Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tasty Snack Tuesday - Oatmeal Pancakes

Yes, pancakes.  Delicious pancakes.

But, pancakes that have almost no sugar, are packed with protein, and yet still taste great!  And I will not give you the side-eye if you decide to make these and toss in a few chocolate chips (which I would love to do after my chocolate fast).

I of course found these pancakes on trusty Pinterest.  They belong to a collection of Biggest Loser recipes, which I would usually pass right over due to certain brand endorsements of theirs that I don't care for, but after taking a look at the specs of this recipe, I thought it was worth it to give them a try.  And I am so glad I did!

As you can see in the picture, I added peanut butter and strawberries to mine.  I LOVE peanut butter sandwiches, and they taste unbelievably phenomenal when you put fresh strawberries on them instead of the jam of your choice.  So, I really wanted a PB and strawberry sandwich today, but wanted a non-sandwich.  That makes sense, right?  Of course it does.  Anyway, check out the recipe and then I'll give you a few more details about it:

Biggest Loser Oatmeal Pancakes

3 egg whites
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 teaspoon sugar
cinnamon (the recipe says 1 teaspoon, you know me, I just dumped some in)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients and stir with a fork until everything is nicely combined.  Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to drop batter onto a griddle or skillet that has been heated to medium.  When the pancakes are nicely bubbling, flip them over and cook a couple of more minutes, until they're golden brown.  The recipe above yielded 6 pancakes for me.  Enjoy with your choice of topping!

I know what some of you may be thinking - cottage cheese?!   That was my thought too, and I love cottage cheese.  I can assure you, these pancakes do not taste like cottage cheese.  If you're afraid of the texture, you could always blend the cottage cheese with an immersion blender or put it in your food processor for a few pulses to make it completely smooth.  However, I didn't notice any lumps of cottage cheese.  I think the oatmeal really takes over for that.

If you make these, you can eat 3 pancakes, and save the other 3 for a snack, or have the whole stack for a super healthy hearty meal.  3 pancakes (if you use 1% cottage cheese) will give you 150 calories, 19 carbs, 2 grams of fat, and a whopping 14 grams of protein.  And these aren't baby-sized pancakes!  I nibbled on one and then used 2 more for my "sandwich" pieces with the peanut butter and a few strawberries, and that made for a great lunch.  Also, I put the teaspoon of sugar in the recipe, but honestly, its so little that I don't feel like it was even necessary.  I would probably just add more cinnamon and an extra splash of vanilla when I make these again, which I will definitely be doing!

I hope you are having a great week so far!  Stay tuned for a great workout post later this week... I'll give you a little tidbit... it contains burpees.  A lot of burpees.  So the bad news is it will kick your booty, but the good news is it will kick your booty!

Recipe adapted from Biggest Loser Recipes

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sweet Sunday - Monkey Bread French Toast Casserole

I told you I had something quite delicious coming to you for Sweet Sunday!

Some time before Christmas, I think, I was catching up on my saved-up episodes of Rachael Ray.  Simply stated, I love Rachael.  When it comes to food, she is about as real as it gets.  She makes delicious meals, appeals to those of us on budgets, and when she has "diet people" on her show, she is honest and tells them that there is no way she is going to eat that tiny "appropriate" serving of pasta.  I aspire to have her fearlessness when it comes to food in this way.

Anyway.  Chris and I are were watching this particular show, which may have been part of a breakfast-themed week of recipes, and here comes not just monkey bread.... not just french toast..... not even just banana bread, but...... monkey bread french toast casserole!  As Rachael would say, shut the front door!

Now, I will be completely honest with you and tell you that my first couple of bites just felt kind of meh.  But then, as the casserole cooled down (because I can NEVER let something cool the appropriate length of time.  Ask Chris.  When we were dating, he would make me dinner, and then say, okay, now it has to cool for 10 minutes.  And he would set a timer.  WHAT??  I'm hungry now!)... as I was saying, as the casserole cooled down, the flavors really started to come out.  Surprisingly, the overall flavor is not intensely sweet, but rather balanced.  The texture is more of what I would consider a bread pudding, but having never made a french toast casserole, unless someone can educate me otherwise, maybe this is the texture that such a dish takes on?

Either way, you won't be disappointed, and this recipe is so easy to prepare!  It calls for banana bread (putting the "monkey" in the monkey bread part of the name), but in truth, you could use any bread, even something store-bought (gasp!).  Then you prep the dish the night before and it goes straight from your fridge to the oven.  So simple!

I left out a couple of things from Rachael's recipe (bacon - we didn't have enough, walnuts - Chris doesn't eat them, extra banana slices and maple syrup), so I would encourage you to consider adding these components.  They can only make the recipe even better (and the bacon would make this super savory).  Also, my adaptation is half of the recipe, which, according to Rachael's recipe, would mean using 2-3 cups of cubed banana bread - go ahead and use the whole loaf like I did.  I still could have used a smidge more (though, maybe it would have helped if I hadn't continually nibbled so much of it.... what?  I'm just being honest).  Here's my adaptation:

Monkey Bread French Toast Casserole

1 loaf of your favorite banana bread, cubed and toasted (I will share MY favorite another time)
4 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon cinnamon (trust me, its not too much)
optional extra banana for slicing

The night before you want to serve this, butter a 1.25 quart casserole dish (or anything smaller than a 9x13 pan, like a small corningware dish) and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, milk, and cinnamon.  Once combined, gently add the toasted banana bread cubes and toss to combine.  Pour the mixture into your casserole dish, cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake, still covered with foil, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove the foil, add some banana slices around the edge, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and-


Let the casserole for at least 10 minutes, maybe a little more while you cook up some bacon to go with this dish.

Now, slice into this lovely breakfast and enjoy!

As with any french toast recipe, you could serve this with powdered sugar and/or maple syrup.  Both Chris and I agreed that the casserole by itself was perfect without any extra syrup (shocking to me, this agreement from my die-hard lover of maple-syrup).  Its so moist that I think more syrup would have been too much, but if you are a die-hard syrup lover, by all means, go for it.  I'm certainly not stopping you!

I hope you have a great start to the week!  Stay tuned for more tasty snacks and a workout or two this week!

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fit Friday and a Circuit Workout

Friday's post is coming to you a little bit late because I had my CPR certification class today at the Red Cross.  This is a requirement of most gyms before you can be hired as a trainer, instructor, etc... So, another item along my fitness path can be checked off the list!

Yesterday was Thursday, which means that I usually go to a cardio/strength class, and I follow it up with BodyPump.  BUT, because of the rotten storm that was beginning as my first class was coming to an end, I nixed BodyPump, which left me wanting a little more since I'm used to an extra-long workout on Thursdays.  So, I came home and did this workout (from one of my favorite fitness sites, fitsugar.com), which you can access via the link, and I will also detail it for you below.  It took me in the neighborhood of 30 minutes to complete, which makes for a nice workout if you don't have a lot of time, but still want to work your entire body, and you don't even need weights, just yourself!  You can also find this workout on my Pinterest Fitness-Workouts board.  Here's what you're going to do:

Warm up with 5 minutes of cardio, so 1 minute of each of the following:

high knees
jumping jacks
running in place
jump rope in place
skip in place

(Alternatively, you can replace one or more of these with a move of your choice.  Do what works for you to get your body warm and heart rate up a little.)

Now we're moving onto the circuits.  Do each circuit 3 times before moving onto the next one.

1st Circuit:
20 squats
15 jump squats
10 burpees

2nd Circuit:
20 mountain climbers
15 pushups
10 bridges (I did tricep dips instead)

3rd Circuit:
20 alternating lunges
15 plie squats
10 calf raises

You're not tired yet!  Finish up with some core work.  Do each of the following for 1 minute:

russian twist (if you are familiar with P90X, this is the same as a Mason twist)
elbow plank
bicycle crunches
superman pose

Now take a deep breath and stretch out!

I really liked this workout.  For being relatively short, I had a bit of a sweat at the end, and believe me, your legs especially will be feeling those squats and lunges!

In keeping with my Fit Friday theme, I should give you a note about the pushups challenge.... hold on, I'm taking a big breath as I check my big fat ego at the door.... I can't do it... right now, anyway.  The pain in my rotator cuff was not going away, and it was not that "good" pain, the kind you want.  On the worst day, it burned, a lot, without me even working out.  That's how I knew it was time to take a step back.

My biggest downfall when it comes to working out is that I love it so much that I tend to WAY overdue it.  In the last year, I have really (I think) learned my lessons - and limits - and right now I'm recognizing my limits.  If I want to keep working out in general and try to build strength with BodyPump, I can't add this challenge right now.  And I realized that's okay - better to be strong and healthy than, well, kind of broken.  BUT, Chris is still pushing through and I'll give you his update soon.  But he's doing great!  He also went to his first BodyPump class with me on Monday since he was off for President's Day and he loved it!  I am very proud of him for trying and even more thrilled that he really enjoyed it.  But he did agree, BodyPump will kick your booty.  But it's supposed to :)

Give this workout a try, and if you do, let me know what you think.  Also, if you're ever unsure what a certain move is, let me know, and I'll post some tutorials.  On more than one occasion, I've had to go to Google with just that kind of question.  But that's how we learn!

I hope you're off to a great weekend, and stay tuned for Sunday's post.... I've got something that's going to be delicious!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tasty Snack Tuesday - Cinnamon Roll Scones

You have probably noticed that Tasty Snack Tuesday usually carries a certain degree of healthfulness to it..... so you may be skeptical about today's snack.  But, it is a much lighter recipe when you compare it to the pastries at certain large chain coffee shops, which I'm not saying aren't delicious, I'm just saying that I was completely devastated when I found that my favorite scones - pumpkin spice and cinnamon chip - were nearly 600 calories!  These come in at a little over a third of that - score!

I love the texture of these scones, which I would describe as scone-meets-cinnamon-roll.  The exterior has that delicious golden brown taste and slight crunch, and the inside is nearly fluffy, thanks to the oatmeal in the recipe.  This is also one of the easiest scone recipes I have ever used, and I have made more than my share of scones.  Check out the recipe:

Cinnamon Roll Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dry oatmeal (quick-cooking or old fashioned)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, unsalted
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extraxt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and line your largest baking sheet with parchment paper (or just plan on doing a couple of rounds of baking, no big deal).  In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in the butter until you have what looks like course meal (I learned an awesome way to do this from Joy the Baker - just use your fingers, its so much easier and faster than using a pastry blender or two knives or two forks).  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla, then add that to the large bowl and stir until just combined.  In another small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (or, if you're like me and LOVE cinnamon, just eyeball it, I rarely measure it because it loses so much potency when baked).  Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the dough and, using a knife, swirl it into the batter without completely blending it in.

Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to drop dough onto your baking sheet, leaving at least an inch between dough mounds, yielding 12 scones.  Bake for 11-13 minutes (13 was perfect for me) until golden brown.  Remove from oven to cool.

If you want to make a glaze, feel free to consult the original recipe, or just grab a scoop of powdered sugar, add a splash of vanilla, and then thin it out to your liking with some milk.  You know what would also be great?  Skip the glaze, but before baking, sprinkle with a pinch or two of raw sugar, which tends to give baked goods a delicious caramelized crunch.

 And in case you're wondering, because I would be, when I calculated the calorie content, without the glaze, I came up with 212 calories, 9 grams of fat, 28 carbs, and 4 grams of protein!  I did not include the glaze because I usually just eyeball that part.  I can say with pretty high confidence that I would add 50 calories if you put some glaze on yours, and even if, we're talking 262 calories for a delicious scone!  Over the weekend, when craving something sweet (which, honestly, is pretty often), I would slice one in half and nibble on it.

So go on, make yourself a tasty snack today, and if you make these scones, let me know how you liked them!

Original recipe adapted from Recipe Girl

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sweet (and Savory) Sunday - Herbed Oatmeal Bread and Champagne Cake

How is your President's Day weekend going?  I hope its great and not too cold!  Yesterday for us in St. Louis we had a high of 37 degrees F..... which made for a really chilly day for this:

And see how I'm dressed?  Other than crazy, I know, I was on the very CONSERVATIVE side of what people were wearing!  The rules of the run, which was a mile-long charity event designed to benefit the Children's Tumor Foundation, stated that no pasties and no thongs were allowed.... they didn't say no jock-straps, which is what one guy was indeed wearing!  That was quite a site to see.  You know what was awesome though?  Coming in second place for the ladies!!  And that also put me at fifth or sixth overall!!  I was really excited for that!  Here I am coming to the end behind a William Wallace look-alike:

Was it cold?  Yes.  Was it windy?  Yes.  But was it fun, and would I do it again?  OH YES.  And the charity was really great.  Anything that supports children's services, especially with us being no strangers to Children's Hospital here due to James's metabolic disorder, is a very worthy cause.

Okay, on to some other things I want to share with you finally, DELICIOUS things.  I made this bread to go with Valentine's dinner:

And we finished the night off with this delicious champagne cake, complete with a champagne pastry cream, and a champagne-and-strawberries buttercream:

I'll show you the stratified sample at the end (or you can scroll down if you just can't wait!).  But first, here is the recipe for the bread, slightly adapted:

Herbed Oatmeal Bread

For the bread:

2 packages active dry yeast (about 4 1/2 teaspoons if you're measuring from a jar)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups water, divided
1 cup rolled oats (I used quick-cooking)
3 tablespoons butter
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg

For the herbed butter:

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
6 tablespoons butter, melted, and divided

To  make the bread:  Combine the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm water and 2 teaspoons of sugar.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes to proof (get foamy).  While the yeast is proofing, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the oatmeal, followed by the butter.  While the oatmeal is cooling, mix the flour, sugar, and salt together.  Check on the oatmeal - you want it cool enough that you can put your finger in it without getting burned.  Add the oatmeal, yeast mixture, and the egg to the dry ingredients and mix on low for 5-8 minutes until the dough comes together (you may need a bit more flour, add it a tablespoon at a time).  Your dough will be a bit stiff, but still a little sticky.  Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

While the dough is resting, grease a 9x13 pan.  After the 15 minutes are up, punch the dough down and press it into the greased pan.  Use a sharp nice to (as evenly as possible) slice your dough into 24 pieces.  In a warm place, allow the dough to rest and rise for about 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  With a pastry brush, gently brush 4 tablespoons of butter over the dough, being careful not to deflate it.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  While the bread is baking, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with the parmesan, basil, oregano, and garlic powder.  After the initial 15 minutes, remove the bread from the oven and again, using a pastry brush, spread your herbed mixture over the dough.  Return the pan to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until the bread is a nice golden brown.  TRY not to eat all of the bread!

If you look at the original recipe, you will notice that my beginning techniques are quite a bit different.  Working with active dry yeast, I was afraid to skip the proofing step (which isn't necessary with instant yeast for example), so I modified things a bit.  If you have more confidence than I did, by all means, follow the original recipe exactly.  Whatever you do, you will LOVE this bread.  When it cools down, it is very reminiscent of restaurant breadsticks.  It tastes fantastic warm, fresh from the oven, and still tastes fantastic today, a few days later, having been stored at room temperature, covered.  The texture is so light and fluffy, thanks to the butter and the oatmeal.  Its OH SO delicious and I highly, highly recommend it.

Original bread recipe from The Cooking Actress

And now for the dessert!

Champagne Cake with Champagne Pastry Cream and Champagne and Strawberries Buttercream

For the champagne cake:

2 sticks butter, unsalted
1 cup champagne
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour (or make your own by measuring 1 cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons and replace with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, sift the mixture 3 or 4 times to really incorporate)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used nonfat, plain Greek)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and butter 3 6-inch cake pans (or 2 8-inch pans), and then line with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, salt, and baking soda.  In a small bowl, combine the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla.  Set these bowls aside.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter, and then, over medium-high heat, add the champagne and allow to come to a boil.  Remove from heat and add to the dry ingredients, stirring quickly to incorporate.  Follow with the egg mixture, and stir until just combined.  Divide the batter between pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, though my cakes took about 45 minutes (you want a toothpick inserted into the center to come out clean, or just with a few moist crumbs).

For the champagne pastry cream:

1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup champagne
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine 1/4 cup of heavy cream with the cornstarch, whisking well until combined, then set aside.  Add the remaining cream, champagne, and sugar to a saucepan, and allow to come to a boil, whisking frequently.  Once this mixture boils, remove it from the heat and, in a slow, steady stream, add it to the cornstarch/cream mixture, whisking the entire time so that you don't cook the eggs.  Then, return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture is thick and glossy.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter, followed by the vanilla.  Allow the pastry cream to cool, then transfer to an airtight container, but before placing a lid, lay plastic wrap flush with the surface of the cream (this prevents a skin from forming).  Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the champagne and strawberries buttercream:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon champagne
2 sticks butter, unsalted, room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 large strawberries

In a small saucepan, place 1 cup of champagne over medium-high heat and allow it to simmer until reduced to about 2 tablespoons.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Place strawberries in a food processor and puree until fairly smooth.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with 2 cups of sugar until smooth.  Add the strawberries and all remaining champagne and beat until well-combined.  Add remaining powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time until the buttercream is your desired thickness.  It may take a little more than 4 cups, it may take less.

To assemble, remove the cakes from their pans, peeling off any parchment paper stuck to the bottom.  Slice any domed tops from the cakes so that they are nice and flat.  Feel free to nibble on your cake scraps, as I did.  Quality control is important after all.  Place one cake layer on your chosen serving plate and top with the pastry cream, leaving at least a 1/2 inch of space between the the pastry cream and the edge of the cake.  Place a second cake layer on top and repeat.  Once you have your third and final cake layer in place, you are ready to frost your cake.  I have no instructions for that, just go for it however you want.  Garnish with fresh strawberry slices if you want, like I did.  It doesn't have to be pretty because this cake is so incredibly delicious!  Just take a look at the lovely cross-sections:

I have already said it more than once, but this cake is incredibly delicious.  Its moist, but not dense like a pound cake.  And the champagne flavor comes out surprisingly well.  That was my skepticism with making a champagne cake - that you wouldn't actually be able to taste the champagne.  A few days later now, Chris and I both agree that the flavor has only intensified.  This cake is a fair amount of work, sure, but its worth it, and made an excellent Valentine's dessert.

If you're off tomorrow, enjoy your President's Day Monday, and regardless, I hope you'll have a great start to the week!

Cake recipe adapted from Lovely Layer Cakes

Pastry cream and buttercream recipes adapted from Mrs. Schwartz Kitchen

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fit Friday and a Great Core Workout!

I hope you had a great Valentine's Day!  This weekend, I'll share recipes with you from what I made last night for our dinner and dessert, which, if I do say so myself, were oh SO delicious!  Our meal included the best bread I have ever made, and a cake made with a LOT of champagne.  It was to die for.  But, it's Fit Friday, so we'll save that for later.

Today I have a great core workout to share with you.  I found it on Pinterest some time ago and I like to do it when I am looking for a few minutes of quality ab work, but am tired of my usual routines.  It's named the "Burning Core Pyramid", and believe me, your core will burn, but its a good burn.  You can find the original post here, but I also have it written out for you here:

50 crunches
40 mountain climbers
30 side crunches (that's 30 on EACH side)
20 in and outs
10 scissors
20 in and outs
30 side crunches
40 mountain climbers
50 crunches

I like to add even more variety by doing variations of the listed reps.  For example, I might do the first 50 crunches as regular crunches, then do the last 50 as reverse crunches.  You can make it yours, just make it burn!

Also, here's an update on pushups and crunches!  Here's what this week looks like for pushups:

Day 1 - 18, 22, 16, 16, max (at least 25)
Day 2 - 20, 25, 20, 20, max (at least 28)
Day 3 - 23, 28, 23, 23, max (at least 33)


Day 1 - 32, 38, 32, 32, max (at least 48)
Day 2 - 38, 45, 38, 38, max (at least 54)
Day 3 - 45, 50, 45, 45, max (at least 60)

For both pushups and crunches, the program says to do an exhaustion test at the end of this week to see where you're at for your max.  The program also advises that if you feel you need to repeat a week, go ahead.  You need to be comfortable at the end of each week.  Pushing, but comfortable.  I may need to repeat this week.  A couple of times in the past few weeks, I've worked a little too much during chest presses at BodyPump and have felt the wrong kind of burn in my right rotator cuff (you know what I mean, there's the "good" burn, and there's the "bad" burn, learn the difference, and don't EVER force yourself through the "bad" burn).  So I carefully choose my days of pushups, and I have to set my ego aside and only use my warm-up weight during chest presses in class.

What are your plans for the weekend?  You should come to St. Louis and do this with me!  And anyone giving me the side-eye right now should know that I will NOT be wearing any less than what I would be okay with James seeing someday when he's older, okay?  Its a very short run (only about a mile), and I miss races so very much, but I think my knee can handle a mile, so I signed up!  It will be cold, but fun!

I think that's it for today!  Get your workout on, eat something healthy (you know, to balance out Valentine's Day snacking.... maybe that's just a reminder for me...), and stay tuned for a couple of delicious recipes that you'll want to add to your collection!

Have a GREAT weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

This little guy gave me a present of only getting up one time during the night (around 12:30am) and going right back to sleep in his bed, and then staying put until about 6:45 this morning.  I'll take it!  Our little man James is enjoying some strawberry pancakes that I made him this morning for his Valentine's breakfast.  He is a strawberry monster these days!  He runs to the refrigerator saying "bah-serries!"  Its pretty funny.

Yesterday afternoon - you know, the time I had planned to share some more on the snack front with you - was less than ideal.... but I don't say that with too much annoyance because I know that my everyday "problems" are not really problems.  It only felt extra lousy because Chris and I were both feeling our little colds, James REFUSED to take a nap (he laughed at me for an hour, funny now, not then), and we had dentist appointments yesterday afternoon.  What a way to top off the day!  (However, the woman who cleaned my teeth kept telling me what a "good girl" I am with dental hygiene, so gratifying.)

I do have one tasty treat I can share with you.  It requires no "real" recipe, and its simple, delicious, and light.  If you are like me and want ice cream ALL THE TIME, this is the perfect substitute:

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

1/3 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
splash of vanilla extract
cinnamon to taste
1 teaspoon sugar-free fat-free cheesecake instant pudding mix
1/3 to 1/2 cup diced strawberries

Mix everything but the strawberries, tasting along the way until you get just the sweetness you like.  Stir in the strawberries and then put in the freezer for about an hour.  Give your mix a good stir and enjoy!  I also stirred in a few crumbs of "cake scraps" from a delicious cake I made for today (which I will share tomorrow), and it was so good!

Do you have plans for Valentine's Day?  I will try to take pictures of what the big man of the house and I exchanged.  All I can say is that Chris is getting really good at this jewelry thing.... the man takes my taste and then finds something fantastic.....

On a fitness note, our pushups challenge is still going great.  Challenging, but great.  Tomorrow, I'll share with you what the week has looked like and how we've progressed.  Until then, it's time to get the little man of the house ready for slide time, and myself ready for cardio followed by the ever-intense BodyPump.  It's going to be a great day for us, and I hope its great for you too!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Beginning of Lent - Wow

I totally missed yesterday's Tasty Snack Tuesday.  Oops, and sorry.  Honestly, between gym time, studying for my fitness certification, and the general demands of the little man of the house, yesterday just got away from me.  Add all of that to the fact that the big man of the house and I both seem to be catching what James has had lately, we just crashed as a household yesterday evening.  I'll try to have my stuff together today and post a good snack later.  I made a couple of things yesterday that I was pretty into, and have something else to try later today.  AND, with tomorrow being Valentine's Day, I have something really tasty up my sleeve that of course I will share with you.  But, as I have not revealed it to Chris, it will have to remain under wraps until after tomorrow.

I mentioned in Sunday's post that I would tell you about a new "challenge" of a sort going on in our house.  It is something that has a deeper meaning to me than what the surface of it would suggest, as it should, but it turns out there is a lot of controversy around this, which brings me to this - have you ever given up anything for Lent?  I haven't.  At our old church, when I first starting going there, many people participated in a fast together.  As I explained to a dear friend there, I had just gotten to a point in my life where I didn't starve myself, and I wasn't about to go down that road again.  She then very sweetly explained to me that fasting is not necessarily about skipping meals, but more about seeking out what God might be asking you to abstain from.  So, with this season of Lent in full swing now, after much sincere thought, I have decided to give up chocolate.

That's right.  You read that correctly.  I said it.  CHOCOLATE.  And if you know me, you know that's a big deal..... especially if you were Chris last night watching me nibble half the M & Ms in the house and stick my finger in the jar of chocolate peanut butter spread because I knew that it would be the last time for a while.

But you know what I found out?  There is a LOT of information out there that basically condemns any sort of fasting during Lent.  I read something this morning that claims that this practice is a pagan practice.  I read a blog the other day where the writer basically said that we do these things to make ourselves feel better and in the end we accomplish nothing.  I always thought that the point in fasting, during Lent or any other time, was to remove something from our lives so that, in its absence, we could spend that time drawing closer to God.

I was pretty disappointed with all of the negativity I encountered.  I ultimately decided that we all do what we feel is right for us, and we don't judge someone else's decisions.  You don't want to fast because you don't believe in it?  That's just fine.  You think me giving up chocolate is stupid, or even wrong?  That's just fine too.  God loves you and God loves me and THANK GOD for that.

So that's my soap box for the day.  I love Easter, and the anticipation of it.  That someone would care about ME and love ME even with the baggage I carry, is nearly unbelievable.  But fortunately, it IS believable, even if very hard at times.  So, here's to a great season of Lent.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sweet Sunday - Malted Oatmeal Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

We are coming to the end of another great weekend of togetherness in our house.  Today we woke up to the lovely sound of rain on our windows.  It was a perfect day for baking and lounging around the house!  I love, love, love planning what I'm going to bake on Sunday afternoons (and especially lately because we're about to cut a few certain sweets from our house, but more on that later this week).

During the last few days, I've had a pretty ravenous craving for oatmeal cookies.  So, on the hunt for a good recipe I went.  After a fair amount of searching, I found a very interesting recipe, not your normal oatmeal raisin cookie (mostly because the big man of the house doesn't eat raisins).  This one has malt powder in it, which I have always wanted to bake with, but hadn't gotten around to it, though we have it on hand.  Curious, and satisfied that this would go well with the chocolate chips and pretzels also in the recipe, I went to work.  Here is my adapted recipe (really only adapted based on what I had in the pantry):

Malted Oatmeal Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups quick oats
2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup malted milk powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white granular sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup crushed pretzels

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, malt powder, and baking soda.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars, then add the eggs, followed by the milk and vanilla.  Beat until everything is well-blended, then, on low speed, add the oats mixture and mix until just combined.  Then fold in the chocolate chips and pretzel pieces.  Drop dough by the tablespoon onto your baking sheet and leave about 2 inches between each bit of dough.  Bake for 10-12 minutes (10 was perfect for me).  You want the edges just browning, but the middle to still look under-done - don't worry, after 5 minutes of cooling, the cookies will be perfect!


I want to add a note about 1 major difference in the recipe above and the original.  The original of course called for all-purpose flour, of which I was somehow completely out!  This never happens, and in the pouring rain, I wasn't going out for flour.  So, I followed a substitution I have used before with great success in biscuits - I used self-rising flour and omitted the baking powder and salt (I found this recommendation on my go-to site, foodsubs.com).  I also did not have traditional rolled oats, only quick oats, and those usually sub for each other just fine.  And I just skipped the peanuts.  I also had a yield of a little over 5 dozen cookies.... Chris's coworkers should be pleasantly surprised this week!

These cookies are delicious.  They have a slight crisp to the outside, and a chewy inner texture.  When the little man of the house got up from his nap, he helped himself to two!

I hope you had a great weekend!  Stay tuned this week for a pushups/crunches update, another "challenge" coming up (not what you would think though), and something fun/funny I have planned for Saturday at 2:30.... let's just say I'm hoping for another warm weekend!

Original cookie recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fit Friday with Chai Oatmeal

Hooray for Friday!  I hope you've been having a great week.  And if it's been less than great, I hope you get to look forward to the weekend!

It might be Fit Friday, but I think today may be this mama's day off from working out this week.  I usually reserve Saturday for my rest, but after pushing really hard in BodyPump yesterday AND coming home to do my pushups challenge, I'm a feeling a little beaten up.  I am very fortunate that when I go to my gym, James walks excitedly into the childcare room and never looks back at me.  He is SO social, and its a huge blessing.  That said, I'm looking forward to spending the day running errands with him and sitting on the couch reading some of his favorite books, and of course watching as he sings and dances to his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine songs.

(And a side note from yesterday - when I came home to do my 5 sets of pushups, James decided to join me.  If I can ever get a picture, I will share it with you.  It was THE CUTEST thing ever.  He got in plank position and did a few nice pushups for a toddler!  It was so endearing.  And then he showed Daddy when Chris came home.  BEST moment of the week by far.  That, and when he came chasing me with his little lips puckered up saying "ooooooooo", which is what he does when he wants to kiss you.  Melted my heart.)

Anyway.  Working out might not happen today, but I took our lack of a scheduled morning to make an oatmeal recipe I've been saving.  If you like oatmeal, and also spiced black teas, this is for you!  I don't have a picture, but here's the barely adapted recipe:

Chai Oatmeal

1 chai tea bag steeped in 1/2 cup boiling water for 3 minutes
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 milk
1/2 cup of thawed frozed sliced peaches
2 teaspoons maple syrup (or honey)
cinnamon to taste
splash of vanilla extract

Discard the tea bag after steeping and combine the tea, oats, and milk in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for about a minute and a half (depending on the power of your microwave, this was perfect for me).  Add the peach slices, maple syrup, cinnamon, and maple syrup, stir, and enjoy!  The original recipe suggests adding pecans, which I think would be great, but we didn't have any.

This oatmeal was a perfect blend of spice and sweet.  I'm not usually a fan of peach-flavored foods (like yogurt or ice cream), but the peach really complemented the chai spice, which itself was not too overpowering.  I personally like my chai-anything to be very spicy, but not everyone loves the cardamom that is in chai.  This was a great balance.  I will definitely be making this again.

Original recipe from Fitness Magazine

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Faux Fried Chicken

So I mentioned in Sunday's post that I had made a very tasty "oven-fried" chicken.... who doesn't LOVE fried chicken?  Come on!  But, as Chris could tell you, I am always trying to take rather unhealthy recipes, even comfort food, and make them healthier without sacrificing flavor.  I'll admit, its hard sometimes.  Fat is naturally rich and makes food, for the most part, extra delicious.  Some foods that have been made low-fat or even fat-free, many times, do NOT taste very good.

But this chicken?  Oh yeah, its pretty awesome.  And you know what the secret is?  Cornflakes.  They don't lose their crispiness!  Not even on the bottom of the chicken pieces.  This recipe is great too because its a "wing-it" recipe.  Everything is to YOUR taste!  Want it spicier?  Add more chili powder.  Want more Italian flavor?  Add some parmesan.  Its all up to you.  Here's what I did, and this made more than enough for Chris, myself, and James:

Faux Fried Chicken

8 oz chicken breast
marinade of your choice if using (buttermilk, milk, etc) OR flour and 1 egg
2-3 cups cornflake cereal (measured before you crush it)
garlic powder
chili powder
creole seasoning

Slice chicken breast into bite-size pieces (alternatively, you can slice it into tender-like strips).  Marinate the chicken (I used a low-cal honey mustard dressing that I happened to have on hand) for at least 20 minutes.  While the chicken is marinating, put the cornflakes in a bowl and crush them.  I used the bottom of a measuring cup to do this.  The cornflakes don't have to be a fine powder - in fact, its nice to have a good amount of texture to your mix.

I didn't include measurements for the spices because I honestly was just winging it.  I probably used about a teaspoon of garlic powder, and about a quarter to a half teaspoon of chili powder and creole seasoning (think Old Bay).  Then add some salt and pepper, and TASTE your mixture to see if you are happy with it.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place an oven-safe cooing rack on top.  A few at a time, take pieces of chicken from the marinade and completely coat it in the cornflake mixture (or, if you are not using a marinade, dredge the pieces in flour, dip in the egg, then coat with the cornflake mixture).  Transfer each piece to the cooling rack.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and pieces are golden brown.  For us, 20 minutes was spot on, but if you use larger pieces of chicken, it may take just a bit longer.  Just keep an eye on it, everyone's ovens are different.  Enjoy with your favorite sauce, mixed into a salad, or on their own.

This chicken passed the taste test with both men of the house, and if you know our family, you know that these two can be equally picky.  The chicken is every bit as crispy as it looks in the picture, and I couldn't have been happier with how it turned out.

So there you go - a great recipe for when you want some comfort food, but you don't want to compromise that great workout that you just put in, or the great healthy habits you've been following... or want to start following.

Enjoy!  And hey, it's almost the weekend!  Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tasty Snack Tuesday - Vanilla Protein Pudding

After Sunday's very decadent dessert, I believe it's time for another healthy snack!

I'm always looking for high-protein snacks that don't involve using protein powder.  I am not against a protein supplement by any means - sometimes its hard to make sure you're getting enough, and its especially important if you're working out.  Those muscles aren't going to repair themselves!  I just find that protein powder can get quite expensive, and for me, I like to feel like I am getting to put the most amount of food into my mouth for the calories.

This is a very easy recipe to throw together, and it provides a good base if you want to try adding or trading out ingredients.  So really hear me when I say that if you don't like one of the ingredients, replace it with one of my suggestions or something similar.  But here's my version:

Vanilla Protein Pudding

1/2 medium banana, peeled, sliced, and frozen
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese (I like 1%, I find fat-free to be gross)
1/3 cup milk, your choice (I use almond, but anything will work)
splash vanilla extract

**optional add-ins that I love
cinnamon to taste (I like a lot)
1-2 teaspoons of fat-free sugar-free instant vanilla or cheesecake pudding mix, just the dry mix
1/4-1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon xantham gum (this helps with thickening and you can find it in the gluten-free section of the grocery store)

Using a blender (either stand-alone or immersion), or a food processor, blend everything together until you have a nice smooth pudding texture.  If you don't have or don't want to use the xantham gum, this will be more of a smoothie consistency, so you could add a little ice if you want to thicken this up.  Or, before I picked up xantham gum (an 8-ounce package is a bit expensive, but will last FOREVER), I would make this about one to two hours before I wanted to eat it and let it sit in the freezer.  Any way you go, it's delicious.

If you find yourself unsure of using cottage cheese, you can replace this with yogurt, but if you want to keep it really high-protein, I would opt for Greek yogurt.  One cup of fat-free Greek yogurt has 120 calories and 23 grams of protein!  I used to roll my eyes at what I deemed a "food fad", but then the generic versions started coming out - as in the more affordable versions.  Also, you could use a different fruit if bananas aren't your thing.  You could also try adding a tablespoon of dark cocoa powder, which I have done, and it tastes awesome!  Combine that with a nice dose of cinnamon, or even a pinch of chili powder and you have Mexican chocolate - uh, YUM!  Experiment!  That's the beauty.  When I made the batch in the picture, I made it with everything listed in the recipe above, and that sets me back less than 200 calories.  And its delicious!

all desserts belong in martini glasses. fact.

 I hope you find yourself at least one deliciously healthy snack today, and if you decide to try this one, I would love to hear what you think!

Recipe adapted from Kiss My Broccoli Blog

Monday, February 4, 2013

Starting the Pushups and Crunches Party!

I am so excited about this challenge!  And I am even more excited because Chris is doing it right along with me!  We both workout to eat to a degree, but we are 100% different in that I love working out as much, if not more than I love eating, and Chris.... well, like I said, he works out so that he can eat.  He's not in love with it.  But that's fine, not everyone is.  At any rate, I was so excited that he wanted to take the challenge too.

Chris's initial test of good-form pushups yielded 25, and my test yielded 23.... My husband will read this and will say to himself, wow, my super-competitive-in-the-gym-wife actually had a lower number and admits it?  Yes, yes, I did and I am, though right around number 19 this morning, James was literally trying to crawl on me and then under me.  It was actually kind of funny (I love when he sees me working out and then tries to imitate me, like when he sees me doing jump squats and then starts jumping, its endearing).  At any rate, our numbers from our initial tests put us at a recommendation of beginning the Hundred Pushups challenge in week 3.  Each of the 3 days consists of 5 sets, with at least a 60-second break between sets, more if needed.  Here is the breakdown:

Day 1 - 12, 17, 13, 13, max (at least 17)
Day 2 - 14, 19, 14, 14, max (at least 19)
Day 3 - 16, 21, 15, 15, max (at least 21)

Now, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least slightly intimidated by this, so I'm just going to be honest and say that YES, I am slightly intimidated.  But then I think about how much strength I have during BodyPump classes, and I definitely never thought I would be there.  Its pretty gratifying to look around and be one of only a few girls doing X amount of weight on a given exercise.  On a serious note, its a reminder to continually keep myself healthy, instead of considering skipping meals here and there in an effort to be stick-thin (that's a soap box I will probably get on a lot here, be ready).

I also said that I wanted to do the crunch challenge (but the end goal is 200, as opposed to the 100 pushups).  My initial test yielded 90 crunches before I really started to feel like I might lose form, which puts me beginning the program on Week 3.  The format is the same, with the following breakdown:

Day 1 - 21, 27, 21, 21, max (at least 30)
Day 2 - 30, 38, 23, 23, max (at least 38)
Day 3 - 33, 42, 30, 30, max (at least 45)

This one I am less intimidated by.  Core strength is something I have been working really hard at, especially after having James, but that doesn't mean I expect this to be easy.

At the end of the week, I will report on our progress.  In the meantime, I'll have at least a couple of delicious healthy treats to share with you.  For now, it's time for my little Thomas-the-Train-loving-monster and I to get ready to head to the gym.  We have a busy day planned, and I am hopeful that he will surprise me and have a repeat of yesterday's 3-hour nap so that I can get in some more quality studying of my exercise science book for my group fitness training.

Have an awesome day!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bacon Stout Chocolate Cheesecake

It's Game Day!!  Yay!!!!

Okay, if you know me, you know that to say I am not really into football is a huge understatement.  There are a host of things I'd rather do - go to the dentist, stand in line at Costco, sit in traffic.... But, football is probably Chris's second true love in life, and for me, it is definitely a reason to make something delicious!  And when I found this recipe, I knew that I would be saving it for Super Bowl Sunday.

So, let's get down to business.  Do you like bacon?  Of course you do, it's delicious!  Do you like chocolate?  If you're answer is no, you probably won't enjoy this blog much.  Do you like beer, especially stout?  Definitely not at the top of my favorite list of things to drink, BUT it goes perfectly with the dark chocolate and bacon in this recipe.  And I know what you may be thinking... mix bacon and chocolate and beer, bake it and serve it for dessert?


These flavors complement each other so beautifully.  Even if you're not a cheesecake person (you know who you are), you would be doing yourself quite the flavor injustice if you passed on this.  I will warn you that this recipe is a little extra effort, but it is soooooo worth it.

Here is the recipe, slightly adapted:

Bacon Stout Chocolate Cheesecake

For the beer-candied bacon:

1 pound bacon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons oatmeal stout

For the crust:

4 graham cracker sheets
1 cup whole pretzels
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

7 oz dark chocolate, 60% (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet)
1 cup stout (leftover from above)
3 (8) oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
3/4 cup beer-candied bacon

For the chocolate ganache topping:

1 cup heavy cream
8 oz chocolate, chopped (I used a mix of bittersweet and milk)
the rest of your beer-candied bacon for garnish

To make the beer-candied bacon:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Whisk the brown sugar and beer together until they are well combined.  It will be syrupy.  Line a large baking pan (like a jelly roll pan, something with sides, not a cookie sheet) with aluminum foil.  Place an oven-safe cooling rack on top, and lay the strips of bacon on it.  You may have to overlap a few pieces, but that's okay.  Cook the bacon for 10 minutes, and then remove it from the oven.  Use a pastry brush to coat one side of the bacon with the stout-sugar mixture, flip the pieces over and repeat.  Return the pan to the oven for 10 minutes.  Repeat until you have used all of your syrup.  (I only had to do it one more time).  Once finished, set the bacon aside to cool completely.

To make the crust:
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form pan.  Pulse the graham crackers, pretzels, and sugar in a food processor until you have a finely-ground crumb mixture.  Stir in the melted butter until all of the crumbs are nicely coated.  It will look like wet sand.  Resist the urge to eat this, even though its delicious!!!  Press the mixture into the pan and set aside.

To make the filling:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Arrange your oven racks so that you can use the middle and lower positions.  Combine the dark chocolate and stout in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking until the chocolate has melted.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  In a mixing bowl, or your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar until its nice and smooth.  Add the eggs, scraping down the bowl periodically, and beat until well combined.  Add the chocolate-stout mixture, followed by the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and beer-candied bacon.  Mix on low until just incorporated.  Pour the mixture over the crust.  Before you put the cheesecake in the oven, fill a baking pan with water and place it on the lowest rack in the oven.  Add your cheesecake to the center rack and bake until the center of your cheesecake is set and no longer jiggles.  For me, this took about an hour and a half.  Start checking yours around 50 minutes.  Once done, remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.

To make the chocolate ganache:
Bring heavy cream to a boil, remove from heat and add chocolate.  Leave it to sit for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth.  Let it cool slightly and then cover your cheesecake with it (or with what's left after you and your 21-month-old sample it fondue-style with bread).

Finally, top evenly with the beer-candied bacon and you're done!

This recipe was definitely a winner.  I expected it to be overwhelmingly rich, but it actually has a nice balance.  Its the kind of dangerous dessert that you could keep going back for "just one bite", and before you know it, you've eaten half the or cheesecake.... or the whole thing.  Be warned!

Now, this deliciousness is not the only bite of yum that I made today.  For lunch, we had the best "oven-fried" chicken that I have made... you'll see that recipe later this week, because it is definitely a repeater.

Enjoy, and balance this out with some quality workouts this week!

Original recipe from Tide and Thyme

Ganache recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fit Friday and a February Challenge

Hooray, it's Friday!!  I have lots to share with you!

I've been looking for a fitness challenge for myself for February, and I think I just found it.  Its so easy to get stuck in workout routines just like anything else.  Over the past 2 years, I have worked hard at developing a solid foundation of strength.  I discovered BodyPump (an amazing strength training class that will push you to your limits) and worked my booty off doing at-home programs like Insanity (which is as crazy as it sounds), P90X, and TurboFire.  I'm no longer the girl at the gym who looks out of place in the weight training area, and it feels amazing.

Anyway, so my fitness challenge.  Have you heard of hundredpushups.com?  I had heard of it, but hadn't checked it out.  They have free training outlines that will get you to 100 pushups, but also programs for sit-ups (more like crunches), squats, pull-ups, and triceps dips.  The programs are designed for novices and people in slightly more advanced stages of fitness and strength.  I took a look at each of these and I think I will go for the pushups and crunches.  The programs are designed so that you're working on these exercises 3 times a week, which will hopefully work well with my current training.  I'll stagger it so that I'm not doing these on BodyPump days.  So we will start that on Monday!  I'm excited!  I'll keep you posted on my progress.

After all the fitness talk, are we ready for food?  Last night's dinner was awesome.  We tend to get stuck having the same things over and over, and I was feeling so uninspired.  Thankfully, I was able to bust out my new cookbook, Fifty Shades of Chicken, courtesy of Aunt Liza, for some ideas.  I opened the book and came to the recipe for Dripping Thighs, also known as Roasted Chicken Thighs with Sweet-and-Sour Onions.  This recipe, served atop the wheat bread rolls I made earlier in the day, was delicious!

For the chicken, my slight adaptations:

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Sweet-and-Sour Onions

1 pound chicken breasts (because we never have thighs)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
garlic powder
sweet red onion, thinly sliced (about a cup, more if you don't have 2 picky people in the house who don't eat onions)
1 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Pat the chicken breasts dry with a paper towel, season liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Place them in a rimmed baking pan.  In a small pan, simmer the chopped garlic, a pinch of salt, the onion, wine, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick.  Continue simmering until most of the liquid is gone (this probably took about 15 minutes for me, maybe less, just keep an eye on it).  Then add the honey and the butter and remove from the heat.  Add this delicious mixture to the chicken and coat it well.  Cook for about 25 minutes, or until your chicken is no longer pink.  25 minutes was spot on for us (I was concerned that this temperature would be too hot and that I would need to cover the chicken, but it was perfect.  The onions were caramelized and everything was perfect.).

And for the bread, my barely adapted version:

Whole Wheat Baguette

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon instant year (or rapid-rise or bread-machine yeast)
1/2 cup warm water
1 egg, plus 2 teaspoons of water, mixed

Whisk together the first five ingredients in a mixing bowl, and then add the warm water.  Stir until this becomes difficult, then flour your hands slightly and knead the dough ball until everything is incorporated and the dough is nice and smooth.  Place the dough back in your mixing bowl, cover loosely, and place in a draft-free area for an hour to an hour and a half to rise.  After this initial rise, you have 2 options.  You can deflate the dough and shape this into a baguette, which is what I did the first time, or you can separate into individual rolls, which is what I did the second time.  Either way, once you have your dough shaped, place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside to rise for another hour.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  When I made the baguette, I remembered to do the egg wash.  Just combine the egg with 2 teaspoons of water, and, using a pastry brush, cover the entire surface with the wash.  This will give your bread a nice browned outer crust.  When I made the rolls, I was too lazy to do this forgot to do the egg wash, so they aren't very brown, but still tasty.  You'll see the differences in the pictures below.

We combined the rolls and the chicken, and it was all delicious!

Sorry my picture isn't better of the combined product, but I didn't even think about taking one until I had almost finished the meal.  Oops!

 So that's it for Fit Friday... I have a lot of great recipes to share with you coming up, both healthy, and.... well, its Superbowl Sunday this weekend, so yeah.... I'm a realist.  I'm making something pretty decadent that day, and I'll be sure to share it!  I hope you have a great weekend!  The little man and I will be off the gym soon!

And oh yeah, today is the second birthday of James's first "best friend", Ian.  Happy birthday, Ian!  We love you and miss you so much!  Stay warm in Canada!

Original chicken recipe.... I guess you'll have to get the book!

Original bread recipe from For The Love of Cooking