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Summer Challenge

In case you hadn’t noticed…summer is almost upon us! Which means it’s almost time for shorts and t-shirts and possibly swim suits!

In just over 4 weeks time James and I will be flying cross the Atlantic and back to my home in Southern Ontario.  I know Canada is stereotypically known for being covered in 8 feet of snow all year round (which is actually closer to the truth this year apparently), however we also get some incredibly hot summers! And not just the nice dry heat where you don’t really realize you’re all that hot, but humidity which makes it feel like you’re swimming in the air!

That said I’m hoping to spend a good few days at a beach or in a pool! So it’s time to shape up! Now please don’t read this as  me having a “fat day” and just complaining and wanting sympathy from friends and readers.  I have full understanding that I’m not fat, and I’m not looking for “oh you don’t need to do anything” (but not mean “fatty” posts either! hehe). What I am looking to do is just take these 4 weeks to eat healthily, and do some exercise so that by the end of it I’m feeling healthy and perhaps a little more toned up!

I also find it much easier to consistently post on here when I’m in the midst of a challenge! So what I’ll try to do it post any exercise routines, and specifically healthy meals.  Note – I don’t really like exercising, so it’s not going to be “Insanity” style routines. On the other hand, I know that there isn’t such a thing as a quick fix.

So, let the 4 weeks of fitness begin!

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

So I have a confession – I suck at making cookies!! I have had some curse over my life when it comes to making cookies! Whenever I make them, they come out flat flat flat flat – like see-through-the-cookie-onto-the-pan type of flat! I’ve heard all the “solutions”; “use more butter,” “use less butter,” “use more flour,” “use different sugar,” “chill it” and so on! Believe me, I’ve tried! I even experimented with some friends where 3 of us made the dough, 3 of use made the cookie balls and divided them among 2 pans, I put one pan in the oven and my friend put the other in the over…her’s came out perfect Betty Crocker cookies…mine – FLAT!

So, I tend to just avoid the baking step now! Cookie dough is delicious anyway!  And I figure one day when I have kids, they will think I’m the best mom ever because I give them cookie dough instead of cookies!

Well I gave it another go tonight, I was craving some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I looked on Pinterest (as you do!), and found a recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. And you aren’t going to believe this…BUT MY COOKIES LOOK NORMAL!! It is literally a miracle!

I am so excited! So I am going to share this recipe with everyone and use it over and over and over again! Apparently, this is the miracle recipe! So here you go, enjoy some delicious cookies!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
-1 cup of butter, softened to room temperature
-1 cup packed light brown sugar
-1 cup granulated sugar
-2 large eggs
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-2 cups all purpose flour (plain flour)
-2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (porridge oats do the trick)
-2 cups chocolate chips

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugars together
2. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat everything together until it’s light and fluffy
3. Add in the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix
4. Add the flour and oats. Mix together.
5. Mix in the chocolate chips,
6. Drop balls of dough (approx 2 Tbsp of dough) onto a greased baking tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes (depending on your oven and desired “done-ness”)
7. Let cool slightly on tray so they don’t fall apart, then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

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Cinnamon Rolls

Ever get that craving for a nice fluffy, soft, cinnamon-y, smothered with icing cinnamon roll? Did you just get that craving now?

Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon Buns

 

Unfortunately, not many people in the UK know the real joys of a proper cinnamon roll! The closest I’ve found is a Chelsea Bun..which is good…but not Cinnamon Bun good!!

Now I’ve looked up a lot of recipes, but most of them had yeast in them, and I couldn’t be bothered to wait for them to rise. I’m sure they’re delicious, but sometimes you just want to eat it NOW, not 4 hours from now!

So I finally just put into pinterest (I do love pinterest!!) “QUICK homemade cinnamon rolls” and voila! Recipes! So I picked this one, tried it and yum yum yum!  The only thing I would change is I would make cream cheese icing – but I didn’t have any cream cheese at home, sad face. But cinnamon buns with cream cheese icing are miles better than regular icing!

So to all my Canadian (or American) followers, here is a lovely quick Cinnamon bun recipe – unless you’ve got the tubed pillsbury ones, those are good too!
To all my British or European followers….here is a Cinnamon Bun recipe you’ve got to try! Awaken your taste buds and show them what is the most delicious breakfast, or snack, or lunch, or whatever, they’ve ever had!!

Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients
Rolls
-2 1/2 cups of plain/all purpose flour
-3 Tbsp White Sugar
-1 1/4 cups Butter milk (make your own by using regular milk mixed with approx 3 Tbsp white vinegar, and sit for 5 minutes)
-6 Tbsp Melted Butter
-1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
-1/2 tsp Baking Soda
-1/2 tsp Salt

Filling
-1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-2 tsp cinnamon
-1/8 tsp salt
-1/4 cup White Sugar

Icing
-1 Cup Powdered Sugar
-2 Tbsp Softened Butter
-1 tsp Vanilla
-1 Tbsp Milk (or orange juice)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425F and grease a 9 inch square pan

2. In a small bowl, mix together all the Filling ingredients. Then set the bowl aside to use in a few minute.

3. In a larger bowl, mix together (from the Roll Ingredients) flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then whisk in the buttermilk and 2 Tbsp of the melted butter. The dough will be very stick at this point…don’t worry!

4. Put some flour down on the counter and place the dough on top. You will need to knead the dough for a minute or two until it becomes smooth. Once this is done, press out the dough into approximately a 9×12 rectangle. Doesn’t haven’t to be EXACT, just close and rectangle-ish shaped.

5. Once it’s laid out, spread about 2 Tbsp of the melted butter on top. You may need to use your hands, or a brush to try to cover the dough as best you can. Then top with the Filling Mix you made earlier. Spread it evening over the dough.

6.  Then start at one end of the dough and tightly roll it up. Once it’s in a log form, cut it into about 8-10 pieces (depending on which way you rolled it). Put these pieces into the prepared dish, and top with remaining 2 Tbsp of butter.

7. Put in oven and bake 20-25 minutes

8. To make the icing, just mix together the Icing Ingredients. Add a TOUCH more water/milk/juice to make it a bit thinner – whatever is your liking.

Notes
-It works to roll either direction, but I think I will try rolling it so that it’s only 9 inches long. This will make less buns, but they will be thicker.
-I didn’t have any cream cheese, but cream cheese icing is always better! Here is a link to a basic cream cheese icing recipe I use sometimes.

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Clean Eating Day 12

(This post includes recipe for Curried Coconut Chicken)

 

Well it’s Valentine’s Day and I have to let you know – I allowed myself a cheat today! I mean, what is valentine’s without chocolate!! But, I found the darkest chocolate I could – which didn’t have much sugar in it – and then I actually didn’t end up eating much of it.  But I’m very proud to say this is the first REAL and intentional cheat I’ve done. I think I could have easily have made it another 2 days without any chocolate or sugar, I wasn’t really craving it, but we thought we’d have a nice chocolate fondue…and obviously you need chocolate for that!

So other than that…here is the rest of the day

BREAKFAST: Homemade Granola & Yoghurt

LUNCH: Leftover Butternut Squash Lasagna Roll-Ups.

These were just as good reheated. I chose to reheat them in the oven so that the crispy bits stayed crispy (as in the cheese that gets crispy while cooking).

DINNER: Curried Coconut Chicken

I definitely played with this recipe. The original is from Bless This Mess, but due to personal taste…and forgetting to get a few things in…I adapted! I think it tasted brilliant, the only thing I would have to adjust is that it ended up a little runnier, so I would need to add in bits to thicken in up a bit!

Curried Coconut Chicken

Ingredients
-3 Tbsp oil (peanut, olive, coconut)
-2 Tbsp curry powder
-1 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp garam masala, divided (didn’t have this so, but would try to find it next time)
-1/2 tsp onion powder
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-2 chicken breasts cut into bit sized pieces
-1 14oz can coconut milk
-1/2 cup tomato passata
-1 cup chicken broth
-1/2 tsp salt

Directions
1. In a large dutch oven or stock pot (although I only used a skillet), heat the oil and curry powder and 1 Tbsp garam masala over a medium heat.  Cook for 5 minutes. If it starts to stick to the pan, add in a bit more oil, you do not want it to burn. Add the onion and garlic powder and cook for an additional 5 minutes – if it starts to stick, add a bit of oil.
2. Add the chicken and cook until it is no longer pink in the centre.
3 Add the coconut milk, passata, broth and salt. Stir it all in to combine is evenly.
4. Cook at a low simmer until the mixture thickens – about 45 minutes to an hour. 5 minutes before serving stir in the last tsp of garam masala.
5. Serve over hot rice

Notes
-The original uses a can of diced tomatoes rather than passata, as well it adds in squash pieces and cherries.  I didn’t have any of these…but I don’t like tomatoes anyway..so I improvised.
-Because there was nothing to help absorb some of the liquid, I added in about 2 tsp of cornflour to help thicken it slightly.
-Curry flavours get better the longer they have to cook, so simmer it as long as possible! And reheating left overs the next day will have even better flavours.

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Clean Eating Day 11

(This blog includes recipes for Crock Pot Beef Taco Salad)

Today was a day of temptations! I was away all day at an event – which was a catered event. Now some of you are going to think what I did was a little over the top and, honestly, I agree with you. However, because this is only a 14 day challenge, I thought I need to stick to this 100% and give it my all, even when it’s inconvenient. So after these 2 weeks, while I will still try to eat clean and healthily, I know there will be days that it is more practical to not – or days of going out for meals. However, today…I packed my own bread, so transferred the fillings from the catered sandwich to my own. I made my own flapjack last night and brought that with me instead of eating the store bought kind. I brought plain raisins instead of eating chocolate covered raisins. And I ate a healthy, clean, banana bread bar instead of a Krispy Kreme donut that was bought for me. I also resisted the temptation when a certain friend literally trying to force feed me store bought flapjack! Granted…it’s not all that tempting to eat something from someone else’s fingers while being shoved into your lips!

BREAKFAST: Homemade Granola and Milk

SNACK: Smoothie
This was so good to have today. While everyone else was munching on chocolate covered raisins and goodies, this kept me full but also satisfied any sweetness craving.

LUNCH: Sandwich, flapjack, fruit
Ham and lettuce on my own wholewheat bread. My homemade flapjack, and thankfully they did cater in fresh fruit kebabs!

SNACK: Banana Bread Bar

Banana Bread Bar

Banana Bread Bar


My mother-in-law bought me these for this week, which was very kind of her! She searched Tesco to try to find some type of “clean” snack! And they are, there is nothing “unclean” in the ingredients.

DINNER: Crock Pot Beef Taco Salad

I got the basic idea for this recipe from Eat, Live, Run, but adapted it for my own use. This recipe is for actual tacos, but I didn’t have any wraps on hand, so I just turned it into a salad.  Here is the recipe I used and this was enough for 2 people. It might be enough for 3-4 when you add in the wrap calories, but they would probably be smaller portions.

Crock Pot Beef Taco Salad

Ingredients
-1 Tbsp chili powder
-1 1/2 tsp cumin or smoked cumin
-1/2 tsp onion powder
-1/4 tsp garlic powder
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
-1 tsp salt
-300g Rump Steak
-1 green bell pepper
-Lettuce
-Cheese

Directions
1. Mix all the spices together then rub into each side of the steak. Use all the mixture. Place the spice covered steak into the bottom of a crock pot.
2. Add in peppers (and onions and jalapenos if desired).
3. Cook for 7-8 hours on low.
4. Once cooked, remove the steak and shred with two forks.
5. Serve as desired – hard tacos, soft tacos, salad. Top with desired elements – cheese, salsa, veggies, etc

Notes
-I have a bad habit of not properly measuring spices when cooking, I tend to just go on what looks good. But that is partially the point of spices, so the measurements are adjustable depending on your taste buds!
-I used Rump Steak, but you can use almost any kind of steak. Because it’s done in a crockpot, even the typically tougher meat cuts will be just fine!
-If you use a lean meat, you may need to add a bit of beef stock so that it doesn’t dry out during cooking.
-Once you’ve shredded the meat, you can serve immediately, or return it to the crock pot for up to a few hours until you are ready to serve
-I would add in the green pepper later in the cooking. I’m sure it added some extra flavouring to the meat, but I found they were just a bit too mushy for my taste with a full 8 hours in there.

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Clean Eating Day 10

(This post contents recipes for BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad, and Butternut Squash Lasagne Roll-Ups)

The BBQ Ranch chicken salad was supposed to be last night’s dinner. However I wasn’t home and James only have Chicken on Salad. So I made the dressing this morning to use for my lunch, so I’ll include that recipe here instead of last nights blog.

BREAKFAST: Homemade Granola and Milk

Just can’t go wrong with this at the moment! I just LOVE it! And I’ve made more Yoghurt as well, so I will be adding that again!

SNACK: Fruit Smoothie

Making healthy…or more healthy…by using spinach and chia seeds in it as well!

LUNCH: BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

This was top!! It was so good! I will definitely have this again and even just make the dressing on it’s own again as well! This recipe was originally on Bless This Mess and she does it a little different and adds a few other things as well…why not check her out if you’re looking for a bit more. I also halved the recipe for just the two of us…but the dressing will probably last for about a week, it makes tons!

BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Ingredients
For the Dressing
-1/4 cup sour cream
-1/4 cup mayonnaise (can be substituted for plan yoghurt – especially your homemade stuff!)
-1/8 cup buttermilk
-1/6 cup barbecue sauce
-1/8 tsp garlic powder
-1/8 tsp onion powder
-1/4 tsp dried dill
For Salad
-2 hearts Romaine lettuce (we used baby spinach)
-1 Cucumber, diced
-1/2 green pepper, chopped
-2 chicken breasts, bbq’d from night before

Directions
Dressing: add all ingredients together and whisk together until smooth
Salad: add veggie together in a bowl and toss. Add chopped chicken on top. Dress lightly just before serving.

DINNER: Butternut Squash Lasagne Roll-Ups

This was so good! I’ve never been much of a squash fan (other than a good ol’pumpkin pie!) so I was a bit skeptical but gave it a go anyway, and it turned out delish! This recipe is also from Bless This Mess. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this one!

Butternut Squash Lasagna Roll-Ups

Ingredients
-3 Tbsp butter
-1/4c whole wheat flour
-2 cups whole milk
-dash nutmeg
-salt to taste
-2 cups finely pureed cooked butternut squash, well salted
-9-12 lasagna noodles, cooked
-1/3 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
-1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375F and grease a baking dish
2.In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat.  Once the butter melts add in the flour and stir until it’s all combined. Let the butter and flour cook for about 30 seconds. Then slowly whisk in the milk. Add a dash of nutmeg and the salt to taste. Whisk over medium heat and allow just to start bubbling. Cook another 2 minutes then remove from heat.
3.To assemble the roll-ups, lay out the cooked lasagna noodles on a counter top. Spread about 2 Tbsps of the Squash puree over the top of each then sprinkle with the Parmesan Cheese. Start at one end and roll the noodle. Place the rolled noodle, seam side down, on to a greased baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.
4. Once all the noodles are in the dish, pour the sauce over top. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top then bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and everything is hot and bubbly. Allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes before serving up.

Notes
We decided to make our sauce a cheese sauce, which we think was a brilliant idea.  Make the sauce as directed, then just add in some grated cheese and allow to melt.
Also, we didn’t have mozzarella, but cheddar cheese worked just as nicely!

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Clean Eating Day 9

Here is another post all about leftovers.  Tuesday’s are just VERY busy days. I’m not getting home until about 9:30-10 at night, so James is on his own for dinner and I need to bring something with me from the beginning of the day. We all know that these days happen, and it’s great to have leftovers in the fridge! Even to prepare to have leftovers by making just a little bit more the night before! So there are no new recipes in this post – although there is meal, but I’ll post the recipe on Day 10.

BREAKFAST: Homemade Granola and Milk

This granola is lasting so long, and it’s so good! I’ll definitely be making it again!

LUNCH: Left over burgers.

Just packed up some burgers and a bun and some chips and there was lunch for the day! Burgers are just as good re-heated!

DINNER: BBQ Chicken Salad

When we BBQ’d the burgers the night before, I stuck on 2 chicken breasts as well so they would be ready to use!  Now, I wasn’t home in time to each this tonight, so I saved mine for Lunch tomorrow. James had his portion- however without the homemade dressing which ended up being DELICIOUS (he really missed out on that!) Since I’ll be making the dressing in the morning to go with my lunch, I’ll post the recipe there!

 

You don’t have to rely on packaged, or frozen or take out on days when you’re busy. Just plan ahead a bit and you can still eat well! It only takes a few minutes to add a bit extra the night before!