Tag Archives: baking

Fall Favorites, in pictures

Favorite highlights from fall 2014…

Decorating with mini gourds, pumpkins, and pumpkin candles. Love adding simple touches around our place to make it feel festive.

Decorating with gourds, pumpkins, and pumpkin spice candles!

 

Baked some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies at 7am on Halloween. May or may not have eaten cookie batter for breakfast that day. πŸ™‚
Baking pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for our neighbors

Visited the beautiful mountains in Virginia for a friend’s wedding and went on a sunrise run one morning. So peaceful and quiet out there. The cows seemed rather annoyed that I was disturbing their morning solace.

Visiting Virginia for a friend's wedding and soaking up the beautiful country scenery

A sweet client brought me pumpkin spice cupcakes one day!! Rob and I demolished these in no time.

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Loved the pumpkin spice coffee at Nadoz this year. Since I drink my coffee black, it’s fun to try various flavors to mix things up a little bit!

Drinking pumpkin spice coffee at Nadoz... (are you picking up on a pumpkin theme yet?)

 

Took our pup to the pumpkin patch – she wasn’t at all interested in the pumpkins, but loved trying to eat the hay!

Taking our little puppy to the pumpkin patch

 

I love dry erase boards on refrigerators because they give me an excuse to doodle. πŸ™‚

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Roasted the seeds from our pumpkins and they turned out really well! I just followed a recipeΒ I found on Pinterest and they were delicious.

Roasting pumpkin seeds from our pumpkins!

We spent lots of the warmer days at the park with Peyton, trying to burn off some of her endless energy!

Playtime at the park with Peyton

Cooked up some homemade butternut squash soup one day when I was nursing a head cold. So soothing and comforting – at least as much as soup can be. πŸ˜‰

Homemade butternut squash soup - delicious!

Ran a chilly 5K race with my hubby in Kirkwood and placed 1st in my age group! The race was even called the HOPE 5K so it felt like destiny for me. Β πŸ™‚

Ran a 5K race and placed 1st in my age group!

 

Lots of warm bowls of oatmeal for breakfast lately, topped with banana and peanut butter.

Lots of hot bowls of oatmeal for breakfast, with banana and peanut butter on top

 

One of my birthday presents from my parents – 3 new kinds of tea to try! My favorite is the Vanilla Caramel.

Birthday present from my parents - 3 new kinds of tea. :)

 

One of my husband’s favorite meals that I’ve been making lately: BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza. YUM.

One of Rob's favorite meals: BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza!

 

Chicken and rice soup with hearty, whole grain bread; from a cafe in Nashville.

Soup with bread...one of the best things about colder weather.

 

Hiking at Castlewood State Park with my hubby and puppy on a beautiful day!

Hiking with my hubby and puppy on a beautiful day!

Fall has been fantastic in so many ways. I’m excited to see what winter holds! πŸ™‚

Calling all Chocolate Lovers!

I’ve got a DELICIOUS dessert recipe to share with you today that also happens to be really good for your health!! How’s that for a win-win?

These brownies are a huge hit at my house and they always disappear within a day or two. We like to keep them chilled in the fridge – there’s something about cool, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate that really hits the spot on a warm, sunny day.

brownies edited2Don’t be turned off by the secret ingredient in this recipe: avocados. I promise, you cannot taste the avocado at all andΒ it makes the brownies so smooth and creamy! Plus, avocados have lots of healthy fats that are essential for good health – specifically Omega-3, which boosts your heart health and helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

I sprinkled my batch with walnuts before putting them in the oven, but if you’re not a fan of nuts in your brownies, feel free to omit that step.

 

 
Chilled Avocado Brownies

3 large, ripe avocados
1/2 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)
1 cup honey
6 oz dark chocolate (I love theseΒ bars from Trader Joe’s)
3 TB coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large eggs
2 TB vanilla extract
2 TB coconut flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
sprinkling of mini chocolate chips or nuts
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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut avocados in half, peel and mash in a bowl with a potato masher until very smooth. (a food processor would also work)
3. Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil together on the stove over a double boiler. Make sure the chocolate doesn’t get scorched. (Here’s how to make a double boiler using pots you already have at home!)
4. Transfer avocados to a large bowl and add all other ingredients.
5. Use either a hand mixer or whisk to combine until smooth.
6. Grease a 13″ x 9″ pan with coconut oil (or use parchment paper) and spread batter into the pan.
7. Sprinkle the top with mini chocolate chips or nuts.
8. Bake for 25-28 minutes, depending on your oven and how gooey you want the brownies to be!

Enjoy with a dollop of whipped cream and a glass of milk. Β And don’t feel bad if you eat half the pan in one sitting like I did. Β  πŸ˜‰

Baking Adventures…and Other Highlights of the Past 2 Months

As I type this, I’m sitting at a window table at a Starbucks in Springfield, MO, sipping a passion fruit iced tea and wondering how in the world it’s been so long since I blogged!

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Initially, I decided to take a couple weeks off this little blog to focus on school because things were getting kinda crazy as graduation approached and I didn’t want to fall behind. Those “couple weeks off” quickly turned into almost 2 months away, but I’m finally back today with plans to be more consistent with my writing.

This blog is primarily just a personal creative outlet for me and a way to express (in writing, at least) the thoughts flying around in my brain. πŸ™‚ I don’t claim to be any kind of exceptional writer or attempt to impress anyone with my fitness or healthy living. I just love to write and journal and share the random musings that come to mind. And it’s fun to have a place to do that!

The past couple months have been a blur…as of March 1st, I am officially a graduate of IIN (the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) and I’m now a Certified Holistic Health Coach! I’m so excited to be officially graduated, but it also means I really need to kick it into gear with my marketing and business development! I started coaching my first client a couple months ago, while still finishing up school, and that has been going well!

I have lots of ideas about how I want to develop my coaching business and the demographics I hope to work with…now it’s all about translating those ideas into ACTION and making it happen! πŸ™‚ I’m excited! …and a little nervous. πŸ˜›

In my free time, I’ve been running a lot (for me), spending lots of time with my family, and eating a lot of dark chocolate. Especially the chocolate part. πŸ˜‰

I’ve also made some really fun desserts that have garnered good reviews from my guinea pigs family.

Most notable were the Superbowl-themed desserts I made for a party at my sister’s house. I’ve never done much intense decorating of baked goods so the fact that these turned out was a huge win in my book!

Yard-line chocolate cupcakes:
This is a great step-by-step recipe, which is exactly what I need when special icing decorating is involved. πŸ˜‰ Those little “footballs” on top are chocolate covered almonds!!

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Football brownies:
(I used this recipe, but made my own from-scratch brownies instead of using the mix)

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Also of note were the cinnamon crescent rolls I whipped up one night which were highly reviewed by my 19 year old brother. After eating 3 of them, he mumbled with his mouth full, “dude, these are legit!” …These wonderful cinnamon pastries are not really what most people would consider “healthy” but hey, everything in moderation! We had a tube of crescent rolls in our fridge that were going to waste so this was the perfect way to put them to good use.

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This post has already gotten annoyingly long, I know, but I’ve saved the best recipe (in my mind) for last… homemade chocolate peanut butter cups!! This is truly the most simple and easy recipe imaginable and only requires two ingredients, but the idea is ingenious! I found the recipe on this blog and went to work. I made simple chocolate peanut butter cups (I did add a little sea salt on the top of mine) but she offers all sorts of delicious toppings suggestions if you want to get a little creative.

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I brought these to a family dinner one evening and they were definitely a hit! (as if it’s possible for ANY combination of chocolate and peanut butter to not taste amazing…)

I promise I haven’t ONLY been baking and eating delicious desserts for the past 2 months. But yes, that’s been a huge part of my life of late. πŸ˜›

I’m in Springfield for a quick day trip with my brother and a friend of his who came in town to visit a university here. While they sat through a few seminars and informational sessions on campus, I donned my running shorts and did a little exploring of downtown Springfield on foot. It’s a warm, gorgeous day today and I had a great 4 mile tempo run in the sunshine. I’m hoping spring has finally come to stay for awhile!

Enjoy your weekend! πŸ™‚

Brownies are the Way to Anyone’s Heart…

It’s no secret in my family that I love to bake. And I love having excuses to bake.

This semester, I’m doing the “young adults” group at my church, which is on Thursday evenings. So, when our table leader asked for a volunteer to bring snacks for the next week, my hand shot up with record speed. Like I said, I love having excuses to bake. πŸ˜›

After taking a poll from the table, it became obvious that the majority wanted something chocolate. Surprise, surprise? So, I decided on some good ol’ homemade brownies. I didn’t want to just make box-mix brownies, though, so I set out on a search for a delicious from-scratch brownie recipe. Two hours of google-ing later, I finally found a winner, and the baking commenced:

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These brownies turned out perfectly! I didn’t actually try one of them because I really try to avoid gluten for my health and wellbeing, but EVERYONE that had one could not stop raving about them.

The key to brownies is making sure you cook them just enough that they’re not raw, but not long enough that they become crisp and overdone. Everyone seems to agree that moist brownies are the best – and these definitely fit the bill!

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One of the girls at our table follows the Paleo way of eating, so I decided to find a “Paleo brownie” recipe to make for her. That wasn’t hard to do, and I ended up making these Sweet Potato Brownies from a great Paleo blog I found. <—if you eat Paleo, this is a great resource for recipes!

Don’t be turned away by seeing the words “sweet potato” and “brownie” in the same recipe. I promise, you can’t taste the sweet potatoes at all. The sweet potato is used in place of flour and sugar and gives the brownie the perfect consistency and sweetness.

I DID try (several) of these brownies and they were amazing. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of them, so you’ll just have to imagine how delicious they were…

The brownies were perfect kickoff to a fun weekend, which I spent largely watching hockey and football with my brother and acting like I know which teams are good and all of that. πŸ˜‰

I do follow football (somewhat) but I’m completely lost when it comes to hockey. I know the basic rules and strategy of the game, but that’s about it. I’ve discovered that i can appear pretty knowledgable, though, by inserting the occasional comment here and there…such as: “How did he not make that shot?!” and “What an awesome block!” etc, etc. πŸ˜›

Somewhere in between hockey games on Saturday, I got the crazy idea to arm wrestle my brother, which didn’t end too well for me. Well, it never does. About every 6 months, I challenge him to an arm wrestling match, as if I actually think I’ll be able to beat him this time. Hah. Who am I kidding? He’s a buff, 18 year old guy who’s always down in the basement, grunting and groaning as he benches, squats, and deadlifts insane amounts of weight. I’m kind of jealous, not going to lie. πŸ˜‰

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After being sufficiently humiliated in the arm wrestling match, I headed to the gym and had a great 5 mile run on the treadmill. I felt bad for not running outside and enjoying the beautiful weather on Saturday, but by the time I was heading out, it was almost dark. I’m ready for longer days, please! No more of this getting dark at 5pm business.

Sunday, after church, I headed back to Lone Elk Park for another adventurous trail run! It was a chilly 20-something degrees, but the sun kept it from being miserable. This time I took the trail in another direction at one of the forks, and instead of taking me into Castlewood Park, I ran along the Meremac River and toward West Tyson Park. I’d never heard of this West Tyson Park before, but apparently if I’d kept running long enough, it would have taken me all the way there! I wasn’t looking for a crazy long run, though, so I kept my roundtrip to about 6 miles and got a great workout from jumping over all the roots and rocks along the way.

I was excited to visit this trail again without the slush, snow and ice I encountered last time, but for some reason the trail was STILL really muddy! I squelched my way through and ended up with some pretty muddy shoes by the end.

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After my run, I drove around the park to see some of the elk, and got pretty close to a couple of them:

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So far, the week is off to a great start…
This morning I woke up and just felt like it was one of those days that I needed to put a little extra effort into breakfast. I took my time deciding what I wanted, and ended up using some cubed chicken out of the freezer for my base. I stir-fried the chicken with some veggies and ate it alongside a few eggs. Everything was topped with avocado, which I’ve been eating like crazy these days. Avocados are a great source of healthy Omega-3 fat, as well as potassium and protein.

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(sorry for the blurry picture…I was in a rush to taste this before it got cold!)

I’m off to enjoy the rest of this day! I hope you’re enjoying it too!

Ready for Christmas!

It’s beginning to *feel* a lot like Christmas…

1) Christmas shopping is done!!

I finished up the last of my Christmas shopping this afternoon. Yes, I know, I cut it very close this year! I don’t really have a good excuse, except that December seemed to fly by even MORE quickly than usual this year. And I’ve never really been one of those people who starts picking out Christmas presents for people in July. πŸ˜› I’m not a procrastinator in most other areas of life, but when it comes to Christmas shopping, I’m almost always squeaking in at the last minute.

I still have some wrapping to do tomorrow (Christmas Eve, yikes!) but at least everything is bought!

2) Amy and I went on a “Christmas Lights Run” on Saturday evening around my neighborhood, in order to enjoy the bright, colorful displays. Of course, we talked for most of the run so we didn’t really notice the lights a whole lot, but it was still a festive activity to do together. πŸ™‚

3) Christmas cookies have been baked!!! These are just one of the numerous favorites we bake each year. I baked these on Wednesday with a friend, while listening to the Christmas station on Pandora. πŸ™‚

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4) The “Wild Lights” display at the St Louis Zoo! Friday night, I headed down to the zoo with a few friends, as well as my sister and brother-in-law. Although it was bitterly cold, we lasted about an hour (thanks to thick scarves and Hot Hands!) and enjoyed walking through the huge lights display at the zoo!

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5) Watching Christmas movies! On Thursday night, I had a friend over for dinner and we watched A Christmas Carol – the Jim Carrey version, which I had never seen before. I liked it; the CGI stuff was really impressive! I’ve also watched White Christmas and A Christmas Story over the past few weeks, but I have yet to fulfill my annual viewing of my favorite Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life!! I guess that will be happening tomorrow!!

6) Treasuring time with family and friends:

Because my sister and brother-in-law will be with his family on Christmas Day, we decided to have a special family celebration TODAY that lasted all day long. Since my best friend Amy is practically family, we invited her to join in the festivities too. πŸ™‚

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We started off with church at 11am…our church always does an amazing Christmas service and they definitely did not disappoint this year! The message was really good and the music was incredible. They sung my favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night, which always gives me goosebumps.

After church, we visited with friends for a little bit and then headed over to TGIF’s for a delicious lunch. We have a family tradition of eating at TGIF’s on the Eve of the Eve every year (the 23rd). I ordered the cobb salad and also nibbled on some of Amy’s sweet potato fries. Love me some sweet potatoes!

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After lunch, Amy and I finished up my Christmas shopping and then met my family back at our house for some games and relaxation. We also gave our presents to my sis and brother-in-law and opened theirs in return. Around 6pm, everyone started to get a little hungry and Mom brought out some smoked trout, cheese and crackers, cocktail shrimp, and other munchies for us to enjoy. Then we migrated into the family room to watch A Christmas Story, which I had never seen before! It was definitely a very unique movie…not my favorite, but it did make me laugh several times. πŸ˜‰

Amy just left and now we are relaxing some more and watching football. πŸ˜€

So excited that Christmas Eve is tomorrow!!

I hope you’re enjoying these final hours before the holiday! πŸ™‚