Pantry Staples

I love to cook and bake. But you probably already knew that, since I have a food blog (I know, right?) and am majoring in food science! The one thing you need if you love to cook like I do? A well-stocked pantry!

It’s easy to make most recipes as long as you have a pantry full of essentials; there’s no need to go to the store if you already have all the necessary ingredients. My advice is to look at the recipe you plan to make beforehand, then gather your ingredients before cooking to make sure you have everything you need. I know from experience that it’s annoying to realize you’re out of flour halfway through making a cake! Having a stocked pantry prevents trips to the store for things like a forgotten spice, and it allows you to create chocolate chip cookies whenever you crave them (so basically every day).  

INGREDIENTS

All of these staple ingredients can be found in most supermarkets. My favorite grocery stores are Aldi, Fresh Thyme, Trader Joe’s, and Meijer (like Walmart or Kroger for you non-midwesterners). I get most of these staples at Aldi because they’re cheapest there and I’m a poor college student. Save this list (DOWNLOAD THE PDF HERE) and get shopping!  

Grains

  • Brown rice
  • Organic quinoa (store: Aldi, brand: Simply Nature – $3.49 for a 16 oz bag)
  • Spaghetti noodles
  • Bowtie pasta
  • Penne pasta
  • Quick oats (store: Aldi, brand: Millville – $1.99 for a 42 oz container)

Cans

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Chickpeas 
  • Black beans
  • Coconut milk (Trader Joe’s is the best)
  • Pumpkin

Liquids

  • Canola oil (store: Aldi – $1.85 for 48 fl oz)
  • Vegetable oil (store: Aldi)
  • Vegetable broth (store: Aldi)
  • Soy sauce
  • Chili garlic sauce
  • Vinegar
  • Organic apple cider vinegar (store: Aldi, brand: Simply Nature)
  • Maple syrup (store: Aldi or Fresh Thyme)
  • Agave (store: Aldi or Fresh Thyme)

Baking

  • Flour (store: Aldi, brand: Baker’s Corner)
  • Sugar (store: Aldi, brand: Baker’s Corner)
  • Brown sugar (store: Aldi, brand: Baker’s Corner)
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Vanilla (store: Aldi, brand: Stonemill)
  • Baking cocoa
  • Cornstarch
  • Powdered sugar

Specialty Baking

  • Organic cane sugar (store: Aldi, brand: Simply Nature)
  • Organic coconut oil (store: Aldi, brand: Simply Nature – only $4.49 per jar)
  • Brown milled flax seed (store: Aldi, brand: Simply Nature – only $1.79 for a 14 oz bag)
  • Chia seeds (store: Aldi, brand: Simply Nature – only $3.49 for a 12 oz bag)
  • Pitted dates (store: Aldi, brand: Southern Grove, seasonal)
  • Chocolate chunks (store: Fresh Thyme, brand: Enjoy Life)
  • Chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s brand – only $1.99/ bag!)

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Spicescheapest at Aldi ($1.19 per container), Stonemill brand 

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Nutritional yeast (bought in bulk from Fresh Thyme)
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Paprika
  • Red pepper flakes

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Staple Refrigerator Productsbuy bi-weekly or so.

  • Vegan margarine (store: Fresh Thyme, Mejier, or Trader Joe’s, brand: Earth Balance)
  • Vegan yogurt (store: Fresh Thyme or Meijer, brand: So Delicious – my favorite flavor is unsweetened vanilla)
  • Non-Dairy “milk” (my favorites: Silk vanilla soy milk for drinking, Silk unsweetened almond milk for baking, Good Karma vanilla flax milk for drinking & in cereal)
  • Tofu (Store: Fresh Thyme or Meijer)

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Miscellaneous/ Snacks

  • Nuts
    • Cashews
    • Almonds
  • Nut butter
    • Creamy peanut butter (store: Aldi, brand: Peanut Delight). I usually get the 40 oz jar because I’m addicted to peanut butter. 
    • Sunflower seed butter (store: Fresh Thyme or Meijer, brand: Sunbutter). I only buy this when I’m feeling fancy.
    • Sugar cookie peanut butter (store: Fresh Thyme, brand: Wild Friends, seasonal). I buy this around the holidays when I want to treat myself.
  • Tortilla Chips
    • White rounds (store: Aldi, brand: Clancy’s – only $0.89 for a 13 oz bag)
    • Pumpkin tortilla chips (store: Aldi, brand: Simply Nature, seasonal)
    • Bite size rounds (store: Meijer, brand: Tostitos)
    • “Hint of lime” tortilla chips (store: Mejier, brand: Tostitos).
  • Popcorn
  • Cereal – I buy a box occasionally as a snack. 
  • Granola – I always have a bag of granola on hand.
  • Tea
    • Harvest Blend Herbal (store & brand: Trader Joe’s, seasonal)
    • Vanilla & Cinnamon Black (store & brand: Trader Joe’s, seasonal)
    • Chai
    • English Breakfast

TOOLS

Besides ingredients, you need tools to cook and bake. Like, it’s kind of hard to bake a cake without a pan or make soup without a pot. This list is a relatively simple selection of tools that will vastly improve your kitchen experiences. I mean, chef knives make cutting so much easier! You might need more tools than these for fancier recipes and procedures but these work for the basics. 

For Cooking

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp (chef) knives
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Tongs
  • Measuring cups
  • Tablespoons
  • Teaspoons
  • Stovetop pan
  • Roasting pan
  • Casserole/ baking dish
  • Soup pot

For Baking

  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Cookie scoop
  • Mixing bowl
  • Baking sheets
  • Square or round 8” baking pan
  • Muffin tin
vsco_052917-3If your pantry is still not stocked by now, what are you doing!?? Fill your pantry with all these goodies so you don’t have to go to the store next time you want to create a simple recipe!
xx Ellie
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What I’ve Been Eating in College (Collab)

Happy Monday!

I can’t believe that today marks the beginning of my FOURTH week of college. I’ve been here for almost a month already! How insane is that?! As you can tell, I can’t get over it.

Today I thought it’d be fun to share with you WHAT exactly I’ve been eating since I’ve been in college and am no longer cooking my own mealsdsc_0022

This post is a collaboration with my friend Stephanie of “Petite Pastels,” aka like the cutest lifestyle blog EVER.

Stephanie and I met this spring on Instagram of all places after she commented on one of my posts and we found out that she watched me play against her friends at high school tennis regionals (awkward)!! We also found out that we go to the same college, and we immediately connected over our blogs and our love of food/ tennis/ our college!! It turns out that she also lived in the same dorm freshman year that I’m living in now and we played on rival tennis teams (but possibly played in the same group tennis lessons). WHAT a small world. Anyway, Stephanie and I have been messaging on Instagram since May, and finally earlier this month she suggested we meet up in real life and do a blog post together (to which I said HECK YES!!!).

Stephanie and I met up this past Friday for dinner at the dining hall next to my dorm and had fun taking pictures of and eating dorm food (while people sitting by us hard-core judged us for being basic and taking pictures of our food). It was so fun to talk about blogging and tennis and all things “college” with her.

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For dinner, Stephanie got fries, hummus, tabbouleh, cantaloupe, and cooked broccoli. I got a giant salad (mixed greens, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cooked beets, & a corn medley) and hummus, tabbouleh, and quinoa. What I like about the cafeteria we went to was that they have a “mediterranean” section every day with pita, hummus, tabbouleh, and quinoa.

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I live next to the “healthiest” cafeteria on campus, so that’s great. I’m not sure it’s the healthiest caf, but it does have a decent amount of salad and fruit. Every dining hall has menus each day that show dietary labels, so I can easily stay vegan as long as I stick to the certified vegan options. I’ve been eating a LOT of salad and fruit, which I like… we’ll see how I feel though once winter comes and all I’ll want will be ALL THE CARBS.

I’ve stayed vegan since I’ve been at college- it’s actually been pretty easy thanks to the dining hall selections! I eat every meal in the dining hall, unless I wake up late and miss part of my class so I have to literally jump out of my (lofted) bed and grab a Lärabar to eat as I bike to class… not that that’s happened or anything. 😉

For breakfast, I eat…

  1. cereal with soy milk or almond milk (right now I’m obsessed with Kashi Go Lean Crunch) and fruit
  2. oatmeal with peanut butter and banana slices mixed into it
  3. Silk nondairy yogurt and MSU baker’s granola (picture #3)

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Typically we eat out of real bowls with real silverware but lately we’ve been using disposable plates and utensils because the caf is understaffed and has no one to do dishes.

For lunch, I eat fruit and…

  1. salad: my go-to is hummus with spinach, carrots, raw broccoli, cherry tomatoes, beets, and chickpeas
  2. fries [sometimes]
  3. rice and stir-fried veggies (when it’s served)
  4. quinoa, an apple with peanut butter, and carrots
  5. hummus, tabbouleh, carrots, and pita
  6. the soup of the day if it’s vegan. Today it was a hearty lentil stew that was pretty good (lentils, rice, veggies, and a little bit of broth). I’ve also had tomato wild rice soup and spicy Mexican tortilla soup.img_4332img_4335

Lunch from a few days ago: I got a salad with spinach, hummus, green beans, and carrots + grapes + spicy mexican soup + french fries. My friend Emily got mashed potatoes and gravy, spicy soup, fries, hummus, pita, and tabbouleh. 

I eat basically the same food as lunch for dinner.

A few days ago I had a super good tofu/ snap pea/ mushroom/ soy sauce stir-fry with quinoa and steamed cauliflower though!

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Snack-wise, I eat fruit from the caf or enjoy an afternoon pick-me-up in my room of chai tea and chocolate chips.

There are no vegan dessert options which is TRAGIC but hey, at least I won’t gain the freshman fifteen because of dessert??

However, a few days ago I made cookies in my microwave so I could have dessert (recipe will be on the blog later this week). Plus, some of my friends’ dorms have community kitchens that I can bake in… so I’ll get dessert somehow eventually. As of right now I’ve just been eating chocolate in my room (what’s new).

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So there’s what I’ve been eating! What have YOU been eating (whether you’re in college or not!)? I’m feeling pretty healthy and don’t think I’ve gained any weight because of all the exercise I’m doing, from walking around campus to biking to classes to running with the running club.


I’m so happy I got to collaborate on this post with Stephanie- be SURE to check out what she eats in college!! Her post will be a little different than mine because she lives in a house with a kitchen and can therefore make her own food.

Have a wonderful start to your week!

xx Ellie

“Nicecream For Breakfast” Ebook Review

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Nice Cream for Breakfast. How great does that sound?! This ebook shows you that it is totally okay to have nice cream (or other sweets) for breakfast.

It was created by my sweet friend Lara from Vanillacrunnch (who is from Switzerland- how cool is that!?). She used to eat like the majority of us: pints of dairy-filled ice cream, buttery cupcakes, and milk chocolate bars galore. That is, until she discovered banana ice cream. Banana “nice cream” (as it’s called by the majority of bloggers and Instagrammers) is frozen bananas blended up in a blender (with little to no liquid). It tastes like banana flavored ice cream. It’s so sweet and creamy. Lara loved nice cream from the moment it first entered her mouth (same girl!!) since it’s not only delicious but also nutritious!

My favorite “nice” cream: blended frozen bananas and peanut butter.

As Lara writes in her introduction, banana nice cream is great because bananas “contain lots of natural sugars, fiber, potassium and vitamins.” Add a little cacao powder to your nice cream and you have yourself a chocolate-y treat that is high in fiber and free from refined sugar and dairy. YUM.

Lara created this ebook to show that dessert can actually be good for you (when it’s made with the right ingredients). Her book is divided into six sections (not including the introduction): Raw Treats, Nicecream & Icecream, Baked Goods, Smoothies & Jars & Bowls, Puddings & Mousse, and Pancakes. There are 55 pages and 47 recipes. 

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Before we get any further into the review, I just wanted to let you know that you can get Lara’s ebook HERE. And guess what!? Lara rocks and is giving all of you 50% off her ebook so it is $2.50 instead of $4.99. A STEAL in my opinion! Just use the code “vanillacrunnch” at checkout.

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My Baking Bonanza: Lara’s chocolate vanilla swirl cupcakes along with her chocolate chip cookie dough bites (which I baked at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes). I also baked chocolate coconut cookies and peanut butter coconut cookies with recipes from my friend Demeter (The Beaming Baker) as well as my favorite banana bombs

For $2.50, GET THE BOOK. Seriously, that’s less than a coffee at Starbucks and you get wayyyyy more out of the ebook than the coffee. Lara has worked hard on it, as you can see from the beautiful photography and well-put-together recipes. Some of my favorite aspects of the ebook are…

  • The beautiful photography. There’s a nice picture for every single recipe, and all of the photos showcase the food very well. Seriously, Lara’s photos are photography #goals.
  • Most of the recipes contain simple ingredients that most people have like coconut milk, dates, cacao powder, and OREOS. Four recipes have Oreos in or on them.
    • However, there are recipes with ingredients that you might not have like rice malt syrup, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, and açai powder. You can buy these ingredients on Amazon though. The Chocolate Tofu Cupcakes with Surprise Frosting (pg. 34) contain beetroot and cranberry powder in the frosting but I’m sure you can leave that out.
  • A lot of the recipes are simple but sweet, like peanut butter cups, bounty bars, and vegan Nutella so you can easily satisfy your sweet craving.
  • Almost all the recipes are VEGAN and GLUTEN-FREE (there is yogurt in the Seven Layer Power Breakfast (pg. 46) but you can just sub it for vegan yogurt).

The Raspberry Almond Smoothie topped with banana slices and Dark Chocolate Berry Granola

The only complaints I have about the ebook are a) that I wish the titles of each recipe were on the top of each page instead of the bottom so you automatically knew which recipe you were looking at and b) some typos (but I know sometimes those can’t be helped!). The pros most definitely outweigh the cons, though, and I am so impressed with Lara for creating an ebook as I can’t even imagine how much work it took!

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The Dark Chocolate Vegan Nutella (pg. 16). I didn’t like it much because I don’t like hazelnuts, but I thought I’d at least give it a try. If you like Nutella, you’ll probably like this spread! I wouldn’t know though because I don’t know what Nutella tastes like- I’ve never tasted it before (believe it or not)!

I sampled a diverse selection of her recipes (almost all of them actually!) so I could say with complete assurance that the whole ebook is good! The ebook is full of perfect healthier recipes for any meal of the day. 

My favorite recipes in the book are (in order of appearance)… Highlighted in blue are recipes you need to try ASAP.

  • Nut-Free Oreo Cheesecake (pg. 5). I really like Oreos so I loved this cheesecake (it was more like a pie, actually). The crust was AMAZEBALLS.
  • Chocolate Caramel Pretzel (Brownie) Bites (pg. 10). I loved the caramel in this recipe. I used almonds, and I didn’t put pretzels on top because I didn’t have any.
  • Raw Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (pg. 11). They taste like Reese’s peanut butter cups but are wayyyy healthier! I loved them since I love chocolate and peanut butter.
  • Raspberry-Almond Smoothie (pg. 22). It’s super simple and yummy.
  • Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf Cake a.k.a. the recipe I am sharing with you today (pg. 30). I made them into cupcakes. They were sweet and good!
  • Classical Green Smoothie with Cranberries (pg. 37). I love green smoothies, and this one is no exception. I used almond milk instead of coconut milk.
  • Death by Chocolate smoothie (pg. 39). Bananas and chocolate- need I say more!? I didn’t get a picture of this one because it was gone (in my belly) like two minutes after I made it.
  • Sunday Oatmeal (pg. 42) minus açai because I didn’t have it. Like the chocolate smoothie, this oatmeal was gone before I could take a picture of it.

The Classical Green Smoothie with Cranberries (minus the toppings).

This ebook would be a good, cheap birthday or Easter/ post Lent present for someone to kickstart clean eating!

Today I am sharing with you one of Lara’s recipes- the “Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf Cake” – but made into cupcakes!

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Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf Cupcakes from the “Nicecream for Breakfast” ebook

by Lara Delilah of VanillaCrunnch

I made 8 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cup coconut flour (PB&E Note: I subbed homemade oat flour for the coconut flour and it worked fine!)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cacao powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. First, mix all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl except for the cacao powder.
  3. Add the liquid ingredients and mix until well combined.
  4. Depending on the brand of your coconut flour you might need to add more almond milk if too dry or more coconut flour if too liquid.
  5. Divide the dough in 2 separate parts, and mix the cacao powder in one of them
  6. Randomly pour in the two doughs alternately in an oiled cake tin lined cupcake tins. Bake for about 40-45 20-25 minutes and wait for your personal marbled cupcakes to come out of the oven.
  7. I topped my cupcakes with a chocolate ganache I made by melting 1/4 cup chocolate chips with a splash of almond milk in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then I mixed the ganache together until it was smooth and spooned it onto the cupcakes. Mmm.

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Whew, that was a long post. Thanks for reading, and make sure to snag a copy of Lara’s ebook and check out her blog and her incredible Instagram!!

Here’s to the weekend! Make it a great one!

xx Ellie

 

Banana Bomb Recipe Video + Articles

Hi friends!

I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. I just wanted to let you know that I made a recipe video for my banana bomb recipe!

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Please watch it if you have a minute and a half and make the recipe if you have 20 minutes!  You’ll be so glad you did. Spending 20 minutes making banana bombs is wayyyyy more productive and delicious than to  than spending that time on *insert favorite social media platform here such as Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat* because you get BANANA BOMBS out of it. Mmmm.

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Ooey, gooey, and filled with chocolate. What’s not to love? Unless you don’t like bananas. In that case… I’m so sorry. You’re missing out on some of my favorite things in life- banana balls and banana ice cream.

When you finish watching this video, feel free to check out the articles about the “Incredible Edibles” recipe contest I was in a few weeks ago (when I made banana bombs)!

Article #1 is here.

Article #2 is attached below.

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Thank you so much for all of your love and support.

You are all wonderful. Sending lots of love and banana bomb bliss to you!

xo Ellie

7 Ways to Incorporate Healthier Habits into Your Day

Seven hours. That’s almost 30% of your twenty-four-hour day. It’s about 50% of the time you spend awake. It’s also the time you spend sitting in a desk at school! Even more time is spent sitting at your desk at home and doing homework (at least in my case). Add that up over a week, a month, and a year… and you realize just how much you end up sitting in your life.

Sorry to be dramatic and throw a bunch of math at you (since you probably already get enough of that at school or work), but it was necessary to show you how much you sit in your life.

I’m here to help you change that (bum bum bum).

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Sitting is nice, but too much of it is boring… and not good for you! You need to get your blood flowing by standing up, walking around, and stretching.

Here are seven tips that will help you become healthier at work or at school. Use them to sit less and become healthier and happier! Print out this graphic and use it as a reminder / checklist.

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1. Take Stretch Breaks

If you’re going to incorporate just one of these tips into your routine, choose this one. It is SO important to stretch, as stretching gets your blood moving and wakes you up. According to chiropractic doctor Simon Floreani, “When muscles stay still the blood pools in the muscles, which makes you feel tired and sluggish.” So that’s why it’s hard to get up after sitting for a while, even if I’ve just been watching Netflix a.k.a. the least strenuous activity ever!

Some stretching is better than no stretching. Even if you have a super busy day, make sure to get in some stretch time, whether it’s by doing tree pose while waiting in line for your lunch, doing walking lunges in the hallway while on a trip to the bathroom, or even by crossing your legs and doing “seated pigeon” while sitting at your desk.

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Stretching during beach yoga I did a few summers ago. This stretch feels wonderful.

I often try to incorporate unnoticeable stretches during class so I can get rid of all my excess energy (probably from all the earthy, energy-rich foods I eat!).

My favorite “incognito” stretches: 

  • Seated pigeon– cross your right ankle over and on top of your left knee. Hold it for a minute or so, then switch sides.
  • Spinal twists– sit in your chair and twist to the right, then to the left.
  • Leg lifts– sit in the edge of your chair, engage your abs by tucking in your ribcage, and lift your straight legs up from the floor to chair level and back down again. This exercise is better for the back of the classroom or the office, as it is more noticeable than the others.
  • “Goddess” squat– bring your legs to opposite sides of your chair and squat just above your chair.
  • Chair pose (how fitting)- Place your feet together and hover just above your chair in a chair squat position. It should still look like you’re sitting in your chair- but you’re actually not! Hold this for as long as you can.

2. Get Your Sweat On

Even if you don’t have much time in your day to work out, at least take a walk or a ten minute stretch break (since you now know how good stretching is for you). Work out before or right after school or work. The longer you wait to work out, the harder it will be (motivation-wise).

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Getting my “sweat on” during tennis with my BFF Emily

3. Involve Your Peers

  • Get your friends and seat partners to do incognito stretches with you! If nothing else, it will give you something to talk and (maybe) laugh about.
  • Get your peers to eat healthy snacks. You can do this by bringing healthy snacks into them if you have the time and feel like being extra nice.
  • Group fitness, through clubs and classes, is great because it allows you to get your sweat or stretch on and socialize at the same time!
    • For school: Start or join the workout clubs at your school. We have a workout room that you can go to after school, as well as a yoga club, so you can sweat with other gym or yoga junkies. On this same note, don’t slack off in gym class if you have it just because you’re afraid to get sweaty. Gym is a prime way to get your sweat on with classmates!
    • For work: See if your work offers fitness classes to employees. For example, I know a hospital in my town offers yoga classes to its employees during lunch.

4. Stay Hydrated

HAVE A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES. The previous sentence was in caps because it’s just so important. Having a water bottle helps you make sure that you’re drinking enough water. The goal should be for you to go through at least two water bottles full of water in a school or work day. I go through about four (two during lunch alone). I keep a water bottle in my backpack.

5. Take A Walk

Take a walk whenever you have the chance. Throw in some stretching as you walk for good measure.

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Walking around in Hong Kong during my trip to Asia last holiday break. Notice the reusable water bottle in my backpack!

6. Keep Healthy Snacks Handy

You feel better when you eat better, so stock up on healthy snacks and keep them in your backpack, locker, or desk.

My favorite healthy snacks are…

On a similar note, fuel up with a nutritious breakfast such as a green smoothie, protein-packed oatmeal, or a sweet (but healthy-ish) baked good. Good, healthy food will keep you full and ready to focus on work.

7. Take the Stairs

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…but maybe not these stairs at Angkor Wat in Cambodia if you don’t want to since they’re a little really steep.

Also ride your bike and walk instead of driving (I wish I did this more).

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There you have it! Seven simple ways you can incorporate healthier habits into your day. Thank you so much to nuts.com for the colorful graphic! Check out their website for healthy snacks and more tips on how to stay healthy at work and at school.

Have a healthy day!
xx Ellie

Banana Bombs, A Contest, and New Friends

Banana bombs are aptly named. They’re an explosion of deliciousness since they’re full of ripe bananas, gooey dates, coconut oil, cinnamon, vanilla, oats, and smooth chocolate chips. I got to share banana bombs with the world (or rather with some people from my city) this past Saturday for the Incredible Edibles cooking contest sponsored by our local paper.

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About a month ago, there was an ad in the paper to enter a recipe into the “Incredible Edibles” contest for a chance to make your recipe for judges and potentially win a prize! I thought, “Why the heck not enter?”

I couldn’t find a reason not to, so I entered two recipes- my peanut butter carrot muffins in the “baked goods” category and my banana bombs into the “simple and quick” category.

I kind of forgot about the contest until a few weeks ago when a woman from the paper called to tell me that my banana bomb recipe had been selected as a finalist for the “simple and quick” category! I was to compete for the grand prize by making my recipe in the local community college’s fancy kitchen and presenting it to judges. The recipe would be judged on both taste and presentation.

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My parents and I loaded up the car last Saturday morning and headed to the kitchens downtown where the competition took place. I took my mom with me because a) we could bring someone to help us, b) a guardian had to come with me because I’m under 18 years of age. We signed in, unloaded our supplies, and I got baking! We had to bring all of our ingredients and utensils (food processor, baking sheets, oven mitt, spatula, cookie scoop, etc.), but the paper gave us a gift card to reimburse us for the ingredients.

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Crafting in the kitchen. Thanks for the picture, Sue and Dave!

Other finalist recipes were chorizo breakfast burritos, egg toasts, a french toast bake, stuffed mushrooms, meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting (so innovative!), cheesy zucchini bites, and a fancy dip displayed in bread bowls. I participated in the morning session of the contest along with eleven other finalists participating in four categories (appetizers, side dishes, simple and quick, and breakfast). Twelve other finalists in four other categories made their dishes in the afternoon.

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I made three batches of banana bombs. **Side note: I used to call banana bombs banana balls but bombs sounds cooler.**

I made one regular batch (with chocolate chips), one batch with walnuts and chocolate chips, and one “almond joy” batch (with coconut and chocolate chips). I like the add-ins, but I’m partial to the original batch because I love oodles of chocolate chips.

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Once I was done making and baking the bombs, I arranged them in a visually-pleasing way for the judges. We had two hours to make and arrange our food, which was more than enough time for me, but some people finished plating their food in the nick of time (it reminded me of the TV show “Chopped”). We were stationed next to a woman who also finished with some time left (hi Sue!). She made a delectable-looking veggie toast appetizer, and it was fun to get to know her and her husband while baking.

Sue’s appetizer- spicy cream cheese sandwiched between pastry dough and topped with zucchini and onion. 

Once everyone finished plating their food, the three judges went around the large table our food was at and tasted every dish in each category (there were three finalists per category). It was intense- the judges had scoring sheets and everything! I was “against” creamy pumpkin soup and a chicken/ avocado/ rice dish in my category.

Left- one of the side dishes. Right- the chicken avocado dish I was “against.”

We got to try all the dishes as the judges agreed on the winners. Unfortunately, my dish was the only vegan dish, so I just ate a bunch of banana bombs (sorry not sorry). All the other dishes looked really good though!

Two of the three breakfast dishes- egg toasts and baked french toast.

As we finished eating, the judges came in and an announcer declared the winners of each category. My new friend Sue won the appetizer category! The pumpkin soup was the winner of the simple and quick category.

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Above- the judges tasting all the food. Below- one of the judges tasting my banana bombs!

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The set-up of the room. 

After the awards, two of the three judges (who were local food professionals and chefs) pulled me aside and said that they were really impressed with my banana bombs, but they didn’t really fit into the category since soup, rice, and banana energy bites aren’t very similar. Because of this, the banana bombs didn’t win. However, the judges ended up giving me the honorable mention! **Insert 20 more exclamation points here!!!**

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My recipe will be in the paper on March 4! I’m PUMPED. 

Hooray for recipe contests, new friends, and BANANA BOMBS.

They make life good.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for- the banana bomb RECIPE! I actually published it on my blog in November 2014, but I’ll post it here too so you don’t have to open a new tab.

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BANANA BOMBS

MAKES 18-21 COOKIE SCOOP SIZE BANANA BALLS

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled
  • ½ cup pitted dates (about 12 dates)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups oats
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • optional add-ins: 1/4 to ½ cup each of coconut flakes, walnuts, raisins, cranberries, peanut butter chips… really whatever your heart desires! I like to do batches with 1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes and ½ cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup walnuts and ½ cup chocolate chips, and batches with ½ cup raisins instead of chocolate chips to change it up.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Blend together everything except the oats and chocolate chips in a food processor. Then add 1 and ½ cup of oats and pulse in the food processor for 5 seconds or so. Take out the food processor blade and mix in the remaining oats and the chocolate chips (and possibly your other add-ins). Scoop onto a cookie sheet with a cookie scoop or a spoon and bake for 13 or 14 minutes. When they come out of the oven, let them cool for about 5 minutes, then enjoy!

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Have you ever been in a cooking contest of any sort? If you were to be in one, what recipe would you make? Link it up in the comments- I’d love to see!

xx Ellie

P.S.- Happy Leap Day! There’s an interesting article about Leap Year HERE if you’re interested. Have a great “bonus” day!

banana bombs

Bit Baking Co. Cookie Review

As I said yesterday a few days ago (Sorry, exams got in the way of posting! Boo hoo!), today’s blog post is a review of Bit Baking Co. cookies.

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Bit Baking Co. peanut butter cookie that’s almost the size of my FACE! Also, don’t worry, the fur on my boots is faux.

Bit Baking Co. is a local vegan and gluten-free cookie company.

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I met JR, the owner, at a vegan pop-up bakery. I love his cookies, so I asked him to come in and speak to the veggie club at my school!

He came to our meeting after school this past Thursday with an armload of cookies and a smile on his face. We were the first people to try his smaller cookies (2.2 oz .vs. 3.2 oz), and they were INCREDIBLE. We got to sample chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, double chocolate, and peanut butter chocolate chunk. All were great. However, I have a special spot in my stomach reserved for the double chocolate cookie.

Left: Veggie club members trying Bit cookies. Right: Bit’s peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

Some of the best comments from veggie clubbers were…

  • “I can’t believe this cookie is vegan!”
  • “Best cookies ever!”
  • “These are awesome!”
  • “I love this [cookie]!”
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Bit peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

I loved hearing JR speak because he was so interesting and passionate about his business! He shared with us how Bit Baking Co. started: he was developing gluten-free cookies for another company, but the company ended up using cheaper ingredients than JR wanted so JR created his own, healthier cookie. JR is also vegan, so he wanted his cookie to be vegan as well as gluten-free (*side note: here’s a long speech by Gary Yourofsky that JR said really influenced him to promote veganism*).

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JR speaking about his cookies!

JR has been working on Bit cookies for more than three years, and this time commitment is evident based on the high quality of the cookie. JR uses quality ingredients like date paste (it acts as a binder in the cookie instead of egg), cane sugar, and real vanilla. This cookie is way better for you than any other pre-made cookie you can buy at the grocery store!

The cookies are gluten free, vegan, soy free, and absolutely delicious. Everyone can enjoy a Bit cookie, no matter their allergies or taste preferences. Well, those with peanut allergies can’t have the peanut butter cookies, but that’s different.

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Bit’s oatmeal raisin cookie.

JR makes all the cookies by scratch in a small certified kitchen space. He bakes four times a week, and he does most of the baking all by himself! JR says he’s been lucky because his business has mostly spread through social media and word-of-mouth.

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VegNews, a popular vegan magazine, shared a picture of the cocoa chocolate chip cookie!!

The cookies are sold at all the health food stores in the area (such as Harvest Health and the Health Hut), as well as at seven D&W branches and online at BitBaking.com. Seriously, go try out a cookie or five because they rock.

Thank you so much to JR for creating such delightful dairy-free cookies and for coming in to speak to veggie club! We love your cookies!

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Some of the veggie club members with Bit cookies. There were 18 people at the meeting (some people, including a few guys, came later). 

xx Ellie