Shamrock Smoothie

healthy shamrock smoothie

Hmm, who doesn’t love a delicious Shamrock Shake from Mcy D’s? Especially around St. Patty’s day! They’re super delicious, butttttt, there’s one BIG problem. They are TERRIBLE for you. In fact, there’s proof this year stating several reasons why you should skip the “shake” (read it here).

My boyfriend bought a bottle of peppermint oil about 6 months ago, and since then, we’ve only used it about once. So I decided to mix-up a minty-shake one day while I was craving an entire sleeve of Thin Mints (because how can you eat just one?). Turns out, there are quite a few “healthy” alternatives to McDonald’s Shamrock shake, but mine’s a little bit different. Hope you enjoy! Bonus: no hidden ingredients here!

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Ingredients 

  • 1 cup almond milk (I used 1/2 water, 1/2 almond milk)
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 avocado
  • A whole bunch o’ spinach (or kale). I used 1/3 of a bag.
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint oil
  • Generous drizzle of agave nectar, or honey (use as little or as much as you’d like, depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 tbs chia seeds!
  • Cup (or more) of ice
  • Optional: Protein powder (I recommend vanilla or plain), dark chocolate on top🙂

DirectionsIMG_4357

  • Blend it, duh!
  • Enjoy without the guilt!

Happy St. Patricks Day!

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Amaaaazzzzzing Crockpot BBQ Chicken

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

This is by far one of the best things I have ever made in my crockpot. Also, it is, without a doubt, the best smelling meal I’ve ever made in the crockpot. I tried this for the first time just a few days ago…and then again today, tweaking the recipe just a teensy bit to make it just right. And boy oh boy, is it right.

Have a few chicken breasts, some basic condiments and a crockpot? Get ready, baby. Don’t have any of the above? Jump on it.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, defrosted
  • 1 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays)
  • 1/4 cup light Italian dressing
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp A1 steak sauce
  • sea salt to taste

Directions

  1. Season the chicken breasts lightly with sea salt (to taste), and place in your crockpot.

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken2. Combine BBQ sauce, Italian dressing, brown sugar and steak sauce in a mixing bowl.

SlowCooker BBQ Chicken3. Pour sauce mixture over chicken breasts in your crockpot. Cook on HIGH 3-4 hours (or low 6-8 hours).

Slowcooker BBQ Chicken

4. Once the time is up, shred the chicken with two forks. It will be so tender, it will fall apart. Once the chicken is shredded, cook on low (or select the “keep warm” setting if your crockpot has it) for another 20-30 minutes.

Slowcooker BBQ Chicken

Side note: if you take a peak at the crockpot while the chicken is cooking, it will look EXTREMELY saucy. Don’t worry … it’s supposed to. Once you shred the chicken, the sauce will blend with the chicken to make the perfect consistency.

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Serve as a sandwich or eat it plain (my favorite!). Enjoy!!

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

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DIY Art: Swiped Colors

I discovered this DIY by doing what I do best, pinning. Peace, Love, Pinterest. ammmiright?

DIY Art: Swiped paint art #supereasy #diyart #cheapart #paint

Anyway, this is an extremely easy project, and is super fun to do. It takes no artistic skill at all. Zero, zip, nada. Let me repeat: no artistic skills needed. Sign me up!

Grab a piece of heavy duty paper (if you’re framing your masterpiece) or a canvas. Size doesn’t matter here, folks. I opted for 8 x 10. Then gather paint and paint brushes. I typically use 3 or 4 bottles of acrylic paint, and end up with 5 colors total (I like to add whites, golds, etc. to my paint to create more shades). For the paint brushes, go for whatever you have on hand. But, I think the thicker the stripes, the cooler the finished product looks.

DIY ART

Super easy #diy art project!

Once you have gathered your supplies and mixed your paints, you are ready to get your hands dirty (well, not really. Like I said, it’s a super easy project). I typically start with the middle stripe, then work my way out. That way the stripes will stay centered on the paper/canvas. Feel free to swipe over your paint stripes more than once. Once you are happy with the first color, dip your paint brush in water and dry off with a paper towel. Pick your next color and continue!

What a fun and easy DIY art project!

Very easy #DiyArt project!

Tip: I like to swipe my paint brush on newspaper or scrap paper to get some of the extra paint off the brush. Once you swipe on the actual piece, it creates a more “feathered” look (like the dark gray swipe in the photo above). Get creative, folks. This is a really fun project!

DIY art: using swiped colors

It may take you a few tries before you get the result you are looking for. As you can see in the picture below, it took me a few tries to get what I ended up framing (middle piece of paper):

DIY Art swiping project

Once you are finished, frame your final project and display it in your home/apartment. You can also lean it against a wall, or display it on a bookshelf! In the picture below, you can see that I placed mine on my window ledge next to my books (check out the DIY wood stump bookends!).

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What you need:

  • Canvas OR thicker piece of paper (if you’re framing), whatever size
  • Paint, preferably 5 different shades
  • Egg carton for mixing paint, optional
  • Paint brush
  • Cup of water for cleaning paint brush
  • Paper towel
  • Frame (optional)
  • Artistic skills

What did I tell ya? Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! ;) Post your finished products in the comments below. Happy swiping!

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Wood Stump Bookends

My boyfriend and I were recently tasked with cutting down a dead tree (don’t ask, haha). So, we got out our chainsaws and got to work…just kidding. The tree removal company came out and chopped that bad boy down. We had a ton of wood. Piles and piles and piles. Sure, I love me some good firewood, but I wanted to do something with the wood other than just burn it.

So, that is when I got crafty.

My first idea was to take two giant pieces of the stump and turn them into end tables (that project has been put on hold…but I will be finishing it within the next month or so…stay tuned!). Then I thought about cutting some of the smaller branches and turning them into Christmas tree ornaments (more on that here). After Kyle (bf) finished cutting the wood for the ornaments, there were some leftover scraps. “What could we do with these?” we thought.

Ah-ha! Bookends!

Wood bookends made from a tree branch! Super easy to make. What a great way to bring nature inside!

Wood bookends made from a tree branch! Super easy to make. What a great way to bring nature inside!

Wood bookends made from a tree branch! Super easy to make. What a great way to bring nature inside!

Wood bookends made from a tree branch! Super easy to make. What a great way to bring nature inside!

I’m always trying to think of new ideas when it comes to decorating. I love free or super cheap ways to decorate, too! What are some of your decorating tips? I’d love to hear them — feel free to comment down below!

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Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

Welp, we are officially knee-deep in soup season. Chicago was hit pretty hard with cold weather last week, so I couldn’t help but crave a big bowl of delicious soup. And it just so happens that a few weeks back while I was in Boulder, I had an amazing tomato basil soup from this incredible sandwich shop called Dish Gourmet (it was so good, I ate there multiple times). With that said, I knew exactly what soup I wanted to make. I started doing some research, and came across a recipe from Creme de la Crumb. I adapted the ingredients and cooked it on the stove instead of the crockpot.

tomato basil soup cover

Go on, make it. You know you want to dunk your face in a giant bowl. Or maybe that’s just me…

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tomato basil

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetable broth (I used low-sodium)
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper or more to taste (I used lots more. I love pepper!)
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream OR half+half (you may choose to use more depending on how creamy you like your soups)
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese + more for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add tomatoes, and next 7 ingredients (through salt) to big ol’ pot. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (You may also cook in the slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours. I went for the stovetop this time because I started dinner later!)
  2. About 30 minutes before serving transfer soup to a blender (I used our Blendtec) or food processor and puree until smooth, then return to pot (or slow cooker).
  3. Cook soup puree on low, then slowly stir in the heavy cream (or half+half) and parmesan cheese. Important: DO NOT let the soup/cream sit on the stove. The cream will break out into weird little dots. You must keep stirring it, until it all blends into the soup.
  4. Pour into bowls and top with additional parmesan cheese, basil & delicious bread (CARBS…yummy!!).
  5. Try not to eat the entire pot!

Let me know what you think in the comments below! Do you add anything else to your tomato basil soup? What do you serve it with? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Orange Detox Smoothie

When I first thought about making a smoothie for breakfast this morning I said to myself “SMOOTHIE, are you kidding!? It’s FREEZING outside!” It’s -30 (or something) today in Chicago. After it gets below 20 degrees, it doesn’t even matter what the exact temperature is, I start planning my move to someplace warm. Side note: I’ve been planning my move out of Chicago every winter since I moved here. 7 years ago. I’m clearly not moving. #wishfulthinking

orange detox smoothie

Anyway, back to the smoothie. I considered making something warm, such as oatmeal or eggs and toast (because, ya know, that would actually make sense) but I kept going back to the smoothie. I decided I wanted one so bad because my body is craving a good detox, probably because I haven’t been able to get outside and workout. Sure, I’ve been running stairs in my building when I can, working out on my TRX bands, doing push-ups, etc., but I still feel like I haven’t really worked out. I’m a runner, so a good workout means running 4+ miles. And I REFUSE to run outside if it’s below 20 degrees, so I’m in a rut. With that said, bring on the smoothie.

Orange Detox Smoothie chia seeds

I wanted to keep things clean, so I decided to juice some carrots and a handful of spinach (if you don’t have a juicer, just purchase unprocessed carrot juice from your local health grocer, and blend the spinach leafs with the rest of the ingredients in the smoothie). Then I stuck to my number 1 rule when juicing/making smoothies: stick to the color group. I’ve had trouble in the past with mixing lots of greens and oranges. The color turns out completely brown and doesn’t always taste great. I checked my freezer and found some frozen bananas (I always keep frozen bananas on hand!) and mango chunks. Off I went! Hope you all enjoy.

orange mango banana smoothie with chia seeds

orange smoothie
Photobombed by Gracie!

Yields: 1 smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup carrot juice (freshly squeezed if you have a juicer. If you do, I used 3 whole carrots. If not, buy unprocessed carrot juice from your local health grocer)
  • Handful of spinach, juiced or blended (I juiced mine along with the carrots)
  • 1/2 cup water (or more depending desired consistency)
  • 1 cup ice cubes (or more, again, depending on desired consistency)
  • 1/3 cup mango chunks (I used frozen)
  • 1 banana (I used frozen)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds blended (optional), I used mine as toppings)
  • 1 scoop protein powder (of choice. I use Garden of Life Raw Protein, plain. It’s vegan, gluten free, dairy free AND USDA Organic!)
protein powder
My favorite protein powder!

Directions:

  • Juice carrots (again, store bought carrot juice is fine)
  • Throw all ingredients into blender
  • Blend until desired consistency
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!

Carrot Juicecarrot juice mango bananaspinach juice

Stay warm!

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For sale! Wood-burned/Stamped Personalized Ornaments

wood ornaments

I am now selling my handmade wood ornaments! They are made with a wood-burning tool (snowflakes) and/or stamps (words, names, sayings such as “Merry Christmas”, “Let it snow!”, etc.)! All ornaments are double-sided and are personalized per your request! They are great to give to your family and friends for the holidays and add a nice touch to your wrapped gifts!

wood burning ornaments

wood-burned snowflake
All snowflakes are made by hand with a wood-burning tool. They are unique, but hey! They are in real life, too.🙂 If you have a type of snowflake you would like me to design, just send over a picture! 
gift tags
They also make for great gift tags!
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Incorporate them into your gift wrapping!
Handmade wood ornaments
New option! Add this beautiful stamp to one side of your ornament. I just love how you can see the pattern of the wood within the stamp itself! (also, coming soon…a bicycle stamp!)

A ton of orders have already been placed! Since they take some time to make, I will only be taking orders for the next week or so. If you are interested, please follow the steps below:

wood ornaments order

*Please note that shipping & handling will be applied to the total cost. I am located in Chicago, but also make frequent trips to the West suburbs, so a drop-off can be arranged if needed.

Thank you all for your support. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili

slow cooker turkey chili

 

Hmm, who doesn’t love a big bowl of chili on a chilly afternoon? As if that doesn’t sound good enough, how about slow-cooker, ready-when-you-get-home-chili? This recipe is EXTREMELY easy and it will have your house smelling amazing by the time you come home from work. Also, I tried using Jennie-O’s Italian Seasoned ground turkey to spice things up a bit — it turned out delicious! The great thing about chili is that you can throw in whatever veggies, beans, spices, etc., that you like. You really can’t go wrong!

 

turkey chili

JEnnie-O turkey chili

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Add cheese, plain greek yogurt (more protein and WAY better for you than sour cream!) on top or throw the chili on a baked potato or mac n’ cheese!

What I used:

  • Jennie-O Italian Seasoned ground turkey
  • 2 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1 can great northern beans
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • chili powder to taste
  • cumin to taste
  • hot sauce to taste
  • salt to taste
  • garlic to taste

Directions

  • Cook ground turkey per directions on package, set aside
  • Saute green pepper and onion, set aside
  • Drain and rinse beans, set aside
  • Pour all ingredients into slow cooker
  • Add seasoning to taste (I like my chili spicier, so I add lots of spice and hot sauce – yum!)
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours

Serve immediately. Keep for up to 1 week in fridge.

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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Delicious #pumpkin smoothie

The other morning, I scavenged my fridge for something to whip up for breakfast. Jumping from buying a rental property to bringing a puppy home, hasn’t left me with much time to make a trip to the grocery store (or blog…more posts to come – I promise!). I found a few eggs, orange juice, almond milk, and some leftover canned pumpkin from this recipe. I was in the mood for a smoothie, so I decided to mix things up a bit (pun intended) and try making a smoothie that matched the season. I wasn’t too sure how it’d turn out, but I absolutely loved it! Kyle (my boyfriend) said “It tastes like the offspring of a banana and a pumpkin!”

Delicious #pumpkin smoothie

Delicious #pumpkin smoothie

Delicious #pumpkin smoothie

Delicious #pumpkin smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Serves two

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin (I use Trader Joe’s Organic pumpkin)
  • 1 frozen banana (tip: bananas turning brown before you can eat them? Take the peels off and throw them in the freezer – it makes for a colder smoothie and you will always have some on hand without them going bad!)
  • 4-6 ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 squeeze of agave nectar (add until desire sweetness)
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed
  • 1 tsp chia seed
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Optional: I like to throw in instant oats and/or almonds if I have them on hand. They add extra texture to the smoothie!

Tip: Want to add more protein to curb your hunger? Toss in some plain, vanilla or chai tea flavored protein powder for an even more satisfying meal!

Instructions

  1. Throw all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into a glass and top with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and/or granola!

Cheers!

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Upgraded Trader Joes Pumpkin Bars

pumpkin bars cover

I was at Trader Joe’s last week when I saw a box of Pumpkin Bar baking mix. For only $2.99 I thought, what the heck? I took a look at the ingredients and decided I was going to mix things up a bit. Instead of using one (1) stick of butter which is what the recipe called for, I tried 1/4 cup of coconut oil and some water instead. Additionally, I used organic brown eggs and threw in some dark chocolate chips and pecans. Mmm, were they good!

ingredientspumpkinbar

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IMG_9424Ingredients

  • Box of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bar baking mix
  • 2 organic brown eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 8x8x2 baking pan w/ cooking spray (I use olive oil spray).
  3. Remove baking mix bag from box. Empty contents into a mixing bowl.
  4. Crack the eggs and throw them into a separate bowl.
  5. Whisk the melted (or room temperature) coconut oil, water + eggs together.
  6. Slow take wet ingredients and mix them into the bowl with the baking mix. Stir until there are little to no lumps.
  7. Fold in the dark chocolate chips and pecans.
  8. Spread dough into pan, spreading it out evenly.
  9. Bake for 28-30 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out of the bars clean.

I enjoyed my bars warm with a nice big glass of almond milk!

Happy Friday!

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