Friday, December 27, 2013

My first legit ice cream!!!!!! (with or without ice cream maker)

Hey everyone!!! Merry Christmas (belated) and happy new year (almost)!

Here's an update on life lately. :)

The other day, I - as well as many others in the town - saw the most amazing sunset!!!! 

Also ordered a whole 10 lb. box of moist, fresh barhi dates from The Date People (order fresh dates online! It's great!)
I've also been rock climbing a lot since Christmas break started. I didn't realize how much I've missed this place!
Oooh.. climbing blisters. >.< 
Making tasty new recipes such as this amazing "chicken" salad sandwich. 


ICE CREAM!!!!!!!!!

Yep! I made my very first ice cream in my very first ice cream maker! 

It only takes 30 minutes once you pour the ice cream mixture into the turning freezer bowl, and before you know it you have creamy, delicious ice cream. :)

(Note to reader: I know that not everyone has an ice cream maker so I will provide directions with and without the ice cream maker.)

This is a coconut strawberry honey ice cream. That is literally what it tastes like. It's so delicious, so simple, and perfect for a treat on a hot (or cold) day - trust me, here in southern California, we have a lot of hot days in the winter time. 

If you like coconut and strawberries, you will love this ice cream!

Don't like honey or would rather not use it? No problem! Just pour in extra maple syrup (or another preferred liquid sweetener).

Strawberry Coconut Cream Ice Cream

Serves 8-12 people if you double the recipe.

* 13.5 oz. can of full-fat coconut milk 
* 8-10 strawberries (preferrably cold)
* scant 1/3 cup maple syrup
* 4 Tbsp. honey
* 2 Tbsp. non-dairy yogurt of choice
* pinch of salt (optional)

1a) Combine all ingredients in vitamix blender until smooth and creamy.

2a) Pour into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions. When ice cream is ready, serve immediately or freeze for 4-8 hours (or longer, but keep in mind that fresh is best!).
2b) Pour liquid mixture into plastic storage container (one that can go in the freezer) and place in freezer for 6-8 hours. Scoop hardened cream into vitamix blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy like ice cream. Serve immediately for best flavor and texture, or store in freezer for later consumption. 

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Of course, the texture of the ice cream using the machine is going to be fluffier than the texture using the vitamix, but either way, this ice cream is very delish. :) 

Enjoy the ice cream and the new year! 

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Making your mark... + some new changes!

Have you ever thought of it?


Well, haven't we all??

A lone star
Lately, I've been catching myself thinking about my life so far and my life in the future, wondering if I'll ever be that girl who goes out there and does great things. I mean, don't get me wrong. There is one main reason I'm here - I'm here to share God's love with the world, and I share it through living a life of love and acceptance to others.

 But I guess I'm just wondering how I can do that to the fullest.

I mean, sure. I'm going to an amazing university, with amazing people, and amazing music (and food! Yay!). I'm honored to be in a family and group of friends who love me and care for me so much. I'm cruising through life, hitting bumps in the road - mostly the ones I make myself - and finding little hidden gems along the path every now and then. But that's the problem. I'm cruising.

Why am I cruising through life when I can be SOARING through it? 

You know those thoughts that enter your mind? The ones that ask you why you're not donating more money to the poor? The ones that nag at you every time you see a homeless man or woman on the road - how your heart aches that you cannot trust those people, but you wish you could help them. Or how about those commercials about people starving in different countries (sometimes even in our own country) - how you wish you could just drop everything in your life and start a new one over there, helping these people find a means to survive?

Well, I guess I've been asking that kind of question, with those kinds of thoughts.

I've decided tonight that I'm tired of waiting for the right moment to make a difference.

And for some reason, the first place I turned to was this blog. I don't have much money, nor do I have enough education yet to start a career in nutrition. I don't have the answers to everyone's problems...
But I do have love. I do have passion. I do have experience. And I guess I realized that the first step does not have to be large. It can be a small step... a baby step.

This blog - the blog that once started as a blog to share recipes and health tips - is becoming one that shares not only those things, but also my music, and my thoughts.

To be honest, I'm not sure about what kind of difference I'm trying to make. All I do know is that this blog has made a difference in peoples' lives. People have come up to me and told me that this blog has helped them, or inspired them, or amused them.

Perhaps my purpose for right now starts here. I can share my hopes, dreams, and realities here. We can laugh and cry together as we all go through this difficult and beautiful thing called life.

And then perhaps in the future, the right doors will open. :)

Today, I'm opening the first door. 

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My pre-Thanksgiving Colombian "Pizza", November favorites, and an update!

Hey everyone!!! Long time no talk! 

Sophomore year at the university is pretty amazing so far, I'm not gonna lie. But it's also pretty darn busy. I really haven't had the time to post up anything exciting. Plus, I was detoxing a lot these past couple months, so the super imaginative recipes were few in number (well, actually, there were a lot, but I'm saving those for a surprise that I'll talk about later.. perhaps much later).

Detoxing was a fantastic experience, and I learned so much about my body, and just about health overall. I learned how to eat the best food for your body, but I also realized that sometimes it's ok to realize you're not perfect. See, I had this goal to be 100% low fat raw vegan for a whole year. Though that is a beautiful and attainable goal, one needs to be truly ready and truly committed to do something like that. I was becoming so nit-picky about every little thing I put in my body that I started to feel unhappy... very unhappy. That's when I realized that it is better to eat 50-70% raw and be happy than to be 100% and miserable. I'm not saying that 100% raw is a bad thing - it's not!! If you so desire, it will be one of the best choices you make in life. I just realized that it's not the time or place for me at this busy, growing, and exciting time in my life.

That being said, here are my latest favorites:

Amazing fall fruits like this soft hachiya persimmon
Korean Red Ginseng Tea. Gives natural energy, no caffeine, has a lovely flavor and is super good for the body.
Teeccino's Herbal Coffee in Dark Roast. Pretty much the most amazing stuff ever. My heart and my tastebuds feel happy when I drink this caffeine-free beverage (caffeine is a no-no for my body. It just can't handle it anymore).
This amazing natural sweetener. Maple syrup has become my #1 sweetener of choice lately.  I even drink little "shot glasses" of this from time to time (don't judge me!!!!!!!!!!!)
Miso broth and udon noodles has been my favorite go-to when I eat out with friends (or get takeout)

I have plenty of other favorites I want to share (I might do that more often, we'll see), but those are the most recent pictures.

In summary, the fall season has treated me well, and I'm very thankful to God for so many things. 

I'm thankful for my family,
friends, for my Creator God, for my education, for my passions, for wellness, for nature, for FOOD!

I'm especially thankful for 1) God, and 2) for friendship. 
For God, because He is so good to me and has taught me so many things about life and about love. I've been through a lot (we have all had our own challenges that seemed impossible to survive), and yet here I am today, healthy and happy, saved by His grace. He is so good, He loves me, and He loves you too. 

... And I'm thankful for friendship because friendship is the foundation of all things good in life. Any relationship - whether serious or even simple acquaintance - will thrive if true friendship is the foundation. And what is true friendship? Unconditional love and acceptance. I love that. I love that so much. 

This pizza is actually not a pizza. It's a Italian take on a colombian dish called "arepas". Arepas are palm-sized corn cakes that are pan-fried and then filled with a variety of delicious toppings. I decided to mash the dough all together and form a giant arepa "pizza crust". Today, I only rely on three main toppings: Avocado-tomato-cilantro salad, a mild salsa, and my favorite "tofeta" (it doesn't taste like feta, but I like that name). 

This is the stuff I use. It's not organic. But it is delicious. This flour is very versatile, and I just love it. 

The measurements are not exact, but I think you will be fine. :) It's hard to go wrong with this recipe, in my opinion.

Colombian Pizza (Arepa Style) 

Serves 2-3 hungry people - can serve 6-8 as a small appetizer, I think

Dough Ingredients:
* A little less than 3/4 of P.A.N. white corn masa package (can purchase at international foods market)
* water
* salt/seasoning of choice - garlic salt is great
Dough/Crust Assembly:
1) Slowly add water to dough, mixing first with a spoon, and then with hands. Keep adding water until dough is easily moldable (it shouldn't be sticky at all). 
2) Line a regular-sized round pizza pan with aluminum foil and then press dough into pan.
3) Place in a preheated oven at 365 F and bake in there for about 25-30 minutes.

This is my aunt's recipe - she is the coolest!

* 1-2 packages of extra firm tofu, drained
* garlic salt
1) Cut tofu into little cubes. Slightly crumble into a bowl, add lots of garlic salt to taste(or regular pink salt).
2) Cook in non-stick wok until tofu is more dry and is starting to brown a little bit. Should taste somewhat like cheese. Somewhat. 

Avocado-Tomato-Cilantro Topping
* 2 hass avocados, diced
* 3 medium-small tomatoes, diced 
* Heaping 1/4 cup cilantro
* 1 green onion/scallion (or a large handful of sweet onion chives)
* Juice of 1/4 lemon (more if desired)
* Salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Done. Ready to go.

* Favorite salsa recipe - I go simple and use Pace "Picante" Medium salsa. I serve this on the side. 

Pizza Assembly:
1) While crust cooks in oven, prep your other ingredients.
2) Remove from heat. Add Avocado-Tomato-Cilantro Salad to pizza. 
3) Top with delicious tofeta goodness. Garnish with some more cilantro.
4) Drizzle a little salsa on that bad boy and devour the goodness on your plate!!!!!

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Please enjoy this recipe. Share with everyone. Enjoy life, and all of it's blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Detoxing: The one-month mark!

Hey everyone!!! Happy friday (almost). As I write this, I'm procrastinating a bit from taking a shower. I'm a sweaty mess from running around with my classmates and friends looking for the location of the gig we were singing at. The good news is that we made it on time and had a great performance!! Yay!

I've been debating for a while on whether I should share about my detoxing, but it's too good not to share!! I've been eating the tastiest fruits and veggies (especially fruits), and have also been making new recipes. Some have been amazing, and others have been the floppiest flops I've ever made. But it's ok! It's all part of the learning process, right?

My detoxifying frutarian feast at Cheesecake Factory! Yes, it's possible! 
Well, I'll try and stop acting so hyper - because I know that can be quite annoying - so that I can tell you about my detoxing experience. 

For one, the food - when accessible - is so much faster and easier to eat. Sometimes it's funner too! If you don't feel like washing dishes, you can just monomeal on a bunch of oranges or have a simple lunch of romaine lettuce and bananas. When you're not pressed for time, you can make gorgeous fruit salads - all for yourself!!

I'm just in love with the fall season here in southern California. There's something about fall weather and fall fruits that is much different than that of the other seasons. Though fall is a time where the leaves are dying and the weather is getting colder, everything about the season points to life and warmth and merriment. Thanksgiving is around the corner, warm fires are lit, and there are trees filled with gorgeous fruits such as pomegranates. Ahh, pomegranates - with little gems inside. I used to call it the "diamond fruit" when I was a young'un. 

When detoxing, you may find yourself drinking more water... and EATING SO MANY GREENS!

Thank you Costco! This bag of green goodness is my best friend right now.
And you know what? The more greens I eat, the easier it is to eat "salt free". Dude, spinach, celery, and swiss chard are so salty. I'm serious!

I also have something to admit to all of you. I've been hiding behind this term "detoxing" this past month, but I can tell you that by the end of the first week in this detox I knew in my heart that this is the way I want to eat for a very long time. Perhaps even forever

I've never felt so much life in my body! My energy is soaring, my eyes look even shinier than before, my layer of fat that would never leave my middle section (even with a healthy lifestyle) is deteriorating slowly but surely. I feel young (as I should feel at 19 years old!!), but more importantly my body feels free. I'm usually the first one up the stairs. If asked, I could drop down at any time of the day and do a modest number of pushups effortlessly. Who knows? Maybe my sleep just might get better too - but only time will tell for that one.

I don't really know what to tell people anymore when they ask me what my diet is. For those of you who know me very well, you know how I get with cookie-cutter diets. I always "cheat", or as some like to say, I don't commit. And I've always felt so bad about that. That's why I finally just threw my hands up into the air the other day and thought to myself "you know what? I can call myself a lot of things, but in the end, I'm healthy and I'm happy. And I'm living in a way that is helpful to both myself and to the world around me." 

However, if you're curious how I've been eating for the past month, I will explain the blissful culinary delights I get to enjoy every day.

My main calorie source, hands-down: FRUIT. Lots and lots of fruit. 

I have always loved fruit - as a child, I would be the one who greedily took three oranges from the basket while all of the other kids would take one. I also had (and still have) a HUGE sweet tooth. 

But there's more to my fruit-eating than simply satisfying cravings or fulfilling desires. Fruit is so GOOD for your body. Fruit is one of the quickest forms of energy one can give to the body. The body runs on sugar, no? :) And you know what? I'm not going to complain about that. 

Banana Jackfruit "Bubblegum" Icecream. Just two ingredients, and very delicious.
Remember in the past how I've posted in here about the "80-10-10 lifestyle"? Yeah, that's pretty much what I've been striving to follow this month. But since not many people know how that works, let me continue telling you what I eat. I'll tell you more about 80-10-10 later.

So I eat fruit - it's my main calorie source, as I just told you a moment ago. But my body and brain also needs lots of minerals! And the best source of vitamins and minerals seems to come from the leafy greens and veggies. These are the ones that fight cancer the best, and the very strong ones like cilantro and parsley are the ones that detox the heavy, harmful stuff out of the body. So yes, don't worry my good friends, for I have also been eating loads and loads of veggies, especially greens.

A beautiful, symmetrical leek from the farmer's market
Greens eaten plain or simply flavored aren't as bad as many people say they are. The problem is that our tastebuds are not used to their flavor any more. In reality, greens are SALTY. They are SAVORY. Each vegetable and green has a distinct taste to it that is sometimes quite different from the other. 
However, I'll be the first to admit that it still isn't always easy for me to crave a head of plain romaine. Plus, I'm usually tempted to be creative, so if I can make something out of it, I will! ;)

True story: I've made some pretty amazing meals for myself using no salt and a lot of greens. The trick? Use lots of fresh herbs, a squeeze of sour (like lemon or lime), salt-rich greens, and sundried tomatoes. Sundried tomatoes are my heroes!

A savory italian-inspired dinner. Yummmm. 
And... it's gone. Where did it go? ;)
I've got to say that my best savory meal as of late has been this one:

Zucchini noodles on a bed of organic spring greens, dressed with a fresh tomato basil sauce and complemented with "italian sausage" potatoes and steamed zucchini. Contains just a weeee bit of salt in the cooked zucchini - and still tastes SUPER delicious. 

The picture above leads me to the next helpful calorie source I have been consuming: roots! Potatoes and sweet potatoes, specifically. Yes, they are cooked - I enjoy steaming veggies such as broccoli and serving them alongside a salad and some steamed potatoes (steaming is one of the best cooking methods to preserve the delicate nutrients inside a food).

Cuban yucca (yum), fresh okra (oh yeah!) , and raw tabouli (meh... -_-)
The other foods I enjoy, but in moderation:
* raw honey - delicious with sweet potato and cinnamon
* raw fats - avocado, nuts, seeds, durian, coconut meat - I don't eat fatty foods every day, because I find that I do better with less of those and more of the water-rich foods like pomegranates and strawberries. 

Sweet fennel salad with apples and orange juice
Yeah, that's pretty much my month in a nutshell - a very large nutshell, I know. I talk a lot. 

I'm looking forward to what the future holds - not only for me, but for you too! Remember, your health matters now. Live a life that will make your body truly happy. Reach for the stars! Or in my case, reach for the starfruit!!!

Photo from Wikipedia
Well, I'll keep you updated from time to time on how I'm doing with this amazing way of eating and living. Oh man, I don't want to stop!! This is the best I have ever felt and it's so amazing and I just want you to try it cuz it's so amazinggggg;lskjf;ajfjo;awjpojfjal;kjf;jdf;ajs;fjs;joijgo;ag;jfa;ojiaosjfodjfkasfjl;askjfl;ajsgl;bjl;!!!!!

*deep breath* Sorry, I get carried away sometimes and freak out when I'm super excited. I really shouldn't be too excited right now, being that it's 11:27 at night. 

I better head to the bed - oh, and shower! -, but I just want to say that I love you all and I hope you have an amazing week. 

Peace, love, and FRUIT! 

~ Natalyn

P.S. Here's a fun challenge: eat one extra raw fruit and one big leaf of lettuce every day this week. Give it a try. It'll be a bit weird at first, but who knows? You may take a liking to how you feel.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Detoxing with "Jelly Beans" and Green chips! ;)

Happy Tuesday!! :)

Ok, so I actually was not planning on writing a post anytime soon. In fact, I was sitting down, about to take the first bite of my food I had prepared for myself...

... when I took a good look at it and thought to myself, "I feel like I'm about to eat jelly beans and chips, except in the natural form they were meant to be... so cool!"

However, I did NOT at all expect that the fruit salad I made would end up tasting so much like candy!!! I'm not joking, you guys. Depending on how you combine the fruits, it tastes like blue raspberry, sour grape, and a couple other flavors I can't remember the names of. But I'M SERIOUS! Don't look at me like that.

This is not a recipe. This is an idea - and I DO hope you try it!

(I bought all of these fruits from Costco)

* Crunchy green grapes
* Sweet red grapes
* Blueberries
* Raspberries

1) Ready for the most obvious step ever? MIX IT ALL TOGETHER IN A BIG BOWL!! :D

2) My favorite flavor combination: Blue Raspberry - Get one of each fruit, and eat it at the same time. Warning: consumption in this combination of ingredients may result in a big explosion of sweetness and blue raspberry goodness on your tastebuds.

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As I write this right now, I continue to enjoy delicious fruit candy.

Just imagine, for a second, that you could have all of the dessert you cared for. Let's say you could even occasionally make a meal of it. Imagine a heaping bowl of ice cream that you could eat all by yourself, that would nourish you and make you feel amazing. Or maybe you just finished a workout and you decide to treat yourself to a generous helping of caramel - gooey, sweet, energizing caramel.

Sound too good to be true? Maybe you're shaking your head with your bowl of fruit "candy", feeling like there's not much special about it. "Natalyn, it's just fruit," you try and explain to me. Yes, it is. It's "just" fruit. The ice cream I mentioned is actually "just" frozen fruit. The caramel is "just" dates. But let me tell you something about living a healthy lifestyle... When you make the first change, when you take the first step, something changes in you. And the more that something changes throughout your health journey, the more you come to realize that food does not have to be a "cheat day"anymore. Food does not have to taste so good, but be so bad for you. In fact, the ideal food should taste and feel good to eat. And I'm not just talking about feeling good when you're at the weight you want, or at that thought in you're mind when you eat that first piece of cake on your cheat day ("wow, this feels amazing to eat this). I'm talking about feeling GOOD. The kind of good where you know that the treat you are giving your tastebuds is also treating your whole body. In fact, it's helping give your body the function and energy it needs to keep you physically healthy and strong.
So why is it not the case? Why can't the super healthy, cleansing fruit taste like skittles and not like sweetened water? Why can't the lettuce taste like potato chips and not like dirt and grass? Our tastebuds have become accustomed to the excessive oil, salt, and sugar that we put in our foods.

All this that I'm telling you has to do with the concept of detoxifying, or cleansing.
From the moment we're born, most of us are taught that we need to eat well to grow well. However, we are also told that we can have plenty of "treats" throughout this time. Every year, we are treated to a generous slice of birthday cake, and maybe some ice cream to go with that. Throughout that same year, we get more birthday cake "treats" and our "salty fixes" of potato chips and maybe some pizza when going to parties hosted by friends or extended family. Then we have the rest of the holidays... And Christmas! Let's not even talk about Christmas food. So already, plenty of "treat" days added up. That's fine, right? Oh, but it doesn't stop there. On top of this, famous companies that our parents and our grand parents have enjoyed for decades have decided to get even more commercial. I'm sure you've heard these words before: High fructose corn syrup, GMOs, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives. We know we need to avoid these. But then come more hidden ingredients. Here's one many people roll their eyes at: sugar. But hey, it's proven that white refined sugar is another not-so-helpful ingredient.
So there's a bunch of bad stuff, and it isn't very easy to avoid when weaving through your average grocery store's aisles. Most stuff in the aisles is packed with sugar, HFCS, GMO's, and other monstrosities - among these food victims are common condiments like ketchup, pizza and pasta sauces, peanut butter, jam, even some honey (don't you think honey is sweet enough on its own??). WHY? Well, to this day, I'm still trying to figure out a balanced explanation for this.

But what does this have to do with cleansing and detoxification?
Here's the answer, in a nutshell: our bodies were originally meant to daily enjoy fresh, tasty food. Food that is pure, unrefined, wholesome... and alive with enzymes and phytonutrients. When we ingest things other than this - especially those harmful chemicals, artificial flavorings and colorings, refined sugar and salt, and heavy amounts of oils (especially refined oils) and fats - our bodies have a harder time functioning. The more we live that way, the worse we get, until one day, we either die young or become gravely ill. And then what happens when we start trying to eat the way we are supposed to eat? We feel sick! Though it seems like our bodies reject the healthy stuff, what the body is actually doing is quite extraordinary. It's cleaning up! See, you can't fit the good stuff in if you still haven't taken the bad stuff out. 

And there you have it. Detoxification in a nutshell.

I could go on forever. This is my passion, and I wish to share it with you.

Some people think that I'm SO HEALTHY, and that I'll live longer than everyone else, and stuff like that. But in reality, the struggle for health is real for me too. I'm not perfect. I may have enjoyed my bowl of fruit candy today, but it was initially a little bit difficult to enjoy the bitter leafy greens that accompanied my fruit. My tastebuds have yet to finish transforming, as does the rest of my body. My body still carries emotions, bad choices, and fat that still clings onto my body. I've been detoxing for a while now, I'm detoxing today, and I will probably continue detoxing for quite a while.
I wanted to share this with you guys because I get asked questions about this stuff from family, friends, and even some strangers from time to time. I just want to let all of you know that these are important questions. And, as many health enthusiasts like to say, YOUR HEALTH MATTERS NOW.

Have a fantastic remainder of the week!

~ Natalyn

Friday, September 6, 2013

Overnight Spring Rolls

Today's recipe is fun. It's simple. It's FRESH. Packed with marinated tofu and mushrooms, raw crunchy vegetables, and a kiss of basil.

I'm going to call these:

Simple Overnight Spring Rolls

I was so excited when I was prepping the ingredients last night. See, I was craving crunchy, savory, and fresh - of course, spring rolls were the first thing to pop in my mind. I decided that I wanted to make spring rolls with tofu, mushrooms, basil, and other fresh (and leftover) veggies I had on hand. To take it to the next level, I decided to marinate the tofu and mushrooms in a slightly sweet and VERY savory sesame soy sauce with a hint with garlic and ginger. 

So I did, and then retreated upstairs and went to bed with visions of sugar plums overnight spring rolls dancing in my head (not Christmas yet? Just me? Whoops). 

The next morning, I did my morning routines and then marched downstairs. I threw that marinated goodness in a frying pan with a drizzle of sesame oil and got to work prepping the veggies.

God is the best chef! Look at this pure, wholesome goodness!!!
I then started my assembly line...

And then rolled up my spring rolls!

Success? I'm thinking YES!

Overnight Spring Rolls 
(with Marinated Tofu, Carrot Strips and Fresh Basil)

Serves 8 Spring Rolls 

* 3/4 block extra firm tofu, drained
* 10-12 white (or baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
* 1/8 cup low sodium soy sauce 
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* small knob ginger, minced
* 5-6 drops stevia (or 1 tsp. preferred sweetener)
* scant tsp. sesame oil

* 8-10 round rice paper wrappers, dry (can find at any asian market)
* 2 long sprigs fresh basil
* 5-6 leaves butter lettuce, torn into small, bite-sized pieces
* carrot, julienned (or peeled into strips)
* large handful sweet onion chive (or green onion, julienned)
1) Chop tofu into somewhat thin, fingerlike strips. Chop mushrooms.
2) Place tofu and mushrooms in a tupperware, and add soy sauce, garlic, ginger, stevia, and sesame oil.
3) Close tupperware and give it a good shake. 
4) Let mixture marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
5) Throw entire mixture in a wok or frying pan and saute for 5-8 minutes (or more, if desired). Remove from heat.
6) Heat up some water while prepping fresh ingredients.
7) Pour very warm water on a large plate, and immerse rice paper for 5 seconds. Flip to other side and immerse for another 5 seconds. Do this until rice paper starts getting softer and the pattern is slightly fading away. 
8) Place rice paper on a flat plate and add ingredients. I put a small handful of the tofu/mushroom mixture, 4 carrot strips, a fair amount of butter lettuce, a sprinkle of fresh chopped basil, and 4 or 5 little strings of sweet onion chive. 
9) To close spring roll, fold like a burrito. 
10) Place on serving dish of choice and make the rest of the spring rolls (careful not to put them too close to each other - they stick!).
11) Bon appetit! 

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I hope you enjoy those spring rolls - they are so simple and easy to make, and will go PERFECTLY with practically any asian dipping sauce. I personally enjoyed them without any sauce and they were so full of flavor.

Have a great weekend!! 

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mango Cardamom Tart with Almond Rose Cream

On a Saturday afternoon, after church had already finished and I was back at home... I wanted to make something special to take to my cousin's house. So I skipped over to the kitchen to see the ingredients I had on hand. Organic whole wheat flour. Hm... Mangos.... cardamom... Wheels start turning... 

And then this happened.

I wish I took a picture when it had just been made. Unfortunately, I forgot until I had already covered it.

This tart was approved by all the cousins that gave it a try, and it disappeared in less than 3 hours. Even  a teenager from church gave it a try and I could hear her speaking quietly to her friend, "This is different. But it's really good!"

And that's pretty much the best way to describe this tart. Different. Very different, actually. But oh, so pleasant. 

The one thing I recommend that I didn't do - please, put the mango tart in the refrigerator for at least 4 solid hours. Had it been cold, it would have been even better than it already was!! 

Mango Cardamom Tart with Rose Almond Cream

Makes one large tart - serves 6-8 GENEROUS servings (more if cut smaller)

Crust Ingredients:
* 2 cups organic whole wheat flour 
* 1 cup earth balance vegan butter 
* 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
* 2 tsp. coconut nectar (or maple syrup)
* 2 tsp. ground up chia seeds
1) Combine flour and butter together with pastry cutter, then with hands. Add coconut palm sugar, coconut nectar and ground up chia seeds. 
2) Continue mixing with hands until dough sticks together into a ball when you press it all together (this may take a couple minutes because the butter will be slowly melting as you handle the dough).
3) Press into your favorite tart pan with removable bottom (I used a heart shape tart pan that's bigger than those metal pie pans). 
4) Bake at 375 F for 12-15 minutes.
5) Allow tart to cool for 10-15 minutes. 
6) Flip tart onto your favorite serving dish. 
Mango Topping Ingredients:
* 2-3 Tbsp. coconut nectar (or maple syrup)
* 1/3 tsp. ground cardamom
* 2 mangoes, sliced thin
1) In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients until cardamom and sweetener have spread equally amidst the mango slices. 
2) Set aside to let the flavors sit.
Almond Rose Cream Ingredients:
* 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
* 2-3 medjool dates
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* pinch pink sea salt

* 1 cup raw almonds (skin removed, if possible)
* 20 organic rose petals, whites removed
* 8 drops stevia
* More sweetener (not more stevia), if desired
1) In a vitamix blender, combine almond milk, dates, vanilla, and salt until smooth. 
2) Add remainder of ingredients and blend until mixture is super creamy and to your desired sweetness. 
3) Set aside.


1) Pour 3/4 of almond rose cream into tart crust.
2) Add cardamom mango mixture on top, arranging the mango slices as you wish.
3) Pour (or pipe) the remaining cream on top as decoration, and garnish with extra rose petals and a HUGE drizzle of raw coconut nectar. 
4) If you want the flavors to mingle together, let sit in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight. If you just want to eat the dang tart like I did, you can do that too! 

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Enjoy. I'm heading to bed pretty soon. It's been a long (and GOOD) day. I hope yours has been the same. 

Enjoy the tart. It's very fun to make.. and eat. 

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Multigrain Banana Bread Pudding Squares with Salted Date Caramel - Yum!

Hey you! I hope your week has been fantastic and full of sunshine.

And now, introducing a delicious, refined-sugar free dessert/breakfast that will rock your world!

Though the picture doesn't do it justice, these are what I like to call... *clears throat*

Multigrain Banana Bread Pudding Squares with Salted Date Caramel Icing

These were a hit at my house. My parents gobbled them up, and I was going bananas. ;)

The date caramel is SUPER SWEET, and the salt on top just takes it to a whole, 'nuther level! And here's the other plus: the recipe makes plenty, so you can save it for later to play around with it in other recipes (or of course, you could make the date caramel alone and enjoy some date caramel dip with apples).

Here's what I did with some of my leftover date caramel:

Ok, now let's talk about the bread pudding... It's just so fantastic with that date caramel! *cries*
Forgive me for the emotion, it's just. so. good. 

This recipe is a great way to use those leftover bananas that are just about to die from ripeness. I had five or six bananas just laying there, turning mostly black and getting too soft and gross to eat plain (I like bananas to be perfectly yellow with little spots if I'm going to eat them plain). You know how many banana bread recipes seem to call for 3-4 bananas, sometimes less? Well, mine calls for five overripe bananas. Hey, I had to use them somehow.

Though I am a HUGE sweet tooth, my tastebuds have changed over time, so I encourage you to add a wee bit more natural sugar if you're not used to eating refined sugar-free.

One more thing: though the bread pudding does take a whole hour with prep time and baking, the overall recipe is quite simple and the ingredients can easily be substituted with things you have at home.

Multigrain Banana Bread Pudding

Makes 1 loaf or about 20 squares

* 5 super overripe bananas
* 1/8 cup coconut oil
* 1/8 cup grapeseed (or other) oil
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* 1/4 tsp. sea salt
* 3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts (save 1/4 of this for topping)
* 1/3 cup oat flour
* scant 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
* 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup organic whole wheat flour
* 1/2 cup cooked brown rice 
* scant 1/3 cup coconut sugar (or more to taste)
* 15 drops stevia
* 1 tsp. psyllium husk, ground
* 1 tsp. chia seeds
* 1/2 tsp. aluminum free baking powder
* 1/2 tsp. coconut vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1) Preheat oven to 360 F. Grease a regular size bread pan. 
2) In a large bowl, combine bananas, oils, vanilla, sea salt, and 1/2 cup of the walnuts with a hand mixer. Mix until combined.
3) Still using the handmixer (or whisk), add in the remaining ingredients except for the baking powder and coconut vinegar.
4) When everything is ready to pop into the oven add in the baking powder and vinegar and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the walnuts on top, and sprinkle some coconut sugar on there too, if you want. 
5) Place in the oven for 45 min., then remove from oven. Bread should look golden brown and smell delicious. 


Now for the date caramel recipe - very important part of this recipe, and a very good recipe on its own as well. 

Date Caramel

Makes enough

* 7-8 jumbo soft medjool dates, soaked if needed
* 1/8 cup almond milk, adding more as needed
* 1 tsp. coconut butter
* 3 tsp. coconut nectar (or maple syrup)
* 1-2 tsp. alcohol free vanilla extract
1) In vitamix or a high speed blender, combine all ingredients until the consistency is similar to spreadable caramel. 
2) Spread on apples, desserts, scones, or whatever else your heart desires. You can also spread on multigrain banana bread pudding squares and sprinkle a little salt on top. 

Spread date caramel on finished squares, and then drizzle with coconut nectar or maple syrup. Sprinkle with coarse ground sea salt.


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I hope you enjoy this recipe. It's just too good. 

It's funny - and quite remarkable - at how different I eat these days compared to one year ago. I know that one year ago, this bread pudding would be pretty nice, but not OUT OF THIS WORLD delicious like it is now. 

Do you want to go on a little adventure? Try eating just fruits and veggies for a week, and you will be surprised at the way you taste things. My experience a couple months ago when I tried this was marvelous: a simple, bland celery stick became the saltiest thing I had ever eaten, and that gross carrot stick from the cafeteria's salad bar became the sweetest vegetable ever to cross my path. It was amazing. 

It's been quite a thoughtful week, being that a new school year is starting soon at the University I attend, and I have been thinking about my future a lot. Fun ideas bounce in my head, such as running 5ks, rock climbing at Joshua Tree, starting a restaurant, becoming a dietician, traveling to Argentina for a year - random stuff like this. Will it happen? I sure hope so, and will work towards this goal as I pray to my heavenly Maker about it. 

Have a beautiful remainder of the week, and I shall visit here soon with another delicious dessert recipe - hint: it uses an exotic spice, a popular edible flower, and a favorite tropical fruit. Oh, and it didn't even last 3 hours at my cousin's house.

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Creamy Plantain Dessert + Recent Eats

A pile of perfection... 

I used to always wish I was perfect... I still struggle with this from time to time, but I am SO much better to myself about doing my best. 

I'm learning more and more that it's the imperfections that remind us to do our best. If we were all perfect, we would have no experience under our belts, and how boring is life without rich experiences and life lessons?? 
Only God is perfect. But that's ok, because He's awesome that way. The rest of us are human - and.. awesome just the way we are. So there! :)

I wish I could say this plantain dessert was perfect... but actually, that would be boring and overrated to use that word. What I CAN say is that it's one of the tastiest things I've made with only 3 or 4 ingredients - EVER! 
My mom went nuts with it. 
My dad went nuts with it. 
My sister's boyfriend went nuts with it.. 
My sister!.. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. 

Plantain Towers

Serves 2-4

* 3 extremely ripe plantains, peeled over running water 
* 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
* coconut cream (refrigerate coconut milk can for entire day or overnight)
* cinnamon, for garnish

1) Slice up peeled plantains. I sample a bunch a couple slices as I prepare this - they're so delicious. 
2) In a medium small frying pan, combine plantains and coconut oil. Cook the plantains in there, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes, moving them around frequently. When finished, remove from heat and cover pan. Plantains should look a bit more golden by now. 
3) Take a cookie cutter/1/4 cup measure/coffee scooper/or anything similar to those things, and cram a big spoonful of plantains in there. Put on a plate and slowly lift the mold off the plantain "tower". 
4) Whip up coconut cream with a spoon and place a generous dallop (bigger than what you see in the picture) on the plate, wherever it looks nice. 
5) Repeat until all the plantains in the pan are gone! Enjoy immediately! 

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I've been on such a plantain, hummus, and veggies kick lately (together, but also in different things). Here are my latest exciting eats from the last couple weeks:

Vegan pizza - not the healthiest, but every once in a while it's quite the delicious treat. This one was southwest style - my favorite flavor for practically any dish (besides dessert and smoothies). It was also packed with fun veggies like kale, tomatoes, green onions, and mushrooms.
Strawberry kombucha = YUM!!!!!! Kombucha is the best - SUPER good for your digestive system too!

My first attempt at spring rolls. Not too bad... *goes for seconds*
And my favorite - Ezekiel sprouted grain bread with authentic traditional hummus, topped with a bunch of arugula leaves.
It looks like I've been eating up a storm over here, but believe it or not, I'm probably eating less than I have in a while. See, I'm playing with my portion sizes this week - I'm trying to listen to my body more and stuff, so we'll see how this goes for the rest of this week. So far, so good. 

Working out more too. I did a Fitness Blender today before rock climbing - I was a sweaty mess when I finished this one! 37 minutes of hardcore cardio (well, it was hardcore to me).

I post a lot of this kind of stuff on my instagram (natalynintheraw), so you're welcome to follow me if you want to gawk at healthy delicious eats, try some uploaded workouts, and stuff like that. **UPDATE:   for personal reasons, I don't have an Instagram account anymore**

Have an awesome remainder of the week! I hope you get lots of sunshine, activity, and tasty healthy noms to highlight your week! <3

Much love,

~ Natalyn