Shaping Up

I am sure that there are many of you who are looking to live a healthier lifestyle in 2015, at least that’s what statistics seem to show.  So I thought I’d gather together a few resources for you that I have found helpful.  I’m not an expert and whatever you choose to do or not to do is totally up to you and what fits for your lifestyle, personality, and enjoyment.  I had babies in 2010, 2011, and 2014 and while I’m no supermodel by any stretch of the imagination, I’m relatively healthy and have lost my baby weight each time.  So take what I offer as coming from someone with experience but who has a ways to go and is still daily challenged herself, always in the process of learning and growing.

With that said, here are some resources for you to check out.

shaping up

Photo borrowed from http://bit.ly/1HZvcT6 and edited.

Tried & True Resources

Fuel

30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge:  I did this a while back and prior to it, I didn’t like the taste of green anything in my smoothie (and I’m an adventurous eater).  But this challenge helped me to grow to enjoy green smoothies.  Tip: Blend your greens and liquid first before adding the other ingredients so you aren’t chewing your greens (HUGE difference).

Very Smoothie:  This started as a Facebook page and she created a website with searchable smoothie recipes.  Fantastic resource for looking for new smoothie ideas depending on what restrictions you have and/or ingredients.

Smoothie Ideas: This is my Pinterest board with smoothie ideas (and some other drinks but you can ignore those) that can help get you started. But there are a ton of them out there so just do a search and you’re bound to find some that your taste buds will jump at.

100 Days of Real Food:  Try her challenge to eat only real food or go the 80/20 route (real food 80% of the time and other stuff 20% of the time).  She has some great posts, lists for what is real food, and recipes (both for regular meals and for substitutions for the normal processed stuff we buy).

Weelicious:  This is especially helpful for if you have kids and need some kid-friendly meal/snack ideas.  You can search by age or just do family meals for dinner ideas.  Great website.

Exercise

Workout videos on Pinterest (free):  This is my board with a bunch of videos (you can usually play them from the pin itself).  There are also some monthly challenges but I wouldn’t do those without having some other all-body workout too.  It also helps to have accountability with the challenges.  The videos will likely often be geared toward a barre/yoga/pilates style as that’s what I like best.

YouTube Barre Body/Dance Playlist (free):  This is a playlist I compiled for me and for others who wanted to try the barre-style workout without paying for DVDs or an online subscription.   Lots of videos at varying lengths.  Even if you don’t have a dance background, these are great because they’re low-impact and don’t require much space or often times any equipment.

Fitness Blender YouTube Channel (free):  This is a free resource and a great one.  It has a variety of types of exercises, the girl is usually dressed fairly modestly, and it’s recorded well.  I also appreciate that they don’t make it seem easy all the time.  The girl will sometimes say or show that she’s challenged too.  I appreciate that!

Barre3 Online Videos ($): It honestly helps motivate me if I know I’m putting money toward something. Online subscriptions are a good alternative to a class.  Sure, if I pay for a class I’m going to go and not leave early so that’d be ideal but time-wise and financially, it’s not always feasible.  I don’t have experience going to a Barre3 class, but I do use the online videos and love them.  I’ve also been to classes similar to Barre3 locally and saw a difference in just a few classes.  Highly recommend the $15/mo to do this if you’ve tried out the free ones above and like this exercise style.

Holy Yoga TV ($):  I feel like I need a huge disclaimer or something because there is often so much controversy in the Christian culture when it comes to yoga.  But the point of this isn’t to get into a debate on it.  This is a yoga-alternative centered on Scripture rather than the New Age stuff.  It’s a time of both exercise and worship and I absolutely love it.  It’s by donation with a minimum of $10/month.  I love doing one in the morning and one at night to wind down.  I could go on and on about how much I love this and can go into more detail if you want to ask.  I’d even say it’s good if you want to try yoga but have been put off by the oddness of some of it even if you aren’t a Christian.  Like Barre3, I haven’t been to a class but do the online workouts and love them.

Other Tips
  • Start small.  This post talks about mini habits which basically means stop trying to have these lofty goals for yourself and make very small achievable goals instead.  So rather than saying you’re going to start working out 30 minutes 5x a week, instead commit to working out for 5 minutes a day.  It’ll motivate you more rather than having you give up out of defeat.  Some small steps to consider:
    • Wake up 10 minutes earlier tomorrow to exercise for just 10 minutes.
    • Commit to making and freezing some breakfast so you stop skipping that meal.  Maybe make one of these muffins.
    • Carry a bottle of water with you and drink just one each day if you struggle with drinking water.  Up it to 2, 3, etc. as you conquer each.
    • Brush your teeth after dinner so you’re less likely to eat later in the evening.
    • Eat one fruit a day (maybe it’s a banana with breakfast or an apple with lunch).  Just one.
    • Only eat a palm-full of chocolate chips for dessert tonight rather than a bowl of ice cream or some other dessert.
  • Stop using the time excuse.  I’ve used it too.  But realistically, we all have the time to spend 30 minute or so a day exercising.  We just choose to spend it elsewhere (watching a TV show, browsing Facebook, going on Netflix, sleeping).  I mean we can even exercise while cooking!  Each second of our day we have a choice how to utilize that time.  Sure, some of you are super busy but there is still room in there to move or to make healthier meals (myth buster: eating healthier doesn’t mean more time-consuming).  Just be creative if you need to (use your lunch break, do exercises at your desk, while you’re in the kitchen, or just a short exercise before bed).  No more excuses.
  • Plan your meals.  I thought basically everyone did this but am finding out that’s not the case.  I can’t stress this enough.  I highly recommend Plan to Eat and you can read my review of it here.  I’ve tried a lot of different things and maybe other options will work better for you depending on your needs (there are lots that plan your meals for you, for example, but because I have a picky husband those weren’t the best for us).  If you need some ideas for websites that do all the work for you (tell you what to make, compile grocery lists, cater to specific dietary restrictions, etc.) then comment below and I’ll help guide you in the right direction.
  • Use an app to track yourself.  There are so many apps out there so find what works.  I used Noom for a while to track my eating.  It was helpful because it’s based on volumetrics and showed me what foods were green, yellow, and red.  I could eat whatever I wanted but it would tell me if I needed more green foods, where I was at with calories, and even had ways to learn (you could get points or something in case you were going that route).  But track what you eat, your steps, whatever you need to.  It’s at least helpful to do at first to get you started. My husband did this and found it really eye-opening for his food intake.
  • Get accountability.  Find someone who will either commit to something with you or will be faithful to check in on you regularly.  This can be a huge help for someone who isn’t self-motivated.
 What are your health goals for 2015 and what is one step you can commit to taking toward that goal?

Quick & Easy Dinners {Kielbasa}

I don’t post often about food because I’m not amazing in the kitchen.  I’m a thousand times better than I was in, say, high school.  But that’s only due to good recipes.  I still don’t know how to cut vegetables the correct way or know anything about knives or much about kitchen appliances beyond the basics.  But I know a good, easy recipe when I see (and taste) one.  Most moms will tell you that the dinner prep hour is one of the more stressful times of the day (everyone is hungry and wanting attention).  Are some recipes worth the effort (time, money, skill)?  Sure.  But when I’m not even sure if my family will like it, I hesitate to put too much into the dish so it’s rare I’ll make something too intense.  Add to it that it’s a stressful time of day and I’m more apt to go for the quick and easy option.

So here are some tried and true quick & easy recipes I think you’ll enjoy (no knocking ’em before you’ve tried them either).  Click on the name for the link to the recipe and in parentheses I put the main ingredients to give you an idea of what to expect.

This edition we’ll do recipes with kielbasa.  In the future I’ll do chicken, beef, etc.

kielbasa dinner

3 Quick & Easy Dinners {Kielbasa}

Roast Kielbasa Supper (apples, onions, kielbasa, potatoes):  This is my new favorite.  It had no reviews but I figured it was simple, didn’t require much by way of ingredients, and Rachel Ray has a good rep.  I wasn’t sure about the apples but I was craving them one day and I can’t have them raw so I decided to give it a try.  Good move on my part.  Even my husband was hesitant but then said it wasn’t as bad as he would’ve thought.  And my picky 4 year old even ate it.

Potato Kielbasa Skillet (potatoes, kielbasa, bacon):  Can’t go wrong with a little bacon!  The only more difficult part is making sure the potatoes are soft (they have you put them in the microwave). It takes some time to figure out how long to have them in.  But once you have that down, it’s pretty easy.

Kielbasa Tortellini Alfredo (tortellini, alfredo sauce, kielbasa):  This is a favorite among visitors in our house.  Its incredibly quick so I can make it after church if people are coming over.  Just add a salad and maybe some garlic bread and it’s a meal.  I don’t usually put the tomato in (just sauce, frozen tortellini, chopped green pepper, minced garlic, and kielbasa).  And I highly recommend using Bertolli’s Garlic Alfredo for the sauce.  It makes a difference (and I rarely say that about brands and often go for whatever is cheapest but not here).

{Bonus} Spectacular Sausage and Peppers:  This is technically a sausage recipe but I’m adding it.  I know a lot of people may not be into peppers and I didn’t used to like them but over time, I just kept trying them and grew to like them.  Now that I don’t mind peppers, especially when cooked, I like this.  I mix up the pepper color by adding in some yellow and orange peppers (much prefer them over green and red).  Plus it makes it more festive!

 

What are some of your favorite quick & easy recipes using kielbasa?  I want to add more to my list!

The Aroma of Christmas Tradition

The aroma sends me back to my childhood.

Standing in the kitchen with my mom, rolling dough.  Cutting it into shapes with trees, candy canes, snowmen, and stars.  Sprinkling green, red, and white sugar crystals over each shape, trying so carefully to get just enough onto the snowman’s hat to make it stand out, with a few sprinkles for buttons.  Placed into the oven for the fragrance to irrigate the house. [Read more…]

Naturebox {Review}

Disclaimer:  I’m not being paid for this review or anything.  I just know that I like hearing from others before making purchases so I’m trying to help ya’ll out.  However, if you decide to try it out, you can use this link to get $10 off your first box (like I did) and I would receive $10 as well (and then you can do the same for others and make the happiness go ’round).

I’ve been wanting to try Naturebox for a while but put it off.  Then I decided to read reviews of various snacks on their website and saw I could get 5 snacks for around $10 for my first month and figured it can’t hurt to try it.  So here’s my honest review of it.

Naturebox

Marketing

I’ll start with 2 huge things for me.  1) They donate a meal to Feeding America for every box sold.  I’m always a fan of companies that give back, especially when you know they’re making a decent profit.  2) You can see in the picture below the quality and nutrition of the products.  I don’t always have time to make my own stuff from scratch (or I fail at making them taste good) so I was drawn to the fact that I can have some fairly healthy snacks in my house that don’t taste like cardboard.

Screenshot (2)

The snacks came in a box made of recycled materials and they gave suggestions for how to reuse the box.  It was a nice added touch but not what makes or breaks something for me.

The bags came in resealable bags, which is great.  I didn’t have to put them in other containers or worry about the contents spilling out.

I like the branding (colors, logo, etc.), as their choices reflect the natural-driven product well.

The bags each have a see-through section so you can see what’s inside (not just go by the name), which I like as well.

Taste

I’ll review each of the 5 items I received individually.

Dark Cocoa Nom Noms:  These are pretty delicious.  Kind of like a small, soft cookie but you can tell it’s heathier.  Sweet but slightly filling.  It’s a good treat for when you need just a little something to satisfy a sweet tooth, knowing that you are’t putting anything full of preservatives and such in your body.

Peanut Butter Nom Noms:  My son really liked them but the rest of us weren’t fans.  I don’t love peanut butter to begin with but my husband said there was only a hint of the flavor.  I thought I’d like them, then, but something was just off.  My son ate the rest thankfully though.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Pops:  These are so yummy, especially when you have a craving for something sweet.  Just a little salt and definitely a malted kind of flavor.  It’s tempting to eat the whole bag.  My kids don’t like them as much as I do but that works out for me.

Toasted Cheddar Stix:  If you need some cheesy or crunchy, these are for you.  They have a definite sesame flavor and a strong cheddar taste.  I wish there were more in the bag but maybe that’s good for portion control.  My son likes them too.  My husband said they were okay (not a sesame fan) and my daughter is picky and only likes unhealthy things so she didn’t care for them either.

Coconut Cashews:  My one SIL tried these and found them to be just as good as me.  Seriously, best combo ever.  Brilliant.  Such a delicious dessert idea.  Plus because they are sweet, I’m less apt to eat too many at once.  I’ll definitely be getting these again.

Bang for your Buck

Because I got a good deal on them the first month, it was definitely worth the money and comparable to store-bought stuff.  Plus you get more variety and you know it’s healthy.  If you get 5 bags for about $20, it comes to about $5/bag.  It’s a little much for say the nom noms, as there aren’t many in there, but for the cashews it’s a decent deal.  If you can get some referral credits to get the bags for $10/month then I think it’s definitely a good idea.  I do see some value in not making the bags too big though because then it’s tempting to eat more so maybe it’s good they’re smaller. :o)

Have you tried Naturebox?  If so, share your experience.

And remember, if you want to try it out, use this link so you get it for about $10.  Definitely worth at least a try!

Review:  Plan to Eat

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat
I kept seeing Plan to Eat advertised on blogs that I regularly follow and it was being raved about.  But I already use Pepperplate and it’s free and does the job.  I recently saw that Plan to Eat was offering a 30 day free trial though.  So I figured it can’t hurt to at least try it out since it won’t cost me anything (they didn’t even ask for my credit card to charge me after the 30 days is up).  Plus I could still keep Pepperplate regardless.Well, I have to say that while I’m still in my trial of Plan to Eat, I’m hooked and plan to pay the $4.95/mo (or $39/year) because I’ve decided the features and ease are worth it for me.  Pepperplate lacks a lot of features I wish it had and although I’d keep it if I were on a really tight budget since it is free, I’m going to choose to “splurge” a little and take Plan to Eat out of my grocery budget.  Here’s why, in case you’re interested in trying it out.

  • Super easy to import recipes.  Pepperplate has a bookmarklet as well but a lot of websites (especially lesser-known blogs) aren’t supported.  So I have to manually type everything in.  It gets old, especially considering how many recipes I want to try out these days.  I have only had maybe 5 times (out of the over 100 recipes I have imported) when the recipe didn’t import.  But it was still really easy to just copy and paste into the bookmarklet’s sidebar.
  • The recipes are automatically organized for me.  By this, I mean that the app is so smart that it knows if the meal is a breakfast dish, dessert, main dish, etc.  It categorizes it, saving me time.
  • Tagging is easy.  In Pepperplate, you can tag recipes but that’s basically the only way to categorize and it’s all manually.  With Plan to Eat, you have 2 options.  One is to select the main ingredient, such as chicken, and then later you can search for chicken recipes.  The other is to type in your own tags (this is in addition to the main ingredient drop-down menu).  So I can choose main dish as the type of course, main ingredient as chicken, and tag it as a casserole.
  • Searching for a recipe is easy.  This is due not only to categorizing and tagging but also because it knows the ingredients you have in each recipe.  With Pepperplate, I can only search by tags; I can’t type in “diced tomatoes” and all the recipes with that ingredient will come up.  But with Plan to Eat, I can.  This is HUGE for me.  Sometimes I have an ingredient on hand I want to use up but don’t know all my recipes by heart.  This search function is super helpful.
  • The ingredients are categorized by aisle really accurately.  When the recipe is imported, the ingredients are added obviously but it also categorizes them by a typical aisle (eggs=dairy, for example).  This is a feature Pepperplate has too but often times it doesn’t guess correctly, especially with less common items.  Plan to Eat is smarter.
  • It doesn’t crash (yet).  Pepperplate has a tendency to not sync, stop working, need to be refreshed often, etc.  My husband said it’s often the difference you get with a paid vs. free app.  I’m finding the cost for less frustration may be worth it.
  • I love the planner.  Pepperplate has a planner too but when you’re adding recipes, it refreshes the screen each time.  It also only allows you to see a week at a time.  Plan to Eat allows you to look at the whole month but shrink weeks if you want.  It’s also a drag-and-drop style which is not how Pepperplate works (it takes a lot longer to add a recipe with Pepperplate).
  • I can queue recipes I want to plan.  This is helpful in the event I have a recipe I know I want to make (or my husband requests) that I need to add to the menu for the next week.
  • I can save a menu to use another week.  Pepperplate has this too but I haven’t really used it.  But since it’s easier in Plan to Eat I may give it a try.  If you’ve had a week’s worth of good recipes, you can just basically save that menu for another week so you don’t have to plan it all over again.
  • I can see how often I’ve planned a recipe.  This is really neat.  It remembers if I’ve made Kielbasa Tortellini Alfredo 5 times already vs. something else only once, or not at all.  This will be nice over time so I can make sure I’m mixing it up.  My husband will often say he misses having a certain meal and I don’t even realize I haven’t planned it in the past few months.  So he may end up liking that I have this feature too.  :o)
  • I can plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  Pepperplate has those options too but does lack the snack option.  It’s something I like having, especially now that I’m making more food from scratch.  Plus I don’t always remember what I have on hand so it’s nice to just have a visual of what I can feed my kids for a snack that day.
  • There is a cooking view option.  I didn’t think I’d care too much about it but now that I’ve used it I’ve loved this feature.  It lets you click through the steps so you can just see one step at a time.  It highlights the ingredients you need for that particular step too.  It’s very clean-looking.
  • The shopping list is very user-friendly.  It’s organized by aisle and you can alter them if your store is a little different.  You can also add different stores so you have different lists for different stores (in the event something is on sale at one store, for example, or you purchase all your produce from a farmer’s market).  If you want to print it instead of going to the website on your phone’s browser, it gives you different layout options.  Pepperplate has a tendency to waste a lot of paper because of the layout whereas Plan to Eat is able to fit it all on one page.  It also puts your planned recipes on the sidebar along with a key to show you which ingredients are for which recipes.  This was a huge selling point for me.
  • Keep track of items in your pantry.  I haven’t used this yet and don’t know if I will but my husband and I have tried in the past to keep a manual list of all the items we have so we don’t buy what we don’t need because something got shoved in the back.  I’m more organized now so this doesn’t happen that often.  But I can see it being helpful, especially if you have a large pantry that you keep stocked well.  There’s the option to hide the pantry or show it via the settings. If you show it, you can put it what items you have on hand and keep track of them, including how much of the item you have.
  • Referral opportunity.  It’s always nice to have the potential to earn a little side cash (probably very little but hey it’s still something).  Like a lot of things these days, if you refer someone to Plan to Eat and they sign up, you can get something for it.  Just an added bonus, but not a reason to be pushy.  :o)
If you’re interested in learning more about it, try the trial like I’m doing.  There are other features I didn’t mention and it’s always best to just play around on the website yourself to decide if it works for you or not.Here’s a referral link to get you to the free trial to try it out or you can click on the image at the top of the post.  Both will get you there.  And always look for a coupon code before officially signing up (for anything online!).  Often times there’s some kind of code you can use and it can’t hurt to at least take a few minutes to look to save some money.

Happy meal planning!

I’m assuming you know that I didn’t get paid to write this review but just in case…I really didn’t.  Just like sharing the companies/apps/products that I’m a fan of in case it helps someone else out.  :o)

Muffin Madness

I was looking for something different for my husband to have for breakfast but he said it had to be something quick and easy.  It was to replace Pop-Tarts (I’m pretty sure he was going to turn into one).  I suggested muffins and he agreed.  But of course I didn’t want them to be bad-for-you muffins.  That would totally defeat the purpose of the Pop-Tart replacement.  So I’ve been trying out a lot of different muffin recipes.  Some of them he won’t eat and I knew that going into it, but I had to have some I would enjoy too.  All of them were hits though, either with me and the kids or with my husband.

I made all of the recipes as instructed by the original recipe and that’s what I copied and pasted for you below.  The only differences that I may have made are:

  • I may have replaced oil with applesauce.
  • I used white whole wheat flour in place of either “all purpose” or “whole wheat”.  Sometimes I did a mix of white whole wheat and all-purpose, if I knew my husband would be able to tell it was white whole wheat.  :o)
  • I sometimes used almond milk instead of regular milk if it called for milk at all.
  • I think the only mini muffins I made were the carrot apple coconut muffins.  However, you can easily choose to make mini muffins or regular-sized muffins with any of these recipes.  Just adjust your cooking time (decrease time for mini muffins, add for bigger muffins).
  • My cooking times varied from what was suggested.  Sometimes they needed a couple more minutes.  Every oven is different so just keep an eye out and use a toothpick to test.
  • I didn’t use any liners.  I just sprayed with olive oil.  Some of the recipes said specifically not to use liners and it’s cheaper not to anyway.  But spray generously so they don’t stick.

All muffins can be frozen.  You can just take them out the night before to allow them to thaw on the counter.

Links are provided for those that I borrowed from websites (and definitely check out the websites because they have some other good stuff on there too).

Happy Muffin Making!

PS I saved my favorite for last.  Let’s just say chocolate-covered strawberries…ya….you heard me right…


Healthy Start Blueberry Muffins
Source:  Smart School Time Recipes (e-book)
Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 ripe banana, smashed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup blueberries (if using frozen don’t thaw)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Stir in everything up to egg.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir in egg, banana, milk, brown sugar, oil and vanilla.
  4. Stir both together.
  5. Gently fold in blueberries.
  6. Fill in muffin tins til 3/4 full.
  7. Bake 15 minutes.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Source:  Smart School Time Recipes (e-book)
Ingredients

  • 1.5 medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix banana, egg, vanilla, sugar, and oil in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients except chocolate chips.
  4. Mix both bowls together.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full.
  7. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Low-fat Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
Source:  Smart School Time Recipes (e-book)
Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup oat flour (grind up rolled oats to flour-like consistency)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup ripe mashed banana
  • 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (note: I replaced this with lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp coconut extract (note:  I left this out since I didn’t have any)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. Mix wet ingredients.
  4. Add both dry and wet together.
  5. Scoop 3 ounces into each muffin tin.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through.

Carrot Apple Coconut Muffins
Source:  Weelicious
Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 2 carrots, peeled & grated, about 1 cup
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated, about 1/2 cup (gala, fuji, pink lady or red delicious are good choices)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir to combine.
  5. Place 1 tbsp of batter into greased mini muffin tins.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Serve.

Skinny Banana Blueberry Muffins
Source:  Sally’s Baking Addiction
Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 2 large very ripe bananas)
  • 1/4 cup nonfat vanilla greek yogurt (or any yogurt)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 and 1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Spray 15 muffin tins with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together until combined. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the honey and brown sugar together – it will be thick and lumpy. Try to get out as many lumps as you can – a fork works well to break it up. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, and beaten egg. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Gently begin to fold it all together. It will be very thick. Add the milk slowly and continue to gently mix the ingredients together. The milk will thin everything out, but the batter will still remain thick. Gently fold in the blueberries. Do not overmix the batter, which will lend tough, dry muffins.
  4. (Note:  mine didn’t make as many as the following instruction says via the website so I just did a dozen)  Divide the batter between 15 muffin tins. Fill all the way to the top. Bake the first 12, then the last three in another batch. Fill the empty muffin tins halfway with water in the 2nd batch to ensure even baking. Bake for 17-18 minutes until very lightly browned on the edges. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Allow the muffins to cool completely.

Skinny Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins
Source:  Sally’s Baking Addiction
Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 2/3 cup diced strawberries
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and applesauce until together until no brown sugar lumps remain – a fork works well to break up the brown sugar here. Add the beaten egg white until fully incorporated. Add the wet ingredients to the dry until *just* combined – do not overmix. Fold in the strawberries and chocolate chips.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between 10 muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Muffins will be lightly golden in color and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. Mine took about 17 minutes. Allow muffins to cool and enjoy!

 

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

I feel like I post way more about food than I should.  But when something is good, you want to share it with the world right?  Tonight, I made this Loaded Baked Potato Casserole for dinner and it was a hit.  While I usually eat just about anything, my taste buds have been a little more picky lately–not in the mood for a lot of things and feeling kind of icky with certain foods (thankfully no morning sickness though–thank you Jesus for not making me suffer with any of my pregnancies with that).  But this recipe suited my hungry belly just fine.  Plus, my husband took his first bite and said it was really good.  If you know how picky he is, you know that calls for sharing this recipe asap!

Here’s how you make it.  I did alter the original recipe just a tad but feel free to do her version–it’s probably pretty close.

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced (don’t peel)
  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp, cooled and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 9″ baking pan or casserole dish.  (I accidentally used a 9×13 and it worked out fine–just not as squished.)
  2. Spread half of the diced potatoes in bottom of pan. Place the diced chicken breasts evenly on top. Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the bacon crumbles, 1/2 cup of the cheese, and half the onions.
  3. Spread the remaining diced potatoes on top, followed by another 1/2 cup cheese, remaining onions and another 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Pour heavy cream over top of casserole and then dot with the butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Uncover and bake another 30 minutes. In the last few minutes of baking, sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and bake until melted

Soft Marshmallow Squares

I made marshmallow square treats this morning as a special snack for our drive up to New England to visit my family for Thanksgiving.  The kids love them and let’s be honest–they’re not even primarily for the kids.  Who doesn’t love those things?

I get compliments on mine all the time.  The thing is, I don’t have some special recipe.  I use the same one that everyone else does.  But somehow they always come out really soft and they stay that way for days.  They don’t get hard like other ones (and they are certainly way better than the pre-packaged ones).

In case you need a quick dessert to bring somewhere this holiday season, or just want a treat for the kids (…yourself…), I’m going to share exactly how I make mine.  The key, I believe is at the end.

Side note:  I use generic ingredients, not the name-brand stuff.  So that’s not the trick 🙂

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

1 bag mini marshmallows (10 oz)

5 cups crispy rice cereal

butter spray

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over low heat.
  2. Once butter is melted, add in the marshmallows.
  3. Stir the butter/marshmallow mix with a silicone spatula continuously until the marshmallows are melted and blended in.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Add in rice cereal and stir until well-mixed.
  6. Spray a 9×13 glass pan with the butter spray.
  7. Pour the mixture into the pan and spread/squish until it’s all flat and covered.
  8. Place cover over the dish right away and let it sit out on the counter to cool.
  9. Cut when you’re ready and enjoy 🙂

I think the glass pan and covering it are the tricks.  I could be wrong but it seems that other people use different pans and they don’t necessarily cover it right after.  So give that a try and enjoy some deliciousness!

Good Morning Vanilla Shake

I didn’t used to be a huge fan of shakes because I’d get an upset stomach after drinking one from McDonald’s (shocking, I know).  Plus, milk isn’t my favorite thing ever.  But as I’ve grown, I’ve developed quite a liking for shakes and of course my kids love them too.  So this morning I attempted to make a healthy version of a vanilla shake.   While I wouldn’t label this a McDonald’s Vanilla Shake Copycat Recipe by any means (it’s not quite the same and I didn’t mean for it to be), it’s delicious.  My almost-2-year-old sucked his down in about a minute and then drank his sister’s (not sure what her deal was this morning).  So here’s a healthy shake idea to mix it up in the mornings.  Enjoy!
(And no, I’m not a photographer but I wanted you to see what I used and what it looked like in the end)

Good Morning Vanilla Shake

Handful of ice cubes (I had about 10 small ones)
1 tsp flaxseed oil* (found in with the vitamins at Walmart)
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (found in the health foods section at Walmart for the muscle-building guys haha)
1 frozen banana (flash freeze by peeling bananas, laying them on a tray in the freezer, then putting in bags when frozen)
1.5 cups vanilla almond milk

Blend and enjoy 🙂  This made a good amount.  For just one person, I’d recommend cutting it in half.  It’s a little thick but that’s how I like my shakes and smoothies.  Feel free to use fewer ice cubes and adjust to  your liking.

I enjoyed mine with a whole wheat bagel thin topped with just a little bit of Greek yogurt cream cheese.  I’m not a huge fan of cream cheese but for some reason the Greek yogurt kind is better to me.  Plus it’s healthier, so it works.

*I have tried using ground flaxseed in my smoothies but it messes with the texture and it’s odd.  I’ve seen people say they put them in water first but thought I’d try the oil instead.  Much better.  I’m saving the ground flaxseed for muffins and whatnot.

Peanut Butter Lovers Delight

I’m not a fan of peanut butter.  Sorry, folks.  It seems like everyone in Central PA has grown up with everything peanut butter-related and therefore I’m some crazy person for not digging it so much.  It is what it is.  But since I know the majority of people enjoy it, and there are lots of benefits to natural peanut butter in moderation, I use it from time to time.  Today was one of those days.

I made Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies and Peanut Butter Oat Bites.  My kids had the smoothie, one oat bite, and hard boiled eggs for lunch.  Random, yes, but healthy and that’s what we’re aiming for right now.  The kids seemed to like the smoothie and ate the bites really quickly so I thought I’d share the recipes in case anyone has any peanut butter lovers in their households.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies

1 1/2 frozen bananas
A couple ice cubes
1-1.5 cups vanilla almond milk (you can use whatever you want and pour until your desired consistency)
1 tbsp cocoa powder (I may have used a little more than that; I also used the unsweetened kind for what it’s worth)
3 tbsp natural peanut butter

Blend until smooth.

Peanut Butter Oat Bites
(borrowed from Sarah the Architect)

1 cup dry old fashioned oats (I used quick oats that I had in my pantry and it worked fine)
2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
½ cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
½ cup chocolate chips (I used mini ones)
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl. Once combined refrigerate approximately 30 minutes. Roll mixture into 1” balls then serve.  This recipe can be altered to your liking (using more or less of whatever, or adding in something) but you just have to make sure you have enough peanut butter and honey to make it all stick together.  Otherwise, you can just scoop it up with a spoon 🙂