Picnic-Perfect Potato & Sweet Pepper Salad


Hooray, it’s picnic season! Who doesn’t enjoy packing a picnic basket full of delicious summer foods and heading to your favorite park, or beach, or a secluded hilltop to enjoy the great outdoors and break bread with friends and family or maybe even spend some alone time to destress from a busy week? It is easy to work up quite an appetite when enjoying the outdoors: swimming, building sandcastles, hiking, playing games etc; so the temptation to fill up on empty calories from salty chips, sugary sodas, and fat-filled sweets is very strong; however, taking good care of your health by eating nutritious foods is just as important on a picnic as it is every day at home. Yes, your choices need to be fairly portable, easy to prepare and serve, and packed safely to prevent food-bourne illness; but this is pretty easy to accomplish with a little preparation.

There are many great recipes available for simple yet nutritious picnic fare. One I particularly love is my Sweet & Peppery Summer Salad.  Should you want to “cook” while enjoying the outdoors, my Black Bean Burgers are a great choice. They will sizzle in no time on a grill or outdoor cooktop and I know will be a big hit with everyone. A delicious staple of picnics everywhere is a potato salad but it can come with some hefty calories and often unhealthy ingredients.  Here is my recipe for a delicious but healthier, plant-based version of this picnic favorite that is truly easy to prepare.

Picnic-Perfect Potato & Sweet Pepper Salad

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 60 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Picnic-Perfect Potato & Sweet Pepper Salad



  1. Wash, halve and steam potatoes until just fork tender (about 25 minutes) Drain and rinse gently with cold water to stop cooking process. Cut potato pieces in half again. Let cool.
  2. Use the Healthy Saute method to slightly soften and bring out the flavor of the chopped peppers (Healthy Saute: bring 3 Tbsp of vegetable broth or water to bubbling, add peppers, cover and cook for no more than 3 minutes. Drain.) Let peppers cool.
    For Dressing:
  1. Combine Just Mayo, Yellow Mustard, smoked paprika, dill weed and salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to blend into potato mixture.
    To Pack or Serve
  1. In a large bowl add potatoes, celery and sweet peppers. Add dressing. Mix gently.
  2. When serving, sprinkle potato salad with small amount of dill weed and paprika.


Keep all picnic foods cold with ice packs/bags of ice in your picnic basket/cooler until ready to serve. Serve only when ready to eat. Do not let foods sit out in the sun/heat.


Plant-Based Nutrition Information

potatoesPotatoes are the stars of this recipe.  Often considered inexpensive comfort food and frequently consumed as unhealthy fast food; potatoes can actually provide awesome nutrition if they are prepared in a healthy way! This recipe calls for steaming the potatoes rather than boiling them.  This prevents the nutrients from being boiled away into the water and ensures the potatoes do not become too soft. Leaving the skins on the potato also increases the already high fiber content of this important food.

Potatoes are a very good source of Vitamin B6 – the cell-builder vitamin. B6 is very important for keeping our brain cells functioning and for supporting our nervous system. Our body’s production of serotonin (happiness), melatonin (sleep), epinephrine and norepinephrine (for stress management) needs vitamin B6. B6 also supports our cardiovascular system by helping to keep homocysteine levels low (homocysteine damages our blood vessels). Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, copper, Vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin and pantothenic acid.

Sweet Bell Pepper

Sweet Bell Peppers are AWESOME! One cup of these incredible veggies has only 29 calories – pretty incredible for a food that tastes so good, right? Sweet Bell Peppers are an outstanding source of Vitamin C – just one cup will give you 157% of your recommend daily intake of this important vitamin.Sweet Bell Peppers are also a very good source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, and folate. BONUS: these peppers have 30 different carotenoids that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support to our bodies. Good things do come in small packages!

The nutrients we derive from these delicious veggies are at their peak when the peppers are fully ripe.  How do you know if they are ripe?  Your best evidence is in their color: when the color is deep and vivid they are likely ready to eat.  Another bit of evidence is if the pepper feels heavy for its size and if the pepper feels firm but yields very slightly to pressure.

celeryCelery is an awesome veggie that adds great texture (crunch) to my potato salad and a lovely color against the white flesh of the potatoes. Celery has been a go-to veggie for anyone trying to keep their caloric intake in check; but I wonder how many people really understand how valuable this veggie is to our daily nutritional requirements!

Celery is an excellent source of Vitamin K – a vitamin necessary for blood clotting. Vitamin K is also very important for our bone health.

Celery also has very special anti-inflammatory benefits – particularly for our digestive tract.  Celery is an important source of molybdenum – a mineral that helps our bodies detoxify by keeping the sulfer in our system in balance. Celery is a good source of folate, potassium and manganese as well.

I’ve talked a lot about the need to stay hydrated – especially in the summer – and celery can play a role in this essential task. Celery is 95% water – and while just eating celery won’t keep you hydrated, every little bit helps.

NOTE:  If you are unable to find Just Mayo from Hampton Creek for this recipe at your grocery store, Veganaise from Follow Your Heart is a very good alternative. In fact, I use both these products regularly.

Your Kitchen – Is It Nourishing Your Family?

HeartIs your kitchen the heart of your home? Is it the place where family members gather together every day to nourish their bodies and strengthen family bonds? Or, is your kitchen just a busy expressway where throwing a quick snack in the microwave or raiding the pantry for something in a box is the norm? If you identify with the latter you are definitely not alone. For many busy families, fueling our bodies with good food and taking the time to connect with each other while doing it, has unintentionally slipped several rungs down our list of priorities. Work and school schedules, extracurricular activities, and all the gadgets that easily distract us have taken priority. Many of us run on adrenalin or empty calories like high-sugar,high-fat, unhealthy fast food; but, what else can we do?

  • The first step in restoring the heart of our homes is to put good nutrition back on top of our priority list and truly make nutrition a family affair.
  • Next, have a frank and honest discussion as a family about the importance of good nutrition and the value of sharing meals together.
  • Commit as a family to preparing nourishing foods, including portable school and work meals, and ask everyone to choose meals and snacks away from home with nutrition in mind.
  • While it is unlikely all meals can be shared, and it may take awhile for everyone to re-prioritize their busy schedules, try to sit together for at least one meal every day.
  • Set yourself up for success by taking stock of the foods and beverages you currently have in your home and analyzing their nutritional value. If they don’t contribute to the good health and welfare of your family, get rid of them.
  • Make a grocery list. To help you, check out some of our recipes on this blog. There are also dozens of wonderful plant-based recipe books, several I have mentioned before, where you can get inspiration. Find out when the farmers’ markets operate in your area and get to know where the local farms are. Buy organic as much as possible.

148743755Worried about time? Aren’t we all.  Here are some ideas on how to make preparing nutritious food quick and easy.

  • Try to plan out your meals for a least a few days.
  • Wash and prepare meal ingredients right from the grocery bag. Store in meal-sized portions so they are ready to go.
  • Many vegetables do not need their skins removed so save time and just wash don’t peel.
  • Using kitchen tools such as food processors, blenders, mixers, choppers, spiralizers, etc. is a must in busy households. Good knives are also important – but unless you are a master at them, you can get pretty good results mechanizing as much of the process as possible.
  • Make large batches of food and freeze what you don’t need immediately in individual portions. Don’t forget to label and date them.
  • Share the work. Including your family in the preparation of meals teaches them the importance of good nutrition and where our food comes from. Many hands also make light work!

Making nutrition a family affair is important; but it can also be fun. Plan a trip together to a demonstration garden, take a class on growing your own vegetables, take a cooking class as a family, and watch food-centric documentaries together – they are sure to start a good conversation.

We will be sharing some great family-friendly recipes this week.  Stay tuned.

Eat Great Food this Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Blog Post

Labor Day Weekend is seen as the last big hurrah of summer. Children are back to school, sports and recreational activities begin their Fall programs, and workplaces seem to pick up the pace now that everyone is back from summer vacation. The 3-day weekend gives us an opportunity for one more gathering in the park, a pool party in the back yard, or a road trip to the beach.

Ahhh, summer, it’s hard for us to let you go!
Food is usually a central theme at holiday celebrations. Sharing good food with friends and family is part of our social fabric; yet, when it comes to packing our picnic baskets and filling our coolers, our understanding of the importance of nutrition seems to disappear. Let’s be honest; potato chips, colas, sweets and fried things are common fare for picnics. I’ve even heard these foods referred to as “treats”. Yet, the vast majority of these foods are nothing more than high fat, high sugar, high sodium, high calorie, low value, unhealthy choices.

Disturbing facts: By the end of 2015, potato chip sales  just in the U.S. will exceed $4.5 billion. One 6.75oz package of potato chips, 1 very small bag, has 1085 calories, 73 grams of fat, a whopping 1071 milligrams of sodium. Most people do not limit themselves to a 6.75oz serving.


Better Picnic Basket Alternatives

Here are some suggestions for your weekend celebration. Each one is easy to prepare, budget-friendly and definitely nutritious. Preparing these recipes together is an excellent opportunity to make nutrition a family affair.

Black Bean Burgers: Jazzed Up Veggies
Tabouleh Salad: Jazzed Up Veggies
Hummus: Jazzed Up Veggies
Chickpea Spread: Jazzed Up Veggies
Sangria: Jazzed Up Veggies
Dessert: Jazzed Up Veggies
Best Kale Chips: Recipe by Angela @ohsheglows.com
Sweet-Potato Chips: Simply slice sweet potatoes very thin, toss with a very small amount of olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Bake on cookie sheet slowly at 250 degrees for 1.5 – 2 hours.
Flip once.
Raw Veggies: carrot sticks, cucumber slices, cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, grape tomatoes, red pepper sticks, celery boats, & shelled edamame. Our Jazzed Up Chickpea Spread recipe makes a great dip for raw veggies or make some garlic hummus.
Nuts & Seeds: raw cashews, almonds, shelled sunflower seeds, and pistachios are great choices
Water: Keep everyone hydrated with infused water.

Enjoy your weekend. Breathe deeply, relax, make memories with family and friends, and nourish your body. Moments like these really nourish our souls.

Pudding for Breakfast – Why Not?

Pudding for breakfast is not that radical an idea, although I know my 93 year old mother wouldn’t approve; but shaking things up keeps things interesting, right? We all know that a healthy breakfast is the foundation for a great day. It energizes our bodies and fuels our brains so we can take on whatever the universe puts in our path. While we know all this on an intellectual level, the reality is, mornings can be pretty hectic. Getting ready for school or work, finding missing assignments, and searching for lost glasses and keys can make finding time for breakfast pretty difficult. My solution?  Pudding. Not just any pudding though –  Chia pudding and here’s why.

Chia seeds are one of my superhero plant-based foods. They may be tiny but they pack an awesome nutritional punch. Chia is known to have been used as a superfood as early as 3000 BC. We humans, many of us being foolish and thinking we know better than mother nature, largely abandoned this little powerhouse after the “discovery” of the Americas until the early 1990s. Thank Goodness the descendants of the Aztec and Maya people, who revered Chia for its extraordinary qualities (side note: Chia is the Mayan word for strength) held on to this marvelous food until the rest of us got smart enough to rediscover it.

Chia Seeds

Chia Superhero Stats

1 tablespoon (12g) serving of chia seeds deliver:
3 grams of protein
4 grams of dietary fiber
4 grams of fat (3.4 grams of Good Fats)
Chia seeds are also an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, and a good source of zinc, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin B1, B2 and B3.

Let’s break it down.

Plant-based protein has far fewer calories and non of the unhealthy fats. Protein is important for good health as it supports muscle development, blood, connective tissue as well as essential antibodies and enzymes.
Dietary fiber is necessary for digestive health, helps us maintain normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and helps maintain optimum body weight.
Omega 3,6,9 are polyunsaturated & monounsaturated fatty acids essential to good health. They support our blood, maintain fluidity of cell membranes, and assist in the production of prostaglandin.These are good fats.
Manganese supports the thyroid, keeps bones strong, and maintains the health of nerves.
Magnesium relaxes nerves and muscles, builds and strengthens bones, and keeps blood circulating smoothly.

So there you have it. Chia seeds are perfectly suited for the most important meal of the day – breakfast. Here is a delicious recipe for Chia Breakfast Pudding that the whole family can enjoy, will provide everything you need to start the day, and is ridiculously easy to prepare.

Chia Breakfast Pudding

Chia Breakfast Pudding

You are only limited by your imagination with this recipe. Choose any fruit you and your family enjoy. Add cinnamon for a lovely twist. You might like to include some shredded, unsweetened coconut, or small slivered almonds or chopped walnuts. You can really add anything you like. The basic pudding will simply be your vehicle for awesome nutrition, cool texture, and flavor.

This recipe is well suited to including older children in the making. They will be fascinated with the transformation of the chia seeds! Let them choose a favorite fruit to add or challenge them to choose a fruit they've never tried.

This is one way to make nutrition a family affair.


  • 2 cups nut milk (almond, coconut, cashew)
  • 1/3 cup organic chia seeds
  • 1 Tsp organic pure vanilla
  • Fresh strawberries, raspberries, dragon fruit, apple, kiwi (in photo above)


  1. The evening before combine nut milk, chia seeds and vanilla in bowl or jar with lid.
  2. Mix well & refrigerate.
  3. Shake or stir several times to ensure mixture is blended.
  4. Seeds will absorb liquid and form a tapioca-like pudding.
  5. Before serving prepare fruit. Set aside some for garnish.
  6. Stir fruit into milk/chia seed mixture.
  7. Serve in small bowl, parfait glass, or on-the-go containers.
  8. Garnish with remaining fruit.


Chia seeds will swell when liquid is added and form a gel. If the seeds are swallowed they may cause a choking hazard when they combine with fluids in the esophagus. Children should be carefully supervised.


Other ways to add chia seeds into your morning routine:

*add 1 Tbsp to your morning smoothie before blending
*sprinkle 1 Tsp on  whole grain cereal then add nut milk
*add chia seeds to your baking i.e. muffins, breads

How do you like to use chia seeds?
Please share your ideas.

Make Nutrition a Family Affair

Finger Food Fun

Incorporating nutrition into your family’s busy routine may seem daunting in today’s busy households; but, not only is it essential to our health and well-being; it can be quite easy, budget friendly, and have positive family-dynamic benefits too. We have to eat to survive so presumably eating is already well entrenched in your daily activities. The challenge is to make a shift in our habits of random noshing to thoughtful consumption: from the view that food intake is a chore or a mindless activity, to seeing the intake of nutritious food as a catalyst to a happy, healthy and productive life.

The vast majority of our “first-world” society puts much more thought into the clothes we wear, the cars we drive and the homes we live in, the so-called external trappings of success, than we do to the way we care for our bodies. Truth is, we would rather have a quick fix or blame someone else for our massive obesity, behavior and health problems than take stock of our priorities and make necessary fundamental changes in how we live.

The first step we need to take is to admit we need to take the first step. You are in control, right? So only you can resolve to make nutrition a priority for you and your family. Once you have done this the rest is a piece of cake – OOPS, sorry, a piece of whole fruit!

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start a conversation, preferably during a family meal, about food. Some family members may not have given the food they eat much thought. Ask everyone what they ate that day. Be prepared to be startled.  You may just hear some things that will make you cringe or you might be surprised to find out your family members are eating good things away from home you never thought they would.
  • Review the coming week’s schedule and plan your meals as best you can. Engage your family in the planning process. Make a grocery list based on your meal plan but allow for some nutritious “back-up” items just in case. You know the saying “the best laid plans…” so plan for the unplanned and you’ll have much less stress.
  • Plan a grocery outing that at least includes your partner/spouse and hopefully includes your children. This can be tough because the trip will take much longer than shopping on your own. However, you will give your family the opportunity to see all the different foods they might not have considered. Let new foods be a conversation starter! Occasionally making grocery shopping a family affair shows them how important selecting the right foods is to you.  You could even make a game out of it: ask everyone to choose a fruit or vegetable they haven’t tried before and make it the star of a special meal during the week.
  • Let meal-preparation be a family activity too. When children are involved in making meals, they are far more likely to enjoy eating them. This is a great time for conversations with teens and probably a rare opportunity to touch base with spouses as well.  Food is not only a necessity for us, it is a social catalyst, so take advantage of this important time together.
  • Remember children love to imitate. What you do and say really matters. Be great role models for them. Let them see that fueling our bodies with nutritious food is important. Don’t make drastic changes all at once but do make good food always available. Before you know it, nutrition will be a regular family affair.

Post Script:  While quick and drastic changes can really backfire on your plans to make long-lasting adjustments to what your family consumes, here are some food items you will want to reduce or eliminate entirely from your home:

  • Palm Oil: potato chips, many crackers, most candy, margarine, many cereals and canned goods. Palm Oil is extremely high in saturated fat which is detrimental to human health. If that isn’t enough reason, palm oil is also responsible for devastating the world’s rainforests.
  • Sugar: most packaged foods contain sugar – and large amounts of it. Read labels and you will be blown away by how much sugar is added. Sugar is really empty calories, turns to fat in your liver, causes insulin resistance, contributes to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, actually increases your appetite and is highly addictive. Ok, there are no redeeming qualities to sugar so eliminate it from your diet. Sugar is also responsible for devastating forests and animal habitats. It requires a lot of water to produce and crops are sprayed continually with pesticides that we end up consuming or it drains off in wastewater and pollutes our oceans and streams.
    Want something sweet? Choose fresh whole fruit, add fruit to breads & muffins, or use a very small amount of agave nectar.
  • Sodium: many, many packaged foods contain extremely high levels of sodium. Sodium should be listed on labels; however, it might be listed as Na (the scientific symbol for sodium), salt, MSG, disodium phosphate, baking soda or baking powder. In fact if “sodium” is in the name at all i.e. Monosodium Glutamate you know it is salt.  High sodium intake is associated with problems with high blood pressure, heart disease, swelling of extremities and other health problems. Because sodium is so prevalent in packaged foods, it is best to stay away from them. Choose whole, raw foods whenever possible.

A plant-based diet is a nutritionally sound and delicious way to ensure you are nourishing your body. We always recommend you purchase organic foods whenever possible to avoid ingesting harmful pesticides and other chemicals. At Jazzed Up Veggies we are committed to bringing you easy, budget friendly plant-based recipes and really encourage you to try them with your family.

There are many wonderfully talented plant-based chefs who have written recipe books. My favorites are:

  • Chloe Coscarelli – “Chloe’s Kitchen”
  • Robin Robertson – “Quick-Fix Vegan” and “More Quick-Fix Vegan”
  • Leanne Campbell – “The China Study All Star-Collection”