Pumpkin Pie Muffins

These are delicious! Incredibly moist, surprisingly healthy and taste like little pumpkin pies. I ate the last one this morning and will definitely be making them again this weekend.

I can’t lie. Looking at the list of ingredients, I was incredibly skeptical that these would be good. They are actually probably in the top 5 of best muffins I have ever made.  So good, that I would consider eating them for dessert with a little whipped topping on them like pumpkin pie!

Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie.

Muffin ingredients:

  • 1 3/4  cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1/4 heaping cup of coconut oil

Filling ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin butter
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the muffins: 

Preheat oven to 400F.

Whisk flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt together.

In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin puree, brown sugar, pumpkin butter, milk, and coconut oil until smooth.

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Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Do it stages and make sure not to over mix.

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Divide batter evenly into a previously greased muffin tin. My batter made 12 full size muffins and 6 mini muffins.

Let the batter rest while you make the filling.

For the filling:

In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, sugar, pumpkin butter, coconut oil , pumpkin pie spice and salt.

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Divide filling evenly on top of the muffin batter.

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Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the muffin clean. Obviously , I baked the mini muffins for less time, probably 10-12 minutes.

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Let cool completely.

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These keep for about a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Walk it off

This past winter, I got a great deal on a watch. This was no ordinary watch, but one of those sporty heart rate monitor exercise watches. The only problem with these watches is that the battery doesn’t last nearly as long as a regular watch as they are working so much harder and tracking so much more. So, the battery died about 2 months ago. Last week, Brian was trying to change the battery and accidentally broke the LCD screen on it. He very kindly bought me a new watch, which might actually be an upgrade to my old watch. This one also had a pedometer, calculates the calories you burn throughout the day based on your heart rate and you can set daily goals on it. I really like. It’s also very motivating to move more.

I had a lot of errands to run this weekend and by run, I mean walk. Since we don’t have a car, I do a lot of walking, especially on the weekend. Motivated by my watch to walk a little more than usual, I logged about 20 miles this weekend. How did I fuel all of this walking?

Big breakfasts! And lots of coffee.

Saturday morning, I was very indecisive about what I wanted for breakfast, so I had a little bit of everything. Strawberries and watermelon, an egg with sriracha, and a piece of cinnamon toast. Half with pumpkin butter and the other half with mashed banana and a little cookie butter.

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After a morning trip to the store and an exciting sale on homemade guacamole, I had a lunch of lots of fruits, veggies and an open-faced chicken and guacamole sandwich.  I love homemade guac, but when they sell the good stuff for less than I can make it, I’ll take it!

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A dinner of more chicken and guac, veggies, hummus and chips. I’m really trying to take advantage of the last of the fresh veggies while I can.

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Saturday night, I made some falafel with an extra helping of greens.

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Then I spent a night in with a glass of wine and my sewing machine doing some mending for Brian.

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Sunday’s breakfast was a helping of toast, guac, bacon and eggs with a pumpkin pie muffin.

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That was a very finger-licking and runny yolk! Mmm!

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Brian had a banana and chocolate chip muffin reheated with a smear of cookie butter on top.

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After running errands, a long shoe shopping trip for Brian, lunch at Native Foods(salads for both of us), and buying fabric for me, I did some more sewing. I sewed a yoga mat bag for myself. I have lululemon’s big mat. It is no longer available on the website, but is wider and longer than the average yoga mat and great if you are taller than average and struggle to stay on your mat during classes. Hence it being bigger than average, it doesn’t fit in most yoga bags. So, I loosely followed Kick Stand Fitness’s directions to make a bag. It took me about and hour, start to finish. I even added an interior pocket. Super easy and functional. Definitely work the 1 yard of fabric and one hour of work.

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Sunday’s dinner was fruit, salad and veggie lasagna. I bought the lasagna pre-made and thought it was great. Packed with flavor and protein, I’d definitely buy it again.

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With falafel and leftover veggie lasagna, it looks to be another veggie filled week! And what is great is that during this week’s heat wave, we can live on leftovers and I won’t have to heat up the kitchen!

Goodbye, summer

Friday seems like so long ago that I can hardly remember what we  did.  We had plans to go out to eat, but with some torrential down pours right after I got home from work, we decided to order in. We ordered in some chicken shawarma from a new restaurant. It was so-so. So far, I haven’t found a place that competes with a a restaurant by my work. Then we set up an assembly line and put together our wedding invitations. After that was done, we rewarded ourselves with some couch time and started watching Orange is the New Black. Is everyone else watching this show? You should be! It’s great.

Saturday morning, I got up and made a veggie loaded breakfast with homemade tomato sauce, spinach, and eggplant. It was so delicious.

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Then I headed out for a busy day of going to the post office, hair cut and eye exam. The lovely lady at the post office gave me multiple kinds of misinformation including that we needed more postage for our invitations and that they don’t sell the stamps we need at that post office. Being that I needed to get to my hair cut, I delegated the other post office run to Brian. He had a pleasant post office experience, unlike mine, and the man at the other post office said we didn’t need extra postage, hand stamped our invites and mailed them for Brian. After having several unpleasant experiences with the post office closest to us, I will never be going there again. I will happily go out of my way and take extra time to go to a different office. Before my haircut, I stopped at a burger place by our wedding venue and tried out the Hurt Burger. It was supposed to be incredible spicy, but I didn’t think it had much of a kick, despite having jalapenos on it. The fries were really good though. My excuse for eating a burger and fries for lunch is that I need to be able to give wedding guests accurate information about eating establishments around our hotel. Ha!

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Sunday morning, I experimented with a new pancake recipe for Brian. They were incredibly dense and not the proper color, but he said they tasted great. Maybe it was all the cookie butter I slathered on them.

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Frustrated by his wonky pancakes, I didn’t pay much attention to my breakfast cooking and botched my eggs. I spent a good while at my garden then went to my last class of aquatic exercise of the summer. IO am saddened that I will have no more opportunities to be in the pool.  We had a quick “clean out the fridge” lunch before going to buy groceries and run errands. We stopped at Target and goofed around in the toy aisle. I spent the rest of my evening planning Monday’s cook-a-thon and watching more episodes of Orange is the New Black.

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Monday started off with a bang and an open-face egg sandwich. I headed into the kitchen to make black bean brownies, pumpkin muffins with pumpkin pie filling tops(they taste much better than they look), homemade, bbq sauce, curried ginger pumpkin soup, sunbutter and ended the day by grilling steak, burgers, chicken and veggies. We should be eating well all week!

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My long weekend was wonderful and productive with plenty of fresh air and exercise. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Chocolate chip peanut butter cookies

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! These are amazing. Taste exactly like cookie dough. Serve them at a party and NO ONE will know they are healthy. Brian sure didn’t know…and I sure didn’t tell him.

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I had seen this recipe months ago, filed it to make later and forgot about it until yesterday when I saw someone mention it on a social media site. I had made bread before with chickpeas, so I wasn’t concerned that it was too weird of an ingredient swap. I had all the stuff at home and decided to make it last night. I mean, we were to get hit by derecho. Who wouldn’t need a batch of protein and fiber filled cookies to get them through the storm? So glad I did. It might be my new favorite healthy treat. I might even leave out the chocolate chips next time or half the amount and use mini chips.  Recipe adapted from Texanerin Baking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup of canned chickpeas
  • 1/2 heaping cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup raw honey or pure maple syrup(I used 1/2 of each)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

If you don’t have natural peanut butter on hand, dump a few cups of dry roasted peanuts in your food processor and process(scraping down the sides as necessary) until it forms into peanut butter. You may think that it will never get past the crumbled/powdery stage, but have patience, it will. Scoop out peanut butter and put in container. How return a heaping 1/2 cup to the food processor.

Thoroughly rinse a can of chickpeas. Lay out a paper towel or dish towel and pour the well-rinsed chickpeas on the towel. Take another towel and blot the chickpeas to dry them a bit. Scoop up 1 1/4 cup of chickpeas and toss into food processor with pb.

To get my 1/4 cup of sweetener, I used 1/2 raw honey and 1/2 pure maple syrup. My syrup is pretty runny and thin. My honey is very thick. I was concerned about the consistency of both varying the recipe too much so I used half and half to even out the consistency. Put in food processor. Add in vanilla and baking powder.

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Process until very smooth. Scrape down sides as necessary. The dough will be extremely sticky at this point.

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Stir in chocolate chips.

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Now, this is the point where I have to strongly disagree with the original post. The author said that the dough did not taste good and these cookies would not be good without the chocolate chips. I thought the dough was amazing. So good, I almost didn’t bake it, but just refrigerate it in ball form. I thought there was almost too much chocolate in them and would consider making them without or cutting back the amount. My two cents. Now continuing on with the recipe:

Use slightly wet hands and roll into balls about the size of golf balls. Place on baking sheet. These cookies do not spread, so if you want them to be more in a disc form, flatten out those balls. Continue making balls of dough, re-wetting hands when necessary until dough used up.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes. They won’t look much more done than when you put them in the oven, but if you flip one over, the bottom will be slightly browned.

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Wait for a few minutes and eat warm. So good.

Fun and fantastic

This past weekend was awesome. The weather was great and Brian and I ended up doing some spontaneous things and really taking advantage of the city. Something I need to do more often. That’s why I live here, right?

Brian took me out to dinner on Friday night because our fridge was bare! We hadn’t really gone grocery shopping in 2 weeks and we had been squeaking by on pantry staples and freezer meals all week. The upside to this was that, our fridge was bare. How is that an upside? It was the perfect opportunity to pull everything out and wipe down the shelves. A task that was long over due! Look at its glowing beauty afterwards:

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After my speed cleaning fridge session, I headed out the door to walk to meet Brian for dinner. The weather was perfect for eating dinner outside and this place had a patio(no coincidence). We started off our meal with the bone marrow appetizer which came with a great arugula salad and pickled cherry. It was the perfect flavor combination.

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I had a delicious and dark beer made with 3 different types of coffee beans:

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And was only able to eat half of my Legend’s of the Daal wrap(very tasty):

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The place is mostly known for their burgers. Brian got Elvis’ Last Supper with house made peanut butter and bacon. Surprisingly delicious.

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On the way home, we decided to walk through Ribfest, which was happening right down the block. There was this sign:

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To which, Brian reacted like this to the thought of a deep fried Snickers:

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We continued walking, until we saw this sign:

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To which the possibility of deep-fried Oreos was too much for Brian to resist. We headed over to the ticket line and within 10 minutes had a tub of fried Oreos. To which, the man next to us in line got a deep-fried Snickers and insisted I take his picture.

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Because deep-frying candy and cookies isn’t enough, they top them off with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar:

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I tried one of the Oreos. It was actually pretty tasty. Like a funnel cake married and Oreo and made tiny funnel cake Oreo babies. Brian was in heaven.

A Friday night of indulgence meant a healthy breakfast and exercise Saturday morning.

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Followed by a trip to the garden. A very exciting trip where I would learn that all of my radishes had matured and were ready to be picked. I also got a few handfuls of kale and spinach and a lone strawberry. I think I’ve gotten more produce from my community garden plot in one month this year than I did all last summer!

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After lots of errand running we grabbed lunch and then hit up Margie’s for a scoop of ice cream. They were switching out containers on Brian’s chocolate peanut butter and he got a mega scoop. That got all over his beard and mustache, but loos at those abundant ribbons of peanut butter. I had some serious ice cream envy and Brian happily shared with me.

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Saturday we ate mostly vegetable for dinner. I grilled a ton of them for us to devour and a little chicken. I also made a delicious salad with the kale and spinach from the garden with a vinaigrette, hemp and sunflower seeds and blueberries.

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Sunday was to be filled with rain, but we were surprised by a sunny day instead.

I had a breakfast taco to start the day. The eggs ended up overwhelming the tortilla, but it was delicious!

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I slow cooked brisket in a marinade all day to make some delicious barbacoa for our tostadas for dinner.

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While that was cooking and making the house smell wonderful, I got to work on a big batch of pumpkin and chocolate chip waffles to use as breakfasts in the upcoming days:

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Made a tasty batch of tarragon chicken salad(can’t wait to share the recipe) that was the perfect meal of protein to sustain us on our 12 mile bike ride by the lake.

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I don’t think we could have packed much more into our weekend. It was a great one! Hope everyone had as much fun as I did.

4 ingredient peanut butter cookies

These are nothing to write home about but would do the trick if you needed a quick sweet fix and are somewhat healthier for you than a regular cookie. I personally think a few adjustments could be made that would make them spectacular. I might play around with the recipe this weekend.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of almond butter(or nut butter of choice)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place all ingredients in bowl.

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Mix well. I think this is where the hiccup in the recipe occurred. I used natural almond butter instead of peanut butter. Store bought peanut butter has a much different (more solid) texture than natural almond butter. Making these cookies was also an effort to use up this Costco sized container of almond butter that I bought that I didn’t particularly care for. It was too oily and runny from the start.

Next, roll the dough into golf ball sized balls and place on baking mat. Make those iconic hash marks in the top of your cookie with a fork. I love the way those look.

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I could tell at this point that my dough was much too oily(thanks crappy almond butter). I had a fear that these were going to spread terribly and I would end up with one giant sheet cookie. I considered adding coconut, oats or flax at this point to firm them up a bit, but decided to just bake them and see what happened.

Bake for about 12 minutes.

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Mine did spread, but most were identifiable as cookies and tasted pretty good. I really liked the chewy texture.

Meal Planning 101

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about meal plans. I’ll give you a run down about how I plan our meals.

Brian and I pack and take our lunches to work most days of the week. It’s way cheaper and healthier. Even if you are getting an inexpensive meal out, just keep in mind that restaurants charge you at least 3x or more what it costs them to make it. Meaning: You can make it sooo much cheaper at home. Let’s do the math. If you spend $5 on lunch everyday eating out(which if you live in Chicago you spend more), that means that it’s costs that restaurant at most $1.66 to make your meal.

So $5 x 5 days per week is $25 per week on lunches.

If you made that same thing at home for $1.66 x 5 days a week, you would have spent $8.33.

$25-$8.33= a savings of $16.67 per week. Times 52 weeks per year = A savings of…

$866.84 per year

Wow. It really adds up, doesn’t it? Save almost $1000 per year just by packing your lunch instead of eating out. I bet you’d like an extra $1000 per year.

And really, it’s not that hard. It just takes a little planning.

I really like using paper and pen. Notice there is hardly any processed food on the list.

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First, break it down. How many meals do you need for the week? Check your fridge and pantry. What do you already have that you can use?

We both eat our breakfasts at work. So those need to be packed, too. Do you stop and buy donuts and coffee everyday? Don’t even get me started on how money wasteful that is. Make your own donuts/breakfast sandwiches/oatmeal and coffee for PENNIES. Seriously people. I bet it would take less time to make your coffee at home in a Keurig(yes, you can afford a Keurig if you stop buying your coffee everyday) than to stop, stand in line, order and buy it. So what do we eat for breakfasts? Cold oats, oatmeal bakes, tofu scrambles, egg bakes, donuts, muffins and waffles. Yep, make extra donuts, waffles, pancakes ahead of time and reheat. Just as good as the first time.

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Brian and I combined need 12 lunches. I only put 10 because I don’t usually plan the weekend out as strictly as the weekdays. The weekend is when we will eat 1 to 2 meals out. And if we are out running errands or have other obligations, we sometimes eat separately or we just have the leftovers from the week. I try to do one crock pot meal on the weekends. It saves time and makes a lot all at once. I don’t care if you are cooking for one or four, most recipes freeze well. Utilize your freezer, people. So, what are some of my favorite crock pot meals to make? Buffalo chicken, chicken curry, pulled pork, pork tinga, soups…or anything on pinterest. Start it in the morning. When it is done cooking, eat it for dinner. Then portion the rest out. Put a few containers in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

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I have also made a very conscious effort for us to eat meat less. A lot less. I make veggie burgers often. They are simple, fast and incredibly inexpensive to make. They are also filling, low in fat, high in fiber and protein. Win, win, win, win.

Another thing that Brian and I love are macro bowls. I steam kale, cook black beans, roast sweet potatoes, cook quinoa and bake tofu. Then I divide it out evenly between bowls. These bowls pack a punch in the flavor department, are super healthy and filling. They are really easy to customize, too. You don’t like tofu, substitute meat of your choice. You hate black beans? Throw in any other bean or lentil. Don’t have quinoa, use rice. Kale grosses you out? Use broccoli. You get protein, fiber, veg, and antioxidants. Yes these take a little while to make since you cooking everything separately, but they come in at less than $2 per bowl, using all organic ingredients.

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Two other dishes that we love are rama chicken and orange chicken. Healthier versions of take out food, made at home. Both pack great for lunches, too. Substitute tofu for the chicken and they are vegetarian. Most things you order at restaurant can be made fairly simply at home.

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Are these too healthy of options? Make a pizza. Make your own crust. That’s an option that takes less than 10 minutes to make. Spread on some sauce, cheese and toppings. This makes a very large pizza or two, so you will have a few days of left over pizza, too. Another fast option. Kraft whole grain macaroni and cheese… add a source of protein and vegetables(a lot) to it when it’s done cooking. It saves you from eating the whole box, makes it much more nutritious and gives you 1-2 meals worth of leftovers. Win, win.

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Need a fast weeknight meal? Well, that pizza and mac and cheese come together in about a half an hour. Do you know what else cooks really fast? Fish! Seriously, it takes less than 10 minutes to cook most fish. While that is cooking, saute or steam some of your favorite vegetable(s). Tired of your same old, same old tuna sandwich? Make a tuna melt. Leave the sandwich open-faced, throw on a slice of cheese and broil it for a few minutes.

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Another thing I do that saves me a ton of time during the week is to prepare a lot of vegetables a head of time. It’s easy to cut root vegetables, potatoes, or brussies up and roast them while doing other things around the house. Then I have a quick side to go with any meal throughout the week. Or put some potatoes or sweet potatoes in your crock pot. I also peel and cut up the entire bag of carrots at one time to snack on throughout the week.

I also take full advantage of my weekends and get most of my cooking done then. Take 4 hours one day and see what all you can get accomplished. I bet you will be eating well for days. This weekend, I am going to try to make about 10 days worth of food so there are things in the house through next weekend.

What’s on the list? Crockpot buffalo chicken(some will go in the freezer), a batch of veggie burgers, macrobiotic bowls, pizza, grilled burgers, tilapia and asparagus packets and some sort of breakfast(donuts or waffles) to pack for Brian. There you go. Six recipes that will feed 2 people for 10 days, plus some fresh fruit and vegetables. Getting some done ahead of time sure beats scrambling to make dinner every night.

I can make all of that with less than $70 worth of groceries for about one week of food. That’s $10 per day for 3 meals for 2 people. That makes each meal average out to $1.66. Way cheaper than eating out. And much healthier.

You’ve asked. I’ve answered. A weekly meal plan to save your waistline and pocket-book!

Afternoon snack

I eat this almost everyday. It’s one of my favorite snacks. An apple with 10 almonds.

The trick to making it taste extra good? Take a bite of the apple. Put an almond in your mouth. Chew together. Tastes way better than almonds and apples separately.

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Weekend madness-Sunday

Ugh. I can only get Sunday’s pictures to transfer right now, so this weekend’s post will be split into two with Saturday coming as soon as I can get things to work!

Sunday started out with a morning walk to Target. I needed to pick up a few things, including some corn. Brian did the grocery shopping a few days ago when I had put corn on the list. He accidentally picked up cans of cream style corn, which had me gagging at the sight. On my walk to Target, I saw this car. In fact, I see it every time I walk to Target. It has a flat tire and hasn’t moved in months and totally reminds me of the car in Harry Potter than Ron and Harry flew into the Whomping Willow.

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After meeting my friend Katie at the track and going for a run(for the 3rd time this week), I was hungry! I made myself a giant lunch of a veggie patty, a broccoli potato pancake, some fruit and tortilla chips and jalapeno greek yogurt dip.

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I took advantage of the Whole Foods one day special on Friday and picked up 10 mangoes. I like mangoes so much that I don’t even mind that I’m allergic. It’s not a severe allergy, but if I’m not careful, my lips swell up.

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Knowing that they were going on sale, I started looking up recipes while I was at work last Friday. I decided on a whole wheat mango ginger scone. DE-licious!

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Later in the afternoon I began assembling a healthier version of Shepard’s pie. Since I was combining 3 separate recipes, I did not properly scale back the portions and had this before the potatoes were added to the top. Ooops. Looks like we will be having a lot of leftovers!

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I was so busy(in a good way) this weekend that the weekend seemed like it lasted for a whole week. Can’t wait to update you on Saturday and post some of these recipes!

Greek tuna salad

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When I was traveling in December and dreading the unhealthy airport food, I ran across a really cute fresh and healthy restaurant/stand in the Houston airport called Camden Food Co. Right across from an organic pizza place. What? Two decent options right by each other in the airport? I love that it’s not impossible to get good food while traveling anymore.

Well, they had a Greek tuna that was so delicious. It was fresh flaked tuna with kalamata, cucumber, diced tomato, feta, herbs and a Greek vinaigrette. I bought a container of that and put in on a bed of fresh mixed greens from their salad bar and topped with a few chickpeas. So delicious.

I’ve been thinking about that tuna ever since. So, I had to attempt to recreate it as I don’t know when will be the next time that I am in the George Bush International airport to get more. It’s so good, it’s almost worth the trip just to get some.

Here’s my attempt at the remake. I also threw in some diced yellow and orange bell pepper. A great way to jazz up plain old tuna. It would also be great as a dip on crackers or in a pita. Mmm. Ican’t wait to make it again.

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