National Coffee Day: An ode to one of my favorite beverages

Happy National Coffee Day! As I sit down to write this post at my local artisan coffee shop, I think about my love affair with coffee and how it has evolved over the years…

Although my #1 beverage remains WATER and kombucha would probably come in at second place, coffee is definitely right up there.

IMG_4890

Coffee is more than just a beverage, it’s a culture, a way of life, and something I throughly enjoy being part of. Although research regarding whether or not coffee is actually good for you remains varied, I believe that coffee is a welcome part of my day as long as I make sure to take breaks every now and then to be sure I don’t become dependent.

One of my favorite articles on the topic of coffee is from MindBodyGreen and it explains some of the most notable health benefits of having that daily cup of joe, including its cancer-fighting and heart-healthy properties.

While its nice to be reassured that coffee has a place in a healthy diet, I especially love coffee for its mood-boosting effects. I can definitely tell I have an extra pep in my step, a more positive attitude and outlook on the world, and am generally friendlier when I have had that cup of coffee.

As a self-proclaimed morning person, I also love what coffee symbolizes. There is something soothing and ritualistic about warming up to a hot cup during a dreary winter morning or sipping a cold brew to cool down and liven up a hot summer morning. For me, coffee symbolizes the dawn of a new day, an incentive to read, write or study, a pleasant morning chat with a friend or family member, or a solo mediative moment.

Now, back to coffee culture. Sometimes I feel as if coffee is similar to wine in the fact that there is a whole culture surrounding it; there are coffee snobs, coffee know-it-alls, and coffee purists. There are also separate camps that all fall under the coffee umbrella.

There’s drip, pour over, french press, cold brew and the revolutionary clover machine (we’ll get into this later.) There is also espresso, americanos and decadent dairy-free milk lattes and cappuccinos. There are different roasts and blends. Coffee brings people together, while also giving them their individual freedom to customize.

“Do you take cream or sugar?” could be the most the most American thing you can say besides the pledge of allegiance.

Of course, there is no cream or sugar floating around the Gray Eats Green kitchen. Clearly the “healthiest” way to enjoy your coffee is black, but I often like to sweeten and flavor my coffee with a little almond, soy or hemp milk. A few friends of mine swear by stevia but I find it tastes too artificial for me.

I love going out for coffee more than anything, but my current at-home brewing method consists of a Keurig coffee maker. I have recently heard not-so-good things about the effects of hot plastic from K-cups and I don’t love the taste of Keurig coffee so I am currently on the hunt for a less harmful and more tasty coffee brewing method that is still inexpensive and easy. I am thinking french press but would appreciate any and all suggestions!

 

IMG_4969

A funny sign about about benefits of drinking coffee from one of my favorite New York coffee shops; Birch. I love how this sign addresses one of the less-widely discussed aspect of coffee, the fact that it certainly gives the digestive system a nice boost.

So, cheers, from my coffee mug to yours!

Vegan Month of Food: Oil Free Dressing Roundup & Yummy Oil Free Dessert

Happy Friday Everyone!

Today is the final Friday in the Vegan Month of Food, so I thought I’d hit you with a recipe roundup and a delicious dessert recipe that can be found all over the Internet but I tweaked to make my own.

As I mentioned in a previous post, when I watched Forks Over Knives and Engine 2 Plant Rescue, in addition to receiving the FOK cookbook and reading some of Joel Furman, T. Collin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn’s work I become more and more interested in using less oil in my diet.

The science just made so much sense to me, I could eat MORE of the good stuff, thus getting my carbohydrates, protein, and fat from health plant based sources, and eating a ton more nutrients, while still maintaining (or even lessening) my calorie intake.

The most difficult thing to make without oil by far is salad dressings, but once you know a few basic go-to oil-free dressing recipes, I think you will find that you enjoy them far better than their oily counter parts.

Now on to dessert…

This may be one of the easiest ways to get rid of your overripe bananas.

Banana Oat Clusters

You will need:

  • 2 overripe bananas
  • 2 cups of rolled oats (gluten-free optional)
  • a handful of chocolate chips, dried cherries, chopped walnuts, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Mash 2 overripe bananas in a large bowl (you can use more but then the amount of your other ingredients will increase as well)
  3. Add 2 cups of oats to the mashed bananas and mix well
  4. Add in the handful of chocolate chips and whatever other mix-ins you would like (all optional)
  5. Spray a cookie sheet with coconut oil spray (or any over kind of your choosing)
  6. Using an ice cream scooper, or large spoon, put little balls of banana oat clusters on the cookie sheet
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until just slightly brown on top
  8. Let cool and enjoy!

The Vegan’s Guide to Chipotle

I haven’t eaten fast food since I was a kid. As I got on my health conscious path that kind of stuff just appealed to me less and less (even before I was the weirdo Kombucha brewing vegan that I am today…)

But when I got to college, and was faced with the challenge of living in a rural farm town with a measly five blocks of chain restaurants and retail stores, I discovered something wonderful, I discovered Chipotle.

The argument of whether Chipotle can be considered a “fast food” restaurant is longer than time, but Chipotle’s commitment to sourcing the most sustainable and local ingredients possible makes me believe they know what they are doing.

These days, as I have become more in tune with my body and how different foods effect it, I usually judge a restaurant by how I feel 30 minutes after I’m done eating. After eating Chipotle, I feel light on my feet, not bloated or weighted down, satisfied and happy.

Some may give Chipotle flack for using soybean oil to cook their vegetables or being too high in sodium, but there’s not many restaurants out there that can provide me with a quick, cheap, relatively healthy vegan meal that I feel great eating.

Of course what I have gotten over the course of my love affair with Chipotle has changed since becoming vegan, but here is my go-to basic Chipotle order:

“May I please have a salad with…”

Shredded lettuce

Chipotle_Mexican_Grill__Romaine_Lettuce_salad_754765_i0This is a Gray Eats Green insider secret. Ask them to use the taco lettuce instead of the usual salad lettuce. It’s the exact same romaine, just chopped up so you don’t have to do the work. I recommend starting with a salad base instead of rice so you make sure to get your greens in.

Brown rice

chipotle-brown-rice-300x235

Now we add the brown rice. Brown rice is like white rice’s healthy, unrefined brother, the grain still has its bran and hull intact. Be sure not to ignore complex carbs, as they are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Chipotle adds cilantro and lime so they’re healthy and delicious.

Both beans (black and pinto)

1378484723_1Beans are my favorite vegan protein source and high in a ton of nutrients, and Chipotle just happens makes some of the best beans of all time. Choose one or choose them both, the pintos used to be cooked with bacon but as of 2013 they are 100% vegan.

Fajita veggies 

15

Sautéed peppers and onions add a nice crunch and some color. While sometimes scrutinized for being sautéed in soybean oil, they are a much better option than the meat toppings so I tend to let this slide.

Mild salad a.k.a. “pico de gallo” 

16

Made from tomatoes, red onion, jalepeño, cilantro, and lime, this classic, chunky mild tomato salsa is a great way to add some raw veggies to your Chipotle bowl. Sometimes I even ask for an extra scoop.

Corn salsa

17I always get corn for a sweetness and color boost. Some people may claim corn is too high in carbs. But I say, pile on the vegetables.

Hot salsa 

20

Did you know spicy foods are said to speed up your metabolism? I love spicy foods and Chipotle’s hot sauce  definitely adds a great kick to my meal.

Guacamole 

Chipotle_Mexican_Grill_Guacamole_754603_i0Avocados are my favorite source of “good fat.” Loaded with fiber and nutrients, avocados are a great way to get a dose of healthy fats. And who doesn’t love guacamole? Especially Chipotle’s guacamole. I always get mine on the side on the side.

Optional: 

Sofritas 

2013-10-27_DC-01

If I’m in a city where it’s offered, I get the “Sofritas;” shredded organic tofu braised with chipotle chills, roasted poblanos and a blend of aromatic spices.

“…I’ll have a cup for water. Thank you so much, have a great day!”

And there you have it, the official Gray Eats Green Chipotle order.

09753-Large

Even though I get a salad,  I skip the Honey Cumin Vinaigrette. Not because I don’t eat honey, because I do, despite the fact that it is not officially vegan. I just don’t need the extra added oil, I get my dose of healthy fats from the guacamole and all of the salsas add so much flavor. I also love the chipotle flavored Tabasco sauce that’s offered at the drink stand, it adds a great smokey flavor and a nice kick.

Over all, I think Chipotle is an excellent once-in-a-while option for time, budget and health conscious vegans!

First Day of Fall Vegan Butternut Squash Hummus

Happy First Day of Fall! No matter the weather in your location, I’m sure most of you have cracked open your first can of pumpkin by now and bitten into your first honey crisp apple. But I am here to discuss one of my favorite aspects of fall; squash.

You know when you walk into a grocery store and you see those big funny looking things on display by the pumpkins? And you think to yourself either A. that would be nice home decor or B. what planet did that thing come from?

Well last fall I made it my mission to dive headfirst into the wonderful world of squash.

Before last fall I had only ever experienced spaghetti and butternut, but last season I made it my mission to try each and every type of winter squash. I tried delicata, acorn, kabocha, and of course butternut and spaghetti. This year I am upping the anti and going even more squash crazy!

I thought I’d kick off the official start of the season with some smokey butternut hummus inspired by Connoisseurus Veg.

I started off by cutting a butternut squash in half, spraying it with some olive oil and sprinkling it with some sea salt. I put it facedown on a cutting board and baked it on 350F for 45-60min (until soft).

I scraped out the squash and put it in my vitamix with a can of drained and rinsed organic chickpeas, 2 tbs. tahini, 2 tbs. lemon juice, a drop of liquid smoke (optional), and sea salt, cumin and smoked paprika to taste. I started the blender and drizzled in olive oil to get everything started.

Once everything is moving, blend until smooth and add olive oil and seasonings to taste.

So delicious on veggies, crackers or straight out of the Vitamix with a spoon 😉

Happy Squash Season!

IMG_5308

Restaurant Review: Hu Kitchen

When I travel to different cities, I love experiencing their health food scenes. New York was recently name the Most Vegan Friendly City by MindBodyGreen. So while in this health food mecca on some interviews and to visit my sister, I couldn’t help but do some health food exploring.

Between its popularity in the health food blog and social media world, friend’s recommendations and my own research, Hu Kitchen has been on my “list” for a long time. Hu Kitchen’s mission is to “get back to human,” the way people ate before the large processed food industry took over. Hu emphasizes unprocessed foods, minimal grains, natural sweeteners, healthy fats and lots of vegetables, as well as non-GMO, grass-fed and organic meat. With a cross-fit gym right down the street and bulletproof coffee featured on the menu (coffee with grass-fed butter and coconut oil), it appears as if Hu targets a largely paleo crowd, but there was still plenty of veggie options on the menu.

I am sure my fellow healthy foodies out there know the feeling when you walk into an awesome health-food restaurant, market or store. I’ve recently dubbed this feeling as “healthfoodgasm.” This was definitely the feeling I got when I walked into Hu Kitchen.

First of all, the physical restaurant was awesome. The decor was cool, natural and rustic, there was a coffee, juice and smoothie bar, KOMBUCHA ON TAP, different food stations, a little market place with Hu snacks and desserts, and awesome café style seating upstairs with wifi and outlets.

There was plenty of prepared food options, but I definitely wanted to try something hot and fresh for my first experience. I decided on a bowl, where I choose the root vegetable mash base, the wild mushroom medley topping and finely chopped vegetables and cilantro for garnish. The bowl was served with a small grain-free Hu bread.

After paying for my meal and sitting down at the bar to eat it, I sampled the three types of Kombucha on tap, Lemon Drop, Blueberry Cinnamon and Jasmine. I decided upon the Jasmine and they served it to me in a clear glass, mason-jar style mug. For a Kombucha and mason jar aficionado, this was like a dream come true.

There was also various taps of “5-Stage Ultra Filtered Water” to fill your own glass from. As a big water drinker, I absolutely loved this.

My bowl was truly delicious. The flavors, textures and portion size were precisely on point. And of course, nothing is better than drinking Kombucha straight from the tap. After I finished my bowl, I headed upstairs with my Kombucha to take advantage of the wifi in between interviews.

Overall, I loved my experience at Hu Kitchen. The food was delicious, the vibe was awesome and its so great to dine amongst and be served by like-minded individuals. I will definitely be returning to Hu Kitchen upon my next visit to NYC!

Vegan Month of Food: Trader Joe’s

For those of you not familiar with the cult, err, grocery store known as Trader Joe’s, get familiar.

People are crazy dedicated to the original products that Trader Joe’s offers, if you haven’t heard of the infamous Cookie Butter or “Two-Buck Chuck” Charles Shaw Wine by now you may be living under a rock.

I love Trader Joes because they have many quality, organic products for a really low price. They also have a revolutionary freezer section and an awesome dried fruit and nut selection. Although Trader Joe’s is not a health food store by any means (there is plenty of junk food lurking the TJs aisles) they happen to offer a lot of “health foodie” products with new ones hitting the shelves all the time.

Whether you are new to Trader Joe’s or a seasoned veteran, I think you will enjoy my “Trader Joe’s Vegan Health Foodie Favorite’s List.” Without further ago, in no particular order…

1. Steamed Lentils

  • Trader Joes steamed lentils made solely with lentils, salt and natural flavors and are extremely convenient. These delicious lentils are perfect in recipes that call for lentils or add them to a salad to turn it into a meal.

lentils

2. Organic Power Greens

  • You just can’t beat this organic trio of baby kale, chard and spinach. I love this versatile blend as a salad, stirred into soups or sautéed, or even in green smoothies.

power-greens

3. Chia Seeds

  • At $5.99 a bag you can’t find chia seeds at this price at other health food stores. I use them in oatmeal, smoothies, jams, No Meat Athlete’s “Pre-Race Waffles” and as a egg-replacer in baking. Chia seeds are one of my favorite superfoods because they are a great source of vegan protein, healthy fats and fiber, they make you feel fuller for longer, they are great running fuel and I love what they do to the texture of recipes!

94932-chia-seeds

4. Coconut Oil and Spray

  • Another one of those products where you can find at every health food store but you just can’t beat the price at TJs. Plus the matching logo on the jar and the spray bottle is very cute. Coconut oil is another healthy baking essential for me. I love using the spray for grilling, high-heat cooking and making my famous “Quite Reasonable” cookies.

412ynI8wMPL

5. Dark Unsweetened Cherries

Seasonal item so make sure not to miss these! Normally dried fruit has added sugar but these are some of the most soft and sweet dried cherries I’ve ever tasted with absolutely nothing else added! I use them in baking, trail mix and as an oatmeal/cereal topper.

515-ZwHUCsL._SX300_

6. Organic 3-Grain Tempeh

  • I’ve tried other tempeh brands but seriously nothing else compares. I don’t even mind the taste of this one plain/raw. Made with soybeans, barley, millet and brown rice, I like how this isn’t solely soy-based. Great for grilling, stir-frying or crumbled up in tempeh chili, the possibilities are endless.

trader-joes-organic-3-grain-tempeh-1

7. Cowboy Caviar

  • This slightly spicy black bean, corn and red pepper “salsa” is one of those dips that will most likely be eaten straight out of the jar by the spoonful. It is also great on corn chips, raw veggies or literally anything you can get your hands on. Disclaimer: there is no actual caviar in Cowboy Caviar.

cowboy-caviar

8. Frozen Roasted Corn

  • I always keep a bag of this in my freezer, always good to have on hand for soups, salads or Mexican night! Nothing beats the smokey, roasted flavor and the convenience of this product.

img_0545

9. Frozen Organic Brown Rice

  • Another freezer staple, this rice has certainly changed the grain game. Microwave for 3 minutes and you have perfectly cooked rice! This stuff takes away the “rice-cooking” step in recipes and makes for the perfect side dish or grain-bowl base when you are short on time.

Browrice-1

10. 100 Calorie 70% Dark Chocolate Bars

  • The convenient, single serving packet, reasonable ingredient list and high enough cacao content make this chocolate bar my go-to dessert item or sneak-into-the-theater movie snack.

TJ-dark-bar

11. Green Fin Red Table Wine

  • At $3.99 per bottle, you can’t beat the price of Green Fin Red Table Wine. Made with organic grapes and certified vegan (I guess all wines aren’t) you can’t beat the quality either. Don’t let the “table wine” title fool you, this wine could go head-to-head taste-wise with some of the fancier bottles I’ve had. Other red varieties, different whites, and a rosé have all recently been introduced, but my personal favorite is the classic Red Table Wine.

IMG_3248

Vegan Mofo: Kale Yeah!

Happy Friday! Today I am going to share with you one of my favorite go-to kale salad recipes. I found this recipe after watching Engine 2’s Plant Rescue with Rip Esselstyn. This Forks Over Knives spinoff can be found on Netflix and is a fun, more functional video. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in a plant-based lifestyle or who just wants to clean up their diet in general. Former firefighter Rip goes into the homes of two families looking to go plant-based and helps them clean out their pantries and fridges, restock their kitchens and cook easy, healthy meals.

Rip’s message is unique because it really tailors to men and focuses on strength and simplicity. Much of the vegan media out there is tailored toward women, whether it be on purpose or subliminally. Rip avoids the word “vegan” all together because he believes it deters people and instead uses the phrase “plant-strong.” Even though I am a women, I still love Rip’s message and his recipes. He will be speaking in my home town on September 30th and I am very excited to see him in person and hopefully get a copy of his book!

Now, on to the recipe..

As many of you probably know the entire Forks Over Knives “line” promotes an oil-free, whole-foods, plant-based diet. Going completely oil-free sounds daunting and impossible to some, and I will admit, eating out oil-free is a huge challenge. After watching forks over knives, reading the cookbook and familiarizing myself with Engine 2, I have attempted to greatly reduce my oil consumption. It makes sense to me that oil is not technically a “whole food.” It is greatly processed, do you know how many olives you’d have to eat just to get to the same amount of calories as just one tablespoon of olive oil? A LOT! The Forks Over Knives theory is that it is better to get your fat needs from a small amount of fatty whole foods, such as avocados, nuts and seeds. By getting your fat from whole foods instead of processed oil, you are able to receive the other health benefits that these foods offer and eat them in greater quantities because they are not so highly concentrated.

Although I still use coconut oil in my vegan baking, a little bit of olive oil to roast and sauté when I am cooking for others and don’t make a big deal of it when eating out, I generally feel better when reducing my oil intake. The thing that has posed the greatest challenge though is SALAD DRESSING. Most vegan, oil-free salad dressing recipes involve the blender and some obscure ingredients but what I love most about this simple, oil free massaged kale salad is that all you need is kale, a lemon, an avocado and some sea salt!

(Recipe makes one serving)

Step 1: Wash and dry about half a bunch of kale, or about 3-5 kale leaves

 

Step 2: Chop the kale finely or into bite size pieces

IMG_5109

3. Cut the lemon and avocado in half (you will only use half of each for one serving so save the other halves in the fridge)

IMG_5110

4. Mash half of the avocado into kale and squeeze half of the lemon over it

IMG_5111

5. Drive the avocado and lemon juice into the kale and massage throughly

IMG_5113

6. Sprinkle a little seat salt over the kale. The end result should look something like this.

IMG_5112

7. You now have a lovely oil-free kale salad with a delicious lemon and avocado dressing. At this point you could add more veggies or grains to your salad or just eat as is. Enjoy!