Easter Celebration #1

I am really enjoying myself this relaxing Sunday. I’m going to keep this short and sweet because I want to continue this day of relaxation, but I wanted to give you a quick update from last night.

We had plans over at Dana’s parent’s house to celebrate belated birthdays for both Dana and his mom, Sue, and also to celebrate Easter a little early.

As always, there was LOTS of delicious food! We started with some appetizers: veggies, almond crackers, and an avocado/edamame/pesto dip which was excellent!

veggie app

For our main course we had a chicken, shrimp, and artichoke sauté alongside tabouli and homemade almond biscuits (I brought the biscuits). Holy moly everything was so good!

chicken shrimp artichoke chicken shrimp artichoke easter 2013

Next up, dessert of course. We were celebrating two birthdays AND Easter afterall. Sue picked up a cake from Wuolett’s Bakery in Edina. To those of you who have never experienced this cake, let me tell you, it is fantastic!

birthday cake

 

The one she bought was called Princess Torte and it was raspberry and Bavarian cream layered with genoise (egg-rich golden cake) and wrapped in pastel almond marzipan.

 

dana and sue birthday

It was very refreshing and light tasting.

birthday cake

It was such a nice evening and now we can say Dana’s birthday celebrations are officially over and Easter celebration #1 was a success!

I hope you are all enjoying your Sunday. Catch up with you later!

 

Stress Relievers

We all have stressors in our lives. Some are minor like driving in rush hour, and some are major, maybe an unjust boss or financial struggles. Each and every one of us deals with stress and we all have our own ways of dealing with it. Some of us may not even know we are stressed until our bodies start to tell us otherwise.

I want to dabble into that topic in just a bit, but first I have a few food photos to share with ya’ll. This first one was actually from two nights ago, but it’s a favorite of mine:

The Southwest Salad but with a few minor changes. For one, I used the leftover lentils and black beans from the lentil tacos the other night. The rest of the toppings were virtually the same as always: tomatoes, cheddar cheese, corn, avocado, and a light drizzle of ranch dressing. I will sometimes add onion to this salad but wasn’t feeling the whole onion breath part of that idea so left it out last night. The only thing I forgot to add was cilantro. I even had cilantro in the fridge. Oh well.

Thursday

A morning smoothie in my new Home Goods coffee mug. I do drink coffee from it as well but thought it was perfect for my smoothies too. Yesterday’s smoothie: Almond milk, banana, vanilla egg white protein powder, peanut butter, a tiny bit of cocoa powder (I’m out of my chocolate protein!), and a large handful of kale.

Lunch was eaten while running errands during break and isn’t worth mentioning. But dinner….that’s a different story.

A while back I bought a Hawaiian marinade by Lawrys. I brought the summer back by brushing this marinade on shrimp and pineapple skewers. I broiled them for a short while, broiled up some broccoli with parmesan cheese for a veggie side, and ended up with a seriously delicious dinner that was SO easy.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and watching Glee and Modern Family!

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Now, onto this stress talk. I found the top ten stress relievers according to the Mayo Clinic and wanted to see how I was doing personally with containing my stress in comparison to their list. Here we go…

Top 10 stress relievers according to Mayo Clinic

1. Get active
“Physical activity pumps up your feel-good endorphins and refocuses your mind on your body’s movements, improving your mood and helping the day’s irritations fade away.”

I am physically active 6-7 days a week including different activities from yoga, to running, strength training, cross-training, etc. I would say 98% of the time, I feel fabulous after I finish a work out.

2. Meditate
“During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. Meditation instills a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. Guided meditation, guided imagery, visualization and other forms of meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time…”

I’m working on this one. I am reading a book about meditation but I having a hard time getting through it. I like the idea of guided imagery and picturing positive outcomes in stressful situations and would like to work on that more often.

3. Laugh
“When you start to laugh, it lightens your mental load and actually causes positive physical changes in your body. Laughter fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure, producing a good, relaxed feeling.” 

Listen to a comedian, hang out with family and friends, or watch Modern Family. I am guaranteed to giggle.

4. Connect
 “Social contact is a good stress reliever because it can distract you, provide support, help you weather life’s up and downs, and make you feel good by doing good.” 

I am lucky to have great friends at work who I get to socialize with daily if time permits. I love being with family and friends as well. We help eachother get through the good and the bad times.

5. Assert yourself
“Learn to say no to some tasks or to delegate them.”

Over the years I have been working on this one. I’m learning that it is OK to say no sometimes and be selfish if it means taking care of my well-being. Most of the time, I do like to say yes to social gatherings, but once and a while I can tell when my body is saying no, and I try to listen.

6. Do yoga
“Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines to achieve peacefulness of body and mind, helping you relax and manage stress and anxiety.”

Oh yes, the wonderful benefits of yoga. This is also a fairly new hobby of mine but I truly do enjoy it and feel it does a great job of relieving stress.

7. Sleep
“…Sleep is the time when your brain and body recharge. And the quality and amount of sleep you get affects your mood, energy level, concentration and overall functioning.”

I’m definitely one of those people who needs at least 8 hours of sleep to function at my highest capacity. I’m usually in bed at 10 pm every night. I completely agree with this one.

8. Journal
Writing out thoughts and feelings can be a good release for otherwise pent-up emotions. 

Thank you Beautifully Nutty for letting me relieve some stress through my fingertips. 

9. Get musical
“Listening to or playing music is a good stress reliever because it provides a mental distraction, reduces muscle tension and decreases stress hormones.”

I like this one, especially if I can dance too.

10. Seek counsel
If new stressors are challenging your ability to cope or if self-care stress relievers just aren’t relieving your stress, you may need to look for reinforcements in the form of professional therapy or counseling. Therapy may be a good idea if stress leaves you feeling overwhelmed or trapped, if you worry excessively, or if you have trouble carrying out daily routines or meeting responsibilities at work, home or school. Professional counselors or therapists can help you identify sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.

 I would also like to add “baking” to my stress reliever list. If I am not in a hurry and can leisurely roll out some cookies, it is very therapeutic to me.

There you have it. With the holidays now in full swing, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, but remember to relax and remember the true meaning of the celebration. Try some of these stress relievers and come up with some of your own if you need to. Enjoy the season!

Full disclosure: The information for this topic was found on Mayo Clinic’s website at this direct address: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stressrelievers/MY01373/NSECTIONGROUP=2

Questions of the Day: What helps YOU relieve stress? Would you add anything to this list?

A Cozy Day to Make Cookies

I had every intention of making actual cooked meals this weekend but for some reason when it came time to do it, I just wasn’t in the mood. You saw Friday night’s dinner and now here you have Saturday night’s dinner…

On Saturday night we stayed in and watched “The Change Up” which was an okay movie. I did like that it was filmed in Atlanta, more specifically in Piedmont Park, which I loved so much when I visited Kate and Luke last month in Atlanta.

We were also entertained by the dog per usual…

Sunday

Minnesota got slammed with snow yesterday…12 inches of snow where I live. It is a winter wonderland around here and I LOVE IT!

What a perfect day to head to mom and dad’s and bake some cookies. Check out this little one out in the snow. She’s my little furry snowball.

Mom and I baked for about 5 hours. I’m always amazed at how long it ends up taking to make Christmas cookies.

We made peanut butter blossoms…

Spritz cookies and chocolate spritz cookies, chocolate chip M & M cookies, and homemade caramel.

We had tentative plans to make peppermint popcorn but being that is was 4:00 pm and the sun was going down, coupled with the fact that I had about 8 inches of snow to wipe off my car, we decided to wait on it.

It was the perfect cozy day to make cookies. The snow was coming down, we had the football game on for part of the time and Christmas music on for the other part, it was cozy, we were energized…it was wonderful.

I’m hoping to get back on the ball this week with making actual meals again. Wish me luck!

Question of the Day: What are your favorite holiday treats?

Blueberry Lemon Bars

It’s a rainy Tuesday morning here in MN, so how about a recipe to get you into the cozy baking mood?

In charge of dessert at your next potluck? Tired of bringing the same old thing? Well then you HAVE to try this light and summery dessert. Fresh lemons make this bar slightly tart and the blueberries add to a perfect sweetness. I made this recipe for our Father’s Day celebration on Saturday. The entire thing came together so easily and my family absolutely raved about it. The boys even went back for seconds! I adapted this recipe from Mandy’s Recipe Box.

Blueberry Lemon Bars (makes 9-12 bars)

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 5 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • zest from one lemon

Filling:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1- 14 oz can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1 cup fresh Driscoll’s blueberries

Topping:

  • Whipped cream (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together crust ingredients until moist; press crumbs into prepared baking dish; bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven, sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar; let cool.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat together filling ingredients except for blueberries; whip until slightly thickened.
  6. Gently fold in blueberries; pour onto cooled crust.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes until bars have set.
  8. Remove and let cool; refrigerate for at least one hour.
  9. Cut into bars and serve cool with whipped cream.
Crust:

Filling:

Bake:

Blueberry Lemon Bars! Ta da!

Enjoy!

Pasta Bolognese Per Request

Hi friends! I hope everyone is having a good Monday so far…

It’s time to recap a super awesome Sunday that was spent with my husband and the dog. It started with BOGO coffees at Caribou. I stuck with a decaf coffee with sugar-free hazelnut (num) and Dana went for the Milk Chocolate Mocha with a shot or two of espresso.

Let the Father’s Day fun begin! Today was all about the hubby. Moose even made sure to get his dad a sweet card for Father’s Day. How thoughtful, right?

For breakfast I made myself a pb banana sandwich (I ate half of it before remembering to snap a photo). I ate my banana ‘wich and sipped on my coffee while we cut coupons.

Once again, the coupons were completely lame this week. We cut two measly coupons. TWO. And they were for household type things so they weren’t even exciting.

Next, we hit the Sunday usuals: Target and Costco. We stocked up on some good eats and even bought Mooser a new chicken. His last one had to be tossed due to a terrible stench that really raunched up his breath each time he played with it. Gross.

We got a few things done around the house, I completed a relaxing yoga session, and then I made Dana a special Father’s Day sandwich.

This beautiful creation is made up of:

  • Two pieces of whole wheat bread
  • 1 slice of lower-sodium turkey breast
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese
  • Sliced tomato sprinkled with onion powder and pepper
  • Mustard
  • 1 drippy egg.

All grilled to perfection with love.

I LOVE making special meals for the ones I love.

In the afternoon, we had to run a few more errands which included plans to take the pooch out for a walk around the lake. Our plans were hindered when the clouds opened up and mother nature watered our grass from 1:00-5:00 pm. I wasn’t sure if it was going to let up, so I decided to head down to our treadmill to get a little walk in just in case. I walked for 35 minutes while watching The Blind Side. Such a great movie.

Towards the end of my workout, the skies had cleared up and Moose really wanted to take his dad out for a Father’s Day walk :wink:, so we headed out. It had cooled off quite a bit after the rain and the sun was even peeking through. It was a perfect evening walk with my guys.

Since today was all about the dads, I told Dana he could have whatever he wanted for dinner. His decision: Pasta Bolognese. My version of course.

I started by sautéing 1 cup diced yellow onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1 cup of chopped mushrooms in a light amount of garlic infused olive oil. After about 3 minutes, I added a jar of No-Added Sugar Ragu, added a shake of garlic powder, basil, and oregano. I gave this a stir, covered, and let simmer while I prepared the rest of the meal.

In a separate pan, I started browning up a package of lean ground chicken and began boiling my water for the pasta. Once the meat was browned, I sprinkled it with oregano and garlic powder. I like to flavor each part of the dish when I can. I added the meat to the sauce, then finished the sauce by adding about 3/4 cup of chopped green olives.

Once the pasta was finished cooking to al dente, I drained it and served up two heaping plates full of pasta and Bolognese sauce and topped with parmesan cheese.

Great decision, honey.

After dinner, we just had to have dessert because it was Father’s Day after all. So what did we decide to do? Head to the Frozen Yogurt shop down the road of course. Jeez louise this is the third Sunday in a row now that we have done this. We are getting a lot better at controlling our frozen yogurt pour and limiting the toppings at least. Last night we spent $7.00 between the two of us which was our cheapest fro-yo purchase yet.

Last night I chose non-dairy, non-fat Valencia Orange Sorbet mixed with the tiniest bit of sugar-free vanilla fro-yo (to get the orange creamsicle effect). I topped it with gummies and was extremely happy with this combo. You are probably aware by now that I usually opt for the chocolately, rich toppings when it comes to my fro-yo and ice cream, but I am trying to cool it on the dairy, and since the only sorbet flavor option they had last night was orange, I didn’t think topping it with cookie dough and brownie pieces sounded very appetizing. The gummies were just perfect.

Any time I eat gummies I am reminded of my childhood, and my college years. Growing up we had gummies as a special treat, and through my college years, my girlies and I would buy a huge bag of mixed gummies from the grocery store when we were having a girl’s night in. Sweet memories.

What a great Father’s Day weekend with my papa on Saturday, and Dana on Sunday. We will be celebrating Father’s Day with Dana’s parents next weekend. Let the fun continue.

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I keep forgetting to tell you all, that last week I DID reach my June Yoga Challenge weekly goal. When I posted on Friday I had only completed two yoga sessions and my goal is three per week. Well, you better believe that after I posted on Friday I hit up the yoga. I am really loving it and am feeling pretty sore from it as well. Work it baby!

I still need to share that awesome Lemon Blueberry Bar recipe with you all that I made on Saturday. I didn’t forget! It’s still comin. Have a great Monday.

Happy Day to the Men

Happy Father’s Day to dads of all kinds…Granddads, dads with grown kids, young kids, expecting daddies, puppy dads, cat dads. How about ‘Happy Day to the Men.’ I like that. They sure have to put up with a lot from us females, and they all deserve a day to celebrate.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon with my family to celebrate Father’s Day with my wonderful dad who makes me laugh constantly…

Knows how to seriously man the grill…

Knows how to present a good-looking plate and loves himself a big juicy steak…

Who cooks a mean marinated chicken breast for his not-as-much-red-meat-lovin’ daughter and wife…

And always has room for dessert (just like his daughter). Lemon Blueberry Bar recipe coming soon!

We spent the evening relaxing, opening gifts, eating a delicious meal put on by mom and dad, and cuddling with our favorite little girl.

Gosh, just a little love for that doggy, huh?

Happy Father’s Day to my incredible papa. Thanks for always finding the corniest, funniest jokes to cheer me up with when I’m feeling down and for all you do for me and the family. I love you so so much. Love, your baby girl.

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Today I am celebrating Father’s Day with my hubby….it started off right with BOGO Caribou coffee. 🙂

I’ll fill you in on the rest later. Have a great Sunday everyone, and again, Happy Day to all of you men today. I love ya!

Slight Sugar Shock

Easter #2 at my mom and dad’s was a success!

The Easter Vigil at our church was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous, the company was outstanding, and of course, there was plenty of food and treats.

I adored these coral and yellow tulips mom had on the table, so beautiful.

I tried out a new recipe for parmesan potatoes which was super easy. I simply sprayed a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, sprinkled the pan with grated parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and a little salt, then placed halved (small) potatoes cut side down on the pan. I sprayed the round topside of the potatoes with cooking spray before I placed them in the oven. They cooked at 325° (since that’s the temperature the ham was cooking at) for about 50-55 minutes. They turned out golden brown with just the right amount of saltiness and crisp.

Mom using an electric knife to cut the ham in the kitchen. It works like a charm.

My plated dinner: ham, parmesan potatoes, broccoli with cheese, deviled egg (went back for another) and olives.

On the side was a bowl of sweet and colorful fruit: strawberries, plums, apricots, mandarin oranges, and raspberries, all drizzled with a little honey.

I offered to be in charge of the fruit salad, and desserts, which is why I spent most of my Saturday in the kitchen. To me, being in the kitchen baking treats is very fun and relaxing most of the time. I truly enjoy it.

I had tentatively planned my dessert menu a few days ago, and decided to bake up all three options I had mentioned but put my own spin on them as I love to do.

I made homemade lemon bars….

Healthier “Reese’s” Peanut Butter cups and I absolutely must share this recipe with you soon. These little eggs were so unbelievably melt in your mouth good to me, and the ingredients will surprise you!

And the grand finale dessert…….drum roll…..Chocolate Chip Caramel Bars. OMG. These put me into a sugar coma today, but they were AWESOME. Really, how can you go wrong with chocolate and caramel?

Not pictured is two Easter baskets full of goodies which are now nestled into our cabinets at home. I strategically placed them on a shelf that is not visible right away when you open the cupboard so that I will be less likely to grab for them. I will really need to be on my best behavior while these sweets are around. My body was in a little bit of a sugar shock today but don’t get used to it!

Needless to say, I had an amazing Easter weekend. I got to spend a lot of time with my families who I love to pieces.

I have a couple of recipes to share with you all, so check back soon. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well. Now, back to the work week we go.

Monday Positive Talk:

I have a lunch packed full of fresh fruits and veggies to help me “cleanse”  after this weekend’s indulgences.

Please offer your Positive Monday Talk. I’m sure we could all use some extra support today!