Friday, August 29, 2014

Back to School/Back to Your Routine: Healthy Breakfast and Snack Prep!

I’m not quite sure where the summer went, but the kids are up bright and early, standing at the bus stop and the school buses are zooming by. Whether you have kids in school or not, the back to school season is always a great time of year to get back into a routine and add a little more organization to your life.

I’m not into freezer cooking, and rarely make batches of food ahead of time, but lately, I’m finding that having some healthy breakfast and snack options ready to go for the week is a great way to stay on track. It also saves time when my hungry little baby is trying to climb up into his high chair himself and is READY to eat!

As part of Cooking Light’s Bloggers’ Connection themed monthly linkup, I dug through my blog archives to pull out some of my favorite make ahead breakfast and snack staples. This month it’s Back to School/Back to Your Routine!

1. {Cinnamon Oatmeal Banana Breakfast Muffins} One of my most recent posts, these muffins make a wonderful breakfast or even a mid-afternoon snack. They are a great pre or post workout snack as well! Use the recipe as a base and add your favorite muffin mix-ins!

2. {Paleo Snack Bites} Oh, how we love these! I make a batch or two weekly to keep on hand for snacking. These are my ideal pre-morning run snack when I go early. I eat one or two about 15 minutes before I leave. They also cure a sweet craving after dinner if you are trying to avoid the ice cream carton in the freezer.

3. {Paleo Waffles} Recently, I quadrupled the pancake recipe and poured it in my waffle maker. In five minutes, I had four days worth of breakfast for the little guy! I cook them in the waffle maker on the highest setting. Once they are cool, I cut into individual waffles, separate each one with wax paper, and place in a giant freezer bag to freeze. When we’re ready to eat them, I pop them in the toaster and serve with fresh fruit!

4. {Chia Pudding} Easily my favorite breakfast right now. This is another one that I will triple, even quadruple, and have a few days worth of breakfasts made for the week! I mix up individual servings in mason jars and shake, shake, shake! Lately, I’m finding that 1 Tbsp. per ¼ cup liquid yields the best consistency. I just use unsweetened almond milk, chia seeds, lots of cinnamon and top with fresh berries right before eating. This is a filling and nutritious breakfast. Chia pudding is also a great afternoon snack!

5. {Pumpkin Spice Granola} As sad as I am about the dwindling Summer days, I am excited that the pumpkin season is upon us! Although a bit time consuming, this pumpkin spice granola is worth every minute of prep work! Perfect for breakfast sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt, or a handful to hold you over until dinnertime.

6. {Hummus} The ultimate snack food! A big batch will last us a week or so in the fridge. I keep vegetable dippers on hand for snacking or enjoy some spread on Ezekial bread for a simple lunch. Lemon + Dill White Bean and Roasted Beet are our favorites.

For more healthy snacking ideas, check out this post from 2012.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Olive Oil + Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Brownie Cookies

You guys. 


Every now and then, I find myself needing a cookie. The craving comes on fiercely and nothing else seems to do. I have always loved cookies, but it wasn't until I discovered the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies that I truly appreciated the art of cookie baking. Since my obsession with cookies blossomed, these Snickerdoodles stole my heart, and most recently, these chocolatey little loves right here. 

A dear friend of mine took a healthy helping of gelato and sandwiched it between two of these cookies. She's a genius.

Olive oil gives a richness that isn't always present in cookie batter and surprisingly, the taste isn't overpowering once the cookie is baked. And sea salt on top favorite component of a perfect cookie. A little chewy on the outside but soft and chocolatey on the inside. Basically, 50% cookie, 50% brownie and 100% impossible to just stop at one. 

I'm now wishing I had a batch of these already made so that I could sit down, Santa-style, and enjoy a few with an ice cold glass of milk. I don't even like milk

Olive Oil + Sea Salt Brownie Cookies
recipe from Butterlust

1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. hot water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1.5 cups 60% cocoa dark chocolate chips (Ghiradelli is my favorite)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the olive and sugar and mix on medium until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to mix well between each one. Add the cocoa powder, flour and salt and mix until a dough forms. 

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda into the hot water. Add the dissolved baking soda and water mixture as well as the vanilla to the batter, and beat until just combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes or overnight. 

Using a tablespoon, scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough onto your cookie sheets. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are set. 11 minutes was the perfect amount of time in my oven. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I've written this post in my head over many, many miles of running but as November nears, and since my official training plan starts this week, it's time to put my thoughts into a post. On November 2, I will be running my first half marathon in Raleigh! I've been putting in a lot of miles lately and trying to get on a good running schedule in order to prepare myself for the many more miles ahead.

The decision to run this half marathon was not completely my own. My west coast sister is coaching my sister Andi to run her first FULL MARATHON through Saucony's 26 Strong program. My littlest sister and I decided it would be more fun to run with them halfway to the finish line so here we are. We have collected a few other lovies along the way to run 13.1 with us make things even better...Mark is also running the full 26.2! I can already feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins when I think about our big day in Raleigh at the City of Oaks Marathon/Half Marathon

When I started really working out in college, I remember feeling like I would never be able to run ten minutes on a treadmill. Shortly after I got into a good routine, paired with smarter eating, I ran my first 8k (The Charlotte Turkey Trot) and I felt the biggest sense of accomplishment. My body transformed in ways that I could have never imagined and I was better for it, both inside and out. Over the years, living a healthy and active lifestyle has been something I am passionate about. 

Most of my runs during the week are done pushing Will in the BOB and I honestly believe it has helped my running tremendously. I've decreased my average pace on my solo runs and overall I feel like I am able to push myself a bit harder. While I was pregnant, I ran up until about 30 weeks or so. Even after that, I did light jogging combined with lots of power walking. I remained active throughout my entire pregnancy and I thought that I would be back in the swing in no time, but with an unexpected c-section, my recovery took a little longer than planned. I got back in the groove slowly and really listened to my body. It was mentally hard knowing that I couldn't give my body that extra push I was used to, but giving myself the proper time to rest was so important. By the time Will was 6 months old and big enough to ride while I ran, I started out slow. My friend Julie introduced me to her interval training and it seriously was the best thing ever! Run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute. This was the greatest way for me to get back into a good running routine and kept me feeling strong. Slowly, I was able to lengthen my minutes of running and before long, I was back to solid 3 and 4 mile runs 4-5 times per week. 

I'm looking forward to pushing myself and having a goal to work towards. It's been so much fun having all of the running lovies to pump each other up on a daily basis! We check in often and encourage each other on the days that we are just not feeling it. I know that there will be great days and there will be days that I'll wonder how I will ever make it 13.1 miles, but I'm up for the challenge. Here's to pushing my limits, positive self talk and overcoming mental barriers. 

Get stoked. (that was for you, lovies)

Monday, August 25, 2014

{DIY} Back to School Burlap Wreath

It's officially back to school for the kids of Charlotte and my littlest sister is teaching her very first class of third graders today in the elementary school that she was once a student in. This hardly seems possible! 

As a little "first day of school/good luck on your first day in the real world/hello you are a grown up/and responsible for shaping little minds" treat, my sister and I resurrected our favorite Burlap Ruffle Wreath and gave it a back to school makeover. I think this will look darling in her classroom! It would also be a happy little welcome on any front door! Just swap out the name on the chalkboard for your last name or "welcome". 

The base of the ruffle wreath remains the same, then we added some deco mesh and bright primary colored ribbon. Once the burlap was done, we wove in the red deco mesh. T-pins and floral picks work best for holding it in place. After the deco mesh, we went to town with the patterned ribbon. T-pins are perfect for securing the ribbon. We finished it off with a tiny chalkboard attached to a clothespin. We secured the clothespin to the wreath and added a tiny wooden apple!

All of our supplies were purchased at Michael's and Hobby Lobby.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

{What Will Ate} Cinnamon Oatmeal Banana Breakfast Muffins

Pay no attention to the fact that this is a What Will Ate post. These breakfast muffins are baby and adult approved! Also pay no attention to the fact that my last post was also filed under What Will Ate. I assure you he is not the only one eating in this house- his food is just the most blog worthy right now. 

I have found that having breakfast items pre-made and ready to go for the week really works for us. It's nice to have something to homemade to grab that doesn't take a lot of prep work. I've been making batches of Will's protein pancakes in the waffle maker and freezing them. All I need to do is pop them in the toaster, rinse off some fruit, and his breakfast is ready! 

These breakfast muffins make a great breakfast on the go or a healthy afternoon snack. Mark will even grab these in the morning before his early runs. They have no added sugar, and the recipe can easily be altered to your liking. I made this batch with dried cranberries and golden raisins, but other great add ins are coconut and chia seeds, fresh blueberries and lemon zest, and mini dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs to treat your sweet tooth! The riper the bananas, the sweeter your muffins will be. Grade B maple syrup or honey both make great natural sweeteners if you need a little extra sweetness. Make a batch on Sunday and enjoy for the whole week.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Banana Breakfast Muffins
recipe adapted from Green Lite Bites

3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 cups organic old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk 
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
several shakes of cinnamon (optional)
3 Tbsp. dried cranberries
3 Tbsp. golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 12-15 muffin tins with liners.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combines. Let batter sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the oats to plump up a bit. Fill muffin liners to just below the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

{What Will Ate} Trader Joe's Edition

{image via}

I thought that the 6 month transition to pureed baby foods was fun, but true solids are a new level of excitement! Will is now eating pretty much everything that we eat and his little palate continues to grow. I continue to shop carefully for him, making sure he is getting real, whole foods and mostly organic produce and meats. Most of our grocery shopping is done at Harris Teeter, but I have a list of staples that I always buy from Trader Joe's. 

I LOVE the Trader Joe's experience. The staff is friendly, the music blasting from the overhead speakers makes me want to dance through the aisles, and I truly believe they have some of the best food marketing because I always leave that place with a few new things to try that I didn't venture in for. I also need to note that the hydrangea stems from Trader's last longer than any other! I love to pick up a fresh bunch when I pop in the store. My little shopping assistant loves riding through the aisles and makes several friends along the way. 

Here are some of Will's Trader Joe's Favorites!

{Organic Grade B Maple Syrup} A little more robust than Grade A, Grade B maple syrup is darker and has a wonderful rich flavor. I use maple syrup as a natural sweetener in my Paleo Snack Bites and sometimes drizzled on plain Greek Yogurt with fruit. Will enjoys this on his Baby's Paleo Pancakes.

{Frozen Pineapple Tidbits} A freezer staple around here! I blend this pineapple up with plain Greek Yogurt and fill Will's food pouches and stick it in smoothies for me!

{Organic Unsweetened Applesauce} Applesauce is one of the easiest baby foods to make, but I always keep a jar of the Trader Joe's brand on hand. It has one ingredient: apples! There is no added sugar or preservatives, unlike most grocery store brands. 

{Ezekial Bread} One of Will's favorite lunches is a slice of this bread, toasted, and topped with mashed avocado. This bread is made from a combination of 6 grains and legumes, and contains no flour. It has a nutty flavor and texture and we all love it. The cinnamon raisin makes a sweet breakfast treat! You can read more about this bread here

{Organic Creamy Unsalted Peanut Butter} This peanut butter is the best! At the advice of our pediatrician, we didn't wait to introduce Will to peanut butter and he just loves it! This stuff is smooth, creamy and all natural. The consistency is perfect for Will's morning pancakes and he also enjoys it for lunch on Ezekial bread. 

{Freeze Dried Fruit} My friend Elizabeth introduced me to these freeze dried fruits and Will is a huge fan! The strawberries, mango and bananas are his favorite. They are great on the go because they are dry and practically mess free. Again, no added sugars. 

{Frozen Mango Chunks} Another favorite yogurt mix-in! When I make homemade applesauce, I'll sometimes steam some mango chunks to blend in. Will also loves pieces of mango with roasted/grilled meats such as chicken and pork.

*This post is not sponsored or endorsed by Trader Joe's and the thoughts expressed are my own. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Green Onion + Dill Quinoa

Quinoa is a staple pantry item in our house. It's the healthier of the grains and is packed with protein which is an added bonus. I love using quinoa as a salad base. I toss it with fresh chopped vegetables and a simple vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs. I always make extra so that I have a few days of lunches to enjoy, too. For those of you who make your own baby food, I also mix quinoa into Will's vegetable purees and he loves it!

This quick and simple quinoa dish has quickly become a Summer favorite around here. It makes a tasty side paired with grilled meat and veggies and can be made ahead to serve cold, or at room temperature. In fact, if it sits for a bit, the flavor only gets better. Fresh dill makes all the difference. A bed of this topped with a piece of cedar plank grilled Salmon would be divine. 

Green Onion + Dill Quinoa
recipe from Cooking Light

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped green onions
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Rinse and drain quinoa. In a heavy bottom saucepan on medium-high heat, combine water and quinoa. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed and the quinoa can be fluffed with a fork. Stir in green onions and dill. 

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa and mix together. Serve at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.