Don’t Like Zucchini? You Don’t Need to With This Sneaky Black Forest Smoothie

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie With Zucchini

Smoothies are ubiquitous these days. Really, everyone’s drinking them (yup, including me). I can see why; as long as you make them right, they’re a great way to get a double dose of fruits and veggies for breakfast or a snack. Of course, when you look at the ingredient list of some smoothie recipes, they’re more like dessert: loaded with fruit and then even more sweeteners. Really, you should not need to add honey, no matter how healthy you think honey is, to your smoothie if you have at least some fruit in it.

I have my go-to green smoothie recipe, which I’ll share one of these days, but recently I’ve been experimenting with other fruits, veggies, and flavors. Inspired by a sale on cherries and some leftover zucchini just about to go bad, today I thought a sneaky black forest smoothie might hit the spot. And sure enough it did. Continue reading

It’s Easier Than You Think to Make Homemade Natural Peanut Butter

Homemade Peanut Butter

The first Whole Foods came to the Pittsburgh market in 2002, a few years after I moved to the area, so I remember the locals’ reaction. It was the first store of its kind in Pittsburgh, and it was quite the attraction for some time. And the one thing everyone marveled over was the nut butter grinder. “You can make your own ‘homemade’ peanut butter!” Amazing.

As a runner and plant-based eater, nuts are on my daily menu. They’re a great source of healthy fats and a good source of protein, and they’re calorie dense to replenish what I burn through exercise. Plus I use them as a stand-in for cheese atop salads and pastas, since they lend a similar richness (and saltiness, if you use salted varieties). Nut butters are also a delicious—never mind easy—dip for veggies like raw carrots and celery, which helps me fit even more vegetables into my day. Continue reading

Beet-Berry Smoothies Are a Sneaky Way to Add Vegetables to Your Breakfast

Beet-Berry Smoothie

After years of resistance, I’ve finally jumped on board the smoothie trend. In my ongoing attempt to eat healthier, I’ve found that smoothies are a sneaky way to have vegetables for breakfast and love them. Skeptical? So was I, but when you blend them with fruit or other flavorings, you really can barely taste the vegetables. (Notice I said “barely.” If you don’t want to taste them at all, you’re going to have to use added sweeteners, which I’m not down with, so “barely” is a good enough compromise for me.)

This beet-berry smoothie is an absolutely gorgeous color, thanks to the anthocyanins that lend both hue and health (preventing inflammation, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes). Beets also contain nitrate, which not only helps with heart disease but has been found to improve running performance. Veggies that make me a faster runner? Yes, please! Continue reading

Nutella and Bananas Marry Again, This Time in a Healthy Granola

Banana Nutella Granola

Like a beacon of light in a foggy night, World Nutella Day offers hope in the middle of a cold, gray winter.

(Can you tell I’ve had it up to here with snow and subfreezing temperatures?)

World Nutella DaySeriously, though, aside from the obvious tie-in with Valentine’s Day just over a week later, early February is the perfect time of year to celebrate all things chocolate and hazelnut. It’s far enough away from both New Year’s resolutions and summer bathing suit season that you can allow for a little indulgence. So grab a spoon and dig in, or make one of the many decadent recipes that Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle from Bleeding Espresso (the holiday’s sponsors) have compiled for the occasion. Continue reading

How I Finally Put My Running Injury Into Perspective

Running with Lauren Fleshman

Despite my valiant efforts at anti-inflammatory eating, icing, anti-inflammatory gel application, and continued rehabilitation exercises, my IT band/knee is still giving me fits. Back in June I thought I had recovered completely, but after a race at the end of that month, a nagging pain started setting in during the last few minutes of my longer runs. A few more weeks passed, and the pain started happening even sooner. Now, some days I can only run a mile before the pain hits; other days, I’m good to go for three, four, or even five miles. There’s no rhyme or reason, and that’s part of my frustration.

And so frustrated tears were shed, there may have been some yelling (hey, I’m Italian), and I entered last weekend at a turning point. It was the Great Race 10K, something I registered for back in February before I even knew what my IT band was. Continue reading

Celebrate Oktoberfest With These German-Inspired Cheese and Beer Pairings

Market District German cheese beer pairing

Last week, I was the lucky invited guest of Market District at a cheese and beer paring event in its Robinson Township store.* Because of the time of year (Oktoberfest, anyone?), the evening’s activities centered around those two hallmarks of Bavarian cuisine. Yes, they’re not exactly hallmarks of an anti-inflammatory diet, but I am a firm follower of the rule of moderation, so a night of cheating with cheese and beer still works with that philosophy.

Giant Eagle’s cheese category manager, Gianfranco DiCarlo, Jr., led the group through a tasting of five beer and cheese combinations, most of them German inspired, which really opened my eyes to how beer can influence the taste of food. I’ve done the same thing with wine many times, but never beer, but as DiCarlo pointed out, beer is actually much easier than wine to pair with foods, especially cheese. I’m totally editorializing here—DiCarlo did not use this particular analogy, merely the essence—but wine is like a cat, a little finicky and difficult to get along with unless you find the right combination. Beer is more like a dog, friendlier with a variety of foods and generally easygoing with everyone. Continue reading

The Secret to This No-Dairy-and-Sugar Ice Cream? Shhh . . . It’s Bananas

Chocolate Almond Banana Ice Cream

Guys.

I am such a bad food blogger. I’ve been enjoying this ice cream all summer long and I haven’t shared it with you until now. The biggest reason why? I can’t stop eating it long enough to take a picture.

But that’s okay, because there’s nothing bad in here at all. It’s literally just bananas, cocoa powder, and a hint of almond butter and vanilla. No dairy or sugar for those of us on anti-inflammatory diets, yet you’d never in your life know it. Technically, that makes it a banana sorbet, not ice cream, but who’s really counting? Whatever it is, it’s delicious and healthy yet feels like you’re indulging. Continue reading