Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Smoothies

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!  As I was opening my 6th can of pumpkin last night to make these milkshakes again (really?  its not even November yet!), I realized how incredible they were and that I hadn't shared them with you yet!!!  This is another idea found via Pinterest originally from Red Head Recipes.  And we are in love!  The ingredients are pretty much rough estimates if you know me!

serves 2
1 banana (peeled, frozen works best)
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup FF plain Greek yogurt (or regular vanilla yogurt)
1/2 cup milk
Few shakes of pumpkin spice
Few shakes of cinnamon
1tsp vanilla
1 cup ice cubes
sprinkle of brown sugar if needed

Blend ingredients, taste and add more of anything if necessary!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why I Eat Healthy

*I am not a health professional.  I am writing about my own life experiences and what works for me.  For concerns about your own health and diet, please discuss with your doctor.*

Now, I want to talk about healthy eating.  Remember I am not a professional at this either!  I just really enjoy how I feel eating healthy.  It gives me so much more energy when I give my body the nutrients it needs from healthy proteins, fruits, and veggies.  I do not believe in diets, nor have I ever tried one myself.  When I wanted to get in shape for my wedding a few years ago, I modifiend the way I ate by cutting out softdrinks (which I very rarely drink now - probably haven't had one is months), making healthy dining out choices like getting sandwhiches on wraps instead of bread, and veggies on the side instead of fries, etc.  If you are stocking your body full of the things you should be, there leaves little room for things you shouldn't be. 

I am also a firm believer in fiting in 4 or 5 smaller meals during the day.  Maybe its just me, but I am typically hungry most of the day!  I wake up ravenged, scarf down breakfast, then am hungry again by 9:30 or 10.  So instead of starving myself until lunch, I eat something like a banana, a yogurt, or some almonds.  Same thing in the afternoon as I told you last week, I can't go without my pre-workout snack.  That way I don't overeat at lunch or dinner, plus it keeps my energy levels up during the day.  I don't ever count calories I eat or anything like that, I actually rarely think about how much I eat, or that I can't eat something.  I more so focus on what things I want to fit in that day ... like eating yogurt or drinking milk because I know I need the calcium.  And also drinking plenty of water, I am talking like 8 glasses a day probably (esp. if you exercise), your body needs it!!!

Now onto the things I try to make sure I get enough of.  My goal everyday is to try and fit in 5 veggies or fruits, and remember that some of them fill 2 servings!  This can be really pretty easy.  I have no trouble squeezing in the fruits, whether its with breakfast, for a snack, or with lunch.  The harder one for me is the veggies.  I try to do this with lunch and definitely dinner.  This week I roasted some broccoli & califlower on Sunday and brought some with me each day for lunch. 

The next one I think is pretty dependent on your tastes.  I also try to fix fish at our house at least once a week, although I know it doesn't get done every week.  It is a great healthy alternative to chicken which can get boring and it is sooo good for you!  Salmon is probably our favorite which you could probably gather from my blog.  We also try to eat whole wheat everything verses white noodles, bread, etc. 

Lastly I want to talk about sweets.  Baking is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do.  It is, like cooking, my time to be creative and unwind!  Plus I love showering people with tastey treats (oh...and I also get to enjoy!!!)  You will notice that muffins have been my recent baking outlet.  I can make them my own by reducing the sugar, using whole wheat flour, fitting in some fruits or veggies, etc.  However, I do love to bake sweets too.  But, I rarely bake themn only for me and the hubby's enjoyment.  I do it when we are having a get together or to celebrate other people's occasions.  And then, if there are leftovers, I save a few for us, and bring the rest into work.  That way they don't sit around waiting for us to devour them. 

Really I'm not afraid to enjoy most everything in moderation.  I love to cook a big old meal on Sundays and a lot of the time its not the "healthiest" meal (ex: Fettuccine Alfredo).  But we just limit the big splurge to once a week!  Trust me I have a whole long list of these yummy meals saved up for Sunday nights (chicken pot pie anyone?).  And I rarely turn down pizza on a Friday night!

Sorry this post was soo long and good for you if you made it to the end!  I hope this helps you find a little motivation to eat healthy.  There are so many yummy ways to eat healthy.  Hopefully you are able to find some great recipes on my site as well!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why I Exercise

*I am not a health professional.  I am writing about my own life experiences and what works for me.  For concerns about your own health and diet, please discuss with your doctor.*

Honest truth, I got inspired to write this post after browsing workouts on Pinterest!  When you search fitness or exercise, the majority of pins that come up are motivational pictures or quotes.  And it really got me thinking.  I loved this post that Clean Eating Chelsey wrote a few months back on "how she does it - exercise."  So I decided to write a post of my own to hopefully help someone out! 


First of all let me clarify that I didn't always (and still don't everyday) love exercise.  It has been a long road to now where I do enjoy it most days.  This is going to sounds cliche but you really have to think of it as a lifestyle change, not a way to lose weight.  First I'll share the top 6 reasons why I exercise, in no particular order:

1.  Mood.  Notice how you feel absolutely great after a workout?  I'm sure you've heard that exercise releases endorphins.  Well for me, it really does improve my attitude!  I know that nothing turns my mood around after a bad day like a great workout.  I always leave feeling refreshed and good about myself, no matter how hard it is to get myself there on those days.

2.  Weight Management:  No I am absolutely not trying to lose weight.  (Although toning up a little bit more wouldn't hurt I guess!)  Exercise can help you lose weight - if needed - but for me one of the perks is weight management.  Being in shape helps me feel good about myself and boosts my confidence.

3.  Energy:  Exercise gives you such a burst of energy.  And not only after your workout, I am talking all the time.  I completely notice a difference in my day to day energy levels than before I worked out regularly.  Being active also helps me feel motivated to accomplish more things during my day rather than coming home from work and being a bump on the couch all night (notice how once you sit down its hard to get back up?)

4.  Health Benefits:  This is probably the most important reason.  No matter what type of exercise works for your body from walking to running marathons, there is no doubt that it is good for your health.  This is also probably the main reason I do it (along with healthy eating).  I want to take care of this body God gave me. 

5.  Feeling in Shape:  As I said above in #2, being in shape feels good!  I like being able to run up the stairs without feeling out of breath.  I want to be able to run around with my kids someday and be able to keep up with them.

6.  Stress Relief:  Along with boosting your mood, exercise helps to reduce stress.  There is nothing like pushing yourself during a class or zoning out during a run and just getting your mind off things.  It really does help.

Now that we've talked about the perks of hitting the gym, I want to talk about some things that help me get there 5 or 6 days a week.  When I first started exercising regularly I just alternated between running the treadmill and the elliptical.  I would dread the gym most days after work because I was tired!  The thing I found that worked for me to get myself there was bring my clothes and shoes along with me.  I would pack them in my car so they would be sitting on my passenger seat right after work everyday.  If I went home for some reason I was much less likely to get myself changed, and back out the door to go to the gym. 

Now, I am lucky enough to have found a gym that offers so many awesome classes from cycling to boot camp, to yoga!  I've found that the variety classes offer really keep me from getting bored, I actually enjoy a lot of them, and I feel more motivated in a class setting when I am working out with people, not by myself. 

I have learned that I am not a runner, I will probably never enjoy it.  (I do still run probably once a week with my dog outside and do enjoy that once I'm actually running...its hard to get out the door though.)  I've also learned that a workout doesn't have to consist of hard core cardio the entire time.  My body has changed the most when I added weight lifting and plyometrics (both of these usually come from classes I take).  That is when I started to see definition in my legs and arms.  Probably once a week if I just don't feel like getting to the gym (or don't have enough time), I'll squeeze in a quick workout at home.  Here is one of my favs.

I also think its important to take yoga and pilates, and those count as my workouts on those days (sometimes I'll add in a 15 min run on the treadmill to get some cardio, or take the pup on a walk).  Yoga is such an awesome class, it reduces stress and relaxes me, plus helps with muscle stability and toning.  Pilates helps streghthen the core which is of utmost importance.  Overall its important to listen to your body and rest when you need to, but don't be afraid to challenge yourself!

Tomorrow I'm going to post on healthy eating so stay tuned!  I hope this helps you find a little motivation.  I'm actually looking forward to my workout tonight now!

Friday, October 28, 2011


OK, really I don't follow any sort of chili recipe.  I just throw in whatever I have on hand!  But below is a rough recipe for you to follow.  I don't have measurements on the seasonings because I always add some, stir it around, taste it, add more if needed, and continue this process until it tastes great!  We like chunky chili as well so if you like yours a little thinner, pick up a second 28 oz can of diced tomatoes to add if needed.  You can also add water to thin it (cheaply) and it doesn't really affect the taste, just make sure to season it well!

1 pound ground beef
1 large onion
1 or 2 peppers (green or red)
1 pablano pepper
1 or 2 jalopenos
1 or 2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 or 2 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
water if needed
2 cans kidney beans, drained & rinsed
chili powder
garlic powder
salt & pepper
cayenne pepper (optional)
pinch of cinnamon

Brown hamburger with diced onion, peppers, jalopenos.  Drain grease if needed (or use the 93/7 kind and you won't have any!)  Add in tomatoes & tomato sauce and season lightly (also add water here if chili is thicker than you would like it).  Simmer for as long as you can wait :)  I usually try to do this for at least 30 minutes.  Taste & season more if needed.  Add beans and heat through.  Serve with cornbread (& rice for my hubby!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Alright, time for some pumpkin!  These were the best snickerdoodles I've ever had!  I love my snickerdoodles thick and fluffy, so pumpkin was the perfect ingredient.  The pumpkin flavor was pretty light, and I thought the cinnamon sugar crust was the perfect compliment!

Recipe Courtesy of My Life as a Mrs
yields about 16 large cookies


For the Rolling Sugar:
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice (I used pumpkin pie spice)
For the Cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3/4 cup pure unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt


For the Rolling Sugar:
Mix together ingredients in a shallow bowl and set aside until ready to use.
For the Cookies:
In your stand mixer (or large bowl and hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugar. Add the pumpkin and mix well. Next, Add the egg and the vanilla and beat until mixed well; make sure you scrape down the sides intermittently.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. A little bit at a time, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Cover dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350º. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Scoop out 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons of the dough and roll into a ball (note: it's a pretty sticky dough if it's not chilled thoroughly), then roll in the sugar mixture. Place onto a cookie sheet leaving space between them (I fit about 8 cookies on each cookie sheet).
Last, take a glass and dip it in water followed by the sugar mixture. Gently press each cookie slightly; repeat the water/sugar step as necessary to prevent sticking.
Bake cookies for 12-16 minutes or until beginning to golden. Remove from oven and allow to "set up" on cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Amazing warm with a glass of milk!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Salad w/ Pesto Mozzarella Chicken

I always struggle with whether to post salads I make up!  I mean really I just throw whatever I have on hand in a salad and it usually turns out amazing - its not too difficult.  We are salad lovers in our house.  We had one similar to this again two nights ago, but with blackened salmon and it was awesome! 

Anyway, onto this salad!  We used the leftover Mozzarella & Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts, and I had just purchased some apple cider vinegar so I decided to make a simple vinaigrette with that.  Then I added some chopped up almonds, apple slices, and roasted red pepper, all over fresh spinach.  Yes, random, but delicious!  Today I wanted to give you an idea what to do with that leftover chicken you may have and encourage you to eat more salads!  They are a great way to clean out your fridge and get lots of veggies in!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mozzarella Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts w/ Roasted Red Pepper Marinara

Holy cow, this may be one of the best chicken dishes I've made!  It was so simple, but the sauce was different that any marinara I've ever made.  It was seriously delicious trust me.  And if I were you I would double the chicken & the marinara - you'll want extra!  And we made salads with the extra chicken (recipe posting soon).  Recipe borrowed from my friend Lauren - chicken & sauce!

I'm just warning you now, don't count on pretty pictures for the rest of the winter!  Its amazing how much more beautiful my pictures turn out in natural light.  Since I get home around 7 most nights, and finish cooking around 8, wintertime doesn't allow for pretty pictures.  (Lauren's pics were also way prettier than mine!)

1 red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large ripe tomatoes (or in my case, a bunch of small cherry tomatoes)
a small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
a small pinch of sugar

Chicken1 clove garlic, minced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
2 tablspoons pesto
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, rosemary & other italian seasonings

Heat oven to broil, and broil your red pepper, turning to make sure you char each side.  Mine took about 5-10 minutes total.  Set aside to let cool.  Once pepper is cool, carefully peel skin off the outside, and pull out stem & seeds.  Roughly chop. 

Heat some evoo gently in a skillet, then add the garlic and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, red pepper, red pepper flakes and oregano and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Stir in the vinegar and sugar, and simmer for a further 5 minutes to evaporate any excess liquid.
Transfer to a blender and puree until fairly smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a skillet over medium heat with 1 tbsp olive oil. 

Put the chicken breasts onto a board, and, using a sharp knife, cut horizontally through the breast without cutting all the way through. Open out flat and season the insides.

Spread pesto (or basil leaves), a few garlic slices, and 2 slices of cheese in each breast. Then fold back over, pressing firmly together. Secure with toothpicks.

Cook chicken on a preheated pan for about 5-6 minutes on each side, until cooked through.

Serve with red pepper marinara.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carrot Pumpkin Muffins w/ Cream Cheese Filling

Oh boy, these were good!  I decided to replace some of the carrot with pumpkin as I am obsessed with all things pumpkin lately.  They weren't as carrot-y as these muffins (which were really yummy too).  And the cream cheese was so yummy in the middle, almost like delicious carrot cake, but healthier!  I of course made my typical changes to the recipe and yum, we devoured these quickly!  Recipe via Pinterest from The Delicious Life.

Yields about 16 muffins


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or could use all-purpose flour)
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp.baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup sugar (recipe calls for 1 cup)
3 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/3 c. butter, 1/3 c. olive oil)
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Optional:  1/2 cup raisins (I didn't use these)
For filling:
4 oz. softened cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar (original had 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs, and oil (and butter if using) until lightened. Stir in shredded carrots, pumpkin, walnuts, and raisins if using (that have been soaked for 10 minutes in hot water or warmed rum, if you’d like).

In another bowl, cream softened cream cheese with egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla.

Fold the dry ingredients into the egg/oil mixture. Stir until just combined. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full. Plop a generous teaspoon of the cream cheese filling on top of the batter in each muffin cup.  I sort of used my spoon to fill it down into the middle of the cupcakes...other wise it will spread out over the top while baking.

Bake about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake part comes out clean.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brisket, Brie, & Mango BBQ Quesadillas

Here is the reason for the homemade tortillas!  As I've posted before, Corey grew up eating and loves brisket.  Being from Indiana I had never heard of it before him.  Here is my second attempt at making it and it turned out so much better for me in the crockpot!  The meat was really tender!  Cooking it in the Dr. Pepper alone didn't give it a whole lot of flavor.  I wished that I had added in some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce like this pulled pork.  But these quesadillas were so awesome!  The brie was the perfect compliment with the tango BBQ sauce.  I only wished I added caramelized onions, because we all know by now how those are dearly loved in this household.  So I'm including my suggestions in the recipe below.  Also if in a hurry, you could skip the bbq sauce and just use premade!  You could even blend some mango into your bbq sauce or just add thinly sliced mango to the quesadillas, thats probably how I will do it next time!  Recipe courtesy Foodie Bride.


3 lb brisket
Ground black pepper
1 Tbsp chili powder
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz Dr. Pepper
(Optional:  half 7 oz can chipotle peppers in adobo)

Mango Barbecue Sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 – 1 cup)
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp Creole (spicy brown) mustard
1/4 cup mango chutney (I used half of a mango, diced)

8 8-in flour tortillas
8 oz brie, thinly sliced
1 cup monterrey jack, shredded (I didn't use this)
olive oil or cooking spray, to brush tortillas
cilantro, for garnish (optional)
(Optional:  caramelized onions)


  1. To make the brisket: Rub the meat with salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic.
  2. Place brisket in the crockpot and pour the Dr. Pepper over the top (add chipotles if desired).
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. Remove from the crockpot and let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Slice against the grain (1/8-1/4 inch thick).
  6. To make the barbecue sauce: Heat olive oil in a 2-qt sauce pan.
  7. Saute onions for 5 minutes.
  8. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  9. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes.
  10. Transfer to a blender or food processor and run until smooth, add ketchup or water slowly if needed to thin.
  11. To assemble the quesadillas: Heat a griddle or large pan over medium-high.
  12. Lay out the tortillas. Divide the meat, brie, and monterrey jack between the tortillas, placing the meat and cheese on half of the tortilla.
  13. Top with a spoonful or two of barbecue sauce and fold the other half over.
  14. Place on the heated grill.
  15. Cook until the bottom is crisp and flip over.
  16. Remove from heat and slice into thirds. Serve with extra barbecue sauce.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Homemade Flour Tortillas

OK, even though Corey has been consistently asking me to make Homemade Tortillas, I had been putting it off for quite some time for two reasons.  One, the main one, I was sort of scared of shorting and most recipes I found used it.  Two, I've heard they can be a little difficult to roll out thin enough, and I thought they would be difficult to make in general.  However, I managed to get past my fears and make these last night, because I love my hubby, and it helps that I love to cook.  :)  Shorting was not scary, I think you could probably sub olive oil if wanted too.  And they were actually super easy!  I made the dough the night before and then rolled them out and cooked them the night we ate them.  Its really important to make them right before you eat them so they are pliable and warm, but we kept our leftovers in the fridge and they were still great the next day warmed up!  Recipe via The Pioneer Woman.  Make sure you read the tips!  It took me a few tortillas to get the thickness down, don't get frustrated!

2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Vegetable Shortening + 2 Tablespoons
1 cup Hot Water

Preparation Instructions
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large wooden bowl. Stir together.
Add spoonfuls of lard or shortening (use 1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons), then use your hands to combine the ingredients. Mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.
Slowly pour in hot water, stirring to bring mixture together. Lightly knead dough 30 to 40 times, or until it becomes a cohesive ball of dough and is less sticky. Cover with a towel and allow dough to rest for at least an hour.
Cut dough into 4, then cut each quarter into 3.  Roll into ping pong size balls, place on a tray, cover with a towel, and allow to rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.
When you're ready to make the tortillas, heat a griddle to medium/medium-high heat. One by one, roll out balls of dough until very, very thin. Throw tortillas (one by one) onto the griddle. Cook on each side for 20 to 30 seconds, removing while tortillas are still soft but slightly brown in spots. Remove and stack tortillas, and cover with a towel to keep warm. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing tortillas in a container. To warm, nuke tortillas in the microwave, or wrap in foil and warm in the oven.

Helpful tips:
* Make sure the water you pour in is very warm.
* Allow the dough to rest, both after kneading and after forming into balls.
* Roll out very thin.
* Get the heat right on your stove: Too hot, and the tortilla will burn in spots. Not hot enough, and the tortilla will begin to crisp before you can get it to brown. I get my stove between medium and medium high heat; that seems to do the trick.
* Use a dark griddle or cast iron skillet to brown the tortillas.
* Cook just long enough to lightly brown the tortilla in spots; don't cook too long or tortillas will crisp. You want them to be soft and pliable when you serve them.
* Finally: Have fun! And enjoy them. They're absolutely scrumptious.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Get ready for a whole lot of pumpkin, thats all I have to say!  I have been obsessed with pumpkin this year, which is working out in Corey's favor since its his favorite.  So far I've made this pumpkin bread, muffins, cookies, cream cheese, milkshakes and I think thats get ready!!!  This is the second time I've made this pumpkin bread recipe and it turned out great again.  I decided to half the sugar because typically baking recipes contain too much in my opinion...and the hubby is diabetic.  Then I added a glaze over the top because we decided it wasn't sweet enough, ha!  The glaze is completely optional.  I started with about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup powdered sugar and just slowly added maple syrup until you get your desired thickness, go slow because a little liquid goes a long way!  Or if you don't like maple syrup you can use milk instead.

Recipe courtesy of Simply Recipes

3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat flour (you can use all purpose if you want)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice (didn't have so I used pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 Preheat oven to 350°F.  Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.
2 Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts.
3 Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a toothpick poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.
Can easily double the recipe.

Apple Toffee Blondies

I wanted to make something special for my Dad's birthday a few weeks ago.  He loves Greek food so I had been planning for months in my head to make him a fancy Greek dessert.  Then I got sick, and had no energy, and no ingredients in my house to make this fancy dessert.  In comes Pinterest with this recipe courtesy of Cookies & Cups which only included ingredients I already had on hand and seemed pretty simple to whip up.  Boy it was.  The blondie part tasted sort of like applesauce cake and the icing was sort of caramel-y (word?).  However, a little too sweet for our tastes.  If I made these again I would probably half the icing and just spread a very thing layer on top. 

Apple Toffee Blondies


2/3 cup room temperature butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup peeled, chopped tart apple (1 large)
1/2 cup toffee bits

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Spray 9×13 baking pan lightly with cooking or baking spray.
  3. Cream butter and brown sugar in mixer until smooth.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium until combined.
  5. On low, add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mixing until just combined.
  6. Stir in the chopped apples and toffee bits until evenly distributed.
  7. Spread in prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes until the center is set.
  8. Let cool completely before slicing or frosting.
Brown Sugar Frosting


1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add brown sugar and milk and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in powdered sugar with a whisk.
  3. Let cool until it thickens enough to spread.
  4. Stir before spreading on top of blondies.
  5. Let frosting set for 30 minutes and then cut into bars.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Attempt #1 at Qdoba Queso

Mmmmm who doesn't love Qdoba's queso???  We LOVE it in this household!  Corey was dreaming of it the other day during a Colts game and begged me to attempt it here we are!  I just did a google search and came up with this recipe via  The queso was awesome, but I don't think it was Qdoba queso so I guess the quest is still on!  You should still absolutely try this was so yummy.  Make sure you follow the recipe and cook it on low in the crockpot because if you melt cheddar too quickly it gets "grainy."  Or if you are in a hurry just sub another easy melting cheese!

1 cup shreddred monterey jack cheese
1 cup american cheese (I used white)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used white)
2-3 roasted poblano peppers (finely chopped) (I used 2)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons ground garlic
optional seasonings:  salt, chili powder, cumin

Roast your pablanos in the oven under the broiler until skin is blackened and bubbly, about 5 - 10 minutes.  Once cool, peel the skin off and toss the stem & seeds, then dice roasted peppers.  Shred cheeses.  Combine all of ingredients in crockpot.  Cover and cook on low for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until cheese is melted.  Thin with more milk or cream if necessary.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve hot from crockpot with tortilla chips.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Homemade Protein Bars

Let's talk about something.  Do you guys eat protein bars?  We buy them from time to time because they are a quick and easy pre-workout snack to grab.  The only draw back is that they are so pricey!  I have been loving the Luna bars for women, but they are like $1 - $1.50 a pop, and same thing with the ones I get for Corey.  So most of the time we will stick to an apple, banana, greek yogurt, or some sort of trail mix with almonds, etc.  Most days we don't sit down for dinner until 8 pm after work, the gym, and fixing dinner, and 8 hours since lunch time is just too long to wait in my opinion.  Plus I've heard that a pre-workout snack gives you a boost of energy which usually results in you burning more calories in the end.  So when I saw these homemade protein bars from Peas & Thank You I knew I had to give them a shot.  They were really tasty actually and very easy to make.  They tasted just like a granola bar, and probably only took about 20 minutes of active time to make.  The only drawback is that they don't really hold together very well, and some of the bars ended up crumbling like granola (but not dry).  I will absolutely make these again! 

3 T. ground flax seeds meal
3/4 c. milk
2 c. old fashioned oats
1/4 c. sunflower seeds (you can use any nuts you would like)
1/4 c. pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 c. chopped almonds
1/4 c. raisins (or dried cranberries)
1/4 c. dark chocolate chips
1/2 c. (4 scoops) vanilla protein powder (I used chocolate)
3 T. honey
1 T. peanut butter
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. vanilla
stevia to taste (didn't use and I didn't think it needed sweetener)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine ground flax with milk and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients.
Add flax mixture to dry ingredients and stir until combined.  The mixture will seem a bit dry, but will hold together.
Spray an 8 x 8 pan with cooking spray.  Press dough into the pan.
Bake for 6-8 minutes, until slightly browned.
Let them cool completely in the pan before transferring to a cutting board.  Cut into bars, then wrap in wax paper individually to grab on the go.  Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spinach, Pablano, & Portobello Enchiladas

We love enchiladas...oh really anything Mexican in this household!  I saw these enchiladas from Healthy Delicious, via Pinterest and they sounded so good!  And healthy, double bonus!  They are packed full of spinach and spicy pablanos and I also added some portobello mushrooms & black beans.  I'm going to start incorporating more vegetarian meals into our lives because if you think about it, meat is usually one of the biggest expenses on the grocery bill.  Veggie options will hopefully save us some money because eating healthy sure does get expensive!

spinach, portobellos, and roasted pablano

saute the veggies

sorry, enchiladas are not the prettiest thing to photograph

added a dollop of homemade guac over the top

Spinach, Poblano and Cheese Enchiladas
1 poblano pepper, roasted & diced
1 large portobello mushroom cap, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
10 ounces frozen spinach
1 cup black beans
shredded cheese
6-8 6-inch corn tortillas
1 can red enchilada sauce

Optional: Roast your pablano pepper under your oven's broiler rotating until skin is charred and bubbled, usually takes about 5-10 minutes total.  Once cool enough to handle, run under cool water and peel skin off.  Discard stem and seeds, then dice pepper. 

Add the peppers, mushroom, spinach, and garlic to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the veggies begin to slightly soften. Remove from heat.

Spoon a little bit of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a baking dish – just enough sauce to create a very thin coating.

To form the enchiladas: Place a small amount of cheese, veggies, & black beans into each tortilla.  Roll, then place in the baking pan and repeat with other tortillas.* Cover with the rest of the sauce, and top with a light sprinkle of cheese.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Top with sour cream or guacamole if desired.

*Note:  I actually froze mine at this point.  A week later, I took them out of the freezer, topped with remaining sauce, and threw them straight in the oven.  They don't hold up as well this way, but they still taste great!  (Hence the messy looking pictures!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pork Chili Verde

Can I just say this might be the best chili I've ever made.  It was so incredibly good!  My friend at work came in last Monday and told me about this fantastic chili her and her boyfriend made over the weekend.  (I absolutely love having a friend at work to talk recipes with!)  Anyway she told me the basics and I thought I could recreate it pretty easily.  I did a search in order to find out how to made a tomatillo salsa and found this recipe via Simply Recipes

I followed it pretty closely, but if you don't like spicy I would suggest using just one jalopeno to start out.  You never know how spicy they will be!  I didn't end up adding any pablanos because we used some spicy jalopenos.  The pork was so tender and the flavors were awesome!  I added some pinto beans and Corey also added rice to his.  We served it with yummy corn bread muffins which were the perfect side (or crumbled on top)!  We also topped it with sour cream, but it would be really yummy with avocado too if you wanted!

tomatillos before removing the husks

ready to roast my veggies

salsa verde

searing the pork

seared, not cooked through

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos
5 garlic cloves, not peeled
2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
2 Anaheim or Poblano chiles (optional)
1 bunch cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped
3 1/2 to 4 pounds pork shoulder (also called pork butt), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh oregano or 1 Tbsp of dried oregano
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cinnamon
1 can pinto beans

1 Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cut in half and place cut side down, along with 5 unpeeled garlic cloves and jalopenos, on a foil-lined baking sheet (and pablanos if using). Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle, remove the skin, seeds, and stem.
2 Place tomatillos, skins included, into blender. Remove the now roasted garlic cloves from their skins, add them to the blender. Add chopped Jalapeño peppers, other chilies (if you are using them), and cilantro to the blender. Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed.
3 Season the pork cubes generously with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a stockpot over medium high heat and brown pork chunks well on all sides. Work in batches so that the pork is not crowded in the pan and has a better chance to brown well. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, lift pork out of pan and place in bowl, set aside.
4 Pour off excess fat, anything beyond a tablespoon (I didn't have any), and place the onions and garlic in the same skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until limp, about 5 minutes. Add the pork and the oregano to the pan. Add the tomatillo chile verde sauce to the pork and onions. Add the chicken stock (enough to cover the meat). Add the cumin and a pinch of cinnamon or cloves. Add a little salt and pepper.
5 Bring to a boil and reduce to a slight simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours uncovered or until the pork is fork tender. Add the beans and warm through.  Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, chili powder, garlic, or whatever else you may like. Serve with cornbread, avocado, sour cream, or shredded cheese.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Apple Pie Cupcakes w/ Cinnamon Frosting

These cupcakes were yummy.  Not too sweet and definitely reminded me of apple pie!  Recipe via Pinterest from AlpineBerryI halved the recipe to only make 12.  These were very easy despite the long looking recipe!  The perfect fall cupcake!

2 1/4 all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
9 ounces (2 sticks plus 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon or orange zest
1 cup (8 fluid ounces) whole milk

Apple Topping
3 tbsp (40 g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Cinnamon Frosting
12 ounces (3 sticks / 340g) unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

To cook the apples
Place butter and sugar in a large fry pan over low-medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add apple slices and cook for 8-10 minutes or until apples are lightly caramelized. Remove apples from pan and let cool completely.

To make the cupcakes
Preheat oven to 325F. Line 24 muffin wells with paper liners.

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside dry ingredients.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides if the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla and grated zest.

On low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until flour is barely incorporated. Add the milk and mix until just smooth.

Divide the batter among lined muffin wells, filling each well about 2/3 full. Top with the apples.

Bake at 325F until a cake tested comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool cupcakes on cooling racks. Make sure cupcakes are completely cooled before frosting.

To frost the cupcakes
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the confectioner's sugar and cinnamon and beat for another 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with an icing spatula or piping bag. Optional: Lightly dust frosted cupcakes with 2-3 tsp ground cinnamon.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Our bible study threw a little mini surprise shower or "sprinkle" as I've learned its called last night for one of the couples who is expecting their second baby shortly.  They are having a boy and their first was a girl so they were in need of some little boy things!  We are so blessed to have found such a great group of friends in this bible study.  So we of course all enjoyed spoiling them just a bit!  I decided to make cupcakes (which I'll share the recipe for) but also wanted to make some type of dip.  My friend Jenn makes the best low fat spinach dip with feta.  I decided to make that but also include some artichokes & mozzarella and served it warm.  Yum, this stuff was eaten up right away, I only wish I had doubled the recipe!

4 cups spinach, fresh & chopped
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
4 oz light cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup skim mozzarella cheese, divided in half
1/4 cup chives, minced
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Place spinach in small saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring until spinach wilts.  Mix all ingredients, except 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese in baking dish, taste & add salt if desired.  Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese over the top.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until warm and cheese is bubbly and melted over the top.  Serve with tortilla chips or crackers of choice.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lemon Bars

Oh my goodness, I can't even describe how yummy these were!  Lemon bars are one of Corey's faves so when I needed to make something for a work dessert pitch in, I immediately thought of these!  I searched for the recipe on Two Peas & Their Pod and of course found it right away.  I had always made lemon bars out of the boxed version and never realized how incredibly easy they are homemade!  Literally the only ingredient I didn't already have at home was 1 lemon, that's all it took!  And they tasted so much better truly homemade.

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Lemon Filling:
Zest of one large lemon
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs


1. Preheat to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 by 8 Pyrex dish with cooking spray and dust with flour. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and powdered sugar on medium speed. Turn the mixer to low and add in the flour and salt. Mix until combined and smooth. Press the crust dough into the prepared pan. Make sure the crust is evenly spread out. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.
3. In a medium bowl, rub the lemon zest and sugar together with your fingers until fragrant. Add in the lemon juice, flour, baking powder, and eggs. Mix until well combined and the sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture over baked crust.
4. Bake for 20 more minutes, or until the lemon filling is set and slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Let the bars cool and set. Cut into squares and serve.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Zucchini "Lasagna"

This isn't really lasagna at all...not even any lasagna noodles involved.  It's really pretty healthy actually!  Also, incredibly easy.  You could absolutely make homemade pesto if you would like, however I did not.  I am a horrible gardener.  I tried again this year and my tomato plants once again took over the rest of the garden space and crowded my basil - along with everything else.  And I really can't find any fresh basil in the store that looks purchased jar of pesto it was!  Recipe found via pinterest...originally from Not Eating out in NY.  We had this with some baked Flounder topped with a little pesto and some tomatoes, sprinkled with garlic & parmesan.

Zucchini Lasagna (without the pasta sheets)(makes one square, 8″ x 8″ lasagna, or about 6 servings)
3 medium-large zucchinis, yellow squashes or other summer squashes, ends trimmed
8 oz. ricotta
1 egg
about 1/4 cup pesto
about 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
about 1/4 cup grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice zucchini and squashes lengthwise into about 1/8-inch thick slices. You should have at least 20 long pieces for layers. Drizzle all the pieces with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper on each side.

Gently beat the egg and mix in thoroughly with the ricotta. Stir in a pinch of salt and pepper.

Lightly oil the bottom of a square casserole dish. Arrange four large squash slices on the bottom. Spread 1/3 of the pesto on top. Arrange another layer of squash pieces, horizontally in relation to the last layer. Spread half the ricotta on top. Add another layer of squash pieces and spread another 1/3 of the pesto. Add another layer of squash pieces and spread the remaining ricotta. Add another layer of squash pieces and spread the remaining pesto.

Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano and bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until top is lightly browned (I actually cooked mine about 25 or 30 minutes...until the zucchini is tender). Let cool for at least five minutes and serve.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pasta with Lemon Ricotta Cream Sauce

Found this pasta dish on Heather's Dish and immediately wanted to make it.  We love ricotta and I knew that the lemon would make it really interesting!  I had never thought of making a pasta sauce with ricotta so I had to try this out.  The recipe suggested cooking the sauce down for 3-4 minutes so it could thicken, but I would do this differently next time.  We thought it got too thick and wasn't creamy enough and ended up adding some half & half.  I'm sharing how I would fix this next time.  The flavor of the lemon was seriously so yummy and refreshing though!

1 lb pasta (I used whole wheat thin spaghetti)
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
1/2 cup half & half (optional if needed)
3 tablespoons butter (optional if needed)
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
5 garlic cloves
juice & zest from 1 lemon
2 chicken breasts, italian seasoning for chicken
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400.  Place broccoli florets on baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, minced garlic cloves, and S&P.  Roast for 30 minutes in the oven or until tender.  While broccoli is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet, season chicken on both sides and cook through (about 5 minutes per side).  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain the pasta together, reserving 1/2 cup of the water.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, slice thinly.  In the pasta pot over very low heat whisk together the ricotta, pasta water, milk, cream, & butter, whisking constantly.  Add the garlic powder and about 1/2 tsp of black pepper.  Add the lemon zest and juice and heat until just heated through.  Remove from heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese until melted.  Fold in the chicken, broccoli, and pasta.  Serve hot!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pork Tenderloin w Cherries & Balsamic Glaze

I have absolutely loved cherries this summer.  Its the first summer I've ever bought them because I think I've been a little scared of the pits.  Then my sister told me how sweet they were, and now I am so glad I tried them!  I have mostly been just eating them straight out of the bag, but decided to actually cook with them for once.  I saw this Cherry Glazed Pork Tenderloin with fresh thyme on Our Life in the Kitchen and loved the idea!  I sort of made a glaze with the cherries the same way I did with the peaches on this pork tenderloin.  And I drizzled it with some reduced balsamic vinegar.

1 to 1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin 
Salt & Pepper 
1 1/2 cups pitted & halved fresh cherries
3 tablespoons sugar 
1/4 cup water 
teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat grill to medium heat. 

Start by making your cherry glaze.  Add cherries, sugar, & water to a saucepan and continue to cook down cherries until they break down and water gets thicker.
Slice tenderloin in half if it is too thick so you can get even cooking (mine was already sliced when I opened the package).  Sprinkle both sides liberally with salt, pepper, and thyme. 

Pour half of the cherries over the tenderloin and reserve the rest for later. 

Bake tenderloin at 400 for 25 to 30 minutes then check every 5 minutes after if not cooked through.  Pork should still be very slightly pink on the inside.

While pork is cooking, bring balsamic to a boil in a small saucepan and simmer until reduced by half.
Slice pork, top with remaining cherry sauce, and drizzle with balsamic.