Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies [vegan + gluten free]

Hi friends!

Hello from San Diego, where it is hot, hot, hot! We’re having a heatwave here, and today is warmer than any summer day I’ve experienced here. I’m working from my pool this afternoon after seeing that temperatures were hitting the triple digits. There’s this strong hot breeze going on and it’s pretty crazy for us spoiled San Diegans (many of whom do not have AC, myself included)!

Saturday night's sunset in Carlsbad

Saturday night’s sunset in Carlsbad

The heatwave started a few days ago, so I spent a ton of time at the beach over the weekend. Coastal walks with the pup, a burrito picnic dinner at sunset, the dog beach, watching NFL Sunday football games on my phone with my feet in the sand…. I practically lived at the beach for a few days! No complaints there! 

Harley enjoying the dog beach

Harley enjoying the dog beach

Rewinding back to two weekends ago when it was feeling more autumn-ish, I was bitten by the baking bug as I usually am when fall starts and I’ve got apple & pumpkin on my brain.

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My friend Tiffany, who throws great parties where her and her hubby play movies in their backyard on a projector screen, was having a ladies’ night. I wanted to bring a seasonal dessert, so I whipped up a new pumpkin cookie recipe that I’m sharing with you guys today!

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10 Healthy Ways to Embrace Autumn

Happy Friday, and Happy Autumn friends!

Yesterday officially marked the first day of fall for all of us in the Northern Hemisphere! I really enjoy this time of the year, how about you guys? Keeping it nice & light, today I’m sharing 10 fun ways to embrace the season!

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1.) Go apple picking. Already have this one checked off my autumn list!

2.) Hit the trails // Go for walks. I love the crisp air and cool breezes that hit in fall. I love the return back to the steady 70 degree days in San Diego, and it’s actually my favorite time of the year weather-wise in the Northeast where I’m from.

If you live near hilly terrain, take advantage of the perfect outdoor workout weather and hit the trails with your pup, family or friends. If you live in a flat area, visit your favorite area park – or try a new one! – to get some nice long walks in. If you live in an area that gets cold and icy in the winter, get outdoors now while you still can!

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Scenes from my hike yesterday

Just yesterday evening I went hiking with my pup at Elfin Forest, and it was glorious!

3.) Reevaluate your goals & start fresh with your intentions. For me, a new season feels like a new start. Take time to think about the ways that you can improve your life and cultivate new healthy habits.

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4.) After you do #1, make apple pie autumn granolaI just made a batch earlier this week, and it’s like fall in a bowl. The recipe is vegan, gluten free, free of refined sugar… and delicious!

5.) Stash up on your herbal tea collection. I’m a big tea drinker, but I pretty much stop drinking it all of summer while it’s hot out. The desire to sip a hot drink hits me once the weather cools down a bit, and I love stocking up on new teas this time of the year. Peppermint & pumpkin flavors are my favorite autumn-time teas!

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Where to Eat Vegetarian in Dublin [Travel Recap]

Hello, hello!

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Last week I talked about my favorite adventures in Dublin on my recent trip to Ireland, and today I’m back to share a guide to vegetarian eating in Dublin.

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I initially didn’t have very high expectations for plant-based eating in Ireland because I know that the traditional Irish diet is very meat-and-potatoes-ish, and also because of my previous experiences in meat heavy European countries like Austria and Germany.

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Falafel with arugula at the Dublin airport

But when I started doing research on eating vegetarian in Dublin, I found that healthy eating in general is becoming more popular in Ireland. I did not have a problem coming up with a list of restaurants to potentially dine at, and I thought that I’d share some recommendations for where to eat veg in Dublin. Here are my favorite meals that I enjoyed in Dublin!

Cornucopia. I learned from my Lonely Planet travel book that Cornucopia is recognized as Dublin’s best-known vegetarian restaurant. I ventured there with my parents and sister one night, and it did not disappoint!

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Placing an emphasis on locally grown & organic ingredients, Cornucopia offers lots of wholesome options – from salads and sandwiches to a variety of hot dishes like red onion, leek and sundried tomato polenta cakes with mushroom sauce. The salads weren’t your standard boring classics either: they were items like bulgur, fennel, chard and cherry vine in a green chilli vinaigrette.

We were all starving, so we just mixed and matched a bunch of hot dishes with different salads, then dug in and shared all of our plates. I could not even tell you what the below & above pictured dishes actually are, but everything was fresh and flavorful!

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The restaurant has a ton of seating and is located in the heart of downtown Dublin.

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Johnnie Fox’s. The very first night in Ireland, we ventured maybe half an hour out of the city to one of Ireland’s oldest traditional pubs called Johnnie Fox’s. Situated in Glencullen on top of the Dublin mountains, it’s famed for being the highest pub in the country.

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Johnnie Fox’s was my first experience with the deliciousness known as Irish bread. I’m a sucker for yummy bread, and whoa, it’s so good — grainy, fresh, and just wholesome tasting. This turned out to be a theme in Ireland: awesome fresh bread everywhere!

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Most of the menu is not vegetarian, but the couple of items they offered that were veg-friendly sounded awesome. With my sister on the trip who’s also a vegetarian, it was nice to just split meals with her a lot and get to try multiple items. At Johnnie Fox’s we ordered their vegetable lasagna + the above pictured bean & veggie stew. Both were delicious, and tasted even better after a day of not really eating real food & just snacking while traveling!

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Cheesy Spinach & Pepper Twice Baked Potatoes [gluten free]

Hi friends!

Today I’ve got a veggie-packed Meatless Monday dinner recipe to share with you…

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But before I dive into today’s recipe, I wanted to first invite you guys to subscribe to my health coaching newsletter if you haven’t already! It’s a free newsletter that’ll be delivered straight to your inbox once every month or two, and it contains recipe and workout ideas, healthy living tips, health coaching offers and more. I’ll be sending a new one out later this week, so sign up for it below if you’re interested.

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Getting back to food, it’s been awhile since I’ve shared a savory recipe (beginning of August to be exact). I figured it was time for a new dinner recipe, and this is a good one!

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When it comes to healthy eating, something that I hear from people a lot is that they “don’t have time” to cook nourishing food. Going from junky convenience food to meal prepping and planning is certainly a big change, but it is so worth it when you think about how much you’re doing for your health.

Food is the way that we fuel our bodies every single day, meal after meal, and just what food you choose on a consistent basis can determine a lot of things: the way you feel, the way you look, your risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many other illnesses, and much more.

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Pumpkin Apple Banana Muffins {vegan}

Packed with apple, pumpkin, banana and cinnamon, and free of refined sugar, these healthy vegan muffins make for a great autumn snack, small breakfast, or guilt-free dessert!
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One of my favorite September activities is apple picking. But since it’s pretty warm and summery feeling in San Diego in September, sometimes I forget that the apple orchards are ready to be visited. A few years we’ve been too late in the apple picking game and either a.) go when the orchards are pretty picked over, or b.) miss apple picking all together (like last year!). BUT NOT THIS YEAR!

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Nope, in 2016 I was on high apple picking alert! In the San Diego area, the best area to visit for apple picking is Julian – a cute little town I’ve talked about before. It’s about a 75-minute drive from my house, and it’s like a whole different world there.

It’s known for its farming, apple pies and boutique vineyards. It’s the kind of place where some of the local establishments don’t have websites. It’s country living still close to the wonderful city of San Diego, and it’s a fun little getaway spot.

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So even though it seemed early for autumn to already be here, off we went to Julian last weekend for some local apples.

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For all of you locals, the orchard I chose is called MJ Ranch – mainly because they’re organic growers, had their opening day last weekend so I knew they’d be stocked with fruit, and because they’re dog-friendly and I wanted to bring my pup along. The Visit Julian website has a good list of U-Pick orchards listed here.

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It turned out to be the best year yet that we’ve had with apple picking! The trees were lush with a variety of apples, and the farm also grows pears as well.

As you can see in the picture above, Harley made some friends at the orchard and enjoyed eating fruit from the ground (and this little girl had Harley lick the apple she was actually eating – not too sure about that!). There were lots of people there with dogs, which was fun.

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We came home with two full bags of apples ready to be eaten. It’s funny comparing local, organic apples to typical store-bought ones. They’re smaller, flawed and not perfectly shaped – just how apples were meant to be I think!

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Naturally, I had to do some sort of baking with a couple of the apples that very day.

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I had been thinking of making pumpkin banana muffins, so instead, I added some chopped apple to the mix to make it a very autumn-ish muffin recipe – using just a food processor as my mixing bowl!

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Adventures in Dublin {Travel Recap}

Hello, hello!

Between traveling back from Europe, catching up on work, and battling an energy-sucking cold all week, I just could not get my blogging act together last week. But, I’m back today with a fun travel recap!

Prior to last week, when I pictured Ireland, I envisioned lots of pubs, history, greenery and castles. Now having vacationed there, I can say that the country was very much what I was anticipating.

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My trip to Ireland all started when I found out that my dad, a longtime football coach for a high school in New Jersey, would be traveling there with his team. They were set to play as one of the opener games for the Georgia Tech vs. Boston College game – a way of bringing American football to Europe.

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When I heard that my mom and sister were joining the team, I jumped on board the Ireland train. My grandmother, two aunts, an uncle, two cousins (one of whom plays for the football team), and my older brother, who also coaches the team, were also making the trip. A family Euro trip sounded like too much fun and shenanigans to ignore, especially since I had never been to Europe with my family.

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My hubby couldn’t make it, so I flew 5,000+ miles from San Diego to Dublin solo and met my family in Ireland.

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My older brother, me, my parents, and my sister after my dad’s football game in Dublin

Where I Slept. We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dublin, which wound up being a few miles from pretty much everything we wanted to go to in the city. The rooms were clean, and the hotel offered a complimentary breakfast + amenities like a very decent gym and a restaurant/bar. Its location was positive in that I got my steps in daily, and it’s a very walkable city with plenty to see…

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Dublin street views

…but not so good in that we didn’t always have the time/energy to walk, and wound up taking a taxi a number of times.

A note on taxis in Dublin: They’re pricey! The rates are regulated by the government, so while the area has Uber, they’re taxi drivers that charge the same rates as regular taxi rides – and I had issues with my Uber app working while I was there. The regular taxis also don’t often take credit cards, which was a pain in the butt.

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I crashed in my mom and sister’s hotel room for the week, which was hilarious because the hotel gave them two oh so tinyyyy beds. I sort of forgot that European hotels tend to have smaller rooms and beds, and it’s a good thing my mother is a very small person. We went head-to-toe in a twin sized bed all week!

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I would definitely recommend staying in the heart of downtown Dublin if you want to be able to easily walk places and have that convenience factor. Some of my family stayed at The Fleet Street Hotel, which is found right in the middle of Dublin’s nightlife scene, and they thought it was pretty nice.

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BC vs. Georgia Tech game at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium

Where I Explored in Dublin. While I attended football games, a post-game party and a football banquet with my family, I also saw as much as I could while in Ireland! Today we’re focusing on my favorite adventures in the city of Dublin.

The one thing that’s undeniable in Dublin is the abundance of pubs. By one taxi driver’s account, there are 660+ pubs just in the city itself!

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My first Irish coffee in Ireland

On our very first day in Dublin, attempting to walk off our red-eye flight exhaustion and see some of the city, we stumbled into O’Donoghue’s for Irish coffees. Later I found out that it’s a renowned traditional bar in Dublin and a famous rugby pub.

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If you ask 10 people, you’ll probably get completely different Dublin pub recommendations each time, and that’s because you kind of can’t go wrong. Many places can pour the perfect pint of the beverage that Dublin is famed for, Guinness.

Every pub I stepped into had the same quintessential Irish feel to it, and there was lots of live music everywhere! Some bands played more modern music and others played more traditional Irish music. Either way, I adore live music and am fond of Irish accents, so I loved it.

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With my little cousin and sister at a Dublin pub

While you can’t go wrong, the famed pub area that you simply must see when in Dublin is the cobbled streets of the Temple Bar district. It’s a bustling place where many establishments have ‘Temple’ in their name in the area. The one that I enjoyed the most was aptly named The Temple Bar Pub. The live music there was great, it’s a huge place, and they have a nice indoor/outdoor area as well. Even so, everyone else must love it there too, because the bar was completely packed!

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Fun tidbit: There’s a sign next to the above pictured stage that proclaims that a guitarist broke the Guinness World Book of Records for playing the guitar nonstop for the longest amount of time in 2011 at the bar. Just how long did he play for? 114 hours! 

Dublin also has no shortage of well-maintained parks and gardens to visit. A few that I walked through were Merrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green. Both are good spots for a picnic, some fresh air and people watching.

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5 Summery Recipe Obsessions

Hi strangers!

Long time no talk. I’m back in the United States after quite a whirlwind trip to Ireland, where I had such a blast. I will be sharing more about my trip with you soon, but today I want to talk about a few of my favorite recipes of the fleeting summer season.

Carlsbad dusk-July 2016

While a lot of Americans consider Labor Day the end of summer, the season officially ends in two weeks. I’m soaking up the last bit of summer, but I’m also looking forward to some cooler autumn-ish weather and all that comes with it (YAY for football season!). Today I thought I’d share a couple of my top favorite summery recipes. There’s still time to whip up these seasonal dishes, so let’s get to it!

Single Serving Recipe-Berry Banana Sorbet

I made this berry banana sorbet at least a few times a week all summer long. I love customizing it with toppings depending on whatever I’m in the mood for, and it’s a great post-workout meal.

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These Peaches & Cream Muffins are a great way to use up ripe peaches in the summertime!

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No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cookies [vegan + gluten free]

Need a Hump Day pick-me-up? While I’m off exploring Ireland, I’ve got you covered with this vegan, gluten free no-bake cookie recipe!  

One misconception that I’ve noticed with people trying to clean up their diets is the idea that they have to give up eating anything “fun.” They reside to the idea of eating lean protein and veggies at every meal, and I am here to tell you that this idea is total crap. You can have your cake and eat it too (pun intended!), and I’m all about moderation and “healthifying” recipes.
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One way that I feed my sweet tooth while still eating clean is whipping up healthier takes on dessert – and today’s recipe is a great example of that!

raw choc pb cookies-1So where did this no-bake cookie idea come from? Me not wanting to turn the oven on!

You see, my house doesn’t have air conditioning, and living here without AC is fine probably 345 days out of the year… I mean, San Diego weather is pretty heavenly. But there are a few weeks out of the year in the summer when the temperatures soar, and my house gets a little bit too hot. This was the case recently, when my house was regularly hitting 85 degrees in the afternoon. When I came up with these no-bake cookies, it wasn’t even all that hot inside, but I think I was still paranoid about my house getting too hot and therefore boycotted any oven use.

raw choc pb cookies-2So just how are these babies made? They’re full of wholesome ingredients like oats, banana, almond flour, dates and peanut butter.

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5 Ways I Save Money While Traveling

Hello, and Happy Monday! How was your weekend?

The highlight of my weekend was visiting Temecula wine country with my hubby. I just love the vineyards right before harvest – lots of grapes ready to be picked and made into wine!

Leoness Cellars grapes-Aug 2016

This is a short workweek for me – really short. I’m in the office today, and then tomorrow I’m flying 12 hours to Ireland for vacation for the rest of the week! I’m sure today will be a busy Monday full of wrapping up work things and packing, and I also have my Fantasy Football Draft this evening (Woohoo for the start of football season being upon us!).

I truly love to travel. I love everything about a trip – from the planning and booking aspect of it, to exploring, adventuring, and experiencing, and even the coming back home and getting back to normalcy part.

A photo while in Venice, the last time I was in Europe

A photo while in Venice, the last time I was in Europe

While I’m not a clipping coupons type of saver, I certainly enjoy a good deal and like to save money when I can in my travels. This trip I’m actually meeting up with family and crashing in a hotel room with my mom and sister. I think it’ll give us more time together and I’ll also save money, so it’s a win-win!

There are some routine things that I do when traveling to save a few bucks here and there, and today I thought I’d share them with you. Let’s get to it!

1. Skip breakfasts out. When on a trip, I usually eat breakfast in my hotel room because 1.) it saves $$, 2.) it’s quick, so I can get a head start on exploring wherever I am, and 3.) it’s bound to be a healthy start to the day. I typically pack things like bring protein bars and dried fruit from home. For instance, I’m planning on packing some rice cakes + peanut butter for Ireland, and in Mexico earlier this summer, I bought a box of cereal when I first arrived to munch on during my mornings there.

IDEA World-bar snack

2. Bring snacks from home. This is similar to the first one, but I always bring a lot of munchies with me when I travel. It saves me some hangry emergencies, and I know that I’ll always have something healthy to eat – especially when traveling to places that might not exactly be known as being health conscious and/or vegetarian friendly. My snacks always seems to come in handy when I’m in my hotel room getting ready for dinner as a little something to hold me over for an hour or two.

3. Look out for promos & deals. I definitely don’t mind spending money to do something really cool, but I also keep my eyes open for a good deal. Sometimes you can haggle with tour groups for last-minute excursions or get a deal if you book more than one excursion with the same company. Sometimes hotels collaborate with local businesses to steer you their way and offer discounts.

Infinity pool fun in Cabo San Lucas

My husband and me enjoying the infinity pool & swim up bar at Hacienda Encantada in Cabo

When I went to Mexico earlier this summer, we booked it through our timeshare at a really low cost. The timeshare company will often have promotions that are really great for travel a couple weeks out, so if the occasion arises where we can pick up and go, I always am on the lookout for timeshare deals. I also check out booking sites like Orbitz for deals and promotion codes. The incessant emails from them can get annoying, but then when I save 20% on my hotel using a code they emailed me, it’s worth it!

4. Bring a water bottle from home. I like to pack my reusable water bottle in my bag so that I can fill it up throughout the trip whenever I get a chance. In my experience, restaurants are happy to fill it up in the airport, where water is like $5 a pop. Most hotels that I’ve stayed at have cold water for use in the lobby or in the gym. Since I drink a ton of water, I otherwise find myself buying bottle after bottle during the trip.

Champagne by the sea in Mexico

Champagne by the sea in Mexico

5. Take advantage of free events. I can think of three different hotels I’ve stayed at this year – on my trips to Sonoma, Las Vegas, and Cabo San Lucas – that offer complimentary happy hours. Some also offer munchies that can be a late afternoon snack when you’re coming back from your daytime activities, or an appetizer on your way out for the night. I take advantage of these events whenever I can because…free booze! Need I say more? 

Looking for more travel chat? Check out these recent posts:

Any cost saving travel tips you’d like to share? Spill it! 

Friday Reflections

I’ve been reflecting a lot about life lately.

I think it’s partly having been in my home state of New Jersey for a few weeks, partly me entering my last year of my 20’s earlier this month, and partly me just being an analytical person. But I’ve been thinking a lot about life.

Stormy sunset skies at Barley Point, an island I grew up on

Stormy sunset skies at Barley Point, an island I grew up on

Every time I visit home, I find myself looking at the places I see and the people I’m with with fresh eyes. I think that many people who have lived far away from their families and hometowns can relate to this feeling. I also think that it’s nearly impossible to look at it with such new perspective unless you’ve been away. Everything sometimes seems exactly the same, while other times it seems like everything has changed. I even drove through my alma mater while I was there and got to reflect on my college years.

And somewhere along the way in the now many years that I’ve been gone, there’s this interesting dynamic of me feeling like I have two homes in my heart: where I’m from, and California. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that I was brought to California to be awakened in ways that I wasn’t before. I’ve really grown and grown into my own here, and I’ve been looking inward and thinking about what’s shaped me.

The view from my favorite nearby park & its little mountain

The view from my favorite nearby park & its little mountain

I think that being independent on my own living in new areas has helped me often push out of my comfort zone and learn a lot, that being apart from my husband and loved ones has helped me to be a more loving and patient person, that being on this journey to be the healthiest, happiest me and helping others to do the same has given me confidence and satisfaction, that traveling has broadened my horizons and given me new perspective. I’m grounded by a marriage that has gotten stronger with each year. I feel a calmness that doesn’t get shaken easily, and I think that my love of hiking and yoga has helped to develop that at a spiritual level.

cloudy sunset at Barley Point

There’s this quote I love: “A mind that’s stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” I just want to keep learning, growing, listening, experiencing, and loving all that life has to offer.

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