Hormone-Balancing Strawberry Maca Smoothie
I love a good smoothie, but I love even more when I can drink something so packed full of good-for-me ingredients that I feel fuller and happier for the whole day! This smoothie does just that, friends. Packed with healthy, real food ingredients that pack an extra special, hormone helping punch - maca root! The older I get, the more I feel my hormones dragging me all over the place, and I'm just trying to add some regularity - and this smoothie really helps when you take it regularly.
I first tried a similar smoothie at the Whole Foods juice bar near me - and surprise, surprise - I had to recreate it at home! I knew I could make it cheaper, and whenever I wanted, if I learned to recreate it. I added a few ingredients to make it more than a sweet strawberry banana base and now I am officially obsessed and make it at least 3 mornings a week. Beyond the bunches of greens I've added, the maca root has some real benefits in balancing the body's hormones. Below we'll talk about different types of maca, how much to use, and how it helps your body!
When it comes to maca you can buy at the store, there are two types: gelatinized and raw, non-gelatinized. Raw maca that has been powdered from the dried, uncooked root, can be a little hard on the digestive system and may cause stomach upset in about 5-10% of the population. Gelatinization involves a steam process that makes the maca more digestible and also increases bioavailability of the nutrients. You can buy whatever you prefer, but note the difference in case you have a sensitive stomach. (Maca isn't going to be for everyone, so if you have stomach issues when you take it or you are following a low FODMAP diet, I recommend you avoid it all together.)
I always recommend buying organic when you can, especially since maca is a root and is grown directly in the soil. I have been loving this brand lately and it has added ashwaganda powder as well, but again, use whatever maca you prefer. High quality maca is usually grown in Peru - so look for that confirmation on the packaging. Other things to look for? Ideally, you want your maca sustainably grown and naturally harvested without the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, solvents, radiation or high heat. But don't worry babes - this info is usually on the packaging itself and always online! OH, and always keep your maca in the fridge - it can oxidize when exposed to air, heat and moisture.
So how does maca help and why take it? Well ladies (and gents!) there are some pretty great reasons, specifically hormone-balancing ones. Maca is rich in vitamins C and A as well as B2, B6 and Niacin and packed with minerals, including iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, copper, magnesium and potassium. It contains healthy fatty acids that help stabilize blood glucose levels and reduce inflammation in the body. It strengthens your bones and supports healthy liver and enzyme function.
Maca is one of the rare plants that can be classified as an ‘herbal adaptogen’. This means it can directly change the balance of your hormones to help you adapt to stress and illness. Unlike some herbs and phytoestrogens such as soy (which I'm actually super allergic to), maca does not try to mimic estrogen in your body. It is a hormone BALANCER, so it draws your hormones back to where they need to be rather than increase only one type of hormone and cause an imbalance. Many women report improved PMS, menopause, and PCOS symptoms as a result of regular maca usage during their cycle.
Maca is also high in fibers like cellulose and lignins, which improve gut health. Fiber is also an effective tummy filler, which can reduce hunger between meals. Most maca powders also contain between 11% to 18% protein, which is a nice little boost in your morning smoothie, as well. On top of all those great reasons, maca is also a natural energy provider so you can use it to help kick the caffeine and ditch that afternoon slump!
To break it down:
-reduced menopause and PCOS symptoms
So basically, it's a smoothie all of us can enjoy for different - or maybe all of the - reasons listed above! I'd love to hear about your experiences with maca in the comments below. I've only been using it regularly for about a year, but love and plan to keep using it. Let's get blending, babes!
1 1/2 cups coconut water or unsweetened almond milk
1 frozen banana
1-2 cups fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups frozen (or fresh!) strawberries
1-2 teaspoons maca root powder
3-4 drops vanilla stevia (optional)
1 tablespoon flax powder
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon psyllium husk
1 tablespoon coconut or nut butter
maple syrup, honey or agave
Toss it all in a high-speed blender (we use a Vitamix) and blend until it is smoooooooth. Then pour it in a large glass - or two - and enjoy!
Sub in what you need or what you’ve got to suit your preferences!
If you use coconut water, the smoothie will be a bit lighter, whereas using almond milk will result in a thicker, creamier smoothie. I like them both!
Purple Sweet Potato Pie Bars
Last week Alex and I took a day to start wedding planning together - FINALLY! So far, we have a venue, at The Riverbed Farm in Anaheim, and a date - June 10th, 2017, but other than that we've got nothing planned. Whoops! Time seems to be flying by at this point so my next big things to mark off the checklist are our save the dates and invitations, finding a caterer and finalizing details like the drink menu and decor. I'll have a post up soon on all the details and what we've learned so far in planning our vegan wedding!
In the meantime, a girl's gotta eat, and I've been loving all the fall produce we've been getting in our CSA box + seeing in supermarkets lately. We went on a date day last and ended up at a cute little kombucha + fermented goods bar in Costa Mesa called Farm + Culture Co. that served these yummy bites made with purple sweet potato and I was totally inspired. I wanted to create something similar, but with a little more focus on something sharable for the Fall season - so we came up with these Purple Sweet Potato Pie Squares. These pie squares are an incredibly gorgeous color - shockingly purple! - that just make you wanna eat 'em up. These bars are:
The sweet potatoes are paired with warm fall flavors like maple, cinnamon, and ginger on a chewy cashew-date-macadamia crust that makes them irresistible and much like a traditional sweet potato pie - but far healthier! They're are totally naturally sweetened, and you can omit the maple syrup if you prefer to keep them date-sweetened only. Eat them on their own or top them with a bit of whipped cream and a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg for the perfect fall treat. They're an indulgence you don't have to have any guilt about, so go ahead - have two!
Cashew Date Macadamia Crust Layer:
1 1/2 cups cashews
1 cup macadamia nuts (or skinless almonds)
1 cup pitted dates
3 tablespoons coconut oil
Purple Sweet Potato Pie Layer:
1.5 lbs purple sweet potatoes, boiled, skinned + mashed (about 2 1/2 cups mash)
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cashew Date Macadamia Crust Layer:
Soak the cashews and macadamia nuts in warm water for at least one hour. Drain off the liquid, and pour the soaked nuts into the food processor. Add in the pitted dates and coconut oil and process until a sticky crust forms.
Grease or line a 9x9 inch glass baking dish. Scrape the crust mixture into the baking dish and use a rubber spatula to spoon to press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Refrigerate or freeze to set the crust, about one hour, before topping with the sweet potato mixture. Wipe the processor bowl out with a paper towel and set aside.
Purple Sweet Potato Pie Layer:
Place the sweet potatoes into a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool completely. Once cooled, remove the skins and toss 'em into the compost or trash bin. Place the sweet potatoes into the processor bowl with the almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, lemon juice, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Process on high until the mixture is completely combined and smooth.
Pour the mixture over the cooled crust layer and spread it evenly around. Place the baking dish back into the freezer to firm - they'll be much easier to slice this way. Once they're firm, about 3+ hours later, slice the bars even squares. Serve immediately or let soften in the fridge until you're ready to enjoy!
Makes 16-20 bars. Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for several days or the freezer indefinitely.
Purple Sweet Potatoes are different than Japanese Sweet Potatoes, which are purple on the outside but white on the inside. Make sure you double check or your pie squares - while delicious! - certainly won't come out looking like ours.
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie Bars
I love cookies of all shapes and sizes - I'm not one to discriminate. That being said, there just aren't enough vegan white chocolate macadamia nut cookies around. At least not ready available for purchase...so I came up with my own recipe so I could have them whenever I got a craving. Instead of using a store-bought vegan white chocolate (which is REALLY hard to find. I have found it online, though) in these, I used chopped cacao butter. Cacao butter is the edible vegetable fat extracted from the cocoa bean and it both smells and tastes like chocolate. It's the perfect substitute and is PACKED with antioxidants to help give you healthy hair and skin - so they're basically a health food...right?! 😝
I used maple syrup instead of sugar in this recipe because I prefer the flavor of maple syrup, but substitution info is listed below if you're interested. These cookie bars are thin, a bit crispy on the edges, and packed with yummy, crunchy macadamia nuts. They're SO GOOD and make a taste pretty damn dipped in tall glass of almond milk. So what're you waiting for?! We've got cookies to eat!
1 cup vegan butter OR vegetable shortening
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup vegan white chocolate or cacao butter, roughly chopped
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Using a hand held or stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy. Add in the flour. When it's fully incorporated, stir in the white chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts.
Pour the cookie dough into a greased 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Press dough very firmly with plastic wrap or a spatula until the top is silky smooth and free of cracks or bubbles.
Bake for 23-28 minutes until slightly golden + crisp on the edges. An inserted toothpick should come out clean. Cool completely, then cut into triangles (or squares!) with a sharp knife. Scoop out the bars and enjoy!
Makes about 16 bars.
You can also sub 1 cup organic sugar for the maple syrup here. The cookie bars will be crispier if you do this.
For thicker bars you can also try baking in an 8x8 inch pan, but the cooking time may need to be adjusted.
Leftovers last in the fridge for about a week!