Tag Archives | dairy free

Let them eat truffles!

“Do You Eat Brownies???”

Last week I attended a women’s business conference and this question came up when the person learned that I work in the nutrition field. I get this question pretty regularly in different forms….”do you eat chocolate? Do your clients have to give up sweets? Can you tell me how to say no to chocolate chip cookies? Please tell me you eat dessert!”

So, I’m going to declare it right here. I, Tanya McCausland eat dessert!

Sweets and treats are part of exploring and savoring amazing food. When we deprive ourselves of the occasional piece of chocolate we’re setting ourselves up to inhale the entire bar. Yeah, we’ve all been there!

This week I’ve been in San Francisco visiting with some of my dearest friends. One of our favorite things to do is cook and enjoy a meal together. There is something absolutely magical about roasting potatoes, chopping herbs and grilling fresh sausages and is amazingly heartwarming and soothing – especially when you’re doing it in a tiny but bright San Francisco apartment kitchen! Alas, no meal is complete without a sweet treat at the end. The other evening we shared some amazing dark chocolate with almonds and dried cherries while we finished our wine and laughed late into the night. It was fantastic in every way possible!

So yes, this girl DOES eat dessert. But, I have standards that make eating it enjoyable instead of totally shameful.

How to Eat Dessert

1) Spot Cravings: How do you feel when you go scouting out the office candy bowl? Are you angry, frustrated, stressed, sad, tired? We tend to reach for the treats when things aren’t going our way. But, guess what? After you inhale the Snickers Bar you’ll still be angry, frustrated, sad and tired. Weird how that works, right? Instead, address your feelings with an appropriate action like taking a 10 minute walk outside, talking it out with a colleague, taking three cleansing breaths or even looking up cute kitty pictures on Pinterest. Or, do all three!

2) Splurge: There is a ton of cheap, crappy candy out there. Don’t fall for $2 bags of mini chocolate bars or 2 for 1 deal. Your body is not a garbage disposal so don’t treat it like one by feeding it junk. Your body deserves only the best and that includes the best chocolate you can find! Go for quality, not quantity. Spend the extra couple bucks on the “fancy” organic dark chocolate bar or the macaroon from a local coffee shop. Then, move on to step 3.

3) Savor: Now with your treat in hand take time to really enjoy it instead of inhaling it in mere seconds. That little piece of luxury deserves full attention! Sit down, and deeply inhale the deliciousness you’re about to eat (yes, I said smell your food!) and then take a bite. Close your eyes and thoroughly enjoy the taste and texture of this amazing treat you just took the time to savor.

4) Share: Eating is a communal activity and that includes dessert! It’s much more satisfying, enjoyable and profoundly feeds the soul when we can share food with another person. Cut your muffin in half and offer it to your office mate, share dessert with your love (one spoon only!) and crack open that bar of chocolate when the girls come over for dinner.

5) Stir up Your Own: While I have a serious weakness for a good bar of dark chocolate, I do love stirring up my own sweet treats. Unfortunately (well, fortunately) I’m not much of a baker so my oven doesn’t see much cookie or cake action. But, I do make one tasty truffle! My Chocolate Chia Truffles are delicious and super simple. If you can push the button on your food processor you’ve got what it takes to make truffles. By the way, this recipe presents a great opportunity to invite your kids into the kitchen with you. Just beware of those messy fingers!

Chocolate Chia Seed Truffles

1 ½ cups pitted dates, chopped
¼ cup unsweetened raw cacao or cocoa powder
½ cup whole chia seeds
½ teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1 cup raw slivered almonds (can also use raw cashews, pistachios or walnuts)
½ cup shredded coconut for dusting


  • Soak chopped dates in hot water for about 10 minutes
  • Strain dates (reserve water) and puree in food processor until thick paste forms
  • Add cocoa powder, chia seeds and vanilla extract. Pulse until combined.
  • Add reserved liquid if needed. Add only a very small amount at a time so mixture doesn’t get too soft
  • Add almonds; pulse until well distributed throughout mixture
  • Form mixture into small balls and roll in shredded coconut
  • Place on wax paper in single layer and chill in refrigerator for about one hour. Place them in containers with lids. These will keep for about a week in the fridge.
Comments { 0 } · Posted on May 2, 2013 in Healthy Recipes

Lovely Lentils with Leeks, Mushrooms and Carrots

Mark Twain famously said “The longest winter was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” If you’ve ever been to northern California in the summer this will make you chuckle because it can be quite chilly. I’ve sat on a San Francisco beach in mid August huddled around a campfire wearing a down jacket.

Not to disagree with Mr. Twain but for me, the longest winter EVER was the one I just experienced in Central Pennsylvania.

When I moved back from California this past November I remember happily saying “oooh, I missed the cold weather and the snow!” Well, I’m eating my words now. It snowed AFTER the spring equinox and that’s really not fun! I’m getting tired of eating soups, stews and chilis. I don’t want to get brain freeze anymore while running or defrost our chickens’ waterers every morning. And, most importantly, I’m really sick of looking up San Francisco weather and seeing that it’s 61 and sunny!

Well, my prayers have been answered! The clouds have parted, the sun is shining, the breeze is warm and the birds are chirping. It’s 80 degrees outside! Of course it’s all a big tease, because the weather report is calling for temperatures to drop nearly 25 degrees in the next few days.

I find food most satisfying when it matches the weather and season. Strawberries in the dead of winter taste like plastic and hot soup in the summer is just…well, too hot. So, when the weather can’t seem to make up it’s mind it can be helpful to make food that can adapt to the weather and your busy schedule.

My Lovely Lentil recipe that I made over the weekend is the perfect example of a simple and flexible recipe. It still has a cool weather flair with a taste of spring. You can eat it warmed in a pita, cold as a side to a green salad, on top of a baked sweet potato or mixed with rice or quinoa for a hearty main dish. It also lends itself well as a snack with carrot sticks or crackers. Plus, it’s totally portable and doesn’t need to be kept refrigerated.

When I made this recipe Mr. Wes came in the house sniffing around for the big steak he expected to find me cooking.

When I told him it was this lentil recipe he didn’t believe me. And, after a taste he said “yeah, but you put meat in there somewhere, right?” Nope, no meat! Even the most voracious meat-eater couldn’t stop eating this!

Although this recipe is perfect for the spastic spring weather on the east coast it hails from beautiful California. My dear colleague, friend and mentor Jamie Dougherty shared it with me last year during a cooking class we did at a California winery. So, as I enjoy this lentil salad for lunch today I think that the weather here today is nearly identical to what it was on that day at that winery. Sun shining and warm breezes. But, off in the distance I see them. Rain clouds are gathering. According to my iPhone it’s 73 degrees and sunny in San Francisco. But, that’s ok. I’ve got a delicious lunch, wonderful memories and it’s supposed to be 72 tomorrow!


Lovely Lentils with Leeks, Mushrooms and Carrots

Serves 4


2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil
2 leeks, white and soft green parts, sliced thinly
4 medium carrots, scrubbed and 1/2-inch-diced
1 cup slice mushrooms (shiitake or baby bella are good choices)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup French green Le Puy lentils
½ medium onion, peeled. Do not remove the stem so the onion stays together.
6 whole cloves
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Handful of parsley, chopped


  1. Stick the cloves in the onion. Place the lentils, 4 cups of water and the onion with the cloves in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sauté pan, add the leeks, carrots and mushrooms with a generous pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until softened and fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Set aside.
  3. When the lentils are done, remove and discard the onion and drain the lentils. Put lentil and leek mixture in a serving bowl. Stir to combine.
  4. Whisk together the ¼ cup of olive oil, the mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add small amounts of the dressing to the lentil mixture, tasting as you go. Add salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with parsley, stir well and allow the lentils to cool until just warm, about 15 minutes.
Comments { 1 } · Posted on April 11, 2013 in Healthy Recipes

Holy Granola (Bar)!

I’ve been getting back into running and am in the middle of training for a 5K. It’s been quite an adjustment with the east coast weather but, Sky and I have been braving the cold. I sport my neon blue running shoes and she looks styling in her blue harness. We’re quite the pair!

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The one thing that gets me out of bed on a 30 degree morning is getting to eat one of these granola bars before we hit the road. Combined with half an apple dotted and a smidge of peanut butter, they make the perfect pre-run snack. They also satisfy Mr. Wes‘ crunchy cravings and are the perfect snack for him to take to work. He’s shared them with some of the other guys at work and they’ve gotten rave reviews!

I can guarantee that dad’s, kids, burley mechanics and other picky eaters will dig right in.

What I really love is that these are free of crappy oils, processed sugars and all those icky preservatives which the store-bought versions are loaded with. If you are looking for a gluten free bar then be sure to use gluten free oats (Bob’s Red Mill is a good choice).

I know you’re probably wondering why I’ve called them “Holy Granola Bars.” Well, I try to make time on Sunday evenings to prep a few meals or snacks for the week. Lately this means cooking some sort of big stew or chili and making granola bars. Hence the name. Plus, when Mr. Wes eats one he says “holy cow these are good!”

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Holy Granola Bars


6 cups old fashioned or rolled oats (they are the same thing)
1/4  cup unrefined coconut oil, melted. Plus more for greasing the pan (Spectrum brand is a good choice)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup honey or grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup water or apple juice
1/4 cup molasses
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups puffed rice (you can find this in the cereal aisle or natural foods section. Be sure you get the unsweetened kind)
1 cup freshly ground flaxseed
1 cup roughly chopped nuts (any combination of pecans, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts works)
1/4 cup raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. In a large bowl toss the oats with the melted coconut oil and salt until all the oats are coated. Spread the mixture on 2 baking sheets and toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Stir the oats every 5 minutes or so to ensure even toasting and prevent burning. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, combine the coconut sugar, honey, water and molasses. Heat the mixture slowly over low heat, stirring until all combined the the sugar has melted. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. In the large bowl toss together the toasted oats, puffed rice, ground flaxseed, nuts and raisins. Pour in the coconut sugar, honey, molasses mixture stirring the dry ingredients as you pour. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is totally coated with the sticky mixture.
  5. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil. Press mixture into the the baking sheet. It helps to use a piece of wax paper to do this so you don’t get half of the mixture stuck to your fingers.
  6. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.  Cut into pieces with a sharp knife and pack into individual granola bars.

Notes: This is a totally flexible recipes. Experiment with different nuts, seeds or dried fruit such as chopped apricots, cherries or goji berries.

Be sure to snack on all the delicious crumbs that are left over from cutting up the bars!

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Comments { 5 } · Posted on March 25, 2013 in Healthy Recipes