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.. daily dose of health and happiness


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Back to School Granola Bars

Can you believe we’re nearing the end of August? As tourists head home, kids go back to school, and beach days slip away, I’m going to hold onto summer as long as I can! I love meal prepping, but completely slack during the summer months due to more fun activities – insert: happy hour on the deck, paddle boarding, beaching, laughing with friends. I totally can’t be alone on this! However, making healthy snacks to bring to work is a priority on my list. These granola bars have been a favorite for a long time and I’m always switching up the recipe with various ingredients. They are easy, delicious, sweet enough, and not filled with additives, chemicals, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, or high-fructose corn syrup. Mother, boyfriend, and child approved!

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Healthy Granola Bars

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (sub any sugar)
  • 1/2 cup flax meal
  • Several dashes of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 pan. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a small bowl, combine melted coconut oil, honey and 1 egg. Make a little well in the middle of the dry ingredients to pour the wet mixture into. Mix together until well combined. This will be a bit sticky!.. but delicious if you accidentally taste test 😉

Spoon mixture into the prepared pan, spreading evenly. You may need to wet your fingers or spatula to help pat down the mixture.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes before cutting into. If you cut into them right away, they will be too soft and break. With homemade and lower-sugar granola bars, shapes vary! I get around 16 small bars out of these every time. I like to store mine in the fridge or even the freezer. You may notice chia seeds in the granola bar picture above – only because I ran out of hemp seeds that day. Unless you want to walk around with floss, I recommend hemp seeds only!

CHEERS to grab and go snacks!

  • What’s your favorite snack to always have on hand?
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Easy Vegan Basil Pesto

When you have a limitless basil plant sitting on the porch, you may as well make pesto every week! However, a daily dose of cheesey dairy does nothing for me. I love my goat cheese, Gouda cheese, caprese salad… BUT for me, I’d rather focus on plant based foods for fuel with hints of animal sources along the way.

I browsed various vegan pesto recipes on Pinterest, but wasn’t satisfied. I had requirements of cashews and nutritional yeast yet couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. I got creative and decided to come up with my own go-to plant based pesto with all the goods in my kitchen!

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Vegan Basil Pesto

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
  • 1 cup tightly packed basil
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 big garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

What the heck is a soaked cashew? Well? We aren’t making cashew butter! Add 1/2 cup cashews to a jar or bowl and cover with water. Leave tightly sealed at room temperature for 4-8 hours. Then drain the water out and rinse cashews thoroughly. The cashews will be soft and ready for easier blending!

Add all ingredients, including cashews, to food processor. Keep processing until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. I always add a splash of water to thin out the pesto and get it to a creamier consistency – juuust a splash!

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Taste test, duh. And keep in the fridge. The pesto is delicious as a sandwich spread, over noodles, mixed in sautéed veggies… Anything you can think of! Keep in the fridge for 5 days. Mine is always gone well before that 🙂

CHEERS to fresh summer herbs!

  • What’s your favorite herb to cook with in the summer? Comment below!


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How Much MSG Are You Eating?

Happy hump day! I can’t believe we’re at the halfway hump. The weekend is near! As well as “spring ahead,” longer days, and warmer weather. I already feel like I have more energy.. Spring is a season of awakening, for sure! I’ve shared before how what you eat relates to your daily thoughts and feelings. Have you ever felt sluggish, slept terribly, had a bad dream and just couldn’t figure out why? I’ve had a family member feel the effects of monosodium glutamate (MSG) after dinner, but didn’t eat at a Chinese restaurant so it couldn’t have been MSG, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, MSG is hiding in many of the foods you eat daily. The USDA is hiding the ingredient under various names.

Totally unfair, I know. Completely frustrating? Definitely. It’s so tough to navigate the grocery store today, always on the lookout for chemicals and unnecessary preservatives that show up in your favorite cereal. I’m pretty fed up! The best way to deal is to spread the news. I know a majority of people want to avoid MSG at all costs, so I hope you find this post helpful!

Just the other day, I informed my mom that MSG is in the vegetable bouillon jar that she occasionally uses to add more broth to soup. She was shocked, not to mention disappointed. It may be found in your soy sauce or even your “healthy” snack that has “natural flavoring” on the ingredient list. Concentrated protein and protein isolates are also common to contain MSG chemicals, so be sure to do your research before consuming a particular protein powder.

Here are the most common names for MSG in everyday food sources:

  • Yeast Extract (you’ll be horrified by how often you see this ingredient)
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Textured Vegetable Protein
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
  • Soy or Whey Protein Isolate and/or Concentrate

For more info, head here. What can we do to avoid MSG? We can eat as close to whole foods as we possibly can. Choose foods that are less processed. Say no to chemicals! Make healthy food swaps. Nothing beats simply being aware! And with little changes day by day, we’re able to easily manage a healthier lifestyle.

CHEERS to spreading the word!

  • What ingredients are you on the lookout for when checking labels?
  • What’s your favorite healthy snack?!


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How to Make Chia Pudding

Happy hump day! Making it halfway through a week without snow is a huge accomplishment for New England right now, yippee! Needless to say, it’s been quite chilly. In the mornings after my workout, I always feel a cold sweat and crave a warm bowl of oatmeal with a hot coffee. While oatmeal is very versatile, I’ve been bored! I miss the tropical, fresh flavors of summer. So what did I do? I threw on an extra sweatshirt and whipped up vegan coconut chia pudding to take myself to paradise. Are you in? I’ll show you how to make it below!

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Here are the only ingredients you need – and then some! Chia seeds create a gel-like texture after absorbing liquid, this is how you get a “pudding” consistency. It’s reminiscent of tapioca, which I understand some people aren’t a fan of! I happen to love it. If you don’t, feel free to blend all ingredients together to break up the texture. While this tastes indulgent, it’s filled with nutrients.

Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, protein and calcium (5 times the amount of calcium in milk)! Talk about a nutritional powerhouse – and you only need a small serving.

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I like to use light coconut milk. I’ve seen many people use almond milk, soy milk, and other alternatives. For some reason, almond milk in chia pudding just doesn’t do it for me! I love the flavor of coconut and I also love the creaminess. Note: we’re having breakfast in paradise where coconuts are abundant, remember.

At least 2 hours or the night prior to eating, pour 2/3 of a cup light coconut milk into a jar, bowl, wine glass? Why not! Then add in 2 tablespoons of chia seeds. I also added 1 tablespoon of superfood goji berries for extra antioxidants. Feel free to add raisins instead, or chopped dates. Or wait until the morning and add your toppings then!

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Give your seeds a good stir. You can see above that they really start to gel from the get-go. You can see below the aftermath after a night in the fridge – no more liquid left!

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Throw on some berries, toasted coconut, slivered almonds, banana.. your tropical oasis awaits!

imagePossibilities are endless with toppings and add-ins. You just wait, I’ll have a decadent chocolately chia pudding recipe coming at ya in the coming weeks. Because, chocolate.

CHEERS to a tropical morning!

  • What summer flavors are you missing most? Ice cream counts 😉

 


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5 Steps to Create a Healthy Menu

Hello! The snow has continued here in New England. I just checked the parking lot of my apartment and some cars are actually completely buried – all I can see is a side mirror! I’m sure glad mine doesn’t look like that. Once my boyfriend and I venture out later we’ll have quite the workout shoveling. Part of me likes the snowed in, snuggling, sweatpants, fleece blankets, hot coffee joy of of it all! Sometimes staying in beats going out. What did you do for Valentine’s Day? I hope you celebrated with your special girlfriends, special someone, special mom, special cat – you name it 🙂 We stayed in and made quite a feast! While we were eating we decided that we prefer menu planning, cooking up a storm together, music playing, drink pouring, happiness in our little home. That’s not to say we don’t like to go out, but cooking together is fun, dancing in the kitchen is even more fun and the meal is cheaper while guaranteed delicious because we know what went into each plate! Below I’ll break down into what we had and share the recipes I found or created, so you can give it a try yourself some night.

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My boyfriend loooooves to eat a potpourri of food. I mean, who doesn’t like the occasional break from a traditional meal and instead grazing on a little bit of all the yummies. My only problem, I’m pretty matchy-patchy from my clothes to decor to my plate. If I’m going to feast on a spread, I’d like to have the flavors flow together deliciously. May take a little more time to plan, but my tastebuds are for sure happy. Since this is a spread of different foods, you’ll most definitely have leftovers to enjoy the next day, too! If you plan to do this, I suggest coming up with a theme – mexican, mediterranean, spicy, asian, thai, italian.. you name it! My theme was mediterranean – my favorite.

1 – Pick your protein, plant-based or meat. We decided on these mediterranean meatballs. Here’s what we changed:

  • I can’t eat Mary’s little lamb, so I picked ground turkey
  • Zest of a whole lemon, not half
  • For spices: 1 teaspoon of dried oregano and 2-3 teaspoons of dried dill
  • We did not make the tzatziki, but it sounds delicious

2 – Pick your veggies. We chopped carrots and celery to dip into no-bean parsnip “hummus.”

  • I didn’t have coriander, but didn’t miss the flavor either
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini instead of 6 was the perfect amount for a creamy consistency
  • I did add a 1/4 cup of water to the food processor at the end because I found the hummus to be too sticky without it
  • I made this mid-afteroon and put it in the fridge to cool and let the flavors mingle
  • I don’t recommend the coconut oil on top as it hardens when it touches your out-of-the-fridge hummus – drizzle a bit of olive oil with a dash of garlic powder and red pepper flakes instead

3 – Pick a grain if you’d like. Yes, right now I’m calling a whole-grain naan flatbread pizza a grain (haha).

  • Place a store-bought whole grain naan flatbread in the oven at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes until it starts to get crispy
  • Take it out of the oven and spread Stonewall Kitchen’s onion and garlic jam all over, leaving the outer edges bare for a crust
  • Crumble goat cheese on top and place back in the oven for 5-7 minutes
  • Next step for the pizza is in step 4..

4 – Pick a green! I added arugula to the pizza – you won’t regret this.

5 – Pick a few fun “mini sides”

  • Kalamata olives
  • Red grapes
  • Whole wheat pretzles
  • Rosemary spiced nuts
    • Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil to a skillet over medium heat
    • Once melted, add 1/2 cup of raw almonds, 1/2 cup of raw pumpkin seeds, and a 1/2 cup of raw cashews and stir until covered in the oil
    • Add 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar, 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary, and a few dashes of cayenne pepper and reduce heat to medium-low
    • Don’t take your eyes off the skillet or it will burn! Continue to stir until fragrant and remove from heat once the nuts start to golden
    • Spread out on a cookie sheet to crisp up

Then, take that glass of champagne to CHEERS!

  • Do you ever prefer staying in over going out, too?

 


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Healthy Pumpkin Bread for the Holidays

Anyone watch The Chew? I wish I could more often. I LOVE Daphne Oz. I used to work for a wedding planner and actually worked at her wedding back in 2010! Such a beautiful girl. And amazing healthy cook!  I know Thanksgiving is Turkey Day, but it’s also all about squash..which means pumpkin! While it’s a day to truly indulge and feed your soul, I have an amazing pumpkin bread recipe modified from a Daphne Oz recipe that will happily fill your belly and ensure you feel great all day!

I’m not one to talk about making you feel lighter, or cutting back calories on the holiday. I just want you to feel GOOD! Inside and out, confident and happy. Feed your belly and feed your soul. Eat your favorite things, have a special beverage, and enjoy your time with everyone!

pumpkin muffins

 

I modified this recipe based on ingredients I had on hand, as well as preferred taste and nutrition preferences. I made these a couple weeks ago and thought they tasted a little dry, but still tasty. About 2 hours later I look in my pantry and see a can of pumpkin… which meant I never opened it and added it to the muffins! Needless to say, we enjoyed pumpkin-less “pumpkin” muffins all week long – my baking history does not have a clean record 😉

Here we go!

  • 1 and 1/2 cups oat flour (grind rolled oats in a fine flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Combine dry ingredients while you melt coconut oil on the stove. In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and beat. Then add wet ingredients, including melted coconut oil. Combine wet to dry and pour into a greased muffin pan or loaf pan – your choice!

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes if muffins or 35-40 minutes in a loaf pan.

CHEERS to the start of holiday season! SO excited for Thursday 🙂

  • What food are you most looking forward to on Thanksgiving Day?!


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How Much Sugar Are We Eating

Happy November! Only my favorite month ever. It could have something to do with the fact that there’s a big 25th birthday right around the corner in 11 days! If you must know 1 thing about me, it’s that I LOVE birthdays. I’m not selfish either, I even love YOUR birthday! I get so excited for everyone’s birthday. From a childish perspective, I believe we should all get the day off from work and have all things special and fun .. and yummy! Speaking of yummy…

PB Cups

How was your Halloween? Did you get your full of sugar? On Friday night I made dark chocolate peanut butter cups and my friends made snickers. If you are hesitant about the way a homemade popular candy tastes, think again. It’s amazing! You may start drooling just looking at them. And your body will thank you for making the right choice!

Snickers

Just before Halloween, J emailed me a recent article on Yahoo, from Eat This Not That, about sugar. The World Health Organization changed their guidelines, lowering the amount of sugar the average person should eat in a day to 6 sugar packets. Right off the bat, doesn’t 6 sugar packets sound like a lot?! It’s shocking and I bet a lot of people don’t know they eat way over 6 sugar packets each day in forms of their favorite boxed foods. For an even bigger visual, the article focused on comparisons to a half dozen of Dunkin Donuts sugar glazed donuts.

Currently in America, sugar is everywhere and in everything! Everything from that granola cereal they make look so healthy in commercials, your favorite salad topper Craisins, a seemingly nutritious salad dressing, that beautiful yogurt parfait advertised as the best way to slim down, and the juice that every child wants to guzzle.

A lot of us don’t notice the sugar content due to all the “healthy” labeling written all over these boxes. If we took our eyes right to the nutrition facts and ingredient list, we’d be much better off. I know I’m definitely not sugar free – I love using a squirt of honey on my plain greek yogurt and maple syrup on my banana and egg pancakes. However, that’s the majority of added sugar I consume in a day. Fruit and vegetable sugar is all natural, most whole grains don’t contain any sugars, neither do raw nuts or seeds. It’s all about taking a deeper look into our options, available flavors, and various ways of cooking. Can’t live without fruit yogurt? Transition to a plain yogurt and add your own fresh strawberries, bananas, and honey. It will take your tastebuds a few days to adjust, but over time you’ll get used to it! It’s all about making small swaps, step by step and slowly lowering our added sugar intake.

Don’t roll your eyes! I have proof.. J used to think it was repulsive when I ate plain greek yogurt for breakfast and he would always choose vanilla. Guess what he eats now?! You guessed it – plain yogurt! If he made the switch, I think anyone could! Although a lot of my healthy habits are rubbing off on him, he’s happy for it and sad about it all at the same time 😉

Read the whole article online here.

CHEERS to small changes!

  • What healthy swaps have you made for yourself?