Peppermint Chocolate Chip Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

I cannot believe we are 3 days from Christmas. I really can’t. This is my favorite time of year with all the family gatherings and yummy food.

Every year I’m running around last minute finishing things up.  And by last minute, I mean Christmas Eve day.  This year I’m all done early! I was able to enjoy this weekend not stressing about everything I have to do.  I’m hoping I am able to continue this tradition from now on.  But if you’re like the (usual) me and don’t have a lot of extra time for things like baking then this is the perfect recipe!

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!

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Makes 24 cookies

What you’ll need:

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 cup crushed candy cane (about 3 whole candy canes)

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream together shortening and sugar until smooth.

Add egg and mix until fully combined, then add vanilla.

Slowly add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Stir in mini chocolate chips and crushed candy cane.

Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into a ball and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes and baking sheet then transfer to cooling rack.

Apple Walnut and Cranberry Salad

Apple Walnut & Cranberry

Happy Monday all!  I am so excited to be the newest contributor for Playdates + Pearls.  Congrats to Samantha and her family on the newest addition! Baby Harper is finally here and I’m loving my Instagram feed full of her pictures!

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is almost here? I think I may still be in denial. I’m making my grandma’s pumpkin pie and haven’t made it to the grocery store yet for the things I need.  I know I am going to regret this when I head there tomorrow after work.  I am the queen of procrastination.  I am lucky enough to have the day before Thanksgiving off so I’m able to spend time in the kitchen for whatever dish I’m bringing.  Most people don’t and I remember when I didn’t how stressful it felt getting everything  prepared.  I don’t believe cooking needs to be stressful, especially during the holidays when it’s all about spending time with family and friends.  This salad is super easy to prepare and it tastes amazing!  The dressing is very light brings out the flavor of the salad. I love me some mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie but it’s also nice to have a “lighter” dish with dinner.  And bonus… add some leftover turkey to it for lunch the next day!

Salad

 I usually bake and cook with unsweetened dried cranberries but for this salad I prefer the sweetened ones.

Salad2

Serves 6

What you’ll need

6 cups chopper romaine lettuce

3 small apples, sliced

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup crushed walnuts

1/2 cup feta crumbles (or more if you’re a cheese whore like me)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. poppy seeds

What you’ll do

In a large bowl, toss first 5 ingredients together; set aside.

In small bowl mix together remaining ingredients.

Right before serving, pour dressing over salad and gently toss.

Thanks again Samantha for having me today! I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

 

I Caved…

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Mama needed her coffee, folks. Someone was going to get hurt today otherwise…so I caved and I did exactly what the Whole30 gods say not to do…I made the Paleo coffee creamer that turns boring, black, bitter coffee into a sweet, dreamy, cup of “oh hells yes!”

Go ahead. Judge me. I was judging myself while cooking up this coffee creamer concoction, but once it hit my lips there was no turning back. Some of us have more self control than others; I have none.

On the bright side, it’s still dairy free, sugar free, and isn’t laced with chemicals like the bottles of stuff I hoarded before.

I followed this recipe, with a few changes.

8 dates (pitted & chopped) – boil in 1/2 cup of water for 10 minutes.

1 can Organic Coconut Milk

Dash of Cinnamon

1 Egg

Combine in a blender or food processor until smooth. Store in a mason jar or other airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge.

If you’re like me you’ll be a little skeptical when you start handling the dates, which resemble boogery raisins, but I promise you it’s worth it!!

XO – Samantha

Jumping On The Whole30 Bandwagon

Hello, and happy Tuesday!

Guess what crazy idea my husband and I had last week? Oh, no big deal, just that we should jump on the Whole30 bandwagon and test our self control…in my last few weeks of pregnancy…when I should be doing nothing but binge eating chocolate. Why do I do this to myself?! Well, here’s why – my body is nearly 90. Yes, 90 years old, and trying to fall apart on me every single day. Bored yet? No? Ok, then let me continue my rant about my old ass in much greater detail…don’t get too excited…

When I was in my early teens I started having some very unusual lady issues. Bet you’re really excited about this post now, aren’t ya?! ;-) Unlike most people, I would go months without my cycle, which concerned my mom. We visited my gyno (sooooo many horror stories about me at the gyno/OB, we’ll have to save those gems for another day) and he decided to draw blood and test all my hormone levels. One came back very elevated, which resulted in an MRI of my brain, which resulted in the diagnosis that I have a very small (we’re talking pea sized) tumor in my pituitary gland. Are you hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice saying the word “tumor” in your head right now? Very few people know all this weird stuff about me, but almost every single one who does has made the Arnold “tumor” joke…welcome to the club.

Ok, so I’m a bit of a teenage freakshow, right? It’s actually not a big deal AT ALL, and requires nothing more than a daily pill to reduce that imbalanced hormone level. No tumor removal, or anything crazy like that. It just sits there, throwing levels out of whack, and is harmless. Easy peasy.

Fast forward a few more years to age 16. I start having swollen, painful joints, and find that daily activities are unusually challenging for me. Like brushing my teeth or hair are a very serious task, and take me 20 minutes. I go to my family physician, who pretty much blows me off, and suggests I have what most “dramatic teenagers” have – anxiety and depression. Um, nope, I was dramatic at that age for sure, but not depressed. So I kept going back…and back…and back. Finally I was referred to a rheumatologist for testing of my joints (why I wasn’t referred after appointment #1 is still a mystery to me). After a single appointment it was very clear that I had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which is quite rare, and really shitty. Basically it means my body is producing antibodies that attack my joints, causing pain, swelling, and over time permanent damage to my joints. Over the following 10+ years I’ve tried a little bit of everything to “treat” my auto-immune disease – pain killers, immune-suppressors, injections, etc. If it’s on the market, especially if it comes with a fancy commercial (humira ring any bells?) then I’ve tried it.

Since both of those completely random diseases weren’t enough, I was diagnosed with another autoimmune disease 2 years ago called Sjogrens. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one, other than it causes me to have dry eyes and dry mouth, but in the grand scheme of things it’s just annoying.

Now let me tell you something really awesome…

When I’m pregnant, everything stops. Literally, it just stops. It’s amazing. My joints slowly stop hurting, I get off of all medications, and I live a completely normal life. It’s magic. The downside? As soon as I deliver this sweet little babe, all my symptoms will start to return, namely my arthritis, and it comes back with a vengeance! Within a week of delivering Camryn I was miserable with pain from my joints. It can feel almost debilitating. For someone who’s never experienced it, I don’t know how to put it in words…imagine how sore you felt the day after a really, really, really intense workout – that’s almost relatable. The obvious answer is always “take medicine”, but I enjoy nursing my babies, and introducing such harsh drugs into their milk supply is just not an option for me, but changing my diet to reduce inflammation is!

Yes, this post has a point, I’m just taking the incredibly long and round about way of getting to it.

Here’s where Whole30 comes in – by cutting out dairy, sugar, and grains I can significantly reduce the amount of swelling in my joints. Some people have claimed to heal their bodies naturally through their diet! Now, you know how much I love me some desserts, coffee creamer with a side of coffee, and bread layered with cheese layered with more bread and cheese. Those are my love languages people, especially the last 9 months. But with my due date quickly approaching I decided that I needed to at least try to take control of my body and it’s craziness and do my part as a patient until my doctors can do their part when I finish nursing. So we started Whole30. If you live on Mars and have never heard of Whole30 or it’s very similar sister, Paleo, then you can read more about it here. I am using the next 30 days as a jumpstarter into a cleaner, healthier, more simplistic way of eating. Not a diet. Not at all a diet – I have no goals of losing any weight, and am eating tons and tons of food (without the snack restrictions that typical Whole30 followers adhere to). I am simply eating foods that fall within the Whole30 shopping list.

My meals for today:

Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs, organic ham, blackberries, and black coffee. The coffee was the only thing that sucked, but I’ll get over it.

Snack: Plum & a handful of pistachios

lunch

Lunch: Giant sized chicken salad (my eyes are bigger than my stomach!) with tomatoes, olives, avocado, and mixed greens (kale, spinach, chard). I also shared a small side of sweet potato with the hubs – I could live off sweet potatoes, they are my jam!!

dinner

I forgot to snap a pic at first, so excuse the half eaten steak. My husband makes the best steaks ever!!!

Dinner: A steak the size of my head (again, my portion control could use a little work…I’ll address that after little lady arrives and I actually care) steamed broccoli with garlic, little peppers (I could eat these all day!!), and the hubs and I shared a slice of watermelon and a side of sweet potatoes.

As you can imagine, based off my serving sizes, I never once felt hungry. I think whenever you start a new “diet” (again, I am not trying to lose weight, I just want to be really clear before anyone jumps down my throat and accuses me of malnutrition while preggo) you automatically think of nothing but eating, as if you’re going to be deprived, so instead you binge. Kinda like when you think about the gym, or exercising, you automatically think how much you want to eat a big slice of chocolate cake…wait, is that just me?!

So there you have it, day 1 of my whole30 journey. Pretty easy and delicious, and honestly I’m looking forward to the next 29 days. Are any of you Whole30 peeps? Have any good recipes for me? One of my BFF’s, Jenn (she has the cutest little family, you should definitely check her out), introduced me to whole30 and has shared some yummy recipes on Pinterest which I’ve added to my Food board if you want to check those out! Thanks Jenn!! :-) Oh, and if you want to follow her on Pinterest (she’s a better pinner than I am, to be honest…she also has great taste in pretty much everything else too) than you can find her here.

Phew! Longest post ever! I’ll keep sharing my food journey with you, and let you know how my body responds to less pizza and take-out, and more apples and kale. I’ll definitely share any of my favorite recipes with y’all too – share any you have with me too!!

XO – Samantha

Hillshire Snacks

As a wife and mom I often find myself so busy with the day-to-day needs of running my household, caring for my daughter, and putting healthy meal options on the table for her and my husband that I neglect to care for myself in the same high standard that I care for them. In a rush to get out the door in the morning, I’m lucky if I grab more than a handful of dry cereal. Lunch looks a lot like leftover cold pizza (or nothing!), and my snacking options are usually similar to what my toddlers eating…we’ve all fallen victim to those little orange fish crackers, haven’t we?! I’ve spent hours online researching the best organic squeeze pouches, and pinned hundreds of “quick and healthy snacks” to make for my daughter, but MY snacks always seem to either pack a punch of sugars in exchange for protein, or they lack protein all together and leave me hungry and grabbing for another gut busting bag of goodies.

Why is meat, which is typically synonymous with protein, missing from the snack aisle? Why are all the most common protein snacks resembling something more like a candy bar? Why are snacks always dehydrated, a carb, and never found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket?Thanks to Hillshire, that’s no longer the case.

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I’m so excited to be sharing this new, unique snack that I was recently introduced to. Hillshire has created snacking options that are both convenient, affordable, and delicious! Both of the snacks I tried offered more than 15g of protein and were less than $2.79. I grabbed both of these at my local Super Target, and chose between 8 available varieties, all offering at least 15g of protein per serving. They are all perfectly portioned, and great for at-home or on-the-go.

hillshire packaging

The peppered salami “small plate” was the standout for me, and if it came in a “large plate” size I’d be calling it dinner 3 out of every 7 nights. Y’all, it was so good. The crackers were thick cut, and the salami was perfectly peppered and offered a nice heat. My husband and I opened both snacks and taste tested together, and literally found ourselves trying to speed eat before the other person hogged it all. :-)

hillshire snack

hillshire meat & cheese

chicken

The chicken snack felt like much more of a snack to me. The portion size felt significantly smaller and is something I would grab if I wasn’t feeling overly hungry but needed a quick boost of energy to keep me going for the day. I would however pack this along with some bib lettuce, shredded carrots, and other veggies and make lettuce wraps for a healthy and easy lunch option. The mango habanero sauce was mmmhmmmm, and took me completely by surprise. It’s slightly sweet, leaves a good heat on the back of your tongue, and left me wanting to dip anything else I could find in it. My 3 year old would eat these every single day, and you moms know that’s really saying something!

chicken & dip

These snacks don’t make me feel guilty, break the bank, or require any of my precious time in prep or clean up, and the “cherry on top” is how delicious they are and how much protein they offer. They’ve become a staple in my home, and I absolutely give them my stamp of approval and recommend you give them a whirl if you’ve been searching for a better snack too!

Hillshire is hosting a huge giveaway and all you have to do to enter is tweet them @hillshiresnacks using hashtag #UNIQUEWAY and share something you do like no one else. There’s over 70 weekly prizes, some of which are vouchers for these snacks!

XO – Samantha

*As always, my opinions are my own, and I would honestly tell you if these snacks tasted horrible – they don’t, they’re the bomb – but I’m required to disclose a relationship between myself and Hillshire. This could include Hillshire providing me w/content, product, access or other forms of payment. *

Happy Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month!

This might be my favorite holiday, like ever. It’s grilled cheese sandwich month (mouth is already watering) and I’ve rounded up a few of the most delicious looking grilled cheese recipes for you.

Persimmon Prosciutto and Brie Grilled Cheese

Caprese Grilled Cheese

Philly Grilled Cheesesteak

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese

Bacon & Beer Battered Grilled Cheese

Lobster Grilled Cheese

Italian Grilled Cheese

If grilled cheese isn’t your jam, then you could also just add this delicious bread to one of your family meals!

If you have any other yummy grilled cheese sandwich recipes please leave the link below.

Hope you all have a great day!

XO – Samantha

No Bake Protein Bites

proteinbites

Hello, and happy Tuesday! I have a quick and easy, no bake, chocolate peanut butter protein bite recipe for you today. Let me just start by warning you…If you lack self control, don’t make these. They taste AH-MAZING, and you’re going to be tempted to eat them all. My husband and daughter are obsessed. You’ve been warned.

These delectable little balls (in the famous words of Michael Scott “That’s what she said!” ;-)  ) pack a mean punch. They are loaded with chunky peanut butter, protein powder, honey, chocolate chips, and either raw oats or rice krispies. They taste like cookie dough, but provide a healthy dose of good-for-you-fats and protein. If you use local honey it’s also good for fighting allergies – Bonus! I have a major sweet tooth, and these babies do the trick every time. Since they’re packed full of protein they fill me up and keep me from rummaging through the fridge an hour later.

protein bites ingredientsIngredients:

1/2 Cup Chunky Peanut Butter (or nut butter of your choice)

1/3 Cup Honey

1 Cup Raw Oats or 1 Cup Rice Krispies (I made both, and the rice krispies are bomb-dot-com!)

1/3 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips

1/2 Cup Vanilla Protein Powder

Optional: Coconut (tastes best with the raw oats)

mix ingredients

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients until well mixed. Use your hands to form 1″ balls. Place in tupperware and cool in the fridge for 30+ minutes, and then enjoy!

If any of you make these tweet me or Instagram me a picture!

XO – Samantha

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Pancakes

I posted a picture on Instagram a few days ago of Camryn holding a giant plate full of pancakes, and I had a few requests to share my recipe. It’s so easy, and takes hardly an extra minute to make in comparison to plain old pancakes…I actually feel guilty calling it “my recipe”, because it’s that easy.

pancake

What you’ll need:

Pancake Mix – I use Bisquick Heart Healthy Pancake mix

1 egg

1 1/4 Cup Milk (follow your pancake mix directions…mine calls for milk and an egg)

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

1-2 bananas (depending on size. Sometimes I get bananas on steroids) The more ripe, the better.

Cinnamon

Vanilla Extract

Preparation:

Make pancake mix as directed on box. Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. cinnamon, chocolate chips, and sliced bananas to mix. Cook on griddle as usual. I top mine with butter, and sometime melted chunky peanut butter. Enjoy!

cookingpancakes

pancakesI’ll update with my Lust List later this afternoon, so check back for that. I’ll post the link on Facebook for any of you that follow.

XO – Samantha

Mounds Brownies

If you follow my beautiful friend Rene over on My Simple Kitchen, then you may have already seen these ridiculously delicious looking brownies. For those of you who don’t follow her, YOU SHOULD!! She makes really, really good food, and her recipes are easy to follow and have become some of mine and my husband’s favorites. I highly recommend the Sriracha Salmon, and the Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches.

OK, now that I’ve made you all hungry from talking about my favorite foods….

I pinned an image on pinterest last week of “Mound Brownies” but when I clicked the image it wasn’t attached to any recipe or blog, or anything. Naturally, I commented on the image and begged Rene to create a recipe for me. Ahhh the perks of having super talented friends! :-)

Rene knows I’m not the most “chefy” person, and easy is always better for me, so she was kind enough to make this recipe idiot-proof. If you’d like to make these drool-worthy, Mound Brownies, grab the recipe here.

If you want to see more of the things I think are “pin worthy”, follow me on Pinterest. You can also follow My Simple Kitchen here. Rene and I share a food board, and its full of yummy recipes like this one, so make sure you check it out if you’re looking for new meal ideas.

Hope you all have a great Tuesday, and if you make these brownies, post a pic and give Rene a shoutout – @mysimplekitchen

XO – Samantha

Green Juice

Hello Darlings!

It’s Monday. Whomp. Whomp. Oh, also, my husband’s asked that I stop being such a fatty because my “bad eating habits” (since when did tacos, chickfila, and ice cream become bad eats?) are wearing off on him. Basically what he’s saying is that I’m now responsible for making both myself fat, and making him fat. No finger pointing in my house, clearly.

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One of the ways my husband and I like to stay healthy is by juicing daily, but at some point between Thanksgiving and Christmas we fell off the wagon, so we’re going to try and jump back on.

Our green juice typically contains:

1 organic cucumber (if not organic, wash and peel before juicing)

2 large handfuls of spinach

1/2 head of kale

1-2 Apples or Pears (Pears are sweeter)

Romaine if I have any on hand.

1″ piece of ginger

lemon if on hand.

Pretty simple, no fuss ingredients. This recipe makes enough for 2 large drinks, and it only takes about 2 minutes to juice everything, and then cleaning the juicer (Breville Juice Fountain)  takes about 5 minutes. I really enjoy the taste of this specific juice (I hate beet juice, and I’m not a fan of celery, in case you were wondering), and it’s so good for my body, so I’m going to try and be diligent about making them.

I posted about my green smoothies recently, so I just want to talk about the differences between juices and smoothies. When you juice your fruits and veggies, you’re removing the fiber from them. Fiber is great for you, but by removing it you’re making digestion easier, which allows the nutrients to pass quickly into your bloodstream and boost your immune system. Both juices and smoothies are great for you, but juices pack a bigger punch!

Do any of you juice, or have you thought about starting? Kris Carr is a huge inspiration to me, and her book Crazy, Sexy, Diet talks a LOT about the benefits of juicing, and she also provides great juice recipes.  I would also go check out Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, a documentary about juicing. It will blow your mind.

XO – Samantha

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