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Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

26 Oct

Shepherd’s pie is pure comfort food. This recipe from Nava Atlas’ Vegan Holiday Kitchen is one of my favorites. Sometimes I substitute crumbled tempeh for the lentils and add a can of diced tomatoes. I almost always add extra veggies like green beans.

Find the recipe here: 

http://www.vegkitchen.com/recipes/lentil-and-mushroom-shepherd%E2%80%99s-pie/

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Thanks for reading!

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Art, Science & The Meaning of Good Food

28 Sep

I used to hate science.

In high school I was in art club. I had dreams of becoming an artist. A designer, a painter, maybe even a sculptor. I made my own clothes and wore them to school. I entered my drawings and paintings into contests and actually won on a few occasions. I made my own jewelry, I sewed quilts and gave them as gifts, I painted polka dots and palm trees on my bedroom walls. I was a creator.

Fast-forward 6 years. Imagine me sitting in a large lecture hall surrounded by pre-med students desperately trying to decipher what the professor was scribbling on the blackboard: organic chemistry. This was the worst of my science-heavy academia, but many similarly technical courses ensued: anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, medical nutrition therapy… you get the picture.

As I was cooking the other day- carefully examining a recipe in one of my new cookbooks while simultaneously improvising with a dash of this and a substitution for that- I started thinking about the opposing forces of art and science. Some of us naturally sway more in one direction than the other. But these are not “gifts”, they are skills, meaning we can become adept at both no matter which way we tend to lean. And, in my opinion,  we all need a little art and a little science in order to be balanced. As I half-followed that recipe, I realized that this opinion is also a perfect description of my philosophy on food.

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Food is fuel. (True). Food is memories, connection, and creativity (Also true).The sciences get us what we want (lower blood pressure, weight loss, faster race times). The arts are ends in themselves (the warm fuzzies from a bowl of soup on a cold night, the comforting memory of your grandma’s signature pie). Our relationship with food needs the sensibility of science to keep us healthy. It also needs the expression of art to make us feel alive and connected to our culture, to the people we break bread with, and to ourselves. I’ve seen how things can go awry if either of these aspects is forgotten. Ripping the art out of food leaves us with carbs/protein/fat, calorie counting, chugging lemon/cayenne/maple syrup concoctions, and obsessing over ways to “rev our metabolisms”. All art and no science ignores the compelling research that proves food really can be our medicine. Our disordered interpretation of how we should view and experience food has left us with a broken and abusive relationship with the thing that is meant to nourish us on all levels.

I am cooking much more now (for myself and for True Food clients). The creator in me revels in the vibrant colors, endless flavor combinations, and the reassuring act of producing nourishment for myself and others with my own two hands. The scientist beams with pride knowing that each ingredient, recipe, and final meal was carefully crafted with the intention of improving and supporting health.

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Wherever you fall on the science-art spectrum, I encourage you to seek out balance, especially when it comes to food. Without science, we are merely floating into an abyss. Without art, we live a rigid life. As for food, make choices based on what you know will nourish your health (I am confident your intuition will lead you to the right stuff), but don’t forget to create, play, savor, share, and enjoy what’s on your plate.

A soup recipe worth trying:

African Peanut Stew

(adapted from Peas and Thank You)

The Science: a meal of soup will fill you up (fiber- and water-licious!), fuel you up (nice balance of complex carbs, healthy fats, and plant proteins), and make you feel great (loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants up in here).
The Art: a blend of the vivacious colors of nature, varying textures, and punchy flavors will have you smiling and “mmm..”-ing until the final spoonful.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 T. minced ginger (or 1 t. ginger powder)
  • 2 t. minced garlic
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of cayenne
  • 1 14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes, in juice
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 c. vegetable stock
  • 2 T. natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. red lentils
  • chopped fresh greens (kale or spinach work nicely)

How-To:

  • Combine all ingredients except greens in a soup pot on the stove or in a crockpot and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender. Right before serving, stir in greens until wilted. 

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In the end, we all need a little of both worlds. The scientist must engage creative thinking to solve his hypothesis and the artist must learn technique to master his medium.

Psst… you still have one more week to win 20 LARABARS! All you have to do is share this post and sign up for the True Food newsletter.

Thanks for reading.

Go Nuts! A Handful of Nuts a Day May Help You Live Longer

21 Nov

Good news this week for nut fans! A new study found a strong link between regular nut consumption and lower risk of death. Over three decades participants who ate a 1-ounce serving of nuts every day had a 20% lower all-cause mortality risk compared to those who did not nosh on this healthy snack. In addition to decreased death rates, nut eaters were 25% less likely to die from heart disease, 10% less likely to die from cancer, and 20% less likely to die from diabetes or lung disease.

We have long known that nuts are chock-full of healthy unsaturated fats, fiber and protein. In fact, in 2003 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended eating 1.5 ounces of nuts per day for their heart-protective benefits. Nuts have also been linked to weight control.

My favorite part of this new finding is that the health benefits apply to ALL nuts. Study participants consumed an array of nuts including cashews, almonds, walnuts, and more. So no matter what your nut of choice is, you can reap the benefits. Many clients will ask “Which is healthier, walnuts or pecans?”, or my least favorite “Is it true that almonds are lower in carbs than other nuts?” No need to split hairs- the most important thing is to choose nuts you enjoy so you will actually eat them! Also, it’s best to avoid nuts and nut mixes drenched in sugar and/or sodium.

Serving size is a little different for each variety, but one serving is roughly  ¼ cup. Nuts are definitely nutrient dense, but they are also calorie-dense, meaning it is easy to over-do it. Try pre-portioning them into snack bags for perfect portable snacks.

Here’s some inspiration to put this nutty news into action now…

In Larabar form (digging this seasonal flavor right now- HIGHLY recommend!)

snickerdoodle larabar

Walnuts on my cereal

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Pistachios paired with a piece of fruit

pistachios and apple

Homemade candied almonds  (add a dash of cayenne for an unexpected kick!)

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A variety mixed into fiber-rich trail mix

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Pecans in my salad

cran pecan salad

Cashews in my stirfry

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Caution when interpreting this good news- it is not realistic to think you can simply add a serving of nuts to a couch potato fast-food lifestyle and expect to add years to your life. Researchers did their best to control for various lifestyle factors, but it is not likely that nuts single-handedly improved peoples’ health. It is possible that nut eaters have healthier overall habits than non-nut eaters.

The bottom line: regular nut consumption should be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet active lifestyle. Not sure how to make that happen? That’s what a registered dietitian nutritionist is for 🙂

What are you waiting for, go nuts! Thanks for reading 🙂

Bigger Breakfast, Smaller Waist?

13 Aug

If I had to play favorites, I’d pick breakfast as my favorite meal of the day, hands down. I always wake up looking forward to brewing the coffee, blending the green juice, and building the main course.

I am always telling my clients that “diets don’t start at breakfast”. First thing in the morning, when our bodies just fasted for 7+ hours and need to be refueled the most,  is not the time to cut calories or skimp on nutrition!

A recent article from The Wall Street Journal gave me more ammo to back my broken-record breakfast advocating 😉 A study of overweight and obese women found that those who ate the bulk of their calories in the first part of the day lost more than 2x the weight, waist circumference, and BMI percent compared to those who ate the bulk of their calories toward the end of the day. The women in the breakfast group also showed improvements in markers for cardiovascular disease and diabetes including triglycerides, cholesterol, and insulin responses.

We find even more support for “breaking the fast” from the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks successful “losers” to help us better understand how to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Of the 10,000+ successful individuals tracked, 78% eat breakfast every day and 88% eat breakfast at least 5 days per week!

Now that we know eating breakfast is a good idea, let’s talk about what that breakfast looks like.

3 Keys to Building a Better Breakfast

  1. Invert the Pyramid: Rev your metabolism by aiming for at least 20% of your daily calories in your morning meal.

  2. Pick a Protein: Protein will give your breakfast staying power and keep you from reaching for the break room goodies before lunchtime. (eggs, yogurt, nut butter, Sunwarrior, cottage cheese, beans, soy milk)

  3. Choose a Complex Carb: Fiber-rich carbs provide a dose of energy for your brain and body and keep you feeling satisfied. (oatmeal, whole grain cereal/bread/tortilla, fruit)

Bonus: add a fruit! Give your body a healthy serving of antioxidants and fiber.

Some breakfast favorites:

Cereal w/ soy milk, fruit, and nut butter

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Fruit, yogurt, and granola parfait

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Oatmeal (try these make-ahead steel cut oats in the crockpot!)

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Overnight oats (perfect way to enjoy oats in the summertime)

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Scrambled eggs with veggies and toast (also great as a sandwich)

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Homemade energy bites for those who are pressed for time in the morning

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Fruit and protein smoothie (try my go-to recipe!)

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Whole grain waffle with nut butter and fruit (great transition breakfast if you don’t have an appetite in the morning)

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Banana-Berry Chocolate Chip Pancakes My Way

27 Jun

Are you drooling yet?

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How about now?

There is no way this stack of ooey gooey deliciousness could be healthy, right? Hold on to your hats because I’m about to deliver the best news you’ve heard all day: these hotcakes are 100% nutritious! If I could reach through the screen and pinch you to prove this is not a dream, I would (it would be a gentle “love pinch”, of course).

About a year ago, a good friend sent this recipe to me in a “you’re gonna love this” email and I’ve been whipping them up once a week ever since. The original recipe is from Minimalist Baker and can be found here. But I’m going to post my adapted version which includes doubling the recipe (naturally) and a few ingredient tweaks.

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From a nutrition perspective, my biggest “beef” with pancakes is the lack of protein. Enter Creamy Yogurt Pancake Topping. Problem solved.

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In other news, it’s been business as usual this week. I’ve been switching it up a bit on the snack front, so I’m excited to share that with you soon. Also, tomorrow marks the first of what I’m sure will be many wedding adventures! More to come on that too.

And last but not least, Happy Birthday to my beautiful Mamma!

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Buffalo Wings Veggie Style

25 Mar

Happy Monday! This is what spring time in STL looks like:

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Brrrr! Looks like soups, hot tea, and steel cut oats will be on the menu for a bit longer. Here’s another recipe with a spicy kick to keep you warm…

You already know that plants make up the majority of my meals. People ask “Don’t you miss eating meat? Isn’t it hard to not eat it?”. I think this is funny because it turns my style of eating into a punishing diet- the complete opposite of what it actually is 🙂 I choose to eat what I eat because it makes me feel great, it fuels my workouts, and it’s yummy! If meat sounds good, I eat it (like turkey on Thanksgiving).

However there is one meat meal that I don’t necessarily miss, but I miss the idea of- buffalo wings. I am a hot sauce junky! I love the combo of the fiery sauce, crunchy celery, and cool dressing for dipping. When I saw several Buffalo Cauliflower Wing recipes circulating Pinterest, I knew I had to try them and… OH. EM. GEE. This recipe is amazing. To push it completely over the top, I whipped up cool and creamy yogurt dipping sauce. Yum!

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Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower

Batter:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional; sub an additional 1/4 cup flour if you don’t use it)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup plain unsweetened soymilk (or any milk)

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Jalapeño Pepper Hot Sauce)
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (red wine or apple cider)
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • Red pepper flakes for extra heat

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 450*F.
  • Cut cauliflower into bite-size pieces.
  • Whisk all batter ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  • Add cauliflower to batter and toss until evenly coated.
  • Place cauliflower on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet or on a wire rack stacked on top of a cookie sheet (I used a wire rack to allow the excess batter to drip off the cauliflower pieces).
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • While the cauliflower is baking, combine the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl.
  • Carefully transfer baked cauliflower into the sauce bowl and gently toss until evenly coated.
  • Return cauliflower to wire rack/cookie sheet and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower is crispy.

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Lean & Clean Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1 T vinegar (red wine or apple cider)
  • 1 T nutritional yeast (optional)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon + zest
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup soft cheese crumbles (goat cheese, blue cheese) (optional)

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients and blend with a food processor, blender, or immersion blender.

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Video Post: Easy Weekday Steel Cut Oats

19 Mar

Yesterday started as a gloomy, chilly Monday here in St. Louis and I found myself searching for something warm and comforting for breakfast (and something fast because I needed to get out the door!). Good thing my fridge is stocked with my easy weekday steel cut oats. My breakfast warmed me to my core and I was off to work in a flash.

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Easy Weekday Steel-Cut Oats

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups steel cut oats, dry
  • 5 cups water
  • 5 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other milk)

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in crockpot, set crockpot on high.
  • Cook for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the oats thicken. I like to leave them a little soupy because they will thicken even more as they cool.
  • Divide oats into microwaveable containers, cool, and refrigerate.
  • When you’re ready to eat, add a splash of milk or water and microwave for 2-3 minutes. Add toppings and enjoy!

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Heart-beet Smoothie

16 Feb

Hello there and happy weekend!

Whether or not you spent Thursday with someone else’s heart in mind, the first heart you should be caring for is your own!

Heart disease is serious business. It’s the leading cause of death in Americans. The good news is that most heart conditions (even if you have a family history) are preventable and food and fitness are your most effective arsenal.

One of my favorite heart-smart foods: beets! …Wait! Don’t close your browser yet. I know what you’re thinking: “This chick is a crazy freak of nature vegetable worshipper! If she thinks she’s going to convince me to eat beets, she’s out of her flippin’ mind!” Most people who tell me they despise beets are only acquainted with the gelatinous canned version of beets. They were forced to eat them as a child and still have nightmares of their mother dumping the cylindrical jelly glob out of the can and slicing it into circles of disgustingness (this is a real description from one of my clients 🙂 ).

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{Boulder, CO farmers market}

Beets are rich in nitrates which lower blood pressure and in turn protect your heart. Newer research boasts the benefit of beets for exercise. Nitrates reduce the amount of oxygen that is required during exercise which improves exercise performance.

When I think of beets, I imagine the vibrant red root vegetable roasted up with olive oil and spices or peeled, steamed and blended into a smoothie. Yep, you read that right- a smoothie!

Heart-beet Smoothie

adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sliced cooked beets

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries

  • ¼ cup plain non- or low-fat yogurt

  • ¼ cup orange juice

  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

  • 1 tsp honey (optional)

Directions:

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend for 1 minute or until a smooth consistency is achieved. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

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Still not a fan of beets? No worries, nitrates are found in many other veggies including leafy greens like kale and spinach, lettuce, parsley, and celery.

Now, go do something for YOUR heart today: take a walk, eat a beet, have a salad.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Homemade Chocolately Millet Granola

8 Feb

This granola has been a big hit at our house lately! It’s easy to whip up a batch on the weekend and enjoy as a quick weekday snack paired with yogurt or sprinkled on top your morning oats!

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Chocolately Millet Granola

adapted from Oh She Glows Lightened Up Summer Granola

Ingredients:

Dry

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup uncooked millet
  • 2 T ground flaxseed
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Wet

  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 T unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 T peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 t vanilla extract

How-to:

  • Preheat oven to 325*F
  • Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Combine wet ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low, stirring constantly, allowing the mixture to come to a simmer. 
  • Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and stir… and stir, and stir, and stir until thoroughly combined. 
  • Spread granola evenly onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. 
  • Allow granola to cool and then break apart into clusters. 

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Drink Your Greens

3 Jan

Happy New Year! It’s the start of a brand new year and a very popular time for questions about detoxing and fasting. Today I’m going to share my advice on that and give you the lowdown on juicing and green smoothies.

So we are all feeling a little heavy, groggy and bloated from too much “holiday cheer”, but do you really need to “cleanse” your body to get rid of all that gunk?

Running on Sunshine verdict: not really. Here’s why…

  •  A normal digestive tract doesn’t need to be manually “cleansed” ESPECIALLY if you have plenty of fiber in your diet. Fiber is nature’s way of cleaning the pipes!
  • Most popular fasting programs have little to NO protein, fat, or fiber. I see this as a major problem. Without these wonderful nutrients, we feel hungry, irritated, and tired. The overall lack of calories also contributes to the fatigue which is the reason for the “no exercise” recommendation that often accompanies many cleansing regimens. A health plan that discourages exercise? Hmm… sounds pretty sketchy to me.
  • Contrary to popular belief, fasting is NOT a good option for weight loss! When you are slashing your calories so drastically, of course you are going to lose weight initially. But what type of “weight” are you losing? Because of the lack of activity, calories, and protein, much of it is muscle mass. NOT GOOD! Losing muscle mass puts the breaks on your metabolism, which is the exact opposite of what we want for weight loss.

I’ve posted about detox diets in more detail here. Check it out!

That being said, it IS a good idea to take steps to “get back on track” or give your body a delicious dose of nutrients to repair any damage done by the constant stream of toxins we take in through processed foods and pollutants.

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A great way to help your body get lean and clean: drink your greens! This is a new commitment for JWD and I. We’ve done it sporadically for a couple years, but we’ve decided to make it a part of our daily routine. Why? I’ll tell you!

  • It’s an easy peasy way to get major nutrition into your body. I am a healthy food expert, and even I fall short of a hefty dose of veggies on some days.
  • Some people take pills, I drink greens. I am a whole-hearted believer in the power of veggies. It truly is the best medicine for whatever ails you. It is the medicine of prevention.
  • It sets the tone for your day! It’s like waking up on the right side of the bed, putting your best foot forward, you get the picture. When you start your morning with a big glass of liquid sunshine, you better believe you’ll be more inclined to put your health first for the rest of the day.
  • It makes you shine! There is something about drinking greens that makes you feel completely vibrant and alive. And if you do it for long enough, you will literally start to shine- hair, skin, eyes, the works. It starts on the inside and makes it’s way to the outside.

Blend it or juice it?

You can drink your greens by juicing or by blending.

Juicing: Juicing requires a juicer which can be a pricy and complex piece of kitchen equipment. I have a very nice juicer and I must admit it only graces the countertop on scarce occasions. When I do dust it off, it’s always worth it. The main benefit of juicing is the lightning fast absorption of nutrients since all the pulp or fiber is removed from the veggies. I know some folks that are completely devoted to their juicers, and for them I have much admiration. Personally, I prefer the simplicity of blending.

breville juicer

Blending: No fancy equipment needed, just a basic blender. A high-speed blender is needed for blending sturdier produce like apples and carrots. Since the fiber sticks around when you blend, you get to reap its rewards! It fills you up, helps steady your blood sugar, and gives your digestive tract some cleansing love.

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Juice or blend, the choice is yours!

Due to the aforementioned downsides of fasting , Green drinks should not be your sole source of food. HOWEVER they can (and should!) be added to your diet as an extra shot of nutrition or used to replace 1 meal. If you choose to drink your greens as a meal replacement, add some protein and fat like soymilk, Greek yogurt, nut butter, or avocado. This will give it some staying power.

The combinations are endless, so toss the measuring cups aside and start experimenting!

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Sunshine Green Shake 

makes two servings

  • 2 cups coconut water or water
  • 1 banana
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cucumber (peeled and chopped if not using a high-powered blender)
  • 1 handful kale (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 handful spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • Stevia to taste
  • Bonus: for a yummy dose of healthy fats and vitamins, add 1/2 an avocado

Add ingredients to blender in order listed and blend until smooth. Add ice cubes and blend for a colder, thicker drink. Start shining!

Thanks for reading 🙂

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