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blueberry mango coconut smoothie

Blueberry mango coconut smoothie

What a weekend. Actually, I’m glad it’s over, and I never thought I’d say those words aloud. On Sunday, I discovered this print via an online friend and I bought it, immediately. If I could mark these words along my body, I would, because sometimes I need to be reminded of the obvious. Ignore the expletives, which only serve as shock value (although in this day and age fuck seems less profane and more commonplace), for the advice is spare and honest.

This weekend, I learned that an old friend ushered in a new life, and while I’m happy for her this happiness is imbued with a certain kind of sadness. The kind of sadness where you’re nostalgic about the friendship you used to have, the people you used to be, even if you realize both have no a place in the life you’re living now. Sometimes you think of this friendship as if it were a postcard and it hurts to remember all the strained, uncomfortable silences that punctuated between the lines. You know the friendship ran its course, was good for what it was while you had it, but still.

It also occurred to me that I’m leaving, really leaving. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on joining the legions of long-term tourists and their cringeworthy odes to Joan Didion’s seminal essay because there’s no romance in my leaving, it’s just something I need to do. I’ll spare you the diatribe, but I will say this: one day I woke up and my home became a stranger. One day I was a sophomore in college and everyone I knew had the same points of reference–most of us grew up here, lived our lives here, but time took it all, whitewashed our references, and while others strayed, I remained and struggled to preserve what it was like to be a city kid. And then came a moment when I thought it would be nice to stop struggling. It would be nice to have a new point of entry, frame of reference, and the decision to leave came as swiftly as the sorrow that preceded it.

But I’m rotten at goodbyes–I prefer hellos. So there’s that, and all the logistics (financial and otherwise) that I’ve got to manage within two months. It’s…a lot.

When I read the aforementioned print, a line lingered: The problem contains the fucking solution. Pacing my home, I kept saying that line, over and over. I wrote down each worry, every consideration and dissected it to find the solution. With regard to my former friend, I was sad that I’ll only have the kind of closure I’ve created for myself, and I have to let it all go. And on it goes. On to the next. Committing to paper all the problems and ferreting out the solutions.

Is it no longer that I couldn’t make anything other than what can be tossed into a blender?

Thank pony it’s Monday.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup of almond (or coconut) milk
1/2 cup fresh mango, diced
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 tbsp of your favorite protein powder
1 tbsp coconut flakes
1 cup spinach
ice

DIRECTIONS
For smoothies, I tend to start with the base of liquid, fruit, powder, and then I’ll add my vegetables. I’ll blitz this in my Vitamix (you could use a high-powered blender) and then I’ll add the ice so the smoothies doesn’t get watery and all the ingredients cohere. Drink immediately!

blueberry mango coconut smoothie

cinnamon + cacao granola (paleo/gluten-free)

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When I was in Nicaragua I fell asleep at nine and woke at five. It’s been my habit to wear ear plugs when I sleep since the slightest sound could wake me, however, in Nicaragua I was distracted by the fact that there were no sounds from which I could escape. I took a place in the mountains and all one could hear come nightfall were birds flittering through trees and nocturnal animals calling. In the morning were different birds, different animals but the same trees, and it felt as if the trees never resumed their former shape because of all the velocity, the shaking. It took me two days to become accustomed to the quiet and then I welcomed it. It felt natural to sleep and rise in concert with the dark and light, and since I’ve been back I’ve exhausted.

I still sleep, yet there’s so much noise around me. I wear my ear plugs again to quiet the footfalls of men rushing up and down the stairs at all hours, the blare of horns and music as cars race down my street. At dawn I wake to shovels scraping the sidewalk and a host of other tools meant to break ice. I listen to music on my morning commute because everything is just too much, and I even shy away from friends who write that they are so! busy! because it’s as if I can hear the sounds of their disquiet, of rapid movement.

I’m wondering if, like the trees, I’ll ever be able to resume my shape.

People (friends, colleagues, acquaintances) have been asking the perfunctory questions related to a move: have I found a place in California (no, because I only decided less than a week ago that this would be the place to which I would move this year)? What about my health insurance (I’ll have to complete forms)? What about driving (I’ll figure that out when I get there)? What about money (don’t you think that I don’t think about money when I’m not thinking about money)? What about your apartment (I’m leaving, I’m leaving)? What about your book (don’t ask)? What about movers (making inquiries)? What about friends (working on it)?

I’ve been back less than a week, having barely adjusted from moving to one environ to another, and I’m getting killed with questions.

Lately I’ve found the act of multitasking hard, impossible even. I can no longer read and listen to music. I can no longer deal with programming a new phone and reviewing a quarterly analytics report. I’m finding that I work best when I focus on one task at a time, perform it to its measure, and then move on to the next. Right now I’m focused on making enough money to pay my taxes, dental surgeries (will marry for dental insurance!), and enough to get me settled for three months in California. Then I’ll worry about logistics. Then I’ll worry about everything else.

Right now I’m gathering as much information as I can while letting a lot of my possessions go. Right now I need people to help me with information and work and take my things.

Right now I need to hole up in my home and rest while I devour all of this chocolately granola.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe via The Whole Pantry app* (best $2.99 I’ve spent in months see note, below)
2 cups coconut flakes
½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ cup poppy or sesame seeds (I used slivered almonds)
½ cup chia seeds
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
⅓ cup rice malt syrup, honey or coconut nectar
¼ cup melted coconut oil
½ tsp sea salt flakes
2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cacao powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 125°c / 255°F. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and use hands (or a spatula) to coat evenly. Line a tray with baking paper and spray lightly. Spread mixture evenly onto tray. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. At this point, you can add in additional dried fruit (I love dried cherries and ginger), and store in airtight container or glass jar for up to a week.

*Note: As you guys know I’m pretty obsessive about researching products before I try them, but admittedly I got seduced by this app while in the Apple store waiting a month to get my iPhone6. I hadn’t learned about the apparent shadiness behind the app and its founder until a reader brought it to my attention a few days ago on Twitter, and a kind reader (thanks, Emi!) posted a comment today. I did some digging and I’m so unnerved (to put it mildly) that someone would lie about surviving cancer and defraud people out of thousands of dollars for her own financial gain. I want to apologize to you guys for not doing my due diligence, and I’m glad you’ve brought this to my attention. I’ll be extra vigilant, moving forward. As always, thank you! For more information about the story, click here and here.

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cherry ginger granola

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What a week. I think I’m still adjusting to working three projects simultaneously, one of which takes me to an office deep in New Jersey for three days a week. Work, coupled with long-overdue get togethers with friends, fighting with USPS over a package that decided to take a cross-country sojourn, trying to keep some sort of semblance of a workout schedule while remembering that apple cake is not a lunch solution, made having “me” time nearly impossible. When I started this freelance life two years ago, I promised myself that I would never sacrifice necessary recharge time–my health and time alone would never be sacrificed. I’m an introvert, which means that although I like people, I don’t like being around them ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, I simply crave my own company.

Come 5pm tonight, I plan on holing up in my apartment with my DVDs, snacks, this granola (!!!), and cat until Monday. You can’t even begin to understand the joys of being completely and utterly alone.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Vibrant Food
3 cups oats
1 cup raw almonds (I used pecans, as I didn’t have almonds on hand)
1/2 cup raw pistachios
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped crystallised ginger

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 300F/170C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, nuts, pumpkin seeds, ginger, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the maple syrup, olive oil and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix thoroughly until all the dry ingredients are sticky. Spread the mixture out over the baking tray and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the granola is toasty-brown.

Remove from the oven, add the cherries and crystallised ginger and then pat down with the back of a wooden spoon to encourage clumping. Leave to cool before transferring to an airtight container to store.

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spiced pear and coconut muffins (gluten-free)

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In between immersing myself in forty documents for a wonderful new brand project I’ve acquired and baking these perfectly fluffy muffins, I’ve been eyeing the street. It feels like Christmas in these parts, as I’ve been waiting for my new camera lens. Some people get excited by finery, but I love food, books and cameras. Recently, I purchased a 16-35mm f/2.8L ii lens so that I’d be able to shoot landscapes and skies. From the terrain in Montana to Joshua Tree to an upcoming trip to Nicaragua, I’m excited to break in my lens and take the sort of pictures of which I’ve only dreamed.

Now if UPS would only just show up while I shove these muffins in my mouth!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Small Plates, Sweet Treats, with modifications.
10 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/2 cup gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup)
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup dark amber maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut cane sugar
1 tsp almond extract (you can also use vanilla, per the original recipe)
2 medium-sized Anjou pears (I used Anjou and drained the pears after I grated them)
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, cook the oil until completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the oil to a clean bowl to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and coconut oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined. While I used a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, you can do all of this by hand.

Grate the pears using a box grater, skin and all. Since I used a juicier pear, I drained the excess juice before I added the pears to the batter. Fold the grated pears into the batter.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners and, using an ice cream scoop, fill the liners with the batter about three-quarters of the way full. Sprinkle the tops with chopped pistachios.

Bake the muffins for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack and let them cool completely.

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chickpea pancakes with leeks + squash (gluten-free + insanely delicious)

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When I think about diets, resolutions, and Hallmark holidays devoted to spending a day appreciating the ones we love, I think about time. We have twenty-four hours to celebrate the anniversary of a beloved; come February, we’ll lament abandoning the resolution we made so valiantly on the eve of the new year; we’ll white-knuckle and calorie-count until the day we surrender to a box of cookies because it’s Monday and the world owes us.

Diets, resolutions and single-day holidays are all predicated on finite time, on a defined beginning and end. We’ll be abundant with our love today, yet tomorrow we’ll resume our pleasant amiability and tender wheedling because we are the wheedling kind. We’ll compose our list, traits of the kind of people we want to be, but we always end up an inch from where we started and then we regard our skin as something like an ill-fitted costume we grow tired of wearing. We wanted that new body, that new love, that new life, but we retreat back to ourselves, defeated, think, I guess this is all I’ll ever be. We’ll pale down to bone because the world tells us about the dichotomy of maths–the more you disappear, the more you are visible, coveted. And the guilt you feel when you wave the white flag over a cookie, a warm buttered bagel, or a slice of blackout cake, that guilt whispers that you don’t deserve those single-day holidays. You don’t deserve all this love.

I have to tell you that I abhor diets, resolutions and anniversaries. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, a single day in November on which we’re supposed to be thankful. Rather, why not work to love and live with abundance every day. Instead of creating silly lists, why not absolve to create something new–big or small–every day? In that act of creation is change. Why not do something selfless without the expectation of anything in return. Why not wake each morning and say, out loud, I love you to yourself and your beloveds. Why not arrive at every meal and regard it as nourishment and fuel rather than a war you wage with flatware? How about we forget about calories as that’s an archaic measurement of health and well-being and focus on putting real food on our body? How about we consider how we feel in our body and our heart rather than whether a pair of pants fit. I’ve been a negative integer. Those pants used to always fit and often hang, and I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t happy. My heart was filled with greed, anger, and want. There could always be more. I could always be less.

I say, fuck diets, fuck resolutions, fuck singular days of economic devotion. Love and live mindfully and abundant every single day of your life. It’s hard to be present. It’s hard to stay the course. But you might wake one day, over the course of your journey, and realize that this deliberate choice you’ve made, being present for the infinite, is the best choice you’ve ever made.

I used to be angry that I couldn’t have gluten or dairy. I used to want to take the easy way out and consume gluten-free versions of all my favorite carbs. But how would I have ever discovered abundance amidst confinement? Would I have ever bothered making these vegetable pancakes when it would’ve been easier to make pesto pasta? Would I have felt a sense of pride over making something healthy and delicious, or continued on with living an uncomfortably comfortable life?

Fuck comfortable. Be present. Eat all the chickpeas.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Bon Appetit
6 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
½ tsp kosher salt, plus more
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated peeled squash (such as butternut or kabocha)
1 large egg
¾ cup chickpea flour
¼ tsp baking powder
½ cup plain yogurt (I nixed this as I can’t have dairy)
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Optional: I served this on a bed for spinach (2 cups per person) + 3 figs divided (per person)

DIRECTIONS
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high. Add leek, season with kosher salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until leek is softened and starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Add squash and season again. Cook, stirring often, until squash is cooked through and softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a plate and let cool. Wipe out skillet and reserve.

Meanwhile, whisk egg, chickpea flour, baking powder, 1 Tbsp. oil, ½ tsp. kosher salt, and ½ cup water in a medium bowl; season with pepper and let sit 5 minutes for flour to hydrate. Stir vegetables into batter just to coat.

Heat 1½ Tbsp. oil in reserved skillet over medium-high. Add batter by the ¼-cupful to make 4 pancakes, gently flattening to about ¼” thick. Batter should spread easily—if it doesn’t, thin with a little water. Cook until bottoms are lightly browned and bubbles form on top, about 4 minutes. Use a spatula to carefully flip pancakes over and cook until browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and tent with a sheet of foil to keep warm. Repeat with another 1½ Tbsp. oil and remaining batter. Serve pancakes topped with yogurt, parsley, sea salt, and pepper.

Do Ahead: Leek and squash can be cooked 2 days ahead; cover and chill. Batter can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill.

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grain-free granola (and dear god, this is GOOD)

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Sometimes I miss gluten, I do. I’ll see an Instagram photo of a thin crust pizza topped with pancetta and figs and I’ll mourn. When I was in Spain, I took an apartment next to a bakery and the waft of baked morning loaves was sometimes unbearable. I don’t miss pasta as much as I thought I would, or the laundry list of foods that contain gluten in one form or another, but I miss bread. I miss oats. I miss granola. Now you may wave your pro-oat flag and tell me that there are gluten-free versions of oats, to which I’ll solemnly shake my head and respond, no, you are mistaken. All oats have gluten, and the gf versions simple don’t have the form of gluten intolerable to celiacs. Thus, it’s safe! Let the gluten-free label mania commence!

And then there are people like me, who are sensitive to gluten of all molecular shapes and forms, who break out into hives that one day I indulged in some gluten-free oats in my pancakes. I’ll spare you the visuals.

I thought I’d have to wait 7 more months to have granola until I came upon this paleo-friendly recipe. AND DEAR GOD, ORANGE KITTENS AND CHARRED-CRUST PIZZA WITH CRUMBLED SAUSAGE, THIS IS GOOD. Better than the oat version, my grain and gluten-free friends. Believe me when I say that I didn’t even purchase my requisite coconut or almond yoghurt (don’t believe what people tell you–these versions simply aren’t as good as the dairy-ridden kind)–I ate this granola by the spoonful. I love how it’s at turns salty and sweet, and the softened figs and dates give the granola a lovely texture.

I could eat this for days. Even if you’re one of the lucky ones, one of the bread-eating, pizza-crust-nibbling folk, living a gluten, fanciful life, this granola will kick your crap oats any day of the week.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Paleo Kitchen, modified
1 cup blanched, sliced almonds
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped
3 dried figs, chopped
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup almond flour/meal
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (if you don’t have this, add another tsp of vanilla extract)
pinch of cinnamon + sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients. Turn the mixture out onto the baking sheet and spread into a thin, even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring the mixture halfway through the baking process. Let cool completely before serving to ensure that the granola will harden into clusters.

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the cheerful chocolate avocado smoothie (dairy-free)

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When you have jet lag, you might stand in your kitchen and experience vertigo over the thought of making soup. You might lie on your couch, catatonic, watching old Katie Holmes movies. You might read a heady book on the history of the banana republics and United Fruit or wander food markets in a daze. You might watch The Shining, as if it’s the first time you’ve seen it instead of the 1,564th time.

Jet lag is real, friends, and yesterday was comical and exhausting. The idea of cooking a complicated meal was unimaginable, and I stared at the greens in my fridge and wanted to go to sleep. The afternoon wasn’t as daunting as was the evening, when I wanted to crawl under the covers at 7pm and fall asleep. Thankfully, I made it until 9pm.

For dinner, I made this huge smoothie (it’s made for two), shoved some chorizo in my mouth and tumbled to bed. Today I plan to summon the strength for a CFE class and making my lunch for the work week. Pray for a woman.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, modified slightly
2 cups almond milk
6-8 pitted dates
2 tbsp cacao
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup ripe avocado
2 tsp unsweetened coconut flakes
6-8 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS
Add all of the ingredients to a high-powered blender or Vitamix and blitz until smooth. Serves two, or you can be a jetlagged imitation of me and drink the whole lot of it and pass out at 9pm.

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my morning smoothie + the art of self-care

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When left to my own devices, I will get a scone (blueberry, if you please) or a muffin where the edges are crisp and the cake is yielding. When I’m flush, I’ll scarf down an almond croissant dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and when I’m low I’ll feast on a bagel, and feel as I’m carrying boulders for the rest of the day.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this concept of self-care–the art of listening to your body, feeling yourself in your own skin: the space between your fingers and toes and the like. The first steps are listening and feeling, being present, paying attention, and then we do the things that are right for ourselves as opposed to the things we think we ought to be doing. Perhaps it’s taking the shape of a yoga pose we took previously, or lifting the weights that were once so effortless. Or maybe it’s the need to stay home and rest when the world demands your velocity. A good friend once told me that on your deathbed, you’ll never say, I wish I spent more time in the office or I wish I had more money or fancy finery to hang in my closet. In the end, we wish we would have lived more, loved more, paid attention more. And it’s only when we take some time to take care of ourselves do we have the strength to be our best selves with others.

I’ve been thinking about self-care when it comes to food, and I often equated self-care to self-medication. I need that scone because I need armor, protection against the host of meetings ahead of me. I need, no, deserve, that bowl of macaroni and cheese because, can I just tell you about the day I had? But the feeling of comfort is always fleeting, it departs as quickly as the sheets have cooled, and you’re back to where you started. The busy morning. The day worth shredding.

Instead, I’m thinking more about self-care, fuel, rather than anesthesia. And while this smoothie may not look glamorous, it gets me off on the right foot, as it were. Gives me the energy to start my day, sharp and clear-headed. Because I need to be healthy, present and strong for myself in order to be present for others.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup almond milk
1 ½ scoops of XyMogen OptiMetaboliX™ powder*
Fruit Options (I mix up the ingredients in my smoothie, daily): 4 figs (my favorite!); 5 strawberries; handful of blueberries; 1 peach; 1/2 cup pineapple or watermelon; 1/3 cup blackberries
Veg: a handful of kale or spinach
5 ice cubes

*Note: Here’s the rub: you can only get this powder from licensed nutritionists or medical professionals. If that’s not possible, feel free to sub in your favorite protein powder. I’d opt for vegan protein or hemp rather than whey.

DIRECTIONS
Add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender (I start with the fruit + veg at the bottom to preserve my blades), and blitz until smooth.

chocolate almond banana acai bowl

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Let’s talk about the Avocado Consumption of 2002. 2002 was the year I discovered the avocado, consumed it at every meal (I practically subsisted on guacamole), and ended up developing an allergy to it. If you’ve been a long-time reader of this space, you’ll know that I have an addictive personality. If I love something, I love it HARD until it becomes something that I hate, something that my body is desperate to reject. When I think about it, I’ve always been this way. When I love something so much I have to undress it, dig deep and burrow myself all the way in there. I have to know something until it’s completely familiar, until there’s nothing else to know.

Moderation is a joke, because I tend to skirt the extremes. But I’m trying. Hence, the nutritionist I’m seeing this week. But I digress.

I recently discovered the acai bowl. Believe me when I say that the feeling I had for my first bowl was like church. Light streaming in through the glass, cold pews, crisp paper–all that jazz. In short, I’m returning to the Avocado Consumption era. Luckily, I think I’ve hit a wall after having realized that I can’t LIVE ON ACAI. Naturally, this happened after two days of eating nothing but acai smoothies and bowls. Sound familiar?

Anyway, I love this bowl. Don’t be deceived by the look of this recipe because it’s not saccharine sweet. While the dates and banana lend some tenderness, the cacao is a bit bitter and the acai fruit isn’t your quintessential raspberry, which is to say that this bowl has wonderful balance. Not only is it insanely healthy, but you will be sated for HOURS.

HOURS, PEOPLE. Let that sink in.

Know that I’ve got a few more acai recipes cooking, so this won’t be the last of my beloved bowl.

INGREDIENTS
1 large banana
2 Sambazon‘s Immunity Smoothie Acai packs (New Yorkers, this is on Fresh Direct)
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 cup rice milk (coconut/almond milk will do just fine here, as well)
1 tbsp cacao
2 dates
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup your favorite granola
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

DIRECTIONS
Blitz all the ingredients (from the banana to almond butter) in a high-powered blender/Vitamix, with the banana being at the bottom as a buffer for your blades, until smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the coconut flakes, granola + blueberries on top. Dive in with a spoon and weep.

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chocolate banana chia pudding

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Welcome to my new breakfast. After months of blitzing up my almond butter cup smoothie to only indulge in a scone once I hit the train station, I’ve finally found a breakfast that keeps me stuffed until lunchtime–no small feat, I assure you. Inspired by TV Dinner’s post + devouring expensive, yet insanely delicious, acai bowls at Tiny Empire, I decided to fix up a chia pudding of my own. Not only does this recipe feel like I’m having dessert for breakfast, but the protein and potassium boost give me enough energy to tackle my day. I’ve had this pudding three days in a room + I’m hooked.

So, friends, my gift to you.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup enriched vanilla rice milk
3 tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp vanilla extract {coconut extract would also be lovely!}
2 tsp cacao powder
1 tsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp Truvia/stevia
1 tsp almond butter
1/2 ripe banana

DIRECTIONS
In a mason jar or a small bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the banana and almond butter. If you’re using a bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store your pudding in the fridge overnight. In the morning, uncover, mix, and top with almond butter and banana slices.

cinnamon buns + a novel update {so close!}

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Things have been quiet around here simply for the fact that except for workouts and the sole writing date, I’ve spent the past four days holed up in my apartment working on my novel. I’d been stuck on Part III, unsure of how to find closure with my characters and this story, which ended up being exactly what I never thought it would be. Suddenly, the story came like a torrent. So much so that I stayed up until two in the morning last night, writing.

Know that I normally go to bed at 10 and wake up at 5. Let’s just say that getting up this morning was ROUGH.

But I’m close, so close I can see the end in sight, and it’s terrifying and exciting. Last year, when I left my old life behind in pursuit of something other, I took a trip to Europe to get some quiet. And the week before I was schedule to fly home, I started writing. I hadn’t written anything in four years, and it came and I didn’t question it, think about or analyze it–I just wrote in front of the ocean. In sleepy Biarritz, I started writing a story about a woman who set another woman’s hair on fire. A year later and nearly 240 pages, I’ve fallen in love with these people–some of whom I’ve known since the story collection I was writing during my Columbia days–and I’m a little sad to see this story come to a close.

Yesterday, I took a much needed break and baked up these cinnamon rolls. I love baking yeast breads because it requires you to linger, to be conscious of time, and so I scheduled writing bursts between the multiple proofs, and come nightfall I savored a bun with some coffee, typing into the night.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of The Food Network.
For the dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1/4-ounce package)
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the bowl
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

For the filling:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, very soft, plus more for coating the pan
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the glaze:
2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS
For the dough: Combine the milk and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan and warm over low heat until it is about 100 degrees F (but no more than 110 degrees). Remove from the heat and sprinkle the yeast over the surface over the liquid. Sprinkle a pinch of the granulated sugar over the top and set aside without stirring, until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Whisk the butter, vanilla and egg yolk into the yeast mixture.

Whisk the flour, remaining granulated sugar, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon to make a thick and slightly sticky dough. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 6 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put the dough in the buttered bowl, turning to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, trace a circle the size of the dough on the plastic and note the time. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead briefly to release excess air; reform into a ball and return to the bowl. Lightly butter a large piece of plastic wrap and lay it on the dough. Cover the entire bowl tightly with the plastic and proof in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

To fill and form the rolls: Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Whisk the granulated sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Turn the prepared dough onto a floured work surface and press flat. Then roll into a 10- by 18-inch rectangle, with a long edge facing you. Spread the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving about an inch border on the side opposite you. Evenly scatter the cinnamon-sugar over the butter. Starting from the long side facing you, roll the dough up into a tight cylinder. Lightly brush the clean edge of the dough with water. Press the open long edge to the dough to seal the cylinder.

Slip a long taut piece of string or unflavored dental floss under the roll, about 1 1/2 inches from the end. Lift and cross the string ends over the roll, and then pull the ends tightly in opposite directions to cut a single roll. Repeat, cutting every 1 1/2 inches, to make 12 rolls. Place the rolls cut-side-down in the prepared pan, leaving 1 inch of space between them. Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until rolls double in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Bake the buns until golden brown and the tops of the buns spring back when pressed lightly, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

For the glaze: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the condensed milk, butter and lemon juice to make a smooth, slightly loose icing. Add the vanilla and cinnamon. Drizzle the icing over the warm buns. Serve.

Note: These buns are best eaten on the day they’re baked, but they’ll keep, covered, for 1 day. For a make-ahead option, refrigerate or freeze the buns after forming. If refrigerated, allow the buns to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes, then let rise fully until doubled in size before baking, about 2 hours. If frozen, allow the buns to come to room temperature, about 1 hour, and let rise fully until doubled in size before baking, about 2 hours.

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