In an ideal world, I’d be able to hop on a high-speed plane and jet around the globe to my blogger friends, getting there just in time to have the last bites of their Fudge-Topped Raw Brownies, Mango-Chia Seed Crumble, Lemonade Donuts, Butternut Squash Ravioli with Thai Peanut Sauce – or whatever latest goodie they’ve come up with. But until technology really catches up enough, we’ll have to settle for virtual bloggy get-togethers.

Recently when my friend Alta posted her (vegan) Strawberry Cheesecake with Macadamia-Almond Crust, I wanted to hop in my car and rush right over, hoping she’d save me a piece. Since Alta writes her blog, Tasty Eats at Home, from her home in Texas, that wasn’t exactly a possibility. Alta and I have been friends for about a year now, and we’ve e-bonded (ya know, like bonding through email?) over our mutual love of wholesome, clean foods and a good sweat. Alta always seems to be on the lookout for someone else, her big heart always caring for others. That’s why I’d like to think she’d welcome me right in if I really did show up by surprise

What else is there to know about Alta? I asked her a few questions so you can get to know her better

What is your proudest fitness achievement?
Running my first 10k race (The Wounded Warrior 10k I did in June) would be my proudest fitness achievement, although running the two mud/obstacle course races (Jailbreak DFW last September and Warrior Dash in April) are up there too. I’ve never really been a runner, and although I run on a treadmill for 2-3 miles pretty regularly, 6 miles/10 kilometers was a feat for me. The more I push myself in running, though, the more I discover that it’s a lot about mental discipline!

Latest clothing or accessory splurge?
I haven’t really splurged on clothing OR accessories lately! However, I have splurged on some food prop/home decor shopping recently, some with Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free – and my favorite pieces include a whitewashed cutting board, a vintage copper pitcher and a copper tea kettle. Just this week, however, I did splurge on myself big time – I ordered a Breville juicer. I can’t wait until it arrives!

Next vacation planned?
Vacation? What’s that? LOL I’d love to get back to Ruidoso, NM or Fredericksburg, TX but no plans whatsoever. I’ll be traveling to Minneapolis in September on business, but I’d hardly call that a vacation!

If you could have dinner with your mom tonight, what would you ask her to make?
My mom wasn’t a gourmet cook, to be honest (she never liked it, but we didn’t have a great deal of money growing up, so she did what she could with what she had), but she loved to bake. Especially around Christmas – I fondly remember baking a ton of things, but specifically, roll-out sugar cookies. Always a fun thing for a kid. I’d love to do that again with her. As for dinner, I do fondly remember her “goulash” – which was basically ground beef, macaroni, stewed tomatoes, some spices, and cheese melted on top. Loved the cheese on top!

What do you do when you’re not blogging?
By day, I am a compliance manager in a community bank. All day I read and keep up with the latest bank regulations and ensure the bank is in compliance. We’re a pretty small bank, so I also am the resident morning coffee-maker, mail-taker, and anything else that needs to be done. We all pitch in to make the bank successful.

Tell us about your exercise routine?
My commute to/from work is about an hour each way, so I try to do my best to avoid the peak of rush hour. This means getting out of the house by 6:30-6:45 am most mornings. However, I rarely feel like working out AFTER work, so I squeeze in a quick workout every morning at home before I get ready for work. Working out at home is actually pretty great – no gym membership and no time spent commuting to/from the gym. I do something different every morning, so I don’t get bored. For example, Monday might be sprints on the treadmill, Tuesday, shoulders, triceps and biceps with the free weights, Wednesday, Power Yoga with a Rodney Yee video, Thursday, 5k on the treadmill, Friday, chest and back with the free weights. In addition to those workouts, I sometimes run outside on Sunday mornings, and I play indoor soccer on Tuesday nights and Friday nights.

Where is home?
I grew up in a small town north of Dallas. I still live in the area, in a suburb called Wylie, northeast of Dallas. I actually live less than 5 miles from Southfork. And no, in case you’re wondering and have been watching the new version of the TV show, there is no way someone could drill for oil on that property without someone’s knowledge. It’s just not that big.

Who else lives under your roof?
My husband – we’ve been married for almost 6 years! Also, on a part-time basis, my 3 stepchildren, 2 boys ages 16 and 15, and one girl, 13 live with us. And two little chihuahua mixes named Rocky and Jack.

Naturally, I’m answering the same questions on Alta’s blog today, so you might learn something new about me too

Still craving that cheesecake from Alta’s gluten-free, dairy-free blog, I decided make it myself and bring a little piece of her into my kitchen. The cashew-based vegan cheesecake thing has always intrigued me, but this was the first one I made myself. I have to say, the combination of creamy cashews with a little tangy lemon really mimics both the light taste and slightly grainy texture of real cheesecake. I kind of can’t wait to taste it out on an unknowing dairy-lover   The nice thing is, because these are now tucked away as single servings in my freezer, I can totally break some out next time we have company.  Serving size wasn’t the only thing I changed, I also used freshly picked local blueberries instead of strawberries (I totally would have used them if local ones were still in season!) and it was still, I imagine, just as delicious. Maybe – no, definitely – a pumpkin or sweet potato version will be up next!

Alta said she was going to whip up my Chicken ‘n Sweet Potato Waffles, and I confess I’m kind of dying to find out what she thought. You? Let’s go see.

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Vegan Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Yield: 9 servings

Perfectly portioned blueberry cheesecakes made with a creamy cashew base and prune-almond crust.

Ingredients:

Crust:
3/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup prunes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling:
1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked at least 4 hours, preferably overnight
6 tablespoons maple syrup
zest from one lemon
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 oz fresh blueberries (if frozen, thaw before using)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners.

Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Process just until fine crumbs form. Add the prunes, salt, baking soda, coconut oil, and vanilla and process again until the mixture forms a crumbly paste.

Divide the mixture evenly among cupcake liners (about 2 tablespoons each) and press firmly into the bottom of the liners.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges brown. Allow to cool completely.

Drain the cashews and place in a food processor or high-powered blender. Start to blend until the cashews turn to crumbs and then a paste. Add the agave, lemon zest, lemon juice, and coconut oil and continue to blend, stopping to scrape down the sides often, until the puree is creamy and no more bits of nuts remain.

Once the mixture is very creamy, add the vanilla and salt and add half of the blueberries and blend until smooth. Add remaining berries and blend again until creamy, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed.

Pour the blueberry mixture on top of each crust, filling to the top of the liner (you may have some extra filling - simply set it aside in the fridge for a bowl of crust-less cheesecake.) Place in the freezer for 4 hours or until firm. You can freeze overnight or even for more than a day; if you do, place in refrigerator several hours before serving to thaw.

Nutrition Facts:

Amount Per Serving
Calories 338.9
Total Fat 24.2 g
Saturated Fat 9.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 10.5 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 59.4 mg
Potassium 320.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 27.9 g
Dietary Fiber 3.5 g
Sugars 15.8 g
Protein 6.4 g

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com, adapted from Tasty Eats at Home

This post is shared with Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert and Dogs and Slightly  Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.