The Balls that {nearly} broke the Vitamix’s Back

As we’re nearing the end of this pregnancy, I’ve been doing a lot of things to prep my body for labor & delivery. This includes lots of walking, lower body exercises, consuming 2 cups of red raspberry leaf tea a day, sleeping as much as I can, hydrating like I’m preparing for a marathon (which I kind of am), and eating dates.

dates

A few weeks ago, my acupuncturist recommend I trade in my sweet tooth (she could tell I’ve been consuming more sugar than normal by the looks of my tongue!) for dates. I had never tried them before yesterday because I wasn’t sure on how to eat them. So I went home looked up some recipes and kind of came up with something of my own. I present to you…BALLS. My first time ever making them and they are delicious. I made them with walnuts, pecans, coconut, dates and sea salt. They’re the perfect combination of sweet and salty.

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Not only do they satisfy a sugar craving without consuming any processed sugar, but they also have great benefits in labor and delivery. My acupuncturist sent me this interesting article highlighting the study results on the effects of consuming dates and labor and delivery. Overall, they found that the first phase of labor was shorter for women who consumed dates in late pregnancy compared to those women who did not. Eating dates also lowered your risk of augmentation and induction of labor.

If you’re NOT pregnant, dates are high in protein, vitamins (folate, iron, potassium) and fiber without being high in fat. they also provide a lot of energy because they’re high in good, natural sugar. (Source) Below is the recipe that I used. I suggest pre-soaking your dates in water before you make this recipe because the Vitamix was not a fan of how much power it was going to need to blend these up. Just as I was finishing up, the thermal heat sensor kicked in and it just stopped working. I seriously had a small heart attack because I thought I burned out the motor. We unplugged it and let it sit for about 20 minutes and it’s working good as new. Hallelujah!

Date & Coconut Energy Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of walnuts
  • 1 cup of pecans
  • 1 cup of unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 cups of SOFT dates, pits removed
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp of coconut oil, not melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp course sea salt

Directions

In a food processor or high speed blender, add the nuts and coconut until you have a crumbly mixture.

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Add the dates, coconut oil, sea salt and vanilla and mix until sticky and well-blended. On a cookie sheet with parchment paper, place the rolled balls on there and sprinkle with extra coconut. Place in the freezer until hardened. I kept mine in there overnight and they taste delicious frozen. A perfect frozen treat! I plan on making more of these this weekend so that we have extras to take with us to the hospital.

I’m also enjoying a few dates along side my nightly cup of tea! Hopefully I reap the benefits of these, if not, they are a very tasty snack.

What’s your favorite go-to snackI’m trying to stockpile some healthy go-to snacks to have on hand when baby arrives, so any recipes/suggestions are appreciated. So far, I have some lactation cookies and date balls in my freezer.

Paleo Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Happy Tuesday my friends. This weekend was a bit crazy because of some work things, but my in-laws took Madelyn for us on Friday so that helped balance out the work/home life a bit. She got to have fun in Chicago with her grandparents and I got to come home, after a crazy Saturday, to an empty house. It was kind of amazing actually, because I can’t remember the last time I was home alone.
What’s a girl to do on a Saturday night all alone? Grab a $10 take and bake pizza from Whole Foods, a salad to go with, and of course swing by cheesecake factory for a piece of dessert. Everything was delicious and I was sounds asleep by 9:30pm.
saturdaynightLeftovers for days…
On Monday, I enjoyed a much needed workout at The Barre Code, ventured off to a doctor’s appointment, and then I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Madelyn in the backyard while picking some rhubarb. I was never a huge fan of rhubarb until we inherited a huge plant when we bought our house a few years ago (mostly because I didn’t know how to eat/prepare it). We’ve had so much that I’ve given some away and I still have some in our freezer from last year.
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Yesterday, Instead of utilizing nap time to catch up on household chores, I decided to whip up a batch of paleo strawberry rhubarb muffins. I was going to make strawberry rhubarb crisp, but decided muffins would be a much better option since I was still in a sugar coma from Saturday night’s lemon torte dessert. I am also sick of eating hard-boiled eggs for breakfast and muffins seem to be the next best “grab and go” breakfast option. They were delicious! I can’t wait to make them again.
Ingredients
-2 heaping cups of almond flour
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-a pinch of salt
-3 eggs
-1/4 C honey
-1 Tbsp ghee, melted
-1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
-1 tsp lemon juice
-1 tsp orange juice
-1 tsp vanilla
-1/2 C strawberries, chopped
-1/2 C rhubarb, chopped
Instructions
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line muffin tin
-combine all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix all the wet ingredients into a separate bowl until well blended then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir in strawberries and rhubarb.
-fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full
-bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool (or eat warm) and enjoy!
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Healthy tidbit of the day: If you have left over strawberry rhubarb mixture, stir it into some plain yogurt and sweeten with honey. It’s a delicious breakfast treat without all the added sugar that most  “fruit-in” yogurts have in them.
What’s your favorite summer produce?
During a busy morning, what’s your go-to breakfast?

Knock-off Salad

Friday never looked better. Things have been crazy over here this week, as we’re adjusting to new work/life schedules only to be totally spoiled over the weekend and having to adjust again come Tuesday morning. It’s a vicious circle, I know. This little face definitely makes the long days worthwhile.
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Earlier this week I had a craving for pizza. Lucky for me, hubs picked us up some frozen Lou Malnati’s pizza when he was in Chicago last and we still had one left in our freezer (which I completely forgot about-always the best).
Besides a big glass of red wine, the sweet taste of the Malnati salad always pairs well our pizza. Since we didn’t have a salad from Lou’s, I attempted to re-create it from memory and cross my fingers. The kitchen gods were watching over me because it was right on point. Larry even said he couldn’t taste a difference between mine and the restaurant’s.
IMG_3558The only thing that I could’ve done better was maybe look up the actually ingredients on their website ;-) I used blue cheese instead of gorgonzola and bacon instead of salami. I could pick out the blue cheese mistake right away, but I had no idea they used salami, I always thought it was bacon.
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Ingredients for the salad:
Romaine lettuce
Tomatoes
Olives
Fresh Mushrooms
Salami (pan fried)
Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
Since the dressing is heavy with sugar (it’s a sweet vinaigrette), I substituted coconut sugar for regular white table sugar. Some of the health benefits of coconut sugar are lower glycemic rate (doesn’t raise blood sugar levels quickly), lower amounts of fructose, and contains some traces of vitamins.
-1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil
-6 tbsp. white wine vinegar
-4 tbsp. sugar
-2 tsp Italian seasoning
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 salt
Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and pour over each individual serving of salad. There’s nothing worse than making a salad soggy and throwing it away.
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One thing I will never attempt to re-create? Chicago-style pizza…it’s in a category all its own.
What’s your favorite restaurant salad? Any success making it at home?
Enjoy your Friday & your weekend! I know I will!
What’s your favorite restaurant salad? Any success making it at home?
Enjoy your Friday & your weekend!

My First Blue Apron Experience

Every now and again, we fall into the same old dinner routine. Because our time is so pressed during the week, I usually stick to something quick and easy. Rotations usually include salmon, chicken, spaghetti squash or zoodles with marinara and meat. Always served along a side of vegetables. I try to avoid eating out during the week. The 21 day sugar detox helped mix things up a bit and even added some new “go-to” items to our weekly menu.

When I first heard about Blue Apron, I was intrigued. I had read about it on a few other blogs and decided to give it a try when one of my favorite bloggers had a coupon code available. I loved the idea of having fresh ingredients delivered to my house ready to cook up for a delicious meal. A while back, I tried out Pairdd, a local company that had the same concept except all there meals were gluten-free. They’ve since gone out of business :-/

The box was delivered on Wednesday. My sister was actually at my house watching Madelyn while it was delivered and she sent me text asking if she should put it in the refrigerator. I told her no, I’d take care of it when I got home. Everything came pre-packed over dry ice and was still ice cold when I got to it.

I was sent two meals for a family of 4 for $49.94. If you break it down, it comes out to about $6.24 per meal. Not too bad. I’m glad we opted for the family of 4 instead of two because we had more than enough food left over to take for lunch the next day.

The first meal that I made was Coconut Fish Curry.

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It was delicious. Everything came portioned out, so there was no measuring. I just had to do some prep work and chopping and the recipe was very simple to follow.

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I like how the recipe cards are printed out on large pieces of card stock so they’re very sturdy for the kitchen. On one side, there’s a picture of the meal and what it should look like. On the other side, there’s step by step instructions along with pictures. I loved this! It made it easier to follow along and made me feel better that I was following the directions correctly.

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Overall, the meal took a little less than an hour to make with all the prep work involved and it being my first time. Not too bad for something that tasted so delicious. I was a little hesitant about making this meal because I’ve been kind of sick of fish lately (mostly salmon), but the coconut curry put a different spin on things.

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I would definitely use Blue Apron again. I do wish they had dietary restriction options (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, etc) but the meals overall appear to be fresh and healthy. I like that everything came pre-packaged and no food went to waste. A lot of times I’ll buy something and only use a little bit of it before it goes bad. Blue Apron does seem to cost a bit more than say going to Trader Joe’s, but the ingredients are really fresh and it saves me from having to put any thought into what we’re making for dinner when weeks get really hectic.

Have you ever used any food delivery service like Blue Apron? What was your experience like? Another meal planning service I really liked was CookSmarts. This generated weekly meals for you based on dietary restrictions. It provides you with recipes and grocery lists-you just have to do the shopping!

Caramelized Sweet Onion Dip with Bacon

Tomorrow is the BIG GAME! And while I’m still sad that my beloved Green Bay Packers blew their chance to be a Superbowl team, I will still be tuning in to tomorrow’s game if not for the game, the commercials and half-time entertainment.

One thing I love about football Sundays is relaxing with my family and consuming yummy food. Although I enjoy eating wings, chips with guacamole, and all things delicious, I try to make a conscious effort to make sure that the food is somewhat “healthy”. To me that means as wholesome and void of any added “junk”.

I was THRILLED when the people at Chobani reached out to me and asked if I’d be interesting in creating a healthy game day recipe using Chobani as the main ingredient. I said, “Yes!” of course because not only do I love Chobani yogurt, I love using it as a substitute for cooking on a regular basis. My favorite thing to use it for is sour cream. Instead of using sour cream for tacos or chili, I substitute it with Chobani Greek yogurt. You can hardly taste the difference and it’s so much better for you.

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So for the big game tomorrow, I bring to you a Caramelized Onion Dip with Bacon. I used a sweet onion and added balsamic vinegar for an original taste. I’m a huge fan of onion dip with potato chips and well, who doesn’t love bacon?

Caramelized Sweet Onion Dip with Bacon 

Ingredients:
1 Sweet Onion Large-Chopped
2 tsp Ghee
1 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup chobani greek yogurt
1/4tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
3 strips of cooked bacon chopped

Directions
1. Chop the onion
2. Heat ghee or butter on a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until they turn translucent and start to brown. Roughly about 8 minutes. If at any point the cooked onions start to stick to the skillet, add a tsp of water to help loosen them up and continue to stir.
3. After 10 minutes, stir in the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, pepper, sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and worcestershire sauce.
4. Lower heat and and gently cook for another 15 minutes or until the onions are caramelized.
5. Remove the onions from the heat and let cool. In a separate bowl, mix together the Chobani greek yogurt, mayonnaise. Stir in the caramelized onions. Add in 3 strips of cooked bacon and stir all the way through. Serve with chips and enjoy!



IMG_3236What is your favorite game day appetizer?  I’m also a big fan of taco dip :-)

Christmas Brunch Casserole

Every now and then, there comes along a recipe that is so absolutely delicious you can’t stop thinking about it. I made this said recipe on Christmas Day.

For the past few years, I’ve been hosting a very low-key Christmas Day brunch with my mom and my sister. The only requirement is that you must wear pajamas and be prepared to lounge and eat the day away.

Last year I stumbled across a recipe for Cinnamon Roll french toast bake and I had to make it. Of course, it was a success. I decided to make it again this year, but substituted some ingredients to make it as dairy-free as possible. It was 10 times better than last year’s-which was already tough to beat.

I thought I’d share the recipe with you, just incase you’re looking for a delicious brunch item to make, maybe for New Years Day.

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Roll French Toast Bake

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of Ghee melted
  • 2 12.4 ounce cans of Cinnamon Rolls (I used Immaculate Baking)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Cream
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C chopped pecans
  • 1 C pure maple syrup

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take the melted ghee, and use it to oil up the 13×9 glass baking dish. Separate the cans of dough and place the cinnamon rolls on a cutting board. There should be 16 rolls total. Set aside the frosting. Cut EACH roll into 8 pieces and place on the baking dish, on top of the ghee.

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2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Once you’ve done that, add in the coconut cream, cinnamon, and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Pour over all the pieces. Add the cup of maple syrup on top of that.

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3. Bake for 28 minutes or until golden brown. Once it’s done cooking and making your house smell amazing, take it out of the oven and cool for about 15 minutes. Take the icing packs that came with the cinnamon rolls and drizzle over the top. I actually had some icing leftover, they give you a lot!

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4. Cut up into desired size pieces and enjoy! You can serve it up with more maple syrup and powdered sugar if you so desire :-) I thought it tasted wonderful all on its own and I’m thrilled that there are still a few pieces in my freezer to enjoy for another day.

What are your Christmas Day traditions? Since Christmas Eve can be such a rush for us (I worked before all the festivities kicked off), it’s always so nice to enjoy some R&R with the family the next day. Before there was a husband and small child in the picture, we used to go see movies on Christmas day.

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup 2014

My third year hosting Thanksgiving went off without a hitch and I am finally recovered from my turkey coma. I’m definitely getting the hang of this whole making a big feast for 9 or more people and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

This year I stuck with some old tried & true recipes but snuck in a few new ones along with some modifications to some previous items.

What stayed the same? Well the Williams-Sonoma Turkey Brine. You can never go wrong with the Apple & Spices Turkey Brine. I’ve been brining my turkey for three years now and there’s not a thing I would do different. The turkey never dries out and it tastes delicious.

IMG_2836-My mom’s gluten-free cornbread stuffing. I don’t know what she puts in it, but it’s amazing and I’m always so sad when the leftovers are gone. I know she makes it with Pamela’s gluten-free cornbread and sausage. It’s pretty much the best thing ever.

-Dutch Apple Pie. I’m not normally one for a freezer to oven pie, but I purchased one last year from one of my co-worker’s kid who was having a fundraiser at school. It was one of the best apple pies I have ever tasted {My guests even agreed}. The parents hand pick the apples and make the pies all from scratch! They were so good, I ordered two this year. I’m not really sure why, but I felt like it was necessary :-)

This year I {nervously} made modifications to my famous sweet potato casserole. For the past three years, I have received rave reviews on this dish. My sister, who despises sweet potatoes (how are we even related?!) said this dish is the only sweet potato dish she will eat. They’re that good, so why would I want to change them, right? Well, for starters I replaced to the two cups of sugar with two cups of coconut sugar (a healthy alternative to regular sugar you can read about here). 1 cup of all purpose flour got switched to coconut flour (making it completely grain free), the brown sugar got cut in half, and 12 Tbsp of dairy free butter got replaced with 6 tbsp of ghee.  It tasted even better this year than it did last year.

-Mashed potatoes. While I was at Williams-Sonoma picking up my turkey brine, I came across this little taste of heaven:

heaveninatinI texted my mom a picture that stated: “I know that I’m not in charge of making the mashed potatoes, but you have to add this.” Done and Done. Everyone loved them and the smell of the truffles filled up my kitchen as they were heating up in the oven. So good, I want to go back and get more to add to a cauli-flower mash.

Something new. For the past two years, I’ve kept it pretty basic when it came to the green beans. I’d pretty much sautee them in butter, shallots and garlic and call it a day. Well I didn’t want to have to cook anything while I was trying to get the turkey prepared and ready to serve, so I decided to try out the Detoxinista’s Clean Green Bean Casserole. I wanted something that was dairy-free and that was made with REAL ingredients. It was very good and no one even knew it was vegan. The only person I told before serving it was my husband. The sauce that goes along with this dish is so delicious, it’s hard to believe it’s not cream based. I’m glad I had some left over. I’m thinking it would be a good partner in crime with fried eggs.

Here’s some pics from our Thanksgiving feast!

IMG_2838 IMG_2839 IMG_2841  Everything was so delicious! The crumbly topping on my sweet potatoes got brown very quickly, but they were still good :-)

Of course we enough leftovers to last us a couple of days, and we finished off the turkey with some delicious soup filled with onions, garlic, parsnips and carrots.  I’m already looking forward to cooking next year’s feast.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving Day Food? Mine would have to be a heaping serving of my mom’s cornbread stuffing with a little dab of cranberry sauce for that sweet and savory taste!

 

Butternut Squash and Maple Apple Soup

Happy marathon week my friends! I’m so excited the day is almost here! After months of training & hundreds of miles logged, nothing is throwing me off my game this week. I feel ready to take on Chicago. The most important thing I need to focus on this week is getting rest and making sure I stay hydrated.

This weekend, I finally caved in and turned on our heat :-/ If it weren’t for a sick kid, I probably would’ve held off a few more weeks. But I just wanted to make sure the little one was comfortable. Along with heat comes the first slow-cooker soup of the season.

When we went to the Harvest Festival last weekend, they had a farmers’ market stand there where you could fill a basket of squash for $7! We have a ton of squash in our kitchen and I don’t want any of it to go to waste. So I created a slow-cooker soup that encompasses everything Autumn: Butternut Squash, apples, and maple syrup. I served it up with a gluten-free bun and a salad. It was the perfect dinner for a cold and gloomy fall day, and our house smelled amazing!  
IMG_2818Slow-Cooker Butternut Squash & Maple Apple Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Butternut Squash-peeled and cubed
  • 4 gala apples-peeled and chopped
  • 1 red onion-sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic-sliced thin
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4cup maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions
Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.  Remove bay leaves and pour the soup into a blender and blend to desired consistency. ( I used our Vitamix). Garnish with croutons or cheese.

Serve warm, with bread and a salad and enjoy!

Pumpkin Season!

Happy Wednesday! I hope everyone’s week is off to a great start! I just finished up week 14 of marathon training for Chicago and I’m well into week 15-PEAK WEEK! After this week is over, the mileage starts to decrease before the big day is here. I’m very excited and only a little bit nervous ;-)
Here’s how week 14 went down:
Monday: Barre Class
Tuesday: 5 miles @ 9:10 + core work
Wednesday: 9 miles @ 9:50. Had some Garmin issues along with rainy & windy weather, but I powered through and figured out what went wrong at the end.
Thursday: 5 miles @ 9:10 + core & stretching
Friday: Barre class/stretch
Saturday: 18 miles @ 10:05. Played around with my pace for the marathon. Ended the last mile going uphill. Muy mal planning on my part. Weather was slightly cooler than what is normal for this time of year, but I refused to put away the shorts just yet.
photoSunday: Brunch with the family/rest day/took lots of naps and it was glorious.
On Sunday, I was feeling domestic. With last week’s cooler temps, I thought it would be the perfect time to whip up some baked goods. I had a counter full of zucchini and a cupboard full of canned pumpkin. Put the two together and I present to you, Paleo Pumpkin Zucchini Bread. It turned out so good (and made our house smell like Fall), that the whole loaf pan was gone with in two days. Oopsy whoopsy. I will be making another batch, experimenting with another type of almond flour. Maybe it will be done in time for a special house guest next weekend? ;-)  I’d like to find an almond flour that works well in baked goods and doesn’t make my bread/muffins too “soggy”. It was good, but a little bit more “soggy” (as I hate the word moist!) than I would’ve liked. The pumpkin could’ve been the culprit too.
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Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cup blanched almond flour
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup shredded & zucchini
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix dry ingredients (first 4) in a small bowl. Set aside
3. Shred unpeeled zucchini and blot with a paper towel to squeeze out excess moisture
4. Beat 3 eggs in a larger bowl. Place the remaining ingredients (except zucchini) in the bowl, then mix on medium for about 2 minutes until all ingredients are combined. Add the zucchini and beat again just enough to incorporate.
5. Slowly add the dry ingredients with the mixer running, until all of the flour mixture has been mixed in.
6. Spoon the batter into a loaf pan. You can also make muffins.
7. Bake for about 50-60 minutes until the middle is set and a toothpick comes out clean.
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Question of the day: What is your favorite pumpkin flavored thing to eat/drink/make? I also love pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting :-) My fave!

Easy Peasy Campfire Meal

When I was younger, I recall camping being a time to eat all the snacks that weren’t normally in our house. This included things like wrapped Hostess snacks, chips, and all other “unhealthy” treats. Dinners usually consisted of hot dogs, brats or burgers on the grill. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good burger or brat on a campfire, but this year I wanted to mix things up a little bit and balance out our meals between the s’mores & strawberry ice cream. Some healthy snacks I packed were grapes, strawberries, hummus & pita chips. The not so healthy: all the accoutraments for s’mores, cookies, crackers,  and Trader Joe’s Chicago mix popcorn {warning: if you purchase this, you will eat the whole bag, to say there are 4 servings in there is absurd ;-) }.

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