Snack Happy! Spicey Pepper Dip: Bean, Gluten and Dairy Free

I’ve been on this mission to create healthful snacks.  I know my body works best when I eat three meals a day plus two snacks in-between.  If not, I get hangry and that’s not good a good thing.  Never heard of hangry?  Well, I can guarantee you’ve felt it!  It’s when you’re so hungry you get angry and then become one with the refrigerator!!!  ERRR!!!  You almost feel a little out of control mainly due to your blood sugar dropping, and you end up eating whatever you see first vs. something satisfying and healthful.  I don’t know about you, but I like to save up my calories for something really good and not binge hangry eating!!!  80 healthful and 20% whatever you want.  Important not to switch those numbers around and a hangry appetite can do just that!

So the journey began to find a healthful snack.  I’ve tried all kinds of homemade, healthful things…but have begun to get bored.  Hummus with veggies – BORING!  Apple and almond butter – BEEN THERE DONE THAT!  Cheese and celery – SNOOZE!  Although these snacks are very healthy and could absolutely fill my hunger, I was getting bored with them and found my way into the fridge more times than I needed because I wasn’t satisfied!

Above everything else, my body has decided to reject beans.  BEANS.  I could live off chickpeas.  That means no kind of hummus or bean dip.  Ugh, now I’ve really have to think outside the box and figure out something that will cover all my needs:  filling, healthful, satisfying and above all not boring.  What’s a girl to do?

I recently read a fantastic book called The Beauty Detox Foods and was inspired by all the healthful foods you can have in your life and still be satisfied.  (Check out the book if you need some tips on healthful eating.  The author’s vision is clean vegan eating and foods that heal the body.  Love that!  Everything homemade.)

Have you ever had Muhammara Dip?  I hadn’t until I picked up the book.  It’s a traditional Middle Eastern dip packed with walnuts, red peppers, spices and olive oil.  But the author of The Beauty Detox Foods managed to make it healthy by keeping it raw and eliminating the olive oil.

This particular dip totally inspired me to get in the kitchen and test our some new recipes.  I’ve toyed around with a recipe for some time now.  I love to mix it up and have found my version of a healthful pepper dip.  It’s delicious!  It’s spicy, tangy, sweet, and is 100% satisfying.  Goes with any kind of veggie or you could turn it into a spread or thin it out for a healthful dressing.

The base of my dip is roasted cashews.  I’m using cashews for a few reasons.  Roasted cashews add a richness to this dip that regular nuts just wont do.  In addition, cashews, when ground, give a starchy quality that thickens your recipes without actual starches.  It’s great to thicken soups, stews, curries (it’s typically the base of curries) and desserts.  The plus is that cashews have great health benefits.  They are a good source of Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Protein.

Behold, your new favorite snack:

Spicey Pepper Dip

1 cup roasted cashews
4 small tomatoes, roasted or grilled
3 hatch chilis, roasted and skinned
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp lemon juice (1/2 large lemon)
1 tsp tamari sauce
1/4 tsp salt


Place cashews, sesame seeds, and garlic powder into a high-speed blender.  Blend until it comes to a mealy texture, almost paste like.  Then add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth!

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It’s that simple.  A few minutes and you’ve got the base of a healthful and satisfying snack.  Think about how great this would be at parties in addition to your daily snack.  It’s easy to make in a large batch and with no dairy, it can sit out worry free!


Some things to note:
**This version of the dip is not raw.  However, you can change to accommodate raw eaters!  Raw cashews, garlic, tomatoes and chilis would be perfect in this recipe.

**I HIGHLY recommend roasting your own veggies.  They take about 10 extra minutes to prepare on the grill or under a broiler.  The chili peppers I did skin, but the tomatoes I just left whole.  If you’re not into that, you can substitute canned fire- roasted tomatoes with green chilis.  But again, TRY to roast yourself.  It’s super easy, I promise!

It’s time to Unplug!

My husband attends many conferences each year and this week he attended one in Palos Verdes, CA, which is driving distance from our home.  I decided to go with him and enjoy the beautiful grounds that the Terranea Resort has to offer.  We arrived early and our room wasn’t ready, so I ended up wandering around the amazing grounds alone as he shuffled off to his meetings.  It was still quite early and the morning was a little misty with the marine layer.  It was just me and a bottle of water on a hunt for nothing!

No cell phone!  I left it in the car.  And I ended up on this breathtaking path along the bluffs on the Pacific Coast.  (Sorry, no picture!  Seriously, there were no electronic devices with me!)  What a fantastic walk.  I was lost in the moment, listening to the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline and birds singing their morning song, while I walked along the path.  I could hear each step that I took as my feet struck the sandy walkway.  Aimlessly meandering, I ended up at the end of the path that led to a beach with tide pools and continued my adventure.  All you could hear was nature.  The ocean was a little rough and the waves crashed along all of the beautiful rocks.  The seaweed bobbed up and down with tiny fish popping out to catch the smell of the morning air.  Seagulls rested alongside the beach and surfed the waves looking for their early morning snack.  What a wonderful way to start out my day; no plans needed.  This was nature’s way of saying Good Morning and I was taking it all in.  No distractions from ANYTHING or ANYONE.  How fortunate am I?, I thought?

I wandered back towards the resort and found myself at the Spa, and with luck, there was an ocean-side spin class that was about to begin.  Why not?, I asked myself!  And so I ended up spinning for 60 minutes sea-side.  Even with the misty morning, there was a great view of the ocean and Catalina Island.  The class was one of the most difficult classes I’ve ever taken.  The instructor was personable and challenging.  I was thankful to have stumbled across the class.

With such an active morning, I needed a quick snack and ended up at the on-site coffeehouse.  There I found myself sitting next to a man and his two small children – Lexie and Belle.  Lexie was a baby and was only interested in her morning nap and a bottle.  She stayed tucked up in Dad’s arms.  Now Belle on the other hand…Belle was interested in so many other things.  She was two and was chatty and inquisitive.  Such a doll.  She and I ended up singing Itsy Bitsy Spider together while we finished our breakfast.  She then told me about her trip down and how she was visiting her grandparents.  Adorable, to say the least.  One of the best conversations I had all week!

Why am I sharing this story with you?  Because I know I wouldn’t have had any of those experiences if I’d had my phone with me.  Think I’m crazy?  Think again!  I know my head would have been down not paying attention to what was around me.  Earbuds in, not listening to nature, just music.  Cruising the internet, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram just because I can, not because there’s really something on there I just cannot live without!  Does this sound familiar??  I’m sure I’m not alone here.  We are so quick to take our phones with us everywhere we go – even the restroom.  I recently read something that said,  “Anybody have plans to stare at their phones somewhere exciting this weekend?”  Makes you stop and wonder how much you’re missing out on because your head is down?  Are we missing out on the little things that life has to offer?  So precious.  So simple.  And yet, we continue to keep our heads down and see life through our phones.  Taking pictures instead of being in the moment.  Texting instead of taking in the scenery.  Earbuds in listening to music, instead of listening to the surroundings and what nature has to offer.

Am I asking you to put down your phone?  YES, I sure am!  Think about the last time you went an hour without your cell?  Without your iPad?  Without your laptop?  Without the TV?  Can you remember it?  Think about it?  When was it?  And when you had to step away from your phone or other electronic device, how quick were you to turn it back on when you had the chance?  Was it immediate?  I bet it was.  Was anything that important that it couldn’t wait?  Aside from running a country, I don’t think any of us really have to be on-line all the time.  NOTHING is that urgent.

When I moved in with my now husband seven years ago, he didn’t have a TV in the bedroom.  I don’t even think he had cable TV at the time.  I was wrecked.  It was almost a deal breaker for me!  How would I survive without watching TV in bed?  It was my favorite pastime.  I fell asleep to TV and loved laying in bed on a lazy Sunday and watching reruns of 90210.  (Don’t judge, it’s my guilty pleasure!)  What am I going to do?  How will I fall asleep?  But with time, I didn’t miss it.  I had meaningful conversation and time with my husband and ended the day quietly.  I fell asleep just fine and in fact, slept better.  I got my lazy self up on Sunday and went for a walk or made us brunch instead.  My husband was onto something then, and we all need to shift ourselves to be onto something now.  UNPLUG!

Life is precious and short and if we continue to be on our mobile devices instead of living in the moment we will miss out.  This is just a fact.  We lived without them before.  Just a short 20 years ago we didn’t have all this technology and the world continued to spin just fine.  I had more meaningful relationships with family and friends and I miss those days of actual voice-to-voice conversations.

What’s my HEALTHFUL message?  Get off your phone and be PRESENT.  There is so much life around you that you’re missing out on while you’re checking emails, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  Leave your phone off!  Unplug your lap top.  Take the time to enjoy what’s important to you!  You’ll thank me, I promise!


(I did take my phone to the pool…I’m a work in progress too!!)

Got Flexibility Training in your Workout Routine?

Flexibility Training is a hot topic in the fitness community.  I hear things like… Is it really necessary to stretch or put in the effort to have a routine for flexibility?  I only have a short amount of time to put into my workout and don’t have time for flexibility training.  I’m not flexible, why bother?  Stretching does nothing for me.  I don’t get the burn I’m looking for.

Well, I cannot disagree more with these statements.  Flexibility Training is imperative to keeping your body strong and injury free.  Even 5 minutes can support your workout to be injury free and effective.  This is separate from your normal 5 minutes at the end of your workout – two very different things.

In this day and age, we live in a society where we are plagued by postural imbalances due to sedentary lifestyles technology and repetitive motions.  Between sitting in classrooms for multiple hours on end or sitting in an office cube for long hours, we have seen an increase in things like lower back and neck pain, carpel tunnel and of course an increase rate in obesity.  Flexibility Training is being recognized as an important way to aid in preventing of a number of injuries.  Flexibility Training is being recognized as an important way to aid in preventing a number of injuries.  I had to repeat this because sometimes we’re so focused on the end goal that we forget about a few steps we need to take to get there.

So what is Flexibility anyway?  Flexibility is the normal extensibility of all soft tissue that allows the full range of motion of a joint.  In other words, having the capability of elongating or stretching out a particular muscle.  And why is flexibility so important?  Because when you are unable to extend or elongate a particular muscle, you could injure that muscle or end up using a different muscle to compensate.  Either way, it isn’t good and will end up with some type of issue long-term.

Have I sold you on Flexibility Training yet?  Think about this, have you ever been working out and felt this knot in the center of your back?  Hurts so badly that you have to cut your workout short?  This isn’t a normal workout burn.  This is a tightness (like a Charlie-horse) that feels like it’s going to rip out of your back.  Sound familiar?  Maybe not in your back, but in your arm or leg?  This is due to not adding Flexibility Training into your routine.  You see, if you spent a few minutes working out that tightness in your muscle BEFORE your workout, you might have avoided this.

Flexibility Training should be done prior to your regular workout.  Sounds strange, I know.  It’s different from stretching.  Your stretching routine should be kept at the end of your workout.  But for Flexibility Training, you need 5-10 minutes focusing on areas where you feel like you have muscle imbalance or where you already know you have some aches or pains!

The best way to understand where your aches, pains or muscle imbalances are is to use a foam roller.  If you don’t have one, I suggest getting one.  Typically gyms have them but I keep portable one in my gym bag.  They come in all shapes and sizes, however, I suggest getting a regular foam roller to start out with (as in photo).

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When thinking about your Flexibility Training routine and using a foam roller, you’ll want to consider a few muscle groups that they are particularly helpful for:  Calves, Outer hips to knee (TFL), Inner and Outer Thighs (Abductor and Adductor Magnus) and Back/Lats.  These are major muscle groups and will be helpful when starting out your Flexibility Training.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Complete BEFORE your workout.
  2. Find a level area at the gym or home where you have plenty or space.
  3. Use a foam roller that is stiff, not overused or flat.
  4. When rolling, roll slowly.  Once you find an area that is tender or knotted, STOP and HOLD for at least 30 seconds to work out that muscle.  This is one of the most important steps.
  5. Complete 3-5 times.

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So, get up a few minutes early, starting today, to add in these simple foam roller exercises into your workout.  Because of the Flexibility Training, you’ll have a great workout, injury free and more effective than your last!

National Mac-n-Cheese Day!

I gotta tell you, I love the holidays.  All of my family and friends getting together.  The food.  The drinks.  The laughter.  All good stuff.  The typical holidays weigh pretty heavily in the months of November and December, getting the best of everyone!!!  But we take the good with the bad and deal with it because we know in the end we have a great time.  What’s even more exciting is there are more holidays to add to you calendar due to the National Food Holidays to celebrate.    Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July have nothing on the Donut and Pizza!  So many wonderful treats to celebrate.  And as someone who enjoys food, a celebration is in order!!!

Only July 14th, we get to celebrate National Mac-n-Cheese Day.  And what’s not to celebrate?  It’s one of the most classic American dishes out there.  It’s probably one of the first food memories I have!  It’s bubbly, cheesy, chewy and with the little bit of crunch on the top.  You really can’t beat it.  My sister is the master at this dish in our family.  (Sorry Mom!).  She has never made a bad batch and her kids can easily take out a double batch.  (Well, with my help!!!).  It comes out for many of the holidays and my nephews’ and niece’s birthdays.  It’s a crowd pleaser.  No wonder Mac-n-Cheese has its own National Holiday!  Who wouldn’t want to celebrate this golden delicious treat!

Where did Mac-n-cheese come from anyway?  It’s formal title, Macaroni and Cheese, is an English dish consisting of cooked macaroni pasta and cheese, most commonly cheddar cheese.  It’s been known to add other ingredients such as bread crumbs, meat and veggies.  Traditional Mac-n-Cheese is a casserole baked in the oven, but can also be cooked stove stop.  (I’m sure many of you are thinking of the blue box!!!)

Now that we’ve gotten that straight, how does a girl that is eating clean get to celebrate this National Holiday with the rest?Can a classic be recreated to support my more healthful eating habits?  And I guess the bigger question is, do I recreate it at all?  Why not have the real thing on the National Holiday?  The beauty of NOT being on a diet is I can eat the things I want.  I do enjoy Mac-n-Cheese, and honestly have the real deal maybe once a year.  So for today, National Mac-n-Cheese Day, I’m celebrating just how versatile it is and how it can be altered to fit any lifestyle!!!

To the Good Stuff!  This recipe is the old fashioned style with easy steps to follow.  I like the classics.  This can be altered even more to support your dietary needs too.

Gluten Free Mac-n-Cheese
2 cups gluten-free elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dry/powder mustard
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 cups shredded cheese (I like really sharp)
Optional Topping:
1 cup crunched corn flakes
1 tbs melted butter
Optional Flavor (let your imagination go wild!):
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Tapatio/favorite hot sauce

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-Heat oven to 350 degrees
-Cook macaroni as directed on package.  DO NOT OVER COOK.
-While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in large sauce pan over low heat.  Stir in flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

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-Cook over low heat, stirring continually, until the mixture is smooth and bubbly; lower heat.
-Stir in almond milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil for one minute.
-Stir in cheese.  Stir until cheese has melted.

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-Drain macaroni and gently stir into cheese sauce.  Then transfer into ungreased 2-quart casserole.
(If adding topping, add crushed corn flakes directly on top of mac-n-cheese in dish.  Drizzle with melted butter.)
-Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes until bubbly.


Please note that although gluten-free and quite delicious, it isn’t low-fat!!!  Too much of a good thing is sometimes just too much!!!  Eat with veggies to a complete meal!  The entire family will LOVE!


No Gym Membership? No Problem. Create your own gym at home with these 5 things!

I gotta tell you, for someone who enjoys working out like I do, I do not like going to the gym.  It’s not my favorite place to go.  It’s not my happy place.  It’s not my sanctuary.  I can survive just fine without it.  When I started working out about 10 years ago, I did join a large gym, and still have that membership to this day.  I fight myself about getting rid of it, however, they have some good spin instructors there, and it’s cheaper than joining a spin club.  So alas, I’m charged monthly for it and I only use it for that!!!

For me, the gym is overwhelming.  There’s tons of equipment and people.  I find, depending on the hour, it’s less about working out and more about flirting.  Ugh.  That’s just not my style.  I like to get in, get out and get on with life!  So what’s a girl to do?  I’m very fortunate that I have a workout space in my home.  My husband and I created it when we bought our home a few years ago, and it’s priceless.  We’ve added to it over the years, but it’s still simple and approachable.  And the best thing about it…I don’t have to leave the comfort of my home to get my sweat on!!!

So where do you start when creating a home gym?  Everyone is at different fitness levels.  However, the five things I’ve chosen can be for any fitness level.  You control the reps, resistance, length and just how hard you want your workout to be.  Simple!

Here are few pointers to create your home gym, for a fraction of what you would pay at your local gyms.  Plus, you can work out in the privacy of your home while watching the show on tv (or tablet) that you want to watch!  Ha, take that over-priced commercial gym.  Now you have no excuse not to give yourself some time to look and feel better!!!

Jump Rope
I don’t know of a cardio machine at the gym that can get your heart rate up like a jump rope.  Have you done this recently?  I could barely get in 30 seconds before wanting to fall over.  I did splurge on this and get the 3-in-1 jump rope.  This one cost $6.47, but you can get them for much less.  What I liked about this style versus the others was that the rope is completely adjustable.  You can customize to your height.  In addition to that, it has rubber grips and removable weights that store in the handles.  You can google “jump rope workouts” and get tons of workout ideas or simply create your own by making one up!
Cost:  $2-$12
Sample Workouts:  Start with 30 seconds jumping, rest 10 and continue for 5 minutes; or try this 10 minute routine.
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Resistance Band
These are great and just like the jump rope, compact, and can fit in any space.  You can even travel with them.  These come in many different styles from a rubber band type to ones with handles and are adjustable in resistance.  I have both, and use them for any exercise you would typically use in resistance training: bicep curls, chest flies, squats or triceps curls.  All within a small space.
Cost:  $7-$30
Sample Workouts:
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Stability Ball
If you’re house doesn’t have a stability ball, go out and get one today.  Yes, these do take up a little bit of space when blown up, but can be easily tucked away in a closet for storing.  From planks to leg tuck crunches, the stability ball will support you in your ab work beyond expectation.  Because you’re actually ‘unstable’ on it, you have to use more muscles AND you tend to slow down the speed which is even better for strength training.  Burn more calories and build muscle?  I’m in!  Please note that they come in multiple sizes based off your height, so read up prior to purchasing.
Cost:  $15-$40
Sample Workouts:  Sit Ups or V-Pass,  Wheel Barrow or Wheel Outs and Plank
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Yoga Mat
Yoga mats can be used for so many things.  I typically keep mine out 24/7 so I’m inspired to stretch, do yoga or a quick plank anytime I’m inclined!  They come in a variety of colors and thickness to support you and your fitness needs.  These too are portable and can be stored in the closet or under the bed.
Cost:  $9-$20
Sample Workouts:  Yoga routines (I like the yoga studio app) planks or stretches.
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This is the one exercise I will never get used to, step ups!  Hurts so good.  What I love about the step is you can continue to build upon them and make them higher or challenge yourself to jump up, over and around them or increase your pace!  This will be the biggest purchase of them, but if you find the right ones, you’ll have them forever and you can easily store them under the bed or in a closet.  Another option is to find someone who can build a set for you – even better.  Either way, they need to be in your workout!
Cost:  $28-$100
Sample Workouts:  Lateral step ups and Jump Ups
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On the low-end, you’ll spend around $60 to build your in home gym.  A typical gym membership will cost you an entry fee plus monthly fees, adding up to approximately $450.  That’s a significant savings!

If you’re starting out fresh and haven’t worked out before or haven’t worked out in a while, do your research FIRST.  Review links and consult a physician if you need to ensure you can do these types or any type of physical activity.  Start slow, be cautious of your surroundings to protect yourself from injuries!

We only get ONE body.  Use it properly!

Aloha Acai! A healthful version of your favorite Acai Bowl with No Sugar Added Granola!

A good friend of mine moved to Hawaii about four years ago.  What a treat for her and her husband, and, quite frankly, a treat for me because I visited yearly!!!  Living on Oahu they became accustomed to the native land and lived like the locals.  I was always amazed every time I went how much they knew about the island and all of the local treasures – where to go, what to see and what to eat, all in such a short period of time.  The land of Aloha!!!  There are so many things I have fallen in love with on Oahu, but who’s kidding…I go for the food, sand and ocean (in that order!!!!)  Some of the local fare that is a must:  Leonard’s with their AMAZING malasada’s, Marukame with their DELICIOUS handmade udon noodles, and Lanikai Juice with their UNBELIEVABLE Acai Bowls.  Everytime I go to Hawaii, I do not leave without getting these local treats.  Yes, you can get udon and acai bowls in the states, but they have a different taste here.  Trust me.

If you haven’t had a traditional Acai Bowl, you are definitely missing out.  They are delicious, creamy, sweet, crunchy and pretty much the perfect meal!  Fruit, granola and a touch of honey.  I’m addicted to them.

So what is acai anyways?  Acai is a berry found in Central and South America.  It’s an inch long with a purple reddish tint and comes from the acai palm tree.  It’s known to have more antioxidants than it’s cousins:  blueberries, strawberries and raspberries!

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And why should you eat them?  Studies have found that eating these little gems can support the following (there are many, but I’m keeping it to my top 5!):

  1. Heart Health.  Acai is known to be extremely high in anthocyanins, which is associated with lowering cholesterol levels in the blood.
  2. Aids in Weight Loss.  Known to nutritionists as a superfood, acai is great for with weight loss in addition to maintaining weight.
  3. Promotes Skin Health.  Brazilians have been eating acai berries for centuries to treat skin conditions due to the high antioxidant content.  Acai Oil has been known to be a natural alternative to chemical based skin-care products.
  4. Helps with Digestion.  We’ve learned recently that having a healthy digestion can aid in your overall health.  Acai has detoxification capacities and is a good source of dietary fiber.
  5. May help fight cancer.  Being very high in Vitamin C and ellagic acid, acai has been known to suppress cancer due to the immune-system-boosting combination.

Acai is just plain good for you!  Now, the Acai Bowls, they can be a different story.  A typical bowl has over 50 grams of sugar and averages around 400 calories.  This is for the traditional acai bowl.  So the question is…are they making you fit or fat??  The acai pulp itself has zero grams of sugar.  That’s right, ZERO.  So it’s all the extra stuff we are loading them up with that may not be too healthful.

What’s the solution??  My No Sugar Added Granola for one!  The next, purchase NO SUGAR ADDED acai packs.  I found some at Sprouts by Sambazon.

So here it is, my recipe for Acai Bowl with Homemade No Sugar Added Granola!

No Sugar Added Granola
2 cups Gluten Free Oats
1/3 cup chopped raw pecans
1/3 cup chopped raw almonds
1/3 cup raw pepitas
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla

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Pre-Heat oven to 225 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl combine oats, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and salt.

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In another mixing bowl, whisk egg white on high, with hand mixer, until stiff.  Fold in vanilla gently once whites are stiff.

Then fold dry and wet ingredients together, being careful not to overwork the egg whites.image4 (2)

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Transfer to baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper.
Bake for 60 minutes total, stirring every 20 minutes to break up into pieces.
Let cool completely before storing.  About 30 minutes.  Can be stored for up to 2 weeks in airtight container.

Now that your granola is made, onto the Acai mixture.  I used the guidelines of Sambazon, and tweaked it a bit for my liking!

Acai Bowl
1/4 cup blueberries
1/3 cup sliced strawberries
1/3 cup No Sugar Added Granola
1/2 cup coconut waterimage1 (3)
1 tsp honey (if desired)
1/2 sliced banana
1/2 frozen banana
pinch of chia seeds (if desired)
1 packet of Sambazon acai, unsweetened

Blend 1/2 frozen banana, acai and coconut water into blender.  Blend until desired consistency.

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Once blended, transfer into bowl, add remaining ingredients!

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Hopefully I have taken you back to the land of Aloha!  And if you haven’t made it to the Pacific Islands, maybe this will help you feel like you’re there.  This is about half the amount of sugar and calories as a typical Acai Bowl.  You can make it even less, by not adding the honey.


Top 10 Things to HAVE in your Pantry

A few weeks ago I did a quick Top 10 list of things to take out of your pantry.  I know, some were a little frightened of this list, especially if you’re currently eating a lot of processed foods, sugar and flour.  By no means am I trying to frighten or make you feel like you can have nothing, that was not my intention at all.  Living a healthy lifestyle is really about you choosing what to take out and when.  For me, in the beginning I did eat almond/rice crackers or Ezekiel bread.  I had to phase into things a bit.  For others, just ripping off the band-aid is the way to go.  They can take everything out and replace it with the good and that’s that!  Whichever your path is, TAKE IT!  You will look and feel better and have tons of energy.

So today, I’ll share the Top 10 things to keep in your pantry.  Having a stocked pantry is critical to keeping a healthy lifestyle.  Yes, cleaning out of all the over-processed foods is the first step.  But now that you have tossed out the bad, what do you replace it with?  Keeping the following items in your pantry will support you either whether you’re transitioning or sustaining.  I typically buy these items in bulk at Costco or Sprouts since I can find either organic or top quality in either.  (Keep in mind that many of these items can be stored in the freezer if you’re concerned with things going rancid.)

  1. Almonds.  These nuts are at the top of the nut food chain. They are packed with nutrients and vitamins such as:  calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6 and are rich in dietary fiber.  One kernel is about 7 calories and can be found raw, blanched, roasted, sliced, slivered, salted…the list is endless.  I recommend keeping raw almonds in your house and staying away from anything with added salt or sugar.  Eat a few of before a quick work out or when you’re hungry and want something crunchy.  Add them to homemade breads or make your own almond milk.  Almonds are a must in any healthful household!
  2. Chia Seeds.  Cha Cha Chia!  Who knew I’d grow up and eat chia!  I love chia seeds.  I eat them raw on top of yogurt or in chia puddings.  I put them in my smoothies and mix them into homemade energy bars.  They are so versatile.  These tiny little seeds are packed with the good stuff.  One serving gives more than half the recommended daily dose of the B vitamin thiamine and niacin.  In addition they’re a great source of calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
  3. Olive Oil.  Once upon a time we were told fat was bad, but that was a lie.  We now know that GOOD FATS are just that….GOOD.  And a tablespoon of olive oil has a heaping 73g of monounsaturated fat and 11g of polyunsaturated fat.  Take that canola oil!!!  Olive Oil also has vitamin E and K.  It’s easy to cook, BBQ and bake with.  And salad dressings – I don’t use without!  I tend to buy Extra Virgin Olive Oil as it’s fuller in flavor.
  4. Balsamic Vinegar.  This is an odd choice, I know.  But when you’re eliminating sugar at first you’ll feel a little deprived and adjusting to foods being less sugary.  Balsamic vinegar is FULL of flavor and you can condense this down into a sugar-free glaze.  It’s a great condiment to have in the house to add to marinades, salad dressings and even desserts.
  5. Cocoa.  My true love, chocolate (don’t tell my husband!).  Cocoa is an understated ingredient and has tons of nutrition.  Its solids are one of the richest sources of flavanol antioxidants.  Who knew?  That’s why I love it so much.  It’s good for me and it’s delicious – AWESOME!  Cocoa powder is everywhere right now.  One thing to make certain when selecting a brand it to get one that is unsweetened.  That’s super important.  Use cocoa in smoothies, in hot chocolate with some almond milk and teaspoon of honey, or in homemade popsicles.
  6. Quinoa.  I must admit, I got on the quinoa bandwagon a little late in life!  But, now that I’ve found it, I love it.  There is still a lot of controversy on if it’s a seed or grain.  Wikipedia says:  Quinoa (/ˈkˈnə/, from Quechua kinwa or kinuwa )[2] is a species of the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium quinoa), a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds.  Okay, so then it’s both?  Either way, I enjoy it.  It can be ground into flour, used in ‘rice pudding’ or put on any salad.  Think of it as a replacement for oats, pasta or rice.  I make an amazing Greek Salad with it.  Make sure to get a good quality brand and one that has gone through a rinsing process so you don’t get any stones!
  7. Oats.  I’ve been eating oats since I was a kid.  This is one of the best items to have in your pantry, especially if you’re trying to stay full longer.  It’s packed with soluble fiber, which takes significant time to digest therefore suppressing your appetite.  In addition, oats have been known to lower your cholesterol if eaten daily.  Well, that’s a one-two punch, if you ask me.  Oats can be ground into flour, added into your overnight oats and can even bulk up your hamburgers or meat loaf.  I do believe too much of a good thing, can be just too much.  So, if you’re eating grains, like oats and quinoa, limit to one meal per day.
  8. Raw Honey.  Nature’s candy and a must in everyone’s pantry, honey can be used for so many things from soothing a sore throat to sweetening up a smoothie.  I suggest a raw type, organic if you can.  It’s the closest thing to a beehive as you’ll get and the least processed.  Honey does have a good amount of carbs, so use sparingly.
  9. Almond Butter.  We are back to almonds again; they are that important to a healthy lifestyle.  What’s great about almond butter is its naturally salty and sweet taste all in one.  It’s great in anything from homemade ice-cream to something simple like ants on a log (remember those???).  Just like almonds, almond butter is full of nutrients and vitamins.  Read the labels when purchasing.  Look for almond butters that contain almonds only.  You don’t need oil or salt in this delicious spread.
  10. Unsweetened Coconut Chips.  Coconut has taken off within the last few years.  Everything from coconut oil to coconut water.  It’s everywhere and in everything.  I even got some make-up with coconut water in it!!!  Coconut is rich in copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc.  Having coconut chips in the house is great for when you need that extra crunch.  I typically add it to my puddings, overnight oats or granola.  Again, look for the unsweetened types.  I like the chips  versus the shreds due to the texture.

There you have it:  10 items to add/keep in your pantry to support you in a healthful lifestyle.