My 3 Year Blogiversary

Today celebrates 3 years since my very first blog post. It’s kind of hard to believe it’s been that long. I first started this little blog to share the recipes I was trying with my family and friends and as I continued forward, it became so much more. It has pushed me to go outside the box, try new things and become more adventurous with food. I don’t just make a recipe exactly as stated any more…I mix it up, change things, add different ingredients, even create my own recipes. I’m no longer afraid of yeast. I now like salads and avocado and mustard and sweet potatoes and so much more I thought I despised.

And I have over 1500 followers going on the journey with me. What? I never imagined so many people would be interested in what I’m cooking, baking and eating. I feel so humbled and I appreciate all of you! I love blogging and sharing recipes with all of you but there have been times that I just wanted to give it up for awhile. Like after having Hannah. But every day I would log on and see I had a new follower and thought “I don’t want to let them down, they want to hear what I have to say!” And I love having something of my own, just for me. It’s hard being a stay at home mom and sometimes I feel like I don’t have anything for me. I give all of myself to my kids (and I wouldn’t change that for the world) but it’s nice to have something else that I really love to do. Thank you all for sticking by me, even when I struggled to share just 1 post a week. Thank you for your comments, words of encouragements and “likes.” You guys rock.

I’ve come a long way in three years. I mean, seriously, check out these photos…bleh. I’ve considered retaking these photos (and many more) but it’s kind of nice to see the journey. My photography has improved and although it’s not as spectacular as some of my favorite food bloggers out there, I’m pretty proud of myself. Especially considering I’m usually taking these photos with two impatient boys breathing down my neck, waiting for the ok to inhale.

So to celebrate, I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes from throughout the years. The recipes that I always go to when I need something fast, delicious, decadent, satisfying or no-fail. Thank you trusty internet friends for being an invisible support system. I truly hope you continue to enjoy everything I share here.

So, I had a hard time just picking a few favorites. There have been a lot of recipes shared over the past three years! My top 15 favorites (in no particular order) are pictured below with a link to the recipe. Below that is a big list of my other favorites that I just couldn’t resist sharing too. Enjoy!

Chipotle Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice and Black Beans
Chipotle Chicken

Shredded Beef
Shredded Beef

Chicken Enchilada Soup
Enchilada Soup 2

Sicilian Spaghetti

Buffalo Chicken Mac-n-Cheese
Buffalo Chicken Mac-n-Cheese 3

Sesame Beef Lettuce Wraps
Sesame Beef Lettuce Wraps

Cucumber Tomato Salad
Cucumber Tomato Salad 1

Crock Pot Refried Beans
Crock Pot Refried Beans 2

Cucumber Dip
Cucumber Dip

Pizza Sauce
Pizza Sauce 1

Sweet Cornbread

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade
Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade 3

Buttermilk Pancakes
Buttermilk Pancakes 6

2 Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Other favorites:

Chipotle Chili
Corn Tortillas
Skinny Bang Bang Shrimp
Pork and Ginger Potstickers
Pizza Poppers
Chicken Bulgogi
Spicy Lemon Chicken Wraps
Cheesy Bread
Roasted Cauliflower
Baked Spinach Dip
Baked Eggs with a Crispy Hashbrown Crust
Roasted Banana Muffins
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Balls
Crock Pot Peanut Clusters
French Silk Pie
Oatmeal Crème Pie Bars
DIY Vanilla Extract



Why Healthy Eating is the Best Way to Lose Weight

Today, I am bringing you an article written by Adrienne of Healthline. They contacted me asking if they could compile an article to share with my readers and with the clean eating I’ve been doing since Lent started, I jumped on the opportunity. I am by no means an expert in health so I always worry about sharing my opinions or eating habits as I don’t have the experience or education to give that kind of advice. If you are on a path towards healthier eating, I hope that you will find this helpful and interesting.

Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.

Could it be that the days of crazy diets are over? Probably not, but thankfully we are seeing a lot more interest in healthy eating for weight loss as opposed to highly restrictive diets. Why the change? It likely has a lot to do with all the access we now have to healthy recipes that let us eat better without having to sacrifice taste and we can lose weight doing it.

Diets Still Don’t Work

Just because a person is able to lose weight on a diet doesn’t mean that diets work. Successful weight loss requires being able to keep the weight off and diets that restrict entire food groups or drastically cut down your calorie intake aren’t realistic to maintain. Studies have proven over and over again that not only do most dieters gain back the weight they lost,  but the majority go on to gain even more so that they weigh more than they did even before starting the diet. And, as great as some diets claim to be, this sad truth applies to all kinds of diets. According to researchers at UCLA, dieters typically lose 5-10 percent of their starting body weight in the first 6 months of a diet and more than two-thirds regain even more weight than they lost within the first 4 or 5 years.

Healthy Eating for Weight Loss

Can you lose weight by just deciding to eat healthier food? The answer is yes—an even bigger yes if your current diet has been one filled with fattening, processed foods!

Eating healthy allows you to eat more while consuming less of the stuff that makes you gain weight. Healthy foods contain less fat and calories than processed foods, yet make you feel full faster. This is precisely why eating healthy is a better option for people wanting to get their weight in check: you can eat well and feel satisfied without taking in too many calories or fat.

The reason why healthier foods are able to make you feel full on less is that they contain more water, fiber giving them a low energy density. There are no empty calories that have you eating but getting nothing out of the food. Instead, healthier food choices fill you up and give you energy to put out. They also help boost your immune system thanks to being high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and can help you lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and more.

Eating Healthy and Yummy

The key to weight loss with healthy eating is to do what diets don’t let you: feel satisfied and eat in a way that’s possible to sustain forever, even long after the pounds have been dropped. You do this by following a balanced diet and taking the time to make food that you actually enjoy eating. You don’t often think of weight loss and delicious foods together, but it turns out that you really don’t need to eat a rabbit’s diet or live on rice cakes to lose weight thanks to healthy alternatives to all the foods you crave.

We are blessed to live in a world where we can get our hands on anything with just a few clicks. Fortunately for those of us who want to eat better and lose weight without feeling like we’re sacrificing all the stuff we love; recipes to make healthy versions of our favorite treats are also just a click away. The Mayo Clinic offers great advice by telling you to stick to low-energy-density foods that let you feel full on fewer calories, like fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains. Lean proteins will also help you feel full. They give a great example to show you the difference between high-energy-density foods, like those filled with fat and sugars, and low-energy-density foods that are healthier and cleaner options:

Raisins have a high energy density, with 1 cup of raisins containing about 434 calories, while grapes have a low energy density with only 104 calories per cup.

Imagine having to eat over 4 cups of raisins to get the same amount of calories as 1 cup! You wouldn’t because you would feel full long before getting to 4 cups. It’s a perfect example of how better choices leave you feeling full on less and why it’s better to eat healthy to lose weight.

Use these things to make lower-fat versions of your favorites using recipes easily found online and you still get to enjoy food without the weight or the inevitable guilt. Making the change to healthier eating will help you keep your weight in check while also lowering your risk of disease and keeping your immune system strong. Restrictive diets on the other hand, will make you fatter, weaken your immune system, and increase your risk of disease. The right choice is simple, no?

Get your fill on everything health and diet by clicking here.


What I’m Eating Lately

Week 38
I talked about losing the baby weight on Friday so I thought I might give a little insight to what I’m eating lately to keep on track.

Smoothies have been my best friend for breakfast. I am not a huge fan of just eating fruit. I know it’s weird but I don’t like the texture of a lot of fruits. So this way, I get a few servings of fruit and I always add about a cup of spinach to get in some veggies too. I usually just throw in a mix of fruit, spinach, a bit of orange juice and water to thin it out. I’m also loving this one right now too (but with regular skim milk instead of chocolate). Noah loves it too and often requests the green smoothie.

Lunch usually consists of a few ounces of chicken, steamed veggies and sometimes 1/2 cup of brown rice or some black beans. Alternately, a big salad with lots of veggies, a bit of chicken and a tiny bit of dressing is another option.

When it comes to dinner, I’ve been a little more lenient because otherwise I would have lots of complaints from the peanut gallery. And anyway, Joel can eat whatever he wants and is still too skinny so if I got too healthy he would probably wither away. I’m still making healthy, mostly clean meals that he can alter a bit to fill him up more. For example, last night I made Spicy Lemon Chicken Wraps and for myself I used a low fat, low carb whole wheat tortilla and he got the good ones. I skipped the sour cream and only used a tablespoon of guacamole. He loaded up on them. Another meal this week was grilled shrimp, steamed broccoli and a pasta side dish. I just didn’t eat the pasta…which was really, really hard. Almost torture. But it will be worth it. And on some days, I eat really low calorie breakfasts and lunches so I can “splurge” a little at dinner.

Plain popcorn, apple with peanut butter or a handful of almonds are the snacks I’ve been munching on.

I’m no expert, this is just what’s working for me and I thought I would share. In addition to changing my eating habits (that sounds so much better than dieting), I went to Jazzercise 4 times this week and plan to continue with that frequency.

Although I’ve been a bit sad about not getting to eat that leftover Christmas candy and cookies I whipped up to share with you all soon (I did take a bite so I could tell you how they taste…but only a bite) I am feeling quite accomplished, energized and proud of myself for making great choices towards a healthier lifestyle. And in just a week I’ve lost 4 pounds!

Holiday Baking Must Haves

I have several gadgets and instruments that are absolutely required whenever I am in the kitchen baking. With holiday baking in full swing, I thought it would be fun to share my favorites and must haves when it comes to Christmas goodies. Plus, these would be great gifts for any foodies in your life.
1. Stainless Steel Measuring Cups – I have several sets of measuring cups but my stainless steel ones are what I always reach for when baking. I can’t say they are any better than any other kind but I just prefer them and they seem fancy.

2. Small Wet Measuring Cup – This measures 1/2 Tbsp. to 1/4 cup of wet ingredients. I wasn’t sure how often I would use it when I bought it but it’s something I use all the time. It’s perfect when a recipe calls for a few tablespoons of wet ingredients. Love it.

3. Baker’s Rolling Pin – This is perfect for rolling out cookie dough and pie crusts. I especially like it for smaller batch items since it’s smaller than the average rolling pin. Plus, it doesn’t stick as badly as my French rolling pin so less flour has to be used when rolling out.

4. Cookie Scoops – These are an absolute must for baking. Like, I think I would have a little breakdown if something happened to them and I had to portion cookies in a different way. Not.Gonna.Happen. I love to use a big one for muffins or cupcakes too. Perfect! And what a fun stocking stuffer, just saying.

5. All Silicone Spatulas – Perfect for mixing and scraping. I love the all silicone ones because they don’t get any batter stuck in between the handle.

6. Cookie Spatula – I use this constantly for getting cookies off of the cookie sheets. It’s just the right size.

7. Microplane – So many recipes call for citrus zest, chocolate shavings and such so you can imagine this gets a lot of use in my house. Plus, it’s great for cooking dinner too.

8. Pretty Measuring Spoons – Ok, so these aren’t absolutely required but they just make baking lots more fun and a little prettier. I got mine at a little shop downtown but I have seen them at different kitchen stores and specialty shops. Another great idea for Christmas. They even have some cute ones on Jane today on the cheap.

9. Flexible Cutting Boards – I totally forgot to number this above in the photo but all the gadgets are sitting on my very favorite cutting boards. My mom and a friend raved about flexible cutting boards so I finally went out and bought some and I love them too! They don’t move around, take up little space when not being used and are just more fun. I bought mine at Ikea but have seen them at Home Goods, Target and TJ Maxx.

10. KitchenAid Mixer – This isn’t pictured but is a must when baking. I received mine as an engagement present and have loyally used it since. I can’t imagine baking, especially at Christmastime, without it.

11. Silicone Mat – These are great for rolling out dough as well as baking.

A Little Cupcake

I don’t have a recipe to share with you all today but instead, some very exciting news! See.
Week 10
We are expecting a sweet little cupcake on October 8th! But if he or she is anything like their brother, it will be more like mid-September.

This pregnancy has been a lot different from my first. With Noah I was a little tired but that was all. No morning sickness, no vomiting, no aches and pains, no heightened sense of smell…nothing. I can’t say the same this time around. I was nauseous most my first trimester but luckily had a few days of reprieve every once and awhile. So that’s why I haven’t been bringing you as much deliciousness as I normally do. Cooking hasn’t been happening all that much around here. It’s amazing what you can make of leftovers or random stuff in the fridge when you are really desperate and just the thought of smelling anything makes your stomach turn. I only got sick a few times so I’ve been lucky in that sense. I also turned into an old lady and napped while Noah did then I went to bed around 9. It made me a lot more pleasant to be around the next day, trust me.

Luckily, I have been feeling much better the last couple weeks and am back to my regular ‘ole self in the kitchen. So hopefully, I will be back to my regular programming of 3 recipes a week soon.

We decided that this time around we are not going to find out the gender. We found out with Noah because I am a crazy person that has to be totally and utterly prepared or else I freak just a tad. But we thought since we kind of know what we are in for this time around it would be fun to be surprised. Ok, let’s be honest….Joel had to talk me into it. I have several friends that have never found out the gender and they all say it’s the best surprise and one of the only ones left these days. Plus, it will give me motivation during labor.

In between the spells of nausea (in the first trimester) I’ve been craving fruity candy (jelly beans, sour gummy worms, orange slices) and cheesecake. I may have indulged a bit in the candy but have yet to enjoy cheesecake. I have to admit, I love those stupid Jello No Bake cheesecake mixes in the baking aisle and it has taken all of my will power to resist buying one and eating it all by myself. Judge all you want, they are delicious. I’m happy to report that the cravings are pretty much gone too so that will help in the weight gain department!

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I will bring you updates throughout my pregnancy and maybe some bump pictures too.

Top 12 Recipes of 2012

2012 has been a wonderful, busy, crazy year and I’m so glad I have been able to share it with you all! My readership and views have skyrocketed this year and it’s all thanks to you. I truly appreciate all the views and comments and just for giving me a little of your time each day! So here are the top 12 most viewed recipes of 2012. I hope you take a look and {hopefully} enjoy them again! Happy New Year!

Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting
Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting
Extra Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken
Extra Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken
Sweet Cornbread
Sweet Cornbread
Cheesy Bread
Cheesy Bread
Whole Lemon Blueberry Walnut Muffins
Whole Lemon Blueberry Walnut Muffins
Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Mexican Chicken Salad with Chili Lime Vinaigrette
Mexican Chicken Salad
Salted Pretzel Caramel Bark
Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark
Skinny Bang Bang Shrimp
Bang Bang Shrimp
Lasagna Cupcakes
Lasagna Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Dog Treats
We can’t forget about the lovable pups in our lives during the holiday season! We do not have a dog but we have lots of family and friends that do so I whipped up a batch of these cute little treats for all our dog friends. I sent a mailing envelope full of them to my parents and then I received this picture back. It’s kind of blurry but the gist is as follows: my parents were out of town so my brother was stopping by to check on the dogs. He saw a package on the steps and left it on the kitchen counter (unbeknowst to him, it is filled to the brim with doggie deliciousness). My parents come home to an empty, torn up envelope.
Somebody looks mighty guilty, but satisfied with herself at the same time. I think they enjoyed them.
Dog Treats
Peanut Butter Dog Treats
recipe from Come On, Ilene

1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup margarine or butter
1 cup boiling beef broth
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg, beaten (or 2 eggs to make treats softer for older dogs)
3 cups whole wheat flour

1. Combine rolled oats, margarine/butter, and boiling beef broth in a large bowl. Let stand and soften for 10 minutes.  Thoroughly stir in cornmeal, sugar, bouillon, milk, peanut butter, and egg. Mix in flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough comes together.

2. Roll out dough to 1/2″ thickness. Cut out shapes with cookie cutter. Place on cookie sheet. They don’t spread apart so you can fit a lot on a sheet.

3.Bake 35 to 45 minutes at 325 degrees, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.