Mornings

The similarities to being born are uncanny.

Think about it. One minute you’re in a dark, warm, comfy place then all of a sudden you’re being thrust out into the cold, hard world.

My morning routine typically starts with the morning breath of a lively little 8 year old, 2 inches from my face, poking me in the arm and informing me that I need to  “get my stick”.  The stick she is referring to would be the plunger.

Nothing makes my husband laugh harder than the phrase “Mom! Get your stick!”. He could be in a sound sleep and that will still cause him to chuckle. He’s a sick, sick man that husband of mine.

Next, it’s time to get the kiddos their breakfast. I’m big on breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, you know.

Usually I make pancakes or waffles. Sometimes scrambled eggs and toast or an English muffin and jam. Cereal is dinner in our house. We’re a little backward. I know. This morning I used flour instead of pancake mix. Even fresh maple syrup couldn’t help those things.

Now mind you, while I am making breakfast I am typically dodging dry erase markers that are being hurled at me by an extremely irritable, hungry, impatient cat. This will continue until he is out of markers. Then he moves on to either destruction of property or aggravated assault, which may or may not include biting my calf or slapping me (claws out) as I walk by, just to let me know he means business.

I love my cat.

At that point I’ll feed him so he’ll leave me alone and I won’t have to kill him. But he’ll eat so fast that he throws up. Usually on a carpet somewhere. The house is 99% hardwood floors, yet he will find the one, small carpeted area in the house to vomit on. Did I mention how much I love my cat?

Then carpool. A couple of us parents take turns driving the kids to school. So some mornings I have to load everyone up and head out around 7:15. Andrew is good about not complaining that I drive him and his friends to school in my pajamas. Smart too. Wisecracks will only get them a personal escort to class.

Back home for the next phase. Getting Nina and I ready to go.

Nina, “Miss Independent” is great about getting herself ready for the day.  She’ll put her lunch and snacks together, get dressed, do her hair and still have time to watch some Sponge Bob before the bus comes at 8:20.

I do have to keep an eye on her though. Today’s lunch consisted of cookies, leftover Halloween candy (I still can’t find her stash), pepperoni, Doritos and a jelly jar of apple juice. I love that girl. She tries. I’ll give her that. This demands a remake or I may receive a call from school nurse to educate me on the importance of good nutrition.

When it’s time to head outside for the bus, I usually send the dog with her to wait so I can get myself together. My dog Bailey reminds me of “Nana” from Peter Pan. She would never let a stranger enter the yard. Ever! You can ask the UPS man. He’ll tell ya. If he ever dares to come back.

I get my breakfast, lunch and snack together while still keeping one eye out the window to make sure that there are no shenanigans going on outside. I make a tea, a coffee and fill my water jug to bring to work. I may be part camel. This morning I pushed the button on the Keurig and realized I had forgotten to put the cup under the spout.

“What the insert curse word here!”

Ever done that? There really should be a sensor of some sort. Keurig, if you’re listening, can you maybe incorporate that on your next model? I’d really appreciate it.

Ugh.

But, oh joy, now I get to go to work. That makes waking up to all this totally worth it. Someone needs to come up with a font called “Sarcasm“. Just sayin.

What’s your morning routine like? Do you get things ready the night before or do you live on the edge like me? I’d love to hear.

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Square Pegs

comparison

I have been at this blogging thing for going on four years now.

Every year around my blogiversary I toy with the idea of shutting it down.

“I gave it a real shot! It’s just not fulfilling the dream I had when I started. I’m done!”

So I thought a little harder than I ever had before and realized, in all honesty, I haven’t been true to myself. I really haven’t given it a real shot, especially after reading about some successful bloggers. Dang, they work hard! Success hasn’t just happened to them. They have put in the time, the effort, the sacrifice.

I simply haven’t.

The occasional post, then nothing, then excuses to my loyal readers. That’s what I’ve become. After a couple of months of soul-searching, waffling back and forth, to quit or not to quit and lots of tears about what a failure I am, it finally hit me.

For four years I have been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

I realized, I had pretty much proclaimed my site a food blog. I mean, I can cook but at this point I can’t compare to some of those amazing food bloggers out there. You know the ones who can dump out a can of dog food and make it look so good you have to run out and grab all the supplies and cook it up immediately and serve it at a dinner party? Yup, them.

Then I read this.

“Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something we aren’t. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses and it is only when you accept everything you are-and aren’t- that you will truly succeed”.

And thought “It’s ok I’m not a food blogger”. It is something I’m good at, but maybe it isn’t everything I’m good at.

So I compiled a list of my strengths and weaknesses, my goals, my boundaries and my walls and most importantly, my excuses. I put them on paper so I could stare them down and address them.

I always thought time was my biggest issue. Like I don’t have any to spare. I’m too busy being a good mother, a good wife, a good friend, a good housekeeper, a good everything! There’s no time for me.

“When will I find the time to photograph a meal, or ever develop a recipe?”.

Then it hit me! Duh! I’m busy being a good mother, a good wife, a good friend, a good housekeeper, a good employee. I’m not just a cook. I’m all these things! This was my niche!

My time was being spent trying to be something I wasn’t. And all I was doing was spinning my wheels.

Now it’s time to make the changes.

One of my most awesomest (yeah, it’s a word) friends, Danielle at ENJI Daily had written an article about change, which I refer to a lot. She has also reminded me that every failure is a gift, a means of growth. It’s just how we look at it. And that almost no one goes from point A to point B in a linear way, we have little learning curves along the way.

I believe you have to be ready for change. So, for the first time in my life, I’m going to listen to the people around me who tell me I’m amazing and I’m simply going to be amazing.

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Double Chocolate Cherry Dream Cookies

chocolate cherry cookiesAre you ready for Valentine’s Day? You do know it’s Saturday, right? Ok, just making sure you knew.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. My mother in law used to call them “Hallmark Holidays“.  Of course she didn’t like much, but I tend to agree with her on this one. I’m pretty lucky in that my husband spoils me all the time, not just February 14th.

Aw

Also, I’m not very traditional. I hate cut flowers, chocolate is so cliché and cards are too corny for words. So yeah, I could really care less. For real. I’m not just saying that so I can get mad when I don’t get anything.

I know he feels like he has to do something. Probably so the guys don’t razz him. But personally, I think he should tell them they’re just jealous that their wives aren’t as easy-going and awesome as his wife. He can totally back that statement with the fact that he never once changed a diaper and the kids come to me to unclog the toilets. Just sayin.

That being said, I still love all the Valentine’s Day hoopla. I get all sorts of happy when I walk the holiday aisles at Target. And I love helping Nina put together the perfect Valentines treats for her class party. Oh my God I sound like a Martha Stewart wannabe. I know, I hear myself. Honestly, if Andrew would still let me, I’d send him to school with pretty little treats and TMNT cards for all the girls.

Sorry, I’m getting weepy thinking about my baby boy getting older.

Back to Valentine’s Day. I came across these NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Delightfulls while strolling the baking aisle the other day and could not resist myself. They screamed Valentine! And boy were they right!

These oversized cookies were so chewy and rich, yet not overly sweet. If you have a sweetie who needs a sweetie, I suggest giving these a try. I guarantee you’ll get a smooch for it.

Double Chocolate Cherry Dream Cookies

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c. (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 c (12-oz pkg) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® DelightFulls Dark Chocolate Cherry filled morsels
1/4 c. NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Mini Morsels (optional)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Use a large ice cream scoop and drop onto parchment lined baking sheets.

BAKE for 10 minutes or until cookies are slightly underdone in the center. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from verybestbaking.com

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Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

chicken taco chili

Do you have a crock pot?

Do you love chili?

Do you want a meal all ready for you when you get home from a long day at work?

Even better, a healthy meal?

This is the easiest, yummiest chili I have ever made. There is no browning of the meat before you throw it in the crock pot (I hate that). You just dump it all in and, voila! Dinner!

I served mine over some brown rice, with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt, some avocado slices and fresh cilantro. OMG! So good! It is just as good the next day for lunch.

Thank you Skinnytaste for all your amazing healthy recipes.

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White Chocolate Spritz Cookies

white chocolate spritz valentine cookies

So after being stuck in the house for days, thank you Juno. I was feeling a little blah. I started thinking about being isolated and lonely and thought, “I think I need to brighten someone’s day!”.

So, I made these cookies. Any recipe where I can shoot a cookie out of a gun is alright in my book. Just sayin.

I love Spritz cookies. They are just the right size for a small treat and are so cute. The cream cheese in the dough gave them a bit of tang which is balanced out beautifully by the sweetness of the white chocolate. They were decorated nicely by Nina who desperately needed to participate in something other than shoveling for awhile. You can customize the shape and color for any holiday or theme.

After they were decorated and set, I packaged them up all pretty, so as not to shove them in my face all day and today I put them in the mail.

I sent them to a couple of people I don’t get to see very often who may also be stuck at home and may need a little something to brighten their day.

After participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap in December, I realized that getting cookies in the mail is pretty much one of the nicest surprises EVAH! So, I have decided to incorporate it into my routine. Whenever I make some cookies, I put aside a dozen and send it to someone I love.

Do you need some love? Let me know where you are (privately of course) and maybe you’ll find a sweet little package in your mailbox.

Oh yeah, here is the recipe for these little cuties. If you don’t have a cookie press, you can use a pastry bag and large star tip to make a rosette or any shape of your choice.

White Chocolate Spritz Cookies
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
11-1/4 ounces (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional if using sprinkles or sugar instead of dipping in chocolate)
Colored sugars or other decorations for sprinkling (optional)
8 oz. white chocolate, melted

Heat the oven to 375°F. With a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a hand mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat again until blended. Add the flour and mix on low speed until blended.

Fit a cookie press with a die plate (I used the flower). Fill the barrel of the press with dough. You can create a “log” of dough and slide it into the barrel or just stuff it in (like I do). Press the cookies directly onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with colored sugar if using. If dipping in chocolate do not brush with egg white.

Bake until the cookies are just golden around the edges, approximately 10 minutes (it’s best to bake one sheet at a time). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet on a rack for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Be sure the baking sheet is cool before spritzing more cookies.

If dipping, melt chocolate in either a double boiler or simply microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each, until melted. Be careful not to burn. Once melted, dip the top of the cookie and place on a cooling sheet and sprinkle with jimmies and sugar before chocolate sets.

You can also use different color melting wafers and milk and dark chocolate as well as white. Whatever floats your boat.

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from here

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Valentine Puppy Chow

valentine puppy chow

It’s cold. Real cold. And dreary. Super dreary.

Baking helps.

Baking something sweet and pretty, really helps.

Baking something sweet, pretty and so easy it isn’t even funny. Therapeutic!

I haven’t had puppy chow in years. Or shall I say “In a dog’s age”? Sorry, that was lame.

If you have never had this stuff, you’ve got to make it. It’s candy and sugar coated Chex cereal tossed with other yummy stuff. There are endless recipes out there, but today I’m going to share a perfect Valentine treat. Nina had a bake sale and she demanded everything be pink. So we gave these a try and they were a huge success.

When Nina came home on the day of the bake sale, I asked her what she bought. She rattled off all sorts of frosted cookies and mini cupcakes.

“Didn’t you even get some of your own treats?”

“Mom! By the time I got there, they were gone! My friends said you make THE BEST bake sale treats you just didn’t make enough! For realz!”

I must say, I do make some rocking bake sale treats in cute little packages. It’s all in the marketing, by the way.

This recipe totally revived my love for these tasty, bite-size bits of heaven. I am already gathering new recipes to try out. The strawberry cake mix in this recipe is really awesome though.

Warning: These are highly addictive and are not diet friendly. Unless eaten one at a time, veeeeery slooooowly. Then they are totally calorie free. Ok, not really. But you can tell yourself that if you must.

Ingredients:
5 ounces white chocolate chips
5 ounces red candy melts
1 teaspoon shortening
5 cups Chex cereal
1 cup strawberry cake mix
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 package valentines chocolate M&M’s

1. Divid the Chex mix into two bowls. (2 1/2 cup in each)
2. In microwave safe dish, melt the 5 ounces white chocolate chips. Add 1/2 teaspoon shortening so that the chocolate spreads evenly evenly. Microwave 30 seconds at a time and be careful not to burn the chocolate. Dump this in the first bowl of chex and mix evenly to coat all of the chex cereal.
2. Melt the red candy melts in the same manner. Once melted, pour this over the second bowl of divided chex and mix until coated.
3. In two gallon size ziplock bags, put 1/2 cup strawberry cake mix and 1/4 cup powdered sugar in each bag. Dump each bowl of chex mix in each bag and shake until coated with the powdered sugar and strawberry powdered cake mix.
4. Mix in the M&M’s
5. Package in little cello bags with pretty ribbon for a sweet little Valentine treat.

Recipe adapted from the fabulous Alyssa at The Recipe Critic

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Roasted Chicken

roast chicken

I am doing my very best at eating clean now that I have completed my cleanse. And I’ve got to say, I think I’m killing it! I made it through the weekend, Pats playoff game included without eating crap and actually without overeating at all. Although I didn’t hit the gym, but I can only handle one hurdle at a time, so I won’t beat myself up too much.  Does beating myself up count as a workout? Well, it should.

One of my biggest challenges during the week, as I am sure it is for most, is time. Like, not enough of it.

I typically spend my Sunday getting ready for the week. Prepping food, cleaning the house, looking at everyone’s schedules and trying to get a mental picture of our week. Now that I am hitting the gym, it is even more important to get as much done before the Monday chaos begins.

Today, I’m going to share with you a simple recipe that can help you through the week. It takes very little preparation and you aren’t standing over the stove cooking, so you can be taking care of other things.

It is a simple roasted chicken.

Even if you aren’t a “cook” you can easily tackle this and have fresh, healthy, tender chicken for sandwiches, enchiladas, salads, whatever.

I must tell you first, if you are cooking meat, you need a good meat thermometer. It is a must!  Each piece of meat is different. Every oven is different. Times and temps here are just guidelines.

I use the Thermapen. It is a bit pricey, but worth it. I got mine as a gift from the hubby. He digs gadgets. He comes home with some pretty cool stuff that I typically raise my nose at and ask him what he was thinking, then when he isn’t looking I hug it and ask it how I ever got through my life without it. Like this shirt folder, which by the way, is fun for the whole family. We had shirt folding races on New Year’s Eve. Yah, I know. You wish you lived my life. I get that aaaaaalllll the time! NOT! 

But okay, back to the chicken.

To make sure it stays nice and juicy, a quick brining step is all you need. Combine 1/2 cup salt and 2 quarts of water in a large stockpot and stir to dissolve.

Place the chicken in the brine and cover. My pot was small enough that the entire bird was submerged, but you may want to flip it halfway through to make sure the entire bird gets covered. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Remove the bird from the brine and pat dry. Brush entire bird with 2 tablespoons melted butter and season with salt and pepper. You can add some herbs or lemon to the cavity if you wish, but it’s all up to you. I don’t. But that’s just me.

Preheat oven to 375F and place the bird in a roasting pan, breast side down. Cook for 15 minutes then turn the chicken so it is breast side up and increase the oven temp to 450F. Roast until and instant-read thermometer reads 160F in the breast and around 170F in the thigh, about 30-35 minutes. Again, this is where an instant-read thermometer comes in. It is an essential kitchen tool. Nothing worse than cutting into a pink chicken. Grody!

Once chicken is cooled, pick the meat off the bones and shred with 2 forks and store in the fridge for use during the week or it makes a great quick dinner as well. Some mashed potatoes and a vegetable and voila! Dinner!

Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of the totes UH-MAZING Annie at annies-eats

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Beachbody 3-Day Refresh Review

refresh

The holidays are over.

I don’t know about you, but I may have over-eaten a bit during the holidays. Maybe.

I needed a jump-start into a new, healthier lifestyle and I needed it quick. I found myself eating when I knew I was hungry and definitely not eating the right things. What with all those delicious holiday treats around. I couldn’t resist!

Enter the 3-Day Refresh from Beachbody.

I have never done a cleanse before, but I needed to kick my bad eating habits to the curb and I needed to do it fast before even my yoga pants started splitting at the seams. I also needed a program that was simple and to the point.  Drink this. Eat that. That’s it!

The box contains 3 days of product and an instructional manual. It’s fairly straightforward. The schedule is the same each day as to when you should eat and drink the shakes, but it gives you lists of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats to choose from. It also has several dinner recipes so you can mix it up a bit.

I used the regular Chocolate Shakeology, which I really like. It also comes in vegan which is recommended for the cleanse, but I didn’t know that when I purchased it, so I used what the regular. The chocolate shake is probably the tastiest meal replacement shake I’ve had. It isn’t chalky or chemically tasting and it doesn’t upset my stomach, which has happened with many other shakes and protein drinks.

Check out the details here!

I’ve got to say, I wasn’t hungry. Day 1 and the beginning of Day 2 I had an incredible headache, which has since gone away. I assume it was caffeine withdrawal. But I don’t know. I found the vanilla refresh shakes and the fiber sweep kind of icky, but I’ve never been a fan of vanilla. By Day 3 they kind of grew on me though. I found you really need to mix them with really cold water for them to taste their best.

I thoroughly enjoyed the dinner stir fry I made each night. A few minutes of prep and a few minutes of cooking time and totally delish! I really looked forward to it each night and will continue to make itfor dinner.

I did exercise each day. I did 25 minutes of cardio and did circuit training at the gym.

All in all, I felt great throughout the 3 days, I never had an upset stomach. I didn’t spend 3 days in the bathroom and I honestly never felt hungry.

I thought it was a very positive experience actually. I felt empowered. Less bloated. Energetic.

Would I do it again? Sure! Although I hope I don’t have to. It was a great jumpstart into what I hope is a new lifestyle of clean, healthy eating.

Are you ready for the results?

Inches Lost:
Waist=1
Hips=1 1/2
Thighs=2 (each)
Bust=2

Weight Lost: 7.6

Let me know if you want to give it a try!

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Welcome 2015!

2015

I can’t believe it’s 2015. Well, it will be soon anyway.

I don’t know about you, but for me, there is something magical about a new year. Like I can wake up tomorrow morning and somehow while I slept, I was transformed into all those things I have wanted to be. The old me no longer exists. The negative voice has been silenced and all my shortcomings are behind me. The slate has been wiped clean and there is only unblemished potential.

I always try to write down my resolutions. Somehow dreams become more concrete when you can see them and touch them. When you waiver, they are there to remind you of their importance and guide you back. Sometimes you have to start over. Sometimes you have to re-prioritize. Sometimes your dreams simply change.

Regardless of how magical New Year’s Day can be, I must tell you that I have never been a positive kind of person. That is when it comes to me. I am hard on myself…always. I am my own worst enemy. And it never worse than New Year’s Eve.

“Well, another year of missed opportunities. Weight gain. Messy house. God, I’m such a loser!” That would be the typical self talk.

Not this year. I’m getting too old for that kind of crap. Anyone else feel the same way?

It’s time to focus on the positive. So, here are some of the things I did in 2014.

  • I made a career change. A small one, but a change nevertheless
  • I got my family through a real shitty, scary time of health issues. And I didn’t have  a breakdown.
  • I got a whole bunch of amazing new followers on this little blog, and I am truly touched by and grateful for each and every one of you
  • I ran a 5k
  • I was more adventurous in the kitchen

Here is my list of resolutions for 2015.

  • The always constant diet resolution, which by the way starts on January 2nd because let’s face it, that leftover Chinese take-out isn’t going to eat itself
  • Simplify. In so many ways.
  • Spend more time enjoying the outdoors. Hiking, kayaking, gardening, going to the beach
  • Blog better
  • Cook more with my kids
  • Write more
  • Learn to use my sewing machine
  • Entertain more
  • Be more productive
  • Be less indecisive
  • Be kinder to myself
  • Give back

Now I’ve shared. They’re written, they’re real.

How about you? Want to share?

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Chocolate Linzers with Berry Wine Jam

chocolate linzers

Today I am sharing a recipe link to a new friend, Amanda at A Cookie Named Desire.

I received these gorgeous cookies in the mail a couple of weeks ago and I honestly have to say, this was the most decadent, grown up cookie I have ever tasted. The chocolate cookie was dark and firm, not crumbly at all and the star shaped window gave you a glimpse of the tempting berry jam sandwiched inside.

I am so glad to have gotten to know Amanda. She is so sweet and super talented and I am so happy to now call her a friend. If you have a moment (you’ll need more, trust me) click on the picture and check her out. Please tell her I sent you.

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