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Mini Coconut, Zucchini, Chocolate Chip Loafs

Who doesn't love dessert?  Well we've created a recipe that will satiate every sweet tastebud you've got while keeping it friendly :) 

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

Say what? Zucchini in my dessert? Read it and weep people!  (tears of joy that is) The zucchini serves as a great filler and sneaks a little of that green veg into your dessert!  The kid's won't even notice!  Make this for your next party or just to have on hand when you're craving something a little sweeter.  Let's get started!

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

Here's what you'll need to create these little beauties:

Ingredients:

1 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (you can sub gluten free flour if you desire)
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 3/4 cup freshly grated zucchini
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips, tossed in a little flour so they don't fall to the bottom.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray your mini loaf pan with coconut oil spray (I get mine from Trader Joes) and set aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, coconut, baking soda, powder, cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the coconut milk, and vanilla. Add the coconut milk to the dry ingredients and stir, then begin to stir in the melted coconut oil. Make sure to have your zucchini already prepared and ready to add because as the coconut oil starts to cool it will firm up and make portioning it into the loaf pans a little more difficult. Once combined and wet, stir in the zucchini and your flour coated chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Cooking times may vary depending on your oven, but you'll know its done when you insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out without a bunch of goop sticking to it.  That's right I said "goop".  

Allow to cool on the counter for 10 minutes.  Use a sharp knife to slide around the perimeter of each loaf to loosen it.  If you coated the pan well with coconut oil when you flip the pan over the loafs should fall right out.  If they don't, pat the bottom of the pan with your hand and it should dislodge them.  If that doesn't work you may be SOL and will spray it more on your second attempt :) 

Enjoy everyone!  Please comment and sign up for our newsletter for alerts on new recipes and stuff that's going down in The Natured Kitchen!

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

Photography by Babak Delafraz - www.YesIShotThese.com

 

 

 

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Almond Milk... it's easier than you might think

Friends!  I made the switch to almond milk a couple of years ago when I embraced a more plant based diet. I have recently learned that store bought almond milk may contain large amounts of synthetic preservatives that may not be that healthy for you. The answer?  Why not make your own almond milk?  I want you to.  And I'm going to show you how!

The freshest, most tasty milk you'll ever drink...

Ingredients:

1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water

3.5 cups filtered water

2-4 pitted medjool dates, to taste (use 1 to 2 large)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon

small pinch of fine grain sea salt, to enhance the flavor

Directions:

1. Place almonds in a  bowl and refrigerate overnight.  This will soften the almonds and allow them to blend more easily. 

2. Rinse and drain the almonds and place into a blender along with filtered water, pitted dates, and vanilla.

3. Blend on highest speed for 1 minute

4. Place a nut milk bag over a bowl and pour blender contents into the bag.  Squeeze the bag until all the milk is released.

5. Rinse out the blender and pour the milk back in.  Add cinnamon and salt and blend on low to combine.

6. Pour into an air tight container and refrigerate for 3-5 days.  Enjoy over cereal, in baked items, or in any way you would use regular milk!  

Instead of throwing out the almond pulp once the milk is extracted, you can dry on a baking pan in a low oven and use in place of flower in baked goods!

 

nut milk bag... don't even bother with cheese cloth

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Oatmeal might be the best decision you make today

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Oatmeal might be the best decision you make today

We’ve all heard it “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  It’s true.  Eating a quality breakfast is vital to give your body the nutrients, vitamins, and energy it needs to perform optimally throughout your crazy day.  But what to eat?  The search is over my friends!  Oatmeal. Here's a few reasons:

1. Oatmeal is incredibly high in fiber which helps to keep you fuller longer.  Not that lethargic full either, but a content I’m ready to attack the day kind of full. 

2. High fiber foods can benefit your cholesterol levels! The soluble fiber in oatmeal helps to reduce the body’s absorption of bad cholesterols. 

3. Oatmeal is cheap man! Where else can you eat breakfast that has everything your body needs to be a champ for $.40 per serving!?

4. Oatmeal on it’s own is super health beneficial, but it’s also easy to make it even healthier.  I like to add a handful of this fruit blend to get a lot of antioxidants into my system first thing!

Head on down to your local Trader Joes and pick up some Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats!  If you don’t live near a trader joes you can find steel cut oats at your local grocery store.  I prefer the quick cooking ones because it cuts your cook time down from 30 minutes to about 6.  Who’s got 30 minutes in the morning let alone 6?  Everyone’s running out the door as soon as their eye lids open.  Jumping over your kids, trying to catch the bus or just beat the worst traffic of your life… no one has an extra 30 minutes.  Stick to the quick cooking ones.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats

1 cup water

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I prefer Almond Milk)

Handful of fruit/seeds 

Scoop 1/2 cup of oats into a small sauce pot and cover with 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk. Simmer for 6 minutes, pour into a bowl and add your favorite fruit or the antioxidant fruit blend I mentioned earlier.  Walnuts, almonds, or pecans would be great here as well!  It’s that simple.  You’ve just made one of the healthiest choices to start your day!  Good luck with the rest of it :)

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Supercharged protein breakfast!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  We've all heard this yes?  Well while you can't just eat breakfast and ignore the rest of the meals (that would be dumb) it is very important that you have a wholesome breakfast to give your body the energy it needs to function at its best throughout the day!  I've stumbled upon the easiest breakfast that perfects itself while you sleep.  This oat concoction is so good and its literally PACKED with complex carbohydrates and protein.  When it comes to nutritionally dense breakfasts, I challenge you to find one more than this.

1 cup rolled oats (Trader Joes works well)

1/4 cup chia seeds 

1.5 cups almond milk

1 ripe banana (mashed)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp blueberries

 

In  a tupperware mix all the ingredients except for the berries.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  The oats and chia seeds will soften in the almond milk while you sleep!  When it's time for breakfast, stir in the blueberries and enjoy!  This is a completely raw breakfast too which is important for nutrient retention. 

This breakfast has 20g of protein, all the complex carbs you'll need for sustained energy and more than half of your recommended daily fiber intake!  So while you're at the store getting these ingredients, I'd pick up a pack of toilet paper.  Just friendly advice :) 

 

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America on sugar... How do you think we are doing?

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America on sugar... How do you think we are doing?

Food. It's a very sensitive subject.  I do my best not to be preachy, but you'd be amazed how defensive people get about their food.  I will tell someone I'm a vegan and they immediately feel judged and will withdraw from the conversation or on the flip side will get very aggressive in defense of their food policy.  I ask not that people side with my beliefs when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, but that people approach the world with an open mind and seek education so that they can make informed decisions in their daily lives.

We all know about diabetes.  Type 1, type 2, and the newest type 3.  Type 1 diabetes is a genetic failure with the pancreas.  The body is incapable of creating the necessary insulin needed to turn sugar into fat for energy storage.  Type 2 diabetes occurs when a person consumes a lot of sugar over a period of time that the body produces so much insulin that the body becomes resistant to it.  Insulin becomes less effective so people have to supplement with insulin shots for their body to be able to break down the sugar they are consuming. Type 3 diabetes is what we commonly know as Alzheimer's.  Recent studies show that a person with type 2 diabetes increases their risk of developing Alzheimer's by 50%.  

So where is all this sugar coming from?  In the late 1970s there was a public outcry about the amount of fat present in food.  The food industry knows that if you take the fat out of food it tastes like cardboard.  If you've ever eaten reduced fat Cheezits you know what I'm talking about.  The only thing reduced fat Cheezits are good for is throwing at your annoying little brother.  No one is going to eat food that tastes nasty so the food industry came up with a solution.  Lets just add sugar to make it taste better!  Brilliant decision.  Here's the kicker... The USDA requires that all food have a nutritional label with the daily recommended intakes right? If you look at a nutrition label the sugar content doesn't have a daily recommended value %.  It's fuckin blank.  Why? Because if you knew how much sugar you actually ate in a day versus how much scientists suggest you wouldn't buy any of their food. 

It's because of sugar we have 14 year old children in this country that weigh 200+ pounds and have type 2 diabetes.  One scientist's greatest fear was they have no idea how to treat someone with diabetes for their entire life.  Type 2 diabetes used to be known as "Adult On-set Diabetes" and most commonly occurred around the late 40s to early 50s.  People were given insulin supplements to combat their body's deficiencies and they lived another 10-20 years.  Children with type 2 diabetes hopefully still have 60+ years to live and who knows was the consequences will be.  

The easiest way to combat this is to cook at home for your families and use whole ingredients. No chips, no crackers, no granola bars, no fruit juices, and definitely no soda (not even diet soda).  A whole apple has the fiber necessary to help your body negate the sugar intake.  A glass of fresh organic apple juice has all the fiber removed and your body will still experience the sugar spike and influx of insulin as if you had just eaten a snickers bar.  Metabolically there's very little difference between drinking a glass of fruit juice and eating a candy bar.   Stick to whole foods, as green as possible and as often as possible.  Stay away from stevia/splenda and other artificial sweeteners because your body doesn't know the difference between them and real sugar, the response is still the same.  Your body still experiences the sugar spike, insulin is still injected into your liver and fat is the by-product.

I'm not telling everyone to go plant based, however it is currently the only food policy that is showing signs of not only stopping diabetes but actually reversing type 2.  Oh and just because you're skinny doesn't mean you're healthy.  People's genetics play a big role in how your body metabolizes fat.  You could be a skinny fat person and be at risk for diabetes, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.  Something to ponder over for a while :)

Research shows that sugar is 8 times more addictive than heroin.  

 

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Cheese without milk!? Are you nuts? Well actually... yes :)

I flew up to Palo Alto yesterday to do a cooking demonstration with legendary vegan chef Tal Ronnen.  He brought with him a killer vegan ricotta made from almond milk. There was so much depth to this cheese that it easily rivaled any regular ricotta I'd ever had.  I've had several cheeses made from nuts in the past and they were just okay.  Very gritty, there was no masking that I was eating nuts.  This cheese was so silky and smooth that I doubt anyone could have ever told me in a blind taste that it was dairy free.  The best part about it is this cheese is cholesterol free.  That's the biggest nutritional perk for me with the plant based diet.  There's zero cholesterol in plant based cooking. Zero!

It was a great experience working with Tal and it further opened my eyes to the possibilities of plant based cooking.  The plant side of the culinary world has definitely been an amazing journey of discovery.  Cheese without milk? Are you nuts? Well actually... yes :)

 

 

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The End of the Line

Layla and I watched an amazing documentary last night "End of the Line".  In a nut shell it's about the overfishing of our oceans and the detrimental effects it will have on our world if we don't stop it.

Experts have estimated that sea life as we know it today will be non existent by 2048 if current rates of overfishing remain the same.  Our grandchildren may literally never know what a blue fin tuna is! 

The disgusting part is this is driven by greedy corporations that engulf the coastlines of regions like Africa and decimate the population of fish that the locals have depended on for their survival since the beginning of their inhabitance in these regions.  The locals don't stand a chance; people are starving.  What will happen to these people when all the fish have gone extinct? 

Here's something I didn't know... Mitsubishi is in the fishing industry!  Cars aren't enough?  It is estimated that Mitsubishi accounts for 60% of all the blue fin tuna purchased in the world.  There's also accusations being made that Mitsubishi is freezing large quantities of this tuna so when the world runs out they can literally name their price for one of the world's most sought after commodities.  

Trolling is a practice where large, weighted nets are drug along the seabed to capture as many fish as possible.  The largest trolling net in the world is big enough to fit 13 747 commercial airline jets in.  A farmer in the documentary compared trolling to plowing a field 7 times in one year.  He said "And then I asked myself.  How many crops would grow if I plowed my field 7 times in one year?  The answer, zero."  So not only are we overfishing our oceans, but through the practice of trolling we are destroying the ocean's eco systems.  Thats okay though right? It's 200 feet deep that no will ever see. Bullshit.  Experts are estimating that with current trolling practices, the reef population will be decimated by 2025.  

What about farmed fish?  Fish grown in a controlled environment that doesn't damage the oceans or have harmful effects on the ocean's population.  According to experts, small wild fish like sardines are ground into fish meal to feed the farmed fish.  They say that it takes 5 tons of wild fish meal for ever 1 ton of farm fished produced! So this isn't a sustainable option either... What to do?  Don't eat fish and help support and preserve our ocean's ecosystems to be enjoyed by generations to come!

In the name one of the best animated films ever... "fish are friends, not food"

 

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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We aren't too big on drinking alcohol.  With all the training for our upcoming Ironman competition, drinking inhibits our ability to work out.  So what do we do on the biggest green day of the year? We drink green juice!!  Happy St. Patties everyone!

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Liquid salads are the best breakfast...

Well good morning.  The importance of the breakfast meal is undeniable.  It provides the nutrients and carbohydrates our bodies need to start the day off with vitality, but not all breakfasts are created equal.  Next time you go to grab the fry pan to make some eggs and pancakes think about what your body needs.  Eating isn’t just about satiating your taste buds, although that unfortunately seems to be the MO of most of us.  Your body needs micro nutrients and a little whole grains to get the perfect jump start to your day. These micro nutrients come from dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. The most convenient way to get all these nutrients is to make a dense smoothie. My perfect breakfast looks something like this.

The Kickass Green smoothie:

Organic kale, chard, spinach, macca powder, sacha inchi powder, cocoa powder, spirulina, hemp seed, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, banana and coconut water!

I freeze the berries to give the smoothie its thicker texture. Costco sells an organic frozen berry medley that works perfectly for smoothies.  You get all the micro nutrients you could need from the greens and seeds.  The berries offer powerful antioxidants and because they are a form of natural, simple sugars they are absorbed quickly into the blood stream and provide that pep in your step!  The coconut water provides an excellent source of potassium and electrolytes. This smoothie is an incredible blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will set your day up for success.  See how much energy you have after drinking one of these bad boys.  I doubt you’ll be having a bowl of Cocoa Puffs again anytime soon.

I also have a bowl of organic flax seed granola with almond milk to give me the complex carbohydrates my body needs for my active lifestyle.  For people who are trying to keep their calorie intake low, the smoothie is the perfect option by itself.

Your body is going to be awake and moving for the next 16+ hours, give it what it really needs to start off on the right foot (ha ha). Lame jokes are my specialty.

Have a great day everyone!

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First post... ever

Introduction time!  I’ll save the suspense, you’re reading a health blog.  If at the first mention of the word “health” you’ve prematurely decided this isn’t for you; you’re free to excuse yourself.  For the rest of us, welcome!  I have become very passionate about healthy living.  Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint, I love talking about what I’ve learned and spreading the word for all you lovely people to test out on yourselves.  We’re going to go ahead and assume that’s why you’re here.

A little about me… My name is John.  I’m a 26 year old male living in beautiful Santa Monica California; home of the hipsters.  I wouldn’t consider myself a hipster, but I may have recently sealed the deal with my very first purchase of a pair of Tom’s shoes.  Reeeallllyyy comfortable if anyone out there is still on the fence. I talk with a lot of excitement and I write how I talk so don’t be surprised if you see more exclamation marks in this blog than letters.

I love cooking, eating new dishes and playing with new healthy ingredients, watching hockey, and I’m always up for a good adventure. I have been running competitively most of my life and am currently training for the Austin marathon.  I also just started training for my first half Ironman and then a full Ironman in December 2014.

I’ve always considered myself health conscious, but when I fell in love with a vegan I realized my idea of health wasn’t even close to where I could be.  My girlfriend (Layla) showed me a few documentaries about animals, our food, and how its actually produced.  I learned that companies have sued people for exposing their practices to the general public without their consent.  Did you get that? If I sneak onto a chicken farm and film the way they are producing poultry for consumption by American citizens, the company can sue me for everything I’m worth.  That’s insane.  At this point I was very interested… somethings gotta be bad if they don’t want us to know.  Ill spare you all the baby birds getting ground up while they are still alive and cows shitting all over themselves kinda details and let you pick up the documentaries for yourself if you want to know the truth.  If you’re happy being oblivious and don’t want to know what you’re putting in your body then keep eating that double double.  I was there not that long ago!  I love double doubles.  I love double decker tacos…apparently if it had the word “double” I was all for it. We finished watching the movie and I looked at Layla and said “I’m done” and I haven’t looked back since.  I became vegan overnight. Do I miss the beef? Eh not really.  Cheese is a bitch to get over though not going to lie.  There are ways to cope with the cravings, but cheese is one of those things that can’t really be replicated.  I’ve tasted some really good nut “cheeses” but it’s not like eating the real thing.  Missing that moldy goodness.  Just being honest with you…

I call this blog “A recipe for a healthier life” because if you follow and hopefully adopt some of the things I’m going to be talking about you will undoubtedly increase the health of your life and the lives of the people and the environment around you. We’ll talk about recipes, food products, exercise techniques, and anything else that’s appropriate (mostly).  I’ll be doing a 30 day challenge a little later after we’ve laid the foundation to encourage people to actually put into practice some of the things we’ll be talking about.   Not-So-Fun fact… Did you know there’s more pollution created by the livestock industry than all the transportation systems combined?

I hope you stick around 

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