foodie penpals: the june 2012 reveal

this month is officially my third month of foodie penpals (check out april and may)! and this time my special delivery was sent to me from minnesota!  sharon, who writes the blog 'adventures in ordinary,' sent me some yummy local goodies, including maple syrup and blue corn flour.  while i've never tried blue corn flour for pancakes, sharon's suggestion in her note has inspired me and hopefully once this heat wave ends and I can actually think about turning on the stove, i'll give it a go! 

she also sent me some wild black rice, which i am excited and a little initimidated by because my cooking weakness is rice - i know that sounds kind of pathetic, but it's the truth - so if anyone out there (sharon included!) has as handy tips on cooking rice - successfully - please share them with me in the comments!




my foodie penpal recipient (the one i sent goodies to this month) is elizabeth (follow her on twitter @Elizanewidomy). she  lives in the south, but asked for some local street 'treats' from nyc like a hot dog or pretzel.  since i didn't think those would make the trip, i got her some locally made condiments including this super cool - and scoopable, spiced ketchup made in nyc (no corn syrup included, just some good ol' suga):

and brooklyn-made relish, a local company that i first taste-tested at the brooklyn flea a couple of years ago (and now they're in whole foods!):

to become a foodie penpals, head over to the


free app - food diary for conscious eating

as a devoted fan of evernote for several years, i was elated to find out about some fun new apps that the evernote team has rolled out - including evernote food.  (for those of you who don't know about evernote, you should(!) it's a great notebooking system that allows you to sync between your computer, your phone and tablet, so you have all of your notes, all of the time). 

evernote food, is a great journaling system for keeping track of what you eat and where you eat it.  it is super phone friendly, helps you locate eateries with its search function and allows you to take multiple pics for each meal, which you can then share with your friends (if you choose) in your social media world, or send them an email. 

so if you're looking to eat more consciously and have considered a food diary before, think about making your food diary electronic - it's like instagram with a healthy cause. otherwise it's just plan fun to snap pics of pretty food and journal about them.  you choose.

besides, that app is f.r.e.e. so it's worth a try.


foodie penpals - the may 2012 reveal

after my first foodie penpal adventure in april, i gave it another go for may!  i received a box of tasty treats from sarah with lots of dried snacks, including chile coated mango strips (sweet and spicy!), plus some spanish and asian inspired trail mixes and some kashi cookies (they didn't last long in my apt...) and a dried black bean soup that i have have yet to taste.

coffee - drink it up for longevity

throughout history there's been a love/hate relationship with health science and the effects of coffee - consider it the daytime red wine.  coming from a family that is steeped in 'black coffee' aka large cups of espresso, i was more than elated to hear the news that coffee drinking is linked to a longer life, but i could have told you that!  my grandparents are in their 80s and still going strong (knock on wood)!  in fact my grandma can probably out drink most folks when it comes to daily coffee consumption. 

grandma and me/april 2012

the new study in the new england journal of medicine, "Drinking a daily cup of coffee -- or even several cups -- isn't likely to harm your health, and it may even lower your risk of dying from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease."

and if you're looking for a fun way to enjoy your java chilled, head over to my twin's blog, heather o'made, to learn the spring/summertime secret to the best iced coffee.

5 super smoothie secrets

super smoothie secrets

super smoothie secrets

super smoothie secrets

super smoothie secrets

tongue twisted yet?  ok now onto the good stuff.  for the healthiest smoothies, make your own!  that way you'll make sure they meet your dietary requests (e.g., nondairy, no sugar), plus there's something fun about liquifying whole foods into something you can drink through a (metal) bendy straw.

frozen fruit  - skip the ice, freeze your fruit instead. not only will your smoothies be more flavorful, but they tend to blend up easier since fruit is a little softer.  go-to fruit options include berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) and sliced up bananas for non-dairy creaminess.

sweetness sans the refined sugar - if you have a sweet tooth, add either 1-2 dates or some coconut water instead of regular water, plus a dash of sea salt (it helps to bring out the flavor - promise!).

protein for power - if you need a hardier smoothie to satiate to until you get to the next meal time, consider adding some nuts. i opt for organic cashews, which are a softer nut so they blend up easily and creamy.  they do the body good, and even help promote weight loss.

gourmet goodness - for a little extra umph, try sprinkling in baking staples like cinnanmon (helps reduce bloating), nutmeg, and/or vanilla extract.  opt for more is less, try one out at a time versus throwing the whole spice rack in.

the greener the better - add greens to every smoothie. the more green things you add in your daily meals, the better.  if you are not a fan of the green stuff, don't worry, just add the fruit to trick your tastebuds.  smoothie-worthy greens include kale and spinach.  you can venture into other options, but these two are a good starting point, especially if you yourself are 'green' at the smoothie making.

must(ard) eat your greens

upon my last trip down the produce aisle, i accidentally grabbed a few bunches of mustard greens instead of my usual green staple - kale (i thought they looked a bit different, but didn't think to look at the tag, other than to check that they were organic).  so i was surprised to find when making my lunch - my favorite kale salad - that i was working with mustard greens. 

i had actually (to my knowledge) never eaten them before.  a little annoyed that i had mistaken said green stuff for kale and skeptical that maybe i wouldn't like the taste, i forged on with my original plan of salad making.  i'm happy to say i was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed my new greens!  they really spiced up my salad - think romaine meets wasabi - a nice kick in the tastebuds for midday.

then i got to researching to find out what other fantastic gems i could unearth about mustard greens, and here they are:

  • cholesterol-lowering superpowers - right behind steamed collard greens and steamed kale.  these steamed greens easily bind bile acid in the digestive tract, thus lowering cholesterol (even more so than eating them raw).
  • cancer protection - mustard greens are loaded with glucosinolate content. Glucosinolates are phytonutrients that can be converted into isothiocyanates (ITCs) which have cancer-preventive properties and other unique health benefits.
  • nutrient-rich - mustard greens are off the charts (that's super high) in vitamins k, a and c. 

how to eat 'em:

  • steam them (perhaps the most obvious).
  • use them as your lettuce base in salads (or mix them in with romaine or other greens).
  • sauté them with walnuts.
  • chop them up and throw them in a pasta salad for some green power & a kick of flavor.


foodie penpals - the april 2012 reveal

after getting wind of foodie penpals via a video that fellow twitterer/blogger, bex posted, i instantly wanted in.  similar to the olden days of writing letters to penpals (who you might have not known prior), lindsay (aka @LeanGrnBeanBlog) has created a new kind of penpal for foodies! 

here's how it works:  every month you need to submit that you'd like to participate by the 5th and then you get your penpal for the month a day or two later which you get to send a box of goodies (up to $15) and must get it in the mail by the 15th, then every 30th of the month you post on your blog what you got from your penpal!

the movement has already grown from the first month of about 30 people to over 600 people (just a few months later) and now includes participants in the UK (don't worry you only get a penpal within your country). 

this april, i had the honor of receiving a box from lindsay cotter, a nutrition manager, fitness consultant and the wife of a dude that spends his days competing in triathalons (read: she's amazing!).

i'm not going to lie, when my package arrived i was so super excited (it was like christmas on tax day!).  the fact that i was ravenous and had the bare bones minimum in my cabinets and fridge (read: grocery shopping had gotten knocked down on my priority list that week) heightened my enthusiasm. i immediately started taste testing.

might i add that lindsay has some great handwriting. i love notes/old timey letters and i loved even more that most of the goodies she sent were local from the big lovin' state of texas!

and now for the big reveal.....!

there was so much great stuff packed in the box, i don't know how it all was within the $15 budget! regardless, i'm grateful for the delivery of deliciousness.

here's what i got (in order of my favorites):

  1. jalepeno lime pepper by alamo city pepper products - forget the regular sea salt, i have been sprinkling this stuff on everything from salads to toast to tofu!  #officiallyobsessed
  2. hail merry blonde macaroons - omg, an amazingly delicious vegan treat with no refined sugar (they're also gluten-free!).
  3. texas bbq flavor kale chips by rhythm superfoods - i love me a kale chip and these certainly didn't disappoint.  it was my first go at bbq-seasoned ones, and they were beyond yum!
  4. lunchskins - ok this wasn't edible, but lunchskins are adorable reusable snack packs to replace your ziplock baggies, i plan on ordering more!  they also have velcro and are washable.
  5. cashew fig carrot bar by thunderbird energetica - i dig the fig and have never actually come across a fig bar (other than the fig newton - which is a cookie, or a cake...). the texture was very real, which made it almost weird since it felt like i was eating an actual dried fig (not bad, just not what i expected).  the bar is from austin and has a compostable wrapper, plus it's all-natural and  handmade -- oh and shaman-blessed (read: super cool).
  6. raspberry licorice by panda - thanks to my mom, i've always had a soft spot for licorice, especially the red kinds, and this one did the trick and without any artificial coloring.
  7. granola by love grown foods - i received two mini packs of granola, simply oats and sweet cranberry pecan.  they were the perfect nibble-on-the go for me, and just the right amount to add to yogurt.
  8. chocolate chunk protein bar by longhorn bar - not one for protein bars, i was pleasantly pleased by this texan treat.  i liked the hint of cinnamon in it and the fact that it didn't have that weird protein-y texture/taste. plus, it saved me from starvation when i had to take breakfast on the run one busy morning in nyc.
  9. amazon chocolate by greens organics - a single stick of a powder supplement that's packed with green foods, superfruits, sea veggies and of course amazonia cocoa.  you can mix it with just water for a quick fix.  (note: the reason this appears last is because i have yet to try it myself, but at first glance if looks like a win!)

thanks agin lindsay and lindsay!!!! looking forward to the next round in may!  stay tuned...



o-love me some snacks

as a devout fan of the olive, i was fascinated when i saw this olive snack packs at the checkout counter of an nyc deli.  intrigued, i obviously got a pack. this 50-calorie pack of olives was super tasty and i have become instantly obsessed. apparently the company is spaniard spanish (as in from barcelona) and they have a cutesy website along with some creative flavors, including hot chilli mama (the one i tried), tasty mediterranean, light-hearted vinaigrette and lemon lover.  they are available on for $48.88 for 48 packs (a little more than a $1 a pack).  i think they might just be my new favorite snack addiction. i'm in olove....


i get my meds from the farmacy

i always go back to what my mom taught me as a kid - eat colorfully.  it makes your plate look more appetizing and it turns out, the more colors on your plate the more well-rounded your intake of vitamins and nutrients will be! 

it's really that easy!

you'll have tastier, more enjoyable meals and none of that neon pee you get after popping over-the-counter supplements that your body can't absorb. (although it's true that some veggies like asparagus can make your pee smell.)

food can even help with allergies.  try eating local honey if you and the pollen in the air are less than friendly.

next time you have the urge to head to the vitamin aisle, head to your local farmers' market instead. you'll turn your fridge into your medicine cabinet. make sure to fill it with fresh, local, seasonal (and organic when possible) produce.  it's what this farm-acist ordered.


purple pâté


noun \pä-ˈtā, pa-\
a spread of finely chopped or pureed seasoned meat vegetarian goodness

i've always been intrigued by the idea of pâté, sans the fact that it is made of meat.  so i decided to make my own - a sweet and savory spread.

what's in it:
1/3 c. kalamata olives (sans pits)
1/3 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/3 c. organic thompson raisins
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
what else you'll need:
a food processor
a jar to store it in
here's how to make it:
  1. blend the sunflower seeds until you get them as fine as you can
  2. add in the rest of the ingredients and blend until it looks all mixed in, stop at intervals to scrape the mixture



i ate my purple pate on toasted, sprouted wheat bread.  since it's sweet and savory it works for anytime of day.  it not only tastes good, it's got good stuff in it: antioxidants (raisins), vitamin b1, vitamin e, folate and important minerals (sunflower seeds), healthy fat (sunflower seeds, olives, olive oil).



bootleg brew - ferment-it-yourself kombucha

remember the viral lulu video that pokes fun at kombucha-loving yoginis?  well it's not far off from my reality.  i love me some kombucha and i don't know very many yogis who can't say the same.  but something i don't necessarily love is forking over the dollar bill$$$ to get it (true story:  i paid $5 for a bottle when i was in iowa.  thankfully, i usually get it for about $3.50 in nyc - who knew it'd be cheaper in the big apple?!). 

so what's a budget-conscious, kombucha-loving person to do? 
make your own, of course.

my twitter pal, mckinley (aka @ilovesweat), has been tweeting about his own 'ghetto brew' so i decided had to pick his brain.  apparently he makes a pretty mean knock-off version of gts (read on for the recipe).

the e-interview: (done over email, not twitter so his responses could be longer than 140 characters.)

jenn:  how much do you think your 'bottle' of ghetto brew costs?

mckinley: i'm not really sure how much each bottle of homebrew costs, that involves some complicated math because you have to figure in your bag of sugar and tea bags, both of which go a long way. and a bag of frozen fruit can be enough for 2-4 batches. i'd reckon it's pretty cheap or, i guess, economical would be the better way to put it.

not only do you save money by brewing your own kombucha, but it's so easy to do, it's silly not to. like, why would you go to taco bell when you can make better tacos at home?

[jenn/thoughts:  i do not eat taco bell and definitely do not condone ever eating it.]

jenn:  do you (willingly) eat/drink the phlegmy part of the 'buch?

mckinley:  when it comes to kombucha, unless you want to grow the culture, you have to swallow! i actually think that's the healthiest part of the drink! the culture is what makes it kombucha. as an experiment, i've taken a dried out, tiny sliver of culture left at the end of the bottle and grown it into a huge culture. so when you swallow, you're getting the best part of it, as far as i'm concerned.

[jenn/thoughts: *gulp* i think i can, i think i can....eeek.]

jenn:  now with the warmer months upon us and more fruit in season, are there any new flavor combos you love or are itching to try?

mckinley:  i prefer to use frozen fruit for brewing kombucha. fresh fruit is such a treat, i think it's almost wasteful to boil it and then toss it out. i can appreciate the argument for fresh, but frozen fruit is ideal for brewing because you boil the flavor out and never eat the actual fruit. i've had some really good flavors this way: jackfruit, mango, raspberry. right now i'm enjoying a peach/strawberry blend. my all-time favorite though is blueberry with a little bit of fresh ginger boiled in there to kick it up a notch (as it turns out this is what g.t. dave's gingerberry is). that being said, if i had a tree with plenty, i wouldn't mind trying a pluot-flavored kombucha.

[jenn/thoughts: i <3 the gingerberry - thanks for solving the mystery!]

jenn:  what are your thoughts on the new chia seed-kombucha concoction?

mckinley:  i've seen references to chia seed, but not in connection with kombucha. legend says they were brewing kombucha in china 5,000 years ago and in england, right until ww2 put a ration on sugar. can you imagine what it was like then? i bet there was a different flavor on every block! so i'm in the dark about the chia seed/kombucha connection, but whatever makes you happy is cool with me.

[jenn/thoughts: i think i'll work with swallowing the culture before i add any more slimy stuff to the my 'buch.] for the recipes!!!!

for mckinley's original take on homemade kombucha, visit his blog.

for the upgraded, wannabe gts recipe, check out (they also have kits to start making your own - phlegmy, slimy culture included! even though it skiives me out, i do love kombucha).





i love me a mason jar - for food or beverage - especially on the go and because i'm a cheap-o.  or you could say i'm eco-friendly, take your pick, at this point it's just seamantics to me.  regardless, i always try to reuse my jars.  (you can ask my bf - he's usually less than thrilled about my growing jar inventory...) 

however, when it comes to beverages, it can be a bit tricky when drinking on-the-go... and then cappow!!! (think batman action word - it will help you understand my enthusiasm). 

i just discovered this genius, reusable top - a screw on lid that turns an ordinary mason jar into an adult sippy cup. (get one for yourself - or your jar-loving pal - for only $7.99, i am.)



nutritional yeast - the vegan grated cheese

ever wonder what the cheesy ingredient is in vegan kale chips that makes them so dang tasty?

it's nutritional yeast - i checked the label.  

upon reading, i was slightly turned off due to some weird connotation from my tween years... and then i began seeing it in all of these raw recipes that i was exploring, so i picked up my first shaker-top container today.

here are some interesting facts about nutritional yeast:

  • it is rich in protein, vitamins (including b12) and minerals. 
  • it is naturally fat-free and sodium-free.
  • yeast is part of the fungi family (bragg's version is grown on beets and cane molasses). 
  • after the yeast ferments, it is harvested, thoroughly washed and cleaned, and dried on roller drum dryers.
  • there are many health benefits too - including: improved immune response, reduction of cholesterol, plus it has anti-cancer properties.

so how does it taste? it's a toasted, nutty-cheesy flavor - basically it is my new parmesan cheese.

here are some ideas to give nutritional yeast a test-run:

  • sprinkled on popcorn
  • seasoning for soups and salads
  • any time you would normally use parmasen cheese

are you a fan of nutritional yeast?  share how you eat it in the comments!

coconut cracking

today, i purchased my first young coconut to see if fresh coconut water tastes different than the canned or boxed kind - which is probably a rhetorical question becuase obviously it does - it is soooooo much better!

after starting to hack away and being unsuccessful, came to the rescue.  check out this super helpful (and informative) video:

i also am going to test out the coconut fresh in one of my green smoothies (details to come).

hit the mini bar pre-yoga

as in mini luna bar! (what were you thinking? there's no time for silly juice before asana.)

upon receiving my january birch box, i was deeee-lighted to find a mini luna bar in it.  how genius!  maybe they've been around for a while, i don't care, i'm in love.  luna bars have been around for quite some time, and are actually a super healthy option as far as snack bars go.  but in the past eating a whole luna bar prior to getting also yoga pretzel-y was a bit too much.  now these bars (made from unsweetened fruit, nuts and spices) are available in a mini bar which is perfect to satiate me without feeling icky on the sticky mat. 

i didn't see them on birchbox's site, so i of course searched the interwebs and found them on amazon, 12 for $18 in a variety pack, making them a $1.50 - a price that's easy to swallow...

dairy-free probiotic bubbly

despite my attempts to live (procesed) sugar-free in my first 30 day challenge (i'm already on day 3 and doing great thank you very much), the holidays - or more like the holiday treats - got the best of me.  i'll type it right now, i lack willpower when presented with free cookies and chocolates and have given up on sugar prohibition during the holidays, instead it's all about moderation - which i have still yet to master...

i digress.

back to my point, the overload of sugary food and less green things during the holidays have left my tummy rather unhappy.  so in hopes of getting back on track, i have started incorporating more probiotics into my daily feeding times.  probiotics are the healthy live cultures of acidophilis (a bacteria) that help your digestive tract break down foods better - yes, you ingest these on purpose!  commonly found in yogurt, i was excited to come across a non-dairy option. 

i literally just discovered this a whole foods today (and it was on sale 2 for $5).  instead of a dairy cutlure like yogurt, kevita uses "4 strains of active cultures that are clinically proven to support digestive health*, maintain the immune system* and deliver more active cultures than yogurt.**" although i'm not sure what study backs these ** claims, upon first taste, i'd say it's a win! 

kevita comes in 9 flavors, all slightly bubbly with a hint of natural sweetness (from stevia).  i picked up three flavors lemon ginger, coconut and living greens.  all are vegan and some have caffeine from green tea in them (hey, i only gave up sugar!).

look for it in the grocery store, it'll most likely be right next to the kombucha brands. let me know what you think!

thanksgiving healthy hummus

happy thanksgiving - here's a super quick recipe for making homemake hummus.  pair it with some fresh veggies as a healthier, lighter way to start today's feast.  i like to mix up my bean selection.  this one is made with cannellini beans instead of the usual chick pea (aka garbonzo bean) - also try out edamame for some fun color!   the recipe is also great for everyday eating :)

gobble, gobble.


dates, the secret ingredient to the sweet life

true story.  dates, upon looking at them kind of remind me of roaches, i know it sounds disturbing, especially because i really love them.   their sugary 'crust' and the coloring do it for me, thankfully their taste and health benefits help me get over this weird connection.

lately, i've been blending up green smoothies to energize my day and to help counterbalance some of the bitterness of the darker greens, like kale, that i have been liquifying, i add just 1-2 dates as a natural sweetner.

a word to the wise, check for pits before you blend!  #justsayin...

5 random facts about dates you should know:

  1. dates are one of the ancient fruits (dating - haha- back to 6000 bc), and have have been nicknamed the 'tree of life' because of their healthy benefits.
  2. Dates are easy to digest, so they convert into instant energy!
  3. Eating dates help maintain a healthy heart, digestive and nervous system. plus, some research even links them to preventing abdominal cancer.
  4. Dates help to lower LDC chlosterol (this is the cholesterol that should be low not high).
  5. Dates are loaded with iron, making them great for vegans, vegetarians and anyone anemic.



foodie faves on twitter

the community that's known for expressing itself in 140 characters or less, has become my inspiration for spicing up my usual dinner du jour menu.  here are some of my favorites:

  follow @realyoganyc for flavorful, healthy recipes with an ayurvedic twist.



for liquid dining (think purees, smoothies, soups, etc. - not the hangover-inducing kind) or anything incorporating a blender or a food processor, check out @theblendergirl.

follow @elsiecake for tasty (and adorable) treats like this delish pumpkin pie (you heard me) milkshake.



do you have foodie faves on twitter?  do tell (in the comments below, or tweet me -@yogadeals)