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Looking for Cinco de Mayo party ideas? Look no further! Traditional Shepherd’s Pie gets a Mexican twist with this spicy vegan recipe. A hearty filling of black beans and corn will give you healthy protein and complex carbs – essential nutrients for fueling your workouts. Sweet potatoes are mashed with chipotle powder for a sweet-smoky crust that is loaded with flavor and antioxidants. This gives whole new meaning to comfort food.

Level: medium
Servings: 4
Ready in: 60 minutes

Cinco de Mayo party ideas and dishes for a crowd

Ingredients

For the smoky sweet potato crust:

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • ½ cup unsweetened plain almond milk
  • ½ teaspoon ground chipotle chili
  • Salt, to taste

For the Mexican black bean corn filling:

  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

Related: want more Cinco de Mayo party ideas?! Check out this recipe for vegan ‘new-tella’ – add some chili powder for a spicy Mexican twist!

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

To make the smoky sweet potato crust:

Place the sweet potatoes in a small pot. Cover with water. Place a lid on the pot, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the potatoes are tender.
When the sweet potatoes are tender, drain them well, shaking off any excess water. Return the potatoes to the small pot.
Add the ground chipotle and use a potato masher to mash. Add enough almond milk to reach a creamy constancy. You want something a little thicker than mashed potatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt. Set aside until ready to assemble pies.

While the sweet potatoes are boiling, make the filling for your Tartas Pastores.

 

To make the Mexican black bean corn filling:

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper and onion. Sauté until they start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, and coriander. Sauté 1 minute, until aromatic. Add the tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes, just until the tomato paste darkens to a brick red color.
Add the water. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the black beans and corn. Stir well to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning.

To assemble and bake your Tartas Pastores:

Evenly divide the Mexican black bean corn filling among 4 individual pie tins. Top each pie with ¼ of the smoky sweet potato crust topping. You don’t want to overfill your pies, so you may have extras of the filling and/or crust. Place the pie tins on a baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 4 individual pans (or one 8-inch full-sized pan)

Chef Katie’s Tips:

Save on Spices: If you want to save cabinet space, you can substitute a store-bought Mexican or taco spice mix. Look for a salt-free or no-sodium blend. Use 2 1/2 teaspoons, in place of the paprika, cumin, and coriander.

Kid-Friendly Spice Control: For a kid-friendly version (or simply Cinco de Mayo party ideas that won’t leave your friends fiery), dried chipotle is made from smoking poblano peppers. It usually comes either in flakes or ground, and you can use either in this recipe. It has a spicy kick. If you want less spice substitute with chili powder or smoked paprika.

Deconstructed Version: You can turn these pies inside-out with a faster version. Instead of assembling the filling and crust, simply serve the Mexican black bean mixture over the smoky sweet potatoes. For a bowl version, serve on top baby spinach and top with tomatillo guacamole.

Yield: 4 individual pans (or one 8-inch full-sized pan)

Post written and all photography provided by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

Nutrition Facts

Servings 4.0

Amount Per Serving
Calories 195

% Daily Value *

  • Total Fat 2 g 3 %
  • Saturated Fat 0 g 0 %
  • Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
  • Trans Fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
  • Sodium 247 mg 10 %
  • Potassium 899 mg 26 %
  • Total Carbohydrate 47 g 16 %
  • Dietary Fiber 12 g 48 %
  • Sugars 9 g
  • Protein 10 g 19 %
  • Vitamin A 290 %
  • Vitamin C 119 %
  • Calcium 10 %
  • Iron 23 %

* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

From Lion’s Mane mushroom tea to Shiitake mushroom broth, mushrooms are quickly becoming one a favorite for both nutritionists and chefs. A healthy source of iron, protein, B vitamins, and antioxidants like selenium, it’s no wonder they’ve been called a super food. They also have natural glutamines, much like meat and cheese, which make them a great plant-based alternative to meats like beef and steak and even cheese. In this hearty, healthy mushroom soup recipe, a blend of mushrooms pair with barley, sweet leeks, and woodsy sage for a satisfying bowl of goodness. This will definitely fire up your next workout!

  • Level: medium
  • Servings: 8
  • Ready in: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, quartered
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 leek, sliced and rinsed well
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup pearled barley
  • 12 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons Simple Girl vegan bouillon powder (or 1 vegan bouillon cube) (optional)
  • Salt, to taste

Related: need something to soak up all that yummy broth? Try this delicious no-yeast Irish brown bread!

Directions

Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. While the pot heats up, you can prepare your vegetables.

Add mushrooms and leeks to pre-heated pot. Cook over medium high until the mushrooms are dark brown, about 10-12 minutes, stirring often.

Add the carrot, sage, and thyme. Sauté 1-2 minutes, until the dried herbs become aromatic.

Add the bay leaf, black pepper, barley, water, and bouillon (if using). Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the barley is tender, about 25 minutes.

Remove the lid, taste to adjust seasoning, and serve.

Chef Katie’s Tips

Mushroom varieties: you can use any variety of mixed mushrooms in this healthy mushroom soup recipe. Woodsier varieties like oyster and porcini will add richer flavor. Trumpet, Lion’s Mane, and Puffball can be cut into big chunks for big, hearty texture. Shiitake and Enoki would add an Asian twist.

Barley and gluten-free option: barley is a whole grain, and a member of the wheat family so it contains gluten. If this is a concern for you, you can a gluten-free version of this soup by substituting brown rice or a wild rice blend for the barley.

Yield: 16 cups of soup

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons. Some photos provided by Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

 

Nutrition Facts

  • Servings 8 oz

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 69

% Daily Value *

Total Fat 1 g 1 %
Saturated Fat 0 g 0 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
Sodium 267 mg 11 %
Potassium 283 mg 8 %
Total Carbohydrate 14 g 5 %
Dietary Fiber 3 g 11 %
Sugars 2 g
Protein 4 g 7 %
Vitamin A 31 %
Vitamin C 6 %
Calcium 3 %
Iron 7 %

* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

If you want to try baking bread, this easy vegan bread recipe is a great place to start! This Irish brown bread doesn’t require any yeast so you don’t have to wait around to bake it. Traditionally using white flour, this healthy, vegan version uses whole grain oat flour for a slightly nutty flavor. Include this in your weekly meal prep so that you’re ready for the week ahead. Use slices of this as a base for avocado toast. Fill with hummus, sliced cucumbers, and tomatoes for a healthy lunch. Or tear off a piece to sop up the broth from a hearty (or light!) soup (like this healthy mushroom soup) at dinner!

Level: easy
Servings: 12
Ready In: 70 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons plain, unsweetened almond milk (11 oz) *
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (1 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax meal (6.5g)
  • 3 tablespoons warm water (1.5 oz
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (360g)
  • 1 cup oat flour (120g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line an 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment.

Make the vegan buttermilk: combine the almond milk with the vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, to let the almond milk curdle slightly.

Make the vegan flax “egg”: combine the ground flax meal and warm water in a small dish. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, until gooey and “egg-like”.

To make the bread: In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, oat flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flax “egg” to the bowl with the vegan buttermilk and whisk to combine. Add this wet mixture into the bowl with the flour. Use a wooden spoon to stir together, just until you have a rough dough.Transfer this dough to a lightly-floured wood surface. Knead for a bit, just until the dough comes together to a smooth, cohesive mixture. Transfer to the parchment-lined loaf pan and use your hands to form into a loaf.

Bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread has risen about ½ inch. You’ll know it’s ready if you take it out of the pan and knock on the bottom – it should sound hollow. Let cool at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Related: cookies before (or after) a workout? YES: check out these peanut butter cookies with quinoa!

Chef Tips:

  • Bread storage tip: the best way to store bread is tightly wrapped in foil, then sealed in a plastic bag, in the freezer. You want to eliminate as much air and moisture as possible, as these cause both mold and stale bread.
  • Oat flour and gluten: Oat flour is naturally gluten-free and has a nutty flavor with light texture. It can be used as a replacement for white flour for a gluten free, vegan bread recipe like this one, or in much of your other vegan baking. Just be sure to substitute by weight, not by volume. A small, digital scale can help with this.
  • Sift the dry ingredients: It’s always important to sift together the dry ingredients for a lighter, fluffier batter. This is even more important, though, when working with whole wheat flour. If you don’t have a sifter, use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients and add some air into the flour mix.

Yield: one (9×5-inch) loaf

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

 

Nutrition Facts

  • Serving size: 1/12 of a recipe (about 1 slice).

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 137.33
  • Calories From Fat (11%) 14.45

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 1.65g 3%
  • Saturated Fat 0.28g 1%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 319.06mg 13%
  • Potassium 172.01mg 5%
  • Total Carbohydrates 28.12g 9%
  • Fiber 4.95g 20%
  • Sugar 0.32g
  • Protein 4.1g 8%
  • Calcium 0.65mg <1%
  • Iron 34.94mg 194%
  • Vitamin A IU
  • Vitamin C 0mg 0%

 

We’ve often heard that snacking between meals can wreck a weight loss plan. However, FFC registered dietitian Alicia Huggler has helped guide members to re-think snacking. If you’re on an exercise program, it’s important to stay fueled. Rather than banning all snacks, swap out the processed, packaged stuff for healthy snacks that taste good too. Look for foods that use whole ingredients, avoiding refined sugars, syrups, and oils. The more “whole” foods you have, the more fiber and complex carbs you’ll get…fueling future workouts. These peanut butter cookies with quinoa flakes are great for a healthy snack. The dates and banana will help you satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about crashing an hour later. Plus, the quinoa flakes pack an extra protein punch and have loads of fiber. Make a batch on the weekend, enjoy as a quick pre-workout snack in the morning or snack on a few after work before you head to the gym!

Peanut Butter Cookies with Quinoa Flakes (Gluten-Free, Vegan and Kid-Friendly)

Level: medium

Servings: 13

Ready in: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dates, (200g, 7 oz)
  • 1 medium ripe banana (110g)
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup almond meal (sub brown rice)
  • 1 cup quinoa flakes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Related: colorful AND delicious Egyptian spiced avocado corn radicchio lettuce cups will get you out of a food rut – try the recipe now!

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment on a non-stick silicon baking mat.

To make the cookie dough: in a food processor, combine the dates, banana, peanut butter, and vanilla. Add 1/4 cup of water. Puree until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed.

Add the almond meal, quinoa flakes, salt, and baking powder. Puree until combined.

To portion and bake the cookies: portion about 2 teaspoons of dough onto the cookie sheet, leaving about 1 inch in between cookies. Once you’ve portioned all of the cookies, wet your fingers with a little water. Gently push down the cookies to flatten. Shape into pretty, round disks, if needed.

Bake the cookies 15-18 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through cooking. The cookies will be golden brown on the bottom when ready.

Remove and let cool 10 minutes before serving or storing.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week. Freeze in an air-tight plastic bag (or wrap in foil) for longer.

*Chef’s tips:

  • Use roasted peanut butter that has no added ingredients. Check the ingredients list to make sure there’s no added oil, sugar, or syrup.
  • If you don’t have a food processor, you can also puree the wet ingredients in a blender. When they’re smooth and creamy, transfer the wet mixture to a bowl, then stir in your dry ingredients.
  • For extra texture, add chopped peanuts, currants, or mini vegan chocolate chips.

Yield: about 26 cookies.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

 

 

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1/13 of a recipe (2 cookies)

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 125.05
  • Calories From Fat (28%) 35.21

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 4.13g 6%
  • Saturated Fat 0.6g 3%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 128.25mg 5%
  • Potassium 166.69mg 5%
  • Total Carbohydrates 20.77g 7%
  • Fiber 2.23g 9%
  • Sugar 12.86g
  • Protein 3.11g 6%
  • Calcium 1.31mg <1%
  • Iron 30.89mg 172%
  • Vitamin A 7.35IU <1%
  • Vitamin C 0.46mg <1%

 

 

With the weather getting colder, it’s getting easier and easier to stay inside – so much so that you might start to feel a little cabin feverish! Don’t worry – the global flavors of these easy lettuce wraps (that are also vegan AND gluten-free) are a light, delicious way to elicit the wonders of the world – without stepping foot into the ever-dipping wind chill. These Egyptian spiced avocado corn radicchio lettuce cups are packed with delicious, healthy flavor and work for more than just dinner. Serve them as a light appetizer at a party or serve them to your kids for a fun hands-on dining experience. Crunchy, creamy, and refreshing – these lettuce cups are satisfying any time!

Easy lettuce wraps recipe for vegan Egyptian Spiced Avocado Corn Radish Salad

Level: easy
Servings: 6
Ready in: 10

Ingredients

  • 1 head radicchio lettuce *
  • 4 ears corn
  • 6 small radishes, diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds**
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon each: paprika, coriander, turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Fresh cilantro, to garnish

Easy lettuce wraps: Egyptian Spiced Avocado Corn Salad recipeDirections

To prepare the radicchio: use a small paring knife to cut a circle around the core of the lettuce.  Remove the core. Gently peel off the radicchio leaves, one at a time, until you have reached the small heart of the lettuce. Wash and rinse the radicchio leaves. Set aside to let dry.

To make the Egyptian spiced avocado corn filling: husk and wash the corn. Cut off the kernels from the cob. Place into a medium bowl. Trim and dice the radishes. Halve the grape tomatoes.  Pit and dice the avocado. Add these to the bowl with the corn. Add the sunflower seeds, cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning.

To make the radicchio cups:  Fill each radicchio cup with about ½ cup of the avocado corn filling.  Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.

* Radicchio lettuce tip: radicchio is a bitter salad green, adding an interesting flavor to balance the sweetness of the corn and the richness of the avocado. If you don’t enjoy the bitter flavor (or if making this for kids and picky eaters), swap out the radicchio for bibb or even romaine lettuce.

** Chef’s calorie tip:  If you want to reduce the amount of calories in this recipe, swap out the sunflower seeds for a can of chickpeas or a cup of raw, sprouted beans. The chickpeas and beans will be lower in fat, while adding extra fiber and protein.

Yield: 12-16 lettuce cups (5-6 cups of just the filling).

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (about 2 or 3 lettuce cups).

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 262.38
  • Calories From Fat (57%) 148.42

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 17.74g 27%
  • Saturated Fat 1.9g 10%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 219.74mg 9%
  • Potassium 679.02mg 19%
  • Total Carbohydrates 23.82g 8%
  • Fiber 6.31g 25%
  • Sugar 6.85g
  • Protein 8.53g 17%
  • Calcium 16.78mg 2%
  • Iron 42.75mg 238%
  • Vitamin A 519.82IU 10%
  • Vitamin C 9.92mg 17%

 

For Your Pinterest: Easy Lettuce Wraps: Egyptian Spiced Salad Lettuce Cups

Easy plant-based Egyptian spiced salad lettuce cups

Herbed cauliflower and potato mash - try this healthy recipe!With all its versatility and nutritional benefit, it’s easy to see why cauliflower has become such a popular ingredient in some of our favorite comfort foods. It’s become the go-to substitute for cutting calories in everything from rice to pizza, even! If you haven’t hopped on the cauliflower train yet, I suggest you start with this easy cauliflower mash recipe.

This is a nearly fool-proof way to introduce more healthy veggies into your diet using a classic comfort-food recipe (mashed potatoes) that you already love. Cauliflower is rich in healthy fiber, vitamin C and powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants.

No special equipment is required – just a pot of boiling water and a potato masher! A few key ingredients (almond milk and nutritional yeast) keep this 100% vegan. You can also swap out for a traditional dairy milk and even parmesan cheese – especially if you’re still trying to win over finicky eaters.

Use it as the perfect complement to grilled veggies or chicken, or as a heartier option to balance out warm weather salads and other dishes!

 

Related: speaking of substitutions in things we love, have you see this ‘New-tella’ recipe with dates?

Herb Cauliflower Mash with Yukon Potatoes

Level: easy
Servings: 8

Potato and cauliflower mash - perfect for your next party or picnic!Ingredients

  • 1 big head cauliflower (about 3-4 cups florets)
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup almond milk, plain, unsweetened
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

Instructions

To cook potatoes and cauliflower:

  • Clean the cauliflower and scrub the potatoes.
  • Trim the cauliflower.
  • Cut both the cauliflower and potato into large pieces.
  • Place in a large pot and cover with water.
  • Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
  • Cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Potatoes are ready when a knife can easily be inserted and the potato slides off.

To make mash:

  • Chop the parsley.
  • When potatoes are done, drain the potatoes and cauliflower.
  • Immediately return the potatoes and cauliflower to the same hot pot and let any excess water steam off.
  • Add the remaining ingredients: milk of choice, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and parsley.
  • Use a potato masher and mash away. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

If you prefer a creamier potato, use a hand mixer.

Chef’s tip: Yukon Gold potatoes are a thin-skinned potato, which means you don’t have to peel them. You can also use butterball potatoes, or, for a little color, red-skinned potatoes.

Yield: 7-8 cups

Post written by FFC Boystown group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com.

 

Eat real food. This simple nutrition tip can drastically change the way your body looks and feels. So many of the things we find on our shelves at the grocery store sound like they’re healthy – the front label might use words like “natural”, “organic”, or “GMO-free”. There might even be commercials for certain products that show wholesome family meals, with mom packing the kids’ lunch boxes before everyone heads out for a busy day. This type of marketing can make it tricky to find nutritious “real food”, but all you really need to do is look at the label. Even if you have a sweet tooth! It all comes down to real ingredients.

Find Healthier Food

Speaking of ingredients, this is the first place you should head when looking for healthy, real food. See anything with “high fructose”? Put it back on the shelf. Anything you can’t pronounce? You probably shouldn’t eat it. Nutella was one of those foods I loved…until I read the label: palm oil… soy lecithin. What are you doing in there? Then, when I realized dairy wasn’t my friend, I knew I had to come up with a recipe that got back to real, whole ingredients: hazelnuts, almonds, dates, cocoa powder and vanilla – instead of the jarred kind that is made with palm oil, tons of sugar and dairy milk.

Enter this vegan Chocolate Hazelnut New-Tella recipe – naturally sweetened with dates! Got a sweet tooth? Enjoy it as a dip for fresh apple slices or strawberries.

Chocolate Hazelnut “New-Tella”

New-tella 30-minute recipe

Level: easy
Servings: 24 / 3 cups of “New-Tella”
Ready in: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1 cup dried pitted dates
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup almond milk, plain, unsweetened
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Fresh apple slices, pears, or strawberries, for serving

Directions

Roast the nuts: spread almonds and hazelnuts on a baking pan and roast at 350 F for 12-15 minutes. When the nuts are golden brown, remove from oven and let cool.

Soak dates in warm water for at least 5 minutes to soften.

Start the New-Tella: when nuts are cool enough to handle, place hazelnuts in a clean dish towel or paper towel. Roll around to peel off the skins. Voila! Tip: the skins are bitter so remove as much as you can.

Place the almonds and peeled hazelnuts in a wide blender or food processor. Purée for about 5 or minutes or more, until the nuts start releasing their oils. Remove from the blender.

Drain the dates and squeeze out excess water. Also feel for any pits.

Place the dates, almond milk, vanilla, and salt in the wide blender or food processor. Purée until creamy. Add the nuts back to puréed date mixture, along with the cocoa. Purée until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed.

Garnish with chopped hazelnuts and serve with fresh fruit. Serve warm even more intense flavor.

Chef’s Tip: for a pourable “fondue” version, add 1 cup of almond milk to the recipe. Serve in small crockpot, with fresh fruit and toothpicks.

Post written by FFC Boystown group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com.

"New-tella" sandwiches

Apple + “New-Tella” sandwiches

 

“Don’t try to drive on an empty tank of gas.” This essential advice is something I remind my FFC members of all the time. When I teach Motiv8 at 6 AM, I’m pushing you to dig deep and give 100% in your workout. In order to get stronger, you have to train hard. You have to push your body through discomfort. How can you expect to do that on an empty stomach? Whether you’re training first thing in the morning, or right after work, it’s crucial to fuel up pre-workout. Running on an empty tank of gas will leave you tired and can increase your likelihood for injury. What you fuel up with is just as important to give you sustained energy. Check out this insanely easy recipe for peanut butter and jelly oat bites – one of my favorite go-to pre-workout snacks.

The classic combination of PB & J takes us all back to the memories of childhood (but dried currants and all-natural ingredients keep the recipe mature enough for adults). I throw just a few ingredients into my food processor and roll up a batch. Not only are these great pre-workout snacks that are gluten-free, vegan options, they’re also 100% plant-based and have tons of nutritional benefits!

Some of these benefits include:

  • Whole grain oats are naturally gluten-free, providing vegan protein and fiber for long-term energy.
  • Natural roasted peanut butter adds some fat to give you long-lasting satiety.
  • Dried currants provide natural sweetness for an energy boost that won’t leave you dragging in an hour.
  • A dash of cinnamon does double-duty, providing interesting flavor and acts as an anti-inflammatory food (read more about controlling inflammatory foods here!)

One of the best parts? I’ll make a batch of these and keep them in the freezer – and any time I might need a quick energy bite, (or some pre-workout snacks) I throw a few in my bag! They work in the morning before I teach class, in the afternoon when I am craving something sweet, and even on long trips when I’m stuck in an airport. I even make them as a personal chef for my clients who pack them in their kids’ lunch boxes!

Related: want to set up a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with one of our on-site registered dietitians? Click here!

Try This Recipe: PB & J Oat Bite Pre-Workout Snacks

  • Level: easy
  • Servings 10 – yields 20 “bites”
  • Ready in: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats (use gluten-free oats for 100% gluten-free treats)
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (preferably with no added sugars or oils)
  • 1 1/4 cup dried Zante currants
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or adjust, depending on salt in peanut butter)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp warm water

Related: speaking of energy – check out this easy peasy 5 minute Asian noodle bowl for the next time you’re craving take-out!

Pre-workout snacks - try these easy PB & J Oat Bites!

Directions

Gather ingredients. Place the oats in your food processor. Puree oats until well-chopped, resembling shredded coconut. Remove from food processor and pour into a medium bowl.

Add the peanut butter, currants, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt to the food processor. Puree peanut butter mixture until currants are chopped and everything is well-combined.

Add shredded oats back to the food processor. Puree. Add 2-4 tablespoons warm water, until mixture binds together. Continue to puree until mixture naturally clumps into a large ball. Add a tablespoon of water at a time until this consistency is reached.

Remove mixture from the food processor into a medium bowl. Roll about 1 tablespoon of batter into a two-bite ball. Repeat with remaining mixture.

Keep refrigerated for up to 1 week or freeze for longer.

Chef’s Tip: for a peanut-free alternative, try it with almond butter or sunflower seed butter. These are perfect fuel for traveling through airports or training for marathons! Want to see a step-by-step? Check out the full preparation video here!

Nutrition Info

Serving size: 1/10 of a recipe (about 2 bites).

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 219.71
  • Calories From Fat (31%) 68.31

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 8.17g 13%
  • Saturated Fat 1.65g 8%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 177.46mg 7%
  • Potassium 346.45mg 10%
  • Total Carbohydrates 31.63g 11%
  • Fiber 4.62g 18%
  • Sugar 13.36g
  • Protein 7.93g 16%
  • Calcium 0.86mg <1%
  • Iron 36.39mg 202%
  • Vitamin A 13.91IU <1%
  • Vitamin C 0.04mg <1%

Post written by FFC Boystown group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com.

 

I recently joined the Fitness Formula Clubs team as a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown. While walking into FFC for my audition prior to starting classes, a memory of how I began my journey to following a plant-based diet was sparked from when I first entered this industry.

15 years ago, after earning my AFAA certification, I dove head-first into the world of teaching. Some days would go from 6 AM until 10 PM, teaching 4 or 5 classes a day. I was teaching all kinds of formats, all over the city, working to supplement my unpaid passion for theatre and dance.

On top of the 20 hours a week I spent teaching classes, the hours of dance rehearsals for shows, and the personal training I’d do in between, a compulsion drove me to do more.

I would be on the elliptical machine for an hour before teaching a double, just to make sure I burned my magic calorie goal that day. I’d push myself to run 6 to 10 miles, even before the gym opened at 5 AM. I never took a day off.

Then, I got injured; plantar fasciitis in my heel and tendonitis in my knee. I was beating my body into the ground.

But I was also overweight. My obsessive workout routine was only to compensate for the food addiction binges I’d have. I could tear through 3 bowls of cereal and 2 “energy” bars before noon. I thought running two Chicago marathons and lifting 5 days a week would solve everything. My disappointment with my fat stomach and chubby legs had one solution: add more exercise.

Time for a lifestyle change - to a plant-based dietTime for a Lifestyle Change

It wasn’t until I changed my diet that I started to lose weight and have more energy. My plant-based journey began with a “vegan challenge” – I’d eat plant-based and oil-free for 30 days.

I wasn’t ready to make a full plant-based change after that first month. Yet I couldn’t deny the effects it had on my body. I had lost weight, I was sleeping better, I didn’t feel bloated, and I had more overall energy.

In the 6 years since that “challenge”, I now fully embrace a plant-based diet. I’ve cut my addiction to refined sugar, oil, and flour. I’ve let go of dairy. I’ve discovered oats, beans, and red rice to be more flavorful and satisfying than poached eggs or roasted chicken breast.  

In the 15 years since I first entered the fitness industry, I’m now 50 pounds lighter, lifting heavier weights than ever. I can cruise at an 8:00/mile pace for a 10K, and I’ve learned how to balance my high-intensity interval training with slow, mindful yoga.

The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Eating plant-based, my body has been able to reset itself – feeling satisfied and nourished with a healthy amount of fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. I still crave carbs when I need more energy, but now I hunger for bananas and grapes over energy bars.

Related: ever thought about adding seaweed to your diet? Here’s why you should!

I thirst for watermelon to re-hydrate after a 90-degree 7-mile run. I dive into a bowl of lentils after heavy strength workouts. My recovery meals are full of delicious plant-based energy. I have let go of the refined flours, oils, and sugars – also letting go of my addiction to these foods. I feel like such a different body, with such a different emotional mind.

I feel joyful and lucky that fitness has always been a part of my life. I am equally grateful to have discovered the drastic impact a plant-based diet has had on my body. I look forward to sharing my passion for fitness with the FFC family. And I welcome any skeptics of a vegan diet to take my classes and see how strong plants can be!

Post written by FFC Boystown Group Fitness Instructor Katie Simmons.

Related: want to try a nutrition session at FFC for free? Click here!

 

Katie Simmons group fitness instructor at FFC Chicago plant-based diet

About Katie Simmons

Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Halsted Street and a personal chef based in Chicago. When she’s not teaching, she specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com

Outside of the kitchen, she is a fitness instructor, with over 15 years of experience in the industry. For fun, she loves to travel. Some of her favorite trips include week of Holi Festival and Curry in Northern India, 4 nights hiking and camping on the Incan Trail in Peru, 10 days of trekking in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile, and 5 months backpacking through New Zealand.