Dark Chocolate Banana Bread Protein Muffins {healthy, guilt-free, gluten-free, and protein-packed}

photo (32)

I’m back!

I know it has been a while since my last post but I’ve been having one of those quarter-life crisis moments. You know, the one where you have no clue where your life is going or what your purpose is but all you know is you’re craving an adventure and in need of some soul-searching and you’re having one of those Eat Pray Love or Into the Wild moments where you just want to leave everything  you know and travel the world and find yourself. Have you ever had one of those moments?

Well, needless to say, I definitely had one of those moments this week and I’m so glad I did. I feel like I can take on the World right now. I finally feel like there are so many great things coming my way and so much to look forward to and sometimes all you need is a little kick in the behind to help you get you there.

And while I was having one of those Into the Wild moments, I created a delicious mistake. Well, not really a mistake because it’s one of the best muffins I’ve ever had. But who would’ve thought that when you run out of coconut flour you can use protein powder and you get THE SAME end result, if not better?!

photo (31)

These muffins are just like banana bread;  moist in the center, full of banana flavor and not to mention loaded with gooey dark chocolate. And because they’re made with all natural plant-based protein powder, these can be enjoyed before or after the gym for a guilt-free energy boost or just a snack throughout the day!  These also have to be some of the healthiest banana bread muffins you’ll ever have because there’s nothing bad in them! Unless you count the dark chocolate, but please, we all know a little chocolate full of antioxidants never hurt anyone! Please do yourself a favor and go makes these. NOW!

Continue reading

Advertisements

Arugula Salad with Pan-Seared Goat Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Strawberries

photo (30)

Happy Monday!

I’m recovering from a weekend of amazing seafood, a healthy cookout, cold beers, freckles and oddly-shaped sunburn, a perfect beach day, dancing until I couldn’t feel my feet and late night snacking on pickles, salsa and chips, Ben and Jerry’s, hummus and carrots and a Wawa turkey hoagie. Oh and a horse and carriage smashing into the passenger side of my car and basically taking off the door and almost my friend’s toe.  Yes…that really happened.

photo (23)

But after a 6 hour delay and thanks to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, we finally were able to start the weekend off right at the Raw Bar at the Lobster House in Cape May, NJ. We ordered tons of oysters and crab, including the best crab soup you’ll ever have. Typically we stick with stone crab (pictured above) but we were still so hungry so I decided to order us steamed hot & spicy crab. I didn’t realize they’d come out looking like this, however:

photo (21)

Kinda cute, eh?

Gia didn’t seem to think so.

photo (22)

It was a perfect beach weekend with beautiful weather and it was really nice to catch up with Gia. We used to be roommates in Philadelphia and for the past five summers we’ve made it tradition to have several girls’ getaways down the shore.

photo (13)

Saturday night we had a cookout and made awesome Quinoa veggie burgers with arugula, goat cheese and pickled onions (recipe to come soon), a kale salad and corn on the cob.

photo (24)

photo (18)

I don’t think we had enough food for the two of us, do you?

But alas, the beach weekend is over and it’s back to reality for a few days which means back to clean eating. To me that means smoothies, lots of fruit and veggies and salads.  I decided to spice up my normal daily salad a bit and made for you an Aurugula Salad with Pan-Seared Goat Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Strawberries. The nuttiness of the arugula paired with delicious fresh strawberries and warm goat cheese with easy homemade candied walnuts it’s more than enough to get you excited for your Monday lunch or dinner. Drizzle on top a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and you’ve got yourself a delicious salad surely to get you through a Monday back to reality after an awesome weekend. And so easy to make, you can sear the goat cheese and candy the walnuts on a Sunday night and have to eat throughout the week.

Continue reading

Monday Morning Green Vegan Detox Smoothie

photo (9)

After a weekend of good food, good wine and lot’s of recipe experimenting (and tasting), I find the best way to start my week is with a little detox. No, I’m not talking about a crazy week-long juice cleanse, but just a healthy, refreshing breakfast smoothie, packed with vitamins, potassium, antioxidants, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. And the best part about it? It tastes SO good you’d never know it was so good for you!

What’s in this smoothie?

photo (7)

Banana– one of the best sources of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining healthy heart function and blood pressure.
PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter– the same taste of my ultimate favorite snack with 85% less fat calories than regular peanut butter.
Chia Seeds– known for its richness in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber. Don’t worry- you won’t grow green hair 🙂
Spinach– high in nutritional value and rich in antioxidants (high in vitamins, calcium and fiber)
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk– with only 30 calories per serving  and 50% more calcium than regular milk, Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk is a healthy, non-dairy solution (and it’s gluten-free too!)

You can also add other fruits too, such as blueberries and strawberries, or even some protein powder to help you keep fuller, longer.

Continue reading

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Fresh Blueberry Sauce {Hello Saturday, I love you}

photo-75

Hello Saturday, I love you.

I have been craving this day like a cup of coffee when my alarm goes off at 6:30 am on a Monday morning. Like water after a 6 mile run. Like french fries after eating salads for a week straight. Like peanut butter…every day. Like sleep after five days in Vegas.

OK, you get the point. But I’m really so happy it’s Saturday!

I don’t know about you but my breakfasts are always so rushed during the week and I look forward to the weekends when I can actually spend some time making a delicious breakfast. When I can actually sit down and enjoy every bite, rather than having to scarf it down, chug a cup of coffee and run out the door with coffee dripping down my shirt and spinach from my eggs stuck in my teeth as I try and juggle my gym bag, laptop bag, purse, lunch bag and coffee mug all at the same time. Then realizing I don’t have my keys, and they’re not where I usually put them on the counter and they’re not in my purse so where are they?! Is it just me or does anyone else have this problem in the morning? There’s nothing like the Valet guy at work telling you as you get out of your car that you have something stuck in your teeth and having to quickly come up with a whitty reponse like ” just savin’ it for later”. Yes, this happened to me this past week and it was super awkward. But definitely not as awkward as your skirt flying up right in front of all the valet guys when it’s laundry day and all you have left is a pair of underwear with ducks on them…

Regardless. It is Saturday! And finally there’s not a cloud in the sky and the temperature will be in the high 70’s. I really thought the rain would never stop this week. And what a better way to welcome a gorgeous weekend than to start it off with some lemon ricotta pancakes with a fresh blueberry sauce. The ricotta adds a fluffiness to the pancakes and the lemon adds a refreshing bite that makes them the perfect breakfast on a Saturday morning that doesn’t leave you feeling weighed down and dreading the next time you have to put a bikini on. And the fresh blueberry sauce brings all of the flavors together. Hey, it may not be my Nutella sauce, but it will sure leave you feeling satisfied, refreshed, and ready to take on this gorgeous day. And the best part? It won’t leave spinach in your teeth!

Continue reading

Peanut Butter Oreo Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies

photo-73

Today is a great day. You know why? It’s National Peanut Butter Cookie Day.

You didn’t really think I was going to let this day pass without baking you something with my favorite ingredient did you?

And to celebrate I didn’t even eat peanut butter for a snack today.

Ok, fine. Who am I kidding. I only had a few scoops out of the jar. Hey, everyone needs a little protein, right?!

I came across a recipe that I just had to share with you.  And you know what the best part is? It’s made with one of my other favorite things in this world, Oreos.

photo-70

But not just any Oreo. Peanut Butter Creme Oreos.

It’s like a match made in heaven.

What could be better than a peanut butter Oreo?! Oh wait, that’s right. A peanut butter cookie stuffed with a peanut butter Oreo.

Remember in my last post how I shared with you things I just don’t quite understand?

Well I have an additional thought to add.

How did I not think of this first?

Continue reading

Fudgy Black Bean Nutella and Salted Caramel Cookies {better-for-you cookies that can be easily made vegan and gluten-free}

photo (89)

There are many things in life I don’t quite understand.

Like why in the world someone ever thought it’d be a good idea to have a five day workweek and a two day weekend in the US, and not the reverse.

Or why money can’t just grow on trees.

And why has no one invented a money tree?

photo (75)

I also don’t understand why flying cars have yet to be invented. If flying cars were invented there would be less traffic. Less traffic would then result in less stress. Less stress would result in less accidents. And less stress eating.

I also don’t understand why companies don’t pay their employees to go on vacation. More vacations would equal happier employees which would result in less stress resulting in more productivity resulting in higher revenue resulting in a lower turnover rate. Right? But then maybe that would put recruiters out of business…and then I wouldn’t have a job and I wouldn’t be able to live all because Albert Einstein forgot to invent a money tree.

Continue reading

Cream Cheese and Nutella Pancakes {the best pancakes you’ll ever have, inspired by Valencia Luncheria}

photo (60)

Yes, that’s right…Cream Cheese and Nutella. All in one bite. All in one pancake.

This morning I made the best pancakes I’ve ever had. And I just had to share it with you right away!

These pancakes are inspired by one of my favorite treats at a restaurant down the street from me in Norwalk, CT called Valencia Luncheria.

Valencia is known for their arepas and empanadas. I actually first came across this place the night I moved into my current apartment in Norwalk, CT. I had just sat down after moving all day and turned on the TV to, what else of course, Food Network. Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives was on and Guy happened to be at this place in Norwalk. What a coincidence! I knew after watching the episode that I just had to go. And the next morning that’s exactly where I ended up. Less than half a mile away to the best thing that has happened to me since moving here, Valencia Luncheria.

When you walk into Valencia you feel like you’re stepping off of the beach. Leading up to the restaurant is a sand-covered pathway and tiki torches that make you want to put on a Hawaiian skirt and do the hula. Well, maybe that’s just me. But I really would have because that’s how happy I always am after leaving this place. The decor is very similar to the theme of the restaurant, Venezuelan beach food.

photo (71)

photo (72)

Valencia is known for their arepas. In case you’re not familiar with an arepa, it is basically a fried open-faced corn cake that can be filled with just about any combination. My favorite combinations are the “Real Deal” which is chorizo and mozzarella and I also love the “Chef “which is chipotle jalapeno cheese steak (Philly represent, what what). Their guacamole is also to die for along with their super fresh ceviche. However, Saturday and Sunday mornings are the absolute best time to check out Valencia because that’s when they have their Bloody Mary bar! Oh my goodness. They have four different kinds of tomato mixtures you can choose from, from mild to Italian to spicy, and they also have just about everything imaginable you can put into your Bloody Mary, from bacon on a stick (my fav), to sweet potatoes, olives, pickles, blocks of cheddar cheese, shrimp…just about anything! It’s truly a reason in itself to drag yourself out of bed early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. And they also make this ridiculous green secret sauce they bring out to every table. They won’t tell you what’s in it but all I can tell you is it’s creamy like an avocado, it has a kick of garlic, there’s definitely cilantro and one day it may accidentally end up falling into my purse…just saying!

263134_10100533513671226_765131224_n

But, what I haven’t told you about yet is my absolute FAVORITE thing on their menu. Their cream cheese and Nutella empanada. A perfect combination of cream cheese and Nutella, fried in an empanada and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I usually can only get through a couple of bites at this point of the meal but I make it happen and I am always SO glad I do. And this cream cheese and Nutella empanada is exactly what inspired me to make these pancakes.

photo (70)

photo (69)

The key to these pancakes is to stick the cream cheese in the freezer the night before. This will ensure you actually get chunks of cream cheese in every bite. Otherwise I have found if not frozen, the cream cheese will bake into the pancake and you won’t get the oozy-goodness chunks of cream cheese in each and every bite.

photo (73)

And the Nutella topping adds a richness that when paired with the cream cheese, just like in the empanadas, is a crazy good mouthful that makes you keep wanting more. So good, you won’t be able to stop eating. The entire stack. Like I did. And for added texture, I sprinkled chopped walnuts on top for a nice crunch. You can use any nut you prefer, but walnuts were all I had. Make this for your boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, cousin, brother, sister, husband, wife, friend, noisy neighbor who has a coughing problem (hey- that’s not a bad idea!) and they will surely love you forever. And hopefully stop coughing…

photo (62)

Continue reading

Peanut Butter and Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Candied Bacon {and a peanut butter and cream cheese icing}

photo

I have an obsession with tornadoes.

I don’t know why. I don’t know where it came from. But all I know is they have always been my biggest fear and for some reason lately I just CAN’T STOP watching videos online, reading articles and scientific websites and watching Tornado Road and Storm Chasers on TV. Since I was little I’ve always been deathly afraid of thunderstorms because I somehow convinced myself a thunderstorm would automatically lead to a tornado. I’d be playing softball and it would start to storm and I’d get hit by the ball because I’d be too busy looking at the clouds trying to seek out a funnel cloud. When a severe thunderstorm warning would come on the bottom of the TV screen I’d make my mom go hide in the basement with me. One summer when I was in Virginia with my teen travel camp I hid under the sink because there was a tornado watch. And, the worst of it all, the only nightmares I ever seem to have involve tornadoes, and I’ve been having TONS of nightmares lately.

3

Now, if you Google dreams and tornadoes you will find that they sometimes mean you’ve lost control of your life and are feeling overwhelmed. I can’t tell you how accurate this is to my life right now. Sure there has been a lot going on in the country with tornadoes lately and that’s all that has been in the news the past couple of weeks. But I’ve also been in a weird place the past few months. Maybe because I’ve been feeling so stagnant, bored, in need of a challenge, itching to travel and hike up a mountain. Or maybe because my roommate and closest friend in Connecticut moved across the country and it’s taking time to adjust. Or maybe because I’m trying to figure out my next move and make some big life-changing decisions- and that all scares and excites me. I’m not really sure what it is exactly BUT what I am sure of, is out of all this tornado hype something good evolved. Something more than good. Something INCREDIBLE.

4

The most delicious tornado went off in my kitchen this weekend. I made a Peanut Butter and Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Candied Bacon.

Yes, that’s right. Peanut butter, cream cheese and candied bacon, all in one. And, to add to the amazingness? Topped with a peanut butter and cream cheese icing.

0

8

Candied bacon has to be one of the best things I’ve ever had in life. The sweetness and chewiness of the maple syrup and brown sugar when it caramelizes mixed with the spiciness of the cayenne pepper and the saltiness and crispiness of the bacon. All the best textures and flavors in one. So good, I ate half of it before it actually made its way into the batter.

Now I have to say, I’ve been on a major peanut butter and banana kick lately. Which is what inspired me to add the peanut butter to the banana bread. I must go through a jar of peanut butter a week! I know it’s not that good for you (everything in moderation) but I can’t seem to just stop after one spoonful. But who cares, it tastes so good! That’s what the gym is for, right?! Except when you eat peanut butter right before a run…I don’t recommend it. And bananas, I can’t stop baking with them! In pancakes, cookies, breads. But at last, I combined all my loves into one, creating the most delicious, moist and flavorful banana bread yet. And a tornado in my kitchen while doing so. And it was all SO worth it. You must try it!

Continue reading

My 25th birthday weekend in Vegas…aka how I ate my way through Vegas

I’m back!

photo (41)

And unfortunately I’m not $100,000 richer.

But I did spend 5 days this week in my favorite city celebrating my 25th Birthday. I know I know…you think I’m crazy, right? Why would anyone consider Vegas to be one of their favorite cities? When you think of Vegas you probably think of drunks, people with gambling problems, groups of guys/girls looking to have a good time, bachelors and bachelorettes looking to have one last weekend of “freedom”, UFC fighters, Celine Dion, Donnie & Marie, strippers and hookers, extremely over-priced drinks and wolfpacks. But I don’t see Vegas as any of those. Well, ok…there are a lot of drunks, and there are a TON of bachelors and bachelorettes…and married men without their wedding rings…and hookers…and drinks that are WAY too expensive…and super skinny girls everywhere. But ANYWAY. I see Vegas as the food capital of the US. While most people plan vacations around beaches, famous sights to see and beautiful weather, I plan my vacations around food. And that is why Vegas is my favorite city.

44195cd6d751da839dd0bfe817f3546a

Let’s start out with the top meal and restaurant of the trip, N9ne Steakhouse. My goodness, Chef Barry Dekake is a mastermind. Is he single?

But really, look at that surf and turf. Filet Mignon, Maine Lobster, White Truffle Aoili. So rich, so tender…so many perfect flavors and textures in one bite.

But really, did you think I was going to go there without getting my favorite appetizer?

shoot for Wagstaff 2007

If you thought I would, then you don’t know me very well.

N9ne’s Ahi Tuna Tartare is one of the best I’ve ever had.

I ACTUALLY almost thought about skipping the tuna. I know I know…how could I?  Well, I went on this trip with my good friend Julia, my Sophomore year roommate in college. And on my birthday that year we had tuna tartare at a restaurant in Philadelphia. The next night we were both deathly ill with Salmonella poisoning…and for 4 days after. So, needless to say, the last time I had tuna, with Julia, on my birthday… was not a great experience. BUT, that was not the case this birthday, 5 years later. We DEVOURED the crap out of that tuna and it was so fresh and so worth it.

We also had a salad…which was excellent. But really, who cares about salad when we can skip right to dessert.

923146_10100526049993496_1192868735_n

Now at this point, I was already in a food coma. And 4 drinks in. And 2 shots in. But I would never let that get in the way of s’mores. I love s’mores so much I make them at home over the gas stove. And set the smoke detector off. I’m serious. S’mores is my favorite dessert. Now typically with s’mores you take  a graham cracker, roast a marshmallow, stick a piece of chocolate on top and close the sandwich with another graham cracker. Well, of course N9ne wouldn’t make it THAT simple. They use the most decadent wonderful chocolate ganache I’ve ever had. And yes, we finished it. All of it. Marshmallow all over, chocolate stuck in my teeth. I think there was even marshmallow in my hair (would you expect anything less)?  And we maybe had Birthday shots with Pharrell?

942430_10100526093790726_1700876645_n

422093_10100526093800706_1082978998_n

310045_10100526093785736_714119790_n

We also stopped by another one of my favorite places called Jean Phllippe at the Aria. They have delicious pastries and desserts. We split a trio of all things I can’t remember except for the peanut butter chocolate lollipop. Mmmm peanut butter.

And of course, we found our way to the buffet.

 165251_10100526050292896_362653075_n

417923_10100526050332816_1982733436_n

  Who doesn’t eat eggs, dumplings, pizza, bruchetta, tomato and basil, garlic and olives, tacos, chocolate covered marshmallows, seaweed salad, wings, sushi, tuna tartare, pork buns and cupcakes at 10:30 am?

wazuzu

Another highlight was Wazuzu, an Asian restaurant in the Wynn. Wazuzu is known for their Drunken Noodles that was featured on the Food Network’s Best thing I Ever Ate. So naturally, that’s what we ordered. It was decent, but not the best thing I ever ate. However, I can share with you the BEST chocolate bar I ever ate…

 923449_10100524766375876_72796147_n

Yep, that’s right. A maple bacon chocolate bar. With bonfire smoked sea salt. Oh my goodness…you have got to go buy this. Whole foods sells them. I know because I’ve already stocked up…

In summary, key things I’ve learned on this trip:

920180_10100522226675456_2136389660_o

I love bottomless mimosas.

395763_10100522783978616_1874388932_n

An extra $30/bucks a night is SO worth an upgraded panoramic suite on the 59th floor.

Other things I learned on this trip:

I’m best at 3 card poker after I’ve been drinking for hours. ALWAYS bet the ante. Just because the ball landed on red three times in a row doesn’t mean it will land on black the fourth time. A dollar in a penny slot can last an hour. Lil Jon gives out free champagne…bottles. SPF 55 will not make me tan. Not putting on any sunscreen will not make me tan either…well…maybe 5 days later after the sunburn peels. XS is the best nightclub by far in Vegas. Don’t go there sober. Julia is the best at picking out musical birthday cards. I’m really good at dancing to them.  A $12 bud light at the pool party will not get you drunk enough to enjoy them.  It takes an hour to walk to the hotel next door. I choose ice cream over men at 5:30 am. A pitcher of margarita + pool party + 100 degree weather is not a good idea. Drinking for 4 days straight on a total of 9 hours of sleep WILL get you sick. Alexis from the Real Housewives of OC is miserable. Pharrell’s name is not pronounced like Colin Farrell. In my next life I’m Sophia the restaurateur.

P.S.- my grandmother makes the best birthday cakes

photo (55)

Until next time, Vegas.

Black bean brownies with salted caramel and toasted coconut {guilt-free and low-fat}

 

photo (39) 

I hate beans.

I think it stems back to when I was little. I remember going to a Mexican restaurant with my dad and (at the time) stepsister and stepmother. The next thing I remember is my stepsister throwing up refriend beans later that night all over the carpet in her bedroom. That image has since been engraved in my head… for the past 13 years. I have even convinced myself that every time I eat beans I’m going to throw them up too. That being said, I’m now about to contradict that statement because I have found a guilt-free brownie recipe that’s high in fiber, protein, antioxidants and is absolutely delicious! And– the catch? It’s made with black beans!

 

photo (36)The past month and a half I have been working my butt off…literally. I am going to Vegas this coming weekend and I’ve been trying really hard to watch what I eat and push myself harder than I ever have at the gym. And my hard work has finally paid off! I am down 10 pounds since March and am in the best shape of my life. The one thing that has been a struggle though is cutting out the sweets. I LOVE pancakes (as you know), baked breads, cupcakes, cookies, brownies. You name it, chances are I love it. But this past week I decided I needed some sugar back in my life. So I researched and researched and found healthier alternatives you can use in baking…for example…instead of butter, applesauce. Instead of flour, ground oats. Instead of cake batter, black beans. So I figured I may as well give it a shot! And I ended up creating a recipe that was so good, my roommate and I ate the whole batch in one day! You would never be able to tell they’re made with black beans because they’re so fudgey and chocolatey. And stick some caramel in there and sprinkle sea salt on top? DONE! That’s why you too need to make this recipe. NOW!

photo (21)

Continue reading