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I could barely wait to eat them!
There's nothing like peanut butter and chocolate and banana all mixed together! It might be one of my all time favorite flavor mixes. XD I also happen to love desserts, and thus this cookie was born with a little pinspiration from this pin that links to the original recipe on Watching What I Eat.

I made my own tweaks to the recipe, including cutting out the carob/chocolate chips and replacing it with cacao nibs. Cacao nibs are little bits of chocolate that are 100% cacao, meaning no sugar or milk have been cut in. They retain all the benefits that people talk about chocolate having, but it's less fattening because it hasn't been altered from it's original 100% cacao state.

The original also called for added chopped nuts, but I left that out in favor of using crunchy peanut butter. I know nuts are a healthy source of good fats, but calories are calories sometimes, and my needed nutrients at the moment didn't include needing that much fat, healthy or otherwise. I've been eating too much avocado, tee hee. Sacrifices, sacrifices.

I also used chocolate protein powder instead of the suggested vanilla because, come on, chocolate goes with peanut butter and banana WAY better than vanilla ever will, hahaha, but I'm biased. I'm a chocolate lover to the max. (^_~) I also doubled the amount of protein powder for the recipe so that it would be a more worthwhile snack.



 
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A quinoa bake square with breakfast yogurt parfait!
I recently found a Pinterest pin for a quinoa breakfast bake. I'm all about having something pre-made and ready to go in the morning for breakfast, so making something like this one afternoon will give me part of breakfast for the rest of the week (and enough for some daytime snacking, too, tee hee ^_^)! 

You know, when I tell people I know that I eat quinoa (pronounced keen-wah; it's okay, I didn't know at first either), I usually get one of two responses: 1) They have no idea what it is, or 2) They say, "Oh, I've heard of it, but what is it?" Since I'm from Hawaii and pretty much everyone here eats [white] rice everyday with one or more of their meals, my answer to the question is normally starts with, "You eat rice? It's like rice. You can cook it the same way and eat it the same way, but it's healthier and better for you." If you look at the pic on the left, they don't look alike, but they have the same texture, about the same taste, and can be used in pretty much all the same recipes. And then, of course, people ask how is quinoa better for you? And then I have to launch into explanation mode...


 
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After dumping a ziploc of fruits into a blender cup
Thanks to one page of a book I was skimming in Barnes & Nobles just before the new year, I ended up with a new year's resolution of sorts without even realizing it. I don't go to the gym everyday, and I don't want to go everyday (I'm a lazy butt), but when I do go, I like to work out my whole body if I can. The book suggested that for people like me who do whole body workouts, I should be going to the gym three times a week (Monday, Thursday, & Saturday)~~~~so I'm trying it out to see what it does for me.

What that really means is that my sleep-loving self has been getting up pretty early three days a week and going to the gym. Being as lazy as I am, making breakfast early in the morning is hard for me. One of the easiest things to make in the morning is a smoothie, especially if you take a couple minutes to prep the ingredients the night before. Just measure out the fruits or veggies you're going to use into a ziploc bag (see my picture below with the recipe; you can spot a ziploc with fruits); keep it in the fridge or freezer, and just dump it into the blender with any liquid ingredients the next morning! The hardest part is really just trying to figure out what goes into the smoothie.


 
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From the Pilsbury homepage
Kind of dramatic post title, I know, but here I am thinking about carbs again...they taste so good, and they're so hard to get away from, especially when you love bread and baked goods. Out in the grocery store and newspaper ads, that means that after a childhood full of the stuff, when I see Pillsbury products go on sale my first instinct is, "Oh cool! That would be so easy to make into (fill in the blank with your own ideas)!" Which is normally promptly followed by, "Wait, crap...no, bad self! Can't have Pillsbury! SO bad for you!" It's so troubling having to fight myself (-_-") arg.

When I'm at the store, even if I'm pretty sure I'm not going to buy it, I'll still look at the nutritional information on the back/side to prove to myself that I'm making the right decision in not buying it, hahaha. Actually, though, Calorie Count has created a pretty comprehensive list of all the Pillsbury products and their corresponding nutritional information; they've even gone so far as to give a Nutrition Grade to most of the items! While a C might be a passing grade in school, it's definitely not a pass for my health, much less many of the other items that they ranked as D's. Have a look for yourself, click on the Pillsbury products that you've bought or eaten and see if you're happy with the results. First of all, pay attention to the serving size, and THEN look at the information below it. For example, ONE Grands Flaky Biscuit is almost 200 calories by itself!! *SHOCK* That, and the accompanying 9g of fat and the 24g of carbs (5g come from sugar), whoa! There's barely any fiber, a small amount of protein, and in comparison to the "bad" carb and calorie numbers, it's nutritionally just not worth it. Think of it in terms of something else, like a car; you wouldn't pay $40k for a car that has a great body kit, a nice paint job, and a super luxurious and comfortable interior, but doesn't have tires or is missing the windows and/or the engine, right? It's normally just not worth it.


 
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You're average run of the mill yellow (corn?) tortilla chips
Yesterday I posted a recipe to make a healthier version of a spinach artichoke dip, but I realized today while I was eating some of the leftovers that I probably should have included something about the chips, oops?

Tortilla chips are something I see all over the place normally being served as part of an appetizer like chips and salsa, or chips and spinach artichoke dip, or just a basket of chips to go with your meal. Let's be real, you know chips aren't good for you. Most kinds of chips are [deep] fried to make them crispy. I know there are bags of chips at the store that say they're baked instead of fried, but don't be fooled! Turn the bag over and look at the nutritional values on that thing! Sure, it's not AS bad as the regular chips, but just because they're baked doesn't mean that all the unhealthy ingredients they used have just disappeared!
This is the point at which I realized that making chips isn't all that hard (tortilla chips, at least). Normally, all you have to do is buy your own tortillas, cut them up, and crisp them up in the oven (instead of frying them). The problem arises when you try to find a tortilla to buy and take home; there are so many different brands and different kinds, it's almost as bad as looking for a "good" bag of chips, hah. If you're still intent on buying the store bought kind instead of the make it yourself version, at least go to HealthCastle.com's chip comparer. It's a website apparently created by dietitians, and this comparing tool allows you to filter through the top 40 chips to figure out which is the "healthiest" for your needs.

 
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The oh-so-famous CPK Spinach Artichoke DIp
Let's be real, I don't personally know anyone who doesn't like spinach artichoke dip with a heaping side of tortilla chips or bread. I completely understand the sentiments because I used to order that stuff from California Pizza Kitchen almost every time I went there. Hell, when I realized Costco sold Spinach Artichoke and Parmesan Dip in a container, I bought a container, bought some chips, warmed the dip up in the microwave, and tried to recreate my CPK experience at home. I definitely don't do that anymore  (see my Dining Out: CPK post), and the truth is that I don't have to! There's a healthier option people!!

Sure there are lots of copycat recipes out there that recreate the original spinach artichoke dip, but there aren't a whole lot of healthy options out there. I found a "skinny" spinach artichoke dip recipe on Pinterest, but it still called for mayonnaise and a lot of cheese. So what does that mean? Let's make it healthier! My version is in the pictures below. I think it looks pretty similar if you ask me...and I don't have to feel nearly as bad eating it either!!


 
I already wrote about some of the health benefits of avocados and posted a recipe for dark chocolate avocado pudding (see my previous post), but I couldn't help myself from making something else and posting about it immediately. I found a recipe on Food52 months ago for an avocado lassi, and I finally got to try it out today!

A lassi is a yogurt based drink from India, and it can be either savory or sweet flavored. I've only ever really seen two or so flavors of lassi when I eat at Indian restaurants, the most common being the most well-known mango lassi, though I've also tried a rose water lassi which had a much subtler taste. Since my first lassi, I've loved the way they tasted! I've even tried my hand at making my own mango lassi during the last mango season, but that can come another day. The traditional version of a lassi, however, is apparently more savory and is made with roasted cumin and spices as opposed to the more well-known sweet and fruity types.

I don't know where an avocado lassi falls on the savory vs. sweet scale, but I do know that it tastes good! So go ahead and make some for yourself!

 
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Avocados are definitely NOT in season right now (middle of January :P) in most of America, but I still have lots of avocado ready for use. "How?" you ask? By freezing it! It was one of the first Pinterest pins I actually tried out. Basically, it involved pitting, peeling, and mashing the avocado up with lemon juice, and then freezing it. And what that really means is that now that avocados are expensive and out of season, I still get to use them! Woot woot!

I took a bag out of the freezer yesterday to thaw with the intentions of making healthier brownies, but I ended up making a few other things instead. If you're confused by me saying brownies, just know that avocados make a good replacement for butter in lots of baking recipes! It's just as creamy but a million times better for you.


 
Let me tell you, it's hard coming up with so many different ways to use spinach! Sometimes a little inspiration is required...like today. I found a pin on Pinterest from the Undressed Skeleton blog with a recipe to make Banana Spinach Protein Bars. It sounds seriously crazy, but just like the blog says, you can't even taste the spinach because of all the banana. Honestly, I was really skeptical about that description and about the taste in general, but I've found that I'll really try anything at least once (even if that means I have to suck it up and literally eat all the failure when I'm done).

After following the original recipe, I tweaked it just a little to get a little more, nutrition-wise, out of each bite. I think I added too much banana on accident which made it a bit extra liquidy, so I added more flax seed meal and more protein powder than the recipe originally called for. Also the directions for what kind of vessel to cook them in was pretty ambiguous, so I just guessed on that. My tweaked version of the recipe is below. Small warning: It came out a little dry in the middle, but if you can live with that, go for it! If I make these again, I'd probably add more banana to keep it moist.

 
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There are LOTS of people these days touting the advantages of "green smoothies" and how healthful they are. I'm not really a smoothie kind of girl, normally because I don't find them to be quite filling enough. However, that doesn't stop me from making one every once in a while, and since I have spinach on the brain and a huge bag in the fridge, I decided to throw one of these little smoothies together.

For those of you who aren't sold on the idea of green smoothies, or more specifically, the idea of spinach in a smoothie, there are actually a lot of positive aspects to spinach that you should consider! I even did a bunch of the research for you! Hopefully, it's enough to convince some of those non-believers out there that spinach is at least worth a try.