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Holding up some delicious desserts!
Not everyone owns real popsicle molds, and if they do, they don't necessarily have a lot of them....so when I decided to have friends over for dinner and saw this pin on Pinterest for some strawberry shortcake popsicles, I was so excited! No molds necessary, just a bunch of Dixie cups and popsicle sticks. :D

The original recipe is fairly simple and straight forward, but for the sake of my health, I substituted a few of the ingredients. For example, I thus far haven't found any box of Nilla wafers that I'm willing to eat, so I used fat-free graham crackers instead. Also, the recipe called for whole milk yogurt...what?! WHOLE MILK yogurt?! Who does that anymore anyways? So I definitely replaced that with greek yogurt (in my case, Fage 0% (fat-free) plain). I considered using stevia instead of the honey, but I ended up going with agave instead because I didn't want to change the consistency of the pops. BUT, if someone out there decides to use a granular stevia instead, let me know how it turns out! (^_^)


 
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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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That doesn't look too bad, right?
Okay, so not really in a tree, more like in a bowl. Today I give you a cold avocado and crab soup. Sound weird? I know, it really really does. I get it. I thought it, too. Honestly, I was kind of skeptical about the results, but the truth is that it actually turned out pretty dang well.

I created a Pinterest pin to share the original recipe, but I didn't actually find it on Pinterest. I had some avocado to finish off, and wanted to find something interesting to do with it. I feel like this hit that "interesting" mark. The original recipe also called for some ingredients that I just did NOT have...like creme fraiche. I know what creme fraiche is; it's kind of like sour cream but richer and creamier and more expensive (i.e. not something I ever have in my home). I used greek yogurt instead as an easy switch.

Has anyone out there ever heard of chervil? Because I've never heard of this herb before seeing this recipe. SO that means it got replaced with parsley, hahaha. While cooks everywhere say that fresh herbs are better, I just don't have them around. I don't have the green thumb to grow them and don't use them fast enough to warrant buying them, so I normally end up using dried herbs instead. If that bothers you, you can use the fresh stuff. :P

Instead of lemon zest, I used lime zest, and why not? I needed the lime juice anyway, so easier to use lime zest than let it go to waste. It tasted fine, I promise. And I also added spinach to the soup. Why? More nutrients and it added a slightly brighter green color. Anywho, this makes for a great summer soup, but I live in Hawaii, so it's fine year round, tee hee. Enjoy!


 
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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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Let's not all end up with a belly like this guy...
Obviously, the post's title is just a joke, I don't love beef that much. A lot of people out there would love nothing more than to just heat up a grill, slap a few steaks on, and sit back with a beer...I'm not one of those people, hahaha. I should clarify that I actually like beef and the way it tastes and having a steak every once in a while sounds like an awesome idea. When I was a kid, my mom pretty much only ever bought beef or pork for our dinners, no white meats and no fish (I wouldn't even have eaten the fish at the time). If we had chicken or turkey, it was only the Oscar Mayer sandwich slices, something that someone else gave us, or something I ordered from a restaurant. Now that I'm cooking for myself and eating a lot healthier, I definitely do not eat red meats that often. When I do make the conscious decision to eat beef, I don't like when it's super fatty/marbled, and I only eat it maybe four times a year or less now (and only that often because my boyfriend enjoys having some every so often to break up all the white meats and fish). Because of the rarity of my eating it, the meal tends to be a nicer dinner to sort of celebrate the occasion of eating red meat, hahaha.


 
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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!