It’s always a good time for cookies, and these almond butter thumbprints are the ultimate snack (that’s paleo to boot!)
It’s Friday. It’s 98 degrees in Chicago. I have 2 articles due, a three hour train ride back to my parents and have to squeeze in a workout. I think I deserve a cookie.
As you know, I just got back from a 16-day expedition cruise through the icebergs of Greenland and the fjords of Norway. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that I’m no longer on that ship, with those strangers who quickly became family, staring at what is easily one of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes. I’ve had some incredibly life-changing trips and travel experiences that I’ve been beyond blessed to experience and write about, and I can never answer the question “what’s the best place you’ve been?” Because in all honesty, they’re all the best places I’ve been. The world is such a uniquely wonderful place, and I can’t possibly pick a favorite.
I can say now, though, that Norway and Greenland are two that have left a massive impact on me, for a myriad of reasons. Many of which I still can’t find the words for. So, until then, just check out the photos (that don’t do it justice) on my instagram and know that I’ll tell the story of these places as soon as I can sit down to type without massive tears welling up in my eyes.
CAN WE TALK ABOUT COOKIES NOW? My emotions are so incredibly raw and vulnerable lately (read this to understand why), and I haven’t had a solid nights sleep in probably 11 months. I’m on my THIRD venti coffee (and second PSL – don’t judge) and it’s just 11am. So, I’m jittery, crazed and will most likely crash into a pool of my own basic drool on the train ride in about an hour.
So cookies. These thumbprints are probably one of my favorite things in the world. I know it *might* be a little early to start talking cookies, but these babies are too good NOT to share immediately. Not only are they made with almond butter (that I whipped up from scratch), they’re made with almond and coconut flour, which means they’re….drumroll please…PALEO. I’m not paleo in my own diet and don’t have many plans to adapt it, but I do have plans to eat as grain-free as possible since I’m completely stalled on my weight loss.
So, when I have cookies, they’re going to be protein-packed and flour-free, and are probably going to have heaps of natural nut butters in them because that’s all I can seem to stomach lately. So, join me in the celebration of the weekend and let’s eat some mother &^*(ing cookies, alright?
Almond Butter Thumbprints
Yields about 18 – 20 cookies. Slightly adapted from Bakerita.
Prep time: >10 minutes
Cook time: About 12 minutes
For the almond butter:
- 3 cups almonds
- Dash of salt
For the cookies:
- 3/4 cup homemade almond butter
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup almond meal (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1/2 cup organic coconut flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Dash of salt
- 1 cup naturally sweetened jam or unsweetened chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. **
- To make the almonds, spread evenly over a large baking dish. Sprinkle with salt (lava or kosher is best). Bake for about 15 minutes (stopping to stir halfway 8 minutes in), or until fragrant. Let cool slightly and then pour into the canister of a food processor. Pulse on low for 20 – 25 minutes or until cream. The almond butter will look thick and clumpy for the first 20 minutes, that’s normal! It doesn’t start to cream until minute 21 – 23.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the almond butter, egg, honey, applesauce and vanilla together until creamed.
- In another bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda and salt together. Gradually add the flour mixture to the almond butter mixture and stir until fully combined.
- Place the dough into the prepared muffin tin (I used a spoon to scoop it in). Using the back of your thump, gently push down the middle of the dough to make cups.
- Bake for about about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire cooling rack.
- Once cooled, use a small spoon to scoop the jam into the center of the cookie cups. If you’re going to use chocolate chips, simply melt them in a microwavable glass dish with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat until smooth and cream.
**You can also place these on a regular baking sheet and bake them as you normally would.
Nutritional information per cookie:
Fat: 8.3 grams
Carbohydrates: 9 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 4 grams
Welcome Autumn with a big batch of this warm and cozy spicy chicken, vegetable and noodle soup!
As I’m writing this, the ship I’m on is plunging to and fro in waves that roar over 3 meters above the surface of the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Although the movement is sporadic and ravenous, it’s also a little contrived. As soon as we rise above after hitting one, we plunder back into the icy waters. The rhythmic motions haven’t left me seasick, but instead feeling incredibly at peace. The solitude the ocean brings, even when you’re amongst 125 other people, is like therapy to a writer.
Don’t get me wrong, at first, the movements are jarring. You find yourself being thrown around and completely off-kilter. Something happens to you when you lose your balance. In a way, you lose your mind. However, when you let it kind of consume you, you fall into the movements of the waves and it all starts to feel normal, natural even.
There’s truly no place I’d rather be than on the water. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a lake as my playground. I’d spend every waking second I could at my cottages on Lake Erie. I’d swim, sail, boat, jet-ski – if it was on the water, you can believe I was there. I think that’s why I feel so at peace when I can see the glisten of the sun against a body of water.
However, that being said, the charms of rocking back and forth for 40+ hours are starting to fade. As my new British friend on board would say, it quickly sends you into a spiral of madness. As much as I love the water, not having my feet firmly planted on dry land for the better part of 3 days is a bit jarring, and I’m actually craving solid ground in a way I didn’t think I would. I always prided myself on having strong sea legs, but there’s even a limit to my love of water and I *might* just be reaching it. Thankfully land is on the horizon and a hike is calling my name this afternoon.
Sailing, boats and Fjords aside, let’s briefly talk about this bowl of cozy heaven in front of you. Chicken soup is an institution in my house, and even though I’m a vegetarian now, I’ll always remember the feelings of comfort it brought me whenever I was feeling sick, sad, down, blue or cold. Everyone has a version of this soup, and I’ve got quite a few (one with green tea, a classic and a kicked up Mexican version). This one, though, is a little different. It’s a blend of standard chicken noodle with hearty vegetable.
This is a real “stick to your guts” kind of soup without add any extra weight at all. The noodles, which are homemade, add energy boosting carbs, while the chicken and mushrooms give you a healthy dose of protein. The broth, which is kicked up with a bit of jalapeno, is made with heaps of herbs to help fight away seasonal colds. It’s a jack of all trades, much like myself.
The best part? It’s easy as sin, keeping with the theme of this week. The only laborious part, of course, are the noodles, but you can easily make those (with this rustic recipe or recipe with spinach) or buy them at the store. Whatever fits your schedule do it. Just know that after one spoonful of this healthy, delicious soup and you’ll too be transported to your happy place. Whether that’s on the water like me. on a beach, in front of a roaring fire or next to a mountain.
Spicy Chicken, Vegetable & Noodle Soup
Serves about 8. Pasta recipe from The Little Kitchen.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 60+ minutes
Total time: About 80 minutes
For the soup:
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 12 ounces baby bell mushrooms, sliced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped & seeded
- 1 large zucchini, sliced and then quartered
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 3 cans (about 14 1/2 ounces each) low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (not drained)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 whole roasted chicken, cooked and shredded (can sub in rotisserie chicken if you’d like)
- Few sprigs of fresh thyme
- Few sprigs of fresh rosemary
- Few springs of fresh sage
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bean sprouts for garnish
- Cilantro for garnish
For the noodles:
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 – 4 tablespoons water
- To make the pasta, place the flours, salt, eggs and water into the bowl of a standing mixer. Turn on medium and start mixing until fully combined. Note, if the dough is too dry, add additional water, but in teaspoon increments. After about 2 – 3 minutes of mixing, attach the dough hook. Mix for about 2 minutes. Then remove the dough from the bowl and place on a very floured surface. Using your hands, knead until soft and elastic. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for about 5 – 10 minutes.
- Once rested, cut the dough into chunks. Fit your KitchenAid with a pasta making roller attachment. Using a rolling pin, roll out one chunk of dough at a time (careful to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out between use). Carefully push the rolled out dough through the roller. I did this about 3 times to get a very smooth and thin sheet of pasta. Once you’re happy with the thickness, attach the spaghetti and fettuccine attachment. Carefully push the rolled out pasta through that until you get strands.
- Using a pasta drying rack, dry the pasta noodles until ready to use.
- To make the soup, heat the olive oil over medium high head. Add the onions and cook for about 2 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for about one minute. Add the butter and stir in the mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, celery, jalapeno and bell pepper. Cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables start to tenderize.
- Gradually add in the broth, diced tomatoes and lime juice, stirring well. Mix in the fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 8 – 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add in the chicken and simmer another 2 – 4 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta in batches and cook until al-dente. Rinse in cold water and add to the large bowl of soup or serve separately. Add some bean sprouts & cilantro for garnish and enjoy!
Nutritional information per serving (about 1 cup of soup):
Fat: 3.8 grams
Carbohydrates: 12 grams
Fiber: .5 grams
Protein: 3.5 grams
These cinnamon sugar baked donut bites are so easy, you’ll want to make them all week long!
We’re keeping with the easy theme this week, and I’m pretty sure y’all aren’t mad about that, are you? With back to school in full swing, the seasons changing and the stress, I mean excitement, of upcoming holidays, easy is something we all need a little bit more of.
Especially when it comes to donuts, which is one of the hardest things I’ve had to give up on my quest for fitness. Can I live without meat? Yes. Dairy? Probably. Donuts? UGHH.
The thing is, I rarely indulge in a flakey, cakey, sprinkle topped donut, but when I do, it’s like armageddon. I black out and before I come to, all of the donuts in sight are devoured and I’m in a sugar and fat induced coma that’s nearly impossible to shake. Maybe it’s because as a kid, I’d enjoy donuts anytime I went home to see my grandparents and have such fond memories of them.
Or maybe it’s just the simple fact that they’re sweet little balls of dough that are deep-fried, dredged in glaze or chocolate and often filled with an insatiable variety of creams, jellies or custards. I’ve never met a donut I didn’t like, and considering how many people I meet that I loathe, that’s saying something. I kid. Mostly. Even though I adore these baked banana nut donuts and could consume 62 of these bite-size whole wheat strawberry ones, these decadent little morsels might be my favorite yet. I feel a bit like a hack, though, because they’re not homemade at all, actually.
They’re made with biscuit dough! Doing my best Sandra Lee impersonation, I really just made these out of boredom one day. I had two rolls of biscuit dough in the fridge, enough cinnamon to coat a baby (thanks to a recent trip to India) and heaps of milk (thanks to a farmers market impulse buy). Normal people would probably bake the biscuits for dinner, but I decided to turn them into little donuts and then slather then in a cream cheese cinnamon roll icing glaze.
You could omit the glaze, but why would you? Only truly terrible people would do that, and none of you lovely folks fit that category. So just don’t, okay?
Cinnamon Sugar Baked Donut Bites
Yields about 12 – 16 donut holes, depending on size. Recipe adapted from Pillsbury.
Prep time: >8 minutes
Cook time: About 18 minutes
For the donuts:
- 1 can (16.3 ounces) buttermilk biscuit dough (I used the reduced-fat version)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup butter
For the glaze:
- 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a cast iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray. (Note, you can also use an 8 x 8 round cake pan or a 9 x 13 glass baking dish as well).
- Remove the biscuits from the canister. Using your hands or a knife, break each biscuit apart into two or four pieces (depending on how big you want the bites to be).
- Melt the butter in a microwave for about 30 seconds (at 100% power). Whisk the cinnamon and the brown sugar together.
- Using a fork or your hands, dip the dough bites into butter and then cover liberally in the cinnamon brown sugar dusting. Place into the skillet. If you want, you can place them further apart to make separate bites, or do as I did and lump them together. This gives you almost a pull apart doughnut cake in the end.
- Bake for about 16 – 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
- While the bites cool, make the icing. In a mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar, butter, almond extract and vanilla extract. While the bites are still warm, drizzle the glaze over them (or pour liberally, your call). Garnish with chopped nuts and enjoy!
Nutritional information per serving (about 2 bites):
Fat: 12.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 42 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 4.2 grams
This easy, cheesy crock pot tortellini is the ultimate fall comfort food dish. Plus, it practically makes itself!
It’s hard to believe how many people quickly turned from “SUMMER BERRIES! TOMATOES! ALL THE ZUCCHINI!” to “PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING!” as soon as Labor Day passed. Trust me, I get it. I’m a basic b who loves all things fall too. (You should see the extensive collection of scarves, boots and cardigans I own, it’s uncomfortable). But, as I said here in this berry frozen yogurt post, I’m not a fan of wishing away seasons while we’re still in them.
However, I am a fan of cheesy and hearty carbohydrates, and for that, I’m happy #winteriscoming.
I mean, look at all that cheese! I’m pretty sure this photo was why the heart-eyed emoji was created.
As excited as I am for fall and winter, I’m also a *little* stressed. As crazy as summer was for travel (just look at my Instagram), fall and winter are going to be even busier. I’m currently floating in the middle of the Arctic sea in Greenland, and from here, I go to China, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Australia, Mexico, Belize and then Nepal. Just reading all of those countries has me in a dizzy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely thrilled at the prospect of visiting so many new-to-me places and revisiting places I’ve fell in love with, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely bummed to miss my favorite season in its peak.
That’s the life, though, of an intrepid and adventurous travel writer and I’ll never complain about the life I’m blessed (and have worked HARD) to have. It’s actually these insanely busy months that make the moments at home even more meaningful. Plus, after 8+ weeks of eating out for every meal, there’s nothing that tastes better than something you’ve made yourself.
I have this routine when I get back from a trip. First, I do all of my laundry (self explanatory), cuddle the heck out of my dog, spend a few hours catching up with my mom and then immediately get to meal prepping and planning. I write down every single dish I’ve dreamt about making when on the road and then immediately start planning a grocery list. When your ilfe is so void of any sort of normalcy, there’s nothing more exciting than going to a grocery store, shopping for food and then making the dishes you’ve spent the past 8 weeks dreaming about.
Like this easy, cheesy tortellini. Even though it’s not fancy or complicated, it’s homemade. And when you’re on the road for weeks on end, nothing is more comforting than a taste of home.
Easy, Cheesy Crock Pot Tortellini
Serves about 4.
Prep time: 5 – 8 minutes
Cook time: 7 hours
- 1 pound ground turkey or chicken*
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store bought)
- 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup chopped red and green bell pepper
- 1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted Italian), drained
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 package (9 ounces) tortellini (you can even make your own if you’re feeling brave)
- Salt and pepper
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
- Fresh basil chopped
**Can substitute soy-based meat or tempeh if you’d like.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground meat and break up with a spatula. Add Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is golden brown and crumbly. Remove from heat and drain the fat.
- Spray the bottom of a 4 – 5 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix the meat, marinara, mushrooms, bell peppers, diced tomatoes, onion and garlic together. Mix in the tortellini and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and cook on low for about 6 1/2 – 7 hours, stirring occasionally. Add in the chopped mozzarella and parmesan and cook an additional 30 – 40 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.
Nutritional information per serving:
Fat: 26.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 61 grams
Fiber: 3.2 grams
Protein: 37 grams
Enjoy those last dog days of summer with this easy homemade strawberry frozen yogurt!
Y’all, who is ready for some fro-yo? Yes, I just said fro-yo and NO, I don’t feel bad about it.
So, can we talk for a second about how many people on my social media networks are already talking about fall? Not just talking about fall, but wishing for it. Trust me, I’m not a huge fan of sweating and I love that crisp Autumn weather and all of the #basic favorites that come along with it. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life and my travels, it’s this – we all need to spend more time living in the moment.
I may lose some credibility here, but there’s a movie that describes this better than I can. It’s called Click. It stars Adam Sandler, I know, but it actually portrays this exact dilemma in a really powerful way. As a synopsis, Adam’s character has trouble living his life in that moment so he procures a magical instrument that can fast-forward his life.
It sounds cheesy but it truly showcases what it’s like to wish away the moment you’re in for a better one. Trust me, there were moments of this year I wish I could have fast-forwarded through and skipped past without having to truly experience them. Looking back now, though, I wouldn’t trade those moments even if I had to. They were hard, emotional and truly challenging, but they’ve helped shape who I am today and I’m forever thankful for that.
As much as I want fall, I’m not ever going to wish away summer to get it. Instead, I’m going to live in this very second, eat a big bowl of this homemade strawberry frozen yogurt, and enjoy a few more nights on the front porch with a glass of rose, listening to the familiar buzz of secadas.
Life is short enough, why don’t we stop wishing for what’s next and just start appreciating for what’s happening right now?
Easy Homemade Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Yields about 1 quart (4 cups).
Prep time: 5 – 8 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours
- 1/2 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
- 1/2 pound fresh raspberries
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- Fresh mint for garnish
- Mix the strawberries, raspberries, sugar, honey and lemon zest together.
- Add the berries and yogurt to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl, cover with saran wrap and chill for at least 2 – 3 hours.
- Once chilled, place into the frozen canister of an ice cream maker. Churn for about 15 – 20 minutes or until thick and creamy.
Nutritional information per serving (1/2 cup):
Fat: >1 gram
Carbohydrates: 21 grams
Fiber: >1 gram