Friday, August 31, 2012

Macaroni Grill - the vegan way!

Hey everyone!!!!!

Today, I have a new restaurant to review/recommend/VEGANIZE: 




A good friend of mine (who happens to also be an amazing pastor at my church! Woohoo!) shared this awesome nutritious idea with me on my blog's facebook page, and I would like to share it with you:

"At Macaroni Grill, you can make your own pasta bowl using all the veggie options in place of the pasta, and then add the sauce or combination of sauces you like. We ordered grilled asparagus, caramelized onions, snap peas, roasted garlic, broccolini and sun dried tomatoes as the "pasta", and then put a mixture of pesto and marinara on top of it all. Think you would like it!"

Update: The pesto is not vegan. 

Now for some more fun news: I emailed the Macaroni Grill people last night, asking about their vegan  and allergen-free options. Their Guest Relations answered back immediately (excellent service, if I do say so myself). They were very kind and told me where the allergen information was on their site. They also said, and I quote, 

"We hope that you are able to choose a meal to your liking. Prior to placing your order, we encourage you to ask to speak to a manager and explain which foods/ingredients need to be avoided. The manager can then suggest menu items or create a special dish for you from ingredients in the restaurant. We look forward to serving you soon!"

They were great. Well, I went to their site (again) and I found this allergen info page they were talking about, and this is what it showed me:


Ignore my computer background - yes it's very boring right now because I just got a new computer. 
So anyway, here's the link to it, if you want to see for yourself: Allergen-Menu

By the way, it will also show menu items that are gluten free, which is awesome for gluten-intolerant people out there! :)

To make it easier for you, I have picked out my favorite wholesome menu items from this list and explained them below. 

* For antipasti/tapas: Peasant bread, mediterranean olives, and their FANTASTIC ciabatta bread.

* For salads: Fresh green salad and warm spinach and shrimp salad (without parmesan and shrimp), and both the balsamic vinaigrette and the mediterranean vinaigrette (but probably not sugar free, so be careful!). 

* None of the pizzas or soups are vegan, but I'm sure you can - as they suggested - talk to the manager and ask if you can have the pizza without the cheese (which can be quite delicious, I'll have you know!) If you're not hardcore vegan, go for the flatbread style or thin-crust pizzas and ask for very small amounts of lean meats, just a sprinkle of parmesan, and loads of veggies. 

* Pastas:
 - Capellini Pomodoro - fresh, cheese-free, and delicious! If you can't bear the thought of pasta without cheese, ask for a sprinkle of parmesan or nuts. But I encourage you to avoid the cheese altogether. 

* Macaroni Grill has a very cool thing now where you can create your own pasta! They have a bunch of tasty toppings/sauces to choose from. It's great. Click on the allergen-menu link above to see what I mean. :)

* Broccolini, fresh greens salad, grilled asparagus, and spinach and garlic are all wonderful sides. 

* They actually have a vegan dessert too, and it sounds delectable: White Peach Sorbet! Mmmmmmmmmmm!!! 

Well, that's it for today, folks.

Much love, 

~ Natalyn ^_^



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cookies Galore!!!

Cookies are so delicious. The only problem is that I have been wayyyyyy too lazy lately. I haven't had a smoothie, salad, or even a handful of FRESH veggies in a week or something. I also have been slacking off on the exercise (uh oh!).

Too much cookies + no exercise + no veggies + unbalanced meals/lifesyle + sloppy sleep pattern = unhealthy, unhappy person.

Therefore, I'll definitely be eating more veggies. Gosh, I'm craving them!

And I'll probably be consuming less of those sneaky cookies as well....

^.^ teehee.

But as my grand cookie finale, I would like to present to you the ultimate gluten-free breakfast cookie:

Ta da! :D 
It is delectable. Super moist. Super sweet. Super good. You must try this recipe.

I highly recommend that you use this exact type of oatmeal for this recipe if you're not allergic/sensitive to gluten:
Coach's Oats - Cracked n' Toasted Oats
These oats are so good. The texture is unbeatable. It really makes these cookies extra special. You can probably find these oats at your average grocery store or places like Costco, Sam's Club, etc. If you don't find it there, you can always order some online. :)

Well, let's not waste any more time! Onward to the recipe:



Cinnamon Raisin Banana Breakfast Cookies
Wet Ingredients:
* 2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
* 2 Tbsp. honey
* 1/4 cup nut or rice milk
* 1 ripe banana

Dry Ingredients:
* 1 cup cracked oats (whole grain oatmeal)
* 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
* 1/4 cup raisins
* 1 tsp. cinnamon
* 3 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar
* 2 pinches salt
* 5 Tbsp. oat flour

Last-minute Ingredients:
* 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
* 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Garnish (Don't skip this!)
* Cinnamon
* Dry sugar of choice (I use coconut palm sugar or dry maple sugar)
* Hemp Hearts

Directions:
1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheight.

2) In your Vitamix blender, puree bananas, melted coconut oil, and milk (the honey will be added to the dough later). Pour mixture into a large bowl.

3) In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Add honey and the wet ingredient mixture. Also add your apple cider vinegar and baking powder.

4) Mix all your ingredients (except for garnish, of course) until well combined. The batter should be moldable, but still very messy.

5) With a medium-large spoon or ice cream scoop, drop cookie dough balls onto a greased cookie sheet. You can leave the cookies round or you can squish then into fat pancake-like cookies (I suggest the latter, but it's your choice!) Sprinkle cookies with cinnamon, dry sugar of choice, and hemp hearts.

6) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

7) Eat, my child. Eat.

I enjoyed mine warm with some ice cold almond milk.
Warning: These are super duper addictive and you are going to want to eat more than one five.


Now, on to other matters:

I don't know when I'll be posting my next post, as I am very busy and oh my gosh I feel like such an adult right now because I'm going to college in a month and I have so many responsibilities and things to do and such- *deep breath* - and I just felt like venting that out because I love you guys!!

... My AP English teacher would be SO proud of that sentence!

Well, I gotta run before my English teacher hunts me down and scolds me for my reckless use of run-on sentences, colloquial language, and other grammatical misdemeanors.


Much love,

~ Natalyn :)








Sunday, August 19, 2012

Juice, Juice, Juice!!!

Hello, my friends!

So I looked in my refrigerator, and I saw:


Apples...
              
Kale...
                                 
Lettuce...

And then this happened: ...

JUICE!! 

Mmmmmmm! I know it doesn't look like "mmmmm" but you will never guess this has kale in it! It's such a refreshing drink, and pretty much tastes like apple juice! No joke, see for yourself. It was actually a bit too sweet for me. Next time I'm just going to use green apples, not fuji, but I'll leave that choice to you.


Green Boost Apple Juice

Serves 1-2 (makes about 1 and 1/2 big glasses)

Ingredients:
* 1 green apple, core removed 
* 1 fuji apple, core removed
* 1 medium head romaine lettuce
* 1 leaf kale
Directions:
1) Wash all ingredients, especially the lettuce (one leaf at a time), VERY thoroughly.
2) Prepare the ingredients by cutting them into pieces that will fit into your juicer.
3) Place cup under the spout and start juicin'!

Sweet. Crisp. Delicious. 


Enjoy. :)


Much love,

~ Natalyn
             

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Healthy Surprise!!! Busy people, check this out!!

Ok you guys! This is the moment:

Healthy snacking comes to your door! Check out my video where I will share with you my experience with Healthy Surprise company:

In case you missed anything....

When you subscribe to Healthy Surprise snacks you will get healthy, vegan, gluten free, snacks delivered to your door every month! Is that cool or what??

The boxes come in four sizes: starter, healthy (most popular), large, and extra large. All sizes except for starter are free shipping, which is way cool.

For more information on healthy surprise, check out their website: http://healthysurprise.com/

That's all for now. Have an awesome rest of the day!


Much love,

~ Natalyn

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Eco-friendly is caring for your body

Hello, my friends!

Today's my birthday!! Woohoo!

To celebrate, I just want to focus on one of my favorite subjects: going green.

Oh yeah, I know some of you might be groaning right now. Here comes the guilt trip, you're thinking. She's gonna rant and rave about global warming and about not using plastic and about recycling or else all the trees are gonna die!!!

...

No, I'm not. I'm going to talk about you. That's it. You know why?

By caring for your own body, you are doing your part to help this planet recharge. :)

Let me explain using my own experience:
When I first became more health-conscious, I still used the same ol' products I've always used: shampoo, lotion, nail polish, cheap makeup, heavy duty cleaners - you name it. But as I continued researching about good health and good food, I would stumble upon topics such as the parabens in lotions and shampoos or the horrible animal testing many products must go through.. And I really cared. I wanted to show that I cared, so much. But, like many of us feel sometimes, I didn't know where to start. And everything natural looked so expensive! But then I saw something very enlightening for me.. Of course it came from Raw Food, Real World by Sarma Melngailis and Matthew Kenney - that's one of my favorite books!

Sarma says that she learned to wear only what she could eat (and she's talking about lotion, shampoo, etc. not clothes! Please don't imagine someone wearing a dress made out of fruit).

What I learned from reading this is that you don't necessarily have to buy extravagant things to go green . I have replaced my lotion with coconut oil. I also use coconut oil as a mini detox of sorts (google "oil pulling". It's quite fascinating), mouthwash, scar-remover, and a supplement for my pets. Coconut oil is my hero! I have also slowly been replacing my old makeup with more natural makeups, and I feel so much more radiant when I wear it. My room has a section for regular trash and a separate basket for recyclables such as plastic, paper, etc. The same goes for the kitchen - we don't throw plastic wrappers in the trash anymore. We put all plastic, glass, and cans in our separate recycle bin. I also have a box labeled "Hazardous waste" for things like old, sticky nail polish, toxic materials, and other toxic stuff.

Now please do not think I am trying to boast. Boasting is not my intention whatsoever. I'm simply trying to show you that by caring for my own self, I have automatically been caring more for the planet. I use coconut oil because I know that my body will thank me now and in the long term. I recycle because I know that I will live in a cleaner, healthier environment. I have a hazardous waste box because I know that if I mindlessly throw those toxic things in my regular trash can, I will be affected in the long term. I will be breathing the chemicals. I will be less healthy. And why just accept that when I can do better for my own body?

Let me repeat what I said earlier: By caring for your own body, you are caring for the planet.



Because let's face it - we are all in the same planet. If we try to care for everyone else when we can't even care for ourselves,  how do we expect to do it?

Focusing on a healthy you is not selfish. It's thoughtful, for you, for the trees, for the endangered species, for the abused animals, for the poor families, for the small businesses... Since I'm a Christian, and since this is a free country, AND since it's my birthday (teehee), I would also like to remind my brothers and sisters in Christ (that means all of you) that God has given us a responsibility to our Earth. But also remember the verse "Love your neighbor as yourself?" Well, my point here is that you need to love yourself before you can love your neighbor.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this. I hope it helps take away any intimidation, worry, or question you had about going green.

Much love,

~ Natalyn



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Soft-Serve

Hello, my peeps!

Ever had Fruyu? Or fro-yo? Or whatever they call it these days... It used to be my favorite guilt-free treat before I started avoiding dairy. I loved that there were all the different fun toppings, and the huge bowls, and all the different soft-serve flavors. All the fruity flavors like blackberry vanilla and strawberry kiwi (etc.) were my very favorite. 

Well, one day, I decided to get adventurous and I bought some coconut probiotic yogurt at the nearby Sprouts farmer's market. Then I froze a banana and three strawberries, added some coconut yogurt into the mix, and something very exciting happened:


Pure bliss. That's what happened. Oh my gosh. So delicious, only three ingredients, and you're seriously going to love it!!!

I love to add Chocolate-Covered Katie's Fudge Babies to this recipe. The creamy, refreshing deliciousness of the frozen yogurt paired with the rich, chocolate brownie adds to the amazingness of it all! 


I also added chopped kiwi, blueberries, and pineapples to my treat. Delish! The cool thing about this recipe is that it's a great base for a fun party sundae. We had some guests over recently and made a HUGE batch of this froyo with the side of brownie bites, kiwi slices, pineapples, and blueberries, and they loved it. I was so happy. :)
My goal with this blog is for people to enjoy healthy pleasures - I want to prove that eating healthy doesn't have to be super hard and self-sacrificing. You shouldn't have to give up your favorite treats. Just re-make them. :)


Here's the recipe:

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Soft-Serve

Ingredients:
* 1 frozen banana
* 3 frozen strawberries
* 2 heaping tablespoons vanilla coconut probiotic yogurt (yes, it's vegan)

Directions:
1) Blend all ingredients in your vitamix blender until creamy and delicious! You may need to use a spatula every 15 to 30 seconds to push down all the ingredients - well, unless you have that black pushing thing the vitamix comes with, cuz then all you have to do is keep pushing the mixture down while it blends. 
2) Serve immediately, as is or paired with delicious toppings like fresh fruit or cookie bites or nuts!

                       ~                         ~                        ~                         ~                         ~

It's almost my birthday. Woohoo! Just a couple more days. ^_^ My family and I celebrated in Pasadena. One of the places we stopped at was Kind Kreme. *giggles* Oh, it was so fantastic!! It's completely vegan and at least 80 percent raw - definitely a much better alternative to dairy- and sugar-laden ice-cream. 



Coconut chocolate swirl topped with cinnamon latte ice kreme!

Plain coconut chocolate swirl. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

I soooooo want to remake that soft-serve!!! It's gonna happen. :D

In the meanwhile, you should seriously check that place out. There's one in Los Angeles too! 

I hope you're all having a wonderful summer! 

Much love,

~ Natalyn







Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Healthy on the Run!

Well, as promised, I'm going to focus today on ways you can make more homemade stuff with a busy schedule to work with.

1) Cut up your produce in the weekend. So it's Sunday night, and you're sitting with your family, husband, kids, etc., and you have a bunch of fresh farmer's market food waiting for you in the fridge. Only problem - you don't know when you'll have the time to chop up that kale for that kale salad or those kale quesadillas.... prepare them now.
2) Plan your menu... in the weekend. People, the weekend is a time to rest and plan. This step connects very much with step #1 - if you plan your menu, you will know which veggies and fruits you need to cut up, which flours you need to make, etc.
3) The blender and food processors are your best friends. No joke. They have the ability to cut your time in the kitchen in half. If you look at any of my recipes, most will tell you to chop stuff - I love to chop onions, tomatoes, nuts, etc. in my mini food processor (It dices everything for you in record time!). And sometimes, I'll even use my blender to make 5-minute raw vegan brownies that are healthy and to die for.
4) Make your snacks in the weekend. You're probably tired of hearing that word: "weekend". But for real, make snacks for you and your family in the weekend, because it'll pay off when you're in a hurry to go to work and you have a snack baggie filled with healthy delicious goodies you can eat on the go.
5) Make extra juice. If you're into juicing (no, not fruits. I'm talking veggies.), make your juice at a time you're not busy - it's only going to take 15-20 minutes of your time, maybe less. When you make it, make enough for that day and for the next couple days. Juicing is a great way to get your daily nutrition from veggies like kale, celery, spinach, carrots, etc. Here's an example of an awesome juice: 4 leaves of kale, 2 carrots, 2 celery sticks, 2 green apples (core and skin removed).

Ok, that's all I got for now. I encourage you to try these tips out.

Oh, and don't be afraid to share your healthy food with your family, friends, and coworkers. They'll thank you later. ;)

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vegan a Go-Go

Hello, my pretties. *cackles*

^_^

Today, I just want to emphasize to you that your schedule should never be the reason you don't become healthier. I already made one Natalyn's Eating Out Tips happen for Olive Garden (which I highly recommend you check out), but today, let's focus on all restaurants in general. Especially those popular franchise ones like Macaroni Grill, Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang's, etcetera.

In such a fast-paced society where, it seems, every inch of our time is taken up doing something, sometimes there's truly no time to make meals at home. When this happens and your coworkers invite you to go socialize with them at the nearest restaurant, don't be worried about cheating on your new lifestyle. Besides, it's good to socialize. ;) Usually, the restaurant staff is very open and friendly about special diet needs.
Oh, and if you're too embarrassed to bother them with that, just follow these easy rules:
* For appetizers, go for fresh and grilled veggies. If you're at a Mexican Restaurant, you can even have fresh tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole.
* Lots of restaurants put appetizers such as bread on the table before your meal. If you're in the mood to spread something savory on your bread but the only option on the table is butter, ask for a side each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. On your appetizer plate, mix these two ingredients to your taste (I like it to be 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic) and dip your bread in it. Voila! Way more savory - and way healthier - than your average buttery spread.
* Salads are, for the most part, the easiest to make healthier. Go for vinagrette-based salads and ask them to omit the cheese and fatty meat. They still taste amazing without it. Another great salad to go for is Chinese Chicken Salad - all you have to do is remove the chicken and it's lower calorie and still quite delicious! If you really want to use your own dressing, you can bring some in a small tupperware, ask for your favorite salad or a plain garden salad, and then sprinkle your dressing on it.
* Sides can be main courses! The portions in main courses are, many times, far too large for someone to finish, and many times result in the person overeating and feeling horrible about it. What I like to do is go simple - pick a favorite side, a favorite healthy condiment, and you're good to go! For example, at Claim Jumper, I love to order their huge baked potato plain, and then I ask for additional sides such as avocado, black beans, corn, and tomatoes - oh, and vinagrette! Mmmmmmmm.
* I know this is hard, but it's usually best to skip dessert. Maybe order an iced tea or something if you really need something sweet, but usually, restaurants love to put processed sugar, cream and other fatty, unhealthy stuff in their desserts. If you're really craving something bad, you can always ask for a side of fruit. :)

I hope my tips have helped! Remember, it should never be impossible to be healthy!

Seriously, if you have any questions about healthy living and conscious eating, or if you would like to know more about the vegan lifestyle, let me know in the comments and I'll be happy to answer.


Much love,

~ Natalyn :)


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pop goes the popcorn!!!

Yo! :D

Ever been strolling in your local grocery store and you saw that package of popping corn - as in, the kind you cook on your stovetop? And you're thinking how the heck do I even make that? because the only popcorn you've ever made at home is the buttery salty microwave variety. You know it's true. I sure thought that for the first 16 years of my life! Until the day came where I finally bought some loose organic popping corn in Trader Joes, took it home, put it in my tall sauce pan, and crossed my fingers....


Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! It worked! It was so easy, so delicious, and WAYYYYY much healthier than the microwave version. ^_^

So don't be afraid to buy it! It's so much easier and so much more worth your money. All you need is a little coconut oil, some salt, a little bit of natural sugar, and some popcorn kernels, and you've made yourself some homemade kettle corn. Win!


All I did different from what the package told me to do was use less oil, and make it coconut oil - so in my humble opinion, my version is a bit healthier than what the package tells you to do. Double win!

Nat's Basic Kettle Corn

Serves 2-4 

Ingredients:
* 1/3 cup organic popping corn (I use Trader Joe's Organic Popping Corn)
* 1 Tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil
* salt, to taste
* coconut sugar, to taste

Directions:
1) In a large (popcorn expands like crazy!) sauce pan, add your coconut oil and 2-3 kernels of popcorn. Cover and heat.
2) When you hear the three kernels pop, add remaining kernels and re-cover. Shake the covered pot back and forth over the medium heat. It may take a little while before the remaining corn starts popping.  Make sure you keep the lid on at all times during this step!!
3) When popping pretty much stops, remove from heat and let sit for a minute or two. Add your salt and sugar, cover the pot and shake the seasonings so that all the popcorn gets coated with delicious flavor. 
4) Enjoy! :D Best when shared with someone else.

Anyway, it's time for me to enter dreamland for the night. I hope y'all had a lovely weekend.

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What to do with a leftover baked potato...

Words of wisdom for the day:

When life hands you a leftover baked potato...




Make some potato hash for breakfast!!

That's some great advice, huh? ;)

I did not even realize how easy it is to make this. It's only four ingredients - and none of them will make you run to the store! It's also very fast. I made it in like 10 minutes.

I know it doesn't look like a work of art, but I assure you, it is good!


Easy. Fun. Quick. Delicious.
The best four words in culinary history!

Well, onward to the recipe:


Nat's Quick n' Easy Potato Hash

Serves 1

Ingredients
* 1 leftover baked potato
* Salt and pepper, to taste
* 1-2 tsp. cooking oil of choice

Directions
1) Peel the potato - the skin should slide right off. Shred it with a grater.
2) In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix potato with salt and pepper.
3) In a medium frying pan, heat cooking oil. Add potato hash. Let sit for a 30 seconds and then mix around. Keep mixing until hot and lightly golden. Remove from heat.
4) Serve immediately! :D

Warning: The potatoes WILL stick to the pan and it's gonna look like you have a hard mess to clean, but trust me with this - it's not. All you have to do is let the pan cool and then fill it to the top with water. While you enjoy your delicious food, the water will work as a natural non-stick, and by the time you finish eating and go to wash the pan, everything should easily come off. Isn't that great? :)


What do you like to do with your leftover baked potato? I 'd love to hear your ideas. :)

Much love,

~ Natalyn