Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Twist on an Old Classic

Hi there!  I can hardly believe we're almost halfway through the week and that the last day of 2014 is tomorrow. Any NYE plans on the agenda?  If so, you may be in luck if your party plans require you to bring dessert. Today, I'm sharing one of my new go to recipes.  Aside from being perfect for last minute bakers, it's no-bake, easy, gluten free and best of all tastes delicious.... the secret ingredient is gluten-free chocolate sandwich creme cookies!


Who didn't love Oreos when they were growing up?  Chocolate cookies with that perfect filling.  This was a recipe born out of desperation. We were in charge of bringing a Christmas dessert and down an oven, so baking was out of the question. I had heard that you could turn sandwich cookies into truffles, but I was skeptical. I did a little research, looked at a few different recipes and voila - this masterpiece was born. 


You probably don't want to bring chocolate sandwich cookies to your next gathering, but you might want to once you class them up into chocolate covered truffles.  That's right, I said truffles.  Rich, dark and oh so sinful, these truffles will be the talk of the dessert table.  


If my kitchen walls could talk: Make sure you allow plenty of time for the refrigerator steps.  Melt your chocolate in two portions as directed, otherwise it may harden before you are able to finish dipping. Feel free to add in your own twist for topping - crushed nuts, coconut, sprinkles, crushed gluten free pretzels or mini chocolate chips would all be fantastic additions. 

Chocolate "Oreo" Truffles

Ingredients

2 packages of gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies
8oz cream cheese
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Using a food processor, crush sandwich cookies until fine crumbs form.  Place crumbs in a medium bowl - remove 1-2 tbsp of cookie crumbs from bowl and set aside for topping in last step.
2. Soften cream cheese in the microwave for ~30 seconds. Add to bowl with crushed cookies, stirring until fully combined and a dough is formed.
3. Line a baking sheet with foil.  Roll the dough into small balls, using about a tablespoon of dough for each one. Repeat until all dough is used. Refrigerate 1-2 hours.
4. Remove cookie balls from refrigerator.  In a small, microwave safe bowl, melt half of the chocolate in 30 second increments until melted.  Dip balls into chocolate, shake off excess.  Once chocolate is used, repeat melting and dipping steps with remaining cookie balls.  Allow to cool on baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Lightly sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbles.

What's your go-to dessert recipe? 

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Day for Reflection

Today, I'm not going to be sharing my usual content but instead a part of myself. It only felt right to share this with my readers, as I never know which one of you may be going through a similar experience with a loved one. Six years ago, my grandpa passed away after a long and hard 3 month battle at the hospital.

My mom and I lived with her parents from the time I was born until the time I left for college. My grandma and grandpa, or papa as I referred to him as, were the most amazing couple in the world. They not only loved each other very deeply, but our little family as well. I was so lucky to be exposed to that love as the years went by. They were best friends. My grandpa was fiesty and my grandma was calm, the perfect ying and yang. They shared everything together. When my grandpa broke his ankle, my grandma broke hers in the same place a few years later. When I was in college, my grandma needed a CABG, in simpler terms, a heart bypass. Her recovery was long and very hard, but somehow my grandpa nursed her back to health. I lived with them that summer and have many memories of him cooking breakfast for us every morning (always oatmeal and fruit!) and arguing with my grandma about how she needed to eat more, to which she would always reply "Oh, Bob!!" and shake her head.

I wish I could say the copying stopped there, but shortly after I had started my dietetic internship, my grandpa had a cardiac arrest at home on September 29th.  His heart stopped beating while he was writing checks.  My grandma called 911 in record time and they were able to revive him.  He was transferred to the hospital and we didn't know if he would make it through the night.  I remember all of those emotions, confusion, pain, grief - hadn't he just helped me move into the house I was sharing with two of my friends two weeks before that?  This would be the first of many lessons I would learn - life can change in an instant.  He made it through the night and we were grateful.  We would later learn that the copying would continue, as my grandpa also needed a CABG.  As ironic as it was, he needed the exact same CABG that my grandma had required.

I remember telling my aunt in the hospital after his surgery that I knew he would have a strong recovery and be back to himself in no time.  How couldn't he?  He was active and own the go and despite being retired, he still managed multiple apartment buildings and a barber shop.  He was the one who took care of the rest of us. Sadly, now I know from my current career, that for every happy ending that you hear there is a sadder story that exists.  There are surgeries that don't save lives.  There are patients that pass away onto the next life during a life saving surgery or after.  There are always miracles, but not always the miracles we are hoping for.

A few days later, my papa was rushed into emergency surgery to remove part of his bowel.  They speculated that it was due to his cardiac arrest at home and the ischemia (loss of blood flow) that followed.  Another major surgery only made him weaker, but he fought until he was strong enough to be transferred to the rehab floor.  More setbacks followed. He developed a gastrointestinal bleed that left him weakened. He went back to the cardiac floor.  He was no longer strong enough for hospital rehab. He coded and was transferred back to the ICU.  On Saturday, December 27th, 2008, I would see him in the hospital after he was extubated. In simpler terms, he had been breathing using a ventilator and was now able to breathe on room air.  I was the first one to make it to the hospital and I will never forget how happy and alive he looked.  He held my hand and said "I never would have made it through this without grandma and you kids. You are my whole life".  I wouldn't know at that time, that it would be the last good day.  Two days later, on Monday, December 29th, 2008, he would pass away from this world and onto the next.  We were with him when we went and to this day, I can still remember holding his right hand.

I would learn an important life lesson that day, one that I would carry with me forever. On the day he left this world, I would learn an important lesson that I had never before understood. Love does not stop with death. Love carries over time, distance and dimension into whatever place we go next. I still feel that love surround me, sometimes when I least expect it.  I count every single second I was given as a blessing. Every story has a miracle, just not the miracle we always want.  Our miracle was all of the days.  You see, my papa could have left the earth that fateful September 29th day but instead he decided to fight until he had no fight left.

It broke my heart to see him fight through all of those days, he fought to stay with us, he fought it all with love. Despite all of the days in the hospital, I won't remember those days.  Instead, what I'll remember is his courage, his strength and his love. I'll remember how he used to scoop iced cream in perfect round spheres.  How in first grade, I pretended to be sick to play with my toys the day after my birthday and how he told me I couldn't ever do that again, so I never did.  I'll remember hiding fake bugs in his shoes. When I got older, I'll remember him teaching me how to drive. I'll remember his temper. How he loved to buy cars. How when it snowed he would be the first neighbor out there shoveling your sidewalk.  I'll remember how he told me when our dog died that we're all going to leave sometime and that we aren't able to pick our time. When I would call the house how he would ask me if I had a nickel when I asked to talk to my grandma, sometimes it was a quarter because of "inflation".  I'll remember how the phone always seemed to pause when he as the one to answer it and how this continued after he died. I'll remember his funny jokes. His lessons on saving. How he loved to buy all of us flowers and donuts.  I'll remember how for every single second of his life on earth, he surrounded me with love.

Today, I am eternally grateful that I was blessed to be loved by him.  I still feel sadness in my heart and that sadness will never go away. The scar will always be there, but instead of being a source of pain it's now a reminder.  I will always remember the love and the importance that he placed on family and will carry that lesson with me wherever I go.  It is and always will be engraved on my heart.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

12/28 Meals for the Week

Happy Sunday!  I'm looking forward to the short work week and getting back into the kitchen. Meal planning has been non-existent in this house for the past week or so.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, we are currently in the process of renovating our kitchen with new appliances, countertops, paint and some good old fashioned TLC.  We decided to sell our appliances for a little extra cash and sold our oven on craigslist quicker than expected, meaning we've been ovenless for 2 weeks.  Our new appliances came on Saturday and I'm so excited.  I'll share a sneak peak and a full before and after once the project is completed.... a little blurry, but awfully shiny!


We ate with wild abandon last week - takeout, chocolate, you name it and we probably ate it.  My jeans are feeling a little tight, so I'm happy to have my kitchen back.  The holiday season continues this week with New Years Eve and the start of 2015!  We're having dinner with three other couples and then, more likely than not, we will be watching the ball drop in our pjs.  My husband and I have a tradition of going to hibachi every year on NYE, so I'm looking forward to continuing the celebration.  I've been doing a lot of reflecting on what I'm hoping to accomplish in 2015... so I can't wait for it to get here!

Now, onto the meals!  You can see that I've stuck with my tradition of using the same meal twice for Thursday and Friday.  I love cooking chicken in the slow cooker and shredding it for use in multiple meals.  Do you have any meals that are double duty?  Feel free to share them in the comments below!

Sunday: Black bean tortilla soup
Monday: Chicken tacos 
Tuesday: Leftovers!
Wednesday: Wild Ginger Hibachi - NYE celebration!
Thursday: Slow cooker buffalo chicken, brussels sprouts, oven baked sweet potato fries
Friday: Buffalo chicken pizza - using slow cooker buffalo chicken 
Saturday: Nada - my friend Christina's 30th birthday extravaganza!

What are you preparing for the week? 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Hi friends!  Merry Christmas a day late.  I hope that you were able to surround yourself this holiday season with the love of your family and friends.  Our Christmas celebrations were low key and I wouldn't have it any other way.  I'm so grateful for all the love that was all around us this holiday season.  We are very blessed.  Wishing you and your family love and happiness this holiday season!


Love,

Lindsay & Paul

Monday, December 22, 2014

Drab to Fab: Grout Edition

Hi friends!  As you may or may not have guessed, I haven't been in the kitchen as much lately.  I've mentioned before that we are working on remodeling our kitchen, things are in full swing and at this time we don't have a stove and our refrigerator is in the basement!

In preparation for our new appliances and countertops, I did research on what I could do to restore the rest of our kitchen to it's maximum potential.  We are keeping our cabinets and current flooring, leading me to seek out projects for those pieces. The grout looked horrible and despite all the scrubbing in the world, it wasn't getting any cleaner....then I heard about Polyblend Grout Renew.  Basically, you paint it on, wipe it up and magic happens.  I purchased Oyster Grey from Home Depot and got to work.



So, instead of a recipe, I'm sharing this project with you!



Grout from Drab to Fab 

Ingredients

Small craft brush
Rags/Paper towels
Polyblend Grout Renew
Lots of time & patience

1. Make sure your grout has been scrubbed clean and has dried for 24 hours - there's no sense in painting over dirt. I used Krud Cutter for this step.

2. Paint one line of tile at a time using your craft brush.


3. Wipe the excess from the edges using a dry paper towel or cloth. Polyblend dries fairly quickly, but a wet paper towel removes it easily if you run into any issues. 


4. Continue until all tiles are finished.

Have you ever tackled grout?  What was your experience? 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Last Minute Holiday Gifts

Ah, the holidays.  Snow, Starbucks holiday cups, lights, quality time with your family and gift giving.  Gift giving at the holidays can be extremely stressful - you don't want to give a generic gift and you want to give something personalized and within your budget.  Multiple that by however many people you have to buy for and it can be overwhelming to find that perfect gift.  Plus, to make matters worse, it's down to the wire and Christmas is only 4 days away!

I've rounded up some of the best holiday gifts out there for the people in your life, so you can skip the last minute gift cards and still have thoughtful gifts under your tree.

For the coffee fiend... Keurig 2.0

  • This coffee maker is a serious game changer.  Not only does it use K cups, but you can customize the size of your brew and how strong you want it to be.  The K cup possibilities are endless and the included carafe is perfect for those days that you need a whole pot.  If they love coffee, they will love the Keurig. 


For the beauty junkie... Smashbox Master Class Palette


  • This palette inclues everything, making it perfect for the beauty junkie in your life! It's perfect for traveling and includes a variety of colors :) 

For your hardworking husband...Wurkin Stiffs Power Stays


  • These collar stays are magnetized, meaning no more lost collar stays and no moving around.  They are even husband approved, making them an excellent gift for the hardworking guy in your life.  Throw in a collared shirt and you are all set. 


For the health junkie... Oh She Glows Cookbook


  • Oh She Glows was my gateway blog.  It was the first health blog that I ever read and it opened up a new world for me!  All of Angela's recipes are amazing.  I can't wait to get my hands on this cookbook and the health junkie in your life will feel the same way. 


For the fitness fanatic... Polar Heart Rate Monitor


  • This heart rate monitor has been one of the best gifts I've ever received!  It's an excellent indicator of whether you are pushing yourself too hard... or not enough.  It's helped me increase my endurance and also helps with my motivation.  It's perfect for the fitness focused friend. 



What's your favorite gift to give this holiday season? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12/10: WIAW

OOh hey there!  Happy Wednesday!  This week is flying by... and Christmas is in 15 days?  Can we make the time slow down?  I love the holiday season.  Today, it's time for WIAW.  After all, we're all a little nosy about what everyone else eats and we're also always on the lookout for new meal ideas. So, here we go!



Breakfast: Oatmeal with peanut butter, a little brown sugar and one lone chocolate chip #chocolatefail  Coffee with almond milk = standard.


Lunch:  Slow Cooker Lasagna (recipe soon, I promise!), huge bag of mixed veggies


Snack: Quest bar


Dinner: Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup, Cabbage Salad


What did you eat this Wednesday? 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

12/8: Meals for the Week

Hello again!  I hope your week is off to a fantastic start.... as promised in my Meal Planning 101 post, here are our meals for the week!

I've mentioned before that I like to make meals that do double duty and you can see that I've done that here.  Sunday afternoon, I added chicken and salsa verde to our slow cooker.  I shredded the chicken and used it for tacos on Sunday and again on Monday for the nachos.  It looks like it's accidentally theme week in our home!  I'm looking forward to trying a new recipe on Wednesday, so I'll be sure to post my results during my weekly WIAW post :)  



Sunday: Salsa Verde Chicken Tacos
Monday: Salsa Verde Chicken Nachos
Tuesday: Family Dinner
Wednesday: Chicken Tortilla Soup 
Thursday: Black Bean Quesadillas 
Friday: Mozzarella, Leek Risotto with Grilled Chicken and Balsamic Glaze

What are you preparing for the week? 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cake Poppin'

Hey there!  How was your weekend?  It's Monday and the work week is back in full swing, but honestly, I'm all about lazy weekends right now.  Pizza, wine and sleeping in were the start to the perfect weekend.  We threw it back to the early 2000's by playing Mario Party 2 last night and drinking wine that I picked up from a vineyard during my bachelorette party.  It was just what I needed.

We headed to our friend Danielle and Eric's holiday party on Saturday and duh, I told Paul we would obviously bring something sweet to share.  I've been thinking about cake pops for basically forever and decided now was the perfect time to bring that thought to fruition. 



The premise of cake pops is actually pretty simple.  Bake a cake, crumble said cake, mix with icing, roll in melted chocolate, top with toppers.  I found the process to be easy, although very time consuming!

If my kitchen walls could talk:   I would have definitely frozen some of the cake balls for another day - dipping 40 balls of chocolate was hard work!  I highly recommend having a large piece of styrofoam to place the cake pops in while they dry.  I didn't have this and it would have been so helpful.  Feel free to experiment with other flavors of icing and cake mix - let me know your results in the comments. 


Peppermint Cake Balls

Ingredients

1 box gluten-free chocolate cake mix
2/3 cup prepared cream cheese icing
4 boxes baking chocolate
5 candy canes, crushed
Cake pop sticks (optional)

1. Prepare cake mix according to package instructions.  Set aside to cool.  Crumble cake in food processor.  Meanwhile, place unwrapped candy canes in a ziplock bag, use rolling pin to crush into fine pieces.  Set aside. 
2.  Add icing, 1/3 cup at a time, to cake mix.  Stir until incorporated.  Repeat until cake mix is consistency of clay.  Roll into small balls.  Set aside on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate for 1 hour until chilled.
3. Melt 1 square of bakers chocolate in microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between sets until melted.  Dip end of cake pop sticks into chocolate, insert into cake balls.  Chill again for 30 minutes.  (Skip this step if you don't want your cake pops on skewers!) 
4.  Melt remaining bakers chocolate, dip balls into chocolate. Swirl end of stick to remove excess chocolate.  Sprinkle lightly with crushed candy canes.  Place in stick in styrofoam, allowing cake pops to dry upright.  Alternatively, if not using sticks, allow to dry on wax or parchment paper.    



What's your favorite dessert? 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Meal Planning 101

Hi friends! I hope you had a great holiday weekend and were able to spend some time with your family and friends.  I was lucky enough to have four days off of work!  I haven't taken any time off since our honeymoon, so the break has been greatly appreciated :)  I packed my time by catching up with family, seeing Mockingjay Part 1 with my husband, adapting a spinach lasagna recipe for use in the slow cooker, brunching at the Green Dog cafe with one of my best friends and decorating our home for the holidays.

Now, that it's December, both the holiday season and work weeks are in full swing.  It can be hard to keep it healthy during the work week, especially when the temperature starts to dip too low.  I have two secrets for how I keep our meals healthy during the week and they are meal planning and meal prepping.  It sounds simple, but can be time consuming and confusing if it's not thought through.

Do you find yourself with the constant situation of not knowing what to make for dinner? 

Do you feel like there's nothing to eat at your home, leading you to hit up the drive through or make other unhealthy choices?  

Have you fallen off the health wagon and aren't sure how to get back on?  

This post series is for you.  Today, I'll be sharing how I meal plan and some easy tips.  Later in the week, I'll be sharing how I meal prep.  Every Sunday, I'll post my scheduled meals and snacks for the work week to help give you new ideas for yours - please share your ideas with me as well!

Whether you are new to meal planning or are a seasoned professional, these tips will help you improve your game....



Map Out Your Meals
  • Fail to plan, plan to fail, or so the saying goes.  First things first, map out your meals.  I tend to pick things that are quick for during the work week.  I recommend selecting simple meals that require minimal cooking or make use of a slow cooker.  
  • Plan for more involved meals on the weekends, when you have more time and energy.
  • Make a Pinterest board for organization - I have Cooked & Loved - for tried and true recipes - and Cooking - for new recipes.  Typically, I only try one new recipe per week and fill the rest of the week with classic favorites.  Pinterest not your thing? Use bookmarks and folders in your web browser.
  • Write down your list.  Consider posting it in a public place, such as a board on your fridge, so the rest of your family knows whats up. 

Make a list
  • Whatever you do, don't go to the grocery store without a list.  Not only does this curb impulse buying, but it helps you from forgetting any of the needed items for your meals. 
  • Divide your list by sections of the grocery store.  This helps to keep your shopping quick and efficient. 
  • If you find yourself purchasing the same items, consider typing a master list with checkboxes. When you need to hit the store, simply checkmark everything you need to purchase. 

Designate a shopping time
  • To save time, I try to do my shopping in the morning when the store is less crowded.  Another time that tends to work well is late in the evening.  Pick the best time that fits your schedule and try to stick with it. 

Stock up the basics
  • Life happens. Sometimes recipes with the best intentions turn out to be horrible.  Maybe your oven was a little too hot or you left the slow cooker on a little too long.  Whatever the situation, keep a few basics on hand to help you out in a pinch.  Frozen chicken breasts, quinoa, veggies, salsa and eggs can be lifesavers.

What's your biggest meal planning tip?


Monday, December 1, 2014

Beating a Breakfast Rut

Hey friends!  How's it going?  I've been working on beating a breakfast rut that I've been stuck in for months.  Literally, months.  Maybe you can relate?  I'm totally in a routine with my morning coffee, my commute, my lunches.  I crave routines.  I just haven't been able to find a breakfast routine.  It's been driving me crazy.

My previous job involved a one hour commute and breakfast at my desk - eight months have gone by.  I packed protein pancakes or egg white sandwiches.  My commute is much shorter and so I choose to eat breakfast before work, but I don't always have the biggest appetite.

My previous breakfast loves have been numerous.  During my dietetic internship and a few years beyond, oatmeal was basically my best breakfast friend. In graduate school, my breakfast love of choice was pancakes or fruit smoothies. Granola and greek yogurt seemed like the ultimate winner, until I made the connection that too much greek yogurt makes me break out.

I don't have time to sit down for a big meal anymore, leading to much frustration to find something quick but also healthy.  I wanted something high in fiber and protein that would keep me full until lunch.  I thought about my former breakfast loves and this recipe was born.

If my kitchen walls could talk: Feel free to jazz up this recipe with whatever mix ins you want to add!  Dried fruit, coconut, peanut butter. The possibilities are endless.  Feel free to swap out sugar for stevia or leave it out all together.


Baked Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients

2 cups oats
1/3 cup brown rice protein powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
1tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine oats, protein powder, brown sugar and baking powder in a large bowl, set aside.
2. Combine almond milk, vanilla, egg and applesauce in a small bowl.  Gently add wet ingredients to dry, stir until combined.
3. Spray a square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Add batter, spread chocolate chips on top.
4. Bake for 30 minutes until edges are lightly golden brown.  Cut into 6 rectangles.


What's your best breakfast?