Strawberry Banana Cream Cheese Muffins

Spring is here and that means it’s time for all things light, bright and juicy! It’s funny how our tastes change with the seasons…I don’t know about you, but as soon as the weather gets warm, all I want is grilled shrimp, salads and fresh fruit! (not necessarily in that order or combination). Once these juicy red strawberries came into my life this weekend, I knew I had to do something fun with them.

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Baked goods are usually not something I crave when its warm out because they’re often heavy and required heating up the house. But since temps are still in the 60’s I thought I would try to make a lighter, spring version of a morning muffin.

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This recipe features fresh strawberries and one of my all time favorite foods; cheese. Cream cheese to be exact. “But how did you put cream cheese in a muffin?” you ask. Well, you just drop a dollop right in the center before baking. Easy peasy! The end result was a little more savory than sweet and would be perfect paired with eggs or smothered in creamy peanut butter.

Strawberry Banana Cream Cheese Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tsp
  • 1/2 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 2 cups strawberries, diced
  • Cream cheese

Directions:

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Dice strawberries, sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar and set aside. In a medium bowl combine butter, egg, vanilla, mashed banana, maple syrup, sugar and yogurt. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix to thoroughly combine. Fold in strawberries. Spoon into muffin tins and drop a dollop of cream cheese in the center of each muffin. Bake for approximately 22 minutes. Makes about 12 muffins.

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The greatest part about this recipe is that its lightened up by using yogurt instead of oil, whole wheat flour and a small amount of sugar. Feel free to add more sugar if you prefer a sweet muffin or leave it out all together for a cleaner muffin. The banana and maple syrup offer natural sweetness and valuable nutrients.

How adorable would these muffins be for a Mother’s Day breakfast or a ladies brunch?! Pass the champagne please 🙂

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What I’m Loving Lately

Currently my kitchen has no ceiling. That’s right. And it’s on purpose! The hubbs and I are in the middle of some renovations on our house and as you can probably guess, it’s making any sort of cooking, baking or blogging quite challenging. My photo setup has been dismantled and replaced with a tools table. Ahh! Obviously I’m super excited about the end result of our reno, but living in it is a bit tough. That being said, I’ve decided to keep things positive and share some things that I’m loving lately!

1. Avocado with salt and red pepper flakes

This is my new favorite side dish instead of chips or soup. And it adds some healthy and satisfying fats to my lunch. Plus the red pepper flakes add a little something special 🙂

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2. LaraBars as dessert

Lately I’ve been trying to reduce my refined sugar intake, but I still get intense cravings for something sweet. Enter the Coconut Cream Pie LaraBar. It’s the perfect amount of sweetness, but has only natural sugar from dates and also has fiber and protein to keep me full.

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3. Lettuce wraps instead of chips/tortillas

Check out these beef tacos! Lately I’ve been subbing the corn taco shell with some romaine lettuce leaves and it’s pretty awesome. Honestly I don’t even miss the taco shell. Who needs carbs when you have beef, cheese and veggies?!

 

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4. Little Secrets dark chocolate peanut butter candies

These things are dangerously delicious. They are like peanut butter M&Ms, but way better because they’re dark chocolate and have nothing artificial in them! Perfect for movie date nights 🙂

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5. Bowls

I’m not talking ceramic. I’m talking rice, veggies, sauces and big flavor. Just grab your favorite fresh and roasted veggies, your favorite grain or whole grain crackers, some protein like roasted chicken and top with your favorite salad dressing or sauce. Done and done.

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The last thing I’m loving probably deserves its own blog post and that’s the weather. Spring is here in New England, well sometimes. By sometimes I mean yesterday it was 85 and today it was 45. But I love any warmth and sunshine we can get! Okay, I’m off to help build us a new ceiling. Wish me luck!

4 Dynamic Stretches For An Effective Warmup

Stretching is one of the most underrated things you can do for your health. It’s kinda like the broccoli on your plate…everybody knows its good for them, but for some reason we all want to skip it. I can’t tell you how many times I see people hop on the treadmill without so much as a toe-touch. I cringe and wish them luck in my head. But seriously how friggin’ good does it feel to take a deep breath, stretch your arms above your head and just feel your body come alive?! Ahhhhh.

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It’s time to embrace the stretch! Stretching is essential to get blood flowing to your muscles and help your body prep for movement (or just your day). Before a workout its important to practice dynamic stretching, which means your body is moving throughout the stretch as opposed to static stretching, where you hold a stretch without moving.

Dynamic stretching is key for anyone prepping to do any sort of sport that requires intense movement, ie. running, dancing, basketball, shopping (just kidding…but am I?). By making small movements in the stretch you can better prepare your muscles for what you’re about to do….whether it’s a burpee or a reach for a tank top on a high shelf. Dynamic stretching increases your core body temperature, increases range of motion around joints and decreases chance of injury. Basically it’s awesome and you should try it.

So today I’m sharing with you my favorite dynamic stretches! I incorporate these into my dance warm-ups and into my own pre-run routine (and hope the non-stretcher on the treadmill next to me notices).

4 Dynamic Stretches For An Effective Warmup

1. Toe-touch toe lift

Face right leg and bend to touch toes, placing hands on either side of foot. Lift right toe up and down 8x. Repeat left.

2. Flex heeled bend

Face right leg again and bend to touch toes, placing hands on either side of foot. Bend left leg and lengthen body over right leg. Repeat bend 8x. Move to left side a repeat.

3. Knee dip lunge

Move into lunge on right side and dip knee to floor 8x. Repeat on left side.

4. Toe touch heel lift

Bend over right leg and lift left leg, bending at knee. Lift right heel 8x. Repeat on left side.

These stretches are super simple, but can be modified for any flexibility level.

Having trouble touching your toes? Put a chair in front of you to hold onto.

Can’t go down all the way into the lunge? Put your hands on your knee or hold onto a wall.

Basically these stretches are built to help your muscles slowly work into your range of motion and gradually warm up so you’re ready for greater things. Like running a few miles or shopping till you drop 🙂

5 Things I Learned On My First Cruise

Phew! My life is becoming increasingly busy these days with dance ramping up for the end of the season, work getting crazier than ever and keeping up with blogging and my personal life. That’s why I am SO glad the hubbs and I were able to get away for a few days last week to recharge, unplug and just have fun!

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Back in February, on a cold, blustery, miserable day, we booked a 4-night cruise to the Bahamas, as a way to escape New England winter and just reset for a few days. It was our beacon of light at the end of a very dark, cold tunnel. In October we took our honeymoon in Hawaii, which you can read about here, so our main goal for this trip was for it to be cheap (cause really who can afford two vacations in one year??). Well if you haven’t heard, cruises are pretty affordable these days. Honestly I have always been very skeptical about cruising and have even been known to swear it off all-together, which probably sounded something like this; “I will never go on a cruise, it’s too claustrophobic! People get sick! TITANIC!!!”. Well, I have to admit that I was wrong. Cruises are kind of awesome and here’s why:

1. The boat is your giant playground.

In other words, I was never claustrophobic at all. The whole boat is yours to explore and take advantage of from the mini golf on the top deck, to the casino in the middle and hidden spots to hang out all over the place. Plus the ship stops on beautiful islands that you can get out on and find your adventure on land. We did have a window in our room, which probably helped, but our living space was fine, in fact I’ve been in smaller hotel rooms in Brooklyn! Cross claustrophobia off your worry list now.

IMG_08652. You will be forced to totally check out…and it’s amazing!

You will have zero service at sea to check Insta, Snapchat your day or do any of the other annoying things society thinks we should do to prove we’re having fun. You CAN purchase a plan to get access to social media, but honestly I think that’s stupid. This is your vacation, enjoy the moment, take photos and show people when you get home.

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3. There’s always something to do…which can be overwhelming at times.

We learned this the hard way. Every night they slip a schedule of events for the next day under your door. We tried to hit all the fun, but eventually sun and exhaustion took us down. Naps are highly encouraged between the hours of 4 and 5pm. Then you rally and continue your day with dinner, drinks, shows, dancing, hot tub….etc.

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4. Exercise is built in!

No need to hit the gym, just take the stairs. I think we both left with extremely toned glutes from the dozens of stairs we climbed every day. It was a great way to burn off the lava cake! I did actually hit the treadmill, which was hilarious because the boat sways you back and forth, which made for quite a challenging run!

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(This is the view from my treadmill. Not bad, right?)

5. The food is what dreams are made of.

Quinoa stuffed tomatoe with croquettes in a cream sauce. Molten lava cake. Oysters Rockefeller. Deconstructed ham sandwich appetizer. 24 hour pizza and ice cream. Need I say more? I had heard mixed reviews about Carnival food, but I have to say I was incredibly impressed every night with the creativity and quality of the food.

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So would I cruise again? Absolutely! I think there’s a time and place for boots on ground, map in hand adventure; exploring waterfalls and finding the hidden taqueria, but there’s always something to be said for sitting back, drink in hand, watching the land and sea pass by and letting someone else bring the entertainment to you.

What’s your favorite way to vacation? Land or sea?

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies {Gluten Free}

I’m baaack! Turns out the Bahamas are beautiful, in case you were wondering 🙂 I’ll do a full recap of our trip and the amazing food that we had next week (I’m still sorting through photos). Until then, I’m bringing you some chocolaty goodness..

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Now that I’m officially off my pre-cruise diet, which consisted of clean(er) eating (aka no chocolate, bread, decadent food), I wanted to share one of my favorite dessert recipes! This recipe is quick, easy and completely flourless. Peanut butter cookies without flour? It can be done!

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These cookies feature two of my all-time favorite things; peanut butter and dark chocolate, mmmmmmm. Since the recipe does have a good amount of sugar in it, I wouldn’t recommend eating these allllll the time, but they’re a great treat!

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies {Gluten Free}

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate M&Ms

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl mix together peanut butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and m&ms. Drop onto greased cookie sheet and press with fork. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Yields about 18 cookies.

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I’m not going to lie this is usually my go-to when I need to bring something to a party or get-together. It’s just so easy and who doesn’t love chocolate and peanut butter? Need something to bring to your Easter celebrations next weekend? Swap classic m&ms for some Easter colored m&ms and you are good. to. go.

Enjoy!

Yoga, Rice and Everything Nice at Throwback Brewery

When you hear the word “brewery” your mind does not automatically conjure up images of bending yogis or brown rice. That’s why Throwback Brewery is in a league all its own. Situated in an 1860’s farmhouse, Throwback features an eclectic menu using local ingredients, creates unique craft brews and hosts really cool community events. Basically it’s awesome and if you haven’t been yet, you gotta go…ttttoday junior.

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Yesterday I stopped in with some friends for their $5 yoga, which they offer on Sundays at 11am in the loft of their barn, right above the brewery. Me and about 40 other people piled into the open space to breathe, get centered and count down the minutes until we were enjoying a cold one. Check out their event calendar so you can attend the next one! (P.S. they also have live music, cribbage and book club)

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A typical brewery menu would offer pizza, burgers, fries, etc. which is so 2005. Throwback delights with hearty modern dishes and twists on classics, all using fresh, local ingredients. They even make their own bread using the spent grain from their brewing process. So cool! I enjoyed the Fried Rice Bowl which consisted of brown rice with roasted squash, edamame, bean sprouts, radishes and organic chicken in their spicy sesame sauce topped with a fried egg. Holy-yum. Loved every second of it. I also had a side of fried sweet potato wedges and a few bites of a maple donut.

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The maple donut brings me to the next awesome thing that happened at Throwback yesterday – their Maple Madness festival! Described by my friend Corinne as “the most New Hampshire thing I’ve done all year”, this event was apparently the hottest thing happening on the Seacoast yesterday as we watched hoards of people pile in to get a taste of some maple beer and hear the band. Clearly the cold, dreary weather will not keep us New Englanders away from some good maple syrup.

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Did I mention that Throwback was founded by two women? How awesome is that?! Nothing like a little girl power to create a place that not only feeds your belly, but also feeds your soul.

This photo makes me cold just looking at it…luckily I’m heading to the Bahamas this week to defrost! Further posts make be delayed, but you can follow my trip on Instagram 🙂

What did you do this weekend?

5 Tips For A Vacation-Ready Body

Happy first day of spring! With a foot of snow on the ground and temps hovering in the 30’s it does not feel like spring here one bit! But the calendar tells me it is, so I guess I’ll believe it. It’s all good though because next week the hubbs and I will be sailing into the warm Bahama sunshine 🙂 So I wanted to share some of my tips for shedding your winter-body and becoming the beautiful spring butterfly that has been hiding under all those sweaters for the past 5 months. I am by no means an expert on this, but these are just some of the tricks I find helpful and what I am doing right now! Warm weather here I come!!

5 tips for a vacation ready body

1. Say yes to sweat

This may seem obvious, but you’re gonna have to start working out – hard. Or if you are already working out, it’s time to amp up whatever you’re doing. Here’s some tips on how to do that.

  • Increase mileage/time – If you’re currently running 2 miles every other day, make it 3 miles.
  • Add an extra workout – Even by simply adding one extra exercise day to your week will make a big difference. Sunday evening is my favorite time to get in an extra workout because I usually have extra time. Think of what day you might have just an extra 20 minutes and do your workout, no matter what.
  • Add a walk into your daily routine – Moving throughout the day is just as important as the time you spend at the gym. Commit to a 10 minutes walk during your lunch break, even if it’s cold outside!
  • Stop making time an excuse. Try my 20-minute at-home workout for a quick and easy way to get your sweat on.

5 tips for a vacation ready body

2. Make sleep your best friend

My personal goal for every weekend is to sleep as much as possible. During the week I am go go go and barely have time to breathe, so the weekend is my time to re-charge. That means sleeping in late AND planning a nap in the afternoon. This rest time ensures that I have the brain capability to handle the coming week and it prevents nasty things from happening to my body, like an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which increases appetite. No one wants an increased appetite when they’re trying to fit into their summer clothes…in March. So make sleep your b$tch.

3. Cut the sweets

This one gets me every time. For me, it’s hard to say no to chocolate. But if you’re 2 weeks away from bearing your pasty white body for all to see, you gotta give it up. Reducing your sugar intake will help you reduce unnecessary calorie intake, but it will also help you eat more nutritious and satisfying foods. If you usually reach for a cookie after lunch, reach for some nuts instead. Or if you really need a sweet fix, opt for a snack that still offers protein and fiber to help keep you satisfied – like fruit, a yogurt (low sugar preferred, like Oikos Triple Zero) or a Lara Bar (natural sugar from dates). Shoving a handful of M&M’s into your mouth may temporarily keep you satisfied, but 20 minutes later you will crash and need something real. Skip the extra calories and go straight for the real stuff.

5 tips for a vacation ready body

4. Say no to bread

Cutting bread from your diet helps reduce your carb intake, which helps you burn fat, but it also opens up your eating possibilities. Think of all the super nutritious foods you could be eating instead of bread; like sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, brown rice, coconut flour, etc. Try eating roasted sweet potatoes with your morning eggs, subbing quinoa for pasta or using coconut flour in your baking. Have a serious hankering for some toast? Opt for whole wheat and keep your portions small.

5 tips for a vacation ready body

5. Get your bronze on

There’s nothing worse than showing up to a tropical beach and being the whitest person on the sand…or just blending into the sand completely. You gotta get a little pre-tan happening so that you have the confidence to strip down and frolick into the warm waves. I recommend getting a spray-tan or applying some self-tanner the day before you go. Sun Tan City always has coupons available and Fake Bake is super popular for the DIY sunless tan. No harmful UV rays needed!

5 tips for a vacation ready body

Now I’m not saying that I can stick to this every second of every day, but I’m certainly trying. I mean, nothing makes you want to run that extra mile like knowing you need to fit your winter bum into your summer bikini in t-minus 10 days.

Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Happy Hump-day! Woowee. The last 24 hours have been quite a doosey. We had a major blizzard here with heavy snow, crazy winds and we even lost power for quite a while :(. Not fun at all. But do you know what is fun? Baking!

Especially when it’s with a friend. Today I have a special guest star on the blog who is sharing with us her recipe for Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal!

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Meet Erin. I promise, she’s not as crazy as this picture makes her seem. But she is sharing a crazy good recipe that is her go-to for a quick and easy breakfast. Erin works as a Spanish teacher so her mornings are early, busy and require a no-fuss breakfast. Anyone else in the same boat? So on Sundays Erin bakes up a big batch of this oatmeal and is ready to go with a delicious, hearty breakfast all week long.

This recipe is full of healthy ingredients that will keep you full for hours, like hearty old-fashioned oats, walnuts, peanut butter and banana. It is whole grain, contains no refined sugar and can easily be made gluten free by using gluten-free oats. Maple syrup and banana offer all the sweetness you need, but we added an extra peanut butter drizzle on top for a special treat.

Erin says that some weeks when she’s feeling a little naughty she’ll throw in some chocolate chips instead of blueberries. Feel free to switch up the mix-ins as you please! You could do diced apples and pecans, cranberries and walnuts or banana chunks and peanut butter chips.

Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 medium bananas, 1 mashed with fork and 1 sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup blueberries

Peanut Butter Drizzle:

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In medium bowl combine oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Mash one of the bananas with a fork and add to oats mixture. Add in egg, milk, vanilla, maple syrup and peanut butter and mix to thoroughly combine. Mix in walnuts and blueberries and pour into 9×9 baking dish. Bake for 26-28 minutes. Remove from oven and top with sliced bananas. To prepare drizzle, mix together maple syrup and peanut butter with a fork in a measure cup. Slowly drizzle over baked oatmeal. Enjoy!

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Who doesn’t want to wake up to this?! When you’re ready for breakfast I suggest microwaving a piece and topping with your favorite nut butter, drizzling with maple syrup or you could serve it cold with some vanilla yogurt on top. Heck, with a dollop of cookie butter this could even be a desert! Mmm…cookie butter…

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Everyone owes Erin a big thank you for bringing this delicious recipe into our lives. And I owe Erin a big thank you for helping me make it! She comes in handy quite a bit…anyone recognize her from this post? She was one of my beautiful bridesmaids!

Well I hope the next half of the week is better than the first half. Excuse me while I go hug a lamp…electricity is awesome!

Pulled Pork Stuffed Peppers

Anyone else stress out about using all their produce every week? Sometimes it’s a real struggle to remember what you need to use and what’s about to rot! The horror of wasting produce haunts me. Using up our veggies was the motivation for this dinner tonight. The result = so friggin’ delicious.

pulled pork stuffed peppers

Thursday is my favorite night of the workweek because I’ve gotten through teaching my dance classes, it’s almost Friday and I can finally just come straight home after work (and the gym) to my husband and my puppy. It’s a fantastic feeling.

pulled pork stuffed peppers

Usually on Thursday nights the hubbs and I like to make dinner together. (Or he makes it for me. Fun fact- he’s actually a super good cook).

pulled pork stuffed peppers

At the beginning of the week we made a huge-jass batch of pulled pork and now really needed to use it up. Conveniently we also had a zucchini, some mushrooms and 2 bell peppers that were about to go to waste. So duh, we stuffed them!

pulled pork stuffed peppers

We used our leftover pulled pork for the protein, but you could easily cook up some chicken breasts and shred them instead. Or go meatless with this recipe, honestly it was hearty enough that you could definitely do that.

Pulled Pork Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bell peppers
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 3 large mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fajita seasoning
  • 1.5 cups pulled pork (or shredded chicken breast)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut tops off of peppers and take out seeds. Place onto baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Dice zucchini and mushrooms and saute in pan with olive oil and garlic on medium heat. When veggies are soft add in pulled pork and sprinkle with seasoning. Cook until pork is heated through. Remove peppers from the oven and spoon pork and veggie mixture into peppers. Tops with cheese and place back into oven for about 10 more minutes. Remove when cheese is fully melted and enjoy with your favorite sides.

pulled pork stuffed peppers

We also had some roasted sweet potatoes and a super-ripe avocado waiting to be enjoyed so we added those on as sides to our stuffed peppers. Perfection.

I loved this dinner because it was so full of veggies, but I was delightfully full after eating it. The combination of complex carbs (sweet potatoes), hearty veggies and good fats (avocado) made it ultra-satisfying.

Plus lets be honest, everything is better covered in melted cheese.

Don’t you agree?

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

If you are freaked out by the title of this recipe, you are not alone. The thought of having chickpeas or any kind of beans in my cookies was repulsive to me, until I tried these babies.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

These Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies are gluten free, grain-less, chock-full of protein, fiber, antioxidants AND they are so tasty, you won’t miss your Mrs. Fields for a second.

Now the main ingredient of these cookies is in fact chickpeas, but I promise you, they are completely unnoticeable. Chickpeas are actually almost tasteless and are super good for you, so why not just try it out? That’s what I did and I was pleasantly surprised.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

The next ingredient is walnut butter, but you can use any nut butter of your choice. I sometimes get sick of everything being peanut butter tasting, so I used this Crazy Go Nuts Oatmeal Cookie Walnut Butter and it really helped give the cookies that classic cookie taste.

Instead of sugar this recipe uses maple syrup, which has more nutritional benefits than regular sugar and is less refined. It provides manganese, zinc and can even help your immune system. The flour is replaced by coconut flour, which you only need a small amount of because it is so incredibly absorbent.

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup walnut butter (or peanut or almond butter)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor combine all ingredients except chocolate chips. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into medium bowl and add chocolate chips. Spoon cookies onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes. Yields about 18 cookies.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

These cookies are best enjoyed with a tall glass of milk and your favorite rom-com. Dunking is recommended. Or bring them to work for a post-lunch chocolate fix that won’t leave you feeling yucky 🙂

Whatever you do with them, just let people taste them before telling them what’s in it. Because in the case of chickpeas in baked goods, tasting is believing.