Homemade Cashew Milk (no straining needed!)

IMG_2608_Facetune_11-09-2018-18-42-54I haven’t always been the biggest fan of nut milks. It was a huge adjustment to try to get used to almond and coconut milk. But, I knew limiting how much dairy I consumed (especially milk) would be best for my body, so I have trained myself really well to enjoy it! My favorite milk by far is cashew milk, but it is so much more expensive to buy a decent brand.

What do I mean by a “decent brand”? Well, I mean something with simple, and very few, ingredients that actually benefit our bodies instead of tear them apart. Did you know some brands of nut milk have added preservatives and chemicals so they do not expire as quickly? This makes me feel super uncomfortable because I am trying to find ways to better my health, and if I am giving up animal milk, I shouldn’t be swapping it for something with added chemicals! It is the same thing with nut butters. Read the labels between Jiffy and Sprout’s (which cost the same), and you’ll see that there more than just peanuts in the Jiffy peanut butter.

For awhile now, I’ve been considering making my own nut milk. However, I am uncomfortable with the amount of waste that can come from straining and being left with nut “pulp” (ew?) I know there are ways to reuse the leftovers, but this all seems like a lot of work for the average person. Plus, I know not everyone wants to invest in a cheese cloth or special nut milk bag. So, in true Emilee fashion, I decided to experiment in the kitchen and figure out a way to make some simple cashew milk without having too many complicated steps. And that is just what I did.

I was able to make my cashew milk creamy and dreamy all while controlling what ingredients were added. There are so many varieties of ways to make delicious cashew milk with all natural flavors and I want to make sure that you know just how easy this was. I used mine in my smoothies daily, to dunk in cookies (that recipe is coming soon!), and in a delicious homemade latte. The possibilities with your cashew milk are endless, and it is so easy to make!

IMG_2595One step that I do want to clarify is when I say to “soak your cashews”. This is really important because when nuts/seeds are broken down (such as in a blender or food processor), they release natural chemicals that can be harmful to digestion. The soaking process eliminates this release while also making the nuts/seeds creamier when broken down! It is a MUST if you plan to make milk without straining! I recommend 6-8 hours of soaking because it comes out smoother and with less of a grainy texture. Slow and steady wins the race!

Homemade Cashew Milk Recipe

This makes about 5-6 cups, but you can adjust the recipe to make more or less!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of cashews *note: they must be RAW cashews!
  • 3 cups of filtered water (plus some for soaking!)
  • optional ingredients: local all-natural honey, organic all-natural maple syrup, vanilla extract, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, lavender extract, sea salt, or anything else that you want to add to your milk!

Directions

  1. Measure your cashews and place in a bowl. Put enough filtered water in the bowl to cover all the cashews. Place the bowl in a cool, safe place with a light towel over it. Let your cashews soak for 6-8 hours. Remember, this is an important step!
  2. Drain the water from the bowl and rinse your cashews. Place them in your blender with about 1 cup of water to start. Blend for at least 2-3 minutes. This will be very thick and creamy. This step will help decrease how grainy it is.
  3. Then, add another cup of water and repeat the steps until it is at the desired consistency. If your cashew milk is still grainy, keep blending!
  4. Add your choice of flavors/sweeteners. For chocolate cashew milk, try adding 4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. For lavender honey, add 1/4 cup of honey, 4 drops of lavender extract, and 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract. For a fall flavor, add 3 tablespoons of cinnamon and 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Or for my favorite (and what I made above) add 1/4 cup honey, 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract, and 2 pinches of sea salt. 
  5. Blend your ingredients together and store in an air tight container in the fridge. Jars work best!
  6. Let it cool and enjoy for up to a week! It makes a great coffee creamer!

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Paleo Gluten-Free Apple Fritter Bites

Fall is my favorite season, and I am so glad that it is finally here. From the color changing leaves to the seasonal holidays, I love all things fall! As a recipe creator it is even easier to create yummy foods when you love all the different flavors. From apple cinnamon to pumpkin nutmeg to rosemary and thyme; this is where my taste buds want to live!

To begin my wonderful fall recipe series, I wanted to take advantage of the delicious apples a family friend brought over, fresh from her tree! They are Macintosh, so they are a perfect balance of sweet and crisp. I couldn’t wait to use cinnamon as a pairing flavor to the perfect apples, but I knew I wanted to be a little bit more creative than an easy apple muffin.

I woke up this morning craving donuts with my coffee. When I would get donuts in the past, I would always get a glazed old-fashioned and an apple fritter. I love the sweet and fruity surprises that apple fritters brought, and that’s when it hit me. I should make an Emilee friendly apple fritter. Aka Paleo, gluten-free, no refined sugar, (and mainly dairy-free)…Thus my creation!

I didn’t want these to be overly sweet or overly heavy. Instead, I wanted an apple fritter that I could use as my morning carb so I would be less tempted to make a breakfast quesadilla (I got addicted and my body deserves better lol). So, I chose to make apple fritter donut holes so I could eat 2 or 3 and be satisfied while also having a properly portioned amount. I also didn’t want to have to try to figure out yeast or anything like that because I am not ready for that kind of commitment. But these little babes turned out amazing! I had no idea that on the first try I would get something so perfectly yummy and my craving satisfied. Not to mention, I now got to have donut holes with breakfast for the next 4 days without ruining my dietary needs. It’s overall a win win.

Paleo Gluten-Free Apple Fritter Bites

I was able to make about 16 2-inch Apple Fritter Bites from this recipe. I probably should have doubled it because my family ate a fair amount as well! And mind you, my family usually questions what I make (but then they try it and are in love!)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped apples (Granny Smith or Macintosh work best!)
  • 1 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-natural honey
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon liquid coconut oil mixed with 1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Then, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder.
  3. Next, add the eggs, vanilla extract, honey, and almond milk. Be sure to mix this well so all the ingredients are fully combined.
  4. Carefully fold your apples into the mix and try to get them evenly dispersed in the batter.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, take about 2 tablespoons of batter and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet about an inch apart from each other (they should not expand!)
  6. This step is optional, but helps bring moisture into the donuts. Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and mix in cinnamon. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each donut with the coconut cinnamon mix.
  7. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes to cool down. Another optional tip: drizzle a tablespoon of honey across the top.
  9. Enjoy while wrapped in a cozy knit blanket, smelling a fall scented candle, and while sipping a pumpkin spice latte (;

Should I Stay, or Should I Go?

IMG_0570I grew up with parent’s who took me on adventures. I do not mean that we always went somewhere exciting or new, but they made even the short walk down the block to get slurpees an adventure. Adventure runs through my veins similarly to the way blood runs through; rushing to my heart quickly, and then my head soon after. However, I never experienced the adventures of constant travel until after I graduated from college. Being bit by the travel bug has brought me through unforgettable experiences and leaves me feverish for more. I guess you could say I really and truly relate to Belle when she sings about wanting “adventure in the great wide somewhere” and wanting it more than she can tell.

Let’s back track a bit to after I graduated from college. I wrote an entire post about it that you can read here, but let’s go over the basics! I went to college in Ventura County and had the time of my life. I then got offered what I thought was a dream job back up in the Bay Area, where I grew up. It was in a small mountain town about an hour from my parent’s house. At first, it was an ideal situation. I was working a job that I thought would be something that would last forever, while also getting to heal from some situations that occurred within my last few years in college. I loved it at first, then suddenly, things took a 180 and now I am doing what I do now. And as wonderful as my life currently is, I am starting to feel way too routined.

But this post isn’t just about having a craving for adventure, but more about what the next step in my life should be. Currently, I am studying for the GRE (which I will be taking mid-September so it’s coming up quickly), as well as applying for my top graduate schools, working for the dance company, building my online health/fitness coaching business, and also volunteering at the hospital and breast cancer center…so it’s going to be a busy fall season! However, I will not be attending school until Fall 2019…so yes, I have an entire year to do more amazing things; and I will not waste that year. I want to travel more, experience life more, and give myself some new beginnings.

Initially, my plan was to move back down to Southern California in January. As of now, the schools I want to attend are down in the LA area and I think it there is a possibility of spending the rest of my life there. I love the communities and friendships I’ve made while down there and I love being able to jump in the car and go to the beach, mountains, and city within 3 hours. Yes, I get that in the Bay Area as well, but I think that I have simply outgrown this area. Especially now that a majority of my closest friends in this area have now moved away. I’m itching to begin a new lifestyle; I am ready to move out of my family’s home (even though they are the best), be on my own, and be living in my twenties!

Like I said before, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the life I am currently living. I have a wonderful family, a great job, I’m getting to work hands on with patients, and I am saving money…but the other day I realized that just because the life I am living is fine, doesn’t mean it is the life I should be living.

IMG_0569In the past, I had a lot of fear when it came to living in new places. I lived in the same house, in the same room, until I moved for college. From there I had living drama and some crappy roommates (but also a really great one <3). It gave me a lot of experience but also made me nervous to live with new people and in new places. However, I overcame my fear when I moved back up to the small mountain town because I worked at a camp and lived on-site in a cabin. Now that cabin barely had electricity, had no bathroom, and no cell phone service. This cabin was basically a studio apartment with no kitchen, bathroom, or balcony. Just a plain room. As much as I loved to hate that cabin, I also loved the experience of living in a new town and making new friends and starting a new life..even if it was just temporary. It made me realize that there is a lot of adventure out there and I am young, single, and in need of living my life to the fullest before settling in on a career.

When I start graduate school, it will be a lot of focusing on getting my career where I want it to be. I finally know what I want career wise and I am ready to work towards that…next fall when I start school. But right now, I am not truly sure what is stopping me.  The main things being:

  • Leaving and failing.
  • Money.
  • Disappointing myself/family if I fail.
  • Falling in love with somewhere that isn’t necessarily CA.
  • Not loving where I am living and hating it all.
  • Not making friends.
  • Getting a job I hate.

But these reasons are all “what-if’s”. They are all things that could happen. I’ve always been a planner, and over the past year, I worked on my becoming so much more spontaneous and I love it! But, maybe this is too spontaneous. Maybe this is too much. But what if it turns out to be one of the best experiences in my life? What if it allows me to grow as a person in absolutely brilliant ways? Again, it is filled with what-if’s.

So, what better way to blurt all my thoughts out than blogging? I have so many wonderful people who follow this blog and email me or comment about what I have written. I am hoping maybe, just maybe, I reach someone who has done something like this before. Moved for about a 5-6 month time span in a place where they know possibly no one and have maybe never even been. What would you do? Would you stay where it is safe, where you can save money, and where you can continue your typical routine…or would you change it all for an adventure that may or may not be successful? Comment below or send me an email!

What I Ate During My 6 Days In New York (and only gained 1lb!)

If you follow me on Instagram (@wellnessandwelldrinks), you know that I went on a crazy, whirlwind adventure to New York (Manhattan and Brooklyn) and I want to share with you as much as I can. Food was of course, a major part of the trip and my family had a great time trying all sorts of New York favorites. Unfortunately for me, I do have dietary restrictions due to my adenomyosis. My body needs certain foods everyday, and I need to stay away from many foods including gluten, most grains, most dairy products, and too much red meat. Anything that can cause an abundance of inflammation is not my friend! I was still able to indulge and enjoy even with my dietary needs. And the best part? I enjoyed myself while only gaining 1lb! Most likely from all the walking I did, and that most days I had my Shakeology for breakfast…but it still impressed me. I did not take a picture or write notes for every meal I ate, but I did try to get as much as I could with all of you in mind! So, I hope you enjoy some of my favorite foods, drinks, and restaurants I discovered while in the city!

The Good

GF Avocado Toast from Grass Root Juicery.

IMG_8522This is probably one of the best things I have ever put into my mouth. I will forever crave this creamy and perfectly spiced avocado toast. The most dangerous part? This place was only one block from where I was staying in Willamsburg, Brooklyn. They had so many goodies, but I knew this was the right choice because ya girl needs her greens to function. I was grateful that they could accommodate gluten-free needs by offering all toast on a gluten-free bread alternative. On the menu, it says the gf avocado toast is topped with sunflower sprouts, crunchy seeds, and aleppo pepper…as you can see in the picture, they were very generous with all of the goods!

While I waited for my toast, I looked around the store. They had many delicious sounding juices, as well as a ton of different holistic wellness products. Aka, it was my dreamland. Sadly, the service left more to be desired as I waited over 20 minutes in the less than busy shop for my toast. But, I will say that it was 100% worth it. In fact, it was so good, I ended up stopping by again on my last morning. I got their dreamy avocado toast yet again, and I tried their Berry Green smoothie. What I loved most about the smoothie was that it tasted so natural and I could tell there was no added sugars. The ingredients in the smoothie were filtered water, blueberries, raspberries, banana, spinach, organic almond butter, cinnamon Puffins cereal (which is GF…and delicious.) I was stuffed until lunch later that day.

Overall, I would highly recommend this delicious and nutritious place. I have heard that they have a location in San Francisco as well, so I might just have to drive to SF one day (;

GF Roasted Eggplant and Bell Peppers Sandwich and Side Salad from Fabiane’s Cafe.

IMG_8403Another one of my favorites, but I think I will say that to all of the food I ate…but on a real level, this was absolutely to die for. I love eggplant, but I hardly ever cook it (hmm maybe I need to make an eggplant recipe soon..) But, when it is an option at a restaurant, I almost always order it! I am so glad that I did, because this was just WOW! Fabiane’s Cafe and Pastry is located in Brooklyn not far from East River State Park. I loved that they had gluten-free options all over their menu. Not to mention how cute the location was on the corner of Bedford and N 5th street where there was plenty of people watching to do.

I loved the flavors in this sandwich. Along with the roasted eggplant and bell pepper, there was some sort of cheese and sauce that really brought it all together. The salad was a perfect side salad containing a mix of greens and delicious balsamic dressing. What I liked the most was the bread. It was the best gluten-free bread I have ever had and it was toasted like a panini which made it crispy on the outside but still have a soft layer on the inside. My mouth is honestly watering still thinking about this delicious meal and pretty healthy meal!

My mother enjoyed a Greek salad and said it was also to die for, while my older brother indulged on their all day breakfast Strawberry French Toast. I liked the service, the food, and the location, so there is no reason for me to not recommend it to you!

Avocado Cobb Salad from Max Brenner.

Yes, Max Brenner is known for their delicious chocolate, and don’t you worry…later on you will learn what chocolate treat I indulged in. But, we actually went there for lunch and sadly, they were seriously slacking on their food for those with dietary restrictions. However, that does not mean their food wasn’t fantastic. I was craving avocado and a salad even before knowing my limited options, so it all worked out for the better.

IMG_8548I am not usually someone who eats bacon because I am extremely picky with it…and honestly I am just not a fan of pork products in general. But, for some reason, in New York I had bacon not once, but twice. Honestly that’s more times than I have it in an entire year. So, yes, this salad had crispy bacon and grilled chicken (sorry veggie and vegan followers.) I have absolutely no regrets about this order either. The salad also included chopped egg, avocado, mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bleu cheese crumbles, and a side of citrus dressing. That dressing was a life changing dressing. It was tart, but also added some sweet and fresh flavors to the vegetable heavy salad. What I also appreciated was the amount of protein this salad had between the eggs and meat. I would definitely recommend it.

My family all ordered delicious meals too. My younger brother ordered a BLT, my older brother ordered fries and lots of chocolate treats, my dad had their mac and cheese, and my mom had the chicken Alfredo. There was nothing but happiness around the table and the venue was really cool too. I would recommend this place if you are in the mood for chocolate and all sorts of delicious food.

The Bad

Okay, just to clarify, I mean “bad” as in it no health benefits whatsoever aside from the happiness in my soul. They were not bad at all, just absolutely delicious!

Basic Burger from Williams Burger.

Okay, this was a local spot in Williamsburg that was a couple of blocks from our home base. My family was in the mood for warm food after a day of being caught in a storm, but more importantly, we wanted to be somewhere causal, comfortable, and a spot where we could people watch the locals. Williams Burger (we fell in love with the witty name) had high reviews online, so we decided to take the walk over. It was the calm after the storm, and right when we walked in, we knew this was the place to be.

IMG_8521The staff honestly made this experience that much better. They were warm and welcoming the second we walked in. But it wasn’t that fake kind of welcoming, it was genuine and made me want to stay as long as I could. I took a look at the menu and was pleasantly surprised that a small place like this had a gluten-free bun option for their burger. Score! I ordered the Basic Burger with gorgonzola blue cheese on a gluten-free bun. It came with all the fixings (lettuce, tomato, red onion, and house cured pickles) along with a hardy side of fries. I ordered the burger cooked medium and it was cooked to perfection. I loved how juicy and meaty it tasted (again sorry veggie followers) but it wasn’t overly salty or greasy. It was honestly a perfect burger!

A funny experience we had here happened after I had devoured half of my burger. I looked at my mom and dad’s burgers and noticed my bun was the same as my dad’s but my mom’s looked different. Immediately, my family and I panicked because we thought I got the wrong burger (my mom ordered the same on a regular bun.) It was terrifying because my body reacts horribly to gluten now that I am gluten-free and I had eaten so much of it already. We called the waitress over and she immediately went to check with the chef and manager. They had gotten the order wrong, but luckily, it was in our favor. They gave my dad a gluten-free bun by mistake, so it was all okay! And get this, my dad even truly enjoyed the bun lol. But the staff were amazing about the situation and it only made us adore them even more.

I highly recommend this restaurant for a casual, and laid back night. They had a great beer/wine selection (we didn’t drink, but could have!) as well as many options on the menu. It is a cute and cozy restaurant and I hope to one day go back and experience more time there!

Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Shake and Fries from Shake Shack.

IMG_8638Okay, I know some of you might think this is nothing special, but Shake Shack is an East Coast delicacy and I come from the land of In-N-Out…aka it was necessary to go here and experience a shake for all that it is. This day was my favorite. I ended up seeing Spongebob: The Musical with my best friend Anissa, and after the show she took me to her local Shake Shack. I have absolutely no regrets about the amount of calories I consumed here and can proudly say I will probably never pass up one of their shakes. They are just too darn good!

I ordered the Marshmallow Chocolate Chip shake which I believe was one of their specials. Wow, that baby was sweet. It was the brilliant flavor of marshmallow without the sticky mess, and the chocolate chips added a nice crunch and depth of flavor. The whipped cream wasn’t that gross, “fake” tasting whipped cream, it was delicious and tasted so fresh. (I am not even trying to be dramatic when I write this; I am seriously analyzing their food!) I also ordered their fries because why not? My immediate reaction was that it tasted what I imagine frozen fries will taste like when I cook them…but they are actually crispy. I appreciate good fries because if I am going to indulge in something like that, I want them to leave me feeling on top of the world. That’s what crispy In-N-Out fries do to me, and luckily Shake Shack’s did the same. Not to mention I got to enjoy it with some really amazing company.

Of course Shake Shack is recommended. definitely one of the best shakes I’ve ever devoured!

Coppa Catalana from Cannoli King.

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This was another really hilarious and fun experience. My family is Italian by marriage (my grandmother married into a HUGE Italian family), so we wanted to expereince Little Italy. We wanted authentic food, the delicious smells, the warming accents…we wanted all the cliche and fun. We were not disappointed when we entered Cannoli King. We decided to go here because we wanted some delicious sweets, and I am so glad that we came. The service was awful, but the experience was one of it’s own.

IMG_8513We read the menu probably about 5 times (it’s HUGE!) and we each decided to get something unique. I initally wanted creme brûlée (I know it’s French lol), but fate was not on my side…they were out! So, I tried something that I honestly did not know what it was…but it was gf and I was going for it! Coppa Catalana is essentially creme brûlée, but theirs was a frozen custard and it was absolutely refreshing and amazing. It was a hot day, so the creamy and cold custard cooled me down quickly. The topping (aka caramelized sugar) added a great flavor and texture to the custard. It was different than anything I have ever had, so I really enjoyed every bite! My mom had some sort of homemade coconut sorbet (I tried it and WOW!) while my dad got a sampler of their cannolis. He wished they were bigger, but he still said they were yummy!

But what made this experience the Italian experience we wanted was the owner. I mean this in the best way that he was just like The Godfather. His accent, personality…it was perfect. Overall, I recommend this dessert palace for all of the Italian goods. I wish I got to try their gelato, but during my next trip I will have to!

The Naughty

As you know, I drink. I mean obviously because part of my blog name is “well drinks”…so of course I had some alcoholic treats while in NYC and wow they were one-of-a-kind deliciousness.

Watermelon Margarita from West End Bar & Grill.

IMG_8424My mom, older brother, and I met up with my best friend Anissa before my mom and I headed to my first official Broadway show: Chicago (yes, I was lucky enough to see two shows!) We decided to find a place where we could share some appetizers and get drinks. We came across West End Bar & Grill because it was right near the subway AND theatre. The atmosphere of this restaurant gave me bougie yet modern city vibes and I was loving every moment.

The watermelon margarita was part of their happy hour and wow was it delicious. Not too strong, not too sweet, but just what you look for. The salt around the rim made it even more delicious. In fact it was so good, I had two. We also ordered a Mediterranean plate with cucumber salad, hummus, some sort of dip, and olives…and it was so refreshing and delicious. Plus, their fries and siracha aioli (my obsession tbh) were just as amazing. We actually devoured one round of fries and needed more! Our server was very kind and made our time their even better. It seemed to be busy after work spot for most, but it was one of those places where you just feel really great about the vibes.

I would definitely recommend this place, however I will warn you that their food is pricey. We actually didn’t even look past the appetizer section of the menu, but judging the price and portions, it’s a little bit more than we typically spend. Worth the deliciousness though!

Dark Chocolate Martini from Max Brenner.

IMG_8549I told you would let you know what chocolate treat I indulged in. Again, Max Brenner is a restaurant dedicated to chocolate goodness. I loved how diverse their chocolate menu was, especially that they had dark, milk, and white chocolate choices on nearly everything. They understand the chocolate taste bud diversity!

So, my mom, older brother, and I decided since it was his graduation day (and because we are us) that we would get a drink to celebrate. Now, I am not a sweet drink kind of girl to begin with, so this was really stretching my limits. But, I was there and I wasn’t going to bail out on my drinking pals, so I chose a martini because in the past I’ve had decent martinis. Now, I used to be a huge vodka gal…until I discovered tequila and realized alcohol doesn’t have to taste horrible, but I do occasionally have a drink with vodka in it. I am also not someone who likes the idea of creamy alcohol, in fact it really grosses me out, but again, I was here to try it. I do not know the specifics, but what I do know is that it came in a dark chocolate or milk chocolate option. I will never not choose dark chocolate.

When I was served this delicious drink, I was in awe of how pretty it was and how amazing that chocolate covered strawberry looked. I took a sip of the martini and that baby was strong. It wasn’t awful though, it was chocolatey and good for what it was, but it definitely wasn’t my thing. But, that strawberry is something I will dream about for the rest of my life. It was covered in chocolate with crunchy, crispy hazelnut pieces. I literally savored every bite and was close to tears when it was gone (again, I am not being dramatic…) That was one of my absolute favorite foods I have ever tasted. Just WOW.

Again, I would recommend Max Brenner for a fun, chocolatey experience! If you’re there and drink, try one of their specials for the fun of it!

Cauliflower Gnocchi with Creamy Roasted Vegetable Sauce and Italian Turkey Meatballs (Gluten-free, Low-Carb, Dairy-Free, Paleo-Friendly)

I grew up in a household where I was constantly exposed to so many different dishes and foods; I guess that’s what happens when your father has a passion for cooking and food. A classic choice was always some sort of Italian dish, so naturally this became my comfort food (well, that and mashed potatoes/French fries bc who doesn’t love those?) As most of you know, I recently went to New York (Brooklyn and Manhattan) where I allowed myself to eat a little less restricted while still trying to stay balanced. One thing I wanted the whole time I was there was pasta. Sadly, everywhere we went for dinner didn’t have pasta at all or did not serve gluten-free pasta. Even somewhere that said online that they did told me at their location they don’t! It isn’t always a choice to be gluten-free!!

IMG_8808So, naturally, the moment I got home my recipe creator mind went crazy trying to think of a delicious dish I could make to satisfy my craving. When I create recipes, I like to think of a dish and write down all my favorite flavors that match with that dish. For this recipe, I started with the sauce…because that is my favorite part! I wrote down a list of flavors that I wanted to taste, some extra veggies I could throw in to add more health benefits, and how I wanted to use the ingredients. Then, I moved on to what kind of pasta I wanted to match it with, and I needed to think of a protein to add so it would be a balanced meal. Thus, I created this beauty…okay the color is a little odd, but it comes from the mix of roasted veggies…yum!

I have heard about Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi all over the BeachBody Instagram world. They are gluten-free and made with a base of cauliflower (veggie pasta? Yes please!) One of the best parts about them is that they are frozen, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you have your next pasta craving. I was finally ready to try these babies after reading about them for about a month now. When I got to the store, I was pleasantly surprised that they were only $2.50 a bag! That’s such a great deal, especially if you are gluten-free like I am and you are used to buying products for way more than the typical prices.

IMG_8809Next came thinking about a protein. I remembered how much I liked the meatballs I made a couple of months ago, and I was excited when I discovered ground turkey in the fridge that needed to be used. However, this time I wanted to do something different from the pesto flavor, so I used two of my spices from RawSpiceBar. If you have never heard of this company, I highly recommend looking into their spices. It is a quarterly subscription that sends fresh, high quality spices to your door and gives suggestions on how to use them. I love receiving the spices because they always inspire me to create things that I normally wouldn’t! I’ve cooked a variety of middle eastern and asian foods I would have never tried without these spices. I am not sponsored by them (a girl can dream) but I have been featured on their Instagram/Twitter pages and recommend them on a serious level! PS: Who can spy a hungry puppy in the bottom of this picture??

Now that I’ve blabbed enough, I am ready to share this recipe! My mom said this was some of the best sauce she has even had and I was so proud. The sauce is creamy without any added cream, and it was purely veggies, some spices, and olive oil! Pretty amazing what vegetables can do on their own! Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Cauliflower Gnocchi with Creamy Roasted Vegetable Sauce and Italian Turkey Meatballs Recipe

This recipe yields about 3 servings of sauce and gnocchi, and 12-15 meatballs depending on their size.

Ingredients

Gnocchi:

  • Cauliflower Gnocchi from Trader Joe’s

Meatballs:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package of RawSpiceBar New York Italian Seasoning (or your favorite Italian Seasoning)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (I used RawSpiceBar’s)

Sauce:

  • 6 tomatoes (I used Roma because that is what grows in my garden, but feel free to use beef or any other large tomato)
  • 1 whole sweet onion, sliced
  • 6-9 cloves of garlic (depending on preference)
  • 1 whole bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 °F. Line two baking sheets with foil for easy clean up.
  2. For your meatballs, in a mixing bowl, add egg, garlic, almond flour, spices, and fennel seeds. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Add your lean ground turkey. Be sure to mix really well so all of the turkey is covered in flavors, egg, and flour!
  4. Using a tablespoon for measurement, take a scoop of turkey and using your hands, roll into a tight ball and place on your baking sheet. If this thought totally disgusts you, you can also use a cookie scoop so you aren’t touching the raw meat. When making your meatballs, remember to try to make them all a similar size so you can be sure they cook through all the way.
  5. Put baking sheet in the oven and allow your meatballs to cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Using tongs, flip your meatballs so they brown on both sides. Cook for 10 more minutes. When done, take them out of the oven so they are ready to plate later.
  7. While your meatballs cook, you can begin to prep your veggies for the sauce. Chop your onions, tomatoes, and bell pepper, then lay them all out on your second foil lined baking sheet and season with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper. Your garlic can be placed in whole cloves on the sheet as well!
  8. Place your veggies in the oven with your meatballs. They will take less time to roast than the meatballs, so keep a close eye on them. Mine took about 25 minutes and came out perfectly!
  9. In a sauce pan, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and your fresh herbs. Let this begin to warm up on a low heat so the herbs infuse their flavor into the olive oil.
  10. When your veggies are ready, add them to the sauce pan and begin to break them down while mixing it all together.
  11. In a blender, pour your sauce and blend until smooth. A hand held blender works just as well. I personally use my NutriBullet and love it.
  12. Pour your sauce back in the pan, add sea salt, cracked pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir well and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  13. Cook your gnocchi according to the directions on the package.
  14. Pour gnocchi, sauce, and meatballs into a bowl and enjoy the heck out of it!

3 Nights, 3 Different Hotels

Vacation. The time to relax, to go on grand adventures, and to wash all your worries away. Traveling can be fun, or to some like myself a little stressful, but what really seems to make or break a trip is one detail. Where you are staying. How many times have you stayed at a hotel and left feeling like you needed a vacation from your vacation? Or that you couldn’t wait to sleep in your own bed again? Or maybe you left feeling like you never wanted to leave and could live in that simple hotel room? Trust me, I have felt a good mixture of both and I am sure my love for traveling will continue to bring me that mixture again and again.

Hotel stays are honestly an important part of my traveling experience because I am someone who travels alone so often. It is a home base even if it is only for one night, and it acts as somewhere stable during that time. I love when hotels allow me to relax, but also give me a space to get some work done on the go! I also take cleanliness into consideration. I am a bit of a germaphobe, so if I find hairs all over my sheets or a used condom on the dresser (yes, this has happened!)…I freak the heck out! Remember, you are paying for a room that should be cleaned at least up to health standards, so it is okay to politely say that something is wrong (especially if it is that extreme!) Another added benefit is when they have a complementary breakfast option so I can grab some fruit, eggs, or oatmeal before running to my next destination (also a really great way to save money!)

When I went on my most recent trip, a large graduate school exploration down the Southern Californian coast, I stayed at 3 very different hotels. I was lucky enough to stay in nicer hotels due to my work bonuses, but what I was most curious about was how they would truly differ based off of what they offer to their guests. Now, I am sure everyone’s experiences and preferences are different, because let’s face it, we are human. However, I made my own list and rating score based off of what is important to me, especially as a female traveling alone.

  1. Location: Where is this hotel in regards to my trip? Is it out-of-the-way or along the way? Are there restaurants nearby? Is it in a safe area?
  2. Parking: Is parking available? Is it free for guests? Is it safe?
  3. Customer Service: Are staff greeting me as well as answering any of my questions? Am I easily able to speak to a staff member if I need assistance?
  4. Room: How comfortable is this room? Is it clean? Is it private? Do I feel safe?
  5. Price: Was it worth the price? Where there added benefits?

I drove from my wonderful home in Los Gatos, CA to multiple stops in places like Santa Barbara, Woodland Hills, Fullerton, and back up to Ventura. I visited a few graduate school options, loved a handful of my dearest friends, and spent some much-needed time with myself. I stayed at 3 different hotels (and two nights with my girl Christina in her dorm) but what I found so interesting was how incredibly different each hotel experience was. I am excited to share with you my discoveries, reviews, and things that I learned while doing this road trip solo!

The Cliff House Inn – Ventura, CA.

IMG_6671I am not going to lie, this hotel was one I have had my eye on for a long time. I always drove past it when heading back up to my hometown from my college (CSU Channel Islands in Camarillo), but I never knew too much about it. After looking online, I saw that this hotel was within my budget for my trip, as well as in the area I would be looking at 2 schools, so I decided to go for it! I booked this room for Monday, April 2nd, and I could not wait to experience this beautiful place.

My trip started at 7am because I would be meeting with my first grad school at 1pm in Santa Barbara. It was a long drive, longer than usual, but still beautiful and how I always remember it. However, I was exhausted after my 2 hour meeting, so I could not wait to get to The Cliff House Inn. It is about 15 minutes south of Santa Barbara, which was fine with me. It’s a gorgeous drive next to the ocean so honestly it was calming and set the mood for the experience I was going to have.
I arrived at the hotel around 3:30pm and I easily found parking in front. It was right next to the entrance, and later I discovered I would be able to see my car from the window in my room, which was a huge plus. I was greeted when I walked into the lobby by a friendly woman and she helped me check-in. She told me how to get to my room and told me I could ask her anything if needed. This is always reassuring for me, because I often have questions about the area I am in, if their hotel accommodates dietary needs, and if I ever felt uncomfortable, I would want to be assured someone was there for me. I can confirm this statement: The staff at The Cliff House Inn are some of the best I have ever met. I never felt like I was less important than any guests and they truly accommodated all of my needs. If you want to stay in a hotel where staff truly treat you with kindness and respect, this is the place to go.

IMG_6677I entered my room and realized immediately how perfect this hotel was for me. A lot of my readers know that the beach is my favorite place in the world. I love the ocean, the sand, the sun, the sounds and smells…everything. I looked out my window and this, this was seriously my view?! I was in heaven! Apparently all their rooms overlook the ocean and yes, it is really this beautiful! Not to mention how cute the room was too. Not overly updated, but charming and clean. I looked around and noticed that all surfaces seemed wiped down, the bed smelled clean, and the shower had no questionable hairs or marks. I was excited and ready to spend a night in my paradise. I unpacked what I needed from my car, and got settled in.

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IMG_6734I decided to go on a walk, as I was told there was a nice beach nearby. This beach was stunning and I was completely alone as I walked along the shore. I had plans to leave and drive to a yoga studio, but instead I decided to do some yoga on the beach. Wow, what an absolutely wonderful experience this was. If you have never ventured outside of your yoga studio or backyard, I highly recommend it. I felt so incredibly at peace, and the sand added an extra balancing obstacle. I think it is really great when a hotel has places to explore nearby, and this beach hit the spot! I collected some gorgeous shells, and headed back to get ready for dinner.

IMG_6713I went back to my room and grabbed my notebook to write as I ate dinner. The restaurant is attached to The Cliff House Inn called The Shoals Restaurant and it was recommended to have a reservation, which I did not have. So, I went early and hoped for the best, especially because it was a Monday night. Luckily, the server said she could definitely seat me, and she actually sat me outside at her favorite table. The view was perfect. I watched the sunset as I indulged in a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (Brander, 2016) and decided what to eat off the menu. I am sure that everything on the menu is delicious, but I wanted to keep it lighter and get my greens in (let’s face it friends, this isn’t a shock.) I ended up ordering the Organic Mixed Greens Salad, and this salad did not disappoint. I ate every single piece of it and it left me craving more, but IMG_6715
absolutely stuffed. The desserts sounded incredible (they even had a flourless cake aka Emilee friendly option) but I decided to stick to the salad and wine. The service was amazing and I was able to write some reflections about my grad school meeting and watch the sunset.

I slept wonderfully with the window open, and woke up to the sound of the waves crashing gently against the rocks. They had a great continental breakfast, and they even brought out gluten-free toast for me! I was so excited to spread some all natural peanut butter on that bread and eat it all up! Their fruit options were also great, and the coffee was strong and bold without being too bitter. It was a great start to my day before another long meeting. I would 110% recommend this hotel and restaurant. I had an amazing time and I hope that I can visit again sometime. If you need a getaway, consider booking a room at this hotel for around $190 a night. Again, I was blessed to have my work bonuses saved up, but this hotel is worth every dollar!

The Hilton Hotel – Woodland Hills, CA.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 4.52.08 PMAfter a long meeting, a quick trip down memory lane, and a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway then through Topanga Canyon, I made it to my next hotel. I have never stayed at The Hilton, but I know that this location in particular is renovated and very modern. I was curious to see the difference between this hotel and the one from the night before. The location was ideal as I would be seeing some friends from the area, and it was next to the mall where my friends and I were going to grab dinner. There were a lot of restaurants nearby to choose from which was nice.

When I pulled up, I first parked in the loading zone. I entered the building and began the check-in process. This is where I felt uncomfortable. The staff left me feeling very insecure and treated me like I did not belong. I was staying in a more expensive room (the 10th floor; $200/night), and I later found out there were a lot of perks to go along with that, but I was never told this information. I also asked a couple of questions and the staff member acted like it was completely ridiculous for me to be asking her anything. It was not busy, but even if it was, I should be allowed to ask about where to park, how much it costs, and what charges would appear on my card. But, I let that brush off my shoulders because I wanted to enjoy my time in such a nice hotel.

Parking was absolutely awful. Not only was I having to park in a parking garage (as a solo female traveler, this is definitely not ideal), but it was also a decent walk away from the nearest hotel entrance (and I had to pay $20/night). I took my bags inside but realized I left my phone in the car, so I went back downstairs to get it. This is where my fears became real. I was alone and trying to get back on the elevator in the parking garage to go back to the hotel. 5 men were exiting as I was entering and started cat calling me and asking me where I was staying. Great. I luckily was able to smile and ignore it while the elevator doors closed. I reminded myself not to go to the parking garage in the dark. I hate this about the world we live in as it adds extra stress to a female’s life, but I am glad that I am aware and recognize that I need to do what I can to stay safe.

I finally got to the room and had the chance to appreciate its beauty. It was huge! It was the corner room, but honestly felt like a suite. It included a kind size bed, a huge bathroom, a whole desk space perfect for work, and a seating area. I was in love with the chic art and sleek feel. It was very clean, and I liked that I felt luxurious and well taken care of. I would’ve stayed in that room for 2 weeks honestly. My friends ended up coming to check it out and they were just as in awe as I was. The only worry we talked about was the fact that it was a corner room and directly next to stairwell exit. Again, over thinking safety, but I would be an easy target if anyone wanted to kidnap me or something crazy like that. However, I didn’t think too much about that. I was too in love with this room!

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In the morning, I realized there was not a free breakfast option which is always tough. So, I ate one of the bars I brought with me and took my time getting ready for the day. I loved the shower and the fact that they had the hairdryer in the room (I’ve found a lot of hotels you actually have to ask for them which I didn’t know). I was able to enjoy my last hour before check-out by just lounging in my room and getting caught up on some blogging work. When it was time to leave, I went to get my car first because I didn’t want to carry my luggage all the way to my car. I parked in the same place in front of the hotel as I had before, and the valet drivers were actually quite rude. They didn’t bother to ask if I needed help, but instead helped the men and women dressed in business suits…I am just not about that kind of favoritism. Especially when I paid the same amount, if not more, for my room. I should receive the same service. Checking out was quick and not recognizably pleasant, but just felt like a routine. I did not mind it though, because I was ready to leave the service behind. Overall, the room was by far the best part of my experience. I would recommend this hotel if you do not mind a little colder of staff, or walking to and from the parking garage.

Amanzi Hotel – Ventura, CA.

IMG_6954After staying in Fullerton for 2 magical nights, driving back up the coast through Marina Del Ray, Venice, and Malibu (my favorite secret beaches are there), I was back in the beautiful Ventura for just one more night of fun with my friends. Amanzi Hotel is located conveniently in Downtown Ventura, and I had a simple time parking for free and even easier time checking in. The staff was kind and actually asked me if I had any questions. I love good customer service (and I get customer service because I have been working in the business for years). I felt reassured of my safety and I was able to go straight to my room with ease.

I walked into the room and it was pretty clean. There was a chair that looked a little funky, but overall the appearance was great. I had a small, yet effective view of the ocean from my window which is a nice touch. The beds and the bathroom looked great, so I was excited about that! I was so excited that I actually took a nap for an hour and woke up feeling so refreshed. I took a nice, long shower and even soaked in the bath for a couple of minutes. I then got dressed in some comfortable clothes and took a walk downtown to a classic beach taco joint, Snapper Jack’s. It was great to be able to enjoy something familiar and unique to Ventura County. If you have never been downtown, it is a great place to explore!

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I went back to my room and took my time getting ready to go out. My friends ended up coming over and pregamming before hitting up my favorite bar of all time. Tavern was my college bar, but I plan to always go, even when I’m 80. We had a great time and made some interesting memories (; It was great that my friends were able to come hangout with me without the hotel getting upset or telling me I couldn’t have guests come into my room. None of my friends stayed the night, which was nice because I was ready to sleep and not have to wake up until it was time to leave in the morning.

I woke up and headed straight to the continental breakfast. Not as great of a spread as The Cliff House Inn, but still delicious! It is hard to find breakfast foods that I can eat at something like this because there are always a lot of baked goods filled with gluten, and very few gluten-free options overall. I ended up grabbing some oatmeal and fruit. The check-out process was quick and easy. I was treated with respect and the staff seemed to genuinely care how my experience was. Even if he didn’t truly care, I appreciated him making me feel like he did. I loaded up my car, stopped by my favorite smoothie shop (Blender’s) and enjoyed a nice drive home! For $150/night, I would definitely recommend Amanzi Hotel to anyone looking for some Ventura flavor. The location, staff, and rooms are completely worth it!

Ratings

The Cliff House Inn:

  1. Location: 5/5
  2. Parking: 5/5
  3. Customer Service: 5/5
  4. Room: 5/5
  5. Price: 5/5

Total: 25/25 – I would HIGHLY recommend a night in this paradise! Or a week if you’re lucky (;

The Hilton Hotel:

  1. Location: 5/5
  2. Parking: 2/5
  3. Customer Service: 2/5
  4. Room: 5/5
  5. Price: 4/5

Total: 18/25 – This hotel room was luxurious, but the parking and customer service were NOT worth the price. I would recommend this for business trips, and groups, but not for solo females. I was surprised by this experience.

Amanzi Hotel:

  1. Location: 5/5
  2. Parking: 5/5
  3. Customer Service: 5/5
  4. Room: 4/5
  5. Price: 5/5

Total: 24/25 – The room had a gross chair, but that is my only complaint! I think otherwise it was nice and cheaper than the others. The location is perfection and I would stay there again anytime!

Miracle Noodles with Steamed Veggies and Almond Butter Sauce (Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Paleo/Keto Friendly, Grain-free, and Vegan!)

IMG_7258What the heck are you talking about? Miracle noodles? What could those be? Well, if you haven’t heard of them, I highly recommend trying them. I have found them at most grocery stores, but I find them to have a good deal on them at Whole Foods (less than $2 per pack!) What are they exactly? Miracle noodles, also known as zero noodles, have zero calories, fat, and very few carbs. They easily replace regular noodles in any dish and trick your mind into thinking you are eating actual noodles!

Miracle noodles are made with 3 simple ingredients, none of them being harsh or crazy chemicals. If you read the package you will see the short list: water, konjac flour, and a calcium additive. Let’s break these ingredients down so you can understand what you put into your body, because although it might sound foreign, there are actually benefits.

Water: Well, I feel like I really don’t need to explain this one…

Konjac Flour: Konjac flour is made out of a fiber that comes from the Konjac plant. It can also be known as Amorphophallus, but can be called konjaku, elephant yam, devil’s tongue, snake palm, and voodoo lily. Do not be intimidated by these oddly descriptive names. It is honestly tasteless so whatever you mix it with, it will bind that flavor instead. A couple of health benefits that come from konjac flour are improvement in the digestive system, high fiber, and probiotics to help improve gut health. Think of it this way, higher fiber foods help keep us fuller longer, so it will also aid in weight loss!

Calcium Additive: This is a simple ingredient that is just old-fashioned picking lime. It is used to help the noodles keep their shape and stay completely natural. Do not let the word calcium fool you because it does not actually supplement calcium. Honestly, it does not harm or benefit you in any specific way!

Miracle Noodles are really simple to make, but you do need to thoroughly follow the directions. My mom instantly snuffed her nose up at these when I brought them home because she had tried them in the past but found them to be absolutely awful. I asked her how she made them, and she didn’t remember. I asked her if she followed the directions, she said, “Of course not!” So, my goal was to change her mind and create a dish that would fulfill a craving I constantly have…Asian Cuisine. I love Asian noodle dishes, but I am gluten-free, so between noodles (even rice noodles can mess with my tummy and they are higher in carbs than I prefer.) So, I like to play around with clean ingredients and create my own twist on dishes.

I am not sure what dish this is a twist on, but I know that it turned out delicious the first time I made it, and even better the second time. It’s spicy, nutty, savory, and full of flavors. I absolutely love spicy peanut sauces, so I made a spicy almond butter sauce for added benefits. I also added some of my favorite steamed veggies and crunchy peanuts on top for an added texture.

This recipe might seem impossible, because it is labeled as Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Paleo/Keto Friendly, Grain-free, and Vegan…how could something be all of those things and be delicious? Well, try it out for yourself and enjoy a very low calorie, high protein dish!

Miracle Noodles with Steamed Veggies and Almond Butter Sauce

This recipe yields one bowl that will fill you up for hours!

Ingredients

  • 1 package of Miracle Noodles; I used the angel hair
  • 1/2 cup carrots; I used baby carrots but use whatever you feel
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper; sliced
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1/2 cup mix of green onions, white onions, cilantro, and minced garlic
  • Optional: crushed peanuts for topping

Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 big tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. When you open your noodle package, they will smell fishy and off putting, but I promise after cooking they will smell like nothing at all! Start by draining them in a colander and then rinsing for about 20 seconds in cool water. Really make sure to rinse and mix around the noodles.
  2. Next, boil about 2 cups of water in a small pot. Put the noodles in the boiling water for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. This is an important step that should not be missed: drain your noodles and put the noodles in a medium preheated pan (about 6 or 7). Dry your noodles out for 5-7 minutes to get the best result. Then place in a bowl and set aside. These instructions are all on the package, but I thought I would write them here so it’s all included!
  4. Next, steam your veggies. Do this whatever works best for you, I personally reused my small pot from earlier and just boiled some fresh water to pour my veggies in. I’m all about less dishes.
  5. In your pan from earlier, sauté and soften your mix of onions, cilantro, and garlic in olive or coconut oil. Mix these immediately with your noodles for maximum flavor!
  6. To make the sauce, simply stir all the ingredients together in a small dish. Mix half of the sauce with your noodles.
  7. Place your steamed veggies on top of your noodles. Pour the other half of your sauce on top of the veggies. Top with crushed peanuts.
  8. Enjoy every single bite!