Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries: Magical Moments and Improv Play

Magic Things Print on Etsy

Magic Things print on Etsy

There are some moments in life that just feel so perfect it’s unreal. Last night, as I was walking home from a day filled with friends, laughter, love, and great new experiences, I glanced up to see the first few snowflakes falling past the streetlights. Yes, it’s been a long winter and I’m a little sick of snow, but I could still appreciate the beauty of that moment. Then, just when I thought the evening couldn’t get anymore magical, a bunny hopped out of nowhere to lead me down the alley to my apartment. Perfection, right?

The sad thing is that there have been times in my life that I might have missed the magic of these moments. I have a tendency to live inside the labyrinth of my mind, forgetting to pay attention to the outside world. I overanalyze, over criticize, and just generally bring myself inward to the point that I sometimes forget to play and appreciate the simple things. So that’s my new motto: play more. I’ve been reminding myself of it every day and pursuing new interests that encourage it in the hopes that it will become a habit.

For instance, after avoiding it for nearly 5 years, I finally signed up for a Second City improv class. I’m a by the book, highly prepared, and planned out performer so the idea of doing improv has always terrified me to the core. Of course, I also know that some of the greatest opportunities for growth in life come from doing the that thing that scares you most. So a few weeks ago, I took a deep breath, made my payment, and tried not to throw up on my way to class. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was a lot of fun.

Since that first class, I’ve started attending a few improv jams and mixers around the city. I’m still such a newbie in this world that I love observing everything. One of my favorite characteristics about my new hobby is the lingo. When all is said and done and the evening is about to end, no one says “thanks for acting with me” or “it was great working with you,” instead they say “thanks for playing.” Because that’s exactly what improv is at it’s best: we’re just a bunch of kids getting together on the playground [or in some cases at The Playground] and playing pretend together.

Don't Forget to Play print on Society6

Don’t Forget to Play print on Society6

As for other areas of play in my life, I’ve made a point to break up the serious studies of my yoga teacher training [3 weeks left!] with a little project pose playtime.

Most of the inspiration for these poses have been found on instagram or in the challenge pose section of the Yoga Journal blog. It feels great to dare myself to grow in my practice as I photograph my progress along the way. If you’d like to follow along in my playtime, you can find me on instagram: @michelleshea.

And speaking of instagram, I’ve been posting a lot of photos of my new favorite cherry cheesecake smoothie lately so, as promised, here’s the recipe:

Life is Just a Glass of Cherry Cheesecake [inspired by Mind Body Green’s recipe]

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 3.25.45 PM

Ingredients

2 tbsp raw cashews
2 tsp Sun is Shining powder [or a few handfuls of greens like spinach]
1 tsp maca powder [optional, but good for you!]
1/2 banana, frozen
a handful of cherries, frozen
a splash of vanilla
1/2 c So Delicious coconut milk [more or less for desired thickness]
1 tsp cacao nibs [optional]

First, place cashews, green powder [or greens], macs powder, and coconut milk in blender. Process on high until smooth.
Then, add in the remainder of the ingredients & process on medium until smooth.
Add more coconut milk as desired to assist in blending or to make a thinner smoothie.
Serve in your favorite pretty glass & top with cacao nibs for a chocolatey crunch.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Bites w/ Vegan BBQ Mayo

Even as a health coach with a pretty clean diet, sometimes a girl just need a little comfort food. It’s rare that I get to participate in a greasy bar-food binge…someone needs to make an entirely gluten-free & vegan bar and I’m there. So for now, I’ll settle on making delicious finger foods at home like these too-good-to-be-healthy sweet potato quinoa bites:

sweet potato quinoa bites

Tastes like a guilty pleasure, but loaded with healthy ingredients.

Ingredients [adapted from Hope for Healing‘s recipe]

For bites:
2 c cooked quinoa [2 c water or vegetable broth w/ 1 c quinoa]
2-3 small sweet potatoes, baked, skinned & mashed
1 c gluten free flour
1/2 c nutritional yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp each of paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, tumeric, cumin, sea salt and black pepper
2-3 green onion stalks, chopped

Prep Work:
Cook your quinoa by boiling 2 cups water or vegetable broth w/ 1 cup rinsed quinoa. Cook until liquid is absorbed.
Bake your sweet potatoes by poking a few holes in their skin with a fork & placing in the oven for 30-50 minutes, or until softened.
Remove skin from sweet potato & mash together in a large bowl.

In the bowl with your mashed sweet potatoes, add cooked quinoa, flour, nutritional yeast, olive oil, spices, & green onions. Stir until combined.
Using your hands or a rounded spoon, form your mixture into bite sized balls & place on a lined cookie sheet.
Bake @ 375 F for 30 minutes or until outer layer is crispy.

For dip combine:
2 parts vegan mayo
1 part BBQ sauce

Serve with BBQ mayo or your favorite dipping sauce. Enjoy.

To Keep Your Balance You Must Keep Moving

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you’re spending the first day of 2014 doing things that cause you joy. After all, the superstition says that whatever you do on the 1st of the year will set the tone for all the days that follow.

bicycle

For me, I want 2014 to be all about balance. These past few years I’ve developed some extreme habits and quirks that I’ve been slowly breaking down. I’m trying to be less dogmatic and extremist about my health & my relationships. There is good and bad in everything so we shouldn’t expect perfection from ourselves or those around us. It’s all about simply moving forward and finding the fun along the way.

My 1st started out with a little sesame tofu at an asian cafe near my apartment:

sesame tofu

Yum! But lots of soy & fried food [not to mention white rice], not the healthiest way to kick off 2014.

So for dessert, I whipped up a chocolate/cherry superfood smoothie:

chocolate cherry smoothie

Frozen cherries have become one of my favorite smoothie additions & of course they pair perfectly with chocolate.

Ingredients:

1 banana, frozen
5-6 sweet cherries, frozen
1 tsp cacao powder
1 tsp Sun Is Shining green superfood powder
1/2 tsp maca powder
1/4-1/3 can light coconut milk

Place all ingredients in blender & process until smooth. Add more coconut milk for a thinner texture, if desired.
Enjoy.

Happy 2014!

Almond Butter Oatmeal w/ “Caramelized” Bananas & Coconut Sprinkles

It’s getting cold outside in Chicago. Winter has reared it’s chilly head & won’t be leaving us again for months. Frankly, once the temperatures drop below 20 outside, the last thing I want to have for breakfast is an icy green smoothie. So instead, I’ve switched to oatmeal for my go-to morning meal.

Too bad my old favorite apple/cinnamon/date combo can get a little old when it becomes daily occurrence.

That’s why this weekend, I decided to mix things up a bit with almond butter, stove-top oats, and bananas sautéed in coconut oil. Top it all off with a few sprinklings of shredded coconut & I had a tropical-flavored breakfast with still plenty of warmth to send me out into the day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

almond butter oatmeal with caramelized bananas & coconut sprinkles

For more yummy food photos, follow me on Instagram @michelleshea.

Ingredients

2 c water
1 c gluten free rolled oats
a pinch of salt
1 ripe banana, sliced
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp almond butter
approx. 1 tsp unsweetened, shredded coconut

In a small to medium saucepan, bring 2 c of water & a pinch of salt to boil.
Add oats to water & reduce heat slightly to avoid boiling over. Let cook for 10-20 minutes.
In a medium skillet, heat coconut oil until melted & evenly distributed around pan.
Over medium heat, add banana slices to coconut oil & sauté until soft.
[Note: this is my lazy-girl’s version of “caramelized” bananas, if you’re looking for the real thing, drizzle some agave…or honey if you’re bee-gan…on top of your bananas while they sauté.]
Once your oatmeal has cooked, add your almond butter & maple syrup while still over heat & stir until combined.
Place your cooked oats into a bowl, top with sautéed bananas & sprinkle your shredded coconut on top. Enjoy.

Relish Tray: Daiya’s Havarti-Style “Cheese” Wedge

relishverb. to delight in something that satisfies one’s tastes, inclinations, or desires.

daiya havarti

My name is Michelle & I am a Havarti-aholic. It all started several months ago when, upon release of Daiya’s wedge-style flavors, my friend Diva LaVida recommended that I try their Havarti flavor immediately because it was just that good. However, I rarely purchase vegan cheeses anymore. With so many great vegan restaurants in Chicago, I find that I can get my fill of cheesy flavors without adding it to my grocery list. Cut to last week when I decided to pick up a cheddar wedge as a gift for a recently dairy-free client. As I stood in the aisle at Whole Foods, cheddar in one hand, Daiya coupon in the the other, I decided now was as good of time as any to try this Havarti flavor for myself.

With no gluten-free crackers suitable for cheese at home, I opted to try my wedge on apple slices…and proceeded to devour half of the package in one sitting. Thankfully, my consumption has slowed down slightly [and I’ve learned to pre-arrange my slices on a plate to prevent mindless grazing from the package], but I still should buy stock in Daiya with as often as I’m purchasing this wedge. It’s amazing, guys! And for the most part, it’s pretty neutral on the nutrition scale. With a tapioca flour, palm oil & coconut base, it’s soy-free, gluten-free, & of course, dairy-free without too many unnecessary ingredients or preservatives. Overall, I feel okay about getting my apple a day with a side of this stuff…it’ll still keep the doctor away.

Want to go dairy-free, but you’re not quite sure how? As your health coach, I can help.
click here button

Make Something Monday: Vegan, Gluten-free Sum’Bitches [inspired by How I Met Your Mother]

There are some sources for recipe inspiration that are simply too good to pass up. Last week’s premiere episode of How I Met Your Mother was one of them. If you’re not a fan, first of all, you should be, but you should know that this is the season in which we, the audience finally get to meet the long-anticipated “Mother.” There’s a lot of pressure for this character to be the absolute perfect girl for Ted & her first official scene of the season did not disappoint.

sumbitches scene

And with that scene, my love for the Mother character AND the inspiration for vegan, gluten-free Sum’bitches [with chocolate AND peanut better AND caramel!] was born.

How was my first batch of Mother-worthy comfort food? Legen…wait for it…

…Dary. Legendary!

Ingredients

For the cookies:
2 c Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 c brown rice flour
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 c coconut oil
1 c maple syrup
1 tsp molasses
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 c applesauce
3/4 c peanut butter
3/4 c Enjoy Life chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients [from the flours to salt].
In a smaller bowl, mix together wet ingredients [from the coconut oil to the peanut butter].
Pour wet ingredients into dry & stir until combined.
Fold in chocolate chips until distributed throughout batter.
Spoon tablespoon sized mounds of dough onto a prepared cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until cookies are a light golden color.

For the caramel sauce:
Confession: I made about 3 versions of caramel sauce trying to get the consistency just right, but the recipe I ultimately settled on was heavily inspired by Angela’s over at Oh She Glows.
I recommend you eliminate the trial and error from my version & just go straight to her recipe.

Once your cookies have been removed from the oven, immediately spoon caramel sauce over top of them & let cool. The residual heat from baking will melt the caramel and it will then cool into a nice glaze. Enjoy them on a train with Ted’s future wife…or while watching the rest of HIMYM’s final season.

Make Something Monday: Gluten-free Blueberry Cinnamon Muffins

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can take a recipe from “Oh, that’s good.” to “Oh My God!” Cinnamon is often one of those things. So, the other day when I was searching for a slightly healthy breakfast, but craving the slightly less healthy blueberry streusel cake, I decided to marry the two & make some cinnamon blueberry muffins [gluten-free, of course].

cinnamon blueberry muffins

Ingredients

2 c Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/4 c brown rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 c coconut oil
2/3 c maple syrup
2/3 c So Delicious coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice or lemon extract
2/3 c blueberries, fresh or frozen

Optional [but delicious!] cinnamon topping: Mix together 1/2 cinnamon, 1/2 coconut sugar.

In a medium bowl, sift together dry ingredients [flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, xanthan gum].
In a separate bowl, stir together wet ingredients [coconut oil, syrup, coconut milk, vanilla, lemon].
Combine wet ingredients with dry & stir until smooth. Fold in blueberries.
Pour batter into prepared [read: greased or lined] muffin tins til 3/4 full.
Bake at 325 for approximately 30 minutes, rotating pan & sprinkling cinnamon topping on each muffin at around the 10 minute marker before returning pan to oven.
Enjoy with a little soy-free Earth Balance and/or naturally sweetened strawberry jam.

Health is Beauty Bonus: Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants which are all kind of good for your skin, protecting you from certain cancers, and keeping that healthy glow. Cinnamon, for it’s part is anti-inflammatory, helping to fight the body’s main cause of wrinkles, acne, & disease.

#KaleEveryDamnDay Recipe: Kale Chips on Chili

You guys, I’ve found a new meal obsession & it’s all thanks to the #KaleEveryDamnDay project!

You see, a few days ago, the weather felt a little crisp & I was craving a nice, warm bowl of chili. However, I still hadn’t had my serving of kale for the day so I decided to whip up a batch of kale chips to snack on before dinner. Then, as luck would have it, the chips were ready at the exact same time as the chili…so I did this:

kale chips on chili

It. was. AMAZING!

The salty crunchiness of the kale chips married perfectly with the spicy sweetness of the chili.

Go, try it, & get your glow on!

Recipes Used:
Vegan Chili + Kale Chips

Dinner & A Movie: Clueless

Keeping with my Vegan MoFo theme of “Health is Beauty,” I’m taking the opportunity this month to walk you through some of my favorite movies about beauty…with a few tasty bonuses.

Of course, no beauty movie lineup would be complete without a tribute to one of my favorite girly indulgences: Clueless.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Um, Hello! Makeovers, makeup, & colorful fashion are ALL OVER this movie AND it’s leading lady is America’s poster girl for Veganism! What better way to kick off this new Vegan MoFo segment?

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

So check it: I LOVE colorful, kitschy movies, regardless of whether or not the plot is any good. However, I actually think Clueless is brilliant. A modern-day, high school adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma? I’m totally on board. [Incidentally, Clueless was my motivation for reading Emma for the first time…in the 6th grade. It was slightly above my reading level, but I powered through for the sake of Cher-spiration.]

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Skip to several years later, I decide to pick up another book, this one by actress Alicia Silverstone [aka Cher Horowitz herself]. I actually purchased The Kind Diet more to read Alicia’s autobiographical tidbits than for the recipes, but as I devoured the information about plant-based health, devouring the food started to sound like a pretty good idea. Nearly 3 years later, veganism has not only changed my health, but it’s also inspired my career. A career that, I might add, allows me to give healthy advice to my friends…just like Cher does.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

But not everyone starts out loving kale & quinoa. In fact, even Ms. Silverstone admits to going through a phase just after filming Clueless where she was living on a “steak & donut” diet. So, in honor of that time, here are two recipe rewinds vegan-izing Alicia’s former favorite meals:

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Portobello “Steaks”

Ingredients

2 whole portobello mushrooms
1/2 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup mock beef broth [made from Better Than Bouillon’s No Beef Base]
3 tbsp basalmic vinegar [we used 2 tbsp balsamic glaze and it worked great]
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp thyme

Remove stems & gills from mushrooms and set aside.
Line a large frying pan with a thin layer of broth.
Add onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes over high heat.
Add balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, & spices and reduce heat to medium.
Add mushrooms, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Gently flip mushrooms over and cook for 5 minutes more, adding more broth as needed to prevent sticking or burning.
Plate mushrooms and spoon leftover juices on top. Enjoy.

Chocolate Cake Donuts

Donut Ingredients

1 1/3 c coconut sugar
1/2 c brown rice flour
1/3 c all purpose gluten-free flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 c  + 2 tbsp arrowroot
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c vanilla extract
1/2 c hot water
1/3 c melted coconut oil + a touch more for the pan

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Brush 2 6-mold donut trays with melted coconut oil & set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients [sugar, flours, cocoa powder, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, salt, & xanthan gum].
In a smaller bowl, mix applesauce, vanilla, hot water, & coconut oil.
Add wet ingredients to dry & stir until just combined.
Using a spoon, carefully drop approximately 2 1/2 tbsp of batter into each donut mold & distribute evenly around the circle.
Bake for 8 minutes, rotate, & bake for 8 minutes more. Let cool before removing from molds by loosening edges with a butter knife.
If desired, top with a vanilla glaze.

P.S. How fitting is it that this post is dated September 3rd?
[Sorry for the horrible video quality, but it’s the only one I could find with that reference. :)]

Make Something Monday: Eggplant & Cream “Cheese” Wraps [Vegan, Gluten-free, Soy-free]

Sometimes I forget to post a recipe after making it. It becomes buried in my extensive collection of photos of food, in danger of being lost forever.

Thankfully, there are certain occasions where something jogs my memory, making me re-live how delicious a former creation tasted. In this case, the catalyst was a recent trip to Karyn’s Cooked. Faced with only a few gluten-free options on their delicious vegan menu, I chose the Stuffed Eggplant.

It wasn’t until my first bite that I flashed back to one of Nick‘s amazing kitchen creations from a dinner party months ago: Eggplant & Cream “Cheese” Wraps.

vegan eggplant wraps with cashew cream cheese

Technically a joint creation, it was my idea to make a cashew cream cheese from one of Kris Carr’s recipes to keep things soy-free in addition to gluten-free & vegan. These wraps were addictive!

Ingredients
For cream “cheese” [altered slightly from Crazy Sexy Kitchen recipe]:
2 c raw cashews, soaked for a few hours [optional since this is clearly not a raw recipe]
1/2 c water
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp onion powder
1/4 c parsley, minced
1 1/2 tbsp red onion, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
ground pepper to taste

In a food processor, blend cashews, water, & lemon juice until smooth & creamy.
Transfer to a medium sized bowl & stir in all other ingredients.

For wrap:
1 large egglpant
olive oil
salt & pepper

Slice the eggplant into thin, vertical slices about a quarter of an inch thick.
Drizzle slices with olive oil & sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Grill until eggplant become flexible & slightly soft. [approx. 5 minutes]
Slather one side of the eggplant in cream “cheese” mixture
Roll slices lengthwise into a spiral before placing in an oven-safe pan.
Top with your favorite homemade or store bought tomato sauce.
Cook for approximately 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Enjoy.