Sugar free journey.

For the past two years, my yearly physical has come back healthy — except for one area. Where sugar is concerned. Last year, I assumed it was the breakfast I had eaten that morning (as I had not been told to fast) but this year, I did not have an excuse. As my body and mind worked to become stronger over the past years, yielding positive results that I had not seen before, I realized that this sugar thing needs some attention. My grandfather had diabetes, and it is hereditary. As you continue to fine tune your body, it definitely becomes more of a machine. Resulting, every single piece of food and drink that you put into your body is fuel. You would not dump cooking oil into the engine of a car, as you know it is the wrong fuel to run your automobile. That holds true for us: filling your body with junk, makes your body junk. It does not work properly, as the well oiled machine that it should.

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So, I assessed my diet to find out any hidden sugar (and f***ing obvious ones)(g stands for grams. Grams of sugar, silly)

granola for breakfast 9g

granola bar for snack (Kind Bar 12g) (WHAT?! That’s not very kind)

salad for lunch (dressing had only 2g of)

fruit for snack (natural sugar, but sugar no less!)

dinner usually meat and veggies/salad  followed by a cookie and/or ice cream (approx. 48g)

Okay, no rocket science here to see that I definitely had a late night dessert date that was out of control. :-/ When I started reading up on sugar and realized that sugar creates the desire for more sugar, which creates the desire for more sugar and in turn creates binges and monsters. And obesity.

I relate. (Not obesity, but the rest of it all.)

I read more about the obesity pandemic (I believe epidemic to be incorrect anymore–the obesity issue is now in a growing number of foreign countries who have adopted the American diet….I am sure they are grateful for your modern dose of American life.) The W.H.O. has even stepped in calling it “globesity.” With globesity comes a myriad of health concerns and problems–diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancers due to processed foods and chemicals in our foods.

No, the food industry does not make this easy for us. But, we are smarter and therefore wiser.

As I sat at a local coffee shop this morning and ate an icing coated cranberry orange muffin, I felt my sugar spike then drop, and then I could literally feel illness trying to work its way into my body. I could literally tell my body was suffering due to the malnutrition I fed it this morning. It was a fascinating process: turning my awareness onto the effects of the sugary food immediately brought wisdom into my life. Evolutionarily we love sugar. But, I plan on going to the grave with a clean slate.

Life is short…be well!

This past weekend, I start cutting out added sugars.  I am starting with replacing my quick granola from the grocery store with this tasty sugar free granola recipe. Lunch was a kale, chicken and rice soba noodle bowl (homemade) and dinner I am going to go vegan tonight with this sweet potato dish in honor of fall. I also plan on applying this quote to my daily living:

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Anyone want to join me? If you are interested in working with me and staying accountable to this, please shoot me a note and together we can make a small change that will yield drastic results.

Wintery Earl Grey Tea Cake with Rhubarb Icing

Today, we were finally awarded a snow day off from school and work.
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Usually, by this time of the year, we have had one or two days already, so this one I have welcomed with open arms. My morning was spent painting in the studio and researching ashtanga yoga practices (to embark upon an all-encompassing practice of this unique and challenging yoga lifestyle). Around noon, Chad was home from work and I was ready to bake, as usually happens on days such as this. I have been wanting to make Earl Grey Tea Cake with Rhubarb Icing for quite some time, as my lcal stores did not carry rhubarb, and I did not figure that the cake would taste as good without this ingredient. Lo and behold, last week, I found rhubarb at my nearby store and bought it up!
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The process in the recipe is straightforward, but I doubled everything, as the icing was said to make a lot, and I would rather have more cake! As the ice fell in pellets, locking us into our home for the day I blended sugar in my coffee grinder (to make caster sugar–it works perfectly!) and created this beautiful recipe. I also used half and half instead of milk as I had it on hand from omelets this weekend.
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The result is a beautiful, dense tea cake, that might have to be a part of my winter tea routine. I ended up with three small cakes from doubling the recipe.
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Earl Grey Cake with Rhubarb Cream Cheese Glaze
(Adapted from ‘Earl Grey Tea Cakes’ recipe from Good Taste)
2 Earl Grey tea bags (about 3 tsp leaves)
60ml (1/4 cup) boiling water
80ml (1/3 cup) milk
100g butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
160g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
190g (1 1/4 cups) self-raising flour

For the glaze:
150g (1 cup) rhubarb, diced
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tbsp water
125g cream cheese, softened
1 cup (150g) icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin. Empty the tea leaves from the tea bags into a cup and add the boiling water. Set aside for 3 minutes then add milk to cup.

Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add flour and tea mixture, alternating between wet and dry ingredients. Beat until just combined.

Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside for 2-3 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake is baking and cooling, place rhubarb in a small saucepan on low heat with lemon zest, sugar and water. Stirring occasionally, simmer rhubarb until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Puree mixture in a food processor or blender. Place cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add sifted icing sugar and rhubarb puree and beat until smooth. Pour over the top of cooled cake and serve immediately. Can be refrigerated overnight.

a Retreat

Last month, dear cousins of ours got married. For their wedding gift we decided to give them a weekend retreat to our home that included prepared and cooked meals, a night out for just the two of them (they have an 8 year old) and a place to rest and rejuvenate. The details were up to them…they simply had to travel here and then decide what they would like to do. We are lucky enough to offer options as to the type of adventures that could be had and we live in a place where we feel we are on vacation most of the time–if not all of the time. This is just what both of them needed after a recent wedding and family and friends around nonstop. This was an opportunity to provide a true bed and breakfast experience to others.

Our guests arrived late Friday evening on July 3rd and I was already asleep. The following morning, we prepared Sky High Blackberry Muffins, over easy eggs, Bloody Mary’s and coffee. It was a hit.
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After our late breakfast, we all went down to the pool. I led my first yoga session for another person, who was so willing to be my first! We did a bikram yoga routine and then I taught arm balances. Our guest was already very accustomed to yoga and the balances were learned easily and quickly, even with Chad jumping in to do some.

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While we did yoga the boys played and relaxed in the pool and the weather warmed and got even more beautiful as the minutes passed slowly on – as they do in the summertime.

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After our day at the pool, we took our ATV’s and rode down to the cave with everyone – cruising through the blackberry patches. Then, we realized we were late for our 4th of July party, aptly named “Explodathon.” We trekked up to my cousin’s house for an evening of grilling and fireworks that was unmatched in Knoxville. The grand finale included two rows of pvc cut and hand-built firework launchers created by my cousin’s husband and his good buddy. It was a total awe filled evening.

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The next day, our guest wanted to go for a run, so we were headed to my favorite spot to run currently-the Urban Wilderness. First, we filled up on Brioche French Toast (no recipe needed-Chad doesn’t need one for this delicacy) topped with Black Raspberry preserves (created by Chad and myself) and a side of crispy bacon. It was heavenly! We all took off to the sunflower lined trails-the boys hiking the tough quarry traverse while we ran our 4 miles.

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Afterwards, the weather was warming up tremendously, so we all jumped off the rock into the quarry, joining many other like-minded souls.

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For lunch upon our return, we did a tray of veggies, meats and hummus. Laying by the pool for the remainder of the afternoon. We read, played, and did more yoga poses, I got my first pose of Fallen Angel…as part of the IndependenceARMy challenge on my Instagram posts.

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For dinner, Chad and I watched their boy while the two went out to Market Square downtown. We ate nothing prepared by us that evening…but we all had a lovely time.

The next day it was granola parfaits, smoothies and farewells. Chad and I ended our day with mountain biking and another dip in the pool. I made a new recipe using the abundance of blackberries that we have and Chad is relaxing on our sofa.

We are blessed.
We are lucky.
We love sharing our life and home with others.

This is why I have fervently contemplated opening a retreat, a yoga center, or a bed and breakfast. We have a paradise in our backyard. If this weekend is any clue as to how it could go–then we definitely would see success. (Our guest also called our home a ‘camp’ for grownups. Truly a getaway retreat.)
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Blackberries & Summer

I am pretty sure I do not remember a summer in Tennessee without blackberries. Every summer I have grown up, we have picked blackberries and my mom has made blackberry jam, and we have delighted in the beautiful bounty that is inside of a blackberry. The flavor is rich, it pops in your mouth and produces a burst of summertime, pollenated by bees that is unmatched.
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We are lucky enough to own some land in Knoxville and to our delight, have rows and rows and rows of blackberry bushes.

Today, I had several friends come over, armed with long sleeves, long pants, and buckets to pick berries. I knew the task was daunting, and I needed assistance. We all traipsed down the hill and into the fields with our three 4 footed friends. (Anabelle and Mogul were accompanied by Allie, my brothers dog.) The weather was surprisingly cool and overcast, gratefully, as the day before it was 90 degrees at 9 a.m.

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To our delight, the blackberries were plump, juicy, and as my friend Debra showed evidence from tasting on her purple tongue, they were delicious! We picked these beautiful fruit while catching up on our summers. During this time, our wonderful neighbor showed up ready to help us mow down our fields to access the berries even more…he is a wonderful and amazing soul.

With our buckets full, we climbed back up the muddy slope to the house, dove into the welcoming coolness of the awaiting swimming pool (FIRST-we removed what we hoped to be ALL of the massive tons of poison ivy that accompanied the berry picking). We shared what our big plans were for the berries and felt summer slip into our veins as we settled into our lunches and our afternoons.

Life is such a blessing accompanied by good stories of nature, pets and love…and prickly berries.

The recipe I chose to make a bit of my berries from comes from the following link: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/10/14/sky-high-blackberry-apple-muffins/. I simply wanted a recipe that incorporated blackberries that were fresh. This recipe sounded amazing (and currently is wafting through our kitchen)!
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I usually do not follow recipes to a ‘T’, but today, I did, subbing only steel cut oats (I had them on hand) and using plain vanilla yogurt instead of cinnamon, because I used Saigon Cinnamon yogurt in all of my cinnamon spice ingredients (it is a lot more potent than regular cinnamon).

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Ingredients:

MUFFINS
3 cups white whole wheat flour*
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon (or 2 teaspoons for a lighter flavor)
3 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 very large apple, peeled and diced into small pieces
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (or light brown)
1/2 cup Chobani Apple Cinnamon yogurt (I used plain)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or vegetable oil)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
1 pint (about 1 cup) fresh or frozen blackberries, chopped
OAT STREUSEL
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar (or light brown)
3 Tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats (I used steel cut)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Saigon Cinnamon was used in my recipe)
Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Make the muffins: Toss the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chopped apples together in a large bowl until evenly combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar, yogurt, applesauce, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and milk together vigorously until combined and smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir with a large spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Do not overmix the batter.

Make the streusel: toss the brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Set aside. Layer 1 Tablespoon of batter into each muffin tin. Top with a couple chopped blackberry pieces, then layer with more muffin batter and a couple more blackberry pieces until you’ve filled the muffin cups all the way to the top. Sprinkle each with streusel.

Bake the muffins at 425F for 5 minutes. Keeping the muffins inside the oven, turn the temperature down to 375F and bake for another 15-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Muffins stay fresh at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tomorrow, we host our first Bed and Breakfast ‘folks’ and I cannot wait until tomorrow when I can dig into one of these beautiful muffins!

snow day cooking: Carrot Date Raisin Buckwheat Muffins.

At -10 degrees, enjoying a snow day can become tricky for an outdoorsy soul.

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Upon waking this morning, the grand total inch count for snow is 4 at the hill. We went to sleep last night, post mini snowboard session and homemade pizza eating, all the while it was still snowing. I attempted to convince Chad it was way too dangerous for work travel and tried to get him to stay home and play. (It didn’t work, as I had already guilted him into coming out yesterday.)

Today started off with some reading and re-centering. Then after coffee follwed an immediate thought of, I want muffins.

I had buckwheat pancake mix laying around and started researching whether or not this would transfer into a muffin. After reading, I decided that it would and so I found a great recipe for Buckwheat Raisin Carrot Muffins.

Doesn’t that sound amazing?!

It sounded to me like carrot cake minus the gluten and dairy. And regardless of how faddish it sounds, we could ALL use a little less gluten and dairy. Myself included.

As Chad prepared himself with 22 layers and gigantic snow shoes with his business attire to trek into work , I combined the following ingredients. I created some drastic substitutions to an amazing recipe I found at a couple’s website called The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen.

Ingredients:

3 cups buckwheat pancake mix
½ cup brown sugar (or you can use Sucanat or maple sugar)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup water (I never keep veggie oil at home anymore)
¼ cup melted ghee
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated carrots
½ to 1 cup raisins and dates, soaked for 10 minutes in ¼ cup water (then drain)

(I adventurously eliminated some of the oil in this recipe as I had no applesauce…{must start to keep that in stock here for baking} and added water. Currently, the muffins are cooking, and they smell amazing. But what I have no idea of, is how they will taste due to the crazy substitutions.

OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! They taste SO darn good! I’m eating one right now, as I type, slathered with a bit of all natural peanut butter. YUM.)

Here are the remainder of the instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil muffin tins or line with paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl combine the buckwheat flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, and spices. Mix well.

Place apple sauce into a separate bowl and add the melted coconut oil, vanilla, carrots, and raisins; whisk together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix together being careful not to over mix.

Spoon batter into oiled or paper lined muffin tins. Fill each muffin cup to the top. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes. Loosen sides with a knife and gently take out of tins and place onto a wire rack to cool.

Happy Snow Day baking!

subzero temp warming.

Three extra days I have been on vacation.

Most of the time, I would jump at this opportunity! Go play! Mountain bike! Snowboard! Hike!

But at subzero temps neither I nor the dogs ventured out much at all, and every time we did, we were met with a blast of what I suppose was the coldest day this year…and with temperatures that honestly should be those reserved solely for Wisconsin and Antarctica.

The first day, I hiked with the puppies in the morning, to check out our newly navigated property where we will be playing. We were happily jaunting through the snow covered forest. It was a good day.

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The second day, I was a bit stir crazy, attempted to walk to my car, parked at the top of the hill due to my non4wheel driving machine, and legs slipped out from under me completely and hit the ice covered cement. Flat on my leftside. I limped for the rest of the day. I laughed, for how could I, so graceful on my snowboard, fall this way on FLAT concrete? It was funny.

Then, in an attempt to get outside and drive, I opened the garage from inside of my car, to keep myself warm, backed up too quickly and hit the garage door.

Really!?

I had heard other stories of people doing this, and was pretty sure that wouldn’t be me. (Chad said it was a rite of passage to hit the garage door…?)

See what snowed/colded in can do to a soul?

My previous smooth way of sliding through life was left behind due to suffering from the inability to play outside. -sarcasm

Today, when I realized that I was going to be out again, I made a plan. I would meet Chad out for a predinner drink, and lure him home with rosemary crusted lamb chops, roasted brussel sprouts, and a tres leches cake. Three previously untried recipes.

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I started the day out by scrubbing the house, trekked to the grocery store, prepped all the food, did a tough mudder workout, showered, and even had time to sit down and rest for 30 minutes.

The three recipes that I chose were ones that I have previously not made. I am especially proud of the brussel sprouts, which have become a joke in our family. Growing up, it was the only vegetable I would literally gag at and attempt to hide around the outside of my dinner plate, when mom served them.

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They were amazing recipes!

The cake, well, I’d email you a piece if I could, as there is more cake than I know what to do with remaining (this would be an easy/fun recipe for a Cinco de Mayo party of many people). The brussel sprouts, I downed, and was thrilled. Mogul even got one, as it launched off my plate…this time unintentionally and onto the floor.

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And the lamb…amazing recipe.

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We started at Crown and Goose just in time to catch one of our fave bands, Frog and Toad start playing. They play every Wednesday, it’s a sure win for a date night.

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Needless to say, we remained warm and happy on this survival day.

Score one.

Garage 3…

4 a.m. Banana Bread baking musings…and other great thoughts

I awoke this a.m. at 3:30, unable to sleep due to the excitement that was 2013 and replaying events in my head. Being that we are in a social media age, I dutifully recounted my year via Instagram and Facebook (who kindly did the work for me).

What
A
Year.

It started with me doing “falling leaves” down slopes in North Carolina and ended with several black diamond runs on the slopes in West Virginia.

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And, sandwiched between all of that are more adventures than I can contain. Mountain bikes dominate with paddleboarding, wake skating, hang gliding, Appalachian Trail hiking, autocross racing and climbing all following close behind.
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All of this wonderfulness I blame entirely on my fiancé, and I must insert here that we also were engaged this year in Peru at the tip top of Machu Picchu!!

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Well, almost all of it. The good news is, as I was stumbling, awestruck through my amazing year, I found photos of me B.C.(before Chad) mountain biking, climbing and snowboarding. (SO grateful I’m no girlfriend chameleon.)

I decided to bake some semi-gluten free semi-vegan banana bread with the remaining banana s from my families first skip-presents-&-go-play Christmas and muse about a bit…

If 2013 brought forth all of this goodness, what in the ☆☆☆☆ will 2014 bring?!

For starts, two weddings. Chad’s beautiful cousin and dear friend of ours was engaged over Thanksgiving and we are going to celebrate their marriage as much as ours this year. With upcoming mountain biking today, snowboarding Utah in February and then Tahoe again possibly in March….already I’m jittery with excitement!

As I ponder, I know there are other amazong things to happen down the road that I am traveling. Most of all, I am fortunate enough to have my newly forming family along side of me
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And many beautiful friends that have joined in my adventures, both you, my fellow readers, and of course those nearby

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On that cheerful note, I wish you and yours a truly adventurous year filled with EPICness, laughter and good health!

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The semi-gluten free and semi- vegan banana bread is done! Yum

(Here’s the linkhttp://vegetarian.about.com/od/breakfastrecipe1/r/bananabread.htm to that recipe…I only add the terms semi, because we’ve been out of the house for almost 2 weeks and currently only have semi-gluten and semi-vegan products at the house.)

zucchini nachos.

what?
that’s right. zucchini nachos. for us, this has been the summer of the zucchini. we have grown about 20 zucchinis that ranged in size from 6″-2′! i gave zucchini away the entire month of july and attempted to create unique recipes utilizing our bumper crop.

i also have enough frozen zucchini to last us until the apocalypse.

Grilled-Zucchini-Nachos-7this past week yielded two more zucchini and we were actually quite happy as we had given so much away that we had not had zucchini in over three days. 😉

so, i found this recipe. and this past week, my first week back teaching, this is what we had. amazing. the flavors worked so well together. we did several things differently, of course. we baked the zucchini with a hatch green chili given to us as a parting gift from chuy’s restaurant. the flavors blended so well together. we also added meat and tons of avocado. our end result looking something like this:

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we decided this one is for the books. and i’ve decided i need to learn how to increase the vividness of my photographs!

i am not taking any credit for this invention. i give it all up to these chefs at two peas & their pod. (their blog is great, i’ve used several of their recipes now.)

home.

Regardless of the many adventures that we have abroad and crosscountry. I know Chad and I both prefer home. Yesterday, inspired by home, I cooked three recipes, cleaned and straightened the house and settled back into life my beautiful life in East Tennessee. Today, I am making one recipe. The recipes are including vegetables from my my garden as it was, yet again, out of control; we have been having a monsoon season.

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I have to pass on the links to the recipes that I found, as they were all amazing. First, the everyday marinara sauce. I have used this marinara before in many things, and it so easy to make, I cannot wait until my tomatoes come in so that I can make it fully homemade. Yesterday, I used three cans of diced tomatoes. I also don’t like celery at all. So, I cut out the celery and added more of my beautiful homegrown carrots. I do love the mirpoix, but I kind of make it my own by using more carrots and onion than celery, as I don’t have celery on had many times at all (again, refer to my dislike of it…and when I dislike something, I avoid it altogether…like mayonaise!) 😉 I also love using the Clean Eating magazine website, as they always have a recipe for what I need.

LIKE…HELP with my zucchini! I have picked about 6 zucchini that are the massive! I laugh whenever I pick them, as they are out-of-control. I am thinking I might need to join a 4H farming competition at this point.

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So, here is recipe number four, Zucchini Apple Bread. I made zucchini muffins with my mammoth zucchini (as they are not good to eat this large unless they are in a recipe…so sadly, no grilling) and they completely disappeared, so I decided to try a bread recipe this morning. They are baking right now, and I am curious at the turnout, as I always tweak recipes. For this recipe, I didn’t want apple, so I added more zucchini (funny, I have a TON!) and used gluten-free wheat. I try always to health-up a recipe or tweak it to my liking.

The other two recipes I tried (numbers two and three in my sequence here) are a healthy granola recipe and a calzone recipe. Both recipes have been added to my ‘make again’ category. The granola recipe was so easy and fast and tastes amazing. I used a blend of steel cut oats and regular oats from Kroger’s new ‘health’ line, added dates and craisins to mine. I ate it for breakfast with Greek yogurt this morning and was in heaven. I also passed this recipe on to my mom, as she is making granola today herself. The calzones were perfect. I have been making my own pizza dough for years, as pizza is admittedly still one of my favorite foods. I have used a recipe that is a whole-grain/wheat recipe, and had frozen a section of it last June. I pulled it out and followed the calzone recipe above and they turned out amazing. Oh, yeah, I also used the marinara recipe in our calzones. Brilliant!

Avocado Hummus

I am stealing a new recipe again.

I found this online and just had to post it, salivating as I do!

Avocado + Hummus. Not a lot sounds more amazing. And fresh!!!

Here is the recipe, copied from this website http://www.thelovelycupboard.com/2012/04/avocado-hummus.html :

Cooking Instructions:
1. Add the following to your food processor:
-1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
-1 avocado, cubed
-juice from 1/2 of a lime
-1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of olive oil (a lower fat option: substitute oil for juice from the beans)
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2. Blend until smooth…. EASY AS THAT!

The author said that it took a grand total of 7 minutes to make! HA!! Anything is worth that, and she recommended keeping this recipe on hand for a quick snack food for unexpected company.

I like that.

(She also recommended serving them with the Pretzel Chips. I agree! I am going to the grocery tonight to make this dip….maybe even for a UT/Florida game tomorrow!)