Sarah’s “Faux S’mores”

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My daughter Sarah and I were talking the other day–we wanted something  tasty as a snack.  It was also hot and it would be better if it were something cool as well. Chocolatey would be great too. Ice cream sandwiches? Nope, none in the freezer.  What to do, what to do?

All of a sudden it hit me–“faux s’mores”. So simple to make, reasonable calorie wise (especially compared to ice cream), and it has chocolate!  You probably have most of it on hand–graham crackers (squares preferred), Cool Whip and Hazelnut spread ( “Nutella”).  Here’s how we make it:

Its easier if you work on a paper towel but a plate is ok too.    Lay out pairs of graham cracker squares.

Spread about a teaspoon of the Hazelnut spread on 1 of each pair of crackers.

Add about 2 -3 teaspoons of Cool Whip  on top of the Nutella/Hazelnut spread. You can use any version you like (regular, lite or fat free). We used the lite version for these. Top with the second graham cracker.

I normally pack 2 s’mores in a snack size bag and then put them in the freezer. They are ready to go in about an hour but  freeze well in you are making for the week (if they last that long!).

Enjoy this little treat anytime.

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Yardwork is not just for the big guys…..

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I will be the first to admit it: I would rather be outside doing almost anything than be inside cleaning the house, doing laundry or most anything related to “house keeping”.  Ask my husband, he’ll more often than not find me  with a pair of loppers or pruners, a lawn rake, shovel or wheelbarrow doing something outside.  Short of mowing the lawn (temperamental mower) or the chainsaw/ weed whacker I’ll do any landscape thing you ask of me.

I’m sure there are other Ladies just like me, and I would love to find a few to hang out with and share chores but I just haven’t found any that I know of….yet.  I know many women who will have their flower and vegetable gardens, and believe me there are a lot of work to keep going, but I haven’t found one who likes getting dirty and sweaty.

My husband is a great guy but he does the mowing and stuff because he has to, not because he likes it. He really is a more of a thinker than doer.   I really don’t mind that I am the one scrubbing the deck as long as he doesn’t mind that I am not scrubbing the floor. Our house is generally clean enough to be healthy but not spotless.

I do have to say he is really good about the “hardscape” around the house, but I think that is more related to the planning and doing than the hard work. Last year he put in a walkway for us with paver stones–this was after we put in a drainage system/ window well and dug everything up. I’m more of the laborer than the doer in these situations–he is such a detail oriented kind of guy (and the walkway looks great because of it!) that he gets into that more than I have patience for.

I do have to tell you part of the reason I enjoy the physical labor–it really burns off the calories!!  Aside from building ‘real’ muscles’ (versus gym ones) my clothes fit a whole lot nicer these days! I’ve shrunk several clothes sizes since I am engaging my core muscles with almost everything I do outside.  I may not be as strong as some of the “big guys” but I am a lot stronger than I look….and I have the muscles to prove it.

Choosing Favorites: Refrigerator Oatmeal, my new standby

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Oatmeal….its just not glamorous.

But it is my new favorite “go to” since I am working on making my eating habits healthy ones.

Making food and prepping ahead of time is a big part of healthy eating; you know that healthy choices are quickly available and that you really do know what is in your meal. The “Refrigerator Oatmeal” is one of those things you can make ahead and just grab and go. I never in my wildest dreams would’ve considered eating cold oatmeal but…this isn’t normal oatmeal.

I found my original recipe at “The Yummy Life”  but its been adjusted to fit my tastes just a bit. That is what I really like about this recipe–it is so adaptable and practically any combination of fruit or additive will work. You’ll need several jars, minimum one cup in size. Canning jars are great but you can use old jars as well (just run in dishwasher to make sure there is no lingering smell from the original use). The ones with screw on lids are much easier but not required.

Basic recipe for Refrigerator Oatmeal

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

1/2 cup skim milk (or alternate like almond or soy)

1/4 cup low fat plain Greek yogurt

1 1/2 tsp dried Chia seeds

1/2 tsp cinnamon

optional:

1 Tbsp of dehydrated peanut butter (like PB2)

1 tsp honey, maple syrup or sweetener of choice

Suggested fruits: (one or combination)

1/2 banana, diced

3-4 strawberries, diced

1/4 cup blueberries

1/2 apple, diced

1/2 pear, diced

1- Add oats, chia seeds, (PB2), cinnamon to jar and shake–close lid tightly

2-Add Greek yogurt and milk–close lid and shake .

3-Add fruit of choice– I love the PB2 and banana, strawberry/blueberry,  and strawberry/banana.  The pear and apple are good too but try to use when fresh and in season.  Shake container again making sure lid is tight.

4-Place in refrigerator overnight (or several hours minimum). At this point I add a splash more milk and a tsp or so of pure maple syrup and stir. This is delicious cold–very refreshing after exercise or working in the yard.

I usually make 3-4 at a time and they last 3-4 days in the refrigerator (mine are usually gone before then!)

Word of advice–the contents do expand as the liquid is absorbed–make sure you use a big enough container!

Oh, to live by the Sea….

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There is just something soothing about being by the Sea; I’m not sure if its the sound of the waves, the briny salt air or the breezes that keep the air refreshing, but I am drawn to it.

We’ve been “part time residents” (AKA off Islanders) of Cape Cod for many years now, for my husband since he was a little boy and for me since I’ve been with my husband. We’ve rented one room cottages, small houses near lakes, bigger houses inland and stayed with my inlaws.  The place we stay is secondary; its the water we craved. Back when it was just my husband and myself  or when my girls were little we were on the water every day. Whether it was sailing, motor boating, sailboarding/wind surfing or just playing on the beach we were interacting with the water. We had very little time for anything else because there was always something to do in the water. It re-charged our spirits being in the salt water.

Unfortunately my children are at the point where they are not drawn to the beach and water anymore. They will go on the boat, albeit grudgingly but we spend much of our vacation shopping, staying in the house or sometimes sight seeing ie driving in the car looking for something to do. We do go bike riding and walking/running to the beach but not usually on the beach. I no longer feel as anxious to go on vacation or as refreshed on returning home. I really do believe that it is our withdrawal from the water that makes it feel that way.  My husband will go sailing, with my blessing, almost daily but it is not the same without the family interaction.  I hope my children will grow out of this reluctance and re-embrace the comfort and restorative powers of the Sea.

Fortunately we are approaching the time where my daughters will be old enough to leave for a quick weekend retreat to the Cape. We keep a Sunfish at my in-laws vacation house so it is just a matter of bringing it down to a launch and setting the rigging, quick and easy. I’m pretty sure I can convince them to go on the motor boat on a nearby lake or river, just for cruising speed and a relaxing on boat picnic.  All I know is that I need to reconnect with water…and the sooner the better!

When both girls are done with college and we decide to retire it will be a toss up between the Cape and Florida. I love the New England feel over the Southern one, but there is something to be said for being about to be outside year round. Either way it will be near the water, so even in my old age I can enjoy the sounds of the Sea.

Mom’s Diner and Counseling…..

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Some days I feel like I run a diner.  Its my own fault really.  When the girls were small I never made them eat “grown up food” like (hot) sausage and peppers but made them chicken instead. I really did not mind making them food I knew they would eat, it was just important that they ate since they were both so active. Yes, it was more work but day to day it was easier than trying to find food that all 4 of us would eat (hubby is a bit picky as well).

Growing up, my Mom never made a big deal of food. We ate fairly simply and always had enough. There were never any foods that were off limits (candy/snacks) so it wasn’t something you felt you had to have–if you wanted a cookie,you  had one or two and you put it away. We never ate out of boxes or bags so portion control was easy. I really think because nothing was off  limits that it (junk food) holds very little power for me.

We had a HUGE garden when I was growing up–and we used all of it.  My parents liked to try out new recipes and sometimes they just were not appealing! Yet, despite not liking what they made we either ate it or went hungry. Its just how it was; there were no substitutions. I’m not sure my parents understood why I would make dual meals and I know my Dad did not approve.  I think he felt I was spoiling my kids by not forcing them to eat things they did not like. Part of why I did substitute food is because I don’t feel that food and eating should be an issue; if you don’t like something why should you be forced to eat it? It just causes stress and gives food more power over our feelings about it.

I don’t want to do this with my kids–food should not be an issue of power. Its a little different now since they are 16 and 18 and often will make something on their own if they don’t care for what I am making. My oldest is a vegetarian as well as being very health conscious. My younger daughter will not eat beef, pork or fish.  She is becoming a healthier eater and will try some new things but not always. My hubby is a true “meat and potato” kind of guy although he will eat some seafood. He very rarely will try new things. Me, I really love to cook  and am trying so many new things these days that I have a pile of recipes to try, almost all focusing on “clean eating”.

We frequently talk about food and nutrition but I do not force the issue. I do not want food to be something we fight over. If anything, my older daughter will say something to the younger one about poor choices (like when she has soda) but I try the softer approach by providing better choices for her to have. I figure positive reinforcement works better than negative with teenagers.  They see me eating healthier and trying new things so they search out recipes to try as well. They never hear the word “diet” either–we are eating healthy, as a lifestyle and not for a temporary fix.

So Mom’s Diner will be alive and well for many years to come–and really, I don’t mind. Who knows, maybe they will find recipes that will surprise me and will become some of my favorites as well. Now that they are cooking as well, I hope they will find recipes all of us will eat, if not we will improvise, adapt and overcome!

On the road to Fit and Healthy

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Too many people, when they are thinking about “being healthy”, think about  it in an all or nothing mentality. They have to be 100% gung ho in eliminating all “junk food” from their body and be a gym rat for hours a day.

I’m going to challenge that thought.

Being healthy and fit does NOT mean you have to have a rock hard sculpted body that has super low body fat. If fact the percentage of people who achieve that look is probably very low compared to healthy people who are physically fit or working toward it.

1–Eat cleanly. To me this means eating the least amount of processed food possible. If its “man made” there has to be a natural alternative to it.  Our bodies should not be forced to constantly process all the chemicals in pre-made or processed food. All the preservatives and things you can’t pronounce really are not a great thing to put in our bodies. Try to stick as close to nature as possible–fresh fruit and vegetables, prepared at home will always be better than anything processed. Lean meats and proteins like eggs and peanut butter.  Try to keep sugar and salts in reasonable amounts.

2-Get your body moving. Being active does not require a gym membership or special equipment. Its as simple as putting on a good pair of walking or running shoes and heading outside. Strength training exercises can start with body weight and then work up to free weights or alternates. Run around outside with the kids or dog. Dance to your favorite music. Fitness videos and group classes abound. There truly is no reason to force yourself to make exercise something to dread. Find something that you like to do and then do it. Its as simple as getting off the couch!! All activity counts– it just matters what level of fitness you are trying to achieve.

3-Drink lots of water.  Fluid intake is vital to a healthy body. Water is probably the best hydrator around but if you dislike it plain add a splash of lemon or juice. Ice tea, especially decaf, is a good alternate. Whatever you choose to do try to keep it low calorie and drink lots of it, generally 8 cups a day and then add 1 cup (or more) for each hour of exercise to counter sweat loss. If you are eating cleanly and adding fiber you definitely need to keep levels high to keep digestion working well. If you feel thirsty you are already mildly dehydrated.

Just doing these simple things help keep you moving on your path to health and wellness….you’ll look and feel better and people will begin to notice. Take them along with you on your journey–its always nice to have company and a support system to keep you going strong!!  There are all levels of fitness , find the one that fits your lifestyle.

 

Disclaimer: Image was found on google images–my thanks to its creator.

Smart Muffins: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

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We’ve really been enjoying our muffins lately since we’ve been focusing on eating healthy.  Muffins help provide portion control and portability. Eating healthy really is not hard when you have delicious food to substitute for the unhealthy options. It just takes a little planning and preparation.

These are very filling and satisfying: bananas, oatmeal and chocolate. The original recipe was for a loaf and was found at Cooking Light but it has come a long way from that original to suit my family. They are easily adaptable for dietary needs and preferences.

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (we use King Arthur)

2/3 cups sugar (or 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup Splenda)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 large)

1/3 cup low fat buttermilk

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil ( or applesauce)

2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup substitute)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup mini chocolate morsels (plus 1 tbsp in reserve)

1- Preheat oven to 350*F. Place liners in muffin tin or coat with nonstick spray.

2-Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups and combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3-Combine mashed bananas, buttermilk,oil (or applesauce), vanilla and eggs then add to dry mix. Stir until just moist. Gently fold in mini morsels.

4-Spoon into prepared muffin tin. If desired top with reserved morsels.

5-Bake in preheated 350* oven for about 15-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.. Cool 5 minutes in pan then cool completely on a cooling rack.

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