Gluten-Free, Vegan Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

What better to accompany your Pumpkin Spice Latte (#PSL) than some protein- and fiber-rich Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix? Loaded with nutritious nuts, crispy cereal and oats, and chewy apples, this is the perfect fall snack at work, before the gym, or anytime you need a little pick me up. Also, with Halloween rapidly approaching this Friday, this trail mix is a great party treat that offers a more nutritionally, texturally, and gustatorily complex update on the classic party Chex Mix.

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

Ingredients
1 ½ cup Cinnamon Chex
1 cup Honey Nut Chex
½ cup Brown Rice Crisp cereal (I used plain, no salt added)
½ cup GF granola (I used Love Grown’s Simply Oats)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup walnut pieces
½ cup pecan pieces
½ cup pistachios
¼ cup almonds
½ cup of dried apples
¼ cup vegan Earth Balance
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla

Directions

1. Combine cereals and nuts in a large, microwave-safe bowl.
2. Add ¼ cup of Earth Balance to a separate microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 40 seconds or until melted.
3. Add 2 tsp of vanilla, ¼ cup brown sugar, and 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice to Earth Balance and stir well.
4. Pour liquid mixture over trail mix.
5. Microwave for 5 minutes, stirring every minute.

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

Snickity Snacks: Nika’s Favorite Gluten-Free, Vegan Snacks

A snickity snack. A mid-day nom. A tid bit to tide you through. A morsel make your stomach stop grumbling. We all need them, whether it be the mid-morning munchies, the mid-afternoon hump, the pre-workout pump up, or the post-workout recovery. Some equate “snacks” with diet mishaps, a bingeful bag of chips gone in one sitting. Snacks are not diet disasters; in fact, they are essential to staying on track with your healthy lifestyle. However, choosing healthy snacks is crucial for keeping these mini-meals from turning into mishaps full of wasted calories, waistful calories. Snacks can be an excellent opportunity to fit some extra protein into your day or to squeeze in another serving of fruits and vegetables. Today I’ll be sharing with you some of my favorite healthy snacks!

Step one, cover everything in almond butter

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Apple slices and almond butter

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Banana and almond butter

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One slice of gluten free or whole grain bread topped with almond butter and ½ of a banana

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Gluten free or whole grain crackers with almond butter

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Plain rice cake with almond butter and banana slices

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Sliced apple, dipped in almond butter, and rolled in granola

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½ banana, covered in almond butter, and rolled in granola

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½ banana, covered in almond butter, rolled in vegan chocolate chips

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Baby carrots with almond butter

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Celery with almond butter and raisins (or dried blueberries, cherries, etc). Although, most of you know my hatred for celery.

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Whole grain tortilla and 1 tbsp of almond butter wrapped around a banana, slice into bite-sized pieces

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Literally anything + almond butter is delicious

Step two, cover everything in hummus

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– Baby carrots with hummus
– Celery with hummus
– Raw broccoli and cauliflower with hummus
– Sugar snap peas with hummus
– Cherry tomatoes with hummus
– Gluten free or whole grain crackers with hummus
– Gluten free or whole grain pretzels with hummus

Step three, get fruity

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Fresh fruit makes a quick and easy snack. Grab any of the following: apple, banana, peach, orange, or a sprig of grapes.

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Fresh fruit cup. This is one of my work lunch favorites, and it makes a great dessert. I’ll cut up an apple and some strawberries and toss with some blueberries, raspberries, and whatever else I may have on hand (some sliced banana, peaches, kiwi, etc). Usually I eat it plain, or you can top it with some granola.

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Frozen grapes- this makes a great snack or dessert, especially on a hot day. Wash fresh grapes and put them in the freezer for several hours, and they will turn into refreshing mini fruit pops.

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Fruit parfait- choose your desired vegan yogurt (in my opinion, soy is the best tasting out of soy, almond, and coconut) or Greek yogurt if you are not dairy free. If you can, choose Greek yogurt with minimal additives and sugars, as Greek yogurt contains much higher amounts of protein and beneficials probiotics. Top yogurt with your favorite add-ons: fresh cut fruit, nuts, gluten-free granola, vegan chocolate chips… whatever tickles your fancy!

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Fruit protein smoothie: see my classic smoothie recipe here. Choose your favorite frozen fruits, toss in a banana, sprinkle a scoop of plant-based vegan protein powder (Plant Fusion is my favorite), add some organic 100% apple juice, and blend.

Step Four, get salty and savory

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Chocolate Almond Butter Cookie Smoothie (recipe here): almond butter, almond milk, a banana, some cookies and cream vegan protein powder and you’ve got yourself a sweet and savory protein smoothie. Need an extra kick? Add some coffee to turn this into a mocha frappuccino with a protein punch.

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Protein bars/granola bars: Out of all the gluten-free, vegan protein bars out there right now, my favorite is probably the Strong and Kind bar. They taste delicious, have a short (and pronounceable) list of ingredients, and have only 6g of sugar and 230 calories for 10g of protein (whereas other protein bars have upwards of 17-20g of sugar and a laundry list of less-than-basic ingredients). I also like the Pro Bar Core bars (review here) and the Bonk Breakers (review here).

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Trail mix: Trail mix is probably my favorite snack right now, especially for a protein boost before my afternoon workout. My current mix includes: almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, gluten free granola, raisins, dried blueberries, dried plums, dried apples, and vegan chocolate chips.

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10 tortilla chips + salsa, hummus, or guacamole

These are a few of my favorite things… let me know what your favorite healthy gluten-free, vegan snack is! ❤ Nika

Making Smoothies in Bulk & and a Lesson on Adhering to a Healthy Living Lifestyle

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I love a good fruity protein smoothie. Not only are these frozen delights chock full of fruit, fiber, antioxidants, and protein, but they are also a refreshing treat for any moment of your day. Don’t have time to eat breakfast before you leave the house? Grab a fruit protein smoothie and a granola bar, and you’re out the door. Need a mid-day snack? Smoothie. Pre-workout boost? Smoothie. Post-workout recovery and treat to carry you over to the next meal? Smoothie. Dessert? Smoothie.

 TL;DR: Drink smoothies all day errday.

Herein lies the rub- smoothies can be a bitch to make. I follow the same standard recipe every time I make a smoothie- the “Nika’s Classic Fruit Protein Smoothie” (recipe here). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? This smoothie is, in my opinion, the best smoothie because it’s like all the smoothies combined into one- strawberries, blueberries, peaches, mango, banana, cherries, raspberries, apple juice, protein powder… It’s the “everything but the kitchen sink” version of the fruit smoothie. The only downside to this is the prep- simply gathering and preparing all those different types of fruit, most of them frozen, can be a pain in the ass. I’m already pressed for time in the morning, so there’s absolutely no way I’m going to be able to get all the ingredients out, make the smoothie, clean everything up, and drink my smoothie without being absurdly late. My solution to this? Making smoothies in bulk- how to enjoy smoothies all day, errday without blendin’ all day, errday.

My recipe (and I use this term loosely because I never follow a recipe when I make anything, everything is by eye) yields about four smoothies. I can increase or decrease this number by the amount of fruit or by the amount of liquid I add. Typically I make my smoothies in the evening, drink one as a post-workout recovery, enjoy one either in the morning or post-workout the following day, and then I have two more to enjoy. I’ll keep the one that I drink the following day in the refrigerator, but I will freeze the other two so they will keep longer.

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Initially, I was storing my smoothies in Lilly Pulitzer cups, as you can see in the recipe post linked above. Now, that option worked fine at home, but if I needed to transport my smoothies to work or to the gym, it was a mess when they began to thaw. I had thought about purchasing some mason jars in which to store my smoothies, but then inspiration struck- recycle!

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Introducing Argo Tea, my recent obsession. Not only do these teas taste delicious, they come in adorable glass bottles… that are the perfect size for storing smoothies. I haven’t tried all the above flavors because the selection is limited in my town, but I have tried the Hibiscus Tea Sangria (omg, my favorite), the Green Tea Ginger Twist, and the Mojitea (my least favorite, I think the mint tea was a little weird for me). I have a Carolina Honey in my refrigerator that I still need to try, but I’m sure it’s going to be delicious (tea and honey, how could this be anything but amazing?).

After I finish sipping these delicious teas, I remove the plastic label, wash them, and then use them for smoothie shenanigans! They’re great in the refrigerator, in the freezer, at home, in the car, at the gym, at work, in your backpack or purse…. literally everywhere.

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If you’re feeling extra crafty and cute, you could purchase some labels, such as these chalkboard labels, for your jars so you could write the type of smoothie, your name, the date you made it…whatever strikes your fancy!

Cooking in bulk and “meal prepping” are great ways to encourage and facilitate adherence to a healthy lifestyle. So much of healthy living is determination, planning, and foresight. Therefore, this is not merely “cheating” on your “diet.” It’s not like sneaking another dessert that Jenny or Atkins won’t know about… just your little secret right? You deserve/need/want that extra dessert because of whatever fill in the blank bullshit is going on in your life. We are always going to be stressed, pressed for time, running late, running behind, too busy, frantically bouncing through our days dealing with life’s drama and wishing there were more hours in the day. But it’s your responsibility as a person to take care of yourself. So even if no one sees you sneak that extra dessert, you will know- and so will your scale, your pants, your skin, your waistline, and your self-confidence. How many times have you eaten that little extra something and then loathed yourself for it? Berating and beating yourself up? How many times has that actually led to something productive, other than more cheating, more desserts, more missed workouts and poor choices? Being healthy is not a fad, it’s not a diet- it’s a lifestyle. For life. You cheat on your lifestyle and you’re only cheating yourself. Thus, there is no excuse other than your own poor planning for eating unhealthfully.

Oh you forgot to eat breakfast, so you’ll just stop somewhere on the way to work? Let me know how that greasy, artificial animal byproduct fluff claiming to be “egg” tastes cozied up to that plastic square of “cheese” and mechanized Wilbur butt “bacon.” How’s that going to make you feel the rest of the day? Let me know how quickly your indigestion and lethargy kicks in. Instead, keep smoothies in your freezer, protein bars on hand, steel cut oatmeal packets tucked away, and always keep extra food at work.

Oh you forgot lunch, so you’ll just go out to eat or grab something at the cafeteria? False. If you’re not already bringing your own lunches with you to work/school everyday, I am shaking my head at you. This little part of your day is crucial for healthy living. You either have the chance to replenish and refuel your body with something healthy and homemade, or you can clog up your arteries with whatever death du jour Hardees is serving up next door. Even a frozen meal (albeit a healthy, Nika-approved one) is a better option than anything you’ll find in a cafeteria or fast food restaurant.

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If you do have to go out, choose somewhere like Chipotle, where you can get a salad or bowl and choose your own ingredients. Notice how I said salad or bowl and not burrito? Getting a burrito adds 300 calories to your meal before you even put anything in it. On the other hand, lettuce adds a whopping 15 calories as base. For example, the salad I always get at Chipotle (brown rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, chicken, tomato salsa) weighs in at 550 calories, which is no problemo for me due to the amount of exercise I get in a day. That same combination in a burrito is 840 calories… at that point, you’re rivaling the neighboring McDonalds for a calorie count, and your cutesy elliptical jaunt is not going to cover that. Also, if you get cheese and sour cream… I just… I can’t. No. Just no. You’re adding an additional 225 calories that are completely worthless to you. If you’re trying to plan a lean meal at Chipotle, I would also avoid the corn salsa, which carries 85 calories, compared to 20 calories for the other tomato-based salsas.

Living at healthy lifestyle is really not that difficult. Challenging, yes. But really difficult? no. Nor is it some mystical, elusive treasure reserved only for the majestic, rainbow fitness unicorns that poop gluten-free vegan pellets between spinning and Pure Barre classes. With some determination, persistence, research, planning, and preparation, you can accomplish mystical unicorn status as well, and I’ll be here every step of the way to lead you out to pasture.

❤ Nika

‘Tis the season for Pumpkin Spice- or is it?

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Fall is officially here, which means gratuitous amounts of Pumpkin Spice paraphernalia is coming (also, winter is coming… But please, let’s not talk about that yet). The Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has such a cult following that it even has an abbreviation (PSL) and countless Tumblr pages dedicated to capturing the fall-tastic essence of the PSL and various other fall things “white girls love.” Since I’m a Starbucks-drinking, Michael Kors-toting, legging and riding boot-wearing basic white girl, I thought I would embrace my inner basic bitch and indulge in the PSL. Turns out I’m not as basic as I thought- I found the PSL to be mostly hype.

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Gasp. I know, how dare I insult the Pumpkin Spice Life (err… I mean “latte”). I just wasn’t blown away by it- the flavor was meh, and I find most Starbucks seasonal drinks to be far too sugary for my liking. Plus, everyone knows that the Peppermint Mocha is the Queen Bey of seasonal lattes (even though it, too, becomes too sweet for me).

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So what’s a girl to do to get her fall swag on? Fear not, for there is a year-round solution to feed your latte addiction: the cinnamon dolcé latte… A skinny cinnamon dolcé latte with soy milk, to be exact. I’ve already blogged once before about the wonders of the cinnamon dolcé latte (CDL?). Not only does the soy CDL taste better, it contains much less calories and sugar (140 calories and 13g sugar for a grande soy CDL vs 310 calories and 48g in a grande soy PSL). Even more horrifying, if you don’t order your PSL with soy/nonfat milk and you indulge in whipped cream, you’re looking at 380 calories in your white and green cup. Too many of those and you’ll really begin to question if legging as pants is a good idea.

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So enjoy fall- pick pumpkins, wear riding boots and leggings, throw on that J.Crew blazer, rock a chunky scarf, whip out your cashmere tech gloves, but don’t fall victim to the PSL life. This has been a PSA against PSL by the Cinnamon Dolcé Coalition against Lumpy Legging Butt (CDC against LLB? Has a nice ring to it).

❤ Nika

Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate Espresso Protein Bar Recipe

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Holy espresso chip batman, these bars are amazeballs and contain 10g of protein and 4.5g of fiber for only 245 calories and 4g of sugar! I dare you to find a comparable protein bar in the store (spoiler: you won’t. They are all loaded with sugar.) Plus, the majority of the fats in this bar are healthy unsaturated fats (think omega-3s, polyunsats, and monounsats!) from heart-healthy nuts, seeds, and oats.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Nutrition LabelI just… I don’t even know how to begin to transcribe the taste of these slices of heaven. Should I start with the gooey, rich chocolate? Or perhaps the way the taste of espresso permeates the dense oats? Or maybe I should begin by describing the way that chopped walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds add an airy crunch to the multifaceted texture of these bars? Or how the hints of cinnamon unite chocolate chips and freshly ground coffee in mocha paradise? It’s like a Bonk Breaker Espresso Chip Bar… but better. Chewy oats, crunchy nuts and seeds, rich chocolate, and smooth espresso. Earthy, grainy, sweet, savory. It’s a granola, it’s a protein bar, it’s a dessert, it’s an edible mocha latté, it’s a powerhouse of nutrition, it’s…. the Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate Espresso Protein Bar.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Ingredients
2 cup gluten free rolled oats
¼ cup brown rice flour
2 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp flax seeds
¼ tsp sea salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup Plant Fusion Cookies n Creme Protein Powder
3 tbsp ground coffee
1 tsp brown sugar
¾ cup unsweetened plain almond milk
¼ cup epsresso almond butter
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup vegan chocolate chips

Serving Size: ~12 bars

Time: 10-15 minutes prep, 25 minutes baking at 350ºF

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2. In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients: rolled oats, brown rice flour, chia seeds, flax seeds, sea salt, cinnamon, protein powder, ground coffee, and brown sugar. Mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, combine your wet ingredients: almond milk, almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Whisk well until almond butter incorporates with maple syrup and milk, forming a lovely, gooey almond butter syrup.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Fold in ½ cup of vegan chocolate chips.
5. Line a medium-sized baking pan with parchment paper. Using a large spoon, scrape the bar “batter” into the pan and spread out evenly using the back of the spoon.
6. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Chocolate should be melty, oats should be lightly toasted, and the bars should be firm yet springy to the touch.
7. Let cool for 10 minutes, remove the slab o’ protein bars from the baking pan and place on a cooling rack for at least another 10 minutes. Be sure the bars have cooled before cutting to ensure that the bars won’t break or crumble when cut. Cut into desired number of bars (I divided my slab into 12 bars).

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)Organic Flax Seeds and Chia SeedsBrown Rice Syrup

Start by measuring your dry ingredients- 2 cups of certified gluten free rolled oats, 2 tbsp chia seeds, 3 tbsp flax seeds, ¼ cup of brown rice flour, 3 tbsp of ground coffee beans, ¼  tsp sea salt, 1 tsp brown sugar, and 1 tsp cinnamon.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Add dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

Chopped Walnuts

Measure 1 cup of walnuts and briefly place them into a food processor or chop them by hand. Add to the other dry ingredients.

Plant Fusion Protein Powder

Grab your favorite protein powder. I used 2 scoops (roughly ½ cup) of Plant Fusion’s Cookies and Creme protein powder- this is my absolute favorite brand of plant-based protein, and it tastes divine. Plant Fusion is rich with plant-based protein complete with all essential amino acids provided by quinoa, amaranth, yellow peas, and globe artichoke. This protein powder contains Bromelain and Alpha-Galactosidase, which aids digestion (no more bloated protein belly!). Plus, the cookies and creme flavor really added an extra hint of chocolate and creaminess.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Mix together all the dry ingredients in your large bowl.

Almond Butter Silk Almond Milk

Now, onto the wet ingredients: ¾ cup unsweetened plain almond milk, ¼ cup of almond butter, ¼ cup of maple syrup, and 1 tsp pure vanilla extract. I found a miraculous treat at the Co-Op the other day- Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter… I couldn’t believe my eyes. With coffee grounds swirled in rich almond butter, it was the perfect addition to these Chocolate Chip Espresso bars. However, you can use whatever almond butter you have on hand, as this delight is a tough find! My favorite almond butter is Justin’s Honey Almond Butter, mmm. You can use any plant-based milk you prefer, but I enjoy almond milk the most, particularly Silk’s unsweetened original- tastes the best and has the least amount of sugar.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Combine all of your wet ingredients and whisk or mix by hand until the almond butter thins out in the maple syrup and forms a fluid yet viscous glue for your protein bars.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients. Mix by hand very well to ensure all the oats and flour are incorporated into the bar batter.

Vegan Chocolate Chips Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Grab ½ cup of your favorite vegan chocolate chips and fold into your batter. I used these Chocolate Dream Semi-Sweet baking chips, and they were a rich, gooey, and delightfully melty addition to my protein bars!

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Using a large spoon or spatula, spread your bar batter into a baking pan lined with parchment paper and spread out evenly.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan) Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Bake for 25 minutes at 350ºF. Remove, take a big whiff of the oaty cinnamony, vanilla-y mocha magic. Let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Remove the slab from the pan and cool on a cooling rack for another 10-15 minutes (this will help prevent your bars from cracking or crumbling when you cut them). Cut your slab into your desired number/size of power protein bars!

Chocolate Chip Espresso Protein Bar (Gluten Free Vegan)

Sample one… just one… Close your eyes and savor this delicious creation full of protein, fiber, and omega-3s . They’re delicious, but they’re so filling that they keep you from going crazy and chowing down! I ate one bar and was satisfied for hours! And, now, let us commence the gallery of food porn…

Three Ingredient Strawberry Banana Ice Cream (GF Vegan)

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

This is probably one of the simplest and healthiest recipes for “ice cream” ever! Three ingredients… can’t beat that, especially when ⅔ of the ingredients are fruit! Really, you could make this with only two ingredients (just the fruit), but I wanted to add a little protein punch to my nice cream. Because this recipe consists of basically all fruit ingredients, one might think that it would more appropriately be named a sorbet. However, the rich creaminess of the frozen bananas and the creamy vanilla from the protein powder are more reminiscent of ice cream than a sorbet. Whatever you call it, you’ll be calling it delicious!

Ingredients

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

1 frozen banana

10 fresh strawberries

½ scoop Plant Fusion Vanilla Bean Protein Powder

Directions

1. Slice up a ripe banana and freeze for at least 2 hours

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

2. Place frozen banana slices into food processor. Add ½ scoop of Plant Fusion Vanilla Bean Protein Powder. I try to never add the protein powder on top of whatever I’m blending because when you turn the food processor on, it’ll poof like fairy dust and go everywhere- wasting your precious protein!

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

3. Add 10 fresh strawberries. You could also use frozen strawberries, but you might have to add some almond milk to get the mixture to blend to a cream. Using fresh strawberries gives the recipe just enough juice to dissolve the protein powder and allow the mixture to cream without getting too watery (or added any extra ingredients!).

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

4. Blend until creamy and delicious!

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

5. Garnish with sliced fresh strawberry and enjoy your healthy, guilt-free frozen treat!

Unchunky Monkey Treats: Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Banana Bites

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Banana Bites

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I have more of a crunchy snack tooth than a sweet tooth. However, my lack of sweet tooth has an exception- cold or frozen fruit. Smoothies? Love. Fruit pops? Love. Frozen grapes? Love. If I do eat dessert, it’s one of the preceding options. However, I know that many people out there go choco-crazy for some of that rich brown nectar of the sugar gods. Now, it’s not that I don’t like chocolate, I just don’t go bananas for it. Yet, there are certain combinations of chocolate that will make my mouth water: chocolate and banana, chocolate and strawberries…. noticing a trend? Even though I love chocolate with these two fruits, I hate it with other berries and fruits. Pomegranate? Nope. Cherries? Nope. Oranges? Gag. I haven’t quite figured out the distinction there… Maybe it’s tart, citrusy fruits that my palate doesn’t enjoy with chocolate.

Okay, enough of my random and specifically picky personal preferences. I wanted to create a chocolatey treat that I (and hopefully you!) would enjoy that was healthy (or as healthy as dessert can be), gluten free, vegan, and guilt free. Thus, today I present: Chocolate Banana Bites! So you can enjoy dessert without being a chunky monkey!

Ingredients

Vegan Chocolate Chips

1 ripe banana
Vegan chocolate chips
Toppings of choice: walnuts, shredded coconut

Directions 

1. Slice up ripe banana.

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Banana Bites Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Banana Bites

2. Place vegan chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and microwave at 15 second intervals until melted, stirring after every 15 seconds. You can also use the double broiler method, which will likely produce a prettier chocolate coating. But uh, I was feeling lazy, and they taste the same soooo….

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Banana Bites

3. Place a slice of banana into the melted chocolate and coat with a spoon.

4. Place chocolate covered on a piece of foil or wax paper.

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Banana Bites

5. Coat with desired toppings.

6. Put back into the freezer for at least two hours.


I just think these little guys are adorable… plus they’re incredibly delicious! I’ve actually never had a chocolate covered frozen banana, so this was a new experience for me. I used frozen banana slices since I already had some in my freezer and had no fresh bananas. I think that’s the reason my chocolate didn’t really “coat” the slices easily (that and my chocolate wasn’t very well melted). Oh well, I like the little peek of the banana, makes it look like a multilayer dessert! The frozen banana makes for a nice sorbet texture and consistency while the chocolate adds that rich, savory mouthfeel with a little crunch! I will definitely be making more of these in the future and experimenting with other toppings!

I Scream, You Scream: Chocolate Almond Cookie Ice Cream (Gluten Free, Vegan)

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I have never been a big dessert person, as I would much rather have a crunchy snack than something sweet and sugary. Like chips, mmmmm chips. However, ice cream (and froyo) has such a rich, creamy texture and delicious icy taste. But, to those of us with dairy allergies, ice cream is like frozen death. Sweet, sweet frozen death. Granted, there are a vast variety of vegan ice creams out there- almond, soy, coconut, but they never quite match up to the real thing (although, in my opinion, soy ice cream is the closest replica). The texture isn’t quite right, the mouthfeel is wrong, and the taste is always a little off. Furthermore, even though they are vegan and contain no animal products, they always seem to mess with my stomach. All that cream and fat- real, fake, or otherwise- just doesn’t sit well with our bodies. That’s why I LOVE smoothies. I make them very thick and eat them with a spoon so they’re almost like a sorbet. However, I wanted to create something a little more like ice cream and a little less like sorbet.

This Chocolate Almond Cookie Ice Cream is da domb. Not only is it creamy, smooth, cold, and delicious, it’s also gluten free, vegan, and packed with protein! Therefore, it makes a great dessert, but also a great post-workout snack. Ice cream after a workout sans the guilt? Um, yes please. Furthermore, this smoothie contains real fruit, and we can always use more fruit in our lives!

Chocolate Almond Cookie Ice Cream (GF Vegan)

Ingredients

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2 Frozen Ripe Bananas

¼ Cup Unsweetened Original Almond Milk

1 ½ tbsp Justin’s Honey Almond Butter

½ Scoop Plant Fusion Cookies and Cream Protein Powder (GF Vegan)

Directions

Ripe Bananas for GF Vegan Ice Cream

1. Slice two ripe bananas- they should have brown spots on them.

Frozen Bananas for GF Vegan Ice Cream

2. Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

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2. Place frozen bananas, ½ scoop Plant Fusion Cookies and Cream Protein Powder, and 1 ½ tbsp Justin’s Honey Almond Butter into a food processor and blend. The mixture will be clumpy and dry.

Chocolate Almond Cookie GF Vegan Ice Cream

3. Add ¼ cup unsweetened original almond milk (or desired almond) and blend until smooth, creamy consistency is reached.

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This “Ice Cream” is insanely good and good for you!

  • The Plant Fusion Protein Powder is rich with plant-based protein complete with all essential amino acids provided by quinoa, amaranth, yellow peas, and globe artichoke. This protein powder contains Bromelain and Alpha-Galactosidase, which aids digestion (no more bloated protein belly!).
  • Almond butter is also packed with protein, but carries the added benefit of healthy unsaturated fats, calcium, copper, fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium.
  • Bananas, known for their high potassium and low sodium content can help lower blood pressure. Furthermore, bananas contain prebiotics (for healthy intestinal flora), tryptophan (which is converted into serotonin- the happy neurotransmitter), vitamin B-6 (for a healthy immune system), and iron (to help prevent anemia.. important for those who live a vegan lifestyle!).
  • Laslty, almond milk contains calcium, vitamin D, and protein for strong bones without the cholesterol or saturated fat found in animal milk.

My Favorite Healthy(er) Vegan Starbucks Options

As much as I hate paying upwards of $5 for a cup of coffee, Starbucks is an admittedly sinful experience, and one that I allow myself to indulge in occasionally. Nothing beats that blast of fragrant coffee beans that warms your nostrils as you walk into a cloud of mocha, caramel, cinnamon, and espresso. That frothy white and green mermaid lady can make any study session more bearable, or at least keep your eyes open for just an hour longer. During the winter, we grasp our iconic cups to warm our throats and guard us against the biting chill in our hands. In the summer, we suck icy heaven through green straws that at the same time cools our tanned skin but ignites our insides with the burn of caffeine. I can’t even begin to tell you have many stories I’ve shared and heard over a cup of Starbucks. All the four hour conversations with friends, the talks of heartbreak, love, success, failure, happiness, worry, future, and past. What is it about a cup of coffee warming our hands that loosens our tongues and allows us to speak freely and honestly? How many times have I bared my soul while sipping a Grande Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte with Soy?

Starbucks is always on my mind on Mondays, not only because Mondays leave me longing for the weekend and in desperate need of caffeine, but also because it has always been a tradition for my mom and me to hang out on Mondays. In high school, she would pick me up from school and we would run errands, cruise around the mall, grab something to eat, grab a cup of coffee, and talk. We continued this tradition even in college, when my schedule barely allowed time to breathe, but I always looked forward to those Mondays. Now, as I’m working full time and taking classes, our Monday tradition has morphed into grabbing lunch, a cup of Starbucks, and catching up as much as possible before I return to work. Little treats like this give me something to look forward to when my alarm sounds before 6 and shields me from a “case of the Mondays.”

But with options like Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino (480 calories in a grande) and White Chocolate Mocha (470 calories in a grande), how can you enjoy a cup of Starbucks without ruining your waistline? Today I will share with you my two favorite Starbucks drinks- one hot and one cold. Naturally, one is my pick during the winter and one during the summer. These drinks remain sinfully delicious without the calorie count of an entire meal (plus, they’re vegan!)


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Grande Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte with Soy Milk

Ah yes, what a mouthful… not only in name, but also in deliciousness. This is my go to drink, and always has been. A delightful and fragrant medley of cinnamon and creamy espresso. This grande drink weighs in at only 120 calories for a grande with nonfat milk (Starbucks does not allow me to select soy milk, but I’m sure it’s pretty equivalent). Did I mention it’s delicious?Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte


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Grande Mocha Frappuccino Light with Soy Milk

Holy coffee smoothie Batman, I can rarely keep this drink in my hand for longer than 5 minutes because it’s so good. Creamy, chocolately, perfectly blended mocha coffee heaven. I can make pretty good replicas of this drink at home, but nothing ever tops Starbucks… but I guess it helps to have $500+ blenders. A grande frapp is only 130 calories (again, I am only able to calculate this with nonfat milk, but soy is equivalent).

Starbucks Mocha Frapp Light

Almond Mocha Cookie Power Smoothie (GF Vegan)

Almond Mocha Cookie Power Smoothie

Almond Mocha Cookie Power Smoothie

I’m a big fan of the fruit smoothie. In fact, I would say about 90% of the time that I bring out my blender is to make an thick, all-fruit smoothie, but this Mocha Almond Butter Cookie smoothie is just too delicious to resist. While I love fruit in the morning, sometimes I need an extra kick in my smoothie. This is a true power smoothie, packing a caffeine, protein, and fruit punch. Despite it’s sinfully delectable taste, it’s extremely healthy and gluten free, soy free, vegan, and peanut free!

Mocha Almond Butter Cookie Smoothie (GF Vegan)

Ingredients

Justin's Honey Butter

Justin’s Honey Almond Butter

PF Cookies and Cream

Plant Fusion Cookies n’ Cream Protein Powder

Silk Almond Milk

Silk Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk

Coffee

Brewed coffee (cold)

Bananas

Banana
Ice

Directions

1. Add two handfuls of ice to blender

2. Add 12oz glass of cold coffee (kept in refrigerator after brewed).

3. Add 2 cups of almond milk.

4. Add 1 banana.

5. Add 2 tablespoons of Justin’s Honey Almond Butter

6. Blend until smooth. Enjoy this delicious power smoothie!

Almond Mocha Cookie Power Smoothie

I love this smoothie because it reminds me of a Starbucks Frappuccino, but it’s so much healthier! Not only do you get the much needed caffeine kick, but this smoothie also contains fruit and protein from both the almond butter and the protein powder. It will definitely fill you up, give you some energy, and keep you fueled all morning.

Justins Almond Butter

I can’t say enough about the Justin’s Almond Butter, it is by far my favorite brand of almond butter. Unlike most almond butters, it has an amazing texture and consistency that is very similar to peanut butter and it doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Not to mention that the taste is insaaaane. My favorite flavors are the Maple Almond Butter and the Honey Almond Butter. The honey flavor is a little harder to find, so I always buy it when I see it because it’s so good on and in everything. Plus they have a Chocolate Hazelnut butter that’s like Nutella on crack hnnggggg. So good.

Plant Fusion Flavors

Furthermore, Plant Fusion protein is my favorite protein powder. Not all protein powders are created equal, and if you’re still using a whey, soy, or egg based protein with a long list of weird additives, you need to look into plant proteins that are healthy, natural, gluten free, and vegan. The Plant Fusion Protein, which I use in the Vanilla Bean and Cookies and Cream flavors, contains quinoa and amaranth, which possess all the essential amino acids, loads of protein, and natural sources of minerals and vitamins. And you remember those prebiotics I was telling you about in this post (click here)? This Plant Fusion contains amaranth and globe artichoke, which are great sources of prebiotics, including inulin. Not to mention, it tastes DELICIOUS. I love to use the Vanilla in my fruit smoothies and the Cookies and Cream in savory, sweet smoothies.

Enjoy this power smoothie! It’s a great treat to power you through all the activities and fun of this Memorial Day Weekend.

Be powerful, be energized, be whole. ❤ Nika