Hello! I’m Robin, Health Coach and Chef of Skip the Box. Have food and eating been an area of struggle? Are you working around food allergies and/or intolerances and finding it hard to cook? Or perhaps you’re looking to make a few changes to your diet to improve your health? I love to provide encouragement and lend a helping hand in the kitchen to support you in reaching your goals.
I came across an avocado chocolate mousse recipe on Food52 and couldn’t pass up giving it a try. It didn’t contain any of my son’s allergens (peanuts, dairy, and/or eggs) and I’ve had really good luck with recipes from Food52, so I figured at the very least it would turn out to be decent.
It did not disappoint! With a few small tweaks, it has now become one of the favorite desserts at my house. It is rich, smooth, and chocolaty, with a hint of banana in the background (and no, it does not taste like avocados). My son has asked for it every day for a week, and my stepdaughter declared it “Awesome!!!” after nearly licking her bowl clean. I’d call that a success. :)
Avocado Banana Chocolate Mousse
Prep time: 10 minutes
Chilling time: 30+ minutes (can be eaten right after making but it’s even better cold)
Adapted from food52.com
6 oz (or about 1 heaping cup) chocolate chips or broken chocolate pieces (I used the allergy-friendly Enjoy Life Mega Chunks; you could use regular semi-sweet, milk, or dark chocolate chips/chunks if no allergies/intolerances)
1/4 cup milk (almond, coconut, soy, rice, cow — whatever you like; I used almondmilk)
1 t vanilla
1 ripe banana
Small pinch of salt (~1/8 t)
Maple syrup, honey, or agave to taste (I used ~2 T maple syrup)
1. Heat chocolate with milk in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until chocolate is melted.
2. In a food processor or blender, combine the chocolate/milk mixture with the remaining ingredients except the sweetener. Blend until smooth.
3. Check; add sweetener of choice to taste and blend until smooth again.
4. Divide into bowls and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge if you can wait that long. While it is best cold, it is still awesome right after being made (and that is when it is typically eaten at my house). So if you can’t wait, it will be okay. :)
To say food can be a personal issue is an understatement. Besides its basic function of fueling our bodies, food can be used as a way of celebrating, a means of showing love, or a way of numbing pain, among others. Diets are a dime a dozen, each providing support for why it is the one to follow with ways to prove it. We hear from food activists and lobbyists, as well as about “Big Food” versus locally-grown and organic. Add to that messy situation food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances. What the f*** should anyone eat? But the basic need for food remains — everyone has to eat to live. So, what do we do?
There is a lot I don’t know. I do know it’s not my place to tell someone else what is right for them. Life can be a complicated and complex journey, and I certainly don’t know all of the ins and outs of the lives of others. Heck – some of the time I’m lost in my own! While do I think some foods are more healthful than others, I don’t know if there is a “one size fits all” diet out there. And even if someone is eating all of the “right” and healthy foods but for the wrong reasons (yeah, I’ve been there), the negative energy that may accompany each meal probably isn’t a good thing.
In my own journey, I’ve slowly been shifting the way I eat to a more whole food, plant-based diet. Am I a vegan? No, but I lean that way. Do I always eat whole, unprocessed foods? No, not 100% of the time, though I try to do so as much as possible. Do I always buy organic, local, etc.? No, though when it is feasible I do. If I had to describe my diet, I would say it is one of moderation (or at least that is what I aim for!).
I’ve found that I don’t do well when I try to cut something out entirely (no sugar today = wait, all I want right now is a cookie and I will feel like a bear until I get one!!). However, I know that I feel more vibrant, awake, and alive when I eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and as I’ve become more aware around what I eat and how I feel, I find myself tending towards things that serve me inside and out.
I recently read a post that resonated with me by Luke Jones on Health Room about why he eats a whole food, plant-based diet. I also appreciate many of the things Lisa Leake shares on 100 Days of Real Food. There are so many other wonderful resources out there, and I think having access to so much info is great. What may speak to me may not speak to you and vice versa. And at the end of the day, I think many of the resources have a very similar underlying message about making changes to improve the health of each one of us as well as our planet – just slightly different routes to get there. :)
On that note, I’ll leave you with the link to an awesome dish I recently made: Quinoa with Carmelized Butternut Squash and Roasted Brussels Sprouts. It is vegetarian as written; if you want to go vegan, skip the cheese and butter (add more EVOO).
While getting dinner ready for my kiddos tonight, I really felt like having dessert too. I didn’t have anything already made and wanted something I could make quickly. Bingo – almond butter brownies from foodbabe.com. The batter is easy to throw together with ingredients I typically have on hand, as well as avoids the no-no items on my son’s allergy list (peanuts, dairy, and eggs). So, it is a winner in my house frequently.
The picture doesn’t do the brownies justice but it is what I could get before they were devoured. Yes – we ate them straight out of the pan while they were still warm. :)
Thai chicken quinoa bowls: one tasty lunch or dinner. My husband is not a huge quinoa fan and he liked the recipe, which tells me it is really good. And it’s quite quick to make — bonus!
Notes: Since my son is allergic to peanuts and eggs, I substituted almonds and almond butter for the peanuts and peanut butter, respectively, and skipped the egg. I used water instead of chicken broth since I didn’t have any on hand and also added two thinly sliced bell peppers along with the coleslaw mix (to use up some older peppers in my fridge). If you don’t have edamame handy, peas would be a great substitute.
I can’t remember the last time I really made New Year’s resolutions; I was never very good at sticking to any I did make and got discouraged easily. I’m usually way more successful when taking baby steps throughout the year. It’s funny — I used to scoff at baby steps and think only leaps would do until I realized I was rarely (if ever) successful at making any significant and sustained changes through leap attempts. :)
I recently read some tips for resolutions on foodbabe.com and appreciated what Vani the Food Babe had to say. If you’re looking to make some changes in 2014 and want to try something different, perhaps one of her suggestions will resonate with you: http://foodbabe.com/2014/01/08/resolutions/
While I don’t have any specific resolutions for 2014, I am always looking to try new and eat more vegetables. And coming into this year, this remains true. If you’re looking for new ideas, here are two dishes I recently made that I will definitely make again:
Happy New Year! I hope January is going splendidly for you.
As 2013 finished up and 2014 began, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my own personal journey over the past decade. Following a struggle with depression and bulimia during college and the years after, I’m truly grateful to be in a healthier and happier place today. With the support of my husband, extended family, friends, and two wonderful life coaches (Maripat and Jeanne), I’ve been able to move along the road to recovery and heal my relationship with my body and food (baby steps!), as well as learn a lot about myself. Thank you to so many for their love and support.
Along the way, I discovered a passion for cooking and whole self wellness. After much thought and deliberation, I made the leap into a new career and launched Skip the Box. I love what I do and am excited to have the opportunity to do it.
Moving into 2014, I’m excited to share more and expand Skip the Box’s services. If anything I do is able to make someone else smile, provide a little support during a challenging time, or make another feel a little less crazy, that makes me smile.
So on that note, I’ll share a quick link to a tasty treat to kick off the new year: fruit scones. Play around with other fresh or dried fruits; my family is partial to dried cranberries. For those looking to go the vegan route, try substituting coconut oil or a buttery vegan spread for the butter. I make them with coconut oil and have gotten rave reviews. :)
I wish everyone a very joyful and joy-filled 2014!
I found this cookie recipe a few months ago through a friend; she and her toddler had made them and said they were tasty. Since they didn’t contain anything my little guy couldn’t eat and he likes to help me in the kitchen, I thought we’d give the recipe a try. While it ended up he was more interested in the measuring cups and spooning the mashed banana out of the bowl than actually eating the cookies, I really liked them and thought they could be a nice change at breakfast instead of my usual bowl of oatmeal. So, I now make them periodically for me. :)
They are best hot out of the oven. I can’t tell you how they taste the next day since I’ve always scarfed the entire batch down in the same day. I call them “Breakfast Cookies” since, let’s be honest, they are different from your typical sugar, butter, etc., cookie. But hey — that doesn’t make them any less tasty and who doesn’t like the thought of eating cookies for breakfast?
Makes 10-12 cookies
Total prep and cook time: 25 minutes
Adapted from The Burlap Bag
Banana: 1 large (riper is better; I’ve also used 1 small or 1/2 large AND 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce, which is very good too)
Oatmeal: 1/2 C (quick cook oats make cookies with a better texture, though you can use the old-fashioned variety if that suits your fancy)
Cinnamon: 1/4 t
Salt: 1/8 t
Mix-in of your choice: 1/4-1/3 C (I really like using dried cranberries; you could use whatever you have or want (e.g., raisins, nuts, chocolate chips) or leave out altogether)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease baking sheet well and set aside (don’t forget to do this – you will not enjoy trying to get the cookies off the pan and then washing the pan later!).
2. In a bowl, mash the banana with a fork.
3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients until combined.
4. Spoon mixture by heaping tablespoon full onto the baking sheet (cookies won’t spread so you can put them close together).
5. Bake for 15-17 minutes (if using any applesauce, you’ll need to add a few extra minutes).
6. Remove to a cooling rack or directly to your plate (if you’re like me); enjoy!
Country-style pork ribs were on sale this week, so I bought two packages. While not technically ribs (in case you’re wondering — actually pork shoulder), they are still tasty and melt-in-your-mouth when cooked low and slow. I’m making them for dinner tonight; they’re currently in the slow cooker and the house smells great. With rice, cut veggies, and hummus, no one will leave the table hungry!
For the ribs, I’m using a recipe of Mike V’s from DadCooksDinner; I also like his BBQ spice rub and am using that too. These ribs are really as easy to make as the recipe states. Now granted I already had the spice rub made this time around, but even if I had not, it still would have taken less than 15 minutes to throw the rub together and get the ribs seasoned and into the slow cooker this morning. I love meals that actually are this easy and quick. :)
My son is all about our smoothie maker (basically a blender with a pour spout). I received it as a gift 7+ years ago but almost never used it for the first 5 (didn’t have much counter space at the time and once it was put away in the back of a cabinet, I rarely remembered it was there). About a year and a half ago, my son was sick with a bug and had a sore throat. To try and keep him hydrated, I pulled out the smoothie maker and whipped up a concoction — he loved it and thought the machine was nifty. Since then, the smoothie maker has had a place of honor on the counter and making smoothies is something we do at least a few mornings a week. He loves to help and will insist I bring over a chair so he can add in ingredients and turn it off and on.
I never used to be into green smoothies. The thought of blending *gasp* a leafy green into a sweet drink didn’t sound appetizing at all. For whatever reason (I can’t recall right now; I was probably trying to get rid of some spinach before it went bad or something) I decided to add a handful of baby spinach to our morning smoothie. And you know what? It was really good! The spinach taste was not strong at all, just an earthy note in the background, and the green color was actually kind of awesome. My son loved the smoothies too, and even my husband and stepdaughter (who are good sports and will usually try new things but who aren’t big fans of extra vegetables) thought the green smoothies were tasty. And if I can get everyone to have a few extra vegetables, I’m all over that.
This morning was a green smoothie day; below is the basic recipe we used. Smoothies are great in that you can dump in pretty much whatever sort of fruit you have and it will taste good without needing to add any sweeteners (though I’ve found having some banana with whatever other fruit you like helps the consistency), as well as easily modify the recipe to be food allergy-friendly. If you’re looking for something new to try in the morning (or afternoon or evening), perhaps a green smoothie is something to put on the list. :)
Basic green smoothie
Total prep time: 5 minutes
Baby spinach: 2 C packed
Milk: ~1.5 C (I go with almond milk since my son can’t have dairy + it adds a nice nutty flavor, but you could go with whatever you like)
Banana: 1 large or 2 small
1. Put spinach and milk in the blender; mix until smooth (important to mix spinach first to make sure it gets fully incorporated).
2. Add banana; mix until smooth.
3. If too thick, add in a little more milk and mix again.
Last week, my toddler son and his friend helped me harvest garlic and onions I had planted last fall. They thought it was great fun to pull things out of the ground and get dirty. :)
While my garden is not what I’d ultimately like it to be (after harvesting the garlic and onions, I’ve just got some rosemary, thyme, sage, and chives), I feel a sense of accomplishment whenever I am able to use something I grow. Over the past year it’s been tough to give the garden and plants the care they need with a little one around who likes to walk and dig in the boxes (you mean you don’t want me to dig up those newly planted seeds, Mommy?). However, my little guy so loves to help and is getting bigger, so we’ll be trying to add some things to the garden for the summer that he can help me with (pumpkins, beans, peas, ???).