Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Spice Protein Cookies with Dark Chocolate

Here's wishing you all a very Happy Halloween!!!!!!
And what better way is there to celebrate a holiday that's dedicated to providing an all time sugar high, than by baking a healthy treat instead?  Don't think I'm being a total party pooper though, I've had candy bars sitting in the bottom of my pantry for about a week or so, and I can proudly say that I haven't even been tempted by them.  For me, that's a huge step forward in the healthy eating department.  I'm proud to say that I've been doing well. 

Ok.....back on topic.....I think that I may have said this last October, but I'm going to say it again, just in case; I've never been a big fan of Halloween and I really debated whether or not to pass out candy.  I didn't debate this because I don't like the holiday, but mostly because we never seem to have too many trick-or-treaters.  However, I remembered how much I do enjoy seeing the little kids in their creative costumes, and seeing that we're in a new housing development, that has grown a lot since last October, I decided that we would, yet again, take part in the tradition.  It's hard to know what the night will hold, though.  For example, one little girl last year didn't even want the candy she had originally come to the door for, instead she just sat down on our front porch wanting to play with our dogs, while another little boy gave us his goldfish crackers in exchange for a piece of candy.  Kids can be so cute. 

Ok.....back to the Pumpkin Protein Cookies now........I was originally looking for something that would be a healthier alternative to candy, yet would still meet our need for sweets on this eccentric holiday.  I've seen quite a few recipes out on the Internet recently, for protein cookies or protein balls, and I've been wanting to try them.  However, I really wanted to keep with the theme of the holiday.  That's why I decided to take the idea of protein cookies and add the flavor of pumpkin into the mix.  Here is the delicious and nutritious result........

Pumpkin Pie Spice Protein Cookies with Dark Chocolate
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Makes 20-24 cookies depending on size
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup almond milk
1 TBSP. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 ½ scoops vanilla whey protein powder
1 TBSP. agave nectar
1 TBSP. molasses
2 TBSP. ground flaxseed
¼ cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl, place all the ingredients together, and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Drop small spoonful’s of ‘dough’ onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, press the cookies down a little, and then place in the oven for 15-18 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cookies and Cream Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake

Wow, it always amazes me how quickly time flies!  I know that I haven't posted anything new in a few days, but I had a very busy and fun filled weekend.  Jeff and I flew out to Las Vegas!  We mostly went because there was a big conference, at Mandalay Bay, that Jeff was attending, but it also provided me the chance to visit with my family, which is always worthwhile. 

Throughout the years, I've learned that the nice thing about having family out in Vegas is that I don't have to spend my entire trip just walking up and down The Strip.  I actually get to see what life's like in the surrounding areas.  However, I was a little bummed this trip.  Due to my injury, I couldn't do the one thing I like best, and that's to go hiking in Red Rock Canyon.  If you ever get the chance to go out to the canyon, take it!  The landscape is so incredibly beautiful and the trails are definitely challenging and fun!

Seeing that we couldn't go hiking, we had to try to find other forms of entertainment, which we did.  Sadly though, I did not come back to North Carolina a big winner.  However, I did have fun losing $40 while playing various slot machines.  That's pretty much all I will ever play.  I'm not really what some may consider a big gambler and it always amazes me to watch people just throw their money away.  One man I was watching lost $300 in just 2 spins of the roulette wheel, and another man lost over $500 playing just a few hands of black jack.  It's like they weren't aware that they could have just given the money to me and I'd have appreciated it way more than the casino we were in.  Oh well, maybe next time.

Now that I'm home again, I'd really like to get back to my daily routine, but sadly, I've been sick.  For some reason it seems that every time I fly on an airplane I get sick afterwards.  I think it has something to do with being in a confined area with others who could possibly be sick.  This is just another reason that I prefer to drive places.  However, I must admit that flights into, and out of Vegas are always quite entertaining.  You really do see the most "interesting" people on board those flights.

Don't worry, I'm almost done with my rambling, but before I get to today's recipe, I have just a couple more little things to share with you.........

As most of my loyal readers already know, I'm definitely big on challenges.  I absolutely love proving that I can do things and rise to any occasion.  Therefore, I have my November workout challenge ready to go. 

For the past few months or so, creating a workout calendar is something that I've been doing and sharing with friends around me.  This month however, I decided to put it on my blog, to share with all of you.  If you choose to complete this November workout challenge, please feel free to modify any portion of the exercises that you may need to, in order to meet your individual needs.  Usually I have running added onto the master calendar, in addition to the workouts, but, at least for the month of November, I was told that I'm not allowed to run.  That won't stop me though from adding in some incline treadmill walking, at least as soon as I'm able to.

Here's the link to the individual workouts that are listed on the master calendar...... workouts.  If you have any trouble deciphering the calendar, especially after you look at the individual workouts, just let me know.

In addition to my workout and food challenges, I've been given another one......To start my own business.  I've always been one who believes in signs and everything recently has been pointing in that direction.  For one thing, I've very recently left teaching, providing me the time I'd need to dedicate to a business.  I also met a young man on my flight back from Vegas, who created his own successful business, and he was kind enough to give me ideas.  In addition to that, and the very next day, my friend Mark, who also runs his own business, sent me information about a great location.  In addition to all this, my husband Jeff has been very supportive, and has also been encouraging me for quite some time now.  I'm beginning to feel that it's something I need to look into.

So, enough rambling for now.  Here's today's recipe!  It's really pretty simple to make, and I can't believe I haven't shared it yet, mostly seeing that I drink it at least once a day.

Cookies and Cream Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake
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1 scoop cookies and cream flavor protein powder
2 cups water
½ cup milk (I use vanilla almond milk)
¼ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
¼ - ½ a frozen banana
1 TBSP. creamy peanut butter
Ice (desired amount, I use 3-4 cubes, but I like my shake thin)

Place all of the ingredients together in a blender and mix until completely combined.  (I love using my NutriBullet)  Pour into a glass and enjoy!  I always garnish with a little cinnamon.

For a creamier shake, use more milk than water.  You could also blend in an Oreo cookie, for more of a cookies and cream taste.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kale Salad

Yesterday was a success!  I definitely stuck to my goal of healthy eating.  My husband, Jeff, even came home with a box of decadent Ghirardelli chocolates, that were given to him as a gift, and he asked me if I wanted one.  This was super nice of him to ask, but I proudly said, "No, I'm dedicated to focusing on nutrition and healthy eating." 

I know that I can't, and won't, go back to my old mindset that would have told me, it's ok....have one tiny square, what harm could it do.  So, even though it might not seem like a big deal that I turned down the chocolate, I'm still proud of myself.  It shows me that I'm taking steps in the right direction, mostly due to the fact that I know how much I enjoy chocolate.

Let's get to today's post though.........

This recipe, which is one for kale salad, is actually one that was given to me by my personal trainers.  I'd consider it to be more of a side item, but it could easily be a meal; especially if you eat as much of it as I do.  I absolutely love, and am completely addicted to this stuff.  It's very inexpensive to make too and only takes a few minutes to prepare!  Win, win!  So grab a fork, and enjoy!

Kale Salad
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Kale (as much as you would like)
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Cut the kale into whatever size pieces you’d prefer.  I, personally, like to chop mine up pretty small.  Once it’s ready, place the cut kale into a bowl, then drizzle in some olive oil; about just enough to lightly coat the kale.

Now, cut a lemon in half and squeeze half of the lemon juice over the kale and olive oil.  Next, sprinkle in a desired amount of Parmesan cheese.

Toss the salad together and taste.

This salad is entirely up to you.  If you think it needs more olive oil, add some.  If you think it needs more cheese, add some.  I think you get the idea. 

***Tip***It’s easy to add more of the ingredients, but not remove them.  Therefore, start off with a little, and continue to add more if you think it needs it. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hot Ham and Cheese Spaghetti Squash with Chicken

For those of you who read my blog post yesterday, you're already aware that I've recently injured myself.  I absolutely hate the fact that my working out, at least for now, has become limited.  If I were to describe my personality to you, I'd have to say that I have some rather distinctive character traits.  I'm definitely the type of person who doesn't let things stand in my way, especially if someone tells me that I can't do something.  Typically, that just makes me want to do it all the more. 

However, at least for now, I sadly know that I'm limited in my physical abilities and it kills me.  Mostly because working out is such a huge portion of my life and has been for awhile now.  Due to my injury though, it can be painful at times just to walk.  With that being said it looks like, at least for now, I'll have to direct my attention/dedication elsewhere.  I'm definitely not the type of person though, who's just going to sit around feeling sorry for myself.

With that being said, I'm choosing to focus my attention on nutrition.  Throughout the past few years I've definitely gotten down the fitness routine, but my eating habits haven't always gone along with it.  Growing up I was always a skinny child, and then I hit puberty and kind of inflated.  After that, I tended to struggle a little bit with my weight, usually averaging between 140-155 pounds.  I was always in the mindset though, that I wanted to lose some weight, but was never motivated enough to actually go workout.  Believe it or not, as much as I love running now, I use to skip my jogging class in college. 

Then, one day, after seeing how successful a colleague/friend of mine was with her own weight loss journey, I decided to make a change to my diet and start exercising too.  Ultimately, that was one of the best decisions I've ever made.  My goal at the time was just to get back down to my wedding weight, which was 132 pounds.  Once I hit that goal though, I decided to keep going.  The journey I made was by no means an easy one.  I had to give up things that I enjoyed and it didn't happen overnight, but I honestly never felt so good about myself.  It definitely presented a physical challenge, and, as some people know, I'm always up for a good challenge.

Looking back now, I want to have that feeling of accomplishment again, because there's really nothing else like it.  So, let's take a journey together, and if you want to keep up with how I'm doing, than you can continue to read my posts.  Otherwise, you can choose to just look at, and maybe make, my delicious recipes.


Today's recipe was actually my lunch yesterday, and lucky for me, I have some leftovers for today.  I've tried once before to cook a spaghetti squash, and it didn't turn out so well (meaning it wasn't exactly stringy like it was suppose to be, but rather a little clumpy).  Therefore, I decided to "Google" spaghetti squash to see exactly where I went wrong.  This time around, I learned from my mistakes and it turned out perfectly. 

*Helpful Tip* - When you go to remove the squash from the shell, you first have to pry it apart from all sides and then pull it apart using a fork or your fingers (make sure to let it cool some before doing this).  Here's a helpful youtube video that shows you exactly what to do.    

Important FYI.....Spaghetti squash is currently in season, and they look absolutely gorgeous!  They're both large in size and the perfect color, which means delicious tasting squash!  That's why, despite my injury, I'm actually going to go to the store again this afternoon.  I'd like to purchase one or two more squash, which means that there should be some new recipes posted here very soon.

Hot Ham and Cheese Spaghetti Squash with Chicken
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Servings: 1
1 half of a spaghetti squash
Olive oil
Garlic powder
1 can chunk chicken, drained (I heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds
2 oz. diced boneless ham cubes
1 triangle light laughing cow cheese (I used white cheddar, but choose your favorite)
Black pepper
Chili powder
Parmesan cheese
4-5 sprays of I can’t Believe It’s not Butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Very carefully (they are difficult to penetrate) cut a spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise.  Place both of the halves, face up, onto a baking sheet and then spread some olive oil onto each half, just to keep it moist while baking.  After the olive oil has been spread on, sprinkle just a little bit of garlic powder on top, but be careful not to add too much.  I probably sprinkled about 1 tsp. of powder onto each half.  Once ready, place the baking sheet into the oven and let cook for 45-50 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the squash to cool for 10 minutes, or until you can work with it without burning yourself.  Pry one of the squash halves from the side of the shell, using a fork, and then toss around to get the noodle formation.  (If you are cooking for more than 1, do the same thing to the other half and double the recipe)

Place the ‘noodles’ from 1 half of the squash into a bowl and add in the laughing cow cheese.  Toss around, using a fork, until the cheese is completely melted (make sure not to smash the noodles).  Now, add in the chicken and the ham, followed by a dash of black pepper, chili powder, and a few sprays of butter.  Once again, toss around with a fork until everything is well combined.  Then, sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese and serve warm!
Source: Bowl of Creativity original

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pesto Chicken

Wait a minute!  Is this actually a healthy post?  Why yes, yes it is and it's mostly because I've been doing a lot of thinking and decided that enough is enough.  I truly need to go back to eating healthy and stop just saying that I will.  It's so easy to talk the talk, but not actually follow through.  I was definitely proud of myself this summer too and was doing great, especially when it came to watching my food intake in combination with working out.  While others I know were eating BBQ chicken, ribs, and things like that, I was eating salads, lean proteins, eggs, fruits and veggies.  Then school started.......which means my stress level sky rocketed.  This is bad, especially for me, because I can admit that I'm what you might call a stress eater.  Each time that I'd have a little bite or two of something unhealthy, I'd secretly tell myself that, it's ok, a little of this and a little of that won't make a difference. 

Looking back now however, things add up, and my pants are telling a different story.

I know that some of my friends might be rolling their eyes as they read this post, and thinking to themselves that, "she doesn't need to lose any weight", and I am fully aware of that.  That's not what this is about.  I know that I'm by no means overweight, or what some may call 'fat', but I'm personally not where I want to be.  My goal is to get back down to where my pants fit comfortably and also regain some of the muscle mass that I've lost, not to necessarily lose weight.  I know that it shouldn't take long either, especially once I'm able to get back to my normal workout routine.  Unfortunately, my running injury is holding me up slightly.  I just found out that I have a small stress fracture on my pelvic bone and that it will take some time and needs to heal naturally.  This setback is just another reason why eating clean and healthy is going to be important.  Even after I reach my goals though, I still want to remain focused on proper food intake.  I honestly feel so much better about myself, both physically and mentally, when I do.

***FYI though, even though my personal goal is to eat healthy and clean, there will continue to be posts on my blog that consist of scrumptious looking cakes, cookies, and other sweets in general, mostly because that's sort of what I do.  I bake things for others!  I'm just going to have to become better about not taste testing things myself (knowing that I'll have to confess my slip ups here will help hold me accountable) and leave that up to my wonderful taste tester, and husband, Jeff.***

So, to get us started, today's recipe is going to be a healthy one.  Recently, I've become a big fan of pesto.  I was actually introduced to it, for the first time, a little over a year ago, when a friend of mine brought some to a bridal shower that we were throwing.  Since then, I've incorporated it into numerous recipes, including this one, for pesto chicken.  This particular pesto recipe is super easy to make, and does not require much preparation.  Therefore, if you're looking for a super quick and easy dinner, this is it!

Pesto Chicken
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Servings: 2-3
2 (or more) chicken breasts cut into strips
½ cup basil pesto
½ - ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray an 8x8” baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray and then pour in a thin layer of pesto, evenly spreading it across the bottom of the dish.  Next, lay on top of the pesto the cut up chicken strips.   

After that, pour the remaining pesto evenly over the chicken strips, cover the dish with aluminum foil, and place it in the oven for 30-35 minutes.

Once ready, remove the foil, sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese, and a little Parmesan cheese, then place back in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.  I like my cheese to turn a little brown, so after 5 minutes, I put it on broil.  Keep a close eye on the dish though, because it will brown quickly.

Remove from the oven, and enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Three Cheese Tortellini Bake

Bring on the cheese!

My first reaction to this recipe was, 'shut the front door, that looks like heaven'.  If you are anything like me then you absolutely love cheese!  I definitely try my hardest to cut it out of my life, I just can't.  Cheese and I have a secret love affair, and I'm not picky when it comes to what type.....except maybe Swiss, yeah....I'm not a big fan.  Now for my sad confession....I can easily go through a bag of cheese a week, and I'm not talking about the little bags, I'm actually talking about the large ones, which makes me fear what my arteries might look like.  I honestly think I may need a cheese support group.

Anyway.....time to get back on track, because who really wants to read this?  I know your type, you're more interested in the recipe itself, so let me just say this last thing....This three cheese tortellini bake is absolutely delicious!  The meal turns out warm, creamy, and very flavorful. 

Recommendation: It would go great paired with a mini side salad, or a piece of garlic bread.

Three Cheese Tortellini Bake
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1 bag (19-20 oz.) of frozen, 3 cheese tortellini
1 jar (15 oz.) alfredo sauce (I use Classico light)
½ jar marinara sauce
Shredded Mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese
Dash of red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8x8” baking pan with a nonstick cooking spray.

Cook the tortellini following the directions on the package.  Drain, and add in the marinara and alfredo sauces.  Also sprinkle in some red pepper flakes and then toss the ingredients together until the pasta is evenly coated.  Now, pour the prepared tortellini into the baking dish, and top with your desired amount or mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Place the dish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Once the cheese has melted, broil the dish for about 3-5 more minutes, or until the cheese starts to turn a light golden brown.  Remove the dish from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Source: Slightly adapted from Key Ingredient

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Truffle Brownies, with a Kiss

I absolutely love that Autumn's in full swing and that I can take advantage of fall baking.  I'm one who likes to eat with my eyes though, and hardly ever devours what I make.  Usually I'll only sample a small bite or two, because I really do try to eat healthy.  This can be incredibly difficult at times though, because I know how much I love sweets.  To some, this information may be a little shocking, especially looking at the recipes I post; but hey, I'm married and my husband is not a fan of "rabbit food".  However, now that I have time again, some more of my healthier recipes may start to make an appearance.  Today's recipe though, is NOT one of them!

Be warned that these pumpkin spice truffle brownies, with a kiss, are extremely rich, but absolutely delicious!  And yes, I caved and sampled a bite or two, how could I not?  Pumpkin Spice Hersey Kisses are one of my favorites and they only come around once a year!

Pumpkin Spice Truffle Brownies with a Kiss
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Servings – about 12-16, depending on size
Truffle Brownies:
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
6 oz. butter
3 eggs
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda

Pumpkin Kiss Ganache:
1 bag (10 oz.) Hersey’s Pumpkin Kisses
½ cup heavy cream

Dark Chocolate Ganache:
4 oz. dark chocolate (I used a little more)
5 TBSP. butter
1 ½ tsp. light corn syrup

For the Truffle Brownies:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray an 8x8” square baking pan with a nonstick cooking spray; set aside.  Melt the chocolate and butter together.  In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, espresso powder, salt and baking soda.

Now, in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the eggs and sugar until the eggs have begun to thicken and turn lighter in color.  This may take 2-3 minutes.  Once ready, mix in the vanilla and then pour in the melted chocolate/butter mixture.  Also add in the flour mixture and lightly beat until just combined.  Pour the batter into the baking pan and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes, rotating halfway through.  (FYI – The brownies will sink back down some as they cool)

Remove the brownies from the oven and allow to cool completely, on a wire rack, before adding on the layers of ganache.

Pumpkin Kiss Ganache:
Bring the heavy cream to a gently boil, and then pour over the Hersey Kisses.  Allow the mixture to sit for about 30 seconds and then stir together until completely smooth.  Let the ganache sit until slightly cooled and then pour the mixture over the completely cooled brownies.  Refrigerate until hardened, this may take an hour or two.

Chocolate Ganache:
Melt the butter and chocolate together (you may do this in the microwave or over the stovetop).  Once ready, stir in the light corn syrup and then pour over the brownies and the pumpkin kiss ganache.  Now, place the brownies back into the refrigerator until the chocolate ganache has hardened and you are ready to serve them.

To serve:
Once ready to enjoy, cut though the brownies with a clean, hot knife.  Top each piece with a Pumpkin Spice Hersey Kiss and enjoy!

Source: Buttercream Blondie

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Doritos Chicken Casserole Supreme

It's been awhile since my last post, but life's been incredibly busy and stressful.  Work's just been overwhelming, and it seems like I've had no time to do anything that I enjoy, including cooking.  Lately, dinners have just been, "what can I find in the pantry tonight?" which is definitely frustrating to me, mostly because cooking is one of my major passions, other than of course, working out.

Therefore, after a lot of debating, I've decided to make a life change and leave the teaching profession.  Turning in my 30 days notice was probably the hardest decision that I've ever made, and yet the easiest at the same time.  For those of you who read my blog, and are teachers, I'm sure you understand why I did it.  I'll truly miss all of my students, both past and present, because they really have become a part of who I am as a person.  I know that I taught them many things, but in reality they also taught me.  In addition to my students, I'll also miss my actual "job", because I honestly love teaching.  The reality and the sad thing is though, that we, as teachers, hardly ever get to do our actual job.  Instead, we're expected to do so many other things that take us away from the actual teaching portion of the job.  As of this moment, I'm not really sure what's next for me, but for the next few months or so I'm just going to focus on what I love to do, cook, bake, travel, and exercise.

On that note, I'm excited to share a delicious new recipe!  I used enchilada supreme flavor Doritos for this recipe, and they were delicious, but I think it may have just been a special limited time flavor, so please note that any type of Doritos would work well with this casserole!

Doritos Chicken Casserole Supreme
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3 cups cooked chicken, cubed (I season with just a little chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder while cooking)
8 oz. reduced fat sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 ½ cups salsa or 1 can Hot Rotel
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, or fiesta blend
1 bag of Doritos Jacked Enchilada Supreme (or nacho cheese flavor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly coat a 9x13” baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray.

Crush the entire bag of Doritos into pieces and evenly sprinkle the pieces across the bottom of the baking dish. 
In a medium bowl, mix together the chicken, sour cream, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, salsa or Rotel, corn, black beans, about a cup of the cheese.  Once the ingredients are well combined, pour the mixture over the crushed Doritos.  Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. 
Source: Adapted from Plain Chicken