Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Perfect Spring Salad

Spring has officially started! When the temperature starts climbing, there's one meal that always leaps back into my menu rotation. Salads. I'm addicted. Plus, what better way to pack in a few vegetable and fruit servings.

The issue is that salads aren't always the healthy meals that they portray themselves to be. If you're loading up iceberg lettuce with bacon, fried chicken, full fat dressings, cheese and croutons - the works so to speak, that seemingly healthy salad quickly becomes one of the worst options.

So, how can you have your lettuce and keep it healthy too? Start by choosing leafy greens; spinach, kale, romaine, arugula and mixed greens are all good choices. Next, add protein, other fruit/veggies and a "fun" topping. Remember, when building your salad, it's important to have a good protein source to keep you full after your meal and be sure to add other fruits/vegetables to bump up the fiber.

For this recipe, I rolled with romaine. It's a good source of folic acid, vitamin K and vitamin A and pairs well with the remaining ingredients. I chose roasted garbanzo beans and cheddar as my protein sources and rolled with apples for an extra nutrient punch. The spicy pecans add a kick and while they aren't the nutritional superstar of this recipe, they add the perfect amount of sweetness.

If my kitchen walls could talk: I love packing this salad for an easy work lunch. Simply pack lettuce in large containers and top with apple slices. If slicing apples ahead of time, I recommend tossing them in lemon juice or using fruit fresh.  Pack pecans, garbanzos and cheddar separately - I use these containers instead of plastic bags. Add hard boiled eggs for an extra protein boost.

My Spring Salad


1 1/3 cup pecans
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon white pepper

1 can garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

2 bags leafy romaine
1 red delicious apple
1 granny smith apple
1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Chop butter, set aside. Add pecans to pie dish, top with chopped butter. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. In a small bowl, combine sugar and white pepper, add pecans, stirring until coated. Remove pecans, set aside on large plate. Discard excess sugar mixture.
2. Rinse and drain garbanzo beans. Dry thoroughly with a paper towel. Add beans to small bowl, top with olive oil, stirring to combine. Next, add garlic powder, stirring to coat. Line a baking sheet with foil, pour beans onto baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes.
3.  Distribute salad into large bowl or small bowls for individual servings. Chop apples into 1/8th inch wedges. Top salad with apples, cheddar, roasted garbanzo beans and pecans. Serve immediately with your favorite salad dressing or refrigerate ingredients separately if serving at later date.    

Friday, March 25, 2016

3.25.16 Friday Favorites

TGIF! Did anyone else feel like this week flew by? I can't believe the weekend is already here. I'm looking forward to spending time with my family this weekend. There's an Easter egg hunt at my grandmother's nursing home on Saturday for all of the grandchildren, so that will be fun to watch :) On Sunday, we're celebrating Easter with my husband's family. I'll be making a chocolate cream pie - look for the recipe sometime next week - and an appetizer. Any good appetizer suggestions? I'm stumped!

Since it's Friday, I'm joining the party that Life in Leggings started and linking up my Friday Favorites. Let's get started!!

Life In Leggings

Fashion - Chambray all the way!

  • It's starting to get warmer, so I'm packing my favorite sweaters and puffer vests away. One thing that's staying in my closet is my favorite chambray shirt. It's perfect with white skinny jeans or worn open over a tank with the sleeves rolled up once it starts to get warm. 
Fun - Soft Serve!!!

  • The return of soft serve ice cream!!! I've been dreaming about this for months. Soft serve is my absolute jam. There's something about it that just screams summer. My favorite is vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. What's yours? 
Food - Salads and Zucchini Bread

  • I'm obsessed with salads and this one totally fit the bill. Mixed greens, kalamata olives, garbanzos, feta, carrots, cucumbers, roasted bell peppers, feta and a few dolmas. The perfect greek feast for spring!

What are you loving this Friday? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Farewell Winter

Today, I'm saying farewell to winter with one of my favorite recipes. Macaroni and cheese. It's classic comfort food at its finest and can be adapted in a variety of ways by using different cheeses and adding extra veggies or chicken. When the temperature drops, it's one of the recipes that I always return to and when it starts to get warm again, it's always one of the first to go.

Since spring is here, it's time to share this classic comfort food with you before it goes back in the vault for the next 8 months! While this recipe is by no means health food, I've slashed calories by using 1% milk and less cheese, making it an improvement over the original. It also freezes well for quick lunches or dinners. I store leftovers in the freezer using these pyrex 2 cup glass containers and microwave for 3-4 minutes to reheat. Perfection.

If my kitchen walls could talk: Feeling fancy? This recipe is extra decadent when topped with truffle oil. Feel free to add edamame for a protein boost or broccoli for extra veggies. Feeding a large crowd at a holiday party? This standard recipe will serve 5 entree sized portions or 8 sides, but it doubles well.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese


16 ounces brown rice pasta
3 tbsp butter or trans fat free margarine
1/4 + 1 tbsp cup brown rice flour
2.5 cups 1% milk
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring water to a boil, add pasta, cook until al dente, ~9-10 minutes. Drain, set aside.
2. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add flour, fold together using spatula.
3. Pour 2 cups of milk into pan. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan with the spatula. Mixture should begin to thicken and may begin to bubble. Keep scraping the bottom of the pan and stirring until the mixture becomes thick; gradually stir in the remaining 1/2 cup milk.
4. Turn heat  to low, add the mustard powder and black pepper, stirring to combine. Add cheddar, stir until melted.
5. Add pasta to pan, fold with cheese sauce. Pour into baking dish.
6. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown and lightly set. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

3.18.16 Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! Can you believe the week is almost over? I'm glad that winter appears to be almost over and spring is finally here. I'm excited for a nice relaxing Friday off work, a girls night out on Saturday and watching tons of episodes of House of Cards with my husband. I work this weekend, so it won't be all fun and games, but it's worth it for extra time off during the week! With that being said, it's time for another edition of Friday Favorites, where I share everything I'm loving this Friday and link up with other bloggers. Check it out and share with me what you're loving this Friday in the comments below!

Life In Leggings

Beauty - Extended Wear Polish

  •  I love painting my nails, but hate when they chip the very next day. I've tried everything - base coat, top coat, various brands etc. I've had gel nails but the upkeep and removal is too much. My favorite salon started using CND Vinylux, which is supposed to last a week without chipping. I was super skeptical...but I got a manicure with it and no chips after 4 days! I had minimal chips at 7, so I was sold. An even better bonus is you don't use a base coat - it's built right in! My favorite color is Gotcha - I use 2-3 coats and then the top coat. Did I mention it dries within 8 minutes? It's perfect for days when I want to paint my nails but am rushing out the door. I'm need to start collecting more colors!
Home - Natural Cleaner

  • I've been working on swapping out some of the cleaning products we use in our home for ones that are environmentally friendly and contain less chemicals. I'm obsessed with the Multi-Surface Cleaner by The Honest Company. Not only does it smell heavenly, but it also cleans extremely well. I've been using it on everything - our granite counter tops, our kitchen table, etc. I love how it fills the kitchen with the scent of grapefruit!! 

Style - Statement Necklaces and Bracelets

Fashion - Rainboots & Rainboot Cleaner

  • I'm obsessed with my Hunter rainboots - I wear them all the time! They're perfect for March when the weather is hit or miss. I feel like it's been raining constantly here on the weekends and they keep my feet warm and dry. One thing I don't like is that rainboots bloom - which is when they get that funky white grime all over them. I use this boot shine because it's easy to apply - you just rub it on the boots and the applicator is built in. They sell a boot spray too if that's more your thing!
  • If Hunters aren't in your budget, I've linked some budget friendly dupes herehere and here!
Snack - Kale Chips

  • I love kale chips but they're so labor intensive to make in the dehydrator. Lately, I've been buying these kale chips from Kroger. They're so good! The nacho flavor is a little spicy and I'm also loving the ranch - so much better than potato chips. Let's be real, I basically ate the bag while I was typing this post!

What are you loving this Friday? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Skinny Up Your Coffee Drink - Without Anything Artificial!

It's almost springtime and winter is almost over. I'm counting down the days until March 21st, the official start of spring.  One thing I love whether the weather is cold or warm is coffee. Mmmm. Nothing is better than a warm (or cold) cup of joe.  Unfortunately, our favorite coffee drinks can pack quite the calorie punch once you factor in syrup, milk, whipped cream, cocoa... making our typical brew brimming with antioxidants, less than ideal. Many local retailers, Starbucks in particular, will give you the option of ordering your drink "skinny" to cut down on the calories.

It's a catch, though."Skinny" typically means sugar-free syrup will be substituted for regular syrup, removing a significant portion of the calories.  Artificial sweeteners, which also go by the name sugar substitutes, are used in foods/drinks to replace sugar. They are often much sweeter than sugar, so less can be used for the same desired sweetness.  Sugar provides 4 calories per gram, while artificial sugars provide 0 calories per gram.  The use of artificial sweeteners is regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration and they are generally recognized as safe.

However, the safety of artificial sweeteners in humans is hotly debated. Saccharin and aspartame have been found to cause cancer in animal models, but in far larger doses than a human would consume.  Some observational studies have shown an increase in cancer risk in humans, although this could be attributed to another confounding variable within that population group.  More recent research has shown that diet soda drinkers weigh more and consume more calories throughout the day than their regular soda counterparts - crazy, right?

Part of nutrition is sorting through research studies, propaganda and fear mongering. My personal take is that I would rather consume small amounts of sugar in its natural state; there just isn't enough evidence proving that the risks outweigh the benefits for me to personally get behind it. Maybe you feel similarly, but aren't sure how to skinny up your drink any other way.  I choose to skinny up my drinks and recipes without any artificial sweeteners.  Are you in the same boat?  I'll give you all my tricks, so let's get started, shall we....

Downgrade the size 
  • If you aren't willing to make any changes in the composition of your favorite coffee drink, you can cut out calories from fat and sugar, simply by decreasing the size. I know, I know, it's kind of common sense - but it's true. 
Put it into action: 
  • For example, a venti cafe mocha clocks in at 450 calories, 18 grams of fat while a tall provides 290 calories and 13 grams of fat. 

Get rid of "extras"
  • Say goodbye to whipped cream and full-fat milk. Can't give up whipped cream entirely? Ask for a small amount.
Put it into action:
  • Remember, the cafe mocha above? Let's order a non-fat grande mocha, with no whipped cream. Our drink now clocks in at 250 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. That's less fat and calories in the skinnied up grande, than in a regular tall. 

Add ice
  • Spring is on the way and it's getting warmer out, so why not add ice? Ice displaces some of the milk in your favorite drink, replacing the calories.
Put it into action: 
  • Order a grande iced nonfat mocha with no whipped cream for 200 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. You've just saved 50 calories. 

Rethink Pumps
  • A venti drink contains 5 pumps of syrup, a grande contains 4 and a tall contains 3. Iced venti drinks contain an extra pump of syrup for a total of 6 pumps and a whole lot of sugar. What about those mixed flavor drinks like a peppermint mocha? Double the syrup, meaning a grande would contain 8 pumps, 4 peppermint and 4 mocha. You can save yourself a lot of calories, without sacrificing taste, simply by reducing the amount of pumps of syrup in your drink. 
Put it into action: 
  • 1 pump of mocha syrup contains 25 calories and 0.5 grams of fat. Regular syrups contain 20 calories and 0 grams of fat. Take your grande iced nonfat no whip mocha and request half the syrup and your drink will now clock in at a very reasonable 150 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. 

Rethink your drink
  • Latte, Misto? What's the difference? Calories. A latte is made up of a shot of espresso and steamed milk, while a misto is coffee with steamed milk. A misto contains more coffee, therefore it has less milk. Honestly, I can barely taste the difference between the two, but there is a difference in calories. Bonus: the misto costs less.  
Put it into action: 
  • Take a grande soy latte for  170 calories, 4.5 grams of fat and compare that to a grande soy miso for 100 calories, 3 grams of fat. 

What's your favorite coffee drink? Let me know in comments and I'll help you make it skinny!  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Pumpkin for Spring

Good morning! I'm here today with a new muffin recipe that features pumpkin. Now, pumpkin is typically thought of as a "fall" fruit. When autumn rolls around, you better believe that you'll see pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones.. and who could forget, the pumpkin spice latte. However, pumpkin isn't just for fall. This superfood is perfect to enjoy year round and when I found a can of pumpkin hiding in the back shelf of my cabinet and my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe from high school in a pile of long forgotten papers, well I just couldn't resist.

Did you know pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene? Your body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A. Vitamin A is primarily associated with vision, but also has roles in reproduction, keeping your immune system strong and helping your heart, lungs, kidneys to function properly,  just to name a few. It's pretty important! Pumpkin is also rich in fiber, which helps you to stay fuller longer. In fact, 1/2 cup canned pumpkin contains 3 grams of fiber and 280% of your vitamin A requirement.

Remember, when I said I found this recipe in the depths of my closet? Well, I made a few swaps to the original recipe, decreasing the sugar, increasing the pumpkin and decreasing the oil. Increasing the pumpkin in this recipe helps to provide moisture, while decreasing the amount of oil required. Try swapping out pumpkin for the fat in some of your favorite recipes! If you  need a more mild flavor, try applesauce.

If my kitchen walls could talk: Add your favorite nuts for a protein boost. Feel free to use any type of flour with this recipe - I used a combination of Bob's Red Mill and Betty Crocker gluten-free flours. You could also use spelt or whole wheat, if you don't need this recipe to be gluten-free.

Pumpkin Muffins - Serves 12


1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line 12 cupcake muffin tins with paper holders.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to combine.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry, stir until mixed through - batter may appear lumpy.
4. Divide batter among muffin tins. Fill ~ 2/3 full. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Drab to Fab: The Look For Less - Pottery Barn Benchwright Table

Today, this drab to fab edition features one of my favorite rooms of the house. Our dining room. We opted for a rustic feel for the room with a few updated touches.  We loved the look of a farmhouse table and debated for weeks on a few different options.  We fell hard for a Pottery Barn table that was above our projected budget. We came close to ordering a custom built table, but the surprise factor along with the time factor made it not the best choice....

We decided to go with the Pottery Barn table and opted to go for a table with extendable pieces so that we would be able to use it in future homes. I have never once regretted that decision in the year that we have owned our table. I truly love it. Granted, I recognize that sometimes rather than splurge for the original piece, you may rather choose a similar table... and today you can.

Imagine my surprise, when I opened the Pier 1 Catalogue today and found a fantastic look for less option!  I love our dining room table and if you've been looking for an inspired look, well, I just had to share this find with you. The Pier 1 Eastwood Dining Table is a stunning imitation of our  Pottery Barn Benchwright Dining Table at less than half the cost.

Can you believe it? It is a total steal.  In addition to this, I have also thrown in similar versions of other pieces to give you an entire room for less.

The Look...for Less

Dining Table: Pier 1 Eastwood Dining Table
Chairs: Tufted Fabric Dining Chair or Claudine Dining Chair
Rug: Threshold Fretwork Rug
Rustic Buffet: Garner Sideboard Buffet or Verona Buffet

There you have it! As always, feel free to email me with any questions you may have. Have a wonderful day.

What would you like to see on the next drab to fab edition?