Coconut Cherry Muesli

Coconut Cherry Muesli

Coconut cherry muesli is super easy and budget friendly to make! Made with oats tossed with dried cherries, shredded coconut, almonds, and cashews with oats. Enjoy it by itself with milk, or mixed with yogurt and topped with berries and honey for easy overnight oats. Packed with fiber for a filling breakfast!

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Patatas Bravas with Smoky Romesco Sauce and Garlic Aioli

Patatas Bravas with Smoky Romesco Sauce and Garlic Aioli

Patatas bravas are one of my happy foods! If you’ve never had it, it’s a traditional Spanish dish of fried or roasted potatoes tossed with a spicy and smoky tomato sauce and aioli. This version is made with a smoky romesco style sauce and garlicky aioli. I love to top it with sauteed kale and a fried egg to round it out into a meal.

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Citrus and Arugula Salad with Fennel and Marcona Almonds

Citrus and Arugula Salad with Fennel and Marcona Almonds

This citrus arugula salad with fennel and marcona almonds is a simple, seasonal salad for winter, perfect as a side dish or for topping with grilled shrimp or roasted fish as a main. It's packed with Mediterranean flavors from crunchy marcona almonds, fennel and kalamata olives. You'll love the simple sherry vinaigrette! 

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Balsamic Macerated Strawberry Yogurt Cups

Balsamic Macerated Strawberry Yogurt Cups

Balsamic macerated strawberry yogurt cups are an easy and elegant snack, dessert or breakfast! Top creamy full fat yogurt with juicy ripe strawberries macerated in a mixture of balsamic vinegar and honey, then sprinkle with crunchy toasted almonds! It’s a healthy way to fuel between meals!

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Marshmallow Free Crispy Treats

Marshmallow free crispy treats are a fun snack or dessert reminiscent of rice crispy treats but made healthier with puffed millet and a mixture of almond butter and honey instead of marshmallows! 

Happy Tuesday everyone! Apologies for the lack of a new recipe post yesterday. I always want to start Monday out with my favorite recipe of the week, but I was traveling this weekend and woke up with bad cold Sunday morning. When I got back home, the last thing I wanted to do was anything that didn't involve laying in bed with a box of tissues and watching the debate.

Hopefully these marshmallow free crispy treats will make up for it!

Did you love rice crispy treats as a kid? I actually did not. There are very few foods in this world that I just do not like, but alright right at the top of the list are marshmallows. So weird. So gross. The only food that makes less sense to me is jello. Apparently I have a thing about jiggly foods.

So I won't say these taste exactly like rice crispy treats, but in my book, that's a good thing! Taking a cue from my friend Min, I used a mix of almond butter and honey. This helps the crispies stick together, sweetens and adds satiating fats. So the result is a bar that can double as dessert or a snack bar.

Also, these bars aren't actually made with puffed rice because for some reason, my grocery store was out of puffed rice cereal. Hrumpf. So I decided to experiment with puffed millet, which I loved, and it's fun to switch things up. Feel free to use puffed brown rice too if that's easier to find. And you probably can skip the toasting step if the brown rice is crispy enough.

To make these bars, I used a jar of acacia honey sent to me as a sample from Heavenly Organics. I was really excited to learn about their sustainability initiatives and work providing ethical job opportunities in India. Plus, when you're making something where honey is one of the main flavor profiles, it's nice to use something a few steps up in flavor from the honey bear :)

I also added a couple fun extras, because I can't help but bling out my recipes a bit. First, chopped almonds for extra crunch and satiating fat. Then I threw in a bag of Crunchies freeze-dried strawberries, another sample I was sent. It added a pretty color and hint of fruity flavor.

One thing not to forget - use parchment paper or aluminum foil to line the pan. I forgot this step when I made my second batch of these and it was pretty much schllacked on there!

Marshmallow Free Crispy Treats

Makes 12 squares

I used puffed millet from Arrowhead Mills.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups puffed millet

  • 1/3 cup honey

  • 1/3 cup almond butter

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped and toasted

  • 1 ounce bag freeze dried berries

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread millet evenly on a large baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn or brown. Taste and make sure they're nice and crispy. Remove and set aside until ready to use.

  2. Mix honey, almond butter, coconut oil and cinnamon in a large pot on medium heat. Whisk until fully combined. Stir in puffed millet, almonds, freeze dried fruit and chia seeds.

  3. Line a large casserole dish with aluminum foil, wax paper or parchment paper. Spread millet mixture evenly in the dish and flatten with a spatula. Place in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour before cutting into 12 squares.

More snackable sweet squares: 

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Homemade Fig Newtons

Homemade Fig Newtons

Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars

Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars

Baked French Toast with Mango Coconut Sauce and Almonds

Enjoy French toast every day of the week with this easy baked french toast, served with a no added sugar mango coconut chia sauce!

Happy National Breakfast Week!

Kidding! I made that up. Although sources (i.e. google) tells me National School Breakfast Week is next month. This week may not be an official holiday, but rather accidentally, I have three easy, whole food breakfast recipes scheduled for the blog. So national holiday or not, that's what I'll be celebrating this week on AADN!

Luckily, with Recipe Redux falling on today, they were totally on board with my self-declared holiday. This months' theme is Break out of Breakfast Boredom - show us the healthy way to wake up your breakfast...or wake up just for breakfast!

As I confessed to my lovely friend Alexis over at Hummusapien last week for her blogger's breakfast roundup, I am absolutely NOT a morning person. Sometimes I set my snooze alarm for another two minutes because I really need to get up and go to work, but I really don't want to get out of bed. In those drowsy, still half asleep moments, two minutes really is life or death. I feel like I'm probably not alone in this boat.

Almost everything I eat for breakfast is something I can reheat and eat or make in less than 2 minutes. With that, it's easy to fall into a routine. Smoothie. Overnight oats. Something eggy. Repeat.

French toast is something I would never make on a weekday, because let's face it, it takes much longer than 2 minutes. If only there was a way I could make it in advance...

Oh hey, there is! This baked french toast essentially makes a french toast casserole, which you can slice up and eat during the week. And actually, the prep work for the casserole itself takes only 15-20 minutes, so this is definitely a batch cooking friendly recipe. I used sprouted grain bread, which is my personal favorite for both taste and nutrition. But feel free to use any type you enjoy or have on hand. For a treat, this would be incredible with challah or brioche.

The mango coconut sauce was one that I came up with on a whim from some ingredients I already had on hand - the rest of a can of coconut milk after making a curry, frozen fruit (always a staple) and chia seeds. If you haven't already noticed, fruit sauces made from frozen fruit and chia seeds are one of my breakfast go tos (see here and here and check back on Friday for more evidence)

For more inspiration to break out of the breakfast boredom, check out the other creations from my fellow Recipe Reduxers below. Eating a nourishing breakfast is such an important way to start your day on the right foot. It gives you the energy you need to make the most of your day, boosts your metabolism, nourishes your brain and sets the tone for making more nutritious choices the rest of the day. If you're stuck in a breakfast rut, it's really easy to turn to fast food or sugary (and not at all filling) cereal, or just skip the meal entirely!

Do you ever find yourself stuck in a breakfast rut? What are your favorite ways to switch up breakfast? 

Baked French Toast with Mango Coconut Sauce and Almonds

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups milk or unsweetened plant milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 12 slices sprouted grain bread
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, optional for topping

Mango Coconut Chia Sauce: 

  • 2 cups frozen mango
  • 1 1/2 cups canned coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoons chia seeds

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla and honey.
  2. Spray a large casserole dish with oil or rub with coconut oil/butter. Spread bread evenly in layers in the baking dish. I cut the bread in half to prevent too much overlapping. As you're layering the bread, sprinkle about 1/3 cup of the almonds between bread layers. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle the top of the french toast with turbinado sugar, if using. Place casserole in the oven and bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
  4. While casserole is baking, heat mango, coconut milk and lime/lemon juice in a medium pot on medium heat. When mango is no longer frozen and mixture is simmering, turn off heat and blend until pureed with an immersion blender. Stir in chia seeds and let sit 5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle casserole with remaining almonds and serve with mango-coconut sauce.

Dark Chocolate Dipped Chai Almond Cookies

Lightly sweetened and made with whole grains, these dark chocolate dipped chai almond cookies are the perfect addition to your holiday baking! 

It's the most wonderful time of the year - Christmas cookie time!

Ever since I was a kid and would count down the days until snow covered oreos were available, Christmas cookies have made me crazy happy. Although who are we kidding, cookies make me crazy happy year round! Candy and cakes do nothing for me, but cookies are everything.

When it comes to holiday baking, I tend to get delusions of grandeur. I think I've read too many issues of Southern Living, because I dream of making all my friends pretty little boxes filled with homemade and healthy holiday cookies. I pulled it off one year for my coworkers and it quickly turned into an all night affair! Maybe I'll attempt again when I retire :)

This year I wanted to whip up a batch of cookies to bring to a holiday lunch with my officemates. These were very loosely inspired by my memories of an Italian bakery we used to go to growing up in New York. I would stare into the glass case filled with dozens of kinds of cookies and basically turn into Veruca Salt, begging my parents 'I want them ALL!'

(Timeout. Just as I was writing this, Scott walked in the door with a box of Christmas cookies from a coworker. Universe, sometimes you are awesome).

Anyway, I remember this one buttery, crumbly, barely sweet almond cookie that was dusted with powdered sugar. Another one I loved was this sweet butter cookie dunked in chocolate. This is kind of a hybrid of the two. I don't remember anything with chai tea, but I like chai tea, so lets just throw it in there for giggles. 

What are your favorite Christmas cookies? Leave a comment or a link below! 

Dark Chocolate Dipped Chai Almond Cookies

makes about 30

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup turbinado or brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk (or dairy of choice)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • The contents of 2 chai tea bags, finely ground (you could use a coffee grinder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a large standing mixer, mix coconut oil and sugar on high speed until fluffy and fully combined, about 1-2 minutes. Add egg, almond milk, vanilla extract and blend until combined, scraping down sides if needed. Slowly mix in whole wheat flour, almond meal, chai tea powder and salt while mixer is running on medium-high speed, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add chopped almonds, mix on medium-high speed until combined, then set aside.
  3. Using a tablespoon measure, form balls of dough. Place evenly on a large, greased cookie sheet (they won't spread much) and press down lightly to flatten. Bake 20 minutes until lightly browned.
  4. Remove cookies from oven and let cool. Once cool, heat chocolate chips and oil in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stopping to stir between each interval, until smooth. Dip cookies in chocolate, then place on a sheet of parchment paper over. Carefully place cookies and parchment paper in the refrigerator to harden. When chocolate is firm, store cookies in a container with a lid in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

More holiday baking inspiration: 

Gluten Free Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies
Gluten Free Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies
Gluten Free Nutella Blondies
Gluten Free Nutella Blondies
No Added Sugar Cinnamon Raisin Spice Cookies
No Added Sugar Cinnamon Raisin Spice Cookies

Easy Asian Snack Mix

This easy Asian snack mix has the perfect combination of salty, spicy and crunchy with whole grains, healthy fats, and minerals to boot! 

Popping in with a crazy easy recipe for a grab and go snack! I'm constantly asked for ideas for easy to pack, portable snacks, things you can throw in your purse or car that don't need refrigeration.

For years, I've been making mixes with whole grain cereal, nuts, and dried fruit or dark chocolate chips for a hint of sweetness. I'll pack them in small plastic containers or snack sized ziptop bags to throw in my purse as I'm running out the door. But my taste tends to lean more savory and spicy than sweet, and lately I've been getting a little bored with usual mixes.

So, after lingering in the snack aisle at Trader Joes, I got the inspiration for this Asian snack mix, which has the perfect blend of spicy, savory, salty and crunchy! Not only is this tastier than prepackaged Asian snack mixes, which are chock full of refined flour from whatever those puffy crunchy things are, but it's much more nutritious. With whole grains, healthy fats/protein from the nuts, and minerals from the toasted seaweed, this is a snack you'll feel good about!

Easy Asian Snack Mix

Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 9 ounce bag wasabi peas
  • 8 ounce small brown rice crackers
  • 8 ounce sesame sticks, whole grain if you can find them
  • 2 cups almonds
  • .4 ounce package wasabi roasted seaweed, crumbled

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Package into individual containers for a grab and go snack.

More grab and go snacks:

Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Granola
Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Granola
Mole Roasted Almonds
Mole Roasted Almonds
Whole Grain Chex Mix
Whole Grain Chex Mix

Roasted Peaches and Figs with Mascarpone and Almonds

Celebrate the start of fall by savoring every last bit of summer produce. My roasted peaches and figs with mascarpone is perfect for snack or a simple dessert for entertaining. 

Columbia friends, wasn’t yesterday a gorgeous day?? At 78 degrees, I was able to go out for a midday run and not keel over from heat exhaustion. It was fabulous. That breeze felt so good. But it was also a stark reminder that winter, I mean fall, is coming. Sorry, couldn’t help the Game of Thrones reference...

When it comes to the weather, I’m ready for fall. Or at least, ready to wear my hair straight again, as summer humidity doesn’t exactly love my hair. The one thing I’m not ready for? The end of summer produce. Wah!

I enjoy pumpkin, I do, but summer produce is really my favorite. There’s just nothing like a backyard summer tomato or a fragrant ripe melon. This weekend, I was making a recipe that called for two tomatoes. I sliced open one from our local market and another from the regular grocery store. It was like night and day. Or more specifically, white with a slight tinge of red and vibrant Crayola red. I realized pretty soon, all the tomatoes will be mealy and tasteless and white. Tear.

FYI: In case your wondering, I made that recipe with just one tomato. I'll leave it to you to guess which one.

So, let’s squeeze in ALL the summer produce while we still can, starting with these roasted peach, fig and mascarpone bowls. I’ve been really into roasting fruit this year. It's probably wrong, because when fruit is perfectly ripe, why do anything to it at all? Still, I love that caramelized flavor fruit gets after a quick trip to the oven.

Have you tried mascarpone cheese before? I’ve had it in cannoli before, but I don’t know that I’ve eaten it plain. Y’all, it’s kind of like heaven. It’s sooo dreamy, creamy and rich with a hint of sweetness. It has the texture of cream cheese but without the tart flavor. Mmm. Note to self: get more mascarpone in my life.

If you can’t find mascarpone or are just looking for something a little lighter, feel free to swap plain Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese. Or, if you can find coconut butter, I bet a dollop of it would be beautiful here too!

To sweeten this, I used maguey sap, an unrefined sweetener made from the maguey plant, which grows in the highlands of Mexico. I had never heard of it before, so I was excited to try when Villa de Patos reached out to see if I’d like to try a sample. Not only does it taste delicious, with a mild flavor unlike honey or maple syrup, but it also packs a nice dose of prebiotic fiber, which helps nourish the healthy bacteria in your gut!

Roasted Peaches and Figs with Mascarpone

Serves:6

Ingredients

  • 5 peaches, quartered

  • 20 fresh figs, halved

  • 1-2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted

  • ¾ cup mascarpone cheese

  • 6 tablespoons chopped almonds, toasted

  • Honey, pure maple syrup or maguey sap, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Spread peaches evenly on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/2-1 teaspoon coconut oil and roast 25 minutes until tender and lightly caramelized. Toss figs with 1/2-1 teaspoon coconut oil, spread evenly on a separate baking sheet and bake 15 minutes until golden.

  3. Set fruit aside to cool slightly. Once warm or at room temperature, divide between 6 pretty glasses. Dollop each with 2 tablespoons of mascarpone, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped almonds and drizzle with 1/2-1 teaspoon sweetener of choice.

More Summer Produce:

Zucchini Chickpea Balls with Chopped Greek Salad

Zucchini Chickpea Balls with Chopped Greek Salad

Balsamic Roasted Peach and Fig Salad with Almonds, Blue Cheese and Bacon

Balsamic Roasted Peach and Fig Salad with Almonds, Blue Cheese and Bacon

Grilled Pork Tacos with Charred Eggplant and Tomatoes

Grilled Pork Tacos with Charred Eggplant and Tomatoes

Balsamic Roasted Peach, Fig & Almond Salad + California Almond Tour Recap

Balsamic Roasted Peach, Fig & Almond Salad + California Almond Tour Recap

Learn all about California almonds from my trip to Lodi, California where I got to see them being grown and processed! Plus, snag the recipe for this California inspired balsamic roasted peach and fig salad with almonds, blue cheese and bacon! 

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Good Mood Food: Coconut Steel Cut Oatmeal With Almonds and Dark Chocolate

Start your day on the right side of the bed with a bowl of coconut steel cut oatmeal with almonds and dark chocolate. Packed with healthy, mood boosting carbohydrates, this meal is the start to a great day! 

When I was in high school, the Atkins diet was all the rage. My friends did it. My parents did it. And because I was under their roof, I did it. Or, at least dinner was low carb. The rest of my diet consisted of frappucinos, chocolate chip cookies from the school cafeteria and turkey sandwiches on white bread. Still, the low carb mentality was firmly engrained in my mind and I thought all these foods were "bad." Not because they were packed with sugar, heavily processed or unhumane, but because they were high in carbs.

The anti-carb mindset might still be in the back of my mind if it wasn't for one day at the mall with a friend of mine. She was in the initial phase of Atkins when you're supposed to eat less than 20 grams of carbs in a day. FYI, the minimum amount of carbs recommended per day is 100-150 grams and the RDA comes out to between 225-325 for someone eating 2,000 calories/day. So yeah, not a whole lot.

After making plans to go shopping, she asked me to pick her up because she felt so horrible she didn't feel comfortable driving. She was so exhausted, we had to stop between each store to sit. When we stopped for lunch at my favorite Italian restaurant (in hindsight, that kind of evil and selfish. I swear this was my friend) she could only order plain chicken with a garlic sauce on the side. She almost cried at the lack of options. My friend was and still is outgoing and hilarious, one of the biggest personalities I've ever met. To give you an idea, the last time we hung out, she convinced our James Franco look-alike server she was a 47-year-old pediatric neurosurgeon and that I once dated Sisqo. Like I said, big personality. On Atkins, she was a shell of her usual self - depressed, quiet, lethargic and generally unwell.

At the end of the day, I came home with some cute new clothes and an unshakeable belief that carbs are a need.

When it comes to brain health, carbohydrate containing foods probably have the biggest impact. As my friend's example clearly demonstrates, your brain needs carbs. Glucose, the breakdown product of carbs, is usually the only source of fuel the brain can use. The wrong type of carbs however, is one of the least healthy foods for the brain. Too many added sugars and refined grains cause chronic inflammation in the brain, affect stress hormones, and cause fluctuations in blood sugar that affect mood and energy levels. High blood sugar levels, even if not at diabetic levels, can cause damage to the small blood vessels in the brain which contributes to depression, anxiety and even dementia.

When it comes to carbs and brain health, quality trumps quantity in terms of importance. The highest quality carbs boost serotonin (aka happy hormone) levels without causing them to crash. Quality carbs are a source of sustainable energy. Anyone who has had a rough night of sleep or forgot their morning cup of coffee knows how low energy can affect mood.

The highest quality carbs? Fresh fruit, beans and lentils, vegetables (including starchy veg), and intact grains.

Oats are one of my favorite grains. I love a fiber and carbohydrate rich breakfast to energize my day. Compared to other grains, oats are an especially rich source of beta-glucan, a special type of fiber that helps lower cholesterol and keep blood vessels healthy. Oats also contain lignans and phenols, two phytochemicals with heart healthy benefits.

I always appreciate the ease and portability of overnight oats. Plus, they're a great make-ahead breakfast, because we know every minute of sleep is precious! Steel cut oats are fantastic, although convenient they are not. Who has 30 spare minutes in the morning? Not I! When I found quick cook steel cut oats at Trader Joe's, I knew I hit the jackpot. Soak these overnight in coconut milk (or the milk of your choice) and they'll "cook" in the fridge. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, feel free to sub regular rolled oats.

Coconut Steel Cut Oats With Almonds and Dark Chocolate

Serves 4

I used coconut milk from the carton, not canned. But if you want a richer coconut flavor, swap some of the cartoned coconut milk for canned. To make it more chocolatey and sneak in extra antioxidants, stir in a couple tablespoons of dark cocoa powder.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups quick cook steel cut oats or rolled oats
  • 4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • Honey or pure maple syrup for serving

Instructions

  1. In a large lidded container, mix oats, coconut milk and sea salt. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. In the morning, warm the oats on the stove or in the microwave for a minute or two, or enjoy cold. Top with coconut, almonds and dark chocolate. Drizzle with a teaspoon of honey to sweeten.

Start your day with these oatmeal recipes: 

Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Granola with Almonds and Coconut
Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Granola with Almonds and Coconut
Vegan Multigrain Breakfast Bake with Blueberries
Vegan Multigrain Breakfast Bake with Blueberries
Chai Oatmeal with Sauteed Pears
Chai Oatmeal with Sauteed Pears

Mole Roasted Almonds

Mole roasted almonds with chocolate and chilies are the the perfect crunchy and slightly sweet snack! 

Moley, moley, moley, moley! MOOOLLLLE!

Anyone else get that scene from Austin Powers stuck in their head every time you see mole on a menu? Oh, it's just me? That's cool.

Now that I've got that out of my system, let's talk about the magical combination of chocolate and chilies that makes mole. It sounds weird, I know. I was totally freaked out the first time I accidentally ordered chicken in mole sauce on a family trip to Mexico. As soon as the waiter walked away, my dad leaned over and said "You know there's chocolate in that." Umm, chocolate and chicken? This was much too intense for my 16-year-old palate. I debated hunting down the waiter and changing my order, but somehow my dad convinced me to give it a try. As I'm sure you guessed, I loved it, and then ate so much that to this day, I still remember how badly my stomach hurt.

Mole is a type of sauce common in Mexican cuisine. There's actually a couple different types, but mole poblano, made with dried chilies, chocolate and other spices, is most popular. In case you're totally freaked out about the whole spicy chocolate sauce thing, please know it's not like you're dropping Hershey's bars into your enchiladas. The chocolate used in mole is bitter and usually unsweetened, counteracting the spice of the chilies and adding a rich depth of flavor. Need more proof? Please see Mexican chocolate ice cream, spicy double chocolate cookies, and then drive to Asheville to visit French Broad Chocolate lounge and order one of their spicy nibbly brownies. Oh, and make these almonds too.

Mole Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 cups raw almonds
  • 2 tablespoons unrefined, brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, finely grated with a microplane grater
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg white and water until frothy. Stir in almonds.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk together sugar, chocolate, cocoa powder, chili powder, cinnamon, cayenne and sea salt. Using a slotted spoon, remove almonds from egg white mixture and place in the chocolate mixture. Stir to combine and coat the almonds.
  4. Pour the almonds on to the baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake 30-40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes until crispy.
  5. Remove from oven, set aside to cool. Once cool, store covered at room temperature.

Almond Trail Cookies

Gluten free and vegan, these lightly sweetened, whole grain almond trail mix cookies are the perfect snack to fuel your hike.

I was asked to participate in the “#CrunchOn ” campaign as a member of the Healthy Aperture Blogger Network. I was compensated for my time and also received free samples for recipe testing.

To me, food is one of the most important parts of travel. Before we take a trip, even a quick weekend jaunt within the South, I'll spend hours online, learning local specialties, researching the best restaurants and figuring out how to work in as many tasty yums as possible. There are few things in life that make me more sad than a subpar meal while on vacation.

Scott and I love camping, but that type of vacation doesn't exactly lend itself to good eats. We've taken a few camping trips in the last couple years, and in each case, crappy food was pretty unavoidable. Even if a can of beanie weenies was the panacea of health, you still wouldn't catch me eating it. I have no problem not showering or peeing in the woods, but eating rehydrated food for dinner? NOPE.

When we decided to camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains for my birthday, I planned ahead to ensure the weekend was filled with deliciousness. I prepared a gourmet meal of potatoes, grilled vegetables and halloumi cheese with smoked paprika, cooked over an open fire. We packed a nice bottle of wine, which I think we were judged for by the, um, mountain folk at the campsite next to us. The second night, we drove into Asheville for dinner at my favorite brewery and birthday cake from my favorite chocolatier (Asheville has all my favorites!). And lastly, I made sure to pack plenty of tasty snacks to fuel our hikes - olive oil popcorn from Trader Joes, honeycrisp apples, wasabi peas and these trail cookies, stuffed with all sorts of almond goodness.

Y'all, these are kind of the perfect trail food. I get pretty hungry when I'm hiking, which isn't that different from my usual state of being, but of course when hiking, there's no refrigerator nearby. Portable, compact, full of healthy fats, protein and a boost of energy from honey, these were perfect for munching on while we stopped to rest our legs. Sure, we could have just packed an energy bar, but I mean, cookies.

These cookies incorporate almonds in four different ways:

WHOLE ALMONDS // For satiating crunch!

ALMOND MEAL // My favorite gluten free flour for baking, it adds a nice crumbly texture and nutty flavor.

ALMOND BUTTER // Used instead of butter and other added fats.

ALMOND MILK // Mix 3 tablespoons almond milk with 1 tablespoon chia seeds to make a vegan egg for baking.

Besides the obvious fact that they taste amazing, there's a lot to love about almonds:

  • Almonds are a rich source of monounsaturated fat, the type found in extra-virgin olive oil and avocados, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol.
  • With 1/4 cup providing 40% your daily needs of vitamin E, almonds are the best nut source of the fat soluble vitamin. The antioxidant vitamin helps protect against heart disease and protects fats in the brain against oxidative damage and inflammation.
  • Almonds also top all other nuts in calcium content, one of the reasons (besides it's creamy deliciousness) that I love homemade almond milk so much!
  • Some people still avoid almonds because of their fat content, but study after study have shown them to be beneficial for weight management. And not that I recommend calorie counting, but recent studies with more accurate methods of measuring calories, have shown an ounce of almonds contain only 130 calories versus the previous count of 160.
  • With 6 grams of protein in each ounce, a serving of nuts is one of my favorite post-workout snacks.
  • Snacking on crunchy food like almonds can actually help combat stress!

Feel free to mix in your favorite trail mix ingredients. I like using freeze dried fruit, which is less sweet than dried fruit, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Dark chocolate chips never hurt anything. Because these are vegan, you can always skip the whole baking step, roll into balls and enjoy like cookie dough!

Almond Trail Mix Cookies

Makes 20 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup freeze dried blueberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix almond milk and chia. Let sit 10 minutes or so to gel.
  2. In a large bowl, mix chia "egg," almond butter, coconut oil, honey and vanilla with an electric beater. In another medium bowl, whisk together oat flour, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Using electric beater, mix wet ingredients into dry. Stir in oats, blueberries and almonds. Cover dough with saran wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 325.
  4. Scoop tablespoon sized balls of dough onto an oiled baking sheet. Press down lightly with the back of a spoon to flatten. Bake for 16-18 minutes until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Homemade Nut Butter, Three Ways

Homemade nut butter allows you to experiment with different flavor combinations. Try my recipes for vanilla almond sun butter, spicy cinnamon peanut butter and coconut macadamia butter. 

With homemade nut butter, the flavor combinations are endless. Pistachio butter? Why not. Superfood butter? You can do that too. Have an itching desire to make bacon peanut butter? Well, it's a thing. A weird thing, yes, but you can do it.

Other than a food processor, homemade nut butter doesn't take any special equipment. I'm sure a Vitamix would be nice (hint hint), but it's not necessary. Plus, it takes less than five minutes to make with ingredients you more than likely have on hand.

Best of all, you won't feel guilty after eating it by the spoonful because it cost $10 a jar.

Still feeling guilty for the calories? Don't. Despite the calories and fat, study after study has linked nuts to weight loss rather than weight gain. The combo of fat, fiber and protein keeps you satisfied, helping to prevent overeating. Other health benefits of nuts:

UNSATURATED FATS // The unsaturated fats found in nuts helps lower cholesterol, reducing your risk for heart disease.

PROTEIN // Nuts are a plant based source of protein. Swap an ounce of nuts for meat or cheese on a salad or one of these nut butters for deli meat on a sandwich.

VITAMIN E // Mostly known for it's cardiovascular benefits, vitamin E's antioxidant effect plays an important role in brain health

STRESS RELIEF // Crunchy foods have been shown to help relieve stress. Although these nut butters lack crunch, a handful of nuts would be preferable to a bag of chips as a way to deal with anxiety :)

PLANT STEROLS // Plant sterols are often added to foods like orange juice and margarine to help lower cholesterol. However nuts, especially peanuts, are a natural source.

Because I've got a serious case of indecision, I'm sharing not one, but three recipes for homemade nut butter. You are welcome! I love to have nut butter and fruit as a snack, but these also make a mean sandwich on sprouted grain bread with slices of apple or pear. Or, your know, grab a spoon and enjoy!

Vanilla Almond Sun Butter

Makes 1 1/2 cups

You could also roast the nuts first in a 300 degree oven for 12-14 minutes as the original recipe calls for. I skipped this step out of laziness but I'm sure it would enhance the flavor even more. Adapted from Edible Perspective.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or muscovado sugar
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, avocado oil or other neutral flavored oil

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. When smooth and spreadable, scrape into a plastic container or mason jar and refrigerate for 1-3 months.
Vanilla Almond Sun Butter
Vanilla Almond Sun Butter

Spicy Cinnamon Peanut Butter

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsalted, roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil or avocado oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and spreadable.
  2. Scrape into a plastic container or mason jar and refrigerate 1-3 months.

Coconut-Macadamia Nut Butter

Makes 1 1/2 cups

This one is quite thin and drippy - in a good way!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Store in a plastic container or mason jar in the refrigerator 1-3 months.

Healthy Fruit and Cream Oatmeal

I do love my overnight oats, but come winter, I want something warm and cozy. I love the idea of oatmeal, but most recipes I've tried never live up to my expectations.

So, I set out on a mission to perfect oatmeal. I set 3 goals:

1. Tastes great, even without tons of added sugar 2. Refrigerates well, because goodness knows I love the snooze button more than a warm bowl of oats. This recipe would have to be batch cooking friendly. 3. Filling enough to last till my mid-morning snack, and even until lunch for those hectic days I miss snacktime.

And what would you know, I found the perfect recipe on my first try! Toot toot (<---that's me tooting my own horn).

The trick for perfect oatmeal is quite simple - toast the oats before cooking. It adds a wonderful nutty flavor. The oats get a chewy texture that holds up to refrigeration overnight and prevents it from becoming a solid mass of bleh. Plus, toasting oats makes your kitchen smell just short of Heaven.

Another crucial upgrade - I cooked the oats in coconut milk instead of my usual unsweetened almond milk. It adds a lovely flavor and the higher fat content coats the oats and helps keep creamy, even after refrigeration.

To sweeten my oats without added sugar, I used the natural sugars in fruit. I've used a mashed banana in my oats before, which tasted great, but it doesn't refrigerate well. I often use all-fruit jam to sweeten my oats, so I decided to play on that and create my own chia seed jam. Last year, I fell in love with the concentrated flavor and super-dense nutrition of wild blueberries during our Recipe Redux contest, so I figured that would be a natural choice.

Four days in, I'm still gobbling this up and loving every bite! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Do you have any tricks for making oatmeal taste great? Leave your favorite oatmeal hacks in the comments below!

Healthy Fruit and Cream Oatmeal

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cans of coconut milk (low fat or full fat)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped

Chia jam:

  • 3 cups frozen wild blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • Unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk for drizzling
  • Honey or pure maple syrup (optional)

Instructions

  1. First, make the jam. Place blueberries, lemon and water in a small pot on medium heat. After a few minutes, the liquids will release. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, mashing the berries with a potato masher as they cook. Turn off heat, stir in chia seeds and let sit 10 minutes until thickened.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add oats. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring every so often, until they smell toasty. Add coconut milk and enough water to make a total of 6 cups of liquid along with the vanilla extract and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Stop cooking while the oats still have a bit of liquid, since it will soak in a bit in the fridge.
  3. While the oats are cooking, toast the almonds. I usually place them on a small baking sheet in the toaster oven.
  4. To serve, drizzle the oatmeal with a little almond milk or coconut milk and a teaspoon of honey or pure maple syrup if using. Swirl in chia jam and top with almonds.

Quinoa Tahini Bar

Anyone who has lived with me, worked with me, or just spent the day with me, is well aware of my reliance on snacks.When I come to work each morning, it’s never without the world’s largest lunch box filled to the brim with random containers of food. What can I say, I like to eat. I eat my snacks right on the dot, at 10 am and 3:30 pm. If I go more than 30 minutes past my scheduled snack time, I’m stricken with a major case of hanger (hungry-anger for those of you not familiar with the term).

I like to treat snacks as mini-meals, full of nutritious, whole foods that will satisfy until mealtime. My secret to a filling and nutritious snack? Pair one serving of a high fiber carb food with another serving of a food that contains fat and/or protein. The high fiber carb keeps blood sugar levels stable and the fat/protein keeps you satiated until your next meal.

The easy version – just eat one serving of food from two different food groups.  You'll almost always end up with the right combination.

Some of my favorites:

  • Slices of avocado on ak-mak or wasa crackers drizzled with sriracha (or hot sauce if you forgot to hoard it for the impending sriracha shortage)
  • Tortilla chips topped with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, microwaved for a minute and served with salsa
  • A baggie of unsweetened whole grain cereal, nuts and dried fruit
  • Popcorn drizzled with a little honey or maple syrup and tossed with toasted walnuts, almonds or coconut flakes
  • Sardines (yup!) on rye crackers
  • Plain yogurt mixed with fresh fruit or all-fruitjam
  • Microwaved baked potato chips with yogurt dip
  • Celery sticks spread with cream cheese and chopped black olives (fancy pants ants on a log)
  • Homemade tuna or salmon salad in whole wheat mini-pitas
  • Fresh fruit with peanut or almond butter
  • My favorite snack - leftovers!

Lately, I’ve been really into homemade energy bars, which are generally simple to make and portable. I used to think I hated granola bars because all the store-bought versions I tried were so syrupy sweet.  Since starting to make my own, I've changed my mind. 

The quinoa bars I'm sharing with you today are just lightly sweetened with dried dates, my favorite new sweetener to cook with. Dates impart a rich, caramely flavor, but are a rich source of fiber, iron, potassium, selenium, and vitamin A.

You could boost the nutrition of these bars even more with all sorts of healthy add-ins – cacao powder, maca powder, flax seeds or chia seeds would all work beautifully.

Quinoa Tahini Bar

Makes 10

Adapted from Peru Delights.

Ingredients

  • 12 chopped dates
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup almonds
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ cup cooked quinoa

Instructions

  1. Add first five ingredients to a food processor. Blend until you have a mostly smooth paste. Add the quinoa and blend until just combined.
  2. Scoop paste out of the food processor and into a medium baking dish. Press down with wet hands to spread it out evenly and smooth the top. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Once firmed, cut the bars into rectangles and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Spaghetti with Jalapeno and Serrano Pesto

Jalapeno and serrano pesto is a spicy take on traditional pesto! Perfect for tossing with spaghetti, or save the leftovers as a sandwich spread or to drizzle over eggs. 

Spicy jalapeno and serrano pesto pasta has a kick!

We're back from Yellowstone! I'm not sure why that statement necessitated an exclamation mark, because it was one of the hardest vacations to return to the real world from. Even though we spent 12 hours (!!) exploring the park each day, I wish we had another week to see more of the backcountry.  It was one of the most incredible places I've ever visited.

So, today's recipe, which is not at all Yellowstone related.

When scanning a menu, there are a few ingredients where if I see them listed in a dish, there's no way I can resist. One is avocado (duh), another is sun-dried tomato (mmm), and of course cheese has to make the list (specifically brie, Roquefort, or feta - gah, I love cheese!). And last but not least, pesto. 

Pesto is a perfect blend of the most flavorful ingredients - fresh herbs, toasted nuts, parmesan cheese, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic. There's no way it won't turn out delicious!

I've made my own pesto since college, and in the last 5 (or is it 6?) years, I think I've tried every possible combination. Many times I'll simply throw together leftover herbs with a handful of whatever nuts I have on hand, oil, and garlic. 

Spicy jalapeno and serrano pesto! Perfect with pasta or dolloped over tacos!

I thought I had tried all the pesto the world had to offer. Then I saw this recipe from Mario Batalli. Toss with whole grain pasta and top with crispy breadcrumbs for this dish, then use leftovers to dress tacos, dollop over eggs, or in a sandwich to add kick. This recipe calls for a ridiculous amount of chilies. Don’t be afraid. The seeds contain most of the heat, so it’s not as spicy as you might expect.


Fettuccine with Jalapeno and Serrano Pesto

Adapted from Mario Batali Simple Family Meals.

Ingredients

  • 6 fresh jalapeno peppers, cored and seeded
  • 5 fresh serrano chiles, cored and seeded
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup blanched, sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb 100% whole grain fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, toasted

Instructions

  1. Place the jalapenos, serranos, red onion, almonds and 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in the food processor. Process to a smooth puree then season with salt to taste.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water according to package instructions until al dente and drain, reserving 1/2 cup starchy cooking water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add pesto and stir to combine with the garlic. Reduce heat to medium and simmer.
  4. Return drained pasta to the pot. Add 1 1/2 cups pesto and starchy cooking water and toss to combine. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with panko.