Berry Poppy Seed Dressing

My two favorite parts of a grocery store are the produce section (for obvious reasons) and the bulk bin section.  Bulk bins are getting much more popular these days and carry just about everything including dried beans and legumes, whole grains and flours, nuts and seeds, as well as spices.

Buying items in bulk is great for getting as little or as much as you want of an item.  I also appreciate how it cuts down on packaging for sustainability reasons.  I find that when I shop in the bulk bins I save money on items in each section, but particularly on beans, whole grains, and spices.  When bought by the bag, beans can cost $2-$3 per pound, whereas I find them in the bulk bin around $0.50-$1 per pound.  Grains are about the same ratio in price differences as beans.  Spices are often where the biggest difference is.  Some tiny spice jars can cost $4-$8 depending on what you are getting, but in the bulk section can be a quarter of those prices or less.

Some of my favorite items from each section that are staples in our house are as follows (because I love making lists!):

  • Dried beans/legumes: pinto beans, small red beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, black eyed peas, brown lentils, red lentils, yellow and green split peas
  • Whole grains: rolled oats, steel cut oats, brown rice varieties, wild rice, pearl barley, millet, quinoa
  • Flours: whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, chickpea flour, almond flour, smelt flour
  • Nuts and Seeds: (all raw) cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, and ground flaxseeds
  • Spices: cumin, coriander, chili powder, cayenne pepper, dried basil, dried parsley, dried thyme, dried rosemary, dried oregano, dried ginger, dry mustard, onion powder, garlic powder

Last time I loaded up in the bulk bin section, I thought I would try something new and decided to get poppy seeds.  I thought a sweeter poppy seed dressing sounded wonderful and remembered that I had froze some raspberries and blackberries a week ago when they were on sale at the produce market.

Berry Poppy Seed Dressing
Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 6 servings

        1 cup frozen mixed berries
        1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk
        1/2 cup raw cashews
        4 pitted dates
        3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
        1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
        1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
        1/2 tsp dry mustard
        1/4 tsp cinnamon

        1/4 cup poppy seeds

1.)  In a high-powered blender, blend together all of the ingredients except the poppy seeds.
2.)  Blend until smooth and creamy, adding additional plant-based milk to reach desired consistency.
3.)  Add in the poppy seeds and blend on low to mix.
4.)  Serve chilled over a salad or as a sweet, tangy dip.

Amy's Notes:
In my recipe I used a mixture of frozen raspberries and blackberries.  You could also use blueberries, huckleberries, strawberries, or any mixture of your favorite berries.  I also used unsweetened soy milk, but feel free to use whatever plant-based milk you like best.  Because of the sweeter nature and the acidic ingredients in the recipe it has a slight yogurt-tangy flavor.

For my pictured salad below, I served the berry poppy seed dressing over a bed of green lettuce (from my neighbor's garden, score!), shaved carrots, fresh strawberries, sliced radishes, diced avocado, hemp hearts, and ground flaxseed.  Yum!

Health and Happiness,



Week 3 of ETL 6-Week Challenge

This last week was hard for me and I know that I did not get in as much fresh produce as I should have.  I ran into several situations where we were out with friends and there just wasn't anything to eat, so most of the time I didn't eat, or ate small amounts of acceptable items.  By Sunday morning after being out and about most of Friday and Saturday, I was so relieved to have a nice big salad going into my system.  It's funny how salads become second nature when you are on ETL.  My body and energy levels definitely change when I am missing my daily greens.  All the more encouraging reason to keep at it!

Breakfast on Monday
Leftover from our Saturday trip the
weekend before to Ocean Shores for the 4th.
  • Monday
    • Breakfast: apple slices and carrot sticks
    • Lunch:  warmed kale and chickpea salad with sundried tomato dressing
    • Dinner: steamed zucchini and Indian Mixed Dal
    • Exercise: no exercise this day - my hip was sore from walking over the weekend
    • Extras: apple after lunch

Breakfast on Tuesday
Peaches are so easy to throw in my work bag
and chop up quickly once I get into the office.
  • Tuesday
    • Breakfast: 2 sliced peaches
    • Lunch: warmed kale and chickpea salad
    • Dinner: I got busy painting and wasn't hungry for dinner.
    • Exercise: painting my kitchen for 2 hours
    • Extras: 2 dove dark chocolate pieces after lunch, glass of white wine in the evening

Lunch on Wednesday
  • Wednesday
    • Breakfast: 2 golden pluots, 1 peach, 1 apple
    • Lunch: warmed kale and chickpea salad, Indian Mixed Dal
    • Dinner: plain veggie nachos with extra beans (no cheese)
    • Exercise: painting my kitchen for 1 hour
    • Extras: 1 beer at trivia

Breakfast on Thursday
This was probably my favorite meal of the week.
The little bit of avocado was just right to
 fuel me through a busy morning at work.
  • Thursday
    • Breakfast: 1/2 avocado, 1 peach, 1 apple, and 1 golden pluot
    • Lunch: steamed zucchini and Indian Mixed Dal
    • Dinner: I got busy painting and wasn't hungry for dinner.
    • Exercise: Finishing painting my kitchen for 5 hours in the evening.
    • Extras: 2 dove chocolate pieces after lunch

"Lunch" on Friday
I got so busy painting and cleaning my kitchen I skipped a meal or two.
I had two handfuls of Brazil nuts to tide me over until I was able to eat
when we got to Seattle for a friend's birthday celebration.
  • Friday
    • Breakfast: Skipped breakfast while deep cleaning my kitchen after painting.
    • Lunch:  Two handfuls of Brazil nuts to hold me off until early dinner.
    • Dinner:  Vegan sausage with grilled onions and sauerkraut in downtown Seattle. 
    • Exercise: Cleaning in the morning, walking in the evening.
    • Extras:  A few drinks out with friends

Us at a Mariner's game on Saturday.  We got tickets from a friend's work for free.
It happened to be Nelson Cruz bobblehead night AND they won!
  • Saturday
    • Breakfast:  Slept in and didn't eat breakfast
    • Lunch:  Vegan mac and cheese
    • Dinner: Chips and salsa out with friends
    • Exercise: Walking around Seattle
    • Extras: 1 beer at the Mariner's game

Lunch on Sunday
This salad was super good!  I made berry poppy seed dressing (recipe coming this week).
The salad consisted of green lettuce from my neighbor's garden, sliced radishes,
shaved carrots, sliced strawberries, diced avocado, hemp hearts, and ground flaxseed.
  • Sunday
    • Breakfast: Sliced strawberries
    • Lunch: Large green salad with berry poppy seed dressing (recipe coming this week)
    • Dinner: Whole wheat spaghetti with veggie loaded marinara sauce and chopped field roast vegan sausage
    • Exercise: 20 minutes biking, 10 minutes stretching, 5 minutes arm exercises
    • Extras: 1/2 glass of red wine with dinner, olives while prepping dinner

Health and Happiness,



Indian Mixed Dal

I first tried Indian cuisine a few years ago while my brother and sister-in-law were in town for Christmas.  They insisted that my nutritarian parents and I give it a try since many recipes are vegetarian and often rely heavily on beans and legumes.  Wow!  Fantastic!  We couldn't get enough.  Soon most dinners out with my parents were to our new favorite Indian restaurant.

Now, I know Indian restaurants aren't necessarily Nutritarian friendly since they are generally higher in salt and often use ghee (clarified butter), but that's why I'm bringing you a recipe today that can be made at home with no salt, oil, or ghee!  For other Indian recipes I've done before including whole wheat naan bread, click here.

Indian Mixed Dal
Time: 5 minute prep, 8 minutes in a pressure cook or 30 minutes on the stovetop
Servings: 4 servings
        1/2 large onion, chopped
        2 cups sliced mushrooms
        1/2 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
        1 Tbsp minced garlic
        1 tsp minced ginger
        1 tsp cumin seeds

        1/3 cup red lentils
        1/3 cup yellow split peas
        1/3 cup green split peas
        3 cups water

        1 Tbsp gram marsala
        2 tsp ground coriander
        1 tsp smoked paprika
        1/2 tsp ground cumin
        1/2 tsp cinnamon
        1/2 tsp turmeric
        1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes            /

1.)  Saute the first 6 ingredients over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, adding small amounts of water as needed to prevent sticking.
2.)  Add in the dal, water, and spices, and stir well to combine.
3.)  If using a pressure cooker, set the cooker to 8 minutes at high pressure.  When 8 minutes is up, release the remaining pressure and stir thoroughly to mash up the dal.
      If cooking on the stovetop, bring the pot to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally and adding additional water if it becomes too dry.
4.)    Serve hot over a whole grain or with steamed veggies.

Amy's Notes:

Since doing the ETL 6-Week Challenge, I'm trying to limit myself on whole grains, so instead of serving my dal with brown rice, I decided to cut up zucchini really small (like rice) and steam it.

Health and Happiness,



Week 2 of ETL 6-Week Challenge

I felt so much better doing the 2nd week of the ETL 6-Week Challenge!  I had the obstacles of date night with the husband as well as traveling out of town for the 4th.  In the end I did my best and was happy to get back into routine this Monday.  Last week I was also able to incorporate more exercise since my tweaked hip has just about recovered.  Here is what I ate and how I did:

  • Monday
    • Breakfast: large apple
    • Lunch: large green salad with chickpeas
    • Exercise: 3.15 walk outside after work
    • Dinner: steamed sugar snap peas topped with Thai peanut sauce and raw sunflower seeds, big bowl of veggie soup
    • Extras: homemade chocolate banana nice cream

  • Tuesday
    • Breakfast: sugar snap peas, cucumber slices, apple
    • Lunch: large green salad with chickpeas, banana
    • Exercise: 2.5 mile walk outside after work
    • Dinner: water sauteed mushrooms, onions, and kale topped with sesame seeds, sugar snap peas
    • Extras: glass of wine with dinner

  • Wednesday
    • Breakfast: cucumber slices, apple
    • Lunch: medium green salad and leftover sauteed mushrooms, onions, and kale
    • Exercise: no exercise today, some stretching before bed
    • Extras: snack of some gooseberries and red currants on the way home, two beers out with friends
    • Dinner: late dinner after we got home from trivia of corn on the cob and veggie soup

  • Thursday
    • Breakfast: peach and berry fruit bowl
    • Lunch: large green salad
    • Exercise: 1 hour at the gym with 30 minutes biking and 30 minutes lifting weights
    • Dinner: corn grits and Cajun shrimp - This was date night with my husband to a Cajun restaurant he had been wanting to try for a long time.  I was hoping they would have red beans and rice for me, but no such luck, so I settled on the corn grits and Cajun shrimp.  This was about the only thing on the menu not fried.  I ended up eating only 1/3 of the portion and my husband was happy to have the leftovers the next day.
    • Extras: one beer with dinner, raspberries after dinner out

  • Friday
    • Breakfast:  slept in and skipped breakfast
    • Lunch:  green salad and 1/2 slice of whole grain bread at a deli
    • Dinner:  Steamed baby bok choy with Thai peanut sauce and sesame seeds
    • Exercise: 1 hour of gardening
    • Extras: snack of roasted chickpeas and veggies while prepping food for traveling the next day, chocolate banana nice cream after dinner

Here is a picture from today (Monday) of the kale salad I had on Sautrday while at the beach.
  • Saturday - 4th of July and day trip to Ocean Shores, WA
    • Breakfast: large apple as we arrived at Ocean Shores
    • Lunch:  1 grilled baja taco, celery, carrots, apples
    • Dinner: kale and chickpea salad with sun dried tomato dressing, veggie dog
    • Exercise:  tons of walking around the beach (over 12,000 steps this day)
    • Extras: dark chocolate covered almonds and cashews, two beers on the beach

So sunburnt! :(
  • Sunday
    • Breakfast: raspberries and blackberries
    • Lunch: veggie dog sauteed with onion and mushrooms
    • Dinner: not hungry, skipped dinner
    • Exercise: no exercise this day - we woke up very tired, dehydrated, and sun burnt from the day before :(
    • Extras: chocolate banana nice cream later in the evening


Overall, I think I handled the harder situations of dining out and traveling fairly well.  Was it a perfect week?  No, but I made very conscious decisions to include as many veggies as I could while limiting my not-ideal foods to a minimum.

Over the weekend while we traveled I got pretty dehydrated because using the restroom on the beach on Saturday was extremely limited.  I'm looking forward to staying very well hydrated in the heat this week, as well as incorporating more beans into my daily diet.

Health and Happiness,



Cilantro and Hemp Seed Dressing

I love Mexican flavors.  My husband will tell you that if anyone mentions Mexican food I immediately perk up and ask where and when are we going, often not dropping the subject until the date has been set.  Since starting the ETL 6-Week  Challenge last week, I realize that there probably isn't much for me to eat at a Mexican restaurant for the next few weeks.  Cheese comes on just about everything, the chips are deep fried, and the sauces, salsas, and beans are heavily oversalted.

BUT, that won't stop me from making dishes with some Mexican flavors at home!  Cilantro is a fantastic herb that can go well with many different cuisines, and I love it in Mexican dishes.  Since on the 6-Week ETL Challenge I have been eating big big salads and lots of steamed veggies daily, I thought I would make a yummy cilantro dressing to use throughout the week.

This recipe features hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts), which are small seeds from a commercial hemp plant (related to marijuana plant family, but with none of the inebriating side effects).  I buy my hemp seeds in a large bag from Costco and I store it in my fridge next to my ground flaxseed and chia seeds.  To find hemp seeds where you live try Costco or your local health food store.  They can often be found in the bulk bin at the grocery store as well.  If all else fails, order them on Vitacost or another health/bulk food website.

If you don't have access to hemp seeds and HAVE to have this dressing right this minute, the hemp seeds can easily be replaced with raw cashews or raw sunflower seeds.

Cilantro and Hemp Seed Dressing
Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4-6 servings

Here I enjoyed the Cilantro and Hemp Seed Dressing drizzled over
steamed green beans and topped with raw sunflower seeds.
Best way to get your 1 lb. of raw veggies in a day!
        1/2 cup hulled hemp seeds
        1/2 cup chickpeas
        1/2 to 1 cup water
        1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
        2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
        2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
        1 Tbsp your favorite no-salt seasoning blend (optional)
        1 tsp minced garlic
        1 tsp chili powder

1.)  In a high speed blender blend all ingredients starting with 1/2 cup water until smooth and creamy.
2.)  Add more water and blend for the desired consistency.
3.)  Serve on top of steamed vegetables, or chill and serve as a veggie dip or salad dressing.

Amy's Notes:

Now, some people don't have a taste for cilantro, and that's fine, but for those of you who do, check out some awesome reasons to add cilantro to your repertoire today!

On another note, check out the gorgeous lavender I harvested from my garden earlier this week!
Some of it ended up in a vase in my kitchen and the rest is drying in bundles to be saved for tea and aromatic crafts.

Health and Happiness,



Week 1 of ETL 6-Week Challenge

So, last Monday I started Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live 6-Week Aggressive Weight Loss Program.  I talk more about specifics of how and what I eat on this page here.  Back when I first read Eat to Live in January 2011, I went through this 6-week program... for 4 weeks, and then I met Kevin (my now husband) and gave a little here and there tweaking the program to fit with my life better at that point.

In the years since then I have had ups and downs of following a Nutritarian lifestyle through huge changes in my life including moves, marriage, new jobs, etc.  I have gone through a personal struggle with weight following hormonal complications with birth control I took when Kevin and I first got married.  I don't believe I've mentioned this much on the blog, mostly because I would start to write a post and delete it thinking it wasn't right or good enough.

Long story but, when we first got married in 2012 I went on a pill for birth control.  Several months later I was noticing that I was having extreme fatigue issues (my iron, Vitamin D, and B-12 levels were fine).  One day I went home from work with what I thought was the start of an ear infection.  While driving one side of my face went partially numb and I had a panic attack before making it to a health clinic.  It was probably the worst day of my life.

The clinic doctor attributed the pain and part of the numbness to a migraine onset by TMJ muscle issues, which were aggravated by excessive caffeine from coffee I had that day.  He suggested I go home and relax the rest of the day, and take ibuprofen daily for my TMJ issues whether I was feeling pain or not. (Thanks doc... super helpful.  I didn't follow this advice with the medication BTW.)

If you have ever had a panic attack, you will understand how helpless and out of control I felt.  After this incident I continued to feel an awful overhanging feeling that something was about to go wrong... all the time.  When you have had one panic attack, your "emergency" hormones and chemicals in your body are going crazy, and your body reacts to those regardless of what the mind tries telling the body.  Because of that and an incessant fear of having another panic attack, it took me over a year to feel normal again.

After the panic attack, I went off of my birth control pills and went with something that did not mess with the hormones in my body.  During this time of feeling unlike myself and constantly anxious, I gained close to 20 lbs.  Since then I have slowly released some of those pounds while practicing a very loose nutritarian diet.  Now that I feel like my mental and hormonal health are under control, I wanted to complete what I didn't quite do over four years ago: the 6-week ETL challenge.  Last week was my first week and here is how it went (These pictures are from a great food tracking app that I use called Two Grand.  If you'd like to join me on there, the app is free and you can search for my username, "amynutritarian".):

Monday Dinner: Sauteed Asian Veggies with Butter Lettuce
(I used the lettuce as little wraps to eat the bowl of veggies with...
yep I ate that whole head of lettuce!)
  • Monday
    • Breakfast: banana and strawberries
    • Lunch: Large green salad and 1/2 bowl homemade bean chili
    • Dinner: Lettuce wraps with water sauteed Asian veggies
    • Dessert: watermelon
    • Exercise: Actively walking around work, first day at our new gym with a 1 mile walk, stretching, and arm lifting exercises
Tuesday Lunch: Large Green salad topped with hemp hearts and ground flaxseed,
along with leftover chili and two golden beets that were sliced and steamed.
  • Tuesday: 
    • Breakfast: apple and peach slices
    • Lunch: Large green salad, 1/2 homemade bean chili, 2 sliced steamed golden beets
    • Dinner: Steamed kale with water sauteed Asian veggies
    • Dessert: watermelon
    • Exercise: This day I went home early from work because I tripped up on the treadmill the day before and badly strained my hip, so no exercise this day.
Dinner Wednesday: Water sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms, and kale
with a peanut sweet and sour sauce, topped with hemp hearts.
  • Wednesday:
    • Breakfast: apple and peach slices
    • Lunch: Large green salad and an apple
    • Dinner: water sauteed garlic, onion, mushrooms, and kale
    • Dessert: watermelon
    • Extras: 1 beer at weekly trivia
    • Exercise: Again, my hip was injured and I was unable to exercise this day.
Thursday Dinner: Lightly steamed collard green leaves wrapped up with hummus,
cilantro, red onion, carrot, mushroom, and celery.
Steamed green beans with cilantro hemp dressing topped with raw sunflower seeds.
This was by far my favorite meal of the week!
  • Thursday:
    • Breakfast: apple and peach slices
    • Lunch: Large green salad and two red plums
    • Dinner: Collard green veggie wraps, steamed green beans with hemp seed dressing
    • Dessert: watermelon
    • Exercise: I went home early from work again this day from an onset of nausea and just feeling unwell.  I thought the nausea might be from detoxing.  That evening, my sinuses stuffed up with what I think is a reaction to some chemicals they sprayed in my work building due to some flooding of a water fountain (I have to remember, this is just my body protecting me, but I sure felt miserable.)
Friday Lunch: Large green leaf lettuce salad (lettuce from my neighbor's garden)
with chickpeas, red onion, carrot, ground flaxseed, hemp hearts,
sundried tomatoes, and cilantro hemp dressing.
  • Friday:
    • Breakfast: banana
    • Exercise: Mid morning I met with a trainer at my new gym.  She kept it very easy on my hip that was healing and stuck to arm exercises.
    • Lunch: Large green salad
    • Dinner: Small green salad out at a restaurant (I ordered tomato soup, but it was far to salty and I didn't eat more than a few bites)
    • Extras: sampling beer at a brewery
Saturday Lunch and Later Dinner: Collard green vegetable soup flavored with
black pepper and Mrs. Dash no-salt seasoning.
This was the day that I was feeling the worst,
so a nice mild bowl or two of soup was just what I needed.
  • Saturday:
    • Breakfast: Skipped, did not feel well from my sinuses and cough
    • Lunch: Plain vegetable soup
    • Dinner: Indian chickpeas and brown rice while out running errands with my husband
    • Extras: more vegetable soup later at night
    • Exercise: Walking around running errands
Sunday After Lunch: A big bowl of delicious red raspberries!
  • Sunday:
    • Breakfast: Skipped, did not feel hungry in the morning
    • Lunch: Lettuce wrapped bean burger with sugar snap peas, bowl of raspberries
    • Dinner: Grilled potatoes and whole wheat toast with preserves while out with my husband at a breakfast food place
    • Dessert: homemade chocolate peanut butter banana nice cream

Summary:  I feel like I had a good rhythm to the week despite generally falling apart from an injured hip and having respiratory issues.  Places I'm looking to improve on this week are increasing my exercise now that my hip is feeling better, making dinner a smaller meal so that I am truly hungry for breakfast the next morning, and limiting my consumption of beer to one on Wednesday and one on Friday or Saturday.  Overall, I am down 3 lbs, and am hoping to progress more this week without as many hurdles as last week.

Health and Happiness,