Happy Easter ya'll! In celebration of Easter I thought I would make something carrot-y and share.  I whipped up these muffins this morning and they are so tasty.  Not only are they outrageously moist but they have all the tradition flavors of carrot cake, but use healthier ingredients.  I was inspired by The Fountain Avenue Kitchen and decided to adapt her recipe a bit further to my pantry and taste.


Healthier Carrot "Cake" Muffins

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (or wwheat pastry or gluten free mix)
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 inch piece crystallized ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup carrots grated (I used the pulp from the Sweetheart Juice)
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1/2 cup raisins *see note
  • turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw) for sprinkling (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Combine the first seven ingredients and whisk to get rid of any lumps.
  • Combine the egg, oil, milk, and vanilla extract in a seperate bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Pour wet ingredients into the dry ones and combine until moist.
  • Stir in the crystallized ginger.
  • Divide mixture into greased muffin pan (no liners).
  • If using the sugar in the raw, sprinkle the tops before baking (about 1/4 tsp per muffin)
  • Bake 35-40 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean.
Notes:
  • I pulsed my raisins in the food processor for a minute until they were a paste because I am not a fan of the texture of them whole.  You could pulse them like I did or leave them whole.
Enjoy and Happy Easter!




I love sweet potatoes because they are filling, nutritious, and can go sweet or savory.  I love anything that is southwest or tex-mex influenced and this definitely fits the bill.


Southwest Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo, seeds removed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • 1 15oz can black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup corn (I used frozen that was thawed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of oregano and garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons light sour cream
  • 1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  • Wrap sweet potatoes and foil and bake 40-60 minutes or until fork tender at 350F.
  • In a large bowl combine beans, corn, spices, onion, and sour cream.
  • Once potatoes are tender remove from the oven and set cool enough to touch.  Once you can handle the potatoes, cut them in half length wise and remove the filling.  *Be sure to leave a small ring of potato in the skin for stability when you fill them.
  • Fill the sweet potatoes with the mixture and place on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle the tops with the cheddar cheese and return to the oven.
  • Bake the potatoes uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and filling warm at 350F.
  • Serves: 4 (one half per serving)
ENJOY!





On Fridays I try to fancy up dinner a little bit.  Notice that I only said a little bit.  I have so much produce in my refrigerator from my large trip to Whole Foods earlier in the week that it is like shopping through my crisper drawer.  I decided to make a main dish of butternut squash flat bread with a side of marinated tomato salad and a fruit dessert of strawberry mango quinoa salad.



I found this recipe and it served as my inspiration for the flat bread.  I didn't have as much kale as the recipe called for so I used some spinach, used my own dough recipe with whole wheat flour and flax seed meal, and used a cheese blend from Trader Joe's instead of the mozzarella.

The flat bread was delicious!  The butternut squash is hearty and sweet once roasted, the greens are savory, and the crust is nutty.  I even had enough butternut squash leftover to make these butternut squash pancakes for breakfast.  It might sound odd, but when roasted butternut squash reminds me of pumpkin and could go sweet or savory.



As a side I prepared some marinated tomatoes.  They were bursting with favor and a fresh addition to our meal.  Here is how I made the Marinated Tomato Salad.


We finished the meal off with some Strawberry Quinoa Salad with Honey Lime Dressing and watched a movie.  There is nothing better than making a healthy, scrumptious meal for the one you love.

Happy Weekend!



What could look better than colorful fruit and quinoa?  Not much.  This salad is a great way to feel like you are treating yourself with something indulgent while still eating healthful.

Strawberry Quinoa Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

Salad:
  • 3 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup mango, cubed
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 tablespoon mint, chopped
Dressing:
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted and in liquid form
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice

  • Combine strawberries, quinoa, and mango in a large bowl.  Mix dressing ingredients together in a small jar or bowl.  Whisk coconut oil, honey, and lime juice until completely combined.  Pour dressing over salad mixture and combine.  Garnish with chopped mint.
  • Serves: 4-6
Enjoy!



Not only are tomatoes sweet, acidic, and very flavorful but they are one of my favorites.  This salad is so simple and so tasty you will be throwing it together for all sorts of occasions.

Marinated Tomato Salad

  • 10 oz grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste

  • Combine the vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium size bowl.  Whisk in olive oil and combine.  Add tomatoes and parsley, then toss.  Return tomatoes to refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  • Serves 2

Enjoy!



I'm a creative cook I will admit it but it has been a bit of a challenge eating as a vegetarian this week.  I could eat a lot of salads, but the boyfriend not so much.  I am blessed that he is game to try anything I make and rarely complains, so I decided to make something close to what we would normally eat and enjoy...spaghetti squash it is.

I've seen it on every cooking show and while it always look so tasty, I've never prepared it.  After making it I can honestly say I didn't miss the noodles or starchy pasta and truly like it better.  I decided to make spaghetti squash with homemade marinara and threw in a toasted slice of whole wheat bread too.

I prepared the spaghetti squash like theKitchn explained and it turned out fabulous.  The squash was stringy and moist like fresh noodles but actually had a taste unlike plain pasta.  My favorite marinara recipe is from the Pioneer Woman.  The recipe makes quite a bit, but it freezes so well so I love it to pull out in a pinch.  I finished the meal off with a slice of toasted whole wheat sandwich bread drizzled with a little olive oil and Italian seasoning.

This was the perfect lunch and would make a delicious dinner with a big huge salad.  I hope the next time you pass the spaghetti squash at the market you decide to take him home!

Enjoy!




Yes, I know I posted a green juice yesterday, but I promise this one is different.  I call this one green machine because it is a great vehicle for spinach and is sweet enough that you will probably not even notice.  If you are intimidated by green juices then I would suggest you give this one a try before you miss out on all the benefits of greens.


Green Machine Juice

  • 2 small apples
  • 1/2 cup green grapes
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1 pear
  • 1 cucumber

  • Juice everything together and enjoy.  This makes one very large serving or two regular size servings.





You'll love this juice!  Not only is it packed with all sorts of stuff but it's refreshing and tasty.  This juice makes one pretty large serving and works great as a snack or addition to a small lunch.  This green juice is loaded with all things green.


Green Monster Juice

  • 5 celery ribs
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cups baby kale
  • 1/2 cup green grapes
  • 1 green apple
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • small handful parsley (optional)

  • Juice all the vegetables then stir in the lime juice.
Enjoy!




Here is THE BEAST.  I love my Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juicer!  

This recipe for carrot juice is really simple because there are only a couple ingredients and it is a great introductory juice if you are new to juicing.  You can make this spicier or sweeter by adding more ginger or more apple.  The idea with juicing is that it is a good vehicle for getting more vegetables into your diet, so always be sure that if you are watching your sugar or trying to lose weight that you have way more veggies than fruit in your juice.


Carrot Juice


  •  4 large carrots washed, cleaned, greens removed
  • 1/2 fuij apple (with the core, peel, and seeds)
  • 1 inch ginger root (or to taste)*
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

  • Juice your carrots first.
  • Next add your apple.
  • Add the ginger root. *Start with a little then add more to your liking.  Ginger can pack a big hit.


Your results will look something like this.  Remove the catcher cup and stir in the lime juice.


This juice makes enough for one juice as a snack.  You can always double this if you are looking to use it as more of a meal replacement or share with someone.


Enjoy!


As part of my veggie centered challenge I have been finding all sorts of ways to see vegetables in a new light and make them the star of my meal.  I made this for dinner last night and not only was it SO filling, but I didn't feel bloated or huge afterwards.  This meal uses roasted sweet potatoes and a hearty kale and spinach salad and your family won't know that it's "healthy food".

BBQ Roasted Sweet Potatoes

First, I cleaned a large sweet potato and then cut it into cubes.  I decided to not peel the potato because it's easier and I don't mind the skin at all.

Preheat your oven to 425 F.
Spread the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and toss with extra virgin olive oil (about 1-2 tablespoons).
Next, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Bake for 15 minutes then turn the potatoes over.
Return the potatoes to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes for a total of 30 minutes.
Remove the sweet potatoes and drizzle with your favorite BBQ sauce while the potatoes are hot.  I only used about a tablespoon.


Kale and Spinach Salad

This salad was inspired by The Chew's Kale Hero Salad.

  • 2 cups baby kale
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chopped almonds
  • 1/2 fuji apple chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 slices fresh mango chopped
Combine the apples, vinegar, and ginger in the bottom of a large bowl. 
Whisk in the olive oil and combine.
Add the greens and toss.  Once the dressing has coated the lettuce then add the mango and apples.
This salad is huge and makes one large serving or two smaller ones.

Enjoy!




This is a super simple throw together spread that goes perfect on toast but I imagine would make a tasty dip for fruit too.

What You'll Need:


  • 2 Tablespoons Nut Butter of Choice (peanut and almond are tasty)
  • Ground Cinnamon to taste
  • 1 Teaspoon Honey
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Flaxseed
Place the nut butter, cinnamon, and honey in a microwave safe bowl. Warm through for about 15 seconds, just so everything is smooth.  Remove from the microwave, add the ground flax seed, and stir.  That's it!  Voila! Perfect healthy filling breakfast!


Enjoy!



Plant Based Eating...Knowledge is Power

On Monday I promised to talk about the two documentaries I watched over the weekend as part of Tough Tuesday, however I ended up having a job interview yesterday followed by a long trip to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and then class so needless to say here we are...

Bernard and I love to cozy up with Netflix on the weekends when it's too cold to want to be outdoors and this past weekend that's exactly what we did.  We watched two documentaries that I would daresay are life changing.  I am all about whole living, whole foods, and moderation but now after I've been given all this knowledge I feel like it may be time to tweak my philosophy.

The Films


The first documentary we watched was Forks over Knives and as mentioned in the title it is about a plant based diet with little to no meat.  We've all been taught that lean protein is best and that our bodies need meat in order to grow muscle and maintain healthy.  After watching this film I can honestly say that I think we've been lied to and really need to think back to how our ancestors lived.  Back in the day we were all hunter/gatherers and lived on the land through eating wild leaves and berries and rarely ate meat because it was hard to come by in comparison to foraging the land for plants.  Even in the early days of agriculture things were different from present day.  Sure we ate meat, but not anywhere times the amount that we do now or even close to the amount in the 1950s.  I found this documentary to be life changing and want to start implementing the concept a little at a time.  The movie also featured people who reversed cancer, beat diabetes, and lowered their cholesterol levels dramatically by adopting this lifestyle because they used food as medicine to treat their sickness or ailment.


The second film that we watched was Hungry for Change which capitalizes on America's obsession with processed food.  The documentary also makes note that when we exam the way other people across the globe consume food we should be ashamed of ourselves.  Other countries are consuming foods that have a low caloric intake with a high nutrient payoff, while Americans spend more on health care than anyone else and are packing on pounds.  We pack on pounds because we are eating foods that are high in calories (because they are processed) and nutrient poor so our bodies tell us they are still hungry.  Our bodies are hungry for nutrients, not calories.  Think about an apple in comparison to an apple pop tart.  This film also sheds a little bit of light on the juicing trend.  While people are arguing that extracting only the juice from a vegetable or fruit is not the same as eating it whole, we must realize that we are not eating enough plants regardless of how they are ingested.  So if it is easier for a person to juice 5-6 pounds of leafy greens rather than eating them throughout the day, then why not?  This documentary is a great education tool for how processed foods work in your body and how they confuse your mind.  One gentleman even relates the coca leaf and cocaine to corn and high fructose corn syrup because both the coca leaf and corn are nutrient rich foods that have value but when modified and then further chemically modified they can become dangerous.

Change is a Good Thing

I would not consider myself a radical person and I think it will take some time to adopt a vegetarian/vegan/plant based diet but ultimately that's what I want.  Bernard and I have challenged ourselves with eating only plant based dinners for the week and I have challenged myself to not eat meat this week at all.  I am still eating dairy, but really trying to limit myself to 1-2 servings a day.  I love my Chobani Greek yogurt and a slice of cheddar to accompany fruit as a snack, but ultimately I would love to be able to only have dairy a couple of times a week when all is said and done.  I thought I would miss my turkey sandwich or chicken breast with dinner, but I really haven't at all.  Three days down and lots more to go of course, but so far so good .  I have started to look forward to eating big salads and fresh foods.  The best part about it is that I feel full and satisfied after eating.  I am not hungry because my body is getting plenty of nutrients and I am not stuck counting calories because vegetables are low caloric foods in general.  For you skeptics, we are still getting plenty of protein through whole grains, seeds, nuts, and vegetables but the difference is I feel sharp minded, less fatigued, and am not bloated or sluggish at all.  I have even been able to wake up without an alarm after 8 hours of sleep instead of oversleeping and getting 9-9.5 hours per night and still feeling exhausted when waking.

This is what we had for dinner on Monday night.  I made fried brown rice with lots of corn, peas, and carrots accompanied with garlic vegetables (edamame, french green beans, and broccoli).  Bernard loved it and so did I.  It may seem like there is a lot of rice, but there are equal amounts of brown rice to the corn, peas, and carrots so it's very satisfying.

Goals

Besides just wanting to go without meat this week and limit dairy there are also a few other things I would like to do.  I used to use my juicer all the time and then well I didn't.  I think now is a perfect time to start juicing again.  After all, who doesn't want to feed their body with incredible nutrients, drink something tasty, and have perfect skin and hair?  I will be posting the juice recipes that I try and will be sure to let ya'll know how they turn out.  I even went crazy at whole foods yesterday buying stuff to juice and also delicious plants to eat throughout this week.


That's 2+ lbs of organic baby spinach, a pint of grape tomatoes, half a hothouse cucumber, parsley, mint, a large bag of baby kale, strawberries, mango, and a navel orange.


My produce drawer is about to explode with a 5 lb bag of organic carrots, large bag of seedless grapes, two bags of celery, and three juicy pears.

I know that this looks like a large amount of produce and it is, but keep in mind there are two of us and I will be juicing most of it within 5-7 days.  All in all I would say that this weekend was an eye opener and revolutionary when it comes to our obesity epidemic and health crisis.  You may think I am a little extreme but...

“Some people think the “plant-based, whole foods diet” is extreme.  Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery.  Some people would call that extreme.” - Dr. Esselstyn (Forks over Knives)



I've been slacking, yes I know but I have been kinda busy with other things.  I painted the house for three days straight last week and somehow I forgot about my duty to post my spending.

Monday 3/11:  $36.37 Gas/Fuel

Tuesday 3/12:  $9.41 Panera Bread (emergency dinner)

Wednesday 3/13:  $88.48 Trader Joe's (groceries)  $27.60 USPS (stamps for resumes)  $123.56 Half.com (textbooks)  $219.75 Vet (Chloe's yearly exam/monthly shot/yearly vaccines)

Thursday 3/14:  NO SPENDING DAY

Friday 3/15:  NO SPENDING DAY

Saturday 3/16:  $43.14 Walmart (resume supplies and toiletries)

Sunday 3/17:  NO SPENDING DAY

Monday 3/18:  NO SPENDING DAY

Tuesday 3/19:  $12.15 Exxon (gas/fuel)

Wednesday 3/20:  $80.93 Walmart (groceries)  $10.59  PETCO (Chloe)

Thursday 3/21:  NO SPENDING DAY

Friday 3/22:  NO SPENDING DAY

Saturday 3/23:  NO SPENDING DAY

Sunday 3/24:  NO SPENDING DAY

Spending hasn't been too bad in general, but things are starting to get a little tighter as I feel the pressure of still being unemployed.  I managed to mail out 50 resumes over the past two weeks and so far have only heard from two firms to say they are not hiring right now.  I am going to continue to push and send out even more as the weeks go on and still enjoy my classes without worry.  Bernard and I are still maintaining two households even though I have spent the last two months here at his place.  The amount we both would save by condensing would be ridiculous, but I will continue to keep my place until we are engaged.  That's the deal that we've made for now although I will admit that as the money gets tighter it is frustrating to think that we could both save so much each per month by splitting all of our bills.  I am trying to now look at this time of being unemployed as a way to get rejuvenated, focus on myself, and get as healthy and fit as I want with minimum obstacles.  I watched two amazing documentaries this weekend so I will soon be sharing what I learned.  Tomorrow I will be blogging about green drinks and juicing so stay tuned.

Happy Spending Freeze!



This past weekend Bernard and I had a blast.  We packed a picnic and headed over to Stone Mountain Park with Chloe Mae.  We weren't interested in all the tourist-y stuff but decided to purchase an annual pass parking pass for $35 instead of $10 per visit and start walking.  The weather was quite nice and in the low 60s...what a delightful break for the chilly temperatures we have been experiencing.  This weekend was a quick glimpse of spring weather and we took full advantage of it.  



We walked around, took some pictures, and enjoyed some submarine sandwiches that I made.  We both love Jersey Mike's but since we started the Spending Freeze in January we haven't been eating out so I whipped up a turkey sub on a wheat french loaf with provolone cheese, thinly sliced red onion and tomato, spinach, garlic pickle, oregano, and a quick vinaigrette of red wine vinegar and olive oil. 



We had to get a couple shots with Chloe who was having the best time of all of us.  She even got to wear her purple polka dot bandanna, which is always a hit. 



This is the view of Stone Mountain Lake from the quarry area of the park.




With our hit of Spring Fever in full swing we decided to hit up Lowe's on Sunday.  I have always wanted to have a space where I could garden and luckily for me the boyfriend has a big yard and loves fresh food.  We ended up getting seeds for me to start planting to transplant later, veggies to sow once I get the raised bed together, and flower seed to plant in the front yard and pots on the back patio.  We plan to mulch, weed, and re-landscape the front yard to improve the curb appeal of his house.  I also have some pots from my house that I will be bringing to his place so we can create a backyard sanctuary. 



I planted my tomato and pepper seeds in egg carton containers and a recycled spinach container.  The seedlings will only be in them for a little while before they get planted in the raised bed I plan to make out of some cinder blocks.



The finished product looked like this and I have to say I am so pleased with how they turned out.  I let them hang out outside for a few hours because the weather was in the high 60s but of course they get to germinate in the house with my care.

I am very excited about the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with my honey, garden, and then can and preserve all the harvest.  We are talking about putting a fire pit in the backyard to get more use out of the back yard.  Even though we are on a Spending Freeze, we plan to enjoy our summer and should be able to DIY one for about $35.  In Georgia our winter is incredibly short so a fire pit will allow us to be outdoors for March through late October/November.  After all, we could go on a date night to a chain steakhouse for $35 or we could put in a fire pit...I will take the fire pit for maximum fun.

I will let ya'll know how the fire pit turns out when we do it!

Happy Spring!


No fancy graphic or heading needed, so here is the spending so far this month.

Friday 3/1:  $8.34 Panera Bread  $711 Rent  $90.37 Walmart groceries (split with the bf, so $45.19)

Saturday 3/2:  NO SPEND DAY

Sunday 3/3:  NO SPEND DAY

Monday 3/4:  $15.04 Gas-Fuel

Tuesday 3/5:  $9.95 Taxes  $50.00 Sallie Mae Student Loan  $70.00 Auto and Renter's Insurance  $57.55 Braves ticket for Blaine's April visit

Wednesday 3/6:  NO SPEND DAY

Thursday 3/7:  NO SPEND DAY

Friday 3/8:  $55.75 Walmart groceries (split with the bf, so $27.88)  $50.35 Amazon (computer ink and resume materials)

Saturday 3/9:  NO SPEND DAY

Sunday 3/10:  $36.37 Gas-Fuel  $23.02 Lowes (seeds for vegetable garden)

This week has been fairly good in terms of spending considering the extras like the veggie garden, baseball ticket, and resume materials.  I start more classes this week and I am so glad to have more of an agenda and schedule.

The best part about last week was that I got back to running and ran five days out of this past week and then on Saturday Bernard and I took Chloe Mae to Stone Mountain Park.  Not only was it fun because we took our sweet dog, but we packed a picnic and were physically active.

I also just got my tax refund back via direct deposit today so I did a little dance because that's about 6 weeks of additional living expenses added to what I already have.  All of that said....girlfriend needs a job.  Being unemployed is nice yes, but I am anxious to get some income coming in so I can toast that student loan debt and start saving money for a new car I would like to buy next year.

Happy Spending Freeze!

XOXO,

Alaina M.


This past week was a wrap up on a very short month.  I am ready for March to be here for a few reasons...Easter, Daylight Savings Time, and hopefully Spring.  I am going to even get a head start on my container garden this year and plant some seeds indoors to transplant later.  Here's the breakdown:

Tuesday 2/19:  $34.51 Walmart (groceries)

Wednesday 2/20:  NO SPEND DAY

Thursday 2/21:  NO SPEND DAY

Friday 2/22:  $75.00 Cell Phone

Saturday 2/23:  NO SPEND DAY

Sunday 2/24:  NO SPEND DAY

Monday 2/25:  $48.99  Amazon (chloe's dogfood)

Tuesday 2/26:  $29.05  Electric (utilities)

Wednesday 2/27:  $15.02  Gas (fuel)

Thursday 2/28:  $101.00 Gas (utilities)

All in all this month was great even with a few extra expenses.  Since I am still unemployed and grinding away to find a job and continue with school money is still incredibly tight.  My goal for March is to keep up the last month of the spending fast and spend as little as possible.  I have the Color Run 5K the first weekend in April and my sister and her boyfriend will be in town that same weekend.  We want to go to a Braves/Cubs game and enjoy them being here, so I hope I can land a job, get through the difficult classes, and be able to not feel guilty about spending a little extra while they are here.

Budget:  $1,568

Actual:  $1,515.65

Under Budget by $52.35

Here's to Spring and a happy Spending Freeze!


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