Pumpkin Mac and Cheese and Pilates

It’s been a minute! If you been following on my Instagram(the social media I post on the most, find me @cookinwithcarmel), you know I can now call myself a FITNESS INSTRUCTOR! It was this time one year ago I started out my own transformation, and what a year it’s been! SO much sweat, a few tears, lots of doubt, but I can say I am in a VERY happy place since I made the choice to give my life a makeover. And now I’m helping people with their own transformation!

Since moving into fitness I get asked A LOT if I’ll ever become a chef again, and this was a question brought up many times at my high school reunion this past weekend. I’d still call myself a chef, just a former commercial kitchen chef/at home healthy chef. I’m focusing more of the nutritional side of food when it comes to eating and cooking, how we can use food as fuel. So if you need a little help in what to eat to help you get through a workout, I’m here to help! And that might actually be my next blog post!

Anyways, this past weekend was Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday! Not just because of all the food, but because it’s a time for family. And with my large family, the holidays are always a blast! Back to the food, we had a SPREAD: pumpkin donuts for breakfast; dinner was turkey, ham, two bowls of stuffing, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, more veg, and PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE!

The recipe was highly requested, and I highly recommend it this time of year! Such a cozy dish! It’s really easy and quick! There is dairy in it, those following me for a while know I cut dairy out for a little bit. But this is a HOLIDAY dish, and during the holidays you’re allowed to indulge a little! I cut back on cheese and added nutritional yeast. That way I was going even a small amount of benefits, without losing that cheesey flavor. I used 3/4 of a cup of cheese, but you can even experiment and cut it down o 1/2 of a cup and add 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast.

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Here’s what you’ll need: 

1 can of pureed pumpkin

1 cup of milk (I used dairy; alternative: use unsweetened/unflavored almond or soy milk)

2 tablespoons butter (alternative: Smart Balance vegan butter)

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

3/4  of a cup cheddar cheese

1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Pinch of salt and pepper

Elbow/macaroni pasta or spiralized zuchinni

Method:

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally, bring to the boil. Stir until cheddar has melted and ingredients are combined through. Add a little more salt and pepper to adjust. Cook your choice of pasta and mix it with your sauce!

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 cups of sauce. Store in a mason jar and use within three weeks!

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IdealFit Protein Bars

unnamed-2.jpgThese are SO much better than store bought!

I used the IdealFit Vanilla Protein Powder, but the Cake Batter or Chocolate Brownie flavor would be just as amazing. Shop here for all IdealFit products: bit.ly/2trHGG3

Now, you can also go and buy cashew and almond butter and mix the butters and protein powder together in a bowl-but I like making everything from scratch when I can!

Ingredients:

2 scoops IdealFit protein powder

1 cup cashews

1 cup almonds

Teaspoon of maple syrup or honey

Teaspoon of vanilla extract

(have ready a few drops/tablespoons of almond or soy milk)

handful of dark chocolate chips, dried fruits or shredded coconut

Method:

In a food processor, blitz the cashews and almonds until smooth. Add the protein powder, and blitz until mixed. You might need to add a few drops of soy or almond milk so that the dough does come together. Shape dough into bars or balls. Press the dark chocolate chips, or fruit(like cranberries or goji berries) or shredded coconut onto the top of the bars. Keep sealed in the fridge until you want to eat them!

 

Carrot Cake Bliss Balls

I’m a big sweet tooth(most of my recipes on here are on the sweeter side), and at night is when my sweet tooth really starts to act. Rather than reach for a bar of chocolate, I like to make protein/bliss bars.

Growing up, carrot cake was just one of those things I did not like! I always preferred chocolate cake. It was only in the last couple of years I really started to like carrot cake. Below is a much healthier version-and it really does taste like a dessert! I like to make these on a Sunday and have them for the week-as a post workout or TV snack.

 

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Ingredients:

1 large carrot

3/4 cup oats

6 Medjool dates, pitted

1/2 cup of cashews

1/2 walnuts

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1/4 cup honey or maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp of hemp heart seeds

Method:

In a food processor, shred the carrots. Remove and put into a bowl. Then pulse the oats and nuts together until very fine. Also remove and into the mixing bowl with the carrots. Then blitz the dates until they form a paste.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor, also adding the carrots and oat nut mix. The mixture will come together like a dough. Quickly form balls and place in freezer. Once frozen, top them with a tablespoon of Cashew Buttercream!

I usually take them out of the freeze about 20 minutes or so before I eat them; I usually enjoy one or two as a snack. They keep for a couple of weeks in the freezer.

 

Spinach Arugula Walnut Pesto

I’m a sucker for bowls of pasta! When I first started working out and resetting my body, I thought I had to give up my favorite foods. And I sort of do, as processed foods no longer agree with my stomach. So, I experiment and turn my favorite foods into nourishing dishes, that help fuel my workouts and keep me feeling great.  Instead of traditional flour spaghetti noodles, I like to spiralize veggies into pasta noodles! Recently, I purchased a box of Edamame Noodles and LOVE them! The noodles are just made from Edamame, which hold so many benefits, and big bonus, they only take four minutes to cook!

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I’ve been using these noodles with some of my favorite sauces. Last week I made a Lentil Bolognese, and honestly as a meat eater I didn’t even notice a lack of ground beef! I’ll share that Lentil Bolognese later this week, right now I want to share a quick pesto that has some pretty big benefits. A typical pesto usually calls for parmigiano cheese, but I ditched that and used NUTRITIONAL YEAST; and I went with avocado oil instead of olive oil.

Spinach Arugula Walnut Pesto

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of washed spinach and arugula

1/2 cup of walnuts

2  cloves of garlic

1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

Big pinch of Himalayan salt

Roughly 1/3 cup of avocado oil

Method

In a food processor, blend all the ingredients EXCEPT  the oil until it’s a paste. Then slowly add the oil.

Enjoy tossed in your favorite pasta or salad!

 

Beat the Bloat Berry Smoothie

Bloating sucks! It’s a really uncomfortable feeling, so I like to get rid of it ASAP! My secret weapon: APPLE CIDER VINEGAR! I drink a tablespoon of it a day, either right when I wake up or about a half hour before I go to bed. But I also like to put a big splash in my midmorning or lunchtime smoothie.

I do like to drink this smoothie a couple times a week, it’s refreshing, and I do find it helps with the bloat. If I’m making this after a workout, I like to add a scoop of protein powder.IMG_3999.JPG

Ingredients

8 ounces of liquid (I like to do half water/half coconut milk)

1/2 avocado

1 banana

1/2 cup of frozen berries

1 tablespoon hemp heart seeds

1 tablespoon ground flax meal

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Optional: a tablespoon of nut butter/a scoop of your favorite protein powder

Method

In your food processor, blend until smooth! You might need to add a little more water as you go! I like to put my smoothies in a bowl, so I like when smoothies have more of a sorbet/ice cream texture.

 

 

 

 

Saintly Layered Reese’s Tart

A year ago you would have found me eating bars of chocolate like Cadbury’s or Hershey’s  was going out of business! I ate out of stress, boredom, and portion control didn’t even cross my mind. My weakness was a big bag of Galaxy Minstrels(yikes!) or a tray of three Reese’s(yikes, again!) and Barry’s Tea at the end of the day. While I still have a sweet tooth, I like to experiment with ways chocolates and sweets can BENEFIT you. And making sweet treats at home allows me to omit sugars and use raw/all natural ingredients.

This Reese’s Tart came A LOT of Date Caramel that I used in a quick snack: Date Caramel Apple Nachos.

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Ingredients

1 cup mixed almonds and cashews

1 cup Date Caramel

1/2 cup mixed walnuts and almonds, roughly chopped

1 cup dark chocolate

Method

Line an 8 inch round baking tin with parchment paper or plastic wrap(the paper or plastic wrap just makes it easier to remove and slice).

In a food processor, add the one cup of almonds and cashews. Pulse until VERY fine. Press into the bottom of the tin. Pop it into the freezer to set for about 7-10 minutes.

Pour Date Caramel evenly over the base, and smooth out. Sprinkle on the roughly chopped walnuts and almonds. Pop it into the freezer for a second time. for a couple of minutes

While the tart is setting, melt the chocolate! You can do whatever is easier: microwave or stovetop. Make sure it totally melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate over the tart, and yep, pop it back into the freezer for about 12-15 minutes or until chocolate is just a little hard.

Slice it up and serve it!

 

 

 

 

 

Avo-Cashew Ice Cream

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When I made my Protein Cookies earlier this week, I made A LOT of Cashew Buttercream, so I stuck it in the freezer, thinking I’ll use it eventually. I happened to throw about 3-4 tablespoons of it in a smoothie I was making for my sis and I, it was DEELISH! It added such a creamy texture.

I started thinking how this Cashew Cream is such a great starter for an ice cream! I didn’t want to make another banana ice cream, so I reached for avocados! With their good for your fats, avocados make for a great ice cream base.

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups Cashew Cream

About 1/4 of the avocado- so slice the avocado in half, and then again in half

1/2 cup almond milk (I used unsweetened but whichever you prefer)

1/2 tablespoon of vanilla

Pinch of Pink Himalyan Salt

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Optional: Since this sweet treat has a green hue, add a teaspoon or two of peppermint extract for a Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream! Also optional, more than just that 1/2 cup of chocolate chips!

Method

Put the Cashew Cream and avocados in a food processor and blitz until smooth and blended. Add in the vanilla and almond milk and blend until smooth.17796492_1500259119986239_5436749948448470280_n.jpg

Fold in chocolate chips.

Stick it in the freezer, and wait to to eat at least about a half hour-any earlier it will be more like soft serve, which is also a great treat!

 

 

 

Pro tip(s): Freeze your bowl before putting your ice cream in it. I also suggest using a glass, or Pyrex bowl. Be sure to take your ice cream out of the freezer about 7-8 minutes before you plan on serving it, so it does soften.

 

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

 

What do you make when you can’t eat junky white processed flour but are a pizza lover?! CAULIFLOWER CRUST PIZZA!!

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Pizettes Two Sauces: Traditional Marinara Sauce and Sweet Potato Sauce

There are SO many more benefits to this alternative-you’ll feel good, which means you’ll look good! Well, I do, ever since giving my food a makeover. I TRY to stay clear of eating white processed flour-and really any sorts of processed foods. So I turn to this Crust Recipe when I’m craving a takeaway. It’s all veggies so it is a guilt-free pizza pie-YUM!

Ingredients

Cauliflower Crust 

(Makes 1 large round pizza or 4 small pizzettes)

1 small head of cauliflower

1 clove of garlic

pinch of Himalayan or sea  salt

Tablespoon of dry, mixed herbs (Oregano, Basil, Parsley)

1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax+3 tablespoons water-rest for 15 min)

 

Sweet Potato Sauce

1 large BOILED or ROASTED sweet potato

tablespoon of nutritional yeast

pinch of salt

Pizza toppings that pair great with this Sauce: sauteeed mushrooms, sauteed onions,  spinach, and walnuts

Method

Preheat oven to 450F.

To make the crust: Wash and dry cauliflower. Cut off the floret. In a food processor, pulse all ingredients EXCEPT the flax egg until it looks like the consistency of rice.

Put the cauliflower in a mixing bowl and add the flax egg.

Spoon the mixture onto a baking tray. Pat and shape with your fingers into a circle.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown (this may take up to 20 for the larger pizza/depending on your oven).

While the base is baking in the oven you’ll want to make your sauce and toppings.

To make the Sauce: Siimply mash the sweet potato with a fork until smooth. Mix in the nutritional yeast and smooth.

Back to the Crust: Take the Crust out and spread the Sauce. Add the Toppings. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Enjoy!