Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Strawberry Protein Chia Pops

This simple dessert or snack recipe for Strawberry Protein Chia Pops is made from chia pudding and perfect for summer.

Sponsored Post: This post and giveaway is sponsored by Naked Nutrition. All opinions and text are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

I feel like a broken record talking about the weather this week but it is HOT. The temperature rose to 89 degrees yesterday which equaled 79 degrees inside our house. I wasn't expecting to turn on the air conditioning in mid-May but here we are. In typical Midwest fashion, it's supposed to be back in the 50s by Friday. Until then, it's a good thing I have icy popsicles to snack on that happen to be healthy and made from chia pudding!

Naked Nutrition reached out to me recently about trying their protein powder and hosting a giveaway. Naked's protein powder includes pure ingredients and no artificial sweeteners or colors. Naked sent me a 5 pound {!!} container of their Naked Whey Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder to give away to one lucky winner - scroll to the end of this post to enter.

I also tried one of the Naked Nutrition sample packs - mine included strawberry, chocolate and vanilla flavored powders.

I used strawberry protein powder for this recipe for Strawberry Protein Chia Pops. This is a two step process - first you need to make a large batch of chia pudding and let it chill for at least 4 hours. Second, you need to freeze the pudding in popsicle molds for at least 8 hours. I chilled my pudding during the workday and froze my popsicles overnight.

These popsicles turned out perfect with a nice strawberry flavor! I used a combination of light coconut milk and almond milk, but any milk product will work.

I'm looking forward to trying more popsicle ideas this summer.

Strawberry Protein Chia Pops
Yields: 6 popicles

1 scoop Naked Strawberry Protein Powder
10-12 strawberries
1 can light coconut milk
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
10 Tablespoons chia seeds

*Add protein powder, strawberries, coconut milk, almond milk, and maple syrup to a food processor. Process until the ingredients are combined {I used the pulse function for 1 minute}.
*Add 12 Tablespoons chia seeds to the pureed mixture and whisk until combined.
*Chill in a covered container for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
*Add pudding mixture to pudding pops. Freeze for at least 8 hours.
*Follow package instructions to remove pops from the popsicle mold {I ran each frozen popsicle under hot water for ~20 seconds to remove the plastic mold}.

Giveaway Time!

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Letter to My Son on My First Mother's Day

A letter to my son on my first Mother's Day:

Last year on Mother's Day I was 9 weeks pregnant and only a few days past our first ultrasound. We waited for you for a long time and I held my breath as the weeks passed, hoping everything was going well and we would have a baby in our arms in time for Christmas. You joined us earlier than expected the week before Thanksgiving and everything about you was perfect.

A few days ago when I picked you up from the end of your second week of child care, your teacher handed me a homemade clay ornament with your tiny hand print pressed into a misshapen circle. A little note was attached about how your hand will never be this small again - your baby teacher commented that yours was the smallest in the nursery room {you are the youngest after all}. I'm not usually someone who gets emotional about crafts, but I cried a few tears on my walk home.

I'm overwhelmed by how much I love you - it hits me like a ton of bricks at random moments: hearing you laugh for the time for my off-key rendition of "My Girl"; feeling you snuggle up when it's time for a nap and you want to be rocked to sleep; watching you learn to turn the pages on your baby books; staring in wonder at where your very long eyelashes came from while you sleep.

Here are my hopes for you little one on my first Mother's Day:

I hope you grow up to be humble and kind to everyone around you.

I hope you inherit your daddy's sense of humor, friendliness, and cooking skills.  

I hope you learn to love the earth and respect the environment.

I hope you turn into a 'foodie baby' when the time is right.

I hope you learn to keep a 2 foot radius from the cat - she tolerates you now, but she might change her mind when you can grab tufts of her white fur.

I hope you appreciate wide open fields as much as living in an urban area.

I hope you realize how much your family loves you.

I hope your first word is Mama :)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Chipotle Egg Salad

This easy recipe for Chipotle Egg Salad is a great meal prep idea and perfect for a healthy lunch during the work week.

Warm spring days make me think of creamy, chilled egg salad sandwiches. I forget how easy it is to hard boil a few eggs for a quick lunch.

I went back to work earlier this month after over five months of maternity leave with my little love Baby C. The transition is going well but I'm still working on being more organized, especially with meals and snacks. I work from my home office often, however I like to have food ready to go for lunch to maximize my day.

I spiced up the plain version of egg salad for this lunch recipe with smoky, slightly sweet adobo sauce and a chopped chipotle pepper. I have a few chipotle recipes on this blog, including Chipotle Corn Souffle and Spicy Chipotle Chicken Dip.

Chipotle flavors work very well for egg salad! Add a second pepper for a spicier flavor.

Chipotle Egg Salad
Yields: 2 servings

6 hardboiled eggs
1 chipotle pepper
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of paprika

Optional: 1 Tablespoon pickle relish

*Hard boil your eggs. My preferred method is to put eggs in a pan and cover them with cool water, with approximately 1 inch of water higher than the eggs. Bring water to a boil, uncovered. As soon as the pot is boiling, turn off the heat and cover the pan. Wait 12 minutes for large eggs {add a few minutes if your eggs are extra-large}. After 12 minutes, run the eggs under cool water in the sink for ~30 seconds. Put the eggs in a bowl with ice and water. Let the eggs cool. Once the eggs are cool, remove the shells. Refrigerate until you're ready to use the eggs.
*Add a chopped chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, mayo, black pepper, salt and paprika to a bowl. Mash with a fork.
*Serve on toasted bread or on a bed of greens.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Whole Pineapple Cake

This dessert recipe for Whole Pineapple Cake is perfect for spring or summer and uses an entire fresh pineapple.

Earlier this month over Easter weekend I tried a new cake recipe that's tart and perfect for summer! I have been posting a lot of dessert recipes lately {Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies, Chocolate Orange Cupcakes} so I waited a few weeks to share it.

My parents visited us for a long weekend and my mom brought a beautiful and ripe pineapple to enjoy. We thought about making a fruit salad but I decided to try using the pineapple in a dessert recipe instead.

After reading through a handful of pineapple recipes I decided to modify a simple cake recipe using our fresh pineapple instead of the canned version. I ended up using the whole pineapple in this cake, pureeing half of it in my food processor and chopping the other half into small chunks. If you haven't cut a fresh pineapple before, I like this method from Simply Recipes.

Here are two reasons why this Whole Pineapple Cake is slightly healthier: I reduced the sugar content modestly since pineapple is already super sweet and I used white whole wheat flour. You can substitute white whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour by 50% when baking {I reviewed King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat Flour Guide}. This cake is delicious on its own or topped with fresh whipped cream, Cool Whip or your choice of fruit.

The taste reminds me of pineapple upside down cake except you get a strong pineapple flavor with every bite. The top of this cake got a little bit caramelized and crunchy while baking. K said the edge pieces were his favorite.

I think you're going to love it!

Whole Pineapple Cake
Yields: 9 servings

1 cup white all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
1 small pineapple
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Cut the pineapple using this method. Chop half of the pineapple into small chunks. Puree the other half of the pineapple in a food processor until there are no chunks remaining.
*Mix wet ingredients in a bowl - pineapple, eggs, and vanilla extract.
*Add the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, sugar, and baking soda. Mix until combined.
*Bake for 40 minutes. The cake is best served warm.

Topping options:
*Fresh whipped cream
*Cool Whip

{Adapted from the following recipe: Easiest Pineapple Cake by Bunny's Warm Oven}

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ravenswood Run 5k Race + Cafe Selmarie Brunch

This is my race recap of the Ravenswood Run 5k race followed by brunch at one of my favorite Chicago restaurants - Cafe Selmarie in Lincoln Square.

I ran the Ravenswood Run 5k race on Sunday morning and then proceeded to walk... and walk with K and baby C. It was a beautiful sunny day and I ended up with 26,000+ steps.  My legs were crazy sore on Monday and I was still recovering yesterday. It had been a long time since I crossed the 20,000 step threshold. I live within walking distance of the Ravenswood neighborhood so I started the morning with a long walk to the race. It was quiet and peaceful - walking alone at 7:00am on a sunny spring morning was the best form of meditation for the weekend.

The Ravenswood Run 5k race is in its 21st year. Around 2,500 runners finished the race this year - an impressive number for a racing route on neighborhood streets.

The race benefits the Ravenswood Community Services Food Pantry at All Saints Episcopal Church and the student health centers at Lakeview and Amundsen High Schools.

The best part? Getting passed by a T-Rex and Godzilla. My friend S and I ran the race together and took it at a leisurely pace. I'm working on running more than once per week since transitioning back to working out again after baby C joined our family. Getting passed by a T-Rex was worth the laugh!

The race had a few great handouts at the finish line, including Nut Butter Filled Clif Bars.

Another T-Rex shot at the finish line, for obvious reasons.

After the race we made our way to Lincoln Square to meet K and baby C for breakfast at Cafe Selmarie. Everyone else running the race had the same idea but I can't complain about waiting outdoors in the sunshine with coffee in hand.

Cafe Selmarie is my favorite breakfast/brunch stop after a run on the north side of the city. The restaurant has been in the Lincoln Square neighborhood for 30 years. We tried corned beef hash, a breakfast burrito, and their heirloom tomato egg sandwich on a toasted bagel. No leftovers remained at the end of this meal!

My little blonde breakfast date enjoyed playing at the table too :) I plan to be back for the Ravenswood Run 5k next year with the jogging stroller ready to go.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Favorite Things {April '17}

I love reading about new things on other bloggers "favorite" posts, so I decided to join this trend by starting an occasional Monday favorites post. Monday works well because the weekend is when I tend to discover new things.

This post contains affiliate links.

We had a wonderful Easter weekend - the weather was gorgeous and we celebrated the holiday with my parents' who visited from Iowa. Weekend highlights included teaching baby C about the Easter bunny:

K also planted our raised garden bed and I planted our window boxes and a few potted flowers on the deck. We also admired plenty of spring flowers on walks around the neighborhood:

Scroll below for the rest of my recent favorites!

Favorite Snack

My absolute favorite new snack is a limited edition Banana Chocolate Chip Larabar. I have only seen this flavor for sale at Target. Whenever I find it in the store at least two boxes are purchased. The bars are that good. I want to make these bars at home but I can't figure out how to avoid mushy chunks of banana.

Favorite Caffeine Boost

I finally started drinking matcha green tea. Trader Joe's sells individual matcha green tea packets that taste amazing. I whisk mine with half water and half almond milk, and add a few teaspoons of maple syrup for sweetness. The packets are $1 each, but this is much more reasonable than the $4+ iced green tea lattes from Starbucks that I love to indulge in.

Favorite Outdoor Walk

Two weeks ago Baby C and I visited the Garfield Park Conservatory for an outdoor walk with friends. The Conservatory has 12 acres of outdoor gardens. The first blooms of the season were out, with hundreds of daffodils lining the garden path. I can't wait to go back when summer flowers are blooming.

Favorite Cookbook

Last year before baby C was born, K and I planned a handful of "pre-baby" dates. One of these dates was a dinner at Fat Rice in the Logan Square neighborhood. Fat Rice is described as "comfort food from around the world" though I think it has an Asian flair to its flavors. I bought K the Fat Rice cookbook from Valentine's Day and we have enjoyed several recipes --> The Adventures of Fat Rice: Recipes fro the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau. If you have the cookbook, my favorite dish so far is Lacassa {Macanese Rice Vermicelli Stir-Fry}. The marinade is extremely good and the dish is paired with beet pickled ginger.

Favorite Baby Product

I have a "baby favorites" post coming soon with my favorite items for baby C's first four months of life. This baby wrap is at the top of the list - the Baby K'tan Original Baby Carrier. This carrier is very easy to use and he falls asleep almost immediately. It's cotton and washes easily too. We received it as a gift but I would definitely purchase it myself.

Favorite Breakfast

Last Sunday morning K and I went on a long walk with baby C and stopped for brunch at Baker Miller in Lincoln Square. I had the prettiest avocado toast on their sunflower seed bread, topped with scrambled eggs and slices of watermelon radishes. Watermelon radishes don't have much flavor but they're lovely and add a nice crunch to any dish.

Favorite Spring Find

Oakley reached out to me a few weeks ago about reviewing a complimentary pair of polarized sunglasses. I have been looking for quality sunglasses for years - in the meantime I keep buying {and breaking} cheap pairs. No longer. I love the Oakley Drop In Polarized sunglasses in tortoise - pictured below on a lakefront walk.

My dad always wore Oakley sunglasses when I was growing up, but this is my first pair. I am a huge fan! They are very lightweight and perfect for spring. Check out more Oakley's women's sunglasses at this link.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

This healthier dessert or snack recipe for Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies is flourless and sweetened naturally with dates. Adding crunchy coconut flakes and almond butter reminds me of a buttery pie crust.

Chicago has experienced a few beautiful spring days so far, with temps in the 60s and 70s last weekend. This has me dreaming about seasonal summer produce, especially berries. Since blueberries won't be on the seasonal list for a few more months, I settled for using dried blueberries in this recipe instead.

My favorite dried berries are Dried Wild Blueberries from Trader Joe's. Dried blueberries are combined with a few of my favorite baking ingredients in this recipe: almond flour, old-fashioned oats, dates, and almond butter.

I created a homemade "date paste" to sweeten the cookies, by combining California dates and almond butter in the food processor. I used the same method in my Meyer Lemon Cookies.

The taste reminds me of blueberry pie - the coconut and almond flavors are similar to pie crust. K and I demolished this batch of cookies in two days. These cookies are particularly delicious microwaved for ~15 seconds and topped with extra almond butter.

Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies
Yields: 18-20 cookies

1 1/4 cups almond flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 egg
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup dried blueberries
10 California dates
1/4 cup almond butter
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Mix dates and almond butter in a food processor, until it forms a paste.
*Add the date paste to a mixer, and combine the wet ingredients - egg, lemon juice, applesauce, and vanilla extract.
*Add the dry ingredients - almond flour, oatmeal, coconut flakes, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined.
*Use a medium cookie scoop to place cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Lightly press each cookie with a fork to flatten.
*Bake for 11-12 minutes.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shamrock Shuffle 8k Race + Potbelly Sandwich Shop

This weekend I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8k race in downtown Chicago and had lunch at Potbelly Sandwich Shop to refuel afterwards. Read below for a brief race recap and details on using the Potbelly app.

How did you spend the first weekend of April? I ran my first race of the year and the first race since baby C was born - the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k. This was my sixth time running the Shamrock Shuffle race. The weather was perfect for a spring run on Sunday - temperatures in the 50s and sun at the finish line.

My friend P and I ran the race together. We started in wave 2 at 9:00 am - the later start time was much appreciated. The Shuffle was P's first road race event and she did an amazing job! I am not back to a consistent running routine yet but I felt good during the race. My legs are still sore today though - second day soreness is no joke when you're not used to running 5 miles.

Many people consider the Shamrock Shuffle the start of racing season in Chicago. More than 20,000 people participated in the race this year. Even though we are a few weeks past St. Patrick's Day most people were decked out in green. P and I missed the green shirt memo. ;)

After the race, I was starving and ready for an early lunch. I was given the opportunity to check out the Potbelly Sandwich Shop app this weekend so K and baby C met me in Lincoln Square at Potbelly.

Potbelly is one of my favorite stops for a quick lunch. The shop has an app where you can pre-order a meal. On my way to Potbelly I placed our order on the app, which is linked to my credit card. The app gives you all of Potbelly's meal options, including sandwiches, salads, sides, desserts, and drinks. Here is what a meal selection looks like:

I think it's great that the Potbelly app includes nutrition information as well as detailed food options. I'm always wondering what days specific soups are available and now I can figure that out easily. If you use the app and order your meal in advance, you can jump the line and head straight to the counter to pick up your order. After I placed an order, the app said our meal would be ready in 10 minutes.

Another benefit of using the Potbelly app is access to Potbelly Perks. For every $2 spent, you earn "smiles" that go towards future perks like free treats.

I frequently eat lunch at Potbelly, especially while working downtown. I appreciate that they use fresh ingredients and have a large menu of options. For lunch this weekend, I had the Classic Tomato soup {my favorite} and Powerhouse Salad. The salad came with grilled chicken, avocado, hummus, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and spinach.

K ordered a toasted chicken salad sandwich with a side of chips. If you're a fan of chicken salad, the Potbelly version is my favorite. While I was pregnant with baby C I had a chicken salad flatbread sandwich from Potbelly several times a week. I think he's made up of at least 30% chicken salad!

Click here to download the Potbelly Sandwich Shop app. Using the app is an easy way to customize your meal order and jump the line to save time. You can also order delivery through the app, which I definitely plan on using in the future.

Check out my Shamrock Shuffle race posts from previous years: