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Friday, January 30, 2015

Five on Friday: Healthy Game Day Eats!

I've totally been in the mood for appetizers lately. You know like an entire meal made of appetizers...like ordering an appetizer platter at your favorite restaurant and making that your dinner. Anyone else love to do this? 

So with the Super Bowl coming up this weekend I thought why not make an entire dinner of just appetizers, or who knows maybe we will have appetizers for both lunch and dinner on Sunday. While looking for ideas on Pinterest, I came across these healthier versions of some of our favorite appetizers and I am definitely going to try a few of these this weekend. I'll be sure to share next week which ones were winners (I'm working on a menu planning post sharing some of our favorite recipes from this last month), but wanted to share all of these today in case anyone else had a craving for appetizers for dinner. 


1. Thai Sticky Chicken Fingers from Iowa Girl Eats

2. Sweet Potato Nachos from Paleo Grubs

3. Skinny Taco Dip from Damn Delicious

4. Buffalo Chicken Quiona Bites from Nature Box

5. Baked Zucchini Sticks from Skinny Taste

I've made the sweet potato nachos before and they are pretty easy and really good...very filling too! I'm definitely planning on making those and I've already got the ingredients for the Buffalo Chicken Quiona Bites. Debating on trying out the Thai Sticky Chicken Fingers or those Baked Zucchini Bites which look just like cheese straws. Oh who are we kidding, I want to try them all!

What are your favorite healthy appetizers? Has anyone tried any of these recipes and if so, what did you think?

Happy Friday!

And for more Friday fun, check out the Five on Friday linkup hosted by ChristinaDarciApril and Natasha.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Souper Good Recipes

With all of the cold snowy weather we've had lately, I've been really craving comfort food...especially soup. Believe it or not I'm not a huge fan of chili...I don't really care for the beans. But I've come across 3 recipes that are great hearty soups, with a little spice, to help keep you warm this Winter. And the good news is, they are all somewhat healthy. So enjoy!!


This was on an episode of the Pioneer Woman a few weeks ago, and I tweaked it a little to fit our tastes. What I love about it is it's really hearty and almost like stew, but you can use either hamburger, ground turkey or Italian Sausage like we did. So it can really fit a wide variety of tastes (and budgets). I also added some red pepper flakes, so along with the Italian Sausage, it was a little spicy, and really warmed us up one night.

Hamburger Soup
Inspired by Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:
-- 1 lb of Italian Sausage
-- 1 can (14 oz) whole tomatoes
-- 2 cups of beef stock
-- 1 green bell pepper
-- 4 whole carrots, diced
-- 6 whole red potatoes, cut into chunks
-- 3 tbs tomato paste
-- 1/2 tsp salt
-- 1/2 tsp pepper
-- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
-- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Directions:
In a large pot, brown the Italian sausage, remove from the pot and drain off as much fat as you can. Return meat to the pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 mins or until the potatoes or tender. Feel free to add more broth if needed to make it as soupy as you would like. Also, adjust seasonings to taste.



I found this on Pinterest a few months ago, and immediately knew we had to try this. We love zucchini, and I'm not sure why I never thought to include it in a soup. Again we used Italian Sausage, but you could use hamburger or turkey if you preferred. We just love Italian Sausage and feel it gives the soup a little more flavor. Again I added some red pepper flakes, so it was a little spicy. You could always omit those if you wanted to turn down the heat. We just love spicier soups in the Winter to help keep us warm.
Italian Zucchini Soup
Inspired by Capturing Joy
Ingredients:
-- Olive oil
-- 5 medium zucchini (cut into cubes)
-- 1 (8 oz) can of tomato sauce
-- 1 (16 oz) can of diced tomatoes
-- 1 lb Italian Sausage
-- Salt (to taste)
-- Pepper (to taste)
-- Italian seasoning (to taste)
-- Red pepper Flakes (to taste)
Directions:
Brown sausage, drain and set aside. In the same pan, add a little olive oil and the zucchini cubes and saute about 5-7 minutes until soft. Add back in the sausage, along with the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Add some water to make it a little soupier. I believed I filled my empty can of tomato sauce with water and it helped to clean out the rest of the sauce. Simmer until hot, around 15-20 mins. Add some salt, pepper Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes to taste. 



Ok so this techinically turned out a little thicker than a soup. But we still served it up in a bowl and pretened it was soup...ha! I also came across this recipe on Pinterest and was intregied because it was a crockpot meal. I changed up the recipe by using ground turkey and omitted the beans (again because we don't care for them). The origianl recipe was a vegeterian recipe, and you could still make it that way by using beans instead of ground turkey, and veggie broth instead of chicken broth. I also added a very secret ingredient, which I think added an extra layer of flavor...lime juice. Seriously it made all the difference. We also topped ours with some sharp cheddar cheese and guac (because everything is better with guac right!).
Quinoa Enchiladas
Inspired by Cooking Classy
Ingredients:
-- 1 lb of ground turkey
-- 1 green pepper chopped
-- 1 cup chicken broth
-- 1 can of Rotel
-- 1 (8 oz) can of tomato sauce
-- 1 can of corn
-- Salt (to taste)
-- Pepper (to taste)
-- Chili pepper (1-2 tbs)
-- Cumin 1 tsp
-- 1 cup Quinoa
Directions:
Brown the ground turkey and drain. Then combine the ground turkey, chopped green pepper, Rotel, tomato sauce, and corn into the crock pot. Add some chicken broth to add some moisture (I used about a cup). Add your chili pepper and cumin and cook on high for 4 hours. 
Before serving, place 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quiona in a small pan over medium heat and bring to a boil on the stove. Turn down to med-low, and place a lid on the pan and simmer for 15 mins, or until the water is absorbed and the quiona is fluffy. Then add the quiona to the crock pot and stir. At this point I tasted to determine if I wanted to add some salt and pepper. Season more if you wish to taste.
We served ours with sharp cheddar cheese and some guac.
As this sat it got thicker and was really no longer a soup. We made this the other night and Rick is determined to put some of the left overs in a burrito wrap and make it into a burrito. Then again his favorite thing these days is turning left-overs into burritos, but that is a story for another day...ha!
What are your favorite soup recipes for Winter? Any great ones we need to try?
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Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekending (Friends, Country Bars, American Sniper + a Recipe)

Happy Snowy Monday! Did anyone else get snow? It started snowing yesterday afternoon and was still snowing when we went to bed last night. We were expected to get around 6" of snow, which I guess isn't too bad compared to some crazy snow storms. I was a little nervous driving into work today, but it was only a Level 1 Emergency, and the roads were mostly clear. A few spots were just messy, especially in the intersections. The puppies sure loved playing in the snow this morning, but only could stand being out in it for about 3 mins and then their toes started to freeze. But it was fun to watch them playfully run around in the snow.
Today's weekend recap post is going to be a little (or a lot) of randomness. I don't have a lot of pictures to share, but lots of fun things happened that I wanted to document and share. So here we go...

-- Friday night my friend Amy and her daughter Avery came over for BBQ Chicken Pizza and great conversation. We hadn't caught up since before Christmas, so it was great to have a little girl-time and catch up. I also love watching Rick interact with Avery. You can tell that Avery loves playing with Rick. At one point Rick fell asleep on the couch (thanks to having to get up at 3:45 every morning) and Avery just wanted to go over and start playing with him. We were like...no he's sleeping...and she just kept going over and looking at him. Then at one point he got up and went upstairs to go to the bathroom, and she got all concerned about where he went. She kept saying his name, and once he was out, they had a little tour of the upstairs bedrooms. Then as they were getting ready to leave, she runs over to give him a hug, but sees that he is laying on the couch again. She got afraid that maybe he was sleeping again. But no worries, Rick wasn't asleep yet (but close), so Avery got her Rick hug. Such a cutie!!

-- Then on Saturday we met up with Jackie and Nate for some adult bevies. We started out at a sports bars that was close by. Then we decided that we wanted to go check out Tequila Cowboy...and boy was that an experience. This bar opened up a few months ago, and is in the same building that my old gym was in that went out of business. It's a 2 story country bar that is separated into different rooms/bars. The main area had live music, next to that you could ride the mechanical bull. Another room had karaoke, and the upstairs had billiards. There was also an outside bar, but of course it was too cold to enjoy that. It seemed like it would be a fun place, but at 9 pm on a Saturday night it was packed. We literally drove around for 10 mins to find a spot, could barely walk through the bar, and there was no place to sit or stand. We all thought this was crazy considering most bars in town don't get busy until around 11 pm. Also, the crowd was quite a mix of people. There were the younger 21 crowd, but also an older crowd. And there was quite a bit of Carhartt and camo outfits, which is definitely different than the crowd going to the downtown bars...ha! We decided to just go next door to Murphy McFlips and enjoy another bevy before calling it a night at 11 pm. Yep that is how we roll.

-- On Sunday Rick and I went to see American Sniper. It was a great movie, but I'll admit there were some scenes that were just too much for me to watch. I'm not good with movies with a lot of shooting and deaths, and it felt even more overwhelming knowing that this was a true story. But overall I was glad I went to see it, and it made me respect the men and women who serve our military, and their families that have to spend time away from their loved ones, even more. It's definitely a must see...even if you have to close your eyes during a few parts.

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-- One thing I did capture a picture of is our new weekend tradition. Every Saturday morning (and sometimes on Sundays too), Rick has been making us french toast and bacon. He makes mine with Udi's gluten free bread, and it's actually pretty amazing. You just have to let the bread sit in the egg mixture for a little longer to make sure it really soaks up the egg mixture since this bread is a little denser. Actually it kind of holds up better than regular bread since it is denser. I thought I would share his recipe since it is pretty amazing, and a little unique. He changes it up almost every time he makes it, but this is the recipe he used this weekend.

Rick's French Toast
For 2 pieces (double the recipe or triple for more)

Ingredients:
-- 2 pieces of bread
-- 2 eggs
-- Splash of milk (we used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
-- 1 TBS of Disaronno
-- Small drop of vanilla extract (like an eyedropper amount)
-- Small drop of maple extract (like an eyedropper amount)
-- Butter
-- Cinnamon

Directions:

Whisk your wet ingredients (eggs, milk, Disronno, vanilla and maple extract) together in a bowl. Then transfer to a plate and dip your bread. If you are using a dense bread, let it sit there for a minute or two. Heat up your skillet and add some butter. Once the butter is melted place your bread onto the skillet. Add some cinnamon and fry for a few minutes. Then flip and add cinnamon to the other side. Once both sides are brown, remove from the skillet. I love to add real maple syrup, and a side of bacon.

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-- Also on tap for the weekend was a little Sunday Funday dress up with Abby. I was organizing the coat closet in the entry way and came across Bryn's Tin Man costume. We decided it sort of looked like a dunce cap, but Abby sure looked cute.

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-- I also wanted to share that on Thursday I posted about some of my favorite nail tips for Winter. I wanted to share that I painted my nails on Tuesday of last week, using the products mentioned in my post, and her are my nails 5 days later. They still look just as good as the first day I painted them. I've since then done some cleaning, so I'm expecting them to start chipping any second. But to get 5+ days without a single chip is a miracle in my book considering most of the time they chip the next day. So if you are looking for some DIY nail chips...check out this post!

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-- One last fun thing to share. Last weekend we went to a wedding of one of Rick's coworkers (well she used to be a co-worker). She had the coolest cake which was made of donuts. Rick said it was the perfect wedding cake for a cop wedding, and everyone totally agreed. They also had Schmidts cater the reception. and OMG it was amazing. Bahama Mama sausage and warm potato salad...I'm still kinda thinking about it over a week later.

I know that was the most random weekend post ever, but lots of fun!

How was your weekend? Did you get any snow?

Linking up with Life of Meg for Mingle Monday and B Loved Boston for Weekending
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Nail Tips for Winter

With Winter in full force around most of the country, I've heard many people complaining about how dry their hands are lately. Winter can be really harsh, especially to hands and nails. Today I wanted to share some of my favorite tips for keeping your hands and nails looking great all winter long.

Nail Tips for Winter



1. Exfoliate & Moisturize - The first step to any great mainicure is to exfoliate the dead skin cells and then moisturize. I love the Mary Kay Satin Hands set (also comes in peach scent). It's a 3 step process that provides 1. hydration, 2. exfoliation and 3. mosturization. It only takes a few minutes, and does a great job removing dead cuticles.

2. Clip & Shape - I love to keep my nails somewhat short. My nails are very dry and brittle, and I find that if I keep them short they tend to break less. Shorter nails also look cleaner, especially with dark polish. One tip when shaping them is to start with the coarser side of your emory board and then finish off with the finer side. Also, how about this cute manicure set? I have something similar that I have been using for years, but love the outer cover of this one (click the link to see). A good manicure set is necessary for at home manicures.

3. Get Buffing - Before I begin polishing, it's nice to go over your nails with a buffer block. This will help to even out your nail bed and your polish will go on much smoother. It will also help to remove hang nails and the rest of those dead cuticles. Make sure to then throughly wash your hands with soap to remove any loose skin cells.

Now that your hands and nails are in good shape, it's time to get polishing...

4. Apply a Base Coat - A base coat is really important to finish smoothing out your nail bed and to ensure your polish will stay on your nails. So far I've had pretty good success with the Sally Hansen Double Duty Base and Top Coat. It can also be used as both a base and a top coat, but I have another favorite top coat that I like to use.

5. Polish it Pretty - I love Julep polishes and they have some great colors. They are really thick and high quality and you can sometimes get away with only 1 coat of polish, 2 max.

6. Top it Off with a Top Coat - Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat is so far my favorite top coat. It drys super fast and super hard so I don't end up with cracks in my polish. Typically I can go 5 days with pretty perfect polish before I get a chip or two. I'm kinda excited because I have the Oxygen Performance Top Coat coming in my next Juelp box to try and I have heard good things about that top coat too. More to come on my thoughts on this product.

7. More Moisture - After your nails are polished, continue to apply hand cream throughout the day to keep your hands and nails protected from the harsh elements and to keep them pretty. You can even apply some coconut oil at night to your hands and cuticles for a natural way to moisturize. Put on a pair of light cotton gloves if you want to keep your bedding/hair/face from getting greasy.


2015 Winter Nail Colors

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6

As far as polish goes, I love wearing darker colors for Winter and save the brighter colors for Spring and Summer. Right now I'm totally loving all of the berry and purple colors. The Sandi color was in my January Juelp Box and is a really pretty dark eggplant color. And the Winter and Misti colors remind me of fresh winter snow. The Evelyn hands down is my favorite color right now. It's dark, but would add some nice color to my Winter wardrobe. I might need to add this color to my wish list.

Do you have any great nail tips for Winter? What is your favorite winter nail color?

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The "OMG is this Cake?" Cake (aka Black Bean Chocolate Cake)

Over the weekend I was watching this show, that I'm recently obsessed with, call the Real Girls Kitchen on the Cooking Channel. It's a cooking show with Haylie Duff, and it's a fun show. It blends her lifestyle in LA, with her story of getting her cookbook published, with a little bit of her Texas southern roots mixed in.

The show I watched over the weekend was about her family Crab Boil, and for dessert she made this Black Bean Chocolate Cake. I have heard about this before, but figured it would taste awful. Everyone was raving about it at the party, even the guys, and the ingredients looked really simple, and I already had most of them on hand. So I thought I would try it and see what it was all about. I figured worst case I ruin a few cans of black beans and some eggs.

OMG it was so moist, and rich, and tasted nothing like beans!! It didn't take long to whip up the ingredients and was pretty simple to make. Only complaint was it dirtied a few bowls and the blender, but totally worth it! My only warning is because it is such a moist cake, you really need to grease the pan very well and don't let it sit in the pan too long or else it's not easy to get out of the pan. My cake might have fallen apart, which is why you are only getting a photo of 1 slice as opposed to an entire cake...ha! #bakingfail

Rick tried a small bite, but was a little afraid of eating too much since it was full of beans. Beans and his belly don't mix well together, but I've had 2 pieces so far and no digestive problems...ha! He did agree that it tasted like chocolate cake, but he said if he really thought about it he could taste beans. I think it might just be stuck in his head as I don't taste them at all. I highly recommend you try this, especially if you like a more dark chocolate type of cake. It's not a really sweet cake. I also recommend using a milk chocolate type of frosting to off-set that the cake is not too sweet. I don't have a healthy frosting recipe (yet), so I just used a store-bought can of frosting. If I master a healthy frosting recipe (I've had a few fails), I'll be sure to share.

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Black Bean Chocolate Cake
Makes two 9" cake rounds
Recipe from Real Girls Kitchen on Cooking Channel
Ingredients:
-- 10 eggs
-- 2 15 oz cans unseasoned black beans, rinsed and drained
-- 2 TBS pure vanilla extract
-- 1 TSP sea salt
-- 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter
-- 1 TSP pure stevia extract (I used the Skinny Girl brand I got at Walmart)
-- 1 cup of honey
-- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-- 2 TSP baking powder
-- 1 TSP baking soda

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease your pans (two 9" cake pans) really well, and sprinkle with cocoa powder to also help prevent sticking. This is key, learn from my mistakes.

After draining and rinsing your beans, add the 2 cans of beans, 6 eggs, vanilla, stevia extract and salt to a blender and mix until liquefied. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix your cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda together. Set aside.

Then add your softened butter and honey to a mixer (spray your measuring cup with cooking spray to help it all come out), and mix together until light and fluffy. Add the remaining 4 eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth. Then add in your bean mixture. Mix until smooth, and then add in your cocoa mixture, a little at a time, until well combined.

The pour the batter into the two prepared pans and tap to make sure all of the air bubbles are out. The original recipe stated to bake for 45 mins, but it took almost an hour in my oven. So I would start with 45 mins and then keep checking until the cakes don't look wiggly in the center, or a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for about 10 mins and then attempt to flip onto a cooling rack. Once cool, frost one layer with frosting of your choice. Then add the 2nd layout and frost. Enjoy!! 

Would you ever eat a cake made of beans?

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Monday, January 19, 2015

January Subscription Boxes - Rocksbox & Julep

Happy Monday!

Today I wanted to share 2 subscription boxes that I received this month.The first one is Rocksbox which is a premium jewelry subscription box and the second is Julep which is a nail/beauty subscription box.

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At the end of December I came across a deal where I could try out the Rocksbox subscription for $9 for one month. I kept seeing different bloggers and Instagramers posting pictures of amazing jewelry with hashtag #rocksbox, and I was interested in seeing what this was all about.

Basically you pay a monthly fee and they send you 3 pieces of jewelry worth almost $250 total, and you can wear it on loan as much as you want. You then return the jewelry with the pre-paid shipping label, and they send you a new set of jewelry to wear. You can trade out your jewelry as much as you want to during the month, and the fee is $19 a month. It's kind of like Netflix for jewelry.

I'm not sure if this was a first time gift or not, but my box included this cute "shine" necklace as a thank you gift. Such a nice surprise.

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My first box included these 3 pieces of jewelry. The Perry Street Abby Necklace in Black Crystal, the Charlene K Double Gemstone Earrings in Onyx and the Gorjana Teagun Cuff.

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A few other things to note, when you sign up you fill out a style survey so your stylist knows what types of jewelry you like. I love statement necklaces, dangly earrings and chunky bangles, which is exactly what I got in my first box.

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You can also browse the available jewelry online and indicate what interests you on your Wishlist. The necklace was one of the items I had added to my wishlist. There is also a way to tag the jewelry that Rocksbox posts on their Instagram account for your wishlist, but I haven't figured that one out yet. I see lots of people commenting #wishlist, but not sure how, or if, it links to your account.

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I loved the necklace and the earrings, but the bracelet wasn't my favorite. I'm not a huge gold lover, and it felt a little too lose on me. But I loved wearing the necklace and earrings and wore them a couple of times.

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I wore all 3 pieces to a wedding we went to over the weekend...

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...and also to the wedding that we went to in Puerto Rico.

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The second box I received was the Julep box. Julep is known for their high-end nail polish. It's really thick and goes on really smooth. I sometimes can get away with only one coat of this polish and it tends to stay on my nails pretty well. Usually you get 1 or 2 nail polishes and then either a beauty product or another type of nail product like a quick dry. This month I received the Sandi nail polish, Gel Eye Glider in Navy Smoke and Luxe Lip Treatment in Sheer Fig. Oh and they always include something fun like the Junior Mints. One time I got a pixie stick, which I hadn't had in for-ev-er!

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I loved this nail color. It's hard to tell in the pictures, but it's like a deep eggplant color. I also really love the gel eyeliner. It goes on super smooth and the color is really rich and lasts all day long. I wasn't sure about the navy color, but it's a really deep navy and looks almost like a slate color. I like wearing it with a brown eye shadow and it helps to bring out the blue in my eyes. I also really like the color of the lip gloss, but think it tastes a little funny. And it's really sticky, so not great for a windy day. In the pics above, I'm wearing both the nail polish and the lip gloss.

Over all a good month for subscription boxes. I'm going to possibly try the Rocksbox subscription at least 1 more month to see what I get next. For the Julep box you can preview what comes in your box each month, and can switch out things if you choose to, or you can skip. I usually like to preview the box and see what I think. We are really trying to save some money, so I may hold off a few more months on this one, unless I really see something I love.

What subscription boxes do you love?

*Please note I was not compensated at all for either of these subscription boxes.

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