Hawaii Trip, Part 1

Aloha!! I just arrived back from a week in Hawaii visiting my friend Val. What a beautiful place! I only wish I could’ve stayed longer. I’m just finally going through all my pictures now, and already wish I could go back! From the weather to the beaches to the endless palm trees, the island of Oahu was truly an amazing place. Sadly I didn’t bring the warm weather home with me though! Haha.

My trip kicked off at JFK. I brought some handy-dandy Trader Joe’s green juice to fuel up before the flight! I flew six hours to LAX and then another six hours to Honolulu. So I left at about noon on a Saturday in New York and arrived in Hawaii at about 8pm on Saturday. The time change actually wasn’t as horrible as I feared. I pretty much just went straight to bed the first night, and adjusted throughout the week.

Green Juice Coffee in Hawaii

Maybe it sounds cheesy, but I am such a sucker for palm trees! I was overly excited to discover endless amounts of palm trees EVERYWHERE once I arrived at Val’s house. (And really everywhere else.)

Palm Trees in Hawaii

These monkeypod trees were also all over the place. They remind me of something out of a fairy tale!

Monkeypod Trees in Hawaii

On my first day, I groggily (still recovering from the six-hour time difference) walked down to the beach. There’s a stunning lookout just about 15 minutes away from Val’s house. So beautiful!

Pacific Ocean Hawaii

Diamond Head Lookout Diamond Head Beach

I came across a street named “Coconut Avenue” during my walk. LOVE. Where else in the world would you find this? I wish I lived on Coconut Ave!

Coconut Avenue

Palm Trees in Hawaii

One of my first meals was breakfast at Kokohead Cafe. I ordered a garden frittata (with coffee, of course), and I don’t completely remember what Val ordered but I think it involved pork! It was such a cute spot, like a surfer shack meets diner.

Breakfast at Kokohead Cafe Garden Frittata at Kokoheaad Cafe

Palm Tree in Hawaii

On my second day there, I hiked to the top of Diamond Head — a 200,000 year-old mountain that used to be a volcano!

Diamond Head Crater

Diamond Head State Monument

Here are some pictures I took from the top:

Top of Diamond Head View From Top of Diamond Head IMG_8443 View From Top of Diamond Head

And then back to the beach!

Diamond Head Beach

After the beach, I hit up Coffee Talk, which according to Val, is a Hawaiian institution! They serve up tons of unique drinks like Cinnamon Roll and Nutella Lattes.

Coffee Talk Hawaii Coffee Talk Hawaii

I opted for an iced almond milk latte. So refreshing!

Coffee Talk Hawaii

We finished the day at Diamond Head lookout! I’m not sure why, but the sunsets in Hawaii seem ESPECIALLY spectacular!

Sunset in Hawaii For dinner Monday night, we went to Val’s favorite Greek place, Olive Tree. Yum! I honestly forgot how much I loved Greek food until we came here. We ordered hummus and babba gannoush to share. I had never eaten baba ghanoush before (I think I was put off by the name? Haha!), but I am now a fan. I also ordered the tabbouleh salad and we shared baklava for dessert.

Olive Tree Tabbouleh Salad Tuesday was a major adventure day! We started with acai bowls from Health Bar. I NEED to try recreating this at home. The combination of everything was just on point. Acai smoothie, banana, granola, honey, strawberries… yum!!

Acai Bowl from Health Bar Anyways, so back to the adventure part. We hiked through the rain forest! One of the coolest parts was walking through this bamboo forest. I had never seen bamboo up close and it was seriously incredible! And SO tall, as you can see.

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This part was a waterfall, which was semi-walkable. I “hop-scotched” my way from rock to rock to walk around.

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I also climbed an old Banyan tree!

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After the hike, we drove to the Pali Lookout. Wow! The views from up there were almost even better than Diamond Head.

Pali Lookout Pali Lookout

We went back to the beach again later that afternoon. Honestly, the beach never got old. Never.

Beach in Hawaii Palm Trees in Hawaii IMG_8558

On Tuesday night, we ate dinner at Panya. I ordered a salmon salad packed withs strawberries, apples and ginger (and a few other things I can’t remember!).

Salad at Panya

Of course we needed some dessert to finish off the night. Ice cream was the answer! We stopped at Bubbies, and I ordered two scoops of ice cream: coconut and Oreo. Yum!

Ice Cream at Bubbies in Hawaii

That’s all for the first half of my trip. I have even more (TONS) of pictures to share…  so stay tuned for “part two” of this post!

Trader Joe’s Greens, Beans and Grains

Another week, another Trader Joe’s find! I’m ALL about the quick and easy dinner options lately. So I ventured back to the frozen aisle and found Greens, Beans and Grains. According to Trader Joe’s, this is a West African dish — similar to a peanut soup or stew — and features kale, garbanzo beans, peanuts and couscous.

Trader Joe's Greens, Beans and Grains

After a few minutes of prep work (i.e. microwave), this entree was ready to go! I mixed in some of my own kale, too.

The verdict: for a frozen meal, it’s jam-packed with flavor! This surprised and impressed me. The combination of ingredients is spot-on, with the peanuts and garbanzo beans creating just the right amount of crunch. My only complaint is the ratio of couscous to greens/beans. For me, the portion of couscous seemed excessive, and I would’ve liked more veggies. That being said, I took care of this by mixing in some of my own kale, which I highly recommend doing!

Final thoughts: skip the gross Lean Cuisines, and check out this instead. TJ’s frozen meals will exceed your expectations, I promise!

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Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Muffins

I love baking experiments. LOVE. I could bake all day and never get bored! Anyone else? Just look at the pics from my last post. I spent the entire weekend making desserts. :-D First up: these muffins! Bonus points: they are vegan (!) AND super easy.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Muffins

I adapted the recipe from one of my favorite healthy food bloggers, The Balanced Blonde. Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
  • 4 tbsp almond butter
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • A few dashes of cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (I love Bob’s Red Mill Coconut)

How-to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Mash banana with a fork until creamy.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Grease a muffin tin and drop in spoonfuls of batter. (Fill all the way close to the top — they don’t really rise very much.)
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Let cool.

I stored these in a tupperware container at room temperature. After a few days, I moved them into the fridge. According to The Balanced Blonde, they will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Muffins

 

**Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which may generate a revenue for my site when a purchase is made.**

25th Birthday

Hola! February has been a whirlwind. Not even talking about the weather! After two back-to-back weekend trips visiting my family and friends, I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday month. I first kicked off all the festivities with my friends in New York. We ate dinner at Galli in Soho. Regrettably, I forgot to take pictures — but I will say that the pasta primavera was incredible. :-D

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In my opinion, one of the best parts about birthdays is getting snail mail. I especially loved this card from my brother. Pink + glitter + wine + cake… couldn’t have combined more of my favorite things all into one!

Birthday Card

After part 1 of my birthday, I flew home to visit my family for Presidents Day weekend. Here’s a shot of all my airport essentials: giant water bottle + cereal snack mix! I always try to keep healthy snacks with me when I travel. And, of course, drink as much water as possible. Flying is so dehydrating!

Travel Essentials

On Valentine’s Day, I was feeling extra festive and whipped up these heart-shaped chocolate chip banana pancakes from Skinnytaste. They were ahhh-mazing! Pancakes never disappoint.

Heart-Shaped Pancakes

I followed up with baking project #2: vegan granola! Recipe coming soon. :-) PS — how do you like my leopard slippers + snowflake pajamas? Killin’ it!

Vegan Granola

That night, we celebrated my birthday with dinner downtown. I opted for pan seared walleye pike with steamed asparagus and quinoa (which you can’t really see in the picture). It was delicious!

Walleye Pike

Dessert was my favorite: red velvet cake with LOTS of frosting. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Birthday Cake

The next day, I jumped back into the kitchen for more baking! This time: vegan banana chocolate chip coconut muffins. They were to-die for! I adapted The Balanced Blonde’s recipe, and will share soon.

Vegan Banana Muffins

Vegan Banana Muffin with Coffee

Also a random side note: I’ve consumed a lot of V-Day candy over the past few weeks, which has led me to thinking… is it just me, or are Valentine’s Day colors the best for candy? They really should have pink and red M&M’s all year-round! Can’t get enough of ‘em…

Valentine's Day Peanut M&M's

Anywho, stay tuned for these recipes! I promise, they are worth the wait… :-D

Trader Joe’s Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Wheatberry Salad

I’m back today with another Trader Joe’s find: roasted butternut squash, red quinoa and wheatberry salad! Have you ever shopped in the TJ’s ‘to-go’ section? That’s where I found this. I typically cook my own meals, but sometimes I’m short on time (or patience!).

Trader Joe's Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Wheatberry Salad

There had to have been at least seven or eight different salads to choose from. I settled on this one. Probably because I can’t resist anything that involves butternut squash! :-P I also opted for a salad without meat, as I’m trying to cut it (and dairy) out of my diet as much as possible.

Soooo, on to the good stuff… how did it taste?

Pluses: the dressing tasted delicious as far as packaged dressings go. I highly recommend using it, because it gives the salad an extra punch of flavor. The protein and fiber stats are also very impressive, especially for a vegetarian salad.

Minuses: Not enough butternut squash! I felt a little cheated here, and the pieces they give you are really quite small (at least by my standards). Also, the sugar stats are SKY high at 22 grams. Mind you, the daily recommended value according to the World Health Organization is 25 grams. A day’s worth of sugar in one salad… yikes! I attribute this to the dried cranberries, which I pretty much avoided.

All in all, I still recommend this salad and would buy it again. At about $4, it’s a great value, and an excellent healthy alternative to many take-out, delivery and fast food options!

Trader Joe's Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Wheatberry Salad Nutrition Facts Trader Joe's Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Wheatberry Salad Ingredients List

7 Healthy Valentine’s Day Dessert Recipes

It’s almost time for the greatest dessert holiday of the year! Chocolate, strawberries, candy, cookies… I’m ALL about Valentine’s Day. And while I do love indulging (especially when it comes to chocolate!), I am ALSO a big believer in moderation. Whether it’s swapping in applesauce for butter, adding fresh fruit or using whole wheat instead of white flour, these 7 simple recipes will satisfy your sweet tooth without the added guilt. Take a look:

1. Strawberry Heart Fruit Kebabs via Modern Parents Messy Kids:

Strawberry Heart Fruit Kebabs

2. Chocolate Dipped Valentine’s Pretzels via Ms. Fox’s Sweets:

Chocolate Dipped Valentine's Pretzels

3. Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes via Undressed Skeleton:

Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes

4. Fudgy and Skinny Red Velvet Brownies via The Sweet Tooth Life:

Skinny Red Velvet Brownies

5. Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Blondies via Sally’s Baking Addiction:

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Blondies

6. Strawberry Banana Muffins with Greek Yogurt via Lauren Kelly Nutrition:

Strawberry Banana Muffins with Greek Yogurt

7. Chocolate Covered Strawberries via Skinnytaste:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries