4 Things I Say (and Write) too Much

1. 
2.
3. 
4.
I promise I’m trying to stop with the overuse of these words. The first step is acknowledging the problem. Check. Next I will be making a conscious effort to replace these words as much as possible in future posts. 
That’s all I’ve got for today. Happy Friday!
What words or phrases do you overuse? Oh, and please let me know if I’m forgetting something on my list!
Advertisements

Cookie Butter Snickerdoodle Bars

Hi.
Are you ready for this? You’re Wednesday is about to get all kinds of delicious.
Speculoos, as in Speculoos Cookie Butter from Trader Joe’s, takes these Thick and Chewy Snickerdoodle Bars to another level. Those old bars are one of my most popular recipes on the site, and I can’t even take credit for the recipe. But these. These Cookie Butter Snickerdoodle Bars are a game-changer.
The texture is almost scone-like. Moist and soft, yet just a tad bit dry and crumbly, in a good way. If you know me, (I’m talking to you Hannah, and Brooke…and GG!) you know how much I love a good scone. Especially when there’s cinnamon involved. In fact, cinnamon might be my favorite spice. On a daily basis, you can find me either stirring it into oatmeal and ice cream/frozen yogurt, shaking it on top of baked sweet potatoes, and of course mixing it into manymany baked goods

So it’s no surprise I like snickerdoodles, where cinnamon sugar takes center stage. I’m not sure what exactly qualifies a snickerdoodle as such. Whether or not replacing some of the regular dairy butter with cookie butter takes away from their “snickerdoodleness,” I’m not sure, but I doubt it. I’m standing by the name. You’ll still find brown sugar and butter in the dough, and you’ll still sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar. Cookie butter contains cinnamon as well, so you get an added punch by its incorporation.

Some other notable ways I changed the original recipe: I cut back on the brown sugar and I replaced some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. This is me trying to be better to my body.

As easy as it is to eat the cookie butter straight from the jar, think about these next time you have a jar (which hopefully is right now). It doesn’t take too much, only half a cup, to turn already amazing cookie bars into even more amazing cookie bars.

**P.S. It’s not too late to enter the GIVEAWAY for a $250 Food Lion gift card!!**



Cookie Butter Snickerdoodle Bars
(Adapted from these Thick and Chewy Snickerdoodle Bars)

Makes 16 bars

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Speculoos Cookie Butter
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. Whisk well and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine butter, cookie butter and brown sugar. Use a hand mixer to cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. Continue to blend on medium speed until everything is well-incorporated.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing between additions. Use hand mixer to blend until all ingredients are just incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go along.
5. Add batter to the 9×9 pan. Use your fingers to press down to fill the entire pan.
6. In a small bowl, combine white sugar and cinnamon. Stir together. Sprinkle evenly across the top of the batter in the pan.
7. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. It is better to undercook then overcook! These will set up a bit after rooming from the oven, so you want to pull them out when then are just barely done.
8. Let cool 5-10 minutes before slicing into square and serve.

For best taste, bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days.

{Award-Winning} Spicy Chicken Fiesta & A $250 Gift Card GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to a new week! A weekend with almost no set plans sure can be refreshing and I’m ready to rock this week. 
Like I told you on Friday, I participated in Food Lion’s Frugal Cook-Off and was the co-winner of the competition. My partner Valerie and I created a spicy Mexican meal consisting of seasoned and lightly sauteed chicken breasts with a yogurt sauce, simple rice and red beans, and a vegetable saute of corn, onion and bell pepper. 
Without further ado, here are the recipes for our meal…(hint: you have to scroll all the way to the bottom for the giveaway!)
{Award-Winning} Spicy Chicken Fiesta

Created exclusively for Food Lion’s Frugal Cook-Off Charleston 2014

Makes 4 large servings
Cost of meal: (not including chicken and spices) $12.98

For the Spicy Chicken Breasts
Ingredients:
1 pound chicken breast
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons pepper
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, additional lemon slices for serving if desired
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped scallions 

Directions:
Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat on stovetop over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, add seasonings to a small or medium bowl and stir to combine. One at a time lay chicken breasts in the bowl to coat evenly with the seasonings. Flip to coat both sides. When oil in skillet is hot, add all chicken breasts in the skillet in an even layer. Cook about 6-8 minutes on medium heat. Turn over and continue cooking another 6-8 minutes or until cooked through. Lightly squeeze half of the lemon over top of the chicken breasts. 

Remove chicken from heat and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle each piece of chicken with about 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Place in oven heated to 300 degrees for 2-4 minutes or until cheese just starts to melt. Remove from oven and serve overtop of rice and beans, along with spicy Greek yogurt (recipes below). Garnish each piece of chicken with about 2 tablespoons of the chopped scallions. 

For the Rice and Beans
Ingredients:
3 cups dry white rice
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

Directions:
Prepare rice on stovetop according to package directions. When almost finished cooking, add kidney beans and seasonings to the pan. Stir well. Cook on low for another 5-6 minutes, until heated through. Remove from heat and serve. 


For the Vegetable Sauté
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 10-ounce bag frozen corn kernels 
1 medium yellow onion, sliced and roughly chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:
Add olive oil to a large skillet and place on stovetop over medium heat. Once hot, add all ingredients and stir to combine. Stir occasionally while letting cook for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables become tender and start turning brown. Remove from heat and serve. 

For the Spicy Greek Yogurt Sauce
Ingredients:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well to combine. Serve alongside or on top of Spicy Chicken Breasts. 
*Optional: serve the meal with chopped romaine and a lemon wedge for garnish


GIVEAWAY 


Food Lion was so generous and awarded me with two $250 gift cards! One for me and one for YOU! I very much wanted to put this to the best use. I was thinking for a long time how I could give this gift card to someone who truly needed it. However, I wanted to do something nice for you as well. I ultimately came up with a compromise and decided to do a regular giveaway for you, then pay if forward with the other card. After going through the check-out line with groceries for Greg and I, I handed the card to the person in line behind us so she could use the balance for herself. 

Whoever wins, I hope you will consider doing the same, or using the card in a way that will impact others. However, it is completely up to you how you use it.

Enter the giveaway by doing the actions below: 

**Giveaway ends Sunday, March 2nd at 12:00am**Winner will be announced Monday, March 3rd**

Sunday Blessings – Being Difficult to Offend

I can’t stop preaching this saying to myself.
There are various versions of this phrase that express the same idea, but this is the one that sticks with me most. My brother Austin told me about  an episode he had watched of Joyce Meyer, a Christian author and speaker. In that episode, she mentioned being “difficult to offend” and Austin told me how this is a common theme of hers. Although that conversation was several months ago, it wasn’t until earlier this week that I really, truly took it to heart and have been repeating it over and over again. This whole phrase, “Be quick to forgive, difficult to offend and joyfully patient on promotion from God,” I believe comes from one of Joyce Meyer’s books. But don’t hold me to that :/
It’s amazing how transformed I feel already just having that thought in my head all day long. 
Being difficult to offend, or “slow to anger” as you may also hear it, means not letting other people bring you down. 
It means not judging others or worrying about things that don’t effect your life. 
It means letting God’s powerful light shine through you no matter what your situation may be.

Food Lion Frugal Cook-Off Charleston

This week I was given the honor of participating in Food Lion’s Frugal Cook-Off here in Charleston. Myself along with seven other local bloggers gathered at Charleston Cooks! downtown to cook a meal for four with a randomly assigned partner, using a randomly assigned meat, and only $15 (fake) dollars to shop for our ingredients. We had 45 minutes to cook, but who’s counting. Ha!

First let me tell you how lucky I was to be paired with the ever-so talented Valerie, blogger at LiveFit Journey. Although I had never read her blog before, I looked it up first thing upon getting home that night and was instantly even more inspired than when I was cooking in the kitchen with her. Not only is she extremely fit, she shares her workouts and clean eating tips on her blog, and she has started her own non-profit to fight childhood obesity called Generation Healthy Kids. So amazing! When Valerie said she is originally from Ohio just like me, I knew it was fate.

The other bloggers and I spent the first part of the evening mingling and getting to know each other. It’s always so nice to connect in person with people you normally only get to “see” online. The networking alone could have lasted the whole night. But there was cooking to do!

Each team stepped up to the front of the kitchen one at a time to select their meat. The plates were covered, so we didn’t know what we were choosing. Valerie and I were the last to choose and somehow, by the grace of God, revealed a plate of chicken breasts. The other options were tilapia, pork, and ground turkey. I feel most comfortable cooking with chicken by far, so to say I was relieved is an understatement.

The “pantry” was stocked with produce and Food Lion products including the “My Essentials” brand, one of the many private labels Food Lion carries. I have hardly ever shopped at Food Lion, so I was impressed with the quality of produce and store brand products they offer.

Valerie and I quickly decided on a Mexican theme dish. Tacos wouldn’t work because we didn’t have tortillas available. Instead, we lightly sautéed the chicken breasts after seasoning with a variety of spices and served it over rice and beans. For another side dish, we made a veggie saute with corn, bell pepper and onion. Valerie had the idea to create a healthier “sour cream” with spices stirred into Greek yogurt. #loveitsomuch

After the fastest 45 minutes of my life, we managed to plate a complete, colorful, balanced meal to present to the judges. I seriously felt like I was on Chopped, adding the food and garnishes to the plates while the last few seconds ticked away on the clock.

Everyone’s dishes looked very tasty, especially considering I had worked up a giant appetite from the fast-paced competition. The other meals were Greek Turkey Meatballs, Herb Crusted Pork Chops, and Crispy Greek Tilapia. (I will link up to the recipes when their available.)

The three judges rated each dish on presentation, taste, and most bang-for-your-buck. Then the winners were announced…

Hey, that’s me!

Yup, Valerie and I won!!!!! I may or may not have been on a winner’s high for the next hour…or two. My inner-competitiveness, which doesn’t come out too often, was thrilled and honored to be a part of this competition in the first place. To be part of the winning pair was a great feeling. As much fun as the cooking competition was, the other bloggers and the Food Lion team are really what made the night so wonderful.

Next week I will share the winning recipes with you, along with more pictures and a unique giveaway opportunity.

In the meantime click here to view the teaser video to see us in action. Don’t laugh 🙂

Finally, please take some time to check out these blogs by my fellow competitors! They are all Charlestonians and blog about everything from food and family to crafts and fitness.

Fried Green Pickles by Megan

Charleston Treasures by Lisa

LiveFit Journey by Valerie

Local Goodness by Jessica

Queen of the Food Age by Sydney

The Perks by Katie

Recent Somethings by Shelby

Thank you to Food Lion for the opportunity to be a part of this night, and for all of the goodies including Food Lion gift cards and a grocery bag full of cooking essentials and treats!

#FrugalCookOff


Chicken Fajita Chowder

For someone like myself who lives and breathes by lists and schedules, the past week or two have felt very scattered. I can’t seem to get in a solid routine, but somehow I’m managing just fine. Turns out maybe an unorganized life is good for the soul every now and then.

My blog posting has been off for a couple of days and I’m quickly trying to play catch-up. I feel like I say that all the time, but…real life beats internet life when it’s all said and done. Hashtag sorry I’m not sorry.

My mom and step-dad were in town this past weekend, and I had the day off of work Monday for Presidents’ Day. My days are still thrown off from the long weekend, and with a few after-work events this week, it’s not about to slow down.

One of these events is a cook-off hosted by Food Lion tonight. This experience will be completely new to me and I’m fairly anxious about the whole idea of it. I’m trying not to think or worry too much right now and go with the flow of things when I arrive. I’ll be posting more about that after the competition though. Pray for my cooking skills and knowledge to shine as much as possible!

A lot of the ingredients and rules of the competition are still unknown, but if I get a chance to make this fajita chowder, you can bet I will. I would put money on this any day. 
Between the nutty brown rice, tender vegetables, chunks of chicken and crusty bread for scooping, a bowl of this will leave you, well, wanting another bowl. 
Fun fact – This was the first time I have cooked with chicken since I transitioned to a heavily plant-based diet almost two years ago. In case you’re wondering, I do still eat meat occasionally, but mostly only while eating out if the vegetarian options on a menu don’t appeal to me. I can’t handle meat in as large of portions as normally served though. It just doesn’t sit well with my stomach. A few chunks of chicken throughout these bowls was just enough. 

Chicken Fajita Chowder
(Adapted from Taste of Home, February-March 2011)

Makes about 6 servings

Ingredients:
1/2 pound chicken
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 medium yellow onion
1 jalapeno
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup brown rice
2 cups corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
A few strong shakes of Tabasco
1 cup enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Directions:
1. Add olive oil to a large, deep skillet on a stovetop over medium-low heat.
2. Once hot, add chicken, bell peppers, onion and jalapeno. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Add vegetable broth, dry rice, corn, seasonings, hot sauce and enchilada sauce. Bring to a simmer, turn heat to low, cover and cook for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add about half of the shredded cheese and gently stir to incorporate. Spoon into serving bowls and top with additional shredded cheese as desired.

5 Reasons Why I Love Valentine’s Day…And You Should Too!

All week, I have been hearing various people – in person, on the radio, social media, etc. – rant about how Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday by Hallmark just trying to make money. I have heard people say how you should show love every day and you shouldn’t need flowers or chocolate to tell your loved ones how you feel.
Sure, that’s all true. I can’t argue against celebrating love every day of the year. I can’t argue that businesses aren’t trying to make a little extra money off of pink and red heart shaped candy. (On the same note, what about all of the anti-Valentine’s Day parties and retail items? Isn’t that also just an excuse to make extra money???) 
That being said, WHY NOT take a moment (or a day) to put a little extra effort in saying, “I love you!”? 
If you’re single, I know you may be thinking, “easier said than done.” Coming from me, someone who has had the same Valentine for the past seven years (what?!?!), trust me when I tell you I get it. Everyone’s situation and love life is different. But no matter who you are, SOMEBODY LOVES YOU! And I truly hope you all have love for somebody too. Spouses, parents, siblings, best friends, pets, the list goes on and on. Every type of love is different, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less significant. 
God is love. Just as we are nothing without God, we are nothing without love. Celebrate it, share it, spread it, and enjoy it. 
Now I bring to you: 
1. The cards. Greg and I always, always, always make homemade cards for each other. I have been making homemade cards for my parents my entire life and I love passing my card making abilities (ha! not very impressive, I assure you) onto Greg. He does the same for me too. Although they tend to look the same from the front year after year, reading back through old cards is so special to me. Seeing how our relationship and love has evolved over the years is so cool.
2. The sweets. Duh. Would you expect anything different from me? I had a strong internal dilemma this morning on the way to work. To stop at Krispy Kreme and treat myself to a doughnut? Or to NOT stop at Krispy Kreme and eat a healthy breakfast of whole grain cereal and a banana? Such hard decisions! Since you’re dying to know, I did not stop at KK. I have a hot Starbucks latte to look forward to later this afternoon though – they’re doing BOGO lattes from 2-5pm! Greg is going to bring one by the office for me. And who knows, maybe he’ll have a cupcake along with it. Now that’d be really nice. 
3. The pink. Pink is my favorite color ever. Although I majorly failed today and somehow forgot to wear any pink, or red for that matter, I love seeing others in pink, eating pink treats, and finding excuses to use or make anything else pink.
4. The time of year. Not much else is going on during February. The air is (usually) COLD and winter blues are in full force. Christmas and New Year’s are long gone, if you have a January birthday like Greg and I both do, those days are history, and there’s not much to look forward to until Spring. Having a holiday fall right in the middle of this month gives reason to have a little fun and put a smile on your face. 
5. The love. Need I say more?
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!