Currently Loving: My Top 5 Travel Snacks

Happy Friday!

What are your plans for the official first weekend of summer? In thinking about my summer season, the next month or so is going to hopefully include lots of local SoCal fun, and then the month after that will involves lots of travel and time away from home. When I’m on-the-go traveling, especially if there are long car rides and/or long flights involved, one of the things I make sure to do is bring healthy snacks.

almond-date-truffles

I just don’t think you can ever go wrong with bringing healthy food with you. It usually comes in handy at the times I prep for it – like at lunchtime on a plane – but I also find that it’s great to have snacks on hand for random times when hunger strikes. For instance, if I’m going out to dinner later than I normally eat, a snack packed in my bag comes in handy to hold me over.

So far this year, here are my 5 favorite (very portable) travel snacks!

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Chocolate peanut butter energy bites. I find energy balls to be the perfect little pick-me-up! I threw a bunch of them in a plastic bag and brought some to Cabo with me last month.

No Cow Bar at the beach

My beach snack last weekend

No Cow bars. I recently started eating these bars by D’s Naturals, and have quickly become a big fan. They’re dairy free, and are made with organic brown rice and pea proteins and sweetened with monk fruit and stevia. At 170 calories & 20 g of protein a pop, they pack a great protein punch – especially because when I’m traveling sometimes the protein in my diet can be lacking a bit. The bars also have a ton of fiber – which is great to keep your digestive system regular when you’re traveling and eating a diet that’s different from your norm (TMI?!).

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My Favorite Cabo Dinner: Hacienda Cocina y Cantina {Travel Review}

Hello, hello!

In recapping my recent trip to Cabo San Lucas, so far I’ve shared a post about our resort as well as our awesome sailboating excursion. Today’s post is the last trip recap I’m sharing, and it’s about one of my favorite travel topics (well let’s be real, one of my favorite topics in general): the food! 

Cabo Trip Recap

Traveling internationally as a vegetarian can definitely be a challenge – especially because I’m kind of particular in that I like my food fresh and healthy. I had been to Mexico a couple of times before, and what I expected in the cuisine was to have at least a few options everywhere I went. I mean, how hard is it to make dishes just full of veggies, avocado, tortillas, and cheese?

CABO sign

Unfortunately, eating was a bit tougher than I anticipated. Meat, meat and more meat was the name of culinary game in Cabo. I understand that the vast majority of people eat meat, but it was disappointing that most of the places we checked out had almost nothing for me to eat.

In foreign countries, I’m hesitant to custom order things without meat. A language barrier coupled with a general ignorance of vegetarianism has led to a lot of confusion in my travels. Some people take “not eating meat” as just not eating red meat. It’s hard for some to grasp the concept, and after explaining that I don’t want any meat of any kind, I’ve then been given chicken and fish dishes. In Cabo, I actually ordered a menu item that had two options: a pork option, or just beans and cheese. I chose the latter, but when I cut into it…. there was pork.

La Cantina de Los Deseos dinner

I don’t think it’s hard to cater to plant-based eaters, I think it’s just that people are not used to getting that request. Luckily our resort was accommodating to my dietary needs, and I never had a problem finding something to eat for the meals that we ate there.  On our first night in Cabo, we dined at a resort restaurant called Los Riscos Grill. While they didn’t have any entrees that suited me, they did offer a salad bar. I went to town and ate tons of veggies, and I was perfectly fine with that.

My ginormous salad for dinner at Los Riscos Grill

My ginormous salad for dinner at Los Riscos Grill

At their more upscale restaurant, La Trajinera, the chef made me my own dish for dinner one night. Although the waiter initially seemed very confused at my request (“So miss, you’re saying you would like no meat at all in your meal tonight?”) it turned out pretty well.

Hacienda Encantada dinner

The one day we had breakfast at the resort, I enjoyed fresh green juice and fruit with toast. And for afternoon eats, we either ordered guacamole (always a winner in my book!) or veggie sandwiches at the pool bar.

Hacienda Encantada green juice

While all of that was good, on our third night in Cabo, I was itching for a really great dinner in town. I might be a healthy, picky, vegetarian foodie, but I’m still a foodie who adores a wonderful meal, especially when traveling. Beforehand, I had reached out to someone I know that often visits Cabo who had given me a few recommendations, and one of the places she mentioned was Hacienda Cocina y Cantina.

Hacienda Cocina-1

Located in the absolutely beautiful and posh Hacienda Beach Club resort, I immediately loved this restaurant. It offers a spectacular view of the marina and a perfect background of the Arch of Cabo.

Hacienda Cocina view

The resort is located downtown, but it’s a bit off of the riffraff of the main strip. We actually had a bit of a hard time finding it at first, but I’m so glad we wound up making it there because it turned out to be my favorite dinner of the trip!

Hacienda Cocina view-3

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Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade

Well, it’s officially summer in the northern hemisphere!

And boy, does it feel like it here in California! Yesterday I went to the beach for a few hours, and with the temperature hitting 90, it was the most umbrellas I’ve seen at the beach all year. The sun has been feeling super strong, and I’ll be seeing days of 80 degrees or higher for the foreseeable future.

The sunset last Thursday

The sunset last Thursday

I have a non-stop smoothie obsession, and in the summertime, my love for cold blender drinks only heightens. When it’s particularly hot and sunny out, I find the most refreshing thing to be watermelon. It’s high in nutrients and antioxidants and low in calories!

pooltimeSide note: I just joined Snapchat (& have no clue what I’m doing!). Connect with me on there @ fitfoodienicole. 

I’ve also turned my hubby into a watermelon smoothie lover. On Saturday, he and his friend went swimming in the Pacific to practice for an upcoming triathlon event while my friend (my hubby’s buddy’s wife), her baby, my pup and I went for a nice long walk. On our way home, he said, “Ooooh you know what I want? A watermelon smoothie!”

watermelon razz lemonade-4

And I couldn’t have agreed more. Plus, I happened to have a big watermelon sitting on my kitchen counter waiting to be cut open. Normally I go for our standard favorite – a strawberry watermelon smoothie – but this time, I decided to switch it up and use fresh lemon and frozen raspberries. Aaaahhhh, this refreshing 4-ingredient drink is sure to be a summertime favorite!  Continue reading

Portobello & Red Potato Arugula Pesto Grilled Naan Pizza [vegan]

Hi there!

How has the weather been by you guys? For much of May and the start of June, we saw a lot of San Diego’s notorious gloomy weather – we refer to it as May grey, June gloom (but no, I’m not complaining!) – but this week, we’ve been getting lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s.

Cloudy skies sunset-5.13.16

Cloudy sunset skies one evening last month

This weekend we’re supposed to hit 90 degrees for the first time this year… which means I’ll probably be having a pool and/or beach day. Time to cut up the watermelon & blow up my new pool float!

One thing I love to do during these late sunset days of spring and summer is eat dinner in my backyard. There’s something so relaxing about taking a few moments to decompress, take in the fresh, cooler air moving in for the night, and eat dinner with my hubby as we catch up about our days and watch our pup run around.

arugula pesto naan pizza-3

Naturally, we grill a lot in the summertime. We like to make all kinds of veggies and veggie burgers on the grill… and lately, I’ve been all about grilling pizza.

naan pizza ingredients

Sometimes I buy a ball of dough, roll it out, and grill it, or here and there I get all Suzy Homemaker and actually make the dough… but lately, I’ve been using naan flatbreads to make individual pizzas on the grill.

naan flatbreads

Naan is an oven-baked flatbread that originated in Asia. They’re perfect for built-in portion control when making pizza!

Note: While traditional naan contains yogurt and/or butter, you can find brands that make them vegan – including La Brea Bakery.

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Dining at The Red Door + The End of a Chapter {Weekend Recap}

Hello, hello!

How was your weekend? My friend Danielle was in town staying with me the end of last week into the weekend, so I was busy hosting and having fun!

Danielle visit-June 2016

Danielle and me

Here are the highlights of our time together:

Eat. I’d been wanting to visit The Red Door for a long time, and I finally got the chance to have dinner there. The restaurant offers a menu centered around local, organic, sustainable & ethically sourced, seasonal cuisine… so it pretty much couldn’t be more my type of place!

The Red Door space

Image via The Red Door

We both first enjoyed a glass of Gold Crush chardonnay, which was so rich and buttery. I’ve been all about buttery chardonnay lately and will definitely be nabbing bottles of it as soon as I find it around! We split a couple of dishes: First up was their vegan nachos, which had this awesome cashew cheese sauce and local avocado, along with their lemon ricotta stuffed squash blossoms.   The Red Door-1We also split this awesome zucchini pasta dish:

The Red Door-2

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Cabo Adventures Luxury Sailboat Excursion {Travel Review}

“Life is like sailing. You can use any wind to go in any direction.” – Robert Brault

Cabo Trip Recap

When planning my recent trip to Cabo San Lucas, while my agenda was mostly to relax, I also wanted to get out to sea for an excursion. I love doing trip research beforehand, and there was no shortage of options for some adventure out on the water – not surprising for a place that’s situated with the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Sea of Cortez on the east.

Cabo sailing-2

My hubby & I narrowed it down to what seemed like the best fit for our adventure. One of the perks of being in Cabo at the start of their slow tourist season is that there was no need to make excursion reservations in advance. On Sunday evening we booked a tour with our resort concierge for the next morning.

We decided on a luxury sailing tour with Cabo Adventures. A shuttle picked us up bright and early the next day, and off we went to the marina area of Cabo. Our tour group gathered at the Cabo Adventures’ large headquarters – which houses a dolphin activity center! – and soon we were setting sail on a sunny, hot Mexican day.

Cabo sailing-1

The tour included an open bar, and we immediately were greeted with mimosas. Our tour guide was very attentive and happy to refill our glasses throughout the day. We soon were also given an appetizer of guacamole & chips (+ shrimp that my hubby housed).

Cabo sailboat guacamole

Guacamole eaten on a sailboat in Mexico = vacation heaven.

In my opinion, too much guacamole is never enough when vacationing in Mexico. Who agrees?!

Soon, we approached the majestic Arch of Cabo San Lucas. Called El Arco, it’s a gorgeous rock formation at the southern tip of Cabo. Not surprisingly, it’s definitely the most famous image of Cabo San Lucas.

Arch of Cabo San Lucas

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Cherry Coconut Chocolate Chunk Hemp Granola [gf, vegan]

Happy Hump Day!

How’s your week going? I’ve gotten back into the swing of things in SoCal since getting back from vacation. While Mexico was a dream, it’s not too shabby coming home when you love where you live, so I can’t complain! My work week is a bit more exciting than usual because an East coast friend of mine is in town and will be staying with me for a few days. I love when friends from out of town visit!

But I digress, onto food…

cherry coconut granola-4

Question of the day: Coconut – do you love it, hate it, or feel indifferent to it?

I used to not like coconut at all, and then all of a sudden last year, I developed a thing for shredded coconut. While I still don’t love most coconut flavored things, coconut shreds are now routinely sprinkled on top of my smoothie bowls – hence why I’ve shared two smoothie recipes on the blog with coconut: a chocolate coconut caramel smoothie and banana coconut match smoothie.

cherry coconut granola-1

One coconut product that I’m sure you’ve seen everywhere is coconut oil. It’s undoubtedly one of the ‘it’ things in the healthy food world these days. A few of the many benefits that coconut oil lovers tout are its heart protecting and disease prevention properties, along with helping to curb appetite and improve digestion.

cherry coconut granola-5

So, I hopped on the bandwagon and started experimenting in baking and cooking with coconut oil more. My conclusion? While I don’t mind baking with coconut oil if I’m making something coconut-y, I’m not really a fan of using it in things that shouldn’t taste like coconut in my opinion… as in, I don’t like my banana cinnamon muffins to have an underlying coconut taste to them.

But a recipe with coconut oil where coconut is actually one of the star flavors? That I can get behind. Thus, today’s recipe…

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Cabo San Lucas Travel Review: Staying at Hacienda Encantada

Hi friends!

I’m back in California after a lovely vacation in Mexico, so now it’s time for a travel recap! Cabo Trip Recap

I planned this trip as a surprise for my hubby’s 30th birthday. He doesn’t actually turn 30 until July, but a trip over Memorial Day worked out well since we both had long weekends off of work. After much debate, I decided on visiting Cabo San Lucas. Adam had only been to Tijuana in Mexico and had never gone on a Mexican vacation, and Cabo was easy for us to get to from San Diego, so it made for a great destination for a 4-day trip!

Located on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, Cabo is a 2-hour flight from San Diego.

Cabo travel route

I was able to get us a suite at a Cabo resort called Hacienda Encantada through a timeshare that we own. Sometimes with trading our timeshare with hotels around the world I don’t know exactly what to expect, and Hacienda Encantada did not disappoint. It was a gorgeous resort!

Hacienda Encantada dusk

The resort was beautifully maintained, and all of the employees that we came across were very helpful and friendly. The end of May is the start of Cabo’s slow season, and the resort wasn’t too crowded at all. It was pretty nice because we didn’t have to worry about making reservations anywhere early and at times it felt like we had the resort all to ourselves, but the weather was still gorgeous and not yet unbearably hot. The sun was shining the whole trip, and I think it was 88 degrees every day we were there.

Hacienda Encantada scenery

We were happy with our suite, which included a kitchen and living room area. The theme of Hacienda Encantada was a sort of old-school Mexican vibe, but everything was very clean and well-kept.

Hacienda Encantada villa-3

One of my favorite parts was the bathroom, which had a huge shower with pretty tiling. The bathrooms in my house are kind of outdated, so I really appreciate a nice bathroom! I also liked the suite’s whirlpool tub, complete with doors that opened up into the rest of the villa.

Hacienda Encantada villa-2

Hacienda Encantada villa-1

We had a lovely balcony view of the ocean, where I got to practice yoga a few mornings during our trip. It was so peaceful to practice on the balcony to the music of the ocean and birds chirping in the early morning.

Hacienda Encantada villa view

Hacienda Encantada yoga The best part of the resort was their main pool area – which featured an infinity pool, swim-up bar, hot tub and quite an amazing view.

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Loaded Mediterranean Avocado Toast [vegan]

Hola!

While I’m in Mexico eating what’s sure to be an abundance of guacamole, today I’m sharing with you a recipe that revolves around the illustrious avocado, but isn’t really Mexican-themed…

Mediterranean Avocado Toast

I’m blessed to have my husband for many reasons – one being that he’ll try whatever dish I put in front of him.

Whoa, when I typed that I just realized that I totally sound like my mom, who loves that A will eat (& usually enjoy) almost anything. She loves when we visit and he eats her leftovers!

But I mean, what type of cook doesn’t like having a loved one around that’ll try all of their creations?  Even though A isn’t a vegetarian himself, he’s open to trying my many vegan and vegetarian dish experiments without complaint. That’s why when I received a rare critique from him recently that I was making Mexican dinners a little too much, I got my act together and got a little bit more creative in the kitchen. I believe his exact words were:

“Babe what’s for dinner tonight? Quesadillas? Enchiladas? Perhaps some tacos? [smirk]”

Mediterranean Avo Toast-2Enough said hubby! I definitely had been relying on my go-to Mexican dinners a lot, and since we had an upcoming trip to Cabo San Lucas planned, I didn’t want him to go to Mexico already feeling over Mexican food. So, recently I toned down my love for Mexican food and started making more of my other beloved cuisines – mainly dishes with Italian and Mediterranean flairs.

Recent dinners that have gotten big thumbs up include linguine with asparagus in a white wine lemon sauce, homemade pizza and rosti potatoes with spinach & feta. And then there’s today’s recipe: the ultimate avocado toast.

It’s no secret that I love avocado. An abundance of the ripe fruit is one of the reasons why we’d been eating so many Mexican dinners. For this recipe, I decided to take avocado toast to the next level. It’s simple, it’s nutritious and it’s definitely delicious.

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The All About the Hamstrings Workout

When I cut out cardio for a couple of months because of my foot injury, I started doing a lot more isolated strength training than usual. I typically incorporate strength moves into HIIT and cardio workouts, but I started relying more on strength training as my main exercise burn.

While I love so many types of workouts, I wouldn’t say that lifting is high on my list of favorite types of exercise. At first I was whining to myself (and probably a few others) saying, “How many damn bicep curls can I do?” but then I started getting more creative. I used to do a lot more workouts that were more strength-based when I regularly went to a normal gym, so I started getting back to those roots and having more fun with it.

Hamstring WOD Collage-2

One thing I started paying more attention to was working on my hamstrings. I definitely have stronger quads than hamstrings. After all, I use my quads for some of my favorite exercises as well as functional movements throughout my day, but my hamstrings? They don’t get worked quite as much.

It’s common to have stronger quads than hamstrings, but in an effort to keep things balanced and reduce chances of further injury aggravation, lately I’ve been more diligently doing hamstring exercises. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorite moves to work the hammies, so let’s get to it! Here are the moves:

#1 – One-legged bridge lift. This move is great for getting a glute + hamstring burn! I do this exercise using either a chair as pictured below, or by using my couch as a prop.

Bridge Lift

#2 – One-legged deadlift. This is one of my favorite exercises to work the hammies. You can also add some extra upper body work in there by doing bicep curls or tricep pull-ups when flowing back to standing. I typically use 10-lb dumbbells for this move and most of the other exercises, but bump it up to my 25-lb weights if I’m feeling strong!

One Legged Deadlift

#3 – Alternating reverse lunges. An oldie but a goodie, this move gets your heart rate pumping!

Reverse Lunge

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