Small Steps: Buy Hemp Seeds! by Kelsey Vlamis

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Is it just me, or does January seem to be the time for crash diets that are often too difficult to keep up or too restricting to help you develop lasting habits?

As an antithesis of the crash diet trend, I’m recommending small steps that can be incorporated one at a time into your diet, making it that much easier to turn that small step into a sustainable habit.

For most of us, eating healthy doesn’t happen overnight, which is why so many extreme diets don’t result in a longterm change. My healthy diet came from years of slow exposure to new foods and ideas, until one day I looked back and realized my diet had changed so much that it was hardly recognizable from how I used to eat. It happened so gradually it was painless, almost effortless, which is why it worked.

One small step you can take towards eating healthier?

Buy hemp seeds!

Shelled hemp seeds, also called hemp hearts, are a simple way to add some crunch and nutrients to your diet. They’re the seeds of the hemp plant, which is also the plant that marijuana comes from, but they don’t contain any THC, the active ingredient that makes you “high.”

You can find them at most grocery stores, online and in some bulk departments. They can be found on Amazon, at this link. I buy them in bulk and store some in an easily accessible jar that I refill as I go through it. I recommend storing them in a very visible place, at least at first, so you remember to start using them. There are two main reasons why hemp seeds are so useful in a healthy diet: protein and practicality.

A blueberry almond smoothie, made with hemp seeds and topped with hemp seeds (all the way on the right).

A blueberry almond smoothie, made with hemp seeds and topped with hemp seeds (all the way on the right).

Protein

One tablespoon of hemp seeds contains about 10 g of protein (an egg only has 6 g!). Not only that, they’re a complete protein—meaning, they contain all the essential amino acids your body requires—something many people erroneously think is exclusive to animal sources. I only loosely monitor my protein intake, but as a mostly plant-based eater, I know my consumption of hemp seeds plays an important role. If you are trying to consume less meat, the addition of hemp seeds can definitely help.

Practicality

Hemp seeds are easily one of the most used ingredients in my kitchen. I sprinkle them on almost everything I eat. They add a little crunch, but also just a nice boost of protein, in addition to other nutrients. More useful even, is the fact that as long as I have hemp seeds, which keep for a long time, I can make a quick nut milk in minutes. Don’t have nut milk on hand but want a smoothie? A “cream" sauce? A latte? Start with hemp seeds!

hemp seeds yogurt bowl
hemp seeds matcha

How to Use

As a topping:
Sprinkle generously on bowls, salads, soups, toast, smoothies, yogurt bowls, scrambled eggs… literally anything!

As a quick nut milk:
Blend 1 cup of water with 2-4 tbsp hemp seeds, adding more or less depending on desired thickness. That’s it, no straining required! There will be a small amount of sediment but I find it negligible. But, you may strain it through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth if desired. You could also add some sweetener (like honey, maple syrup or a date) and extract (vanilla or almond), depending on intended use.

To start a smoothie:
Blend 1 cup of water with 1-2 tbsp of hemp seeds (more/less as desired). This is your “milk” base. Add the rest of your ingredients and blend! I like frozen banana, frozen blueberries, frozen cauliflower/zucchini, almond butter and almond extract.

For a creamy latte:
Add hot drink of choice (coffee, matcha, other tea) to blender with 1-3 tbsp hemp seeds (more/less as desired), plus anything else you’d like (sweetener, cinnamon, etc.) and blend! There will be a small amount of sediment but I find it negligible. You may strain if desired.

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hemp seeds bowl

As always, feel free to ask me any questions, either here or via instagram. And if you have an idea or something you’re curious about as a healthy “small step,” let me know!

Meal Prep Pizza: Roasted Radish, Shiitakes, Vegan Dill Pesto & Cashew Cream by Kelsey Vlamis

For many, one of the biggest deterrents to meal prepping is the idea that of eating the same thing for every meal. And while this can certainly be true--and doesn't bother me personally--its not necessarily the case. Meal prepping can simply mean having ingredients on hand that are just more ready to be cooked up into something delicious. A perfect example: this pizza.

Which, let me start by saying, is so absurdly tasty it's hard to believe it was *mostly* the result of standard meal prepped food. And the best part is that regardless of what you've prepped for the week, throwing it all onto a pizza is almost always a guaranteed way to create something delicious.

First, let's start with what I had meal prepped for the week on Sunday that ended up in the pizza:

1. Roasted broccoli - two bunches tossed in ghee, garlic powder, onion powder, s & p, and roasted at 425 for about 30-40 minutes.
2. Shredded broccoli stalks - instead of discarding the large broccoli stalks, I shredded them with a cheese grater and stored them in the fridge, without any plan for them. They were going to end up in a salad or bowl, veggie pancakes, or this pizza crust.
3. Roasted radishes - one bunch sliced into disks and roasted at 425 until browned and soft.
4. Sautéed shiitakes - sautéed in ghee for eating throughout the week in bowls, with eggs, in "stir frys", etc.
5. Vegan dill pesto - I love pesto but it's pretty expensive to make, so I decided to use dill instead of basil, almonds instead of pine nuts, and nutritional yeast instead of parmesan and OMG.

So, with all that in the fridge, along with other things like rice and sweet potatoes, I could have easily just thrown a tasty, nourishing bowl together. But I was feeling inspired to create and craving a freshly cooked meal, so pizza it was.

My crust recipe was modified from this one, but skipped the microwaving step and consisted only of broccoli stalks, eggs, and parmesan - it was great tasting and easily picked up and folded, like New York-style pizza, but wasn't as crispy as I'd like, so feel free to try this one or use your favorite pizza crust recipe if you have one.

After cooking the crust, I spread on a layer of the pesto and topped it with roasted radishes, sautéed shiitakes, and roasted broccoli. I popped it back into the oven at 400 degrees F for about 6 minutes, just until everything was nice and warm and the edges were crispy. While it cooked, I whipped up the quick cashew cream sauce which literally takes minutes to make. I drizzled the pizza with the sauce and finished with some fresh cracked pepper. The whole thing took under 30 minutes and was truly delicious.

Whatever you have meal prepped, a quick pizza is a really effective way to switch things up. And these two sauces--dill pesto and cashew cream--guarantee it will come out tasting amazing. Enjoy!


Vegan Dill Pesto
makes about 1 cup

2 cups fresh dill
1/2 cup almonds, blanched + skinned if desired
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
few turns of fresh cracked pepper

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until desired consistency. Should be spreadable but still chunky.


Cashew Cream Sauce
makes about 1 cup

1 cup cashews, soaked and drained*
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
~1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding more or less water depending on desired texture. Will keep in fridge for up to 4 days. It will thicken in fridge, so if you want it to be pourable right out of the fridge, I would make it on the thinner side.

*Cashews can be soaked for 2-8 hours, or you can quick soak them by pouring boiling water over them and letting it sit for a few minutes before draining.


Mushroom and Zucchini Mozzarella Bake: A Perfect Vegetarian Summer Dinner by Kelsey Vlamis

mozzarella bake, vegetarian dinner, summer dinner, heirloom tomatoes

For those of us that are passionate about food, one of summer's greatest joys is all the fresh produce. But that doesn't mean we're all trying to eat raw salads everyday, nor does cooking your farmer's market finds waste their freshness. Fresh, in-season produce has a superior taste to it's out-of-season versions, both when enjoyed fresh and when cooked.

And so, this dish is really the perfect celebration of that superior taste, relying mostly on summer squash and heirloom tomatoes -- both of which are literally bursting with flavor this time of year. It's also crazy simple and totally healthy (I suggest making it on a Sunday and eating the leftovers during the week!). I served it over quinoa and lentils, because I liked the textural and nutritional differences each provided, but feel free to use one or the other, or something entirely different. I think the heartiness and chewiness of farro would go amazingly with this. And you certainly wouldn't go wrong pairing it with some crusty sourdough bread, a great option for a casual, backyard dinner shared with friends.

This recipe was adapted from Half Baked Harvest's Tomato and Zucchini Halloumi Bake. I altered it by making it vegetarian, and subbing mozarella for halloumi, because $$. Enjoy!

mozzarella bake, vegetarian dinner, summer dinner, heirloom tomatoes
mozzarella bake, vegetarian dinner, summer dinner, heirloom tomatoes

Mushroom and Zucchini Mozzarella Bake

serves: 4-6
active time: 20 minutes
cook time: 10 minute simmer, 15 minute bake
total time: 45 minutes

ingredients
1 yellow onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, chopped (I used baby bellas)
2 small zucchinis, thinly sliced into rounds
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
salt + pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1.5 tbsp paprika
1/2 c red wine
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c basil, chopped
8 oz mozzarella, sliced into rounds
handful heirloom cherry tomatoes (optional)

suggestions

Cook quinoa and lentils (or grain/legume of choice). Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in oven-safe skillet. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 4 min. Add mushrooms and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 6 min. Add zucchini and sauté until soft, about 4 min. Add chopped tomatoes, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Add wine and parsley. Cover and simmer until tomatoes are soft and have released their juices, ~10-15 minutes, removing lid halfway to let mixture reduce.

Add basil and mix well. Cover with even layer of mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with cherry tomatoes if desired. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until mixture has thickened somewhat and mozzarella has browned, about 15-20 min.

Let cool slightly before serving. Garnish with more fresh parsley and basil, and fresh cracked pepper. Plate quinoa and lentils, and top with the mozzarella bake.


mozzarella bake, vegetarian dinner, summer dinner, heirloom tomatoes

Food Trip: Maui & The Maui Foodist Bucket List by Kelsey Vlamis

When asked to think of Maui food, you probably imagine fresh pineapples and fresh poke--and understandably so! It would be a disservice to yourself and to the island to not enjoy those little wonders while visiting the Aloha State. But there is a lot more to Maui cuisine, something I quickly learned during two long, food-centric trips. I was doing research (read: eating anything and everything) with my man-friend for his book, The Foodist Bucket List: Maui, which compiles the island's top 100 edible adventures, from farm to fork. If you're headed to Maui (or just enjoy reading about food) I can't recommend the book enough--it's funny, useful, and truly a joy to read. In the meantime, I've narrowed down my own (much shorter) list of must-try Maui food. I stuck with more casual options (you don't need me, or anyone, to tell you Mama's Fish House is excellent), and I've divided it up by location for convenience. Enjoy!

maui coast

Hana Highway

Coconut Glen's: Truly an oasis on the long, winding, Road to Hana, the small colorful shack that is Coconut Glen's serves freshly made coconut-based vegan ice cream, made from coconuts harvested in the adjacent rainforest. Passing this place up is a grave mistake, for vegans and dairy-lovers alike.

The Upcountry

La Provence: Butter and carbs and more butter. I know, it's not exactly the picture of a Maui vacation. But do not visit the upcountry without stopping at this small, authentic French bakery. Get there early, as the baked goods often sell out before 9 am. Order the quiche, finish with the almond croissant, and start your day in the upcountry off right.

la provence maui quiche
la provence maui

Surfing Goat Dairy: What if I told you there was a magical, tropical place, with prancing baby goats, expansive ocean views, and flights of farm-fresh goat cheese? Well, this place exists and it's called Surfing Goat Dairy.

Grandma's Coffee House: The perfect, local, family-run spot for a classic breakfast, with delicious food (go for the weekend benedict special), a quaint patio, and killer island views. Plus, they've been growing, processing, and roasting (in-house!) their organic coffee since 1918. What's not to love?

grandma's coffee house

Makawao

Makawao Sushi and Deli: Ben's Rainbow Roll. Absolutely loaded with crazy-fresh fish, hand-rolled by Ben himself, and served by his wife in this small, unassuming, deli-style restaurant. That's all.

Paia

Paia Bowls: Tucked away off the busy streets in this once quiet hippy/surfer town is this perfect little acai spot, with 100% acai bowls, yummy toppings, reasonable prices, and the cutest plant-ridden patio to enjoy it all on.

acai bowls paia
acai bowl maui

Paia Bay Coffee: The most perfect Hawaiian coffee shop imaginable. Also tucked away off the bustling Paia streets, this coffee shop is a lush, tropical plant-filled paradise, free of tourists and full of fresh Maui air... and great coffee.

Mana Foods: Think Whole Foods, but way smaller, more local, totally Hawaiian, and actually community-based. The perfect little grocery store to fill up on any and all food needs--like fresh, beautiful, local produce for snacking, or packing a sack lunch before hitting the road to Hana.

hana sack lunch
mana foods kula strawberry

Kahului

Poi By The Pound: You can't go to Hawaii without trying actual Hawaiian food--which, contrary to popular belief, is not fresh fruit and fresh fish. Classic Hawaiian food is more like spam, white rice, mac salad, pork, and poi--a strangely textured taro root paste. Go to Poi By The Pound, try the kalua pork, the lau lau, the poi, and embrace Native Hawaiian culture.

Kihei

South Maui Fish Company: The. best. poke. ever. Not the best poke I had in Maui, not the best poke I've had from a food truck, just the best. The freshest-tasting and most perfectly-textured poke I've had. Period.

south maui fish co poke

Lahaina

Choice Health Bar: The beloved Hawaiian acai bowl may not find any greater glory than the version that is offered at Choice. A massive bowl of thick purple acai with plenty of granola, bananas, coconut, and more. Not to mention, healthy and vegan salads, plate lunches, and bowls. This place is the real deal.

choice health bar acai

Everywhere

Most importantly, don't forget to look out for serendipitous discoveries of fresh ripe fruit still hanging on the tree--a very common occurrence all over the island. After all, the overwhelmingly lush and abundant landscape is the true wonder of a place like Maui, and is the reason it has so much good food in the first place. So, as always, shout out and mahalo to Mother Earth.

fresh maui papaya
iver foraging

Any spots you love in Maui that I missed? Let me know! :)

Salted Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies by Kelsey Vlamis

Here's something you've probably never heard before: My mom is the best cook I know. Okay, I know everyone says that about their own mom. But I challenge anyone who doubts me to try my mom's veal with pine nuts, her lobster-vodka sauce with homemade 8 finger cavatelli, or her inexplicably addicting rack of lamb (I think her seasoning must include trace amounts of cocaine? idk for sure). While her savory dishes are some of the best I've ever had, don't even get me started on her desserts.

I say this whole-heartedly, her desserts are on another level, and for all my life all of my friends lucky enough to experience them have agreed. This has served as both a blessing and a curse: I am greeted with mounds of heavenly rich desserts every time I come home; I also am near-incapable of fully enjoying dessert made by anyone else (including myself), because as my boyfriend has heard countless times (and has been annoyed by ever since we met), "It's good, but you need to try my mom's."

In the past couple years, my mom has adapted an oatmeal cookie recipe to create the most insanely delicious cookie I've ever had, littered with too-much chocolate chips (if such a thing were possible), and chewy pieces of homemade toffee. In the spirit of fall, and the salted caramel trend that doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, I adapted this recipe from hers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy my mom's.


Salted Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies
makes about 24 large cookies

ingredients
for the apples
2 cups raw apples (I used fuji), chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (about 2 apples)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon brown sugar

for the cookies
1 cup (or two sticks) butter
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 + 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick-cooking oats

for the caramel drizzle
1/2 - 1 cup salted caramel

optional**
scant 1/2 cup of cooled caramel, roughly chopped into small pieces

suggestions
make caramel*
I've used this recipe for dry caramel, and this recipe for wet caramel. If you've never made caramel before, wet caramel is typically easier to make than dry (though the end result is basically the same).

sauté apples
If desired, skin apples (I didn't), and chop into 1/2 inch cubes. Set a skillet over medium-low heat and add about 1-2 tsp butter/oil. When warm, add apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and sauté until soft but not mushy, about 5 minutes.

prepare cookie dough
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat together until well blended. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Beat again until blended. Stir in oats, sautéed apples, and chopped caramel (if desired**) until evenly distributed.

bake cookies
Scoop dough and drop onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Size your scoops at 1/2 - 1 rounded tbsp, depending on preference. Bigger scoops will take slightly longer to cook. Bake about 10-12 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool for 3 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.

drizzle caramel
Once cool, drizzle warm caramel over cookies, using as much or as little as you prefer [as far as I'm concerned, more is more ;) ]. Full disclosure: I actually drizzled more caramel over these cookies after I took the photos.

notes
*If you have never and do not want to attempt homemade caramel for this recipe, you can use a thick, store-bought caramel sauce instead. Preferably one that hardens up a bit at room temp.
**Adding chopped pieces of caramel to the cookies add an extra caramel chewiness that I love, however, can result in some divots in the cookies where the caramel pieces melted during baking. While totally delicious, the cookies will look less perfect/uniform. I like it that way :) but it's your call!