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New Recipe!

Hey there!  No new post to share today, but I am working hard on a really good one that should be ready to post sometime this week! What I do have is an AWESOME recipe that is perfect for Meatless Monday or as a SUPER YUMMERS side dish for your next BBQ!  Here are my Slow Cooker Low Sugar BBQ Baked Beans! I hope you enjoy!!!

Slow Cooker Low Sugar BBQ Baked Beans

Slow Cooker Low Sugar BBQ Baked Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (I used Stubb’s brand, has the lowest sugar content of a store-bought sauce…feel free to use a homemade sauce if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or sub honey instead…or you can also use brown sugar if you prefer)
  • 3 heaping tbsps. brown mustard (I used a German style mustard but any mustard will work, you could even use mustard powder if you prefer)
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (depends on how acidic you like it, I used 1/2 cup)
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (enough to coat a skillet)
  • 4 dashes liquid smoke (I used the pecan flavor, but any flavor will work)
  • About 10 dashes of hot sauce (I used Cholula Chipotle…use as little or as much as you like, this made my beans very mild, just a touch of heat)
  • 2 tbsps. Onion Powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic (I used jarred roasted chopped garlic)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Non-stick spray (for your slow cooker)

*Note – You can certainly use 1 type of bean if you prefer, and you can use any type of bean you’d like. Pinto or kidney beans would make a great substitution!

Instructions:

  1. Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil, and heat on medium. Add in your diced onions, and season with salt & pepper. Cook about on medium heat about 15 minutes until caramelized.
  2. Spray your crockpot with nonstick spray.
  3. To your crockpot add in BBQ sauce, ketchup, maple syrup, mustard, apple cider vinegar, and stir to combine.
  4. Add to your mixture the liquid smoke, hot sauce, onion powder, cumin, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, salt & pepper. Again stir to combine.
  5. Add in your caramelized onions, and stir to combine.
  6. Lastly add in your beans, and gently stir just until combined (you don’t want to mash up your beans!).
  7. Cook on low for about 6 hours. I stirred every so often (about once an hour), but you can totally leave this go if you are at work or out. I also taste tested along the way to check my seasoning.
  8. Yummers…ENJOY!!! :)
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Let The Blogging Begin (Again!!!)

A Catch-Up on Skinny Mini Piggy + Cinnamon Vanilla Peanut Butter, The BEST IN THE WORLD Blueberry Jam & a Recipe Sneak Peek

 *A preface to my blog – I have been working on this for WEEKS, and have FINALLY gotten it ready to post. I was thinking of changing a few things around, but wanted to keep it as I wrote it a while ago. I just added some content.

Hey all! It has been quite some time since my last blog post. Sorry for my absence, but as we all know life gets busy and can be overwhelming at times. I’ve wanted to get back to blogging, and got some extra motivation to actually jump back in. In the last few weeks 3 people asked me about the blog and if I still do it and wanted some recipes. I have also been getting some great comments on the blog from readers, which is amazing! So that motivated me to make my blogging return.

Lots of things have been going on with me! Fitness related first…for the 2nd year in a row I trained and completed a very popular 10 mile run in my area! It is the Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run in Philadelphia, which was May 4th. Of course I had my favorite running partner by my side the entire time, my love. We started together and ended the run hand in hand and sealed it with a kiss. I was SO EXCITED that our kiss was actually captured by the photographers at the run! When I saw it I immediately bought the digital image, I couldn’t resist!!! I now have a blown up canvas piece of this picture hanging in my bedroom, and it looks so piggy perfect! :)

 Broad Street Kiss with Heart

The run went really well, and I enjoyed it much more than I did last year. I was definitely more prepared and was in better shape. I wasn’t nearly as sore both during and after the run as I was last year. I actually felt pretty great for the majority of the run. The pain didn’t really start until mile 8. Those last 2 miles (especially the last one) were TOUGH!!! We had to slow our pace at the end, but we pushed through the pain and crossed the finish line never giving up. We finished in 2 hours and 4 minutes, which felt amazing and I couldn’t be prouder of both of us!

Of course I have a few funny stories from run day which I’ll share with you. First thing was pre-race. My love and I were hitting the port-a-potties before the start. Of course NONE of them had any toilet paper! Thankfully there was a nice woman who had tissues and was willing to share! I don’t know what I would have done without those tissues…I had to pee, but I couldn’t be a wet mess for the run. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about that!

As I run, I love to watch and see all of the different people around me. The diversity in the group always amazes me! I love seeing older people out there giving it their all still; it is so motivating for me! I hope I can still be doing it when I’m in my 50’s or 60’s!   As we were running, we both noticed a man running in khaki pants, a polo shirt, a sweater tied around his waist, and in loafer-type dress shoes. Yes you read that right! Really dude??? What are you thinking?!?! Who does that?!?! That just isn’t smart!

All in all, the race was a great experience, and I am looking forward to next year! Of course before that we’ll be doing the 10K Bridge Run in November, which I am already looking forward to. There have also been talks of potentially doing our first half marathon, so I’ll keep you posted if that is going to happen.

Besides the run, other great things have been going on as well. I found, and started a new job! To make a long story short I’ll just say that I absolutely hated my old job, management was AWFUL, and I am so happy to have found a much better place to work. Both the job and my new boss are a breath of fresh air!

I ended the old job Friday April 25th, and when the clock struck 5 that day it was one of the best feelings ever!!! I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders! The job was so bad I wasn’t sleeping well and was even having nightmares about it. But as soon as I was done, I was sleeping like a peaceful baby again.

I decided to give myself a week off between jobs since I hadn’t had an entire week off since the end of 2010. That week off was GLORIOUS! I got a lot of housework done, worked out every day, and got some much needed R&R! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect because it was the week leading up to the big race, so I was very well rested for my 10 mile journey.

I started the new job the day after the race, Monday May 5th. So I made it through a full month, and so far I am LOVING the new job! All the people I work with are really nice, and I have been getting lots of training and being eased into my tasks. There is nothing worse than starting a job and just being thrown into things that you don’t know how to do.   Hopefully things keep going as well as they have been, but I think they will. I have a really good feeling about this place! :)

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again…my one unhealthy vice I still haven’t given up is alcohol. I know it is bad, but I don’t do it too often and we all have something. I won’t eat a piece of pizza or a piece of cake…but a beer, HELL YEAH! :) My love and I went to a Beer Fest the Saturday after our race, which was a celebration for us. It is a tradition for us; this was our 3rd time attending this particular Fest. We had an awesome time, and then went back to my place afterwards and grilled up some veggie burgers with a side of beans (at least we kept the eating healthy!). My feeling is you have to enjoy life, and I’d much prefer a glass of beer (or wine, vodka, margaritas) over a piece of cake or greasy pizza!

Beer Fest 2014 

Another thing, my love helped me get my balcony all ready for the summer! He had a table and chairs that he gave to me, I bought a little grill (shaped like a pig of course!), and my love bought the charcoal and lighter fluid so we could grill. We tried it out once after Beer Fest, and it was perfect. We grilled up some veggie burgers and they were so yummers! We will definitely be using that little piggy lots this summer, and I plan on sharing it all with you! I went shopping a few weeks ago with my Mom and bought one of those burger stuffers. Of course I’ll keep it healthy, my first creation was spinach and feta stuffed turkey burgers! They were TO DIE FOR! Stay tuned, I’ll post the recipe soon! And I can’t wait to try out a few other flavors :)

 Pig Grill

My love and I celebrated the Memorial Day holiday with a BBQ. We whipped up those stuffed spinach & feta turkey burgers! Man oh man, they were TO DIE FOR!!! I made the patties and he did the grilling, awesome teamwork! To go along with that I whipped up a test batch of a light version of potato salad, and it was super yummers! I’ll need another try before posting the recipe, just to make sure it is perfected.

I have two new recipes to share with you today, and I am going to give you a sneak peek at some recipe ideas I have and plan to test out (and post) soon! As I just said, I am ready for summer and am planning on testing out a ton of new healthy summertime recipes on and off the grill. Here are a few that I have in mind:

  • This Ain’t Grandma’s Potato Salad
  • Honey Mustard Coleslaw
  • Spinach & Feta STUFFED Turkey Burgers
  • Broccoli Rabe, Roasted Red Pepper, & Sharp Provolone STUFFED Chicken Burgers
  • No Sugar Added BBQ Sauce
  • No Sugar Added BBQ Baked Beans
  • No Sugar Added Homemade Fudgesicles
  • Pina Colada Bread
  • Veggie-Packed Bread

Of course that is just to name a few…I have some more ideas in my head and will continue to think of some great summer inspired healthy recipes! Do you have some ideas that you’d like me to test out? Perhaps a favorite summertime food that you’d like me to give a healthy makeover to? E-mail me your ideas! Skinnyminipiggy@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!!! Until next time make sure to keep it healthy, and keep it yummers! Here’s to happy and healthy cooking! :)

2 Saturdays ago, my love and I went to see Dave Matthews Band for the FOURTH time together. We were outdoors, and it was surprising cold for a June night. But other than that, we had a great time. There is nothing better than spending quality fun time with the man I adore :)

My love and I celebrated the first day of summer with our first beach day of the year! The weather was super perfect, and it was so nice just lying in the sun all afternoon! It was so nice, peaceful, and relaxing. For me, there is no better place than the beach! I love just lying on the sand, listening to the sound of the waves.

OK so lots more blogging to come (I promise!), I am going to start working on a new blog tonight which may take me a few days to write, on a very serious subject, so stay tuned for that. Before I go I have 2 recipes to share! Cinnamon Vanilla Peanut Butter and The BEST IN THE WORLD Blueberry Jam! Whip these 2 recipes up, and make a SUPER DUPER YUMMERS PB&J! PB spread on whole wheat toast also makes a really great pre-workout meal. Until next time, enjoy! :)

 Cinnamon Vanilla PB

Cinnamon Vanilla Peanut Butter

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. roasted peanuts, unsalted (you can totally use salted peanuts if you prefer)
  • 1/2 tbsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tbsps. Cinnamon (you can use more or less depending on your taste, but I LOVE cinnamon!!!)

Instructions:

  1. Put all ingredients into your food processor/blender (I use the Ninja), and blend for approximately 5 minutes. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all ingredients fully incorporated.
  2. Yummers…ENJOY!!! :)

*Note – the longer you blend your nut butter, the drippier it will get. My recommendation is to blend an additional minute or two after you think it is done.

 

 The BEST in the World Blueberry Jam

The BEST IN THE WORLD Blueberry Jam

Ingredients:

  • 1 48 oz. bag frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp. warm water (slurry – this thickens the jam)

Instructions:

  1. Pour blueberries into a large stock pot or dutch oven that has been greased with cooking spray (to prevent sticking).
  2. Cook blueberries on medium heat, stirring every 2-3 minutes, for about 30 minutes.
  3. After about 30 minutes, add in your honey. Continue cooking, and use a potato masher to mash down your blueberries.
  4. Once your blueberries are mashed, add in your slurry. (*NOTE – make sure your cornstarch and water are completely blended together before adding it to the jam! Otherwise it will clump!) When adding in your slurry, make sure you are constantly stirring the jam until the slurry is fully incorporated.
  5. Continue cooking the jam for about 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until you get your desired jam consistency. (I cooked my jam for about 1 hour total; it also thickens up a bit more once it is cooled.)
  6. Let your jam cool, transfer it to a plastic or glass container, and refrigerate.
  7. Enjoy on toast, pancakes, with peanut butter, or just out of the jar!
  8. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)
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FUN Friday!

What is your Favorite Kitchen Gadget? + PB&J Smoothie + Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Polenta + Ginger-Spiced Apple Sauce

 

What is your favorite kitchen gadget?  I have lots of kitchen gadgets, and love them all.  I have a dehydrator (that I need to start using again, homemade banana chips are the BEST!), a fancy veggie/potato slicer (I still haven’t tried this out), mandolin (which is scary sharp!), Keurig (which I would be lost without!!!), Ninja food processor, slow cooker, microwave (that I rarely use), toaster, etc.  There are lots of things for me to play with in my piggy test kitchen!

It is a toss-up between two of these gadgets as to which is my favorite to use.  I really can’t say which I enjoy better, but I guess if I really had to pick just one I would go with my Ninja food processor.  I make so many great things with it!  From homemade nut butters (peanut & almond), fresh hummus and salsa, puréeing homemade soups (like a roasted red pepper, tomato, & corn soup I have made), homemade popsicles, and of course lots and lots of smoothies! 

Having the food processor really helps me to make a lot of things myself instead of buying, like the nut butters.  They are so easy to make, and it is cheaper to make your own than to buy the good stuff in the stores (organic, unsweetened).  The best part about it is I control what goes into my food and into my body!  No preservatives, additives, unnecessary sugar, etc.  I can’t wait to try out some new recipes as well, so I can post them!

The very close runner-up to the Ninja is my slow cooker!  There is nothing better than throwing something in, and having a meal waiting for you after a long day of work or maybe even a nice Saturday afternoon out having fun.  I love throwing either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or a pork tenderloin in the crock pot along with some seasonings and maybe some BBQ sauce and using that to throw a meal together.  Maybe sandwiches and a freshly made side (pasta salad, oven baked fries, baked beans, etc.), a salad topped with my BBQ meat, a quesadilla served with my black bean & corn salad (a Friday night favorite for my love and me!), and the possibilities are endless!  Top off a baked potato with some of the shredded meat.  Serve it as an entrée with mashed sweet potatoes and some sautéed spinach.  Be creative!  Oh and you can make a bunch, and have quick meal options for the whole week!

The slow cooker is very versatile and you can use it to make lots of different things!  Some of the things I love making in my slow cooker include chili, apple sauce, apple butter, banana bread butter (I need to make this again soon so I can post the recipe, it is too good!), soups, baked beans, healthy rice pudding, pasta sauce, and even creamy polenta! The slow cooker also works great to keep things warm, like making mashed potatoes in advance and putting them in your slow cooker so you don’t keep them on the stove and accidentally burn them (and your pot!). 

These two gadgets also work well together for recipes that I use both for!  For example I have made applesauce in my slow cooker, and then used my Ninja to blend it smooth.  Same goes for soups, and apple butter.  You just need to be careful when blending, always let your product cool down some before using the food processor. 

Today I am going to share three (yes THREE) recipes with you!  You will get one recipe using the food processor, one using the slow cooker, and one using the combo.  I will be posting a smoothie, a side dish (or could be a main event meal), and a recipe that could be a side dish or snack.  Up first is my Ninja made PB&J smoothie!

As I said earlier, I love making homemade nut butters in my Ninja.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy nut butter is in a smoothie.  Peanut butter and jelly is a classic combo!  I loved PB&J sandwiches as a kid, and I still do! This takes out the bread, and adds some protein to the party! So good, I just can’t get enough of my PB&J smoothie!

PB&J Smoothie 

PB & J Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 heaping tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 cup frozen fruit of your choosing, whichever is your fave jam flavor (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, etc.) – I used strawberries for this one, but switch it up and make a different flavor every time!
  • 1 handful fresh spinach leaves (optional, but gives you a nutrition boost!)
  • 1 cup almond milk (or any type of milk you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp. flaxseed
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (or sub ¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon (optional, but I believe that cinnamon makes everything better!)

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients into your blender/food processor, and blend until smooth.
  2. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)

 

I found a recipe on Food Network for a slow cooker polenta recipe, and decided I was going to try to make it.  My love and I had polenta when we were on our weekend getaway at the Poconos back in November, and we both loved it, so I wanted to recreate the recipe.  I made this for us on Valentine’s Day, along with oven roasted pork tenderloin with an apple & onion chutney and sautéed garlicky asparagus.  So I used this recipe as a base, and lightened it up quite a bit.  This recipe calls for milk (I used organic skim), half & half (I used chicken stock), butter (I used earth balance, and 1/3 of what was called for in the original recipe), and parm cheese (I only used 1/3 of the amount), and I also added lots of seasonings (this recipe only called for salt & pepper). 

It really turned out well.  It was thick, creamy, and delicious!  It was definitely just as good (if not better) than the polenta we had on our trip, and I know mine was way healthier!  Polenta is so versatile; you can change up the seasonings many different ways to always keep it different.  You can also form your cooked polenta into cakes and either pan fry, grill, or bake into polenta cakes.  I haven’t tried it yet (but I will!) but polenta would be delish served as a meal with beans, veggies, and/or meat added into it!  I seriously just thought of that idea, I love when I get inspired while writing blogs! Now I want to go home and try this out…NOW! 

No matter how you decide to serve up your polenta, give my recipe a try!  It is so good, and would go great with many different meals.  Follow my recipe, or use it as a base and add your own flair and creativity to the dish! Either as a side dish, or as the main event, you will love this Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Polenta! 

 Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Polenta

Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Polenta

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 3 cups milk (I used organic skim milk)
  • 3-4 cups low sodium chicken stock (I use Swanson)
  • 2 tbsps. earth balance spread (you can use any butter or butter substitute you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Onion powder
  • 2 cloves crushed Garlic
  • Italian seasoning (roughly about 2-3 tbsps.)
  • Cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray and preheat on high.
  2. In a large stockpot (dutch oven) add in your milk, 3 cups of chicken stock, earth balance spread, and corn meal.  Whisk to combine. 
  3. Season your mixture with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic, and Italian seasoning.  I didn’t measure out my seasoning, so just season to taste (don’t go too crazy with the salt, the chicken stock and parm cheese will add extra saltiness to your polenta!)
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil for about 5 minutes while whisking constantly to keep your mixture smooth.
  5. Carefully pour your polenta mixture into your slow cooker and cook on high for about 2 hours.  You will want to stir about every 30 minutes or so.  I recommend test tasting as you go so you can adjust your seasoning as needed.
  6. At the end, add in your grated parm cheese and stir to combine until the cheese is melted.
  7. When done, use remaining chicken stock (as much or as little as needed) to get your desired consistency (you may not need any).
  8. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)

 

Another great recipe I have for you is my Ginger-Spiced Apple Sauce.  As you may know I LOVE ginger!!! And I love apples too.  A co-worker of mine told me she had made a ginger, pear, apple sauce.  Now I am not a fan of pears, so my idea was to omit the pears and make a ginger spiced apple sauce.  I did, and it turned out great!  This is my combo recipe, make the sauce in the slow cooker and use the Ninja to blend it smooth.  This isn’t just a fall treat; you can enjoy this deliciousness all year long! It is so easy to make, and it so good!

 Ginger-Spiced Apple Sauce

Slow Cooker Ginger-Spiced Apple Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 6 large apples (I used Red Delicious, but any sweet variety will work well)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 4 tbsps. cinnamon (I love lots of cinnamon, feel free to use less if you like)
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey (feel free to omit this for a sugar-free version)
  • Cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat slow cooker to low, and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Peel and dice apples, and place them in your slow cooker.
  3. Peel and mince ginger and add it to your slow cooker.
  4. Add in your apple cider, cinnamon, ground ginger, and maple syrup, and stir to combine ingredients.
  5. Cook on low for about 6 hours.
  6. Allow to cool, strain your apple mixture (reserving the liquid), and then puree your apples in your food processor.  Add cooking liquid as needed to get your desired consistency.  You can save any unused liquid to add to smoothies, breads, muffins, etc.  (don’t waste that apple goodness!)
  7. It is recommended to refrigerate at least an hour or two before serving. 
  8. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)
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Throwback Thursday

Where the Cooking All Began + Slow Cooker Piggy Pocono Chili (Chicken Sausage & White Bean Chili)

 

Does life ever get you down or stressed?  Whether it be work, relationship troubles, family disputes, arguments with friends, money woes, etc…life can be pretty tough at times!  My current work situation isn’t great, and has me pretty stressed out!  I was doing 10-11 hour workdays every day for a month! Now that things have slowed down a bit, things still are stressful.  It makes me wish for simpler times…

It makes me wish I was a kid again, when everything was so easy and simple.  A time where my days were full of Barbie’s and cartoons.  If I was hungry, someone fed me.  I didn’t have to worry about much of anything!  I MISS THAT.  Or even pre-teen and teenage years where my biggest responsibilities were chores and my biggest worries were being able to stay out late or having some extra cash for a new sweater or CD. 

Ahh the good old days, I sure do miss them! My Grandmom always told me to enjoy my youth because I would miss it when I grew up.  At the time I thought she was CRAZY, but if only I had known how right she was!  If I had known maybe I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to grow up.  As a kid I couldn’t wait to grow up and live on my own, drive a car, not have to go to school anymore and have a job, etc.  If only I knew how difficult life could be, that most of the things that come with being an adult…STINK!

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my Grandmom.  She lived only six houses down the street, so I had an extremely close relationship with her.  I saw her practically every single day of my life until I moved out when I was 24.  She was always at our house, or we were at hers!  We vacationed with her, went shopping, had Sunday dinner together mostly every week, and basically did mostly everything with my Grams. 

My Grandpop died when I was 8, and every Saturday after that until I was a teenager I spent the night at my Grams’ house.  It was my being there for her that formed such a close bond between the two of us.  At the time I was far too young to understand the amount of comfort I brought to her simply by spending the night each week, which I thought was the greatest and most fun thing ever! We would play games, watch TV, eat ice cream (the taste of Butter Pecan will ALWAYS remind me of my Grams!) and lots of other snacks (her onion dip was the GREATEST THING EVER!!!), and she always made us an awesome breakfast Sunday morning. 

Some of my greatest memories of my Grams are being in the kitchen with her. This is where my cooking all began!  I started out as a helper, and as I got older and more capable of doing bigger tasks, I gradually got to do more of the work.  I still remember the very first year we made homemade sweet potato pies for Thanksgiving.  The recipe was for four pies, but instead of my Grams cutting the recipe down, she daringly made four pies on our first attempt at pie making ever!  It was a good thing she did because they were SOOO GOOD that we ate half a pie fresh out of the oven!!!  I can still see us sitting in her kitchen at the table enjoying our freshly made creation.  After that, the sweet potato pie making became an annual Thanksgiving tradition! To this day every time I even see a sweet potato (or eat one, which is quite often!) I fondly think of Grams.

Another thing my Grams was famous for was her pudding and whipped cream icing.  It literally was just instant boxed vanilla pudding made and cool whip combined together.  So simple, but such a delicious cake icing!  This was her favorite icing to top pound cake with!  It also makes a great fruit dip too. 

Hands down the greatest thing Grams made was her cheesecake!  It is the BEST cheesecake I have ever eaten in my whole life!  The crust definitely makes it.  I was lucky enough to have her teach me how to make it, and I was able to recreate it quite a bit and it tasted pretty much identical to what she made.  If I were to allow myself to indulge in a full-fat dessert (which I no longer do at all), I would make this for myself and eat the whole thing! That’s right, no sharing :) 

Hmm, perhaps I could pull out her recipe (which I still have) and try to make a fresher, healthier version.  I’m sure it would be a big challenge to do so, but I may just be up for that challenge.  I will definitely check out the recipe and see if I can work my Skinny Mini Piggy magic and create a healthier, better for you version of Grams’ Cheesecake. 

A few of my other favorite things Grams made were her potato salad, deviled eggs, sirloin steak with a killer gravy, and her onion dip was the GREATEST DIP EVER!!!  She made her onion dip quite often, but no one ever got tired of eating it.  Anytime she was invited to a party, people requested that she make her dip.  My Mom has tried to recreate it, and she is really close, but still doesn’t taste quite the same as when Grams made it. 

It is because of all of these wonderful and priceless memories I have cooking with my Grams from the time I was quite little, I am a big believer in getting kids in the kitchen helping out at a young age! If you show kids that cooking is fun, they are more likely to grow up and enjoy cooking.  It is very important to teach kids good and healthy habits at a young age so those healthy habits stay with them.  And it is such a great way to form more of a bond with them!  So get those little piglets in the kitchen and have some fun cooking!

For many years I lost my passion and love for cooking.  I gained a ton of weight, was eating out ALL THE TIME, and hated being in the kitchen.  It wasn’t until I started cooking for my love that my passion for cooking was renewed.  I have never in my life loved cooking for someone so much, nor has anyone ever loved my food so much!  I really enjoy watching my love enjoy my culinary creations, and I have never been so sweetly complimented on my abilities.  I am always so excited for a new recipe idea, and trying to come up with new things that I know my love will enjoy! 

Back in November we had a weekend getaway for his birthday celebration.  We went to the Pocono Mountains, and stayed at a lovely little Inn.  This Inn had an AMAZING restaurant right next door.  The food was some of the best I have ever had!   One of the nights for dinner, we had a super delicious Chicken Sausage and White Bean Chili.  It was TOO DIE FOR!!! OH SO GOOD!!!  So of course I wanted to attempt to recreate it myself.  I did a really great job; it tasted very similar to the chili we enjoyed in the Poconos.  So here is my recipe for my Slow Cooker Piggy Pocono Chili (or Chicken Sausage & White Bean Chili).  We served ours in baked tortilla bowls, and topped with reduced-fat shredded cheese and light sour cream.  Some sliced avocado would be yummers on this as well.  I hope you enjoy!

 

Slow Cooker Piggy Pocono Chili 

Slow Cooker Piggy Pocono Chili (Chicken Sausage & White Bean Chili)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. chicken sausage
  • 2 cans cannellini beans (Northern white beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 29 oz can crushed tomatoes (I use Hunts)
  • 2 15oz cans diced tomatoes (I use Hunts)
  • 1 16oz bag frozen corn kernels
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Chipotle powder (for spice, you can also use cayenne or a jalapeno pepper)
  • Olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Place slow cooker on low heat to warm.
  2. Heat 2 skillets with olive oil (1 for the veggies, and 1 for the sausage)
  3. Sear the sausages over high heat, getting a nice brown crust on the outside (do not fully cook; these will cook through in the slow cooker).  Once the sausages are seared, cut them into slices.
  4. In your other skillet, add diced onion.  Cook about 5-10 minutes, or until lightly golden.
  5. Add peppers and garlic to your onions, and season with salt, and pepper.  Cook an additional 5 minutes or until peppers are tender.
  6. Add your onion mixture and sausage slices to your slow cooker.  Add in your beans, canned tomatoes, and corn kernels.  Season with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and chipotle powder. 
  7. Cook on low for a few hours (the longer the better), with stirring and taste testing every once in a while.  Add additional seasoning as needed.
  8. Spoon into a bowl and top with your favorite chili toppers (cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, etc).
  9. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)
Sweat like a pig

Motivational Meatless Monday

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Ways to Incorporate Fitness into your Daily Life + Zucchini & Eggplant Marinara

It is MOTIVATIONAL Monday, so MOVE YOUR BUTT!!!  Motivation is something I have been struggling with the past few weeks.  I’m sure you are thinking…it is resolution season so shouldn’t your motivation be pretty high?  It should, especially since I have a ten mile run in the beginning of May that I need to train for!  However all month I have been working 10-11 hour days 5 days a week.  When I haven’t been in the office, I haven’t had the motivation or energy to do very much.

By the time my work day ends and I arrive home, I have been out of the house for about 11-12 hours, which is a long day.  Who wants to go to the gym after that?!?!  I have been coming home, and barely moving off of the couch.  But you know what?  That has actually made me feel WORSE, not better!  The few days I have pulled myself to the gym after those long hours in the office is when I felt the best.  So I am getting myself back on track, and re-motivated to hit the gym regularly and get myself ready for the big race!

I hit the gym both Thursday and Friday after work, and felt rejuvenated afterwards!  So much so that I was able to take advantage of some beautiful 50 degree weather on Saturday and get a 4 mile run in.  A workout never felt so good or so needed!  I also got a workout in yesterday, so that is four days in a row…it’s been a long while since I’ve done that! 

Today it is a snowy day, and I am enjoying a much-needed day out of the office!  I have a batch of apple-ginger sauce in my slow cooker, and a batch of Banana Almond Protein Granola cooling.  It feels so good to be testing out recipes and writing this blog. I am very excited to have some new yummy recipes to share with all of you :)

Even though it is a snow day, I am going to get in an at-home ab and core workout!  Crunches, planks, push-ups, burpees, mountain climbers, and lots of deep stretching and some relaxing yoga moves to cool me down.  My body is really craving this, and I can’t wait to get my body moving! 

Even when life is busy, or we are stuck at home with snow falling all day, we can still move our bodies to get some fitness into our day.  Here are some great ways to get some fitness into a busy day, or maybe just squeezing some extra fitness into our daily routines:

  • Have stairs?  Walking up and down the stairs for just 10 minutes can burn 100 calories!  Always take stairs when you can over an elevator or escalator to add some extra movement into your day!
  • Have an office job?  Get up and take a quick 5 minute walk every hour.  If you do this every hour at the office, that adds up to 40 minutes of extra movement! 
  • Take a half an hour walk during your lunch hour before eating.  The movement will get your metabolism cranked before you eat your lunch, and walking is great exercise.  Doing this 5 days a week adds up to an extra 2.5 hours of movement.
  • In the kitchen at work (or at home) waiting for something to heat up in the microwave or waiting for a pot of coffee to brew?  Lean against the counter (or hit the floor if you are at home) and do 30 second planks with a 10 second rest while you wait.  What, you were just going to stand there and waste 3-5 minutes? Use this time to get some extra movement!
  • Set up a before shower routine.  For example, do 30 jumping jacks before you shower every time.  Or plank for 1 minute.  Or do push-ups.  Or squats.  You get the idea, just pick your move and do it.  You can alter the moves each day, but make sure you do something! 
  • Need to stop at a store to pick things up? Park as far away from the store as possible to get some extra steps in your day!  This is an easy way to add a little extra fitness into a busy day!

Some of these things may seem small, and they are, but remember the small things add up quickly especially when you do a few small things each day!  Burning an extra 100 calories each day adds up to be 700 calories a week, and 2,800 calories in a month.  Looking at it that way, the small things suddenly don’t seem as small anymore, do they? 

Hopefully these tips for small fitness add-ins help get (or keep) you motivated today and every day.  I am going to incorporate some of these small add-ins into my daily life, and also keep myself motivated to do the big things as well. 

One of my resolutions is to eat more veggies! I have been doing a pretty good job of that, and only plan to get better with it.  Here is a recipe for Meatless Monday, Zucchini & Eggplant Marinara.  This would be a super yummers side dish or a meatless entrée served over some brown rice, or whole wheat pasta, or served with a side salad.  Hope you enjoy!

 Zucchini & Eggplant Marinara

Zucchini & Eggplant Marinara

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 2 zucchinis, diced
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cans diced tomatoes (I used Hunt’s fire roasted)
  • 3 tbsps. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Heat a skillet or dutch oven with some olive oil.
  2. Add in your diced onion, and let cook for about 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
  3. Add in your diced eggplant and zucchini.  Season with salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, and Italian seasoning.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes or until veggies are tender.
  4. Add in your tomatoes, turn your heat on low, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  Make sure to stir occasionally.
  5. Taste test to make sure your seasoning is where you want it.  Add more seasoning if desired.
  6. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)
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#TipTuesday + #WorkoutWednesday

 

*Ok so I know I promised a post yesterday and failed to deliver.  But…I left my house at 7 am for work and didn’t get back until 8 pm after work and yoga class.  I was out and about for 13 hours, and after a shower and a quick dinner, I was just too tired to write a blog post.  So I will start off with my #TuesdayTips post and then go into my #WorkoutWednesday post.  I promised a new post each day this week, and I want to keep to that even if Tuesday’s post is a day late.  After all…better late than never :)

 

Tuesday’s Tips – Easy Food Replacements to Help You Become Healthier + Oven Baked Crab Fries

It is super easy to make simple food swaps to help cut out unwanted calories and fat!  For example, I never eat deep fried foods.  I haven’t for years.  But I LOVE fries!  So instead of eating the traditional greasy, full of fat, deep fried fries I make fries at home and bake them in the oven.  They come out just as delicious, if not even more delicious, than the deep fried version.  You can do this with many, many different foods in lots of different ways!  Love sweet potato fries? Bake those too! I like to sprinkle mine with a bit of cinnamon before popping them into the oven.  YUMMERS :)

Here are some easy swaps you can make to create a healthier meal and ultimately a healthier you:

  • Instead of using rice, swap your rice with quinoa.  Quinoa has 150% more fiber than rice, and 100% more protein as well.  That’s a lot of extra nutrition you’ll be getting!  Tried quinoa and don’t like it? Well substitute brown rice for white rice and you’ll still be getting some extra nutrients!
  • As an alternative to mayo, use mustard in its place.  Mayo contains both added sugar as well as saturated fats.  Mustard doesn’t contain any sugar or fat!  I just had a turkey sandwich for lunch in which I replaced the mayo for mustard, and it was delish!  Another good swap for mayo is hummus!  I love hummus spread on sandwiches and even mixed into my tuna.  Yet another good alternative to mayo is guacamole (or just simple mashed avocado).  You get the good healthy fats your body needs.  Avocado is great with both tuna and egg salad.
  • Are you guilty of drinking soda? A healthier option with flavor is swapping out that can of pop with a cup of tea (hot or iced).  One can of soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar! Freshly brewed tea has no sugar and is full of antioxidants.  Add a touch of honey to give your tea a hint of sweetness.  Of course all natural water is a great substitute for any beverage.  Water has zero calories, and your body needs plenty of water daily! 
  • Replace vegetable oil with a healthier choice like coconut oil.  Yes coconut oil still has fat, but about 66% of the fats found in coconut oil are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which have been shown to help support weight loss.  Are you baking and want to cut the fat out altogether? Use unsweetened applesauce as a replacement for either butter or oil that the recipe calls for.  Not only does this make your recipe leaner, your baked goods come out moister as well.
  • Need some extra protein in your diet?  Replace that dollop of sour cream with Greek yogurt instead! Greek yogurt contains 450% more protein that sour cream does, and 227% less calories as well.  This swap helps you lower the calorie intake as well as increase the nutritional value.  Most definitely a win-win here! Greek yogurt is also another great alternative to mayo!
  • As we all know salads CAN be a very healthy meal option.  I am sure you are all aware that not all salads are created equal, and the healthiness depends on what we put into our salads!  Everyone loves croutons; they add a great crunchy aspect to salads.  By replacing the croutons with sliced almonds, you still get the crunch and you also get double the protein and triple the fiber!  You also get 1/3 less carbs than you do with croutons! 
  • We all know that potato chips are bad news! Deep fried, full of grease and saturated fats!  Replace those chips with air-popped popcorn.  Air-popped popcorn has 9 times less saturated fat than potato chips have and also 1/3 fewer calories per serving.  Still craving that potato flavor? Make your own baked chips!  Slice potatoes thin with a mandolin (be careful, these things are sharp!) and season to your liking and bake in the oven until crispy and golden. 
  • People are very mindful of carbs now.  One easy way to cut down on the carbs is to replace white flour with coconut flour.  Not only does coconut flour have less carbs, it also contains 11 times more fiber than white flour.  Whole wheat flour is also another nutritious substitute for white flour.
  • Who doesn’t LOVE chocolate?  I think we are all guilty of that, or at least most of us! A healthier option to chocolate chips is cacao nibs.  Cacao nibs contain no sugar at all, and they have 5 times more fiber than chocolate chips!  Cacao nibs too bitter for your liking? Use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate as another healthier sub! My favorite is Ghirardelli dark 65% Cacao. 
  • Sometimes healthier swaps are for things that are already healthy for you, just making it even healthier! For example by using romaine lettuce in place of iceberg lettuce you get 17 times more Vitamin A and 4 times more Vitamin K! Not much of a difference in taste, but a big difference in nutrients!
  • Replace creamy, thick, heavy salad dressings (such as Ranch or Blue Cheese) for lighter varieties (such as Balsamic Vinaigrette or Italian).  This saves on both calories as well as fat. 
  • Love coating your chicken in breadcrumbs? Swap out those bread crumbs for chia seeds or sesame seeds (my personal favorite!).  The seeds give you the crunch of the bread crumbs, plus added fiber and protein!  I love making homemade chicken fingers coated in sesame seeds and baked in the oven.
  • Do you eat processed store-bought peanut butters? Switch to natural (no sugar added) peanut butter (or almond butter).  The processed stuff is loaded with sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oils.  I make my own peanut and almond butters.  It is really simple, all you do is place your nuts in a food processor and let it blend until smooth and creamy (5-7 minutes). 
  • Love those “sports drinks” after a workout? They are anything but healthy for you!  They are loaded with sugar.  Replace that with coconut water and you’ll get half the sugar plus 16 times more potassium!
  • Replace your sugar-laden fruit juices with all natural water to save yourself a ton of calories! Store-bought juices have almost as much sugar as soda does per ounce.  Love your morning glass of juice? Replace it with no-sugar added juice to save yourself some unneeded calories. 
  • MOO!!! Swap out your regular cow’s milk with unsweetened almond milk. Almond milk has six times less calories per serving than dairy milk.  I actually prefer almond milk over dairy milk anyway.  I think it naturally tastes sweeter, even though there is way less sugar in it. 
  • Eat lean meats (such as fish, turkey, and chicken) over fattier meats (such as beef or pork). 

I hope you find my food swapping tips to be helpful! Making small swap outs on a daily basis will help you cut calories, and you will be surprised how quickly you can drop a few pounds by making small changes to your daily habits.  Those little things add up quickly!

Since my blog today is about food swaps, I am going to share a recipe for one of my favorite food swaps.  As I said earlier I LOVE fries!  I make baked versions of fries a lot, and this is one of my favorite versions! Here in Philadelphia, there is a very popular sports bar that serves Crab Fries.  Crab fries are basically just crinkle cut French fries dusted with Old Bay Seasoning.  They are quite famous here in Philly!  I haven’t had the real thing in a very long time, but I make my own version at home in the oven.  Here is my recipe for Skin-On Oven Baked Crab Fries!

 

Crab Fries 

Skin-On Oven Baked Crab Fries

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes (use as many as you are going to need and any variety you like, I used Yukon Gold)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Old Bay Seasoning

Instructions:

1.       Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2.      Wash your potatoes (feel free to peel them, but I prefer the skin on!).  Cut your potatoes in half, and then cut slices (as thick or thin as you like). 

3.      Drizzle a cookie sheet with a little bit of olive oil.  Place your cut potatoes on the cookie sheet. 

4.      Drizzle your potatoes with a little olive oil and toss to coat. 

5.      Season with salt, pepper, and Old Bay (not too much, it is very strong and on the salty side).

6.      Bake your fries for about an hour, or until fork tender and golden brown.

7.      YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)

 Eat Healthy!

 

Workout Wednesday…A Week of Workouts in Review + BEST EVER Post-Workout Parfait

Ok so I know it is workout Wednesday, and I usually LOVE working out on Wednesdays (usually my big running day), but I am just not feeling it today!  These 10-11 hour work days are just killing me, and mentally I can’t take much more!  Work, exercise, then still finding time to cook, clean, shop, etc.?!?!  There aren’t enough hours in the week! I have laundry piling up at home, I need to go shopping (I am nearly out of body wash, and that is a must have!), and most importantly I need to SLEEP! I am really looking forward to the weekend more than maybe I ever have, just to be able to sleep in Saturday morning and then enjoy a good, long, HARD workout!!!

That being said, I will take today as my day off and hit the gym hard tomorrow for my long run (hoping to get at least 5 miles, and maybe push a little further).  Instead of focusing on what I’m not doing tonight, I choose to focus on what I have done already and I have done pretty good so far this week.  Thursday I ran 5 miles, and then ran another 4 miles Saturday.  I ran 5 miles on Monday, and then did an hour and a half of hot yoga last night.  My plan is to run at least 5 tomorrow, and then the CHALLENGES start on Friday!

My plan for Friday is to wake up half an hour earlier and get in my jumping jacks (1,000 of them!) and my planking.  Thankfully day 1 planking is only 20 seconds, but since I am not a planking beginner I will probably do more than that.  I think I will do a 20 second plank in between each of my 10 sets of jumping jacks.   That will equate into over 3 minutes of total planking.  Can you tell I am feeling pretty excited about these challenges?!?!  I am PUMPED and ready to go!  I will also make a smoothie in the morning for my breakfast as part of the smoothie challenge.  I am feeling fitter already just thinking about it :)

After my four mile run this past Saturday, I was in the mood for some Greek yogurt.  I buy non-fat plain Greek yogurt, and sweeten it up myself with a variety of things.  I like adding honey, maple syrup, freshly made jams, cinnamon, or fresh fruit to flavor it.  This is by far the best parfait I’ve made so far! The mashed banana made the yogurt super sweet and delish, and the blueberries were a nice pairing with the banana!  It is so easy and simple, and TO DIE FOR all at the same time! This is why I call this recipe the BEST EVER Post-Workout Blueberry Banana Parfait. 

 

BEST EVER Post-Workout Blueberry Banana Parfait 

BEST EVER Post-Workout Blueberry Banana Parfait

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz non-fat plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage…I really think it’s the best tasting Greek yogurt)
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 2 handfuls blueberries (either fresh or frozen)
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey (optional)

Instructions:

1.       In a bowl, mash your banana with a fork.

2.      Add yogurt to the mashed banana and stir to combine.

3.      Add a dash or two (as much or as little as you like) of cinnamon to your yogurt mixture, and stir to combine.

4.      Add a touch of honey (again as much or as little as you like) to your yogurt mixture to give it a touch of extra sweetness, and stir to combine.

5.      Place about half your yogurt mixture in a parfait glass.  Top with a handful of blueberries.  Add the rest of your yogurt mixture on top of the blueberries.  Top off your parfait with another handful of blueberries.

6.      YUMMERS…ENJOY! :)

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Motivational Monday 1-13-14

CHALLENGE + Eat Your Veggies! + Roasted Toasted Veggie Sandwich

Hi friends and followers! Today is Motivational Monday, so I am going to try to help motivate you all to either jump start or stick to your new fitness/clean eating plan.  That includes both adding different workouts to your routine and also eating better! If you are like me, you struggle to eat as many veggies as you should.  We all know we need to eat our veggies, so I am making a conscious effort to eat lots more of them!

Starting this Friday, for Fitness Friday, I am starting a 30-day plank challenge. This is where you perform a plank exercise each day for an allotted amount of time (the time gradually increases each day). Planks are a great core workout, so this is perfect for helping to tone your belly, which is exactly what I need the most!  Here is the 30-day plank challenge I will be doing (hopefully not alone!):

30-Day Plank Challenge

In addition to the plank challenge, I am going to start a 30-day jumping jack challenge. This will consist of performing 10 sets of 100 jumping jacks (yes you read that right, 1,000 jumping jacks) each day for 30 days! By doing 7,000 jumping jacks a week in addition to what you already do, you will lose 1 pound a week! So just by doing this jumping jack challenge you should lose 4 pounds over the course of a month.

So over the next 30 days, starting Friday January 17th, I will be doing 2 exercise challenges simultaneously. In addition to the 2 exercise challenges, I am also going to start a 30-day smoothie challenge. This is where I will replace one meal a day with a smoothie for 30 days. I already have 6 amazingly delicious and healthy smoothie recipes posted, and plan to post at least 1 more before the challenge starts. I will continuously post my new smoothie creation recipes as I go through this challenge. Hmm…perhaps I should challenge myself to create a different flavored smoothie each day?!?! Well I’m not making any promises for 30 different flavors, but I will try my best to create as many new and different flavors as I can!

Well this is quite the challenge I am going to start on Friday! At least I am giving myself, and all of you, a few days to prepare! I am very excited about the 3 challenges I, and hopefully you, will be taking on! I will post about my progress each day, and of course continue to share lots of great tips, and recipes with you as well (and I promise more than just smoothie recipes over the next 30 days!).

I am getting myself off to a good start this week with planning on completing workouts Monday through Thursday!  I already accomplished Monday’s workout by doing FIVE miles on the treadmill doing interval sprints on an incline.  Here is what I did:

  • Warm-Up:
    • Walked for 2 minutes on 4.0 mph on a 2.0 incline
    • Jogged for 5 minutes on 5.6 mph on a 2.0 incline
    • Walked 3 minutes on 4.0 mph on a 2.0 incline
  • Interval Workout:
    • Ran for 1 minute on 6.0 mph on a 3.o incline
    • Ran for 1 minute on 8.0 mph on a 3.0 incline
    • Walked for 2 minutes on 4.0 mph on a 15.0 incline
    • Walked for 2 minutes on 3.8 mph on a 2.o incline
      • *Repeated the intervals for 30 minutes, doing it a total of 5 times
  • Cool Down:
    • Walked for 10 minutes on 4.2 mph on a 15.o incline
    • Walked for 10 minutes on 4.0 mph on a 12.0 incline
    • Walked for 10 minutes on 3.8 mph with no incline

And here are my results:

1-13-14 Run 

So I am most definitely getting a good start to my training and a jump-start on things before I start these 2 exercise challenges.

My reasoning for the 2 exercise challenges is because one of my resolutions for this New Year is to change up my exercise routine and incorporate new moves to my usual workout. I think this will help jump-start my metabolism into an even higher gear, and help me tone some of my trouble spots (like my belly). The smoothie challenge will help me consume more fruits and veggies (planning on mostly all, if not all, green smoothies!), and may help me shed the last 5 pounds I’d like to take off.

For Meatless Monday, and for some increased veggie consumption, my recipe today is my Roasted Toasted Veggie Sandwich. This is super easy to make, and super yummers!!! You can mix and match any kind of veggies you like, so don’t feel like you have to follow my recipe 100%. Don’t like broccoli rabe? (Well you are CRAZY!) But in any case, spinach is a much milder leafy green that can easily be substituted for the broccoli rabe in this recipe. For an extra veggie boost, serve this sandwich with a nice healthy side salad (I didn’t, I served mine with homemade baked fries…I will be sharing that recipe with you tomorrow!). For now here is my recipe for Skinny Mini Piggy Roasted Toasted Veggie Sandwich, enjoy!

 

Veggie Sandwich 

Roasted Toasted Veggie Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 an eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • I bunch of broccoli rabe (or substitute spinach leaves)
  • Reduced fat provolone cheese (optional)
  • Roll of choice (I used a whole wheat sandwich roll)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 Veggie Sandwich 2

Instructions:

    1. Heat a grill pan (or a large sauté pan) on your stove with olive oil.  Dice your veggies (eggplant, zucchini, onion, and pepper) and put them onto your grill pan. Season with salt and pepper
    2. Heat a large stockpot with olive oil.  Add in your broccoli rabe, and season with salt and pepper.
    3. Cook your grilling veggies for about 20 minutes, or until veggies are nicely colored and cooked through.
    4. Cook your broccoli rabe about 5-10 minutes or until lightly wilted.
    5. Fill your roll with veggies, and top with a slice or 2 of cheese. Place under your broiler until the cheese is melty, about 2-3 minutes.
    6. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)
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Skinny Mini Piggy is back!!!!

Soup-er Sunday…The Return of Skinny Mini Piggy + Chicken Orzo Soup

Hello my friends!  After quite some time away from my blog, Skinny Mini Piggy is back!  One of the big reasons for my hiatus is that I have been working CRAZY hours (11 hour days!).  I am an accountan t, and we did a system conversion to new software, and got behind by three months.  So we are playing catch-up now and haven’t been given much time to do so.  So with all those hours at the office, I have been struggling to maintain balance in my life with blogging, working out, eating properly, etc.  I am trying my best to get back on track with everything, and am going to try and write out a weeks worth of blogs tonight so I can just easily post them in the evening. 

I hope all of you had a wonderful Holiday season and a very happy new year!  I know this is the biggest time of year for people wanting clean eating, healthy recipes which is one of my biggest motivations for getting back into the groove of blogging and posting new recipes!  I have some great ideas, and plan to get back into the test kitchen a few times a week to keep bringing my fans amazing, delicious, healthy, and nutritious eats! 

Unfortunately my workouts have been lacking as well due to there just not being enough hours in the day.  However this past Thursday I was SUPER INSPIRED to get back at it hard!  The 10 mile run I did last May, Ron and I are doing it again this year, and they posted on Facebook Thursday morning that it was just 115 days away!  My thought was “HOLY CRAP, I HAVE to start training NOW!!!”  So Thursday night, after putting in 11 hours at work, I hit the gym and ran FIVE miles!  I was so super proud that I was able to push myself to get that done, and that means I am already halfway there for the big race! 

FIVE Miles

Saturday was a very spring-like day here in the Philadelphia area, so I took advantage of the warmth and went for a run outside.  My apartment complex is right on the Delaware River, and the views are really beautiful.  I ran three loops around my development, totaling another 4 miles!  I am feeling much more confident in my running, and am excited for my training for my 10 miler! 

FOUR Miles

So I have gotten very inspired to get myself back on track.  I have a few New Years Resolutions that haven’t gotten off to the best start, but I am getting on track with those as well.  Here are my resolutions:

  • Eat more veggies!  I love veggies, but don’t always eat as much of them as I should.  To help myself get on track with this, tonight for dinner I am making a roasted & toasted veggie sandwich! I am also making PLENTY, so I will be sure to have at least 2 additional meals for during the week! (Recipe for my veggie sandwich will be posted tomorrow!)
  • Incorporate more strength training/weights into my workout routine.  I LOVE my cardio, but I’d like to incorporate more weight training and some new and different things to my usual routine. 
  • Lose the last 5 lbs! This one will most definitely be the hardest, but honestly it is the least important to me.  I have stopped obsessing with my number on the scale (I haven’t weighed myself in months!) and go more on how I am feeling.  As long as I am feeling good, I am one happy piggy!

What are some of your resolutions?  How are you doing with staying on track?  Keep up the good work everyone! As long as you believe you can do it, you can!  You are capable of anything you put your mind to! 

I have lots of great things planned for the blog over the next few weeks, including tracking my training for my run, new exercise routines, meal trackers, plus lots of new recipes!  Here is a preview of some of the recipes I have planned to test out and post:

  • Roasted Toasted Veggie Sandwiches (recipe coming tomorrow!)
  • Oven Baked Crab Fries (recipe coming tomorrow!)
  • Ginger Cinnamon Apple Sauce
  • Non-fat Blueberry Cream Cheese
  • Best Ever Blueberry Banana Yogurt Parfait
  • Turkey & Broccoli Rabe Meatballs with Veggie-Packed Sauce
  • Cinnamon Raisin Bread
  • Sweet Potato Gnocchi
  • Italian Wedding Soup
  • Chicken Sausage & White Bean Chili

There are a lot of others too, but you’ll have to stay tuned to my posts to see what I have in store!

Last weekend my love was feeling sick, so naturally I made a big pot of chicken soup to help make him feel better!  I wanted to change the recipe from my usual chicken noodle soup, so I looked in my pantry to see what I had on hand.  I had some whole wheat orzo which I used in place of the noodles, and I added in spinach leaves to help boost our leafy green intake!  It turned out really good, and I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!  Perfect for someone who is sick, or the perfect meal to make for a very cold and/or snowy day!  Here it is, Skinny Mini Piggy Chicken Orzo Soup:

 Chicken Orzo Soup

Chicken Orzo Soup (Slow Cooker)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 16 oz whole wheat orzo (any type of pasta can be used for this recipe)
  • 1 16 oz bag spinach leaves
  • 8 oz sliced carrots (I bought a bag of pre-sliced, but you can use whole carrots and slice them yourself)
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 48 oz container of chicken stock (I use Swanson low sodium)
  • 2 tbsps. celery seed
  • 1 tbsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Season raw chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and place them into your slow cooker.  Add in 1 cup (16 oz) of your chicken stock.  Cook chicken on low for about 3-4 hours or until chicken is cooked through.
  2. Allow chicken to cool down, and then shred your chicken.
  3. Add shredded chicken back into your slow cooker.  Add in the rest of the stock, orzo, carrots, celery seed, poultry seasoning, onion powder, and garlic and cook on low heat. 
  4. In a sauté pan, heat up with some olive oil.  Add diced onion to hot pan, and cook onions 10-15 minutes or until caramelized.
  5. Add onion to your slow cooker, and continue to cook until orzo is cooked through.
  6. Add in spinach leaves and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the spinach wilts down.
  7. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)
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300 Followers! + #ThirstyThursday

I Got My 300th Follow! + Thirst Thursday “Peppermint Patty” Smoothie + Chocolate Covered Cherries Smoothie + BONUS RECIPE: Home for the Holidays Jam

 Less than an hour ago I got my 300th follower on Twitter! How excited I am!!!  When I first started this blog, I would have never imagined reaching so many in just over a months’ time.  The fact that people follow me, read these blogs of mine, and check out my recipes (and hopefully make them!) is AMAZING to me!  I never thought this was even a possibility!  But with some much needed love and support from Ron, he helped give me the courage and motivation to get this started and to make my vision a reality.

I truly hope that I have, and can continue to, inspire and motivate as many people as I possibly can.  After all, that is the reason for all of this.  I have a tremendous desire to help people with their weight struggles.  I know from experience how incredibly tough it is, and I know what I have accomplished is no small task.  It took a great amount of work, self-discipline, and dedication to get the job done and to continue to get the job done each and every single day!

I am not sure how many people are Seinfeld fans, but in my office we celebrate Festivus.  In a nutshell, Festivus was a made-up holiday for people sick of the hustle and bustle of Christmas.  For example they display a non-decorated aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree.  So for our office Festivus celebration (which was today), each of the accounting managers make a dish (all the same) which is decided ahead of time, and the whole accounting department tastes and judges and picks a winner.  This year chocolate chip cheesecakes were made (FIVE of them!) and we were supposed to taste each one.  I am proud to say that I did not have one single bite of cheesecake today!  Like I said, not an easy task, but it definitely gets easier to say no with time. 

That being said, the holidays are a big time of year when lots of people indulge (and over indulge!) in sweet treats and other goodies.  For me, holiday inspired smoothies are helpful to provide that sweet holiday flavor we all love but with zero guilt!  I have two Christmas inspired smoothie recipes for you today!

First I have my “Peppermint Patty” smoothie!  Peppermint is one of the ultimate holiday flavors, and what goes better with peppermint than chocolate?!?!  This smoothie totally reminds me of mint chocolate chip ice cream! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

 Peppermint Patty Smoothie

“Peppermint Patty” Smoothie

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 1/2 frozen bananas
  • 1 handful dark chocolate chips (you can melt these down and use melted chocolate if you prefer)
  • 4 drops peppermint extract
  • 1 cup almond milk (or any type of milk you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp. flaxseed
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (you can omit this – if you do I’d add in 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract)

 

Instructions:

  1. Place chocolate chips in your blender/food processor and blend until ground.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients into your blender/food processor, and blend until smooth. 
  3. YUMMERS…ENJOY :)

 

I am not sure about you, but at Christmas time in my house there was always a box (or two!) of chocolate covered cherries! My Dad LOVED them, and that flavor always takes me back to memories of Christmastime as a kid.  Here is my Chocolate Covered Cherries Smoothie:

Chocolate Covered Cherries Smoothie  

Chocolate Covered Cherries Smoothie

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 cup frozen cherries
  • 1 handful dark chocolate chips (you can melt these down and use melted chocolate if you prefer)
  • 1 cup almond milk (or any type of milk you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp. flaxseed
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (you can omit this – if you do I’d add in 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract)

 

Instructions:

  1. Place chocolate chips in your blender/food processor and blend until ground.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients into your blender/food processor, and blend until smooth. 
  3. YUMMERS…ENJOY :)

 

 

To celebrate my 300th follow, I am posting a bonus recipe today! It is my Home for the Holidays Jam.  This would be perfect to make ahead of time, and to serve for Christmas breakfast with some whole wheat toast or top on whole wheat waffles or pancakes!  You could also make some yummy yogurt parfaits with plain greek yogurt, some of the jam, and my Double Chocolate Gingerbread Granola!

 

Home for the Holidays Jam 

 

Home for the Holidays Jam

Ingredients:

  • 1 48 oz. bag of frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup of pure maple syrup (more or less depending on how sweet you like it, or you can sub honey)
  • 1 cup apple cider (you could also use fresh OJ if you prefer)
  • Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, pureed or finely diced
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg

Instructions:

  1. Place large stockpot on medium-low heat and place frozen cranberries into the pot.
  2. Let the cranberries cook down for about 30 minutes, until they start to break down and thicken.
  3. Add in the maple syrup and let it cook down for 10 more minutes.
  4. Add in the apple cider, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and let cook down another 10-20 minutes.  Cook until you get the desired consistency/thickness you like.
  5. Let your jam cool down.  You can either leave as is, with nice chucks of cranberry, which is how I like it.  Or if you prefer, use a stick blender or food processor to puree the jam mixture to a smooth consistency. 
  6. Place in glass jars and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
  7. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)
No Soda Zone!

Kicking the Soda Habit! + Double Chocolate Gingerbread Granola

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Kicking the Soda Habit! + Double Chocolate Gingerbread Granola

It is no big secret that soda is BAD for you! Like really, REALLY BAD!  Regular soda is loaded with high fructose corn syrup.  High fructose corn syrup is a very big debate – the corn industry (and FDA) saying that it is safe, and loads of fitness people saying it is bad.  Just because the FDA says that it is safe to consume does not mean it is GOOD for you.  The debate will continue as how bad it actually is, but one thing is certain, HFCS contains ZERO nutritional value and is just empty calories.  My philosophy is to stay away from it, but I also stay away from processed granulated sugar as well. 

In addition to the HFCS, there is nothing beneficial for your body in soda! Well water, but that is ruined with sweeteners and chemicals.  Here is a list of ingredients that are commonly used in soda:

  • Carbonated Water
  • Fructose corn syrup or sucrose
  • Caramel color
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Natural flavors
  • Caffeine
  • Citric acid
  • Sodium citrate
  • Sodium benzonate
  • Modified food starch
  • Ester gum
  • Red 40
  • Yellow 5
  • Malic acid

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want this inside of my body!

Side Effects of Soda

Most people think that diet soda is better for you since it has zero calories. This is totally not true.  Diet soda contains aspartame, which like HFCS is a very controversial and debated topic.  The FDA deems it safe, but it is said to cause cancer as well as many health problems.  I do not claim to have all the answers but again I elect to not put anything into my body that could cause health problems.  And aspartame, like HFCS, has ZERO health benefits, so I choose not to consume it.

I worked for Coca-Cola for four years here in Philadelphia.  This is when my consumption of soda first started to seriously decline.  When I tell people this, most assume it was due to a dirty production facility.  This is not the case.  The production facility was 100% sparkling clean each and every time I was in there (which was often since I helped take inventory counts).  They followed all of the guidelines, and couldn’t have been a better operating facility.  It was the smell of the soda production room that turned me off.  It was a sickeningly sweet syrupy smell. Both that, and seeing the soda concentrate (a thick, brown syrup) sitting in giant drums.  It didn’t look appealing. 

Due to that, and health concerns, I seriously limited my soda intake and eventually stopped drinking soda all together!  I have been completely soda-free for about a year now.  I don’t miss it at all, and feel better.  In fact the last time I had soda was with Ron with dinner one night.  I hadn’t had soda in quite a while, and then drank quite a bit one Saturday night.  The whole night and next day I felt so incredibly full due to the carbonation.  I guess because my body wasn’t used to taking in so much gas, it made me feel incredibly bloated (and fat!).  I felt disgusting, and have sworn off soda completely after that!  Ron also gave up drinking soda (yay!). 

It isn’t just soda though.  I also (only about a month ago) fully gave up Splenda in my coffee.  I am now strictly using creamer (either skim milk or homemade creamer I make with almond milk, raisins, and vanilla extract) and no additional sweeteners in my coffee.  I had switched to Truvia (thinking it was a healthy alternative to Splenda), but then found out it is manufactured by Coca-Cola and I stopped using that as well.  It has been a little over a month and I have fully adjusted to just milk in my coffee without any sweetener, and I don’t miss it at all. 

I mostly just drink water now, all day long.  Do you not like the taste of water? Are you missing that flavor in your water that soda gives you?  Flavor up your water!  Add sliced lemon or lime for a burst of citrus.  You can also make my Apple, Cinnamon, & Ginger flavored water for a spicy twist to a boring glass of water.  You could also flavor your water by infusing other fruits such as peaches, or strawberries.  Fresh mint is also a great option to use to flavor your water, and pairs nicely with lime (think mojito) or watermelon! The possibilities are endless, so get creative and make yourself some delicious and all natural flavored water!

It is almost Christmas, so tis the season for Holiday Flavors! Last week on one of my snow days I made a Double Chocolate Gingerbread Granola! I’ve made granola before, but this is most definitely my best flavor yet! It is so good, packed with both chocolaty and gingery goodness!  This would make a great (and easy!) breakfast for Christmas morning either in a bowl topped with milk, or made into Christmas morning parfaits with yogurt and fresh made jam!

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Granola 

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Granola

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds (or any nut or seed you like)
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 4 tsps. unsweetened cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup pure maple syrup (you can sub honey as well, or use half honey and half maple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (you can sub any fruit puree would be yummers! I used mashed banana for this recipe)
  • 1/3 cup fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped (I pureed mine with my mashed banana)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (optional, but…raisins or cranberries would be yummers!)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Spread the oats and almonds (or nut/seed of your choice) on a lightly sprayed baking pan.  Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes, stir. Continue baking for another 5 minutes, or until lightly toasted.
  3. Remove the oats and nuts from the oven and transfer into a mixing bowl, allowing this to cool down until you can touch it with your hands (I mix anything I can with my hands! Hands down the BEST kitchen tool, pun intended! J). 
  4. Once cool to the touch, add to this the dry ingredients (chocolate chips, cocoa powder, flaxseed, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and ground ginger).  Mix to combine.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, combine all of your wet ingredients (vanilla, maple syrup (and/or honey), applesauce (or whichever fruit puree you are using), and fresh ginger).
  6. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing to combine either with a spatula or your hands (I choose hands!).
  7. Once all is mixed thoroughly, spread evenly onto the baking pan and bake about 20-30 minutes, or until nice and golden brown.
  8. Allow to cool down completely and then mix in your dried fruit of choice.
  9. YUMMERS…ENJOY!!! :)

*Note – I usually make a big batch and store it in a plastic cereal container.  Keeps fresh for 1-2 weeks.