Friday, December 28, 2012

White Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

     I've been on a bit of a blog hiatus. I have been very busy adjusting to having two kiddos and finding time to workout too. I may have also been a little afraid. As a food blogger, I have always felt the need to try interesting and not always healthy recipes. My goal was always to try at least two new recipes each week and write about them. In my effort to finally lose the baby weight I never lost after number one, I decided it was more important to focus on my health. It worked; I'm down 26 pounds, and I'm still not done!  I'm beginning to figure out that it's not about having a very strict diet. There are lots of skinny people who can eat pizza and cake. It's about finding moderation...and for me, keeping track of calories has really helped. I had no idea that some foods had so many calories, especially when you go out to eat! You think you are ordering something decent, only to find that your salad or omelet has 1200 calories!
     That being said, this recipe is obviously a bit of a splurge. It's the Holidays, right? I've been to the gym nearly everyday, so I can splurge at this time of year. That is where the moderation comes in. Workout to eat a cupcake once in a while. If you deprive yourself of the things you love, you'll never stick to your plan. I like cupcakes, so when a birthday comes up, I will enjoy it...then I will work my butt off (literally) at the gym the next day.
     Now, these cupcakes were maybe my favorite cupcakes I've ever made. I was inspired by a new cupcake shop in town that sells filled cupcakes. This lady comes up with the greatest combinations. I searched the internet, and found this recipe and knew it would be just what we needed. These were made for a going away get-together for our dear friends who moved to Louisiana. I think they would also be great for a New Year's party. There were perfectly moist and the flavor was light and refreshing. The white chocolate in the cake batter really set them apart from just a regular white cupcake. I used Godiva white chocolate squares if you are curious. An added bonus is that they look fancy when topped with a raspberry!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

by Robin
Prep Time: 30-60 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients (15-18 cupcakes)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) bag frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup raspberry filling (seedless raspberry jam works too)
  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar
For Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line muffin pans with paper liners.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the white chocolate to a small microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring in between each interval, until melted and smooth.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the white chocolate and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture (in 3 additions) and milk (in 2 additions), starting and ending with the flour. Beat just until incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans, filling each about 2/3-3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan to cool completely.
For Filling:
Add the raspberries to the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan to remove the seeds (this takes a few minutes, just be patient and keep using a rubber spatula to push it through). Add the sugar and cornstarch to the pan, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking often. When it reaches a boil, remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly. Chill before filling cupcakes.
For Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and raspberry filling on medium speed until completely incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the confectioners' sugar (I like to sift as I add to avoid lumps), one cup at a time and beat until you reach your desired consistency.
To assemble the cupcakes: Use a paring knife to cut a cone out of the center of each cupcake. Place a few teaspoons of the raspberry filling inside. Cut the tip of the cone off and replace it on top of the cupcake. Place the raspberry buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with your preferred tip, and frost the cupcakes. Garnish with fresh raspberries if desired.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

White Chicken Enchiladas

     For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned a blog that I have been following for some time now; Hezzi D's Books and Cooks. Since I have been following, I already knew that I love the blog. In preparing for this post, I actually made four recipes. It was hard to decide which one to write about today, so I picked the one that had the best White Chicken Enchiladas won this time...but if you are interested, the photo was the tie breaker between the enchiladas and this healthy turkey chili recipe which I made with this bacon cheddar bread. I said I made four recipes...the fourth was these pepperoni pinwheels which I made with the beer batter pizza dough on my blog. They were really good too, just not in my final two.
     The white chicken enchiladas were full of flavor and easy to make. They definitely hit the spot for the Mexican food craving we were having. I opted to use plain yogurt instead of sour cream to save a few calories and add more healthy protein, so they weren't too bad for you either. Add a salad or other veggie to the side and you have a great dinner for less than 500 calories.

Recipe makes 5 enchiladas
Nutr info/enchilada: 321 cal, 17 carb, 18g fat, 26g protein, 2g sugar,  7g fiber

White Chicken Enchiladas

by Robin
Prep Time: 15
Cook Time: 30
Ingredients (serves 5)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 t. paprika
  • 1/2 t. red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1-3/4 c. Mexican cheese blend, shredded
  • 3 T. butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. plain yogurt
  • 1 (4 oz) can green chilies
1. In a bowl combine the cumin, paprika, red pepper, salt, black pepper, and garlic. Cut chicken breasts up into small chunks. Sprinkle spice mixture over chicken.
2. cook chicken for 5-8 minutes per side or until the chicken is cooked through. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes and then shred.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.
4. Mix together the chicken and 1 cup of cheese. Roll up in the tortillas and place in the baking dish.
5. In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Add in the broth and whisk until smooth. Continue cooking until the mixture begins to bubble.
6. Slowly whisk in the sour cream, pepper, and green chilies. Immediately remove from heat so that the yogurt doesn't curdle. Pour over top of the enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.
7. Bake for 20 minutes and then heat under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

Fresh Maple Pumpkin Pie

     Pumpkin pie is something I look forward to every Thanksgiving. In my family, there is no special recipe. I'm pretty sure my mom just follows the recipe on the side of the can of pumpkin, and it's delicious don't get me wrong.We just don't have a special family recipe.  So, I set out to find a healthy (or at least healthier) and delicious pumpkin pie recipe that we can all look forward to each year.
     The first difference in this recipe is the crust. Instead of a flaky, buttery crust my pie has a graham cracker crust. I was a little nervous that I would miss a "regular" crust, but I promise you won't! The graham crust caramelizes as it bakes!The second change is that I used fresh pumpkin. It's really not as hard as you think! Finally, I replaced some of the sugar and sweetened condensed milk with maple syrup and low-fat milk.
     This pie is fantastic. We gave half of it to our fellow pumpkin-pie loving friends, and they loved it too. Using fresh pumpkin really does make a more delicious pie! And adding in healthy ingredients means you can eat it and not feel guilty.You can even make pumpkin seeds. This is the recipe I followed for that.

Nutritional Information:
Serving (1/12 pie): 159 cal, 30g carb, 3g fat, 4g protein, 22g sugar, 1g fiber
Fresh Maple Pumpkin Pie

by Robin
Prep Time: 60 min
Cook Time: 80 min
Ingredients (serves 12)
  • 1 pie pumpkin (you'll have lots leftover too!)
  • 1-1/2 cups graham crackers (about 11 crackers)
  • 3 Tbl non-fat plain greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbl brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 c pureed pumpkin (from pie pumpkin above)
  • 1-1/4 c low-fat milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbl milled flax seed + 3 Tbl water (or 1 more egg instead of flax/water)
  • 6 Tbl sugar
  • 4 tsp stevia
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Preheat oven to 350*
Cut pumpkin in half and clean out all the seeds and strings.
After cleaning, cut those halves in half so you have four pieces.
Place them, cut side down, on a jelly roll pan. Add a little water to the bottom of the pan.
Bake 45-60 minutes, or until the skin starts peeling off.
Let it cool enough to handle. Scoop out the flesh and add to a food processor. Puree until smooth.
Combine crushed graham crackers, yogurt, and brown sugar. Press into a 9-inch pie plate, and bake for about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.
Pour into crust, and bake 70-80 minutes or until a knife in the center comes out clean. Keep watch on the crust. If it starts to burn, cover the edges with foil.
Cool on a wire rack, and refrigerate leftovers.
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    Tuesday, October 30, 2012

    Pinteresting Review: Pork Tenderloin with Pan Sauce

         It's been a while since I've posted a Pinteresting Review. Today I have selected this pork with pan sauce.
         This is the best pork I've ever made! It is so flavorful and moist. It takes a while to marinate, but the hardest part is waiting. You will not regret making this one!

    Pork Tenderloin with Pan Sauce

    by Robin
    Prep Time: 3-4 hours
    Cook Time: 50 minutes
    • 1⁄2 cups olive oil
    • 1⁄3 cup soy sauce
    • 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • 1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    • 1-2 tsp dried parsley
    • 2 tsp dijon mustard
    • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1-lb. pork tenderloin
    • Pan scrapings from pork tenderloin
    • 1/2 cup of chicken broth
    • 2-3 tbsp of pork marinade (thoroughly mixed)
    • 1-2 tsp butter
    Combine all marinade ingredients (first 9 ingredients) and reserve 2-3 Tbsp. Place the pork tenderloin and marinade in a Ziplock bag and let marinate for at least 3-4 hours.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a hot skillet over medium-high heat, sear each side of tenderloin for 2-3 minutes. Place in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the meat has reached 160 degrees. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
    Meanwhile, make the pan sauce. Place the skillet back on the stove over medium heat. Add the chicken broth and scrape up all the browned pieces from the bottom of the pan. Add the marinade and let it boil down for 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and remove from heat stirring until butter has melted. Pour over the pork tenderloin.
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    Swagbucks: Don't Wait for Gift Cards!

         Are you tired of waiting a week or two for your Amazon gift cards to post to your Swagbucks credits? Swagbucks has come up with a solution...
         Just in time for the holidays, Swagbucks has brought back Expedited Shipping on all of the Amazon Gift Cards in the Swag Store. Starting November 1st, all you have to do is order and verify your gift card by 2pm PT to get it the next business day. Just select the Expedited Shipping option and chip in an extra 50 SwagBucks to get the deal! It's super simple, and if you haven't verified your account it can be done easily via cellphone.

    DIY Preschool: Pumpkins

         This is the first year that Big E is pretty excited about Halloween. She loves dressing up. She loves the pumpkin patch and carving pumpkins. She loves going to show her costume to the rest of the family. All the cousins have corresponding outfits to promenade to various houses. This year, they were all superheroes. We had Captain America, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Batman and Wonder Woman were super girly and glittery costumes complete with tutu's.

          Leading up to Halloween (and rounding out the rest of the week, actually) we focused on Pumpkins.There are so many activities to do with pumpkins that we have spent a couple of weeks on this theme. We have reviewed some of what we have already done, and learned a few new things too.

    Daily Skills:
    AWANA verse & activities
    Calendar time: add day, count days, sing days of week, months, today is...
    color, number, letter, word of week review F and E, 5/6, is/for
    Sing ABC's while point to the correct letter (one-to-one correspondence)
    Skill of day: from Pumpkin Printables

    Other Activities:
    Look at F and E is for pages, cut those apart
    Use F and E is for page cutouts to sort by beginning sounds
    Add F or E is for pictures to our Alpha-book (pictured here)
    Look for "F" and "E" everywhere (stores, books, etc)
    Put snack in groups of 5/6, give each person 5/6
    spell words with playdoh or magnetic letters
    look for words in books and on signs
    review sight words: "and, the, see, can" fishing game (magnetic fish, read the word when caught)
    review sight words: pick up game (throw down cards with words, and she picks up what I call out)
    Read families-themed books: The Biggest Pumpkin Ever, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, and Pumpkins
    Pumpkin Printables "F and E", calendar

    Saturday, October 27, 2012

    Swagbucks: Be on the Haunt for More

         As Halloween draws near, Swagbucks has another opportunity to join in on some fun and earn extra Swagbucks. For all you fans of Swagbucks, this Monday will be a terrorizing treat: an all-day Swag Code Haunt where you can get multiple codes that add up to 70 reward points that you can use to get free stuff on The fun begins at 4am PDT on their blog and you should download this image- it's got a bunch of hidden images that will serve as clues to help you get codes all day long. New to Swagbucks? Enter CODEHAUNT during sign up to start with 100 Swagbucks! Happy Haunting...

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    Swagbucks: Vampires vs Zombies

        Halloween is just around the corner, and Swagbucks is joining in the fun with festivities of their own. In addition to the regular ways to earn Swagbucks (daily checklist, special offers, tasks, surveys, search, SBTV, games, codes, and the new and improved Shop & Earn) there is a battle between vampires and zombies going on. Watch this video to find out more information on that: Zombies vs. Vampires: Which Team Will Win? - Swagbucks TV
         If you aren't getting free rewards at Swagbucks yet, now is the time to start.The haunting time is near, which can only mean Swagbucks HallowEARN Collector's Bills  are here. From now to the end of October, you can collect up to five festive bills just from searching online via Swagbucks Search. Collect all five to immediately win a bonus of 13SB. That sure will come in handy to completing your Daily Ghoul Meter and earning eve more bonus SB.
        Are you still wondering what Swagbucks are? Click here to find my first post about it.

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Denim Bibs

         I hate when jeans get holes in them. I also hate when they don't fit anymore...although lately, mine aren't fitting because they are too big!
         I figured there was something I could make out of them, so I started saving unusable jeans. A thought came to me as I was sorting thought Big E's clothes. All of the bibs we used for her are disgusting. They look terrible. I would never take them into public. So, I thought that jeans would make really good bibs. They are dark and heavy so stuff wouldn't soak through to the clothes underneath. Besides, Little E needs a few things that aren't hand-me-downs anyhow.
         Basically, I took a bib we already had and made a pattern from it. If you don't have a bib laying around, you could probably find a pattern on the internet. After I had my pattern cut, I just added cute stuff and a snap. Here's the result:

    • Create a pattern for a bib by tracing an existing one, or print a pattern from the Internet. Make it slightly larger than you want the bib to be to allow for seams.
    • Cut two pieces for each bib; one denim and one backing fabric.
    • Sew ribbons, fabric, or whatever decoration you want onto the denim piece.
    • Put right sides together on both pieces and sew together. Leave a couple inches open so you can flip it  the right way to finish the bib.
    • Flip the bib the right way and pin up the hole. Sew around the edges for a finished look.
    • Add velcro or snaps for a closure.
    Extra details:
    The backing on each bib pictured matches the fabric on the front. I just used leftover fabric scraps and ribbon.
    I used a zig-zag stitch to sew around the butterfly.
    Craft stores sell iron on patches and words that would be cute on these bibs too.

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Menu Plan Oct 15-19

         Short and sweet today: I'm so excited for this week's meals! Some old favorite and some great sounding new recipes to try.

    Sausage Pizza Roll Ups, broccoli
    Meatloaf, Green Beans, Rolls
    Whole Wheat Caprese Lasagna
    chicken Garlic Stir-fry
    pizza roll ups

    linked to menu plan monday

    Saturday, October 20, 2012

    Apple Scones

         I have another great Fall recipe for you today. I'm inspired by my friend who makes scones as much as I make muffins. Scones seems so fancy. Maybe it's just the name. I made Strawberry White Chocolate Scones one other time. They weren't too hard to make and they were so delicious, so I don't know what has taken me so long to try again.
         These Apple Scones were inspired by a post from What's Brewing in the Kitchen. I was assigned to this blog for the Secret Recipe Club this month, and I couldn't pick just one recipe. See my post for SRC here: Pork Stir Fry with Garlic Sauce
         I made some adjustments to make the scones a little healthier (more fiber & protein, lower sugar). I added whole wheat flour, substituted some sugar for stevia, skipped peeling the apples, and added cinnamon and sugar sprinkles before baking. You may also notice, the original recipe was a stovetop recipe. If you are interested, the nutritional information (per scone) is listed just below the picture.
         Overall, the scones were easy to make. Big E helped me mix everything together and press it into a big square. She also helped brush on the milk wash and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. The scones turned out rich and hearty. They weren't dry, but they weren't necessarily moist either. Perfect with a cup of coffee, I'd say. Big E asked for them for a snack, but she kept saying, "Can I have a scotch?" Ha! Of course, she had no idea what it sounded like she was asking for.
    164 calories, 23g carbs, 7g fats, 5g protein, 5g sugar, and 4g fiber

    1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    2 tsp stevia powder
    2 Tbl sugar
    4 Tbl butter, softened
    1 egg
    1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
    1 large apple, cored and finely diced
    2 Tbl sugar
    1/2 tsp cinnamon

    • Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, stevia, and sugar
    • Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbles.
    • Combine the egg and yogurt.
    • Stir in the yogurt mixture and the apples.
    • On a flour surface, pat the dough into a half-inch thick square. Use a pizza cutter to cut into fourths, then cut each fourth in half to make 8 triangles.
    • Place triangles on a  parchment paper covered baking sheet.
    • Brush each scone with milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar
    • Bake @ 425 for 10-15 minutes or until golden.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    DIY Shiny Toe Caps

         One thing I hate more than anything else is buying something that is immediately broken or ruined. This happened recently. We had to buy Big E some black dress shoes. She wore them a total of three times before the toe was broken up and peeling. Now, I realize this might not be as big of an issue if we had real leather shoes. But, spending $50 on shoes that a kid will only be able to wear for two or three months is crazy. Besides, leather gets scuffed up too.
         Well, I searched Pinterest and the rest of the Internet until I found a solution. I found a lot of tutorials on spray painting shoes, using acrylic paints, and even mod podge with glitter. To me, these solutions were temporary. These glues/paints were not made to be used on clothes, so they would probably just flake off and I'd be in the same situation again in another week. As I mentioned before, this drives me crazy! One solution I found that seemed worth trying was Freesole.
         Free sole is a urethane formula that is used to protect and repair shoes. I figured if any other shoes fall apart in a week or my soles come undone, I will be able to use it again. So, I justified it was worth the $7. That is still cheaper than buying new shoes every time they get scuffed up. Click here to see it on Amazon:Gear Aid Freesole Urethane Formula Shoe Repair 1oz

         Well, after applying, there is still plenty left in the tube for other repairs. As you can see, Big E now has shiny toes and heels just to make it look like it was supposed to be that way. Shiny Shoes are a big hit with the three year old crowd. The scuffs are covered (I did color them in with a sharpie first), and the shoes should be protected from further toe damage.
         This smell of the freesole will knock your head off. It's pretty strong, but it's easy to use. It's like a thick gel. I used a paintbrush to spread it on after the area was taped up. Don't worry about brushmarks; they disappear as it sets. I got a little on my finger, and it washed off easily with soap and water. I removed the tape after about 45 minutes, and then let it dry all the way.

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    Pork Stir-Fry with Garlic Sauce

         It's Secret Recipe time again. This month, I was given the blog What's Brewing in the Kitchen. My favorite thing about Amy and Zach's blog is the number of healthy recipes they have posted. There were so many delicious looking recipes, it was hard to pick just one to spotlight for this month's reveal. I've pinned apple scones and parmesan crusted chicken to make another time, but I'm focusing on this stir-fried pork today.
         I took Amy's advice and bought the hoisin sauce and sesame oil. She was right, it really set this stir-fry apart from others. I think there will be plenty of recipes to try using those ingredients, especially since we love Asian inspired dishes.
        Overall, the pork stir fry was excellent. It was full of flavor and pretty easy to make. The hardest part was figuring out the amount of ingredients to use, since my pork was about 1-1/4 lb! Everyone at our house enjoyed it very much. We actually made it twice, since we bought a whole bottle of dry sherry to make it. We also used the dry sherry for a chicken recipe that I'll be posting pretty soon.
         If you are interested in the nutritional information, with my 1-1/4lb pork and all the proportional adjustments, I ended up with 3-1/2 one-cup servings.  The nutritional information will be the same, just not as many servings. This dish has 342 calories, 14g carbs, 15g fats, 29g protein, 6g sugar, and 3g of fiber per one-cup serving. I served this with 2/3cup of brown rice which brought my calorie total for this dinner to 494.

    slightly adapted from What's Brewing in the Kitchen
    3/4 lb pork tenderloin, cut into thin strips
    2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
    2 tsp dry sherry
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 Tbl fresh ginger
    5 tsp peanut oil
    a handful of diced onion
    orange or red bell pepper, sliced
    bag of frozen broccoli
    Garlic Sauce:
    1/2 cup chicken broth
    1/4 cup dry sherry
    3 Tbl hoisin sauce
    1 Tbl soy sauce
    2 tsp cornstarch
    1 tsp sesame oil
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

    • Toss the pork with the soy sauce and sherry. 
    • In another small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, and 2tsp of the oil.
    • Prepare the garlic sauce.
    • Heat 1 more teaspoon of oil in a skillet over high. 
    • Add pork and cook, stirring to break up clumps, until browned. Transfer to clean bowl.
    • Add 1 more teaspoon of oil to the same pan. Add onion and cook until tender.
    • Add another teaspoon of oil and bell pepper and cook until crisp-tender. Meanwhile, steam the frozen broccoli.
    • Add the garlic mixture you made at the beginning.
    • Stir into the vegetables and add the pork and broccoli.
    • Whisk the garlic sauce and add to the skillet.

    Saturday, October 13, 2012

    Apple Pie Parfait

         Fall is the perfect time to make foods containing apples. Apples are the most delicious at this time of the year. Since I've been trying to eat healthier, I didn't make an apple pie this year. (If you are looking for a recipe, this one is my favorite)
         This parfait is perfect for breakfast or a desert that you don't have to feel guilty about eating. It tastes like an apple pie, but is filled with protein, fiber, and other good stuff. As pictured, the parfait has 263 calories, 38g carbs, 10g fats, 12g proteins, 24g sugar, and 5g of fiber. Of course, if you use slightly different ingredients, it may vary a bit.

    1/4 cup granola (This is my favorite homemade version)
    1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
    1/2 Tbl honey
    1/2 an apple

    • Slice up the apple, sprinkle with cinnamon and cook in the microwave until tender. 
    • Layer yogurt drizzled with honey, granola, and apples. It's more fun to eat it in a fancy cup.

    DIY Preschool Recap Oct 1-5, 2012

         For preschool this week, our theme was one of my favorite things: Ice Cream! Big E loved learning about ice cream, and even had a chance to make her own at the end of the week. As you can guess, our letter of the week was Ii. The number was 4, and the word was "can."

    Daily Skills:
    AWANA verse & activities
    Calendar time: add day, count days, sing days of week, months, today is...
    color, number, letter, word of week review
    Sing ABC's while point to the correct letter (one-to-one correspondence)
    Skill of day: inchworm pattern, graphing, and counting, BrainQuest pages, colors and shapes
    Read Easy Reader

    Other Activities:
    Look at I is for page, cut those apart
    Use I is for and H is for page cutouts to sort by beginning sounds
    Add I is for pictures to our Alpha-book (pictured here)
    Look for "I" everywhere (stores, books, etc)
    Put snack in groups of 4, give each person 4, add 4 raisins to ants on a log
    spell "can" with playdoh or magnetic letters
    look for "can" in books and on signs
    review sight words: "and, the, see" fishing game (magnetic fish, read the word when caught)
    review sight words: pick up game (throw down cards with words, and she picks up what I call out)
    Read families-themed books: Curious George Goes to the Ice Cream Shop, Milk to Ice Cream, From Milk to Ice Cream
    Make I letter craft
    make homemade ice cream in ziploc bag (recipe follows) "I", calendar
    H puzzle
    alphabet maze  I
    Kumon cutting page

    Ice Cream in a bag recipe:
    1/2 cup milk
    1 Tbl sugar
    1/4 tsp vanilla

    2 cups ice cubes
    1/2 cup salt

    • Put milk, sugar, and vanilla in a small resealable bag. Tape the bag to ensure it stays closed tight. 
    • Fill a large resealable bag with the ice cubes and salt.
    • Put the milk bag inside the ice bag. Tape up the ice bag too.
    • Shake the bags until the mixture turns into ice cream.

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    Menu Plan Oct 7-13

         This week will be filled with fun Fall activities. I think Fall might be my favorite time of year...or at least I really like doing Fall type activities. Hayrides, Headless Horseman, pumpkin patch, bonfires, and apple orchards are all among my favorite things. I don't like the cold that comes with it, but I deal with it to do the fun stuff. On a side note, a bonfire isn't complete without s'mores...or my two variations thereof: using Reese cups instead of a chocolate bar...or using dark chocolate and raspberries with the marshmallows. Yum!
         Despite all these fun Fall activities, I've still be working my rear off at the gym. Literally. I'm down 8lbs in two months! Slowly, I'm finding ways to enjoy my favorite foods in healthier ways or in moderation. I've signed up for a 5k on Thanksgiving Day, so I'll be able to make up for having to eat 2 Thanksgiving dinners! I'm already planning how to eat healthy on that day too.

         When we will be eating at home, this is our plan:

    yogurt parfaits with frozen berries and granola
    egg and turkey bacon sandwiches
    oatmeal with cookie butter!
    chocolate oatmeal pancakes
    apple muffins (whole wheat, naturally sweetened)

    fruit and cheese sticks
    crackers or veggies and hummus
    nuts/trail mix

    Taco Salad
    Pork in Garlic Sauce, brown rice
    peanut butter and berries sandwiches (brown bag dinner!)
    Headless Horseman foods
    Broccoli & Italian Sausage Pasta
    Philly Cheesesteak Pizza on whole wheat beer batter pizza dough

    Linked up to Menu Plan Monday
    Taco Salad

    Sunday, September 30, 2012

    DIY Preschool Recap Sept 17-28, 2012

         Yup, you read that right. We spent two weeks on this post. There was a dishwasher repair, family visits and other things happening that didn't allow enough time to get it all done in one week. Like I said in my first post, sometimes life gets in the way.
         This week(s) theme was family, specifically those that live in our house. Hh was the letter of the week, 3 the number, and "and" the word. We went to Conner Prairie this weekend, and big E identified the word "and" on a sign. I was pretty impressed that she is taking the knowledge and using it outside of school time.

    Daily Activities:
    AWANA verse & activities
    Calendar time: add day, count days, sing days of week, months, today is...
    color, number, letter, word of week review
    Sing ABC's while point to the correct letter (one-to-one correspondence)
    Skill of day: What's wrong with this picture (from BrainQuest book), Split crayons into equal groups, Graph after counting magnetic letters, order objects largest to smallest
    Read Easy Reader

    Other Activities:
    Look at H is for page, cut those apart
    Use H is for page and T is for page cutouts to sort by beginning sounds
    Add H is for pictures to our Alpha-book (pictured here)
    Look for "H" everywhere (stores, books, etc)
    Pass out three animal cookies to each person for a snack
    spell "and" with playdoh or magnetic letters
    look for "and" in books and on signs
    review sight words: "and, the, see" fishing game (magnetic fish, read the word when caught)
    review sight words: pick up game (throw down cards with words, and she picks up what I call out)
    Read families-themed books: Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate, Day by Day, and Julius, the Baby of the World
    Make H letter craft
    Helping Hands craft (trace hands, tell ways to help around house) "H", calendar
    H puzzle
    Kumon cutting page

    Sort biggest to smallest (left), picture sort (right)

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

    Broccoli & Chicken Stir Fry

         If you need a quick, tasty dinner; this is your meal. This stir fry can be cooked up in 15 minutes or less.  The best part is that it tastes great and is loaded with veggies. You can eat as much as you want!
         We make this a lot at our house. It kind of tricks us into thinking we are having take-out. It's healthier and less expensive than take-out so that's a winning combination in my book. The stir fry has red pepper flakes to give it a little kick, tons of veggies, and almonds for a little healthy fat/protein. If you prefer other vegetables, you could definitely substitute with what you like. A couple others we like are asparagus or snow peas.You could also take the time to chop up your carrots and stuff, but I'm lazy and didn't bother. We also went the lazy way with the brown rice, and bought Trader Joe's frozen brown rice. It cooks in the microwave in three minutes, and it's pretty tasty. This is a perfect solution, since rice takes forever to cook.

    Adapted from David Zinczenko
    makes 2 servings
    2 tsp peanut oil (or whatever oil you like)
    1/4 tsp pepper flakes
    3 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
    1 bag frozen steamable broccoli
    about 10 baby carrots
    about 10 sugar snap peas
    1/4 cup diced onion
    2 Tbl sliced almonds
    1/4 cup red-sodium soy sauce
    cooked brown rice

    • Heat oil and pepper flakes over medium-high.
    • Add chicken and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently.
    • Add the remaining ingredients, except rice, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir often.
    • Serve over rice.

    As stated (without brown rice), each serving has
    282 calories, 18 carbs, 9g fats, 27g protein, 9g sugar, and 6g fiber

    Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    Pumpkin Molasses Muffins

         I don't know what screams Fall more than pumpkins...and maybe molasses. That very combination makes these muffins a perfect pair with a cup of coffee on a crisp fall morning. They are just slightly sweet and rich in fiber which makes them an excellent choice for breakfast. You don't have to feel guilty about the chocolate chips sprinkled in the batter. These, of course, are optional but highly recommended.
         My whole family loved these muffins. Jonathon, who is a pumpkin pie hater, was skeptical when he saw the canned pumpkin on the counter. Even he loved them. Big E loved them because she got to help make them...and anything in a muffin cup is tiny and therefore more fun to eat.
         Since the recipe doesn't take the whole can of pumpkin, we froze the leftovers in ice cube trays. I will use these cubes as baby food...or to toss into our dinner sauces for extra veggies.

    makes 12 muffins
    1/4 cup oil
    1/2 cup molasses
    1 cup pumpkin
    1-1/2 cup flour (take out 3 Tbl if using whole wheat flour)
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1-1/2 tsp baking powder
    3/4 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 cup chocolate chips

    • Preheat the oven to 375* and line a muffin tin with cups (or spray)
    • Mix oil, molasses, and pumpkin. 
    • Sift flour, soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. 
    • Stir together the wet and dry ingredients.
    • Add chocolate chips.
    • Drop into muffin cups and bake 18-20 minutes. 
    In case your wondering...
    myfitnesspal says each muffin has:
    151 calories, 25 carbs, 5g fats, 2g proteins, 9g sugar, and 3g fiber

    Monday, September 24, 2012

    Menu Plan Sept. 23-29, 2012

         We're sticking to the menu, and it's paying off! More in our pockets, less around the waist. My goal of saving money and getting healthier is in progress...but I'm excited to see progress. My workout buddy is trying to convince me to run the mini in May. I'm not sure I'm up for that yet, but I'm seriously considering it! I'm focusing on one thing at a time...This week it's logging 150 minutes of exercise to win a free t-shirt. It's the little things, right?
         So, you're probably reading to find out what I'm eating this week. Here's the plan:

    Banana Berry Oatmeal
    Peanut butter, banana toast
    Breakfast burrito
    Chocolate chip pancakes

    cheese sticks, apples
    cheese sticks, nuts
    carrots/veggies, hummus
    fruit, yogurt
    trail mix

    Dinners (leftovers for lunch):
    Turkey Italian Sausage and Piave Pizza w/ beer batter pizza dough
    Pesto Pasta
    Burger and Fries
    Black Forest Ham and Colby Sandwich with Kale
    Spaghetti with homemade sauce, salad
    Grilled chicken, veggies, fruit salad

    Linked up to Menu Plan Monday.

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    Menu Plan Sept 17-23

         I'm so proud of myself today. I'm actually posting the menu plan, which is always my goal on a weekly basis. Usually it's Tuesday night when I think about it, and I figure it's too late. Does anyone else have days like that? Or months like that?
         This is another week of eating from the pantry. A couple of weeks ago we had company, but we were unsure of the weather so we planned a cookout and an indoor meal which didn't get eaten.  I've been trying to eat from the pantry as much as possible. Really, it's silly to go to the store and keep pushing back meals that I don't feel like having. All the dinners this week are recipes I've already made, but I've been trying new things for breakfast and trying to make healthier snacks. There may be some new recipes coming soon!

    Dinners: (leftovers for lunch)
    Crock Pot Spaghetti
    Meatloaf, broccoli, raw carrots and snap peas, dinner rolls
    BBQ chicken pizza with beer batter pizza dough (frozen dough)
    Chicken Fajitas or soft shell chicken tacos or chicken burritos

    steel cut oats with a scoop of cookie butter
    pumpkin molasses muffins
    toast and turkey bacon
    yogurt parfait with homemade granola

    linked up to orgJunkie's menu plan Monday

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    DIY Preschool Recap Sept 10-14, 2012

         Our DIY preschool looks a little different this week. As I thought about what to focus on, I realized the big E knows all of her letters. There is no point in teaching what the letters are if she already knows them, so I've added a couple of things to our board this week.
        My favorite new addition is the calendar. I bought a magnetic calendar (see bottom of post) to help her learn the days of the week and the months of the year. This will also serve as a visual for her to see when things are happening. There are all kinds of pre-made event magnets (like dance class, family visiting, dentist, etc) that you can add to your calendar. We have been singing the calendar songs found here.
        I also added a weekly weather graph and color of the day envelope. I thought the weather graph would be really easy for her, but she sometimes has a hard time with the days that are not so obvious. Any science we can throw in can't hurt.
         You might also notice the space in the lower right corner of our board. This is for skills of any kind. On this day, it was a pattern activity (what comes next). I plan to use this to focus on patterns, sequencing, same/different, sorting, equal groups, etc.
        I've done a better job implementing "Workboxes" this week. You can see a picture of our workboxes in the bottom middle of the collage. Basically, I fill them up with stuff to do. She has to go in order (the boxes are numbered). There is a mix of things she can do on her own, and things she needs a little help with. She can do workboxes while I'm getting other school things ready or when she has free time during the day. Today the boxes included 1)Kumon cutting page 2) "T" is for puzzle 3)Train craft 4) "T" hunt page 5) easy reader sight word book 6) ABC puzzle.
         The binder in front of the workboxes is for our ABC book. Each letter has a two page spread where we glue pictures of things that begin with the letter and we will store our ABC craft projects. Eventually, we will have a page for each letter.
    Top: A new board
    Bottom: (Left) pattern cards (middle) workboxes and ABC book (right) calendar, books, etc
    Here is what we did this week (and where you can find the printables)
    Letter: Tt
    Word: the
    Theme: Transportation

    Daily Board Activities:
    Awana verse and application (this comes from the book she got at AWANA)
    Put day on calendar
    Put up today is_____, yesterday was _____, and tomorrow will be ____ cards
    the weather outside graph
    Sing ABC's practicing one-to-one correspondence (pointing to the right letter as you say it)
    Do special skill activity
    Read the easy reader

    Other activities spread throughout the week:

    • T is for cards, look at them, use in a picture sort (I cut off the words and she sorted which words are "t"words and which are "L" words -We did "L" last week) Add to ABC book, look for "t" everywhere, play a game with "t" and "l"
    • Make "t" out of playdough, write it on the chalkboard, match capitals and lowercase Tt and Ll (on chalkboard), Do BrainQuest's learn to write "T" page
    • tape the words "see" and "the" to magnetic fishing toy pieces. Read the word you get
    • Read Freight Train by Donald Crews, Red Light, Green Light by Anastasia Suen, and What James Likes Best by Amy Schwartz ---Find "T's  and the word "the" in the stories
    • Transportation songs and poems (from Day by Day book)
    • make a long pattern  (see picture above)
    • Train craft: Ordinal numbers Red car first, pink car last, etc
    • ABC craft T (tractor)
    • turtle puzzle
    • letter t letter hunt page
    Supplies Used this week:

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Monkey Bars

         What a strange name for a food, right? Monkey bars are actually granola bars that are made with chocolate, banana, and peanut butter. They are delicious. I've actually made them twice in preparation for this month's Secret Recipe Club assignment.
         I was assigned to make a recipe from Erin's blog: WholesomeRD. One thing I love about Erin's blog is that the nutritional information is listed for each recipe. She is a nutritionist, so she knows what she is talking about. While there are some special treats, most recipes are pretty healthy. They all sound delicious too! I plan to make the pork carnitas in the very near future. I'm also very interested in trying these smashed bean quesadillas. But alas, I could only choose one recipe to write about and I chose the monkey bars. How can you go wrong with chocolate, banana, and peanut butter?
         These homemade granola bars are very easy to make. The first time, I was really taking my time and let everything cool before adding in the chocolate chips. This results in chocolate chunks in an oat bar. The second time, I was in a hurry and mixed it all together when it was hot, which melted the chocolate which mixed throughout instead of in chunks. Surprisingly, the bars tasted the same either way.
        We loved these bars. I mentioned above that we made them twice! I even gave one to my workout buddy as a peace offering after I made her go to a killer spin class with me. She must have liked it too, because she went home and made some that day! Bananas are supposed to be good for exercise recovery, right? The best part is that there is no added sugar. These are sweetened with honey and maple syrup, so you don't have to feel guilty about what you are eating.
         I did make a few changes from Erin's recipe. I used cashews and regular sized chocolate chips. I also replaced the oat bran with more oats. I used an 8x8 pan to create bars about the same thickness and size of a Quaker granola bar.

    Adapted from WholesomeRD
    2-1/4 cups oats
    1/2 cup cashews
    1/4 cups milled flax seed
    1/4 cup maple syrup
    1/2 cup natural peanut butter
    1/4 cup honey
    1 large banana, very ripe and mashed
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    • Preheat oven to 350*. Line 8x8 pan with parchment paper.
    • Combine oats, nuts, flax, and maple syrup until oats are coated. Spread onto a greased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. Half way through, stir the oats. Remove when mixture is slightly golden. Let cool.
    • While the oats are toasting, combine peanut butter, honey, and mashed banana in a saucepan. Stir on medium-high until the mixture thins out (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Cool completely. 
    • When the oat mixture and peanut butter mixture are cooled, stir them together and add the chocolate chips.
    • Spread the mixture into the prepared pan, flatten with a spatula, and bake for 25 minutes.
    • Remove bars from the pan using the edges of the parchment paper and let cool. 
    • Cut into 12 bars.

    Sunday, September 9, 2012

    DIY Preschool Recap Sept 3-7, 2012

         I may have mentioned before that we do preschool at home. This was a decision we made to save money and to be able to allow Big E to take ballet lessons. I was a teacher before I "retired" to raise our kiddo's so it made sense to us. After some encouragement, I thought I'd share what we do each week for our preschool time.
         Before I get started on this week, I'd like to give you the goals that I have. I don't want school to be a chore for me or for E. I want her to continue to love learning. I also don't want to force it. If we aren't feeling it one day, we'll skip. If something isn't working, I'll change it. If I have an idea, I'll go with it. This is definitely an "in-process" preschool that we have. It's not perfect, but it's a way for us to have some sort of routine and something for us to do together.
        I don't come up with all these ideas myself. I had a professor in college who said, "We don't need to reinvent the wheel." I have a few websites that I use for resources, and I'm always open to new ideas. I haven't found just one that really gets everything that I want. I refuse to do a bunch of worksheets. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and I'm trying to find mine.
        Each week, I plan to have a letter, number, and word of the week along with a theme and verse. E has started AWANA, so our verses will be taken from that. Last week, we worked on the letter "L", number "1" and, the word "see." E already recognizes all the letters, so we are working on letter sounds. Our theme was "Ladybugs."

    Daily Activities include:
    Saying verse (hopefully memorizing)
    discussing life application
    sing a song to go with the verse
    color a verse picture
    Discuss the letter, number, and sight word of the week
    Read the Easy Reader

    Other Activities spread throughout the week include:
    Color the verse picture
    Cut verse apart and put in order
    L maze
    L color by number sheet
    Getting Ready for L practice (writing) pages
    Practice writing letters (BrainQuest book)and chalkboard
    practice making letter with play-doh
    Read Little Buggy by Kevin O'Malley,
    Read The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
    Read Are You a Ladybug? by Judy Allen
    Kumon cutting page
    Bring "1" toy to me, eat "1" cheerio, write the number "1" (it looks like and a little "Ll")
    Color by number "see"
    Ladybug Puzzle
    Ladybug Letter Hunt
    Ladybug "L" craft based off this idea


    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Mongolian Chicken Revamp

         Lately, I've been revisiting some old favorite recipes in an effort to have make them healthier. If I'm going to make a lifestyle change in the way I eat, I'm going to have to be able to eat the foods I love. If I'm denied delicious food, I will never be able to eat healthy. I guess I'm out to prove to myself that healthy can be delicious. Healthy doesn't mean salad everyday... and it's a good thing, because salads just don't cut it for me.
         I've revamped a popular recipe on this blog: Mongolian Chicken. When I originally posted this recipe, it was a copy-cat of PF Chang's classic. If you look at the recipe, you'll find a lot of oil and sugar. I knew this could still be delicious, without all that junk.
         Well, Jonathon said he liked the new version better than the old. It's definitely not as sweet, but it was probably overly sweet in the first place. The drop in the amount of oil was unnoticeable. Basically, reducing the oil takes the chicken from a fried dish to a sauteed dish...which is so much healthier! I also added broccoli in with the chicken so it would get coated in the sauce and a side of brown rice. Of course, you could serve broccoli on the side instead of mixing it in. I think snow peas would be a nice change from the broccoli too. I'm still convincing my husband that broccoli is not the only vegetable worth eating, so snow peas might make an appearance soon.
         Do you see the other side? The one in the muffin cup? It's Thomcord grapes. I got them at Trader Joe's, and they are amazing, They taste and look like blueberries! If you ever see them, you should try them.

    4 Servings
    1 Tbl oil (I used Canola)
    1 tsp ginger
    2 Tbl garlic
    1/2 c soy sauce (I used low sodium)
    1/4 c brown sugar
    1 Tbl oil
    1-lb chicken
    optional: bag of steam-in-bag broccoli

    • Heat oil to medium-high. Add ginger and garlic and saute for a few seconds. Add soy sauce and sugar and stir until dissolved. Let boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
    • Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.
    • Heat 1Tbl oil in the same pan you used before. Add chicken pieces and brown. Coat with reserved sauce and cook until thickened. You may need to add a little flour or cornstarch to help it along.
    • Add broccoli (or other vegetable) at this point. I added broccoli that had already been steamed.
    • Served with brown rice (and vegetable on side if not adding in)
    So, are you curious about the calorie differences between the two version of this recipe? I couldn't believe it!
         My fitness pal #'s/serving 
    Original version: 851 calories, 57 carbs, 64 fats, 24 proteins, 48 sugars, and 0 fiber
    Improved version: 236 calories, 18 carbs, 8 fats, 26 proteins, 13 sugars, and 2 fiber

    Special Note

    For the present, anonymous comments are not allowed at Robin, Restored due to the large number of spam comments that make it through Blogger's spam filter. I'm sorry about those of you who comment as Anonymous and sign your names. I'll try later to enable the function again.
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