Homemade Chocolate Turtles

Homemade chocolate turtles

I have an obsession with caramel. It’s by far my favourite treat, but unfortunately, when you’re trying to cut added sugar from your diet, it’s the first thing to go (tragic, I know!).

*Sigh*

During the time that I was mourning the loss of my favourite treat, I came across a few recipes that offered the same amazing gooeyness of caramel, without all the nasty sugar and other yuckies you would normally find caramel. Rejoice! I started testing out recipes and you know what? This might be even better than the real thing! It’s made with natural ingredients that your body will love you for and is completely vegan, raw and gluten-free. Which also makes them guilt-free in my book. To make sure that they were just as good as the real deal, I tested them out on my beau and he loved them. Success!

Homemade chocolate turtles

Homemade chocolate turtles

Homemade chocolate turtles

Homemade Chocolate Turtles
Makes 10 treats

Caramel
10 Medjool dates, pitted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp coconut oil, softened
2 tbsp almond butter
1 tsbp pure maple syrup
10 pecans

Chocolate
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp pure maple syrup

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1. In a food processor using the “S” blade, place all the ingredients for the caramel except for the pecans. Blend until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. You’ll know it’s done when the mixture forms a ball.

2. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap it up and place in the freezer for 2 hours to set.

3. Once the mixture is set, remove from the freezer and start rolling the caramel into one-inch balls and top with a pecan, pressing down to flatten the caramel. Place each Turtle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pop back in the freezer while you make the chocolate.

4. For the chocolate, combine all ingredients in a bowl. If the mixture is too stiff, place in the microwave for 10 seconds. You are looking for a thick, yet workable consistency.

5. Take each turtle and roll in the chocolate mixture to cover entirely. Place them back on the baking sheet and pop back in the freezer for about 30 minutes to set.

Note: I found that the best way to store these babies is in a resealable container in the freezer. Keeping them in the freezer also helps them keep that gooey consistency that’s so delicious.

Bon appétit!

 

Monthly Beauty Buys

Monthly Beauty Buys

While the past few months brought about big changes into my life (I am, of course, talking about joining the short hair club!), this month was all about treating myself to beauty upgrades. You know, the things that people won’t necessarily notice, but that will make you feel good every time you reach for them. Let’s get started!

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Monthly beauty buys - Philosophy Senorita Margarita Body Wash Ole Henriksen Eye Cream

Philosophy Senorita Margarita Shower Gel – Last month, I fell in love with the Philosophy Coconut Frosting shower gel. So much so that I had to go back to Sephora to get the Senorita Margarita scent too. The scent is so refreshing and the formula lathers up so much, it’s like happy hour in the shower! It can also be used as a shampoo and conditioner, which is great when you are travelling and need to pack light.

Ole Henriksen Total Truth Eye Cream SPF15 – Is it just me or finding a good eye cream is kinda hard? I’ve tried a few in the past without being overly impressed. When I saw this little gem at Sephora, I had to give it a try. I’ve been using Ole Henriksen products for a long time ( as you can see here, here, here and here)and know how good they’ve been to my skin. This eye cream has a rich texture and contains Omega 3 extracts to nourish and hydrate the under eye area and diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains micro algae and tri-peptide 5 to strengthen and firm. AND! One of the best things is that is has broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen to protect against sun damage.

Monthly beauty buys - Laura Mercier Pressed Powder

Laura Mercier Mineral Pressed Powder SPF15 – For the longest time I’ve been walking around without a mirror in my purse (don’t judge!). So when I picked up this product, it was more about having a cute mirror tote around with me to touch up my makeup throughout the day. This pressed powder has a creamy powder feel that glides onto the skin and gives it a luminous glow. It doesn’t look powdery or cakey. I also love that it contains SPF and loads of vitamins and minerals that helps protect it against everyday skin aggressors. Plus, it’s waterproof!

Monthly beauty buys - MAC lipstick Pink Nouveau

MAC Satin Lipstick in Pink Nouveau – Looking through my lipstick collection, I noticed that I didn’t have a bright pink. You know, something that made an impact but could also be worn during the day. That all changed the moment I tried this lipstick. The pink is both beautifully and girly, and really stands out without being too “look at me”. It’s my new favourite shade for summer!

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What are your current faves in the beauty department?

5 Reasons To Cut Down On Sugar (And 5 Ways To Do It)

5 Reasons to quit sugar

Sugar is like air, it’s everywhere (seriously, check the label for that BBQ sauce). Most of us know that too much sugar is bad (duh!), but do you really know the negative effects it has on your body?  Here are 5 reasons why I decided to dramatically cut back on the sweet stuff, and since I know how difficult it can be to kick the habit, 5 ways to make the transition to a sugar-free lifestyle a little easier.

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Sugar is addictive
There’s a reason refined sugar is referred to as the “cocaine of the food industry”. Once you give in to a sugary treat, it leaves your body wanting more. The sugar rush is followed by a sugar crash, creating a never-ending cycle. Quitting sugar, it’s just as difficult as quitting smoking – there are cravings, headaches, irritability… it’s all just generally unpleasant.

Your energy will increase
Most people are going to think that they need sugar to get a dose of energy. But turns out that the opposite is true. Sugar increases energy levels in short bursts. Your body starts working extra hard to process the sugar (known as the sugar high), then gets tired (known as the sugar crash). Limiting the amount of sugar in your diet helps to stabilize your body and mood (yay!).

Your heart will love you
Here’s some scary news – Scientists have found a strong link between our daily consumption of calories from sugar-laden foods and heart disease death rates. What’s worse? Just one can of soft drink a day is enough to raise that risk. Turns out that drinking fruit juice is not much better.

Sugar ages you
Sugar damages the collagen and elastin in our skin, making it more saggy (eww!) and increasing wrinkles. The good news – ditching the sweet stuff can get your skin to regain its youthful glow.

Your body will be healthier
Are you one of those people who is always sick with a cold or a fever? Then take a look at your sugar intake. Sweets causes the pancreas to release insulin to reduce the high blood sugar. This release of insulin inhibits the release of human growth hormone, which depresses the immune system and makes it easier to fight off infections and viruses.

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Thinking about giving the no-added sugar lifestyle a try? First, let’s establish what constitutes as sugar. In my book, fruit and natural sweeteners (pure maple syrup, raw honey, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar) are ok in moderation. When it comes to banning sugar, I try to eat foods that aren’t processed and follow a plant-based diet most of the time. Here are 5 more tips on how I keep a (mostly) sugar-free diet:

Go slow – Waking up one morning and deciding to cut out all sugar at once is very ambitious, but not very realistic. After a few days, you’ll be binging on everything you can find. Instead, cut back slowly by adding half the sugar to your coffee in the morning, switching from milk chocolate to dark chocolate as your afternoon treat, or replacing your fruit juice addiction with a piece of fruit. After a few weeks you’ll find that your cravings have decreased and you’ll find yourself reaching for (and preferring) more natural alternatives.

Don’t go the “sugar-free” route – Sugar-free versions of your favourite foods are even worse than the regular versions. They are loaded with artificial sweeteners (pretty much the worst thing you can put in your body), which increase your appetite and sugar cravings. Plus over time, they lower your ability to detect sweets and leave your body wanting even more.

Add a touch of natural sweetness  – There are so many ways to add flavour without adding sugar. Spices like vanilla and cinnamon are so delicious sprinkled on Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or in your morning coffee. Bonus! Cinnamon helps to regulate your blood sugar and control your appetite. Cacao powder is also a delicious addition to your snacks.

Replace sugar in your recipes – One of the biggest sources of sugar in our food is in baked goods. Try swapping the sugar in a recipe for unsweetened apple sauce, mashed banana or pureed fruit (if you have a juicer, keep the pulp for your recipes).

Get moving – There are so many benefits of exercise (don’t even get me started). Just 20 minutes a day is enough to release endorphins (which makes you happy) and produce dopamine (which makes you feel pleasure). Sugar has the same effect on the brain (as does drug addiction). So the next time you get a sugar craving, get your ass outside and get moving. You’ll find that after your workout session your cravings will have disappeared.

[Photo credit via now-forager.com]

 

Vanilla Coconut Lime Smoothie

Coconut vanilla lime smoothie

Coconut and lime are two of the most fun and refreshing flavours (in my opinion). While lime has always had a place in my heart, it’s only recently that I developed an affinity to coconut that can only be described as an intense obsession. No joke, I’m all about the coconut in everything – my food, my drinks, my body wash… it might be getting a little out of hand…

Back to why we’re here! I’ve discovered one of the most refreshing smoothies in the world! It’s green (thank you spinach), it has a ton of protein (shout out to the Greek yogurt) and it has the most refreshing and tropical flavours (what up coconut!). I happen to think that it’s the most perfect summer smoothie. Green drink + amazingly delicious flavours = good times!

Coconut vanilla lime smoothie

Coconut vanilla lime smoothie

Coconut vanilla lime smoothie

Vanilla Coconut Lime Smoothie
Makes 1 smoothie

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 tsp raw honey
1/2 frozen banana
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

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1. Start by adding the almond milk and the spinach in a blender and give it a whirl. I found that the best way to get the least amount of spinach bits is to blend them together before adding all the ingredients. It makes for a much smoother smoothie.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.

3. Serve immediately topped with a sprinkle of unsweetened shredded coconut.

Bon appétit!

Summer Reading List

Summer reading list

Summer is all about taking it easy. For me, the perfect summer day involves fresh fruit, a deliciously refreshing glass on homemade lemonade and the perfect read. While I typically read throughout the year, there’s something about summer that makes me devour book after book. With this in mind, I wanted to share with you a few of the books I picked up recently. One I’ve already read and loved, two I’m still relishing and the last is just calling my name.

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The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
I toyed with the idea of reading this book long before I decided to pick it up, but I am so happy that I did. The story follows Cecilia Fitzpatrick, a successful business woman and devoted wife and mother. One day, she discovers a letter written by her husband years before that reveals a deep and dark secret, one that will change her life and the lives of those around her. It’s beautifully written and a definite page-turner.

Clean Green Eats by Candice Kumai
I’ve been a fan of Candice Kumai since discovering her blog Stiletto Chef years back. Since then, she has published three cookbooks all focusing on eating clean foods that benefit your body and give it the vitamins and nutrients it needs to be its most beautiful, inside and out. Her latest book, Clean Green Eats may be my favourite. The layout is clean and simple, the photographs are colourful and inspirational, and the recipes are healthy, clean and so delicious. I’ve already indulged in the chocolate avocado brownies, the kale mushroom lasagna and the chocolate banana smoothie – all were amazing!

What To Eat by Marion Nestle
Whether you are a carnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan, I think the most important thing is to be educated when it comes to what you are eating and where it comes from. With all the labels and claims on foods, it’s become more and more difficult to choose what foods we should be eating. This book takes a look at the food industry and walks us through each section of a typical grocery store, explaining issues, cutting through foodie jargon and complicated nutrition labels, and debunking the misleading health claims made by big food companies. An interesting read for anyone who wants to make better food choices and is inspired to eat more nutritiously.

 Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave
Another book about secrets (you know you love them!), this book follows Georgia Ford, a girl who grew up on her family’s vineyard in Sonoma where she learned some pretty important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands. Then there’s the secret her fiancé has been keeping… I have yet to sink my teeth into this one, but I can’t wait to get into it.

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What are your book recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!