Top 13 Recipes of 2013

Hey guys! Can you believe it is the LAST day of 2013? When I sit here and think back to the last day of 2012, I am stunned to realize how fast time has passed by and how much has happened in the last 365 days. This year has been one of growth and change for me (I hope I can say that about most years), and I am so excited to see what lies ahead in 2014.

Starting this blog was one of the most out-of-the-ordinary things for me to do, and I’ve truly enjoyed sharing with you guys my favorite healthy (for the most part) recipes, some parts of my fitness routine, and my love for running. As the year comes to a close, I thought a round-up post of your favorite recipes I’ve put on the blog would be a fun post to do. So here goes!

1. Homemade Tortilla Chips


2. Bang Bang Shrimp – Lightened Up!


3. Homemade Pizza


4. Balsamic Chicken Caprese


5. Minestrone


6. Mango Strawberry Banana Smoothie


7. Honey Vanilla Overnight Oats


8. Blackened Tilapia Tacos

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9. Peanut Butter Granola


10. Hummus at Home


11. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

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12. Baked Chicken, Penne and Vegetable Pasta


13. Banana Walnut Loaf



I wish you all a safe, happy and healthy New Year!


Photo Share 12/18 and Chinese Chews by Spaniards

Hi friends! How are you all? Please bear with me because I promise this post will be all over the place! I know this is a little out of the ordinary that I am posting a photo share in the middle of the week, but I realized I never got around to one of my favorite weekly Monday posts, and better late than never, right?! Plus, part of my weekend included baking up a storm with my Abuela, and I wanted to share one of my favorite Christmas cookies with you guys. They are called Chinese Chews, and my Abuela has been making them since she learned the recipe in Home Ec. class she took in college almost 70 years ago. Yes, she has been making these cookies for SEVENTY YEARS – so you know they’re delish!

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Chinese Chews


1 c dates

1 c walnuts

2 eggs

1 c sugar

¾ c flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 stick of butter


In a large bowl, mix dates, walnuts, and a well-beaten egg. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, flour and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to first mixture. Melt butter and add to the combined mixture.

Pour the batter into a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees until brown (about 15-20 minutes for my oven). Remove from oven, let cool a bit (but not completely) for several minutes, and form into balls. Roll balls in sugar or powdered sugar.

chinese chews

Pack them up and pass them out to your favorite friends and family 😉


Rewinding a little further back from our afternoon in Abuela’s kitchen.. I spent the entire weekend with my parents and it was awesome! Derek was out of town for the weekend to attend his sister Davis’ graduation in Auburn (yay DAVIS!!!), so it gave me several days to catch up with my family.

The picture below basically sums up my weekend. Shopping with Mom and Dad – I begged them to bring Lou since we were shopping in Hyde Park (a very dog friendly environment!!!)
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Dad got stuck with the awesome job of holding Louie while Mom and I shopped. At least Pottery Barn was considerate enough to provide him with a place to sit back and relax!

photo 4 (9)Some delicious (if I do say so myself) butternut squash and black bean enchiladas. BOY OH BOY did these HIT. THE. SPOT. as enjoyed them while we watched our man, Jameis Winston, win the Heisman on Saturday night! I can’t wait to share this recipe with you later this week!

photo 1 (5)A Christmas Mani. Because how else do you expect me to look at my fingers at work every day before Christmas unless said fingers are festive?!

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A treat I have been enjoying recently out of Santa’s head is almond milk dark hot chocolate! I have a hot mug of this almost every night – and it’s even (somewhat) healthy!

And one of my FAVORITE pictures from the last week….photo 1 (13)Derek and I have a Christmas tradition of an ornament exchange every year. We typically have the exchange 1-2 weeks before Christmas, sitting by the tree, with a mug of hot chocolate.. This year was a special year, as we got our first house and I got Louie! Derek and I both surprised each other with custom made ornaments – I got him one modeled after our first home, and Derek got me Louie’s face painted on an acorn 🙂 This year’s ornaments are definitely my favorite!!!

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the week  – only 7 days left until Christmas, let’s enjoy this joyous season while it’s right in front of us!

Spotlight on: Junior League of Tampa + Bunco Jumble Recipe

Hi everyone, I hope you all are doing well! My oh my I am getting so excited for Christmas next week and all the festivities that go along with the joyous holiday. I love all the gatherings of friends and family that occur during the holiday season, and I’m looking forward to several get-togethers with friends, both after work this week and this coming weekend!

As you may have read on the blog before, I’m a provisional member of the Tampa chapter of The Junior League. Joining The Junior League this year has given me so many opportunities to volunteer in the community in ways that I didn’t know were available to me, as well as meet some wonderful young women. The Junior League of Tampa’s mission is to “promote volunteerism, develop the potential of women, and improve communities through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers”.

One way in which the Junior League mission is funded is through sales of our award-winning cookbooks. In addition to the classics, The Gasparilla Cookbook and Tampa Treasures, JLT released a Culinary Collection featuring 4 unique volumes. I found the following recipe in Volume 1 – Life of the Party, and absolutely LOVED this mostly sweet, and a little bit salty, party treat! I prepared it for a Junior League holiday party that took place last week, and plan to make it again this holiday season.

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1 box of mini Ritz peanut butter sandwiches

1 cup dry roasted peanuts

1 bag mini pretzel sticks (12 oz.)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1 bag mini or regular M&M’s

Mix the sandwich crackers, peanuts and pretzels in a large roasting pan. heat the sugar, butter and corn syrup in a pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour over cracker mixture, stirring to coat well. Bake at 250 for 45 minutes, stirring mixture every 15 minutes. Remove to waxed paper to let cool completely. Add the chocolate candies. Break up the mixture into small pieces as needed.

Makes handfuls of fun”

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Crowd Pleasin’ Cheesy Bruschetta

Around the holiday season, I find that short-notice entertaining of friends happens more often than the rest of the year. And trust me when I tell you, I have absolutely no complaints. There truly are few things I love more than preparing food and feeding people. But when I’m in a time crunch, Bruschetta is one of my go-to appetizers.

I’ve already shared with you all how to turn the bold flavors of basil, garlic, and tomato into a main dish by pouring it over chicken. But how could I forget to talk about the simple appetizer version of these favorite ingredients of mine?


3 large, ripe tomatoes

1 clove garlic, chopped

4 fresh basil leaves, chopped or shredded

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2  tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Pepper to taste

1 long baguette


Preheat oven to 350°. Chop tomatoes, and place them in a large bowl with garlic, balsamic vinegar, pepper and basil leaves. Set aside for at least 30 minutes. Cut baguette into circular rounds, about 1-inch in thickness. Drizzle rounds with olive oil. Top rounds with tomato mixture and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and return to oven for 2 minutes. Serve hot 🙂


I love serving dishes that seem fancier and more difficult to prepare than they actually were. This bruschetta dish fits that description! These ingredients serve 3-6 people as an appetizer, so make sure to double it if you have a bigger crowd to feed.

If you give this recipe a try, enjoy!

Five Things Friday: Round 3

Hey Hey Hey! I hope you are guys are all smiles over there, because today is FrIdAy! And not only is it just Friday, but it is the first Friday in the month of December! And what is happier and more joyful than a Friday during holiday season? Not too many things! I’m currently a ball of energy and excitement as I countdown the hours to my first half-marathon tomorrow – please cross your fingers and wish me luck! Until then, I’ll leave you with 5 things that are making me smile this lovely Friday!

1. Surprise gifts from neighbors! Our next door neighbors at Derek’s house are so sweet and friendly, and we’re lucky to have them! They brought us this sweet Christmas gift this week, which featured wine glasses from our alma maters, a bottle of wine, and some kitchen essentials! It made me smile from ear-to-ear and warmed me up on the inside!

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2. My mom’s gorgeous tablescape for a Christmas party. My mom has a group of friends (most of whom she’s known since elementary and highschool) that have been getting together almost every single month for the past 25+ years. They rotate hosting their “gatherings” and my mom hosted the Christmas gathering this week. I was SO impressed by the table she put together – isn’t it gorgeous!? photo 2

3. Holiday Sweets – I am having MASSIVE sweet teeth lately. I can’t choose which makes me happier, this giant cannoli cupcake my mom brought me from Moreno’s Bakery or the chocolate covered biscotti I made last week
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4. Holiday Music! The Glee Christmas Albums keep me in the holiday spirit all day at work and every second I’m in the car. I can’t get enough of it, and since the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas is shorter than ever this year, I’m jamming in as much Christmas music as possible!


5. The Wolf of Wall Street. As you may know, the movie adaptation of this bestseller comes out on Christmas Day this year. I’m trying my best to have the book read by then, and I’m really enjoying it so far! I haven’t made it to the end, but from what I’m reading, I definitely recommend it!
the wolf of wallstreet

HAPPY FRIDAY! Anyone have any fun plans this weekend?

Pumpkin Roll + Hotel Gym Heaven

Exercise while traveling is always a little tough, but I’ve utilized the wonderful gym at my hotel for a few treadmill and weight sessions. Some of my favorite places to find new, fun workouts are from other fitness bloggers that I follow. This morning I took a treadmill workout from PBFingers website, and it definitely got my heart rate up and left me lookin’ like a sweaty mess.

The treadmill run I followed went like this


If you’re in need of inspiration for cardio, strength, or circuit workouts, I highly recommend PBFingers blog for that!

This lovely spread awaited me after I finished my run and weights workout…

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If you can’t tell, the stuff at the end of the table is a tray of cool cloths with cucumber slices. Am I in heaven?

While I have really enjoyed this week, I’m so excited to go back home and spend the weekend with friends and family.

Now for the good stuff…

A couple of weeks ago I saw a picture of a delicious and impressive looking dessert in a magazine, and mentioned to Derek’s mom how mouth-watering and pretty the dish looked, thinking this recipe was probably way out of my league, ability wise. You can imagine how excited I was when she told me she used to make pumpkin rolls every year, and would be glad to bake one with me one day soon. Since we’ve all been busy the past couple of weeks, we jumped at the opportunity of having a day without many plans on Saturday, and she invited me over to create this delectable treat!

Pumpkin Roll

For the Roll:

Beat 3 eggs on high for 5 minutes.  Add 1 cup of sugar gradually

Stir in 2/3 cups of canned pumpkin, and 1 tsp lemon juice.

Add to the mixture:

¾ cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp salt

Pour pumpkin batter into a 13×20 pan that has been heavily greased and floured. Top with ½ cup of chopped pecans, and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.


Prepare a kitchen towel with powdered sugar. Turn the baked sheet of pumpkin upside down onto towel and roll up and cool approximately 15 minutes in the fridge.


For the Filling: Beat 1 cup powdered sugar, 6 oz. cream cheese, 4 tbsp. butter and ½ tsp. vanilla until smooth and creamy.


Remove roll from’ fridge. Unroll onto flat surgace, and spread on filling. Re-roll and return to fridge to cool. Prior to serving, remove and slice!




Not only was this dessert seasonal and mouth-wateringly delicious, I think it presents itself as a pretty impressive looking treat as well.

Happy Friday and happy fall, y’all!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Goodness

Although I am not a gluten-free eater, nor do I typically create any gluten-free meals or dishes, I understand that many people these days prefer to dine sans-gluten. So, for my gluten free friends and followers, here is a gluten free pumpkin muffin recipe from you all, courtesy of FitSugar

Low-Cal, Pumpkin Pie Spiced Muffins Minus the Gluten

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Paleo, gluten-, and dairy-free eaters can rejoice! Here’s a perfect pumpkin muffin that covers the dietary restrictions at your table. These light and fluffy beauties can serve as a tasty breakfast to fuel your day, but they’re sweet enough to feel like a treat. One of these muffins is less than 140 calories, so grab two in the morning for a quick breakfast that will keep you satisfied throughout the morning.

Keep reading for this delicious 25-minute recipe.

Pumpkin Pie Muffins

From Paleo Breakfast by George Bryant and Abel James

Pumpkin Pie Muffins

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins


1/2 cup coconut flour

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup coconut oil melted

6 eggs

2 teaspoons organic vanilla

1/4 cup raw honey, melted

3 tablespoons walnuts, chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Sift the coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice, and baking powder together.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix all remaining ingredients, except for the walnuts, until well blended. Add the sifted flour mixture to the pumpkin puree mixture, and mix well until smooth.
  3. Divide the batter between muffin pans, and sprinkle with walnuts.
  4. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until done.


Calories per serving