A Warm and Savory White Bean & Carrot Quinoa Salad

Where has the summer gone? Do you feel that, too? Just yesterday I saw this quote by John Burroughs: “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” Yep – I couldn’t put it any better than that.

Not only have I been feeling the days are too short, I’ve been feeling my days are way too filled with the ‘tedious things’. The laundry. The organizing. The grocery shopping. The laundry. The cooking. The cleaning. The laundry. (Do you do that much laundry, too?) On more than one occasion I’ve looked at the floor waiting to be swept and the dishes needing washing, and, for a split second, it’s crossed my mind to run out the door with The Kitchen House and hide in the shade of a tree instead of doing my chores. Ha! Maybe after the kids go back to school that will be my ‘free day’: shade, a good book, no chores for mommy.

Anyway, because of all the business of these last days before school starts, there’s been no real ‘plan’ for our days… which is why we ended up eating this last night:

I was staring at my pantry, my overabundance of carrots, and a nice selection of my staples: white beans, lemons, spinach, and arugula. As I started to cook, it didn’t even occur to me I was throwing together a recipe I’d be sharing with you – hence, my lack of ‘how to’ photos in this post. But you know what? It was so yummy… so fast… and so perfect for a quick meal on a summer night – I have to share it.

Here’s what I used:

1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
1 1/2 cups of carrots, peeled and grated (I chopped mine with my mini food processor)
1/4 cup fresh diced parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of water
2 handfuls raw baby spinach
1 cup cooked Andean Naturals quinoa
1 handful of arugula
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

In a large fry pan, sauté your onions and garlic in a little olive oil on medium high. Once onions are translucent, add in your shredded carrots, parsley, dried seasonings; stir and continue to sauté for another couple minutes. Add in your white beans and water; stir again, and allow beans to warm through for a couple minutes. Add in baby spinach, stir to incorporate, cover, and turn off heat while spinach wilts.

Place your quinoa in a large bowl. Add in one cup of your hot bean/carrot sauté, a handful of fresh arugula, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Stir to incorporate. Serve the salad and, before eating, freshly zest lemon zest over the top for garnish.

Now, here’s the truth: After I pulled out the cup of sauté for this salad – my salad, I actually mixed the remainder together with some noodles for my man and kids. So, if you have family that wants pasta – serve them pasta! But, if you want quinoa like me, do it up; and, if you have leftover saute, just mix it with more quinoa and save it for lunch tomorrow.

Before I go, please know I intend to spend more time here once our house is back on a school / work schedule. Thank you for sticking it out with me, encouraging me, and being here! I appreciate you… I hope you know that.

(Want to learn more about quinoa? Check out my brand partner, Andean Naturals. They’re raising the power of goodness and sharing quinoa with the world.)

Spicy Black Bean & Lime Quinoa Salad

I went to a BBQ this past weekend and, of course, was asked to bring a ‘quinoa salad of some sort’.

Now, when you ask me to bring a quinoa salad, I get really excited. Why? Well, because I love quinoa, of course. But, more importantly I get excited because it’s a chance to introduce people to how flavorful, fragrant, and wonderful a quinoa dish can be. I get excited to show everyone that quinoa is a true crowd pleaser… I get excited to have people say, “Wow, can I get the recipe?” (And for my ladies that asked for the recipe, this post is dedicated to you 😉 )

Hence, I brought this – THE salad my family and I can’t seem to get enough of right now:

Ingredients:

For salad:

  • 2 cups precooked quinoa
  • 2 cans organic black beans, drained and rinsed (always buy canned beans with nothing but beans, water, and salt on the ingredient label)
  • 2 large sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cups of baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, washed and rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 medium jalapeño, diced (remove HALF the seeds for less spice)

For dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2-3 small garlic cloves, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  1. Put your quinoa and beans into a large bowl.
  2. Add your argula, chopped cilantro, diced bell peppers, red onion, and diced jalapeño.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together your dressing ingredients and pour dressing evenly over the top of the salad.
  4. Stir to evenly coat all ingredients, taste for flavor, and (if necessary), add more salt and pepper to taste.

Here’s what it’ll look like:

 


And then look at the bowl of beauty you end up with:

(NOTE: this recipe makes about 4-5 full bowl servings. But, here’s the good news: it gets better as it sits! So, even if you don’t have a BBQ or a big crowd to serve, make the full batch and save the rest for the next day or two. You won’t regret it.)

Happy Monday, everyone – I’m so glad you’re here with me. (If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, connect with me there, too!)

 

YOU CAN DO IT: Gluten-Free Quinoa Honey Carrot Cake Bars

The other afternoon my 11-year old bakerella made some amazing carrot cake muffins. They were “traditional” carrot cake – the kind that’s moist, sweet, and covered in a rich and creamy cream cheese frosting. But, as with most delicious cakes, all the sugars meant they were definitely a ‘treat’ and not something we’d be eating on a daily basis.

But see, I want to eat carrot cake every day – it’s just the processed flours and sugars that keep me from it. So, with that in mind, I challenged myself to come up with a carrot cake that would still taste like carrot cake, but have NO refined sugars or flours. The result?

This:

Quinoa Honey Carrot Cake Bars with A Honey Yogurt 'Frosting'

Quinoa Honey Carrot Cake Bars with A Honey Yogurt ‘Frosting’

I made a couple batches before I had real success. While the first couple weren’t ‘cakey’ enough, when this batch came out I knew it was spot on. And, what did my expert bakerella say?

   

She said, “YUM.”

Before I tell you all that you need and how to do it, let me fill you in on a couple things:

1) You’ll need ground almonds. This means just take some almonds and grind them in a grinder (or food processor) until you have this:

2) You’ll also need ground oats, which means just take your gluten-free oats and grind them in the same grinder (or food processor) until you have this:

(I rarely have specialty flours on hand, but always have nuts and oats on hand. So, this is a great do it yourself – and you only need to grind what you’ll need for the recipe.)

With that said, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients for cake:
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 1/4 cup grated carrots
1 cup ground gluten-free oats
1/2 cup raw organic honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 cup greek yogurt

To make ‘frosting’:
1/2 cup greek yogurt + 1 TBSP of raw honey whisked together until smooth.

FOR CAKE:

Place your ground almonds, ground oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a bowl, and mix by hand with a fork until incorporated.

Add precooked quinoa, carrots, honey, melted coconut oil, cinnamon, and vanilla to the mixture, and mix again. It will look like this when it’s all mixed:

Next, in a separate bowl, whisk three eggs until loose. Add greek yogurt, and whisk again until mixture is creamy.

Add cream mixture to dry mixture and still well until incoporated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spread mixture into an even sheet. Do not push into corners of the pan, though.

Bake at 375 for about 18 minutes, or until golden brown and cake springs back in center when you touch it.

Allow to cool on pan, then slide the parchment and cake out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. Slice into small squares for easy storage and snacking.

They’re sweet (but not over-sweet), moist, and have a wonderful texture. Eat the bars plain, or for a little extra sweetness add a little schmear of honey yogurt ‘frosting’, or with a drizzle of maple syrup or warmed honey. (They are a perfect compliment to a cup of coffee or tea.) No matter how you eat them, I know you’ll be saying ‘yum’ just like us.

Let me know if you make them… I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Peachy Quinoa Pancakes

I love farmer’s markets… but I really love u-pick farms. I love the hunt, the abundance, the quiet of the open space. I’m happy to wander… to move from bush to bush, or tree to tree, selecting the best of the bounty.

We usually start with strawberries in mid-late June – and, let me tell you: you’ve never really had a strawberry until you’ve had an Oregon Hood strawberry straight out of the field.

Then, in July we move to the berry varieties: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries… and, once I get picking, you almost have to pull me off the fields before I stop.

But come the last days of July into August, we move to peaches. When we went just a couple of days ago, the peaches were dripping off the trees. We picked, and picked, and picked – and, while we picked, we discussed all the great things we could turn the peaches into: peach smoothies, peach tarts, peach scones.

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For me, though, I was excited to get home with my peaches and make these:

Peachy Quinoa Pancakes

Peachy Quinoa Pancakes

YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups precooked quinoa
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 heaping cup of finely diced peaches (or other fresh fruit)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 TBSP organic raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder

NOTE: Here are a few other of my favorite variations for these fruity quinoa cakes:

bananas and cinnamon
strawberries and walnuts
blueberries and lemon zest

STEPS:

Crack your eggs into a large mixing bowl, then whisk until smooth.

 

Slice up your peaches and remove as much skin as possible. Finely dice/mash the fruit.

 

Add your quinoa and finely diced peaches to the whisked eggs, then add your flour, baking powder, and vanilla – and stir to incorporate completely.

 

Heat a fry pan and lightly butter the bottom. With pan a little higher than medium heat, use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to make patties in pan. After 3 – 3 1/2 minutes, carefully flip patties.

 

Isn’t that easy? And – DELICIOUS.

Now, seriously – don’t skimp! Use REAL organic maple syrup for these… or, maybe a drizzle of some warm honey.

 

These will become a new favorite around your house… I’m willing to bet on it.

 

Grilled Beef Bone and Quinoa Kadu Soup

One thing my nana frequently said as I walked into her kitchen to eat was “All I had was ‘x’, but look… I made something real good.”  She’d say it as she was pulling the lid off the pot of steaming yumminess, or removing the napkin from the plate of freshly fried beauty. I’d sit at her tiny table, roosters crowing outside and mosquitos on my legs, and she’d serve me ‘all that she had’.

Nana with the ever present kitchen towel over her shoulder

Nana with the ever present kitchen towel over her shoulder

If ‘all she had’ was a coconut milk and some flour, we’d end up with some handmade tortillas that would blow your mind.

Nana making her homemade tortillas

Nana making her homemade tortillas

Or, if ‘all she had’ was overripe bananas off our tree, we’d get buñelos aga (banana donuts). Most of the time, though, ‘all she had’ was a potato and a small piece of beef (or even beef bones) out of the freezer, or a couple pieces of chicken from the neighbor and some pumpkin tips out of her yard. And, when that was ‘all she had’, we’d end up with kadu.

Kadu is the Chamorro variation of a broth soup and it’s what I was raised on. It would be 85-90 degrees outside; I’d be sticky from the heat, yet I couldn’t wait to get off the school bus and let nana serve me a bowl. Almost every day I ate kadu over rice with a generous helping of finedene and ice cold rain water to wash it down. And, while I don’t have my sweet nana anymore, every time I make kadu I do it with her heart and feel her right her with me.

For nana, kadu was typically beef or chicken, onions, garlic and water since that was usually ‘all she had’.  While I often make it just as she did, this has become one of my favorite versions:

Grilled Beef Bone Quinoa Kadu

When you have leftover BBQ bones, this is a beautiful way to use them. I mean, even when you cut off all the meat you think you can, look how meaty they still are!

leftover porterhouse steak bones

So, next time you BBQ and have leftover bones, gather these ingredients and turn those meaty bones into a beautiful summer kadu:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-8 cups of water
  • a couple pounds of beef bones
  • 1/2 pound or so of any cut of steak (fat trimmed)
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar (Braggs is the best)
  • Black pepper and salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a rapid boil.

Once it boils, cover, and turn heat down to just above simmer. Allow soup to simmer for 3-4 hours on stove top until the bones are dry and the meat can be pulled apart with a fork.

Remove the bones. Serve over precooked quinoa; and, when you set it before those you love, I hope you’ll say, “All I had was leftover bones, but look – I made something real good.”

(I miss you, nana.)

This photo was taken a handful of days before my sweet nana passed away.

This photo was taken a handful of days before my sweet nana passed away.

 

 

 

Pepper Boats Filled With Lemony Quinoa Tuna Salad

Growing up, my mom didn’t cook often.  She could cook – and when she did she filled our house with delicious Puerto Rican inspired food – my favorite being her famed tostones with a sprinkle of sea salt. But, since my nana lived with us and my nana lived to cook, over time I think my mom just leaned into nana’s love and was happy to let the responsiblity of cooking regular meals out of her hands.

With that said, my mom was our snack queen. It was my mama that took our armfuls of just harvested avocados and whipped together the guacamole we’d devour by the spoonful; it was my mama that mixed our over-ripe papayas, bananas, and mangos into cold cottage cheese; it was my mama that would take our just-picked calamansi lemons and squeeze warm juice over green pepper boats filled tuna. Yep, it was my mama that welcomed us in from the mid-day, sticky island heat and made in-between meal snacking something of refreshing delight.

So yesterday, as I retreated inside from the 90 degree weather craving something light and refreshing for mid-afternoon sustenance, I spied these two things…

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and, as a vision of my mama flashed through my mind, I knew what I had to make: pepper boats filled with lemony quinoa tuna salad.

All you need is 5 minutes and:

  • 1/2 cup of pre-cooked quinoa
  • a can of tuna (I like the tuna in olive oil because it’s less dry)
  • 1 sweet bell pepper
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 TBS of soy sauce (or liquid amines which taste almost identical)
  • 1 TBS of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of black pepper

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Put the quinoa, tuna, and black pepper into a bowl, then drizzle with olive oil...

Put the quinoa, tuna, and black pepper into a bowl, then drizzle with olive oil…

drizzle with soy sauce...

drizzle with soy sauce…

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squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the mixture.

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Next, slice the cheeks off the pepper so you end up with pieces like this…

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and, after you’ve mixed your tuna salad really well, fill the cheeks like this.

Since there’s no mayo or sticky binder in the salad, yes – the filling might be a little loose as you eat. But hey – it’s summertime! Make up a plate, head outside in the shade, and don’t let a little mess get to you. The kids with popsciles dripping down their arms don’t seem to care… 🙂

TV SPOT: AM Northwest Quinoa Falafel Salad… and A GIVEAWAY

I know, I know… I’ve been MIA. Life has been a little crazy…  and, I’ve missed you.

Honestly I’ve been writing every day – but on my cookbook project instead of here on the blog. Yep – you heard me: I’m working on a cookbook! It’s an ebook, actually, and it’s a no-cook cookbook/guide on how to eat quinoa. I’ve talked about it for years; and, I’m thrilled it’s finally coming together. So, stick around, okay? Lord willing it will be ready for purchase sometime in the first two weeks of June.

Anyway, today I spent some time away from my desk and headed over to AM Northwest where it was nothing but energy from start to finish.

First, I met one of my all time favorites:

On the set of AM Northwest with Damon Wayans!

On the set of AM Northwest with Damon Wayans!

He was on the show talking about this super cool app he just created called FlickDat. (As if he wasn’t talented already, right?)

Then, I had to fly by the seat of my pants when I was told my typical six and a half minute cooking segment would have to be done in four minutes! But, we did it… and we had lots of laughs while we powered through:

http://www.katu.com/amnw/segments/A-Healthy-Spring-Garden-Greens-Salad-261018291.html

And now, I’m back at my desk and excited to… DO ANOTHER GIVEAWAY!!!

Yep! My friend, Nick Evans from Macheesmo, has this gorgeous new book out called “Love Your Leftovers“… and I’m honored he’s given me FOUR copies to give away to YOU! See my giveaway spiel here.

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Here’s where you enter to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Okay, now back to my ebook… and another cup of coffee.

Good luck – thanks for being here!

4 Mexican Dishes You Want to Make (And Eat!) This Cinco De Mayo

OK, peeps, today is Cinco de Mayo and, in case you didn’t know, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day. No, the 5th of May is celebrated to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over Napoleon’s French forces at the Battle of Puebla.

In any event, even if it is more of an American holiday these days, since Mexican food is probably on the brain today I thought I’d remind you of 4 of my favorite Mexican dishes you can throw together in a snap:

1) Homemade pinto beans.

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My pinto beans just went into the pot!

Right now, do this: pull out your crock pot and add  2 cups of dried pinto beans, 6 cups of water, 1 onion chopped into quarters, 3 peeled and smashed garlic cloves, 1 tsp of cumin, 2 tsp sea salt, 2 tsp of black pepper. Cook for 5 hours on high (or 8 hours on low). These will be the most amazing pintos you’ve ever had.

2) Almost instant chicken fajitas (and you don’t need a fajita flavor packet to make it happen).
fajitas
(Make a quick run to the store sometime today and grab a rotisserie chicken, some bell peppers, and corn tortillas today and throw these together.)

3) Homemade red and green salsas with  Juanita’s (the ONLY tortillas chips I buy).

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(Seriously, MAKE THESE SALSAS. They come together in a flash and will make you think you’re sitting in Mexico for dinner tonight.)

4) Use QUINOA for a ‘tortilla-less burrito bowl‘. (While my kids gravitate towards burritos and tacos with tortillas, you know me: quinoa is my foundation for everything.)

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And don’t forget to put out a gorgeous array of fresh fixings like cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, onions, lettuce, lime wedges, and fresh diced jalapeño… and shredded cheddar cheese! Everything goes better with FRESH.

Have fun, everyone!

And hey: Let me know what YOUR favorite homemade Mexican dish is!

YOU CAN DO IT: Spicy Quinoa Chickpea Patties (aka Quinoa Falafel)

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I don’t know where my love of chickpeas comes from – but it runs deep.

I love them rinsed and raw and tossed in a salad…

I love them sautéed in some olive oil, fresh garlic, herbs, and seasonings for a warm power snack…

I love them baked…

I love them in soups…

I love to mash them up and make homemade hummus.

Chickpeas and all their buttery goodness make this mama happy.

Now, I have to admit something to you: while I’ve eaten more than my share of falafel, I never knew chickpeas were the main ingredient. Seriously. But when I discovered that’s what a falafel is – a chickpea patty – what do you think occurred to me? Yep, you guessed it: I must blend my two loves – quinoa and chickpeas – and whip up my own version of falafel.

You ready to try it? I hope so, because they are little cakes of savory protein goodness.

Here’s what you need:

Special tool: food processor

Gather your ingredients (you’ll end up with 10 3″ diameter patties):

  • 1.5 cups precooked quinoa
  • 1 can organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 TBSP gluten-free flour (or any regular flour will do if you’re not gluten free)
  • 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP  olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Get to work:

In the bowl of your food processor, add everything EXCEPT the quinoa and flour…

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Process until mixture is smooth like a paste…

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Add in your precooked quinoa and the 2 TBSP flour (the flour didn’t make it into this picture, sorry)…

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Then, with the best tool around – your hands – mash together all the ingredients until well incorporated…

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(NOTE: I made these without the flour first and they didn’t hold together at all. So, the flour is KEY to getting these to bind properly into patties.)

Heat a flat fry pan and coat the bottom with a little olive oil…

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Form your patties, and then gently lay them into the hot pan…

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Cook them on medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown like this…

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When they’re all done, you can eat them like I did:

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Quinoa falafel on a bed of chopped organic greens tossed in olive oil and lemon juice, served with a handful of cherry tomatoes and topped with a dollop of greek yogurt

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Or, you can just make up a bunch to pop in the fridge and eat them like a finger food when you’re craving a little something.

Just know this: they are super satisfying, have fabulous texture, and are just the thing to keep on hand for your busy mama days.

(SIDE NOTE: These would be fabulous for little eaters! If you’re going to feed them to your little ones that aren’t used to fully seasoned foods yet (5 and under, for example), cut the onion and lemon juice portions in half, and leave out all the dried seasonings except for a dash of the cumin and a little salt. Even a little bland the quinoa and chickpeas together have excellent flavor for training little palates.)

Thanks for being with me… and hey! Please SHARE this post and tell your friends:

MONDAY IS MY FIRST GIVEAWAY DAY!!!

I have a great gathering of goodies featured in my World Market TV segment from earlier this week – and someone has to win!

So, take a moment and “INVITE ME TO YOUR INBOX” on the right so you won’t miss a beat. And, if you have time, connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram for ALL my news.

Much love to you today – and remember: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, YOU ARE STRONG, YOU ARE LOVED.

 

The Top 5 Grocery Goodies to Fall in Love With This Year

A couple of weekends ago I did something amazing: I spent two full days at ExpoWest in Anaheim with 60,000 other visitors. ExpoWest is the ‘natural, organic, healthy’ red carpet of food shows; and, over 2,600 of the Who’s Who of food brands get decked out, strut their stuff, and highlight what we ‘must’ eat this coming year.

If you’ve never been to (or heard of) ExpoWest, imagine walking the isles of a 1-million square foot Whole Foods store. While people push and rub against you and force you to travel in baby steps, every single item is displayed, sampled, cooked-up, and/or served for your unlimited tasting. There are bright lights, music, yoga classes, speakers, massage chairs, colors, energy, savory smells of goodness, impromptu living rooms set up in booths where deals get done, and Disney-attraction quality displays where branded workers are tripping over themselves to hand pins, bags, stickers, stress balls, and sealed samples (some even full size!) of their products.

Gluten free, vegan, meat free, flower infused, dairy free, dairy rich, cricket-powder fortified (yes, I found a bar made with crickets as the protein source!), herbal… whatever your bent, ExpoWest had the goods.

It was a total hoot.

It’s taken me a bit to process it all. I’ve reviewed my brand materials, re-read ingredient labels, re-tested samples in the comfort of my own kitchen, and gathered reviews from my man and kids. And, now, here it is:

My TOP 5 GROCERY GOODIES TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS YEAR:

 

Better Bean Company

1)   Beans from The Better Bean Company. I love beans, as you know, and typically make my own. What I love about this company and their ‘rethought’ beans, however, is they’re made the way I would make them: with nothing but real, wholesome ingredients and no added sweeteners, added flavors, or chemicals. The Uncanny Refried Black Beans are exactly what you want to have on hand for an instant burrito night; top a bed of quinoa with some Rethought Red Beans, Cuban Black Beans, or Three Sisters Chili for an instant lunch (I break one pod into two lunches for my girls); or, try the Chipotle Bean Dip as a dip, or even as a base for a southwestern chicken tortilla soup! Every recipe they have is delish – and, the fact this company is run by a passionate and engaging father/daughter team makes them even more special in my book. (They cost about $2.50 / 14 oz pod, and you’ll find them in the refrigerated section beside hummus and salsa.)

Tumeric Alive Vanilla Bean Elixer

2) Tumeric Alive Vanilla Bean Elixir. Ok, I’m not a ‘drink’ girl that navigates too far from water, coconut water, and coffee. When I stopped and sampled the options from Tumeric Alive, though, I found a new indulgence: Tumeric Alive Vanilla Bean Elixir. (I say ‘indulgence’ because they’ll run you anywhere from $5-$5.50 a 12-ounce bottle.)  It’s not a juice – it’s a ‘herbal formula’ made of turmeric, ginger, cardamom, spearmint, honey, lemon, sea salt, cayenne, and vanilla bean. What I loved about the Vanilla Bean blend is it has some kick to it, yet was extremely refreshing and soothing to my talked-out throat. MMMM…. so good – and so much better for an afternoon pick-me-up than any coffee bar drink.

Epic Lamb Bar

3) Epic Bars. I was super leery about trying these ‘100% grass fed’ meat-based bars, but I did… and, thank God, because they are amazing. After tasting each of their four blends – lamb, bison, turkey, and beef – lamb was surprisingly my favorite. I felt like I was eating a really soft beef jerky with just a hint of sweet (from the cranberries). They’re geared for the Paleo crowd (but even non-paleo folk like me can dig ’em), and run about $2.75 a piece. The ingredients are clean and there are no added sweeteners – hooray! So, if you’re looking for a savory bar to keep on hand for after workouts, I’d give this a shot. (Use their product finder to locate a store near you, or order online.)

Nancys Greek organic-greek-plain-yogurt

4) Nancy’s Plain Greek Yogurt and Straus Plain Greek Yogurt. Since yogurt is one of quinoa’s best friends in my world, of course I set out to see if there was a yogurt brand I’ve been missing out on. And, you know what I discovered? Fage, move over – I have two new loves in my life:  Nancy’s Greek yogurt and  Straus Greek yogurt. Nancy’s is out of Oregon and Straus is out of California; I’m telling you about both because, depending on where you are, you may not have both choices. Either one, however, will knock your socks off. Super creamy, just the right tang flavor, no grainy taste, and fabulous consistency of each. (If you’re dairy free, try SoDelicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Unsweetened Yogurt, another one I really loved at the show.)

kolat

5) Kolat Espresso Hazelnut Superfood Fusion Fruit and Nut Butter. My kids beg for Nutella and, while we have one jar in the house for ‘special’ nights (I keep it high up out of the everyday intake because it’s literally a spreadable candy bar), I’ve told them when it’s gone, it’s gone and will never return. (Seriously – read the ingredient label.) This is why I was so excited to discover Kolat at the Expo. They make decadent tasting nut and fruit spreads with NO ADDED SUGARS. Serious! My favorite of their four recipes was the espresso hazelnut spread, and check out the ingredients: roasted almonds, hazelnuts, dates, organic coconut oil, ground espresso beans, and sea salt. No sweeteners, no preservatives, no flavors – just real good stuff I’m happy to keep readily accessible for all of us to enjoy. ($9.99 / 16 oz. Use their product finder to locate a store near you, or order online.)

Here are some other ‘must mentions’ to look out for:

Vegan Perfect Bar

Protein bars by PerfectBar. If you read ingredient labels for food bars, almost every one of them has sugar as a top four ingredient and a variety of other junk that should never be labeled ‘healthy’. (This is why I developed SmartyBars years ago – in rebellion to all the garbage!) Thankfully, however, I stumbled upon this fabulous bar at the Expo – and now I have something I won’t hesitate to buy: the Almond Coconut Perfect Bar. The founders have a great story. Plus, their bars really are ‘perfect’ with no added sweeteners, added flavors, or preservatives. (A few flavors do use honey, but honey is God-made and I have no problems with it in moderation.) I’ll hand these to my kids in a heartbeat.

Alter Eco Quinoa Dark Chocolate Crunch

AlterEco Quinoa Dark Chocolate Crunch Bar. A true treat: their gluten-free quinoa chocolate crunch bar. (I love they use Fair trade certified ingredients.)

chicapeas

Chic-a-peas. These baked chickpea snacks (plain and falafel seasoned) are a perfect lunchbox snack. Made of nothing but chickpeas, safflower oil, seasonings, and sea salt; and, perfectly baked to satisfy your savory cravings. (Hopefully coming to a store near you… and, until then, order online.) The company was also founded by two cutie-patooties from New York – and their passion and love for their products captured my heart.

There you go! Let me know if there’s a grocery product YOU’VE discovered that I should try out. I’m always looking for clean ingredient labels and good tasting options.