Butternut Squash Lentil Soup

With the temps cooling down, I wanted to share one of my favorite soups for winter! I first discovered this recipe on Popsugar last year, and it’s quickly become one of my go-to’s. I know some people (especially non-vegetarians) are weirded out by lentils. But just trust me — this soup is SO comforting and you will change your mind. It requires only a few ingredients and a crock pot. Simple and oh-so good. 😀

Butternut Squash Lentil Soup

Butternut Squash Lentil Soup

Butternut Squash Lentil Soup (Recipe from Popsugar Fitness):

  • 8 cups veggie broth
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pound (3 cups) of butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • (Optional): dash of cayenne
  • (Optional): dash of turmeric

**Trade Joe’s also sells pre-chopped mirepoix (combo of celery, carrot and onion), if you don’t feel like cutting/peeling/chopping yourself. Look for it by the refrigerated produce/salad mixes. Would make this recipe even easier!

How-to: 

  1. Put all ingredients into a slow cooker and secure the lid.
  2. Turn it on low. Leave for 8 hours (or on high for 5 hours).
  3. Stir and eat!
  4. (Optional): season with a dash of
  5. cayenne and turmeric.
  6. Store in airtight container in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer.

Best Memories from 2015, Goals for 2016

Happy 2016! This is my favorite time of year to reflect on the past while setting new goals for the future. For me, goals are more specific than “resolutions” and easier to hold myself accountable to. Here goes!

Below are some of my best 2015 memories:

collage best of 2015

1. Trips for fun and work — I spread out my vacations pretty evenly across the year, traveling to Hawaii, Dallas and Fort Lauderdale, plus Wisconsin a handful of times to see my family. I also traveled to Anguilla for work. Travel is by far one of my favorite ways to spend time off! I’m lucky to have friends in several different cities to stay with.

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2. My cousin’s wedding — I was so happy to be a part of my cousin’s wedding this summer! It served as a fun family reunion with relatives I hadn’t seen in years.

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3. Half marathon — after taking a break from running for a few months (knee issues), I bounced back for a half marathon in September, I went into it with no huge expectations, thinking of it as a ‘fun run,’ and ended up PRing!

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4. Cooking classes — I had a ton of fun learning everything from sushi-making (not as impossible as I would’ve thought) to homemade pasta sauce! The classes I took were:

collage cooking classes 2015

5. New blog focus — this blog shifted gears from fashion/lifestyle to food/lifestyle in 2015. I realized my passion for cooking this year, and it has become one of my favorite hobbies. The more dishes I make, the more new recipes I want to try! I’m always on Pinterest or Instagram looking for new ideas and inspiration. This has subsequently spilled out onto my blog! I’m excited to expand on this front in 2016, try lots of new sweet/savory recipes, plus play around with my own experiments!

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2016 goals and aspirations:

  1. Run more. I plan to apply for the New York marathon lottery this year. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while! Even if I don’t get in, I’ll still sign up for a different marathon.
  2. Bake/cook more. I also want to take more cooking classes and expand my understanding of basic techniques, knife skills, ingredients, etc.
  3. Travel more. I already have plans for this goal! My family is traveling to Italy for my parents’ 60th birthdays in September. I’d also like to visit my friends in other states and go somewhere warm this year!
  4. Sleep more. I go through phases of being good about this, but I’ve gotten off track lately.
  5. Read more. I could always read more. Fiction, nonfiction. I never regret reading something new, even if it doesn’t end up being what I expected. This is something I really hope to work on in 2016!

Happy new year, everyone! 😀

Vegan Apple Cider Doughnuts

There are few things better than dessert for breakfast! Am I right? Especially doughnuts. But as much as I love the indulgent ones from Doughnut Plant or Dough in NYC, I wanted to make a healthier version that wasn’t fried and totally sugar-packed. Sooo, I bought my own doughnut pan to bake them at home! This was definitely a good decision… especially after my first experiment: apple cider doughnuts! Not only were these easy to make, they are way less “guilty” and just downright delicious. Serve with coffee or tea! Recipe below.

Vegan Apple Cider Doughnuts

Vegan Apple Cider Doughnuts Vegan Apple Cider Doughnuts

Vegan Apple Cider Doughnuts (Adapted from The Friendly Fig):

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (I used Grade B)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Maple glaze (optional):

  • 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar

How-to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease doughnut pan with coconut oil (or nonstick spray). Set aside.
  2. Add dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix together.
  3. Add in wet ingredients. Mix to combine.
  4. Scoop / spread batter into doughnut pan. (*The mix will seem fluffy. Don’t let that throw you off.)
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  6. (Optional): While doughnuts are baking, prep maple glaze.
  7. Remove doughnuts from oven. Drizzle with maple glaze.
  8. Enjoy!

Vegan Apple Cider Doughnuts

 

Taste Test: Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s vs. Pumpkin Spice Oreos

Everyone jokes about the pumpkin obsession. It’s okay. My love for pumpkin remains eternal. 😛 I will try any and all pumpkin products just for the heck of it. I’m that person. This includes the many, MANY Trader Joe’s offerings each season, like Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s. I just tried them for the FIRST time! This led me to two thoughts: (1) OMG. These are freaking amazing! How have I not tried them sooner? (2) How do they compare to Pumpkin Spice Oreos?

Pumpkin Joe-Joe's vs. Pumpkin Spice Oreos

Pumpkin Joe-Joe's vs. Pumpkin Spice Oreos

Only one way to resolve this… taste test! Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s vs. Pumpkin Spice Oreos…

Pumpkin Joe-Joe's vs. Pumpkin Spice Oreos

First up: Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s (pictured above, right). Really, these are everything you could dream for in a pumpkin sandwich cookie. Just enough filling (they almost seem double-stuffed!), and packed with a sweet, well-balanced pumpkin-y flavor. Not just cinnamon, but notes of all the other delicious pumpkin pie spices you know and love — ginger, nutmeg and allspice. It reminded me of pumpkin cheesecake the first time I tried it. I told my mom and she disagreed, but I kind of like the idea of comparing these to cheesecake, so I’m going with it.

Next up: Pumpkin Spice Oreos (pictured above, left). I WANTED to love these, I really did. But they just paled in comparison. First off, the filling was almost half the amount. And they barely tasted like pumpkin! (Unsurprisingly, pumpkin is not on the ingredients list like it is for the Joe-Joe’s.) I did notice a faint essence of spice… cinnamon, perhaps? Aside from that though, these tasted almost identical to the “golden” or vanilla Oreos. Seems fitting, because these won a very “vanilla” rating from me. They also boast a variety of sketchy ingredients not found in the Joe-Joe’s — e.g. high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring, etc.

All in all… Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s were the CLEAR winner!

What’s your take? Have you tried either of them?

And in case you’re curious, here are the nutrition labels for each.

Pumpkin Joe-Joes:

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Joe-Joe's IMG_4097

Pumpkin Spice Oreos:

Pumpkin Spice Oreos

Pumpkin Spice Oreos

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

Narrows Half Marathon Recap

Exciting *running* news… I completed my second-ever half marathon! (The Narrows Half Marathon — a few weekends ago.) Never thought I would say those words. I am even more excited to report that I PR’d. 2 hours, 15 minutes! I’m not a speedy runner by any means. But just beating my original time made me very happy! My journey with running has done a lot of great things for me. Most importantly, it has made me realize that when you set a goal, even a pretty lofty one (I used to hate running, so a half marathon to me is pretty dang lofty!), you really can achieve it if you put the time and effort in.

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I stuck to the same training plan that I used for my first half marathon. However, I did a couple things differently:

  • More outdoor runs vs. treadmill — I ran outside WAY more this time, which was great and I think really paid off. Plus, there’s just something meditative about doing a long run in the great outdoors! Sure, the treadmill is convenient and I like watching TV while I run, but it’s really not the same. Nothing compares to running along the Hudson, East River or Central Park in NYC!
  • More foam rolling, especially after long runs — this helped ease the soreness. I will also say that I rarely needed ibuprofen after the long runs. (I always did during my marathon training last year!)
  • More weight lifting — they say this is important for preventing injury. I devoted a couple days a week to weight lifting and it was also a nice break from all the runs.

Best of all, I was WAY less sore after this race. I do really think that all of the above paid off. And I didn’t suffer any knee issues. Wahoo! Last time, I was sore for several days, probably a week. Another thing I wanted to mention: I skipped several long runs. This did not affect me at all. I think this is important to note. The first time I trained, I was paranoid about sticking to the schedule 100%, but honestly, it’s not always realistic, especially between work, travel and personal commitments. Just stay on track as much as possible. If you miss one or two long runs, it’s not the end of the world!

Whew! I’m so glad that this race went as well as it did. Now it’s time to plan the next one! I’m leaning towards a 5K in October and / or December, just based on the races I could find in and around NYC. Definitely want to gear up for another half marathon or marathon in the new year! 😀 I’ll be sure to share more of my race plans / training schedules soon!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

It is OFFICIALLY fall, and I am beyond excited to kick off the season of all things pumpkin. Who’s with me?! 😀 First on the agenda: vegan chocolate chip pumpkin muffins! I was craving a sweet pumpkin treat, and muffins seemed like the right answer. I am very happy with how these turned out. Bonus points: there is no butter, dairy or eggs. They came out nice and soft without being raw or gooey in the middle, and stayed fresh-tasting for days after I baked them! I also opted to bake them straight in the pan without muffin liners because sometimes I have issues with the muffins sticking to the liners and falling apart. See below for the full recipe! And stay tuned for more pumpkin goodness this season. :-)

Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins   Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins   Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins (Adapted from Jessica in the Kitchen): 

  • 1/2 + 1/8 cups of white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp almond milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips + small handful (for sprinkling on top of the raw dough before putting into the oven for visible chocolate chips on top)

How-to: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease muffin pan with coconut oil, set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk together.
  3. In a standing mixer, mix the pumpkin puree, coconut oil and almond milk until combined for about 2 minutes. Add in vanilla extract.
  4. Add in dry ingredients. Mix one cup at a time into dry ingredients, on a medium to low speed until it’s all combined. Don’t overmix. (Up to 2 minutes is sufficient.) The mixture won’t be thin, but a tad thick.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips with spatula.
  6. Scoop batter into each muffin cavity, about 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Muffins are done when inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Store in airtight container. Enjoy!!