Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tasty Snack Tuesday - Quinoa Pizza Bites

Have you ever eaten quinoa?

I'll be honest, I didn't even know how to pronounce it for a long time (for the record, its keen-wah).

If you're new to it, think rice meets pasta, or at least, that's how I perceive the texture.  I remember reading about it during my high-mileage running days, always touted as some kind of "super food."  To me, its definitely similar to rice or pasta in that it doesn't have much flavor on its own, but combine it with other flavors, and its great, not mention super healthy.  Per serving, its slightly lower in carbs that regular pasta, and has about 6 grams of protein.  It is also a complete protein, meaning that it contains all of your essential amino acids, so if you're vegan or vegetarian, this is a great option for you to make sure your body is getting everything it needs.

So I ask, do you like pizza?  Check.

Want to make it a bit healthier?  Check.

 Less work than making, from scratch, an actual pizza?  Check.

I stumbled up on this recipe and knew I had to try it.  Its pretty straight forward - cook the quinoa, mix it with everything you would put on your regular pizza, dollop it into muffin tins, and bake - that's it!  Here's the recipe:

Quinoa Pizza Bites

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 egg (or a flax egg, which I used, 1 tablespoon flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water)
1/2 cup cheese of your choice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
few dashes of salt
other "toppings" of your choice - I diced up turkey pepperoni, onions, green pepper, and mushrooms
pizza sauce for dipping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a mini muffin pan (you could use a regular muffin pan, you will just have to adjust your cooking time).  Cook the quinoa according to the package directions.  Then mix up all of the other ingredients and stir into the quinoa until everything is well combined.  Using a tablespoon, fill the muffin pan - depending on how many "toppings" you use, you should fill a 24-count mini muffin pan.  Bake for about 20 minutes and enjoy!  (You may want to bake a little longer, mine could have used another 5-10 minutes.)

I loved this recipe.  I could have devoured every last bite.  But, with this recipe, you can eat 12 of these for under 300 calories - how awesome is that?  With just a touch of pizza sauce, every bite was like a little taste of pizza - yum!

*I will update with a picture later.  For some reason, Blogger is not cooperating this morning.*

Recipe from Fit for Success

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fit Friday - Insanity!

Happy Friday!

I really wanted to share something with you today from the workout realm because I know I've been lacking lately.  And since it seems that my knee is progressively getting better and better each day, I think I'm going to be okay to push forward with my Insanity training in 2 weeks (but yikes! I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a bit terrified nervous!).

Here is a link to self.com for 6 of the cornerstone moves from the Insanity Program.  The idea is that you do each move for 1 movement, and then rest for 60 seconds after the entire set, then repeat this twice.  I would recommend at least a light 5-minute warmup before you get started.


Yes, Insanity is more of an athletic-based program, though it is true that people with no fitness baseline have begun and successfully completed the program, which is awesome.  It will force you to "dig deep" as Shaun T likes to say, and find strength you never knew you had, and its one of the most empowering workouts I have ever completed.  After completing the entire program a couple of times, I can tell you that I am considerably stronger than where I was pre-Insanity.  Pushups on my knees?  Forget that!  This mama does real pushups!  Not that there's anything wrong with knees-down pushups if that's where you're at, I'm just saying that you really can build so much strength in just drawing on your body weight, which is a plus of Insanity - no equipment needed, just yourself.

All of that said, there are some moves in the program that are not for beginners, or anyone with certain joint limitations.  But, say you don't feel comfortable doing the diamond or power jumps - do some burpees instead.  You'll still work your entire body, and burpees are no joke.

Anyway, that's it for me today - I plan to be back in full swing next week.  I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend - picnic tomorrow with awesome people who are going to make this happen, and NOT having to plan for a marathon study session at Starbucks.  Then I will hit the ground running putting myself "out there" next week and then waiting to see where my new certification takes me - I'm excited!

Do you have plans for the weekend?  Enjoy it, people!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thankful Thursday

If you read my post yesterday, you can probably figure that today, oh yeah, I am super thankful that I passed that test!  SUPER thankful.

And today, I'm especially thankful for my little boy.  Today I wasn't rushing him into a nap and praying for him to sleep for at least 2 hours so I could study.  Today I got to enjoy laying down with him, waiting for him to drift off to sleep, kissing his sweet little forehead and reminding myself of the biggest blessing in my life.  And then when he woke up 2 hours-ish later and wanted me to come snuggle in bed with him, I got to do just that, without worrying about how much more cramming I might need to do.  No, we just snuggled and got in another hour of rest.

It was awesome day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Update....

I've been completely MIA this week finishing the final prep for my certification test this week.  I've studied and studied until I could study no more, and....

...in case you're wondering...

I passed!

Today, as I got ready to head to the testing site, in my head was, "the Lord your God will go before you."  So I prayed it.  And I felt strangely at peace yesterday and today, which then made me feel nervous because I thought that I should feel nervous and nothing else.

Its so easy to pray for God's "peace that passes all understanding" for everyone but ourselves, but that's the kind of peace I had.

Anyway, I'll just start rambling, but I wanted to share with anyone wondering that I did in fact pass that test.  Yay!  And if you were praying for or thinking of me, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

2 Years Ago.... Can't Believe It

Happy birthday to my baby!  2 years ago, James looked like this:

And then the next year, at age 1, he looked like this:

 And his first cake looked like this:

And this year, at age 2, he looks like this:

Overall, the little guy had a great day.  We enjoyed some family time, he got to go to his favorite store, Trader Joe's, and have cookies, and he got to have his "choo-choo cake" - just imagine the cutest voice ever saying "choo-choo cake".... and he didn't actually eat any cake.  He just kind of licked some of the icing.  And to be fair, the cake that his train cake is made of is awful.  I had a big cake fail on Saturday night and, thinking it might have to do with the recipe, looked for a different one.  Big mistake.  I should have stuck with the Hershey's recipe that I was using, not made the cake in a hurry, and should have been a little more patient to be sure it was fully cooked.  The recipe I used for the cake in the picture is mediocre at best...... BUT, its funny now, and James loves to look at his cake, so its okay.

Oh, my little love, we love you so much more than I thought was humanly possible.  There is nothing in the world we would not do for you, nothing we would not sacrifice for you, and we are better for having you for a son.  We cannot imagine life without our little monster.

Greatest.  Blessing.  Ever.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fit Friday - Homemade Larabars

Happy Friday!

Have you ever had a Larabar?

They are delicious snacks, full of healthy fat, a little bit of protein, and natural fruit sugars.  I used to eat them often during my running days, but to be honest, at least for our household, they're a little pricey.  But, great news!  They are SO easy to make.  SO EASY!  Just combine equal portions of nuts, dates, and dried fruit in a high-powered blender (such as a Vitamix) or your food processor (my weapon of choice), and a few minutes later.... voila!  You have a tasty, healthy, snack!  Here was today's creation:

Apple Cashew Date Bars

1 cup dried apple slices (I used the ones from Trader Joe's that are unsweetened, so the only ingredient is apples)
1 cup pitted medjool dates (this was 10 dates for me)
1 cup cashews (salted, unsalted, whatever you like/have)

Combine everything in your chosen ingredient-crusher until you have a very thick, nearly paste mixture.  Then press the mixture into any pan lined with parchment or wax paper.  You can make these as thick or thin as you want.  Finally, store in the refrigerator and enjoy!

I pressed my mixture out fairly thin so that I got 10 bars.  Divided this way, the recipe will yield a bar with 145 calories, 6 grams of fat, 24 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein.  That's not bad for a little pick-me-up snack, and the best part is that you know everything that went into it!  These are definitely a keeper for me, and I can't wait to try out other variations with other fruit and nut combinations.  You could also add in other ingredients after the initial processing - you just might need to use your hands to mix in things like chocolate chips, nuts that you don't want crushed, coconut, etc, because the mixture is so thick.

When Chris tried these today, he said they tasted like a fruit roll-up, so I guess that's a win since we are talking about something healthy here and he didn't hate them.

I'm also very happy and relieved to report that my knee is feeling progressively better.  Foam rolling is amazing.  It hits points in your muscles that human hands just cannot touch.  It is still painful, but each session gets a little better.  2 days ago, going up and down stairs was uncomfortable.  Yesterday I couldn't even hit a 45-degree squat, and forget about any lunges.  Today I have almost full range of motion.  I was able to go to BodyPump and just really watch it and when it came to lower-body work.  Thank you, God!

Do you have plans for the weekend?  On Sunday, my baby turns 2.  Still wrapping my head around it.  I'll get there eventually.

Have a great weekend!

Recipe inspired by Rawified

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for the rainy day we had.  Literally, it has been pouring.  All.  Day.  Long.  But I am thankful for it.  This little guy and I had a great day together, just hanging out inside:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Introducing...... My New Best Friend

What is that, you ask?

Well, if you ask James, its his new very odd toy.

But no, it belongs to Mommy.  Its a foam roller.  Have you ever used one?

I hadn't, but remember about a month ago when I said my knee was being kind of tweaky?   Well, it still comes and goes, and when it comes, it comes with a vengeance, punishing me for the work I demand from it.

On Saturday night at church, our pastor was talking about spiritual alignment, and he used a chiropractor from the congregation in some of his analogies, which got me thinking about my visits to a chiropractor when I lived in Virginia and how she really helped my chronic IT band issues.  So on Monday, I sucked it up and found a chiropractor.

Now, yes, I could visit an orthopedic doctor as well, and I'm sure there are a lot of great ones out there, but I have had two lousy experiences on separate occasions that involved the doctors talking to me like I was 4 and knew nothing about my own body.

Anyway, the chiropractor I visited on Monday showed me how VERY, VERY tight my right IT band is and recommended E-Stim therapy (similar to ultrasound, but not the same) and foam rolling.  He promised me that his goal is for me NOT to need him very much after a few visits, if at all, so I'm on board with that.

If you have never used a foam roller, I would highly recommend it.  I bought one yesterday from a local running store (not pricey, $25), and oh.  my.  goodness..... The ironic thing about foam rolling your muscles is that if they are SUPER tight like my right IT band, rolling is going to hurt a little bit.  Or a LOT.  Let me emphasize A LOT.  But, while its not an overnight fix, but rather something great to add to your daily stretching routine, I can tell such a difference already.  I did work out last night and experienced some knee pain, but my recovery was so much faster and this morning I don't have a lot of pain.  So for now, I'm taking it easy and foam rolling.

And in case you're wondering, you can also use a foam roller to practice your BodyPump push presses, as James is demonstrating:

Or, he might be getting ready to go into squats with it.  I'm not sure.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

At A Loss....

As someone who has participated in countless road races, some very small, and some on the attendance scale of the coveted Boston Marathon, I can tell you that I never went to the start line or approached the finish line with anything but an anxious excitement in my bones.

I don't have a great way with words, and as I was searching for something to share to reflect on yesterday's tragedy, I found this while reading one of my favorite blogs (themaidenmetallurgist.com).

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'" - Fred Rogers  This is so true.  There is always someone running into the disaster to help someone affected.  Thank God for the humanity in that.  It will always overcome evil.

I find myself also taken back to one of my favorite and most-treasured verses in scripture.  Its from Isaiah 40:31 and says that, "those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not be faint."

We are thinking of you, Boston, and praying constantly.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sweet Sunday - Vegan Brownies

Okay, I know what you may be thinking, that is, if I were on the outside of my own mind, reading a title for "Vegan Brownies", I'd be thinking, mm-hmm, exit this page, if its vegan it probably has all kinds of weird ingredients and won't taste good, especially if its labeled "healthy."

That is such a wrong thought, my friends.  VERY wrong.

I'm sure you know, if you've read my blog before, that I am very far from being vegan, or vegetarian, but I am very much into finding more healthful recipes that actually taste good.

And I think I hit the jackpot with these.  They even got the approval of my carnivore-or-die husband, the man who can barely eat a food that has touched a vegetable.  But these brownies were even worthy of Chris's morning and evening desserts.  That's huge, people.  HUGE.

Vegan Healthy Brownies

1 cup pitted medjool dates (I think raisins would also work, and dried cranberries could be awesome)
1 scant cup almond meal OR 1 cup almonds OR nuts of your choice
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's dark)

2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons almond butter (or nut butter of your choice, but almond butter has a mild sweet taste)
4 tablespoons maple syrup

Combine the dates, almond meal (or nuts), and cocoa powder in a food processor or high-powered blender (a Vitamix would probably work great, but I unfortunately do not own one).  Process until you have a fine crumb.  Press the mixture into any size pan - smaller for thicker square, larger for thinner squares.  I used a jelly roll pan that is about 11 x 7.  I found that using the palm of my hand worked best for pressing the mixture evenly.  Next, add the bananas, cocoa powder, almond butter, and maple syrup to the food processor and process til smooth.  You will have a silky delicious mixture.  Pour this on top of the crust in the pan and place in the freezer.  It will need a good hour at least to set.  Just be patient!

Once completely set, slice into 16 generous squares (if you used a medium-large size pan like me), and try to not eat the whole pan!  Keep these in the freezer.  When you want to eat one, just let it set out for a couple of minutes if you want it to soften slightly.  And just one of these delicious babies will yield 131 calories, 6 grams of fat, and almost 4 grams of protein - how awesome is that for a super-chocolatey almost-brownie?!

I hope you had a great week, and that you're getting ready for another great one!  We are back to having awesome weather, so we are loving being able to get outside again!  For now, I leave you as I head out for my now-normal Starbucks Sunday study session.  Test time is quickly approaching, and I am gradually feeling more and more ready.

I'll see you later this week with a great snack, and maybe some extras this week.  We'll see.  Until then, enjoy the last of the weekend!

Recipe from Fit Sugar

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fit Friday.... of a Different Kind

Today's Fit Friday has a different theme.  Sure, eating a healthy diet is important, enjoying your favorite less-than-healthy treats in moderation is key, and of course being physically active is important.

Today is different.  Today I want to remind you to do something for the fitness of your mental health.  This hits very close to home for me because today marks 9 years since my dad passed away.  I remember it every year, and I remember it very well.

9 years?  Isn't that quite some time ago?

Well, yeah, it is.  But for me, I didn't really start or finish the grieving process until a few years ago, so it still feels more recent than past.  It took me a really long time to get past April 12, 2004.

Every April afterward was very, very difficult for me.  Until James came along, with an estimated due date of April 10.  I was convinced, and even hoped, that he was going to come on April 12, which would have made me quite happy since the first ultrasound we ever had for the then-bean was on August 31, which would have been my dad's birthday.   I prayed for it.  God had other plans though, and definitely knew what He was doing by sending him when He did.  Regardless, God gave me the greatest blessing in life, replacing a previously tough time with the greatest joy I could ever receive.

I still miss my dad very much, and think of him often.  I find myself just wanting to ask his advice.  He had the best life experience.  And I will forever treasure the mornings of him making sausage gravy, biscuits, and eggs for us.  And going over to the Chinese buffet for lunch.  Or the time that I must have been 7 or 8 and I made us "lunch" of cheese and crackers.  Or going with him on all his pastor house calls.  And when we had NO MONEY, but he made sure I had a prom dress.  Or stinking up my kitchen making him those disgusting bread and butter pickles that he loved.  And even the times when I felt like he was SO STRICT with me, but as a mom, I now understand everything he was trying to protect me from.  And I'm grateful.

So, the purpose of this post is not to depress you.  Its to encourage you to deal with things as they come.  Don't put it off.  Do what you need to do to give yourself closure over anything in life that requires it.  I could have saved myself so much heartache had I dealt with my dad's death back when it happened.  But I am older and wiser now and know better.  This, coming from the queen of internalizing, is pretty huge.

Just remember that your noggin could use some working out sometimes too - and sometimes you can even combine the two!  Sometimes I feel like I have the greatest clarity of mind after a great Turbo or Insanity session!  And I've said before that during a particularly intense portion of Body Pump, I can usually be heard repeating Philippians 4:13.  Do what YOU need to do for YOU... if you have read my blog at all, you know where I stand on taking it to God - very much pro.

Well, that's it for my ramblings for today.... I have a certain little person who would like to play blocks, and I am going to oblige.

Have a great weekend, do something for yourself, and I'll see you soon!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Today I am so thankful that the storms we experienced last night in and around St. Louis only took property, not lives.  Though the sirens were sounding last night in our area, what we experienced was not too bad, but people to the north and southeast of us got hit a little harder.  Please say a quick prayer for them today.

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tasty Snack Tuesday - Cinnamon Bun Smoothie

I actually made this last night for dessert, but it was so good I have to share it with you today.... and I will probably be making it again tonight!

This is probably about the closest you can get to a liquid cinnamon roll without ingesting upwards of 1000 calories.  This makes one huge shake, and if made with the almond milk I use, you're looking at around 170 calories.  You can't beat that, and this is seriously so delicious.

Cinnamon Bun Smoothie

1 banana, preferably sliced and frozen for at least an hour
1 cup milk of your choice (I am in love with Trader Joe's Unsweetened Vanilla Almond)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, more if you're me
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 cup ice, more or less for thicker/thinner shake

Combine everything and blend until nice and smooth either in your food processor or with your immersion blender.  Enjoy!

I feel kind of bad that I don't have a picture for you, so how about I share a little piece of my happiness with you today -

This little silly guy came out of his room laughing, and when I turned around to see what he was doing, he was exactly like this - one arm pulled out of his onesie, asking for "help?"  He makes me laugh every day, and is growing too, too fast as he quickly approaches age 2.

I have to share a quick story with you that might make you laugh - yesterday I took James to Once Upon a Child (a gently-used kids' consignment store, if you're not familiar with it, similar to Kid to Kid if you have that where you live).  He needed some cheap sandals since we suddenly have beautiful weather, and after we found those, I browsed the clothing racks for a moment.  I was looking for cute little-boy rompers - you know, they fit like onesies, but have a shorts bottom?  Well, I for one think they are just really cute.  I knew that used 2Ts wouldn't fit James, so I went looking in the 3T section.  I couldn't find ANY.

And then it hit me..... those cute rompers don't come in size 3T because little boys at that size wear normal things like shorts and t-shirts.  I had to laugh at myself over this, though I was a little sad.  He will always be my little nearly 9-pound baby, and yet he's not..... oh well, every day brings even more fun, even if that has to mean growing a little more each day.

If you are in the midwest, you know we are getting some seriously beautiful weather.  James and I have a busy day planned to be out in that awesome weather, and hopefully you get to enjoy it too!  So go make this smoothie and take a nice walk and enjoy the day!

Recipe from Fit Sugar

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Savory Sunday - Cheddar Beer Mustard Pull-Apart Bread

This one is for Liza!

I made a few delicious items this week, but this bread was seriously tops.  I might even like it more than the red velvet cake I made a week ago (yes, dear husband, I said that).  I'm usually one much more for all things sweet, but occasionally I want something nice and savory.  I had saved this bread recipe literally a few years ago, back when I was still a bit afraid of working with yeast.  But alas, those fears were conquered long ago, and I am now a fearless bread-baking machine!

I don't even have words to perfectly describe this bread other than as a flavor that is so beyond any flavor your mouth may have ever experienced.  In short, its amazing.  Amazing.  The cheese and mustard are perfect together, and there is a slight hint of stout flavor - and if you have read my blog before, you know that I am NOT a beer-drinker.  I have tried, people.  I have really tried to like it.  I just don't.  But used in baked goods?  Oh yeah.  Naturally, I didn't take picture during the actual process, so if my instructions seem unclear, please consult the original link found at the end of my post.  She has an excellent tutorial.  Here's the recipe the way I made it:

Cheddar Beer Mustard Pull-Apart Bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup dark beer, or whatever you like to drink
2 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, preferably room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I think spicy brown mustard would also be good if you like it)
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
few dashes black pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter with 1/4 cup of beer.  Once melted, remove from heat and add the remaining 1/3 cup of beer.  Set aside to cool to around 115 degrees F.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Once cool enough (you just don't want the butter-beer mixture approaching 140 degrees F, which would be death for your yeast), add the beer mixture to the flour mixture, stir until the flour is moistened, then add the eggs and stir til fairly combined.  Fit the bowl onto your stand mixer with the dough hook and knead for a few minutes.  Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and allow to rise for about an hour in a draft-free place.

Toward the end of your rise time, make the filling for the bread.  In the same saucepan that you used earlier, melt 3 tablespoons of butter.  Once melted, remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of mustard and the Worcestershire.  Set aside.  In a bowl, toss the cheese with the mustard powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Now is also a good time to butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan and turn it so that it is standing up on a short end, straight up in the air.

After your dough has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured surface.  Roll it out to a 20x12 rectangle.  Brush the mustard filling evenly onto the dough.  Next, slice the dough from the long side into 5 12-inch strips.  On the first strip, sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese evenly across the dough.  Place a dough strip on top and repeat until you have "cheesed" each strip and you now have a stack of 5 strips.  Using a very sharp knife, carefully slice your stack into 6 "decks."  After each slice, transfer the "decks" to the loaf pan (see why its a good idea to turn the loaf pan into a standing position?).  Allow the dough to rise again for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  After the 45 minutes, bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes (30 was good for me), until puffy and golden brown.  Allow to cool for a good 5 or 10 minutes, then turn the bread out of the pan and try not to scarf down the entire loaf, which is pretty hard because, thanks to the way you "stack" the bread slices in the pan, each piece will just pull right off - makes it really hard not to continually pull a slice off.... well, if you're me, anyway.

Please make this bread.  You will not be sorry.

I hope you're getting ready for a great week.  We finally started getting some truly beautiful weather this week and it has been AWESOME.  I think that spring is finally here!  This is going to be a big month.  My baby, yes, still my baby, turns 2 on April 21, and we'll probably make a big birthday weekend of it with a trip to the zoo that Saturday, and then, unbeknownst to James, we will be taking a train ride on the day of his birthday at the Museum of Transportation.  The kid is obsessed with trains, so he should love it.

Also this month, I'm planning to suck it up and select a day to take my certification exam for ACE.  I've been studying a lot, but I'm pretty terrified.  I could use some prayer with that.  I have to keep reminding myself that God will not set me up for failure.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me, right?  RIGHT.

Have a great week!  Back soon :-)

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fit Friday - Peanut Butter!

Yes, peanut butter.

So, I know I usually have a butt-kicker of a workout to share with you on Fridays, but I'm changing it up this week.  Today we're talking about peanut butter.

I will freely admit that when I'm browsing Pinterest, and I see those "make your own" this or that food posts, I tend to pass right over them.  Seriously, why would I want to grind my own flours, make my own butter, cheese, yogurt, whatever?  I can just buy those at the grocery store!

Well, the answer is simple - when you make it yourself, you know what goes into it.  Now, I'm not going off on you-should-make-everything-yourself, pre-packaged-is-really-bad-for-you, you-should-buy-everything-organic.  I myself use my fair share of artificial sweetener, I search for and then buy the cheapest real butter I can find, and cheese?  I've read a few posts on how to make it, and its not for me (the yogurt one I would be willing to try, just.... to try it!).

But peanut butter?  Hear me out.

Peanut butter is such a healthy-fat-super-food.  Now of course, like with anything, you don't need to go on a peanut butter binge, but seriously, its so good for you.  Its full of healthy, unsaturated fats, and has lots of protein as a bonus!  I love, love, LOVE peanut butter, and thankfully all other parties in my household do as well - my husband, son, and dog.  Sometimes if its still a couple of hours before dinner and I feel myself getting pretty hunger, I'll grab a spoonful, drink some water, and I'm good to go until mealtime.

I was really intrigued by this post about making your own peanut butter and adding in various spices to make it something different.  You'll remember from this post and this post that I adore chai-spiced anything.  So I started thinking, what if I added cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and a smidge of black pepper and salt to pure peanuts and pulverized it in my food processor?

The answer is the lovely picture you have above - delicious spicy peanut butter that has no added oil or sugar!  And OH IS IT EVER DELICIOUS!!!  So, here's a recipe, but there's not really much need, and you'll see why:

Peanut Butter

16 ounces dry roasted unsalted peanuts (or ANY kind you want)
add-ins of your choice - salt, vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa powder, chai spices.... experiment!

Add ingredients to a food processor and pulverize away - you'll need to stop occasionally to scrape down the sides.  Now just be patient!  Your peanuts will go from a gravel consistency to a thick paste, to smooth flowing delicious Heaven in your mouth!

I would recommend storing this in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  The natural oils that are released when you process the peanuts can go rancid.  Here's the good news though - this peanut butter does not stiffen up like other natural peanut butters when refrigerated.  It maintains its smooth loose consistency.

Humor me and give this a try.  I promise you its delicious and so easy.  Now, we still buy regular Jif.  Its perfect for making certain items that need the added stabilizers.  But when you just want a pure peanut butter fix?  This stuff is tops.

Inspired by Love Veggies and Yoga

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thankful Thursday

I've seen these types of posts on many other blogs, and I think its time they were added to mine.  I don't know about you, but on a daily basis, I have a LOT to be thankful for, and sometimes, like when you're having a rough day, if you can just think of a few things you're thankful for, it can really brighten your day.

So here we go!

Today I am thankful that yesterday, just after 9am, when I started getting a nasty migraine, I had the option to call my husband to come home and relieve me from my mommy duties so I could rest it out.  I know that a lot of people might not have that flexibility, and as someone who gets hit HARD with migraines when they do happen, I am so thankful that I had an "out."

And on a lighter note, I am super thankful that the powers that be over the exercise program Insanity saw fit to schedule a certification workshop less than 10 miles from our house next month!  We're calling it my "very strange taste" Mother's Day present, but yep, on May 11, yours truly will officially become an Insaniac!  I can't wait!

So come on, what are you thankful for today/yesterday/this week?  I bet you've got something!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tasty Snack Tuesday....on Wednesday

I hope you're having a great week!  I can't believe its already Wednesday!  The first week of April!  And I can't believe that this little guy will be 2 this month:

We were out and about yesterday, and I had been wondering if, now that he sits forward-facing in his carseat, he would fall asleep in the car or not.  Well, you can probably deduce from the picture that the answer is yes!  We were almost home, it was about 2pm (aka nap time), he took one last look at me and then those eyes were done!  He was completely OUT as I transitioned him from the car to his bed, where he slept for nearly 3 HOURS.  This mama got some good study time in yesterday!

Yesterday I made 2 pretty tasty, very healthy snacks.  They were both protein shakes, and I don't have pictures, but I will share the links and recipes with you!

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries Shake

1 cup sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons Hershey's dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk of your choice (I used almond)
1/2 a ripe frozen banana
optional - 1/2 scoop of chocolate protein powder or 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, both of which will give you a protein boost (I used protein powder, it was awesome)

Combine everything in either a food processor, blender, or (my personal easy favorite) use your immersion blender.  Blend until smooth, adding ice to the consistency you want.  And in case you're wondering, YES, an immersion blender will definitely cut right through crushed ice - I can't vouch for whole cubes.

Recipe adapted from Gazing In

Chocolate Protein Frosty

3/4 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (again could sub Greek yogurt for the same protein boost)
2 tablespoons Hershey's dark cocoa powder
cinnamon to taste - optional, but I love turning simple chocolate into Mexican chocolate

Blend away and enjoy!  This recipe is said to be exactly like sipping a Wendy's chocolate frosty.... I originally followed the recipe exactly as it was written on the original site, and I did not get this feeling.  Make no mistake, it's delicious - I just didn't think it was truly like a frosty.

Recipe adapted from Meals and Moves

Monday, April 1, 2013

Look what I got....

3 years ago exactly, on April Fool's Day no less, Chris and I got engaged on a weekend trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, and to remember it, he came home with my favorite flowers, orchids!