Avo Dressing [& Green Veggie Bowl]

Confession time. While on vacation, the closest things to a vegetable that I ate were pickles, coleslaw and the teeny tiny chunks of tomato and lettuce on my tacos. Talk about nutritious… I firmly believe that life is all about balance, but I struggled with balance as every restaurant in North Carolina had hush puppies and an assortment of pies. After a week of inhaling seafood and every carb, I needed a fresh start. In the moment, that meant green EVERYTHING. I went crazy in the produce section at my grocery store and for someone who has a love/hate relationship with veggies, I was pleasantly surprised with the result – avocado dressing for my green veggie bowl (insert heart eyeballs emoji here). Since I made this dressing a few weeks ago, I haven’t been able to stop craving it!

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This game changing recipe took me less than five minutes and is probably my favorite dressing so far.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 1/2 limes
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • Handful of cilantro
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

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Dice your avocados and juice your limes. Throw your avocado, lime juice, water, cilantro and spices into your blender and blend until smooth and creamy. For a more liquid consistency, add more water.

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See, I told you it was easy. You can add this dressing to any of your favorite salads. I added mine to a giant veggie bowl that had spiralized zucchini, fresh green beans, broccoli, edamame and peas. It was SO yummy!

I highly encourage you to try this recipe out. You won’t regret it!

Naturally,

Ari

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Do It Yourself: Almond Milk

Almond milk isn’t anything new – nearly everyone knows what it is. It’s a great alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan, or even for those who just hate cow’s milk. But haven’t you ever wondered how almond milk is made? You can’t really “milk” an almond like you can milk a cow… so how the heck do you get milk from an almond?? I’ll tell ya! It’s much simpler than you think!

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Ingredients:

  • ½ c. raw almonds, soaked
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. liquid sweetener (honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.)

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First things first. Soak your almonds. Place your almonds in a bowl of water. Let your almonds sit in the water over night (or for 8 hours).

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After 8 hours, drain the water from your almonds and rinse.

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Place your 1/2 cup of soaked almonds into a blender with 2 cups of fresh, filtered water. Blend until the almonds are finely ground and the liquid is a milky color. If you choose, add the vanilla and sweetener. Blend again.

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Grab a jar (or other container) and begin to strain the almond”pulp” from the liquid using a nut milk bag (you can find these cheap on Amazon!) or a cheese cloth. I don’t recommend using a coffee filter because they tend to rip once soaked, letting the “pulp” back into the strained liquid… nobody wants gritty almond milk.

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Once you’ve strained the liquid and almonds and have only the liquid in the jar, gently squeeze the remaining almond in the cheese cloth or nut milk bag, making sure not to let the pulp get into the liquid.

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That’s it! Once you’re done, store in the fridge. This recipe makes a very small batch, about 2 cups. For a larger batch, multiply the recipe. The important thing to keep in mind is to maintain a 1:4 ratio of almonds to water.

Let me know how this works for you!

Naturally,

Ari.

Easy & Delicious Blackberry Chip Ice Cream

Yesterday, Josh and I went to our local fruit farm and picked donut peaches and blackberries. I kid you not, they were the sweetest, juiciest peaches and berries I’ve ever tried. It took every ounce of self control to not devour them as soon as I got home. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

I knew exactly what I was going to do with the berries. I don’t know about you but I love ice cream. It’s my one true (food) love. I could eat an entire meal and ALWAYS have room for ice cream. I could eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, during spring, summer, fall and winter. You think I’m kidding but I’m being completely serious. I just really like ice cream. And my love for ice cream is what’s bringing this sweet, fruity, creamy goodness to you.

This recipe is great because it’s both delicious AND easy – it doesn’t require an ice cream maker! I was inspired by a family favorite, Black Raspberry Chip ice cream.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 qt. fresh blackberries
  • chocolate chunks

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Start by freezing your fresh blackberries. The best way to do this is to lay them on a lined baking sheet in one layer. This will help keep the berries from lumping together. Leave in the freezer overnight. I really struggled with this step – I kept eating all of my berries before they hit the sheet. They were SO juicy!

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Once your berries are frozen, throw them in a food processor and blend until smooth. If you need something to help the berries blend better, add a little heavy whipping cream or water. (I personally like having the seeds in the pureed berries because it makes it seem like a more natural berry ice cream, rather than just artificial flavoring.) Set blended berries aside.

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Using a standing mixer or hand mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream until it forms a whipped cream like texture (or soft peaks). Once your cream is the right texture, add in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.

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Slowly mix in spoonfuls of the berry puree until you get the desired berry flavor. I added all of my berry puree because I wanted a richer berry flavor. This is my favorite part because the mixture starts to turn a pretty purple color!

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Once you’ve added in all of your berry puree, fold in your chocolate chunks using a spatula.

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Once you’re done making your ice cream mixture, pour into baking pans or a container and let sit in the freezer. I froze mine for about 5 hours.

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Viola! This ice cream was so good and it took hardly any time at all! I can’t wait to try out new flavors. 🙂

Naturally,

Ari.

 

 

This recipe is an altered version of Martha Stewart’s No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream.

Activated Charcoal Lemonade

When life gives you lemons, make charcoal lemonade.

What?! Charcoal lemonade?? Yes! I said it. Charcoal lemonade. Before you say “forget that” and close your browser, hear me out!

When you read “charcoal” you’re probably thinking of the charcoal you use in the grill. It’s similar but it’s not the same! Activated charcoal typically comes in powder form (either loose powder or in capsules) and is tasteless and odorless. Activated charcoal is known for it’s detoxifying properties. It absorbs toxins and can help eliminate them from our systems. Some things that activated charcoal has been claimed to help with are bloat, gas, skin health, digestion, cholesterol reduction, and teeth whitening. This activated charcoal lemonade tastes just like the tasty summer drink, just with some extra health benefits!

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Ingredients:

  • 5 c. of filtered water
  • 3-4 lemons (enough to make 3/4 c. – 1c. of juice)
  • 2 tsp. activated charcoal
  • natural sweetener of choice to taste (stevia, agave, honey, maple syrup, etc.)
  • optional – a few drops of lemon essential oil, herbs (mint, rosemary, thyme, etc.)

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Juice your lemons. I find that rolling your lemons on a hard surface before cutting them in half helps to make them easier to juice.

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Pour your juice, water and sweetener of choice into a pitcher (I used stevia). Stir until all components are combined.

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Add in your activated charcoal and stir. I purchased mine on Amazon in powder form. When using the activated charcoal, be careful. It’s very easy to get powder everywhere and it can stain clothing and counter tops (although I’ve clumsily spilled and haven’t had an issue with stains yet!).

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This lemonade can be as sweet or as tart as you like! It is slightly textured but unless you have intense texture issues, it won’t even phase you.

Hopefully you venture out and try this charcoal lemonade!

Naturally,

Ari

 

Snickers Brownie Truffles

As much as I enjoy choosing healthier alternatives for things, sometimes you just can’t beat the “original” – and that’s okay. Life is all about balance, right? So don’t be afraid to indulge a little! If you are going to indulge, I definitely recommend this sweet treat ; ). It has chocolate, brownie (need I say more?) and Snickers all rolled up into one perfect little truffle.

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Ingredients:

For the brownies:

  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. melted shortening (butter and margarine will also work well)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

For the truffles:

  • Prepared brownies
  • 2 Snickers bars
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Milk chocolate chips

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Put all of the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and baking powder) into a large bowl and thoroughly mix until it’s even throughout.

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Once dry ingredients are evenly mixed, add in the wet ingredients (butter, vanilla and eggs) and combine into a batter. The batter should be thick, almost like a dough.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 8×8 or 9×9 pan with non-stick spray or butter. Plop the brownie batter into the pan and spread out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The brownies will even out a decent amount when they’re in the oven. Bake the brownies for 20-25 minutes.

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While the brownies are baking, cut your snickers bars into small squares. I cut mine the long way once and then horizontally five or six times.

Remove the brownies from the oven and allow to cool before cutting into small squares. Your brownies should be more on the “fudgy” side, rather than cake-like. The smaller the squares, the more truffles you’ll have. The edges of the brownies don’t make for the best truffles so consider that when cutting your squares. They do make a good pre-truffle snack though 🙂

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With each brownie square, flatten it in the palm of your hand, place a Snickers piece in the middle and fold the edges of the brownie over the Snickers chunk. Form the brownie into a ball.

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Place the brownie/Snickers balls into the freezer for about 10 minutes. While these are freezing, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring in between, until fully melted.

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Take the brownie/Snickers balls out of the freezer. Roll the truffles in the melted chocolate until evenly coated and place on a baking sheet with wax paper. Quickly sprinkle with chopped nuts before the chocolate hardens. Once all truffles are coated in chocolate and peanuts, place back in the freezer for another 10-15 minutes, or until the chocolate shell hardens.

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I love making truffles and out of all the different kinds I’ve made so far, these have to be my favorite (and that’s saying a lot for someone who hates peanuts)! If you need a second opinion, I made these for Josh’s dad’s birthday and he seemed to enjoy them!

Let me know what your favorite truffle recipes are!

Enjoy!

Naturally,

Ari.

A Guide to Making Your Own Snack Bites


Hi friends!

Are always on-the go, really into your health, or do you have a major sweet tooth? Or if you’re anything like me, all of the above? If so, I get it! It can be so challenging to juggle a jam-packed schedule AND make healthy decisions at the same time. That’s one of my biggest problems. Because of how much time I spend at school at work, I end up picking up convenient snacks over healthy snacks. Another one of my major problems is that I struggle to curb my sweet tooth while eating a healthy, balanced diet. Curse you, ice cream, for being so creamy and delicious…

But have no fear – energy bites are the “cure” to BOTH of these problems. After you’ve prepped a batch for the week, which takes hardly any time at all, they’re quick and easy for us on-the-go gals and they’re a healthier (but still tasty!) alternative to a lot of store bought, pre-packaged sweets. Not only are they quick and healthy, but they’re customizable and versatile. YOU are in control of what flavors you make, how sweet they are, if they’re vegan or gluten free and so much more!

I’ve seen hundreds of variations of these little spheres of heaven, and I bet you have too! So rather than giving you a recipe, I’m going to also share with you the basics of how to make up your own energy bites without a recipe.

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There are four parts to making these yummy little treats – a base, the “glue”, sweetener and your flavors/toppings. As I said before, these are completely customizable to you. You can have as few or as many ingredients in your masterpiece as you wish. If you only want a base, somethin’ sticky and a topping, that’s totally fine! If you want 5 different toppings, that’s also perfect too! The more you make these, the more you’ll get used to the proportions of ingredients.

The base is going to be the main ingredient. It’s going to give your energy bites a denser, heartier texture. In most cases, you’ll have more of your base than any other component. Some common bases in snack bites are oats, oat flour, oat bran, ground nuts (usually almonds or cashews), seeds, almond or flax meal and coconut.

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The “glue” is what helps hold all of the other ingredients together. Typically, you’ll use the same amount of “glue” as you do for the base, or less! It depends on how many other ingredients you have in your energy bites! Sometimes, these sticky substances can serve as both the “glue” and the sweetener! You can use different nut or seed butters, honey, pumpkin puree, coconut oil, mashed banana or even mashed sweet potato as the glue for your energy bites!

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Finally, my favorite part – the flavors and toppings! This is where you can really make your energy bites speak to your taste buds. You can add no flavors or toppings, or tons. Just remember that you may have to adjust how much base and “glue” you use so that everything stays together. The possibilities are endless here. For flavors and toppings, you can use pumpkin seeds or other seeds, pumpkin puree, chocolate chips, coconut, raisins and other smaller dried fruit, cocoa powder, slivered almonds and other chopped nuts, and spices like cinnamon.

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Now that you have all of the components of how to make your own energy bites, get out there and try making some of your own and get creative with it!

Here’s one of my favorites:

Chocolate Chip Flax Seed Bites

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Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ c. oats
  • 1 c. nut butter
  • ¼ c. honey
  • ⅓ c. coconut flakes
  • ⅓ c. dark chocolate chips
  • ¼ c. pumpkin seeds (raw or toasted)
  • ¼ c. ground flax seed

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Measure out oats, nut butter, honey, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds and flax seed in a bowl.

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For my nut butter, I chose to use OMG! Flax Butter. It’s full of omega-3’s and is SUPER creamy. You don’t feel any grittiness or the texture of seeds, which I really like. Don’t expect it to taste like peanut butter or almond butter – it has it’s own unique but delicious flavor. I did get this flax butter for free but all opinions are still honest and my own.  If you’re interested, you can check it out here!

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Thoroughly combine all ingredients until mixture is even throughout.

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Take small sections of the mix and roll into small balls. It may be a little tough with sticky hands so I pressed mine into balls more than I actually rolled them. Place on a sheet of wax paper and freeze for about 30 minutes.

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See, you guys! It’s fairly quick and simple and they’re super yummy. They’re almost like a ball form of a granola bar. I don’t know about you, but I like knowing what ingredients went into my food so I think this is much better than pre-packaged, store bought granola bars!

Let me know what kind of snack bites you guys come up with!

Naturally,

Ari.

Recipe: Healthy Meatballs

Growing up in an Italian family, eating tons of delicious, not-so-healthy dishes was a family past-time. I don’t remember a time where we went to my grandparents house and some variation of pasta with meatballs wasn’t being served – lasagna, penne, baby pastinas, spaghetti… you name it – we definitely didn’t discriminate.

One of my favorite things to do at Grandma and Grandpa’s house was to help Grandpa roll the meatballs. I looked forward to it every trip.

Now, as I’m older and I’ve grown to prefer healthier, lighter alternatives to some of my favorite dishes, I’ve come up with a healthier version of a family favorite – meatballs. I’m sure even Grandpa would approve.

For this recipe, I made a pretty big batch for my big family, and for leftovers for lunches. You could easily half this recipe for a smaller quantity.

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  • 3 lbs Lean Ground Turkey
  • 15 oz. Fresh Spinach
  • 1 cup Oat Flour (more for sturdier meatballs)
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup of finely diced Onions
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced Garlic
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1 tbsp. Dried Parsley
  • Olive Oil

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What I love about this recipe is that the swaps are simple but make a huge difference! We traded out the ground beef for ground turkey, the breadcrumbs for oat flour and added spinach for a nutrient boost! A bonus: this recipe is pretty quick to throw together and you can make your pasta while you wait for your meatballs to bake.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil.

Over medium heat, cook the minced garlic and diced onions until onions begin to become transparent.

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Add fresh spinach. (Depending on how you prefer, you can choose to remove the stems and chop your spinach into finer bits.)

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Continue to cook the onions, garlic and spinach until the spinach is wilted. This should only take a few minutes.

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Beat the large eggs until yolk is separated into the whites.

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, oat flour, eggs, spices and mix.

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When thoroughly combined, knead in spinach, onions and garlic mixture.

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Scoop evenly portioned balls of the meat mixture and roll into balls (I used an ice cream/cookie dough scoop).

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Space the meatballs evenly on a baking sheet.

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Bake the meatballs for about 25 minutes, depending on the size of your meatballs.

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It took two batches to get rid of all the meatball mixture. I served mine with edamame spaghetti and traditional pasta sauce!

Let me know some of your favorite “healthier” pasta alternatives! I’m always up for a yummy Italian-inspired meal. : )

Naturally,

Ari.