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Simple and Quick Tomato Pasta

This pasta is perfect when you need an easy and quick dinner that's also healthy! It combines super simple ingredients and a mix of herbs and spices to give it a little kick.

Coming from a big Italian family, pasta is definitely a comfort food for me. This puts a bit of a healthy spin on things. It's not loaded with oil and cheese or even meaty sauce. Instead, there is a simple tomato sauce throughout with tons of extra veggies. It's a perfect go-to for a mid-week dinner!


Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice pasta 
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 2 cups baby portobello mushrooms, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 pinch of red chili pepper flakes 
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook pasta according to directions on packaging (time will vary) 
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  • Add in the garlic and allow to heat through (about 2 minutes) 
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes and sliced mushrooms, cayenne, and paprika 
  • Once those have cooked add the tomato puree and stir through 
  • Finally, add in the spinach, mixing occasionally until it wilts 
  • Reduce heat to medium-low
  • Drain the pasta, and stir it into the sauce
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. 

This pasta is best served immediately! Bon Appetit!

Holidays and Balance: Burpees, Bubbly, & Buttercream Frosting

With May comes a lot of exciting things at our house. Mother's day, my birthday, and Nate's birthday all fall in the month of May and we love to celebrate! In the past this month of celebration would have been just cause in my mind to take a break on all things dealing with health and wellness.

NOT ANYMORE!

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I fully believe in living a lifestyle that is as balanced as can be. As a mom, wife, full-time special education teacher, and an online health and wellness coach I am BUSY! I focus my nutrition on eating by the 80/20 rule. 80% healthy, 20% treats--or even cleaner on most weeks. This lifestyle has completely changed my life. It helped me lose 30 pounds when I first decided to make a change and then 40 pounds after having Gabe. I'm not about to look back.

Eating healthy and doing at-home fitness programs has allowed me to find the balance I need in my life. I stay on track as much as possible, and allow myself to have a treat without feeling the guilt I have felt in the past. I also absolutely LOVE baking and being in the kitchen. It is a huge passion and hobby of mine. Cupcakes are my favorite thing. I also like to take things and try to make a fun, and (healthier) spin on them. Check out the recipes section of the blog to find some inspiration for your meal planning!

For all of the celebrations this month I partnered with Fit and Flirty a lifestyle brand whose mission is to "encourage every single lady to recognize that no matter where she is on her fitness journey, she is beautiful, powerful, and should be celebrated." When I found Anna, the owner of this company, on Instagram, I was so excited! She is one of the kindest most motivated women I have ever met, and we have the same goal of sharing a balanced, healthy & active lifestyle.

We brainstormed together to bring you the recipe for these Vanilla Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream Frosting. Inspired by our mutual love for bubbly & health and wellness as well as my love for buttercream frosting. The cupcake is a health(ier) take on a normal cupcake. The frosting is definitely a treat--so make sure to enjoy every bite!

Without further ado--let's get baking!



Cupcake Ingredients


  • 1 cup almond flour 
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour 
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt 
  • 1/2 cup unsalted grass-fed butter (you may also use earth balance vegan sticks!) 
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar 
  • 4 large eggs 
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) 
  • 3 cups powdered sugar 
  • 2 tbsp champagne (of choice!) 

Cupcake Instructions
  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Place cupcake liners into your baking pan, set aside. 
  • Combine almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; mix well. Set aside. 
  • Cream together 1/2 cup unsalted butter and coconut sugar in a mixing bowl; beat on medium speed for approximately 1 minute. 
  • Add eggs one at a time; beat until well blended. 
  • Add 1/4 cup almond milk and extract; beat until blended. (The mixture will look watery--do NOT worry!) 
  • Add almond flour mixture to butter mixture slowly; beat until creamy; scraping the sides of the mixing bowl as needed 
  • Spoon batter into prepared cupcake pan; filling liners about 3/4 full. 
  • The batter will be a bit sticky. Spoon it into the cupcake liners and gently smooth the tops as best as you can. (don't worry too much about the tops because--well, CHAMPAGNE FROSTING!) 
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  • After 5 minutes transfer to cool on a baking rack.

Frosting Instructions
  • Cream butter in mixture until very smooth 
  • Add 2 cups of powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, blending each cup until smooth. 
  • Add in 2 tbsp of champagne, mix thoroughly 
  • Add in final cup of powdered sugar, blend until smooth 
  • (optional) add in a fun natural food coloring to make it your favorite color! 

These are the perfect treat for birthdays, mother's day, and any celebration. ESPECIALLY if you love champagne and cupcakes! Enjoy!


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Sweet Potato and Apple Salad

When we whipped up this salad last weekend we knew we had to share it. It is SO YUMMY. Sweet potato and apple are the stars, but the marinated chicken packs it full of protein and the chopped pecans add an extra delicious crunch. It's on our rotation again this week and we plan to make leftovers to take in our lunches the next day! That's how good it is! 



Sweet Potato and Apple Salad (Serves 2)

Ingredients


  • 6-8 cups of Spring Mix Salad Greens
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 6 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 6½ tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided use 
  • ½ lb raw boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 2 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese 
  • 2 Tbsp raw pecan pieces

Instructions
  • Preheat oven to 425°
  • Combine mustard, vinegar and honey in a medium bowl, whisk to blend 
  • Slowly add 6 tsp of olive oil, whisking while you pour, until blended 
  • Place three-fourths of the vinegar mixture in a resealable bag. Add chicken; mix well. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Set aside remaining mixture to use as salad dressing. 
  • While chicken is marinating, slice and prepare apple and sweet potato 
  • Combine sweet potato and apple slices in a medium bowl, add remaining olive oil and cinnamon; toss to blend 
  • Place apples and sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lightly coated with spray. Bake for 15 minutes, flip and mix, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Set aside to cool. 
  • Remove chicken from marinade (discard used marinade) and grill or bake (if baking, bake at 425° for 10-12 minutes or until cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F) 
  • Combine spring mix, sweet potato and apples, chicken, feta, and pecans; toss gently. 
  • Drizzle with remaining dressing; toss gently 
  • Divide evenly between serving plates.

I hope you enjoy this salad as much as we do! It's definitely one that will be sticking around for our meal planning this summer! 


Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I've posted so many times about my love for peanut butter. If peanut butter could be my spirit animal, it totally would be. Pair peanut butter with chocolate and I'm definitely in love. Which is why you see them as a common pairing among my sweets and treats recipes on the blog. These cookies are made with only 7 ingredients, they're chewy and delicious, and the ingredients are definitely going to surprise you.


Ingredients
  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked according to package
  • ½ cup all natural peanut butter (peanuts should be the only ingredient!) 
  • 5 Tbsp pure maple syrup 
  • 1 dash sea salt
  • 1 tsp (I let it run over) pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (60%+ Cacao), divided

Instructions
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
  • While quinoa is cooking, lightly coat two large baking sheets with spray. Set aside. 
  • Combine cooked quinoa, peanut butter, maple syrup, salt, vanilla, and egg in a large bowl; mix thoroughly. 
  • Fold in ⅔ cup of dark chocolate chips; mix until melted and blended. 
  • Drop by Tbsp onto prepared baking sheets. 
  • Add remaining chocolate chips to the tops of each cookie
  • Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until set. 
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets after removing from the oven. 
  • After 5 minutes, transfer cookies to a cooling rack (or parchment paper) and allow them to cool completely. 
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

I know what you're thinking.... Quinoa?! For cookies!? Don't knock it till you try it! They are chewy and mouth-wateringly delicious. Plus, who says no to peanut butter and chocolate in any form?


Let Love Grow: Our First Date Night In Box


As most of you know, Nate and I are toddler parents. Gabe is our life! However, getting out for a date night isn't always on our list of priorities, even though we would like it to be. Are you a toddler parent too? How often do you get out for a date night with your significant other?

Nate and I are so fortunate to have his parents nearby. They LOVE to babysit Gabe. When they aren't available, we have some great teachers from Gabe's school that we can reach out to. Yet, we still don't get out very often. In fact, we're homebodies and totally okay with it.

That's why when we stumbled upon Date Night In Boxes we were pumped! We tend to be creatures of habit and our lives are busy so most times we love to just sit on the couch together with a bowl of popcorn. Having a curated date with no pre-planning necessary was super appealing. It's also a refreshing way to mix things up and break out of our routine.

This date night was amazing. We got a menu with simple, delicious recipes, step-by-step instructions for fun activities to do together and even a Spotify playlist to play in the background while we had our date. Best of all, we were able to do this after Gabe had gone to sleep for the night, no babysitter needed!

We jumped in with meal prep. Honestly, Nate crushed this all on his own. We wanted to get ready for each other and break out of our joggers and hoodie routine, so while I got ready, Nate prepped the meals, then we swapped and I plated everything. We started out with a blackberry mint cocktail (it could also be made into a mocktail), dined on an entree of farro with fresh pesto and veggies, and had lemon cookies for dessert. Everything was DELICIOUS. We made a few tweaks to the recipes (we used vodka instead of limoncello for the drinks and got vegan pesto from Trader Joe's instead of making our own), but we stored the recipe card for safe keeping to use in the future. They are definitely recipes we'd like to revisit. 

It was a beautiful spring night here in Central, PA so we decided to have dinner outside. Date Night In provided us with a candle for the table, so we lit the candle and queued up the Spotify playlist and sat down to dinner. While we ate we started the guided activities. The first activity was table talk. In the theme of let love grow, we talked about the different stages in relationships. We read the descriptions out loud and discussed whether we thought our relationship was currently in that stage, beyond it, or if it would be a stage we would get to in the future. It was fun to talk about the past and exciting to discuss our future.


After dinner we moved inside to finish our activities. First we planted our own basil plant with the kit we received in the box. We're super excited to watch it bloom and grow on our windowsill. Then we did our relationship timeline. This was all about the future. We rolled a die and whatever number came up we would discuss what we wanted for our relationship in 3 weeks, 5 months, 6 years, etc. This activity was tougher than we thought it would be. Sometimes it's hard to think that far in advance for me. Nate wasn't much better, so we took turns. A future Disney trip and more baby Glockes found their way onto our timeline. 

We ended our night with a game and our cookies! Our Night In Box came with dual sided cards. One cards had questions designed to bring people closer together. The other side was a regular set of playing cards. Some of the questions were silly and others were very serious. I loved doing this activity with Nate. It definitely was great to talk about all the things, and now we have a sweet new set of cards to play cribbage with (does this make us old?)

Overall we had a blast, connected and talked, and enjoyed ourselves and all of the activities that were provided. We are looking forward to our next Date Night In Box!




Turkey Burgers with a Mediterranean Twist

These Mediterranean turkey burgers are juicy and delicious. The secret is the spinach. It helps to hold them together but also keeps the turkey tender as it cooks. The sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and feta cheese give them their yummy Mediterranean flavor.



Ingredients
  • 1lb lean, ground turkey 
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in water and finely chopped
  • 2 oz frozen spinach thawed, excess liquid squeezed out using paper towel
  • 6 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup whole grain bread crumbs
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste 

Instructions
  • Combine turkey, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, chopped onion, feta, garlic, oregano, bread crumbs, and egg in a medium bowl. 
  • Season with salt and pepper 
  • Mix well with clean hands 
  • Form turkey mixture into six evenly-sized patties 
  • Turn broiler to high (or preheat grill) 
  • Grill or broil patties for 5 minutes on each side, until they have an internal temp of 165°F
  • Serve on sprouted grain bread with hummus and tomato 

These burgers are my favorite, because they make 6 patties we can have them for dinner and leftovers for lunch or dinner again the next day. We always roast veggies or have carrot fries as a side with these burgers to make it a full meal. 

Instant Pot Chicken Tacos

We just got an Instant Pot (okay, it's really the crock pot version) for Christmas and we absolutely love it! I love that it can cook chicken for our salads in 20 minutes, I love that dinners that used to take HOURS in the crockpot can be done in such a short amount of time without diminishing any of the flavor.

As I've told you before, I could eat tacos multiple times in a week and be a happy camper. I've gotten Nate on this bandwagon too. So these tacos have been showing up in our meal plan almost weekly for a while now. Guess what, they never get old!

Ingredients
  • 8 ounces, low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder 
  • 2 Tbsp cumin 
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika (I love this little kick of smoky flavor, omit if it's not for you) 
  • ½ tsp sea salt 
  • 1 lb raw boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 8 small corn tortillas
  • 1 cup pico de gallo or fresh salsa, divided 
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced 
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • lime wedges (optional)

Instructions
  • Place chicken broth, garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt into the instant pot. Mix well 
  • Add the chicken and stir again 
  • Cover and seal instant pot 
  • Press poultry and hit start. 
  • You may do quick or natural release
  • When done, transfer chicken to a cutting board and shred with two forks 
  • Evenly divide chicken (this makes 8 tacos) between tortillas. 
  • Top evenly with pico de gallo, avocado slices, and cilantro. 
  • Squeeze a bit of lime if you'd like!

That's it! They're delicious. If you'd like you can also crisp up your tortillas and make tostadas instead. Sometimes we add a bit of plain greek yogurt to the top as well. Dress them as you please. There are a lot of ways to make these tacos fun. I hope you love them as much as we do!