Tag Archives: Holidays

Family Movie Night….Holiday Time!

Grinch QuoteThanksgiving is always the official holiday kick-off here. As I shared before, it’s when we put up our tree and start decorating the house. It is also when we all start wanting to watch holiday movies.

The first holiday movie we watch every year, is The Nightmare Before Christmas. This is my all time favorite, so I love that we can start watching it before Halloween arrives!

This year, my daughter requested a family movie night. She thought it would be fun if every night, until Christmas, we all sat together and watched a holiday favorite. I really liked this idea, especially because people are usually so busy and hectic during the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year.

So…..Family Movie Time was born! We don’t watch a full length movie every night, but rather a Christmas special. We have tons of them on DVD and this time of year, they are always on TV which makes it easy.

We started off with our favorites, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty and one of my favorites, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original Grinch, not the abomination with Jim Carrey….shudder).

Last night, ABC Family kicked off their holiday movie countdown with another favorite of mine…. ELF! If you have never seen it, please stop depriving yourself of humor and laughter….go watch it now! No really…go, this blog will still be here when you’re done.

elf

Another family favorite of ours is the Polar Express. While I sometimes find the computer animation of the characters a little creepy, I love the story and the soundtrack of this movie. I think it covers a great topic, especially for the age of my children. Do you believe or are you a doubter? Hot chocolate is must have while watching this holiday favorite.

As the holiday quickly creeps up on our family, I look forward to a little unplugged time with the kids and Christmas classics like, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Muppets Christmas Carol, Mickey’s Christmas Carol and many, many more.

Next up on our traditions list? Holiday baking!

Do you have a favorite holiday movie or family tradition?

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Healthy Baking Substitutes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and that means many of us will begin baking for family events, holiday dinners, office parties, cookie exchanges and quite honestly, just because it makes us feel festive.

That sweet tooth and favorite cookie recipe doesn’t have to be ignore this season. All you need to do is change your perspective on food and make a few improvements on those sugary, overly processed ingredients our recipes normally call for.

Here’s a handy list I found on Pinterest:

It’s amazing how much sugar and how many calories you can save with these simple substitutes. What’s even more amazing is that you can’t even tell you changed anything with most of them.

Do you have any healthy holiday baking tips?

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New Additions and Holiday Traditions

Hello everyone!

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately, but things always tend to get hectic around this time of year. Being as I am a cake decorator and the hubs is a letter carrier, the holidays spark an increase in hours for both of us. It also seems that we have both been doing some hardcore drugs, cause we decided our family needed a new puppy. Yes, you read that correctly, a new puppy. I blame the show “Too Cute” which airs on Animal Planet. I also blame the convenient timing of the pet adoption at Petsmart, which just happened to be going on the day after I watched a “Too Cute” marathon AND the fact that I happened to have my son out running errands with us. You see, a puppy is something he has been begging us for. Without further delay, I introduce you to our little bundle of fur, cuteness and pointy little fangs…

Meet Jax. He’s a Catahoula/Beagle mix who is currently trying to sit on my lap along with my laptop…sigh…

Now that you have been mesmerized by his cuteness, let me tell you that puppies are like newborns! I forgot what having a newborn was like since our youngest is 8 years old now and it’s been 13 years since we’ve trained a puppy. Jax has been with us for almost 2 weeks now and I think we are all starting to settle in, get into a routine and hopefully we will be sleeping through the night soon.

My other issue is that while he is like a newborn at night, he is like a toddler during the day. He is super curious and has to check out everything.

This weekend, like every year since I was little, we put up the Christmas tree. Poor Thanksgiving tends to be nothing more than a day that people eat too much and finally don’t feel like freaks for wanting to listen to holiday music, shop for presents and break out the holiday decor.

With a new puppy in the house, I had to approach the tree a little differently. I made sure I secured it to the wall, so when I have to army crawl under it to retrieve his tiny butt, I don’t knock it over. We also didn’t put any breakable ornaments on the bottom a) so he doesn’t knock them off, break it and then eat something that could hurt him. b) so we don’t kill him for breaking our memories.

Our tree with three of my favorite ornaments. The stockings sum up how my kids feel about each other, while the cd ornament I made a few years back, capture them at what I think might be their cutest.

Our tree is my favorite part of the holidays. We have an eclectic collection of ornaments that we put on it, ranging from handmade/photo ones that the kids have made over the years at school, to figurines from the mobile that hung above my crib when I was an infant. Our tree is full of memories and I love unwrapping each ornament and remembering a moment from my past. It warms my heart and also makes me sad at times, because there are loved ones who are no longer with us, but special ornaments that represent memories with them.

The kids love putting the tree up…ok…they love hounding me to put the tree up, come in, select their favorite ornaments, put them on the tree in the worst spots ever and then leave me to fix things. Yes, I admit, I let the kids put stuff on the tree and then rearrange things to my liking when they disappear to their rooms. Don’t act like you don’t do the same…pfft!

I know this post is a little all over the place, but so is my life. I have however been very consistent with my Couch to 5K! This past week I had to shift my run days around due to my work schedule, but it worked out well because I got to go out and do my own personal Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day. Tomorrow starts week 4, which means I am at the halfway point. I look forward to seeing what the next few weeks bring, since I have steadily improving. Yesterday I beat all of the my previous pace/time/distant stats, which made me really happy.

I hope everyone is ready to have a happy and healthy holiday season. Hopefully I will be a little better about finding time to post here, too.

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Nothing Says Fall Like Apple Crisp

The title of this blog is very true to me. Some people embrace everything pumpkin when the fall rolls around, but for me, it’s apples. You can keep your pumpkin muffins, pumpkin lattes and pumpkin pie. Give me crisp, delicious apples! I love the variety of apples that you can find (not to mention the cheaper prices) in the grocery stores and come on, who doesn’t love apple cider or a fresh caramel apple?!

The one thing I am not a fan of is pie. I don’t know why, but I just don’t like them. It makes Thanksgiving dessert a little tricky since most people associate pie with the holiday (I wonder why that is exactly…hmmm.) Anyway, since I don’t like pie I end up making apple crisp in the fall and right now, my kitchen is full of autumn scents as the brown sugar, cinnamon, apple goodness bakes away in my oven!

Apple Crisp

Warm apple crisp served with slow churned, french vanilla ice-cream.

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup regular oats
  • 1/4 cup butter or stick margarine, cut into small pieces
  • 4  sliced peeled Rome/Granny Smith/Gala or Macintosh apples
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray (I use one meant for baking with flour added)
  3. Combine flour, sugar, oats, and cinnamon in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Arrange apples in the baking dish and sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Now I know this is a fitness blog and it’s about being healthier, but I like to treat myself every now and then, and when I have apple crisp, I serve it with ice-cream. There are a lot of good, slow churned ice-creams on the market today, as well as varieties made with almond or coconut milk. I also like the Haagen Das Five line which isn’t full of ingredients you can’t pronounce. To me, as long as you don’t indulge in stuff like this everyday, it’s okay to enjoy!

Remember, it’s all about portion control and moderation!

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Happy St. Patty’s Day!

 I’m taking another step outside of my normal posts and I’m sharing the recipes I am making today for St. Patty’s Day!

If you are looking for low calorie recipes, I’m sorry to say that on special occasions like this, I usually don’t stray from what the recipe calls for. I know some people may think that sounds odd, but I only eat these dishes once a year, so to me, it’s not that big of a deal to enjoy them in their full fat versions. I’m sure there are plenty of way to “lighten” them up, so if you’d like to give that a try, please feel free to and let me know how they turn out.

The first staple recipe is off course corned beef. It is the one time of year I think everyone and their mother eats this cut of beef. I never had it before marrying into an Irish family so the first few years I just boiled it with potatoes and cabbage and to be honest, I really didn’t like it. I eventually began looking up other ways of preparing it and found this recipe which is now my yearly traditional way of preparing it.

Guinness Corned Beef 

Ingredients:

4lb Corned Beef Brisket
1 cup of brown sugar
1 bottle of Guinness stout beer

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse and pat dry the brisket. Place in a roasting pan on a rack. Rub the brown sugar on the corned beef to coat, including the bottom side. Pour the bottle of Guinness around the corned beef and gently over the top to wet the sugar.

Cover and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 2.5 – 3 hours. Allow meat to rest about 5 minutes before slicing.

Since I don’t boil the corned beef, I needed a different recipe for the potatoes and cabbage and stumbled upon the Irish side dish below:

Colcannon

Ingredients:

3lbs of potatoes
2 sticks of butter
1 1/4 cups of hot milk
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 head of cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 lbs of ham or bacon, cooked the day before
4 scallions, finely chopped
Chopped parsley, as a garnish if desired

Steam the potatoes in their skins for 30 minutes. Peel them using a knife and fork. Chop with a knife before mashing. Mash thoroughly to remove all of the lumps. Add 1 stick of butter in pieces. Gradually add hot milk, stirring the entire time. Season with black pepper.

Boil the cabbage in unsalted water until it turns a dark color. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to tenderize it. Cover with a lid for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly before returning it to the pan. Chop into small pieces.

Chop ham or bacon into small pieces and set aside.

Add cabbage, scallions and ham or bacon to the potatoes, stirring gently. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to garnish, if desired.

We also have soda bread with the meal (or pick at it while cooking all day)

Irish Soda Bread 

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 stick of butter (softened, almost melted)
1 cups raisins
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together. Mix in all the wet ingredients. Fold in the raisins.

Pour batter into a greased 9 inch round pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown.

What would a meal like this be without dessert? Of course my sweet tooth almost fainted when I saw this recipe so I had to try it. This is the first time I have ever made this recipe and I haven’t tasted the whole cupcake, but I have tasted all three components and can’t wait to sink my teeth into these little cups of deliciousness!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Makes 24 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

For the Whiskey Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

For the Baileys Frosting:
2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream

To Make the Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a rack.

To Make the Whiskey Ganache Filling:
Finely chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then, using a rubber spatula, stir it from the center outward until smooth. Add the butter and irish whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped.

To Fill the Cupcakes:
Using a 1 inch round cookie cutter (or the bottom of a large decorating tip), cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes, go about two-thirds of the way down. Place the ganache in a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

To Make the Baileys Frosting:
Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. Add the Baileys, increase the speed to medium-high and whip for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is light and fluffy.

Using your favorite decorating tip or offset spatula, frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Store the cupcakes in an airtight container.

Of course all of the above will be served with actual Irish Car Bombs, Heineken Light and probably some elastic waist pants.

Hope you have a Happy St. Patty’s Day!

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‘Tis The Season For Lots O’ Drinking!

Office parties, family get-together’s, dinner with friends and stress….these all sound like perfect reasons to have a few drinks to me. Then again if you know me, you know that #BeerMe is a popular phrase of mine *wink, wink*

The truth of the matter is, alcohol is one of the quickest ways to pack on the pounds and a hefty cocktail will double-cross you by cancelling out that fat-burning workout you enjoyed earlier in the day. Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying you can’t have a few drinks over the holiday season, while watching football or just because holiday shopping at the mall sucked. I just want you to make smarter choices when doing it.

If you are a beer drinker try to opt for light beers.You could save yourself over 100-calories per drink considering most regular beers have around 180-calories per bottle. Brands like Corona Light, Heineken Light, Bud Select and Miller Lite all have around 100 calories per bottle. Brands like Michelob Ultra, MGD 64 and Bud Select 55 all have even less. (To me, the latter taste very watered down.)

If you prefer mixed drinks try to have them made with diet soda or “light” juices if available. I know soda is normally avoided in the fitness world, but then again alcohol is too. Here are some figure friendly mixed drink options under 200-calories each to consider: Gin and Tonic, Vodka and Sprint Zero (you can add a splash of cranberry juice – I had this over the weekend and I am a big fan), an Appletini, Mojito (without the simple syrup), White wine spritzer (diluted with water or club soda), or a Mimosa Lite.

Harder liquor such as 90-proof alcohol contains about 110 calories, and when you add carbonated sugar-filled sodas, juices and Redbull, you also add-on the calories. Just this weekend I indulged in some Jager bombs and opted for sugar-free Redbull instead of the original. It wasn’t as good, but I appreciated the calories I saved.

Red or White Wine contains anywhere from 109 calories – 129 calories per 50z serving, depending on the type of wine you are drinking.

My advice during this holiday season is to be aware of what you are drinking and go for the low-calorie fun. Drink plenty of water between your cocktails, and remember that alcohol adds empty calories and interferes with your bodies ability to burn fat.

*If you have a favorite low-calorie cocktail or beer you would like to share, please feel free to do so below in the comments section.

Happy Holidays and Drink Responsibly!

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Raspberry Cooler
Ingredients:
1 1/2 oz Raspberry vodka
3 oz Sprite Zero
1 splash of lite cranberry juice
1 wedge Lime

Mixing instructions:
Fill a highball glass with ice. Add Raspberry vodka, Sprite Zero and a splash of lite cranberry juice. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

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Here Come the Holidays!


It’s that time of year again. We kick it off with the sweet bite sized treats of Halloween, follow it with too much turkey and stuffing, add in some cookies, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and then end it with the dreaded stepping on the scale and shaking our heads in disgust. Yup….it’s the holiday season kick off, but if you make a few changes now, it doesn’t have to end in tears while standing on a scale in your birthday suit come January!

This weekend is Halloween, which means you most likely have many bags of bite sized treats taunting you. They seem innocent as they are tiny, however many of us don’t stop at one treat…we stop when the bag is empty. This year I did things a little different, I haven’t purchased any Halloween treats yet. I plan on going to pick them up on Saturday so I am not tempted to dip into the bag of little progress sabotagers. I am human, therefore I will indulge in a few pieces here and there, but they will be earned treats and they will be rationed into daily “rewards” for myself. I also plan on picking up a small bag of Hershey Dark Chocolate Miniatures as I enjoy them and they are a “healthy” option to the peanut butter cup or Butterfinger if I truly feel the need for the sweet treat.

Next up on the  holiday list is Thanksgiving, which to me is one of the hardest food holidays. Many families indulge in a nice breakfast while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Food preparations often start the night before if you will be cooking for many guests. There is a lot of tasting involved during the cooking processes as well, which leads to MANY unaccounted for calories. Add in the football games which means chips & dip, appetizers and a few beers and  you have most likely taken in more than your daily allotted calories before the actual meal is even served!

Ways to ease the calories here is to try to stick to your normal healthy breakfast (for me, it’s Shakeology), snack on raw veggies instead of taking spoonfuls of mashed potatoes every time you pass the pot on the stove, drink lots of water and bank some of your calories so you can enjoy Grandma’s favorite holiday recipes that you look forward to all year.  Another great idea is to also have healthier steamed or roasted veggie options along with the traditional decadent holiday favorites.

As soon as the table is cleared, the pants are unbuttoned and you’ve taken your tryptophan siesta on the couch the reality of Christmas hits you. Many people wake up and brave the stores and malls for Black Friday deals. This usually results in grabbing a cup of coffee at 3am as you run out of the door with your flyers and lists in hand, to go fight people for items you really don’t need because they are a “good deal” (totally off topic, but true). After the mayhem a Dunkin Donuts run is usually in order followed by a nap and leftovers from the night before. Healthy? I think not!

If you feel the need to run out at 3am to wait in line, why not plan your meals as well as your deal catching strategies? It’s not hard to grab a protein bar, toss some fruit into your bag or even stop and sit at a diner with your shopping partner for healthier option to the glazed donut.

From here on, it’s baking cookies and other sweets, office parties, family get togethers and lots of time spent at the mall. It’s easy to get run down and opt for some drive-thru on the way home. This is when you need to be most focused and here are some things I plan of doing this holiday season:

  • Plan out your meals. If you shop in advance and have a plan you are less likely to stop for that greasy cheeseburger!
  • Bust out the crock-pot so it can do the work for you while you are out and about. There is nothing like coming home to a healthy meal that is waiting to be served.
  • Don’t waste time looking for a parking spot right up front. Park further away and walk briskly. It will help to get your heart rate up a little and give you an energy boost.
  • Keep healthy snacks handy on those long shopping days. I try to always have a Cliff bar and a piece of fruit in my bag so I’m not tempted to get Auntie Ann’s or Mrs. Fields while at the mall.
  • If you are already following a workout regimen stick to it! I know we run short on time around the holidays but you will feel better if you do. Sticking to it will also help you make wiser food choices and it helps to reduce stress!
  • Limit alcohol intake at holiday parties. Alcohol is just empty calories and adds up fast.
  • Eat a healthy meal BEFORE going to holiday parties. By doing this you won’t be starving when you arrive and you will be less likely to pop every bites sized hors d’oeuvre into your mouth as they come around.
  • Drink you water! This is one of the most important tips for any day of the year. People mistake dehydration for hunger all the time. If you consistently drink water you will feel full and consume fewer calories throughout the day.

Now I’m not saying that you can’t enjoy yourself  during the holidays. I’m just asking that you be smart about it. Have a few treats that you only get this time of year. There’s no reason to skip your favorites, just remember moderation. Part of the holidays is eating foods that you normally wouldn’t with friends and family that you may not normally see. Denying yourself any of these treats will only backfire on you later. Try to limit the splurges to the actual holiday itself and pass on the leftovers. If you goof up, it’s not the end of the world. Just climb back on the wagon and hold on for dear life. The 8 weeks will be over before you know it and hopefully the Kleenex will not be needed on January 1st when you step on the scale.

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