Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Exchange: Cookies and Cream Puppy Chow

The Christmas season is officially upon us. It's hard to believe it's already that time of year again, seriously wasn't it just Halloween? I love Christmas time. Everyone seems a little bit nicer, I love all the twinkling lights and I get to bake to my hearts content! I spent the afternoon up to my eyeballs in cookie dough and puppy chow and my house smelt AMAZING. Seriously baking is better than any air freshener or candle out there. 

It's been a tradition since my freshmen year of college that the week after Thanksgiving my friends and I have our Christmas exchange. The rules are simple, you cannot buy a gift for anyone it has to be homemade. Buying ingredients or supplies are allowed, but just plain buying a gift isn't. It's a really fun way for us to show our love to one another and express ourselves. I love baking so I bake treats for everyone, others do arts and crafts kinds of stuff there's all kinds of things and it's a lot of fun.

This year I threw a twist on puppy chow. Last year it was a major hit with my friends so I made a GIGANTIC batch this year with some really fun cookies for each of the girls. I also made a few extra sets to give to some of my friends that aren't part of the exchange. While the puppy chow was cooling my mom kept stealing some and finally told me to get it away from her because she would eat the entire batch if it wasn't out of sight soon! It's always a sign of a great recipe when someone can't stop eating it!

Cookies Puppy Chow
  • 5 cups GF Chex cereal
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 8-10 Oreos broken into pieces
  • *1/3 cup butter
  • *1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
Cream Puppy Chow
  • 5 cups GF Chex cereal
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 8-10 Oreos broken into pieces
  • *1/3 cup butter
  • *1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar

(*NOTE: You can leave out the butter and peanut butter and just use chocolate chips and white chocolate chips, however I have found that the peanut butter and butter combo makes the puppy chow creamier and help the powdered sugar stick better than chocolate alone)

In two microwave safe mixing bowls add chocolate baking chips in one bowl white chocolate chips in the other, broken oreos, butter, peanut butter, and vanilla extract. Microwave one bowl at a time for one minute, take out stir, then microwave for thirty seconds, take out stir again making sure all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Microwave for an additional thirty seconds.

Then take contents of mixing bowl and pour into one of the Ziploc bags. Seal Ziploc bag, double check to make sure the bag is tightly sealed, then shake! Shake for one to two minutes until all the chex cereal is coated in the liquid chocolate and crumbled oreos. 

After all the chex is coated in the liquid chocolate and peanut butter mixture, open the Ziploc bag and pour in the powdered sugar. Seal the bag back up and shake! Shake hard, not too hard to break open the bag, but hard enough to coat all the cereal with the powdered sugar. Rotating the bag around helps distribute the powdered sugar around.

Once all the chex is coated in powdered sugar pour the puppy chow onto a lined baking sheet to cool. 

Repeat steps with the other bowl of chocolate. Spread this mixture on a separate lined baking sheet and all to cool.

Once the puppy chow is cool mix I mixed in additional crumbled oreos in each mixture and red and green M&M's into the cream puppy chow. Do not add the M&M's in while the puppy chow is warm or the M&M's will melt.

In a giant mixing bowl combine cookies and cream mixtures. I placed mine in containers in a box with a set of funfetti chocolate chip sugar cookies (I'll post that recipe soon) for the traditional Christmas exchange with my friends.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Crockpot Skinny Tomato Basil Soup

This may seem hard to believe, but until now I had never had tomato soup. I remember being in elementary school and all my friends were always so excited when grilled cheese and tomato soup was being served in the cafeteria for lunch. I rarely bought lunch, instead my mom always packed a healthy lunch for me, no complaints though because 99% of the time my lunch was way better than anything the school was serving.

I had never given tomato soup much thought until it started getting really cold out and for the first time I thought it sounded good. I really had no knowledge of how to make tomato soup, so I just threw some ingredients into my crockpot and hoped for the best. After I had blended it all together it came out so thick and yummy. I made a batch of gluten free cornbread that was perfect with the soup. Forget restaurants sodium loaded tomato soup, this soup will warm you up and it's totally healthy! 

Crockpot Tomato Basil Soup
  • 28 ounce can organic peeled and crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups organic low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • basil leaves, fresh or spice, to taste

Place all ingredients in crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

Pour soup into a regular or immersion blender. Blend on low until smooth.

Transfer back into the crockpot and place on low again to allow soup to warm up. 

Serve and enjoy! 

Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze and enjoy later.

Nutrition per 1 cup (makes 6 one cup servings):
Calories: 64
Carbs: 12 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 307 mg
Sugar: 6 grams

Friday, November 21, 2014

One of Those Days

It was one of those days where I was just not hungry and nothing sounded good. I made half a sandwich, the sandwich was made with gf bread smeared with 1 tablespoon jif whips maple brown sugar peanut butter, 2 slices oven roasted turkey breast, organic romaine lettuce, 2 slices avocado and 3 cherry tomatoes sliced in half.

I also had a pear sliced, sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey. If you've never had a pear with cinnamon and honey you are seriously missing out! The flavors perfectly compliment one another and it's a great snack to satisfy a sweet tooth in a healthy way.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cranberry Almond Quinoa Granola (Gluten Free and Vegan)

Snow days are good baking days. Yesterday classes were cancelled and I had almost no work I had to do. I lounged around my apartment, baked, took a nap, worked out and wrote up some blog posts. 

I have not baked in a long time because I've been so busy and I had the itch to make something healthy. Granola was the first thing that popped into my mind, so I set out to make a healthy version with a little bit of crunch. Feel free to add in your favorite nuts, there are endless possibilities!

Cranberry Almond Quinoa Granola
  • 1 cup GF old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons organic unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 teaspoon honey, or maple syrup for a vegan option
  • 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil, melted

In a large mixing bowl combine oats, quinoa, chia seeds, shredded coconut, cinnamon, flax meal, almonds and cranberries. 

In a separate bowl combine honey, vanilla and coconut oil. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir and microwave for an additional 30 seconds if coconut oil is not melted. 

When liquid ingredients are melted, pour them into dry ingredients. Use a spoon and gently toss ingredients, ensuring everything gets coated with liquid. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 

Line a baking sheet with tinfoil.

Spread the granola onto the baking sheet. Press it down into a thin layer.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes. 

Remove granola from oven, allow it to cool completely- mine took about two hours, before breaking it apart and storing in an airtight container. 

Nutrition per serving:
Calories: 154
Carbs: 16 grams
Fat: 9 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 0 mg
Sugar: 5 grams

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weekend Recap

It's a complete blizzard outside and classes were cancelled today. I won't complain about classes being cancelled, but the weather leaves much to be desired in my opinion! At least it has given me time to write up some old posts and I wanted to do a weekend recap plus share some exciting news!

I have been so excited to share this with all of you awesome readers! Chase Infinite is a clothing company that designs workout shirts and tank tops for both men and women. I have long been a fan of their cute clothes, but I also love what they stand for as a company. $1 from every shirt sold is donated to charity. They are also very big into empowering women, which is a cause I am extremely passionate about. They recently reached out to me and I could not have been more excited. 

I have teamed up with Chase Infinite and am excited to offer 30% off their tank tops to all of my awesome readers! Simply use code "303030" at checkout for the discount. Go and check out their awesome fitness gear and help support an amazing company! If you make a purchase post a picture on instagram and tag Chase Infinite and me, I want to see you empowered!

I got an awesome deal on bananas this weekend. Meijer had bananas for 38 cents a pound, normally they're 54 or even 59 cents a pound, so you better believe I stocked up! That isn't even all the bananas I bought, people thought I was crazy, but I do not pass up a good deal!

Have you ever had avocado and egg on gf toast? It's seriously the best! I am completely addicted. It is also really good if you put 1/2 tablespoon jif whips maple brown sugar on the toast and then the avocado and scrambled egg. I know it sounds strange, but the flavors work perfectly together. 

With my avocado egg toast I had a big bowl of yumminess. It is made up of 1/3 cup light and fit vanilla greek yogurt, 5 blackberries, 5 raspberries, 1 tablespoon Barbra's GF puffins, 1/2 tablespoon organic ground flax meal, 1 teaspoon pepitas, 1 teaspoon sunflower seeds, 1 teaspoon chocolate chips and 1/2 teaspoon yogurt covered raisins. I had kicked butt earlier at the gym so I deserved this treat.

Saturday I just hung around my apartment and worked on homework. Super exciting I know. It was one of those days where I literally did not feel like cooking so I threw together my go to salad. I call it "I don't want to cook so throw all the leftovers in the fridge in a bowl." Maybe a snappier title is needed? I literally do throw all my leftovers in to a salad of sorts. 

This was made up of of 2 cups organic romaine lettuce, 2 tablespoons sliced avocado, a small handful of fresh raspberries, 2 thin slices oven roasted turkey breast and about 1/3 cup leftover steam vegetables and potato chunks- the steamed veggies were made up of zucchini, red and yellow bell pepper and onion. It may not be the prettiest salad, but it tasted good and involved no effort.

On Sunday in the midst of a blizzard my awesome parents braved the weather and drove up to school for my induction into ODK. ODK, omicron delta kappa, is the National Leadership Honor Society. I was nominated by a professor to be a member and was honored to be nominated. I was really excited to see my parents and spend a few hours with them. I'm definitely looking forward to going home for Thanksgiving and seeing my puppy!

Bundle up and stay warm and safe out there!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Crockpot Skinny Butternut Squash Soup

I apologize for slacking on the blog recently. I have a ton of end of semester projects and have been busy working on those. Plus my parents visited me at school yesterday for my ODK induction ceremony, I have pictures and a post that I will share about that later, but first Happy Crockpot Monday!

Is there anything better than warming up with a pipping hot bowl of soup? I had never been a big soup fan before this year, but now I am all about soup! I have been loving creating delicious and healthy soups and my apartment always smells amazing. 

Lately my instagram has been flooded with pictures of butternut squash cooked in every way imaginable. I am a big butternut squash fan myself so I decided to try to make a really good, thick butternut squash soup that was basic and healthy. I experimented with different ingredients and landed on the perfect recipe that is thick, full of flavor and oh so healthy. The recipe even got my mom's stamp of approval- and trust me she is a big butternut squash soup lover!
  • Approximately 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 medium granny smith apple, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 medium sweet onion (about 1 cup), diced
  • 2 cups organic low sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
  • my secret ingredient-2 teaspoons cinnamon

I bought pre-cubed butternut squash, but you can buy a whole one and cut it if you prefer. Place cubed butternut squash in crockpot.

Diced up apple and onion and layer them on top of squash in crockpot. 

Finally pour chicken broth into the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

When the vegetables are soft in the crockpot use an immersion blender or pour the vegetables into a blender in batches and blend until smooth, use the lowest setting so you don't shoot it everywhere. 

Place soup back in crockpot for a little bit to get it warm again. Serve and enjoy!

Keep leftovers in fridge, or freeze it. I froze leftovers and when I thawed some it was just as delicious as before, and not at all runny.

Nutrition per serving (make six 1 cup servings):
Calories:  71
Carbs: 14 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 45 mg
Sugar: 4 grams

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Healthy Spaghetti

I used to have MAD love for spaghetti. I would eat it at least once a week, no joke. Eating crockpot turkey meatballs got me in the mood for spaghetti. Want to know something weird though? Until I made my first batch of crockpot turkey meatballs I had never had meatballs before. Strange I know, but I don't eat beef and my dad is the pickiest eater on the planet, so dinner options were limited when I was growing up. 

Instead of using noodles I opted for cooked spaghetti squash. It's a healthier option and it's gluten free. Since I was out of meatballs I used a gluten free turkey burger, chopped it up and covered it all with basil tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. It was a quick and easy alternative to traditional spaghetti and it is low cal.

With my delicious spaghetti I had 1/3 cup Dannon light and fit vanilla greek yogurt with a small handful of green grapes and raspberries. I also threw in 1 tablespoon organic ground flax. I know it's a weird combination of food, but who ever said I was normal ;)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Perfect Fall Day

The weather has been rather crummy and freezing here the past few days and today it SNOWED. It reminds me winter and dreaded snowstorms are coming (UGH). I like snow for Christmas and New Year's and then it can go back to being 80 and sunny, if only right? 

Two weeks ago we had one of those rare perfect falls days. It was sunny, 72 degrees and absolutely perfect. Of course it was a Monday, but I wasn't about to let the good weather go to waste! I only have one class on Monday, so one of my friends and I decided to drive into Grand Rapids and enjoy the glorious weather before class. 

We walked along the river front and just enjoyed the view. I have never explored downtown or the riverfront before, but there is a lot to do! Since it was a Monday we had the riverfront almost entirely to ourselves. 

I never take selfies, I think they're awkward and for the most part I don't understand why people feel the need to document themselves 24/7, but it was one of those rare days when my naturally wavy hair was actually cooperating so I thought why not? 

This is my favorite picture I took while we were walking. The blue bridge is a local icon and I think the color is pretty cool. There was a decent amount of people walking, running and enjoying the views on it. 

Of course it was the warmest day of fall and I had my favorite crockpot chicken and vegetable soup cooking in the crockpot. I am definitely not complaining because the weather was gorgeous, and it got cold the day after so the soup turned out to be a good thing. Here's to dreaming about warm and sunny days...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Crockpot Minestrone and Mini Turkey Meatball Soup

Happy crockpot Monday! I am so excited it's crockpot Monday again, I took a few weeks off to eat some leftover crockpot meals I had frozen in. I have been really excited about making this soup for awhile. I sat brainstorming it for a long time because I wanted to get it just right. 

Soup has been my thing lightly if you couldn't already tell. It's been great to have too because the weather has been too cold for my liking, so warming up with a bowl of soup has been perfect. This soup is different than a classic minestrone because it doesn't have beans or noodles, plus it is significantly lower in calories. It also makes a TON of food and it freezes and heats up great. If you're looking for a light, yet filling soup look no further my friends!

Crockpot Minestrone and Mini Turkey Meatball Soup
  • 1.3 lb extra lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup gf breadcrumbs 
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pepper, to taste
  • 32 oz organic low sodium chicken broth
  • 28 oz organic petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced
  • 1.5 cups diced carrots
  • 8 oz chopped organic baby bella mushrooms
  • 8 oz green beans, ends trimmed off and cut into small chunks

In a large mixing bowl combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, egg, minced garlic and olive oil.

Once that is loosely mixed add in ground turkey and thoroughly combine.

Use your hands and roll ground turkey into tablespoon size meatballs. Place meatballs on lined baking sheet. I was able to get 48 mini meatballs. 

Spray a skillet with nonstick cook spray and heat to medium/low. 

Doing 8-10 meatballs at a time brown the meatballs. Do not cook them all the way through! It is important to brown the meatballs because it really seals in the flavor. It should take about 1.5 minutes to brown a meatballs on both sides, time varies depending on the heat setting and your stove.

Place browned meatballs back on baking sheet and brown remaining meatballs. You can easily prepare the meatballs a day ahead of time, just place them in a sealed ziploc bag or container in the fridge.

In a crockpot place half of the cut up veggies. 

Next, add in half of the meatballs. 

Pour in half of the chicken broth and slightly less than half of the petite diced tomatoes.  

Layer in remaining vegetables and then the rest of the meatballs. 

Pour the remaining chicken broth in and add the rest of the petite diced tomatoes in.

Cover crockpot and allow to cook for 6-8 hours on low.

Before serving stir soup. Garnish with a sprinkle of additional parmesan cheese if you choose. Transfer any leftovers into an airtight container and keep in fridge for 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months. 

Nutrition per serving (makes 10-12 large servings):
Calories: 157
Carbs: 9 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Fat: 7 grams
Protein: 15 grams
Sodium: 228 mg
Sugar: 3 grams

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Peanut Butter Banana Waffles

I am so excited to be blogging! These past two weeks have been utterly crazy with projects, exams, papers and presentations but that is all turned in now and I have a moment to catch my breath. I have missed cooking and baking these past two weeks and I am looking forward to cooking up a storm this weekend. I also have a really, really exciting project I cannot wait to share with you so stay tuned! 

After a day of hanging out with friends today and checking out a local health food store I was pooped. I came back to my apartment and just chilled out. I had kind of forgotten how it felt to literally do nothing. I knew I wanted to make something yummy for dinner and breakfast sounded good. Anyone who knows me knows peanut butter and banana in any combo is my favorite, so I made it in waffle form and it did not disappoint. Plus I am happy to report these delicious waffles are completely dairy free and gluten free without any crazy or expensive ingredients! They can be made using whole wheat flour and are just as delicious.

Peanut Butter Banana Waffles
  • 1 cup GF all purpose flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon organic ground flax
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup all natural peanut butter, or nut butter of choice
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon organic honey
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and ground flax.

After dry ingredients are combine add in all wet ingredients and stir. It will take some arm muscle to mix peanut butter in with other ingredients. You can use an electric mixer if you choose. 

Spray waffle maker with non stick cook spray or coconut oil. 

Once waffle maker is heated up scoop a few large spoonfuls onto waffle maker.

Allow waffle to cook until the center and edges turn light brown.

Depending on how large you make the waffles you can get 3 jumbo waffles or 6 normal size waffles. 

Nutrition per waffle (based on 6 waffles):
Calories: 190 
Fat: 9 grams
Carbs: 24 grams
Sodium: 151 mg
Fiber: 4 grams
Sugar: 6 grams
Protein: 6 grams

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Overnight Oats

An empty peanut butter jar could not have come at a better time. I have been insanely
busy with classes, obvious from my lack of posting, and have hardly had time to prepare food. I had finished off one of my absolute favorite peanut butters, Peanut Butter & Co Cinnamon Raisin Swirl (a must try if you have not tried it!).

I am all about easy meals so instead of tossing the jar I made overnight oats in it. The jar was not entirely empty, it still had about a tablespoon of peanut buttery goodness left in it, which is perfect for overnight oats.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Overnight Oats
  • 1 almost empty peanut butter jar, about a tablespoon of peanut butter left
  • 1/3 cup gf oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons dannon light and fit vanilla greek yogurt, can omit
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon raisins
  • 1/2 honeycrisp apple cut into chunks

Place everything inside the jar. Seal the lid and shake it up. 

Refrigerate overnight. Shake it up again before eating. 

Instead of having it for breakfast I grabbed it as a lunch as I headed out the door for classes. I also added in 1/2 of a small banana. Allowing the oats to soak overnight allows them to really absorb the flavor of the peanut butter and cinnamon.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Daylight Savings Time and Catch Up: Weekend at Home Part 3

A person can get a lot done when they wake up at 3:30 in the morning. My friends all think I am clinically insane, but I can't sleep in. The time change this morning screwed up my internal clock. My body was saying wake up, but it was only 3:30. Unfortunately I am one of those people who when I wake up I am wide awake.

I wasn't about to complain because there have been a lot that I have been slacking on, mainly cleaning, around my apartment because I have been so busy with classes. I whipped up a quick breakfast and got to work scrubbing. I scrubbed my entire apartment from top to bottom, baked cinnamon banana muffins to freeze for the week and changed my sheets. I may fall asleep in church later this morning...

Anyway, I wanted to catch up on the last of the pictures from the weekend I was home. Since my mom had recently had foot surgery she had not been able to go grocery shopping or do errands. Normally once a month we make a run to Costco to pick up a select few items. After my Saturday morning workout I set off to Costco and Whole Foods. I was in and out of Costco in record time, but on my way to Whole Foods I kept hearing this weird noise. I pulled over thinking I must have a flat tire, but I could not find anything wrong. I pulled out and kept going until I heard a BOOM! I knew it was my tire and of course I was sitting at a light for an intersection. Thankfully I was able to get through the intersection and into a gas station. Long story short there was no nail or anything in my tire just a decent sized hole- I was mad because my tires are basically brand new! I can do a lot of my own car maintenance, changing a tire is not one of those things though. I had to sit and wait for AAA, who thankfully was able to fix my tire. 

After an hour delay I made it to Whole Foods and they were out of stock of the item I needed most (it just wasn't my day). I picked up a few of the other items I needed and ran home to spend the rest of the day with Cora. She got a new toy when I came home and in less than an hour she had stuffing all over the living room. Seriously one of the most destructive dogs I have ever met, which is exactly why we stopped buying her dog toys. We now go to salvation army and get her a bunch of stuffed animals for under a dollar so I don't feel like I wasted a ton of money when she destroys them. 

I drove back to school Monday morning and after my evening class I threw together a bunch of leftovers I had brought back with me. I cooked salmon, but heated up leftover roasted vegetables, sweet potato and this insanely delicious mix of green beans and sliced potatoes tossed in a light seasoning. 

I had made a gigantic batch of roasted vegetables when I was home because my mom absolutely loves them. I used zucchini, yellow squash, sliced baby bella mushrooms, sweet onion, and yellow, orange and red bell peppers. Just like normal I dump all the veggies into a giant ziploc bag with a tablespoon of olive oil, ground pepper and minced garlic to taste. Shake it all up, lay it on a lined baking sheet and bake it at 350 for 45 minutes or until the veggies turn a golden brown. 

I wish I could tell you the recipe for the green beans and potato slices, but I did not make them so I don't know. They were very delicious though! 

I need to get back to studying for my statistics exam on Tuesday, but I hope everyone enjoys the extra hour of sleep and have a fantastic Sunday!