Friday, February 24, 2017

Chocolate Covered Cherry Energy Bites

This easy, no bake snack recipe for Chocolate Covered Cherry Energy Bites is packed with healthy ingredients and contains no added sugar.

Raise your hand if you're still trying to tame the sugar dragon from the holiday season...

Guilty. I try to stick to whole ingredients and avoid foods with processed sugar most of the time, but it's certainly still possible to have a healthy, sweet snack. Enter this new recipe that tastes almost exactly like dessert: Chocolate Covered Cherry Energy Bites.

Remember those chocolate covered cherries that came in a red box? I don't recall the brand, but each sweet cherry was individually wrapped and extremely sweet. {I'm not sure if a real cherry was even involved}. Think of this as the healthy version, with protein from steel cut oats and healthy fats from raw almonds.

I made these energy bites in my food processor while Baby C was napping this morning. They turned out exactly like I hoped! I used unsweetened dried cherries, almonds, steel cut oats, California dates, cocoa powder, almond butter, and vanilla. I also added a sprinkle of espresso powder to bring out the chocolate flavor.

If your dates aren't fresh, I recommend soaking them for at least 2 hours in milk {any kind will work} or adding 1-2 Tablespoons of milk to the food processor. My dates weren't fresh so I added 2 Tablespoons of almond milk before forming these bites.

Simply roll the processed mixture with a medium cookie scoop and you're ready to snack.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Energy Bites
Yields: 14 energy bites

14 dates {pitted}*
2/3 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup steel cut oats
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons almond butter
2/3 cup dried cherries
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional: 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder; 2 Tablespoons milk

How to~
*Add all ingredients to a food processor. Process the mixture a few times. Stop the processor and use a spatula to re-combine the mix if needed.
*Keep processing until the ingredients are evenly combined {I use the "pulse" function}.
*Remove from the food processor and use a medium cookie scoop and your hands to form the mix into balls.
*Keep refrigerated in a covered container - the bites should last cooled for one week, and longer if frozen.

*I used California dates, which are smaller than Medjool dates.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

DIY Alphabet Nursery Decor

This DIY Alphabet Nursery Decor craft is simple and inexpensive to make. It's the perfect wall hanging for a nursery or small child's bedroom.

This post contains affiliate links.

Baby C is almost 3 months old and I finally finished the wall decor in his nursery last week. When it comes to DIY decor, I'm far from crafty. Thankfully this turned out to be a very simple and inexpensive project that required only a few materials and a short amount of time.

Before C was born, I searched for alphabet wall decor and didn't find much except for expensive canvas hangings and wall stickers. When I found a set of alphabet Eric Carle Flashcards I thought they would be perfect to hang on the wall. The flashcards come in a pack of three, with the alphabet, numbers and math. I'll save the extra flashcards for future use.

In addition to these alphabet flashcards, you will need:

1) Twine {I used Rope King Twine}

2) Mini clothespins {I used Wooden Pins for Scrapbooking}

3) Push-pins or nails {I used Wooden Globe Thumb Push Pins similar to this set. I found mine at Target.}

To start this project, I cut the twine into three strands - two at 60 inches long and one at 75 inches. I made a small knotted loop at each end of the twine strands, approximately 1 inch in diameter.

I laid the strands on a flat surface {this is the rug in his nursery} and clipped on the alphabet cards using the mini clothespins. I left approximately 3 1/2 inches between each card, and 3 1/2 inches from the end loop.

I also trimmed the twine where needed to avoid twine pieces ending up all over the floor. This is the finished product, before hanging it on the wall:

One thing to note is the mini clothespins I used fall apart easily. I broke a few while making this wall hanging. If you want a more permanent piece of decor, I recommend gluing each alphabet card to the clothespin to avoid any issues.

To hang the alphabet strands, I hammered the push pins into the wall. I decided to hang my alphabet strands 6 inches apart. I didn't hang them in a straight line because I like the angled look better.

I love Eric Carle's books and the flashcards are so cute! Here is the before and after in baby C's room:

This project took me 2 hours to finish. Here are the materials I used:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

15 Skinny Chocolate Recipes

This roundup of 15 skinny chocolate recipes is full of desserts you can feel good about for Valentine's Day or any time you're craving a sweet snack.

As soon as January rolls in, I'm ready for Valentine's Day. Even though it's a cheesy "Hallmark holiday" {there, I said it} I still want to throw pink sprinkles on everything and get immediately pulled into the holiday themed end caps at Target. I want it all. I usually resist buying {another} sparkly coffee mug with hearts on it, but I can't stop myself from enjoying a little extra chocolate to celebrate the holiday. Growing up, my parents gave me a Valentine every year and it always included chocolate. This is a tradition that lives on - when I left for college and then moved to Illinois for law school, my mom never forgot to mail me a delicious box of treats and heart-shaped cookies. This year I received a box of individually wrapped mini Swiss chocolates that I plan to enjoy slowly, if I can keep myself out of the cupboard long enough.

Because I love chocolate so much, I'm always looking for a healthier way to eat it. Today's post includes 15 skinny chocolate recipes from a few of my favorite bloggers. You will find a variety of healthier dessert ideas on this list, some of which are vegan, gluten free, and/or dairy-free. Check out these wonderful food blogs by clicking on the chocolate recipe links below or the direct link to each site. 

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse
from Trial and Eater

Vegan Samoa Cookie Smoothie
from Chicago Jogger

Chocolate & Orange Glazed Bundt Cake
from sweet sensitive free

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Quinoa Hearts
from Make the Best of Everything

30 Minute Clean Eating Chocolate Bark
from The DIY Foodie

Superfood Vegan Chocolate Pudding
from Chicago Jogger

Fudgy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
from A Virtual Vegan

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins
from Apples for CJ

Avocado Chocolate Mousse Bowl with Roasted Cherries
from Kitchen Sanctuary

German Chocolate Cake Smoothie
from Make the Best of Everything

Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with Coconut and Blueberries
from savory tooth

Cranberry and Date Chocolate Truffles
from Nourish Everyday

Tahini Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
from Veggie Inspired

Chocolate Covered Nut Butter Cups
from Delicious Obsessions

Paleo Caramel Ice Cream Bon Bons
from Forest and Fauna

Looking for even MORE chocolate recipes? Check out a few of mine:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

8 Weeks to 8k

An 8 week running plan to prepare for an 8k road race, with the goal of running three days per week.

It's Groundhog Day! In case you haven't heard, Phil saw his shadow this morning. The rodent predicts six more weeks of winter.

I'm not going to complain because it has been quite a mild winter here so far, all things considered. Chicago got less than an inch of snow in January. I'm hopeful this continues, especially to start running again. I'm running the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k race on April 2. For me this race kicks off the "running season" in Chicago. I posted a running plan for this race in 2015 - 4 Weeks to Shamrock Shuffle. The 2016 Shamrock Shuffle race is the first {and last} race that I ran while expecting. I'm excited to get out there and race it again this year! 2017 will be my sixth Shamrock Shuffle race.

My 8 week running plan:

Week 1: Run 3; Run 2; Run 2.5

Week 2: Run 3; Run 3.5; Run 2.5

Week 3: Run 3; Run 3.5; Run 2.5

Week 4: Run 4 {long}; Run 3.5; Run 3

Week 5: Run 5 {long}; Run 3.5; Run 3

Week 6: Run 6 {long}; Run 4; Run 3

Week 7: Run 5 {long}; Run 3.5; Run 4

Week 8: Run 4; Run 3.5; 8k race!

I'm starting slow with low miles to ease back into running on a regular basis. I'm going to do my best to fit in 3 runs per week, recognizing that it may be difficult with Baby C at home.

Previous Shamrock Shuffle race posts: