Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls

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Having taken the year off from work to be with my little guy, visions of sugar plums and recipe tastings danced in my head. However, I’m lucky if I remember to make dinner. Period. Every day is filled with craziness and I have no idea where the hours go, and I absolutely love it. So those moments when I am able to make something new for my blog (and photograph it!) is just icing on the cake. I just sat down after a crazy day of making to-go lunches, playing with my 4 1/2 month old little dude, and having my upstairs gutted, and I gave myself two choices…work on that blog post that I started 3 days ago or continue reading that awesome book that came yesterday (I think I’m on page 2). Cleaning was off the table since that is the reason I never take naps when Oliver does. So I decided to treat myself tonight. By the way, the book is In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney and it’s quite inspirational. Anyway, I digress… I’m going to continue writing this blog post even though I’m half expecting Mr. Oliver to wake up any minute since he wakes up All. The. Time. He’s lucky he’s adorable. Everyone asks me if he’s a good boy. I tell them he’s the best. The sweetest. The most precious. Then they say…He’s a good sleeper? And I reply, Oh no, he’s the worst. I was going to wait until the 6 month mark to begin introducing foods for reasons I’ve only read about; however, I’m second guessing that in hopes that (perhaps) he’ll sleep better. (Some swear by it; some say it doesn’t work. Your thoughts? Comment below please!) I realize that most of my posts lately have been about motherhood, but it’s tough not to write about it since it consumes my every waking moment…and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Okay, onto the recipe. Continue reading “Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls”

Doubled Dipped Pecan Clusters And Just A Few Random (Pregnancy) Thoughts!

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Thanks to some of you who reached out to me, I was able to see that this recipe (posted last year) was no longer available. I wasn’t able to retrieve it, so I decided to remake it using pecans instead of walnuts. You can find the recipe for these raw, vegan, caramel clusters beneath these random pregnancy thoughts by yours truly.

  • I’m trying to drink lots of water – I carry around my 74 oz water jug at work and at home, and now it’s just a habit to take swigs of it throughout the day. I try to drink one and a half of these a day.
  • Umm, maternity pants are the greatest invention ever and I want to wear them for the rest of my life! I feel like I’m wearing leggings everyday. On a similar note, I was not loving the belly band so much. It’s useful in that it’s economical because you can still wear your old pants, but I felt like I was walking around with my pants around my knees all day long. Really cute.
  • I dowloaded all of my pictures from my camera onto my computer and then saved them to shutterfly. I figured what better time to do it before I’m busy with baby? And now it won’t take 10 minutes for my camera to upload the thousands upon thousands of photos I had (most of which were food photos – 34 pictures of hummus? I’m such a loser!).
  • I can’t wait to get into the new house where the lighting is so much better! I have so many food blogging ideas of which I can’t always do in my dark apartment.
  • Knowing how loving and affectionate Justin is with me, I can’t wait to see how in love he will be with the baby ❤
  • I haven’t had crazy pregnancy cravings like ice cream and pickles. I have my usual cravings, but if it’s something that’s not good for me and baby, I will usually just let the craving pass or make a healthier version. Of course, this doesn’t happen 100% of the time. Some things I have been loving though are sorbets like this one. My current fav is strawberry. I’m also loving orange juice (and I make sure to drink it with my prenatal vitamin since the vitamin C helps the body to absorb the iron better). I’ve also been substituting orange juice for almond milk when I make my after dinner sorbets and they’re soo delicious. I don’t even need to add in maple syrup because the juice adds that extra sweetness. Cereal! I’ve never been the biggest fan of cereal in the morning. I just felt there were so many more interesting choices. But lately, it’s all I want. And it has to have banana in it! Of course, I’m still loving bagels and I eat them about 2-3 times a week. Sometimes more…
  • Speaking of iron, I’m supposed to take an iron supplement because of my slight anemia, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet!
  • As for packing lunches for school, I’m obsessed with coconut milk yogurt (So Delicious‘s Greek Style is my favorite), granola bars, oranges, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Amy’s frozen vegan wraps are my go-tos. Those sound like a week’s worth of lunches, but I actually pack all of them in my bag each day : ) The peanut butter and jelly sandwich usually doesn’t stay in my bag long – I usually eat half of it for breakfast and the other half with my yogurt and granola for lunch. On those days, I’ll leave the Amy’s wrap home.
  • I like the Honest company’s prenatal vitamin because it’s made with whole-food based ingredients.
  • The midwives at my birthing center are a lot more strict than I am with this pregnancy and they require me to take all of these classes like breastfeeding and natural childbirth. I suppose when she was telling me to register for these I thought she was just suggesting them; however, at my last appointment I found out she was dead serious and I felt like a student getting in trouble by the teacher. So long story short, I have my breastfeeding class on Wednesday evening and made the childbirth education class for April. Sometimes I need a push in the right direction because I tend to take quite the laissez-faire approach to life! Another thing I was supposed to do was find myself a pediatrician, so if any of you local gals/guys like yours, I’d love to hear from you!
  • I am still going to the gym about 3-4 times a week; however, the feeling is not as rewarding since I’m sweating way less and just getting bigger. I continue to go though for the long term benefits and because it does help boost my energy and keep everything else in check…digestion, mood swings, obesity (ha!)…
  • Would love to hear from anyone who can relate – my skin gets itchy/tingly at nighttime. A few times I had to get up and take a shower just to stop myself from going insane. I’ve read up on it but most accounts are about itchiness in contained areas, like the stomach and breasts. This is not the case for me as my whole body becomes irritated and I’m just curious if anyone else knows what I’m talking about…
  • Now that I’m a couple of weeks into my third trimester, I do feel a bit more fatigued than my second trimester, but I’m still able to go to sleep early so this isn’t such a calamity for me.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup cacao powder
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Steps:

  1. Blend the dates until gooey. Soaking them for 30 minutes helps create a creamier mixture.
  2. Combine the date mixture with the chopped pecans and form into clusters.
  3. Melt the oil and combine it with the cacao and maple syrup.
  4. Dip the clusters into the chocolate sauce and refrigerate for about an hour. Repeat the dipping for an extra chocolatey sauce!

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Snickers Ice Cream Squares and a Balanced Bella Baby – Oh Boy!

img_3444It’s been a beautiful fall and winter and we’re super excited for the spring when we get to meet our beautiful balanced baby! Knock on wood, it’s been a very smooth pregnancy thus far. There were a couple of weeks of slight queasiness, the sixth to eighth week mark to be exact, but luckily it happened in the later afternoon, once I was home from work. See? Smart baby already. However, even that wasn’t too severe – I lost my appetite and just couldn’t stand the smell of certain foods, mainly, whatever Justin was cooking!

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We also found out the sex and we’re having a boy! Coming up with names has been…interesting. I have my favorites…Justin says things like Homer and Archimedes, so there are still a few kinks in that department…

All those baby websites were right on the money; the first trimester was definitely filled with exhaustion and plenty of extra early bedtimes. We went to Barbados in September, during my sixth week of pregnancy, and I was asleep by 8:00 every night. (And that was considered late, but I was on vacation…) Now that I just entered my sixth month, my energy is back and I love feeling all of those kicks and movements. When I lay down at night, and I’m sure most of you who’ve experienced this can agree, the baby thinks he’s on a bouncy castle having the time of his life – and it’s the best feeling ever.

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In Barbados : )

I’m still working out about 3-5 times a week, but at a more moderate pace. I’ve substituted running with walking on a high (10-15) resistance, and I’m still doing the bike and elliptical with a 14-17 resistance. I’ve noticed that I’m not sweating as much as I used to, but it still feels good to move my body, and it definitely helps with the whole digestion process!

Preparing Roscoe ; )
Preparing Roscoe ; )

Even before pregnancy, I’ve been mindful of the chemicals in beauty products thanks to my friend Krsitina and her company Beautycounter. You can read the article I posted about such toxins here. One study that has stuck with me is the finding of hundreds of chemicals found in a baby’s umbilical cord blood. I try to use as many natural products as possible. A favorite of mine is jojoba oil! This stuff is awesome. I use it as a moisturizer, but it’s also excellent for hair treatments. You can read more about its benefits here. I’m not always able to use natural, from the earth ingredients, but I at least always make sure the things I put on my body, face, and hair are free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates (and are not tested on animals!).  Some products I order online, but others, like Alba Botanica, can be found in places like Target and Whole Foods.

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I recently left my gynecologist for a midwifery group in Brooklyn. I’m very happy with them and their philosophy, so I’ll make sure to keep you posted on that! How about you? I’m very interested in hearing about your pregnancy journey and/or tips, stories, or comments you may have, so please do share!

But enough about me. Let’s talk chocolate. And peanuts. And cashew nougat. And ooey gooey caramel. These snicker-esque squares are made of all-natural ingredients and are completely raw (except for mine – because I used roasted peanuts!). I’ve made “caramel” in the past, but not like this. I finally tried soaking the dates before blending them, which did make them creamier, but adding a splash of almond milk took this caramel to a whole new level. Like many layered desserts, these took some time, but I highly recommend trying them out.

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Ingredients:

Nougat 

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • optional: 1 tsp maca root powder (for extra malt-iness flavor!)

Caramel

  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk

Topping

  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 2/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

Steps:

  1. Cover the cashews with filtered water and soak for 3-4 hours.
  2. Cover the dates with filtered water and soak for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Drain the cashews. In a blender, mix the nougat ingredients together. Smooth the mixture onto the bottom of a pan (8″x5″). Freeze for at least an hour.
  4. Add the dates to a food processor, peeling off any additional flaky skin that may have accumulated. Slowly mix in the water and almond milk. Continue blending until creamy; you may need to push down the mixture with a spoon and continue blending.
  5. Sprinkle on the peanuts into a single layer.
  6. Place back in freezer while you prepare the chocolate topping.
  7. When ready, pour the chocolate mixture on the top, smoothing everything out.
  8. Freeze for at least an hour.

 

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Almond Milk

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It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I learned how simple it was to make almond milk, so I credit this post to my co-worker, Stephanie. Since then, I’ve seen many nut milk recipes and the various ingredients that could be added. Isn’t that funny…once you’re awakened to something, it seems to be everywhere and you have to ask yourself how did I not see/know this before? Well this is a basic recipe with a couple of optional ingredients that may be worth trying.

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Almond milk is loaded with vitamin E, which is responsible for your skin’s beautiful glow, as well as protecting it against sun damage. Ironically, “traditional” cow’s milk is often responsible for acne and eczema, as most bodies are not equipped with the enzymes needed for digesting this type of milk. Unlike milk derived from an animal, almond milk contains fiber and does not contain cholesterol or saturated fat (or antibiotics, blood, and pus. Yes, pus. If you haven’t done so already, please feel free to read my post Why I Chose To Stop Eating Dairy…). It’s creamy, naturally sweet, and very delicious, so what’s not to love?

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Have fun with the excess almond skins that are left behind. I must credit Stephanie with this tidbit too, as I probably would have wasted this part by throwing it away. I just added some raisins and baked on 350 F until toasted, about 30 minutes (turning once during the baking). I could’ve been more creative, but I was more focused on trying to produce pretty pictures for my almond milk!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • optional: 2 dates or maple syrup, dash of cinnamon, dash of vanilla extract

Steps:

  1. Soak almonds overnight, or for at least 5 hours, making sure to use enough water to cover the almonds.
  2. Drain the almonds and place in a blender, adding the six cups of water and optional ingredients.
  3. Blend for one minute.
  4. Drain the almond milk using a cheese cloth and strainer. Place the cheese cloth atop the strainer and place above a medium/large sized bowl. (I have made almond milk using just a strainer and no cheese cloth before.)
  5. Make sure to squeeze out the excess liquid from the cheese cloth.
  6. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Almond Cheesecake Cups

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I had way too much fun photographing these guys because they’re just too cute! Perhaps they could have a more polished appearance, but I think that rugged, ‘rustic-ness’ is what gives them their charm. Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself…

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There are three layers, and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to add to each layer, so I kinda just played around with them. I wanted to add a fruity, jelly layer, but considering I was trying out a new chocolate recipe, I decided to hold off on trying to be too creative ;). Maybe I’ll play around with another recipe tomorrow since Mayor de Blasio just closed all of New York City’s public schools!!!

I made a similar crust when I created my raw cheesecake recipe, so I knew that this would work well, too. Likewise, the filling closely resembles the aforementioned recipe, in that they both include cashews, maple syrup, and coconut oil; however, there are a few (major) alterations that give this dessert a totally different flavor. I added two cups of shredded, unsweetened coconut, but it was the addition of the almond extract that gave it that extra zing!

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I tried making a chocolate frosting once to add to one of my pancake stacks, but I must’ve added too much of something, and not enough of something else, because the texture was off and so was the taste. This time around, however, the cacao and coconut oil gods were on my side, and it came out perfectly, and I couldn’t stop eating it. Even if you never make this recipe, seriously consider at least making the chocolate icing, because it takes about one minute, tastes better than any icing I’ve ever had, and is kind to your body. Oh, and by the way – if you minus the extracts, these miniature sized pieces of heaven are completely raw, too.

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Ingredients: (Makes about 18 dessert cups)

Filling

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 6 Tbsp coconut oil *
  • 5 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • optional: pinch of salt
  • optional: 2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut

Crust

  • 10 Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup raw walnuts

Icing

  • 1 cup cacao powder
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

*I always use extra virgin coconut oil, especially when the recipe calls for it to remain in its raw state.

Soaked Cashews
Soaked Cashews
Filling
Filling
Cashew Filling with Coconut
Cashew Filling with Coconut
Date, Almond, and Walnut Mixture
Date, Almond, and Walnut Mixture
About 2 teaspoons of mixture pressed into each cup
About 2 teaspoons of mixture pressed into each cup

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Then add the cashew filling
Then add the cashew filling
Smooth, Creamy Icing
Smooth, Creamy Icing

Steps:

  1. Soak cashews for at least three hours. Like last time, my cashews were soaking for about 30 hours because I never got around to it when I thought I would. All the same.
  2. In a blender or food processor, mix all of the ingredients for the filling, except the coconut, together. The texture should be smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the coconut. Set aside and prepare your crust.
  4. Blend the dates, almonds, and walnuts in a blender/food processor.
  5. Use wax paper to line your baking dish for easy removal. I used cupcake tins, but a pie dish would work as well.
  6. Press about 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of the crust mixture into each cupcake holder. If using a pie dish, pour in the entire concoction. Press down using your fingers or a spoon.
  7. Pour in equal amounts of the filling. I used about 2 teaspoons of filling per cupcake holder. Press down using your fingers or a spoon.
  8. To prepare the icing, simply add all three ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk together. After about 30 seconds, the mixture thickens. Apply about 1 teaspoon onto each dessert cup and smooth out with a spoon.
  9. Place in freezer for at least one hour. I felt very accomplished after peeling back the wax paper and setting my eyes on those beauties! Enjoy ❤

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Raw Cashew Cheesecake

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As I sit here typing on my couch, I’m bouncing back and forth between reading emails and writing this blog post. I’ve just received a congratulatory email from wordpress because it seems I’ve had this blog for one whole year now! It’s been a productive year filled with fun, creativity, and self-expression. There are many more avenues I’d like to explore in this coming year, and as I’m realizing, it truly is possible to achieve what you set out for, once you get the ball rolling.  I included a quote in one of my earliest posts about the best way to get something down is to begin, and it couldn’t be more true. When I told everyone (via Facebook) that I had created a health food blog, I had one recipe posted and no real plans on the horizon. But that was okay, because announcing it was the catapult I needed in order to keep moving forward. I didn’t have any definitive plans, nor recipes up my sleeve, but the more energy I put into it, the more the ideas kept flowing. I have no idea what 2015 will bring for balanced bella, but I do know that if my excitement continues, so will my ideas and successes.

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On another note, I don’t often use this social media channel as a soapbox, but perhaps I’ll be allowed annually on my blog’s anniversary (no? okay, then just this once…) Few things upset me more than the idea of animals being caged, bullied, and used in a way that suggests they’ve experienced their fair share of pain and fear (circuses, zoos, aquariums, horse carriage rides, etc.), and for those who believe they’re just animals and don’t know any better – I suggest you just stop reading my blog and spend this time doing some much needed soul searching because I strongly believe that animals are far more intuitive than us and have much to teach us humans. So as I was saying…fewer things upset me more… Last week, I took my fourth grade class on a trip to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The Rockettes, singers, dancers, and actors were amazing, unbelievably amazing; however, during the last ten minutes of the show, camels and sheep were brought on stage for the nativity scene, and it just didn’t make sense to me. It did not enhance the show in any way, only hindered what would have been a superb show. I couldn’t help wonder where these animals go/stay in between shows. I wrote a letter to Radio City but have yet to hear back from them…

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Thank you for letting me vent, and if you needed to skip over that last paragraph, so be it. I’m finished now. Let’s talk food. I’ve been wanting to create a cashew cheesecake for months now. I continuously buy raw cashews for this purpose, but find myself using them for different reasons because of a preconceived notion that this project would be difficult. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. On Saturday, I sat down and thought about what I had in my kitchen that could be created into a recipe and shared on my blog. We recently bought pomegranates and I thought they’d be a gorgeously festive food to photograph. Then I began wondering what I could make in order to use them. A salad? Nah. But then the idea of a cheesecake came to mind and I thought…well, I don’t have that much to do today. That idea was moot anyway, once I realized how simple it was.

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I added water to a bowl of cashews and left my house to go holiday shopping. I came home a few hours later and made the crust and filling.  A total of about 9 minutes. Then I put it in the freezer overnight. The amount of manual labor that went into this is laughable. It took me longer to photograph it than actually make it. And the best part…it’s completely raw, undeniably healthy, and unbelievably delectable.

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Ingredients:

Filling

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 7 Tbsp coconut oil (at room temperature – liquid state)
  • 7 Tbsp maple syrup
  • optional: pinch of salt
  • optional: 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used this; If you don’t, then it will be completely raw.)

Crust

  • 3/4 cup packed dates, pits removed (about 10)
  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds

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Steps:

Filling

  1. In a bowl, add about two cups of water to the cashews, enough to cover, and set aside for 3-4 hours, or overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the cashews and place in the blender/food processor. Add in all other ingredients and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour filling onto crust and freeze for 3-4 hours, or overnight.
  4. Top with your favorite ingredients: slivered almonds, pomegranate, coconut, etc. I blended a cup of frozen berries with a splash of almond milk to make a sorbet spread!

Crust

  1. In a food processor or blender, add the pitted dates and nuts. Mix until they form a sticky substance.
  2. Place wax paper over a pie dish and place crust mixture on top, spreading it out using your fingers.

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Banana Bon-Bons

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Peggy Bundy would be proud. I’ve envisioned making these for the past few months. Like when I was proctoring the state tests and couldn’t do much more than stare out the window, or when I was sitting on the lifeguard chair staring at the ocean and thinking about the exact ingredients I would use and if everything would stick together like they did in my mind – they did by the way. Yea, I know I sound like a huge food geek. And although I had every intention of creating a delicious dinner and writing about that, I just couldn’t resist trying these out, and when I did, well I obviously had to change my plans a tad…
The richness of the cacao and the nutty flavor of the almonds brings out the sweet flavor of banana – which tastes about three hundred times better when it’s frozen, making it creamy and refreshing on these humid June days in New York. Ingredients (makes about 8 bon-bons):

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  • 1/2 ripened banana
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
  • 2 Tbsp cacao powder*
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup

*I recently ran out of cacao powder and bought a different brand at Whole Foods on a whim. This new powder is a lot less strong and I need a lot more to achieve the same taste. So, depending on the cacao powder you have, try one half to one whole tablespoon and taste the mixture to see if it’s enough. I usually order Healthworks brand on Amazon and absolutely love it.

Steps:

  1. Dice one half banana into 1/4 inch coins.
  2. Place on a plate in a single layer – do not pile on top of each other.
  3. For easier handling, freeze for about thirty minutes.
  4. In a blender, mix almonds, coconut, and cacao powder.
  5. Pour into a bowl and add the maple syrup, mix well.
  6. Cover each banana piece and shape into a ball; do not pile covered bananas on top of one another.
  7. For best results, freeze for at least one hour, but best after two hours.

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