9 all-natural “vitamin water” recipes

IMG_3252The new year is full of resolutions to eat better, lose weight, and get “healthy.” If you made one of these resolutions, you are probably on your way to success by now. If you need some extra encouragement, this is for you!

An easy way to take action towards losing weight and improving your overall health is by only drinking unsweetened, non-caloric beverages. No milk. No pop (not even diet). No juice. No soy lattes. No wine (really). Nada.

The science behind why this is important is pretty simple: When we drink our calories, we consume more total calories than if we drink only water.

This is likely because fluids don’t provide the same feeling of fullness or satisfaction as solid foods, as the body doesn’t “register” liquid calories as it does calories from solid food. Eat 120 extra calories along with your breakfast and you’re likely to compensate for those calories by eating a smaller amount of your usual choices. But if those 120 calories come from liquids, studies show your caloric compensation will be minimal at best. In practical terms, if you drink a glass of milk with each meal, you’ll consume virtually the same number of food calories as you would have had you chosen a calorie-free beverage.

It is also possible that sweet-tasting drinks — regardless of whether they are sweetened with sugar or a calorie-free sugar substitute — might stimulate the appetite for other sweet, high-carbohydrate foods. Not only are we consuming more calories when we drink juice, lattes, and sodas, we are then more prone to eat more food! It’s a double diet whammy!

(You can read more about the science behind this at the Harvard School of Public Health.)

If you’re motivated to swap water for other drinks, here are a few ways to naturally flavor the water. I like to think of them as homemade vitamin water. Make these in the evening after work and let them sit in the fridge overnight. By morning, you’ll have a beautiful pitcher of flavored water to keep you happy all day!

  1. Lemon-Cucumber (pictured above)
    In a pitcher, mix 8 cups of water, 1/2 cucumber (thinly sliced), 1 lemon (thinly sliced), 1 sprig fresh basil leaves, 3-4 sprigs fresh mint leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  2. Grapefruit-Basil
    In a pitcher, mix 8 cups of water, 1/2 grapefruit (thinly sliced), and 3-4 sprigs fresh basil leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  3. Strawberry-Lime
    In a pitcher, mix 8 cups of water, 6 strawberries (frozen is fine), 1 lime (thinly sliced), 3-4 sprigs fresh mint leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  4. Fennel-Citrus
    Bring 2/3 cup water to a boil and add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds. Simmer for 5 minutes and let cool. In a pitcher, mix 8 cups of water, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 orange (thinly sliced), 3-4 sprigs fresh mint leaves, and the fennel-infused water. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  5. Blackberry-Sage
    In a pitcher, mix 8 cups of water, 1 cup of blackberries (lightly crushed), and 3-4 sage leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  6. Watermelon-Rosemary
    In a pitcher, mix 8 cups of water, 1 cup of cubed watermelon, and 2 sprigs fresh rosemary. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  7. Pineapple-Mint
    In a pitcher, mix 8 cups of water, 1 cup of cubed fresh pineapple, and 3-4 sprigs fresh mint leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  8. Apple-Cinnamon
    In a pitcher, mix 8 cups of water, 1 cup of cubed apple, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  9. Ginger Tea
    Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger. Let it cool. In a pitcher, mix 8 cups of water, the cooled ginger tea, and 4-5 slices of fresh ginger. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.


These recipes were submitted to the Virtual Vegan Potluck!VVLPButton


Protein vs. Fiber


In the above video, Dr. Gregor finally puts to bed the question of whether we are getting enough protein. He discusses a recent study on how much protein humans need and how much we’re actually getting, based on the type of diet we eat. (Spoiler alert: most people eat way more than the RDA!)

He also reveals the one nutrient that over 95% of people are not getting enough of, yet we rarely hear about. Fiber!

If we all followed Mark Bittman’s two rules for a good diet we would definitely fix this problem.

Apple-Berry Gelée


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Do you have agar agar in your pantry? If you don’t, let me introduce you to this wonderful ingredient!

It is made from sea vegetables and has thickening properties similar to gelatin. It is sold in health food stores in both flake and powder varieties, and can be used to make custards, puddings, sauces, and even vegan marshmallows.

On Sunday I used it to make a simple fruit-on-fruit dessert that was a light way to end a beautiful meal. I suspect that you can use any type of chopped fruit and juice in this recipe, so experiment and let me know how it goes!

Apple-Berry Gelée

Serves 4

4 cups apple juice
4 tablespoons of agar agar flakes (substituting 4 teaspoons of agar agar powder is okay)
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 pound chopped strawberries

Put the juice and agar agar flakes in a saucepan and heat on high until boiling. Boil for 10-15 minutes until the flakes are dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the apple sauce and strawberries.

Divide the mixture between four bowls and let cool for 30 minutes. Place in the refrigerator until solid (an hour or so). Serve chilled.

Calories - apple berry geleePsst! This is my submission for Virtual Vegan Potluck #16! Check it out if you want more cooking inspiration.



Oil-free arugula pesto

arugulaWe had some arugula and a bottle of wine that said it went well with arugula pesto on Friday. Seemed like the perfect inspiration for dinner, except for the fact that almost every recipe for pesto I could find included tons of oil and cheese. We wanted something fresh and light.

I made one up, using miso instead of Parmesan to give it some umami. The lemon juice also helps cut the bitterness of the greens. And the white beans make it creamy.

We served it over roasted potatoes, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. This would also be excellent over pasta or as a spread for a sandwich.

Oil-Free Arugula Pesto

Yield: 4 servings

2 cloves garlic
1 cup arugula
1 cup cooked white beans, drained
2 tsp white miso
2 tbsp water
3-4 tbsp lemon juice

Peel the garlic cloves and process them in a food processor until they are minced. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Add water a tablespoon at a time if it is too thick.

Calories - arugula pesto

Photo by Susy Morris, used with permission

Eggplant Tapenade Pasta Sauce


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Kathy Hester published a delicious-sounding recipe for Eggplant Tapenade in her book Vegan Slow Cooking for Two. (Psst! It’s also available on her website!) I packed my slow cooker away for a few months but figured I might be able to make something similar in my pressure cooker.

Instead of a chunky tapenade the results were more sauce-like. We spooned it over fresh noodles last night and our taste buds did the happy dance. Nick, who has admitted to disliking eggplant, even thought it was great. He told me that he liked how the eggplant broke down and gave the sauce a creamy texture.

To speed up the recipe, start the water boiling before you start chopping vegetables for the sauce. The sauce and pasta should all be finished about the same time.

Eggplant Tapenade Pasta Sauce

Yields approx. 3 servings

1/4 cup water
3 cups chopped eggplant
1/2 cup chopped green olives with red pepper flakes (we found these in the deli section at Safeway)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons capers
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Add everything except the balsamic vinegar, fresh basil and salt/pepper to the pressure cooker. To avoid burning the dish, layer the ingredients in the order listed, adding the tomatoes last.

Bring to high pressure and cook for four minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally or release it.

Add the vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

You can either leave it chunky or purée it in a food processor. Serve over hot pasta.

calories - eggplant tapenade saucePhoto by Jim, the Photographer, used with permission

Mighty Muffins


I’ve been working a crazy amount of hours these last few weeks, so many in fact that I have had little time to cook. Pre-packaged food and take out is an easy fall-back, but spending just 30 minutes to make a batch of thee gluten-free, high-protein muffins gave me an easy grab-and-go breakfast that kept me going until lunch for two weeks!

Mighty Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

2 1/4 cups rolled oats, blended
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts, optional

2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup cooked white beans
6 dates, pitted
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Blend wet ingredients in a high-speed blender until you have a smooth, tan batter. Pour into bowl with dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Spoon batter into silicone muffin pans or regular muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray. Place in a preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until the muffins test “dry.”

mightymuffinsPhoto by JeffreyW, used with permission.


Beet Salad with Oranges and Beet Greens


Farmers markets are chock full of beautiful bunches of beets with their tops still attached. This salad makes the most of the entire vegetable – root to tip.

Beet Salad with Oranges & Beet Greens

1 bunch beets (approx. 12 ounces), greens still attached
1/2 tsp orange zest
1 large orange
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Trim greens from beets. Cut off and discard stems. Coarsely chop leaves and reserve. Cook the beets using your preferred method. (To roast them, wrap each beet in foil. Place beets directly on oven rack in 400-degree oven and roast until tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour 30 minutes. To cook them in a pressure cooker, put the beets in the pot with about an inch of water. Cook under high pressure for about 11 minutes.  Or, alternately, you can boil them for about 40 minutes.)

Peel the cooked beets, then cut each into 8 wedges. Place beets in medium bowl with 1/2 tsp orange zest.

Cook beet greens in large saucepan of boiling water just until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Cool. Squeeze greens to remove excess moisture. Add greens to bowl with beets. Cut peel and white pith from oranges. Working over the bowl with the beets and greens and using small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release segments. Add orange segments and onion to bowl with beet mixture. Add red wine vinegar to beet mixture and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Serve.

Photo by Liz West, used with permission

Zippy Zummer Zucchini Zuppa


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Vegetable bean soup is always a crowd pleaser. This one makes the most of summer veggies. The addition of spoonfuls of Sriracha kicks it into high gear!

Zippy Zummer Zucchini Zuppa

Serves 4-6

1 red onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable stock
3 1/2 cups white beans
2 tbsp Sriracha sauce
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
juice and zest of one lemon
ground black pepper and fresh parsley to finish

Cook the onion, carrot and celery over medium high heat until veggies start to brown and make fond on the bottom of the pan. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of broth. Add the remaining broth, bay leaves, white beans and Sriracha sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Add zucchini and asparagus and cook for 5 more minutes.

Discard the bay leaves and stir in the lemon juice and zest. Serve with a bit of pepper and parsley for garnish.

Calories - zzzz

Photo by Vanessa Pike-Russell, used with permission.

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Luke Jones over at Hero Health Room put together this awesome infographic regarding the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. It looks at what a plant based diet consists of, and as the title suggests, the main benefits. If nothing else, I hope it encourages you to eat an extra helping of salad today!

Spicy Red Bean Slaw


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shredded cabbage

Three cheers for BBQ season! This slaw was adapted from a recipe in Quick Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson and is the perfect accompaniment to whatever you’ve got on the grill. The addition of red beans and corn make it both pretty and tasty. Omit the chipotle if you are sensitive to spicy foods.

Spicy Red Bean Slaw

Serves 4+

For the salad:
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans
1 ½ cups frozen corn, defrosted
1 chipotle chile en adobo, minced

For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground pepper
Pinch stevia powder (or sugar if you don’t have stevia and don’t mind using sugar)
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp raw cashews

Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Put the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Toss dressing with salad. Enjoy!

Calories - red bean slawPhoto by knitting iris, used with permission