We welcome back our guest blogger today, Alisa from One Frugal Foodie, Dairy Free & Fit, and Go Dairy Free. Like so many people, Alisa grew up thinking that those processed foods with “lean” and “healthy” stamped on the package were somehow providing real food and nutrition. It wasn’t until she strictly transitioned to a dairy-free lifestyle that she discovered what she was really eating. Forced to read every food label in great detail, Alisa was shocked at what she saw. Dyes, additives, “modified” ingredients, highly processed sugars and grains, and completely unrecognizable chemicals, with ingredients like tomatoes, bananas, and whole grains sadly pushed to the bottom of the list (if present at all). She bought her last loaf of store bought bread, her last frozen meal, her last box of cookies, and her last can of conventional soup in 2005, and has never looked back.
Though she tries to support the dairy-free community as a whole and accommodate the variety of requests via her website, Go Dairy Free, her focus has truly shifted to helping people transition to a whole food lifestyle. She created One Frugal Foodie to share her own whole food recipes with the concept that eating real food will actually save you money. She just recently launched Dairy-Free & Fit, also a foodie focus, but to discuss everyday food, health, and fitness topics too.
Alisa’s Recipe: Fresh Maple-Fig Spread
Alisa’s Tip: Treat yourself to a ‘new to you’ food at least once a month, and a healthy ‘splurge’ food at least once a week
I confess, even though I love whole foods and eating seasonally, I can easily get caught in an ordinary repetitive rut … banana smoothies for breakfast; homemade bread and nut butter for a snack; big salad with greens, carrots, and protein for lunch; an orange or apple for a snack; and a protein, grain, veggie dinner that usually contains broccoli, cauliflower, or a similar common veggie.
It wasn’t until I signed up for a CSA that I discovered the fun and excitement of trialing new-to-me foods. Sure, I still love my banana smoothies and an almost-daily heap of my still favorite veggie, broccoli, but throwing a new food in the mix on occasion really perks up my interest in from-scratch meals, and helps me to expand the variety in my diet.
I tried shooting for one new-to-me food per week, but the pressure was a little too much for me when I didn’t have a CSA for guidance. So I have changed up the program to something more manageable. Now I aim to trial one new-to-me food per month, BUT, each week I pick up at least one “splurge” food that is perhaps something that I have trialed before, but don’t indulge in very often. I guess you would call it re-introducing a food to increase the variety and pleasure in my diet. I often combine this concept with seasonality – a box of organic strawberries at their peak, some fresh ears of local corn mid-summer, or a kabocha squash when it makes its rare appearance at my small town grocer.
Keep in mind, the “new” or “reintroduced” food could be fruit, vegetables, whole grains, organic meats, wild seafood, a drink (think herbal or antioxidant tea, kefir, or kombucha), a wholesome baking ingredient, or even or even a fun “superfood” like maca, acai, or mulberries. The sky is the limit!
For some examples, here are a few creations I made with new-to-me and healthy splurge foods:
- Asian-Spiced Kabocha – enjoy the skin and all!
- Honey “Butter” – made with extra-virgin coconut oil
- Chipotle Chicken and Chard Chili – Giada-style
- Maple Cashew Chocolate Chip Cookies – made with new-to-me palm sugar and reintroduced gluten-free flours
As it happened, this month the fruit CSA delivered an item that I couldn’t believe I had never tried before, fresh figs. The dried, wrinkly ones have entered my kitchen on several occasions, but this was my first taste of a fresh fig, and it was delicious! I had several, so I opted to make a spread that would replace my morning nut butter for a for a few days, and even used it to jazz up that banana smoothie.
Fresh Maple-Fig Spread
Feel free to add more fresh figs if you want to highlight the fruit even more.
1/4 Cup Cashews or Almonds
1/4 Cup Walnuts
6 Medium-Sized Fresh Figs
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup (can sub honey or agave)
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
Grind the cashews or almonds somewhat into a powder (I use an electric spice/coffee grinder). Add all ingredients to your food processor, and pulse, chop, or blend to your desired consistency. I made mine fairly smooth, but with some walnut chunks. Feel free to adjust the sweetness, salt, and spices as desired.
Yields about 1 cup
Smoothie Option – The figs help to sweeten up smoothies, while the nuts add some creaminess, healthy fat, and protein. Here I simply blended about 1/3 cup of the spread with 1 frozen banana (and an extra dash of cinnamon) for a lightly sweet and tasty breakfast treat. Feel free to sweeten to taste if your fruit isn’t quite ripe and/or add some protein powder for a little more muscle in your beverage.