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

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2. Bang Bang Shrimp – Lightened Up!

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3. Homemade Pizza

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4. Balsamic Chicken Caprese

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5. Minestrone

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6. Mango Strawberry Banana Smoothie

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7. Honey Vanilla Overnight Oats

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8. Blackened Tilapia Tacos

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9. Peanut Butter Granola

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10. Hummus at Home

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11. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

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12. Baked Chicken, Penne and Vegetable Pasta

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13. Banana Walnut Loaf

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

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!

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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!
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HAPPY FRIDAY! Anyone have any fun plans this weekend?

“The 10 Commandments of Snacking”

Anywho who knows me can attest to the fact that the biggest tooth in my mouth is probably my snacking tooth – crackers, almonds, chips, carrots + hummus, grapes, cheese – give it ALL to me. This really is my favorite group of food, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one who feels this way. So when I came across the following article on Fitsugar , I was excited to read something so applicable to my daily eating habits. In case you feel the same way I do about crunchy, bite sized, bi-hourly meals, read on!

The 10 Commandments of Snacking

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Snacking not only wards off hanger (hungry anger), it  can fill the holes in your daily nutrition and weight-loss goals too. But since healthy snacking is all about the right choices, let the 10 commandments of snacking be your guide. From choosing a right pre-workout bite to using snacks to satisfy cravings, these rules are here to help (not doom) your diet!

1. Thou Shalt Measure It Out

Once you choose a snack, measure out the appropriate serving, leave the kitchen, and sit down to enjoy it. Avoid eating straight from the box of cereal or while standing at the kitchen counter, because you’re more likely to keep going back for more (and more!).

2. Thou Shalt Fill in the Gaps

Use snacks to fill in the holes in your diet. If you didn’t get your greens in at lunch, munch on a few veggies in the afternoon. This will ensure you have a well-balanced diet — not to mention fruits and veggies are lower in calories and higher in nutritional value than a handful of candy.

3. Thou Shalt Acknowledge Cravings

Can’t stop daydreaming about chocolate? Don’t try to suppress it. Instead, see if you can come up with a diet-friendly alternative that’ll satisfy the craving so you don’t over indulge later on. Try these healthy chocolate snacks that won’t undo your diet.

4. Thou Shalt Keep It Under 200 Calories

It’s important to keep snacks between 150 and 200 calories, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Although this sounds small, there are plenty of options under 150 calories that are satisfying and filling.

5. Thou Shalt Consider the Workout

The right snack is key to a good workout and recovery. Pre-workout snacks should offer a combo of protein and carbs, and you should nosh on your snack about 30 minutes before setting out to exercise. For a good recovery, also choose post-workout snacks that are a combo of protein and carbs to build and repair muscle and quickly recoup lost energy.

6. Thou Shalt Pair With Water

Fill a reusable water bottle or a glass with nature’s beverage, and sip a few ounces after each bite of snack. The water will help you feel full and satisfied without adding any calories.

7. Thou Shalt Savor It

Since snacks are small, make your snack last at least 15 minutes and really savor each bite. Slowing down when eating will help you feel satiated by the time you finish, which will prevent you from wanting to reach for more. Don’t forget to apply the same rule for meals too!

8. Thou Shalt Make It a Triple Threat

Don’t just reach for a handful of crackers. For a satisfying snack, the right combination of proteins, carbs, and fats will keep you feeling full and allow your blood sugar levels to stabilize so you don’t crash and burn. Stick to a combination of fruits, veggies, and bread with nuts, yogurt, or cheese.

9. Thou Shalt Pack It

When you’re on the go, you’re likely to snatch up whichever snack is most convenient (cough cough, chips!). Rather than settling for unhealthy picks, make sure that you always have a healthy choice on hand. Keep protein-packed energy bars or a small bag of nuts in your purse so that you’re never forced to go with an unhealthy on-the-go option.

10. Thou Shalt Make It a Do For Weight Loss

Although you’re consuming calories, snacking can actually help you lose weight. It satiates your hunger, making you less likely to reach for high-calorie treats when you’re beyond starving or to eat more at dinner than you normally would.

What I’ve Been Up To + Easiest Butternut Squash Soup

The excitement, along with my new found love with pre-sunrise running, is getting me through this week.
Derek and I laced up around 6am on Monday and Wednesday mornings and headed out for a 3.5 mile runs. I really wish we could make these morning runs longer but the thought of getting out the door in the 5 o clock hour doesn’t sit well with me. We will see where this morning run takes us , but for now I think I’m maxing out at 4 miles or less!

On Tuesday’s workout front, I headed to the gym after work for a quick upper body workout. I completed the following workout I found on Pinterestphoto 3

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The workout took about 15 minutes, so I added on the following to round out my time to 30 minutes:

  • Front Raises – 5 lb weights – 3 sets of 15 reps
  • 1 minute planks x 4 sets
  • 100 crunches on stability ball
  • Overhead press with free weights – 10 lb weights – 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Side raises – 5 lb weights – 3 sets of 15 reps

After the strength portion, I stretched for 10 more minutes and called it a night!

On the eats fronts, I’ve been taking whatever I can get whenever I could get it. Which has turned out to be a great tactic, as I went with my parents to Acropolis on Monday evening after work

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And a tasty bowl of chili at Derek’s parents’ house on Tuesday night

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 This chili was amazing, and since it was a rainy night out, it really hit the spot!

The work days have been long for me, filled with plenty a pumpkin spice flavored coffee. Who can complain about anything when there is pumpkin spice flavored coffee offered endlessly?

Anyways, as to not bore you with my daily tribulations, I will not present to you a deliciously warm fall recipe!

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A couple of weeks ago, as I was browsing through the aisles of Publix Greenwise, I found some canned organic butternut squash and knew something good could come of it. But there it sat in my pantry, untouched and unloved for far too long. I brainstormed my head off but just couldn’t come up with what to make with it. But all it took was a little turn of the can to discover a recipe for Butternut Squash soup printed on the back label. Since the recipe looked fairly simple (it proved to be true), I decided to give it a go! I changed it up a little, by using almond milk instead of cream, and it was deliciously thick! This is how it went:

Ingredients

1 15 oz. can butternut squash purée
1 cup chopped carrots
1 large white onion , quartered
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups original almond milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 pinch cinnamon

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

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Directions

Add vegetable broth, onion, carrots, salt, pepper and cinnamon to a large pot and simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Add in butternut squash puree, as well as almond milk, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and top with crumbled goat cheese. Serve immediately.

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Hope y’all have a happy hump day and are enjoying your week! Let me know what you think if you try out the soup recipe 🙂

Banana Walnut Loaf + Happy Birthday Weekend to D Man!

Hey there party people! THE WEEKEND IS UPON US! In a few short hours, the work week will end, and I am thrilled because it is Derek’s birthday weekend, so plenty of celebrations will ensue. For good measure and some funny faces, please refer to the birthday pictures below from the past 4 years.

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Anywho. My week this week has been insanely busy, and I’m grateful that I was able to run 3 out of the last 4 days, as well as take a yoga and bodypump class.

yogaGranted, I’ve been waking up before 6am or getting home after 830pm to do these things, but it’s made my work week a bit more enjoyable. I do have some sad news to report, however, and maybe some of you have experienced this same awful thing before. But I wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy. Wednesday night I got into bed around 10 p.m., with my alarm set for a 6 a.m. morning run. I did not sleep one ounce (yes I understand ounce is not the correct measurement, it’s obviously minutes, but humor me) all night long. Around 3 in the morning, after tossing and turning 5 hours, I resolved to stop trying to sleep, and instead read a book. And between 5 and 6 am I was just praying for time to pass by because I was bored out of my mind. Has this ever happened to any of you? An entire sleepless night? I’ve never struggled with insomnia before, so I’m not sure if this is just a typical case of that. Who knows. But I do hope it NEVER happens again.

Now, enough dwelling on the negative! Boy do I have a recipe to share with you, and just in time for the weekend! I made this banana walnut bread (an adaptation of a Food Network Recipe) the same weekend as I made the easiest Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. While the aforementioned muffins were received very well by my pumpkin-loving friends and relatives, it is a sad truth that pumpkin isn’t everyone’s favorite flavor. Bananas, on the other hand, typically are an all around favorite, and this recipe was the winner of the weekend!

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Ingredients

1 1/4 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 egg whites (I use Egg Beaters – 1/2 cup)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar (I used part stevia – conversion here)

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 cup chopped or broken up walnuts

1 stick butter (I use Smart Balance – 1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° and spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, mash bananas with fork.

Pour flour into  a large bowl, and add in baking soda and set aside. In a small bowl bowl, mix together egg whites and vanilla extract. In the bowl of a stand up mixer (or a large bowl and a hand mixer) mix the butter and sugar together. After the butter and sugar are mixed, first add in the egg mixture and then the mashed bananas and mix until wet ingredients are incorporated. Finally, fold in the flour mixture and walnuts and mix by hand.

Pour batter into loaf pan, and bake for 1 hour. To make sure the baking is complete, stick a tooth pick in loaf to check the loaf is baked through.

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If you know what’s good for you, you’ll give this recipe some serious thought! Have a happy weekend, y’all!

Five Things Friday: Round 2

HAPPY FRIDAY, PARTY PEOPLE! I am finally understanding the concept of “working for the weekend”. I’m so ready for this afternoon to roll around, and to spend the weekend doing my favorite things. I’m running a Susan G. Komen 5K in the morning, which feels like the best way to celebrate the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and plan to spend the rest of the weekend watching football, cooking, dog sitting, and hanging outdoors. But before I get started, I wanted to share with you all another round of “Five Things Friday”, just so you all know what I’m currently obsessing over!

M & Ms and all sorts of candy at work. This will probably end up being something I hate a little later on, when my dentist bill sky-rockets and my clothes no longer fit. But currently, I’m really enjoying the loads of M&M’s that are stationed about the office. It gives me incentive to get out of my desk and walk around, which is great given the fact that I read this article about the negative effects of sitting this week.

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Morning Runs. I can’t believe I just said that. In the past, I’ve absolutely hated running in the morning, but now that my flexibility time-wise is limited, I’ve really enjoyed getting up and getting a run in before leaving for work in the morning. It leaves the evenings wide open to spend time with my family, Derek and Louie!

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My friend Sara is a lawyer. Like an actual, official, certified, sworn in lawyer. After finding out that she passed the Florida Bar Exam last week, she was officially sworn in this week. I was so happy to be able to celebrate such an amazingly crazy accomplishment with her and her family over dinner this week!

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Pumpkin Spice. We have an industrial-size coffee machine at work, and at least 20 different flavors regularly. But, this month is extra special, because pumpkin spice is amongst the many options. I am not proud to admit (and so I won’t) the number of these I drink per day.

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How to Win Friends and Influence People – by Dan Carnegie. I began reading this book, at the recommendation of Derek and several coworkers, a few weeks ago. This book is one of the best selling self-help books of all time – it was written in the 1930s (a fact I wouldn’t have even realized had I not read the inside book cover), and has stood the test of time, proving it’s applicability through every generation. In the 1980s, the book was revised to include more “relevant to our day” language and anecdotes, but it still holds the charm of the original print.

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I hope you all have a fabulous Friday and a happy and healthy weekend!