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!

Super Nutty Granola

My day on Wednesday, aside from a 2 mile run and a Bodypump class, was pretty relaxed, as I spent the majority of it reading and cooking.  I also stopped at a local culinary shop, The Rolling Pin, to browse through the supplies and sample all the free goodies.

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The Rolling Pin has a huge gourmet kitchen where they offer various cooking courses, and I’ve been dying to try one out. Hopefully I will get around to it one day! image

I know I’ve mentioned before how big of a snacker I am, especially when it comes to nuts, cereals, and other foods that squirrels like. I’ve shared a couple of granola recipes with you before, but I think this is my favorite!

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Super Nutty Granola

Ingredients

4 cups old fashioned oats

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped peanuts

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup sugar free syrup

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter ( or any nut butter)

1 tbsp cinnamon

Directions

Preheat your oven to 250°. Combine oats, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, coconut, cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix to ensure an even distribution of the ingredients. In a different bowl, combine canola oil, maple syrup,  and honey. Add the syrup mixture to the dry mixture. Finally, add peanut butter (in different spots, preferably), and stir. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes for even color. Remove from oven and enjoy. Of course, you can add raisins and chocolate chips here if you please ( I always do)!

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Granola goes great on top of ice cream 😉

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Happy Thursday, Y’all!

Chocolate Covered Heaven + A New Ikea Hack

Fresh Market > Whole Foods > GreenWise. At least when it comes to candy.

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I went to the Fresh Market last night to pick up some essentials. And by “pick up some essentials”, I mean that I left with veggie chips and honey roasted peanuts. Essentials.

I would have taken some candy with me, but who needs to do that when I sampled just about each and every piece while I was there? I was briefly transported to heaven when I made the turn down this aisle, and at this particular Fresh Market, the sweets + chocolate covered nuts and raisins take up about 20% of the store space. It’s pure genius.

The rest of the store is kinda pretty also.

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Rewinding to earlier in the day… I began my day by heading over to help out at one of the Title I schools where my mom frequently works. She is an Educational Diagnostician, and works with students at nearly 30 schools in our county. It was pretty awesome to see her in her element, and how instrumental she is to the school and the children there. I knew she was pretty special when she was nominated for a “Teacher of the Year” position by a school she is only at part-time, but seeing her in action seriously validated her awesome-ness.

But, one of the most wonderful things about helping out at this school was that my mom had this in her desk:

image (69)I’ve seen commercials for JIF whips, but never gave it a try. I love JIF peanut butter so much, so why change it up? If it ain’t broke don’ t fix it! Well, people, JIF whips is just as delicious if not better than the regular PB. I had to get out of that office fast before I ate half of that thing.

After spending several hours helping at school, I returned home and worked on an Ikea hack project with my dad. Remember when I first showed you guys the easiest hack using Ikea Lack side tables?

tablesWell those were great as a coffee table or a bench in a darker-themed bedroom, but my room at my parents home is far too white for those colors. Something had to be done! So, my dad and I worked on a new set. image (72)

image (71)Louie was pleased, as was my inner laziness, because now I don’t have to get off my bed to pick him up.

Later in the afternoon, I headed to the gym in hopes to run 3 miles and attend a group fitness class. However, once I got there, I realized there were no classes for another 2 hours – that will teach me to check the schedule before I go next time. Instead of attending a class, I did the following treadmill workout, which ended up being a little over 5 miles.

50 minute run

And dinner was a plethora of leftovers.

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It felt nice not to cook for one night, but I’m excited for the few days I have left in the kitchen before I start work next week.

I hope you all have a wonderful hump day! We’re that much closer to the weekend 🙂

Great Company & Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Hi, friends! How goes it? My weekend was a wonderful one surrounded by great company. I spent the weekend dog sitting Sam and also helping some friends with their sweet pups – Derek and I figured we walked at least 3 miles on dog walks every day. Doesn’t get much better than that!

We were able to get together with friends for dinner on Friday night, and family on Saturday night – my nephew Fuller was in town (he’s almost 21, no one understands that he’s my nephew) and came too!

Sunday was family day after attending Mass at 7:30, and we went casual on the food front – panini for everyone!

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My runs included a 4 mile outdoor run with Derek on Friday, a 3 mile incline run on Saturday, and the following HIIT run/workout on Sunday:

June 23 HIIT

*This last work out really got my heart rate up and pushed me to run much faster than I’m used to.

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Since I was already in the process of destroying the kitchen by making cannoli last night, I figured why not whip up dessert # 2.

I’m not going to lie to you all – there’s nothing low-cal or low-fat about this recipe! However, we all know dark chocolate has plenty of health benefits, and peanut butter ain’t too shabby either.

This was one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever made. Easy ingredients, easy assembly, easy clean-up, and a mouth-watering good taste.

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20 oz. dark chocolate morsels

1 cup natural peanut butter, divided in 2 parts

1/3 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons butter (I use Smart Balance)

In a mixing bowl, mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter until thoroughly incorporated. Place dark chocolate and remaining peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until completely melted, stirring half way (my microwave took about 1 minute and 10 seconds).

Line a mini-muffin pan with paper liners. Scoop a spoonful of chocolate mixture into the bottom of each muffin mold, top with a smaller spoon of peanut butter mixture, and finally, cover with another spoonful of dark chocolate. Refrigerate until firm – store in tupperware!

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(I used a regular sized muffin pan, but recommend using a mini muffin pan, as these things were ginormous)

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If you need a quick fix for some serious sweet teeth, I’d recommend whipping this bad boy up. My sweet tooth was satisfied in a matter of 30 minutes!

Peanut Butter Granola

Happy Hump Day, everyone! I’m going to share with you a PB Granola recipe – I made this Monday night and can’t keep my hand outta the granola jar! First, though, I’ll re-cap you on my day. When I woke up Tuesday morning, I had a little bit of CPA studying to do before I was able to go on an easy run. I ran super slow , since I’m just getting back into the swing of things. I ran 5K and running slow felt really good and easy, and I wanted to just keep on going, but work called my name.

Before leaving for work, I ate a bowl of apple walnut oatmeal, topped with my PB granola! I cooked my oatmeal, apples, and walnuts on the stove, and sprinkled the granola at the end.

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I’m well aware at how attractive and professional looking this bowl of oatmeal looks. My food photography skills are just out of this world, aren’t they?

Anyway, the pb granola recipe is very similar to my basic Homemade Granola recipe I shared with you all last month, with just a few tweaks and some added PB madness!

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Peanut Butter Granola

Ingredients

5 cups rolled oats

1 cups chopped/slivered almonds

1 cup chopped walnuts

1  cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup sugar free maple syrup

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

3 tbsp cinnamon

4 tbsp natural peanut butter


Directions

Preheat your oven to 250°. Combine oats, almonds, walnuts, coconut, sugar, cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix to ensure an even distribution of the ingredients. In a different bowl, combine canola oil, maple syrup,  and honey. Add the syrupmixture to the dry mixture. Finally, add 4 tbsp of peanut butter and stir until incorporated. Spread out on 2 baking sheets and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes for even color. Remove from oven and let cool before eating. 973862_4946742062119_442034032_n-1It was super tasty and I made a nice big ol’ batch to have around for a while.

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Initially I was worried that the peanut butter would make the granola sticky in the end, but it didn’t at all – it baked in perfectly with the other ingredients!

After work, my mom and I met up with friends that have been in our lives since I was 6 years old – Michelle and her mom, Sharon. We hadn’t gotten together in years, and it was so wonderful to spend a few hours with the both of them! We went to Bonefish, so obviously the food was delicious, too.

Today brings a long day of work and class, and hopefully a nice long run with Derek when the day is over. He’s been traveling for work the past couple of weeks, so it’s been hard for us to run or get to the gym together, so I look forward to lacing up our sneaks’ this evening!

Finally Friday

Let the wedding planning begin! Just kidding, my mom began planning about 2 months ago (specifically, about 2 days before I was proposed to). But, now that I’ve finished the semester and I’m not currently studying for a CPA exam, I’m finally able to join in on the planning fun! Yesterday we went to meet with several florists around town and started to picture the “look” of the event – I’m so excited! One of the florists made me a beautiful impromptu arrangement, and another had a puppy named “Puppy”. How do I choose??

Later in the afternoon I went to talk with my new clients. And by clients, I mean the 3 sweet puppies I’m dog-sitting this weekend. I can’t wait to spend the weekend with Tucker, Bear, and Toby! I’m pretty sure the feeling might be mutual..

After the client meeting, Derek and I went to our new church for a welcome dinner for all the new parishioners. It almost felt taboo sitting down and having dinner with the friars/priests as if they were casual acquaintances, but I think I will really enjoy being a part of a church where the community is so welcoming and comfortable.

After dinner I had a peanut butter craving (what’s new) and decided I’d whip up some peanut butter cookies to enjoy with the GLEE season finale – I can’t believe this season is already over. [I’m a huge gleek, but I wasn’t wild about last night’s episode. It was too light on the Rachel Berry and too heavy on singing trendy songs at regionals].
 I didn’t really follow a recipe with the cookies – I basically just combined 3/4 cup natural peanut butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 6 truvia packets, half an egg white, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 3/4 cups flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder, and 4 tablespoons Smart Balance butter in a bowl, whipped it up and baked at 350° for 10 minutes.  I snacked so hard on the dough and peanut butter that by the time the cookies were baked, I didn’t even want any! So, I can’t even tell you if the finished product was good or not, but the dough definitely was.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Friday! Right now I’m watching Kathie Lee and Hoda with my new furry friends, so I definitely have no complaints in the worl!