3 Recipe Hacks to Lighten Up Your Meals

Spring is here, and it’s time to clean up your cooking. There are a lot of recipe alternatives that make it easy to slide in more nutrition.

Now that we’re in full-on spring, it’s time to clean up our cooking. There are a lot of recipes alternatives that can make it easy slide in more wholesome and nutritious ingredients. Here are three recipes with modifications that run from modest to extreme to get you started.

Vegetarian Mexi Pie 

Sans sour cream

From Elise Reynolds


Photo by Elise Reynolds

2-pack roll-out pie crusts
1/4 cup rice
3/4 cup 0% fat Greek yogurt
2 cans black beans
8 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Chopped (organic, if possible):
1 yellow onion
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 cup organic, frozen sweet corn
1 jalapeño
1 bunch of cilantro


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place pie crusts in pie or cake pans and make the edges pretty. Put a dusting of cumin and red pepper on the pie crusts. Place tin foil on top of the seasoned pie crusts; add 1/4 cup or so of rice on top of tin foil (this will prevent the crust from rising in the pre-bake). Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree one can of black beans and mix with Greek yogurt.

Sauté onions, peppers, jalapeño, corn, other can of black beans, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp of pepper until cooked. Add half of the standard cheese to the sauté pot. Take off heat and stir in 3/4 of your chopped cilantro.

Divide black bean and yogurt mixture and spread over bottom of baked pie crusts. Top with the sautéed mixture. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 25 minutes.

Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and sprigs of cilantro. Serve hot.

Makes two pies. 

Vegan Banana Oatmeal Tops 

Peanut free/egg free/gluten free/dairy free

From Amberly Renfroe


Photo by Amberley Renfroe

6-8 ripe bananas
2 cups almond milk (non-dairy milk of your choice)
1 cup applesauce
8 tbsp melted coconut oil
4 tsp vanilla
3 cups of rolled whole oats ground up in a coffee grinder/CuisinArt/dry grain blender
2 cups rolled whole oats
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda

Optional ingredients:
Cooking spray
Chia seeds
Sunflower seeds
Coconut flakes
Orange oil
Lemon oil
Chocolate chips
Dried fruit pieces

– Do not add the applesauce, make as directed
– Make the banana tops with all 5 cups of rolled whole oats ground up


Preheat 375 degrees F. (Optional: Spray muffin tins with cooking spray; the coconut oil is sufficient for most nonstick tins.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine bananas, milk, applesauce, coconut oil, and vanilla. Mix by hand or with a mixer. Add baking powder, baking soda, and ground oats. (If using a coffee grinder, put in 1 cup of oats at a time, grind, pour into smaller bowl, continue until all 3 cups have been ground up.) Mix. Add rolled whole oats. If adding any seeds, orange/lemon oils, cranberries, or other ingredients, add at this point and mix.

Fill regular-sized muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake 15 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes upon removing from oven.

Add any toppings you like:  jam, butter, vegan butter, honey, agave, nut butters, sunflower butter.

Baked banana tops may be eaten immediately, stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator, or frozen once completely cooled and toasted, baked, or microwaved at a later date.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sugar free/grain free/dairy free/egg free

From Ricki Heller


Photo by Ricki Heller

3/4 cup of sweet potato puree (bake a sweet potato, then puree the flesh in a food processor)
6 tbsp natural smooth nut butter or seed butter of choice
6 tbsp coconut flour
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
6 tbsp ground chia seeds
2 tbsp whole psyllium husks
1/2 tsp English Toffee-flavored liquid stevia
1/4 tsp stevia powder or 1/2 tsp stevia liquid, or more to taste
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
2 tbsp unsweetened alternative milk of choice (almond, hemp, or seed milk)
1/2 cup unsweetened carob or homemade chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Place all ingredients except chips in a food processor and process until it comes together in a very thick dough. Stir in the chips by hand (don’t process again).

Using a small scoop or tablespoon, drop mounds of dough on the cookie sheet about 1/4 inch apart (these cookies won’t spread). Flatten the mounds until they are about 1/4 inch thick.

Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake another 10-15 minutes, until the bottoms are deep golden brown. Allow to cool completely before removing from parchment and eating (these taste much better at room temperature or cold–and even better the next day).

Store in the refrigerator up to four days or freeze.

Makes about two dozen. 

Top photo by Flickr user theaudiochick.

kim-fullerKim Fuller grew up in the Colorado mountains and has always found beauty and inspiration through nature and movement. She is currently a freelance journalist and yoga teacher based in Vail. Her writing and photo work has focused on health, wellness, recreation, food, and travel since 2007, and Kim began her yoga practice in Boulder, followed by her first teacher training with Real Evolution Yoga at Peace Retreat Costa Rica in November of 2012.