Recipe: 3-Bean Millet Chili & Sweet Potatoes

With temperatures below zero this week, only one thing would do. A huge pot of vegan chili.

I have made countless variations of vegan chili, it is one of my favorite (and one of the easiest) things to make. Not to mention it makes for unreal leftovers and is even better the second (and third, and forth…) day.

It’s fun playing around with various spice levels and combinations, add-ins and toppings, bases and beans, all while still knowing its going to turn out great. While I have tried quite a few “meat substitute” bases, such as quinoa, tempeh, lentils, sweet potatoes, one that I keep coming back to is millet. It’s size and texture is perfect for chili and the grain has many health benefits.

I served this particular batch up over a baked sweet potato and topped it with sliced avocado, fresh cilantro and hot sauce.

Ingredients

For the chili

  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 stalk of celery (about 6-8 ribs)
  • 1 bell pepper (I used red but feel free to use whatever color you want)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • a pinch of cayenne (to taste)
  • a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • Two 28oz. cans of fire-roasted tomatoes (I used one can of crushed and one can of diced)
  • 2 cups of millet
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 can of white beans
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of red beans
  • 3/4 cup of frozen corn

For the potato assembly 

  • Avocado
  • Cilantro
  • Sweet potatoes

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Pinch holes in the sweet potatoes, wrap in foil and bake in the oven until soft (about 1-2 hours depending on size of potatoes)

Dice the onion, celery, bell pepper and jalapeño. Lightly coat a large pot with olive oil, sauté the onion, celery, bell pepper and jalapeño until soft and translucent.

Season the vegetables with the spices until fragrant.

Add the cans of tomatoes, millet and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for about 25-30 minutes or until the millet is cooked.

Add the corn and the beans and continue to cook on low, adding water to thin out as needed.

Taste and season more to your liking.

Cut open the baked sweet potatoes and fill a half or whole potato (depending on how hungry you are) with a large ladle-full of chili. Top with slices of avocado, a sprinkle with fresh cilantro and a few dashes of hot sauce.

Recipe: Weekly Work Power Salad

For those of you who follow my @grayeatsgreen Instagram account, you have probably seen my #worklunch or #desklunch posts. This recipe is more of a “formula” and can be changed and tweaked based on what you have on hand!

I usually use curly kale as base because you can dress it ahead of time and it will hold up well in fridge for quite a few days without breaking down or getting mushy like many other lettuces.

I start by chopping up two bunches of curly kale and putting them into a huge mixing bowl.

I then make between 1.5-2 cups of a grain, some ideas are quinoa, farro, wheatberries, millet, buckwheat, brown rice, frekkah, etc. Follow the directions on cooking the grain. Wait until the grain cools and mix it in with the chopped kale.

Then I normally add a bean or legume of some sort for a protein boost; black beans, white beans, lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, etc.

Then pick your vegetables, fresh, roasted, steamed, sautéed, even fermented, it doesn’t matter! Some ideas: roasted brussels sprouts, steamed beets, raw carrots, tomatoes, celery, peppers, roasted squash or sweet potatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, the possibilities are endless! (If I add avocado I normally wait until right before serving)

Next up I usually like to added some dried fruit for a little natural sweetness; such as chopped medjool dates, chopped figs, cherries or raisins. Or chopped up fresh fruit such as a granny smith apple.

A nut or seed gives the salad a great crunch and a nice dose of healthy fat! I love adding hemp hearts, walnuts or chopped almonds.

Fresh herbs make a wonderful addition to any salad if you have them on hand; giving them a certain pop of freshness. Experiment with parsley, cilantro, dill or any herb of your choice. The possibilities are endless!

When it comes to dressing, I like to gently massage my big batch salads with a very light combination of an oil (olive, flax) and an acid (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar) along with some sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Sometimes I make a more complex dressing to add when I serve it, but with so many delicious add-ins, that’s really all you need!

Use your intuition when it comes to ingredient amounts and portion sizes, no one knows what you like and what you need better than you do. I’ve noticed that two bunches of kale along with 1.5-2 cups of grain (measured BEFORE cooking) yields about 5-8 meal sized servings. Perfect for lunch for most of the week for you and another family member and a dinner appetizer!

Batch cooking is crucial when it comes to staying healthy on the job. Keep checking back to the blog for more ideas on healthy tips for the workplace!

Sunday Link Up [1/11/15]

Monday Link Up going up… on a Sunday.

I apologize for the extremely late “New Year’s” link up, this past week has been extremely busy and adjusting to the time change post-Africa didn’t help!

But getting back into the swing of things has certainly felt great after two weeks of traveling. Things at work have been going great, I have been working on Institute for Integrative Nutrition stuff and new yoga studio opened in downtown Detroit!

My only complaint is that it’s been FREEZING here! My commutes downtown have been extremely slow due to all the traffic from the snow and ice. So, in addition to the unreal new band I discovered in South Africa, I’ve been listening to a lot of inspirational podcasts to make use of my time in the car. No Meat Athlete Radio is at the top of my list as per usual, along with The Rich Roll Podcast, and The Tim Ferriss Show, which is a new one for me.

The No Meat Athlete is king of New Year’s goals and inspiration. There’s just something about his work that is so relatable. Like he is just the guy next store giving suggestions. A few of my links this week are straight from nomeatathlete.com:

1. Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete is a fellow New Years fanatic and always a go-to source for inspiration and information. Here are Matt’s 8 Stress-Free Ways to Start Healthier Habits Now, just in time for resolution season.

2. For me, it is helpful (and interesting!) to see someone’s exact routine or set of habits. In this post, Matt tells us How to Put Healthy Eating on Autopilot this Year and gives us a specific rundown of his shopping trip at Whole Foods, his thoughts on “step-bracelets,” and a vegan banana pancake recipe!

3. Okay, this is the last No Meat Athlete link, I promise! Another easy-to-follow list; 19 Ways to Lesson Your Resistance to Healthy Eating This Year. In this post, Matt explains that healthy eating (and living in general) is less about willpower and more about removing the friction that goes along with planning, shopping and preparing your meals. These are some great habits that are easy to adopt because they are more about adding than subtracting. 

4. I know we may be a little late for “New Year’s,” but I consider the entire month of January to be a New Year’s celebration! I love “veganizing” traditional holiday dishes. Although there is not a universal “New Year food,”  Hoppin’ John, a southern peas and rice dish, is said to bring good luck in the new year. This veganized version from Gena Hamshaw on Food52 is absolutely delicious! I made a big batch and took it for lunch last week!

5. Not sure if Chipotle is attempting to market their restaurant or veganism in general but they are giving away FREE Chipotle to anyone who orders Sofritas (their vegan protein option that first appeared on the scene in 2013 at select locations) on January 26th! This is definitely an interesting tactic but it’s cool that it could possibly get more people to at least TRY the vegan option! Most people are pleasantly surprised! Way to go, Chipotle!

That’s all for now. More to come!

Hello 2015 & A Vacation Recap

Happy 2015 everyone!

New Years may just be my favorite holiday. I love that it is a time of reflection and a time to rejuvenate and restart. I love that the whole world celebrates it, but in different times and slightly different ways. I love reading ” top ___ lists” of the previous year and what the upcoming trends may be for the new year. And most recently, I love reflecting on my progress and setting new goals for myself.

I have been looking back on my 2014 resolutions and making new ones for 2015. I have broken them up between more general resolutions for the year and more specific, measurable monthly and daily goals. I have also categorized them by personal and professional. Tomorrow, my Monday Link Up post will focus more on New Years, resolutions and goals, but for now I want to post a vacation recap about my recent journey to South Africa!

Gray Travels Green

Traveling out of the country can be stressful. Traveling with 18 of your family members can also be stressful. Traveling as a vegan or a health-conscious person can also be stressful. But traveling out of the country with 18 of your family members as a health-conscious vegan? Extremely stressful! Luckily, it was not as bad as I thought it would be and I happily rose to the occasion and survived the challenge.

South Africa is most definitely not a food destination and my family members are definitely not foodies. I went in with the best possible attitude and tried to be as flexible as possible. Even though I follow a plant-based diet almost all of the time, I will still eat eggs or seafood on occasion.

Eating vegan in a foreign country is very difficult because of the language barrier (yes, I can have soy milk, no I cannot have Lactaid milk, etc.) I found that there was a vegetarian option pretty much every where I went and then I would focus on the fact that I have a dairy allergy. I didn’t go so far as to ask if every little thing contained eggs, so long if there was no dairy I was content.

It is also necessary to let go of some health ideals when you travel. For example, I ate a lot more “white carbs” than I normally would but I just focused on fueling myself with the best-possible option available so I could do what I was really there for, safari-ing, sight-seeing and family bonding.

Normally, when I go places, I have a laundry list of restaurants and markets I want to eat at and see and I want to experience the food culture as much as possible. It was hard for me to let go of that on this trip, but I did my best to go-with-the-flow.

Here’s a recap of my food journey through South Africa and some useful tips for health-conscious travelers.

Be Prepared

As any vegan or health-conscious person knows, the best advice is to just be prepared. In hindsight, I probably should have brought even more snacks and meal-replacement bars, just in case, but luckily I was able to restock at our second destination. I tried not to be too prepared because I definitely wanted to try the local cuisine and eat what the rest of the family was eating in order to not isolate myself (if it was up to me I honestly could eat protein bars for every meal because I love them so much).

I tried to pack snacks that could withstand two weeks of intense travel in the heat (I ate the bars I had chocolate in them first). I packed an assortment of Vega, GoMacro, GoodGreens, LARABAR, and KIND bars. I also packed a huge Ziploc bag full of trail mix; dried figs, dates, cherries, and raisins and walnuts, peanuts, and almonds.

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During the trip I bought another big bag of dried figs and a bunch of single serving nut butter packets. South Africa is known for their macadamia nuts so this almond/macadamia spread was a winner.IMG_7148

Safari 

Our first destination was the Thanda Private Game Reserve. Set in Middle-Of-No-Where, South Africa my food expectations were very low.  Luckily world class travel agent (also known as my grandma) prepared the lodge for dietary restrictions, including dairy-free (much of my extended family avoids dairy), picky children and non-red meat eaters.

Upon my arrival, I was pleasantly surprised. Think of the safari dining room as a cruise dining room of sorts, I ate a lot of tropical fruits, vegetables, cereal with soy milk, and pasta. What I did not count on, however, was coming down with a terrible case of food poisoning on the third day. After that I counted on dry toast and eggs (I will still eat eggs occasionally) to sustain me for the rest of my time at the safari lodge. I’m not sure what caused the food poisoning, I didn’t eat any meat or dairy products, it could have been the water that was used to wash the mass amounts of fruit and vegetables I was eating.

IMG_7020The food highlight of the safari was stumbling upon some fresh, local pineapples in a neighboring town. Of IMG_7022course, the animals and the sheer beauty of the African bush was the real highlight and I loved every minute of it.

Winelands

Our next stop was Franschhoek, a beautiful town in the South African winelands. The highlight at this stop was, of course, the wine. I discovered my new favorite variety of wine, Sauvignon blanc and tried a variety of different reds, whites and “bubbles” as they call champagne in South Africa.

IMG_7136Our lunches at the winery were absolutely delicious. I was able to get coconut “curry” dishes at a couple of different restaurants which I found interesting. And a variety of amazing salads, vegetables, hummus and grainy breads. This region’s food had a bit of a French flair to it.

Amazingly I was able to find a South African brand of Kombucha at a little health food store in the University town of Stellenbosch.

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The hotel staff cooked us a barbecue one night, complete with corn, roasted veggies and three different vegan grain salads. I was in heaven! This place also served plain “porridge” for breakfast which I happily topped with nut butter each morning.

Cape Town

I felt right at home in modern, hipster-esque Cape Town. The V&A Market on the Wharf was like a South African Chealsea Market, I could have spent all day there! I enjoyeIMG_7222d a green juice from Dr. Juice and some raw plant protein balls.

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I also discovered an coffee beverage at an artisan coffee shop that consisted of cold brew coffee, local raw honey, soy milk and ice blended together. Definitely making my own version of this at home!

Speaking of coffee, the coffee everywhere was delicious. Unlike in the United States, even the most basic hotel cup of joe tasted like the perfect cup.

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IMG_7225The seafood on this coastal town was another favorite, so I enjoyed some langoustines one night.

Overall, this was an amazing journey filled with exhilarating natural beauty and family. I couldn’t be happier to be home, but my memories, photos and newfound love for South African wine will last a lifetime.

On that note, I am looking forward to doing big things in 2015! See you back here tomorrow for the Monday Link Up.

Updates & Eats

Hello everyone! Just thought I’d give you all a brief update on what’s been going on lately.

Work

I started work two weeks ago, as I posted about before, and have been insanely busy trying to establish and good balance of work and other activities. It’s going to take a little while getting used to working full time while also doing some of the more classic Gray Eats Green activities, such as running, cooking, going to marketing, writing this blog, etc. But the good news is, I absolutely love work so far!  I may even started to shift this blog (or create a new one) towards one that showcases and discusses healthy and/or vegan food in Detroit. Only time will tell so stay tuned on that project.

As far as on-job-eats goes, I am very fortunate to work in a company with a couple cafeterias that have pretty great salad bars. 7 Greens Detroit Salad Co. also recently opened up and has been my go-to spot. The “Yoga Girl” salad, which is a mix of kale, spinach, shredded carrots, and roasted beets, brussels, and tofu with a miso dressing and a drizzle of Sriracha is so up my ally. The Zingerman’s spelt bread it is served with is the perfect addition. I love how they emphasize fresh, local ingredients. This place has truly changed the work lunch game in Detroit!

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I also whipped up a big lentil, wheat berry and roasted vegetable salad this past weekend, which I kept in the fridge and mixed with arugula each morning. That lasted me from all the way until Wednesday which was great!

Most mornings I’ve still been enjoying Rip’s Big Bowl cereal for a quick, but filling and nutrient dense breakfast.

Although I haven’t had much time to cook dinners, I am fortunate enough to live at home and my mom has been whipping up a lot of great vegetables, grains and pasta dishes. It’s also been fun going out to dinner with friends in Detroit after work, Wright & Co., Green Dot Stables and Gold Cash Gold have been some spots I’ve tried so far.

Travel

Tomorrow, I will begin my journey with 18 of my other family members to South Africa. This trip has been in the works for a long time and I am a bit nervous, although very excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

My goal is to document my experience with the local cuisine and eating vegan while traveling here on the blog. Although I’m not sure what kind of Internet connection I’ll have, I will do my best.

Yesterday, I stocked up on a bunch of plant-based protein bars and made a huge bag of trail mix to take with me on the trip.

Stay tuned for more of my South African adventure!

Monday Link Up [12/8/14]

Happy Monday! Today was an especially exciting Monday for me, it was the first day of work at my new public relations job in downtown Detroit. I am officially a real person! 

More to come on managing a healthy lifestyle while working, both in and out of the workplace. But for now, I have a great Monday Link Up for you.

First up, an article from the New York Times about Millennials aka the “Slash Generation.” More and more millennials have been stretching themselves thin, not working two jobs because they are pressed for cash, but because they feel the need for a creative outlet in addition to a job that pays the bills. I feel proud to be a part of the “Slash Generation,” as I try to experience the corporate world and utilize my marketing degree, while also exploring my passions in the nutrition and cooking world. The “slash” part could not be more accurate as I currently try to come up with a new Twitter bio… I assure you there will be some sort go “/” or “|” involved.

Switching gears, next up we have a post from one of the blogs that first got me into nutrition and food blogging, Kath Eats Real Food. This posts features a guest plant-based nutritionalist, Bryana Piazza, discussing one of everybody’s favorite topics, protein on a plant based diet. I especially enjoyed this post due to the fact that Kath is neither vegan nor vegetarian, so the unbiased and friendly natured in which her guest blogger discusses a plant based diet is a welcome change from some of the more preachy vegans out there.

Here’s another one for the protein concerned vegans and their grandparents, 8 Things I’d Tell My Grandparents About Protein by MindBodyGreen. My grandparents have been some of the most difficult people to explain my new eating style to, mainly due to the old-school nutrition information that has been instilled in them and most people of their generation. Coming off of Thanksgiving dinner and heading into a big family holiday vacation, this article couldn’t have come at a better time. I may print it out and bring it on the trip!

Finally, as we wrap up 2014 and look on to 2015, I’d like to present two “Top Trends” lists from two of my favorite websites, MindBodyGreen and Well + Good NYC. 10 Wellness Trends to Watch in 2015 has me excited for more healthier restaurants, functional medicine going more mainstream and “fitness polygamy.” Top 2015 Fitness Trends and Wellness Trends is making me look forward to using juice as medicine, Instagram finally getting the healthy lifestyle credit it deserves and sugar getting the same treatment that trans fat does.

Hope everyone has a great week, see you back here soon!

The Kombucha Encyclopedia

So far, this blog has been a random collection of ramblings, recipes, and things that excite and inspire me in the health & wellness foodie world. Yet I have been trying to carve out a more specific niche and purpose for this blog, my interest of all things wellness, food and my Institute for Integrative Nutrition education, have me gradually shifting toward “foods and beverages I love to eat, drink and prepare and the health-benefits of said food and beverages.”  hippocrates

That is what excites me so much about healthy food in general, not only can it taste great and look great, but it can be great for you. Putting food in your body is like putting gas in your car, you can alter the output performance by the quality of the input.

Today, we are going to discuss one of my favorite beverages from both a taste and health-promotion standpoint, kombucha. 

If you’ve ever walked into your local health food store and seen a wall that looks like this, you’ve seen kombucha.

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What is Kombucha?

There is nothing that makes you feel quite like an alien from another planet than explaining Kombucha to someone who has never heard of it before.

“Uhhh… it’s like a really healthy Japanese fermented tea…”

The next question that follows is usually, “why would you want to drink tea that is fermented?”

“Well, it tastes really good and there are a ton of health benefits and… just try it… you’ll see”

At which point the person may make a face, wrinkle their nose, and exclaim that it tastes like vinegar. Most of the time, it will grow on them. I’ve converted many naysayers to Kombucha devotes. My college friends now use Kombucha as their vodka chaser/mixer of choice. It’s certainly an acquired taste.

I Love Kombucha

It’s no secret that I absolutely love Kombucha. It’s quite possibly my favorite beverage and you can often spot me walking around doting a glass bottle full of the stuff or the passenger seat of my car littered with empty kombucha bottles.

I love the taste and there is just something about the way it makes me feel, an energy boost yet a calming and relaxing feeling at the same time… and I haven’t even mentioned the health benefits yet.

Some people may collect keychains or some other little memento when on vacation, I collect local Kombucha bottles. You should see my eyes light up when a place has Kombucha on tap. I’ve had the pleasure to visit a Kombucha brewery in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Although I’ve tasted many different kombuchas from around the country, my favorite brand continues to be G.T.’s and my favorite flavor continues to be Trilogy.

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I’ve even experimented with brewing my own Kombucha, a very weird process that involves water, tea, cane sugar and a S.C.O.B.Y (a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacterial Yeast… do you think I’m officially a weirdo yet?) Some may call me a Kombucha addict, but I prefer dedicated fan.

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Health Benefits of Kombucha

Okay, now we’re getting to the good stuff. Other drinks may taste just as good as the magical wonder potion, but they most likely do not boast the same health-promoting properties.

According to DrAxe.com, the newest research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food 2014 states that “it is shown that [kombucha] can efficiently act in health preservation and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of boosting immunity.”

Let me break it down for you in simple terms for why Kombucha has magical properties.

Kombucha has been shown to detox the body by counteracting liver cell toxicity.

Kombucha boasts high levels of beneficial acids, probiotics and enzymes, which is why is great for the digestive system.

As far the the energy promoting properties go, some of the iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process has been shown to increase energy. Kombucha also contains B-vitamins and trace amounts of caffeine, which help to energize the body as well.

Lately, I have been upping my kombucha intake in order to support my immune system during these winter months. Kombucha contains a powerful antioxidant known as D-saccharic acid-1, 4-lactone (DSL) that emerges during the fermentation process. DSL, coupled with the high levels of vitamin-C and probiotics found in Kombucha, have been shown to give the immune system a boost.

I find that Kombucha also works as a natural appetite suppressant for me, which is why it has been credited as having weight loss properties. The natural effervescence (“fizziness”) of the beverage really fills me up. When I want something to sip on and a little energy boost, but don’t want to eat a full blown snack or meal, I turn to a kombucha. Although beware of the bloating that may occur!

For more information about the benefits of kombucha, click here, here or here.

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What About The Alcohol?

Due to the fact that kombucha is a naturally fermented product, it contains a trace amount of alcohol and you need to be 21 in order to purpose certain brands. But, I can assure you that the amount of alcohol essentially nonexistent.

Another one of my favorite, kombucha products, is Unity Vibration Kombucha Beer, a unique beverage of kombucha + hops. This product is an entirely different beast and I can assume that the amount of alcohol in this product is quite existent.

New Neu

Proof that the kombucha movement is continuing to pick up traction, I found this new brand local Kombucha made in kitchen in Royal Oak, Michigan at a health-food restaurant and I have a feeling it will continue to appear around Detroit! There is talk of it being sold at Eastern Market next season which I am very excited about. I love supporting local business and local kombucha is even better!

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Cheers!