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Going Plant Based: My Experience

I have always thought about going vegan… How could I do that? Where is the protein? Don’t vegetables get kind of boring? What about Chick-fil-a?! SO many questions, + it took some convincing, but here we are. I did it! I decided to try this plant-based thing out last semester while I was away at college… + I LOVED it.

Overall, the plant-based diet was so much easier than I expected it to be, + I learned so much about the benefits of eating only plants. Here are some of the major things I learned:

One of the biggest things that I questioned about the plant-based diet was increasing the amount of carbs in my diet. I was always under the impression that higher protein, lower carbs was the way to go, + this plant-based experiment definitely proved otherwise.

There is no need to be afraid of carbs! Carbs energize us, + we SHOULD be eating them, not avoiding them! Some of my favorite carb sources that I relied on:

  • Chickpea Pasta
  • Dave’s Bread/Bagels
  • Sweet Potatoes 
  • Fruits! [Bananas + Berries]
  • Oats

 

This was DEFINITELY where I saw the biggest difference in how I felt. It increased my motivation + energy in every aspect of my day. When I started consistently eating totally vegan, I found it easier to:

  • Wake up early
  • Workout 
  • Focus on school assignments
  • Stay awake + alert throughout the day

Aside from carbs, this was where I had the most questions. We are all trained to think that protein = meat, + this could NOT be more false. I highly recommend watching the Netflix documentary Game Changers, they explain this perfectly!

As explained in the documentary: Protein comes from meat, right? But… think about it… don’t the animals need to consume protein in order to give us that? Where do you think the animals get it from? How do they gain so much protein? You guessed it… plants!

It is SO fun to experiment with plant-based meat substitutes + different veggies, they can be made to taste EXACTLY like meat! One of my favorite recipes is Chickpea Salad [think tuna salad, but crushed chickpeas + vegan mayo!] Here are some of my favorite plant-based protein sources: 

  • Chickpeas
  • Tofu/Tempeh
  • Edamame
  • Beans
  • Beyond Meat [Burgers, Meatballs, Ground “Beef”, etc.]
  • Veggies! Veggies! Veggies! [Broccoli, Mushrooms, Kale, etc.]
  • Nuts [Almonds + Peanuts, especially]

 

I really thought that I was going to miss some foods, for me, chicken was the hardest to let go of! Surprisingly enough, I did not miss anything at ALL! I found myself enjoying plant-based foods even more than typical foods.

Dairy-free cheese is one of these things for sure! I LOVE cheese, + after finding the right brands ++ cooking the right meals, I enjoy dairy-free cheese so much more! It tastes just as yummy, + doesn’t make me feel bloated.

I also found that so many restaurants are starting to offer plant-based options as well! My favorite– Sofritas at Chipotle… YUM! 

I still have so much to learn + discover in terms of the plant-based diet, but I have to admit, it was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I absolutely intend on continuing, + I am EXCITED.

Nothing beats getting excited about food + knowing that you’re still going to feel GOOD after eating it! 

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Have you tried going plant-based before? Tag @CHAARG + let us know! : )

How To Meal Prep: The Ultimate Guide

There are so many different ways to meal prep. Meal prep can be anything from pre-roasting enough veggies for the week to cooking everything for the whole week ahead of time, to cooking everything + proportioning it ahead of time. What *type* of meal prep works best for you depends on a ton of factors such as: 

  • Your budget 
  • How much time you want to spend cooking during the week 
  • How much you like cooking  
  • How much fridge + freezer space you have 
  • What you want to eat [unfortunately some foods just aren’t great to be made ahead of  time +need to be made the day of]
  • How much variety you want + need 

This guide will give you 5 meal prep options for a wide range of preferences. Test different ways to *prep* + find which option serves you most! 

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Sometimes we have weeks where we literally just have no time… or maybe you just don’t like cooking or you’re living in a dorm + don’t have access to the equipment needed to cook a lot. This is where *no prep meal prep* comes in. While this option can sometimes be a bit more expensive than buying the ingredients, sometimes the convenience is worth it!

This Walmart Grocery Haul is a great guide I like to use for a week’s worth of meals that can all be purchased at Walmart! 

Other staples that I love to keep on hand for when life gets unexpectedly crazy – all of  these can easily be combined for a balanced meal at any time + don’t go bad sitting in my pantry or fridge 

  • Store-bought rotisserie chicken [these are pre-cooked/seasoned + only $5-6, which will last you a week]
  • Canned meats — tuna, crab, salmon, chicken
  • Pre-marinated tofu 
  • Canned beans 
  • Hard-boiled eggs 
  • Microwavable rice 
  • Frozen veggies — these only take 1-2 minutes to microwave : )

This can be great if you want to buy in bulk, prep way ahead of time, + have very minimal cooking required for the following weeks. These recipes are all those that can be prepped, packaged + frozen until you’re ready to eat them + can be lifesavers during those busy exam seasons. 

Materials Needed: 

  • Freezer space 
  • Crockpot or Instant Pot 
  • Basic kitchen essentials [cutting board, knives, etc] 
  • Gallon size Ziplock bags 
  • Sharpie for labeling 

Prep Time: 2-3 hours for 5-6 weeks of dinners! 

Pros + Cons:

  • Pro: Buy in bulk! Save $$ 
  • Pro: Meals can be stored in the freezer until use [save them for when you’re tight on time]
  • Pro: *Cooking* after prep is done just involves defrosting + placing in the slow-cooker 
  • Con: Requires a good amount of freezer space 
  • Con: Somewhat limited in what you can make with this method [lots of  soups/shredded meat dishes ; )]

These are two of my favorite tried + tested plans [with grocery lists!]. If you search *Freezer Meal Prep* you’ll find tons more:

This method is perfect for you if you’re not a huge fan of reheated foods, want to eat things that spoil quickly [like seafood!], or want the flexibility to change your meals around mid-week. With this option, how much you prep is up to you! That can look like:

  • Meal prepping all of your breakfasts + lunches, but leaving dinner un-prepped
  • Pre-chopping  your ingredients so they’re ready to be cooked
  • Roasting a pan of veggies + making a ton of rice on a Sunday + pairing that with your favorite protein.

This option can be a great way to get started with meal prep + save you some time if you’ve never done it before… + it makes meal prep less intimidating!

This method is ideal if you want to cook, but don’t have time during the week. It’s also conducive to trying more recipes than freezer meal prep allows. With this method, you cook + portion everything in one day so that after that, you can just grab your meal + go! There are so many options for this but below are some ideas: 

Breakfast:

  • Try a recipe from 14 breakfast eats folder… everything from matcha banana pancakes to freezer-friendly whole-grain waffles ; )
  • Hard-boil eggs + pair it with a single-serve yogurt 
  • Make egg muffins + pair them with a piece of toast or a bagel 

Lunch + Dinner: 

  • Mason jar salads… here are some great ideas: 21 salads in a jar!
  • Try a recipe from this folder… including CHAARG meal plan recipes!
  • Grab a freezer prep meal

If you want to take it a step further, you can also look into meal planning. This can be great for a few reasons: 

  • Do all your recipe searching ahead of time — this can take so long if you’re just browsing every week
  • Optimize your schedule so that you can buy ingredients in bulk that you’ll use in multiple weeks 
  • You can color-code your schedule or bookmark recipes so you can quickly find them 
  • If you REALLY want to go all out, you can calculate how much you need of each ingredient + make your weekly grocery lists ahead of time 

Here are a few one-week meal plans:

  • I love this one for TJ’s: $40 Trader Joe’s Shopping List For A Week Of Healthy Meals
  • I made this meal plan during a semester in undergrad for planning recipes each week, + color-coded them based on the blog I found the recipe on… so that I could easily look it up!
  • This is a more complicated plan I made. This combines utilizes the freezer meal prep plans mentioned above + breaks down my grocery lists for each week. Keep in mind this was based on my current inventory at the time so don’t follow it exactly, but it can be used as a template for how to set up your own if you wish! 

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If you got through this entire meal prep guide — good for you : ) Now, it’s time to take action + meal prep some nourishing food!  Let us know which meal prep option is your fav! Tag @CHAARG + #CHAARGeats!

Nutella Cupcakes

Nothing says February quite like chocolate! I am, of course, a huge chocolate lover so I knew we just had to add a recipe to the blog for Valentine’s Day ; )

The base of the cupcake + icing recipe are lower in sugar than typical cupcake recipes but the Nutella center makes these cupcakes just the right amount of sweet! Not to mention, they’re gluten free [+ vegan if you use a Nutella substitute, like Nutiva!].

The icing has to be made the night before so make sure you factor that into the prep time!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ cups Oat Flour
  • 2/3 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • ½ cup Water
  • ½ cup Non-Dairy Milk
  • 3 tbsp Melted Coconut Oil
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • ¼ cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ½ cup Nutella

FOR ICING

  • ¾ cup Coconut Cream
  • 1 ½ cups Chocolate Chips

ICING DIRECTIONS

#1] Heat coconut cream + chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in increments of 30 seconds, mixing every time.
#2] Place in fridge once mixture is smooth + let set over night.
#3] Once cupcakes are cooled + ready to frost, use a hand mixer + beat the chocolate mixture until light + fluffy. Set aside.

CUPCAKE DIRECTIONS

#1] Preheat oven to 350 F + prepare muffin tin with cupcake liners.
#2] In a medium bowl, combine oat flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, + salt. Set aside.
#3] In a large bowl, combine water, non-dairy milk, coconut oil, sugar, maple syrup, + vanilla extract.
#4] Slowly combine dry ingredient mixture into wet ingredients, using a hand mixer to remove any lumps.
#5] Fill cupcake liners ¾ full + bake for 16-20 minutes. Once cupcakes are out of the oven, use a toothpick or straw to insert in the middle of the cupcake + push sides back until a small hole [about a ¼ inch wide] is formed.
#6] Once the cupcakes have cooled, fill a plastic sandwich bag with the Nutella + snip off the bottom corner of the bag to create a pipette. Fill the cupcakes with Nutella before icing the tops.

 

Healthy Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are a holiday classic + so many members of the CHAARG community love to create their own [especially the bolt!] so we wanted to offer a recipe on our blog for everyone to try!

These are a lower sugar, sugar cookie but they still taste amazing + are great as a decorative add on to the rest of your holiday baking recipes. You can substitute the flour for a gluten free version or sub the butter + milk for non-dairy versions as well + the recipe should still hold up!

To create the bolt cookie, we printed off a picture of the bolt + cut it out to create our own stencil! Once we had the stencil made, we cut the dough using a sharp knife : )

If you make your own bolt cookies – we want to see! Tag us @CHAARG on Insta + show us your creations!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 8 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 ½ cups Flour
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Baking Powder

FOR ICING

  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • ½ tsp Vanilla
  • 4 tsp Milk

DIRECTIONS

#1] Mix sugar + butter together until light in color, then add egg + vanilla to the mixture
#2] In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, + baking powder. Slowly add flour mixture into wet ingredients until dough is no longer crumbly
#3] Roll dough in a plastic wrap + place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes
#4] While the dough chills, preheat oven to 375 degrees + line a baking sheet with parchment paper
#5] Once the dough is chilled, sprinkle flour onto your work surface [counter, slip mat, cutting board, etc.] + place dough on the flour, rolling the bottom around slightly to get coated with flour. Use the same plastic wrap to place on top of the dough
#6] Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into 3/8” or ¼” inch sheet [depending on your cookie texture preference – 3/8” will be chewier, 1/4” will be crispier] then use cookie cutters to create your desired cookie shapes!
#7] Place cookies on baking sheet + bake for 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from the oven + let cool before adding icing
#8] For icing recipe – combine all ingredients until icing is smooth + at desired consistency. For thicker icing, add more powdered sugar – for thinner, add a little more milk!