learning to eat, cook, and live healthier one day at a time.

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Good morning and happy weekend! I decided to not set my alarm this morning and see how long my body wanted to sleep naturally. Sure enough I popped up right at 7:30! This internal clock stuff sort of stinks.

A couple days ago I decided to try a crock pot recipe I’ve been eyeing for a looong time now. Stephanie’s Autumn Sausage Casserole. As usual, I made a good amount of changes to my own rendition.

Harvest Crock Pot Casserole

Into my 5 qt crock pot I added:

  • 1 lb smoked andouille chicken sausage
  • 8 slices canadian bacon
  • 1 1/2 chopped apple
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbls light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Toss all ingredients into your crock pot, and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 5-7. This recipe makes about 4 servings.

This casserole was to die for! The combination of the spicy sausage with the sweet apples and raisins was scrumptious. Perfect for the last week of September before we jump into the real fall that is October. I can’t wait!

A big bowl of casserole is the key to my heart.

Let’s switch gears so I can talk about something fitness-related that I’m super excited about. This November I will be running in the Hot Chocolate 15K! This will officially be my first 15K.  I must admit the finisher’s cup kind of sold me when I saw it.

Hot Chocolate 5K/15K finisher’s mug

Um, yes.

Despite the motivation of chocolaty goodness awaiting me at the finish line, I am a bit nervous. I recently broke my mile time by running a 6:37 mile! Some of you avid runners may be laughing at this meek accomplishment. But hey, I was pretty proud! Although I run regularly during the week, it’s usually only for about 3 miles. Nine miles is really sounding like a lot to me and I’m getting a little anxious.

In order to prepare for the event, I’m running three “short” runs per week, and one “long” run. My short runs are 3 miles long, and I can usually bust them out in no more than 25 minutes. Since this was my first week training, my long run was a mere 5 miles. Slowly but surely, right?

The race is still 5 weeks away, so my plan is to increase my long run by one mile each week. I’m not shooting for the stars with this 15k. My goal is to finish in an hour and a half, which would be a 9:40 pace/mile. Just thinking about accomplishing that makes me feel awesome. My friend Tessa is going to be running the 15k , also.

Tessa and I in our Dance Team get-ups

Hopefully we’ll be able to keep each other’s spirits going. Too bad Tessa’s a beast and ran a half marathon last year! Yowza!

I can’ believe I made it to 8:30 without breakfast or coffee. I think today calls for some of my pumpkin protein pancakes.



Something happened today that hasn’t happened for months. I got to sit around and lounge for a majority of my day. I almost forgot how good it feels!

Today’s activities included perusing Pinterest, watching football (Go Vikes!), and baking pumpkin protein bars.

Pumpkin Protein Bars


  • 2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tsp splenda or other sweetener
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp splenda
  • 1/2 tbs sugar free syrup
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine all ingredients for bars in a medium bowl.
  • Pour batter into an 8×5 baking dish, or similar size.
  • Bake for 16 minutes.

For Frosting:

  • Combine all frosting ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Microwave for 30 seconds.
  • Pour over bars while still hot.
  • Let set for at least 30 minutes before cutting into 8 squares.


I’ve baked protein pumpkin bars before, but these were by far the best. The recipe is so simple but they turned out really well for protein bars. Not too dry, but not too moist. When cut into 8 pieces, one bar has 58 calories, 10g of protein, 4g of carbs, and 1g of fat. Not too shabby!

Franks n’ Dawgs

Last night was the second installment of Mike and I’s new “tradition” of date night. I’ve been wanting to try Franks n’ Dawgs for a while. Franks n’ Dawgs is not your average hot dog joint. It’s hard for hot dogs to stand out in a place like Chicago, where you can get a delicious dog on nearly every street corner, but I was so impressed by Franks n’ Dawgs! They make most of their sausages in house and use high quality ingredients. Their menu was so different I had such a hard time choosing.

We started with some fried pickles served with a giardiniera aioli:

That sauce was outstanding.

For my main dish I decided to go with the “Krazy Kimchi”, which included a Spicy beef sausage, braised short rib, turnips, kimchi, wild rice, and basil.

Krazy Kimchi


SO GOOD! Mike went with the “Pork of July”, which was just as awesome.

Any hot dog with pulled pork and coleslaw sounds good to me! Mike claims his was better than mine, but I’d say it was a tie. I will definitely be making another trip to Franks n’ Dawgs in the near future.

I will be posting my recipe for cauliflower: mashed potato style this week. I made it tonight and Mike even approved, so you know it’s good! He can be a tough critic when it comes to healthy recipes.



Happy first day of Fall! This past week I challenged myself a little by making protein pancakes for breakfast 4 days in a row! Yes, I am a little pancaked out, but I came up with some awesome recipes through my little experiment. These recipes are all perfect for fall. Hearty, healthy, and packed with that protein goodness.


Each recipe yields one large serving.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Protein Pancakes:


  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
  • 1 tbs peanut butter (or 2 tbs PB2)
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/8 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tbs ground flax
  • 1 tsp sweetener (I used splenda)


  • Combine all ingredients in a blender until batter is smooth.
  • Bring a skillet to high heat
  • Measure out each pancake using a 1/4 cup
  • Cook on each side for 1-2 minutes. These pancakes cook very fast.

Blueberry Muffin Protein Pancakes:

These might be my personal favorite! Shhhh, don’t tell the others.


  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/4 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup oats (dry)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)


  • Combine all ingredients in a blender until batter runs smooth.
  • Bring skillet to high heat.
  • Measure pancakes using a 1/4 cup
  • Cook on each side for 1-2 minutes

LIke biting into a blueberry muffin.

Oatmeal Raisin Protein Pancakes:


  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/4 cup oats (dry)
  • 1/8 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup raisins + a bit more for topping.


  • Combine all ingredients EXCEPT raisins in a blender until smooth.
  • Fold raisins into batter once it is smooth.
  • Bring skillet to high heat.
  • Use a 1/4 cup to measure out pancakes.
  • Cook 1-2 minutes on each side

Pumpkin Protein Panckes + Maple Glaze:

Last but certainly not least, PUMPKIN! These were a real experiment, but they turned out SO delicious.


  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/8 cup whole wheat flour (oat flour would also work)
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/8 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1 tbs ground flax
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sweetener

For Maple Glaze:

  • 1/8 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1/8 cup sugar free syrup


  • Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth.
  • Bring skillet to high heat
  • Measure each pancake using a 1/4 cup
  • Cook on each side for 1-2 minutes
  • Meanwhile, combine greek yogurt and syrup in a small dish.
  • Heat glaze in microwave for 45 seconds and stir.

Pumpkin Perfection

The best thing about these recipes is that you can tweak them to make them your own! Use different protein flavors, more eggs, less cottage cheese, whatever! The consistencies may change, but experimenting is half the fun.



Yes, my dreams are coming true. Fall has arrived! Even though it doesn’t technically begin until Saturday, today in Chicago the high is a perfect 62 degrees. I can say in all seriousness that this is my favorite weather. I even busted out a sweater and boots for the occasion!

In honor this fall-esque weather, I decided to try Six Sister’s Stuff Slow Cooker Cream Cheese Chili.

CrockPot Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

I came across the recipe on Pinterest a few weeks back and have been dying to try it out. As usual, I tweaked my own version a bit by omitting the corn, using fat-free cream cheese, and adding two whole chicken breasts in stead of the halves. What can I say? I need my meat! The original recipe directions say to cook on low for 6-8 hours. However, I waited until 8:30 this morning to throw everything in, and I knew I wanted it for lunch. I simply cooked it on high for 4.5 hours and it was perfect!

mmmm cheesy

I’m a cheese lover, but I think next time I might use a little less cream cheese than the recipe calls for. It was almost a little too much, even for me! Still, hats off to the Six Sisters. I definitely recommend this recipe.

Also, this week I am making a different type of Protein Pancake every morning. At the end of the week I’m going to post five (hopefully) different recipes for protein pancakes! Here’s a little sneak peek at my Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Protein Pancakes

Yummy time

Healthy and delicious!

I seriously can’t contain my excitement for Fall. Over a month ago, I stumbled upon a recipe on Pinterest for Halloween Monster Cookies that I knew I just had to try! I’m hosting my dance team’s first team dinner of the year tonight, and decided these would be the perfect treat. I tweaked them slightly to make them more festively Fall rather than just Halloween.


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 4 1/2 cups quick 1-min oats
  • 3/4 cup M&Ms (I found a bag of orange, brown, and yellow M&Ms for Fall)
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup chopped candy corn
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine eggs and sugars in a large mixing bowl
  • Add vanilla, butter, and peanut butter. Mix until smooth
  • Add oats slowly, then baking soda and salt. Mix until well combined
  • Fold in M&Ms, mini chocolate morsels, and candy corn
  • Using a 1/8 cup (or an ice cream scoop), scoop dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. (Note: cookies get HUGE. I put 6 on each baking sheet in order to avoid overlapping while baking.)
  • Bake for approximately 11 minutes
  • Immediately upon removing from oven, push additional candy corn pieces into the soft cookies.
  • Let cool and transfer to a wire rack.

Check out that festive platter! I’ve been looking forward to having a use for it for so long. I can’t wait to show these bad boys off tonight. These cookies are super chewy and gooey due to the candy corn. Delish!

Also, I want to preview a new little something I’ve been working on. Behold the mashed cauliflower:

Mashed cauliflower sounds so simple, right? Wrong. I’m trying to imitate the consistency of mashed potatoes without using any heavy creams or too much butter. I made these last night, and they were pretty good but I know I can do better. Recipe to come soon!

Have a good Football Sunday! SKOL VIKES!

Greetings. It may be close to 80 degrees here in Chicago, but I’ve been in fall mode since September first. 80 degree weather and hearty fall recipes don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, which is why I tried to combine the best of both worlds into my Pumpkin Protein Smoothie!

This puppy definitely hits the spot. It satisfies that fall flavor craving that creeps up this time of year without being too heavy for a hot day.


  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • sweetener to taste (I used 1 tsp splenda)
  • 4-5 ice cubes

Directions: Toss all that good stuff in the blender and mix it up!


Workout Success:

Last week in a post I mentioned that I was having some extreme difficulty finding a new workout plan that worked for me. One that I could dedicate myself to without becoming bored and giving up on. Well, problem solved! I took on the challenge of constructing a complete workout plan on my own. Normally, I will find a plan created by someone else and tweak it a little. My go-to site for workouts is normally Bodybuilding.com. Unfortunately, there isn’t a very vast selection on the website this time of year.

While constructing my workout plan for the Fall, I asked myself a couple questions:

How much time do I want to spend at the gym? I am an extremely busy person. On average, I only have about an hour of “free time” each day, which is almost always spent at the gym. I can’t afford to jump into extremely time consuming workouts, no matter how effective they may be. I made sure to construct my plan so I won’t be at the gym for more than an hour to an hour and a half each day.

What types of workouts do I like? This is a huge one. If you don’t like what you’re doing at the gym, you’re probably going to give up. To solve this problem, I made a list of my favorite strength training exercises for each muscle group. I came up with 4-6 for each muscle group, and incorporated them into my plan. For cardio, I love HIIT (high intensity interval training). I made sure to incorporate a healthy amount of this type of cardio into my workout plan as well.

What are my goals? If your goal is to lose weight, you want to be sure your plan is designed for weight loss (lots of cardio, intervals, circuits, high reps with low weight). If your goal is to bulk up, you’re going to want to have a completely different type of plan (low reps with high weight, less cardio, etc.). In my case, I’m not really looking to do either. I’m looking to maintain my current weight while continuing to tone my muscles. This made me realize that I don’t need to be killing myself at the gym every day.

So, what did I come up with? A pretty basic plan involving five days of weight training and 5 days of cardio. It looks something like this:

  • Day 1: Back and 20-30 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Day 2: Legs and Abs
  • Day 3: 20 minutes of HIIT cadio, 20 minutes moderate cardio
  • Day 4: Biceps, Triceps, Abs
  • Day 5: Chest, Shoulders, and 20 minutes HIIT cardio
  • Day 6: Abs and 20 minutes HIIT cardio, 20 minuets moderate cardio
  • Day 7: REST!

For most strength training exercises, I am doing three sets of 10-12 reps. Nothing crazy. Again, I am doing about 4-6 strength training exercises for each muscle group, and resting for about 30 seconds between exercises.

I’m not saying my workout plan is the best ever. It’s extremely simple, and works for me. The point I want to make is you need to find what works for you. Don’t ever let someone tell you one type of workout plan is right or wrong. If it’s giving you the results you’re looking for, then it’s probably right for you!

On a different note, today is going to be a great day. It’s a Saturday and I have so much catching up to do on cleaning, homework, and getting ready for the Dance Team Dinner I’m hosting tomorrow. First one of the season! Have a great Saturday!

Like many people, I have whey protein after all of my workouts. I also incorporate it into many of my other meals and snacks throughout the day. Whey protein shakes are a staple, and I almost never have oatmeal without at least a tablespoon of the good stuff. However, shakes can get very old. That’s why I’m always experimenting with whey protein powder to find new ways to incorporate it into my diet.

These four whey protein snacks are not only easy and delicious, they’re also healthy and PACKED with protein!

Protein-packed “Frappuccino”


1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, 1/2 cup cold french vanilla coffee (or regular), 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1 tbls splenda (or sweetener of choice), 5-6 ice cubes


Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Add more ice if it is not thick enough.

Chocolate Protein “Cake” & Protein Frosting

There are many variations of microwave protein cake. Once you play around with the ingredients, you can find the recipe that you like the most!


For the Cake: 1/2 scoop chocolate whey protein powder, 1 liquid egg white, 1 tbls natural applesauce, 1/2 tbls unsweetened cocoa powder, pinch of baking soda, pinch of sweetener

For the Frosting: 1/8 cup fat-free plain greek yogurt, 1/4 scoop chocolate whey protein powder, pinch of sweetener


  • Whisk together all cake ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Microwave on high for 35-40 seconds.
  • Mix greek yogurt with 1/4 cup of protein powder.
  • Spread “frosting”over cake and EAT!

Chocolate Protein Frozen Yogurt


1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder, 1/2 cup fat-free plain greek yogurt, 1 cup crushed ice cubes, 1/2 tbls unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 tbls splenda (or sweetener of choice).


  • Crush ice in blender
  • Add all other ingredients
  • Blend until smooth
  • Sprinkle with a little extra cocoa powder or toppings of choice.

Cocoa Cottage Cheese

Okay, so this probably sounds absolutely disgusting. If you hate cottage cheese, this won’t make you like it. But, if you love cottage cheese I suggest giving this dressed-up version a try. I originally got the idea from one of my favorite blogs Peanut Butter Fingers. I tweaked the original recipe just a bit.


1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese, 1/2 scoop chocolate whey protein powder, 1/2 tbls unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp splenda (or sweetener of choice), toppings of choice


Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and add toppings. (bananas, blackberries, raspberries)

YUM! I’ll finish this post off on a slightly different note. The other night Mike and I finally tried Pequod’s Pizza after talking about it for months. We bit off a little more than we could chew with our large thin crust pizza, topped with sausage and giardiniera.

Monster Za

What the heck?

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