Monthly Archives: August 2016

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.
raw choc pb cookies-8

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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Pushing the Reset Button + WIAW

Hi there!

Long time no talk. I’m back in California, back to a normal routine for the week. My last weekend in Jersey was awesome, as I spent it down the shore drinking, eating, and boating with family and girlfriends…

boat riding with girlfriends

With my girlfriends Danielle and Meaghan

I wish that someone could braid my hair every day like my best friend Meg did last weekend!

I wish that someone could braid my hair every day like my best friend Meg did last weekend!

I got back to San Diego at 1 AM on Monday after multiple flight delays, then had to get back to work on Monday morning. So as you can imagine, I started off the week pretty tired and jet-lagged! I think that weeks of traveling a lot visiting with loved ones and staying up late either out with girlfriends/family or watching the Olympics while still working during the day caught up with me… and I was exhausted!

Dock & Dine

Rather than forcing myself into my normal routine of hard workouts and getting unpacked and unorganized the first chance I got, I decided to take a day to chill out on that front. Besides working, picking up some food at the store, and taking Harley for a walk, I let myself get some rest. I didn’t work past 5:30 (very unusual for me!), I laid on the couch all evening, and I got 10 hours of sleep. Whew, I needed it, and I felt so much more like myself by Tuesday!

Love coming home to this cutie!

Love coming home to this cutie!

I think that sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break with time to relax. A day of rest and recovery from travel – and also sometimes just to de-stress from general busyness – helps us to restore our bodies and minds. Once in awhile the healthier choice is to watch a movie on the couch rather than be productive!

happy hour on the boat

Happy hour on my parents’ boat last week

On that note, yesterday I decided to get my butt in gear in terms of healthy eating. While I was on the east coast, I ate lots of healthy meals, but I also overdid it some nights with booze, sweets and carbs. I’m leaving for Ireland next week (!!), so I don’t have much time to be in total control of my eats at home, but I know that I’ll feel better eating clean for at least a couple of days.

WIAW-New

With that being said, yesterday was my first day of counting macros as I typically do and eating all of my meals at home in a few weeks. I’m joining in on the What I Ate Wednesday party, and here’s what I ate!

pb banana protein shake

Breakfast was a post-early morning cycling workout cinnamon banana peanut butter protein shake, made with frozen banana, cashew milk, PB 2 powdered peanut butter, cinnamon and vanilla protein powder.

avocado toast lunch

Lunch was a slice of Mediterranean avocado toast (so good!) with strawberries and blueberries. I also made extra roasted chickpeas to include in my dinner.

raw chocolate pb cookies

For a late afternoon snack, I ate a few of these raw chocolate chunk peanut butter cookies that I was testing out (the recipe is coming to the blog next week!).

nectarine snack

I also ate a nectarine to hold me over until dinnertime.

Lundberg Farms package

In the afternoon, I got a surprise package from my friends at Lundberg Farms. I’ve almost exclusively used their rice since visiting their farm last year and seeing what a great company they are, and I was happy to find some goodies from them!

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Life Lately: Food, Fitness & Fun on the East Coast

Hello, hello!

birthday at the shore-4

My working vacation to my hometown has (not surprisingly) been a busy few weeks – lots of fun happening and catching up with loved ones! Here’s what life lately has been for me on the east coast:

Food. There’s been no shortage of good eats this trip, obviously! Some food highlights have included this healthy blueberry crumble that my mom for me on my birthday morning (oh yea, I turned 29 the day that I arrived in Jersey!)…

blueberry crumble breakfast

…chocolate covered fruit that we made the same day….

chocolate covered fruit

…and lots of veggies as per usual. My grandpa’s garden produces some insanely big zucchini!

grandpa's zucchini

His tomato plants also produce some pretty awesome Jersey tomatoes. Bruschetta and tomato sauce with zoodles have been enjoyed!

grandpa's tomatoes

Naturally, I’ve done some cooking for my family. One treat I made them was my healthier rice crispy treats. While my nephews weren’t sold on them, all of the adults loved em!

chocolate rice crispy treats

One dinner that I made at my parents’ house was the below pictured Mexican stuffed bell peppers with avocado sauce.

stuffed peppers

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Workout Gear Review: Beats Powerbeats2 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Hi friends!

Can you guys believe that we’re halfway through August? I actually can because I’m currently in Jersey with my family, where it’s been sweltering out as only August can be! Last weekend I was in Philly, and at 97 degrees and crazy humidity, it was just too hot to walk around much. It felt like a sauna every time I stepped outside!

Barley Point sunset-Aug 16

The place to be in this heat is definitely on the water, and fortunately I’ve gotten the chance to be out on both my parents’ and my father-in-law’s boats this trip. It’s sweet relief to feel the breeze in your hair when it’s so humid + hot out!

I haven’t been doing too much exercise outdoors while I’ve been on the east coast for fear of melting, but this summer when I’ve been home in California, I’ve been enjoying my latest outdoor workout gear: my Beats Powerbeats2 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Powerbeats2 Headphones-7

The lovely folks with AT&T San Diego recently sent me the headphones to try out, and I’ve been loving having wireless earbuds to listen to my favorite playlists while I’m hiking and biking.

Powerbeats2 Headphones-1

Hiking with my pup Harley & my Powerbeats2 headphones

The Powerbeats2 are so much more convenient than having wired headphones. I just slip the earbuds in my ears, throw my iPhone in my backpack, and I’m off! No tangled wires, no having to carry my phone in my hands. The sound quality is great, and I haven’t had any signal issues at all.

Powerbeats2 Headphones-4

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Cherry Pistachio Energy Balls [vegan, gf]

Hi friends! Today we’re talking about nuts and balls! 😉

Everyone has their go-to favorite foods that they’re constantly eating, and for me, one of those categories is nuts + nut butters. I usually eat a serving of one on the daily. Healthy fats like nuts keep my belly happy & satisfied.

cherry pistachio balls-2

Almond butter and peanut butter are my all-time favorites, and I was pretty into cashews & cashew butter for awhile there. Somehow I tend to forget that I like pistachios too.

cherry pistachio balls-7
Recently I was about to whip up a batch of energy balls, and instead of using my go-to nuts of choice, I decided to switch it up and break open a bag of pistachios.

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DIY Time: Wine Barrel Cocktail Table Tutorial

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself crafty, but here and there, I work on a DIY project that turns out pretty well.

Finished Wine Cork Wreath

DIY success: my wine cork Christmas wreath

I think that becoming a homeowner has made my hubby and me more DIY people. For instance, recently he built a new pergola for our backyard with my father-in-law…

Boys building the pergola

…after our old, seemingly sturdy and very heavy pergola flipped over into our pool during some crazy winds during a rare San Diego storm:

pergola in the pool

This was not fun! 

We’ve since stained the pergola, added a solar cover, and planted flowers in the hopes that their vines will start to wrap around the sides of the pergola (fingers crossed):

The view from the pool

The view from the pool

I think that it came out pretty great! We also recently re-painted our bedroom and redid the guest bedroom/my workout room, though we do have our limits: A few weeks ago we hired professionals to re-paint our kitchen and dining room – because that would have been a little too much DIY work for our liking!

wine wall

I mean, do you see all of those shelves?! This is actually before the re-paint, but you get the idea. I think we would have gotten paint all over them had the job been done by us – and it would have taken us, like, three months to get the job done, as opposed to the two days that it took the pros.

But I digress.

wine barrel table tutorial

Another DIY project of mine in recent months was a wine barrel cocktail table for my backyard. It came out pretty cool and I love that it adds a unique touch to my backyard, where we hang out pretty often. Today I thought that I’d share how I made it with you guys. Let’s get to it!

Wine Barrel Sale

Step 1. Find a guy selling used wine barrels on the side of the rode in wine country. I was with a girlfriend wine tasting in Temecula and couldn’t resist pulling over to check out the barrels. It was only a moment or two before I was sold on the idea of nabbing one!

Step 1b. Buy the barrel on the spot (this type of find doesn’t happen every day people!) and figure out a way to fit it into the backseat of your hybrid car – ideally without scratching your car door as I did but eh, you lose some and you win some right?

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My Annual Solo Birthday Date

Hey, hey!

Tonight I’m catching the redeye to the east coast! I’m looking forward to time with my family. I haven’t been home since the holidays, which is quite awhile for me.

Jumping at Elfin Forest

Can you tell that I’m excited? This ridiculous photo was taken a few months ago and is too funny not to share.

Earlier this week, I continued a tradition that I started years ago of dedicating a day around my birthday just to treating myself to things that I love. It’s what I call my “me” day to decompress and take myself on a solo date.

I think that for a lot of people, life just seems too hectic to feel like there’s time to practice self-love as much as we should – or worse, maybe we don’t feel deserving of it. I think it’s really important to take time here and there to slow down, appreciate life, and to kind of recognize that I’m doing a pretty decent job at this thing called life and celebrate it.

Carlsbad sunset-Feb 16

So, my birthday is a perfectly good reason to do have a “me” date! It’s something I look forward to around my birthday. I established this annual tradition with myself also as a reminder that my happiness isn’t dependent on what others do for me, but also how I treat myself. I have the power to create happiness within. This year, I’m fortunate in that I’ll be spending my 29th birthday with both my husband and my entire family, which is really nice, but there have been birthdays where my husband is deployed and I’m 2,500 miles away from my family.

Harley playing at the park-summer 2016

I rang in my last year of my 20s – well, not technically, as my birthday is tomorrow, but in my mind it was kind of the start of my birthday! – by first taking my pup for a long early morning walk. Our daily walks together are something small that I often appreciate, and I love getting in exercise with my crazy pup.

Next up, I stopped at one of my favorite spots in Carlsbad for an acai bowl. I headed to the beach to enjoy it as I watched the waves and the early risers getting their workouts in.

birthday date acai bowl

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Portobello Mushroom & Asparagus Risotto [vegan + gluten free]

One great thing about having a food blog is that when I want to look up a favorite recipe or get meal planning inspiration, I often can just look it up on my blog (+ lots of my favorite food blogs!). I tend to put recipes that I constantly make on the blog. After all, this is a place where I share my passion of cooking and baking with all of you lovely people.

Every now and then, I realize that there’s a longtime favorite meal that I’ve never posted on here. This happened recently when my husband requested asparagus & mushroom risotto for dinner… and when I tried to look up the recipe, I realized it was yet to be shared.

risotto-3

I first started making asparagus & portobello mushroom risotto when I found it in the Skinny Bitch cookbook probably a good 5 years ago.

At the time I was learning to cook more vegan meals, and had little idea what things like nutritional yeast and Earth Balance were. Skinny Bitch includes a couple of recipes that I’ve often made over the years.

risotto-1 copy

I’ve adapted the risotto to my taste over the years, and today I wanted to share my version of it with you!

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