Dreamy Creamsicle Immunity Tonic Smoothie (veg, df)

Cold + flu season has hit our area really hard, and after coming down with three separate bugs since this fall, I’m trying to be more proactive about building up my immunity.

Enter my new go-to smoothie: packed with Vitamin C in the form of whole fruits (no processed, sugary fruit juice), probiotics from coconut yogurt, and extra hydration from coconut water, this drink is a super-potent immunity tonic that will build up your body + help ward off sickness. It’s also great for nipping things in the bud when you feel something coming on.

And the best part — it tastes just like the creamsicles you ate growing up!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ice
  • 2 whole navel oranges, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut yogurt
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions: Combine ingredients in a high-speed blender in the order listed (ice first, vanilla extract last). When peeling your oranges, try to remove as much of the white pith as possible, as this will make your smoothie bitter. Blend until frothy, and serve immediately for maximum freshness.

Tahini Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Banana Bread (gf, df)

A thick slice of warm banana bread + a cup of coffee is the ultimate comfort food (in my mind), and in the winter even more so. And the best part — a hearty banana bread base pairs well with so many different flavors, so the possibilities are truly endless! For now — I’m drooling over this loaf, which marries nutty tahini with the sweetness of dark chocolate chunks and the saltiness of coarse sea salt flakes (which, by the way, is my latest baking obsession. #seasaltoneverything).

This loaf will probably definitely not last a week in our house… it’s that good. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 large super-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour, which uses a chickpea flour base (You can use spelt or white whole wheat flour if not gluten-free, but I’ve only tested it with this flour.)
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks, plus a few more for topping
  • 1 less ripe whole banana for topping
  • Small handful flaky sea salt for topping

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a loaf tin, and set aside.
  2. Whisk together olive oil, tahini, honey, coconut sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
  3. Stir in mashed banana.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients until just fully combined — do not overstir.
  5. Fold in the dark chocolate chunks — again, being careful not to overstir.
  6. Pour mixture into loaf tin. Top with a whole banana, sliced lengthwise.
  7. Bake 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. As soon as you remove banana bread from the oven, sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt, then leave to cool.
  8. Cut into thick slices, and enjoy warm with a cup of coffee!

How I Became a Morning Runner + How to Build Effective Habits

Good things about being an adult: Your own house, your own rules. You make your own money. You can drink wine whenever you want.

Bad things about being an adult: More responsibilities. Less time. Less tolerance for drinking as much wine as you want…

Being an adult runner means you’re choosing to make running a priority when you have a million other things you could be doing instead. The laundry won’t do itself,  the dishes aren’t going to get washed on their own, kids (if you have them) need constant attention. But still, you carve an hour or two out of each day for something that others might consider “frivolous” and “unimportant” — because it’s important to YOU.

The biggest way I’ve been able to carve out time to running, which is important to me, is to switch to morning workouts.

Why I switched to running in the morning:

  • The morning is my time. Getting it done first thing, before the day has started, gives me the least chance of interruptions, distractions, or things “coming up” at the last minute.
  • Running in the morning gives me more energy and makes me less stressed for the day ahead. I notice a HUGE difference in my energy levels, concentration, and mood on mornings I run, vs. mornings I don’t. I am a much happier, nicer, and more productive person with a boost of endorphins — and also just having invested time in ME before I’ve had a chance to give to anyone else.
  • Running in the morning helps me make better decisions later in the day. When your first choice of the day is a good one, it creates positive momentum for the rest of the day. When I run first thing in the morning, I am more motivated to make a healthy breakfast, keep my house clean, be more ambitious and proactive at work. And even if nothing else goes well that day, I can take comfort in knowing I did at least one good thing.

My best tips for becoming a morning runner:

  1. Success happens the night before. When you run early in the morning, you set yourself up for success or failure by what you do and don’t do the night before. The night before I always lay out everything I need to get out the door — from my Garmin, to my phone pouch, to my house keys, full outfit, socks, and sneakers. I put everything in my bathroom so I don’t wake my fiancé as I’m stumbling around getting dressed. When I wake up, I don’t have to think about anything — I’m just on autopilot.
  2. Set your alarm on the other side of the room. This helps eliminate the delirious snooze hit. Once you get up to turn off your alarm, you’re already out of bed (the hardest part!).
  3. Get enough sleep the night before. Obvious — yes. But it can be a struggle getting to bed at the time you need to in order to wake up early. Especially initially. Here is my best tip for making that happen: Almost everyone has a smart phone today — and your smartphone has alarm apps! Use them to their full potential! Think about what an alarm does — it disrupts you from your current state. I like to set a couple of alarms the night before (on auto-repeat for each weeknight, so that there’s no excuses) as check-ins for where I should be in my nightly routine. It’s a great way to pull yourself off the couch if you’re struggling to get up and get moving. And it’s a great way to pull yourself away from any task you’re in the middle of. I usually set one alarm to start my “wind down” routine at night (AKA, disconnect from social media, or finish doing the dishes, and start getting ready for the next day). Then, I’ll set an alarm at the time I actually want to be in bed by. That’s my hard stop. Lights out.
  4. Halfway dressed, and you’re halfway there. A tip I had heard when I first started experimenting with morning running was to wear your workout clothes to bed. To me, sleeping in a tight sports bra is very uncomfortable. And I do love wearing real pajamas. So I compromise. I’ll wear my running bottoms to bed, and a comfy pajama top. It’s only one less step I have to do in the morning, but oddly, having that one layer already on seems to make such a difference.
  5. Build a practice. Create a routine, and cues. Take inspiration from yogis who don’t call their yoga a “workout routine”, but rather a “practice.” Develop a morning routine that can become your own form of practice. Once you go through a routine enough, it almost becomes meditative. You should have a super specific item-by-item list of what each step in your routine looks like. This takes a little work upfront, but the payoff is always having a plan and never having to wonder what you need to do next to get yourself out the door. Throughout your routine, set external “cues” for yourself — which are key for building habits. The act of brewing your coffee. Lacing up your shoes after putting on your clothes. Maybe you read the newspaper, or a book, while you drink your coffee. Maybe you spend a few minutes jotting down your goals for the day. All of these are tangible experiences that, once repeated day in and day out, will signal to your brain that it’s time to go running.
  6. Consistency is everything. Nothing works unless you’re consistent with it. The same thing goes with building habits. If you fall off the wagon, get right back on it the next day. No guilt. No overthinking. No deep-seated feelings of anger or shame. Don’t allow yourself to get into the mindset that you need to wait until next Monday, or next month, or the start of the next year, to “start over”. There is no starting over, really. Keep putting in the work, forcing consistency when necessary, and know that over time it will become so ingrained that not running in the morning will feel like forgetting to brush your teeth!

Two Hands Copycat Recipe: Banana Bread with Vegan Espresso Marscapone (gf)

One of my all-time favorite brunch spots in New York City, Two Hands, is home to a legendary house banana bread that they top with espresso marscapone, honey, and puffed buckwheat. I’ve never been able to try it because of my dairy allergy, but after years of pining, I decided to recreate it on my own at home.

My version is gluten- and dairy-free, the marscapone is entirely vegan, and the banana bread can easily be made vegan as well if you substitute a flax egg for a real one. Two slices makes a weekend breakfast that will keep you full for hours, thanks to all the fiber and healthy fats in my version, and you’ll love knowing it’s free of refined sugars.

Instead of straight puffed buckwheat, I topped my toast with Trader Joes’ Super Seed & Ancient Grain Blend, which has chia, flax, hemp, red quinoa, amaranth, and sprouted buckwheat and millet.

Olive Oil-Honey Banana Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (My favorite is this one, because it uses chickpea flour as a base and is higher in fiber)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon).
  4. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (bananas through vanilla extract).
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Be careful not to over-mix.
  6. Fold in walnuts, if using.
  7. Transfer mixture to the loaf pan, and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool before slicing.

Vegan Espresso Marscapone

  • 1 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup melted and cooled extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup oat or coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp. espresso (or strong coffee), chilled
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender until a thick, fluffy marscapone-like consistency has been reached.

A “Healthy-ish” Christmas Cookie Round-Up

I know people are divided on this — should cookies be healthy?! Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of eating a cookie? If you’re going to eat a cookie, shouldn’t you just eat a big, full-fat, white-flour, and refined-sugar-full cookie?

Well, I think that’s up to you.

Some people believe the body is a temple. Some people believe the body is a temple we bring sacrifices of chocolate and wine to.

Personally, I believe in honoring your cravings and not making any foods off limits (allergies and medical conditions aside) — but if I want something super indulgent, I like to either go out and eat it, or buy one and bring it home. If I want to make a big batch of cookies to keep around the house and eat throughout the week, I want it to be a healthy-ish cookie.

What meets the “healthy-ish” criteria?

  • Mostly whole grain flours. Even when I used a gluten-free all-purpose flour, I chose an AP flour with a chickpea flour base (Bob’s Red Mill brand… my favorite). I tried to limit starchier and/or flours that are more highly processed (read: stripped of most nutrients).
  • Refined sugar free. All the cookies I chose are made with either coconut sugar, honey, real maple syrup, or molasses.
  • All healthy fats. Instead of butter, lard, shortening (even more processed vegetable oils), I used nut butters, olive oil, and coconut oil.

Without further ado, here is a round-up of my top healthy-ish Christmas cookies (and other treats) to make this season.

The Toasted Pine Nut’s Peanut Butter Blossoms

Ambitious Kitchen’s Paleo Ginger Molasses Cookies

Kale Junkie’s Life Changing Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Clean Eats by Tay’s Vegan Soft-Baked Snickerdoodle Cookies

Dani Nemeh’s Gingerbread Truffles

The Healthy Maven’s Healthy Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

Sammy Eason’s Vegan Gingersnap Pillow Cookies

Oh She Glows’ Jumbo Chocolate Chunk Cookies (I added flaky sea salt, and it was out of this world.)

Pollen and Grace’s Vegan Maca + Cacao Truffles

Who-Needs-a-Man Chocolate Peppermint Pancakes (gf, df)

These are break-up-with-your-boyfriend, who-needs-a-man kind of ultimate pleasure pancakes. I don’t mean to over-hype, but these might be the best pancakes I’ve ever made. (And my pancakes are something I really pride myself on!) Make these on a Sunday morning to get in the holiday spirit, and feel good knowing they’re packed with ingredients that will make you feel good, will keep you full all day long, and won’t give you a nasty sugar crash later.

Ryan and I overzealously doubled this batch (we were very hungry), and despite stuffing ourselves still couldn’t finish each of our shares. I would recommend one batch for two people for a more *comfortable* fullness. You’ll be daydreaming these pancakes for the rest of the day, and bonus: they’ll make your house smell amazing.

Ingredients

Comfortably serves 2 people.

  • 1 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 1/3 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I love Bob’s Red Mill, which has a chickpea flour base… more fiber + protein!)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, extracts, oil, and milk until frothy.
  • Slowly start stirring in the flour, baking powder, and unsweetened cocoa powder. Stir until there are no lumps left, but be careful not to over-mix. Your batter should be thick and almost pudding-like.
  • Finally, add in the chocolate chips and stir until just combined.
  • Grease and heat a large griddle. Once hot, spoon your pancake batter on in size of your choice. You’ll know your pancakes are ready to flip when the edges start bubbling — about 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Serve with real maple syrup, and a dusting more of cocoa powder (optional).

Espresso Dark Chocolate Chunk Muffins (gf, df)

Espresso Dark Chocolate Chunk Muffins (gf, df)

It took me two rounds to perfect this recipe. I am picky with my baked goods, and having to bake gluten-free makes me even pickier. My goal is always to create a baked good that I could put down in front of someone, without telling them what’s in it, and not have them say it’s “pretty good for being gluten-free”, but that’s it “REALLY good”, period. I think I achieved that with this muffin.

Basically, this muffin is the perfect solution to your 3 PM energy crash. It gives you complex carbs and healthy fats to prevent the “hangry” from coming on, and the staying power to get you through till dinner. It gives you a little dose of caffeine with the ground espresso, and it has chocolate in it. Chocolate just makes everything better.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. melted coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3 tbsp. espresso beans, ground in a food processor, or 3 tbsp. instant coffee
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup dairy-free dark chocolate chunks, plus more for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray, or oil with a little olive or coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl combine all wet ingredients (eggs through apple cider vinegar, above). Whisk until well combined — your batter should be smooth and creamy.
  3. Next, add in all dry ingredients (except for the chocolate chunks). Stir to mix, then fold in the ½ cup of dark chocolate chunks.
  4. Spoon your batter into 9 muffin cups, and top with a few additional chocolate chunks. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Let cool for about 5 minutes, and then enjoy!