Red, White, & Blue Cheesecake Popsicles Without Food Dyes

Today I am featuring an oldie but a goodie, cheesecake popsicles without food dyes! These popsicles are packed full of great taste and fruit but completely free of artificial food dyes. Their festive colors come only from ingredients found in nature! Now, without further adieu, let’s take it back to 2015:

This week, General Mills announced that it will be removing all artificial flavors and colors from its cereals. To me, this is a big step in the right direction by a major food producer, but I am wondering what Trix is going to look like without artificial colors. Whether or not you believe artificial colors are harmful, my belief is that they are largely unnecessary. Why add artificial colors, why not eat food the color that it happens to be? Well, sometimes, like when a certain patriotic holiday is involved, you might want your food to match the occasion.

Remember Bomb Pops? What exactly were those made of? And how is “blue raspberry” a flavor? Are blue raspberries really a thing? They were definitely patriotic, but I never enjoyed the taste. In fact, I never really enjoyed popsicles of any kind. Why have frozen water/juice when I could have ice cream instead? Enter these patriotic “popsicles.” Read more

Strawberry Shortcake with Pie Crust

Well, it’s official. It is summer here in Michigan. Even though I know it’s not officially summer until June 21, when I can find strawberries ripe enough to make strawberry shortcake, then it’s close enough to call it. Being in Michigan has its upsides and downsides. Downside-we are about 2-3 weeks behind in the fresh produce department. Upside-we have SO MANY options when it comes to fresh produce. Especially in the berry and cherry department. There are lots of berries, along with different types of cherries, that grow well in the not too hot Northern climates. As soon as those incredible, tiny (when compared with grocery store types), and super sweet strawberries appeared in my CSA basket, I couldn’t wait to make this classic pie crust strawberry shortcake.

Something else that is official? I think I am officially a Northerner. I have lived in Michigan for close to five years now. I own a home. I married a native Michigander. BUT, until now it hasn’t been official. Until now, I have never, not once, felt like it was TOO HOT. Northerners, or at least Michiganders, are babies when it comes to the heat. Taste Tester complains about the heat ALL THE TIME. To which I would say something along the lines of, “you don’t even know what hot is.” (sidenote:Have I become my father?). BUT, this year, whew, it’s been hot. And I have felt that, perhaps, it was indeed TOO hot. And it wasn’t really that hot when I said it was too hot. Which means, I am officially a baby about the HEAT. And it’s only June. But it has been a particularly dry and hot summer thus far. The upside of my northerner-ness is that I am now pretty tough when it comes to the cold. Just ask anyone who has been to my house in winter. So, upsides and downsides. Read more

Peeps Ice Cream

I know I have mentioned this on the blog before, but I will say it again. I was a strange kid. Or at least, I had strange taste buds. For a kid. Looking back, I like to think my non-kid friendly eating habits were a reflection of a more sophisticated palate. I loved chocolate, but as far as things kids are “supposed” to like, that was about it. I didn’t like ketchup, mayonnaise, most sugary cereals, pretty much any candy that wasn’t chocolate, cotton candy, un-cooked marshmallows, cold pizza, McDonald’s cheeseburgers (#chickennuggest4life) or Peeps. I did not like Peeps. Unfortunately for my waistline, as an adult I developed a taste for most of these things. I still am not overly fond of any mayonnaise based salad (should it really be called a salad if it contains mayonnaise?), but I will eat mayonnaise on a sandwich, if it comes that way. I would never seek out most ketchups, but Trader Joe’s ketchup is a different food all together. It is delicious and I could eat in on basically anything. And I’m not really sure what I was thinking on the cereal front because kid cereals are incredible! Although I would never in a million years let a kid actually eat that for breakfast-said the person who has no human children. (Remind me I said that in 5-10 years!). Read more

Easy Cheese Plate

I have been known to overdo it when it comes to entertaining. In my past life, I would have steered away from this easy cheese plate, for fear it was too easy to impress. This has lead to disaster on more than one occasion (see: Mother’s Day). Add this to the list of the Taste Tester’s great annoyances. He has been known to complain or even be hesitant to host certain events due to this charming quality. But, he has a point. When you are overwhelmed and frazzled, it doesn’t really matter how good the food tastes, your guests probably aren’t going to have a great time. After all, your guests came to see YOU, not the back of your head as you stir pots and pull things in and out of the oven and maybe set off the fire alarm.

That’s why, when it comes to entertaining, I have tried to adopt the keep it simple policy. I have found that guests are impressed enough with your presence and the fact that they are being served a delicious meal. No need to make complex dishes, just focus on simplicity to maximize time for enjoying one and other’s company. Read more

Shepherd’s Hand Pies

In honor of the holiday yesterday, I wanted to drop in today with a quick little celebration post. What, you didn’t know yesterday was a holiday? Your work and school didn’t close in honor of National Pi Day? That’s Pi, not Pie, as in 3.14 or March 14. So maybe it’s not the most famous holiday, but any holiday observed with the eating of pie is worthy of celebration to me. So, if you forgot to celebrate yesterday, let’s roll out our crusts and make up for it this weekend.

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Green Muffins with Banana and Kiwi

Lately, I have been on a bit of a smoothie kick. I would say the Taste Tester and I have been on this smoothie kick, except that the Taste Tester has been less than enthusiastic and supportive about this recent habit. I love the idea of starting our day with a whole bunch of fruits and veggies. TT, on the other hand, loves the idea of starting his day with nothing but coffee and maybe a granola bar mid-morning. And, I will admit, some of my smoothies have been less than delicious. Without going into too many gory details, let’s just say that sweet potato in a smoothie doesn’t exactly work. We have always been protein shake drinkers, but I was recently given a NutiBullet Rx, which has greatly broadened the realm of fruits and veggies that I can blend into a smoothie. This thing will blend anything. I have been using it for several weeks now and it consistently produces completely smooth smoothies in 1-2 minutes. (#notsponsored!). The introduction of this new appliance and the cookbook that came with it has lead to the purchase of many items I would not have previously considered purchasing. One such item is the gigantic box of pre-washed spinach.

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Heart Shaped Wontons

Wayyy back in the day when I first started this blog and had nothing but time and next to no obligations to fill it, I was very creative in the kitchen. I had lots of ideas, some of which never made it to the blog because they were disastrous and some of which never made it to the blog because I was either unsatisfied with the photos or lazy or a combination of both. One of such recipes was a wonton recipe, which I have re-created several times but never actually posted. The idea was quite simple. Basically, I got wonton wrappers, filled them with a mixture of habanero jelly and cream cheese, fried them, and blew the Taste Tester’s mind with their deliciousness. It was a super simple, super impressive, and super delicious recipe. And, I have been keeping it from you for YEARS.

Annd that doesn’t change today. Instead, today, I have taken that recipe and turned it into these cherry, Nutella, adorably heart shaped wontons. I will be honest though, once you have mastered this recipe you can change the filling to pretty much anything and it will taste phenomenal. Read more

Chickpea Party Mix

What’s your favorite snack food? It’s hard to pick just one. There are many, many versions of chips, nachos, dips, etc. that I can eat without stopping. But, if I had to pick just one thing that can be found in a bag, I have to choose party mix. My number one favorite is that Gardetto’s brand party mix that my parents used to take in the car on every road trip, along with Milk Duds and maybe some Twizzlers. And of course Gatorade for my dad. A close second would be Chex mix, which is quite similar to Gardetto’s except for what it adds in crunchy cereal goodness it detracts in subpar rye chips. Read more

Meal Plan for January 16-22

So, I’ll get to the meal plan in a bit, but let me just brag on myself for one whole week of no alarm snoozing! I didn’t think it was possible, but I have made it through. I feel like I have made it through the hardest part and it will only get easier going forward. I keep reminding myself that if I stick with it, eventually the sun will be out when I wake up!!

Let me interrupt this bragging session with a little truth: I totally got out of bed when my alarm went off 5/5 days last week. BUTTTT, on Friday, I hopped out of bed, got dressed, took my dogs outside, THEN decided I was way too tired to work out and went to crawl back in bed for an hour. So, not perfect, but technically I didn’t hit the snooze alarm.

I am doing so much better with working out and I am feeling better because of it. Working out in the morning is crucial during this busy season. There have been many days that I have intended to do a second workout in the evening but completely run out of time. Having those workouts finished in the morning makes me feel not so guilty about this.

I have also been eating way better and mostly stuck with the meal plan last week. I ate dinner twice at work, both times opting to order out instead of packing a dinner. Right now, my dinner-at-work nights are spontaneous and sporadic, so I haven’t been able to plan ahead. I have been able to keep things pretty healthy by mostly ordering soups and salads. As the season wears on, I may have to revise my approach.

Last week, I did have time to try out one of my new recipes, this salmon recipe from Cooking Light magazine. Both TT and I actually liked the fish, which is new for us as we are not big fish eaters. I was not impressed with the potatoes, which may have been due to me adding wayyyy too much oil. Either fry the potatoes or don’t, but don’t go half way like I did. You will end up consuming all the grease, with none of the delicious crispiness. The horseradish sauce was also delicious, even TT, who does not like horseradish, enjoyed it. I replaced the fresh dill with dried as that’s what I had on hand.

Yesterday, TT and I attended the brunch buffet which did not disappoint. I was able to control myself around the shrimp cocktail this year, opting to eat breakfast first and save the cheese and shrimp for the lunch portion of the meal. Topped off with an ice cream sundae, it was a great meal as usual. But, after a big, unhealthy meal on Sunday, I really have to watch my “treats” this week, especially at work.

Here’s the meal plan for the week:

Breakfast

Bulletproof coffee or smoothies/protein shakes, keeping it simple and healthy.

Lunch

Leftover Mediterranean food from the weekend, supplemented with sliced cucumbers and salad. I am limiting myself to two yogurts per week. This week, Siggis was on sale so I stocked up. I am so pumped to try the peach flavor!

Dinner

On Sunday, I made chili and cornbread to keep as leftovers for the week, as I will likely have to eat at work a few times. Hopefully TT does not get tired of eating the same thing 3-4 times this week.

Monday: This week’s Recipe Club recipe, which can be found here and on my Facebook page.

Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday: Combination of me eating at work, leftovers from Sunday and Monday, and one night, a very modified version of this recipe (TT doesn’t like soy sauce or black pepper) that I read about on Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity, which I mentioned in last week’s post.

Apologies for the lack of a plan! 3 more weeks!

Weekly Meal Plan: What We’re Eating (or interested in eating) This Week

One thing many healthy lifestyle and food blogs agree on is meal plans. If you want to eat healthier, lose weight, live a healthier life, etc.; it seems that the key is meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. I don’t disagree. Knowing what you are going to eat for the week definitely takes a lot of the opportunities for “bad” eating off the table. When we are pressed for time, stressed, and most importantly HUNGRY (or even hangry), it opens the door to bad food decisions that we may live to regret. Setting aside time on Saturday or Sunday to prepare for the coming week can make a huge difference in the success of failure of your healthy eating plans.

To help keep myself honest, each weekend, I will share my weekly meal plan with you. Hopefully, you will find it inspiring and it can be a useful resource in planning your week as well. This will also help ME in actually planning my meals and thinking about the coming week. I will share what challenges I anticipate for the week and how I plan to deal with them.  So without further ado I present: Read more