Wednesday, February 27, 2013

cinnamon vanilla skinny granola

Let me preface this post with a quick note about this granola.
If you're looking for the kind of granola that is clumped together in balls held together with honey/other gooey sweeteners, this is not it.

This is more the sprinkle-on-your-yogurt-or-froyo-or-ice-cream-or-milkshake kinda granola.
Sweet, basic, low-fat, and baked just enough to give a good crunch to anything it's added to.

I also think it'd be great sprinkled on apple or banana slices with some almond butter, which is how I plan on enjoying it today.
Mmm snacks.

recipe adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny

Things you'll need:
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tbsp water
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped almonds
olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix water and brown sugar.
Microwave for 30 seconds {until sugar has dissolved}.
Stir in cinnamon, oil, and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, add rolled oats and chopped almonds.

Pour sugar mixture over oats/almonds.
Stir until well coated.

Lightly spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
Spread granola mix.
Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring at least twice.

If it's not as crunchy as you'd like when you take it out of the oven, don't fret!
Let it cool for about an hour and you'll find that it's slowly gotten crispier.
Don't make the mistake that I did by putting it back in the oven for 4 extra minutes, or it might taste a little burnt.

Store in an airtight container.

According to MyFitnessPal:

Serving size: 2 tablespoons
Cals/serving: 79
Fat/serving: 3g
Carbs/serving: 13g
Protein/serving: 2g

Next time, I'll be adding peanut butter {I'm thinking PB2!} to up the protein a bit, and definitely some dried fruit for a little extra sweetness.
Also, I'll probably try preheating the oven to 275 instead of 300 since my beast of an oven doesn't understand heat settings.

Until then, now I have an excuse to buy myself a pint of froyo.
Total win.

I'd have to say my favorite part of making this, though, was how it made my apartment smell.
It was unbelievable.
If I ever get around to finally making my own candles, the first one I'm making will be brown sugar scented.
You heard it here first.

How's everyone's week going?

I'm still tired from the Oscars...and it's Wednesday.
When did I get so old?!

Oh and before I forget, come visit my new Facebook page for the blog!

Friday, February 22, 2013

friday things

1. I am totally over this week.  It's been long, cold, rainy...and today I tried to clean up my desk at work and a spider crawled out from under a stack of papers.  A FREAKING SPIDER!  So yeah, that's how my week has been.

2. Did anyone know it's National Margarita Day?  I can't think of a better way to forget this dreary week than with a this one maybe.  Treat yo'self.

3. I've gone to the gym three days a week, two weeks in a row now!  Staying strong on the fitness train...for now, at least.  I will say this...and I know you've probably heard it a million times, but seriously, a good playlist makes all the difference.  I actually put some effort into making a playlist last week, and it has 100% made working out a little less miserable.

4. This morning Joe and I got tickets to go see The Postal Service on June 6th, and I am super pumped!  Totally brings back flashbacks from my junior and senior years in high school.

Also, I'm excited just to go see a show with Joe.  He's bought me tickets to see three concerts since we've known each other, but he's never gone with me to see one.

I can't understand why on Earth he wouldn't want to be my guest to Hanson, Taylor Swift, or Bieber.  Ha.

5. My obsession with coconut oil is still in full swing {best moisturizer I've ever used, hands down}, but I want to start playing with it more in the kitchen.

And not just on popcorn, even though I did make the best batch of popcorn I've ever had a couple weekends ago - coconut oil, sea salt, and cayenne.
Do it.

I'm thinking about trying these little buddies next.

6. Can we please talk about how adorable these puppy bowties are?

Bow tie dog collar
And I don't even really like bowties.
But if it was AJ in a bowtie, I just might.

7.  This weekend will be spent getting some quality time in together before Joe heads out to San Francisco all next week for work, trying to find a new place to live when our lease runs out {two more months!}, and going out in Virginia Highland to celebrate Kayla's birthday.

Oh and of course, THE OSCARS!
I have totally jumped on the I-love-award-shows bandwagon and have been counting down to Sunday.
And I will absolutely be tweeting up a storm, so feel free to follow along!

Anyone else doing anything fun?

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

parmesan roasted asparagus

Last summer, I got really into using the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone.

For those of you who don't know, MyFitnessPal is a calorie and diet tracker that can help you keep track of what you're putting into your body during the day.
It also keeps track of all of the physical activity you do, which for me helps me stay focused on whatever weight loss goal I'm working towards.

This week, Joe and I have picked back up with the MyFitnessPal app and I'm super excited about it.
Mostly because I realized I can type in the exact recipes I'm using and it will tell me some of the nutritional info on the food I'm serving.

Color me obsessed.

Rewind to last night.
Asparagus has always been really intimidating to me.

I don't know why really...I guess I've just tasted one too many bad batches.
But for some reason I  got it in my head that I really wanted to tackle this fear and try my hand at it.
{I'm chalking it up to be another weird phase I'm going through, like the one I went through with brussels sprouts and avocado.}
So, I mustered up the courage, bought some asparagus, and started researching good ways to cook it without making it too mushy.

Here's what I came up with.

Things you'll need:
15-20 asparagus spears
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt
ground black pepper
1/4 cup reduced fat grated Parmesan cheese {finely shredded will work also}

Preheat oven to 400 degrees {in my case, 375 - darn you, hot oven}.
Wash and trim asparagus.
I cut about an inch off the bottoms of each spear.
Lightly grease baking sheet with cooking spray.
Arrange asparagus in a line without overlapping.

Drizzle asparagus with olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, until asparagus is tender and a little browned.

Sprinkle Parmesan over asparagus and return to the over for about a minute, just long enough for the cheese to melt slightly.
Serve with a protein of your choice!
BBQ chicken, in our case.

According to MyFitnessPal, after entering in all of the ingredients:

1 serving: 7 asparagus spears
Total cals: 108
Total fat: 5.7 g
Total carbs: 8.8g
Protein: 5.1g

This is definitely a great low-cal side option on a night when you want to be healthy but also indulge in a little cheese.
Which is basically every night.
For me, anyway.

It's also super easy!
I mean it's basically like 3 ingredients if you don't count the salt and pepper, which are hardly ingredients in my opinion.
And after arm night at the gym, a 3-ingredient dish is about all I can handle.

Tonight Joe is going out with some work friends for dinner, so I'm left to fend for myself.
As of right now, I'm really feeling breakfast for dinner.
I'm thinking french toast...but with this banana bread instead of regular bread.

You're all invited.

Monday, February 18, 2013

spicy chicken and quinoa skillet

I finally did it.

I took the plunge and jumped on the quinoa bandwagon.

I had been debating it for some time...
Is it worth trying when you live with the pickiest eater on Earth?
Is it really as versatile as everyone says?

But yesterday, as I was making a quick run to Costco to buy apples {$10 for 10 pounds!}, a huge display of quinoa had been set up right next to the fruit section.
So obviously, I took it as a sign.

I wanted to start off with a dish that wouldn't freak Joe out too much.

When he saw me bring it in, he immediately said "what is this, it looks like bird food!"

Off to a good start, clearly.

After the dinner I came up with though, I think he's been converted.
As have I!

This was super easy to throw together, and the quinoa was the perfect substitute for rice.
Honestly, I could barely tell the difference with all of the other flavors going on.

Things you'll need:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can Rotel
3 medium sized chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
1 cup frozen sweet corn
1/2 shredded fiesta blend cheese {or any shredded cheese of your liking!}
dash of salt
dash of cayenne
pepper, to taste
cumin, to taste
chili powder, to taste

1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions, using low-sodium chicken broth instead of water for extra flavor.

2. While quinoa is cooking, boil chicken breasts for approximately 15 minutes.  Shred and sprinkle with cumin, chili powder, and pepper.

3. To skillet, add cooked quinoa, shredded chicken, Rotel, corn, and cheese.  Sprinkle salt, cayenne, and add more pepper, cumin, and chili powder until you reach desired taste.  We like things on the spicy side, so I added a lot of spice.

*Note: If mixture is a little thick, just add a splash of chicken broth to loosen it up a bit.  I had to do this because it seemed a little heavy after adding the cheese, and it worked like a charm!

4. Serve on chips, in tortillas, or just in a bowl! {We went with the latter, and it was great all by itself.}

That's literally it!
Easiest dinner ever.

I threw this together in 20 minutes and was back on the couch in time for the Amazing Race premier.

Which reminds me, I've got my eye on you, Bora Bora.
One day you and I will meet.
Mark my words.

Oh and ps:
Joe agreed that this dinner should be added to the rotation.
So that really says it all, in my opinion.

Have you made anything interesting with quinoa lately?
I need all the tips I can get!

Friday, February 15, 2013

gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies


I'm not gonna lie.
I'm a little sad Valentine's Day is over.
My boy really spoiled me this year!
Not to mention, the chocolates, cupcakes, and cookies that were flowing all day long.

I may have gained a pound or two in the process, but I'd say V-day this year was a total success.

And how do you top off a day that includes not one but two dates with your lover, complete with a surprise chocolate and dozen roses delivery?

Well, with the most amazing gluten-free cookies I've ever baked.
Of course.

These cookies are nothing short of amazing.
If you're into the whole chewy-gooey-have-to-eat-them-over-a-plate-so-the-chocolate-doesn't-get-on-your-clothes thing.

Which I totally am.

I found this recipe via Pinterest {of course}, and I think it's the one recipe I've ever found there that I haven't had to tweak.

Is it just me, or are Pinterest recipes always just a tad bit off?

I followed this one verbatim {aside from adding a tiny bit more vanilla...vanilla extract and I have an ongoing love affair - don't tell Mexican food!} and they turned out exactly the way I was hoping they would.
Thus ending Valentine's Day with the chocolate-y bang it deserved.

original recipe via
Things you'll need:

1 cup creamy peanut butter {I used reduced fat Great Value creamy, and it worked like a charm! Read the original recipe for her thoughts on why using natural peanut butter isn't necessarily ideal}
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
6 oz. Baker's chocolate, chopped {I used semi-sweet - feel free to use dark, bittersweet, or even white if you're feeling crazy! - also, you can sub 1 cup of chocolate chips if you're not into the chopping, although I do recommend it...there's nothing better than huge chunks of chocolate, am I right?}

Add peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract in a medium-sized mixing bowl, and beat with electric hand mixer until well blended.

Add baking soda, and mix.
Roughly chop your chocolate of choice, and stir gently to incorporate.
I forgot to take a picture of this because, let's be honest, chocolate gets me excited.
But I will say this - 6 ounces of roughly chopped chunks looks like a lot for this small batch of dough.
And some of the chunks may fall out when you're spooning out your cookies.
So the best thing to do is roll the cookie balls in your hand to force the chunks to stay in.
It's totally worth it.

Lightly spray pan with cooking spray, and form cookie balls {however large you want! I went on the medium to large size - go big or go home, ya know}.
Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.
I did mine for 7 minutes because my oven gets really hot, and they were absolutely perfect.
Let them cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes before you try to move them.
You want the edges to be just done enough to hold the cookie in place.
The middles of mine were still doughy, which {after cooled} made for a gooey, delicious center.

These spread out while baking, as most cookies do.
However, the original baker recommends chilling the dough for at least two hours if you want a thicker, puffier cookie.

So, naturally, I saved half the dough, wrapped it in clear plastic wrap, and stuck in the fridge for this weekend.
I just know Joe and I are going to want more peanut butter chocolate-y goodness to go with our usual Shark Tank and wine Friday night.

I know, we sound crazy fun.

What did you all do for Valentine's Day?
Tell me everything!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

love love love

Hearts tree
picture via

Happy Valentine's Day, lovelies!

I am on cloud nine today, totally in love with this day of love.
So far today I've shared homemade treats with my coworkers, had a lunch date at Uncle Maddio's with Joe, and had chocolate and flowers delivered to me at work!
And I even managed to hit the gym before work and not complain about it.
{Miraculous, I know.}

All the more reason to indulge in all the wine and desserts later tonight, right?

I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully with a recipe for some flour/oil/butter-less cookies I'm trying out tonight.
Fingers crossed they turn out.

In the meantime, enjoy your day and tell your loved ones how happy and grateful you are to have them all in your life.
Hope everyone's day is filled with as much love and chocolate as you can bear!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

the great green smoothie experiment - volume 1

This week is one of those week's where I get my butt in gear because it recently dawned on me that spring is literally a month away.
Someone in the abyss of social media tools we use posted something like "36 days til' spring" and bam.
Back in the gym, I went.

I've been wanting to jump on the green smoothie bandwagon for awhile now.

Well, if I'm being honest, I was leaning more towards the green juice route.
But when your juicer sounds like a rocket lifting off into space when it's being used, it's hard to make fresh juice when your boyfriend gets to sleep until after you leave every morning.

He'll just have to live with a blender waking him up instead.

Hey, it's for the greater {healthy} good, okay?!

I'm going to be honest with you though.
I'm not a green smoothie expert.
This morning was my first attempt, which is why I feel like calling this "the great green smoothie experiment" is warranted.
Because I will absolutely be experimenting with more recipes than just this one.
And, duh, I'll share them along the way.

However, I think for a first attempt this turned out pretty darn good.

Here's what I used:
*pictures missing thus far, as this was an impromptu post. Soon to be added, of course :)

1 cup water
2 handfuls frozen fruit - I used a mix of strawberries, mango, and pineapple
1/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1/2-1 cup almond milk
1-2 cups spinach

1. Put water and fruit in blender first.
2. Add yogurt.
3. Use enough almond milk to just cover everything.
4. Top with spinach, and blend!
5. When the fruit is blended, tap the 'liquify' button a few times to help smooth out the spinach.

And enjoy!

My green smoothie inspiration came from my dear friend and coworker, Tiffany, who is a little more seasoned in her smoothie-making as she's been doing these for a few weeks now.
Her method involves filling her blender halfway with spinach and liquifying it with water before adding any fruit or extra ingredients.

If you don't have a great blender, this might be a better way to go about it.
Personally, my blender hated liquifying at the end, so I'll definitely be trying Tiff's method tomorrow morning.

How's everyone's week going?
It's almost Valentine's Day, which happens to be one of my very favorite holidays, so this week is going smoothly for me so far!

I know, I know.
95% of people hate V-day, blah blah.
I'm sorry, but I love the idea of dedicating a day to telling people how we feel about them...
because let's be honest, we should do it everyday, but we don't.
So if we need to dedicate one day a year to love {whatever kind it may be}, then I say let's embrace it!

Plus, I am and always will be a hopeless romantic.

Anyone have any fun plans for Thursday?
Or any good smoothie recipes?


Friday, February 8, 2013

friday things

1. I forgot to tell you guys about last Friday when we were supposed to go to the Salt Factory Pub.  Well, there was a pretty long wait because everyone forgot to mention how totally adorable downtown Roswell is and how obviously it's the cutest place to have a date night ever.  Seriously, all of the little shops and restaurants and twinkly something out of a movie.

Long story short, we ended up at NINE Street Kitchen and it was great!  I had the most delicious spicy chicken salad {that was actually spicy - I can't tell you how much I hate when people say something is spicy and it's not} with chipotle-honey dressing.  Nom.

Oh yeah...and there was live music.

Overall I'd give it a 10 solely on atmosphere alone.  I'm a sucker for cute, trendy date spots. Can't help it.

2.  I made this awesome spicy buffalo chicken pizza last night.  Why have I not always been putting cayenne pepper on my pizzas?  Apparently spicy is the theme of the day here.

3.  I haven't touched on this yet, but today is Joe's last day at his current job.  Next week he's on to bigger and better things, and I for one couldn't be more excited!  We've dealt with a lot of stress for the last 8 or 9 months {moreso him, obviously}, and I can't wait to actually have peaceful dinners and spend time together after work without him having to cut things short to work the night away.

So basically what I'm saying is congratulations, my love!  I can't wait to see what this next chapter brings!

4.  I've gotten back into the routine of making smoothies for breakfast.  Anyone have any good mixtures they'd like to share?  As of now I've been using frozen mixed fruit {strawberries, peaches, pineapple, mango}, almond milk, and a scoop of peanut butter.  Not gonna lie, the peanut butter tastes a little funky with the mango.  In my opinion, anyway.  I just can't get the balance right.

5.  Someone please tell me how to wake up early and go to the gym.  I set my alarm three times this week to do it and, surprise surprise, I turned said alarm off all three times.  And that was after getting 8-9 hours of sleep!  Help.

6.  I'm almost ashamed to bring this up...but it wouldn't be a Friday if I didn't discuss some kind of trashy television.  Please tell me I'm not the only one that's been watching Buckwild on MTV?  Okay, I realize I'm a grown woman and I shouldn't find it this interesting...but it's like a train wreck that I can't look away from.  Seriously.  It's almost like I'm in disbelief.

I'll consider myself judged.

What are ya'll up to this weekend?

I plan on relaxing, celebrating Joe's new job, doing a little Valentine's shopping, and hopefully pressuring our friends into finally trying Chuy's with us.
I keep hearing great things but still haven't made it over there, and I'm determined to go while it's still two minutes from my apartment.
Also, I obviously need some creamy jalapeno sauce in my life.

Let's just call it "testing new sauces for recipe inspiration."

Rationalization - complete.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

spicy roasted red potatoes

Recently I've been making some very repetitive dinners.

Not on just keeps happening.
Last Monday I made BBQ chicken and roasted potatoes.
One of my go-to easy dinners when I'm feeling lazy...
Which, lets be honest, is a lot of the time.

Then Tuesday rolled around, when Joe requested I make the exact same dinner as Monday.

Now, this isn't a horrible thing.
It's kind of flattering actually.
And also a little relieving because I don't know what else I'd do with this 10 pound bag of red potatoes I got at Costco.
I can't help it.
I'm a buy-in-bulk junkie now.

Anyway, I tried to lay off the potatoes for the rest of the week and was successful until last night, when I decided to bring them back in full force.
They're just too good.

Things you'll need:
10-15 red potatoes, diced
1/3 cup olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
dash of oregano
dash of cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Wash and dice your potatoes.
Spread them out evenly on a baking pan.
I didn't use cooking spray because I ran out, but it would probably be helpful to spray your pan a little beforehand.
Despite the oil used, mine still tend to get stuck a little.

Cover potatoes with olive oil and toss to coat.
Make sure they're good and covered.
Then sprinkle salt, pepper, oregano, and cayenne pepper on top.
Don't be shy with the pepper or cayenne!
This is the best part, I promise.
{One time I forgot to close the big flap on the pepper and put extremely too much, and that batch ended up getting a ton of don't worry too much about over peppering!}
Toss and make sure they're all coated well.

Bake on 425 for 40 minutes, tossing halfway through so both sides can brown.

Et voila!
Quite possibly the simplest side dish you can make for dinner that doesn't come out of a box.
Besides stirfry vegetables, which are also a huge contender at our place.

I usually serve these with pan-fried or baked BBQ chicken as an alternative to greasy french fries.
I've also done them more oregano-heavy and sans cayenne and served them with Italian chicken.
Last night, we had them with leftover pulled pork sliders from Sunday...

Cute, right?
Foods in mini form are my favorite.

Monday, February 4, 2013

fruity white sangria

Today I have something very near and dear to my heart to share with you all.

If you know me at all, you probably know I'm a huge fan of wine.
Any and all wine, really.
So it shouldn't be a shock that I'm also in love with sangria.

It all started last May when I was graduating.
Joe's sister, Ashley, came to Atlanta to stay with us for a few days and help me celebrate properly.
She had been telling me for months that she had learned how to make sangria, so what better a time to show me the ropes than my last day ever of final exams?

She knows me so well.

And once she taught me how to make this, there was no stopping me.
All summer long it was just a given that I'd be taking a jug of sangria to any party/tailgate/random day at the pool that I was invited to.

Things you'll need {for one large pitcher}:
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 green or red apple, diced
1/2 carton strawberries, diced
1/2 can mandarin oranges
1/2 can sliced peaches, diced into smaller pieces
1/4 cup peach juice
1 cup Triple Sec {or enough to cover the fruit about 2/3 of the way}
2-3 bottles of white wine {I like to use a sweet white like Chablis, but it's also great with Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay}
2 tbps sugar - *optional
Diet Gingerale or club soda

1.  Chop all fruit and add to pitcher.

2. Add peach juice and Triple Sec.
*Note: If you don't have Triple Sec on hand, I've tried subbing it for apple vodka, strawberry vodka, and raspberry vodka.  All have been delicious!

3.  Fill pitcher with wine about 3/4 of the way, like the picture above.

4.  Add sugar.  I like to sprinkle in just a little bit for good measure.

5.  Stir and chill until ready to serve.  Before serving, fill the rest of the pitcher with gingerale or club soda.

And now you're ready to host the best pool party ever.

Or in my case, you can make this for the girls at your Super Bowl party so you all can daydream you're laying out instead of waiting 30 minutes for the lights to come back on at the Superdome.
As if NFL games weren't long enough.

Friday, February 1, 2013

friday things

1.  Can we all just give each other virtual high-fives for the sole reason that it's finally the end of the week?  This week has been...interesting.  I'll just leave it at that.

2.  This weekend we're having some friends over to watch the Super Bowl, and I am having the most impossible time deciding what snacks to make!  Ideas on the list:  spicy pulled pork sliderssalted peanut nutella puppy chowspinach bitescheesecake stuffed strawberriespretzels with jalapeno cheeseblood orange sangria...honestly, the list goes on and on.  I need to pick two things and stick with them, but it's impossible.  Impossible.

3.  I have a serious new obsession.  Of course, it stems from my already ongoing obsession with Costco.  Did you know you can buy a 54 oz. jar of this coconut oil for like $15.99 there?  I bought this with the intention to cook with it, but upon further research I may or may not have just started slathering it all over my body.  It's been like a miracle worker to my dry winter skin.  This weekend's feat: deep condition my hair.

4.  Tonight Joe and I are going on a double date to the Salt Factory Pub, and I'm super excited!  I love trying new restaurants.  Anyone ever been here?  Opinions?

5.  What the heck is going on with Jim and Pam on The Office?  I can see the merit in trying to show that their relationship is "real" and isn't completely perfect, but the whole camera man thing is freaking me out a little.  Mostly because Joe keeps insisting it's going to get inappropriate soon, and I really really want him to be wrong. #teamjimandpam

6.  And speaking of television, Nashville.  If you're not watching it, start.  I know I've mentioned this before, but with each episode I get more and more into it...which is weird because it's so not my kind of show.  But I can't stop.  And if Scarlett and Gunner don't fall in love soon I'm going to lose it.  You heard it here first, folks.

7.  Thank you, Trader Joe's, for making multi-grain pancakes so I can feel good about eating breakfast for dinner.  {As I was making said pancakes last night, Joe jokingly says to me, "you know, the fat families on Biggest Loser love having breakfast for dinner." I kid you not, I had to read the nutritional info on the box before I could continue cooking. And I subbed the eggs in the recipe for sugar-free applesauce. Take that, Biggest Loser!}

8.  I signed up for another 5K yesterday, so now I'm doing the Color Run in April AND the Electric Run in May.  {FYI, the Electric Run falls on the one year anniversary of my college graduation.  I can't believe it's been almost a year!!}  If you can't tell, I love fun 5Ks.  And honestly, ever since the Bieber concert, I have a strange love for glow stick bracelets.  Obviously, that's one of the reasons I signed up for the Electric Run.  Besides a reason to exercise, of course.

Hope you all have a great Super Bowl weekend!
I'd love to hear of any great appetizers you're planning to make.
Because, you know.
My head isn't already filled to the brim with possibilities.

Sky's the limit, if you ask me!