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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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!

 

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!

High Protein Cookie Sandwiches

These are really rich, but packed with the good stuff to recovery after a workout! The Cashew Buttercream was just what these cookies needed, as they’re very much a dense cookie otherwise.

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Ingredients

Protein Cookies

1 cup of nut butter (I mixed half a cup of Tahini and half a cup of Almond)

2 scoops of your favorite Chocolate protein powder

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

1 large egg OR use flax egg*

Optional-walnuts or chocolate chips

Cashew Buttercream

1 cup of cashews*

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

 

Method

*Soak cashews for at least 30 minutes in a bowl of water.

*To make a flax egg: Mix 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons water, let sit for 10 minutes

To make the Cookies: Preheat oven to 375F. In a bowl, stir together the protein powder and cocoa powder. Mix in the nut butter until no trace of powders. Then add in the egg, mix well. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips. It will look just like cookie dough, but the texture will be a but more stiff. Roll dough into balls(about a tablespoon or two) and gently press/flatten down when you place on trays(you can use a fork to make the criss cross pattern). Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Cashew Buttercream: After soaking the cashews in water, put them, along with vanilla and maple syrup in a food processor. Blend until smooth–be sure to scrape the bowl while blitzing to get all of it smooth!

 

 

Vanilla Cookie Protein Balls

I was starting to make my Guilt Free Truffles, when I decided to omit the cacao. Two big thumbs up for this vanilla variation! Since hiring a trainer, it’s made me realize how important it is to fuel our bodies with the right foods. Getting enough protein has really helped my body recover quickly after workout sessions. I’ll be snacking on these before and after my upcoming workouts for the next couple of days! I’ve added some flavor variations down below!

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Ingredients:

14 dates pitted (Medjool)

1 cup of cashews

1/2 cup walnuts

2 heaped tablespoons almond butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

Method:

Soak the dates in warm water for about 20 minutes. Then drain the dates, and put in your food processor. Pulse until smooth. Take out the pulsed dates, and add your cashews and walnuts to the food processor. Pulse until fine. Add the dates back into the processor, along with the almond butter, vanilla extract, and sea salt. Blitz until everything comes together like a dough. Put the ‘dough’ in the freezer for AT LEAST  15 minutes to firm it up. Then take it out and shape into balls and/or bars! Put them back in the freezer, and take out about a half hour before eating to thaw.

*Add a pinch of cinnamon for a Snickerdoodle flavor (at the same time as the vanilla and sea salt)

*Fold chocolate chips into the dough (or melt chocolate and pour over them!)

*Add oatmeal and top with cranberries or goji berries for a classic oatmeal cookie flavor

 

 

Saintly Rocky Road

I am back in San Francisco (for a little while) after living in Ireland for the good part of just about three years! I hummed and hah-ed about moving home, but now that I’m here I am so happy I packed up and moved back! I’m excited to try all the cafes and restaurants I’ve been craving as well as reading about-pretty spoiled for choice here in SF. I am also just so happy to spend time with family and friends.

Rocky Road is a pretty popular treat in Ireland. I had the duty of making about four slabs daily at a bakery I worked in– up to triple that amount during the holiday season! When it’s made with dark chocolate, it’s really dreamy.

Below I am sharing a cleaner alternative to the traditional Rocky Road: it’s sugar free and vegan friendly. There’s also no baking/ melting chocolate involved with this recipe, all you need is a trusty food processor or blender.

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Carmel’s Saintly Rocky Road

Ingredients

14 dates

Small handful of almonds

Half a cup of your choice of nut butter

Teaspoon of vanilla extract

A couple of drops of water

2 heaped tablespoons cacao powder

Method

Soak the dates and almonds in a bowl of warm water for about a half hour. Then blitz all ingredients together, but NOT until it’s completely smooth. The dates act as the marshmallows, and the almonds act as the hard m&m candies or malt balls typical used. Line a bread tin with parchment paper and press mixture into it. Before pressing it into the bread tin, or casserole dish, you can fold in dried fruits or even more nuts if you fancy. Freeze for about two hours, or even better, overnight.

Keep in the freezer for a more firm texture! If left in the fridge it gets more soft fudge, which would actually be a great sauce for ice cream when warmed up!

Keeps for about a week in Tupperware.

Easy and guilt free treat!

 

Wild Berry Lemon Bundt Cake

This Lemon Bundt is a total crowd pleaser! It’s a big hit with kids, as you can call a Bundt a Castle Cake due to the shape.

I dressed the cake with the perfect Lemon Drizzle, raspberries and wild mint. There’s mint that grows in the field behind my parent’s house in West Cork-it’s such a perfect topping for summer desserts. Crystalizing the mint leaves adds an extra special touch to the cake. It’s an easy project-a little bit messy, but a beautiful result!

I ended up using zest and juice from TWO lemons, to really deliver that punch of flavor. And major bonus with this recipe, it’s made in one bowl!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup mixed berries: strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries

Garnish: berries, mint, and Lemon Drizzle (see below for recipe!)

Method:

Preheat oven to 130C. Grease and flour a bundt tin. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then the vanilla. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Don’t over-mix though! Pour HALF of  batter into tin, and scatter berries. Top with the rest of the batter,  and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean.

Take the cake out of oven, and let rest in tin for about 5 minutes. Then remove and let cool. While it’s cooling, make the Drizzle.

Lemon Drizzle Icing:

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Simply whisk the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl, until a smooth consistency!

To Crystalize Mint Leaves:

Wash mint leaves, and pat dry. Beat one egg white in a bowl until foamy; pour half a cup of caster or granulated sugar on a plate. Dip the leaves in the egg white, then the sugar. Set to the side for at least two hours.

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