As fun and exciting as it is to explore New York City and all of its wonderful cheat meal opportunities, it’s equally as fun, and certainly more functional, to explore healthy options too. Last week I ran out of prep by Friday night, so Saturday I had to wing it. For breakfast I had some Purely Elizabeth cereal with almond milk and then headed to the gym. Afterwards, I was very ready for lunch and was determined to find a spot in Brooklyn where I could hang out, get some work done, and have a meal that wouldn’t break my macros for the day. After a bit of research, I decided I would try Milk and Roses, an adorable French bistro in Williamsburg.
When I got there, I was immediately pleased with my choice. Though I was *slightly* under-dressed in my gym clothes (what else is new, right?), the wait staff didn’t mention it so I walked in and sat down. The atmosphere was very cozy and comfortable – it felt like I was sitting in my living room (if I lived in a fancy old Victorian home with red leather couches, a grand piano, and walls of bookshelves). Once I got settled and opened my laptop, though, a waiter came over to me and politely told me that the restaurant adheres to a no laptop policy anytime outside the hours of 9AM-5PM Monday through Friday. So I wouldn’t be getting any work done over lunch, but maybe that’s for the best anyway.
It was 1 PM and they were still serving the breakfast/lunch (brunch?) menu, which is exactly what I was looking for. (P.S. They take breakfast orders until 3:45 PM, like true heroes). I ordered the avocado toast, greek yogurt with granola and berries, and a decaf latte. The avo toast came with poached eggs on top, and the greek yogurt came with a heaping serving of fresh berries. In retrospect, two dishes was too much food for one lunch, but I wanted to have a small variety of things to write about in this post, so #NoRegrets.
The latte was delicious, and perfectly foamy.
The avo toast had just the right amount of perfectly seasoned smashed avo, a side salad, and the poached eggs on top, cooked just enough, made this a more nutritious option than plain avocado toast. The toast was ciabatta, which is a little bit crusty on the edges for my liking, but that’s just a personal preference. Overall, I highly recommend this dish.
The greek yogurt bowl with granola and berries was pretty good too. The greek yogurt was light and fluffy, and the berries (strawberries and blueberries) were very fresh. The granola was a bit sweet, though, and I opted to not eat all of it. Overall, this was a tasty choice, but definitely something that you can easily make for yourself at home with more favorable macros.
When it came time to pay for the bill, I learned that it’s cash only, but there’s an ATM on the premise, so it wasn’t a huge deal. When I made my way to the ATM, I noticed that there’s a really cute garden/patio out back with additional seating.
I would definitely recommend this spot and I’m so glad I stumbled across it this weekend. There’s something for everyone on the menu, and the ambience is great for a cozy date, and is casual and accommodating for a larger group as well. The food and coffee is good, and the wait staff is very friendly. The prices are also really reasonable. I can’t wait to go back and try their other brunch items, their dinner menu, and sit on the back patio when the weather is nicer! If you decide to check it out, let me know what your favorite dishes are!
What is the No Buns Challenge, you ask? It’s a thing that I completely made up whereby I try to eat sandwich/burger items all week without using bread or buns of any variety.
I’m going to immediately follow that description with the disclaimer that I don’t currently have any restrictions on my diet. I eat dairy, meat, and gluten. That said, the ‘No Buns’ challenge that I brought upon myself was motivated by a couple of reasons:
I’ve noticed that a lot of you are paleo/gluten-free, and I wanted to gain a little bit of insight into what those diets consist of. I was by no means completely paleo or gluten-free for the week, but I did learn a lot about these diets, including what’s allowed and what’s restricted, and how difficult it can be to comply.
I am currently in a pre-summer cut (nothing extreme, and I am not competing) which means a low carb and calorie deficit diet temporarily, so the no buns challenge was a fun way for me to out-of-the-box come up with some cool ideas for bread alternatives to help me get my beach bod in order.
In preparation for the challenge, for Sunday’s meal prep I used my George Foreman to grill up a dozen chicken burgers to get me through the week. *Cue really dramatic photos of chicken burgers*
I also got super into the burger theme for the week, and picked up some Bubbies Sauerkraut, Mother In Law’s kimchi, and pickles to have as sides/toppings for my burgers. Without further adieu, let’s get into my meals for the week!
‘Bun’ 1 – Portobello Mushroom Buns
Whoever thought to use Portobello mushroom caps as burger buns was a genius. Unfortunately, it wasn’t me. All you need to make this into a reality is two portobello mushroom caps. Simply remove the stems and scrape out the gills from underneath the caps, grill them up (I used my George Foreman again), and you’re ready to go! I also added a sunny side up egg, swiss cheese, avocado, lettuce, and tomato to the burger, and had some kraut and a pickle on the side. The really amazing thing about using the portobello mushroom cap as a bun is that it’s so juicy and flavorful that you don’t need any additional sauce or spread to liven up your meal. The only downside is that this is a messy dish, and I resorted to finishing it up with a fork and knife.
‘Bun’ 2 – Collard Green Wrap
Let’s go ahead and add ‘wrapping a collard green leaf wrap’ to the list of things I’m not good at. I made a huge mess with this one. As messy as it was, though, it was still really delicious. The collard greens leaf adds an earthy sweet flavor to the meal, and also gives it really good texture. It’s also pretty easy to put together (minus the actual wrapping part) because you can use mostly raw veggies to fill it up. I filled mine with a chicken burger, tomatoes, red peppers, mushrooms, avocado, kraut, kimchi, and goat cheese.
‘Bun’ 3 – Grain Free Cashew Bun
THESE. ARE. AMAZING. Seriously, I highly recommend. The cashews in this recipe make for a subtly sweet bun, and the texture really mimics that of actual bread. You can find my original inspiration for these buns here.
1.5 cups raw cashews
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of milk (any variety of regular or nut milk works)
4 tblsp melted butter or ghee (or coconut oil)
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Line a baking sheet in parchment paper.
Place the cashews, eggs, vinegar, milk, and butter into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Add the coconut flour, baking soda, almond flour, and salt, and blend again until smooth.
Shape the dough into buns (I made 5 buns roughly the size of regular hamburger buns) using wet hands and place on your parchment lined baking sheet. Wet hands ensures that the dough doesn’t stick to you, which ensures less mess.
Bake for around 20 minutes. Check on them around the 15-17 minute mark for firmness, and a golden brown color. Once they’re firm and they have a nice color, they’re done.
In my recipe, I used skim milk and ghee, and my yield was 5 buns. The resulting nutrition facts of each bun are as follows:
Protein – 13g
Carbs – 19g
Fats – 32g
Calories – 416
Ok, so these buns are fairly high in calories and fat, but the up-side is that they’re full of healthy fats from the cashews, and they have a decent amount of protein. I’m going to mess around with this recipe to see if I can make it a bit more macro friendly, but as it stands, I still think they’re worth it. I used one bun and sliced it in half to make a top and bottom. To this burger, I added lettuce, tomato, kraut, and goat cheese, and had a pickle on the side. Overall, the cashew bun provided the best flavor and the most similarity in texture and functionality to a regular bun, but was slightly dry.
‘Bun’ 4 – Collard Green Pinwheels
Since I had so much trouble with the collard green wrap, I figured I would try a similar dish that was easier to assemble. I layered the leaf with a chicken burger, tomato, peppers, and goat cheese (which was kind of the glue to hold it all together), and wrapped it up almost like a sushi roll. Then I sliced it up to make pinwheels. The pinwheels were definitely easier to make and eat than the wrap.
‘Bun’ 5 – Paleo Parsnip Buns
These had me a little bit nervous because when I tasted them, they were very sweet from the parsnips. When paired with savory items, though, the sweetness actually works really well to balance out the flavors. I smothered this burger with sautéed mushrooms and onions, and used two separate buns for a top and a bottom (I did not split them like I did the cashew bun). I would also recommend pairing this with a sharp cheese. You can find my original inspiration for these buns here.
1/4 cup coconut flour
about 2.5 oz of parsnips
1/4 cup any milk variety, or water
Salt/pepper/seasonings of choice to taste
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Use a food processor to blend the parsnips and coconut flour. Once crumbly, add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
Using damp hands, separate the dough and flatten into rounds on the parchment paper. If you make these too thin they might fall apart. I made mine about 1/4 inch thick.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until dry on top and slightly browned on the bottom.
In my recipe, I used water, and my yield was 5 buns. The resulting nutrition facts of each bun are as follows:
Protein – 3g
Carbs – 7.5g
Fats – 1.5g
Calories – 56
Overall, these were a close second to the cashew bun in functionality as a bun to hold together my burger, but they did keep the flavor of the parsnips (you can also use carrots), so you have to like that sweet flavor to make these work. Although, as mentioned earlier, the sweetness of the bun was well-balanced if you put savory ingredients in between. Or, you can probably play off the sweet flavor and use them in a dessert!
I would consider the no buns challenge to be a success! My definitive ranking of ‘buns’ from most favorite to least is as follows:
Cashew Bun – Pro: Amazing taste, amazing texture, high functionality, and super filling; Con: High cal
Portobello Bun – Pro: Amazing taste, super juicy, low cal; Con: Very messy
Collard Green Wrap – Pro: Low cal, great crunchy texture; Con: Messy
Paleo Parsnip Bun – Pro: High functionality, makes a nice clean burger; Con: Tastes very much like parsnips
Collard Green Pinwheels – Pro: Low cal, great crunchy texture, less messy than the wrap version; Con: You can’t fit as much stuff into a pinwheel as you can a wrap.
I hope you try these no bun options next time you’re in the mood for a sandwich or a burger! Tag me in anything you make from my page, I’d love to see what you wind up doing with the inspiration!
The Easter holiday has always held a very special place in my heart. Growing up, it was the one day of the year when I got to see basically my entire huge Italian family because my grandparents would open their home the whole day for anyone who wanted to stop by. And EVERYONE stopped by. It was a day full of pigs in a blanket, socializing, and playing out on the lawn despite being in our nicest clothes. Our Easter celebrations have changed a lot since those days, but the holiday still holds that same nostalgic charm.
Now my parents are the Easter holiday hosts, and we open our home to the rest of the family for our own Easter brunch tradition. With family time being my favorite part of any holiday, a close second is the unique food traditions involved, and of course, the adorable desserts! Check out these Easter treats that I tried out this week to share with you guys for the coming holiday!
Carrot Garden Dirt Cups
These are really easy to make, super cute, and even include fruit! (OK, the amount of fruit to chocolate in this recipe is negligible, but still..) Added bonus, these would be a really great activity to do with kids. With minimal mess and no use of the oven, they’re basically fool proof!
Chocolate pudding (I used a pre-made pudding, but feel free to use whatever kind of pudding you prefer)
Chocolate graham crackers (or chocolate cookie of choice as long as you can crumble it up)
White melting chocolate (about a cup will coat 6 strawberries)
Orange food coloring (or red and yellow)
I made the amounts in the ingredient list above pretty vague, because it really depends on the size of your cups and how many you want to make. 2 cups of pudding and 1.5 graham cracker sleeves made 3 dirt cups for me (8 oz glasses).
Using the instructions on the bag, melt the white chocolate.
Using the orange food coloring, color the chocolate to your desired level of pigment you want your carrots to be. (If you are using red and yellow food coloring, the ratio is 1:2 red to yellow).
Take your strawberry (wash it and dry it really well) and fold up the green leaves at the top carefully. You want them to remain intact, but you also don’t want to get chocolate on them.
Using a fork, stick straight down into the strawberry, just under the leaves (don’t pierce the very top of the leaves). This will help you dunk them in the chocolate without getting your hands messy, and without leaving fingerprints on your chocolate carrots.
Dunk the strawberries into the chocolate, being sure to cover as much of the fruit as possible without getting chocolate on the leaves.
Slide the strawberries off the fork onto a parchment lined plate. Make sure you use the parchment here (or some type of non stick barrier) because otherwise the chocolate will stick to the plate instead of your strawberry.
To make the ridges in the carrot, once all of the carrots are coated, add more orange food coloring to the remaining melted chocolate for contrast. Then drizzle stripes across the carrots. Once done, put the strawberries into the fridge or freezer to set.
While the chocolate is setting, it’s time to assemble the dirt cups! Alternate layering chocolate pudding and crumbled graham cracker into the cups. The top layer should be the graham cracker crumbles.
Once dirt cups are assembled, take the strawberries out of the fridge (make sure the chocolate has hardened completely) and carefully remove from the parchment paper and place on top of the dirt cups.
Keep these refrigerated until ready to serve!
Bunny Butt Sugar Cookies
I can’t even deal with how cute these turned out. I used my go-to sugar cookie recipe from In Katrina’s Kitchen, and decorated with royal icing. You can serve these as they are, or you can get creative with them and use them as toppers for cakes or cupcakes. You can even combine them with the Carrot Garden Dirt Cups recipe by making a garden cake, full of carrots and bunny butts galore! (If you do this, you can use coconut flakes died with a drop of green food coloring to look like grass!)
1/2 tsp almond extract (this adds a really nice layer of flavor, but I have made this recipe without this ingredient and they turn out just fine)
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups of flour
Here are the ingredients for the royal icing:
2 egg whites
4 cups confectioners sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Red (or pink) food coloring (or whatever color you want to make your bunny butts!)
Directions to make the cookies:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Using a mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth (at least 3 minutes)
Beat in the extracts and egg
In a separate bowl, combine the baking powder with the flour and add a little bit at a time to the wet ingredients. Once all of the dry ingredients have been added to the wet, you might have to knead the dough by hand to get it all combined. Be patient with this dough because it’s very stiff, but it’s the best sugar cookie dough you will ever work with I promise!
Divide up the dough into workable batches (I usually cut it in quarters) and roll it out onto a floured surface (flour the top of the dough as well, the side that is touching the rolling pin). The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick once rolled out.
Using a medium circle cookie cutter, cut out the circles that will become the bunny butts.
Using a small oval cookie cutter, cut out the ovals that will become the bunny feet. If you don’t have a small oval cookie cutter (which I didn’t), you can get creative. I actually used a BCAA scoop that I had in my drawer (lol), and then used a butter knife to shave that small circle into an oval. Remember you’ll need twice as many little ovals as you do medium circles.
Bake the medium sized cookies for 6-8 minutes, and the smaller ovals in a separate batch for 5-6 minutes.
Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet until firm enough to move to a cooling rack, and then allow them to finish cooling on the rack.
Directions to decorate:
When the cookies are just about cooled, make the royal icing by manually mixing with a spoon the confectioners sugar into the egg white and vanilla extract. It might take some time to get it all combined, and it looks pretty unappealing at first, but it all will come together the more you mix and the more sugar you add. The icing should be fairly thick when you’re done.
Set aside some of the white icing, which will be used for the details of the tail and feet.
Dye the remaining icing the color you want your bunnies to be.
Using a spoon or icing spatula, ice two of the small ovals, and then ice one medium round cookie. Add two small dollops of icing at the bottom of the circle cookie, and place the two ovals onto those dollops of icing, allowing about 1/3 of the ovals to hang off. The icing will act as glue to stick the ovals onto the main cookie. Repeat this process with the rest of the cookies. Make sure you stick the ovals on the main cookie before the royal icing begins to harden.
Take the white icing that was set aside before and spoon it into a piping bag. Alternatively, you can use a Ziplock or sandwich bag if you don’t have a piping bag.
Using a very skinny tip, pipe a circle at the middle of the main cookie, to be the tail of the bunny. Then pipe an oval in the middle of the little oval pieces, as well as three dots running along the bottom of the ovals. These become the feet of the bunny. Repeat for all of the cookies.
The decorating possibilities of these cookies are endless! I hope you really get creative with this one and tag me on Instagram with a super cute bunny burrowing carrot garden Easter paradise.
Peanut Butter Pretzel Egg Nests
This one’s another dessert that also doubles as a craft to do with kids! These are arguably even easier and more fool proof than the Carrot Garden Dirt Cups. They are no-bake and even customizable (see below the recipe for additional ingredient ideas that can be incorporated).
1 part peanut butter of choice
1 part butterscotch chips
Pretzel sticks, broken
Mini candy eggs (chocolate ones will taste best)
Cinnamon to taste
I made the amounts in the ingredient list really vague, because it really depends on how many of these you want to make. I used about a cup each of butterscotch chips and peanut butter, and 3-4 handfuls of pretzels, and it made about 8 nests. You can also adjust the peanut butter to butterscotch ratio a bit if you like, but try not to reduce the butterscotch too much because it will help to hold the nests together.
In the microwave (or over the stove) melt together the peanut butter and butterscotch chips (increments of 30 seconds) and stir intermittently until smooth.
Stir in the cinnamon.
Place your pretzel sticks into a large Ziplock bag and using a bowl or rolling pin, break up the pretzels into roughly 1/2 inch pieces.
Add broken pretzels to the peanut butter mixture until all pretzels are completely coated, but there is still a bit of excess peanut butter mixture. (This excess will help the nests to stay together
Stay with me, this is going to get a little messy now. Using your hands, take a small handful of the coated pretzels and drop them onto a parchment lined baking sheet or serving tray. Mold them into the desired nest shape that you want, making sure that there are no loose or straggling pretzels, or blaring holes in the nest (you want them to be fairly tight so that they don’t break apart later on).
Press down on the top of each nest to create a well where the candy eggs will sit.
Once all nests have been formed (make sure to wash off your hands because you don’t want the peanut butter mixture to get all over the candy eggs), take the candy eggs and place them on top of the nests.
Place in the fridge to set. Once hardened, these can be stored at room temperature.
My ingredient list above is really the most plain version of these snacks. You can also add dried fruit, Chex mix, chopped nuts, or oats.
Peanut Butter Eggs
The peanut butter egg is such a classic, how was I not going to include it here? This recipe stands the test of time, because when it’s not Easter you can just shape them like circles and they’re delicious peanut butter snacks!
1 cup of peanut butter (your favorite variety)
1 tbsp coconut flour
1 tbsp honey (optional)
1/4 tsp salt (if your peanut butter is unsalted)
1/2 cup of chocolate of your choice (it can be any variety melting chocolate, or you can melt dark chocolate with 1 tsp coconut oil)
Combine the peanut butter, honey, coconut flour, and salt (if applicable) in a bowl.
Using a spoon, scoop 6 balls from the mixture and use your hands to roll and shape them into the desired egg shape.
Place the shaped eggs on a plate lined with parchment paper and place into the freezer to set (20 minutes minimum)
When the peanut butter middles are almost set, begin melting the chocolate. Either use the directions on the packaging (if you use melting chocolate), or combine dark chocolate and coconut oil and either microwave or melt over the stove.
Once the chocolate is nice and melty, remove the peanut butter eggs from the freezer, carefully remove from the parchment paper, and dunk in the chocolate. You can use a spoon or fork to move them around to make sure they get evenly coated, and then remove them from the chocolate and place back onto the parchment paper. NOTE that if you put the eggs directly onto a plate, the chocolate will stick to the plate instead of the peanut butter and your eggs will be RUINED. Speaking from experience here, so trust me!
Once the eggs are coated, you can decorate them by adding sprinkles or chopped nuts, or drizzling different colored chocolate over the tops.
Once they’re all finished and decorated, place them back into the freezer or fridge to let the chocolate set. These will be best served directly from the fridge, as they might get messy if they sit out for too long.
I hope you all try one (or two, or all!) of these recipes over the Easter holiday season. Don’t forget to leave a comment, share my page, and like me on Insta for more recipes and fun fitness stuff!