Category Archives: Thirsty Thursday

Thirsty Thursday: Plant-Based Hot Cocoa

Dairy is a hard thing to avoid, especially once you realize it hides in EVERYTHING.  Breakfast cereal, chocolate, sandwich bread, protein bars… even non-dairy coffee creamer!  It’s mind-numbing… and kind of cruel.  But, despite the craziness, I’m making an effort to stay away from dairy, at least for now, as an experiment to find out how it affects the symptoms I experience with rheumatoid arthritis.  I came across another woman in the blogging community who also has RA.  Her name is Jamie Shupak.  She’s a TV personality in NYC, an author, and she founded the food blog TV Dinner.  She is smart and creative, and the site has lots of great recipes.  Definitely check it out.  But she stopped eating dairy and ended up feeling a lot better, so I figured… if it worked for her, why couldn’t it work for me?  I’ll let you know if it does!

Until then, I’m getting creative so that I can still enjoy my favorite treats.  Want a rich, creamy mug of hot chocolate without the cow?  Follow the instructions below!

Plant-Based Hot Cocoa

Serves 2

240 Calories Per Serving



  • 1 c. light coconut milk
  • 1 c. unsweetened almond milk
  • 2.5 tbsp. raw cacao powder (cocoa powder will also work)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • All-natural sweetener, to taste (calorie calculations are based on stevia, which has no calories)


  1. Heat coconut milk & almond milk on the stove top over medium-low heat in a small sauce pan.
  2. Add cacao, vanilla, and sweetener.  Heat until desired temperature is reached, stirring constantly.

Helpful Tip:  Any leftovers keep well in the fridge to drink cold or re-heat in the microwave.


Thirsty Thursday: The Essential Morning Cocktail

Did the word “cocktail” get your attention?  You DRUNK!  Let’s be friends.

But seriously, this is something I drink nearly every single morning without fail.  Chug it on an empty stomach as soon as you wake up.  Many of us underestimate how dehydrated we are in the morning, so this will help get your juices flowing.  The lemon juice and the apple cider vinegar will help alkalize your body, and in turn, regulate digestion, metabolism, and appetite.  Raw apple cider vinegar helps your body maintain its balance of good bacteria.  The cayenne, if you’re brave enough to try it, will boost your body’s calorie-burning abilities.  And as mentioned previously here, fresh squeezed lemon helps your morning face look a little less like THIS:


So let’s get this mixer a-mixin’!

The Essential Morning Cocktail

Serves One



  • 16 oz. clean room temperature water
  • the juice of one lemon
  • 2 tsp. raw apple cider vinegar
  • EXTRA CREDIT: 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • OPTIONAL: a smidge of natural sweetener like 100% pure maple syrup or stevia


  1. Mix all ingredients into a large glass
  2. Drink on an empty stomach upon waking

Now, don’t go expecting this cocktail to taste awesome, because it doesn’t.  That’s not the point.  However, I have experienced that over time, the taste does become more tolerable.  Only add the sweetener if you feel like you need to.  Eventually, you’ll be able to live without it.

Thirsty Thursday: Suja Juice

I’ve heard a lot about it.  Friends have recommended it to me.  Over the weekend, I finally tried it.  Suja Juice!  The ONE 16 oz. bottle I bought was $8.99 at Whole Foods, and to be honest with you, I didn’t feel totally ripped off.  I’ll tell you why a little later in the post.
SUJAFirst, let’s talk about juicing in general.  It may be the most buzzed about trend in health, and also the most misunderstood.  I’m certainly no expert.  Even after introducing fresh pressed juice into my life over a year ago, I always have new questions.  There are a 2 things, however, I take as fact:

Not All Juice is Created Equal:  The juice you buy in the milk cooler, say Tropicana or even most “healthier” juices in the drink aisle like Pom Wonderful, are usually pasteurized and sweetened with some form of added sugar.  Pasteurization itself is a contentious subject.  The process brings liquids, like juice and milk, to super hot temperatures, then recools them quickly, increasing shelf-life and reducing the likelihood of food poisoning.  The bad part?  Along with bugs and other bad stuff that might make us sick, pasteurization also destroys a lot of the good stuff in raw foods, too.  What we’re left with is usually nothing more than sugar-water.

Juice “Cleanses” and “Fasts” Aren’t For Everyone:  There are plenty of success stories about people who have juiced exclusively for 3 days or a week or a month or 3 months… and lost a whole crap load of weight.  The documentary “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” is a good example.  I’m not bashing the movie.  I’ve seen it.  I think it’s a great learning tool, and for the extremely overweight, juicing may be a good way to boost a longer weight loss journey.  But in my experience, juice fasts/cleanses make people crazy, myself included.  There’s something about not being able to chew your food that makes you want to murder the world.  That being said, I think fresh-pressed juice has its place.  It’s an easy way to get a high concentration of vitamins and minerals.  But keep in mind, juice is not complete nutrition.  It’s largely void of fiber.  Most Americans are already deficient in fiber, which helps regulate your appetite.  Ditto for protein.  So, when deciding between juice and a salad, it might be better to just eat the salad.

You know what works best for your body.  I already eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, but I like to drink my own fresh-pressed fruit & veggie juice when:

  • I feel an illness coming on
  • I have a particularly raucous night, and I need to help my liver & kidneys get shit done
  • I eat too much, and I need my pants to fit again
  • I have an occassion coming up, and I want to look and feel especially hot

Okay, back Suja.  The first time I noticed it, I was at a very busy Whole Foods location in Chicago.  I was browsing the kombucha, and the woman next to me, who was obviously on her lunch break said out loud, “Holy shit!  That’s some expensive-ass juice!”.  She was right.  One 16 oz. bottle of Suja can run you $10.

There’s a reason they charge you so much.  First, this is cold-pressed, raw juice… just like the stuff you’d make with your juicer at home.  Pasteurization doesn’t come into play, which means nutrients are preserved.  Instead, to extend shelf life, they use something called High Hydrostatic Pressure processing or HPP.  Sounds fancy, right?

The other reason this juice is so expensive is because Suja is using all organic, non-GMO ingredients, which tend to be pricier.  Include the fact that they’re doing all the work for you, and you don’t have to wash a juicer, and the $10 might be worth it.

I enjoyed my first bottle for breakfast the way I do most morning meals – behind the wheel of my car on the way to work.


Don’t worry, I promise I was parked when I took the pictures (despite the big “D” on the dashboard).  Suja has at least 10 varieties, which are meant to be taken in a specific order when on one of their cleanses.  I chose “Glow”, which includes apple, greens, and peppermint.  The verdict?  It tasted almost exactly like juices I’ve made before on my own.  Clean.  Refreshing.  It wasn’t too sweet.  I had trouble detecting the peppermint, but I definitely caught the unmistakable spice of kale, which I actually like.  What really gets me is the marketing.  The bottles and the colors of the juices couldn’t be more beautiful.  I wouldn’t buy these all the time because of the price, but I can see myself throwing down another $8-$10 for another flavor at some point down the road.

Until then, I just might dust off the juicer hiding in my cabinet to save a little cash.  Check this out.  Suja puts the recipe for each bottle of juice right there on the side of the container!  I imagine if you wanted to try your own Suja cleanse at home, you totally could.   Now all I need is a maid to clean my juicer.


Thirsty Thursday: Makeshift Mojito

I call this a Makeshift Mojito because one day, I bought some fresh mint for no other reason than it smelled really good.  I went in blind without a plan.  Then a few hours later, I realized I deserved a drink.  Why?  I’m sure there was a reason.  Then I remembered I had the fresh mint.  Then I wanted a mojito.  Then I realized I didn’t really have any legit mojito ingredients.  Then I decided to wing it.  What I came up with was DELISH, despite some modifications… and low-cal!  Hooray for boozin’ on a calorie budget!

Your standard mojito calls for rum.  I had an old bottle of Malibu hangin’ around, and it worked beautifully.  I also tried it with vodka, which worked just fine.  Pick your poison.

You may also know that the classic mojito uses lime juice.  I didn’t have limes.  I had lemons, so I used those instead.  Bingo bango… tasty.  I added lime flavor by using an old canister of Crystal Light I had in the cabinet that was actually meant for margaritas.  They make a mojito mix, too… but I wasn’t willing to put pants on and go to the store.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, am I right? (P.S., if you haven’t tried the boozy mixers from Crystal Light, you MUST.  They’ll save you hundreds of calories on some of your favorite summer drinks, and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on a single thing.)

So now that you kinda understand where my head was at during the birth of this recipe, let’s drink!

Makeshift Mojito

Serves 1

Calories: About 100 (depending on your choice of liquor)



  • 3-5 mint leaves
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/8 packet of Crystal Light margarita mix
  • 2 oz of rum or vodka
  • 1 can of soda water (I used berry-flavored La Croix)
  • Ice


  1. In a glass, add the mint leaves, the lemon juice, and the Crystal Light mix.  Muddle (i.e. “smash the shit out of”) the mint leaves until the mixture becomes oh so fragrant.
  2. Add your ice, booze, and soda water until the glass is full (you may not ending up using the entire can).
  3. Enjoy!


Thirsty Thursday: Strawberry Agave Lemonade

Store bought lemonade is soooo stupid because basically, it’s a sugar bomb.  No nutritional value.  Just syrups and artificial flavors and who knows what else.  Homemade lemonade can actually be good for you if you use the right ingredients.  The secret to today’s recipe is agave nectar!  It’s sweeter than sugar, so you can use less of it.  That means fewer calories.  It’s all natural, and it’s lower on the glycemic index, which means no sugar high and no sugar crash.  The whole blended strawberries add an extra kick of fiber and nutrition.  And, as with most things homemade, it just tastes better.

Strawberry Agave Lemonade

Makes Two 8 oz. Servings

Calories Per Serving: 48



  • 1/2 c. fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed & sliced
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. agave nectar
  • 2 c. cold water
  • Ice cubes


  1. Puree strawberries in a blender with lemon juice and agave nectar.
  2. Add cold water and blend.
  3. Pour over ice and enjoy!

Thirsty Thursday: Copycat Starbucks Light Mocha Frappuccino

See this?


How about saving some money and making it at home?  It’s easy, and you get more bang for your calorie buck.  I like to make a few of them at a time and keep them in the fridge in some recycled glass or plastic bottles.  Here’s how it’s done:

Copycat Starbucks Light Mocha Frappuccino



  • 16 oz. of your favorite brewed coffee, chilled
  • 2 tbsp. raw cacao or cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 packets of stevia
  • 3 tbsp. half & half


  1. Add all ingredients to the brewed, chilled coffee.  Make it the night before if you can, because this recipe is definitely better if the coffee is already cold.  If you don’t have time to chill the coffee, just make an extra-strong batch and add ice cubes once you’re done adding everything else.
  2. There’s a trick to adding to the cacao/cocoa.  Dissolve it with a smidge of hot water before mixing it into your drink.  This will allow for easier mixing.
  3. If you’re interested in a frostier treat, blend the frapp with a couple of ice cubes.  And this is important.  Add a tiny pinch of xanthan gum.  You can find it at the supermarket near the flour.  It acts as a binder, and it will keep the ice and liquid from separating.  Smooth and creamy.  How dreamy!
  4. If you make these drinks ahead to keep in the fridge, you’ll notice that the cacao/cocoa will settle on the bottom, just like it does in the store.  It’s totally normal.  Just shake well before you enjoy.

Nutritional Facts:

Starbucks Light Mocha Frappuccino

Size: 9.5 fluid ounces

Calories: 100

The Hungry Tortoise Version:

Size: 16 fluid ounces

Calories: 100

Thirsty Thursday: Iced Hibiscus Tea with Fresh Ginger & Lemon

Lipton can get lost.  Step up your iced tea game with some hibiscus.  Impressive!  Fancy!  Pink!  It’s also easy, and really good for you.  In general, most teas are known for their anti-cancer properties, but the hibiscus variety has been reported to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, too.  It may also aid in weight loss by allowing the body to release extra fluid.  The lemon helps with detox.  The fresh ginger root can help with tummy trouble and inflammation.  It can also help boost the immune system.

If you’ve never tried it, hibiscus tea has a flowery, fruity flavor.  You can definitely find it at your local health food store.  Maybe in the grocery, too.  In combination with the lemon and the ginger, this drink is really refreshing.  Perfect for warmer days.

Iced Hibiscus Tea with Fresh Ginger & Lemon

Makes Six 8 oz. servings



  • 48 oz., or 6 cups, of water
  • 8 hibiscus tea bags
  • Juice of 2 lemons, about 1/4 c. of lemon juice
  • 4 in. piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • A whole damn tray of ice cubes
  • Stevia, to taste (I used 8 packets of the powdered stuff, which equals 1/3 c.)


  1. Boil water in a large pot.
  2. Add ginger.  Continue to boil for about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove pot from heat.  Add tea bags.  Steep with ginger as long as possible, no less than 20 minutes.
  4. Remove tea bags and ginger from liquid.  Squeeze all the liquid you can from the tea bags so that you get as much of the good stuff out as you can.  Add lemon juice and stevia.  Stir.
  5. To enjoy immediately, pour tea over ice.  Garnish with lemon slices.
  6. To enjoy later, pour into a pitcher filled with ice and lemon slices.  This stores great in the fridge.  I like to separate the servings into individual bottles or mason jars for a grab-and-go drink.

NOTE:  The mixture that you boil is concentrated, so it’s meant to be watered down a little with the ice.  If don’t pour it over ice right away, add an extra cup of water and throw it in the fridge for later.  Otherwise, you might find it to be a little too strong.

%d bloggers like this: