Guilt Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Anything that can fill that place in my heart where my love for comfort food lives, is an A+ in my book! Every year as the holiday season creeps in, my sweet tooth takes over and fall for those delicious treats that are floating around everywhere you look!

While I do think everything is good in moderation, I try to make healthy swaps as much as possible so I can maintain my well balanced nutrition AND have my cake and eat it too. 

I made some tweaks to a banana bread recipe that I found to perfect it even more...and I'm in LOVE! Best part is, it's made of mostly whole foods and is WAY low on carbs. So...can ya even call it bread then? 

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup carob chips
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, natural nut butter

Recipe:

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Prep 1-2 muffin tins by coating with non-stick spray.
  2. Toss the bananas, puree, eggs, nut butter 7 melted coconut oil into a blender and pulse until smooth.
  3. Add in all remaining ingredients BUT the carob chips! Blend.
  4. Fold in carob chips & save a bit to sprinkle on top of each muffin after you dish it into the tin.
  5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling about 3/4 of the way. I only used one muffin tin and poured the rest of the mixture into a small ramekin (and cooked that for an additional 5 minutes since it was larger.)
  6. Pop in the oven for 13-17 minutes (15 was perfect for my oven.) Insert a toothpick to see if its done - the toothpick should come out clean and not wet.

Store these in the fridge and reheat for a few seconds in the microwave for extra chocolately gooey loveliness! 

Enjoy!
 

Healthy Zucchini Fritters

I'm back after a long summer blogging hiatus and FRITTERS are what's on the menu this week! I made a batch with some leftover zucchini that desperately needed to be used and my husband and I finished it off before we could even blink. 

Now, if only we could figure out how to grow some in our garden [of death] we could have fritters all the time!

Here's what you'll need...

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups shredded zucchini (I found each large zucchini is about 1 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (depending on how much spice you like - I used two and it had some heat to it)
  • 1 teaspoon pink himalayan salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • EVOO
  • Cheese cloth bag
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast (optional)

Recipe:

  1. Shred the zucchini using a grater or a food processor if you have the shredding attachment.
  2. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Mix well & let it sit for about 15 minutes. This will help pull some of the water from the zucchini - skipping this step will make your fritters soggy and nobody likes a soggy fritter!!
  3. Place the zucchini in a cheese cloth bag and squeeeeeeeze out the water as much as you can! I promise this is the most annoying step!
  4. Toss back into a bowl and mix in with all of the other ingredients. **One thing to note, depending on how well you did with extracting the moisture from the zucchini, you might need to adjust the flour and bread crumbs. If the mixture is too wet, sprinkle in a bit more.
  5. Heat up your oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Use a 1/2 measuring cup to scoop the mixture, pack it down in the cup & dump it out on the pan (don't burn your fingers!) Flatten it out like a patty with the bottom of the cup and a spatula. 
  6. Cook on each side for about 5 minutes until crispy golden brown.

Serve with your favorite sauce (vegan alfredo is one of my faves!) and enjoy!

21 Day Fix Approved Pasta Salad

Once that summer heat hits, I always find myself craving fresh, bright & crisp foods! Here in Seattle, we get stuck in that drizzly, cold gloom for most of the year and when we get a chance to see that sunshine everything changes.

Pool parties, camping, BBQs, lake days... some of my favorite things about summer and with all the celebrations that are happening, I try my best to stay on track with my nutrition so I don't go into fall feeling like a marshmallow!

But...let's be honest, sometimes nothing can top an ice cold beer on a hot day. #realtalk

I had a hankering for a cold pasta salad (my mama makes a MEAN pasta salad!) but I didn't want to overdue it and end up in a calorie laden carb-loaded coma after. One of my favorite tricks to beef up any cold salad or casserole recipe is to LOAD up on the veggies. You'll still feel really satisfied, full and beat that craving, all while sneaking in some extra greens.

Here's the recipe I whipped up that encompasses some of my favorite flavors!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package pasta - cooked & rinsed in cold water (I used Gluten Free veggie pasta in spirals) Don't over cook the pasta, you want it a bit firm so it doesn't fall apart 
  • 1 bunch asparagus - lightly steamed, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 of a red onion - thinly sliced (like this!)
  • 1 bell pepper - chopped in chunks (I prefer yellow or orange because they're sweeter)
  • 1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes jarred in olive oil -OR- jarred red pepper
  • 1 container mozzarella balls - halved
  • 1 package cherry tomatoes - halved
  • 1 large package frozen, deveined shrimp (thaw in a bowl of hot water, peel off skin + tail and sauté with a little coconut oil in a skillet until cooked - just a couple of minutes! They'll turn light pink when done.)

For the dressing (whisk together):

  • pinch of salt & pepper to taste (I use pink himalayan salt)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Guess what?? Recipes for pasta salads are really easy and they're pretty much fool proof! You can easily swap out these ingredients for something else depending on what you have on hand. Toss all of the ingredients in a bowl with the dressing, chill & enjoy!

Approximate 21 Day Fix container equivalents (1.5 cup serving):

  • 1/2 yellow
  • 1/2 green
  • 1 tsp
  • 1/2 red
  • 1 blue

 

 

The Ultimate Travel Survival Kit

It’s no secret that preparing for a long trip can be a stressful thing to plan for, especially when it’s a new place, a new culture and you’re unsure what to expect. I’ve learned a thing or two when it comes to packing and unfortunately, many times I’ve had to learn the hard way! Here’s my tip… pack for the unexpected!

My dad has always been the master of packing. He’s quite the traveler and picked up the travel bug from him. Thanks, Dad! ;) What’s funny is when it comes to packing he and my mom are total opposites. He’s a minimalist, while my mom…well, she likes to be prepared with THE perfect outfit for each occasion ;) Having observed both travel styles over the years I’ve basically learned that if you can pack lightly while looking stylish, you’ve hit the jackpot!

If you’d like to take a look at how I efficiently pack all of my cute, yet functional, travel outfits take a peek at this vlog my husband put together and it’ll give you an inside scoop on the process! Follow his YouTube channel, The Backpackers Budget, to get valuable tips on how to travel the world on a dime.

-The Backpackers Budget-

OK now that we got our travel wardrobe out of the way, lets talk about the Survival Kit! This list of goods has {almost} literally been a lifesaver for me. This kit is made up of things that will definitely come in handy when the unexpected happens. While the list may look extensive, there have been so many occasions where I’ve been in a remote place internationally, desperately needing something and can’t get my hands on it!

Here’s a look at what my pre-travel Target trip looked like. There are essentially 3 different categories that I focus on: 1. Snacks 2. Meds 3. Personal Care

 

-SNACKS-

I’m someone that is constantly eating and coincidentally the LAST person you want to see get hangry, ‘cause lemme tell ya…it ‘aint pretty! When I’m packing for snacks I just have flashbacks of the time we were spending the day wandering around Versailles, France. For us, it was dinner time…about 5PM. For the French? Not even close. They eat very late and many of the cafes weren’t even open. The no snack situation escalated very quickly and went from bad to worse. In the end I’m pretty sure I inhaled an entire baguette, but I had to beg the server for it in my broken French. From that moment on I said NEVER AGAIN!

Now, I always pack Lara bars with me because they’re so easy to throw in my purse. Nuts and dried fruit are always great, as well as prunes… don’t even try to pretend you don’t also get backed up when you travel… ;) Last summer in South America, we brought Shakeology with us and it was a LIFE saver to have on hand! What was great is there was so much fresh fruit and juices there so we were able to take it to smoothie shops and have them blend it up for us for a quick and healthy meal on the go. My typically sensitive tummy had never been happier! We don’t leave home without it.

Lara Bars for the WIN!

 

-MEDS-

Medications and first aid items are so important to bring, especially when travelling internationally. You just don’t know what other countries will have available and certainly don’t want to get stuck without what you need…trust me on that one!

The hard lesson learned for me on this one was on our honeymoon of all places. We had gone to Playa del Carmen, Mexico and I somehow managed to pick up Montezuma’s Revenge, as they call it, on the very first day. For a lack of better words, everything when right through me!! It was awful and had ZERO stomach meds on hand. Finally, about a week in it was so bad we had to call the resort doctor. Antibiotics, Tylenol and some Gatorade cost me over $200. Never again.

ALL HAIL PINTEREST for this AMAZING idea to organize your pills! Not only did this save me so much space, but it make it so easy to carry around multiple meds while you’re travelling. I always include a pain reliever, cold medicine, allergy pills, melatonin (natural sleep aid) and some tummy meds just in case. In another baggy I have some Gas-x, tums, probiotics and lactade pills to throw in my purse if need be. We do a ton of walking so I also include a stick of Icy Hot for my knees or other sore areas if they get bad.

 

-PERSONAL CARE-

The name of the game with traveling is low maintenance, on the go and sometimes you just don’t have the luxury of a daily shower. Smelly people are no fun to be around so here are a few things to make sure you’re making new friends and not driving them away!! Baby wipes are AWESOME for a quick “shower” and will help keep you fresh. Baby power, a can of dry shampoo, translucent face powder will allow for a quick little bathroom makeover when you’re in a pinch. Don’t leave without some sunscreen and bug spray because there is nothing worse than being itchy or God forbid you get a horrible burn at the start of your trip!

Essential oils are so versatile and you can use them for just about anything – I bring a couple of little roller bottles with me to help me stay relaxed, combat sickness, prevent inflammation and the list goes on. I started packing some beachy hair spray as well for those days where I cant blow dry my hair (which usually happens when I fry my blow drying because I plug in the wrong converter!! **guilty**)

Keeping all these items on hand will be such a relief when you need them most! Don’t be caught without them. Traveling can be stressful enough as it is and being prepared will be the best way to ensure things run smoothly and go according to plan!

 

Bon Voyage!

Ginger Curry Roasted Cauliflower

Well, this was definitely a first. I can't say that I've ever made a veggie dish and actually licked the mixing spoon after as if it were cake batter. Last night I came home from work and was in a really weird mood for dinner. We're in that awkward "leaving for vacation in two days" stage where you have the bare minimum in the fridge so you don't wast any food. 

Left in our fridge: pork roast (today's crock pot meal!!), a head of broccoli, goat cheese, some tomatoes and a head of cauliflower...plus a door full of condiments. I know finishing that tupperware of goat cheese will be NO problem, so I figured I needed to work in a veggie. LOL 

One thing I love about my fitness and nutrition challenge groups is on Tuesday's we all share a healthy recipe with each other and it usually inspires me to try new things! We call it Tasty Tuesday! 

A challenger posted a roasted cauliflower dish from a blog a couple weeks ago and have been dying to recreate it myself. Result: I literally almost finished the entire thing before Andrew came home. <<I'm serious. The leftovers made me really happy at lunch today so I'm glad I didn't get TOO greedy!

Here's what you need...

Ingredients:

  • One head of Cauliflower
  • 2 TBS melted coconut oil
  • 1 TSP EVOO
  • 1/4 Cup coarsely chopped Cilantro
  • 1/4 TSP (heaping) Sea Salt
  • 1 TBS Lime Juice
  • 1/3 Cup Goat Cheese
  • 1/4 TSP grated fresh Ginger
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 TBS Yellow Curry Powder

Recipe: 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Chop up the cauliflower in medium sized florets. Don't make them too small because they'll fall apart a bit one they're cooked and you don't want to be left with a bunch of crumbly pieces!

Place the cauliflower in a large mixing bowl & coat with the melted coconut oil. Sprinkle curry powder, ginger, salt and a bit of freshly cracked black pepper over top. Stir around until the florets are evenly covered.

Line some cookie sheets with tin foil and spray with cooking spray so the cauliflower doesn't stick while baking. Evenly spread out the florets on the sheet(s) and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. 

Once properly cooked, the cauliflower should be turning a deep yellow color with golden edges and you should be able to easily stick a fork or knife through it if it's cooked thoroughly. 

Dump the cauliflower back into the mixing bowl and drizzle the olive oil + lime juice and sprinkle the cilantro & goat cheese in. Mix around well and serve hot (or cold!)

Next time, I'll definitely be doubling my recipe! 

Tropical Chia Pudding

Sunshine isn't the only thing that makes me fall in love with summer time (especially as a Seattleite) but all of this heat magically makes me crave fresh & healthy foods! Fruit is in season and extra delicious this time of year and eat my fare share every day...I figure it's the safest way to curb that sweet tooth of mine. 

I'm always looking to create yummy, healthy alternatives to desserts or snacks using fruit and i've made this super simple recipe for chia pudding a few times now. If you're looking for a quick and easy clean alternative for a dessert, you've found your jam! What I love about this recipe is it's super versatile - you can swap out so many different fruits to turn this into a yummy treat. 

Here's what you need...

Ingredients (makes 2 servings) :

  • 1.5 cup diced fruit of choice (I made two kinds - first, I made one with all fresh mango with the fruit of one mango & the next, strawberries, 1/2 banana & a few frozen mango chunks)
  • 1 TBS lime juice
  • 1 cup Cashew Milk (I use unsweetened)
  • 1 TSP Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 cup Chia Seeds

Recipe:

Blend the fruit, milk, juice and vanilla in a blender on high until smooth. Add in the chia seeds and pulse until well incorporated. Pour into a dish and pop into the refrigerator for an hour or until completely set. The chia seeds need some time to activate and turn into jelly! Top with your favorite fruit and enjoy!

Chocolate Shakeo Naughty Sauce

If you want to feel a little naughty and angelic all in one spoonful, you've come to the right place! Coming from a devoted chocoholic, when I created this chocolate sauce recipe it was a complete game changer for me.

Now I don't have to FIGHT my cravings all the time! I can actually satisfy them with a super quick & simple chocolate sauce recipe that goes quite well paired with fruit...or whatever else your imagination can come up with!

Chocolate lovers UNITE!

21 Day Fix approved! 1/4 RED, 1 PURPLE, 1/2 BLUE, 2TSP 

Ingredients: 

  • 1tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1tbs cashew milk (or almond milk, or even water!) 
  • 1/4 scoop chocolate shakeology

Recipe:

Combine oil, vanilla extract and milk in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until mostly melted. Add in the Shakeology and stir until smooth. This should have a sauce-like consistency so if it's too thick, add a bit more warm milk or water to thin it out.

Drizzle on top of your favorite fruit (I love it on a strawberry/banana/pineapple combo!) or use it for doing chocolate covered anything! If you want to do some chocolate covered strawberries, just dip the fruit, spray a tupperware lid with nonstick spray and pop into the freezer until it firms up.

Shakeology Superfood Ice Cream

You scream, we scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM! I've been on a dessert recipe kick recently and rightfully so, because between this Shakeo ice cream and the pumpkin banana cookies from last week I definitely been able to fulfill my massive sweet tooth cravings. 

This recipe is incredibly easy to whip up in a craving pinch and you get your daily dose of dense nutrition at the same time...in ice cream ;) OK sign me up!

What the heck is Shakeology?? Shakeology is a dense, all-natural superfood shake that gives you the nutritional equivalence of 5 PLATES of salad! It's essentially a bunch of ground up superfoods, vitamins and minerals all packed into one meal. It's helps curb your appetite (naturally - with no icky fake fillers), increases your energy, improves digestion & helps you lose and maintain weight! It also helps you save money by replacing it with one meal per day...SCORE!!! Side note: feel free to shoot me an email if you're curious to learn more about Shakeology and if it's right for you! VanessaLChristopher@gmail.com

Recipe (makes one serving):

  • 1 large frozen banana
  • Up to 1/2 cup of unsweetened vanilla cashew milk (or almond milk, but cashew is better! Silk makes a great one that's *new*!)
  • 1/2 scoop of chocolate shakeology
  • 1 tsp nut butter (I prefer almond)

Here's what you need to do... 

  1. Chop up the frozen banana (the smaller the easier it will be...but watch those fingers of yours, they can be slippery suckers!) 
  2. Put the chopped bananas in a food processor, pulse, and start adding a tablespoon of milk at a time in between pulses. The better your food processor, the easier this will be - I have a little "mini" one that isn't too powerful, so in order to get the bananas to a smoother consistency, I have to keep adding more and more milk. 
  3. Once your bananas have reached a thick and smooth texture, add in the nut butter & chocolate shakeology and continue to blend until well incorporated. 
  4. Stick in the freezer for about 15 minutes to solidify - if it needs more time to thicken up, stir around at the 15 minute mark and keep it in for a total of 30 minutes or so.
  5. Top with your favorite fruit (or rainbow sprinkles if you're feeling sassy!) and enjoy!

Guilt Free Pumpkin Banana Chip Cookies

Cookies for BREAKFAST? Don't worry, I said it was ok ;) I love that I don't have to feel guilty when I pop...ohhhh, I don't know...maybe three or four of these in my mouth.

This recipe was originally adapted from a "2 ingredient" recipe (just mashed bananas and chopped oats) but since then, I've made MANY variations, all equally delicious. 

They are husband and niece approved and really fun to make with kids! Plus, I can't help feeling a little tricky when I get my niece all excited for cookies and I know they are super healthy. hehe #guilty Emma loved helping me in the kitchen with these, almost as much fun as she had eating them up! How cute is she?? I know...I'm a little biased though. 

Have fun with this recipe and feel free to mix in other ingredients to make it your own!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 cups of oats

  • 2 well ripened bananas

  • 1tbs honey

  • 1/2 cup Carob chips

  • 1/3 cup pumpkin

  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

  1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees.

  2. Dump the oats in a food processor (or chop it up) until it breaks down into smaller pieces. 

  3. Add in all of the ingredients into a mixer & blend well.

  4. If the consistency is too runny (it should be wet, but thick) add in a few dashes of oats until the consistency thickens.

  5. Spoon out a tablespoon sized dollop on a greased cookie sheet and flatten out/form the cookies (they won't rise, they'll bake as is.)

  6. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes & enjoy! Store in the refrigerator.

Quick Blackberry Chia Seed Jam

I decided to experiment with some blackberry chia jam and wanted to make a quicker version. Instead of cooking the berries, I puréed them in my blender. I like how it turned out!

*Blend in blender on high*

  • 1 cup of blackberries
  • 1-2tbs brown sugar (to taste-depends on how ripe they are)
  • Dash of cinnamon 
  • 3tbs chia seeds
  • 2tbs lemon juice

Put in a sealed container and refrigerate until set.