strawberry pineapple guacamole

Strawberry + pineapple + avocado. Is your mouthwatering yet? Are sold and ready to scroll down to the recipe? Excellent. If not, keep reading because I promise you will be.


When I first told Jack about this recipe he was very hesitant about how strawberry and pineapple would play with the traditional flavors of guacamole. Fair enough. This is anything but ordinary. However, if you're one who enjoys chocolate covered pretzels, salted caramel or kettle corn, this guacamole is for you.

It's a tale as old as time, the salty and sweet romance a la match made in heaven. It never gets old. It's always delicious. And it's lent itself to some surprising combinations. I remember the first time I saw chocolate covered potato chips near the register at Trader Joe's, the renowned spot for tricking customers into impulse buys they later regret. well, one of those bags for sure made it in my cart that day and was the most satisfying impulse purchase I've ever made.

So this guacamole, which is a bit odd at first glance, is really just an unfamiliar play on the classic favorite combination of salty and sweet. We've got creamy avocado mixed with lots of cilantro and lime, some jalapeño for a kick, then fresh strawberries and pineapple for that burst of sweetness that compliments the saltiness of the avocado base in an extremely addictive, where-did-that-whole-bag-of-tortilla-chips-go, sort of way.

On top of the insanely delicious flavor profile, the vibrant colors in this guac scream summer and make it the most beautiful addition to any BBQ, picnic or party -> oh hey, 4th of July. I'll be making it this weekend with friends at our beach house in Half Moon Bay and am ready for Jack to eat his words. And lots of chips.





Ingredients:
- 2 ripe large avocados
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
- Juice of 2 large limes
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup pineapple, cut into small chunks
- 1/2 cup strawberries, cut into small chunks

Instructions:
1. Scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl and mash with a fork (I like to leave some large chunks behind). Fold in the cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice and salt. Then gently fold in the pineapple and strawberries, leaving some on top of garnish if desired.








eating clean: whole foods vs processed foods

There's been a lot of talk recently about processed foods and how they should be avoided at all costs. I honestly wasn't paying a ton of attention to it, until I recently purchased Julie Montagu's Superfoods cookbook (amazing by the way, full review coming up soon) that promotes cutting processed foods from your diet, but doesn't define what they are. So it got me thinking...what really are processed foods? 

Pre-washed lettuce is technically processed, but no one would advise you to avoid eating pre-washed lettuce for the sake of your health. So where do we draw the line between what's too processed and should be avoided, and what may be processed but is still okay to eat? I did the research so you don't have to.


Processed foods are defined as any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, often for flavor, preservation or convenience. That means there is a wide spectrum ranging from minimally processed, like cut vegetables, to heavily processed like frozen pizza, and then everything in between. 

If you break it down and think about what the word "processed" really means, you will realize that you are technically "processing" foods when you cook yourself dinner. After all, my food processor is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets that's constantly in use.

I think it's safe to say that not every "processed" food needs to be avoided. Don't walk away feeling like now you need to wash your own spinach or slice your own mushrooms. You can also still feel good about canned beans and frozen fruit, which have been processed to lock in nutritional quality and freshness. 

So what should be avoided? 

The answer is foods with ingredients, especially sugar, sodium and fat, that have been added. Foods that would fall into this category include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt, crackers, deli meat and frozen meals.

Did you know that sugar is often added to bread to give it an "appealing" brown hue? Or that three quarters of America's sodium intake comes from processed foods, not peoples' salt shakers at home? Or how often trans fat is added to foods to preserve their shelf-life? 

Gross. Gross. Gross. 

Yeah. I think those are all things we can do without...at least most or part of the time. Avoiding these more heavily processed foods can be challenging since they often present the quickest, most convenient option and are foods we've eaten, without much thought, for the majority of our lives. But just being aware of these additives and the negative impacts they have on your health and energy may ignite some inspiration to reach for more whole foods, and less packaged foods, the next time you're at the grocery store. 

At the end of the day, it's all about balance and doing your best. I'm definitely not committing to never using pasta sauce for my spaghetti at the end of a long day. Or swearing off tortilla chips. Um. No. But I am going to think twice about how often I include processed foods in my diet, and how they make me feel when I do. 

So if you're a skim and scroll to the bottom type of reader (raising my hand), here are the takeaways:

What are processed foods?
Any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, often for flavor, preservation or convenience. 

Some processed foods you can feel good about eating:
Bagged lettuce, pre-cut vegetables, roasted nuts, canned beans and vegetables, frozen fruit.

Some processed foods that should be avoided / eaten in moderation:
Frozen meals, pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt, milk, cake mixes, granola, deli meat, crackers.

Oh hey, would you look at that, another reason to eat plant-based ;)







watermelon coconut smoothie

Nothing says summer quite like fresh watermelon. Then you add coconut and it's game over.


Watermelon is right up there with all the best parts of the season like picnics, camping and warm nights. This smoothie is a mix of watermelon, coconut, mint and lime and it's a combo I really can't get enough of. It not only feels festive but is also super hydrating (watermelon is 92% water), which is so important when you're spending time in the sun.

You know another time this hydration comes in handy? When you're looking for a new cocktail recipe that won't leave you feeling bad the next morning. Because really there's no time to waste feeling hung over when it's this beautiful outside. This smoothie is delicious mixed with coconut rum or silver tequila resulting in the most refreshing drink to cool down with on a hot day.

This year for 4th of July, Jack, two other couples and I rented a beach house in Half Moon Bay and I've been trying to think of fun food and drinks we can make in its beautiful kitchen. This watermelon smoothie/cocktail definitely makes the cut along with a recipe for strawberry and pineapple guacamole that will be coming up on the blog next week.





Ingredients (Serves 2):
- 4 1/2 cups watermelon chunks
- 2/3 cup coconut milk
- 3/4 cup coconut yogurt (I like So Delicious)
- 1/2 cup lightly packed mint
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
- Coconut Rum or Silver Tequila (optional/encouraged)

Instructions:
- Place everything a blender and whiz until smooth.




what's in my fridge

A few months back, one of my favorite bloggers, Emily from Cupcakes & Cashmere, did a post about what she always keeps stocked in her fridge and why. I find glimpsing into other people's routines interesting, whether it be a skincare regimen, makeup process or running grocery list, and always get inspired to try new products, many of which become ones I can't live without.


Having a well stocked fridge is so crucial for making my week run smoothly since it ensures I always have something on hand to whip up a quick and healthy meal or snack, and can avoid ordering out or running to one of the little, very expensive convenience stores near my apartment. I make it a point to replenish this list of items during my weekly trip to either Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or both.

Basil. I'm a big fan of pestos, so even if I don't have a specific recipe I need it for, I always end up using it throughout the week. My favorite pesto is the Oil-Free Roasted Pistachio Pesto from this post.

Tofu. Tofu is one of my favorite proteins to play with since it soaks up any sauce or flavor you throw at it. I buy the extra protein Tofu from Trader Joe's because it's thicker and doesn't require you to press any liquid out before using like other types of tofu do.

Cauliflower. This is something I make often, so I love having cauliflower in the fridge. It's also delicious roasted and paired with a pasta or grain, like in this recipe.

Cherry Tomatoes. I love these little guys and even list them here as one of my favorite ingredients. They're delicious raw in salads or dipped in hummus, but I especially love roasting them in the oven or tossing them into stir fries. I find them a lot easier to prep than regular tomatoes since you can just cut them in half and be good to go.

Pizza Sauce. Call me crazy, but pizza sauce is useful in so many instances. I've added it to soups to make them more tomatoey, used it in place of pasta sauce in a pinch and my favorite of all, spread it on a tortilla and then sprinkled with Daiya cheese to make a mini pizza.

Daiya Cheese. This vegan cheese is literally to die for and I constantly have to stop myself from eating it straight out of the bag. It's delicious on anything and everything, but I specifically have it on hand for the aforementioned tortilla pizzas.

Tortillas. See above! My favorite is the brown rice tortillas from Trader Joe's since they crisp up really nicely.

La Croix (grapefruit and coconut). I used to be a complete Diet Coke addict, but now drink La Croix. It's sugar and sodium free but fills that soda void I became so accustomed to. I love to crack one open to enjoy while prepping a meal, which also keeps me from sneaking tastes or snacks while I'm in the kitchen and ruining my appetite.

Arugula. Easily one of my favorite vegetables, I use arugula as my base for salads or atop more decadent dishes like pasta to add freshness.

Zucchini. For Zoodles, duh! I need these on hand because this and this are regular meals Jack and I have for dinner.

Tahini. Another one of my favorite ingredients. I often use this to make salad dressing in place of olive oil or mix it with some lemon or lime and drizzle over my dinner as a sauce. It really is extremely versatile and has a way of tying things together in a dish.

Lentils. These little powerhouses frequent my fridge because they're so full of satisfying protein and fiber, making them a perfect last minute meal or side dish. Trader Joe's sells precooked lentils in their salad section adding a whole other level of convenience.

Kale. Kale salads are one of my favorite things to bring to work with me for lunch because you can dress them in the morning, and then the kale is nice and marinated by the time you're ready to eat.

English Muffins. These are the perfect quick and easy breakfast or snack and are super versatile. Aside from spreading on almond butter or Earth Balance, I'll use them as a bun for veggie burgers or make mini pizzas with them.

Carrots. Carrots are one of the only vegetables that I don't have to worry about going bad within days of purchasing. They're also very affordable and make for a great addition to salads or stir fries.

Oranges, Lemons, Limes. These are always on hand to make salad dressings or add bright acidity to finish off any dish. I used to keep them in the pantry, but have found that they keep longer when stored in the fridge.

Maple Syrup. Maple syrup is one of my all time favorite natural sweeteners, especially in smoothies. I received this bottle of Vermont maple syrup as a gift and, since I use it sparingly, it has lasted forever.

Broccoli. Roasted broccoli never gets old in my book; I always find it delicious and satisfying. Especially when its sprinkled with cheesy nutritional yeast like in this recipe.

Earth Balance. Butter is a pretty basic staple, but this vegan option is delicious and so much healthier. I like to have it for baking or spreading on fresh bread I often grab from the bakery down the street.

Brussels Sprouts. Brussels sprouts add the perfect crunch and hit of nutrients to salads or stir fries and are one of my favorite veggies I always have around.






acai overnight oats

Super simple breakfast alert!


But honestly, should breakfast be anything but simple? Extravagant, time consuming breakfast are completely reserved for the weekend in my book, which is fast approaching! Happy Thursday everyone. Add these ingredients to your grocery list (if you don't have them already) and you'll be all set for the week to come -> best feeling ever.

One time, when I was feeling particularly lazy, I completely left out the "overnight" part of the equation, and just let these oats sit for about 20 minutes before I ate them. The chia seeds still jelled together with everything perfectly and the oats were just as delicious; so if you can't get these together the night before, don't worry about it.

Now a bit about the acai component. I first discovered it when a friend brought me to Blue Hawaii in downtown SF, where I got the most delicious acai bowl with berries, bananas and a squeeze of lime juice on top. It felt like a cross between froyo and a smoothie bowl, so naturally I was all about it.

These little purple berries are not only delicious but also super good for you. They're energy-boosters (hello Monday morning) loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants that are celebrated for their anti-aging and weigh-loss benefits.

This recipe calls for acai juice, which is easy to find at any grocery store. I purchase mine from Whole Foods but I'm sure they have it at Safeway, etc. It adds such a unique, fruity flavor to the oats, which are combined with coconut yogurt and chia seeds. I love adding raspberries, blueberries and chopped almonds on top for extra texture.






Ingredients (Serves 2):
- 1/2 cup coconut yogurt (I use So Delicious)
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1/2 cup acai juice
- Raspberries
- Blueberries
- Almonds, roughly chopped

Instructions:
1. Place the coconut yogurt, oats, chia seeds and acai juice in a bowl or jar and stir together. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight or for 20 minutes minimum. Before serving, stir in more acai juice if you need to thin it out at all. Top with berries and almonds.



piperwai natural deodorant review

For several years, when it came to deodorant, I wanted the absolute strongest thing on the market, and refused to trust anything besides clinical strength. But when I learned about how antiperspirant clogs your sweat glands and has a possible link to breast cancer, I decided to abandon my excessive approach and look for something natural. This proved to be a lot more difficult than I thought since literally no product I tried seemed to work even fractionally as well. I was about to give up hope when Shark Tank came to the rescue.


When Piperwai appeared on an episode of Shark Tank, it seemed too good to be true. All of the Sharks were impressed with how well it worked, and they ended up striking a deal with Barbara. Although I'm obsessed with Shark Tank and never miss an episode, I don't treat it like the home shopping network, and have only purchased two products, including this one, that I've seen on the show. However, I was so intrigued I decided to give it a try and I'm glad I did because I don't think I'll ever use anything else. I wanted to provide an honest review of it to help anyone else struggling to find a natural deodorant.

Does it actually work, even for workouts?
Yes! I use it for all my workouts and it's great every time for deodorizing. However, it doesn't keep me quite as dry as my clinic strength deodorant/antiperspirant used to.

What does it smell like?
It has a subtle minty scent.

What is it made of? 
It's ingredients include charcoal, coconut oil, shea butter and pure vitamin E, and is completely aluminum free, which is what clogs pores and is potentially linked to breast cancer.

How do you apply it?
You scoop a pea-sized amount out of the jar with your fingers and rub it under your arms. When its rubbed in it's completely clear.

Is it safe for sensitive skin?
Yes! It's all natural and won't cause any irritation.

How much is it and where should I buy it?
I recommend buying it on Amazon since they offer free shipping. On the Piperwai website its only $11.99 but they charge about $5 for shipping, making it $16.99 total. On Amazon it's $15.99 but shipping is free so you save one dollar and have the reliability that Amazon provides.





israeli couscous with roasted cauliflower & calabrian chilies

Welcome to your new favorite ingredient. You're welcome.


I used to be such a wimp when it came to heat. Now I can't get enough, and Calabrian chilies* were the game changer. I first encountered them at one of my now favorite Italian restaurants in North Beach. I was having dinner there with Jack and sitting on the table was a little jar filled with them.

Jack, a big fan of spicy food, told me these chilies were one of the most delicious things he'd eaten on his trip to Italy, but when he tried to get me to try one I was like heck no.

"You don't know what you're missing out on," he said. Thinking they were super spicy, I dared him to eat a whole chili. When he easily downed it, I naturally dared him to keep going. Four chilies in with no smoke coming out of his ears made me wonder just how dangerously spicy these chilies actually were so I tried a tiny bite of one.

Mind. Blown. 

Calabrian chilies are infused with oil and salt, making them taste somewhat similar to olives but with a bit of a vinegary, smokey taste. Jack describes them as a cross between a chili and a caper. Their heat is strong but definitely not over the top. That night at dinner, I became so obsessed with them I ate chili after chili. Whole. On their own. Straight out of the jar. I couldn't get enough. This coming from a self proclaimed hater of all spicy food.

Heat is all relative, so I'm not suggesting you buy a jar and start downing chili after chili (though that would be pretty awesome). The perfect place to start is with this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower and Israeli Couscous with chopped Calabrian chilies and a bit of the chili oil. You can modify the amount of chilies and oil you add to suit your liking but fair warning, if you think you don't like spicy food, that's all about to change.

*Calabrian Chilies can be a bit difficult to find, so I suggest purchasing them here on Amazon.






Ingredients (Serves 4):
- 1/2 head cauliflower florets
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 1/3 cups Israeli couscous
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for dizzling
- 1 3/4 cups boiling water
- 6 Calabrian chilies, roughly chopped (or more/less) --> Buy these here on Amazon 
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili oil (or more/less)
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped and lightly packed
- 1 lemon

Instructions: 
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lay cauliflower florets out on a baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Roast cauliflower in the oven for about 15 minuets.

2. Saute couscous with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until it's lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Slowly add the boiling water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

3. In a large bowl, stir together cauliflower, couscous, chili peppers, chili oil, parsley and the juice of half the lemon. Divide into bowls and squeeze remaining lemon juice on top.

the 5 best apps for blogging

I'm pretty picky when it comes to apps, and try to avoid having pages and pages of them on my phone by only reserving space for those I actually value and use often. However, when an app comes around that makes my life easier, I'm all for it. These five apps help keep me organized and informed when managing my blog and I have a feeling they're about to become your favorite apps as well.

P.S. Most of them are free or very inexpensive!


Asana: A beautiful platform for organizing projects in terms of individual tasks and deadlines. It's meant to help coordinate between teams, but I find just as much use with it solo. When I first started blogging, I had so many ideas free floating in my mind that I wanted to accomplish, but no where to organize them. Now I divide them into larger projects in Asana, such as Research where I include tasks like "Learn about SEO" or "Take a food photography class" and Exposure, which includes tasks like "Connect on LinkedIn" and "Order business cards."

Dark Sky: I'm slightly obsessed with the weather in my personal life, but even more so when it comes to shooting recipes since natural light is so essential for getting beautiful photos. I love Dark Sky because it tells you the temperature and chance of rain for your exact location, not just for your city (crucial for navigating the micro climates in San Francisco). It's also incredibly accurate and tells you the time of the sunset down to minutes, which makes it easy for me to determine the best time of day to shoot.

Evernote: This is the ultimate app for jotting down random ideas or lists, and it's much nicer to look at than the notepad app that comes with the iPhone. I also love that it lets you organize your notes into different notebooks. I have one for grocery lists, jotting down recipes while I'm cooking, and brainstorming ideas for future posts.

Balanced: This beautifully designed app is a combination of a to do list and a personal coach. It allows you to add preset reminders like drink more water, take a walk or stretch, but also lets you customize your own. On my app I include items like, write a blog post, shoot a recipe and search for inspiration, that the app reminds me to do weekly.

Google Analytics: For the most part, I check Google Analytics on my desktop, but I really like having access to it on my phone as well to check how posts are performing on the fly. I also find the app extremely user friendly and appreciate the simple layout, which can be easier to navigate than the multiple options and views you see on your computer.




P.A.M. Cocktail

It's time boozing met juicing.


Summer's here! Which means it's totally appropriate to combine PAM with tequila. If you aren't familiar with PAM, it stands for pineapple apple mint, and it's a common juice in rotation for juice cleanses.

This cocktail came about when I was living in Palo Alto a few years ago with one of my friends (previously mentioned here). Juice cleanses were just starting to get a lot of hype and I wanted to try one but without the major price tag, so I did a DIY juice cleanse and made all the juices myself instead of having them delivered.

I knew this juice cleanse was serious trouble when I came home from work after the first day, exhausted and irritable from not eating, and spent hours preparing my six juices for the next day. If you've juiced before, you can easily imagine the massive amount of vegetable remnants I spent forever cleaning up in my kitchen as well. Ick.

It wasn't long before I abandoned my juice cleanse and my friend and I got creative, which naturally meant taking the most delicious juice in the mix - PAM - and combining it with tequila.

That's when the magic happened.

I vividly remember the two of us standing in our kitchen pouring shot after shot into the PAM juice and not being able to taste a touch of alcohol. It was actually a bit unbelievable, awesome... and concerning at the same time...

That's why this is the ultimate summer cocktail. You've got tropical pineapple, crisp apple, refreshing mint and as much tequila as you want. Not judging. Especially since this is one of the healthiest cocktails around. I mean, the base is juice from a juice cleanse. Enough said.




Ingredients:
- 2 green apples, roughly diced
- 1/2 pineapple, roughly diced
- Handful of fresh mint, plus more for garnish
- Silver tequila to taste (I use Jose Cuervo)

Instructions:
1. Juice apples then pineapple, with pieces of mint intermittently added between the pineapple chunks to help push it down.
2. Divide juice into glasses, add ice and tequila to taste. Garnish with fresh mint if desired.



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