Tag Archives: health

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dip and NuNaturals Giveaway


Cookie dough dip!

Who doesn’t love free things? Free samples, free gifts, free coffee and  food during finals week at school… I can’t lie, my ears perk up when I here the word “free” mentioned.
But what about sugar-free? Gluten-free? Dairy and egg-free? Some seek these labels out of necessity, always longing for products that will indeed not taste as though they are free from, or lacking, the ingredient in question. Those who don’t seek these labels tend to be turned off by them, assuming they are simply an inferior product. Simply removing the offending ingredient would produce an inferior product. But a little creativity can go a long way…
I was invited to a party in where I knew the hostess was trying to cut sugar and refined carbs out of her diet. Having a mouth full of sweet teeth myself, I felt that I should create a dish to bring that would be sweet and decadent tasting, but fit into the guidelines of her diet as well as my own views on healthy eating. As I mentioned before, I recently was lucky enough to be a winner in Laura’s blog giveaway for a package of NuNatural Stevia products, and used stevia to sweeten without adding calories or sugar. This dip is sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free!
And while we are on the subject of FREE,  I’m happy to announce that you all have a chance to win a package of NuNatural’s Stevia products as well! NuNaturals is letting me give away packages to four lucky readers- those are pretty good odds, since my  young blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic! See the end of this post for details on how to enter!
First, I have to share this recipe… All I can say is you have to trust me. No, you have to try it. The ingredient list sounds weird, I know. I saw some similar recipes circulating around the blog-world months ago and was intrigued but not convinced enough to try it out. This dip is basically like a sweet hummus. Sweet hummus? You say. Why would anyone do such a thing to such a wonderful food? Umm, because it tastes like cookie dough and has the nutritional profile of hummus! You can even eat it by the spoonful and won’t get sick! Not that I’ve ever made myself sick from eating too much cookie dough…
If you aren’t a fan of peanut butter, or are allergic, try using almond, sunflower seed, or cashew butter for a milder but equally delicious variation!
Peanut Butter-Cookie Dough Dip:
*1.5 cup cooked white beans
*1/3 cup peanut butter (I use natural)
*2 teaspoons vanilla
*1 teaspoon cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar or lemon juice
*1/4 teaspoon NuNaturals Clear Liquid Stevia ( If not using stevia, try 2-3 tablespoon agave nectar and omit milk)
*1 dropper full NuNaturals Vanilla Stevia
*1 dropper full NuNaturals Cocoa Extract (optional)
*1-2 tablespoons nondairy milk
*1/4 cup cacao nibs (for completely sugar-free dip) or 1/3 cup chocolate chips
1.)Simply combine all ingredients except nondairy milk and cacao nibs or chocolate chips in the bowl of food processor and puree until smooth and creamy. Add the milk as needed to achieve desired consistency.
2.) Add the cacao nibs or chocolate chips and pulse briefly, just enough to combine.
3.) If you can resist eating it by the spoonful, serve with crackers and sliced fresh fruit such as bananas and apples. Also makes a great substitute for peanut butter in a peanut-butter-banana sandwich!
Now for the giveaway details:


Each of the four winners will receive a bottle of Vanilla Stevia Liquid (so good!)


and a box of 50 stevia packets (great for travel!)


To enter, simply leave a comment in the comment section telling me what you would like to use stevia for!  (U.S. residents only) If you don’t have a blog, be sure to leave your email address so that I may contact you if you win.
Note: I’m not getting anything for advertising these products, I just was honestly quite impressed with their quality and want to share this with others who are looking for a natural sugar alternative. Some stevia products can have a bitter aftertaste, but I have found these to be truly superior in flavor!
If you aren’t chosen to receive a package, you can still get free samples! (sorry, only for U.S. residents) Go to www.nunaturals.com for more information. Also, if you decide to purchase anything from their website, you can get a  15% discount on your order by entering the promo code BLG930. You even get free shipping to the continental U.S. if you spend $35 or more.
This contest will be open until Thursday at midnight, PST, and I will announce the winner Friday morning. I will notify you by email. What a great way to start the weekend!
Best of luck!
xo/ Nikita

Refreshing Hibiscus Lemonade



I must confess, I used to be a water hater. I grew up drinking Kool-Aid and cream soda. I dropped the sugary drinks when I was about 13 and have been a staunch water drinker ever since. But for some reason lately I’ve been really enjoying beverages with a bit more… oomph? I’m not really fond of juice (too viscous and sweet for me… and it has a lot more sugar and a lot less nutritional value than many people are aware of!), but I do enjoy flavored waters, teas, and the occasional coconut water.  During the day, I drink a lot of green tea, but after about 5 pm I generally cut myself off from caffeine. Iced herbal teas are a great tasting and low calorie alternative to juices.

My current obsession? Hibiscus tea! Hibiscus tea is naturally sweet and tart, not to mention it’s natural bright fuchsia coloring makes it lovely to look at. Hibiscus is also rich in vitamin C and a natural coolant for your body. There have even been studies showing that drinking 3 cups of hibiscus tea a day can help lower blood pressure (see a summary of the research from Bastyr University here). I love it when delicious things are good for me!



     Lemonade is a summertime classic, but can often be heavy on the sugar and light on the lemon… not so great for hydration to say the least. My hibiscus lemonade is sweetened with a touch of stevia, a natural and sugar free herb that tastes sweet and makes a great sugar substitute. You could also sweeten with agave and still keep the overall sugar content low because of the natural sweetness of the tea.


Refreshing Hibiscus Lemonade:

*4 hibiscus tea bags such as Stash Raspberry Hibiscus Tea (my favorite)

*8 cups pure water

*1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (I used one big, juicy lemon but you may need two if your lemons are smaller)

*scant 1/4 teaspoon pure stevia powder or 6 NuStevia packets OR about 1/4 cup agave nectar


1.)Brew the 4 tea bags in 8 cups of pure water, transfer to a large pitcher and chill completely.

2.)Add the fresh lemon juice and stevia powder and stir to mix completely. Pour into a chilly glass with ice and enjoy!

This also makes amazing Arnold Palmers! Just mix equal parts iced green or black tea with the hibiscus lemonade. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m willing to bet this would also make a great cocktail mixed with a little gin or vodka.

I was lucky enough to win a NuNatural’s stevia package from a giveaway hosted by Laura and have been loving all the amazing stevia products and enjoying replacing the sugar in many favorite recipes. Stay tuned as I hope to host a giveaway here soon so you can try out these products too!

What are some of your favorite summer beverages? Have you used stevia before?

Hope you’ve all been enjoying your weekend! Take care 🙂

xo/ Nikita


Frugal Fitness (Healthy Living on a Budget Part 2)


In a world where decent running shoes can cost upwards of $100 and yoga classes can easily be $20 a pop, it’s easy to feel like staying fit must be a luxury reserved for the rich.

Thankfully there are other options for those of us who just can’t get our zen on when it feel like our money is being flushed down the drain…Here are some of my favorite free or cheap ways to be fit:



Yoga can cost over $100/ month for a membership at a yoga studio. If you have the money in your budget and find a studio you really love, then by all means do what makes you happy! But know that there are other ways…

1.) Doing yoga in the comfort of your own home can be a great way to start your day and a lot more relaxing than battling rush hour traffic first thing in the morning. Yoga dvds are great, but you can also find free yoga downloads at www.yogadownload.com for a wide variety of yoga styles. Myfreeyoga.comhas even longer yoga videos you can watch for free. For an experienced yogi or yogini, Dave


Farmar does some challenging Power Yoga Podcasts that you can listen to for free. I

wouldn’t recommend them to beginners because it is difficult to do the poses without seeing them unless you know the names.

*When we get a new computer (please, IRS, send us our amended refund already!), I hope to share a yoga video of my own, but for now those sites should keep you busy!*

2.) For those who feel the yoga experience is best enjoyed socially, or those who need just need to get out of the house, there are options for you, too! First of all, if you haven’t already, sign up for daily deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social.  I recently bought a package of 20 yoga classes from a local studio for $20- originally $240 (gasp!)- from Living Social but I see similar packages on both sites.

Another good way to save cash while checking out different studios is to take advantage of the newcomer specials many studios offer. Core Power Yoga, which is a chain with studios in several states, allows new clients a free week of yoga, no strings attached. Many other studios will offer deals such as your first month unlimited for $30.  Some studios offer reduced priced or even donation only classes certain days of the week.

full pigeon


Ditch the car:

Walking, biking and even taking public transport to your destination are all ways to add more physical activity to your day with spending money- in fact, you will certainly see savings in the gas money you would have spent!

1.) Biking: I have to admit I was afraid to start biking in Portland for a long time. Being forced to share a car between my husband and I forced me to give it a shot. I’m still getting used to it- my neighborhood is hilly! But it is getting easier and more enjoyable. I save about $5.50 in gas every time I ride my bike to work. It seemed like it was more timing consuming to bike at first, but I only have to leave about 15 minutes earlier than I would if I drove, and since my total transit time is about an hour round trip, I can count that hour long bike ride as my daily workout and cross that off my list! I also feel it energizes my to do this first thing in the morning and sets me on the right track.

2.) Walking: Are there places you could be walking to instead of driving? I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of a beautiful park where I can go to read or draw, a post office, a library, a grocery store, and a whole array of shops, restaurants, and bars tucked into a cute little “neighborhood” nearby. Today I walked to the library (30 minutes round trip), and then to a beading shop and a consignment shop (60 minutes round trip). It sounds like a lot of walking, but I decided to consider it my cardio for the day, did a pilates video, and my workout quota was met! I traded in some old clothes at the consignment shop and got this pretty new workout top without having to pay anything!


3.) Public Transit: To be honest, this is the form of transportation I use least. It’s often faster, cheaper, and a better workout just to ride my bike. I do enjoy taking the bus downtown though, mainly because then I don’t have to deal with parking! If your destination is farther, public transportation is a great way to get a little more walking in, save money, and reduce pollution. Just be sure to bring a book!


I used to hate running. Some days I still do… But one of the things I love about running is that it can be done almost anywhere! All you need is a good pair of running shoes (or not- barefoot running is becoming quite popular!) and a bit of space outdoors and you can get a great cardio workout. During the winter, I prefer to run indoors, but as long as it is nice out I much prefer to run outdoors. The fresh air and scenery can’t be beat and gives me a boost when I feel tired! Plus, I can run outside for 30 minutes when I’m pressed for time, whereas a trip to the gym would end up taking almost an hour with transit time.

For awhile I resisted signing up for races because of the cost, but I have found they actually give you so much in free samples, food, and booze (still puzzles me) that it is worth it for me to do every now and then. Plus races are a lot of fun and great for motivation! Some races will charge less for the participation fee if you do not get a t-shirt.



The tried and true… I can remember my mom working out to Buns of Steel with Greg Smithey when I was growing up. The headbands, the colorful leotards… this was the golden age of corny workout videos! Still, having a few “go-to” DVDs can be very helpful in sneaking in a workout when you are running late, don’t feel like going out, or want to try a new type of workout in the privacy of your own home. They only cost about $10-$20 and can be used over and over. I have a pilates DVD that features 5 different pilates workouts, so I don’t get bored and stay challenged.


The most important thing about staying fit is doing things that you enjoy! If you want to spend a few bucks on a class or gym membership that really motivates you, go for it! But if you think cutting fitness costs out of your budget will hurt your routine, give one of these suggestions a try!


Healthy Living on a Budget Part 1


This will be the first of a series of posts on living healthy for less! I will highlight a different food group in each post, featuring both information and a recipe or two featuring inexpensive and healthful ways to enjoy these foods.

Step inside your nearest Whole Foods and you will see that health food is a hot trend that people are willing to pay premium prices for. Even at an ordinary grocery store, you will notice organics cost much more than conventionally grown produce, not to mention eggs, dairy and meats. The thing that really irks me? Whole wheat flour costs more than white! Apparently despite the fact that it is less processed and therefore should take up less resources to create, it is being sold at a higher price because people think of it as a specialty item. Speaking of wheat… don’t even get me started on how over priced gluten-free goods can be!

Okay, I know my last two posts have featured pistachios and figs, rather indulgent ingredients to be fair. I like food and I like cooking. Some people buy lattes on a near daily basis.  I allow myself a few “gourmet” items every week. That being said, the bulk of my groceries are simply wholesome foods that are both cheap and nutrient dense. The star of the frugal vegetarian whole foods pantry?

A sampling of whats currently in my pantry


These are among the cheapest sources of protein and are also rich in fiber, iron, zinc, folate, vitamin e, thiamin, magnesium, and potassium. They are a lovely addition to soups, stews, and curries and can make a simple side dish into a substantial meal. They make excellent dips (hummus is a well known favorite and black beans make a tasty dip as well), and can even be snuck in to cookies or brownies sometimes to amp up the protein and fiber content. Some of my favorites:

*Lentils (brown, green, and red)

*Garbanzos (Chick Peas)

*Black Beans


*Cannellini Beans (white beans)

*Red Kidney Beans

*Green or yellow Split peas

I buy my legumes in the bulk bins of a local supermarket. This is the cheapest way I have found to get them. They range from about $0.50/ lb to $1.25/lb. I soak the beans 8-24 hours, to make them cook faster and easier to digest. If you have had trouble digesting beans, don’t skip this step- it helps remove some of the oligosaccharides- natural sugars which are not very digestible by the body and can cause… ahem… discomfort.

After soaking, I cook a big pot of beans once a week or so and portion the cooked beans into several containers, about 1 1/2 – 2 cups in each (the amount usually found in a standard can). I will use the beans at least once or twice in my meals that week and I will freeze the rest for later use. Beans freeze beautifully. Just thaw them completely before using in a recipe. I usually try to plan ahead and just move them from the freezer to the fridge a few days before I will be using them. You can let them sit out on the counter for a faster thaw, but don’t forget about them!

And now, Cumin Spiced Potato and White Bean Soup with Cilantro Pesto:


As much as I love hummus, chili, mexican beans and rice, and other dishes that showcase beans, sometimes it is nice to find a fresh way of using beans. In this simple soup, white beans are pureed with potatoes (another dirt cheap ingredient!) to create a rich and creamy base without the use of cream or dairy of any kind. This method adds protein and body to a simple potato soup, without losing the creamy comfort of the traditional dish. I asked Andrew if he wanted to say anything about this soup. His response: “I wish there was more of it.”

Cumin Spiced Potato and White Bean Soup with Cilantro Pesto:

*1 tablespoon olive oil

* stalk celery, diced

*2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

*4 green onions or 1/4 cup diced yellow onion

*about 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced ( roughly 4 cups)

*1 1/2 cups or 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed

*2 teaspoons cumin

*1 teaspoon tumeric (optional- gives a golden hue and has anti-inflammatory properties)

*4 cups vegetable broth ( see note at bottom of page for how to make your own broth.)

*Cilantro Pesto for serving (recipe follows)


1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot and add the celery, white parts of onions, and garlic. Saute over medium- high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add cubed potatoes, cumin, and tumeric and saute a minute more. Add vegetable broth and white beans, cover and simmer about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

2. Remove soup from heat. Using an immersion blender directly in the soup pot, or by transferring soup to a blender, puree soup. You can remove some potato chunks before doing this to stir back in if you want more texture- I kept about a cup of potato chunks to stir back in.

Serve with cilantro pesto and sliced green onions. Garnish with cheese if desired.

Cilantro Pesto:



Cilantro is one of the cheapest herbs- a large bunch is usually only $0.30- $0.50 at my grocery store. Unfortunately it goes bad quickly, so making a pesto is a nice way to prolong its life as well as add a tasty zip to many foods.

* 2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro

*2-3 cloves garlic

*6 tablespoons cashews

*3/4 teaspoon sea salt

*1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast or parmesan

*6 tablespoons olive oil


Combine everything but olive oil in food processor and pulse until finely minced. Scrape down sides if necessary and, with motor running, pour in the olive oil. Serve with soup or use as a sauce for pasta, tacos, enchiladas, or anything else you can imagine!

***Note: In my vegetarian home, we go through a lot of veggie scraps. I started making my own broth with some of the scraps, which is not only cost effective, but also green, as it saves things from becoming waste. I keep a medium sized container in the freezer to fill with scraps when I cook, because it might go bad before it gets full if I just have it in the fridge. Here’s what can go in the broth:

-onion ends and skins

-garlic ends and skins

-carrot peelings and pieces



-bell peppers

-mushroom stems

-organic potato peelings

-aromatic herbs like parsley and bay leaves

Here’s what you should avoid putting in the broth:

-cabbage, broccoli, or any members of this family (they impart a distinct taste that does not go well with many other dishes)

-anything that is rotton, moldy, or dirty (you can put things in that look limp or past their prime, but remember you are still ingesting them!)

-Strong herbs like cilantro

-Beets will turn your broth bright pink- not a huge problem, but just a heads up!

To make broth:

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pan, saute the veggie scraps a few minutes, and cover with twice the amount of water as you used vegetables. Simmer over low heat for at least 1 hour. I also add peppercorns to my mixture. You can salt to taste or even use a couple tablespoons of soy sauce to add depth. Keeps up to one week in the fridge, or may be frozen several months.

Does anyone else have any good uses for beans or tips for living well on the cheap? I’d love to hear suggestions!


Sugar and Spice


It’s been a hell of a week. It was my last week of school (for now) woo! Of course this means it was finals week… boo. Fortunately I just had a couple of tests, and tests never stress me out much. (Writing papers is a lot more stressful to me for some reason). I am also preparing the house for when my best friend comes this weekend from Illinois to stay with us for a week.

But Tuesday I felt something… a little tickle in the back of my throat. No. Not now. Recognizing that tickle, I immediately began taking Emergen-C and drinking herbal teas and lots of water. I have been able to nip it in the bud this way before. But not this time… All the lemon-ginger-cayenne tea in the world couldn’t ward off the beast of a cold that snuck up on me. I went from feeling like I was going to fight it off with just a ticklely throat, to a runny nosed, congested, death-rattle coughing zombie in about 4 hours flat. I took a 3 hour nap when I got home from my last final and slept 10 hours last night. That’s an awful lot of sleep for me but it seemed to be just what I needed! I am still sick but definitely better.

Another thing this cold wiped out was my appetite. I haven’t really enjoyed eating anything besides soups and smoothies. I have a couple recipes I’d like to share soon, but as I am still not feeling too much zest for food right now, I thought I would share a lovely and simple body scrub. Perfect for pampering yourself in the bathtub, whether you’re sick or not!

Sugar and Spice Scrub:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup softened coconut oil or almond oil

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

5-10 drops essential oil of choice (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a fork or whisk. To use: massage onto moistened skin and rinse.

This recipe can be easily doubled or quadrupled and would make an excellent gift as well!


Staying Healthy for Busy People


On making time for health:

As I sit at my computer writing this, I have just put the finishing touches on a paper for school and am feeling relieved (I still have to leave early to print in though- no printer here L) The paper has pretty much been my main focus the last few days- though I have many roles and hobbies, I consider school a top priority. I am a full time nursing student and spend about 20 hours a week just at school and my clinical site, not to mention time spent on homework. I work between at least 16 and sometimes up to 26 hours a week as a nurse’s aide. I also have a husband, apartment, and cat that need daily attention!

Most of us are juggling multiple roles in our lives: students, employees, homeowners, spouses, parents (how do you do it?!). With all these responsibilities, good intentions of making time for ourselves and our health can easily go by the wayside.

For me, healthy eating and an active lifestyle are important. They make my body and mind feel good and balance the effects of stress in other areas of my life. When I make healthy meals, I am exercising my creative side and aim for aesthetics along with flavor and nutrition. A healthy dinner is also a relieving break from a homework-a-thon and can be a motivating factor for getting something finished by a certain time.

Here are a few things I do to ensure I can stay healthy when working or going to school all day:

*Pack a lunch the night before. This also saves money! My usual method of doing this is to throw together a “leftover salad” as I’m putting dinner leftovers away. I simply mound some spinach or mixed greens into a container, top it with leftovers (roasted vegetable dishes and stirfrys lend themselves especially well to this- soups, not so much), and take a tiny container of dressing if needed. Throw in a piece of fruit and you have a nutritious and filling lunch! And it takes less than five minutes longer than just putting away leftovers would. When there are no leftovers or I wont have access to a refrigerator, PB&J with some carrot sticks is my go-to.

*Either work out in the morning or bring gym bag. I love morning workouts because they are an energizing start to the day and free up my evenings for relaxing or… homework. And yet… I tend to have a hard time fitting them in. I usually have to be somewhere in the morning between 7 and 9 am, and quite honestly don’t like waking up any earlier than 6:30. I have trouble falling asleep at a decent hour, and tend to favor a full nights sleep over a morning workout. So for me, the key is usually throwing the gym bag in my car. If I go to the gym right after work/school it saves me the time of going home and hassle of going home and back out again and also prevents me from going home and getting occupied with something else.

*Slow cookers! I love my crockpot dearly… unfortunately it was recently left oo close to a burner on the stove and suffered third degree burns… not sure yet if it will be ok L. Slow cookers are great for busy people though, especially when you wont be getting home until late in the evening and know you will be hungry! Some of my favorite things to make in mine are lentil or split pea soups, chilis, and spaghetti sauce. I like to chop some extra vegetables while I prepare dinner the night before, then in the morning before I leave I can just literally throw everything in the pot and have dinner ready when I get back! I also like to make big batches of beans (black beans, pintos, garbanzos, and white beans most commonly). I soak them overnight, cook them in the slow cooker all day, then have them ready for use by dinner time. The ones that I don’t forsee being used within a week get portioned into containers and stored in the freezer- another great time saver when I need it!

*Plan meals for the week before grocery shopping. I don’t always stick to this plan exactly, but it saves me time wandering around the grocery store and ensures I will have ingredients on hand for a weeks worth of healthy meals. I don’t really have a limit on buying seasonal produce, and tend to just buy what looks good and is a good price whether I have a definite plan for it or not. I figure it is good for me to be challenged to include more produce!

*Have a handful of quick meal ideas on hand for busy nights. These are usually things that come together really quickly like a frittata or that have some premade portion like the tortellini salad I made last night. I had dinner ready in less than 30 minutes last night with this simple recipe:

Lemony Artichoke Tortellini Salad

Lemony Artichoke Tortellini Salad:

One 10 oz package refrigerated tortellini (I used pesto filled)

15 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced into rings

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons

Handful of fresh spinach, torn (optional)

2-4 Tbsp. vegetable broth or cooking water from pasta

2 Tbsp. grated parmesan

2 Tbsp. crumbled chevre

1 small lemon, zested

Salt and pepper to taste


Slice onion first, and heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Fill a large pot up with salted water and place on the stove top to begin boiling while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Slice the zucchini and add to the onions, then slice the artichokes and add them to the sauté. The pasta water should be boiling by now, so you can throw the tortellini in and cook according to package directions (should be around 4-6 minutes). During this time, you can zest the lemon and get the cheeses ready.

Once pasta is finished cooking, drain and toss into the pan with the veggies. Add the broth or cooking water if it seems a bit dry. You could add more olive oil if you wanted also. Add the cheeses and about 1 Tbsp. or juice from your zested lemon and toss everything to coat.

Serve topped with lemon zest and additional cheeses if desired. Enjoy!