Blue Skies Ahead

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Blue has to be one of my all-time favorite colors to wear. I love all shades, from navy to turquoise. This periwinkle tee is the perfect shade for this time of year.

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This jacket is an old favorite from American Eagle. It’s great for transitioning between cooler and warmer weather. The structured fit adds polish to any look, but the denim keeps it casual for everyday wear.

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Tee: Target
Jacket: American Eagle (old)
Jeans: Abercrombie and Fitch
Heels: DSW
Sunglasses: Old Navy
Headband: Nordstrom
Necklace: Dogeared

Thanks for stopping by!

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Sweet with a Kick Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

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Nothing says “I love you” like a chocolate-covered strawberry. This traditional Valentine’s Day sweet has won many hearts with its classic combination of fruity strawberry and a crunchy chocolate coating.

I’m all for tradition, and I absolutely love a good chocolate-covered strawberry, but this year I decided to switch things up.

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I started with the shell, a rich, 72 percent dark chocolate. Coconut oil adds the under notes of a tropical oasis. Crunchy crushed pecans make for a fabulous textural element. But the stars of this show are the power pair, cinnamon and cayenne. The perfect amount of heat to complement the sweet strawberries ignites your tastebuds and sparks the senses.

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With flavors this incredible, who knows what could happen next.

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Sweet with a Kick Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 12 large strawberries

Serving Size: 3 strawberries

Calories per serving: 210

Fat per serving: 18

This sweet and spicy twist on a classic Valentine's Day treat will heat up your night with a kick of cayenne and lusciously rich dark chocolate. Crushed pecans add some crunch to this indulgent sweet. Enjoy these with someone special this Friday!

Ingredients

  • 12 large strawberries
  • 95 g good quality dark chocolate
  • ½ tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ c pecans, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. In a microwave-safe glass bowl, melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil, stopping to stir every 30 seconds.
  2. Cover a large plate with parchment paper, spread the chopped pecans on a small plate, and wash the strawberries.
  3. Using a fork, dip the strawberry in the melted dark chocolate, tap the fork on the edge of the bowl, and allow the excess dark chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Roll the strawberry in the pecans and place on the parchment paper covered plate. Repeat with the remaining strawberries.
  4. Freeze the strawberries for at least two hours before enjoying with a loved one.
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Want another tasty treat for your health-concious Valentine?

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Guilt-Free “Cookie Butter” Cookies

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Guilt-Free “Cookie Butter” Cookies

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Last week I made Averie’s cookie butter cookies. They were fabulous. Giant pillow-y soft cookies, rich with cookie butter, cinnamon, and vanilla. Of course they were gobbled up much too quickly, leaving me dreaming about making another batch. But the idea of having thirteen more cookies warm out of the oven was just too tempting.

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This recipe is for the days when you feel like a treat, but don’t want to regret eating an entire baker’s dozen of decadent cookies. With some cashews, a food processor, and a little patience, blend up your own cookie butter, free of diglycerides, lactic acid, and soy flour. Cream this homemade cookie butter with some egg white and coconut sugar, stir in a few other pantry staples, and voila, just enough dough for a party of four! A few hours later, pop the dough in the oven for eight minutes and get ready to indulge in this guilt-free treat. Sharing optional.

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Guilt-Free “Cookie Butter” Cookies
Yields four large cookies

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Homemade Cashew Cookie Butter
Recipe adapted from Foodie Fiasco

1 cup raw cashews

1 tbsp molasses

⅛ tsp ginger

⅛ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp coconut sugar

Blend the cashews into a butter in a strong food processor. This will take at least 20 minutes so be patient and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.

Once blended, add the ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and coconut sugar, and resume blending until the mixture is buttery again. Add the molasses, give the processor one last whirl, and get ready to get addicted. Store left overs in the fridge for up to two weeks.

“Cookie Butter” Cookies
Recipe adapted from Averie Cooks and Like Mother Like Daughter

¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour

¼ cup coconut sugar

⅓ cup Homemade Cookie Butter (recipe above)

1 ½ tbsp liquid egg whites

¼ tsp cornstarch

¼ tsp baking soda

½ tbsp vanilla extract

½ tsp cinnamon

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the egg white, cookie butter, coconut sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. This should take 4-5 minutes.

Add the flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, and baking soda and mix until just incorporated.

Form the dough into four golf-ball sized mounds and refrigerate for at least three hours. If you’re crunched for time, freeze the dough for at least an hour and a half.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the dough on a well-greased or parchment paper covered baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for approximately 9 minutes. If the cookies look undercooked, it’s ok, they will firm as they cool.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then move them to a rack to finish cooling. Store the cookies in a sealed container for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 172
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Fat: 6 g
Protein: 4 g
Sugar: 16 g

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Want more healthy cookie options?

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Cookies for the Cookie Jar

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Spicy Tofu, Bell Pepper, and Roasted Carrot Tacos

How are your New Years resolutions going? Are you staying on track, eating healthy and getting up early to workout every day, or are you part of the 56 percent who fall off the wagon within the first six months?

Members of the second group, don’t worry, all you need is a little motivation and a quick and easy healthy recipe. Lucky for you, I have both.

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Spicy Tofu, Bell Pepper, and Roasted Carrot Tacos

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This is a great weeknight recipe that can be easily whipped up in 30 minutes or less. Your aching muscles can thank you now, each taco contains 10 grams of plant-based protein. This balanced, flavorful meal also features heart-healthy fats from the canola oil, beta-carotenes from the carrots, and vitamins C and A from the bell pepper.

Serves 8

Roasted carrots (recipe below)

Sautéed tofu and bell pepper (recipe below)

8 medium flour tortillas (I used La Tortilla Factory Light tortillas)

Guacamole, salsa, greek yogurt, and other taco toppings

Warm each flour tortilla and fill with about ¼ cup of sautéed tofu and bell pepper and ¼ cup of roasted carrots. Serve with your favorite taco toppings. I love Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole. It is made with greek yogurt, has 50 percent less fat and 40 percent less calories than normal guacamole, and is 150 percent more creamy and delicious! Swapping greek yogurt for sour cream adds the same flavor while also cutting down calories and fat.

Roasted Carrots

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1.5 pounds of baby carrots

1 tbsp of canola oil

½ tsp of salt

heaping tsp of cumin

heaping tsp of chile powder

In a large Ziploc bag, combine the carrots, oil, salt, and seasonings, mixing with your hands to ensure the carrots are coated completely. Empty the carrots onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cook on convection roast at 450 F for 20-25 minutes, or until well browned. Let carrots cool for a few minutes then dice them into ½ inch pieces.

Sautéed Tofu and Bell Pepper:

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316 g (4 servings) of extra-firm, non-GMO tofu, diced

2 medium bell peppers, diced

2 tbsp of canola oil

¼ tsp of chile powder

¼ tsp of cumin

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once warm, add the bell peppers and tofu, stirring to coat in oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until browned, and then stir in the chile powder and cumin.

Nutrition Information (for one taco, excluding toppings)

Calories: 220
Carbohydrates: 29 g
Fat: 9 g
Protein: 10 g
Sugar: 9 g

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Navy + Red

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Hello!

I’ve had a fabulous past two weeks of vacation. This weekend, I devoted most of my time to finalizing plans for redecorating my room (more on that later!) and making my first few purchases. I’m so excited to see how everything I’ve been envisioning comes together.

As you’re reading this, I’m most likely suffering through geometry, struggling to remember the triangle rules I learned before Christmas. Even though being back in school isn’t my idea of a good time, I’m trying to stay positive.

xoxo

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Outfit Details

Sweater: Target (old)

Plaid Shirt: Old Navy

Necklace: Nordstrom (old)

Boots: Nordstrom

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Sunday Six

In this series, every Sunday I will be sharing six things that caught my eye during the week, including recipes I tried and loved, things to read, and adorable pictures and videos to laugh about.

1. This sweet potato granola, made with dried cranberries and a mix of pumpkin seeds, almonds, and pistachios, is delicious! I’ve been eating it for breakfast with greek yogurt every morning.

2. This great guide listing different complementary flavor profiles. Expect to see some of these combinations soon!

3. J.Crew’s “it’s sunny somewhere” collection (especially these shorts).

4. This video. Such a great message to start the new year off right!

5. This clutch. What better way to stay warm than envisioning a perfect summer wardrobe? Too bad it’s out of stock, but I’ll be keeping an eye out!

6. Fiterazzi, a new magazine by Youtube fitness guru Cassie Ho focused on positive fitness and body confidence. This is a great resource with interesting articles from a variety of knowledgable sources.

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24 Diner

At first glance, 24 Diner, located at the intersection of 6th and Lamar, may seem no different from the other cafes and diners spotting the streets of Austin. One bite, however, and you will understand why this restaurant is one of my favorite breakfast spots.

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The decor of 24 Diner is farmhouse chic. Warm terra-cotta earth tones intertwined with modern metals create a unique look. There is seating at the bar, as well as at the many tables and booths both inside and outside. The servers were incredibly helpful, explaining the menu and checking on us periodically throughout our visit.

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The menu covers all of the diner bases, breakfast, burgers and sandwiches, and a selection of drinks. It touts farm-to-market ingredients, house-made breakfast and veggie sausages, local cage-free eggs, and a variety of breads made fresh daily. I opted for an almond milk mocha latte while carefully perusing the menu. My latte arrived, hot and foamy, and I settled on the goat cheese frittata with a side of the homemade veggie sausage.

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The lively atmosphere helped pass the time quickly until our food arrived. Red, green, and silver Christmas trees hung upside-down from the ceiling, a whimsical touch. My frittata arrived, topped with fresh arugula, avocado, and a lemon vinaigrette, accompanied by multigrain toast and a deep red veggie sausage round. Others at my table had ordered waffles, french toast, oatmeal, and a vegetarian breakfast platter.

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The first bite of my frittata was enticingly delicious. The egg was light and fluffy, filled with chunks of cherry tomato and spinach. Further bites brought swirls of creamy, melty goat cheese, peppery arugula, and tangy lemon vinaigrette. Our waiter had suggested avocado on my frittata, an addition that added a little extra creaminess to the dish. I could taste the freshness of all of the ingredients. My multigrain toast had a crispy exterior enclosing a fluffy inside. Our server had brought us homemade peach and strawberry jams, and maple butter. The homemade jams took the simple toast to the next level. Both were a great consistency, flavored with the natural sweetness of the fruit. The veggie sausage was another hit, chock full of flavorful fresh vegetables and sprinkled with flecks of sea salt. Unlike other veggie sausages, made of ingredients like soy protein isolate, this sausage consisted of beets, mushrooms, lentils, rice, pumpkin seeds, and golden flaxseeds. It was perfectly spicy to accompany the sweet, jammy toast and the tangy goat cheese frittata.

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I stole bites off the other plates, all delicious, but another big standout was the oatmeal. I consider myself an oatmeal expert, but this was a new breed of deliciousness. The steel-cut Irish oats were tender and creamy, topped with brown sugar and a fragrant pear and cranberry chutney. Vanilla milkshakes were another noteworthy item. These milkshakes were so creamy, probably the best consistency of any milkshake I have ever had. The vanilla came across strongly. This wasn’t a weak vanilla extract kind of vanilla, it was a fresh from nature vanilla bean flavor. The vanilla bean sauce drizzled over the peaks of whipped cream added an extra burst of stupendous flavor. The waffles were yeast waffles, and were not to everyone’s taste, but the thick, fluffy french toast topped with vanilla cream was a favorite around the table.

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Overall, my experience at 24 Diner was superb. I would gladly return, maybe to try the equally impressive looking dinner menu or the seasonal desserts. But until I return to Austin, I’ll keep fantasizing about creamy oatmeal, tangy goat cheese frittata, and thick, vanilla-y milkshakes.

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My Food Philosophy + My Favorite Oatmeal

In this day and age, it seems everyone follows one diet or another, gluten-free, vegan, raw, paleo. Some people swear by cutting out dairy, grains, or legumes, but I will always love my cheese, greek yogurt, and oatmeal. I also don’t believe in sticking strictly to one method. If I feel like eating a big salad, I will, but if I feel like a big plate of scrambled eggs and cheese, I’ll eat that instead.

So now you may be thinking, Claire, this is a blog about a healthy lifestyle, what do you consider healthy?

This is a tough question to answer because healthy means a different thing for each person. I believe the healthiest diet is a diet high in natural foods, but a diet that makes the consumer happy. I feel happiest when I eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy protein, but there are some times when happiness can only be found in a melty chocolate chip cookie, homemade whipped cream, or a buttery scone. Sometimes, happiness is a giant fruit salad, but sometimes, it’s a giant milkshake. The trick is finding a balance between what makes your body happy, and what makes you happy.

In my opinion, life should be a combination of “balanced bites” and “feel-good food”. Not to say that a food can’t be both, but this is generally a good way to split things up. Seventy percent of the time, eat the foods that are good for your body, but the other 30 percent of the time, indulge yourself. Enjoy that chocolate. Don’t feel guilty about that second piece of cake.

However, no one wants to spend 70% of their life miserable. Do yourself a favor and experiment. Expand your food horizons. Find nutritious foods you love, and find happiness in them. Learn ways to prepare your healthy food so you can truly enjoy eating well. Because life is short. Too short to be miserable.

Like any long-term relationship, your relationship with food won’t always be smooth-sailing. I know this all too well. I struggle with letting myself indulge in that 30 percent. Sometimes I fall into the “all healthy, all the time” frame of mind. So just in time for the new year, let’s commit together. Most of the time, eat the “balanced bites”, but find joy and happiness in eating food that is good for you and tastes amazing. The other 30 percent of the time though, eat the “feel-good foods” you love, and savor them. Here’s to 2014, food for a happy, healthy body, and food for a happy, healthy soul.

xoxo

My Favorite Oatmeal (vegan + can be made gluten-free)

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Breakfast. It’s the foundation of a healthy day. The most important meal, which just so happens to be my favorite. I would eat breakfast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I could.

Oatmeal is also one of those foods that, for me, is both a balanced bite and a feel-good food. Nothing beats a morning that starts with a creamy bowl of oatmeal, a bowl of oatmeal that nourishes your body with whole grains and fiber, and warms you to the bone.

I consider myself an oatmeal expert. When I was younger, oatmeal was a feared food. If I entered the kitchen to the sound of the microwave and the smell of brown sugar and cinnamon, I knew I would be spending a long morning sitting at the kitchen table, staring at a bowl of pasty, gluey, microwave instant-oatmeal. When I discovered the virtues of rolled oats and a pot on the stove, there was no going back. I have tried it all: oats in the microwave and on the stove, rolled, old-fashioned, and steel-cut. I’ve debated overnight oats vs. baked oatmeal, experimented with adding protein powders and other mix-ins, and even tried savory oats mixed with cheese and topped with a fried egg. But it all boils down to this.

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This simple recipe, this effortless combination of almond milk, rolled oats, coconut sugar, and maple syrup, is the sum of many trials. Hundreds of bowls of oatmeal, some successful and some not so much, led to this fool-proof method. Granted, it is a little more involved than microwaving a packet in some water, but I promise you, the results are worth it.

Serves 1-2

⅔ cup of old-fashioned oats*

1 cup of water

1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 tsp of 100% pure maple syrup**

2 tsp of coconut sugar**

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a medium pot, combine the old-fashioned oats, water, and almond milk. Bring them to a vigorous boil over high heat. Make sure they are really boiling strongly. Stir the oats a few times and let them boil for a moment. Then, reduce the oats to a simmer and let cook. This could take 10-15 minutes depending on how you like your oatmeal. Just keep an eye on them, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the liquid is absorbed to the consistency you enjoy. At this point, stir in the maple syrup, coconut sugar, and vanilla extract, and remove from the heat and serve immediately with your favorite toppings.

*For a gluten-free version, make sure your oats are certified gluten-free.

**This is my preferred level of sweetness but feel free to adjust to your taste

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Nutrition Information (for entire recipe)

Calories: 293
Carbohydrates: 51 g
Fat: 7 g
Protein: 8 g
Sugar: 13 g

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Oatmeal Trimmings

Add a dollop of your favorite nut-butter and fresh berries.

Sprinkle on no-sugar-added dried fruit and chopped nuts.

Stir in a diced apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger halfway through the cooking process for apple pie oatmeal.

Stir in grated carrot, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and raisins or pecans halfway through the cooking process for carrot cake oatmeal.

Mix in a scoop of plant-based protein powder, chia seeds, or ground flax seeds for an extra boost.

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Austin Day 4

Our last day in Austin began with a trek back to Magnolia Cafe for breakfast. South Congress has a great energy in the morning, bustling with Sunday brunch-goers. Breakfast was as delicious as dinner the other night.

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I had the eggs Florentine, poached eggs and hollandaise on an English muffin with spinach, served with fresh fruit and home fries. The creamy, silky hollandaise perfectly complemented the sautéed spinach, velvety poached eggs, and the crispy, buttered English muffin. The home fries were large chunks of potato, expertly seasoned and excellently crisped. We got three kinds of pancakes to split as well, buttermilk, cornbread, and gingerbread. All three were light and fluffy, the size of a plate and steaming hot. The gingerbread tasted strongly of ginger and nutmeg. The cornmeal pancake was especially delicious. It had the same mildly sweet taste and texture as a corn muffin and was the perfect platform for spicy black beans.

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On the way home, we stopped at another artisan market and a quaint old-fashioned candy store and soda bar.

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Bigtop Candy has an enormous selection of old-fashioned candy, a large variety of international chocolates, and never-before seen flavors of gummies. I picked up several delicacies from across the Pond and wished I had enough room to try an authentic egg cream soda.

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We returned to the hotel and packed, but couldn’t leave without one final stop at Whole Foods. I picked up some goodies from the salad bar to eat in the car on the way home, all of which were delicious. We bade one last farewell to Austin, and set our sites toward Dallas.

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I will miss Austin, one of my favorite cities to visit, but it feels good to be returning home to some normalcy. It will feel great to return to regular ballet classes, healthy eating, and a lot of exciting new blog content!

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xoxo

My delicious international chocolates

My delicious international chocolates

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Austin Day 3

Yesterday, the first thing on our agenda was a walk to the SFC Farmer’s Market. I was surprised to see the amount of farmers and vendors, even though it is the middle of the winter. Farmers displayed lovely vegetables, including potatoes, turnips, rainbow carrots, and some tiny sweet potatoes, currently on their way back to Dallas with me. Vendors offered a wide variety of goods including vegan cupcakes more convincing than the real thing, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, just-baked breads and pastries, and breakfast tacos for every dietary need. After strolling and sampling, I decided on a currant scone and a kale, apple, and orange juice, two excellent choices!

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We walked back up Congress to our hotel, stopping to snap pictures and run into an adorable neighborhood grocery store.

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In the afternoon, we got in the car and drove 20 minutes north to Round Rock, home of the world-famous Round Rock Donuts. Round Rock Donuts is known for its giant “Texas-Sized Donuts”. Even a donut-hater like myself couldn’t resist the enormous round of fluffy orange dough, slathered in a sweet glaze or fudge-y chocolate frosting.

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After enjoying our super-sized donuts, we returned to Austin to explore The Drag. This street across from the university is home to Tyler’s, unique boutiques, and artisans selling handcrafted jewelry and tie-die. We checked out the university co-op and several restaurants and stores along the way, stopping at the end for some Rita’s custard and Italian Ice. This refreshing treat was extremely creamy and delicious! On return trip, we picked up a few slices of pie from Royers Pie Haven and some Chinese takeout from Veggie Haven.

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Two hours and three miles later, we had arrived back at our hotel, loaded with food. The vegan Chinese food from Veggie Heaven was flavorful and eclectic, ranging from Kung Pao wheat gluten to sesame noodles with squash and zucchini. The pie was excellent. “Junkberry” was tart but perfectly balanced with a sweet sour cream topping. “Not Your Mother’s Apple Pie” had a delicious crunchy caramel and brown sugar streusel topping. “Texas Trash” was a great mix of sweet and salty with hints of caramel, coconut, pecans, and chocolate chips.

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Stuffed, we headed out for a walk to the Capitol. The beautiful rosy building was lit up against the inky sky. In front, a Christmas Tree flashed with red, green, rainbow, and even stars. We admired the lights then returned to our hotel, exhausted, at the end of an amazing day.

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xoxo

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Outfit Details

Coat: Aeropostale

Sweater: Abercrombie

Necklace: Groopdealz

Boots: MIchael Kors

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