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She’s Empowered Spotlight: Leesa Morales, Founder of The Purposeful Plate


She’s Empowered Spotlight: Leesa Morales, Founder of The Purposeful Plate

Carolyn Cesario

We’re so excited to continue our She’s Empowered series and introduce you to the next gal we’re featuring, Leesa Morales of @purposefulplate. It’s been so fun getting to know Leesa through her beautiful food photography, hanging with her at farmers markets and food events, and through reading her blog (which is a great resource for health + wellness!). 


Tell us a little bit about you!

Hi! I'm Leesa. Nutritionist, photographer, and recipe curator at Purposeful Plate, a wellness blog dedicated to thoughtful ingredients and functional foods to reduce disease and promote longevity. 

What's the story behind your blog, Purposeful Plate?

The idea started in graduate school while getting my Master's degree in nutrition. We learned that whole, fresh foods from the earth contain powerful vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and even more compounds that we haven't fully identified yet that positively impact the body in specific ways. I knew right away I wanted to share this information with the world in a beautiful, colorful, delicious way -- so my blog was born!

When you're not creating amazing recipes, how are you spending your time?

I'm a city girl at heart and love to wander around PDX in my free time, soaking up the amazing community and connecting with other female makers and doers. I am so grateful for that! I also love to explore and see the outdoors, so hiking, camping, and road trips are almost always in rotation.

What ingredient is your kitchen NEVER without?

TOO many to list. But if I had to pick one... some kind of vegetable. They are the foundation of almost every meal in our house, and a stocked fridge or an empty fridge always has at least one to choose from.

Ok, we have to ask. What's your favorite way(s) to eat your Ground Up PDX?

I know this is not a unique answer, but honestly -- by the spoonful. It's a treat in itself! Otherwise, drizzled on fruit is a close second.

How do you stay inspired?

Luckily I have never been short of inspiration. In fact, my head is buzzing constantly with ideas. The challenging part for me personally, is following through and seeing an idea all the way through. If I'm in need of direction for an idea, I brainstorm, ask around, research, and make a plan. When I'm ready to make it happen, I generally do it quickly so as not to lose focus.

What are your favorite ways to #spreadgood in your community?

I love to connect with others in the food/bev/wellness industry. Mentoring new graduates, meeting other entrepreneurs, supporting friends following their dreams...I feel the most connected when I'm engaged in a good conversation and I think communicating is a gift our community will always value. Dining at local restaurants, purchasing from individuals, supporting the small guy has always felt right. Spreading good to me means being open, honest, transparent, encouraging, and kind as a real person in real life in addition to our purchasing habits.

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Carrot Noodle Bowls w/ Spicy Walnut Sauce & Toasted Honey Cashews

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For the sauce:

¼ cup Ground Up Walnut Cashew butter

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp water

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp gochujang, or other asian-style hot sauce

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Pinch of sea salt, to taste

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For the bowl:

1 package tempeh, cubed

3 cups carrot spirals, or other noodles of choice

½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved

½ lime, cut into wedges

½ cup raw cashews

¼ tsp honey

Pinch of flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Optional garnish: chopped cilantro, parsley, sesame seeds, chili flakes


  1. Heat a frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium. Once hot, add a drizzle of olive oil and the tempeh. Season generously with salt, pepper, and any other desired spices.* Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tempeh is golden and crispy, adding more olive oil by the teaspoon as needed.

  2. Meanwhile, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust as desired. Set aside.

  3. Once the tempeh is cooked to your liking, transfer it to a plate and set aside. 

  4. Add the carrot spirals to the hot pan and toss in a drizzle of olive oil. If the carrot spirals are frozen, there will be enough water in the pan to steam them. If they are fresh, add a teaspoon or two of water. Cover with a lid, and steam for 3-4 minutes, or until al dente. 

  5. While the spirals cook, preheat a small non-stick skillet over low heat. Add the cashews, and toast, shaking the pan every 1-2 minutes so they brown evenly. Once the cashews are golden and fragrant, add the honey to the pan, and stir to coat the cashews. Toast for 2 minutes more, or until the cashews are golden and sticky.

  6. Arrange the bowls: divide the carrot spirals into two bowls, top each with half of the tempeh, tomatoes, cashews, and a generous pinch of sesame seeds, chili flakes, or any other toppings of choice. Serve each with a lime wedge, a pinch of flaky sea salt, and drizzle with as much walnut sauce as desired! 

*I almost always season tempeh with smoked paprika, garlic powder, and a “mixed” seasoning of sorts, like the Trader Joe’s 21-Seasoning Salute. Tempeh doesn’t have much flavor on its own, but there is so much going on in this bowl that it doesn’t necessarily require any of these. Feel free to play with it as you wish!