Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mom's Famous Homemade Cranberry Sauce- Only 3 Ingredients!

My mom makes the best homemade cranberry sauce ever. If you want cranberry sauce in our house you better take firsts and seconds or you won't get any. Once you've had her cranberry sauce you will never want the fake stuff out of the can ever again! Her recipe is easy to make, only three ingredients!, and takes less than 20 minutes to make. 

My mom even allowed me to share her recipe with all of you, you will want to save this recipe for sure. It is a holiday must!

You will need:

  • 24 ounces of fresh cranberries, frozen unsweetened work also
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup NOT pancake syrup
  • 1/2 cup organic orange juice
  • OPTIONAL: 1 Tablespoon zest of orange

In a saucepan over medium to high heat add all ingredients. 

Bring to a low boil and allow it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until it begins to thicken. 

Take off heat, allow to cool, and refrigerate in an airtight container for three hours, or until chilled. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Cora decided to go for her own turkey trot this morning and chased some ducks in the lake. It is twenty degrees and snowing, but she didn't care. Her fur froze when she came out. Excuse me while I spend the next half hour chiseling icicles off my dog. The joys of dog ownership. 

From Cora and my family to yours, have a very Happy Thanksgiving! 

P.S. Be on the lookout for some new secret family recipes that are perfect for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Healthy Hot Cocoa

BRRRR!! Is it November or February? I hate the cold, I always have and always will. My dog on the other hand absolutely adores the cold weather. She is naturally always hot and will run in the lake regardless of the temperature outside.

After taking Cora outside to play this morning I needed some hot cocoa to warm up. I refuse to use "fake" hot cocoa, aka the powdered stuff you buy at the store. The way I make hot cocoa is significantly lower in calories than traditional hot cocoa, it still tastes great, and warms you up! 

You will need:
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon homemade chocolate sauce, or Hersey's Syrup
  • OPTIONAL: Whipped Cream to top it off

Combine almond milk and chocolate sauce in a microwave safe mug. Heat mug up in microwave for one minute and twenty seconds (more or less time might be needed depending on the strength of your microwave). Use caution removing mug from microwave as it might be extremely hot! Top with whipped cream, if you're using it, and savor the warmth! 

Even Cora was begging for a taste of my hot cocoa!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

End of Semester Survival 101

As the semester starts to draw to a close in college the work quickly starts to pile up and it is easy to get overwhelmed. There is a never ending stream of projects, papers, and exams that all have to get done before finals week. It is very easy to get overwhelmed, which is why I want to share a few tips I have learned from my own experience that I hope can help you survive the end of semester crunch!

1. Make a list
Make a list of all the things you have to do before the end of the semester. Include all projects, papers, and exams AND the dates when everything is due.

2. Make a schedule
From your giant to do list, that includes due dates, make a schedule for yourself. Every day make a list of things that you need to get done based on your due dates. Put the things that must get done at the top of your list, prioritize!, and the less important items towards the bottom. This may sound trivial but making a list of things that have to get done and checking them off as you go will help keep you organized and moving along efficiently. 

3. Beat Procrastination, Start NOW!
Procrastination really starts to set in at the end of the semester, but you don't have to fall victim to it! The sooner you get started on research papers and studying for final exams the more time (and less stress!) you will be saving yourself come finals week. I know it is lame to stay in on a Friday night and write a research paper that isn't due for two weeks, but when you finish it early you have more time to edit and make tweaks. Plus you won't have to stay up all night writing it the night before, which guarantees you a better grade than the kid who did stay up all night the day before it was due.

You might not think you have time to sleep before finals, but do yourself a favor and go to bed. You are only doing yourself and your brain more harm than good by attempting to stay up all night buried in an organic chemistry book. Your brain and your body need rest. Plus you will retain information better when you are rested. 

5. Eat Healthy
Crazy idea coming from a health food blogger right?! In all seriousness eating healthy foods as opposed to a candy bar or whatever else will fuel your body. Fuel your body with protein and fiber so you can stay full longer and have energy. Eating an apple, or a homemade protein barbefore an exam is a much better idea than eating a candy and it won't leave you feeling sick.

6. Ask Questions
Don't be afraid to speak up and ask your professors questions. If you're not comfortable asking questions in front of the whole class then go up and ask your professor before or after class, shoot him/her an email, or drop by their office hours. Professors are paid by YOU so don't be afraid to ask questions. Remember without students professors would not have jobs!  

7. Form a Study Group
Study groups work really well for some people and they don't work at all for other people. If you're a person who can study efficiently and effectively in a study group, then by all means form one with fellow classmates. There is a group of us in one of my broadcasting classes that get together and make note cards of vocabulary terms and we take turns quizzing each other on the terms. It is a fun way to study plus we all have hints that we share with each other on how to remember certain terms.

8. Review Old Exams, Quizzes, and Assignments
Going over old exams is a great way to study for the final. In classes where the finals are cumulative, those are the worst!, old exams give you an idea of what may be asked on the final. Or if your professor is lazy like one of mine was last semester the final is literally taken from the other exams and doesn't test over new material. Either way look over old exams you will be doing yourself a favor.

9. Take a Break
Do no study for hours on end you won't be doing yourself any good. Research shows that taking breaks every 20 or 30 minutes is the most effective way to study. Get up and go for a walk, change the scenery, any way you choose just give your brain a break instead of trying to cram tons of facts in all at once.

10. Don't Give Up
Especially for freshmen finals week can be really scary. College finals are a lot harder than high school finals ever were, but I promise you will survive. Eat right, get enough sleep, and start studying early and finals will be a breeze. Before you know it you will get to go home for Christmas Break and snuggle with your puppy, or whatever kind of pet you have, and relax all cozied by the fire. 

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

Monday, November 25, 2013

Crockpot Apricot Chicken

I have to admit I cheated. I know it is crockpot Monday but I actually made this delicious crockpot meal on Saturday. I'm sorry, I know it goes against tradition, but because of Thanksgiving this week I only have classes through Tuesday. I didn't want any food to go to waste so I decided to make a crockpot meal on Saturday and eat the leftovers until I go home. So technically even though I didn't make the crockpot meal today I am still eating crockpot leftovers, so crockpot Monday lives on!

It has started to snow and it has made me miss the sun and warm weather more than ever. I needed a little something summery to lift my spirits and what better way than with food? Summer is full of delicious fruits and vegetables and one of my favorite summer fruits are apricots. Apricots are loaded with fiber, which help keep you full longer. Apricots also contain lots of vitamins and nutrients that are really good for our bodies.

While I can't buy fresh apricots anymore I bought the next best thing, sun-dried apricots and used them to make a delicious slowcooker apricot chicken, 

You will need:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • one grind of black pepper
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 heaping tablespoons organic apricot jam
  • 1 cup organic chicken broth
  • OPTIONAL: Serve over 1/2 cup brown rice or spaghetti squash for a gluten free alternative

First layer the diced onion at the bottom of the crockpot.

Then, add the chicken breast on top of the onion. Add half a grind of pepper to each chicken breast.

Next, with a knife spread two heaping tablespoons of apricot jam over the chicken breasts.

After the chicken breasts are coated with jam spread the one cup of dried apricots over the chicken breasts.

Finally, pour the chicken broth into the crockpot. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. 

Nutrition (per serving): 
Calories: 261
Carbs: 42
Fats: 1 gram
Protein: 22 grams
Sodium: 71 mg
Sugar: 24 grams

Friday, November 22, 2013

Keeping My Sights Focused

Happy Friday! It's officially the weekend and while most of my friends are kicking back relaxing I'm writing a major research paper for one of my classes. Haven't I mentioned how much I hate this time of the semester? At least the end is in sight. Once I'm done with this paper, which is not only my final for the class, but also counts for 40% of my grade (no pressure or anything), I can officially mentally check out of the class. I also have math project to get to this weekend, the joys of being an overworked college student. 

I have been extremely lazy today in the food department, writing all day fries my brain and my motivation. For lunch I sliced up a few strawberries and made a PB2 sandwich. On the sandwich, two pieces of 35 calorie whole grain Aunt Millies bread because all my flax seed bread is gone, I smeared two tablespoons of PB2 and a tablespoon of organic honey. Half of the sandwich I left as a PB2 and honey, but the other half I cut up 1/3 of a banana and put the slices between the two pieces of bread. I also had some almond milk.

This afternoon while writing my paper I made myself a cup of my favorite tea, chia spiced decaf tea. If you've never had it you need to try it!! It is so good!! It is really cheap and can be found at almost any grocery store. It has a cinnamony flavor to it and is loaded with antioxidants.

I had gone grocery shopping this morning so I picked up a salad at the grocery store for dinner which I added some extra fruit into. Normally I would make my own salad because it is cheaper but I splurged.

The salad is a mix of romaine lettuce and a spring mix. It also has peaches, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and pecans. With the fruit the salad was already sweet so I did not add any dressing. I also had a veggie bowl that had cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and cucumber in it. In the picture I hadn't piled on all the veggies yet so some of the veggies are not in the picture. 

Sorry for the rather boring post, while writing for my blog is significantly more enjoyable than writing a research paper my brain is still fried. If anyone wants to finish writing and editing my research paper for me I would bake you delicious healthy treats!! I guess I should get back to writing my paper. Have an awesome Friday night and be sure to check out the recipe that I posted this morning for a chocolate, PB2, and banana snack wrap!! 

Chocolate, PB2, and Banana Snack Wrap

It was one of those days again, and by those days I mean I was tinkering in the kitchen again. I had worked my butt off at the gym in the morning and I wanted a healthy post workout snack. I love making healthy snack wraps. For me they are one of my go to snack post workout because they are filled with fiber and protein which helps replenish my body after a grueling workout. 

In a skillet over medium heat I browned a La Tortilla Factory Low Carb High Fiber wrap on both sides.

Then I smeared the entire wrap with prepared PB2 powdered peanut butter. 

I topped the PB2 with sliced banana. I used 3/4 of a medium banana.

Finally, I dropped a few chocolate chips onto the wrap and heated the entire wrap up for one minute in the microwave. It was just enough time to allow the chocolate to get warm enough to start to melt. Fold the wrap in half and enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Healthy Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies- The Perfect Thanksgiving Dessert!

It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner. November seems to be flying by and before I know it it will be Christmas! Let the hectic holiday season begin! No matter how hectic the holidays are this is one of my favorite times of year. Everyone seems to be a little bit nicer and I love the generosity of the season. And let's not forget the food! 

One of best parts about the holidays in my house is the delicious food, and there is always a lot of it! My mom makes a delicious turkey which is single handedly my favorite holiday dish ever, that and her homemade cranberry sauce. And in my house it's not Thanksgiving without pumpkin something. This year I got an early start on experimenting with new pumpkin recipes and this year there are going to be chocolate pumpkin brownies at my families Thanksgiving table!

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree NOT pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon organic agave nectar, you can substitute a little less than 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon plus an additional 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons safflower oil, you can substitute vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk or skim milk
  • 1/4 cup Hersey's cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • OPTIONAL: add a pinch of pumpkin pie spice for some extra flavor

Preheat the oven to 330 degrees and spray an 8x8 pan with nonstick cook spray.

In a large mixing bowl combine pumpkin puree, agave nectar, vanilla, safflower oil, and almond milk. Be sure to completely mix ingredients together.

In a separate mixing bowl mix together cocoa powder, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt. Again completely mix all ingredients.

Carefully add wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Thoroughly combine the wet and dry ingredients. 

Once all the ingredients are combined toss in the chocolate chips and fold them into the batter.

Finally pour the batter into the greased 8x8 pan. Bake for 25 minutes at 330 degrees. The brownies may not look completely done after 25 minutes but I promise they are. The edges should harden and pull away slightly from the pan when they are done. 

Allow the brownies to completely cool before cutting and serving. I allowed mine to cool and harden overnight before I cut them. Depending on how you cut them I got 15 medium sized brownies.

Placing wax paper between layers of brownies
prevents them from sticking together.
Nutrition (per serving, 1 brownie):
Calories: 82
Carbs: 14
Fats: 3 grams
Protein: 1 grams
Sodium: 64 grams
Sugar: 10 grams

Monday, November 18, 2013

Skinny Crockpot Balsamic Chicken- Gluten Free

Happy Crockpot Monday! Today has been the perfect day to use my crockpot. It is cold and gloomy outside and all I want to do it curl up in my cozy bed and read a good book. However, reality dictates that I need to go to class to take an exam, a Nicholas Sparks novel sounds much more appealing. Regardless I don't feel like cooking and it's Monday so my tradition of crockpot Monday lives on! 

I have had Balsamic Chicken in the past and loved it! I loved how moist the chicken was and how all the flavors blended perfectly together, but then I found the nutrition facts (restaurants should have to post those in menus!) and well let's just say I wasn't as pleased. Healthy eating shouldn't have to be about sacrificing flavor or your favorite foods, it should be about moderation and finding healthy alternatives. So I did what I do best and began to research Balsamic Chicken. Let me tell you there are a ton of recipes out there for balsamic chicken! My goal was to create a perfect balance of flavor while still keeping the meal healthy. So without further adieu I proudly present you with my latest creation Skinny Crockpot Balsamic Chicken!

You will need:
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, I used Tyson thin sliced
  • 28 ounce, or two 14.5 ounce cans work, can of organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • tablespoon of freshly minced garlic, don't have to include this
  • 1/2 cup organic white balsamic vinegar, can also use regular balsamic vinegar but it is not gluten free
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of pepper

First line crockpot with liner, it will save you a lot of time come clean up!

Pour olive oil in bottom of crockpot.

Sprinkle chicken breasts with pepper and add to crockpot.

Next, add diced onion and mince garlic (if including) into crockpot.

Pour in white balsamic vinegar.

Finally, add diced tomatoes on top of everything. 

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or high for 4-5 hours.

Serve over spaghetti squash or whole grain pasta. 

Nutrition per serving (makes four servings):
Calories: 280
Carbs: 33
Fats: 5 grams
Protein: 29 grams
Sodium: 456 mg
Sugars: 20 grams

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Funday, Well Sort Of

My brain is fried. I will most definitely be crashing in bed ridiculously early on this gloomy Sunday night. This weekend has been packed with homework, but I have made progress and I even squeezed in a few hours of fun with my best friend yesterday! 

Today I majorly got down to business. I worked out extra hard this morning, upping my resistance on the elliptical and going for 40 minutes, I will be feeling the burn tomorrow morning! I also did longer than normal on the treadmill on the hills setting, but I was walking not running. My body needed some time off running so I have not run at all this weekend. 

On my way back from church this morning, thankfully I got back before the severe weather hit (a tornado watch in November who would have thunk?!), I stopped and picked up a berry pecan spring mix salad. I topped the salad with frozen peaches that I heated up and cut into chunks. Because all the fruit was so sweet I did not add any dressing.

With my salad I had a glass of unsweetened Almond Milk and banana slices smeared with PB2.

Most of my day has been spent studying because I have two exams, a project, and a research paper to do. I hate the end of the semester! 

A snapshot of what my life looks like.
For dinner I decided I treat myself with my favorite, breakfast for dinner. I made my delicious chocolate protein pancakes along with eggs, turkey bacon, a peach, and milk. 

If you haven't tried my chocolate protein pancakes yet you are seriously missing out!

I'm going to go back to studying for my exam tomorrow. Have a good night and be on the lookout for a delicious new crockpot recipe tomorrow!

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies- Gluten Free!!

I was going through my camera and I found a bunch of pictures for recipes I haven't yet uploaded. Now all I need is a solid day of nothing going on, which is never going to happen, to get everything posted! 

One weekend I was home from college I decided to revamp the traditional cookie recipe. My dad, who is opposed to eating anything remotely healthy, loves chocolate chip cookies, so being the adventurous baker set out to figure out how to make chocolate chip cookies that were healthier but still tasted delicious. The cookies that I whipped up were delicious! My dad was skeptical because they "looked different" but he did try one and while he said the texture was different he somehow managed to eat the whole thing, imagine that!! The cookies were so moist and contain only a fraction of the calories of a traditional chocolate chip cookie has. Needless to say my mom and I might have eaten a couple of these bad boys too...

You will need:

  • 1 cup almond flour/meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • between 1/4 and 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup organic agave nectar, can substitute 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with tin foil or parchment paper. 

In a mixing bowl combine almond flour and baking soda.

Add in the wet ingredients and mix well.

Finally mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop approximately 1 tablespoon of cookie dough onto lined cookie sheet. Place cookies a few inches apart because the cookies will spread. You should be able to get between 12 and 15 cookies.

Bake cookies at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool before removing from cookie sheet. Store in an airtight container to keep fresh.

*NOTE! These cookies are naturally more crumbly because of the almond flour. They will be what my dad called "floppy" and break apart easier. But they are extremely moist and a healthier alternative to the classic chocolate chip cookie.

Nutrition per cookie (based on 12 cookies):
Calories: 86, 68 for 15 cookies
Carbs: 8
Fat: 5 grams
Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 58mg
Sugar: 7 grams

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Post Workout Chocolate PB2 and Banana Smoothie

Happy Saturday!! I love starting out my weekend with an extra long workout, it really get me revved up and ready to go for whatever my day involves. Post workout I like to refuel my body with protein so my body can replenish some of the nutrients I lost during my workout. This morning I threw together a new smoothie and it was so delicious I knew I had to share! 

You will need:

  • 1 medium banana, cut into large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons PB2 
  • 2 tablespoons Hersey's cocoa powder, can substitute 2.5 tablespoons of Chocolate PB2 instead of PB2 and cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk 

Combine all ingredients in a blender.

Blend together all ingredients on a low or medium setting. It will not take very long for ingredients to blend together but make sure the banana is completely blended.

Pour into a glass and enjoy! 

Nutrition (makes one serving):
Calories: 200
Carbs: 4
Fat: 5 grams 
Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 230mg
Sugars: 16 grams