#RecipeMakeover: Kombucha Coconut Mule

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Mules, of the Moscow variety, have quickly become one of my favorite drinks. I love the combination of ginger and lime, taking away from the bite of the vodka and simply leaving a refreshing taste behind.

The drink was actually created in 1941, but only recently has it become super popular in the bar scene. Perhaps it's the adorable copper mug that the drink is classically served in. Even with the spice of the ginger beer, these drinks go down way too smoothly.



When you're trying to lose weight, alcohol can really affect your ability to do so. Since I've made great progress, but still haven't reached my goal weight, I have been looking for drinks I can consume that don't offer a lot of calories and sweeteners, but still have a great taste to them. I saw online that you could swap out ginger beer with kombucha and knew I needed to try it out right away.


If you haven't heard of kombucha, it's become one of the latest dietary trends. Supposedly known to help with digestion, weight loss and detoxification, this fermented tea has become super popular and is now available in a ton of flavors. I'll be honest I was very skeptical of it at first, but have really come to enjoy the bubbly brew.



#RecipeMakeover: Kombucha Coconut Mule
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 1 drink
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Ingredients:
    • 6 oz ginger kombucha
    • 3 tbsp frozen lemonade concentrate
    • 2 tbsp vodka
    • 2 tbsp coconut rum
    • 1 lime wedge
    • ice

Directions:
1. Stir together ginger kombucha, frozen lemonade concentrate, vodka and coconut rum.
2. Pour over ice into copper mug and garnish with a lime wedge. 


As part of #RecipeMakeover, I adapted this recipe by using kombucha, coconut rum and lemonade concentrate. While the ingredients would make a Moscow Mule purist sneer with disgust, the flavors really mix well together and adds just a bit of a tropical flair to an otherwise spicy drink. 

In case you missed Monday's post, #RecipeMakeover is a blogging event I'm participating in with 40+ other bloggers where we do just as the hashtag says, and make over recipes to healthier alternatives. 




Check out the post here so you can also enter in the awesome giveaway!


#RecipeMakeover: Buffalo Chicken Celery Sticks

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I don't know about you, but when I'm at a party I always gravitate towards towards the portion of the table where the dips are located.

With most dips made up of cream cheese, sour cream and/or mayonnaise and then topped with at least a cup of shredded cheese, it's not hard to overindulge. And then I find myself shoving veggies in my mouth in attempts to counteract the hundreds of calories in dairy I just consumed.



I decided to try my hand at lightening up this dish, just in time for #RecipeMakeover. In case you missed my post from yesterday, #RecipeMakeover is a event with 40+ bloggers who have taken those less healthier choices and found healthier alternatives. Read more about it here, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!



#RecipeMakeover: Buffalo Chicken Celery Sticks
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 12+ as appetizer
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Ingredients:
    • 1 rotisserie chicken
    • ½ cup Frank’s hot sauce
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
    • 1 tbsp white vinegar
    • ⅓ cup Kite Hill Chive Cream Cheese Style Spread
    • 1 bunch celery
    • Optional toppings: blue cheese or ranch dressing, blue cheese crumbles, chives

Directions:
1. Remove the skin from the rotisserie chicken and shred into pieces. (For an even lighter dish, only use the breast meat and save the dark meat for another use.) Set aside.
2. Combine the hot sauce, butter, garlic and vinegar together in a large saucepan over high heat until boiling, whisking constantly.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream cheese style spread until melted then stir in the shredded chicken. Stir until coated.
4. Rinse celery and cut off ends. Remove leaves from tops and slice into 3-4 inch stalks.
5. Spread buffalo chicken mixture down the center of each piece of celery.
6. Serve as is, or optionally, drizzle with dressing or top with chopped chives. 


Buffalo chicken mixture can be served over other vegetables or on slider rolls. Mixture can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Reheat in individual servings to avoid the mixture drying out.



Now, this does have a bit more butter than I was hoping to use in a healthier recipe, but I found using less made the mixture too dry so instead of cutting back on the butter I opted to switch out the cream cheese for a non-dairy version made with almonds. If you're unable to find this, a reduced fat cream cheese would work just as well.



You really can't tell that this is a lighter version of the classic dip. I love the bit of tang that comes from the chives in the cream cheese style spread.




Giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway

#RecipeMakeover: Welcome/Giveaway

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So, uh...hi? I know I kind of fell off the face of the earth for the last month or so there. Immediately after vacation we came back and started packing up the apartment to move into the house we just bought. And then I've spent the past three weeks trying to get everything situated in the house for it to start feeling like a home.

I had grand plans of making recipes and blogging last weekend but I was honestly just too exhausted. If I never see a wall anchor or box again I'd be a happy lady.

Anyway, I've made it back to the blogging world just in time to participate in an event called #RecipeMakeover hosted by Allison over at The Pintertest Kitchen. This week the bloggers will be sharing made over recipes with you. Check out the details below: 
Recipe Makeover Logo Square 

After a long winter of snowstorms, stews, and sweets; spring is the perfect time to get back to the basics: delicious, whole foods and dishes packed with fruits and veggies that are great for your overall health. 

To eat a healthier diet, you don't need to make drastic changes (unless recommended by a doctor). It's not about denying yourself that occasional treat; it's about taking baby steps to reduce the amount of sugar, carbs, red meats, and empty calories in your meals. 

This week, I've joined forced with 40+ of my food blogger friends to present #RecipeMakeover. 

During this week, we'll all be sharing our favorite better-for-you alternatives to unhealthy dishes. Follow along on any of the blogs below or with the hashtag on social media to find nutritious dishes that are packed with flavor. 

 A huge THANK YOU to our sponsors, who have made #RecipeMakeover possible! They've provided a number of awesome products that you can win by entering our #RecipeMakeover giveaway below. Just follow the instructions below, and you could win the following prize pack:
  • Butter-flavored coconut oil and digestive blend from our sponsor Barlean's - Barlean's butter-flavored coconut oil is an organic, dairy-free alternative that can be used as a 1:1 substitution for butter. Their digestive blend is an organic, vegan combination of flaxseed, chai seed, quinoa, unsweetened shredded coconut, and a proprietary pumpkin blend, that is delicious sprinkled into salads, smoothies, oatmeal, and more.
  • Sampler pack of original, mesquite, and applewood Smokin O's from our sponsor Smokin O's - Instead of frying, choose a healthier cooking option like grilling! Smokin O's is an innovative new product that allows you to add a natural wood taste even if you are using a propane grill, and they work great in charcoal grills and smokers too. No soaking, no mess, no wait - just delicious wood flavoring from a 100% natural product with no binders or chemicals.
  • 4 flatbread pizzas from our sponsor American Flatbread - Choose from any of America Flatbread's 15 all-natural, handmade pizza varieties, available at your local grocery store. These pizzas feature 100% organically grown wheat crusts and are topped with fresh herbs, vegetables, and cheeses (no rBST growth hormone!). They’re all-natural, with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, and handcrafted from scratch and par-baked in wood-fired ovens.
  • 5 containers (48 oz) of ice cream from our sponsor Turkey Hill - Ice cream for a health food event? Try out their line of no-sugar-added products for a sweet treat without the guilt or their line of light ice creams, which have a rich taste with a fraction of the fat. They also have a rainbow sherbet option, which is Vitamin C and naturally low in fat. These all make great dessert options for special occasions. Turkey Hill also believes in implementing green initiatives to cut down on waste, reduce packaging, and minimize outputs into the environment.
  • 15 tuna creations pouches from our sponsor StarKist - StarKist tuna pouches all have at least 13 grams of protein, and their BOLD line now includes three gluten-free varieties: Tuna Creations® BOLD Thai Chili Style; Tuna Creations® BOLD Jalape├▒o; and Tuna Creations® BOLD Hot Buffalo Style.
  • Mueller Spiral-Ultra 4-Blade Spiralizer from blog hosts, The PinterTest Kitchen - this 4-in-1 gadget allows you to spiralize your favorite veggies, and it also has extra attachments for a juicer, mandolin and grater.
This prize pack is valued at over $200, and one lucky winner will get it all! 

This giveaway is open world-wide except where prohibited. A winner will be randomly drawn on April 29, at the conclusion of #RecipeMakeover, and the winner will be contact via email.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to all of our participating bloggers.
Click the links below to find out what recipes they're cooking up for #RecipeMakeover:

  The PinterTest Kitchen
Fix Me a Little Lunch
Rosie Discovers
crave the good
Zesty South Indian Kitchen
That Recipe
The Domestic Dietitian
Authentically Candace
Eat, Drink, Be Healthy!
Body Rebooted
Cindy's Recipes and Writings
Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice
Feeding Big
Natural Contents
Seduction In The Kitchen
Everyday Eileen
Family Around The Table
Fairyburger
Jane's Adventures in Dinner
  Kitchen Counter Chronicles
Kate's Recipe Box
Kelly Lynns Sweets and Treats
Chocolate Slopes
Little House Big Alaska
Makes, Bakes and Decor
2 Cookin' Mamas
Meadoe Out on a Limb
Strawberry Blondie Kitchen
Mel Claire
Cookaholic Wife
For the Love of Food
The Saucy Southerner
Cook's Hideout
Two Lazy Gourmets
Ink and Sugar
Cookingwithsapana
The Chef Next Door
Sarah Cooks the Books
Chef Sarah Elizabeth
Frankly Entertaining
Palatable Pastime
Our Good Life
The Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine
A Day in the Life on the Farm 


 Stay tuned to see all of the delicious recipes bloggers create during #RecipeMakeover!

Cookaholic Wife is going on Vacation!

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Vacation! It is finally here!

My mom and Rodney go on cruises nearly every year and they had been asking us to go along with them. We tried to pull something together for 2016 but there were too many expenses and not enough time to plan, so we decided to push it out until March 2017.

I have thought about this cruise for over a year. We're going on the Norwegian Dawn and our ports of call are Costa Maya, Mexico, Cozumel, Mexico, Harvest Caye, Belize and Roatan Island, Honduras. I chose the cruise because the ports of call weren't your standard ones and I thought it would be awesome to visit Belize and Honduras.

Harvest Caye, Belize - Caye created by Norwegian 
image courtesy of ncl.com

Initially we were going to be on another ship and we were supposed to leave out of Florida, but about six months ago we were contacted by Norwegian saying that the ship has been chartered (more on that later) and they were providing us with two choices; we could leave the same week out of the same Florida port and go to other ports of call, or we could leave a week later out of New Orleans and keep the same ports of call.

image courtesy of Wikipedia

The ports of call were the selling point of the cruise so in a matter of minutes, we all decided that New Orleans was the correct choice. Rodney mentioned to me never having been to New Orleans before and maybe we could go down a few days early to see the city. My cousin Rishelle, her mom/my aunt Mikey and Rishelle's friend Mallory all agreed that it would be amazing to get two vacations in one.

So we found a house on Air BNB, rented it and started taking suggestions of places to go, foods to eat and things to do while in the wonderfully colorful city of New Orleans.

image courtesy of Drodd.com

I've shopped, researched, packed and planned and now it is finally here! I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am for this trip.

As I mentioned, Tom and I recently (randomly) bought a house and if everything goes through at settlement and it really is ours, we're going to be spending the next few years on housing projects so this is really our last vacation to enjoy for some time.

So, I guess this is just a really braggy way of telling you all that I won't be posting recipes for the next week or so since we're doing a very limited internet package for emergencies (work and pet related) only. Okay, fine and Instagram posts because how in the world am I going to wait until we return back to Louisana and I get my regular cellular service back to post pictures?

If you want to see all of the cool stuff we do, and likely a TON of food, follow me on Instagram

#FillTheCookieJar: Lime Bars

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I don't know what the weather has been like near you, but we have had quite a few days that have been unseasonably warm and spring-like. For a year that has been filled with a lot of uncertainty and depression and a winter that has left everyone sick for weeks or months at a time, this little break to warmer weather surely seemed to improve everyone's moods.



People were out and walking around my neighborhood, grinning as they passed each other. People at red lights sang along to music with their windows down and damn near everyone I talked to seemed to be giddy at the prospect of an early spring.



It's time for #FillTheCookieJar again and the theme for March is green/spring, which I decided to really play into by making these green colored lime bars that are light and delicious and remind me of spring.

Fill the Cookie Jar is a monthly blogging event where bakers come together and share cookie (or bar) recipes based on a theme. Our host is Cynthia of Feeding Big.



Lime Bars
Source: Yummy, Healthy, Easy
Servings: 16
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Ingredients:
    • For the Crust:
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
    • ½ cup powdered sugar
    • ½ cup vanilla yogurt
    • For the Filling:
    • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
    • 4 eggs
    • ⅔ cup fresh lime juice
    • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp salt
    • zest of 1 lime
    • 3-4 drops green food coloring
    • powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with an inch of overhang on two ends.
2. In the bowl of your mixer, combine flour, butter, powdered sugar and yogurt until crumbly. Press into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
3. Bake for 20 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool
4. In the bowl of your mixer, beat sweetened condensed milk and eggs until fluffy, then add in the lime juice, flour, baking powder, salt, zest and food coloring.
5. Pour over the cooled crust and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust is a light golden brown.
6. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate 1-2 hours until the filling is fully set. Lift out the bars with the overhang parchment paper and cut into 16 squares. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve. 




Lime is a fruit that I definitely find being underused in recipes. I rarely ever bake with them and if you are like me, these bars might just change your mind. Perfectly sweet and tart with a crumbly crust, these lime bars will have your taste buds singing! 




#FoodieExtravaganza: Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Paella

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Happy first day of March! I cannot believe we are already three months in 2017! Time sure is flying by, especially with how crazy busy I've been lately.

It's time for me to participate in #FoodieExtravaganza again, a monthly blogging event where each theme comes from a National Food Holiday. In celebration of Spanish paella day, the theme for this month is paella. Our host is Sue of Palatable Pastimes.

I first learned about paella in seventh or eighth grade during Spanish class when we began discussing foods. At the time, I had a very picky palette and I had no idea if I was going to like a dish that combined proteins together along with rice and vegetables. A few months later my family was visiting my aunt and uncle at their house at the beach and my uncle announced that we were having paella for dinner. I was super excited to try it since I knew what it was!



Does it ruin the story if I tell you I can't remember if I liked it or not? Sorry, but that's the truth. I'm fairly certain I did, but the memory I have is more about recognizing the dish and talking to my uncle about the ingredients included in it.

Now that I'm much less picky, I know that I'm going to the dish and was thrilled to be able to make it again for this event. Paella comes in different versions; vegetarian, seafood, Valencia and mixed, which means a combination of sea and land proteins. I decided to do a mixed paella simply because I had all three proteins in the freezer.



Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Paella
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • For the Chicken:
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
    • 2 tsp oregano
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp black pepper
    • For the Sofrito:
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 white onion, diced
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 6 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
    • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
    • For the Rice:
    • 2 cups white rice
    • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
    • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1 bay leaf
    • zest of 1 lemon
    • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
    • Other Ingredients:
    • 4 spicy sausage links, cut into ½ inch rounds
    • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left on
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • 1 red pepper, diced
Directions:
1. Combine the chicken, olive oil, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper together, tossing until well coated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. In a large shallow pan, prepare the sofrito by heating the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, then add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the fresh parsley, paprika and crushed tomatoes and cook until all of the liquids have evaporated from the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside. 

3. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to another pan over medium heat. Cook the sausage until browned on both sides, 3-5 minutes. Remove from the pan and then add the chicken. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the chicken is browned. Remove the chicken and add the shrimp, cooking for 1 minute on each side until just barely pink. (It will finish cooking later.)
4. Push the sofrito to the side of the pan and add the rice to the other. Cook for 1 minute, allowing the rice to become lightly toasted. Stir in the smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, turmeric, bay leaf, and lemon zest.
4. Add the sausage, chicken and bell peppers to the sofrito and rice along with 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, shaking the pan but not stirring the rice. Add more chicken stock if it cooks off too quickly. The rice should be al dente in 20 minutes.
6. Place the shrimp on top of the rice, but do not stir in. Cover with foil and increase the heat to medium for 1-2 minutes to develop the socarrat, the caramelized crust of rice on the bottom of the pan, then remove from the heat.
7. Allow the pan to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. 





I know that looks like an insane amount of ingredients, but paella has a ton of flavor and that flavor needs to be developed over time. To make this a weeknight recipe I would prepare the sofrito, cook the sausage and marinate the chicken ahead of time. 




Paella is traditionally served in the pan it is cooked in so you can bring it right to your table as is, or your can divide out portions onto plates.





So, we bought a house...

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No, that's not a joke.

So I should probably start this off by saying that throughout the course of our entire relationship, Tom and I have always been very decisive when it came to purchasing things. We picked out furniture on three separate occasions in less than an hour. We go and cut down our own Christmas tree and do that in less than an hour too. So, in hindsight, I should not at all have been surprised that we would find --and want -- a house so quickly.

We've been renting for 7 years now. Personally, renting doesn't bother me, especially in our current apartment. We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a ton of windows and natural light, a large kitchen, a laundry room in the apartment, a community pool that no one goes to in the summer, a fitness center right outside our window and most importantly - when something goes wrong, it is someone else's responsibility to fix it. Tom, however thinks renting is nothing but throwing away money, which I do understand that in a way, it is.

I've been signed up with Zillow for ages to get an email when new houses come on the market. Sometimes I look at it, sometimes I don't. Two Friday's ago, I did and there was a house that had a huge plot of land but was advertised as needing no money down. We knew we didn't have very much to put towards a down payment and definitely couldn't pay closing costs, so that's why we really haven't been looking. Anyway, the "no down payment" remark had me call in and as it goes when you call a real estate office, you get a whole spiel.

Monday the 20th we met with a lender who pre-qualified us. It was pretty cool to find out that Credit Karma makes up their own numbers and both of our credit scores were significantly better than either of us thought. Anyway, Jeff the lender gives us the numbers for that house and then asks if there is anything else we are interested in. Randomly I mentioned a duplex that I had looked at online the other day. He ran those numbers as well and we were shocked to find out how much we'd need for closing costs and how cheap our mortgage would be.

After seeing Jeff we headed over to the realtor's office and mentioned the other property. He managed to get us in that night. We visited the first house, which was nice but not functional for us. Then we went to the duplex. It's on a cul de sac, which I really like. The neighborhood is super quiet as well.

At first, I liked the house but wasn't sold on it. The original dining room is much too small for our new table and the kitchen doesn't have the counter space that I need to prep. Tom came up with the idea to use the current family room as a massive dining room, enlarge the kitchen into the small dining room and then use the fully finished basement as a living room. And then it was like light bulbs kept going off with new ideas.



The house is really nicely remodeled from top to bottom. It's a 3 bedroom 2.5 bath and 2,100 square feet. There are bamboo floors on the main level, the cabinets are the soft close kind, there's granite on the counter tops and all of the appliances are brand new. Everything has been painted as well. The basement is fully finished, painted and carpeted. The upstairs was also completely remodeled with new bathrooms, paint and carpet. In the basement we found a brand new hot water heater and HVAC. And promptly decided it had to be too good to be true.



We saw two more houses on Wednesday for comparison, but we both could not stop thinking about this duplex. Tom was ready to make an offer immediately but I wanted to see it in the daylight. In the process of getting that set up, our realtor found out the house had been remodeled by a contractor and that it also had a new roof and a newly paved driveway. Essentially a brand new house with 42 year old exterior walls.

I saw it again on Friday afternoon with the realtor and the biggest negatives are the lack of windows and the horrendous bush/brush piles in the back yard. On a sunny day, which it was, the house was not very bright. It could definitely benefit from another 4+ windows downstairs, which I think will be the first thing we do once we have enough equity to make it happen.

I might only be able to take photos in natural light in the mornings on the weekend when it comes in the front of the house or I might be taking the food outside and photographing it on the deck which seemed to get decent afternoon light.

By 3 pm we had received all of the documents to sign and had sent over an image of the deposit check. A little before 4 pm Tom and I had both signed off and the offer was submitted. We were told we would have a decision that night because the seller really wanted to sell the house. Our first offer was asking price with seller assist to cover closing costs.

The seller countered with half of closing costs or adding $5,000 to the list price of the house and enough seller's assist to cover closing costs.

We both felt the house was under priced to begin with so we agreed to adding $5,000 to the asking cost. I also asked for a garbage disposal since the contractor could easily do that and it would involve us finding an electrician, buying one, etc.

He agreed and around 8 pm on Friday night we were officially under contract.

With terrible timing. Today, the 27th I have jury duty and I have no idea how long I'm going to be there. But I need to talk to our apartment complex, set up a meeting with the lender again, find a home inspector and get that scheduled.

Then we go on vacation for 11 days. We'd close within 2 weeks of that and likely have a month after that to get out of the apartment. And in that month we have my birthday, an overnight concert trip, a Lularoe party I'm hosting and Easter that I'm hosting. Oh and Tom is going to be travelling a bunch for work.

There's already a list of projects that we need to do including something to make the driveway not so far from the street because my car scraped getting into it, adding a pantry wall, buying a washer and dryer and pulling at least clearing out all of the dead bushes and miserable landscaping.



Honestly, the landscaping has it's own list, but I really want to at least pull out all of the dead bushes and the two huge patches of ivy-like stuff on the ground that looks too inviting for critters. A bit of landscaping was done to the front so I feel like we could leave that for now, or do something really simple like a few plants and rocks, because that's my level of keeping green things alive. We could leave all of the built-in edging around the side of the house to deal with next spring and if we cleared out the flower beds in the back, I'd love to also start a small garden next summer.

I keep switching between looking at cheap decorating ideas and wondering what in the hell we managed to get ourselves into. I'm guessing that's normal? Also, does it count as stalking the house if you drive by it while under contract? 

#ImprovCooking: Chocolate Chile Brownies

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I hope you had a great Valentine's day. What did you have to eat?

Tom and I kept it simple around here and decided we'd go out some other weekend that's less crowded and get sushi. I guess this is what 6 years of marriage does to you lol. ­čśĆ



The ingredients for the Improv Cooking Challenge this month were chocolate and chiles. I rarely ever think to combine spice and chocolate together, but it's a really great pairing. I had brownies on the brain for over a week and finally decided to make some and incorporate cayenne pepper to give them a nice kick.

Per usual, my goodies get taken into work and every Monday morning I write down on a sticky note what I brought in so my coworkers know what they get to sample. I wrote "spicy chocolate chile brownies" and figured that was warning enough to stop anyone who didn't like spice from trying them.

It turns out I managed to baffle my coworkers because none of them expected the sharp kick of heat that comes along with the cayenne pepper. Most of them liked it and found the combination intriguing but a few were puzzled by the sweet and spicy combo and said it messed with their heads. Tom told me the same thing. So while it wasn't an all-around success, the tray was empty by the end of the day, which I consider victory enough.


Chocolate Chile Brownies
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 16 brownies
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Ingredients:
    • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 eggs
    • ⅓ cup all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
    • ¾ tsp chipotle chili powder
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
2. Combine the butter, bittersweet chocolate and ½ cup of chocolate chips together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until melted together and smooth.
3. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar and vanilla until combined, followed by the eggs.
4. Add the flour, cinnamon, espresso powder, chipotle chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper and stir until combined.
5. Stir in the remaining ½ cup of chocolate chips then pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, smoothing out the top.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before slicing into squares.

While these brownies do pack a punch of heat, you could easily cut down the amount of chipotle chili powder and cayenne used if you would like. Personally, I think they're perfect, fudgey and with a kick at the end! 






 

If you'd like to join in on the fun next month (or any month thereafter) check out the Improv Cooking Challenge Facebook page!



#FoodBloggerLove: Summer Salad Sandwich

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Last year I participated in an event called Food Blogger Love where participants are assigned a blog to "show some love to" on an specified day. Well, it's that time again!

The event is hosted by Allison of The PinterTest Kitchen. I was assigned to Amy's blog, Amy's Cooking Adventures. Amy and I participate in a lot of the same blogging events so I am pretty familiar with her blog.

Amy is a mom of two and used to stay at home, but has recently taken a full-time position at her son's school. Now she's relegated to trying out new recipes on the weekend like the rest of us. :) As I was reading through her blog, I found out that we have a few things in common.

First, neither of us are horror movie fans and second, we both love reading. In addition to recipes, Amy also provides book reviews for all the books she has read on her blog, and believe me when I tell you there are hundreds! My Amazon list of books to purchase has a significantly increased recently, all thanks to her reviews.

One thing that cracked me up was how real Amy keeps her blog, whether it's a about a book or a recipe. In her recipe for buffalo cauliflower she makes sure to point out that it's cauliflower and not pretending to be something it's not. I can't tell you how many recipes I've read where a blogger claims a healthier version of something is completely comparable to it's less healthy counterpart.



Look, a cauliflower "steak" is never going to taste like a filet and a frozen dessert made with bananas is never going to become ice cream, so let's just stop pretending, okay?

For #FoodBloggerLove, we can make one of their blogged recipes, recreate a recipe in the bloggers style, make a recipe that fits their lifestyle, etc. This year I chose to make one of the recipes Amy has already shared.

It's funny because she made this recipe from a description in a book and thought it was great, which is exactly how I feel. The character in the book who ordered the sandwich isn't a fan, but I guess that's just his loss! :)



Summer Salad Sandwich
Source: Amy’s Cooking Adventures
Servings: 1 sandwich
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Ingredients:
    • 1 English muffin, halved
    • 2 tbsp garden vegetable cream cheese
    • 1 slice tomato
    • 1 lettuce leaf
    • 4 thin cucumber slices
    • 1 hard boiled egg, sliced
Directions:
1. Toast the English muffin until lightly browned on either side.
2. Spread the cream cheese on both halves on the English muffin. Top one with lettuce, tomato slice, cucumber and hard boiled egg. Top with the other half of the English muffin. 


*Note: to make compliant for the Fast Metabolism Diet, use 2 tablespoons of Kite Hill Chive Style Cream Cheese Spread and a compliant muffin or bread. 

This is such an easy recipe to put together. Hard boiling the egg takes the longest, but you could easily make up a batch of those for the week and simply assemble them onto your sandwich each morning for breakfast. Using a flavored spread instead of a mayo on the sandwich adds a new depth of flavor and lends it more to a breakfast or brunch time treat, but you could really have this when ever you wanted! 

While this recipe was the one to win me over, there are quite a few others on Amy's blog that I can't wait to try out, like Irish Nachos, Brownie Oatmeal Cookies and Strawberry Caprese Salad



You can read all of Amy's delicious recipes here on her blog, Amy's Cooking Adventures

Or check out her social media:


Pinterest: Amy's Cooking
Twitter: Amy's Cooking

If you're interested in signing up for #FoodBloggerLove next time, visit the facebook page - FoodBloggerLove


Fast Metabolism Diet Thoughts, Days 15-28

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Here are my daily thoughts on the final two weeks of the Fast Metabolism Diet.

Day 15, January 23 - 
Week 3 begins! I found compliant oat milk and Wegman's and it's delicious! Next week I'm going to look for cereal because I really want more of this delicious milk!
Day 16, January 24 - 
I think I'm finally no longer sick. Thank god! As much as I'd love to eat steak for lunch, its really hard to cook it to the right temperature so it doesn't become dried out when reheated. I seriously overcooked it and it's taking forever to chew.
Day 17, January 25 - 
The highlight of P2 today is that my Vitacost order came in and I got to try Nick's Sticks. They're tastier than I imagined but give me terrible heartburn like all jerky seems to do. Ah well, at least it's a change of protein.
Day 18, January 26 - 
Smoothies for breakfast seem to be the way to go. I was really hesitant on spinach, cacao, stevia, cinnamon, water and egg whites, but it tastes like chocolate. The color is horrendous however, so drink out of a colored bottle or glass if it bothers you.
Day 19, January 27 - 
The lack of cheese has been one of the hardest things about this diet. I decided to try out nutritional yeast today as well as the Daiya cheese that's made from almonds. While it's not cheese, they're both super tasty and I'm really annoyed with myself for waiting this long to try either one! Also, week 3 weigh in:
Day 20, January 28 - 
I decided to purchase Haylie's 10 day cleanse to follow these 28 days. I'm hoping to receive it by the 6th of February, but if not I'll continue the plan until I receive it and go from there. I've also decided that I might as well just continue the plan right up until we leave for vacation, although I am slightly concerned about changing my eating habits while I'm not at home. I don't think it will be too drastic, but there will be coffee and cheese included back in. (There's no way in hell  I'm going to NOLA without trying chickory coffee.)
Day 21, January 29 -
As usual, weekends are really hard to follow this plan because I don't have a set schedule. I'm also craving all of the things I can't have. Specifically, chocolate chip cookies, bananas, greek yogurt and ginger ale. At least half of my cravings are on the healthier side, so there's that, at least I suppose.
Day 22, January 30 - 
And the final week starts today. Honestly, not much to report.
Day 23, January 31 - 
I forgot to pull out dinner and ended up eating deli meat, spelt pretzels and a salad. Oops!
Day 24, February 1 -
Pureeing a vegetable soup to have as a snack was a genius idea. I'm always cold but more so on P2, so this has definitely helped.
Day 25, February 2 - 
I'd been incredibly hesitant to make the lemon spinach smoothie that people eat on P2 because it involves using the peel of the lemon. In my head, I can't get past the bitterness of the pith and I think it would just be super sour. I decided to suck it up and try it and now I'm kicking myself in the foot for not doing it earlier. Sure, it's still green because of the spinach, but it's so light and refreshing and citrusy. I actually like it better than the chocolate one!
Day 26, February 3 - 
When my iron levels get really low I find I stick my necklace in my mouth all of the time. I've been doing this all day. Unfortunately I don't have red meat planned for dinner tonight. My cravings are also back in full force. I thought I would have been over that by now, but I guess not.
Day 27, February 4 - 
Could I just not be sick for once, please? My cough and congestion has come back, along with a 102 fever. Eating was very minimal today. I got in all of my water but only managed some raspberries, carrots with kite hill chive cream cheese and chicken broth.
Day 28, February 5 - 
And we're done! I'm still sick and cannot wait until my doctors office opens tomorrow so I can get a prescription.

Final Results and Thoughts:
Weight: 8 pounds
Inches: 6 inches (2 hips, 2 stomach, 1 thigh, 1 arm)

If I could get rid of these cravings, I'd be golden to continue on like it's nothing. After 28 days, it's really not that hard to keep eating like this. Sure, it's a bit more expensive with all the fruits and veggies I'm buying, but those prices should go down as we get closer to spring and more ingredients come into season. Drinking enough water is something I think I'll be able to stick with. I've noticed if I don't get in at least 8 cups by 3 pm, I'm super thirsty now. Also, I didn't exercise during these 28 days due to a foot injury that I'm worried about aggravating and making walking around on my cruise next month impossible. I'm slowly going to add in exercise (mainly walking and strength training) after the cleanse.

Going Forward:
I'm giving myself Monday off and then going right into the 10 day cleanse, which will end on February 16th. I don't plan on indulging on Monday, but I am going to add back in some foods and see what happens. Here's my plan:

Breakfast: spelt pretzels, berries, 1/2 - 1 cup coffee with stevia
Lunch: ground beef tacos on oat tortillas with avocado and 1 tbsp cheese, apple
Dinner: filet mignon, baked sweet potato with a smidge of butter, salad with homemade dressing
Snacks: baby carrots, berries
Drinks: 10 cups water, 1 cup of wine

After the cleanse I'll follow P3 for the weekend and then continue 2 more weeks of the program until March 4th. We go on vacation in the middle of the next week, so I'll follow a maintenance diet for those few days and then as much as possible while on vacation.

As for vacation, I don't want to deprive myself but I don't want to go overboard either. My plan is to eat as many fruits and veggies as possible, enjoy a sweet here and there, avoid overly processed foods, and limit cheese and unhealthy fats.



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