A Healthy Life Gift Guide

The holidays are around the corner and I’ve already started my Christmas shopping. I wanted to share a few of my personal favorite things in case you need some ideas for the fitness fanatic in your life! Whether it’s more activity or better sleep, all of these gifts can help you live a healthy life!

I personally own all of these things so these aren’t sponsored products but some of the links are affiliate links! 

Healthy Life Gift Guide

  1. Alex’s family got me this America’s Test Kitchen cookbook for Christmas last year and I LOVE it. Honestly, I rarely use cookbooks (even though I love reading them) but this is the exception. I’ve made quite a few recipes from this book and they’ve all been awesome. I love the format of it and even if you’re not a vegetarian, I think you’d enjoy it!
  2. Do I really need to tell you how much I love my FitBit Alta? Since I wear my FitBit all day every day, I was excited to upgrade from the Charge HR to this slender design. It has the option to change out the band and Alex got me this gorgeous pink leather band which is my favorite so far. It’s a little more discrete than the one I had before and since I wear it every single day, I like having the more subtle option.
  3. These Koss headphones are my favorite for running. They come in various sizes so I have a pair that actually stays in my ears. Fellow tiny-ear-friends, rejoice. They’re flexible and comfy so you won’t constantly be adjusting your headphones when you’re running.
  4. I can never have enough cropped workout pants. If you’re looking for a bargain, I’ve been happy with the quality-for-the-price from Old Navy. Also, the Lululemon running crops that I bought 4 years ago still look brand new. So they’re not cheap but I do think that a pair of Lulu’s makes a great gift. (Just a heads up, the sizing does tend to run small so if you’re buying for a loved one, you might want to go a size up. They won’t be offended.)
  5. I bought a pair of these New Balance 515’s last year and they’re awesome. They’re so comfortable but they’re cute enough to wear outside of the gym. They’re definitely not running shoes but they’re the perfect pair to throw on for a long walk around town. This pattern is one of my favorites but it’s a hard one to find!
  6. My mother in law got my this Cuisinart set a couple of years ago and I’m still in love with it. I needed an immersion blender so it does that job well for that but it also converts into a mini food processor (great for small batches) and it has a whisk attachment. Seriously, is there anything it can’t do?
  7. This Philips Wake Up light isn’t cheap, but I do love it. You can set the time you want to wake up and it simulates a sunrise to help you gently wake up. If you’re not a morning person (but your life requires you to be one) then you should definitely look into one of these. They do make cheaper ones that would probably still do the trick. These are especially handy during the cold winter mornings when the sun never seems to come up.

What’s on your wishlist?

Vegan Beer Bread

This 6-ingredient beer bread recipe is so easy to make and it tastes amazing! You can have fresh bread in no time. 

This 6 ingredient beer bread is so easy! You'll have fresh bread in no time.

6 ingredient vegan beer bread

So we still don’t have a bathroom. This week’s home improvement project has taken a little longer than we expected, due to some unforeseen events. (We didn’t anticipate having to completely re-do the subfloor.) But Alex and my dad have been hard at work figuring out how to tackle it. Yesterday, for Thanksgiving, we took a day off. For whatever reason, I was craving some warm comfort food but I didn’t want to make anything complicated. I remembered this beer bread recipe that I made a few Christmases ago and decided to throw it together again. It was even better than I remembered!

vegan beer bread

Vegan Beer Bread
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 12
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 12oz beer (I used Stella Artois)
  • 2 tbsp earth balance margarine (or butter if you're not vegan)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Mix your flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together, and then pour in the can of beer. Stir until just combined but do not over mix.
  3. There will be lumps of flour and that’s ok! Do not use an electric mixer. Just a plain old spoon will do.
  4. Lightly spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray, and pour in the batter. It will be lumpy and thick!
  5. Cut the margarine/butter on top of the batter, and bake for 45-55 minutes.
  6. The top will brown just a bit.
  7. Let cool, slice, and enjoy!

I may or may not have eaten half a loaf yesterday. Oops. What can I say, there’s nothing better than bread fresh from the oven!

6 ingredient beer bread

Ok, time to get back to tiling! Wish us luck!

How are you spending the weekend?

What I Ate Monday

This week has been a little crazy. Alex and my dad are remodeling our bathroom which means right now, we have no bathroom. As a result, we’ve been spending a couple of nights at my parent’s house. It’s almost like we’re visiting from out of town for Thanksgiving 😉 As a result of the house chaos, I haven’t really been cooking much.

After I left my parent’s house and got back home, I had a lot of work to do so I didn’t have time to make much of a breakfast. I just grabbed a quick bowl of cereal.


I had a lot of work stuff going on so I spent most of the morning on the phone. In between meetings I snacked on a few clementines.


I grabbed a bag of these over the weekend and I’ve been eating them like crazy. I was battling a mild cold over the weekend so I was using it as an excuse to snack on these.

All of the sudden I realized it was almost 2:00 and I hadn’t eaten lunch. I grabbed one of my go-to frozen meals.

trader joe's black bean corn

I actually really like these enchiladas. There not really anything special but they have a good flavor and a decent amount of protein.

Once Alex and my dad were done with the renovations, we packed up and headed back to my parent’s house for dinner. We had pizza from Leonardo’s which was really good. The veggie pizza was loaded with veggies.

While my mom and I hung out in the kitchen, she whipped up these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, which were delicious.

I will be in the kitchen today, prepping a dish for the Thanksgiving table! My wonderful sister in law is hosting and the menu sounds absolutely amazing. I’m just contributing this butternut squash and wild rice salad to the mix! I’m so excited to spend the day with family tomorrow!

What do you eat on busy days?

I’m linking up with Arman for What I Ate Wednesday!

3 Cideries to Visit near Charlottesville, Virginia

Fall is my favorite time of year in Virginia and I love that the weather stays pretty warm through November. (I realize that’s all relative but coming from Ohio, this weather feels warm!) There are also plenty of excuses to be outside since we’re close to a river and not too far from gorgeous mountains. There’s also an abundance of wineries, breweries, and cideries nearby! While wineries tend to be the destination spot in Charlottesville, there are actually quite a few great cideries to visit.

Here are 3 cideries you should visit near Charlottesville ,VA!

1. Castle Hill Cider

castle hill cider

Castle Hill Cider is in Keswick, VA roughly 30 minutes from Charlottesville, VA or just over an hour from Richmond. They have a large tasting room as well as a big patio with plenty of outdoor seating. The weather was gorgeous when we visited so it was nice being able to sip our cider outside. The full tasting is a little more expensive than most ($12 for a full tasting) but it was an extensive list. (I lost count but I think we tasted 9 different ciders. Maybe 10?) The staff was really nice and was able to accommodate our group of 10, which is no small feat!

creamy cider

My favorite: The Celestial Merret. It wasn’t too sweet, fermented (or I guess, “re-fermented” in the bottle) and it wasn’t too sweet. This one was really easy to drink and was perfectly refreshing!

2. Albemarle CiderWorks

albemarle cider works

Albemarle CiderWorks is in North Garden, VA, only about 20 minutes away from Charlottesville, VA. It has a large tasting room with plenty of space inside and out. We did a 6 flight sample of all of the ciders which nice. I think I generally prefer flights vs. tastings because you can get a really nice sample of each. I liked the cider at Albemarle, although their ciders weren’t as diverse as some of the other places. But if you really like a clear, crisp, dry cider, this is the place to be!

cider flight albemarle

My favorite: Jupiter’s Legacy. Tart, citrusy, and refreshing. This is their flagship cider so it’s a good one to start with!

3. Potter’s Craft

potter's flag

Full disclosure, Potter’s Craft Cider doesn’t always have tastings available on-site but they do pop-ups around the state so you might be able to catch them in a different spot! (Hint: follow #CiderStream on Instagram to see where they are!) We got lucky and managed to catch there pop up on site where they do the brewing. We piled into the air stream trailer to get out of the windy air and we tasted 4 of their ciders. Although we only tried 4, each one was really different, so it was fun hearing which ones people liked best.

potters craft

My Favorite: O’Tannenbaum. There were debates among our group about which one was the best. I liked the O’Tannenbaum because, as the name suggests, it sort of had a hint of a gin flavor. I thought it was delicious. Other’s preferred the Ryesap but that one had too much of a scotch taste for me! They really did have something for everyone, though.

castle hill cidery

Gorgeous fall colors at Castle Hill Cidery!

If you’re looking to try these ciders but can’t make the trip to Charlottesville, most of them can be found across Virginia. Here’s a link to find each of them around Virginia:

Have you ever been to a cidery?

I Heart Vegetables turns 6

Wait, what? How did this little blog get so old?

I started blogging back in 2010 when I had just moved to Richmond. I decided to go vegan for 6 months and blog about it. After 6 months of giving up dairy, I decided the vegan thing wasn’t for me but I fell in love with blogging. So after I wrapped up my vegan experiment, I Heart Vegetables was born.

I expected it to be a hobby but I never imagined it would take so much work! I never dreamed I’d be watching YouTube videos on how to edit HTML code, or subscribing to photo editing webinars. I never planned on shelling out hundreds of dollars for a better camera lens. I didn’t picture myself building dashboards on Google Analytics so that I could track the user flow of traffic through Pinterest. And yet here I am.

And sometimes I wish that I could go back. Sometimes I miss the days of smartphone photos and blog post titles that were absolutely not optimized for SEO. I didn’t care because I didn’t know any better. Sometimes I miss the days when I felt like I knew every blogger out there… because there just weren’t that many.

But here we are and I am so thankful. This hobby turned into something so much bigger than I imagined and yes it takes work but doesn’t anything worth having? Running a race takes hours and hours of training. Playing piano takes hours and hours of practicing. It’s “work” but in the rewarding and satisfying sense. And all of the work is worth it. There are nights when I feel burnt out and then I hop over to a friend’s blog and I find myself so inspired. There are weekends when I don’t feel like cooking but then I see a friend’s delicious recipe and suddenly the creative juices are flowing.

farmer's market

Lastly, I’m so thankful for the friends I’ve made through this blog, both internet-friends and real-life friends. (It’s actually kind of shocking how many friends I’ve met in real life through the internet world.) The blog world has gotten huge and it’s awesome!

And now I’ll stop rambling and share just a few of my most favorite recipes from this past year!

This curried lentil soup is a budget friendly dinner recipe that is also vegan and gluten free!

I was on a major lentil kick earlier this year (maybe because they’re delicious, healthy, and cheap?) and these easy spiced lentils hit the spot!

spiced chickpea vegan soup

I’ve tried to play with different spices and flavors and this Moroccan chickpea soup was a success!

nutty granola

This grain free walnut granola is one of the BEST granola recipes I’ve ever made! It’s packed with protein and healthy fats!

This coconut mango smoothie is like a tropical paradise in a glass! Blend it up and you've got a healthy breakfast on the go!

This coconut mango smoothie was my go-to breakfast this summer. Even though the weather has cooled down, it’s still one of my favorites!

What's the secret to these healthy, whole wheat chocolate muffins? AVOCADO! The healthy fat makes these muffins irresistibly moist but still healthy enough for breakfast!

These chocolate avocado muffins basically taste like a cupcake but they’re healthy enough to be eaten for breakfast.

What have you celebrated lately?

What I Ate Sunday

As I mentioned on Monday, this past weekend was full of house projects which meant that my meals were pretty simple. We were actually planning to take it easy on Sunday but we still ended up doing quite a bit of finishing touches and clean up. But before the work began, I started with breakfast.

yogurt with berries

More Siggi’s vanilla yogurt + more frozen berries. I’m still not sick of this combination and it does a pretty good job of keeping me full until lunch. After breakfast, I touched up a few spots of paint in the kitchen and repainted a few spots in the living room where we had repaired the plaster. Once I wrapped those things up, I went on a quick run. This fall weather has been perfect and I’ve been trying to run at least a few times a week.

By the time I got home and showered, it was almost 1:00 and I was super hungry. We’ve been kind of low on produce since I haven’t been cooking much so this was a what-can-I-find-in-the-pantry kind of lunch.


I ended up making these Easy Baked Gigantes beans with a leftover piece of naan that Alex and I shared, plus a Hilary’s Eat Well quinoa burger. Random, but it got the job done. I finished painting the trim in the kitchen and then got ready for church.

After church, I attempted to make a vegan butternut squash mac ‘n cheese that I had found on Pinterest but neither of us really liked it. (That’s actually putting it mildly. We both hated it.) So decided to pick up a quick dinner from Ellwood Thompsons, a local market down the street. It’s our go-to spot for an easy dinner because they have tons of vegetarian options and their meat is locally sourced and ethically raised, so Alex enjoys getting his fix there. I ended up not being super hungry so I just grabbed a salad.


It wasn’t anything fancy but it ended up hitting the spot. We spent some time putting the kitchen back in order but once we finally relaxed, I ended up feeling snack-y. I made a huge bowl of popcorn.


We ended up sharing this while watching TV before bed. It was a nice way to end the day!

What have you been eating?

I’m linking up with Laura for What I Ate Wednesday!

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I didn’t do a lot of cooking this weekend, mostly because our kitchen was a bit of a construction zone. We had some plaster to repair and I wanted to repaint the walls. Painting the kitchen took me almost the entire day on Saturday since painting around the cabinets was a slow job. I was a little nervous because we picked a fairly dark color but I’m really happy with how it turned out. Maybe I’ll do another house update since our “house-iversary” is coming up in a few weeks!

These vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are a healthy twist on a classic favorite!

But the holidays and approaching and I just needed to bake. So I maneuvered around the ladder, the shop vac, and the wood we bought for the soon-to-be-crown-moulding and whipped up some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. This was actually my second attempt at this recipe. The first version was good but not great, so I made some tweaks and now I’m really happy with how these turned out! I’m ready for a holiday cookie exchange!

These vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are a healthy twist on a classic favorite!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12
  • ½ cup pureed pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp Ginger
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (be sure to use vegan chips to keep it vegan!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Combine the pumpkin, oil, applesauce, and sugar until mixed.
  3. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Slowly add in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.
  5. Stir until just mixed.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and pop it in the oven for 8 minutes. My oven tends to run hot so yours might need a couple extra minutes. Just be sure they don't burn on the bottom!
  8. Once they're done, take them out of the oven and immediately transfer onto a plate or cooling rack.

Click here for the nutritional information.

These vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are a healthy twist on a classic favorite!

I used Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour for these, and you can download a coupon for Bob’s Red Mill here. I always stock up before the holiday baking season! This stuff is a staple in my kitchen. It’s the same high protein flour that bakers use and it gives you perfectly light and airy baked goods!

These vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are a healthier twist on a regular chocolate chip cookie! Loaded with pumpkin and chocolate, make these for your next party!

Are you ready for the holiday baking season?

Linking up with Foodie Fridays!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Currently: November

November seems to be flying by but I’ve been enjoying every minute. Currently:

What I’m Loving

This fall weather has been amazing. I’ve loved having the excuse to take long walks around the city. A couple of weeks ago we spent an afternoon walking around Church Hill, stopping in at Union Market for a bite to eat.  This grilled cheese + kombucha tasted extra delicious eaten outside.

What I’m Reading

I’ve been really into magazines lately. We bought a Groupon earlier this year for a handful of magazine subscriptions and I’m actually really loving it. It’s nice to digest something that isn’t on a screen. Current favorites are Real Simple and This Old House.

What I’m Eating

parmesan butternut squash fries

I can’t get enough of these parmesan butternut squash fries. I already bought another squash so I can make more this weekend. If you haven’t tried them yet, get on it!

What I’m Playing


We bought a new piano earlier in the year and I’m really loving it it, especially now that Christmas music is around the corner! I just ordered some new sheet music and I’m excited about Christmas sing-a-longs! I don’t think I ever imagined owning such a gorgeous piano!

What I’m Drinking

Did you know that Keurig makes refillable K-cups? It’s cheaper and better for the environment. It’s nice that I can skill make a single cup  of coffee in the morning before work, but I can drink my favorite coffee beans.

nail polish

Current favorite coffee: Blanchard’s Colombia El Obraje.

What I’m Working On

We’ve been in house-project-mode lately. Last weekend I spent literally hours working on the kitchen floor grout. I used this Grout Renew paint + sealer in order to get rid of the icky brown grout. Now it’s a light gray and I love it. We were originally thinking about replacing the whole floor but this was obviously a much easier (and way cheaper) solution so I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. This weekend I’m hoping to tackle repainting the kitchen. Wish me luck!

What have you been up to lately?

Busy Day Meals

Life has been a little chaotic with busy days at work and weekends filled with house projects. As a result, I haven’t been quite as creative with my meals, but this is real life! Life is busy and sometimes we just fall back on our staples. Nothing wrong with that! So here’s what I’ve been eating:

yogurt bowl

As I mentioned in my round up of recent grocery favorites, I’ve been obsessed with Siggi’s yogurt lately. This was vanilla yogurt with frozen blueberries and cherries.

I normally have a snack in the morning but I ended up not having time to grab anything before lunch. By the time I had a chance to grab a salad, I was ready to pile it high!


My go-to combo of lettuce, veggies, chickpeas, feta, and a few pieces of bread. This hit the spot!

In the afternoon, I snacked on an apple but forgot to take a picture.

After work, I did the Tone It Up daily workout (so many jump squats!) and then I was starving. My stomach actually felt a little bit weird, so it was kind of hard to figure out what to make for dinner. The only thing that really sounded good was pasta, so I decided to make a really simple baked pasta.

baked pasta

This was whole wheat penne, topped with Rao’s Tomato Basil sauce, baked with some mozzarella on top. This totally hit the spot.

After dinner, some friends came over to watch the election results with us. I’ll keep the politics talk off the blog, but we did have plenty of snacks on hand. If you follow me on Snapchat (username: HeartVegetables), you probably saw the spread. I ended up going to bed around 11pm so I didn’t stay up until the end, but I was exhausted!

What do you eat on busy days?

I’m linking up with Arman for What I Ate Wednesday!

Parmesan Butternut Squash Fries

Back in college, butternut squash fries were my thing. My roommate Alexa and I would make a giant pan-full (ok, sometimes two pans) turn on a Lifetime movie, crack open a bottle of ketchup and girls night was complete. I’m not sure why they fell off my radar for a while but I’m happy to report they’re back. And this time… they’re getting cheesy + garlicky.

parmesan butternut squash fries

Butternut squash fries taste sort of like sweet potato fries. It’s a little bit harder to get them crispy, but it is possible. You have to cut your pieces to be the same size or else you’ll end up with a half-soggy/half-burnt tray and that’s no good. So make sure you cut them into similar sized pieces!

The main difference between butternut squash and sweet potatoes? B-nut squash has about half the calories & carbs of sweet potatoes. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a sweet potato, butternut squash can be a nice “high volume” food, when you’re craving a big serving or you’re watching your calorie intake.

sliced butternut squash

Ok, let’s get to it.

5.0 from 3 reviews
Parmesan Butternut Squash Fries
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 oz Parmesan cheese
  • Parsley (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Spray a large baking pan with non-stick spray.
  3. Peel the butternut squash and then slice into fry shapes.
  4. The trick is to make all the pieces roughly the same size. You want them to be about ¼" thick. If they're too thin, they'll burn and if they're too thick, they'll get soggy.
  5. Toss in olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip the fries.
  7. Bake for another 8-10 minutes or until the fries begin to brown.
  8. Once they've browned up, they'll start to get crispy and they'll be ready to take out of the oven!
  9. Let cool for a few minutes before taking them off the pan.
  10. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

butternut squash parmesan fries

As soon as you make them… you’ll wish you made a double batch. I promise.

Upgrade your fries by trying these parmesan butternut squash fries! Healthier than sweet potato fries but just as delicious!

What’s your favorite way to eat butternut squash?