Autumn Roasted Veggie Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Oh fall, how I love you. Fall in Ohio is just the best. Cool mornings, sunny days, a crisp evening breeze, watching the leaves change from deep green to vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges, and the smell of smoky burning wood drifting in the air...these are the days we live for. We hold on tight and we love it hard. Winter in Ohio can be a bit of a drag. Once the holidays are over, we see a lot of cold, gray days. But not fall. Fall is simply the best. 

Side note: I have a loaf of the yummiest banana bread in the oven right now and my whole house smells like magic. I posted the recipe 2 years ago (btw...where does time go?!?!?) and if you haven't made it yet, DO IT. I want to bottle the scent of this bread and spray it wherever I go. There is something about fresh bread in the oven that just makes things feel extra cozy. 

Also, can you tell I was running out of light to take these photos? Imagine me standing on a chair over my white board trying to reflect light with another white board as much as possible, holding my breath (I do that often when I take pictures), feverishly snapping pics before the sun goes down. Shambles. Long days with lots of sunlight is definitely something I miss already.  

Another reason I love fall is because of all the delicious in-season produce. Heeellllloooo squash! Fall brings us those hearty root veggies, which happen to be some of my favorite foods. I could live on squash.

Seriously.

Squash is the star of this salad. Not only are they beautiful and tasty, they are also incredibly nourishing. The impressive health benefits of squash are derived from the organic compounds, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that they contain. Squash is incredibly high in vitamin A (good for your immune system, skin, and vision), as well as a significant source of vitamin C, vitamin E, and B vitamins. Squash also contains minerals such as magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. They are also an excellent source of carotenoids and other important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.  

In this recipe I used one of my favorite squash - delicata! The cool thing about delicata squash is that you can eat the skin! That means it's suuuuper easy to prepare. Wash, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds with a spoon, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Game changer. 

I've been focusing a lot on squash, but let's not forget about the other ingredients. Brussels sprouts, beets, red onion (and squash) = the most colorful, delicious, and nutrient-dense combo! This veggie combo is slightly sweet (roasting veggies brings out their natural sweetness), satisfying, autumnal, and simply delicious. Served over greens and topped with a simple creamy avocado dressing creates a beautiful side to any meal, or even light main meal. We added black beans and enjoyed this salad as a main meal this week. Delish!

I hope you enjoy this salad as much as we did :)

Happy veggie roasting and happy fall, friends! 

Autumn Roasted Veggie Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing (V + GF)

|Serves 3-4|

Ingredients

For the salad: 

  • 2 delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, cut into 1/2 inch slices 
  • 2-3 small beets, peeled and diced 
  • 2-3 cups brussels sprouts, ends removed, cut in half
  • 1 red onion, sliced into half rings 
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 cups fresh mixed greens

For the dressing: 

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon
  • 2-3 Tbsp water 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F). 
  2. Add sliced squash, brussels sprouts, and red onion in a large bowl. Gently toss with olive oil and spices, then add to a bare baking sheet. 
  3. After transferring the veggies to the baking pan, toss the beets in the same large bowl with the leftover oil and spices. Transfer beets to the same baking sheet. *Tossing separately will prevent the other veggies from becoming red from the beets. 
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes. You’ll know the veggies are done when fork tender, golden brown, and slightly caramelized. 
  5. While squash is baking, prepare dressing by adding avocado, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon, salt, and pepper to a small blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  6. To serve, top fresh greens with roasted veggies and drizzle with dressing. Best when enjoyed immediately.
  7. Enjoy!

Notes

*Feel free to add beans or lentils to this salad to make it a more complete meal. 

xoxo,

Lauren

Peanut Butter Chickpea Protein Bars

Protein Bars. Do you love them? Do you hate them?

I have a love/hate relationship with them. 

Let me explain...

I am not a fan of most "health" protein bars on the market. Many of these bars have the nutrient profile of a candy bar and I'm just not into that. Many bars that market themselves as "fiber" bars or "protein" bars have very little of those actual nutrients. What the heck? And then there are those bars that claim to be high protein...and they are (hint: there is such a thing as too much of a good thing). 35 grams of protein, but all from isolated soy and/or whey. Also, sugar is the second ingredient. No thanks

By the way, 35 grams is a LOT of protein for a snack. If you eat those bars as a meal, fine, but let's be honest...do those bars satisfy anyone as an actual meal? Not me! I need some volume at meal times. I want to see a big plate or bowl of colorful foods that I can dig into. Maybe I'm weird...but I have a feeling some of you might feel similarly. I could go on and on about why I'm just not into most processed protein bars, but instead let me tell you about protein bars that I actually like. 

And a drum roll pleeeaaaasseee.....

HOMEMADE!  

Homemade protein bars are where it's at. You know me...I love using and eating real food ingredients. But I also like to keep things simple. For me, that's the best of both worlds. Simple + real food = jackpot. 

Does the thought of homemade protein bars intimidate you? It did me for a long time! I didn't really want to use protein powder and honestly thought it sounded like more of a hassle than anything. 

Boy was I wrong. 

These homemade peanut butter protein bars are SO easy. And SO good! They are made with all real food ingredients and filled with protein (but not too much), which makes it perfect for between meal snacking. These guys are also perfect for post-workout fuel. They have the right ratio of carbohydrate and protein to replenish those tired muscles and glycogen (energy) stores without overdoing it. 

But let's back up a minute. Let's talk about what else makes these protein bars so awesome. It's no secret that I love beans (especially chickpeas)...so why not throw them into some homemade protein bars?! Chickpeas are not only high in protein, but they are a great source of complex carbohydrate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and iron. They are also naturally loaded with fiber, which is one of the reasons I love these protein bars for snacks. Fiber = a full, happy belly. A full, happy belly = a happy Lauren. You know that Snickers ad campaign "you're not yourself when you're hungry"? That's basically me in a nutshell. I'm trying to think who my hangry alter-ego is. Hmm...one of the guys from the movie Grumpy Old Men? The Hulk? Maybe a mix between the two...? Scott might have a few ideas of his own LOL. Now that I know my hangry side isn't pretty, I always have snacks with me. Always. And lately, these protein bars have been the winners. TAKE THAT, SNICKERS.

To sweeten the bar up, I used medjool dates and just a little bit of maple syrup. If you like yours a little sweeter, just add a little more maple syrup or even honey or molasses. Both would be delish! 

So to recap: real food, complex carbohydrate, low sugar, lots of fiber, a healthy amount of protein.....and delicious.  Who needs a Snickers bar when you've got homemade peanut butter protein bars?!  

Β 

Peanut Butter Chickpea Protein Bars

|Makes 8-10 bars|

Ingredients: 

  • 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 5 pitted medjool dates
  • 1.5 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter 
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). 
  2. Blend the chickpeas, dates, maple syrup, and peanut butter together in a food processor until smooth. Add all the remaining ingredients and blend until well combined and smooth. It should begin to form a "dough ball". 
  3. Pour mixture into a prepared 8x8 inch pan and press down with slightly wet hands. Smooth out with a spatula. 
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I like mine around 15-16 minutes. 
  5. Let the pan cool for about 10 minutes, and cut into bars. Store in a baggie or Tupperware container in the refrigerator or freezer. 
  6. Enjoy!

xoxo,

Lauren

Β 

Energizing Pink Power Smoothie + That One Time on Dr. Oz!

I have a lot to share with you! But first...

I CAN'T EVEN with this smoothie. That color makes me weak in the knees. Every time I make it, I am just so stunned by the bright neon color. And all from real food!! My level of excitement is through the roof right now. I can't wait to share this with you. 

But I also want to tell you about this....

Last week I hoped on a plane to NYC to be part of the Dr. Oz show (!!!). I was one of 11 "health influencers" asked to help Dr. Oz launch The Regimen, a customizable plan to help you achieve your specific health goals.  It's essentially a checklist wellness plan that focuses on all the good things you can and should add to your diet/life. So many "plans" I see focus on the things we need to avoid and cut out. Ugh.  I prefer to focus on the good and let the nourishing foods crowd out the not so nourishing foods. That's why I'm really on board with this plan. It focuses on gut health, incorporating more real, whole foods into your diet, increasing physical activity, and creating meaningful social relationships. All the things that can help you be your healthiest self!

I was in NYC for a total of 23 hours and it was a complete whirlwind. I got to the city late Tuesday night after work (luckily it's just a quick hour and 20 minute flight), met my brother for dinner, and crashed at a friend's place before getting up bright and early to head to the ABC studio. I think I slept a total of 47 minutes LOL. I was glad I brought my heavy duty concealer because I had some serious dark circles under my eyes (yikes!).  

 The taping was tons of fun - we all had such a great time! After we were done at the studio, I took my carry-on bag and strolled around the city before grabbing an Uber back to the airport. And just like that, my short trip to NYC was over. All in all, it was an incredible opportunity and I feel extremely lucky to be part of such a great program with a fabulous group of people. The Regimen launched yesterday, so if you missed the show, check out more information here

In honor of The Regimen launching, I made you something really good and healthy. But also really pretty....with some fun ingredients ;)

Β 

If you haven't guessed already, the secret ingredient to make this smoothie the most beautiful smoothie there ever was is...BEETS! I'm having a major moment with beets. I just can't stop with them. We have been roasting them, spiralizing them, and throwing them in smoothies lately. 

Beets are highly nutritious and very good for cardiovascular health. The pigment antioxidants (heelllooo gorgeous color!) have been found to offer protection against heart disease, stroke, lower cholesterol levels, and even have anti-aging effects. Yes please. 

I also snuck another veggie in this smoothie. Any guesses?

CAULIFLOWER! Yep, cauliflower. I know, I know, not a normal smoothie ingredient, but hear me out! Frozen cauliflower makes the smoothie incredibly smooth and extra nutritious. Plus, you can't taste it - I promise! Cauliflower is totally becoming the new spinach (I like to add both to most smoothies!). Adding cauliflower to your smoothie is a great way to get extra fiber, disease fighting antioxidants, and loads of other nutrients (vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K, folate, iron, magnesium, and more). 

This smoothie is also banana free so it's perfect for those of you who aren't really into bananas or are looking to incorporate lower glycemic index foods into your diet. You won't even miss the banana thanks to the avocado. Don't even get me started on my love for avocados. But seriously, this smoothie hits it out of the park. It's creamy, slightly sweet, and FULL of great nutrition. 

AND IT'S HOT PINK. That's enough reason for me to want to make it everyday. 

Happy blending!

Energizing Pink Power Smoothie

Inspired by Oh She Glows Pink Power Detox Smoothie

|Serves 1-2|

Ingredients

  • 1 cup filtered water OR coconut water
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 medium sweet apple, roughly chopped (I like honeycrisp or fuji)
  • 2 small fresh beets (or 1 medium/large beet), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup frozen dark cherries
  • 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon 

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth. Taste and add liquid sweetener or 1 pitted date if needed. 

Notes

*If you don't have a high-speed blender, you might want to lightly steam the beets until tender before blending. 

Roasted Sweet Potato & Lentil Salad

I really want you guys to veg out with me.

And by veg out I obviously mean eat ridiculous amounts of actual veggies. Although laying on the couch watching Chef's Table on Netflix sounds like a great way to veg out, too.

Have you watched Chef's Table? It's a documentary series where each episode features a different world renowned chef. It basically tells their life story of how they got to be where they are today and also features their incredible restaurants and dishes. Scott and I are obsessed. It is filmed so beautifully and many episodes have actually moved me to tears. It's so inspiring to see how these chefs have followed their passion and become so successful. I'm kinda sappy though, I admit it. 

The point of this blog post is not really to tell you about Chef's Table, although if you want to chat more about it don't hesitate to reach out to me because I could (and would) talk about how much I love it ALL DAY. Now I just need to find a way to make about $500,000 more to be able to afford all these fancy restaurants that have been added to my foodie bucket list. No big deal

But hi! Ok! Let's talk about this dish! This salad is really simple and really, really good. It highlights one of my favorite foods, LENTILS.  

But first...are you familiar with pulses? Pulses are the tiny, but very mighty foods known as beans, dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas. These little guys are not new foods, but they have been newly anointed as power foods! Pulses are totally having their moment right now and I couldn't be more excited. If you haven't noticed already, I'll take any excuse to get more of these nutritional powerhouses into my diet. Chickpea salad, three bean fiesta salad, black bean loaded veggie burgerszoodles with veggie lentil marinara, the list goes on and on. I just can't get enough! I love them because they are affordable, sustainable, versatile, and incredibly nutritious. They are filled with fiber, plant-protein (9 grams per half cup to be exact!), folate, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, and iron. Heck yes! 

Want to learn more? Head on over to PulsePledge.com to learn even more about pulses and join the 45k + people to sign up for the Pulse Pledge, where you can commit to eating pulses once a week for 10 weeks. You will receive more tips, tricks, and recipes to help make it easy to include pulses into your diet. Your bod (and taste buds) will thank you! 

For this dish, I wanted to make something light and easy, yet hearty and comforting. September really is the bridge between summer and fall and that's exactly what this dish is to me. A mix of light, bright, colorful veggies and chili spiced roasted sweet potatoes and hearty lentils. It honestly doesn't get much better. This dish just speaks to my September loving, veghead soul. 

I used black lentils for this recipe because I wanted the other colors to really pop. And boy, did they pop - just look at all those colors! Originally, I was just going to do roasted sweet potatoes and lentils, toss it in a quick dressing, and call it a day. I opened up my fridge to see some kale, red bell pepper, asparagus, and a gorgeous red onion so I decided to throw them in the dish. It turned out to be a fabulous decision. The result was a wonderful texture, lots of color, and lots of flavor. 

I made a simple dressing of Dijon mustard, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, fresh squeezed lemon, and a pinch of salt & pepper.

Viola! Dinner is served!

....With a hefty dose of plant-protein, complex carbohydrate, loads of fiber, and tons of nutrients. Just the way I like it :) 

Roasted Sweet Potato & Lentil Salad

|Serves 2 as main dish, serves 4 as side|

Ingredients

  • 1 cup black (beluga) lentils, uncooked
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided 
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped and woody ends discarded 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2-3 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste 

For the dressing

  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F). 
  2. Place the lentils in a large saucepan with vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and lower the heat to low. Simmer until the lentils are tender, about 18-20 minutes. 
  3. Toss the sweet potatoes with 1 Tbsp olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt & pepper. Lay out on a baking tray. 
  4. Toss the asparagus with 1/2 -1 Tbsp olive oil and lay out on a separate baking sheet. 
  5. Roast the veggies in the oven. The sweet potatoes will take about 20-25 minutes. Toss them halfway through so they roast evenly. The asparagus will take about 10 minutes. You want them a bit soft, but still bright with a slight crunch. 
  6. Saute the garlic, onion, and red bell pepper in ~1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat until onion and pepper become softer. Add the kale and saute for about 2-3 more minutes. 
  7. For the dressing, place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until well combined. 
  8. Place the warm lentils, sweet potato, asparagus, and sauteed veggies together in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine. 
  9. Enjoy!

xoxo,

Lauren

This post is sponsored by USA Pulses. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting brands that make WholeLivingLauren possible! 

    Nourishing Buddha Bowl with Lemon Tahini Dressing

    Buddha bowls. My favorite bowls. 

    Have you ever had a Buddha Bowl? If not, you need to make one ASAP. A Buddha Bowl consists of a grain, a green, and a bean (gosh I love when food rhymes), and is usually accompanied by a tasty dressing. It is packed so full that it has a rounded "belly" appearance on the top, much like the belly of a Buddha. It is always vegetarian and usually vegan. They are bright, colorful, satisfying, and incredibly nourishing. The best thing about Buddha Bowls is that you can make one however you want. Don't have purple cabbage? No prob! Want to use another veggie instead of broccoli? By all means! The possibilities are endless.

    I think the main reason I like Buddha Bowls so much is because I really just like big bowls of food...let's be honest. You might notice that most of the recipes I share here are served in bowls. What can I say, I just love diving fork first into a big bowl of yum!

    This is the type of meal you make when you don't really have time to do much else. Or when you are cleaning out your pantry and fridge. Here is the basic formula: 

    Pick a grain

    Pick a bean

    Pick a green + some additional veggies if you want

    Make a simple sauce

    DIG IN!

    But seriously, it's that easy. I also love these bowls because they provide so many nutrients. Thanks to the combination of beans, grains, greens, and other veggies, you are getting a bowl full of complete proteins. That means you are getting all the essential amino acids your body can't make alone. Woohoo! 

    The recipe I am sharing with you today seems to pop up in our dinner rotation regularly. To me, it's the perfect combination. I often make this for my work lunches as well. It is so nice to have something light, yet incredibly nourishing and filling to eat during the day at work. Sometimes thinking about the good lunch I have waiting for me is the only thing that gets me through a busy morning. Please tell me I'm not the only one ;) Although this is a short work week (BTW, I hope you all had a FABULOUS Labor Day weekend!), it is an incredibly busy one, which includes something pretty exciting. More on that later! I made these bowls for my lunches this week and I know I will be thankful I did. 

    This particular bowl is filled with pretty much all my favorite things. Quinoa (complex carbohydrate + protein), garbanzo beans (complex carbohydrate + protein), roasted broccoli and kale + raw purple cabbage (heeeellllooooo fiber!), avocado (healthy fat), and a creamy lemon tahini dressing (YUM). 

    Tahini is an ingredient I always have on hand at home. Tahini is made from ground hulled sesame seeds and is similar in consistency to nut butters. It is creamy with a mild nutty flavor and absolutely delicious. I use it when I make hummus, but I use is most often to whip up quick sauces or dressings. This lemon tahini dressing is simple, but wonderfully flavorful and is the perfect final touch to this Buddha Bowl, bringing everything together nicely. 

    So, are you ready to jump on the Buddha Bowl bandwagon now?

    HOP ON! You will be so happy you did. 


    Nourishing Buddha Bowl with Lemon Tahini Dressing (V + GF)

    | Serves 4 |

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup dry quinoa
    • 2 cups water + 1 vegetable bouillon cube
    • 4 cups broccoli florets (about 2 large broccoli crowns)
    • 1 bunch lacinato (dinosaur) kale, stems removed and large pieces torn in half
    • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • salt & black pepper to taste
    • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped red cabbage
    • 1 avocado, sliced

    For the dressing

    • 1/2 cup tahini
    • Juice of 1 medium lemon
    • 3 tsp lemon zest
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt 
    • a dash of maple syrup to taste 
    • 1/4 - 1/2 cup water *see note*

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F) and place broccoli florets on a bare baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, making sure the broccoli is well coated. Sprinkle with garlic powder and a pinch of salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
    2. While the broccoli is roasting, put kale into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and massage until well combined, then sprinkle with salt. 
    3. Add the kale to the same pan of broccoli and bake for another 5-7 minutes.  
    4. While vegetables are roasting, cook the quinoa by heating a medium saucepan over high heat. Once hot, add quinoa, water, and vegetable bouillon cube and bring to a boil, uncovered. Once boiling, reduce heat to low (simmer), cover, and cook for 15-18 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and the water has completely absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. 
    5. Prepare the dressing by adding tahini, lemon, lemon zest, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and maple syrup into a small mixing bowl and whisking to combine. Then add water a little at a time until it forms a pourable sauce. 
    6. To serve, divide the quinoa, chickpeas, roasted veggies, and purple cabbage between serving bowls. Top each bowl with avocado slices and drizzle with tahini sauce. Add a squeeze of lemon juice for a bit more flavor. 
    7. Enjoy! 

    Notes

    *Amount of water needed may vary. Sometimes I only need 1/4 cup, other times I need about 1/2 cup. Start slow and add more until you achieve your desired consistency. 

    *Leftovers may be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. It is best if the tahini dressing is stored separately.

    xoxo,

    Lauren