Gluten Free and Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

By Jena Branco, Marketing Coordinator, Brand & Marketing Communications, SECL

This Gluten-free and Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is healthy and delicious. It’s so easy to make and oh so creamy … but sssshhhhh, don’t tell your family there’s no dairy in it!

What I love about this Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese recipe is that it combines two of my favourite comfort foods: pasta and cream sauce!  Butternut squash isn’t only the colour of cheddar cheese, but makes a super creamy sauce when it’s cooked and blended.  Although I’m not lactose intolerance, I’m finding these days my body doesn’t seem to react too fairly when I consume dairy products, so my search for an amazing creamy sauce (without the cheese) was on!

After trying a few recipes I found on the internet, I decided to create my own (inspired by a combination of 2-3 recipes). As I’ve written many times, my son is the pickiest of eaters — if he knew butternut squash is a “vegetable”, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t touch this dish again. Luckily for me, he couldn’t tell the difference! My butternut squash creamy sauce isn’t too strong in flavour or spice and by making this vegan version of mac and cheese , it is a great way to sneak in some healthy veggies and make this traditional dish more nutritious.  

What You’ll Need in this Recipe:

  • Pasta – You can use any type of pasta you like; whole wheat, gluten free or regular. However, I used Brown Rice pasta in the shape of shells as a gluten-free option.
  • Butternut Squash – Try to buy a medium sized butternut squash for this recipe. If you buy a really large squash, you can freeze the rest in a tightly sealed freezer bag up to 3 months. They also sell pre-cubed butternut squash in the produce aisle, if you don’t want to peel and cut your own.  Or, you can buy the cubed frozen butternut squash in the freezer aisle.
  • Plant Based Milk – I usually have almond or cashew milk around but you can use any kind of plant based milk you like, just make sure it’s plain and unsweetened.
  • Nutritional Yeast – There are quite a few spices in this recipe but the most important is nutritional yeast. It’s what gives the butternut squash mac and cheese its’ cheesy flavour without adding any dairy.  It’s usually sold in the natural food section of your grocery store, or in the spice aisle at Whole Foods, but in my case, I had to order it from Amazon as the two grocery stores I went to were completely sold out.
  • Almond Flour (optional) – I use almond flour (toasted in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes) — instead of breadcrumbs — for a true gluten-free recipe.

How to Make Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

This recipe is really easy to make and there are only a few steps:

  • You start by washing the outside of the Butternut Squash before cutting in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roasted squash always has tons of flavour, so this is how I like to cook mine. I used the Superheated Steam Oven at 400°F in the Supersteam Roast function for 20 to 25 minutes, however if using a conventional oven, roast at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes.
  •  Add the roasted butternut squash by scooping out the insides into a high powered food processor or blender along with almond milk, spices and the nutritional yeast. Blend until it’s silky smooth.
  • Cook your favourite pasta according to package directions (usually, adding pasta to a pot with lightly salted water, bring water to a boil and simmer until tender), drain and then pour the butternut squash cream sauce and mix together. And … serve and eat! 
  • If so desired, you could put it in a baking dish and bake it in the oven at 350°F for about 15 minutes to get a nice crust on top.
  • Optional: Set a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spread almond flour on parchment or silicone lined baking sheet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until toasted and fragrant. Then sprinkle a tablespoon or two on top of your mac and cheese prior to serving!
Roasted butternut squash

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups of Brown Rice pasta
  • 1 medium sized butternut squash
  • 1 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk (you can add an extra 1/2 cup if it’s too thick)
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup almond flour

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat Superheated Steam Oven at 400°F in the Supersteam Roast function.
  2. Wash butternut squash, cut it in half length wise, and cook for 20-25 minutes in the bottom tray of oven.
  3. Scoop out butternut squash and add to a blender along with the almond milk, nutritional yeast and all the spices. Blend until creamy, about 1 minute.
  4. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and add back to the pot. Pour butternut squash sauce over the top and mix until combined. You can turn the stove heat on, if you need to warm it up. Serve and eat!
  5. If so desired, you could put it in a baking dish and bake it in the oven at 350°F for about 15 minutes to get a nice crust on top.
  6. Optional: Preheat Superheated Steam Oven at 350°F in the Convection Bake function. Spread almond flour on parchment or silicone lined baking sheet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until toasted and fragrant. Then sprinkle a tablespoon or two on top of your mac and cheese prior to serving! Topping off with some chopped basil and red pepper flakes makes this dish look too good to eat!

Mindful Work-from-Home Snack Ideas

By Gina Greco, Senior Brand Marketing Specialist, SEMCA

**NOTE:   The Sharp Superheated Steam Countertop Oven (SSC0586DS) is not sold in Canada.  


We’ve all been there: it’s 3:00 pm during a busy workday, and hunger hits! It can be easy to gravitate towards a bag of chips or sugary granola bar because it’s pre-packaged and ready to go, but oftentimes those snacks will leave you feeling unsatisfied and hungrier. We are sharing some of our favorite go-to snacks to have during the week that is simple to prep the night before or require only a few minutes to put together. Whether you’re craving something salty or sweet- we’ve got you covered!

Homemade Hummus

hummas

Hummus is one of our favorite snacks because it is so versatile and can be paired with various foods like fresh veggies, crackers, or toast! This recipe from Inspired Taste is versatile and tastes so delicious; you’ll never repurchase store-bought hummus again.

Ingredients:

chick peas

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 1/4 cup well-stirred tahini
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water

Instructions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds more. This extra time helps “whip” or “cream” the tahini, making the hummus smooth and creamy.
  2. Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then process another 30 seconds or until well blended. Open, drain, and rinse the chickpeas. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Most likely, the hummus will be too thick or still have tiny bits of chickpea. To fix this, with the food processor turned on, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until you reach the perfect consistency.
  4. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of paprika. Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week.

Frozen Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites

banana bites

Curb your sweet tooth with these mouthwatering chocolate peanut butter banana bites from Not Enough Cinnamon! These are a delicious, mindful choice, including healthy fat from peanut butter, potassium from the banana, and antioxidants from the dark chocolate. We love to add a bit of flaky sea salt on top to finish them off! YUM!

Ingredients:

  • 3 bananas ripe but still firm
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter or your favorite nut butter
  • 10 oz dark chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil *optional but recommended!

banana bites

Instructions:

  1. Cut the banana into slices (about 1/4 inch – 0.7 cm each). Set aside half of the slices and arrange the other half on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  2. Heat peanut butter in the microwave on low/medium for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring in between, until it’s smooth and easily spreadable.
  3. Spoon about one heaped 1/4 teaspoon (up to 1/2 teaspoon if the banana is large) on the banana slices you arranged on the baking sheet. Top with the other half of the banana slices you set aside earlier. Freeze for two hours.
  4. When the banana sandwiches are frozen, prepare the chocolate. Place chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips if using) in a microwave-safe bowl along with the coconut oil (it helps the chocolate melt and stay smooth).
  5. Microwave on low/medium heat in 30 seconds bursts, stirring between each until chocolate is fully melted and glossy (watch carefully, so the chocolate doesn’t burn).
  6. Prepare another baking sheet (or a plate) with parchment paper. Take two to three bites out of the freezer. One by one, dip them in the melted chocolate and, using two forks, “roll” them in chocolate to cover all sides.
  7. Remove excess chocolate and place it on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining frozen sandwiches.
  8. Place the chocolate covered bites back in the freezer until set. Once they are set, you can transfer them to a container. Store in the freezer.

Homemade Potato Chips

potato chip

Ditch the bag of oily chips and make your own using this recipe from Bowl of Delicious! It’s SO simple and only requires 3 ingredients! Bake using our SuperSteam+ Wall Oven or Superheated Steam Countertop Oven for best results.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of thinly sliced potatoes of any kind will work (about 2 medium-sized potatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Other spices, such as black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, etc. *optional

Instructions:

potato chip

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the potato slices (2 cups) and olive oil (1 tablespoon). Mix well, so every surface of every slice of potato is covered evenly- you may want to use your hands for this since the sliced potatoes may stick together.
  3. Place the sliced potatoes on the prepared baking sheet, making sure they don’t overlap (but they can touch a little on the edges). Sprinkle them evenly with the kosher salt (1 teaspoon)and any other spices you want to use. Bake in the top half of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Turn OFF the oven and allow to sit in the oven. At the same time, it cools off 15-30 minutes (this is optional if you’re in a hurry, but highly recommended, as it will make the potatoes crispier. Keep an eye on them through- the residual heat can quickly burn them if you aren’t careful!).
  4. Serve potato chips plain or with your favorite dipping sauce.

Crunchy Granola Clusters

granola clusters

Trail mix is so 2020. Upgrade your snacking with this granola recipe from blogger, From Scratch Fast! We love topping our yogurt off with this or grabbing a handful when we need something crunchy and nutrient-dense.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats, divided
  • 1 cup pecans
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped dried fruit, such as apricots, dates, cranberries, currants, cherries, etc.
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey (or a mix of both)
  • ¼ cup virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions:

granola clusters

  1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Put ½ cup of the rolled oats in the food processor and process to coarse flour. Add the remaining oats, along with the pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, coconut, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse until the nuts are coarsely chopped, about 5-6 pulses.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup or honey, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Pour the syrup mixture over the ingredients in the food processor, and pulse until the mixture comes together and looks damp, about 8 pulses.
  4. Transfer the granola to the baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula, press it into a ½-inch thick rectangle, about 8×12-inches large. Bake 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 190 degrees and bake until lightly browned along the edges, golden on top, and firm to the touch, about 20-25 minutes longer.
  5. Cool the granola on the pan. Break it into clusters before serving.

No Bake Energy Bites

By Jena Branco, Marketing Coordinator, Brand & Marketing Communications, SECL

With only a few ingredients, these no-bake energy bites are delicious, super easy to make, portable when you’re on the go, and loaded with nutrients!

So what are Energy Bites? Energy bites are sweet, no bake treats, usually made with nuts and other healthy ingredients mixed in a food processor, formed into a ball, chilled, and enjoyed. Energy bites go by a variety of names; energy balls, protein balls, bliss balls, date balls and vegan truffles, to name a few.

Energy bites are really good for you too. They are full with nutrients made with super and whole foods, high in plant protein, healthy carbs, good fats, and fiber. Basically, they are the guilt-free, energy hit and the perfect snack!

Try them soon, once you do, you’ll be making these all the time!

How to Make Energy Balls

  • In a food processor, mix all ingredients together. Pulse until it forms into a sticky dough.
  • Roll into bite-sized balls, make sure your hands are clean, or use a mini-scoop
  • Decorate the energy balls (if you want). Roll in coconut, finely chopped nuts, cocoa powder, or even drizzle melted chocolate on top.
  • Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator
  • Store in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 5 days (if it lasts that long)

Notes:

  • Remove pits from the medjool dates. Be sure your dates are pit-free before adding to the food processor.
  • Use fresh medjool dates. If possible, soft/fresh medjool dates are ideal for this recipe. However, if you only have access to dry/hard dates, no worries. Soak the dates in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain the water completely. Pat the dates dry with a paper towel and use.
  • Use shredded coconut. Make sure you are using shredded coconut, otherwise known as desiccated coconut, instead of coconut flakes.

Below I have provided a few of my favourite Energy bite recipes for you to try and enjoy.


Salted Caramel Coconut Bliss Balls

This recipe was adapted from Choosing Chia. These bliss balls are healthy, easy, and are refine sugar-free! This recipe are suitable for raw, vegan, and gluten-free diets. Despite the sweet flavour, no refine sugar is added, instead, it’s naturally sweetened with the medjool dates.

Ingredients

  • 12 Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1 cup Almonds, raw
  • ¼ cup Shredded Coconut, unsweetened (plus extra for rolling)
  • ¼ tsp Himalayan Pink Salt or Sea Salt

Makes approximately 15 – 17 energy balls (129 kcal per ball).


Coconut Walnut Energy Balls

These coconut walnut energy balls require no baking. I like to double the recipe, as these don’t last too long around my family.

Ingredients

  • 15 Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1½ cups Walnuts, raw
  • ½ cup Shredded Coconut, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ tsp Himalayan Pink Salt or Sea Salt
  • ¼ cup Shredded Coconut, unsweetened, for rolling

Makes approximately 15 – 20 energy balls (136 kcal per ball).


Pistachio & Cranberry Energy Balls

These pistachio and cranberry energy balls are sweet, yet healthy! With only 3 ingredients, this makes for an easy paleo and vegan snack.

Ingredients

  • 14 Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 2 cups Pistachio, raw
  • ½ cup Cranberries, dried and unsweetened
  • 2 tsp of Hot Water
  • ¼ cup Finely Chopped Pistachio, raw, for rolling (optional)

Makes approximately 15 – 20 energy balls (132 kcal per ball).


Pistachio Matcha Date Balls

Enjoy the health benefits of matcha green tea in this date ball recipe. Although matcha is an acquired taste, they are packed full of nutrients and antioxidants!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Cashews, raw
  • ¼ cup Pistachios, raw
  • 12 Medjool dates, pits removed
  • ¼ cup Shredded Coconut, unsweetened
  • 2 tsp Green Tea Matcha Powder
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • ¼ cup Finely Chopped Pistachio, raw, for rolling (optional)

Makes approximately 15 – 20 energy balls (125 kcal per ball).


Coconut Lemon Chia Energy Balls

This gluten-free treat is sweet, refreshing, and of course, nutritious! If you are vegan, substitute the raw honey with maple syrup.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons Lemon Juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons Chia Seeds
  • 1½ cups Gluten-Free Rolled Oats
  • ½ cup Flaked Coconut, unsweetened (plus extra for rolling)
  • 4 tablespoons Raw Honey or Maple Syrup

Makes approximately 20 – 24 balls (41 kcal per ball).



Staying Well This Fall

By Gina Greco, Senior Brand Marketing Specialist, SEMCA

Fall is the perfect season to slow down and take a look at your health and wellness.  And with so many fun activities to do in the fall — apple picking, corn mazes, fall festivals —  you will want to stay as healthy as possible to enjoy it all!

However, Fall also brings the start of cold and flu season, along with the temptation to stay inside and eat comfort foods.  But don’t give up on your health just yet.  Keeping up your exercise routine, eating mindfully, and resting enough can keep your health on track this fall season.  It also will boost your immune system if you continue your mindful habits through the end of the year.

Are you ready to finish the last days of the year strong?  Here are 12 fall wellness tips to keep you feeling your best!

Make Smart Swaps on Comfort Foods

There’s nothing like a savory, rich soup on a crisp fall day.  Instead of making a calorie-rich clam chowder with cream, consider opting for a veggie soup filled with fiber-rich vegetables like spinach and cauliflower.  Love sweet potatoes? Slather it with coconut oil and cinnamon instead of butter.

Consume Immunity-Boosting Foods

As the weather gets colder and flu season starts, it is important for your immune system to be in tip-top shape.  Eating mindfully foods with vitamin C (like limes, oranges, and clementines) is key to fighting off infections.  Garlic, ginger, spinach, and almonds are also big winners when it comes to boosting your health and immunity.  Sorry, but a sugary Pumpkin Spice Latte did not make the list!

Dine-In with Your Family

Fall is a perfect time to regroup as a family and reconnect over dinner.  Families who dine together tend to eat more nutritious meals. It also strengthens family relationships and can even help fast eaters slow down and appreciate food more.

Get a Flu Shot

Want to know how to stay healthier during flu season?  Get the once-a-year flu vaccine!  The vaccine can reduce flu illnesses, missed work, and doctor’s office visits. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions.

Schedule Your Annual Check-Up

And where is a great place to get you flu shot?  During your annual physical, of course!  If you have not scheduled your annual physical yet, now is the time.  Get bloodwork and all the accompanying tests done in this calendar year to stay on top of your health!

Snack on Seasonal Foods

This time of year, beautiful vegetables and fruits make their appearance in grocery stores.  Some nutrient-dense options to consider adding to your plate: Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, crab apples, cranberries, and turnips.  Get adventurous and try a new produce item!

Rise and Shine at the Same Time

As the sun goes down earlier, it can throw off your natural energy and sleep cycles.  Try to maintain a sleep schedule of at least seven hours and keep your normal bedtime and waking hours the same as the rest of the year.  Remember: the end of Daylight Savings is right around the corner!

Drink More Water

As it gets colder, your body can quickly lose fluid due to the high energy rates used in colder climates.  And thanks to heavier clothing, you may sweat more.  Our health insurance partner Cigna recommends an average of 6-8 cups of water daily.  An appropriate water intake will also keep your skin supple, which can be a problem as the weather gets drier.  Keep your water intake high as fall fades into winter, too.

Switch up Your Fitness Routines

If you live in colder climates, you may have to give up your outdoor runs soon.  Keep your heart rates up by taking some of your routines indoors and slowly incorporating indoor gym sessions.  Try a new class like kickboxing or salsa to get your cardio fix.  If gyms have not reopened in your area or the gym isn’t for you, check out the attached “Stay Fit While Staying Home” Wellness Wednesday edition from July.

Get Enough Vitamin D

This essential vitamin helps the body absorb calcium.  When fall arrives, daylight — one source of vitamin D — is less available.  That’s why it is important to either take a supplement or eat a varied diet to maintain appropriate vitamin D levels through fall and winter.  Cod liver oil, salmon, tuna, and milk are a few ways to get your vitamin D.

Sterilize Your Most Touched Items

Your cell phone, keyboard, remote, and tablet are all germ habitats.  It’s good to make it a habit to sanitize these areas with Clorox wipes.  Throughout the cold and flu season, you will definitely want to make sure you are sanitizing these areas regularly.

Be Kind to Yourself

The holidays can cause weight gain, the shorter days can cause low mood, and the flu season can cause sickness.  Listen to your body and give it what it needs, and don’t beat yourself up!  Try reframing negative thoughts into positive ones.  Incorporating changes to your daily routines can be hard, so try incorporating one tip a week.  Ask a colleague to join you in checking off each of these tips as they become your new mindful habits!


Immunity Boosting Recipes for the Fall

By Gina Greco, Senior Brand Marketing Specialist, SEMCA

We love the fall for so many things – cooler temperatures, the vibrant colors of autumn, and pumpkin-spiced everything (of course)! With the change in season and current state of our world, it’s important to be mindful of the choices you make every day for your health and wellness. We are sharing 3 of our favorite immune-boosting recipes on the blog that are filled with nutrient-dense foods and will nourish you from the inside out. If you make any of these, be sure to tag us on Instagram @sharphomeusa and use the hashtag #SimplyBetterLiving and #SharpHome.

Orange-Ginger Smoothie from the Endless Meal

This recipe is full of whole foods and makes a great grab-and-go breakfast option or mid-afternoon snack. It includes oranges, which are full of vitamin C, and carrots, which are high in vitamin A. The “zing” from the ginger and anti-inflammatory properties of the turmeric makes this one nutrient-dense smoothie! A great optional add-in would be a handful of leafy greens like spinach or kale.

Ingredients:

  • 2 navel oranges, quartered and peeled
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 1 – a 1/2-inch piece of turmeric, peeled (or 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric)
  • A pinch of black pepper

Directions:

  1. Add all the ingredients + 1 cup of ice cubes to your high-powered blender (I love my Vitamix for this) and blend on high until smooth. Add up to a cup of water for a more juice-like smoothie.

Lentil Soup from I Heart Vegetables

Nothing screams comforting and nourishing like a big bowl of soup, especially on a crisp autumn night. This recipe is one of our favorites and can be totally customizable with what’s in your pantry or fridge. Have some leftover zucchini sitting around? Toss it in! Want to add some extra protein? Shredded chicken is the solution! The options are endless, and the final product will give your body a little extra boost.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 1/2 lb.) diced into ½” cubes
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup red lentils, uncooked and rinsed
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup kale, destemmed and torn into 1” pieces
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat for 1 minute.
  2. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
  4. Add the turmeric and paprika and continue to cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the lemon juice, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, red lentils, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Once the soup begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sweet potato is soft.
  7. Add kale and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes until the kale has softened and wilted slightly.
  8. Season with salt to taste.

Blackened Tempeh, Avocado, Kale Salad with Vegan Cajun Ranch from Feasting At Home

Salads get a bad reputation for being boring and bland, but this recipe is anything but! This recipe includes tempeh, which is a wonderful plant-based protein that is high in B Vitamins and has immune-boosting benefits. Additionally, making the base of your salad with Kale will boost up the vitamin C and antioxidant benefits, even further making this one seriously dense and delicious bowl.

Ingredients:

Cajun Vegan Ranch Dressing

  •  ⅓ cup vegan ranch dressing (or sub your favorite store-bought ranch)
  • ½ –1 teaspoon Cajun spice blend  (or sub ¼ teaspoon paprika and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne)

Blackened Tempeh:

  • 1 block tempeh
  • 2–3 tablespoons Cajun Spice like Black Magic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4–5 leaves of Lacinato kale, tough stems removed ( or use 3 cups pre-shredded kale )
  • 1 teaspoon oil, pinch salt, lemon zest from ½ a lemon
  • 4 radishes, sliced ( or sub cucumber slices… or ribbons are nice)
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • avocado, sliced
  • ¼ cup pickled onions ( optional)
  • Optional add-ons sprouts or microgreens, cooked quinoa, large whole wheat tortillas, sauerkraut.

Directions:

  1. Stir the Cajun spice into the dressing, starting conservatively. Taste, and add more to taste. You want it bold!
  2. Add the tempeh, whole to a sauté pan of generously salted water, just enough to cover it. Let simmer gently for 8-10 minutes to help soften and reduce bitterness. Slice it into ½ inch wide slices and generously coat each side with Cajun Spices.
  3. Pan-sear the tempeh in a little oil until crispy and heated through. Set aside.
  4. Stack the kale ( removing any thick stems) and cut into thin ribbons. Place in a bowl and add a teaspoon or two of olive oil ( just enough to barely coat), a pinch of salt, and lemon zest. Massage with your fingers until tender. To the kale, add the radishes, scallion, pickled onion, and avocado. Toss with some of the Vegan Ranch dressing, enough to coat. ( You can also keep everything separate, especially if making grain bowls)
  5. Either divide the salad among bowls or place it in a warm, whole wheat tortilla, topped with the blackened tempeh and sprouts.
  6. The salad is hearty enough that it will taste good the next day.

Immunity-Boosting Hot Chocolate from Clean and Delicious

Life’s too short not to finish the day with something sweet (at least that is what I always tell myself)! This hot chocolate recipe includes mindful ingredients like raw cacao, which is full of antioxidants and natural sweetness from the honey. A big cup of this at the end of the day is an excellent way to sneak in additional nutrients and immune benefits for you and your family.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of milk, either whole milk preferably grass-fed or plain unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated peeled turmeric root
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. coconut oil optional

Instructions:

  1. Place the milk, cocoa powder, sweetener, turmeric, cinnamon, and coconut oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, occasionally whisking until the cocoa and spices are mixed well, and the mixture is warmed through.
  2. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

Fun Family Fall Festivities

 

By Daniel Troise, Marketing Intern, SEMCA

There is no doubt that these past six months have been very different and inconsistent. Not knowing what the next few weeks will bring, I have spent a bit more time at home and thinking of ways to reinvent some of my favorite fall activities. Surprisingly, there are many ways to adapt to all your activities and not miss out on them. Throughout this fall activity roundup, I plan to share with you some of the most adaptive and innovative ways to partake in family-fun fall activities without leaving home or practicing social distancing.

The only thing normal about this past year would be the weather, and the weather calls for certain activities. If you have children, it is important that you really capture these perfect fall moments with them so you can look back and remember them even if you alter them from the traditional format. Spending time with your loved ones doing seasonal and festive activities always brings out the best in everyone and puts a smile on everyone’s face.

As usual, we love to hear and see how our favorite readers are enjoying the tips and awesome content we love to deliver. If you have any favorite fall activities at home or enjoy any of these, feel free to let us know by connecting with us on social using #SharpHome on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Mother and daughter in pumpkin patch

The Backyard Pumpkin Patch

You guessed as I spoiled it right at the party. As I look over my backyard right now, I see a large green space that could serve as the perfect pumpkin patches that my niece and nephew will absolutely love and remember forever. You can even sell the idea of telling them you have a private pumpkin patch. Surpassingly, with little work and a straightforward process, you can create a patch in your own backyard while making family memories without leaving your home.

It’s October, meaning pumpkins are for sale everywhere and not just a typical pumpkin patch at the farm. You can find them when you are walking into the grocery store or even at a stand on the sign of the road. So next time you are out picking up your favorite groceries, pick up a few pumpkins to spread across your lawn. Just make sure you have room in your trunk to carry them all. You may want to pick up a few more pumpkins than there are people so that the pickers still feel like they have a choice. The rest you can use for decorations on your front porch or anywhere you feel fit.

Young girl holding a pumpkin

The next step is to unload them and place them in the garage or a place where the kids may not see them. If you check the weather beforehand, you may be able to put them outside right away. Spread them each 6 feet apart to ensure you practice social distancing guidelines and only invite close family and friends. Between limiting the number of people and keeping it outside, you should be good to go.

Once all the pumpkins are set, call all the pumpkin pickers outside to pick their pumpkins. Some may want the big ones, while some small, so having a few extras, so there are more options is ideal.

Painting pumpkins outdoors

This does not need to stop here. If you want to take this a step further, set up a table with carving materials (under adult supervision, of course) and some paint to throw on the pumpkins. This will allow the children to tap into their creative side and make the pumpkin their own.

Overall, pumpkin picking is a staple activity every season, and this year it should be no different. Trust me, after thinking of this idea, and I just knew I had to share it with you. Have fun!

Family in Halloween costumes

Old-Costume Fashion Show

Want to know a little secret? Everyone loves a rainy day now and then. It is a day to take a break from the sun and not feel guilty about staying indoors. This past weekend, it poured all weekend, and rain has been in the forecast in New Jersey. This can sometimes create a bit of mystery about what you are going to do. I mean, you can always revert to cleaning out closets or painting a room in your house but trust me, that can’t be too fun and seems like a lot of work.

In my attic and in the back of my closet, there are bins of old Halloween costumes that I probably spent a fortune on and never worn again. From vampires to famous singers and all the cool wigs and accessories, why not take this chance to get out those old bins and place them all in the middle. Have the children design and create their own costumes, mixing and matching all the old pieces. If you want to jump into the fun, be my guest.

Not only is this an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane, but for sure guarantee laughs along the way. As a child, I remember the whole month of October just being a countdown to the final day, Halloween.  While picking out your design fit, put on a Halloween movie. This just will add and make the environment much more festive.

Once the kids have picked out and organized their costumes, send them to their rooms to change when they don’t need help getting into their new personas, clear and identify a runway to have your fashion show, and show your kids the way to come down. Once you have communicated it with them, grab a seat on the couch and make scorecards with the numbers 1-10 (or whichever interval you choose). And let the show begin!

Each child or participant will walk down and strut their custom costume in front of the judge’s panel. Once everyone is done, the ones with the highest score win. Feel free to make this go 2-3 rounds if everyone is down. Once we have declared a winner, you can reward them with candy, favorite dinners, etc. Overall, this is a fun and cheap way to have family fun indoors or on a rainy day.

Orange bath bomb

DIY Pumpkin Bath Bomb

One recent trend that I have noticed to be skyrocketing are bath bombs. The concept is that it is a figure with specific colors that turns your body of water, most likely a bath, into the color that you desire, creating a specific vibe. Even though this trend is huge amongst young adults, the children will love them just as much and if not more.

If you have young ones at home, you may know that the nighttime routine can be quite difficult. Between getting everyone bathed, teeth brushed, and the pajamas on adding a bit of creativity to the process may engage them. This should overall make your evenings simpler and put a smile on their face.

So, I am sure you guessed it by now. We are going to make bath bombs! This awesome craft idea from “Fun at Home with Kids” is the perfect way to get everyone involved and have them look forward to bath time. Just make sure that you leave enough time to make them, approximately an hour and a half before bath time.

Father bathing two children

Surprisingly, you won’t need much to make these bath bombs, and you most likely have all the supplies in your home and throughout cabinets. Start searching for olive oil, citric acid powder, cinnamon, and baking soda. Additionally, you may want to look for a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter and liquid food coloring. No cookie-cutter, no worries. You can always tap into your artistic craft and use your hands to form the shapes.

Let’s go through the steps:

  1. Grab a large bowl and pour in 1 1/2 cups of baking soda and a tablespoon of cinnamon, stirring them together.
  2. Once stirred, we are going to add in some color. If you have liquid watercolors, add about 3/4 teaspoon, or have food coloring drops, add a few along with 3/4 teaspoon of water.  
  3. Next, add in about 6 tablespoons of citric acid powder and completely mix it. Don’t worry if it is a bit cold, that’s known to be normal.
  4. Add in 2 teaspoons of olive oil and mix it to create a dry dough. At this point, you can act like it is cookie dough and create the bath bombs. Use the pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter or your hands to make the shape. Allow for it to dry for about an hour or more, then take it to the bath and watch the magic happen!
Woman enjoying nature with mask

Nature Walks Are Key

When we all think of the Fall season, the biggest indicator is the leaves changing. Ask anyone to pull out their phone or camera. I can almost guarantee that they have pictures of orange and yellow leaves changing from green on trees, whether in a large wooded area, along the highway, or even outside their local shopping center.

This has been a stressful time over the past few months, without a doubt, with so much uncertainty and adaptation to a new normal, relaxing your mind. Do a quick online search or think back to a favorite walking trail near or around your home that will allow you to observe all the fall leaves on a beautiful day and practice social distancing. Whenever I go on a walk outdoors, especially in 2020, here are my top 5 must-haves (in addition to a mask, of course):

People enjoying nature with mask
  1. Comfortable footwear is a must. No matter how long you plan to be walking, make sure to wear a nice pair of sneakers so you can really maximize the most out of your trip.
  2. A sweater or a light jacket. Be sure always to check the weather conditions and see the temperature. Keep in mind to check the temperature of where you are going; if you live along the shoreline (like me) and drive to the mountains, there could be a change in the weather.
  3. A small umbrella, you never know what could happen. My second-grade teacher taught me many years ago, “it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Corny, but true!
  4. This one is my favorite, but make sure to pack some extra water and some snacks from home. Be sure to check out “Simply Better Living” for awesome snack recipes and ideas for you and your family. Pack something everyone will like.
  5. I know you are probably thinking, how am I going to fit this all? Well, you guessed it! The final must-have on your fall leave tour is a backpack for you to carry all your essentials in. This will take up fewer worries and give you less distraction to observe the beautiful landscape of nature.

You can add two more things (because you are all my favorite) are a portable charger for your phone and a camera. While your phone may have an awesome quality camera, bringing a portable charger will ensure that you can really capture every moment and save each memory forever.

Halloween candy exchange

Candy Scavenger Hunt

Ask any child what their favorite part of Halloween is. You will get one of two answers, candy or costumes. This is the one day of the year where dressing up and pretending to be one of your favorite characters or creatures is embraced, rewarding kids with candy. Looking back, some of my fondest memories include getting in my costumes. In fact, if you were to look at old photos, most of them are from Halloweens of past years, proving that it is memorable.

With the nature of everything going on, many have been thinking of creative and innovative ways to reinvent the typical trick or treating idea. Instead of going door to door, there is no reason why you can’t practice your own candy exchange within the walls of your own home and throughout your property.

Children dressed up for Halloween on front porch

An awesome way to make sure that the children don’t miss out on one of their best days of the year is to design a trick or treat scavenger hunt throughout the house. While searching the internet, I stumbled upon this awesome pre-arranged candy hunt from “Hey, Let’s Make Stuff By Cori George.” They offer free activities and worksheets that allow you to set it up in your own home.

Simply go online or mask up and go to the store to buy Halloween candy. Your children may even enjoy this more as you can be selective of the candy and pick out their favorites. You can also be aware of any food allergies or nutritional restrictions and ensure that all the candy will be perfect. Here are a few more tips that you may want to include:

  1. If the weather is cooperating, feel free to hunt inside and outside, creating more of a feel. Going from one end of the house or property to the other will make the hunt longer and build their adrenaline.
  2. Set up some other Halloween-like activities. This could include painting small pumpkins, playing Halloween bingo with candy, putting on a movie, etc. It does not take much to set up your house and convert it to Halloween headquarters.
  3. If you want to take it a step further, set up a virtual video call with some friends and family to show off your costumes and say a Happy Halloween!

Click here Fun Family Fall Festivities to continue reading this blog. (Appeared first on Simply Better Living.)