Banana + Avocado + Cacao Smoothie Bowl

I made an avocado chocolate mousse recently (I promise to share soon), and I've been dying to recreate it again with some healthier ingredients, raw cacao powder more specifically. Avocados were used as the base, and that got me thinking as to what else I could do with chocolate and avocado. Of course I had to put my obsession with frozen drinks to good use, and the result was the most incredibly creamy chocolate pudding meets milkshake. You should also know that I'm not the biggest chocolate fan, but to me, this was so much better than anything I'd find at an ice cream shoppe. I used half a cup of almond milk here, and spooned it up in a little bowl topped with coconut flakes and granola. Next time I'm going to try a full cup of milk to get my shake on through a straw. Summer is almost at a close, and one thing I'll really miss is my constant craving for frozen treats. Don't get me wrong, the Fall is my season, but as the weather gets a little chillier, slurping down smoothies gets a little harder, especially first thing in the morning. 

Banana + Avocado + Cacao Smoothie Bowl
use a little more milk if you're looking to drink through a straw

1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
1 frozen banana
1/2 avocado
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 medjool date
1 teaspoon maca powder
handful of kale or spinach

Process all of your ingredients in a high-powered blender until thick and creamy. Add more or less almond milk depending on the consistency you're going for. Mine was like soft serve ice cream, so I served it in a bowl and topped it with coconut flakes and Purely Elizabeth granola. 


Raw Almond Butter + Coconut Cups

Finding healthy alternatives in a world that also creates Reese's Pieces is not an easy task. I get it, it's hard to eat right all of the time. But when you also have medjool dates at your disposal, I promise it will get easier (is that only something a lunatic would say?). I promise I didn't storm into this world with a bottle full of kale juice and a diaper made of pinecones. I ate junk just like everyone else, probably more so. My diet now is the result of years of food network viewing, food blog browsing, and an ever evolving passion for whole foods (both the store and the term for food in its original state). Pinterest has also brought some new game to my inner foodie. With the amount of pins I have, you'd think I lived inside a Martha Stewart Living magazine, but I swear I'm just like everyone else, and have really only mastered the sock bun (which I'm so over by the way. Top knots = life). This recipe in particular was inspired by my vegan sweet board, which I really need to explore more of. I tend to steer away from dessert making, even the healthy kind, because I have no self control and will eat 45 raw brownie bites as quickly as I roll them out. Pig. But when I have a group of fellow eaters to share with however, I'll gladly oblige. 

I made these cups for a music festival I went to last weekend with some great gal pals. We threw together some flower crowns (the best), stuffed a cooler, and headed to Devens, MA (Uh, is this place real? No, I don't mean Danvers). Traveling with girls is pretty great. The spread of food we brought to share almost convinced me to bail on the music and binge eat in the hotel room all night. Almost. We did our fare share of eating and drinking before me made our way to The Nines Festival, and then continued to do so once we arrived. The weather was perfect, the music was flowing, and things definitely got crazy. Vodka milkshakes happened, too. I'm pretty positive it was a curdled mess, but I really can't be sure. I might have also took a power nap in the beer tent, if we're being honest. 

These almond butter and coconut cups were the hit of the weekend. The original recipe called for peanut butter, and I'll be going that route next time to see if it compares to the classic Reese's cup, but I went with almond butter this time, because I love the coconut-almond combination. I also added some dates because my sweet tooth has no limit. I made a batch of raw chocolate for the topping, instead of melting chocolate chips, because I have a need to impress people with anything I do. But I also realized that making raw chocolate is super easy, and the results are incredible. Really. I'll never buy chips again. This recipe makes a good amount, and I made sure to leave a few at home for when the craving struck again (I ate them all as soon as I walked through my front door). I stuck them in my freezer, and ate them straight from there. No need to thaw, they do so pretty quickly anyways. 

RawAlmond Butter + Coconut Cups
Inspired by This Rawsome Vegan Life
Makes about 25-30 mini cups

1 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup maple syrup
6 medjool dates
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
sea salt, for sprinkling
raw almonds, for decorating tops

Raw Chocolate

1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Add the first eight ingredients (shredded coconut through coconut oil) to your food processor, and blend until you've got a rough paste - a couple minutes or so. Divide the mixture among lined mini cupcake trays, leaving room to top with melted chocolate. Press the mixture firmly inside the cupcake papers. 

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the raw chocolate. I did this inside a liquid measuring cup so I could easily pour the chocolate on top of the coconut-almond-oatmeal mixture. Top each cup with a raw almond and a sprinkling of sea salt. Refrigerate for a couple hours, or overnight, and enjoy. They also freeze extremely well. 


Farmers Market Oat Groats with Basil + Feta

Farmers markets. My favorite part of summer. The whole "market" system makes shopping so enjoyable. I wish we had more markets in the United States. Maybe it's just that I live in New England, and besides the four warm months of summer, and what seems like two weeks of blissful fall, it's mainly cold and wet. I traveled to Italy last October, and fell in love with their open market lifestyle. There are no trips to the nearest big box store or supermarket (from what I saw), but a quick walk to whichever vendor is supplying your need for the day. It's a slower way of life, and one that I could really get used to. I suppose Massachusetts is too high-strung for a change like that. 

I love finding a quick and flavorful combination of my favorite vegetables, and then changing up a few ingredients to make completely different meals. I think I've been sautéing zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, and string beans with some garlic and onion for the past two months. They're the veggies that can always be found at my local farmers markets, and I happen to love all of them. And as you might already know, when I find something that works, I tend to eat it. A lot. I've made Asian, Indian, and Mexican meals out of basically the same ingredients. Vary the herbs and spices, alternate between cheese and nuts, and it's quite simple to give your taste buds a change of scenery.  

Here's my Italian inspired version on a farmers market stir-fry. I swapped the mozzarella in your typical caprese dish for some local feta, mostly because I like the sharp bite of the feta, and find I can use a lot less than I would mozzarella for the same satisfaction. Don't get me wrong, a classic caprese salad is one of my favorite combinations. I use the tomato, basil, mozzarella trio to inspire a lot of meals. This soup I found on Pinterest is on my must-make list. I'm also always trying out different grains, and steel-cut oat groats are my new thing. They bulk up quite a bit in water, and more is always better when it comes to eating. They have a high protein and fiber content, and are done cooking in about 30 minutes. I've used them in both sweet and savory dishes (they make a great substitute for oatmeal), and have even soaked them overnight to blend into a raw morning smoothie bowl.  

I like a lot of basil and garlic in this dish, but a little feta goes a long way to give you that creamy satisfaction. And if dairy isn't your thing, I've also made this with half an avocado mashed up with some lemon or lime and lots of sea salt. Use whatever you have on hand for vegetables, these are just delicious suggestions. Make it your own. It's hard to go wrong when you start with great ingredients. 

Farmers Market Oat Groats with Basil + Feta
Makes 1 generous bowl or 2 sides

steel-cut oat groats, or grain of choice
handful of string beans, trimmed
half of a small zucchini, sliced
half of a small summer squash, sliced
half of a small eggplant, sliced
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
half a small onion, sliced
handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 cup chopped basil
a couple handfuls of spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons feta
juice of half a lemon

Cook your oat groats. I make a larger amount, and keep them in the fridge for the week. There's varying cooking methods around the web, but here's what I do... Boil 2 1/2 cups water, then add in your cup of oat groats. Add salt and let simmer on low for about 30 minutes. When the water is almost gone, shut off the heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes. 

While your oat groats cook, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add in all of the vegetables except for the tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes, turn the heat to low and add in the tomatoes and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes, then shut the heat off. 

When the oat groats are ready, scoop your desired amount into a bowl, add in your vegetable stir-fry, basil, chopped spinach, feta, and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and enjoy! 


My Month in Rewind: July

Another month in the books. The older I get, the quicker time seems to pass me by. I think the perpetual work week has something to do with this phenomenon. I know I'm not alone when I say "I live for the weekend." There's truly nothing better than the feeling you get on Thursday night, knowing you only have to put in one more day until freedom at last. And the older I get, and the more routine my job gets, I've realized you have to make those two days count. So call your friends, make plans, get out of the house, cook a complicated recipe, share it with your family, wear all of your clothes that your sticky-fingers-nanny-job won't allow for (even if you're just walking around Target in them). Do something, because there's nothing worse than the Sunday night feeling (right Cait?), especially when you have nothing to show for the last two days.

So here it is. The month of July boiled down to a blog post. And wouldn't you know, weddings seemed to take over this four week period just as they did June. I'm not exaggerating when I say I might be the real life version of Katherine Heigl's "27 Dresses" character. The school vacation of my youth has turned into a three month wedding ceremony, and not that I'm complaining, weddings are a blast, but I think I'd be set with one per summer. I like my me time.

I also like the Fourth of July. Maybe more than Christmas. The amount of dips at a summer BBQ is pretty outstanding. Ending your night under a blanket of fireworks is real story book stuff. And the red, white, and blue color scheme is just the cherry on top of a perfect, American holiday.

I spent the 3rd on Whitehorse Beach in Plymouth, MA next to this HUGE bonfire.

My Fourth of July weekend was spent on these picnic tables, celebrating one of my oldest friend's, Ali, upcoming nuptials. It's the only picture I managed to take during our bachelorette party gone camping - Solo cups of sangria. We stayed in cabins on Martha's Vineyard, and while I did get to check something off of my Summer Bucket List, I think it's safe to say I'm past my camping days. Hotels just get me. 

While sleeping in the wilderness may not be my thing, taking in the island definitely is. We didn't do much besides relaxing on a beach and gorging on food and drinks, but it was exactly what we needed. I was in charge of our Saturday night dinner plans, and after a little research, I went with The Red Cat Kitchen in Oaks Bluff. It. was. incredible. Local, seasonal dishes, while Jaws played in the background was quintessential Martha's Vineyard. Creative vegetarian options are hard to come by on the island, but the chefs here blew me away. I went with the "vegetarian showdown," which was a combination of various plant based appetizers and sides the restaurant was serving up for the night, my favorite being the tomato, basil, and corn soup. I loved not knowing exactly what I would be eating until it was right in front of me. To wash it all down, The Red Cat has some pretty tasty cocktails on the menu - order the Sazerac, trust me. 

This is Ali. She's nuts. Ali and Chris got married at the Jones River Trading Post in Kingston, MA on the hottest day of the year. And although outdoor pictures were a no go for the sweaty face factor, at least it didn't rain. The venue was gorgeous, the band was a blast, and dancing all night with some great friends is always a good thing. 

A couple of my favorite couples. 

Between weddings, my weekends were spent on the beach with my closest friends and family, who all happen to live within 100 feet of me. Have I told you how great my neighborhood is? Here's a few shots on Saquish Beach. We piled ourselves between two boats and ten coolers, and spent the day eating, drinking, and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. 

My work week also vacationed on the beach. In Chatham. Not a bad gig. 

Especially when you get to look at these cute faces on the daily.

Outdoor eating. A must. And another check off the old bucket list.

Farmers markets are the sole reason I'll tolerate relentless weeks of humidity. My wallet thanks you.

Fancy hummus spreads are another market perk.

I'm just crossing things off of my bucket list left and right here. My brother's fire pit, which he built himself, is my favorite way to end a summer night. It's the best part of camping combined with a comfortable bed to go home to. I hear s'mores are a thing too. 

What? More weddings? A longtime family friend tied the knot here at this gorgeous church.

Obviously we had to take pictures of ourselves while we waited for the "I do's." Are photo sessions in churches frowned upon? These two beauties are my best friend, Britt, and my sister, Sydney. They're my people. 

Here come's the bride!

Time to party!!

Trav and Kritsy's wedding made all those summer vows worth it. The food was delicious, the company was even better, and the party never seemed to end. And even though my health nut self was trying to reject too many cocktails, all that dancing is sure to negate some of the over indulgence, right?

Me and my girls!!


Out with a BANG! And on to August...

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