Oatmeal Chocolate Chips (with a hint of cinnamon!)

Recently my mom visited my grandparents and since I know they all love cookies, I decided to send my mom along with some cookies.  My papa’s favorite cookie is a basic chocolate chip cookie, which is great, but I always find myself always wanting to add a twist and try a new recipe.  I found a great recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies here and they add a dash of cinnamon, which my nana ended up loving!  My papa told me he had to hide the cookies from my nana so he could get enough!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used a mix of whole wheat and white)

3/4 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

optional: 1- 2 tablespoons milk, if dough is crumbly

Directions:

- Preheat oven to 375.

- Beat butter and sugars with a mixer until smooth.  Add egg and vanilla, mixing until combined.

- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Slowly add this mix into the wet mix and beat on medium.

- Add in oats and mix until combined. If still crumbly, add milk.  (I ended up adding 2 tablespoons, which helped tremendously).

- Fold in chocolate chips and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

- Set onto cookie sheet.

 

- Bake for 9-11 minutes.

Tip: Refrigerate your dough in between batches too to keep dough cool.

 

What’s your favorite variation on a chocolate chip cookie?

Stop Comparing

Recently I read an article on the Runner’s World website that talked about how volatile it is to compare ourselves to others.  The author saw a quote that read: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  While reading this article, I realized how much I compare myself to others and how it isn’t doing anything to boost my self confidence.  Then I thought about it more and realized that for every time I think something positive about someone else and compare myself to them, there also could be something positive said about me, about how I can do something better than that person.

I think of my one friend who is super fashionable and who always seems to have perfect hair (which I constantly envy).  Then I thought to myself, well those things are great, but can she run a half marathon like I did?

Another one of my friends is really outgoing and can make friends instantly.  Then I thought, can she get through all the engineering courses I did?

Another friend is very thin and has been that way for years.  To which I think, can she cook and bake like I can? 

The point is, we all have good qualities, and not so great qualities.  We shouldn’t focus on what other people are better than us at, but focus on what we are good at and what we want to do with our lives.  Could I own really fashionable clothes?  Yes, but I have an irrational fear of spending large amounts of money.  Could I have perfect hair all the time?  Yes, but frankly, I value sleep more than waking up early and getting myself ready.  No one can be perfect all the time and accepting our shortcomings is a huge step forward in accepting ourselves.

Apples and Popcorn

Apples and popcorn: what can I say about these two glorious foods.  I love them so much, that I’m pretty sure I can live on just the two of them for my entire life and not get tired of them.  My friends also know how much I love these two.  It’s a rare day when I have neither of these items and it happens WAY more often than not when I have both of them. 

For my 21st birthday, my friends made me a sign I had to wear around my neck with 21 things to do by the end of the night (and I finished!).  They think my love of popcorn and apples is pretty amusing so one of the things on the list was to “have a serious conversation with someone about apples and popcorn.”  Let me just start out by saying there were also more fun, exciting things on the list so you don’t think I’m lame (aka, rub a bald man’s head, sing to stranger, photobomb a stranger’s picture, get the whole bar to sing you happy birthday, etc.).  I tried to start this conversation on early in the night, but some of my other friends weren’t going to bite–they wanted me to have to work for getting this box checked off on my sign.  Anyways, I later on told a friend about the abundant benefits of apples and popcorn and decided to share a few with you.  

Benefits of apples

1. They’re the perfect snack!  Just around 100 calories.

2. The skin has fiber to help you feeling full.

3. The middle has a lot of water, so it helps you reach the daily requirement for water consumption.

4. They’re healthy.  I mean they’re a fruit, c’mon.  I choose not to listen to those who say fruit isn’t that great because it’s filled with sugar.  After all, isn’t it better to have an apple than a bag of chips?

5. There’s variety!  First of all there are three colors: green, yellow, and red.  Then, within red there are at least 10 different varieties that can be crunchier or softer.

 Are you craving an apple yet?

Benefits of popcorn

Let me start out by saying that I’m not taking about store-bought microwave popcorn.  I’m taking about popcorn you either pop on the stove, air pop, or stick in a brown paper bag on your own.

1. Once again, the perfect snack!  When do pop it yourself, you control how much butter, salt, etc. goes in, so it can actually be pretty healthy.

2.  It has antioxidants? I have to admit, I don’t really know the science behind this claim, but it’s been popping all over the media lately.  Because I was already a big popcorn eater, I didn’t feel the need to read about the antioxidants in popcorn because I was already obsessed with it and didn’t need any convincing.

3.  Also once again, it has fiber to keep you feeling full.

4.  You can customize it.  You can add salt, seasoning, flavored butter, sugar, the list goes on!  Any way you want it: plain, buttery, sugary, spicy…

5.  It’s cheap.  Have you ever looked at how much is costs to buy just the kernels and pop it on your own?  Probably 10% of what it costs to buy microwave popcorn.

Do you really need any more convincing?

What do you love about apples and/or popcorn?

What’s your favorite snack?

Friday Favorites

Welcome to my second Friday Favorites post!  I’m excited to share a few of the things I’ve been obsessed with lately.

Turquoise

I recently went shopping and EVERYTHING turquoise just happened to catch my eye!  Here are some of the things I bought:

 Unfortunate, I couldn’t find the other things I bought searching online!  besides the pants to the left, I bought a tank top and strapless cotton dress–the perfect style for just lounging around, but still looking cute in a dress!  I got them all from the lovely H&M.  And on that note…

 

H&M

Seriously, H&M has been my shopper’s dream lately.  I usually go shopping with pretty low expectations because I am either to frugal to spend money on things I love (I have a slight issue when it comes to spending money, aka I’m a big saver) or things just don’t fit me well.  H&M and been great lately, though!  I actually end up having many things fit me and have to decide which item I’ll have to part with (due to me fear of spending a lot of money at once).  Not that H&M is expensive at all.  It’s actually really well priced, but like I said–I have issues.  There is one slight downside to H&M though–they’re sizing.  Even though I know I’m a smaller size everywhere else, it still bums me out that I wear a larger size there.

Starbucks Refreshers

Today, Starbucks launched they’re newest drinks–Iced Refreshers.  From 12-3 they offered a free tall drink, either cool lime or very berry hibiscus.  I tried the cool lime and it was SOO tasty.  The tall only has 40 calories, so it’s definitely easy on the waistline.  What’s the catch on this new, amazing drink?  The tall is $2.95.  I was hoping it would be on the same priceline as the iced teas, but its about a dollar more–which definitely adds up over time.  Nonetheless, it tastes great! I would definitely recommend it.

Aldo

I recently stopped by Aldo after my H&M visit and saw a wide array of cute shoes. I got pulled into the store once I saw a 30% off sandals sign and remembered that I was in need of a new pair.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever been in the store before, but I’ll definitely go back.  Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to wear my new sandals (pictured here) yet because I have to wear closed-toed shoes to work.  I hope I get to try them out this weekend!

 

What are your favorite things right now?

Easy Pasta Dinner

One of my mom’s favorite dishes to make is her meaty tomato sauce.  She uses Italian sausage as her meat of choice. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of sausage (I would eat white meat, fish, and veggie meals any day of the week over sausage, red meat, pork, etc), but I do have to admit her sauce is good.  Together, we make a sauce that includes store bought sauce (to add some simplicity), Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms and onions.  It’s great! (and I get my veggie fix).

We ended up tossing it with some angel hair pasta (the pasta we had on hand).  Usually we do penne, but realized we didn’t have enough.

Meaty Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

Italian sausage links (I think our package had six)

favorite jar of tomato sauce

1 medium onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

mushrooms, sliced (as much as you want)

Directions:

- Cut up and brown Italian sausage in skillet on medium heat.  (Don’t need to add oil to pan–the sausage has its own natural oils)

- When browned, remove sausage from skillet (place in separate bowl).

- Add oil to pan, if necessary.  Saute onions, pepper, and mushroom until softened.

- Add sausage and tomato sauce into skillet and let simmer a couple minutes so all the flavors meld together.

- Toss with favorite pasta and enjoy!

What’s your favorite pasta sauce?

40 miles of running down, 50 miles of cardio to go

Earlier this summer I made a resolution that I would run 40 miles in the month of June.  It started out really well, but by the end of the month, the Chicago heat wave made running outside a real struggle, especially since I’m not a morning person and have zero motivation or energy to wake up and run before work.

Since I started out strong, this meant I only needed to run seven miles during the last month to complete my goal–which was extremely helpful considering I planned and threw a 50th birthday surprise party for my mom this past Saturday and I had other priorities than going out and running in 95 degree heat.

I found myself on a treadmill I think three times this month, which always proves to be a source of struggle for me, but my last run of the month, which happened to be on a treadmill, went really well!  I think the air conditioning and lack of humidity really helped my breathing.

This month, I have already thought of my new goal: 50 miles of cardio activity.  Since I will probably be inside a lot more this month, I want to expand my goal to include the elliptical (and possibly/probably the bike).  This way, I won’t make myself crazy running on a treadmill all the time and will be able to switch up workouts.  Since I find the elliptical a lot easier (and I can also bike a lot faster than I can run), I increased the mileage.  Also, since I completed 40, why not add some more?

 

Do you have a resolution for July?

How do you push yourself to reach your fitness/health goals?

Lemon Cake Balls

My mom’s 50th birthday was this past weekend and I told her any dessert she wanted, I would make.  She asked for me to make a lemon dessert, which left things pretty wide open.  I scoured the internet and found a TON of different lemon desserts–cakes, cupcakes, cookies, bars, cheesecake, and so much more!  I finally decided on making cake pops for two reasons: 1) my Nana (my Mom’s mom) makes delicious lemon bars that I have been instructed to not even attempt to compete with, and 2) my mom said she had lemon cake mix in the house so I could use that.

I went to the story to get the rest of the ingredients and struggled to say the least.  Typical cake pops have of course those lollipop stick things which I couldn’t seem to find.  I then decided to make these cake “pops” into cake “balls.”  My mom had never had either and I knew she would still appreciate the effort and taste of the cake balls.  Another typical ingredient for cake balls/pops is a bag of vanilla candy melts, which I also couldn’t seem to find.  I had read that almond bark and white chocolate could also be substituted.  I decided that I would go with white chocolate since I had worked with that before.  Unfortunately, I had extreme technical difficulties melting the white chocolate…it simply wouldn’t melt!  It would start to melt, then when I would stir it just seized up and turned into a blob.  So there I was, at 9:00pm on a Friday night, driving to the grocery store to pick up some almond bark (my mom’s birthday was Saturday and I HAD to have them done Friday night).  Also, at this point I had already formed the cake balls and I had no clue how they would hold up in fridge/freezer/out over night and I didn’t want to take ANY chances after all I had already been through.

Almond bark in hand, I got back home and finished the dessert.  They ended up turning out well, but I would just warn anyone making these that they take a LOT of time and are very messy too.  There is probably a more efficient, less messy way to create these desserts, but I had neither the time or patience to figure it out.

Lemon Cake Balls

Ingredients:

1 box lemon cake mix

20 oz vanilla almond bark

sprinkles or other decoration

store bought frosting OR make your own (recipe below for vanilla frosting)

 

Directions:

- Bake cake according to package directions. Let cool.

- While cakes cool, make frosting (if you are using store bought, then you’re all ready to go!)

- Put cooled cakes into a large bowl and crumble into bits.

- Mix frosting in with the cake.  I started with small amounts of frosting to make sure the cake was moist enough. (I used a 2 forks to mix cake and frosting together).

- Start rolling cake into balls (about 2 tablespoons big).  If they start to crumble, add more frosting.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

- Once finished, place baking sheets in a freezer for at least 2 hours.

- Melt vanilla almond bark according to directions. (I did about 3 squares at a time).

- Roll cake balls in the almond bark, then set on sheet of wax paper.  Sprinkle the sprinkles on top.  I would recommend taking only a few cake balls out of the freezer at a time so that they don’t warm up to room temperature before they get doused in the almond bark–it’ll make your life much easier.

- ENJOY!

 

 

Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients:

about 2 cups powdered sugar (rough estimate)

1 stick margarine (room temperature)

1/4 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

Directions:

- Beat margarine, milk and vanilla together in stand mixer.

- Gradually add in powdered sugar until you get a thick consistency and not shiny appearance.

Now I realize these directions are horrible because they are so vague.  I learned how to make frosting from my mom and am still not quite sure when it is actually “done.”  I usually just ask her because she has the eye for it, but from what she had said, “thick and not shiny” is what you’re looking for.

 

What’s your favorite way to make vanilla frosting?

cream cheese frosting? buttercream? whipped?  which do you think is best?


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