Sunday, April 20, 2014

Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Yay Passover! I just love not being about to eat bread for a week...

Okay, I am very excited to eat bread again! In fact, every year, I take a break from Passover to enjoy Easter! My mom's side of the family has an Easter party every year and it is a lot of fun.  I love doing the colored eggs and sharing a big family meal.  She even brings a Lamb Cake! It's really cute and then we fight over who gets the butt (typical).  So, today I am off to my cousin's to celebrate Easter and I am very excited to enjoy the food and take a little vacation from Passover.

If you didn't see yesterday, I fell while running, and today I am still feeling very sore and beaten up.  My knee has developed a small bump this morning and I am not sure if I am going to make it through my Sunday morning Jillian Michaels work-out.  Wish me luck because I am going to try!

After my work out, I have homework to do for an online class that I am taking and then I am going to attempt to cook a few meals so that we are all ready for the week.  This is all before we drive to my cousins (about an hour away) for Easter.  So, I am up bright and early to share this with you all and then get to work!

Keeping with the Passover theme, today I am telling you about some amazing Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffins.  They are crazy simply and crazy yummy.  I have made these multiple times and I even brought them in to school to share with my fellow teachers.  Everyone loved them!

Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
(adapted from Averie Cooks)

1 medium ripe banana
1 egg
1/2 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
3 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini or regular)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place everything except the chocolate chips into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Spoon into a greased mini-muffin pan until about 3/4 full, or regular muffin pan.  Bake for 7-8 minutes if a regular muffin pan and 8-10 minutes for a mini muffin pan.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Crock Pot Chicken Marsala

This morning I went for a run.  It started off great. I had planned out 9.5 miles and it was a beautiful morning.  Around mile 6, I totally wiped out because I tripped on the uneven pavement.  I proceeded to limp/run my way home and cut my run short by about 1 mile.  Now, I am sitting here with bandaids all over my knees, elbow, and palms and all I can think about is: "Only 17 more miles!"

I just signed up for the Chicago Marathon and I am very nervous and excited about it.  Right now, I'm in a little bit of pain due to my tripping injuries, but once I am better I am going to start training! I can't wait!

Today I am sharing with you one of my family's favorite chicken recipes.  In honor of Passover where we don't eat bread, this is a great dish! It is really yummy and the chicken comes out great in the crock pot!

Crock Pot Chicken Marsala

  • 2  cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1  tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 8  boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon pepper
  • 2  jars (6 oz each) Green Giant® sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1  cup sweet Marsala wine or Progresso® chicken broth (from 32-oz carton)
  • 1/2  cup water
  • 1/4  cup cornstarch

  1. 1Spray 4- to 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In cooker, place garlic and oil. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; place in cooker over garlic. Place mushrooms over chicken; pour wine over all.
  2. 2Cover; cook on Low heat setting 5 to 6 hours.
  3. 3Remove chicken from cooker; place on plate and cover to keep warm. In small bowl, mix water and cornstarch until smooth; stir into liquid in cooker. Increase heat setting to High; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.
  4. 4Return chicken to cooker. Cover; cook on High heat setting 5 minutes longer or until chicken is hot.
  5. 5To serve, spoon mushroom mixture over chicken breasts; sprinkle with parsley.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Guest Blogger! How Nutrition Affects ADHD

Today I have another post from a guest blogger for you all.  This is a really interesting article about how food and ADHD work together.  If you have a child or a friend with ADHD definitely share this with them! Enjoy!

How Nutrition Affects ADHD

It seems there’s always something or someone talking about Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and what kids who suffer from it should or shouldn’t eat. This isn’t new. As a matter of fact, the link between nutrition and ADHD is something that researchers have been looking into for years and years now. Unfortunately, even after all of this time and research, the jury is still out on whether or not nutrition is the best way to treat ADHD.  Whether or not it’s the best way might not matter as much as whether or not it can help a parent whose child has ADHD though, even if just a little.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a chronic condition that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), affects a reported 6.4 million U.S. children. The condition, that starts in childhood and persists into adult ADHD, is made up of a series of issues such as hyperactivity, problems keeping attention, and impulsive behavior. As you can imagine, this can have a negative impact on a child’s performance in school that may continue on to affect their work life when they get older. It can also interfere with relationships and wreak havoc on one’s self-esteem. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for ADHD—only ways to manage it.

The Nutrition Connection

As mentioned, there’s been much debate over the nutrition-ADHD connection, with studies having been done on everything from diets and certain foods for the treatment of ADHD to the link between food additives like dyes to the condition. The results have been mixed and though more research needs to be done in order to come up with anything conclusive; parents have been managing their children’s ADHD with special diets and nutritional changes for decades. One of the most popular and oldest diets used to treat ADHD is the Feingold Diet.
Since there is as much controversy surrounding drug treatments for ADHD, like Ritalin, as there is with diet, it really comes down to the parents and child working with their doctor to come up with a treatment that they’re comfortable with. Since most of us don’t like to give our children drugs unless we have to, a lot of parents are opting to try nutritional changes to treat ADHD.
The Feingold Diet program, which has been around since 1976, is based on eliminating certain additives and chemicals from the child’s diet to see if they are triggering certain behaviours. This diet in particular tells you to eliminate foods containing: dyes (Red 3, Red 4, Blue 1 and 2, Yellow 5 and 6, and others. It also recommends removing foods containing artificial flavors and sweeteners, BHA, BHT, and TBHQ which are preservatives, and a chemical called salicylate.
Some parents opt instead to keep track of their child’s diet and behaviors rather than following an elimination diet and seeing instead if they can come up with a connection or list of possible triggers and then changing the diet accordingly. Others simply try their best to have their child eat healthier foods while restricting their intake of caffeine and sugar—though limiting sugar doesn’t seem to help much, according to the Mayo Clinic Website. Then there’s been some evidence that you can treat ADHD with caffeine. Again though, the evidence isn’t yet sufficient enough to make this a conventional treatment and many doctors still maintain that increasing a child’s caffeine intake is dangerous.
So what can a parent do? What all parents want to do and that is to encourage the healthiest lifestyle possibly, be patient, and learn as much as they can about ADHD and their treatment options. Not all children are the same, so the nutritional changes that work for some may not necessarily work for others. You can learn more about ADHD and the latest research, as well as get information about the Feingold diet and other ADHD diets at Healthline.

Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she's not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.


·       Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on February 18, 2014, from
·       Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). (2013). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on February 18, 2014, from
·       A Parent’s Guide to Diet and ADHD. Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved on February 18, 2014, from
·       What is the Feingold Diet. (2013). The Feingold® Association of the United States. Retrieved on February 18, 2014, from

Monday, April 7, 2014

Guest Blogger! How Good Food Makes Us Healthy and Happy

Today I have a special treat from a guest blogger! I think it is great how this is a place where we can share others ideas as well as our own.  Enjoy! 

How Good Food Makes Us Healthy and Happy

By Leslie Vandever

What is good food?
Quick answers: It’s food that nourishes. Food that doesn’t make you fat. It’s food that tastes good and feels good in your mouth and in your belly. It’s food that generates smiles.

Hippocrates, that famous old physician/philosopher once said, way back in 430 BC, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Even all those centuries ago, people knew that eating good food had a beneficial effect on their health.

But not just physical health. Good food effects mental health, too. Protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are essential parts of a good diet. The lack of any of them can have profound physical consequences, including the way the brain functions. But what, exactly, is good food?  

Michael Pollan, the author of In Defense of Food, wrote that we should, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Sounds like “good food” to Mr. Pollan, from all his research and experience, is mostly vegetarian, eaten sparingly. The result of that particular diet would result in, for most of us, a slender body and a sharp mind.

Good food makes us happy by helping us feel nourished, full of energy, and light on our feet. It has to taste good, too, or we won’t want to eat it. But we’ve got to be careful. A drive-through hamburger and french fries taste good, but they’re also clogged with ingredients that cause plaque in our arteries and makes our blood sugar spike. That burger and fries also contain two-thirds of a full day’s calories for most people.

That doesn’t mean we should never eat fast food. We just need to make it the exception rather than the rule.

To be healthy and happy, we should eat a tasty diet of vegetables and fruit, whole grain breads, pasta and cereals, low-fat dairy foods, and lean meat, fish and eggs., the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition webpage, suggests that when we fill our dinner plate, half of it should be full of vegetables and fruit. A quarter should be filled with grains (half of them whole grains), and the last quarter of the plate should be proteins in the form of lean meat, fish, nuts, beans or legumes. Low-fat dairy foods—1 percent milk, low-fat cheeses and yogurt—can be a portion of the meal. Good fats, like canola oil and olive oil, are OK in small amounts.

 Another way to eat healthy is to eat, as much as possible, fresh foods rather than processed and packaged foods. Grocery shopping becomes really easy when you eat fresh: you shop mostly the perimeters of the store, making only a brief forays toward the middle for low-fat dairy foods, nuts and beans.

Cooking fresh is simplified, too. Most vegetables taste best raw or very lightly steamed, but for a treat, roasting them with a light brushing of olive oil is a delicious way to go. Meats and fish should be baked or grilled rather than fried, and whole grain breads and pastas are filling and satisfying. Desert can be as simple as low-fat yogurt topped with blueberries or as complex as an apple pie with a whole grain crust and a blob of homemade whipped cream.

By sticking to fresh foods, simply seasoned and prepared with a minimum of fat, meals can be naturally low in calories but rich in all the good things that make us healthy. Choosing a wide variety of foods makes a “good” diet worth eating.

Some foods can make us feel better than others. Sugary foods and foods that are made with a lot of fat and refined flour, like cakes and cookies, and high-carbohydrate and salty foods like potato chips might taste good, but in large quantities or as a routine snack, they’re a health—and happiness—no-no.

“One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well,” wrote Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own. How right she was.

For more information about eating a healthy diet, click here.

Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer. Under the pen-name “Wren,” she also writes a blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis called RheumaBlog ( In her spare time, Vandever enjoys cooking, reading and working on the Great American Novel.

· (n.d) U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on February 22, 2014 from
·      Nutrition for Everyone. (2012, Sept. 27) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on February 23, 2014 from

·      10 Tips Nutrition Education Series. (2011, June) U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on February 22, 2014 from

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Shells

I have been on quite the Spinach and Artichoke kick.  This has always been one of my favorite combinations and it goes so well with so many different kinds of dishes!  For example, I am writing this while I wait for my Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa Casserole to come out of the oven.   Today's recipe is for a pasta dish that incorporates spinach and artichoke.

I have to admit, I'm a little bummed out today.  Wisconsin basketball is finally over for the season.  I was so proud of the team for making it to the final four and putting up such a great fight against Kentucky.  I was sad when they lost, but it was an amazing game and now I guess I can focus my energy on those Blackhawks!

In other news, I just started a Zumba class! I used to go to Zumba all the time in college and I have been missing it since graduation.  I just joined a local LA Fitness and they offer Zumba classes almost every day! It is such a fun way to work out and I am super excited to keep this up.
Finally, in school news, I officially have a job again next year!  I will be returning to the same school as a second-year teacher and I cannot wait! I can't believe this year is almost over (8 more weeks!).  Time has flown by and it has been such an amazing learning experience.  I spend so much time thinking about how I can better myself as a teacher for my students and I know this means that I am truly passionate and have found the right place.  For the summer, I will be working as a camp director for the local park district again and I am excited to break up my high school time with some cute camp experiences.  I feel like I've really found my niche and its great!

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Shells
(adapted from Tracy's Culinary Adventures)

your favorite pasta sauce (store bought or homemade)
20 jumbo shells
1 cup shredded light mozzarella cheese
1 cup crumbled light feta cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ritcotta cheese
dash of salt and pepper
9 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Preheat oven to 375 and spread sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan.
2. Cook shells for 1 minute less than the directions on the box. Drain and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix 1/2 of the mozzarella, feta, ricotta, salt, pepper, spinach, artichoke hearts, and garlic.
4.  Stuff each shell with the filling and place in the sauce covered pan.  Pour sauce over the tops of your stuffed shells and then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella over the top.  Bake for 25 minutes.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Stacy's Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Last year, my cooperating teacher gave me a recipe for Banana Bread.  It was the best banana bread I had ever had! I just had to share her recipe here since it didn't seem fair that I was one of the only people who knew such great banana bread existed! I tweaked the recipe a tad the last time I made it to use half whole wheat half all-purpose flour, but you can use all all-purpose if you want.  Here it is!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat and half all-purpose)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
5-7 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup canola oil (I used 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup greek yogurt)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Whisk to combine.
3. In a large bowl, beat bananas until well mashed.  Beat in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and oil.  Beat until well combined.  Slowly beat in the flour mixture until just combined and then stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Bake for 55 minutes or until and inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

Enjoy :)