I had to spend a million dollars on “health foods” I didn’t want to eat. Instead, eating healthy meant it could be a creative way to make sure my mind, body and soul were working to the best of their abilities. It meant trying new flavors and taking the extra time to read ingredient labels. It meant understanding the difference between “diet foods” and “clean foods”. I’m here to break down the myths surrounding the food we as consumers buy every day and teach you that being healthy on a budget can totally be done. All it takes is a little effort and a moderate approach towards becoming  somewhat of a health freak.