Solving the world's problems while fitting in our pants

Solving the world's problems while fitting in our pants

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Overnights In "Oatober"

Yes, oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast anymore. Besides the steamy cup with a plethora of add-ins, oatmeal can be savory, used as a flour substitute and giving a boost to your meat loaf. The health benefits of oatmeal make it a perfect addition to other foods to boost nutrition in baked goods and stuffing.  

First a primer on the various kinds of oatmeal:  Oatmeal is available in different varieties such as old-fashioned oats, oat groats, steel-cut oats and oat bran. Some quick-cooking varieties include cooking oats and instant oatmeal. The different types of oat products are a result of the kind of processing they undergo, but all retain most of their fiber and nutrient content.

Some of the most prominent nutritional benefits of oatmeal can be summarized as the following:

Oatmeal is a carbohydrate and protein-rich source that provides calories and energy. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found consuming a low-glycemic meal, such as oatmeal, three hours prior to a run gives you better endurance than a high-glycemic meal. Foods such as oatmeal tend to cause a slow rise in glycemic levels, which is ideal for increasing fat-burning during exercise.

Oatmeal is an appetite suppressor that can be an integral part of any weight loss diet. Cholecystokinin, a hunger-fighting hormone, is increased with the oatmeal compound beta-glucan. A 2009 study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found satiety increased as a result of eating foods containing beta-glucan. 

Oatmeal’s low-glycemic index is beneficial when it comes to reducing the risk of diabetes. This helps the stomach empty its contents slowly, which affects blood sugar levels and has a positive effect on our insulin sensitivity. A 2006 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a diet that produces a low-glycemic response is associated with less insulin resistance and a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes than a diet that produces a high-glycemic response.

Foods rich in whole oat sources of soluble fiber have been linked to good heart health. Oatmeal contains both calcium and potassium, which are known to reduce blood pressure numbers. A 1999 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found whole-grain consumption was associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease due to its soluble fiber. 

A high-fiber diet can be beneficial when it comes to reducing the risk of colorectal cancer. Its soluble fiber and insoluble fiber can help speed up the passage of food and waste, which prevents constipation. This is what promotes good colon health. A 2011 study published in the BMJ found total fiber intake, as well as fiber from whole grains and from cereals, was strongly associated with a reduction in colon cancer. 

I am very fond of oats this time of year because they are cozy, filling and delicious.  Overnight oats are  my favorite because I can prepare ahead of time and have breakfast every day of the week. The best part is you can be creative and add anything your little heart desires. This month, I had a food experience with my favorite flavor this month, S'mores Overnight Oats. This tasty recipe is courtesy of Quaker Oats and you can find the recipe HERE.

S’mores Overnight Oatmeal
Serves 1


½ cup old fashioned oats
½ cup lowfat milk (I love Fairlife milk, more protein!)
1 Tablespoon mini chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon mini marshmallows
1 graham cracker

  1. Add oats to your container of choice , pour in milk and layer mini chocolate chips, marshmallows, and graham cracker.
  2. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy in the morning.

Happy Oatober!


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Easy Caramel Apple Crisp for Throwback Thursday! #tbt

Lots of thoughts running through my head this fine Thursday!  As I was browsing the Internet today, there is a trend on Thursdays called "Throwback Thursday" where people post pictures from the past all over social media. Which inspired me to share my "throwback" of the changes in the season. Above is a tree in my yard a few days ago and here was that same tree on  May 7th. 

Fall is obviously here. I love fall. But this picture makes me long for the new life spring brings. As I brush away a few nostalgic tears, I quickly remember all the fabulous reasons I Iove fall. The weather, comfort food, the jeans/boots/sweater wardrobe staple, and just the feeling of being cozy. I get a little more rejuvenated in the fall, more appreciative and with a full heart. 

I also cook more and find myself longing for the warm, flavorful foods of my youth. Today my thoughts are all focused on apple crisp. Last week, I made this yummy goodness for dinner with a friend. It was a perfect ending to our evening and reminded me of my mom making it when I was younger. Honey crisp apples, cinnamon and caramel are flavors I adore!!! 

I decided to make individual servings because I do not need leftovers (even though I really want them). Grab 2 Honeycrisp apples and slice thin. 

Sprinkle cinnamon liberally on the apples. Or not, whatever exites your taste buds. Spray ramekins with olive oil and fill half way with apples. Then top with 1/4 cup of caramel bites. 

Add the rest of the apples to cover the caramel. Mix quick oats with brown sugar, flour and more cinnamon. Cut in softened butter with a fork. 

Place the oatmeal topping on each ramekin. The topping will be more like a granola: a little crunchy and crumbly. (And create a little bit of a mess, because that's how this cook rolls).

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Top with your favorite ice cream. Cool introduced me to this delicious frozen vanilla bean yogurt and I am hooked. 

I thought I would be fancy and add one of the leaves from my tree for presentation. When you devour in, the melting frozen yogurt blends with the apples and caramel layer. Pure Fall Heaven!!!!


Anne's Apple Crisp
2 servings

2 Honey Crisp apples, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup caramel bits, divided
1 cup quick oats
1 tablespoon of whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of butter

1. Heat over to 350 degrees. 
2. Mix sliced apples with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.
3. Grease 2 ramekins and fill half way with apples.
4. Top apples with divided caramel bits and add remaining apples to the ramekins.
5. Mix oats, flour, brown sugar and remaining cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in butter with a fork.
6. Top ramekins with the oat mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fall and Farro Fagioli

I love everything about fall.  I love when it starts to get a little darker earlier.  I love when the temperatures drop so you can wear a sweatshirt comfortably and the mosquitos are no longer are a problem.  I love the foods that are associated when talking about fall: apples, root vegetables, soups, warm delicious comfort dishes!  I even love racking the leaves once a year, notice how I said "once," after that it's maybe not so much a "love" anymore.

This week it turned fall officially and the temps started to reflect the fall time coming around.  This can only mean one thing at our house, soup time!  Now even though I love all sorts of soups and love the heavy comfort dishes at times, I went with a lighter yet filling soup, Farro Fagioli.  

I'm sure you've heard of Pasta Fagioli soup, which means "pasta and beans."  It's a popular soup at Olive Garden that people love, that is typically made with pasta, beans, veggies, chicken broth and sometimes with meat.  I felt that even though it is now officially fall and I'm getting just as excited for sweater season and getting my "sweater figure" ready, I think you can still have a hearty healthy dish that is filling, and even (gasp) Vegetarian.

Look at that delicious bowl of healthy amazing soup right there!  Sorry, I didn't mean to throw the healthy card out there for all those people that think healthy = "no taste, boring, bland."  I don't want to scare those people away.  Please stay with me!!!

First we start with some Farro.  What?!?!?!  What did you just say? Are you talking crazy talk right now?  No I'm not crazy, this delicious grain has been around for a LONG time and is part of the ancient grains that give you great bang for your buck.  It has more fiber than rice or quinoa, and also it is reasonably high in protein for a grain, along with all the wonderful vitamins and minerals that it contains.  You can find it in your health food section in most grocery stores.  It tastes similar to barley, so if for some reason you can't find it, just use barley.  It will still be delicious. 

First we start off by cooking the farro.  Add the water, salt and farro in a medium saucepan and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer until farro is tender, about 25 minutes.

This is what it looks like when it's done.  Yes, it's kind of foamy and frothy on the top of the pan but don't worry, it tastes delicious.

So why you are waiting for your farro to cook, you can dice up your onions, carrots, celery, and minced garlic and throw that with the olive oil in a medium/ large stock pot.  You are going to sauté that for about 4-5 minutes until it is fragrant and onions are translucent.

You will want to open your can of beans, and rinse them before putting them in your soup.

Once the veggies are nice and fragrant you are ready to add in the rest of the ingredients.  Add in the beans, diced tomatoes, veggie stock, spices, and extra water.

Stir it all around and bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes until veggies are fork tender.

After that discard the bay leaves,

Add in the cooked farro, and taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

As you can see there's not a ton of extra liquid in the soup, so if you would like more, add more water/ vegetable broth to your liking.  I enjoy more of the stew type soup.

And just like that you have dinner ready.  Pair it will a sandwich, salad, or some fruit and you've got a complete meal. 

Farro Fagioli:

1 c. farro
2 c. water
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery stalk, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 15oz. can cannellini beans
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 large bay leaves
1 Tbsp. basil, dried
1 tsp. thyme leaves, dried
1 tsp. oregano leaves, dried
32 oz. can of vegetable broth
2 cups water
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan add the farro, water, and salt and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to medium low heat, and simmer until farro is tender, about 25 minutes.  Set aside.  In a deep stock pot, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery with the garlic in olive oil over medium heat until fragrant and onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Add beans, crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, basil, thyme, oregano, vegetable broth and 2 cups of water to stock pot and bring to a slow boil.  Let simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.  Remove bay leaves, and discard.  Add in cooked farro, take off heat and stir.  Add up to 1 cup of water/ vegetable broth if you need more liquid.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Have You Celebrated Family Meals Month?

Are family meals a lost art? In our world today, with fast-paced lives, busy work schedules and extracurricular activities, drive-thru meals and takeout food have become the norm. What impact does this have on our kids, our families and ourselves? As the trend moves toward simplicity and convenience, let’s not overlook the fact that preparing and eating meals together stimulates communication, creates memories and establishes healthy eating behaviors that have a long-lasting impact.
Research shows that when families eat meals together on a regular basis, they have greater unity and closer relationships. Children in families who eat together are better adjusted to the pressures of society. These children are more comfortable and confident in their own skin. The long-term nutritional benefits for individuals who have grown up eating family meals are clear too. The percentage of family members who are overweight, or abuse alcohol or drugs, is significantly lower in families who eat meals together on a regular basis than those who don’t.
Historically, traditional family meals were part of an everyday ritual, like brushing teeth. Homemade meals were prepared from scratch, dinner was served at the same time every night, and family members had assigned seats. Lessons and wisdom were shared over the dinner table.  Children grew in their character, learning manners, self-discipline and gratitude.
When schedules are busy, and time is at a premium, there is still hope for the family meal. September is National Family Meals Month, which means it’s the perfect time to start making family meals a normal occurrence in your home. Here are a few tips on how to do it and some delicious pictures of the perfect family meal to make this month:
  • Pick one or two days a week for everyone to commit to.
  • Pick a recipe and side dishes the family can agree on. Choose foods from all food groups, and foods that vary in color, taste and texture, to increase nutritional benefit.
  • Choose a recipe that allows for convenience. Slow-cooker meals, casseroles and grilled meats are all good ideas. Check out all Hy-Vee has to offer for fast, easy and healthy meals and try Cool's Mushroom Pizza Recipe below.
  • Plan for conversation starters. For example, have everyone go around the table and say one thing they are grateful for, or share an interesting story from their day.
  • Keep everyone in touch by turning the television off and having a “no phones at the dinner table” policy.

Cool's Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms:  Serves 4
All You Need:

4 portabella mushrooms, stemmed and cleaned
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ c. Italian or Balsamic Dressing                                
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
½ lb. Italian Sausage                                                
½ c. Marinara
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil                                                                               
1/3 c. Parmesan, shredded
½ c. Zucchini, diced                                                                        
½ c. Mozzarella, shredded
½ c. Green Peppers, diced
All You Do:
  1. Coat the mushrooms in dressing, and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2.  In a large skillet over medium high heat cook sausage for 3 minutes.  Add in the olive oil, zucchini, green peppers, garlic, and Italian seasoning and cook until meat is thoroughly cooked about 7 minutes.  Drain meat, and add in marinara and parmesan cheese.  Stuff each mushroom with ½ c. of meat mixture and cook in the oven for about 10 minutes. 
  3. Take the mushrooms out and top with the mozzarella cheese and place back in the oven to melt about 10-15 minutes. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Football Flashback: Buffalo Chicken Dip

If you live in Iowa you know that today starts the interstate rival college football week, ending with the Iowa vs Iowa State game on Saturday at Kinnick stadium.  Even if you don't live in Iowa or are even a football lover, I'm sure you still love "football food."  I classify football food as a dish that feeds a crowd at minimal effort and is perceived well from the audience it's serving.

In honor of this week I have a super easy tailgating recipe that will blow your taste buds!  Buffalo chicken dip!!  Wahoo, rah rah rah, let's hear it for the food!  Whether your team wins or loses you will always feel like a winner after eating this! 

Check out the video if you would like or just follow the recipe below:


Buffalo Chicken Dip
1 rotisserie chicken, picked and diced
1 (8oz) cream cheese
1/2 - 3/4 c. Frank's red hot sauce
1/2 c. Ranch or Blue cheese dressing
1/2 c. Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 c. Pepper jack cheese, shredded
1/2 c. Blue cheese crumbles (optional)

In a medium size crockpot combine the chicken, cream cheese, franks red hot, dressing, cheddar cheese, and pepper jack cheese and heat in high for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Stir when all melted together and top with blue cheese crumbles if you like. Switch crock pot to warm and serve with carrots, celery, tortilla chips.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Crazy's Coconut Birthday Celebration

Not only did Cool have a busy birthday month in August, so did I!  Which I love because then I get to eat delicious cake too!  I dusted off my oven and decided August warrants a little baking on my end for the beautiful woman I know as my mother.

I try not to repeat myself when it comes to desserts because my beautiful mother deserves something new and delicious for her birthday taste buds to experience. I did consult with Cool on ideas for something new and exciting. She shared with me this gem and it is delicious.

What I love about this recipe is that it is easy but tastes decadent. I start out with Duncan Hines White Cake Mix, 3 egg whites and 1/4 cup of canola oil. Blend on medium for about 2 minutes. While it is blending, I greased and lightly floured my 9x13 inch pan and pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees. Once it was blended and my oven was ready, I baked the cake for about 23 minutes (I have a dark cake pan, so make sure to prepare the cake as indicated from the directions listed on the box). 

While the cake is baking, I mix together 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and 1 can of coconut milk. You will use half of the mixture (which is awesome because then you have it ready for another delicious cake in the future. Just freeze the other half for a later baking extravaganza!).

The timer should be going off!  Check the doneness of your cake by inserting a toothpick into multiple parts of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake has finished baking. While the cake is still warm, poke holes with the end of a round cooking utensil.

Check out these stellar hole poking skills.

Again, while the cake is still warm, pour half of the condensed milk and coconut mixture onto the cake. As the cake sits and cools, it will absorb the milk mixture.

While the cake is cooling, take a large container of Cool Whip out of your freezer and bring to room temperature. Now I am a huge fan of coconut, so I mixed a 1 teaspoon of coconut extract into my cool whip. While those flavors meshed, I heated a medium size sauce pan to medium heat and toasted 1 package of coconut flakes. Make sure to continue stirring the flakes so they do not burn and take off the heat once the flakes start to turn a light brown. Those delicate flakes will continue to cook a little bit off of the burner.

When the cake is cooled completely, time to spread on the love. Generously spread the Cool Whip on top of the cake. I love Cool Whip. And no I did not get the light or fat-free kind either.

Because I wanted to do this.

Sprinkle on the toasted coconut. You can also opt to do fresh coconut if you like the flavor better. Whatever you like!  That is the beauty of this recipe. You could make cupcakes or 2-8 inch cakes as well.  For the next cake I bake, I will also top with mini-chocolate chips.

My mother was surprised an excited to blow out the candles on her yummy and decadent white coconut cake, made by yours truly. 

Happiest of Birthdays to You Mom!  I hope all your wishes come true!

Crazy's Coconut Cake

1 - 18.25 ounce package white cake mix
1 - 14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 - 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 - 16 ounce package thawed frozen whipped topping
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 - 7 ounce package toasted flaked coconut

1.  Prepare and bake white cake mix according to packaged directions.
2.  Remove cake from oven.
3. While still hot, using a utility utensil, poke holes all over the top of the cake.
4. Let cake cool completely.
5. While the cake is cooling, mix coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk together. Use one half of the mixture for the cake. Freeze the other half for future use.
6. Toast coconut by heating a medium size sauce pan to medium heat, constantly stirring until coconut is light brown, about 5 minutes.
7. When cake is cool, generously frost with the whipped topping and coconut.
8. Keep cake refrigerated.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Colors in Caprese

This is not new earth shattering information that I love anything caprese. Tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and balsamic are a few true loves of my food life. Not only do I want to share with you my latest crazy caprese creation, but I want to share with you the nutrition know how of how this combination is extremely healthy for you. 

This spectacular components of food carry an enormous nutrition punch. Let me take you back to basics of MyPlate. MyPlate is an easy way to create balance and portion control when it comes to meals and snacks. When you eat within these simple guidelines, you are creating harmony with your nutrients, both macro and micro.  When there is a balance of food groups and nutrients, your body performs at its peak, you fill content and fuller longer and you are able to maintain a healthier weight. The more color on your plate, the more nutrients available to distribute to your whole body. 

When planning meals, here are some easy guidelines using MyPlate:

1. Protein at every meal and snack as your most important food group.
2. Meals should have 3 of the 5 food groups (with 1 always being protein).
3. Snacks should have 2 of the 5 food groups (with 1 always being protein).
4. A portion size of any food group is generally the size of YOUR OWN fist. (sorry, you cannot borrow a friends fist that is bigger so you get more pasta on your plate).

These guidelines are simple, portable and able to be executed anywhere and everywhere, including restaurants, convenience stores, the ball park and anywhere you travel to.  Cue the caprese!

For my perfect MyPlate summer meal, caprese covers all the rules.

Protein:  Fresh Mozzarella
Vegetables:  Tomatoes and Basil
Grains:  Bread

You can find a wealth of information on MyPlate from calorie needs, meal planning, what foods fall in each food group and more here.  If you still have more questions or would like more individual help, I am your girl and you can contact me anytime!

Now it's time to drool and get hungry.....

For my sandwich, I chopped, seasoned and cooked down some fresh garden tomatoes. Feel free to use canned seasoned tomatoes or jarred pasta sauce. All forms of concentrated tomatoes are very healthy. Just be cautious of sodium and sugar. Many of your jarred pasta sauces have a lot of extra sugar, so I tend to use canned, lower sodium seasoned tomatoes. 

I warmed a pan over medium heat and sprayed my Italian bread with a little olive oil spray on both sides. Use a nice sturdy bread and always go for an whole grain option if it is available. Another favorite of mine is sourdough because it browns nicely and the sourdough flavor compliments the sweetness of the tomatoes and basil. Before adding the tomatoes to the bread, I let the bread warm up for about 2 minutes. 

After the tomatoes are added, generously place fresh basil leaves on top, sprinkle a little freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese to intensify the flavor and a pinch of cracked black pepper. Let the open face sandwich continue to warm for about 1 minute. 

While that is warming, slice room temperature fresh mozzarella in very thin slices. Room temperature and thin slices are very important because your bread is almost toasted perfectly and if your cheese is not room temperature and sliced thinly, it will not melt nicely. Combine the halves in the pan and finish cooking for about 2 more minute. If you tend to get a little crazy with your cheese, as I sometimes do, that is ok. You can always finish it off in a warm oven to melt the cheese a little more. 

My perfect summer meal would not be perfect without a side of cherries. I also dipped my summer sammie in a little balsamic vinegar and it was dreamy!  Who knew something that seemed so indulgent could be MyPlate perfect?