Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chocolate Cherry and Nutella Granola Clusters

There comes a point in every woman's life when she just needs chocolate. And sometimes fellow women need to step in and help one another out. My mom had been having a rough week and I knew just how to cheer her up. 

The one thing anyone who knows my mom will know is she loves chocolate. She also loves granola. I decided to combine the two and thus Chocolate Cherry and Nutella Granola Clusters were born. It is super easy to make and my mom LOVED it! It would make a great gift for any chocolate lover in your life, and nothing is better than a homemade gift- especially one that is edible! 

You will need:
  • 1 3/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup organic agave nectar or honey
  • slightly less than 1/2 cup Nutella 
  • OPTIONAL: 1/3 cup pink and red M&M's for Valentine's Day

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet or pan with tin foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine old fashioned oats and dried cherries.

In a microwave safe mixing bowl combine agave nectar/honey and Nutella. Microwave for 15 seconds, stir, microwave for an additional 20 seconds, and stir again until Nutella and agave/honey are fully combined and liquidy. 

Carefully pour Nutella/agave mixture into the oat mixture. Use a spatula to scrap out any remaining Nutella from the bowl. Toss the oat/cherry mixture until all the oats are fully coated.

Using the spatula spread the coated oat mixture over lined baking sheet. Sprinkle half the chocolate chips over oats, they will melt baking and make the granola even more chocolaty. 

Bake for 23 minutes, or until the oats are a darker brown than when they went in. Bake no longer than 27 minutes or it will get too crunchy. The granola will be soft when removed from oven, this is ok. As granola cools it will harden and become crunchy, like normal granola. 

Upon removing granola from oven sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips, and maybe even a few extra, over mixture. If you don't want all the chocolate chips to melt wait to add them until the granola is fully cooled. Allow granola to cool for half an hour or until completely cool. 

Once cool add chocolate chips and M&M's if desired. 

Finally using your hands break granola into clusters. Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks, but it will be eaten long before then ;)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Staying Motivated

It's the last week of January do I dare ask about the New Year's Resolutions you made just a few weeks back? If you've slipped up or totally fallen off the band wagon it is not too late to get back up. 

Recently I was asked how I stay motivated to work out every day. The truth is it's become a part of my every day life the same way I brush my teeth in the morning. My morning workouts are something I look forward to because it is my 'me' time. The rest of my day is spent in various college classes, and the 90 minutes or however long my workout is is a time when I can focus solely on bettering myself.

If you want working out to become part of your everyday routine make it a habit. This will take work and a great deal of effort, but I know you can do it. Studies have shown it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. For the next 21 days make working out a priority, even if it's only 45 minutes a day it's better than nothing. 

Another way to stay motivated is by making a fitness motivation board. I made a fitness motivation board out of four cork tiles I bought at JoAnn Fabrics. FYI If you're a student you can get a discount card for JoAnn Fabrics and get an additional 10% off every purchase by presenting your student ID. 

On my motivation board I posted quotes I love about fitness, pictures I've taken, pictures of my family, a few of my favorite bible verses, and stickers of goals I have to keep me focused. Pintrest is a great place to find all kinds of awesome fitness quotes to help keep you motivated. Another great thing to include on your motivation board is two pieces of string/yarn. Have one string be pounds to lose, and the other be pounds lost. Being able to visualize a goal is helpful to some people.

One of my favorite things about my motivation wall is the beautiful blue dream catcher I have hanging up. A girl I've known for a long time makes and sells dream catchers to raise money for a trip to Africa. All the dream catchers are very reasonably priced and she just launched a store on Etsy called Dream Catchers by Aimee. Be sure to check her out and help support her awesome cause! 

However you choose to make it making a fitness motivation board is an awesome reminder to workout and become healthier so you can be the best and healthiest you possible!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Crockpot Lemon Garlic Chicken

Happy Crockpot Monday! I hope everyone is staying warm in this cold weather. This weeks crockpot meal is super simple. I threw it together after driving back to college, besides who wants to cook when it is so cold and snowy outside? Not to mention after a stressful drive. 

The drive back to college was seriously the worst drive ever. Normally it only takes 2.5 hours to get from my house back to school, but due to less than perfect weather it took me over five hours to get back. I don't think I ever got above 55mph. Numerous times I was stuck just sitting on the freeway, once for almost an hour and I was in park.

There were too many accidents to count and because the snow was coming down so fast there was no way to tell where the road was. I am pretty sure everyone driving was creating their own lanes. Praise the lord I finally made it back to my apartment safe and sounds. Classes were finally cancelled after 2pm because it really is dangerous out there. After all of that craziness I needed and an easy, healthy meal.

You will need:
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 chicken bullion cube
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water, if you are going to cook for more than 4 hours use 1/2 cup of water
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon oregano

Dissolve chicken bullion cube in water.

Place chicken in crockpot and pour chicken flavored water over chicken.

Brush olive oil on chicken breasts and then pour lemon juice over chicken breasts. Spread spices over chicken breasts.

If desired you can cut up the remaining lemon after squeezing out the juice and top the chicken with lemon slices for additional flavor. If some lemon seeds  fall onto chicken breasts it's ok, they can easily be brushed off.

Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.

Serve over steamed or cooked rice with cooked vegetables. You can also serve over noodles, or spaghetti squash for a gluten free alternative. Keep leftovers refrigerated in airtight container for up to six days.

Better Late Than Never

I did not have time Friday to post a quick update and I know it's late but I figured I would post it anyway.

Friday morning I woke up bright and early to hit the gym before it got crowded. Before going to the gym I ate a blueberry chia seed muffin. These are my favorite muffins ever because not only are they delicious, but they're packed with protein to help fuel me through my morning workout. 

At the gym I did an hour of cardio- running and walking on the treadmill, and spent 30 minutes doing strength training. I like to change up my workout so sometimes I will do more strength training than cardio, or vice versa. If you're a person who gets easily bored with workouts change it up! Try different machines, it might seem scary to learn a new machine, but I promise no one will make fun of you. Everyone is in their own world at the gym focusing on themselves. 

After the gym I ran to the grocery store and picked up a few items. I even picked up a post workout treat. I love greek yogurt so I picked up a Dannon Light and Fit Greek Yogurt Carmel Macchiato. I am loving the new flavors Dannon is coming out with, plus the fact that there is 12 grams of protein you can't go wrong with that! If you have not tried any of the new greek yogurt flavors you are seriously missing out!

Aside from a new yogurt flavor my day was pretty boring. I spent the rest of the day doing homework and taking care of Cora. 

For dinner I heated up leftover crockpot turkey sausage and vegetables. There wasn't a lot of leftovers left so I also had 1 cup of my mom's rice pilaf and a bunch of grapes.

On a side note, I downloaded Lance Bass's single Walking On Air and you have to check it out! I cannot stop playing it. It is an awesome song to workout to because it makes you want to dance. Be sure to check it out! 

Also, this weekend I posted my recipe for healthy homemade granola so be sure to check that out as well. Have great day and stay warm out in the bitter cold!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Healthy Homemade Granola

Hello everyone! I hope you are staying warm and having a great weekend. I apologize for the lack of postings recently. This week has been crazy with getting everything together for my grandmothers funeral. Yesterday was the funeral and it ended up being a long day. 

After coming home and changing into comfy sweats I decided to whip up a batch of healthy granola. I wanted a healthy snack and baking is good therapy for me. Does anyone else find baking extremely relaxing? I had all the ingredients on hand and the granola turned out so delicious, and it made the whole house smell heavenly!

  • 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar 
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, can substitute vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 2 1/3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 3 cups dried fruit, nuts, and seeds
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl combine oats, cinnamon, chia seeds, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Use a large spoon and mix all ingredients together. I used almonds, dried cherries, dried cranberries, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and a few other varieties of seeds.

In a separate small mixing bowl add honey/agave, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and peanut butter. Mix ingredients together and microwave for thirty seconds. Stir very well after microwaving.

Carefully pour melted ingredients into dry ingredients. 

Using a spatula toss until all dry ingredients are coated. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Once cool toss in chocolate chips and mix well.

Line a baking sheet with tinfoil or grease the baking sheet. Using a spatula scoop ingredients out of mixing bowl onto baking sheet. Use either the spatula or your hands and press the granola down, evenly spreading throughout the baking sheet.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes. When the top is golden it is done.

Allow to cool overnight, or a for a few hours, and then break or cut apart. Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Easy Crockpot Turkey Sausage and Vegetables

Happy Crockpot Monday and MLK day! I apologize for my lack of postings in the past week. I do have new recipes for you, I just have not been able to type them up. This past weekend my grandmother passed away so I have been busy helping my family get all the details worked out for the service. Once things calm down I have an awesome granola recipe to post, dark chocolate cherry granola!, and a few others as well.

This week my crockpot meal was literally thrown together. I had just gotten back to my apartment after driving back to college, I lugged all my stuff in- there was a lot of it with groceries too- and I was hungry. Before I had lunch (which I will post about later) I quickly threw everything in the crockpot. I promise it is nothing fancy, but it gets the job done and with all the people coming and going recently it is big enough to feed a crowd.

You will need:
  • 2 pack turkey sausage, can be chicken sausage or whatever you prefer
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 1.5 pounds of green beans, slice the ends off
  • pack of baby red potatoes, cubed
  • 4-5 cups of water, or organic low sodium chicken broth for a little more flavor

First, wash all vegetables and scrub the potatoes. 

Then, cut up vegetables and potatoes and put them in crockpot. Using your hands toss the vegetables and potatoes to thoroughly mix everything together.

Next, cut up turkey sausage, or whatever kind of sausage you are using, into chunks and put it in crockpot.

Once all turkey sausage is cut and in crockpot again using your hands carefully mix vegetables and sausage together.

Finally, pour water or chicken broth by the cup into crockpot. Pour only enough liquid to cover the ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Use caution when opening and serving as the liquid will be extremely hot. I got enough for eight, yes eight, servings out of it. Serving amount will differ depending on how large your portions are.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Crockpot Tomato and Garlic Pork Chops

Happy Crockpot Monday! It's Monday which means it is time for another delicious, nutritious, and easy crockpot meal. Lately most of my crockpot meals have been chicken, so I decided to change it up and do pork chops this week. 

Typically I am not a fan of pork chops. More often than not whenever I eat them they are tough and I feel like I'm sawing through wood not meat. The first time I threw pork chops in the crockpot I was shocked. The meat was so tender and moist it literally fell apart. Since then I have been won over, but only in the crockpot or my mom's delicious pork roast (I'll save that for another day). 

This recipe is really simple and you might even have all the ingredients already in your pantry. I made enough for four servings but you can adjust the recipe as needed for more or less.

You will need:
  • 4 Pork Chops
  • 1 large sweet onion. diced
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic, minced (If you really like a garlicky taste you can add 2 more tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • OPTIONAL: pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 14.5 ounce can organic diced tomatoes, if you can't get organic check the label to make sure there is no added sugar
  • slightly less than 1 cup organic low sodium chicken broth

First, pour the chicken broth into crockpot. Then add pork chops in crockpot.

On top of the pork chops place a pinch of salt and pepper (don't have to include) and spread the diced onion, garlic, and thyme.

Finally top off with the diced tomatoes. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve over cooked rice or to spice things up serve over cooked spaghetti squash.

Nutrition per serving (over cooked rice)
Calories: 282 
Carbs: 34
Fat: 4 grams
Protein: 26 grams
Sodium: 267mg
Sugar: 8 grams

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls- Low Cal Low Sugar

Is there anything better than warm sticky cinnamon rolls oozing in delicious icing? And let's not forget the heavenly smell of cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon rolls are a weakness for me, but truth be told I haven't eaten a cinnamon roll in almost five years. One of the biggest turn offs for me about cinnamon rolls is the amount of calories you consume for what five minutes (maybe) of deliciousness? 

Fun fact for you, the average Cinnabon cinnamon roll contains over 880 calories not including icing. With icing the grand total comes in at 1,060 calories! I think I may have gained a few pounds just thinking about the caloric content. Some of Cinnabon's cinnamon rolls that have other 'goodies' on them contain over 1,500 calories. That is a days allotment of calories! 

Armed with information about the lack of nutrition in cinnamon rolls I set out to create a cinnamon roll with a fraction of the calories of Cinnabon, but still tasted (and smelt) just as good. My cinnamon rolls have only 73 calories (without icing) or 90 calories (with icing) per roll and only 3 grams of sugar! You don't even have to feel guilty about going back for seconds!

You will need:

For the Dough
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • slightly less than 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons Promise butter (it's better for you than regular butter)
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
For the Filling
  • 2 tablespoons Promise butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • slightly less than 1/4 cup brown sugar
For the Icing
For a thicker and sweeter icing:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon skim milk
For a thinner and more traditional icing:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • slightly less than 1/4 cup skim milk

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Then in a mixing bowl combine all ingredients for the dough ONLY. Mix together until a dough ball forms.

Sprinkle some flour on the surface of the counter so dough won't stick. Place dough on floured surface and using a
rolling pin, or your hands, roll dough out to a rectangle with 1/4 inch thickness. If the dough sticks to your hands lightly flour your hands.

After rolling out the dough mix together the ingredients for the filling. Be sure to melt the butter before adding in the cinnamon and brown sugar. Make sure the ingredients are completely mixed together.

Pour the filling over the dough. I poured all the filling in the middle of the dough and used a spoon to spread it around.

After spreading the filling evenly across the dough carefully begin to roll the dough with your hands. I found it easiest to roll the dough towards myself. It does not have to be a perfect circle, it will taste delicious regardless!

Once you have rolled the dough you can choose to cut the dough into sections, for mini cinnamon rolls, or leave it as a loaf to cook. I made indents in the dough first before cutting so I knew how many rolls I would get before I cut. I did find the cinnamon rolls bake more evenly if you cut it into mini cinnamon rolls instead of leaving it as one giant loaf of cinnamon roll.

You can use muffin tins to cook the cinnamon rolls or you can use a regular baking sheet, both work. I got 15 mini cinnamon rolls from my dough. For easy clean up line muffins tins with muffin liners or a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.

Bake for 14 minutes at 375 degrees. The rolls will be done baking when the tops become a golden brown color. Promptly remove from oven.

Either mix together the icing right away and pour over the hot cinnamon rolls to serve, or allow rolls to cool and place in an airtight container in refrigerator for optimal freshness. You can also make the icing ahead of time and keep that in fridge as well.

Nutrition Info Per Cinnamon Roll
Calories (without icing): 73
Calories (with icing): 90
Carbs: 13
Fat: 2 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 89mg
Sugar: 3 grams