Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Archive for the tag “Sweet Sunday”

Almond Joy Granola

Almond joy granola 1

I’ll keep this post as short and sweet as the granola recipe that follows. Lately, it’s been like my life (outside of work) has been sucked up by a vacuum. Before, I had the entire summer to enjoy each of my hobbies. Recently, I’ve been trying to be better about making sure I take time for myself.

On the bright side, my kids have actually been using a math strategy I taught them to do multiplication. I noticed them using it one morning when they were doing the problems of the day, which are posted on the morning meeting white board. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. Something stuck with them. Even the little things that are taught, stick with them. I taught them something that was useful (for the moment until they’re repertoire of strategies and number sense increases). The feeling of seeing them use what they learned independently is nearly indescribable. Until the next light bulb moment happens, there is always almond joy granola, which is possibly my new favorite granola recipe (and when I say possibly I mean definitely because anything almond joy flavored is amazing – unless you hate coconut and then it’s less than amazing, but I’m not one of those coconut haters and therefore it’s amazing).

almond joy granola 2

Almond Joy Granola:

*Makes about 4 cups of granola

Ingredients:

2 cups of rolled oats

1/3 cup of walnuts, chopped

1/3 cup of almonds, chopped

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

4 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp of cocoa powder

1 tsp of vanilla

1/4 tsp of almond extract

Method:

1- To make the almond-flavored granola:

  • Mix together: 1 cup of rolled oats, the chopped almonds, and the coconut flakes. Then, in a separate bowl mix these liquid ingredients: 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil, and the almond extract. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix until the oats are well coated.

2- To make the chocolate-flavored granola:

  • Mix together: 1 cup of rolled oats, the chopped walnuts, the coconut flakes, and cocoa powder. Then, in a separate bowl mix these liquid ingredients: 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil, and the vanilla extract. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix until the oats are well coated.

3- Add each mixture of granola to a baking sheet – keeping the two variations separate during baking (I put both on one baking pan, but kept the chocolate on one half and the almond granola on the other half). Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the almond granola begins to turn golden brown around the edges of the pan.

4- Let the granola cool for about 25-30 minutes before serving with your favorite type of milk. Store in an airtight container. When I made this granola it lasted for about 4-5 days in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Almond joy granola 3

An Oil-free Blueberry Peach Cobbler-like Granola

Blueberry Peach Granola 1

I’ll admit it. I make granola fresh almost every morning for breakfast. Maybe it sounds crazy that I spend time in my kitchen actually making my breakfast each morning instead of pouring it from a box or reaching for it from a paper bag that has that has that famous orange and pink lettering and says Dunkin’ Donuts on it, but now that I’ve started making these homemade breakfasts, I just can’t stop. Don’t get me wrong in the past I coveted box cereal, going through phases of favoring certain brands and eating it every morning without missing a day. I’ve also enjoyed many of Dunkin’s bagels.

Simply put, this granola is healthier and tastier than any breakfast I’ve gotten out of a box or bag and much cheaper too! When I have to go back to work come August, I probably will have to deal with the idea of not making my own breakfast each morning, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make a big batch on Sunday for week mornings (though I would probably leave the peaches and blueberries out until the day of serving – so the granola doesn’t get mushy).

*In case you missed my last post on oil free banana walnut granola, you can find it here! It is fairly similar to this one in terms of the ingredients used.

Blueberry Peach Granola 2

Oil-free blueberry peach granola: 

*Serves 1

Ingredients:

1/2 of a banana

1/4 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 – 1/2 tsp of cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp of maple syrup

1/2 cup of rolled oats

1 tbsp of unsweetened coconut flakes

1 small to medium peach, halved and then sliced

1/2 cup of blueberries, washed and patted dry

*optional: a dash of nutmeg to coat the blueberries and peaches

1/4 cup of pecans

Method:

1- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Then cut the banana in half and add it to a mixing bowl. Mash it with a fork or potato masher. Then add the vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Stir well.

2- Add the rolled oats and the coconut flakes. Mix all of those ingredients together. Then, slice the peach and toss it in the nutmeg with the blueberries (if you choose to use the nutmeg – I personally enjoyed it, but not everyone is a big nutmeg fan). Add the fruit to the granola bowl. Stir once more before spreading the granola onto a baking sheet.

3- Bake for about 12 minutes or until the granola begins to turn golden brown (or longer if you like it extra crisp). Top with pecans (if desired). Serve immediately or let it cool a bit and it will crisp up even more. Some serving suggestions would be to add cacao nibs, ground flax seed, or another type of chopped nuts before serving with the milk of your choice. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Flavored Creamy Avocado and Raspberry Pudding

Avocado pudding 1

Avocados just keep getting better. This fruit can be used in appetizers, dinners, salads, and soups. I wasn’t sure I could believe it until I tried it, but avocados can even be used in desserts.

This pudding is simple to make, tastes richer than it is, and is technically a dessert made almost entirely of fruit. Can you go wrong? I don’t think so! There shouldn’t be anything stopping you from making this recipe, as it really only has a few ingredients. My roommate even raved about the pudding  (if you needed another reason to be convinced to try it). So get your kitchen gadgets ready and rush to the kitchen in three-two-one. Go! You won’t regret it, unless you are one of those people who isn’t really fond of desserts (though I haven’t met many people that don’t enjoy dessert).

Avocado pudding 2

Chocolate-Flavored Creamy Avocado and Raspberry Pudding:

*Recipe inspired by an avocado pudding recipe found on This Chick Cooks

*Serves two

Ingredients: 

1 cup of raspberries, frozen or fresh, rinsed and patted dry

2 tbsp of water

2 tsp of agave nectar

1 avocado, halved and diced

3 tbsp of cocoa powder

3 tbsp of maple syrup

1 tsp of vanilla extract

3 tbsp of nut milk or the milk of your choice (or more if you’d like the pudding to be thinner)

Method:

Add the raspberries, water, and agave nectar to a pot set over medium low heat. Heat the raspberries until they easily break apart. Mash them until they become smooth, as they would if you’d pureed them. Set the raspberry spread aside and allow it to cool.

While you’re waiting for the raspberries to cool, add the rest of the ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender. Set it to high and let the ingredients combine. After a minute or so, scrape the sides of the food processor and then put the lid on and put it back on high. Do this until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Chill both the raspberry puree and the avocado pudding before serving. To serve, layer the avocado pudding and the raspberry puree in the serving dish or glass of your choice (I found it easiest to scoop the mixture into a glass using a small spoon). Top with a fresh raspberry and enjoy!

A Cooling Watermelon Cocktail Without Any Added Sugar (can be made with/without alcohol)

Watermelon Cocktail

Sorry men, this drink recipe is probably not one that you would enjoy adding to your repertoire. It doesn’t include beer or anything else that men stereotypically drink (kidding, I enjoy a good beer too). It’s also bright pink, fruity, and has kiwi ice cubes floating around in it. Manly? No, but delicious, yes. Who knows, (after getting past the pink-ness of this drink) maybe even a man couldn’t resist the combination of these fresh fruit flavors.

I was looking for a refreshing drink I could bring to my neighbor’s house for our girls night of catching up on life. Since she is having a baby,  I made mocktails. They even happened to pair wonderfully with the strawberry shortcake she made. These drinks were so cute that I nearly forgot I wasn’t drinking a cocktail.

The sweetness of the watermelon was cut by the tartness of the raspberries and lemon juice. The raspberries also gave the drink a beautiful dark pink hue, while the kiwi ice cubes added a pop of green and were a tasty snack after the drinks had been devoured. This watermelon cocktail is definitely a must-make for a night when you’re in need of a thirst-quenching drink that is full of flavor.

Watermelon Cocktail 2

A Cooling Watermelon Cocktail:

*Makes 3-4 drinks

Ingredients: 

3 lemons, juiced

1 cup of frozen raspberries

1/4 of a large watermelon, cut into large chunks

*4 oz of vodka (optional)

1 kiwi, halved then sliced across

mint to garnish

Method:

Start off by peeling the kiwi. Then cut the kiwi in half and cut slices going across horizontally. Stick them on a small baking sheet and put it in the freezer. Let them freeze for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, add the lemon juice, raspberries, and watermelon to a food processor (or blender if yours is better than mine), as well as the vodka if you are making it a cocktail. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into the glasses of your choice and add the kiwi ice cubes last. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve immediately.

Oil-Free Banana Walnut Granola

Banana Walnut Granola

Lately, I haven’t been one to eat conventional boxed cereal. I’ve been leaning towards alternative breakfast ideas like breakfast quesadillas with peanut butter and bananas, green smoothies, stove-top oatmeal, and homemade granola (my personal favorite, aside from pancakes that is).

I love the crunchiness of granola, as well as its sweet flavor, but I find that most store bought granolas are full of sugar and have many grams of fat. I sought out to make granola without using any oil. Instead of using oil to bind the mixture, I used mashed banana, which gave the breakfast cereal a lightly sweet flavor. Luckily, it was a success. I made it everyday this week  for breakfast. I fully expect to make it tomorrow morning too. It tastes like banana bread topped with toasted walnuts.

Oil-Free Banana Walnut Granola: 

*Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 banana

1/4 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 tsp of cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp of maple syrup

1/2 cup of rolled oats

1 tbsp of unsweetened coconut flakes

2 tbsp of walnuts chopped (plus more for after baking)

Method: 

1- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Then cut the banana in half and add one half to a mixing bowl. Mash it with a fork or potato masher. Then add the vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Stir well.

2- Add the rolled oats, the coconut, and the chopped walnuts. Mix all of those ingredients together. Then, slice up the other half of the banana and add it to the bowl. Stir once more before spreading the granola onto a baking sheet.

3- Bake for about 12 minutes or until the granola begins to turn golden brown. Top with extra walnuts (if desired). Serve immediately or let it cool a bit and it will crisp up even more. Some serving suggestions would be to add cacao nibs, ground flax seeds, or raisins before serving with the milk of your choice. Enjoy!

Vegan and Gluten-Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I’ve had a thing for raisins lately. I just can’t get enough of them. Since I’ve practically been dreaming of the “perfect” oatmeal cookie, it was no surprise that I whipped these up last night. These came pretty close to being “perfect.” They were moist, sweet, and melted in my mouth. I made them yesterday and a little more than half of them have already disappeared. I’ve been one very happy oatmeal cookie-loving  lady.

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies:

*Makes about 10 cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of gluten-free oat flour (or if you don’t have oat flour whole wheat pastry flour might work also)

1/2 cup of rolled oats (for a crispier cookie that is less moist, add more oats)

1/2 cup of quick oats

1 tsp of baking powder

1/4  tsp of sea salt

1 tsp of cinnamon

1/3 cup of raisins

1/3 cup of chopped walnuts

1/4 a cup of sucanat (I used the Wholesome Sweeteners brand, though I’m sure you could use regular brown sugar or turbinado sugar)

1/4 of a cup of vegan butter spread, packed in the measuring cup and then melted

1/2 cup of applesauce

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Method: 

1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then whisk the flour, oats, raisins, walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together.

2- In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients (the vegan butter, applesauce, vanilla, and sugar). Mix the wet ingredients.

4- Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Make sure you stir the batter enough so all of the oats are coated by the wet ingredients. Note that the batter will be very moist.

5- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5- On a lined baking sheet, drop cookies onto a baking sheet using a tablespoon. You may have to form them a bit just to make sure that all of the cookie stays together (as the batter crumbles easily before baking).

6- Bake for about 10 minutes (depending on your oven). When they are finished the bottom should be a golden brown color.

7- Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for about five minutes and then move them over to a cooling rack for five minutes or so. Note that the cookies are fragile when they immediately come out of the oven, so be gentle when taking them off of the cookie sheet.

In case you missed my recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, find it here!

Chocolate Goji Berry Crunch Granola

Goji berry crunch

Okay, I admit it. I broke down and bought a couple of different superfoods. After watching Food Matters, I became curious about why people were running out and buying foods like goji berries and raw maca. I didn’t know the first thing about superfoods, aside from the idea that they were supposed to be very good for you.

Not too long after watching that documentary, I gave in and bought both goji berries and cacao nibs. Almost immediately, I found myself adding the cacao nibs to different foods I normally made like oatmeal and in trail mix.

The goji berries, however, were a different story. At first bite, I didn’t really like them. They were fairly tough on the outside and had a fruit flavor that I didn’t like the taste of (which is odd because I’d loved every fruit I’d tasted prior to this experience assuming goji berries are a fruit?). I knew they were supposed to be good for me and I’d paid a pretty penny for a small bag of the pretty, coral-colored berries, so I tried to eat a small handful with other dried fruits I enjoyed, like apricots. I tried hard to like them, but efforts were to no avail. They sat in my cabinet for a couple of months with little or no use.

One day, I was talking with the guy who lives upstairs from me and he was telling me how he and his girlfriend were on this superfood kick. They’d bought all different powders, berries, and seeds in hopes of adding them to their diet. I admitted how I’d tried goji berries, but wasn’t too fond of them. He then told me how he loved eating them with chocolate.

Ding, ding, ding. It was like the light bulb went off in my head. I’d never tried the berries with chocolate. What a genius idea. Almost immediately, the idea for chocolate goji berry granola was born.  The combination was a success and now I have a new use for all those unused berries I bought. Whether eating them with granola defeats the purpose or not, is not something I’d like to consider. It was too delicious to contemplate the idea of how healthy it was.

Goji berry crunch 2

Chocolate Goji Berry Crunch Granola: 

*Yields about 3-4 cups of granola

Ingredients:

1 1/3  cup of rolled oats (I used GF rolled oats)

1/3 cup of dried, unsweetened coconut flakes

2/3 cup of chopped nuts (I used a mix of walnuts and cashews – both tasted delicious with the chocolate flavor of the granola)

2 tbsp of cocoa powder

1/3 cup of raisins

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil, melted

3 tbsp of light agave nectar

(possible substitution: maple syrup)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/3 cup of goji berries

1 tbsp of cacao nibs (*optional)

Method: 

1- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then add your rolled oats, coconut, chopped nuts, raisins, and cocoa powder to a mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients together.

2- Melt the virgin coconut oil either in a small pan or in the microwave. Add the Coconut oil, agave nectar, and vanilla  into a glass measuring cup. Stir once before pouring over the rolled oat mixture. Mix the oats with the wet ingredients, making sure all of the oats are coated.

3- Spread a thin layer of granola onto the parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes. The granola is finished when the raisins on the edges of the pan begin to turn puff up. After the granola has cooled for about five minutes add the goji berries and cacao nibs (I thought cooking them would make them lose their many nutritional benefits such as the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that they provide). Let the granola cool before using it (it will become crisper as it cools, it will still be slightly soft when it comes out of the oven).

*Store in an airtight container. Other possible additions: substitute goji berries for dried cherries, dried cranberries, dried apricots, or banana chips

In case you missed my two other posts on granola, I’ve also made a banana walnut version, as well as maple pecan granola. Enjoy!

Nearly Fat Free Vegan Banana Blueberry Muffins

Nearly Fat Free Vegan Banana Bluberry Muffins

At school, my kids have been learning how to write poetry and recently we’ve been talking about similes. Tomorrow, I’m going to read them a book called My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks . I think they’ll get as much of a kick out of it as I did. Since similes have been on my mind so much, here are a few that came to me when I made (and devoured) these vegan blueberry banana muffins:

As light as a croissant

As sweet as a strawberry picked fresh in June

As fluffy as angle food cake

As satisfying as early morning homemade pancakes

In case you were questioning whether you should make these muffins, well I’m telling you yes you should (they are nearly guilt free). If you do, you will be as happy as a child with a popsicle in hand. I know, I’ve got to stop thinking in similes. Until then, enjoy the recipe!

Nearly Fat Free Vegan Banana Blueberry Muffins:

*Adapted from Somer’s recipe for oil free banana muffins, which can be found on her blog Vedged Out (I used her awesome recipe as my base and added my own spin on it)

*Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas, peeled

1/2 cup of milk (I used almond milk)

1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar

1 tsp of vanilla

1/4 + 1/8 cup of sucanat (or brown sugar)

1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of salt

1 tsp of cinnamon (for the muffin batter)

3/4 cup of blueberries (frozen or fresh)

1 cup of oats (I used half rolled oats and half quick oats)

2 tbsp of maple syrup

1 tsp of coconut oil, melted

1/2 tsp of cinnamon (for muffin topping)

Method: 

1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I followed Somer’s recipe advice and blended all of my wet ingredients (and the sugar), which included the bananas, milk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and sugar. This was very fast and had such an easy clean up. I think I will be doing this again with other banana recipes!

2- Mix the dry ingredients separately and whisk them together to ensure that they are well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently mix them with a spatula. When they are combined, fold in the blueberries.

3- Grease the muffin tins and fill each cup with about 1/4 cup of muffin mixture. Then make the muffin topping. Mix together the cinnamon, oil, maple syrup, and oats. Top each muffin with about 1 tbsp of the mix. Bake the muffins for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Scones

Raspberry chocolate chip scones

Lately, I’ve undergone some major life changes, which have made writing seem difficult. It’s almost like these changes have created writer’s block. I almost wasn’t going to write this post, but then I watched a video of Neil Gaiman giving a speech at a commencement ceremony, which was posted on Change For a Year. It was then that I knew I couldn’t just stop writing even though the writing wasn’t coming and it wasn’t going to be the best writing. Sometimes you just have to keep going or as Neil Gaiman said “Make good art. Make it on the bays days. Make it on the good days too. And fifthly while you’re at it, make your art…The urge starting out is to copy and that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. The one thing you have that nobody else has is you, your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

While this scone recipe is not completely my own, we all have to start somewhere. Someday I aspire to create my own scone recipes, but for now I’ll adapt the recipes of others until I get to that point.

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Scones: 

*Adapted from Shannon’s recipe for delicious blueberry scones found on her blog Move Eat Create (mine are also nearly identical to a Babycakes recipe – I think the only difference from mine and the Babycakes’ recipe is the chocolate chips)

Ingredients: 

*Makes 11 scones

2 cups whole spelt flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp of fine grain sea salt

1/3 cup of coconut oil, melted OR use Earth Balance’s Buttery Spread, melted (UPDATE: using the buttery spread produces a lighter and more flavorful scone than using coconut oil, as I recently found when making them again)

1/3 cup of light agave nectar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup hot water

3/4 cup frozen or fresh raspberries

1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Method:

1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2- Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk to ensure they are well combined.

3- Then, after melting the 1/3 cup of coconut oil, combine the coconut oil, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Stir once and then pour over the spelt mixture. Gently mix together.

4- Add the hot water and again gently mix until it’s combined (try not to over mix spelt flour).

5- Fold the chocolate chips and the raspberries into the batter. Use a 1/4 cup measure to spoon batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (to ensure that the scones will be the same size). Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown on top. These kept well in an air tight container for 3-4 days. I stored mine in the fridge and heated them in the microwave before eating. They taste great with fresh raspberry jam, if you have any on hand.

*If you missed my version of ginger peach scones, find the recipe here.

Vegan Coconut Macaroons In Four Flavors and the Thanksgiving of Ten Desserts

 Coconut macaroons 2 Coconut macaroons 3 Coconut macaroons 1

 About two Thanksgivings ago I ate ten desserts in that one day. Yes, I admit it. It happened and I certainly didn’t feel good afterwards, but the eating part was so wonderful I just couldn’t stop myself. I shoved my mouth full of my grandma’s ricotta cheesecake, pumpkin and apple pies, as well as many different types of cookies and cake. Now, I know that ten sounds like a lot, but I’m a grazer by nature. I like to nibble on lots of different types of foods. It wasn’t like I just plowed through ten full size desserts, though I must admit, that would be impressive. Really, what led me to eating my plateful(s) of mini-sized desserts and what also let me to bake four versions of coconut macaroons is my indecisiveness.

Who could make just one version? Certainly not me. Nope, I needed to make four and I’m sure I ate nearly half of them myself. I mean when you bring these things to a function (and they’re the only dessert there you can eat), you’re going to devour a bunch of them just because of how delicious they are. These macaroons hit the spot (all four versions). They were lightly crunchy on the outside and oh so moist on the inside. The citrus macaroons were refreshing, while on the other hand, the chocolate and chocolate chip ones were decadent. You choose or don’t and make multiple types of macaroons like I did (I certainly didn’t regret it, especially since these aren’t all that bad for you).

Coconut macaroons 4

Coconut macaroons:

*Adapted from the Coconut Macaroon Thumbprint Recipe found on Oh She Glows

*Makes 16-18 macaroons

Ingredients for citrus macaroons:

1 1/2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut

1 cup of almond flour/meal

1/4- 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup of coconut butter, melted (I used Earth Balance Coconut Spread) *this is not the same as coconut oil

1/2 lemon juiced or 1 lime juiced (depending on the flavor you want)

zest of 1 lemon or lime, depending on the flavor you choose

Ingredients for chocolate and chocolate chip macaroons: 

1 1/2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut

1 cup of almond flour/meal

1/4- 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup of coconut butter, melted (I used Earth Balance Coconut Spread) *this is not the same as coconut oil

1 tsp of vanilla extract

2 tbsp of mini chocolate chips or regular chocolate chips, chopped

*for the chocolate version add 4 tbsp of cocoa powder and 1 tbsp extra of maple syrup and top with cacao nibs (optional)

Method (same for all recipes): 

1- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Then combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk them together. Then add in the syrup, the melted coconut oil, and any citrus juice or vanilla extract. Mix well. *If you are creating the chocolate version – add the extra maple syrup and the cocoa powder now.

2- Fold in the chocolate chips if creating the chocolate or chocolate chip macaroons. Then use a medium sized-melon baller to create even sized macaroons. Space them evenly apart on the cookie sheet (they don’t need too much room in between because they don’t spread at all).

3- Bake them for 20-22 minutes. They should be slightly crisp on the outside when you pull them out. Let them cool completely before serving (though I’m sure they would taste good warm too). Top the citrus macaroons each with a pinch of fresh zest.

These were delicious. I wouldn’t have made them if there wasn’t a special occasion because otherwise I would have eaten them all on my own. They were that good.

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