Category Archives: Vegan

My Oatmeal Review

Through my association with the Sweat Pink Ambassadors I recently got the opportunity to try a free sample of customized oatmeal from My Oatmeal! My Oatmeal is an awesome online company that allows you to customize rolled oats, steel-cut oats, or a blend of the two with tons of flavors, nuts, dried fruit, and other add-ins. Although this is something I could totally do myself at home (like my Banana Bread Oatmeal), it was so much fun to look through the ideas on the site and come up with my own blends :-). I ended up making two 1 pound bags – one with regular rolled oats and one with steel-cut oats which I’ve been meaning to try! In order to keep myself on some kind of path with the myriad of ingredients offered I tried to re-create some flavors I already knew. I used my rolled oats batch to make a “Blueberry Muffin” blend with dried blueberries, chia seeds, ground flax, and sliced almonds. For the steel-cut oats, I made an “Oatmeal Raisin Cookie” blend using dark raisins, walnuts, ground flax, and coconut chips.

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I love the way the site works – as you add ingredients to your blend, the price for your chosen size automatically updates, and a Nutritional Facts label updates with all the pertinent facts for your blend – it helped me keep an eye on calories and protein, as well as how much I was spending! It helped reign me in when I started to get carried away! The Nutritional Facts label is also on the bags when you get them, along with all your ingredients πŸ™‚

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I chose to leave any sweeteners out of my mix, since I rarely eat sweet things I tend to be sensitive to sugar so I wanted to add my own later own – but the site has a great selection of natural sweeteners you can add, and they are slowly increasing their organic options! πŸ™‚

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I cooked up both types of oatmeal as mid-morning snacks this week and loved them both! They are so hearty and filling that I ended up eating lunch really late one day since the oatmeal was really carrying me over. The steel-cut oats take much longer to cook, about 20 minutes on the stove, but the bag gives a great microwave option where you soak the oats overnight and then microwave them the next day. I tried this method (and the stove method) and it worked great for me! I am so happy with My Oatmeal’s products and I’ll definitely be making more blends in the future!

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Check out this deliciousness!

Full disclosure: I received a free sample of My Oatmeal in exchange for my fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own πŸ™‚

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Homemade Banana Bread Oatmeal

One of the healthy habits I was able to maintain during my crazy January was eating oatmeal every day for breakfast. Usually, I drink a green smoothie everyday for breakfast but during that month I wasn’t going grocery shopping and definitely didn’t have the time and patience for my usual green smoothie routine. It’s a shame, but rather than dwell on the past I’m going to focus with this delicious oatmeal recipe I came up with as a result!

One morning when I was grabbing myself a ziplock baggie of oatmeal to take to work I decided to mix it up a little. Up until this point, I was usually grab about a cup of plain oatmeal from my large container and add a few shakes a cinnamon and call it a day. This particular morning, I decided to add in a scoop of Banana Bread granola from Nature Box (delicious – by the way!) and headed off to work. When I added hot water at work, the granola broke apart and mixed into the oatmeal but still had that awesome toasted flavor and the nuts/seeds/raisins in the granola mixed throughout the oatmeal. It was really delicious! While I love the idea of using the granola in my oatmeal, I decided to make a homemade version with all the same great flavors!

Banana Bread Oatmeal

Banana Bread Oatmeal
Makes one bowl.

    – 1 cup plain oatmeal
    – 1 1/2 tablespoons dried bananas, chopped (I didn’t chop mine out of laziness, but I think they’d be better chopped up)
    – 2 tablespoons raisins
    – 1 1/2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
    – 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    – 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar (to your taste)
    – Approx. 3/4 cup hot water or milk (to cook the oatmeal)

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add hot water or milk and allow to sit and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Alternatively, add cold water or milk and cook in the microwave for 2 minutes, or until soft.

I’m pretty obsessed with this oatmeal blend and I’ve been eating it as an afternoon snack most days – it’s perfect during this last spell of cold weather! πŸ™‚ I love how the dried bananas soften up in the oatmeal – so delicious! I actually ended up making a huge batch of the dry ingredients for this oatmeal in a glass jar and I just scoop out what I need each time. πŸ™‚

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

I cannot believe it took me so long to actually make a chia seed pudding.

I’ve seen it on blogs more and more over the past year, and I love chia seeds (I put them in my green smoothie each morning) but somehow I just never took the step of making pudding – until now!

My Body Pump class on Tuesday nights starts at 7:40 so it’s usually very close to 9 by the time I get home. After a strenuous class like Body Pump, I definitely need to eat something – and preferably something with a good dose of protein to help re-build my muscles. Since it’s later at night, I came up with the idea of making a chia seed pudding since it’d be very dessert-like. And who doesn’t love a good dose of chocolate late at night? Plus, chia seeds are a good source of protein, fiber and unsaturated fats!

Yes, I consider 9 o’clock late at night. Try not to judge me! πŸ™‚

So I through together this chia seed pudding and I was super impressed with how well it came together! For those of you that don’t know, when chia seeds soak in water (or any other liquid) they absorb the liquid and turn into a gel-like consistency. This makes them perfect for puddings, jams and jellies! (I can’t wait to try some chia seed jelly next!)

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Chocolate Chia-Seed Pudding
Makes one serving.

    – 1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened (or other non-dairy milk)
    – 1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds
    – 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
    – 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder
    – 1 teaspoon honey, maple syrup or other sweetener (optional! I didn’t feel like I needed it in mine)

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for at least half an hour to set. The enjoy!

Can it get any easier than that? I was so impressed at how the texture was just like real pudding. I’m definitely going to be making this more often – and trying out more flavor combinations!

chia seed pudding

As another post-workout, late-night snack I tried a recipe from Gluten Free Fix for chocolate muffins that are made using only cocoa powder, peanut butter, and honey. I apparently haven’t learned my lesson from the banana pancakes because I did not believe this combination would actually bake up into a muffin – but it does! I find them to be a little dry but not a bad snack overall, so check out the recipe!

protein muffin

Finally, last night Heather and I got together with my other friend Heather (I attract people named Heather apparently) to celebrate Halloween with dinner, a viewing of Hocus Pocus, and crafts! A few weeks ago, Heather and I picked up some craft pumpkins (made of plastic) at Michael’s so that we could decorate them and have them year after year. I gathered up a few ideas from Pinterest and decided to do three pumpkins – a glitter pumpkin, a mosaic pumpkin, and a sequined pumpkin. At Michael’s I also found these awesome plastic skull wine glasses that I just had to buy for the evenings festivities!

wine glass
The photograph doesn’t do justice to how cool they look

For the mosaic pumpkin, we stuck small squares of masking tape all over the pumpkin and then spray-painted it black. The plan is to pull the tape off and leave a pumpkin looking something like this. As of late last night, the paint was still drying so I’ll share the finished picture with you later, but here is the pumpkin in progress.

mosaic pumpkin

For the glitter pumpkin, I painted a small white pumpkin with orange glitter paint from Martha Stewart’s line. It’s taking quite a few coats, so it’s not done yet but I think it’s going to be cute!

painted pumpkin

I haven’t started on the sequined pumpkin yet because you’d be surprised how long it takes to stick all those little pieces of masking tape on a pumpkin, especially with taking breaks for wine drinking and quoting Hocus Pocus scenes.

As it was Halloween, I felt like I had to make some kind of dessert so I whipped up some Greek Yogurt Brownies I found on Pinterest. I was able to make them with ingredients I already had on hand, which I was super excited about. The only change I made to the recipe was to use sugar instead of stevia. I was really pleased with how they came out, as a moist, “cakey” brownie. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

I didn’t take a picture of the brownies. #bloggerfail – but I baked them in a muffin tin just like the original blogger and they turned out looking just like hers!

For more healthy dessert recipes, check out my Pinterest Board “Recipes: Sweet Thangs!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes & A Kitchen Tip!

Since it’s October I’m taking full advantage of the excuse to celebrate two of my favorite things: pumpkin and horror movies! Both of these things are October staples – and I had plenty of each this weekend! After Body Pump on Saturday morning I whipped up some Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Up first – a tip for cooking bacon!

I learned this tip for Rachel Ray and have since seen it on many cooking shows and articles online. Apparently, restaurants bake their bacon on sheet trays rather than cooking it on the stove top. This prevents 1) grease from splattering all over the stovetop and 2) keeps the bacon from having those “less cooked” spots as it cooks and crinkles up in the pan. Another great tip is that if you bake the bacon up on top of a cooling rack over the sheet tray – all the grease will drop down below! I recently purchased a new set of cookie sheets from Bed, Bath and Beyond so I took full advantage of baking my bacon this weekend – but I have yet to find a cooling rack that will work to put up on top. As soon as I do I’m definitely trying that method!

Bake the bacon in a single layer in a 375 degree over for 12 – 15 minutes.

uncooked bacon

cooked bacon
Tada!

And while the bacon was baking I moved on to making the pancakes!

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Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes
Makes 7-8 pancakes.

    – 1 cup of my whole wheat pancake mix
    – 1/2 can of pumpkin puree (I’d say it’s about 1/2-3/4 of a cup)
    – 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    – Enough milk (I used soy milk) to bring the mixture to a pancake batter consistency

Mix all ingredients together until smooth – don’t over-mix! Drop onto a hot skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

whole wheat pumpkin pancakes

Yum! These pancakes were so delicious and filling on a nice, cool, weekend.

I spent most of the weekend being sort of a hermit and getting stuff done around my house while I caught up on TV shows and watched a few movies. And by “watched a few movies” I mean watched the Paranormal Activity movies in marathon format. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, and I swear I never learn my lesson. I absolutely love horror movies, and I enjoy the scary feeling they give me while I watch them but sometimes after a marathon like this (or a particularly scary movie) I wake up in the middle of the night seriously creeped out. Luckily, I’ve discovered that the Animal Planet show “Too Cute” is on Netflix Instant and it is seriously the best cure for a case of the late-night heebie-jeebies! I’m sure I’ll need it again soon, as one of my favorite horror franchises – the Halloween series – is on marathon all this week on AMC. Even though I own all the movies on DVD (except for that terrible third outing that doesn’t count because Michael Myers isn’t even in it) I cannot resist the urge to watch them and/or DVR them when they’re on TV!

Questions of the Day:
What are your favorite horror movies? Or do you like horror movies at all?
Are you addicted to pumpkin too? If not, what is your favorite fall treat?

Homemade Chicken (or Veggie!) Stock

This weekend I took some time to make homemade chicken stock which is one of my favorite cooking tricks. Stock is so easy to make at home, and can be made for practically nothing with a little planning. Today I’m happy to share my strategy for always having homemade stock on hand.

My first trick is that I keep a large container in my freezer and throw vegetable scraps in it. The root end/skins of onions, ends of celery, little nubs of garlic, herb stems, etc – all go into this container. And when it’s full – I use it to make stock. When it’s full, it looks like this:

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Seriously, stock made out of stuff you would have thrown away? Genius! I just recently discovered this through an article on Organic Gardening and it’s my new favorite trick. So thrifty! πŸ™‚ Once the container is full, just throw all the ingredients into a large stock pot.

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You can totally make this stock vegetarian just using the saved-up scraps, but I like to add in some chicken to make chicken stock – and you get poached chicken out of the deal! πŸ™‚ Alternatively, you could just add chicken bones/carcass (or any other leftover bones, like from a Thanksgiving turkey) and you would still get delicious stock, just not the bonus of the poached chicken!

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Once you add the chicken to the pot, I like to add a handful of black peppercorns and some sliced lemon, along with enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot. The amount of water you add is the amount of stock you will get, and I usually get about 12 cups from this process.

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Place the pot over high heat, covered, until the water comes to a boil. Note that if you start with frozen vegetable bits, it will take a little longer to boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce it to medium-low and let it simmer for an hour. After an hour has passed, remove the chicken to a cutting board (I use tongs) and allow to cool. Once cool, you can pull the meat from the bones and shred or chop the meat for use in a variety of dishes (soup, pasta, enchiladas, salads – the possibilities are really endless). I like to split the poached chicken up into smaller containers and place them in the freezer so I always have chicken on hand and ready to use in meals.

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Next, strain the stock through a sieve into a container. I usually have to do this a few times as the stock won’t all fit into one container! πŸ™‚

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Discard the odds and ends from the stock, which are now thoroughly used up! πŸ™‚ Split up your stock into containers for storage. I found these great plastic (BPA-free!) Ball freezer-safe storage jars at my grocery store so I used them to freeze about half of the stock.

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I saved the rest of the stock and the chicken for use in meals this week – I’m thinking soup!

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Black Forest Cake Smoothie & Protein Shake Recipes

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend! πŸ™‚ I took Friday off of work to spend a long weekend with my mom. It was great catching up – and I’ll share a full post of our adventures tomorrow! πŸ™‚

Yesterday, I guest posted on Domestic Superhero with another dessert smoothie recipe! (<— click to check it out! :-)) I was inspired by an article I found on Greatist about how cherry juice can help with sore muscles and thought the combination of cherry juice and chocolate protein powder would make a great dessert smoothie! Not to mention, it’s pretty healthy and tastes like Black Forest cake! Yum!

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In addition to the smoothie recipe, I also whipped up a Black Forest Cake Protein Shake recipe – all the goodness without the blender!

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Black Forest Cake Protein Shake
Serves one.

    – 2 cups cherry juice
    – 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (or 1 scoop unflavored protein powder with 2 tablespoons cocoa)

Blend or shake together ingredients in a blender bottle.

This protein shake is great for muscle repair and recovery immediately after working out – but the smoothie is too if you’re looking for something a little thicker or you aren’t into protein powder.

Pumpkin Granola Recipe

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine was jam-packed with fun activities. Friday night Heather and I got dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant then went to see The Mortal Instruments. Heather was a big fan of the books, which I’ve never read, but I thought the movie was pretty good. Saturday morning we went to Body Pump where I managed to stay up on my toes for all 10 push-ups in the shoulder track! πŸ™‚ They weren’t full-on 90 degree “real woman” push-ups though so I’m not counting it as something I can cross off my bucket list just yet!

On Saturday, we went to the Toby Keith concert and had absolutely beautiful weather. Toby Keith is one of my all-time favorite performers to see in concert. He just puts on such a show, and you really can’t compete with someone who’s been making hits for 20-ish years. Heather and I did lots of dancing, and really enjoyed ourselves.

On Saturday I also decided to make some more granola (because I ran out) and decided to make a pumpkin version to celebrate the fact that I found canned pumpkin in the grocery store! I used the same basic recipe as before, but changed it up a little to accommodate the pumpkin and the pumpkin pie spices. It turned out delicious! It’s a different type of granola than my last recipe though. The last recipe was very crisp and not very clumpy – but this version has a lot more chunks and the chunks are crisp on the outside but chewy in the center, because of the pumpkin. I think it’s a delicious new texture for granola!

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Pumpkin Pie Granola
Makes 5 1/2 cups.

    – 4 1/2 cups oats
    – 1 cup pecan bits, or chopped pecans (optional – but they just seem to go with pumpkin to me!)
    – 1 tablespoon cinnamon
    – 1 teaspoon ground cloves
    – 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
    – 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    – 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
    – 1 can pumpkin puree
    – 3 tablespoons honey (or maple syrup or other sweetener)

Mix all ingredients together. I found that because of the pumpkin it takes a while to really get it all incorporated. Spread the mixture onto a greased baking pan (I used coconut oil), breaking up any big chunks as you go. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until crisp.

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I added pecans to this granola because pecans and pumpkin seem to go hand-in-hand to me. I think it’s because every year for Thanksgiving my mom makes a pecan pie (because it’s my stepdad’s favorite) and a pumpkin pie (because it’s my favorite). Either way, it turned out delicious! πŸ™‚