Thursday, April 28, 2016

Baked Oatmeal 101

I get asked a lot how I make baked oatmeal and it's really not as complicated as people think it is. When I first wanted to try baked oatmeal I found a recipe on a blog, followed the directions to a 'T' and it was horrible. The oatmeal was dry as a bone, hard, and not pleasant. I was disappointed, but decided to come up with something on my own. It took a number of times before I got it just right, but now it is my go to breakfast (have you seen my instagram?!)

You only need a few basic ingredients and whatever fruit your heart desires. Some of my favorite fruits to use are pears, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. I can't wait for peaches to be in season so I can start using those! 

Here's what you need:

  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats, quick oats or old fashioned oats 
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon, more or less to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons liquid egg whites or 1 egg (yolk+white)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or milk of choice
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 Tablespoon mini dairy free chocolate chips, mini Justin's PB cups, etc.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and spray a ramekin with nonstick cook spray or coconut oil.

In ramekin combine oats, baking powder, and cinnamon.

When dry ingredients are mix together add in egg whites or egg, vanilla, and almond milk. Stir until well combined.

Top oat batter with fruit of choice. 

Bake at 350F degrees for 30-35 minutes, cook time varies depending on your oven. In my oven the oats are done in 35 minutes. The oats are done when there is no more liquid on top and the oats are a toasty brown. 

Remove ramekin from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before adding sprinkles  digging in :) 

If you make baked oatmeal (and you should!) take a picture, tag me on instagram, and use the hashtag #thesimplelife I'd love to see your creations! Don't forget to like my new Facebook page

Monday, April 25, 2016

Post Workout Protein

Happy Monday everyone! The weekend seemed to go by rather quickly (when doesn't it though?), but it was definitely a good weekend. It wasn't nearly as warm as last weekend but we still made the most of it and Cora never complains about spending time outside, regardless of the weather. 

Today I wanted to talk about refueling after a workout. It's a fitting topic because I just started's still in it challenge. I'm excited about the challenge ahead, but let me tell you after today's leg day I thought I was going to have to be carried out of the gym. Granted, I did pair day one from the challenge with a Katiesfitscript workout, which was also leg day so double the pain. Plus for some dumb reason I felt like doing a workout yesterday, so what did I pick?! A BBG leg workout<- not advised the day before leg day.

Anywho, back to refueling after a workout. It's super important to refuel properly after a workout. You don't want to overeat because that will make all your hard work good for nothing, but you don't want to not eat. It's important to get a balance of protein and carbs after a workout. I workout super early in the morning (like 4AM) and by the time I leave the gym (around 6:30ish) I head home, clean up, and grab breakfast. Not everyone works out before breakfast, but regardless of when you do it's important to refuel. inspired me to share some high protein post workout favorites and I readily agreed. No, I am not being paid to share these, nor have I been compensated in anyway. 

1. Chocolate Coconut Energy Balls. I'm obsessed with these because they're so good! I even got my mom hooked on them. It's a perfect on the go snack when you're driving back from the gym or even just out and about during the day. They're quick to make and easy to eat, which is always a good combo!

2. Berry Chocolate Oatmeal. This is one of my personal favorites! Because I do workout so early, often I come back from the gym and am starving<- lifting weights does that to you people! This oatmeal bake is packed with 27 grams of protein, packed with complex carbs, and I mean look at those toppings! You can leave some of the toppings off or add your own toppings, but either way you cannot go wrong with this delicious and filling protein bake.

3. These roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds are my mom's favorite. She munches on them all day long and she loves to throw them in her breakfast after she's worked out. Pumpkin seeds have 8 grams of protein per serving, plus they're packed with healthy fats, which makes them a great post workout snack.

4. Organic Cashews. Now these are my dad's favorite. He loves to munch on cashews as a snack and even my mom normally carries a small container of cashews with her while she's out incase she gets hungry. Cashews are a great source of healthy fat and contain 5 grams of protein per serving. While that isn't a ton of protein cashews really do help hold you over and these ones aren't salted so you get to enjoy pure cashewy goodness! 

5. Chocolate chia energy balls. For only 57 calories these babies pack in 3 grams of protein and you can make them in 5 minutes. There's only 4 ingredients, which you throw in a food processor, you roll them and BAM you're done! Super easy and yummy! I always have a batch of these and chocolate coconut energy balls in the fridge ready to go. It only makes a small batch so you could eat the entire batch and not feel guilty ;)

If you want to check out more healthy snacks, high protein snacks, and some of my favorite snacks click the links and it will direct you to the right place! You can also check out the adorable infographic below to get even more post-workout snack ideas! What are some of your favorite ways to refuel after a workout?

*I was not paid or compensated to post links to I have been a customer for years, which is why I agreed to share some of their snack ideas. All opinions are my own. Graphic provided by

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread Muffins (Gluten, Dairy, and Nut Free)

Have you ever baked something for an event and had everyone ask you for the recipe? That's a tell tale sign that it's good. These muffins are one of those recipes. They're a guaranteed hit! I've made them and taken them to a few events, most recently a meet up with the Michigan BBG girls, and they were a hit! 

It's no secret that I love banana bread in any form, but these muffins really speak for themselves. They're allergy friendly, the macros are awesome, and you don't have to be vegan to enjoy them! Plus there's no crazy ingredients! I've had plenty of non-vegans eat them, love them, and be shocked to learn they're vegan and allergy friendly. These muffins are ridiculously moist, fluffy, and when you warm them up it's like having dessert! 

Chocolate Banana Bread Muffins
  • 3 banana, mashed
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1.5 cups gluten free all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup special dark chocolate cocoa powder (check to ensure it's vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • OPTIONAL: small handful dark chocolate chips (check to ensure they're vegan)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and line two 12 tin muffin pans with liners.

In a large mixing bowl combine gluten free flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda. When those are combined mix in light brown sugar.

Next, add in almond milk, coconut oil, and vanilla. Mix until well combined and a batter forms.

Add mashed bananas into batter and stir very well to distribute banana throughout.

Scoop batter into muffins tins until tins are about 1/2 full. 

Add chocolate chips on top if using. 

Bake at 350F degrees for 15-20 minutes. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. 

Allow muffins to cool slightly before eating. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (they'd probably be ok on the counter for a few days) or freeze for up to six months.

If you make these amazingly delicious muffins take a picture, tag me on instagram, and use the hashtag #thesimplelife I'd love to see your creations! Don't forget to like my new Facebook page

Nutrition (per muffin):
Nutrition Facts
Servings 24.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 76
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 3 g5 %
Saturated Fat 3 g13 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0 %
Sodium 47 mg2 %
Potassium 85 mg2 %
Total Carbohydrate 12 g4 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g3 %
Sugars 4 g
Protein 1 g1 %
Vitamin A1 %
Vitamin C2 %
Calcium3 %
Iron2 %

Saturday, April 16, 2016

5 Ingredient Granola Bars

Happy Saturday!! It is an absolutely gorgeous day here and I cannot wait to get outside! I'm also stoked for today because it is our second BBG meet up and I'm leading the workout! I'm definitely nervous because I've never lead so many people, but the girls are fantastic and I know they will make my nerves disappear! 

After the workout we are going to have a potluck and some of the dishes the girls are bringing sound AMAZING! I'm excited for the workout, but I think I may be more excited for the food (story of my life) haha. I whipped up some vegan+GF chocolate banana bread muffins yesterday (I'll share the recipe next week) and this morning I made some granola bars. I used to eat so many granola bars as a kid, but there's so many fake ingredients that I now shutter. Granola bars are so easy to make that I'm not sure why I didn't do it sooner! All you need is 5 ingredients and 25 minutes- that's it! 

Granola Bars
  • 2 cups GF oats
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup nut butter of choice (I used smooth peanut butter)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and line a 8x8 pan with tinfoil or spray with coconut oil. 

In a mixing bowl combine oats, flax seed, and 2 Tablespoons of chocolate chips.

In a separate microwave safe bowl combine nut butter and honey and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir nut butter and honey together if the nut butter is still very thick and not partly liquid microwave for an additional 15 seconds and stir again. 

Pour nut butter/honey combo over dry ingredients and stir. Make sure all dry ingredients are coated with liquid- the chocolate chips will get partly melted with the liquid ingredients, but that's ok! It spread the chocolate throughout more of the dough. 

Scoop oat mixture into lined 8x8 pan and using your hands or a spoon press down the mixture until it is evenly distributed throughout the pan. 

Bake granola bars at 350F degrees for 15-20 minutes. The bars will be done with the edges have darkened and the oats are golden in color- it took about 18 minutes in my oven. 

Allow granola bars to cool before cutting into 12 bars. Store in airtight container on counter for 1 week or freeze the bars for up to 6 months. 

If you make these granola bars take a picture, tag me on instagram, and use the hashtag #thesimplelife I'd love to see your creations! Don't forget to like my new Facebook page

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chocolate Coconut Energy Balls

I've been on an energy ball roll lately (no pun intended). They're so easy to make, easy to pack for snacking on the go, they prevent hanger, which prevents road rage (true story), and there are literally endless combinations to try! 

In the past month I've probably made more than a dozen batches of energy balls. Not all of them have been for me, but a lot of them have :D I have gotten my mom addicted to them too. Now she always packs a few with her before she goes anywhere so she can snack on the go. This batch is probably my favorite so far because they taste like a tropical get away- they're sweet with a hint of nutty and the coconut coating gives it a sweet crunch. All I need is these energy balls, a Mai Tai, and to be on the beach in Maui and life would be perfect!!

Coconut Energy Balls
  • 6 dates, pitted
  • 2 Tablespoons chocolate protein powder
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • OPTIONAL: 1 Tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

In a food processor combine dates, protein powder, peanut butter, and 1 TBS coconut flakes (if using). Process until everything is combined into a coarse, loose dough. 

Place coconut flakes into a container or bowl.

Take dough and roll into tablespoon sized balls- I was able to get about . After forming a ball roll it in coconut flakes until it's coated. Repeat with remaining dough.

Store energy balls in an airtight container in the fridge or you can freeze them- they're so good frozen in dairy free yogurt!! 

If you make these yummy energy balls take a picture, tag me on instagram, and use the hashtag #thesimplelife I'd love to see your creations! Don't forget to like my new Facebook page

Monday, April 11, 2016

Weekend Recap

Happy Monday! I haven't done a recap post in awhile so I thought I'd do a short recap of the weekend because it was a blast. Before I recap I just want to say thank you to everyone for the sweet comments, texts, emails, and IG messages I've gotten about the struggles I've been dealing with lately. I'm not one to put all out there, especially about something so personal, so all your sweet words mean so much to me. 

Let's get to the fun part. Dan + Shay were playing at the college I just graduated from on Thursday, so I made the drive out to see my friends and go to the concert. I worked out and fueled up with cinnamon pear baked oats before making the drive. 

One of the opening acts, Joel Crouse, I had never heard of, but he was pretty good. The second opening act was Ryan Kinder who I love so I was stoked to see him. You should check out his song "Kiss Me When I'm Down," it's so good! 

Of course the night was really about Dan + Shay though. Let me tell you they did NOT disappoint! I've been a fan from the day their first single dropped and watching them grow and become popular has been really cool. They played all the songs from their debut album, they debuted a lot of new music, and did a mix of cover songs like "Moves Like Jagger," "Dynamite," "Bad Blood," and my personal favorite "Shot Through the Heart."

I'm a big Bon Jovi fan and their cover of "Shot Through the Heart" was EPIC! I shared a video of it on instagram if you want to check it out. The picture above is probably my favorite of the night. I LOVE when the lights hit perfectly and you can see everyone rocking out and just having a good time. 

Overall the concert was an absolute blast! Dan + Shay are absolutely fantastic live! I've been to concerts where the artist has stunk live because their CD is so auto-tuned, but this was so not the case. Dan + Shay sound exactly the same live as they do on their album- no auto-tuning there, just pure talent. I can't wait for the new album to drop and to (hopefully) see them live again soon! 

We got back really late from the concert and just crashed. Some of my friends had classes and/or work the next day so everyone wanted to get their sleep. Despite going to bed way late I still woke up pretty early and was able to watch a gorgeous sunrise. I took the day off from working out because I had been kicking butt all week in the gym and I was so sore. So instead of working out, I read for awhile and then fell back asleep before finally getting up and making some breakfast. I made oatmeal in the microwave and topped it with cinnamon, banana slices, strawberry slices, and a packet of Wild Friends chocolate almond butter. On the restrictive diet my gastro placed me on I'm on I'm not supposed to have nut butters, but I cheated for one morning. I definitely did not feel good later though, so lesson learned- listen to your doctor! 

I hung out with my friends for a bit longer before driving home. The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning, running errands, and hiding from the snow. <- Yes snow in April UGH! On the bright side it's supposed to get nice and warm by the end of the week, WHOOP WHOOP!! 

What did you do this weekend? What's the best concert you've ever been to? Don't forget to head on over to instagram and watch the video from the concert, and if you make any of my recipes use the hashtag #thesimplelife I'd love to see your creations! Don't forget to like my new Facebook page

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Lentil Soup (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan)

Yes it is spring, which means it's not technically soup season anymore, but it's been freezing here. The past few days have highs in the mid 30's. SPRING WHERE ARE YOU?! I have not been enjoying the cold, but it has given me an excuse to stay inside bundled up and bake.

One of my favorite cold weather foods is soup. I like a hearty soup with a rich flavor, but I hate soup that's loaded with salt. Nothing ruins soup more than tasting like an entire salt shaker was dumped in it- yuk! Let me assure you the soup I'm about to share does not taste like that. This lentil soup is one of my favorites because it's hearty, will fill you up, the flavor is amazing, and it does not take a lot of time or effort to make (always a bonus). I made it last week for a family friend and she loved it! It's vegan and allergy friendly (gluten, dairy, soy, and nut free) so everyone can enjoy it!

Lentil Soup
  • 28 oz. diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 cups low sodium, organic vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 small/medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2/3 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup kale, chopped and ribs removed
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 1.5 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper

In a medium pot heat olive oil over medium heat. 

When olive oil is warm add carrots and onion to pot. Stir often until onion becomes golden and carrots are soft.

Add in minced garlic, cumin, curry powder, and thyme and stir to mix in with vegetables (about 30 seconds). 

Then, add in drained diced tomatoes stirring often until combined and well coated with seasoning (about 5 minutes).

Next, add in lentils, vegetable broth, and water and stir. After stirring add in red pepper flakes and freshly ground pepper. Turn up the heat and bring pot to a boil. After pot comes to a boil partly cover pot with lid and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Transfer 2 cups of soup to a blender and puree the soup until smooth. Pour pureed soup back in pot and add in chopped kale. Cook for an additional 5 minutes allowing the kale to soften. 

Remove pot from heat and add in juice from 1/2 lemon and stir. 

Serve and enjoy! 

If you make this delicious soup take a picture, tag me on instagram, and use the hashtag #thesimplelife I'd love to see your creations! Don't forget to like my new Facebook page

Monday, April 4, 2016

Season of Change

For almost two weeks I stepped away from blogging and social media. I was exhausted and needed a break. Life has changed a lot for me in the past five months and I never got the chance to step back and let it all sink in. All of the busyness, chaos, and stress from the last five months hit me full force and I was burnt out. 

I'm the kind of person who likes to be busy. I hate being bored- I've always been told that I have ants in my pants (still do). Whether it was school, working out, volunteering, student organizations, etc. I always gave 110%, but having pedal to the metal permanently is not good for your health. I graduated from college early last December and after the busyness of the holidays was over I was left feeling empty. I threw myself into looking for a job, but not having a day structured around school or work was something I've never known. 

In mid January I had sinus surgery and the day after surgery I landed in the hospital for almost a week with a horrible bout of pancreatitis. This is when the trouble began. Most of my doctors believe that for some reason the surgery or anesthesia caused my lupus to flare, which in turn caused pancreatitis. When I got out of the hospital I was hopeful that the worse was behind me and I could begin the road to recovery, little did I know that wasn't the plan. 

When I left the hospital I was on a super restrictive soft foods only die, so my body could adjust to eating again and begin to heal. Around this time I started having serious digestive issues. I have always had stomach issues, but it got increasingly worse to the point where I pretty much only eating oatmeal, my stomach was so swollen I looked like I was 6 months pregnant, and I had the worst stomach pains ever. My rheumatologist didn't seem concerned, so I took matters in my own hands (once I couldn't handle the pain anymore) and made an appointment to see the gastroenterologist that I saw in the hospital. The gastro immediately put me on some medicine to calm my stomach and he also placed me on a restrictive diet- no dairy, lower carb, low fat, low fiber, and I was to keep a journal of everything I ate. I left feeling overwhelmed, but hopeful. 

Let me tell you I have never spent so long in a grocery store as I did after my gastro appointment. Milk is in EVERYTHING! It has definitely taken some adjusting to, but I have gotten used to it. I make a lot of my own food, but there are some allergy friendly foods I buy for when I don't feel like cooking (Qrunch vegan burgers are so good, free from the top 8 allergens, and they don't break the bank- and no I'm not paid to say that). It is harder and it takes more time to meal plan, but so far it has been worth it. I have been significantly less swollen, had less stomach pain, and my stomach has felt better than it has in a LONG, LONG time. 

While, my things have been on the up for my stomach that's just one piece of the puzzle. Since surgery my lupus has been going crazy, in part due to the fact that I have not been allowed to be on my medications to control it- I had to stop for surgery, then couldn't be on it because my pancreas needed to heal. Lupus is a crazy disease (I'll share a lot about it next month for Lupus awareness month) because it affects everyone so differently. One of the first things I dealt with when I was diagnosed with lupus was extreme weight loss. I've always been naturally thinner, but it got to the point where I would be outside in 80F degree heat and be freezing. Once I was finally able to get back to a healthy weight, everything started spiraling out of control, my medications were being yanked around, which lead to a lot of weight gain. I hadn't stopped exercising- I was still lifting, running, walking, etc. and my eating habits hadn't changed (this was pre-surgery). It may seem silly, but the weight gain has hit me really hard. 

Before everyone calls me a hypocrite because I always say the scale shouldn't dictate your life- try dealing with everything I'm dealing with then we can chat. I'm going to be completely honest I've cried a LOT about the weight. I don't feel like me. Now by no means am I overweight or unhealthy, but I don't feel good in my own skin (especially on the days when my stomach is really swollen). I've had to get some new clothes and had a meltdown in the dressing room. It's hard. It's really hard to have no control over how your body reacts to different medications, treatments, etc. I don't obsess over the scale- I only weigh myself about once a week- but it's hard to not let the numbers get to you. 

The past two weeks have been very hard on me. All of these issues hit me head on and left me completely exhausted and drained- mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I took some time away from blogging and social media because I needed time to focus on myself. I got so caught up in going through the motions, but I was not really focusing on myself. I took time to rest, listen to my body, and start a new IIFYM plan. I want more than anything to get back to where I was, but I know it's not going to be easy. Not every workout is going to feel fantastic, and there will probably be more frustration and tears (there seems to be an abundance of those lightly), but it's worth it. I'm worth it. Will the weight magically fall of? Of course not, it's going to be hard, but it's a good plan- I'm not starving myself and I don't have to spend 4 hours at the gym doing cardio. I am still bummed that I can't run due to hip problems and pain, but I will get back out there (hopefully soon). In the meantime I'm going to focus on my health, getting a job that I enjoy, and living life.

I'm not striving for perfection because perfection isn't possible. I am striving to be the best version of myself in every sense- mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I'm in the middle of a season of change in my life, but I'm excited about it. There is going to be hard days when I don't feel good, like the way I look, or get caught up in the number on the scale. All of these struggles will be worth it in the end because self improvement is always worth it. Stepping away from blogging and social media gave me the time and space I needed to focus on myself and start a new chapter in my story.