dairy free

Fall Is in the Air + Grain-free Pumpkin Spice Muffins

pumpkin muffins alo wellness  

In my humble opinion, there is no greater time of year than when the leaves begin to change, the air becomes cool and crisp and the scent of cinnamon lingers in the air. Wait, what am I talking about? I live in Southern California, this doesn't happen!

A girl can dream though, can't she!?

I truly love fall. It literally makes me giddy. Maybe it's a more of a nostalgic feeling than anything, bringing me back to my youth growing up in the Bay Area. My mom always had pumpkin-y candles burning and the leaves actually fell off the trees! The air was cold and crisp and I remember the excitement of Halloween [I was a big candy lover back then, if you could imagine!] and Thanksgiving with family and my grandma's insanely buttery mashed potatoes. 

It's hard to pinpoint more about the nostalgia, it's just a warm and happy feeling when I think about fall. Now a days, I look forward to decorating our home with all things pumpkin and burlap, walking the pups with my hubby, and having friends and family over to celebrate birthdays, Thanksgiving and life over harvest-inspired meals and cocktails. 

It may be a million degrees here right now, but my heart is ready for fall. I know that sooner or later, the leaves will begin to turn and the temperature will slowly fall and our sleeves will grow longer and thicker with each passing month. 

Last week, my good friend Cara brought me the sweetest gift when her, her hubby and their kiddos came over for dinner [Cara shares an equal obsession with all things fall]. She surprised me with the most beautiful pumpkin plate so I figured this was a sure sign that the blog was also ready for all things fall. So, I whipped out my Real Food Meal Plan | Fall Edition and found one of my very favorite recipes : Pumpkin Spiced Muffins. 

pumpkin muffins alo wellness

Because who doesn't like fall in the shape of a muffin accompanied by a warm cup o' Joe in the mornin'? 

These muffins are so simple to throw together, they have the most beautiful fall flavor and they are so moist and fluffy! No processed grains or sugars here, instead I used coconut flour as my flour substitute and coconut sugar to sweeten! You can use less coconut sugar and even omit the chocolate chips to make a lower carb version.

I hope you love them. Slather them with butter and enjoy them with someone you adore. They taste even better that way.

pumpkin muffins alo wellness

 

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Citrus Salsa-Topped Pistachio Crusted White Fish

CitrusWhiteFish|AloWellness I have a number of reasons for loving winter in California [especially Redlands], but one of the list-toppers is the fact that winter is citrus season. Days that start off with a fresh grapefruit at breakfast and end with fresh-squeezed lime juice in homemade guacamole at dinner are some of the best. It’s at this time of the year that farmers’ markets become saturated with delectable orange, grapefruit, lime, and lemon crops, which is great news for the citrus-loving folk among us! Can anyone say ‘free samples’?!

Not only are they absolutely delicious, but citrus fruits are also a great source of vitamin C. This important vitamin serves to promote a strong immune system for fighting off those winter cold and flu bugs, so it’s a good thing that citrus season coincides with sick season! Besides immune health, vitamin C has antioxidant properties that make it a factor in reducing oxidative stress. A reduction in oxidative stress improves vascular health and reduces cancer risk, and that’s a benefit worth pursuing when you consider the environmental pollutants we are exposed to every day.

One of my recent trips to the farmers’ market inspired me to create a salsa of sorts using all of the wonderful citrus fruits currently in season here. I found a great recipe over on the blog E is for Eat that got me excited to make my own version to share with you all. Besides being an avid citrus fruit lover, I also have a strong affinity to fish, and what better way to enjoy a fresh citrus salsa but on top of piece of seafood?! Jaymee over at E is for Eat had similar thoughts, which is probably why I was so drawn to her idea of winter citrus salsa on pistachio-crusted white fish. Plus, fish is an excellent source of the fats that support a whole bunch of cellular functions to keep our bodies working smoothly, so this dish is really a win-win-win situation!

CitrusWhiteFish|AloWellness

The original recipe wasn’t quite suited for gluten-free eaters, so I decided to substitute the bread crumbs with almond meal. This resulted in a delightfully nutty flavor for the crust along with a boost in nutritive value. Another win-win-win, in my opinion! You can select any of your favorite types of white fish for this recipe, though I would recommend halibut caught off the California coast or in Alaska for its healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acids and light flavor. Just make sure to check into the sustainability factor of the fish that you purchase. Do your best to avoid farm-raised fish and chose a wild variety. A great source for information regarding current issues of overfishing and contamination is Seafood Watch, an organization that researches the sustainability of different types of fish and their harvesting methods to help consumers make informed decisions in purchasing.

I have a couple of tips for you as you dive into this delicious endeavor. First, be sure to process the almonds and pistachios to a fine flour when preparing the crust because anything too coarse will not stick to the fish very well. Feel free to top the fish with some of the extra nut mixture before popping them in the oven; I am a huge fan of the nutty flavor, so the more the tastier! You could probably use any of your favorite nuts and have an equally delicious result, in case pistachios aren’t your thing. Also, the coconut oil will give the fish a slightly coconuty flavor, which is a great surprise if you like coconut, but if not, feel free to substitute butter or ghee. When finishing the dish, be generous with the citrus salsa! The tastiest bites are those that have a little bit of everything. Oh, and don’t forget the avocado. It offers a great diversity in mouthfeel and texture!

CitrusWhiteFish|AloWellness

I hope you take advantage of this beautiful winter season to load up on that in-season, locally-grown, vitamin-packed citrus! Enjoy!

 

[yumprint-recipe id='7'] The post was written by my incredible intern, Ashley Huisman. We prepared the dish together and she did a beautiful job at photographing this delightful meal! Thank you for your hard work Ashley!

Like what you see? Share the love! Then join our monthly mailing list here to receive tips for healthy living, real-food recipes and updates on Alo Wellness workshop + events!

Interested in working one-on-one with Justine? Check out the Alo Wellness Shop and all the ways she can help make real food and healthy living a reality in your life. 

Apple Cider Vinegar Roasted Brussels Sprouts + Dried Cherries and Pecans

It is 2014, a brand spanking New Year, full of possibility and opportunity! Ah, I love it!

The air is warm here in Southern California and the sky is clear {for once}. Every morning I peek out our bedroom window to check out the “situation in the sky”. Day after day, a great, big smile beams on my face with these beautiful, clear, blue skies. Thank you Lord!

I guess the cook in me loves a blue sky because I have been in a nice, steady cooking mood, enjoying some good ol' recipes, but also trying some new.

One of my favorite restaurants, Lounge 22 in Redlands, makes the BEST Brussels sprouts. Ever. These Brussels are coated in a potent apple cider vinegar reduction and topped with a dollop of goat cheese…heavenly.

I thought I’d give it a go, how hard could it be?

Brussels, check. Apple cider vinegar, check. Oven, check. We got this.

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After a few practice runs, I discovered a pretty yummy variation. My version ended up being quite a bit different, but the bottom line is that it is nourishing and totally tasty.

After all, real food should be simple and full of flavor. Period.

Apple Cider Vinegar Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

1 lb Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved

½ small purple onion, sliced (I used yellow onions in the photo)

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar

¼ cup pecans (soaked and dehydrated), roughly chopped

2 tablespoons dried cherries

Sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, whisk together coconut oil, mustard, maple syrup and vinegar. Place Brussels sprouts, onion, pecans and cherries in large bowl and pour vinegar mixture over; toss to combine. Line a baking dish with parchment paper and spread the Brussels sprouts out evenly. Roast for about 20 minutes, tossing half-way through, until lightly golden.

Enjoy my friends!

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Halloween, the Healthy Way [aka simple, nourishing & totally delicious!]

Happy Halloween

For every child in the world, there are at least 1,000 pieces of candy floating around this time of year, filling their cute little tummies with corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and synthetic dyes.  Oh, a true nightmare for Nutritionists and Dietitians alike, the Halloween season can be disastrous on those sweet little immune systems, not to mention the parents trying to control those sugar-crazed little nuggets!

Are you with me?

Is it coincidence that “flu season” flares right around the same time most of our bodies are in total sugar overload?

I think not.

Sugar can cause total and complete havoc on the immune system, not to mention our mood, sleep, brain, gut, heart, etc. Many Americans experience intense sugar cravings most days of the week so this sneaky little October holiday tends to start us on that {yearly} downward spiral into the holiday season leaving us heavier, sicker and blood sugar busted.

Why not make this year a wee bit different and nourish the bod on this spooky holiday!? Just because the neighbors bought the expensive candy with the Twix and Snickers bars {you know what I'm talking about...} doesn't mean you need to compete. Challenge yourself to overcome this sugar crazed holiday and whip up some tasty, healthy-er treats for you and your family and friends.

I promise you will wake up November 1 feeling like a million bucks! Oh, and that neighbor of yours, yeah, the one with the "expensive candy", she'll be rolling out of bed disoriented and as puffy as Will Smith in Hitch when he ate that crazy fish!

I have a couple of ideas that you will totally love! Check them out and let me know what you think! My favorite: the Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt Toffee! Yum!

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes + Pumpkin Spiced Frosting {gluten, dairy, soy-free}

{Adapted from PaleOMG’s Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes}

1 cup of blanched almond flour, sifted

½ teaspoon of baking soda

½ teaspoon of sea salt

1 cup dark chocolate chips

½ cup full fat canned coconut milk, room temperature

1 tablespoon raw honey

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

½ teaspoon of vanilla

2 organic, cage-free eggs {pastured eggs are best}

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Line a cupcake pan with liners or grease thoroughly if you won’t be using liners.

In a medium-sized bowl combine your dry ingredients, almond flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Stir to combine then set aside.

In another medium-sized bowl combine chocolate chips and coconut milk and melt using the double boiler method. Stir consistently until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Stir in the coconut oil, honey, vanilla and eggs into the melted chocolate and coconut milk mixture.

Now fold your melted chocolate mixture into your dry ingredients and thoroughly mix until completely combined.

Pour batter into the cupcake liners and fill about ⅔ full, they will rise slightly when baking.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting.

Pumpkin Spiced Frosting

1 (13 ounce) can coconut milk

¼ cup freshly roasted pumpkin

1 tablespoon honey or pure maple syrup

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon vanilla

Place the can of coconut milk into the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. Scoop solid cream off the top of the can of coconut milk and place into a blender.

Add pumpkin, honey, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla to the blender.

Puree on highest setting for 10-15 seconds, until smooth. Turn off the blender and scrape down the sides if necessary.

To frost, transfer the frosting to a decorating bag and use desired tip. If the frosting becomes too soft, let it sit in the refrigerator until it becomes firm again.

Cupcakes

Savory/Sweet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds {gluten, dairy, soy-free}

2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds {right out the pumpkin!}

Clean water

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

For Savory Seeds:

½ teaspoon garlic salt

 ½ teaspoon cumin

 ½ teaspoon coriander

 ½ teaspoon cardamom

For Sweet Seeds:

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger, ground

½ teaspoon cloves, ground

1 teaspoon honey

Clean stringy flesh off of seeds and rinse thoroughly. Place seed in a large bowl and cover with clean, warm water. Add sea salt and gentle stir. Allow seeds to soak for 6-24 hours. Once they’ve soaked, pour seeds into a strainer, rinse, then transfer to a clean dish or paper towel and pat dry.

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, spices of choice {savory or sweet} and toss to combine. On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread the seasoned seeds in a single layer. Roast seeds, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until seeds are crispy and just starting to brown, about 1 hour. Allow to cool completely then enjoy!

Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt Toffee {gluten, soy-free}

2 cups butter {yes please!}

1 cup honey

2 cups good quality, dark chocolate

1 tablespoon coconut oil

½ cup almonds or pistachios, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt {fine sea salt will also work}

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a saucepan, combine the butter and honey. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Allow to come to a boil, and cook until the mixture becomes a dark amber color, and the temperature reaches 285 degrees F. Stir often to avoid burning the toffee.

As soon as the toffee reaches the proper temperature, pour it out onto the prepared baking sheet and set aside.

In the same saucepan you used for the toffee, add chocolate, coconut oil and nuts and allow to melt, stirring often. Once melted, pour the chocolate mixture on top of the cooling toffee and use a spatula to distribute the chocolate evenly.

Allow to cook for a few minutes then sprinkle the sea salt over the top.

Place flat in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely.

To serve, lift an edge of the hardened toffee and break off chunks in desired sizes.  Next, devour.

I also saw these fabulous looking Honey Caramel Apples by the Nourished Kitchen! Definitely worth a try!

Don't forget! The Real Food Meal Plan - Fall Edition is in full force and available for purchase on the Alo Wellness website. Check out the Alo Wellness October Newsletter for a link to a sample day!

I wish you all a happy and healthy fall season! Make every bite count {and make 'em tasty too}!

Shine Bright!