How to get through the rest of winter

How to get through the rest of winter | The Organic Beauty BlogAs we head into this final stretch of winter, we all seem to be getting a little fed up with the cold and the havoc it can wreak on our bodies and minds.  I moved all the way across the country from New York to sunny Santa Monica to escape winter, and even here, in the temperate 60 degree winter temperature range, my feet are cold, I’m sipping hot tea all day long, and I’m pretty much living in my long, chunky knits.

Cold weather, even Santa Monica-style cold weather, can dry us out, stress us out, make us feel depressed and unmotivated, and majorly hamper our glow factor.  But with a few Ayurvedic tips and tricks, we can heat things up, boost our mood and immunity, and get through the rest of winter with our glow on!

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5 Tips to Stave Off Colds This Season

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

5 Tips to Stave Off Colds This Season | The Organic Beauty Blog

Lately, it seems like everyone is getting the sick, and for some of you, that might mean a whole month of chronic sniffles as the weather cools.  We may just assume that this is a normal seasonal side effect, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not!

Seasonal sniffles do not need to happen, and if you find that you’re falling victim to them like clockwork, it may be a sign of some greater imbalances in your system.

Compromised immunity can come from a lot of unexpected places — food sensitivities, stress, not eating for your body type, not staying warm enough, and of course, nutritional deficiencies.

With a few key upgrades to your eating and lifestyle, you can stay totally healthy and cold-free this season, and save those sick days for playing hooky and going to the spa or taking an impromptu day trip.

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My Winter Veg Obsessions!

By: Kristina Tortoriello

My Winter Veg Obsessions! | The Organic Beauty Blog

Admittedly, I’m tickled by in-season produce. It literally delights me to bring home goodies that are winter-grown. Does that make me a weirdo? Hey man, I just appreciate feeling connected to my food. Prepare for some propaganda on why shopping seasonally is the best!

For winter, a few flavorful favorites are as follows: clementines, winter squash, beets, kale and escarole, certain onions, horseradish. As you can tell, my palette generally runs from sweet to spicy, and everything gets satiated this time of year! So no matter the weather outside, I’m a happy girl in the kitchen.

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Tastes of Brooklyn 2012

Saturday was one of those days that makes me feel sooo lucky to live in Brooklyn, the best city around!  Our beautiful neighborhood played host to not one but two awesome food events, Smith Street Soup Fest (benefitting The School For International Studies) and Tastes of Brooklyn (benefitting Seeds in the Middle, which works to empower Brooklyn’s neediest children to eat healthy, local food and stay active).

Tastes of Brooklyn was almost literally out our front door, being held at the Greenmarket at Borough Hall.  The event brought together 18 awesome Brooklyn restaurants like Saul, Brooklyn Farmacy, Benchmark, Egg, and Fornino, that have a local, farm-t0-table philosophy, each offering super seasonal tastings to enjoy.

Though there were lots of memorable tasty treats, our absolute favorite was Prospect Heights’ Aliseo Osteria del Borgo’s delicious trifecta of crostini with creamy cod, chestnut and white bean soup, and country-style pate.  They also threw in a scrumptious biscotti with currants and nuts.  Soooo good!

Other standouts were the Ribollita (traditional Tuscan stew made with seasonal vegetables and dried bread) from Locanda Vini e Olii in Clinton Hill, and the Moroccan-style roasted carrots with coriander and cumin from our own Cobble Hill’s La Vara (quite possibly our new favorite restaurant in the neighborhood!).

In such a locavore foodie borough, it’s so great to see restaurants really flaunt their commitment to seasonal Greenmarket fare in such a community-focused event.  And the cause couldn’t be more worthy.  Seeds in the Middle has such amazing initiatives as growing edible urban gardens where kids can learn about sustainability and healthy, produce-driven eating, student-run markets that offer healthy alternatives to the typical vending machine fare, hands-on cooking classes to get kids excited about making healthy food, and field trips to working farms, community gardens, and farmer’s markets.

Yet another reason we just can’t get enough of our beloved Brooklyn, and all it’s amazing tastes!

Seasonal Eating: Healthy Fats

Seasonal Eating Healthy Fats | The Organic Beauty Blog

Our bodies naturally need different foods at different times of the year, and it is remarkably beneficial for your body, skin, and overall health to be sensitive to these seasonal variations.  In the cold weather months, we naturally need more fat in our diets to insulate us against the heat, give us energy, and keep our system lubricated.  Year round, healthy fats keep our minds sharp, our hearts healthy, our hair shiny, our skin clear, and our waistlines smaller!  Amazing, right?

But obviously, not all fats are good fats!  When consuming fats, steer clear of saturated fats and opt for mono- or polyunsaturated fats instead.  Check out the handy charts for help choosing the right kinds of fat, and keep them to about 20% of your total diet.

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Are you finding it difficult to substitute saturated fat for healthier options?  Get some ideas below!

*Be mindful of your soy consumption, and try to eat mostly fermented soy, like tempeh, to avoid any dangerous hormonal effects.

5 Ways to Stave Off Winter Colds, Boost Immunity and Energy!

5 Ways to Stave Off Winter Colds, Boost Immunity and Energy! | The Organic Beauty BlogWinter really is the time to go a little extra distance in terms of self-care.  But committing to take these few simple, holistic steps will cut down on those sick days, help cure winter blues, and get you through these cold, dark days in one, happy, healthy piece!
  1. Sleep: This is where we should take a page from the books of our large furry mammal friends.  Our bodies use a lot of energy to keep us warm in the winter, and that, combined with more bugs floating around, and the lack of sunlight equals a need for a LOT more sleep.  Even if you’re a “I’m fine with 5 hours” kind of person, really opt for 8 hours of sleep a night MINIMUM during the cold months.  You’ll have more energy, higher immunity, and less tendency toward seasonal blues! Opt to sleep between the hours of 10pm and 7am, which is the most restful time in the body’s cycle, and also ensures the most exposure to those scant daylight hours.  I promise, the party life will still be there for you come spring!
  2. Bundle Up: Contrary to some misinformation floating around out there, you really can get sick from exposing yourself to the elements (and I don’t even mean the full monty kind of exposure).  Wearing clothes that aren’t sufficiently warm, leaving your throat, head, and nose exposed to cold winds all can affect both your body’s ability to retain it’s heat and your mucous membranes’ ability to keep out nasty bugs.
    • Aim for dressing warm enough so that when you’re standing outside, you’re pretty comfortable (i.e.: not shivering, hunched up against the cold, and cursing the gods of winter).  This means sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves.  Worried about looking like an abominable snow-person?  Opt for layers that go a long way, like thermal undergarments, tights or leggings under your jeans, and warm top layers that you can peel off once inside.
  3. Stay Lubricated: Once you’ve got your giggles out of the way, consider this: Dry, cracked skin on your hands, face, and in your nose is like leaving big gaping holes for germs to get in through.  In the winter months, it is even more important than usual to stay moisturized, inside and out.  This means using a humidifier a night (to keep your nasal passages, throat and skin moist), using a good quality moisturizer on your face and body every day (I like Desert Essence Organics Sweet Almond Moisturizer), and drinking lots of water and hot teas throughout the day.
    • Water hydrates and lubricates your system from the inside, and also flushes out toxins to keep you from getting sick.  Opt for warm or hot water instead of cold in the winter months… it is much easier on your system, warming and psychologically more comforting, and also very detoxifying for the lymphatic system!
    • Hot teas can have a similar effect, and many herbal teas like ginger, echinacea, slippery elm bark, and elderberry have wonderful immunity boosting effects!
    • I am also a fan of Emergen-C or Airborne during the winter months as well, especially if you find yourself in crowded areas like trains and airports, or if you’ve been in contact with a sick or sniffly person.
  4. Let Food Be Thy Medicine: Especially in the winter months, don’t underestimate the power of great diet.  Eating antioxidant and nutrient rich foods, healthy plant proteins, and lots of quality oils in the winter will go SUCH a long way toward keeping you healthy.  Stock up on garlic, dark leafy greens, all kinds of beans, and hearty root veggies for the winter, and try to eat home-cooked food as much as possible.  Not only is eating this way going to ensure the biggest nutrient-bang for your buck, but home-cooked meals are also substantially more nourishing, which has positive psychological effects as well.
    • Opt for hearty soups and stews (like this Thai Sweet Potato Soup), and increase your intake of healthy fats, like nuts, olive, coconut, and sesame oil, fatty low-mercury fish, and avocados .  These foods will nourish you from the inside out, give you much more energy to burn, warm your body, and heighten your immunity!
    • If you start to feel a little sniffle or tickle in the throat, chow down on some major immune-boosting foods, like this Yummy Cold-Busting Salad, jam packed with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial nutrients!
    • The one vital winter nutrient you just can’t get enough of from food is vitamin D, which is super important for immunity, mood, and energy.  Supplement with a high-potency sublingual vitamin D drop like Bio-D-Mulsion Forte to make sure you get enough, especially if you live in cold climates where you can’t get 15 minutes of direct exposure to sunlight every day.
  5. Keep Moving: It’s easy to let your typical workout routine fall by the way side when it’s 25 degrees outside, but it’s important to find ways to keep moving and fit some exercise into your routine every day.  This might mean finding a workout video (Netflix has some great ones!) to do at home, or finally getting your courage up to try bikram yoga if getting to the gym fills your with thoughts of shivering torment.  If you do get yourself to the gym, make sure to finish your workout with a steam in the sauna, which helps to raise your body temp, sweat out those toxins, and nourish you to the core.  Even if you only do 20 minutes a day, maintaining a regular exercise routine in the winter will boost your energy, increase serotonin levels, and help keep your immune system on top of its game!
    • For an extra mood and energy boost, pick a sunny weekend afternoon to bundle up and get outside for some skiing, a snowball fight, sledding, or just a brusque winter walk.  The sunlight will boost your mood, while the heat from moving around while layered up will help warm your body and burn off extra calories.

Seasonal Food Focus: Thai Sweet Potato Soup

Thai Sweet Potato Soup  |  The Organic Beauty BlogSince it’s finally starting to feel like winter here in NYC, I am getting way more in the soup mindset.  Although with our busy lives (recurring evening workshops 3 days a week… oy) it’s not always possible to make soups from scratch, a new cookbook I received over the holidays, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, has really been motivating me to get souping!

The other night, we made a big batch of this Thai Sweet Potato Stew, and I’ll tell you what, it was warming, nourishing, and sooooo delicious!

Thai Sweet Potato Stew
Serves 6


I made a few OB substitutions.. agave for sugar, almond butter for peanut butter, and left out the lemongrass and tofu… but you should experiment!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic
3 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups water
1 medium green bell pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen green beans
1/2 tsp (or more, depending on how spicy you want it) red curry paste
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp agave, optional
2 stalks lemongrass, optional
1 13.5 oz can organic light coconut milk
2 tbsp raw, organic almond butter
salt to taste
One 8 oz package baked tofu, optional
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a soup pot.  Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté until both are golden.  Add the sweet potatoes and water.  Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are about half done.  Add the bell pepper, green beans, curry paste, sugar, and ginger.  If using lemongrass, cut each stalk into 3 or 4 pieces, and bruise by making long cuts here and there with a sharp knife.  This will help release the lemony flavor.  Stir into the soup pot and simmer for 10 minutes longer.  Stir in the coconut milk, almond butter, salt and optional tofu.  Return to a simmer and cook over very low heat for another 10 minutes, or until all veggies are tender and flavors well integrated.

Remove lemongrass pieces, taste to adjust seasonings, and serve at once, topping with a few cilantro leaves.


Tips For Maintaining Your Inner Holiday This Season

By: Nkechi Njaka, Msc

Tips For Maintaining Your Inner Holiday This Season | The Organic Beauty BlogWe’re officially in mid-December, which means the holidays are basically here. Maybe you‘re traveling for the holidays to spend time with your family. Perhaps, you’re forgoing travel to your home and visiting the family of your significant other. Or, you‘re hosting family or friends this year and need to accommodate more people than you are accustomed to. Regardless of your specific plans, there are many schedules and people to coordinate, arrangements to be made, houses to decorate, meals to cook, not to mention–GIFTS TO BUY! We all want to find the best deals and give thoughtfully while not over-spending…or losing our minds. We want the holidays to be a time of harmony and joy but with so many things to organize, it becomes challenging. So, then, ‘tis the season to be a Deliriously Stressed Mess?!
Something about that just doesn’t sound very appealing, and yet research shows that more Americans report feeling depressed and stressed around the holidays than any other time of year. So let me ask you this:
What does the word ‘holiday’ mean to you?
Pay attention to your body when you ask yourself this. Notice if you have stopped breathing or tensed any of your muscles as you finalize your thoughts. Done? If the word ‘holiday’ left you feeling tense or stressed, then perhaps it’s time to stop and find your inner holiday.
Clearly, we all have different feelings associated with the word ‘holiday,’ but I think that it’s important to consider what the word really means. Quite literally, the word ‘holiday’ means ‘holy day.’ Be it as it may, the word ‘holy’ is rooted in the word ‘whole’, as is the word ‘holistic’. Perhaps, now is as good a time as any to start seeing our holidays as holistic days…or days of wholeness.
If we were to think of what makes us stressed out during the holidays, it would probably boil down to how much we are doing and being able to get everything done. It might be helpful to think about things differently this year. Remember that the holidays are about giving and receiving, rather than accomplishments or perfectionism.
To speak to the above sentiments, think about how giving and receiving contributes to wholeness. Traditionally, we see this in gifts—we give presents (by giving presence) and we receive presents (by receiving the presence of others). By doing this, we find ourselves coming together in the company of others. Being mindful of this rather than how much we have or have not accomplished will be the first step in making this holiday season about wholeness.
So, if this is theory, what is practice? How can we be whole and present in the chaos of the season? The answer is balance. And I have 7 ways to inspire balance during the holiday season:
  1. Breath: When you find that you are feeling anxious, always go back and find your breath. If it’s a challenge to even focus on one breath, count to 5 on both inhales and exhales.
  2. Sleep: Going to bed early may feel unrealistic with so much going on but it will do wonders. Honestly, leave the dishes in the sink until the morning—your energy will be elevated, and your mind and body will thank you.
  3. Simplify. Whether it’s shopping online, delegating to-do lists or simply not sending out holiday cards, prioritize what really is important to you and try to do those things efficiently.
  4. Exercise. This one seems obvious, but often the gym falls low on the priority list when there is disruption to your regular routine. On the contrary, that is the most important time to free yourself from the craziness, release stress and tension while staying active.
  5. Pamper. Go get a massage, a mani-pedi or just have a good laugh watching your favorite DVD.
  6. Mindful Eating. Make your consumption of holiday treats be about savoring, rather than eating for the sake of eating. If you are going to indulge in seasonal desserts or candies—part of the festivities– then you really deserve to enjoy it sans guilt.
  7. Have FUN. It’s the season to be jolly, after all! Laugh, sing, catch up and spend quality time with loved ones. Being grateful for all those who have touched your life is an integral part of being healthy, happy and whole.
And here is a tip to help you find your calm in those seemingly unmanageable moments. If you find yourself feeling anxious, overwhelmed, low on energy or irritable, find a place that is comfortable and practice the following seasonally appropriate posture:
There are several simple and effective yogic postures that you can do, but I like this one because you can do it while standing (or even sitting). Begin by inhaling in through your nose and out through your mouth. Make sure to pause in between your inhalations and exhalations and repeat 3-5 times, or whatever feels comfortable. Stand (or sit) with your feet parallel about 3 inches apart with your arms hanging loosely at your sides. While inhaling, sweep your arms sideways and up overhead until your arms are parallel again over your head, palms facing each other. When you exhale, reverse the movement, sweeping your arms sideways and back down, allowing your arms to dangle loosely by your sides in the original position. Think snow angel (see? seasonally appropriate!). Repeat this 3-5 times, or whatever feels comfortable to you. This great posture helps relieve compression in the lower back whilst releasing the ribcage, which ultimately promotes freer breath. It also increases mobility in the shoulders as well as stimulating circulation and reducing stress.
 Breathing in, breathing out, giving, receiving and being present; may your holidays be days of wholeness!
{Photo: Pinterest}

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!

Healthier Take On Thanksgiving Recipes -- The Organic Beauty Blog

Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays.. and not just because it falls on my birthday every few years!  Getting together with family, laughing, drinking, and eating amazing food make for a pretty perfect affair, and I am always eager to find ways to make it a healthier one.

Luckily, a lot of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes are already pretty healthy at their core–the gratuitous addition of marshmallows, cream, and tons of butter and sugar to pretty much everything is definitely the Standard American Diet interpretation of classically delicious and nourishing foods.  Get back to the basics and make Thanksgiving a healthy and yummy celebration of the autumn harvest, as it was always meant to be!  Below, find some healthier versions of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, your family will love them, and everyone will feel much less comatose afterwards.But first, try the following tips this year, and get through it all without gaining a dress size:

  • Make sure to have a healthy breakfast the morning of Thanksgiving (if you do the whole dinner at 3pm thing), and/or a healthy lunch (if you sit down to dinner later).  I know this is contrary to the mentality of fasting before a huge meal, but making sure you’ve eaten well throughout the day will ensure that you’ll eat less!
  • If you’re cooking, use some healthy substitutions for common ingredients (agave or stevia instead of sugar; Earth Balance instead of butter; almond milk or coconut milk for milk or cream;  whole grain bread for white bread).  If you’re not the one cooking, take the opportunity to chat with mom (or whoever) about some healthier options, or just go ahead and bring the ingredients over and offer to help!
  • If salads aren’t a traditional part of your family’s T-giving dinner, make it one!  Start the meal with a healthy salad course before diving into the insanity.
  • Try a little bit of everything.  Don’t load your plate with heaps of the three fattiest things on the table.  Allow yourself a small portion of all the dishes, which will give you a more balanced meal, as well as encouraging you to eat less overall without feeling deprived.
  • I’ll be the first to admit that playing football is sooo not my thing, but the sentiment is spot on.  If you’re having an early dinner, get the family outside afterwards for some physical activity.  It’ll get things moving, and help you to digest your big meal!  If you’re eating later, have everyone go for an evening walk together after dinner.  It could be the start of a new family tradition!
  • Lastly, slow down!!  The holiday meal is a celebration of family and loved ones, not just food.  So take your time to eat slowwwwwly, chew your food and focus on the company!

Mashed Yams with Coconut Milk

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!This dairy-free take on traditional mashed yams tastes exactly the same as the one you’re used to, but with substantially less fat and calories! 


5-6 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut in halves or thirds
1 14 oz can organic coconut milk
2 tbsp olive oil or Earth Balance
1 tbsp maple syrup or organic raw agave
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
a pinch of sea salt

In a large pot, cover the yams with water and bring to a boil.  Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until soft.  Remove from water, mash or put through potato ricer.  Pour in coconut milk until the desired consistency is reached (this may not be the whole can), and stir in remaining ingredients.

Mushroom and Walnut Stuffing

This stuffing recipe uses vegetable broth and spelt bread instead of the traditional chicken broth and refined, white bread, which makes it heartier, and a whole lot healthier!  

Ingredients:A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!

10 oz. cremini or button mushrooms, diced
2 large, yellow onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 loaf of whole grain spelt bread (you can also use a good rye or other whole grain bread), left out overnight or toasted in the oven, cubed
1 to 1 1/2 cups low sodium organic vegetable broth
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
2 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and celery, and season with a small pinch of salt and some pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add a bit more olive oil to the pan, and sauté the mushrooms and sage, seasoning with a small pinch of salt and some pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are browned.  Add wine and cook, stirring and scraping all bits off the bottom of the pan, until the wine is almost entirely evaporated.  Transfer to the bowl with vegetables, mix, and add bread, walnuts, and enough bread to moisten (stuffing should not be soggy).  Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper, if necessary.  Add eggs to the mixture and toss well to combine.

Pour stuffing into a lightly oiled, 2-quart baking dish.  If using stuffing for turkey, reserve four cups.  Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.  Stuffing can also be made ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated before baking day-of.

{adapted from Martha Stewart Living}

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This classic roasted brussels sprout dish is rich and delicious without being full of the butter and bacon and aren’t doing anyone any favors.  The smoky, roasted hazelnuts add a meaty, bacon-y flavor without the artery-clogging fat!

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes! Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. brussels sprouts, halved, with stems cut off, and any discolored outer leaves removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup or organic raw agave
3/4 tsp sea salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 dashes liquid smoke (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, toss hazelnuts with a splash of olive oil, the smoked paprika, and a tiny pinch of salt.  Spread onto a lined baking sheet and roast for about 10-12 minutes.  In the meantime, toss brussels sprouts, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.  For an added smoky flavor (for those of you who would miss the bacon), add a couple dashes of liquid smoke.  Once all the brussels sprouts are coated, pour into a 9×13 baking dish.  Roast in oven for 15 minutes (at this point, your hazelnuts are probably done!), and stir with a wooden spoon, and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.  Stir in maple syrup, and roast for a final 15 minutes, or until the sprouts are easily speared on a fork.  Remove from the oven, and toss with the toasted hazelnuts.  

Zesty Cranberry Sauce

Making homemade sauce out of fresh cranberries does wonders to improve the flavor and benefits of this traditional turkey condiment.  The canned stuff is cooked, processed, full of sugar, and has about zero health benefits, where as this super easy raw recipe is loaded with vitamin c, antioxidants, and is still sweet as can be!


12 oz bag fresh, organic cranberries
1 cup juice from about 3-4 organic oranges
1 tsp zest from one of the juiced organic oranges
1 medium organic apple, peeled and grated with a box grater
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup organic raw agave

Pulse cranberries, grated apple and orange juice in a food processor.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until desired consistency is reached.  For a thicker, chunkier sauce, use less orange juice.  For a smoother consistency, use full cup of juice.  Enjoy!

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

This recipe is great for vegetarians forgoing the turkey altogether, or meat-eaters who don’t want to add meat on top of more meat… I mean come on, is that really necessary?  This gravy tastes great with the turkey or without and is super healthy!


3/4 cup dried mushrooms, chopped (I like to use shiitakes)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 small onion, diced
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp thyme
Freshly ground pepper to taste.

Hydrate dried mushrooms with about 1/2 cup boiling water.  Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Melt Earth Balance in a small skillet over medium heat, add onion, and saute lightly.  Add the mushrooms with their soaking liquid, tamari and the vegetable broth.  Add the flour, little-by-little, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Bring to a simmer or low boil, then reduce heat.  Add herbs and pepper, and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly, until gravy thickens.

Spicy Pumpkin Pie

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!This vegan take on the traditional pumpkin pie uses REAL pumpkins (commence gasping!) and not the canned, processed, sugar filled variety.  It also features silken tofu, which makes it much healthier and lower in fat, while still being rich and delicious.


1 medium sugar pumpkin (enough to make 2 cups mashed)
1 package organic silken tofu
3 tbsp organic cornstarch
3/4 cup raw organic agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
9 inch graham cracker pie crust (I like the one by Arrowhead Mills)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut pumpkin in half and remove stem, seeds and pulp.  (Save the seeds for roasting!)  Place two halves face down in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until pumpkin flesh is tender.  Let cool, scoop out flesh and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Turn oven up to 425 degrees.  In food processor add agave and tofu to pureed pumpkin.   Add spices, cornstarch, and salt, and process thoroughly until smooth.  Pour mixture into pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.  Lower heat to 350 degrees, and bake for another 60 minutes.  Cool and serve!


Super Seasonal, Super Healthy Fall Cooking!

The fall is such an amazing time for produce and cooking.  Fresh apples from the orchard, squash, pumpkins, pears, yams, maple syrup, rainbow chard, red cabbage, so many colors and delicious flavors.  I threw a little dinner party last night and put together a super seasonal menu that, in my opinion, showcases all of fall’s delicious bounty!  I also found it really fun to have some common ingredients that threaded the meal together, including some of the delicious apples we picked the day we got engaged!

Homemade Spicy Sweet Potato Chips

I had a bunch of mandolined sweet potatoes left over from the Sweet Potato Torte (see below), so I thought I would put them to good use by making a delicious pre-dinner treat of little crunchy chips.  They go great with the hummus I had out, and are just generally a delicious, healthy munchie food!


3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch thick slices
2 tbsp olive oil (plus a splash for the baking sheet)
2 tbsp organic maple syrup
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly grease with a bit of olive oil.  Spread the sweet potato slices evenly throughout.  Stir together remaining olive oil, maple syrup and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.  Brush mixture over the sweet potatoes, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Bake in pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes, flip potatoes with a spatula, and bake for about 10-15 minutes more, or until the edges of the chips are crispy and begin to curl upward.

Arugula and Pear Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Serves 4
This classic salad is made even more autumnal with a delicious maple vinaigrette.


8 cups arugula leaves, washed and dried
1 organic pear, unpeeled, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp organic maple syrup

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar and seasoning.  Toss with arugula and pears, and top with crumbled gorgonzola.
{adapted from Real Simple}

Layered Sweet Potato Torte

Serves 8

I assembled the torte the night before and just popped it in the oven the night of.  Huge time saver!

2 lbs organic sweet potatoes (I ended up using about 3 potatoes), thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 lb swiss chard, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, chopped
4 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil (for brushing)
3 oz. Taleggio or gorgonzola (optional), crumbled
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F.  Brush 9 inch springform pan with olive oil.  Stack 6 leaves of swiss chard on cutting board and roll into a tight cylinder.  Slice cylinder into thin strands (chiffonade).  Repeat with remaining chard.  Place one sweet potato slice into the center of the pan, and begin to arrange the slices around in concentric circles, overlapping pieces by at least half, until entire bottom of pan is covered.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with about 1/3 of the rosemary and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread 1 cup of swiss chard over the layer, sprinkle with 1/3 of the onion and 1/3 of the crumbled gorgonzola (if you’re using it).  Cover with another layer of sweet potatoes, press the layers down, and repeat layering 2 more times.  Place torte on baking sheet and cover with foil.  Bake 45 minutes, uncover, and bake another15 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes, and press top of torte to remove excess liquid.  Turn torte upside down, unmold, and serve.  For a crispier top, unmold top down onto a baking sheet, brush top with olive oil, and broil for another 3 to 5 minutes, until potato slices start to brown and curl upward.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.

{Adapted from Vegetarian Times}

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Tempeh

Serves 8

This super hearty take on traditional German braised cabbage is loaded with protein, and has a delicious sweet and sour flavor.  This dish also reheats really well, just add a little bit of cider if there isn’t liquid in the bottom of the pot, and warm on low heat.


1 8 oz package organic tempeh
2 lb red cabbage, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
2 large organic sweet/tart apples, cored and chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbs organic tamari
1/2 cup sweet apple cider
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp organic agave
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Cut tempeh width wise into 1/2 inch strips. Heat about 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add tempeh and saute about 4 minutes, or until browned.  Stir in tamari and 1/2 cup water.  Simmer about 5 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed, turning occasionally.  Cool, and cut tempeh into squares.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions and apples, and saute for about 12 minutes.  Stir in cabbage, apple cider, vinegar and agave.  Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes, or until cabbage is tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in tempeh and season with salt and pepper.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Apple Crisp

Serves 8

I ADORE this apple crisp recipe, and using the delicious, organic apples we picked the day we got engaged just made the whole thing that much sweeter.


For the filling:
4 lbs. organic apples
1/4 cup organic agave (or less, depending on preference)
1/2 cup apple cider or water
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 cup organic raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

For the topping:
1 cup organic rolled oats
1 cup gluten free flour or baking mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup maple sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut oil
3 tbsp almond milk or coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Peel, core, and slice apples into 3/4 inch chunks.  Dissolve arrowroot in apple cider or water, set aside.  Place apples and raisins or cranberries (if using) in a mixing bowl.  Add spices and mix.  Pour into a baking dish.  Pour arrowroot mixture over the apples.  To prepare the topping, mix all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, add melted Earth Balance, milk, and vanilla.  Mix well until the consistency is crumbly.  Crumble topping over the apples, and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

{Adapted from Post Punk Kitchen}


{Images: Pinterest}