Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Random Facts

Hey, everyone!

Ok, so I was tagged in this sort of survey thing from Bridget@Flour&Friends.  She's cool, you should check out her blog.

I thought it would be fun (it's fun, right?) to use this opportunity to tell you more about me.

The Rules:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post 12 fun facts about yourself in the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create 12 new questions for the people you tagged.
4. Tag 12 people and link them on your post.
5. Let them know you've tagged them.

*find how to make this shirt here*

Yeah, I'm not gonna do all of these rules.  If people want to be tagged and answer these questions, they can holla' at me, but I'm not going to tag anyone on my own.

Sorry, I'm a rule breaker.  That's a bonus random fact for you ;)

12 (Random) Renee Facts

1.  I like cake.  It's true.
2.  I have a BA in English Literature.
3.  It took me an 9 years to graduate college due to having a full time job and changing my major eleventy billion times.  Whatever.
4.  Skeeball is my favorite arcade game.  I feel like I'm pretty awesome at it, but I'm probably just average.
5.  I actually lost 85 lbs on Weight Watchers several years ago.  So far, I've put gained about 10 lbs back (boo!), hence my current obsession with healthy stuff.
6.  I love coffee.  It rocks my socks.
7.  I love my cats, Baby & Boscoe, but you probably already knew that!
8.  I both love and hate exercise with a fervent passion.
9.  My husband and I met 6 years ago while working in the mall.  We were those annoying survey people with the clipboards.  For reals.
10.  I have an irrational fear of storms.  I need a Thunder Shirt.
11.  If I had lots of money and didn't have to work, I'd be a volunteer dog walker and also teach arts & crafts for free.  That sounds like fun to me.
12.  I need a Pintervention.

Bridget@Flour&Friends Questions for Me:

1. Who's your role model?  my Mom, of course :)
2. Savory or Sweet? I'm gonna go with savory, because that is the sustenance of life.  Sweet is good on the occasion, too.
3. Besides blogging..what's your next go to hobby?  I love to read (nerd alert!) and do crafty things.
4. Goals for 2012?  My goal is mainly to increase my (physical) strength and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
5. Favorite thing to eat? It depends on when you ask me, I guess.  Right now, it's peanut butter.
6. What's your guilty pleasure?  I have alot, but I'll go with Drop Dead Diva episodes for this one.
7.  Favorite T.V show?  It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (not everyone's cup of tea, but I love it!)
8. Favorite thing to bake/cook?  I like making breads, but it has been a while...
9. How did you get into blogging?  I read blogs avidly 2 years, and one day I thought, "Why not me?"
10. What's your favorite thing to do on a weekend? I love hanging out with my family and doing stuff outdoors (I might just be saying that because it is so beautiful outside today & I'm stuck inside).
11. If you could go on vacation anywhere, where would you go?  Italy
12. What's your favorite website?  Google

Here are my cats (Boscoe on the left, Baby on the right):

Yes, this was taken in bathroom.  What?  The lighting is really good in there.

Ok, I hope you enjoyed learning more about me.  I'll be back with some recipe ideas for the Super Bowl tomorrow!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Shortcut Skinny Cookies

Are you hungry for cookies but watching your girlish figure?  I know I am :)

Let's make some super quick and healthy cookies!

These come together in a flash & would be great to take to a Valentine's get together.

Ok, does anyone else hoard cake mixes?  Maybe it's just me.  I always have like 5 (sometimes opened) boxes on hand for individual serving desserts or half batches of stuff.  It seems like I always have a coupon for cake mix, plus they are like $1 without a coupon.  How can I not buy them?

Shortcut Skinny Cookies
(makes 1 dozen~double for 2 dozen)

8 oz or 1/2 of a box of cake mix (I used Pillsbury Sugar Free Devil's Food)
2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp butter
1 egg
2 scant tbsp of vanilla (or chocolate if you have it) protein powder

Mix all of this stuff in a bowl until combined.  Try to get those lumps of cake mix outta there!  Use your tablespoon to scoop balls of dough onto a Silpat (or parchment or cookie sheet-whatever) & bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  I also sprinkled some pink and red sanding sugar to try and make them look Valentine's-ish.  It kind of faded into the dark chocolate color.  It would look good if you use vanilla cake mix, though.

Yum yum!
These cookies are fluffy and cake-y.  But, just because they are light, doesn't mean you can eat them all!  I had to convince myself of that ;)

If your husband (or whoever) is anything like mine and does not like to try new things, cut these bad boys in half and pipe in some butter cream.  Tell him you made him some homemade Oreo Cakesters.  Use it as bribery to get him to take out the trash.  I won't judge.

Is anyone else going to miss Picnik (photo editor)? 

For the optional (and not "skinny") butter cream filling, follow this recipe (it rocks):

Butter Cream Filling

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp flour
1/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 tsp vanilla

Cook flour and milk in a small saucepan, stirring constantly, until it becomes like a thick paste.  It will look gross.  Don't doubt the process.  Just go with it.  Let it cool to room temperature.  Whip the butter and sugar with a hand mixer or a whisk until fluffy, then add in the flour/milk mixture and vanilla.  Whip until awesome.  
Slice the cookies in half with a serrated knife, then pipe in the butter cream.  Use a piping bag if you are fancy.  I'm not, so I used a Ziploc with the tip cut off.  Yeah, that's how I roll.

Filling recipe adapted from All Recipes

If you are looking for some more healthy recipes, I created a tab at the top of the page specifically for healthy and yummy recipes :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yummy Healthy Stuff #4

Turkey Sausage, Potato & Spinach Skillet
I pinned this idea for a meal a while back and am so glad I got around to making it.  It came together in about 15-20 minutes and was flavorful and filling.  You just dice your red potatoes, season them however you like and toss them in a lightly oiled skillet (use olive oil-it's good for you).  Cook them until they can be pierced with a fork (about 15 minutes or so).  I usually put a top on the skillet for half of that time to speed things up.  Cut your turkey sausage link while that is cooking.  I used Butterball Smoked Turkey Sausage.  Then toss the sausage and a bunch of baby spinach in the pan.  Stir it around until it is all wilty and perfect (about 5 minutes or less).  I used 4 smallish red potatoes, one sausage link and 2-3 handfuls of spinach and it made 2 servings.

Cottage Cheese Scrambled Egg on English Muffin with Jelly

This was too good.  I used one egg and threw in a heaping tablespoon of fat free cottage cheese.  The cottage cheese made the egg super rich and cheesy.  So perfect on a 100 calorie English muffin with reduced sugar grape jelly.  

I've also been enjoying another breakfast food, mixed in with my Kashi Go Lean: Peanut Butter Cheerios!!!  And they are multi-grain.  Be still, my heart.

I've kind of gotten into the whole "teaser" effect in my healthy posts as of late, so this is no exception.  I made a Skinny Cake Mix Cookie.  Oh, it is so perfect.  Check back with me for the full details on Monday!

Bonus:  Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of Ranch seasoning is the cat's pajamas.  Just thought you should know.

Be sure to check out my Pinterest Hardcore pin board for more healthy recipe ideas & workout inspiration.

Have a super fun weekend!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Family Fridays: Baked Crabby Patties

Yummy, yummy crabby patties.  I had to call them that.  If you have ever watched Spongebob & I'm sure most people have, you tend to use the lingo on the occasion.  This is no exception (although I did not go with the SB spelling.  I just cannot spell things with a "K" that don't actually start with a "K."  Can't do it...).

Sorry, got side tracked a bit.

This recipe comes from my super cool cousin Matt.
He is a classically trained chef and has opened several restaurants in the Destin/Pensacola areas of Florida.  He and his sweet wife, Stephanie, are hardcore yogis and teach yoga in that same area.

Ok, so I couldn't just make crab cakes.  Of course, I had to lighten them up a bit.  So I have two versions here.  Matt's original recipe & my skinny baked crab cakes.

Baked Crabby Patties
(makes 6 patties)

8 oz crab meat
1/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian flavored)
2 tbsp fat free mayonnaise
1 egg white
1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
squirt lemon juice
sprinkle of salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin & onion powder

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Mix all ingredients up in a bowl and form patties.  I used a standard biscuit cutter to make sure they were all about the same size.  Then bake on parchment (or Silpat or greased cookie sheet) for 15 minutes.  Then flip them over & bake for about 5 more minutes.

Matt's Crab Cakes

1/2 cup cooked wild rice
1 lb crab meat
1 cup bread crumbs (or more or less)
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt, cumin, cayenne & black pepper
2 egg whites

Mix ingredients, form into patties & refrigerate for half an hour.  Fry in 1 tbsp of oil for about 3 minutes on each side or until golden and crispy.
We served ours with a drizzle of sriracha and a side of homemade baked fries & roasted brussels sprouts.

When I was trying to set up my area to photograph these patties, Baby the Cat (who loves anything crinkly) set up shop on my paper bag background.  I literally had to hold her while taking the pictures, then let her down to enjoy the crinkly bag.  Silly kitty!

If you missed any other Family Friday recipes, here's some to check out:

Thanks, Matt for the crab cake recipe!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Anatomical Heart Reverse Applique T-Shirt

You know those Valentine's day shirts that are like 5 bucks at Walmart and Target.  Um, I hate to break it to you, but everyone will be wearing those in the next few weeks.  You seriously don't want to run into someone else with a sparkly heart shirt.  It will be embarrassing for both of you.

Instead, make a super unique shirt that will be the envy of all.  This shirt is so cool, you can wear it year round.

It is super easy to make, too.  Let's make one!

First choose your shape.  I obviously chose an anatomical heart.  You could choose a standard heart if you wanted or some other shape.  Here's another reverse applique heart that I made for my cousin recently:

So, you get the idea about reverse applique.  It is like a patch under a cut out.

For this you will need,
  • Image of your choice (I printed off two sizes & ended up choosing the bigger one)
  • 2 Shirts
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Marker (maybe)

Here's an image of the heart silhouette if you would like to use it.  Just right click, save the image & print it whatever size you want.  I printed mine as a 5x7, then enlarged it by 129% on the copier.

I wanted my heart to face the right way, so I turned the image around and traced the lines.  This makes sense if you are doing a shape where the direction matters, like a letter.  This step doesn't apply if you just make a regular heart.

First, turn your shirt inside out.  I got my long sleeve black tee at Target for $3.60 on clearance.  Then cut out a patch of the shirt that will go underneath and pin the image and the patch to the inside out front of the shirt.  Be careful not to accidentally pin the back of the shirt at any point.  I put a cutting mat in the shirt to be extra safe.

This might sound crazy, but sew right through the paper, that way you can follow the line of the shape.  Since my "patch" was red, I decided to sew with red thread.

It's a little tedious because you have to turn the paper with each curve of the shape, but once you get the hang of it, it's easy.

When you are done, carefully tear off the outer edges around the stitching.  Then tearing out the middle should be a breeze (because of the perforation).

Now turn your shirt right side out and carefully cut through the top shirt, following the guideline of stitching.  Leave about 1/8 of an inch in between cutting and the stitching, so you don't accidentally pull out stitches.

Here is how it looks on the hanger.

Here's how it looks on a human.  Enjoy your unique creation  :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lean & Mean Cookie Pie

Ok, that name is kind of misleading.  There is nothing mean about this pie.  Unless someone makes it and doesn't share with you.  But then the person would be the mean one.  Not the  pie.  Whatever.

It is, however, somewhat lean.  This pie (which I teased about on Saturday's post) is composed mainly of chickpeas.  Yes, the stuff you use to make hummus.

So, next time you feel the need for a cookie, but don't want all the guilt that comes along with it, consider this  super easy chocolate chip cookie pie.  I'll tell you, when mixed with fat free Cool Whip, this tastes just like an oatmeal cream pie with chocolate chips.  Swoon.

Lean & Mean Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil (or canola if you'd rather)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend the chickpeas in a food processor.  Add the rest of the ingredients into the food processor, except for the chocolate chips and blend until all ingredients are combined.  Mix in the chocolate chips & pecans. Pour into a greased 9" pie plate.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Cool for at least 10 minutes.  Serve with fat free whipped cream and sugar free chocolate sauce (if desired).

This can easily be adapted to be a vegan recipe, if you are into that sort of thing.

Recipe adapted from Me and My Pink Mixer blog

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Healthy Food Ideas #3

This week's menu was full of good stuff.  So I'm just gonna get right into it.

First up, Sesame Chicken over Spaghetti Squash with Edamame and Carrots:

This meal was so good.  Great if you are craving Chinese food and want to incorporate some yummy veggies.  I used the sesame chicken recipe from this post.  If you have never tried spaghetti squash, get thee to the store right now & pick one up.  You can cook it easily by piercing the whole squash a few times with a knife and microwaving for 6-8 minutes (depending on the size).  Then you carefully cut it in half and scrape the little bit of seeds and pulp out and discard.  You can top it with endless amounts of delicious things.  Here's a recipe for a stuffed spaghetti squash, too.  Anyways, I tossed the squash in a light Asian sesame dressing (from Kraft, I think) and topped with edamame, shredded carrots and sesame chicken.  Yum!

I tried a new pancake recipe this week and it was pretty great.

Greek Yogurt Protein Pancakes:

All you need is 3 ingredients to make this stack of filling and delicious pancakes: 2 egg whites, 3/4 cup of oatmeal (I used old fashioned oats) and one 6 oz container of Greek yogurt (any flavor~I used blueberry).  Blend all of these things up in your blender.  I used this mason jar technique on my blender to make it like one of those bullet blenders.  Then you make them like regular pancakes.  Top with sugar free syrup~FYI-Mrs Butterworth's has a sugar free option now.

Then, the most exciting recipe: a Big Ole Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie!
This pie is healthy because it does not use flour or eggs (and very little oil).
Stay tuned for the recipe on Monday~teaser alert!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Family Fridays: Cream of Coconut Cupcakes

Today's recipe comes from my Aunt Jackie.  
This spunky little lady is so sweet and lovable.  Much like these cupcakes :)

She also does the best french braids of anyone in the world.  I think she needs to give me a fishtail braid next time I see her.

Like this one:

How to style a fishtail braid

Anyways, her lovely cream of coconut cake graces us with its loveliness today, but in the form of a cupcake.  Her recipe is for a 9x13 cake, but we all know I don't need a big ole cake sitting in my kitchen staring me in the face.

So I made cupcakes, instead.

Brilliant, right?

So, I'll give you two recipe options, because I like you.  You're neat.

Skinny Cream of Coconut Cupcakes
White cake mix
Diet soda (I used diet ginger ale)
Borden's (or whatever brand) fat free condensed milk
Coconut extract
Shredded unsweetened coconut
Fat free Cool Whip

For 6 cupcakes*: Measure out 9 ounces of cake mix, a little more than a cup & mix it with 6 ounces of diet soda.  I used ginger ale.  It is best to use a light colored soda with the light colored cake mix.  So whisk it all together and distribute batter evenly among 6 cupcake liners.  Bake as directed on the box.

After the cakes come out of the oven, poke 4 or 5 holes in them with toothpicks and get your toppings ready.

Pour half of the little can of condensed milk in a bowl and add 1/4 tsp of coconut extract.  Mix it up.

Since these were cupcakes and I did not want to get too messy, I dipped them in the milky mixture upside down lightly and let the excess drizzle down.  Then I turned them right side up and put them on a plate.

Top with whipped topping and coconut.  Garnish with a cherry if you feel the need.

*double the amount of cake mix & soda if you want 12 cupcakes

Sinful Cream of Coconut Cake 
(great for a potluck)
White cake mix, along with eggs/oil to prepare
1 can Eagle Brand (or whatever) condensed milk
1 can cream of coconut
1 small bag of shredded coconut
1 large container of Cool Whip

Mix cake and cook as directed in a greased 9x13 pan.  While the cake is hot, poke holes in the cake.  Mix cream of coconut & condensed milk.  Pour mixture over cake and top with Cool Whip and coconut.  Refrigerate overnight & serve (or you can serve it right away, but it is best cold).

Pretend this is a picture of a full cake...

You could also add some crushed pineapple in the topping for piƱa colada cake :)

Thanks, Aunt Jackie for the recipe!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Things have not been very crafty around here this week.  I do have some ideas brewing for some Valentine's crafts next week, though ;)

In lieu of crafts, I figured I'd recommend some books for you.

But, if you are jonesing for some craftiness, check out the (sort of) newish craft tutorials tab at the top of my blog or head on over to Pinterest & peek at my craft pinboard.

So, here's what I've been feeding my mind with lately.

I just finished:

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand, which I mentioned in this post.
This book was a really slow read for me.  It was good, though.  I enjoyed the story about two friends who came together in a time of need after growing apart over the years.

I'm now reading:

Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison
It's a much quicker read than Silver Girl, but kind of "chick lit."  It's good sometimes to have something light to read at the end of a long day, though.
So far, it is about two friends at summer camp who both struggled with insecurities.  It flashes forward twenty years to how they still deal with their insecurities in their adult lives and the extremes they will go to to fit into society's idea of beauty.

I am about to read:

Gardening for Dummies
Yes, really.
We just bought a house after living in apartments for years, so we have alot to learn about how to take care of our flower beds and yard.  I thought I'd read it now in the winter to prepare for the spring.

Ok, hope everyone has a lovely Wednesday.  I'll be back with a sweet recipe on Friday!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Closest Imitation of a Brownie

I’ve made this recipe from Jillian Michael's Master your Metabolism Cookbook a few times.  These brownies have so much healthy junk packed in them that they are worth making.  They use honey in place of sugar, applesauce instead of oil and wheat flour instead of white.
I like them cold for some reason.  They are cakey, yet fudgy at the same time and definitely help a chocolate craving!
These brownies, though are not exactly like regular brownies, so brace yourself.  I'd say they could win an  award for closest brownie imitation.
Jillian’s MYM Healthy Brownies
Olive Oil spray for the pan
2/3 cup mild honey (I used sugar free honey)
1/3 cup natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large egg, at room temp
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
Optional pecan halves for the topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8" pan with olive oil and set aside.  I used my 9" pre-sliced pan.

Mix all the stuff in the bowl.  Usually I do dry and wet separately and all that, but I was lazy this time and just dumped it all in a bowl.  It worked out well.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until the surface looks dry around the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, about 25 minutes. Do not over bake. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing into 16 squares. (Store brownies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Recipe adapted from Chemistry Cooking