Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake


Fall puts me in the best mood. 

The other morning I walked outside and had to run back in to grab a sweater. I wish you could have seen the smile on my face.

Fall in North Carolina is really a blessing from the summer heat. The leaves are just starting to show the slightest hints of orange and burgundy and the air has a crisp coolness to it. Is it just me or does the fall breeze actually have a distinct smell? I love mid-afternoon when the sun has warmed everything up just enough to feel comfortable being outdoors without breaking a sweat. Ahh…I wish it could stay like this year round.

With the very first hints of fall come my overwhelming desire for fall flavors. What are fall flavors you ask? Think pumpkin, cinnamon spice, warm apples, nutmeg, ginger, maple, butternut squash, cloves, and turmeric. I recently made a trip to the Yankee Candle store to stock up on my fall candles. Some of those scents smell good enough to eat!

If you know me well, or honestly if you know me at all, you know cheesecake is my absolute favorite dessert. A few months ago, however, I made a lifestyle change and my diet has been pretty free of sugar. New healthy lifestyle = no more cheesecake? Heck no! This stuff is just as good as the real thing and you won’t feel guilty about eating a slice…or two.

The sweetness in this dessert comes from a little bit of pure maple syrup and my favorite sugar substitute, liquid stevia. Stevia is calorie-free and is derived from a plant. It’s 200 times sweeter than sugar and has no glycemic index. I love using the liquid drops to sweeten up my yogurt, coffee, and even baked goods.

This cheesecake is super rich and creamy thanks to greek yogurt! I use a little coconut flour to thicken it up and plenty of fall spices in addition to organic pumpkin to achieve the perfect pumpkiny goodness.

Lastly, the crust. It’s probably my favorite part of this entire cheesecake. I use almond meal, which is a little coarser in texture than almond flour. Using coconut oil instead of butter to bind it all together results in a healthy, moist crust with solid substance to support the cheesecake filling.

Whether you’re trying to eat healthier or just wanting to get in the spirit of fall, this cheesecake will put a smile on your face!

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the filling

1 cup of organic pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 1/2 cup of plain, full-fat greek yogurt 

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of ground clove

1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup

3 droppers of liquid vanilla cream stevia 

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of coconut flour

For the crust

2 cups of almond meal

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons of organic, virgin coconut oil (melted) (*Plus extra for greasing)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 droppers of liquid vanilla cream stevia

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a springform pan or large ramekins with coconut oil.

Whisk all of the filling ingredients together until smooth. Set aside.



In a separate bowl, combine the crust ingredients until it has reached the consistency of damp sand.



Press the crust onto the bottom of the springform pan, or divide among four large ramekins. I have made this cheesecake both in my 10 inch springform pan and in ramekins. The 10 inch pan made a bit of a thinner cheesecake, but it was still delicious. The ramekins result in a thicker cheesecake and take just a little longer to bake. 


Pour the filling on top of the crust and bake for about 30 minutes in a 10 inch springform pan, or 40-45 minutes in ramekins. The cheesecake should be firm in the center when shaken.

Allow the cheesecake to cool in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours. I think it tastes best when it sits overnight, but who am I kidding…this stuff is pretty hard to resist once it comes out of the oven.



Serve with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Enjoy, happy fall, and live well!


Ballpark Italian Spaghetti Squash Casserole


Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd!

If you know my husband well, you know he lives and breathes baseball. I’m pretty sure he knew I was “the one” on our first date when he learned I’m a baseball lover, but I’m pretty positive I quickly broke his heart when I told him I’m a Yankees fan.

I met my husband during college – I was a sophomore and he was a senior. He stayed at Wake Forest to complete his masters degree, which gave us an extra year together at the same school. We spent two spring break vacations in Florida attending a handful of the spring training baseball games. Those trips and the countless games we attended are some of my most treasured memories together. It was hilarious seeing this patient, reserved, southern gentleman, who I still didn’t know extremely well, completely go bonkers when the ump made a questionable call or when the Cards hit a grand slam. It was even funnier (and more enjoyable) watching his reaction when the Yankees beat the Cardinals…but I’ll leave that story for later.

We haven’t been back to Florida in a couple years (thanks adulthood, you’re so great), and spring training is an experience we miss terribly every March. In an attempt to make up for this, I gave Gray tickets to see the Washington Nationals play for our first wedding anniversary. We went to the game last month and loved every minute, especially since we were able to spend a weekend with our sweet friends Tim and Mary Scott who live in DC. Time with them is seriously golden.

We decided to eat dinner at the game, and let’s just say for a health food blogger and wellness enthusiast, ballpark food is slim pickins’. While Gray made a bee line for the classic hotdog with fries, I made circles around the stadium for a few innings of the game. I was desperately searching for something semi-healthy or even semi-NON processed and junky. Uhg. I struggled for real.

I ended up settling for a $12 grilled chicken sandwich (sans bun) with lettuce (iceberg – blah), tomato, and lots of yellow mustard. As I reluctantly ate my previously frozen “chicken,” I couldn’t help but notice the countless fans indulging in Italian sausage dogs with grilled peppers and onions. They sure did smell good, and I was kind of jealous I didn’t get one for myself. So that’s why I made this dish. Not only as a way to diminish my ballpark dinner choice envy, but to also make a classic favorite into a healthier dinner option that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 small spaghetti squash

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning

2 large links of sweet Italian chicken sausage (I like Al Fresco All Natural; you can also use hot if preferred)

1 teaspoon of olive oil

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

5 sweet mini bell peppers, or 1 large bell pepper

2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 small or 1 medium vine ripe tomato, diced (optional)

1 heaping cup of tuscan kale, chopped (large stems removed)

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

Juice from 1/2 small lemon

1/2 cup of provolone or pepper jack cheese, shredded

Fresh basil for garnish 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare the squash by carefully cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds. Lightly brush with oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Bake cut side down for 30-45 minutes.

While the squash is baking, heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Remove the sausage from its casing and brown while crumbling with a wooden spoon or spatula.


Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Return the empty pan to medium heat and drizzle with olive oil. Add the onions and peppers. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add the tomatoes (if using) and kale. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another few minutes and then add the cooked sausage and lemon juice. Stir and remove from the heat.




Once the squash is cooked, use a fork to pull the squash away from the skin into an oven safe baking dish. Stir the sausage and veggie mixture in with the squash. Sprinkle with cheese and bake on broil setting for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and brown.


Garnish with fresh basil and serve!


This is a fun, flavorful dish that’s easy to make and filled with nutritious veggies. I love all the colors, too :)


Enjoy, live well, and play ball!


Pumpkin Spice Latte


 This morning I gave in to the PSL.

Yes, it’s still 90-something degrees outside, and no, the leaves are not quite changing, but for now, I’m just going to pretend summer is over and fall is here to stay for a while.

I’m not going to pretend a Stabucks or Dunkin’ PSL is a-okay…because it’s not. With 50 grams of sugar per cup, I’m saying “no way, not ever” to this trendy beverage. That’s more than a king size Snickers bar, and more sugar than you should ever have in a single day! Forget about the 300+ calories in the drink, it’s sugar that makes us sluggish, sick, and fat. The seasonal face is also loaded up with artificial colorings, flavorings, and chemicals which only do your body harm.

Try making your own mug of pumpkiny goodness at home! Your body will thank you…and so will your wallet!

Here’s how I get my PSL fix:

10 oz freshly brewed organic (naturally flavored) pumpkin spice coffee *I buy mine from the Fresh Market

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon of ground clove

1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

3-4 drops of liquid vanilla cream stevia *I order this from Vitacost

4 oz of streamed or foamed unsweetened, plain almond milk

Stir the hot coffee and spices together in a mug.

Pour the steamed/foamed milk on top and garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.

Enjoy, and live well!


Basil and Mint Zucchini Over Goat Cheese Crostini


There is something about fresh herbs from the garden. 

Some of you may know about the garden I planted this past spring. It’s been a fun adventure tending to and keeping it thriving through the incredibly hot summer days here in NC. A few of my potted herbs bit the dust (adios dill and cilantro!) while others have grown like weeds. ‘Tis the season for tomatoes! I’m currently glancing outside my kitchen window counting 17 shiny green tomatoes. That will be a fun harvest!

Although I did not grow zucchini this year, I seem to always have it on hand. It’s just one of those kitchen staples that I never get sick of. A few weeks ago I wanted to get a little creative with the excess of basil and mint that was sitting in a vase of water on my kitchen counter. I thought, what better way to bring out the summery freshness of zucchini than with vibrant herbs?

I love the combo of basil and mint. Many Vietnamese and other Asian cultures include these herbs together in their cuisine. Basil actually belongs to the mint family, so it makes sense that they compliment each other so well.

I started this dish by crisping up zucchini slices in a pan with a small amount of oil. Then I mellowed out the herby flavors with sweet sun-dried tomatoes, garlicy goodness, and a splash of vinegar. Crusty bread, a generous smear of tangy goat cheese, and toasted walnuts bring all of the components together to make for perfect handheld tapas or appetizers that pair best with a nice glass of wine and good conversation. You could even forget about the bread and goat cheese to effortlessly transform this recipe into a delectable side dish that all will enjoy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2-3 medium zucchini, sliced on the bias about 1/2 inch in thickness

1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

5 fresh mint leaves

2 large fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon of sun-dried tomatoes 

1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon of toasted walnuts, chopped

1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest

Goat cheese and your favorite bread (optional, for serving)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.


Add the zucchini slices in batches to not overcrowd the pan. Leave the zucchini slices to cook for about 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Both sides should be golden brown.


Remove the zucchini slices from the pan and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil. Continue this process until all of the zucchini and crisped and golden brown.


In the meantime, use a sharp knife to finely mince together the garlic, mint, basil, and sun-dried tomatoes.


Once all the zucchini are cooked and drained, add them back to the hot pan with the garlic herb tomato mixture. Toss with a spatula and add vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.


Serve over your favorite toasted bread smeared with goat cheese. Garnish with toasted walnuts and lemon zest.


Ricotta or cottage cheese would work well as a substitute for goat cheese if you desire.


You could also serve this as a side dish without the goat cheese and crostini. It’s super yummy with my lemon rosemary pan seared salmon!


Enjoy, and live well!


Spinach and Prosciutto Stuffed Turkey Breast


What’s your favorite kitchen accessory?

If you know me well, you know I have the hardest time making decisions. I could tell you my favorite kitchen accessory is my Le Creuset tea kettle, but then I would change my mind and tell you it’s my mini food processor, or maybe even my cookie scoop. The answer might be different every time you ask depending on the day or the mood I’m in. As of a month or so ago, though, I’ve been pretty consistent with what I love most in my kitchen. It’s my cast iron skillet.

Why in the world did it take me 23 years to discover the endless bounty of the cast iron skillet? Seriously! I have a Lodge Logic 12″ skillet from Sur La Table. This thing takes just about anything from “OK” to over-the-top delicious. From steaks to pancakes, I’ve been cooking just about everything in this pan – gotta get it nicely seasoned, right?

These stuffed turkey breast roll-ups are especially tasty when cooked in cast iron. The pan sears the outside of the meat, which locks in extreme flavor and moisture, while nicely melting the cheese and cooking the prosciutto on the inside. A few sprigs of fresh thyme in the pan create a cloud of herby aroma that infuses the meat when you baste it half way through cooking.

In addition to flavor, this dish wins a gold medal in the clean eats department. Turkey breast is a lean protein, and when stuffed with a superfood like spinach, it’s taken to the next level of wholesome goodness. A little cheese and prosciutto add tons of flavor without adding carbs. This dish is surprisingly easy to make with just a few steps and a short cook time. You’re in for a treat!

Here’s what you’ll need:

3 turkey breast filets (about 1.25 pounds)

2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 small yellow onion, diced

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

3 heaping cups of fresh spinach

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt

1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup of freshly grated Asiago cheese

2-3 large, thin slices of good prosciutto

Pinch of salt and pepper for additional seasoning

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a cast iron skillet, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium heat. 

Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes or until they are caramel in color. Then add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute. 


Remove from heat and add the spinach and vinegar. Sauté until spinach wilts and then transfer mixture to a bowl. Mix in the cheese. Set aside. 



Pound out turkey filets to 1/4 inch in thickness. I like to put mine in a sealed plastic bag and use equal pressure with a rolling pin to get the filets equal in thickness.

Using the back of a spoon (or clean hands), spread one third of the spinach mixture in an even layer across each filet leaving about 1/3 inch of space around the edges. Top the filling with sliced prosciutto. Roll everything together, keeping the roll as tight as possible. Tuck in any filling that escapes!



Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Place the rolls seam side down in the pan. Top with a drizzle of oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. I like to use the leaves from one large sprig of thyme to top the rolls and I leave two to three smaller sprigs in the pan to infuse the oil with herby aroma. 


Halfway through cooking, carefully baste the turkey by spooning the juices in the pan over the rolls. This will keep the meat moist and will add an extra layer of savory, herby, deliciousness. 


Allow the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve as is or in slices.


This dish is delicious with something light and fresh – like string beans or roasted brussels sprouts.


Enjoy, and live well!


Traveling: Cooler Essentials


This past month has been full of adventure. 

My husband and I have been all around the state of NC, down to the beaches of SC, and even up to the coast of NJ. We’re blessed to be able to take vacations, see friends, and celebrate weddings this summer – but it sure has been a lot of packing, unpacking, and countless hours in the car. I’ve been asked by many of you how I stick to a clean eating lifestyle while traveling. My answer is always the same: be prepared; pack a cooler!

I don’t go anywhere overnight without a cooler packed with convenient, healthy options. Fast food and vacation “treats” are just way too tempting. I have a hard time saying no, but if I have options that I know I love to eat in my handy dandy cooler, I’m good to go!

Preparation is everything.

Long car rides? I need snacks. Carb-heavy, sugary breakfast items on the hotel buffet? I need healthier options to get me through the day. It’s always a good idea to be prepared with food that’s going to keep you on track and feeling good. However, it would be silly to restrict yourself to only foods in your cooler while on vacation. Ya gotta live a little! But knowing you can balance out that extra piece of wedding cake you enjoyed at the reception, or pina colada you sipped on the beach, with some fresh, real food will give you peace of mind. Plus, your body will thank you when you get home without the post-vacation bloat or guilt.

Here’s is a glimpse into my typical travel cooler:

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Cold Goods:

Natural nut butter – Smuckers natural PB is easy to find and inexpensive with a clean list of ingredients. I also really like Trader Joe’s crunchy PB made with chia and flaxseed.  I usually bring along a jar of homemade almond butter too. It’s nice to have options :)

Grapes – great for snacking in the car

Blueberries – great for snacking in the car or for fresh yogurt and oatmeal toppings

Shredded chicken – convenient source of protein. I try to stay away from packaged protein bars that are often filled with tons of sugars and preservatives.

Hummus – great for veggie dipping :)

Yogurt – breakfast, lunch, or dessert option. Individual serving cups make it an easy snack for the car too.

Veggie quiche muffins – I love these things. Easy to pack, easy to heat, and super satisfying for breakfast on the go.

Almond milk – not all hotels or grocery stores carry non-dairy milk, so I bring mine with me everywhere.

Baby carrots – prime snack option with serious crunch factor. Great option on the road when you’re craving potato chips, or the like.

Celery sticks – similar to carrots, but super delicious to dip in nut butter :)

Homemade energy bars – I recently made coconut flour fruit and nut bars. They were a great option while driving, riding bikes, or just adventuring in general.

Ezekiel bread – I love a slice smeared with some nut butter or mashed avocado. You won’t find a bread option this healthy in a hotel.

LaCroix sparkling water – because it’s important to stay hydrated, but sometimes plain water can be boring. Coconut is my absolute favorite flavor!


Dry Goods:

Shakeology – daily dose of dense nutrition!

Whole grain rice cakes – quick and easy snack option, or great for breakfast smeared with nut butter and sliced nana

Bananas – the hubs’ favorite. I don’t think he’s ever gone a day without.

Apples – crunchy and satisfying. Easy to eat on the road or to throw in a bag when on the go.

Avocado – cado toast is hard for me to go without. If ripe enough, you should be able to slice with a plastic serrated knife.

Raw nuts – almond and walnuts are my go-to. Pack in zip top snack bags for portion control and convenient snacking.

Dried cranberries – craving a little something sweet? Cranberries are great by the palmful or they go nicely mixed in yogurt, atop a rice cake, etc.

Organic whole grain oats – I pre-portion servings of dry oats in small zip top bags. With hot water (usually can get it from hotel lobby coffee/tea machine) or a microwave, you can have a healthy, satisfying breakfast that will curb those mid-morning cravings. I like to mix in nuts, cranberries, and/or fresh fruit. Try mixing with a teaspoon of nut butter and sliced grapes for a PB&J twist :)

Green tea bags – I can’t live without hot tea. No matter the weather, I’m going to want a steaming mug of it.



PB&J quick oats



Mashed avocado on a rice cake – yummy lunch driving down I-95

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Banana breakfast cake from Fit Foodie Finds with a smear of nut butter – healthier alternative to hotel continental breakfast & a tasty late night road trip treat.

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Veggie quiche – loved having this for breakfast or even on the road.




Fruit and nut energy bars – perfect for car rides, beach snacks, or biking adventures. They’re full of healthy seeds, nuts, and dried fruit with no added sugar, gluten, or grains.

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Our breakfast view for a week on Fripp Island in SC. The island is pretty secluded, so dining options were scarce. Turkey bacon, veggie quiche, and fresh fruit made for an amazing start to our day.

Spaghetti Squash Chicken Pad Thai


Is there a food out there that never makes you feel good, but you love it anyway?

I thought I was the only one with this dilemma, so I was pretty relieved to hear from a few others who experience the same predicament. Let me explain a little further – I love Thai food, and if I could, I would marry Pad Thai. It’s been my favorite Asian dish since I can remember, and it’s always my first choice when ordering takeout. Here’s the thing, though – every time I order Pad Thai takeout, I enjoy eating it, and then I am hit with this awful feeling of stomach bloating and fatigue. It’s miserable! Maybe it’s the MSG or excess oil used in cooking; I’m really not sure. What I am sure of, however, is that food should fuel your body and make you feel GOOD.

Ever heard of mindful eating? It’s a pretty cool concept that encourages individuals to become more aware of their own eating experiences by acknowledging responses to foods. Basically, if something doesn’t make you feel great, even if it’s a food that’s supposed to be “healthy” for you, DON’T eat it. Your body will tell you what it needs, what it likes, and what it dislikes. Just pay attention.

So after years of loving Pad Thai but not loving how it made me feel, I decided to take action and attempt this delicious dish in my own kitchen with a few cleaner ingredients. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated at first. I read through about ten or twelve different traditional Pad Thai recipes. I gathered together all of the most common ingredients and added a few of my own. I taste tested with every new flavor I added, and just like that the most mouthwatering, authentic-tasting Pad Thai I’ve ever eaten was born.

Want to know a few of my favorite things about this dish? First of all, it made a ton of food. I only used half of a large spaghetti squash, and even then there were close to 6 servings. Second, spaghetti squash noodles mean veggies (that taste like noodles!) instead of carb or nutrient-lacking traditional noodles. Score!

Lastly, I love that this dish made me feel great. The flavors are fresh, the textures are exciting, and there’s no puddle of oil left on the plate like there typically is in my plastic takeout container. Why does this Pad Thai make me feel good? Probably because it’s 100% clean, real food. When you feed your body wholesome ingredients (those not processed in plants), it will thank you. Additionally, when you make this recipe and share it with your loved ones, they will thank you too :)

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 small (or 1/2 large) spaghetti squash

2 tablespoons of organic, virgin coconut oil 

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut aminos (or soy sauce)

2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon of fish sauce

1 teaspoon of sriracha

1 teaspoon of raw honey (or 4-5 drops of liquid stevia)

1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter (should contain at least 90% peanuts with no artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives; I like crunchy, but you can use smooth) 

1 – 1 1/2 cups of cooked skinless chicken breast, cubed (optional)

3 green onions + more for garnish, chopped

5 ounces of bean sprouts 

1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1/4 cup of chopped peanuts + more for garnish

Cilantro for garnish

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In the meantime, prepare your squash by carefully cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds. Lightly brush with oil and sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt and pepper. Bake cut side down for 45 minutes.


^ This is what happened when I asked my husband to help by cutting the squash in half. Hmm…


While the squash is baking, heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes until fragrant.

 Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl and add them to the pan. Move the eggs around the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon until they are no longer liquidy. Remove the pan from the heat.


In a mixing bowl, stir together the coconut aminos (or soy sauce), lime juice, fish sauce, sriracha, and honey (or stevia).

Transfer the pan with eggs back to low heat. Pour in the mixed sauce and simmer.

Once the sauce begins to bubble, add the peanut butter and stir until it is completed incorporated.

Add the cooked spaghetti squash to the simmering sauce. Stir in the chicken if desired, green onions, bean sprouts, red pepper flakes, and peanuts. Continue cooking over low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with a pinch of salt if needed. If using full sodium coconut aminos (or soy sauce), or salted peanuts, you probably will not need more sodium.




Garnish each serving with chopped peanuts, green onions, and fresh cilantro.


You can certainly substitute tofu for chicken if you want this meal to be vegetarian.


Enjoy, and live well!

– Kelsey