Friday, April 27, 2012

Reader Recipe Friday - Waffles

First of all, I apologize for the lack of photographic evidence, but these waffles are seriously off-the-charts divine. Actually, the missing photo is BECAUSE they are so good. We eat them so quickly, there is no time for taking pictures.

Second of all, I know you probably all know this recipe by now. It's been around for a long time. But I have "cleaned" it up a bit, just to get rid of some of the less-than-perfect ingredients. And it is no worse for the wear! It tastes exactly the same. Now I don't know about you, but THAT is how I like my healthy recipes: tasting exactly the same as the unhealthy ones.

Third of all, here's the recipe:

Whole Wheat Blender Pancakes (yield: 6 large waffles)
1 C. wheat *
1 1/2 C. milk, divided
3 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 C. coconut oil (melt it on low in the microwave while you blend the wheat)
1 tsp. salt
1 TBSP honey

Combine wheat and 1 C. of the milk in blender. Blend on high for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the milk (1/2 C. if you weren't keeping track) and blend 1 minute more. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until mixed. Let it sit for a couple minutes while your waffle iron warms up, as it will thicken. Cook.

*I have substituted already-ground whole wheat when I didn't want to wake someone up who was sleeping (grinding the wheat for 4 minutes is really loud, as you can imagine), and it worked just fine, so that's an option. Just play with the amount a little - I think I used more than a cup. It's not AS good, but it works. Also, if for some reason the batter ends up really runny (like mine did this morning - probably because I 1-and-a-half timesed the recipe), add some whole wheat flour until it's the desired consistency. Basically, you can't go wrong.

Fourth of all, this morning I topped my waffle with peanut butter, maple syrup and blueberries. DEeeelicious!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Topic for Friday Announced

Once upon a time I got a waffle iron for my wedding. It sat, unopened, for a couple years.

Then I had a baby who was allergic to basically everything I ate, so I made waffles for practically every meal for 15 months while she nursed:

Waffles with raspberry jam. Waffles with applesauce. Waffles with syrup. Waffles with peanut butter. Waffles with peach preserves. Waffles with cool whip (non-dairy, of course).

Waffles and I were close. Too close. Especially since my waffles were always limp and dejected-looking. My husband wouldn't touch them, but I eventually forgot that waffles are supposed to be crispy, and I survived.

Until I stayed with my sister, and she made waffles for breakfast. REAL waffles. The kind of waffles that make you want to cry. And eat until you throw up.

It was then (but mostly after I got her recipe and tried it over and over with disappointing results) that I realized the problem: my waffle iron was a hunk-a-junk (unless you, reader, are the person who gifted it to me, in which case I say, "Thank you. It was a thoughtful gesture always to be remembered."). So I tossed it in the trash. Then I bought a fancy Belgian waffle iron, which worked alright, but which broke (as in crumbled into a heap of burning-hot rubble) half-way through a batch of waffles.

I swore off waffles. Who needed them? Not I! My house was a waffle-free zone for over a year. And then someone posted something on facebook or Pinterest about waffles, and I suddenly felt that I would sell my first born if it meant I could have a waffle.

So it was time to start shopping, again, for a waffle iron. My previous experiences with waffle irons had traumatized me into being very anxious about buying a new one. What kind was best? What brand was trust-worthy? How much money would I have to fork over? I actually ended up stumbling upon one at D.I. It was in its original, unopened box (otherwise, my overly-germ-freaked husband would have had nothing to do with it), and it was $8.00. It was fate! Especially when you consider that it has a fire-alarm-volume beeper that tells me when the waffle is finished cooking. Fate knows me so well.

I made waffles that night for dinner. AND THEY WERE SO GOOD. So I made them for breakfast the next day. And lunch. And now we have them twice/week. Once as a breakfast, and once as a dinner (usually Saturday nights when I have some wonderful gourmet thing planned, but then always decide that the last thing I want to do is cook).

Anyway, that was a very long and winding road to our destination. Which is the topic for Reader Recipe Friday:


I want your favorite recipe or favorite way of changing up an old recipe. Or topping suggestions.

I can't wait! Cause, you know, Saturday is (unofficial) waffle night.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chocolate Protein Shake - Revised

Same Picture, Different Ingredients

This morning, I had one of these shakes for breakfast (I am actually still sipping it as I write - it is delicious!). Except I didn't add the spinach (because I am all out - today is grocery day). And I forgot to mention in the earlier post that I add egg whites (the kind in the carton that don't kill you if you eat them raw - I've been doing it for years, and I'm still goin' strong, so I assume they don't kill you...?). I just pour some in. I have no idea how much. Anyway, that adds some extra protein. Also, the last few days I've been adding a handful of oatmeal to it, too. It makes it a little more texture-y, but I like texture. I added a handful of granola on Saturday, and that was good, too. I figure it brings the stick-to-my-ribs factor up a few notches. Which is always a good thing for me, since I hate stopping to eat every ten minutes. 

Oh, yeah, and I edited the old recipe to reflect how much cocoa I put in my shakes. It's not a TBSP. Just a big teaspoon. 

And now I am off to attend to this 84 degree weather!

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's Recipe Friday! Woohoo!! And the theme is Crockpot. 


This is our newest favorite. It is adapted from the recipe here.

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken 
1.25 lb. chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1/2 C. honey
1/4 C. soy sauce
2 TBSP diced onion (or some dried onion flakes)
2 TBSP Ketchup
1 TBSP oil (olive or coconut)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 3 TBSP water (I usually omit this, cause it doesn't seem to thicken the sauce at all)
Sesame seeds

Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Place in crock pot. Combine honey, soy, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cook on low 3-4 hours or high 1.5-2.5 hours until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken, but leave sauce. Pour in the cornstarch/water and stir. Put the lid back on and cook on high for ten minutes until slightly thickened. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice (we use brown rice).


This is a recipe that I have borrowed from my sister-in-law's blog. She has some fantastic recipes over there, and this one is perfect on the side of anything Mexicana (say it with an H.) Or even in burritos. It is to die for.

Bodacious Black Beans

3 cups dry black beans
1/2 onion – diced
2 garlic cloves – diced
3 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 jalapeno – seeded and diced
9 cups water
1. Rinse black beans and place in crock pot. Add all the ingredients. Cover and cook on high for eight hours. If the water gets low just add some more.

Now it's your turn!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unexpected Sore Throat Cure

picture courtesy of here

I am no proponent of artificial sweeteners*. Never have been.

I would never touch a "diet" or "sugar-free" anything, because I can't stand the idea of the freaky chemicals and cancer-causing agents associated with them. Plus, I just can't handle the taste. Plain and simple.

I know what you're thinking: "But they don't taste like anything." My husband and I argue about this all the time. He can't taste artificial sweeteners. But I can, and they give me the shivers and an instant headache. Every time. And that has been enough to keep me far, far away from them ever since I was a little girl.

So, when I was at my mom's house a few weeks ago, complaining of a sore throat and impending cold, I wrinkled my nose at her suggested cure:


I objected. She insisted. And before you know it, I was downing a shot-glass (actually just a little kid plastic cup - my mom doesn't keep shot glasses handy, c'mon!) of water with 3 drops of Stevia added.

It was disgusting. And miraculous.

My sore throat was gone instantly.

And when I say 'instantly', I mean as soon as my body stopped convulsing from the ultra-sweet nastiness, and I became once again aware of my throat.

It stayed away, too. I didn't get sick at all! It was awesome!

Maybe I just happened to catch whatever-I-was-getting at the exact right moment (I spent the rest of the next day downing Airborne like a fiend, so that may have played a role in my not getting sick. I don't know), maybe it was a complete fluke (my mom said it worked for her, too, the week before - I guess you need to take it as soon as you feel the sore throat coming on), but I am now a believer in Stevia as a sore throat cure!

Apparently, according to certain studies, Stevia can help hinder the growth of certain bacterias and prevent infection. Maybe that's why it works. There are also several believed side effects associated with its use. Which is why I would never consider using it in my food, or on a regular basis of any sort.

But I believe that plants and herbs and everything was put on this Earth for a reason, and who knows? Maybe Stevia was put here for my throat. And yours.

I'd like to know if it works for anyone else. So if you try it, let me know.

*Stevia is said to be completely natural, as it is derived from a plant. But it tastes like every other artificial sweetener to me, and so I make this comparison.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortillas

What is it with kids these days? What is wrong with the youth of this generation? Don't they know there are Starving kids in China who would kill for one morsel of their most dreaded meal?

And why doesn't explaining that to my kids have any effect?

They stagger to the dinner table like they're on their way to the electric chair. Even if what awaits is a mystery, they know it's not going to be lucky charms, so pretty much every other option known to man will be a disappointment to at least 1/3 of those ungrateful little..

And then one day, a miracle happened.

I didn't have to go through the process of eating with my 11 yr old, who seams to have short term memory loss.

"Ok honey, remember? get some food on your fork, then put it into your mouth.. oops, try again and this time close your mouth around your fork before you pull it out. Good. Now move your jaw up and down with the food between your teeth. This is called chewing. Now swallow.. There's a party going on in your tummy and that food REEEEALLY wants to go. Ok, now let's try it again. Is there something wrong with your eyes? They keep rolling around your sockets and it looks really uncomfortable."

I didn't have to set the timer for my 9 yr old.

"I guess you need practice if it's too hard to eat mashed potatoes. Tell you what, I'll set the timer for 5 minutes, and if it's not gone, I'll add to it for extra practice."

I didn't have to spoon feed my 4 yr old.

I didn't have to send anyone to bed.

"THAT'S IT!!! If you aren't going to eat, there's no point in being at the table. good night!"

I didn't have to make a lovely meal to basically transfer directly into plastic containers, and refrigerate.. except for what I ate out of the pot.

"I guess I'm not very hungry after my $50 steak at my lunch appointment with grown-ups at a swanky restaurant.. what did you have for lunch? Oh, you didn't have time for lunch?"

That last one was my husband.

..Not that those ALL happen, ALL the time. It's usually "You don't have to eat anything, but this is dinner, and there is no other option."

Sometimes I get bored with that and need to spice it up with aforementioned threats.

But like I said, One day, A miracle happened. While I was at the grocery store, I grabbed a Fix-It and Forget-It magazine, in the checkout line. I skimmed it and thought what the heck, and tossed it into the pile of Items waiting to be purchased, prepared, and scraped into the garbage. Upon closer examination, I decided to try Chicken Tortillas, because of the simple list of ingredients, and quick/easy prep. When It came time for dinner, and the inmates drug their feet into the kitchen and plopped their hopeless little bodies in front of their plates, there were a few extra grumbles and moans and even a desperate cry to the heavens, "WHY," from our melodramatic middle child.

And then Something happened.

The room grew quiet.

There were only the sounds of utensils on dinnerware.. Oh, sweet music to my ears, and then just when I thought it couldn't get any more strange, They all started to dish up seconds. SECONDS! I am not exaggerating when I say that I don't think that has ever happened before. By my kids (excluding pizza/mac n' cheese).. at least not by all 3.


Ok, I'll give you the recipe. It might not be that great. It just happened to be a crowd pleaser for us.

First, I'll tell you the adaptions I made..

I used homemade, whole wheat tortillas. I'm sure store bought would work just fine, but I wanted to make mine so that I could use the extras in my lunch.

This is how excited my 9 yr old was about the tortillas (which taste DELICIOUS btw)

Then I used this recipe instead of cream of chicken soup. (Has anyone else noticed that what used to be creamy is now corn starchy?) It has a good consistency, and I can't tell a difference in cooking. Obviously cheaper, and beans are nutritious.

Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup Recipe:

• Grind 4 T of any white bean (lima, navy, etc.) to make 5 T bean flour (on course setting)
• Combine: 5 T bean flour, 1 ¾ c. water , 4 t chicken bouillon into a saucepan
• Cook: On stovetop at medium temperature until thick and delicious (whisk frequently).The soup should cook in 3 minutes! (this may be longer if your grinder makes a very coarse flour).

I had shredded chicken in a baggie in the freezer, so that saved a lot of time as well. I cook as many chicken breasts as will fit in my crockpot with a little water, garlic salt, onion (fresh would work, but I use dried onion flakes from my food storage.) and pepper, until it comes apart easily, and then shred it. I put the shredded chicken in little freezer baggies by 1-2 cups. (I do tend to season it well. I don't like chicken that tastes too much like poultry.)

Chicken Tortillas

2 cups shredded chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup (or the above recipe)
(14 1/2 oz) can tomatoes, drained
(7 oz) can diced green chilies, drained
6 (6 inch) tortillas (torn if needed)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups grated cheese (cheddar, mexican blend..)

1. Combine chicken, soup, chilies, and tomatoes. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray.
2. Line bottom of slow cooker with 1/3 tortilla pieces. Add 1/3 chicken mixture, sprinkle with 1/3 onion, and 1/3 cheese. Repeat layers twice.
3. Cover and cook on low 4-6 hrs. Garnish if desired.

Oh, let's not forget about recipe friday. The theme is, hmm.. Let's go with the theme of crock pot. It's spring, and who want's to come in early from the back yard to heat up the house by making dinner?. Remember; no sugar, no processed recipe.

Word of Common Sense

Photo from here. And yes, I realize this is a dairy cow. But isn't she a beaut?

Today I would like to share a little wisdom nugget.

You probably already know this, because you are smart. And because it is common knowledge.

But, for reasons still unidentifiable, I never knew this. Or if I did, it never sunk in.

It should have. It makes perfect sense. I just never stopped to think it through. Or something like that.

Anyway, ya'll ready for this?

You know how the Word of Wisdom (a scriptural guide for nutrition and respect for our bodies that Merica and I believe in, and aspire to live by) tells us to eat meat sparingly, in times of winter, cold or famine?

Well, stay with me here, do you know that meat has a season?

I know. It's increasingly difficult in our age of processing and freezers and refrigerators and season-defying food growing/producing practices to determine the true season of just about everything.

But even meat has a season.

And can you guess what that season is?

Yep. Winter.

Cause when are the baby cows and lambs and pigs born (on a small, family farm)? Spring.

And how long does it take for them to grow and mature before they are/can be sent to the slaughter?

About the same amount of time it takes for winter to come.

Anyway, I found it an interesting coincidence.

But maybe that's just me. I find random small things interesting.

I figure, if the "hidden treasures" promised for keeping the Word of Wisdom are half as good as the ice cream at the end of the treasure hunt I set up for my kids last night for FHE, then I'm going to figure out how to live it a little better.

Also, the "not faint" part would come in pretty handy. Especially since I have a tendency to random fainting. But that's another mysterious story.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Too Darn Tasty to be Healthy

It's been a while.. I am not a good multi-tasker, so I basically took an Internet hiatus while getting my bearings on everything else in my life.

So, I lost the filter to my wheat grinder a couple weeks ago, and thought I might try grinding some wheat without it.. after all, it's just a little spongy disk thing.. I was sure I could get away without it until I got a new one.

Yeah.. not so much.

That is just a small little sample of what the rest of my kitchen looked like. I quickly got on the Internet and ordered some replacements. But they wouldn't arrive for who knows how long, so it was a long and unhealthy week of white dinner rolls, pancakes, and noodles (yum). Store bought wheat tortillas (eh), and bread (yuck). I think the kids were in bleached flour heaven, but I was missing my fresh ground whole wheat like crazy!

Once my new filters arrived, balance was restored and I have a weeks worth of whole wheat recipes to share.

Last night we had breakfast for dinner. I'm not usually in the mood to mess my kitchen up first thing in the morning, so we like to go all out at dinner time.

What you see below looks too gooey and delicious to be healthy, but I'll shed some light on exactly what is in the photo. And let me assure you it is certainly at least as good as it looks.

These are Whole wheat pancakes, sugar omitted, and coconut oil added. Coconut oil is really good for you, it's actually the only oil that is stable enough to withstand heat, according to this dude. (BTW, if you click on any link, it will take you to studies and listed health benefits)

On top of the pancake, you will find 100% natural peanut butter, bananas, and topped with walnuts toasted in 100% natural maple syrup, and then drizzled with said syrup. (Not too much. It's already pretty sweet.)

And that's it.

The recipe I use (and adapted) is Marianne's. I think she's married to Andrea's brother.. Anyway, I got it from our trusty Orton Family Cookbook. Just a little shout out to Marianne here; Her recipes have been some of my favorites, and I hope if she reads this she'll feel inspired to contribute to all the recipe Fridays.

Marrianne's Favorite Pancakes

1 1/4 cup Flour (whole wheat)
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 T sugar (which I omit)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 T oil (I melt the coconut oil in pan and add to the mix. stir fast so that it blends well.. it's hot)

Combine dry ingredients. in separate bowl combine egg, milk, and oil. Add to dry ingredients. Cook on medium heat in lightly greased skillet until golden brown and set. Turn once. Yields about 6-8

Friday, April 13, 2012

Reader Recipes - Bread

I tried a new bread recipe this morning so I would have something to post about.

The bread turned out good. It is dense and small, as you can see, but really tasty.

I have no idea where I got the recipe this morning. I basically just grabbed the first recipe off Google (jotted it down on a scrap 1st grade spelling list) that I could find that only made two loaves. So I can't source it. Luckily, I changed it a little, so it won't be total copyright infringement. Right?

I am curious for someone else to make it and see if theirs is as dense as mine. You know, because lately every time I make any bread it is dense.

This recipe is a multi grain bread with a lot of flavor and TONS of texture. I don't think I would make it for a regular bread recipe (every-day bread for sandwiches and such) unless I could figure out how to get it to be fluffier. But the taste is excellent.

We'll call it...hmmmm...

Easy Multi-Grain Bread

2 C. 10-grain cereal (I used some multi-grain hot cereal mix I had in my pantry. I think it was Hodgson Mills brand)
2 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. white flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/2 C. old fashioned oats
2 TBSP flax seed (optional)
1 1/2 heaping TBSP yeast
1/2 TBSP salt
2 TBSP dough enhancer
2 TBSP gluten
1/4 C. honey
1/4 C. coconut oil
1/2 C. applesauce (all I had was cinnamon apple sauce, so my bread smells and tastes just a little cinnamony - yum)
1 1/2 to 2 C. hot water

Mix dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients. Mix well. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Form two loaves. Sprinkle with oatmeal or other grain (I skipped this step just because I was in a hurry). Place in greased pans. Cover with a towel and let raise for 25 minutes. Then Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Now, someone out there, please share with me the bread recipe of my dreams. Cause I am seriously considering giving up on homemade and buying my bread from Great Harvest!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Staff of Life

We never had store-bought bread growing up. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the kitchen linoleum with my little brother while my mom mixed the dough in her Bosch. We would hum along to the sound of the mixer, and repeat made-up phrases that we thought the motor was "saying." Recently my brother and I reminisced about this particular memory, and I realized why I associate feelings of warmth and peace with the smell of home-baked bread.

To this day, there is little else that brings about the strong feelings of home and goodness that making my own bread does.

Not to mention the fact that, at long last, I really do prefer the taste of homemade to store-bought.

(A fact that gives me hope that, although they don't appreciate it now, someday my own children will long for the wholesome goodness of made-from-scratch bread)

Anyway, I am currently having a bread-making crisis. The recipe - my mom's recipe - that I have been making for a few years now, is not working for me any more. As in, it literally will not work. As in, it is dense and flat and weird (and it gets soggy after the first day). I have tried changing temperatures, changing yeasts, changing amounts of every ingredient under the sun. It just won't work. It is baffling. Especially when my mom brings me one of her loaves, and it is perfect (pictured). What is wrong with me (/my oven/my ingredients/all of the above)?!

Which is why our Friday Reader Recipe theme is going to be:


Whole wheat is preferable, of course. As is low sugar content. And easy. PLEASE easy!

Oh, and if it's not too much trouble, a recipe that makes 3 loaves, I'm just getting nit-picky.

I really need to find a good go-to recipe, so I am counting on all of you.

Don't let me down.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chocolate Protein Shake

It's chocolate. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Before we suddenly cut out sugar and processed foods, I had a favorite workout recovery drink:

Dark chocolate almond milk, peanut butter, banana, and protein powder (or yogurt, when I wasn't feeling tough enough to put up with protein powder). Yum. So tasty, I would drink it even if it wasn't good for my muscle development!

Even after we went sugar/processed-free, we drank it.

Until I looked at the Nutrition Facts on the back of the almond milk. Yikes. There is a lot of sugar in them thar goodness.

So, because smoothies are an essential part of my happiness, and aid in the quick recovery of my puny muscles after an exhaustive (because I'm a wimp) weight-lifting session, I decided to reinvent the proverbial wheel. Or, more accurately, to come up with a way to have my chocolate and eat it, too. Without the sugar.

This is what I came up with:

1 C. No Sugar Added Chocolate Almond Milk (It in no way tastes like chocolate. 'Water' would be a better flavor-description)
1 Big Handful of Spinach
1 heaping tsp. Cocoa Powder (Bonus: Cocoa is actually good for you!)
1 Tbsp. Peanut Butter (Natural, no sugar kind, of course)
1 Frozen Banana
1 Drizzle of Honey (to taste - I like a DARK chocolate flavor, so I don't add much)
1/3 C. Plain (or Greek - barf!) Yogurt (I freeze mine for added frozen-ness) - optional, good added protein if you think you need it.

It's not much to look at (as you can tell - note the grayish-green hue), but it tastes delicious. And it doesn't have any nasty protein powder or processed sugar in it!

You'll need to double the recipe, because your kids will want some, too.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Meatless Tacos

Last night we had tacos. Finally. I planned to have them Tuesday, but then I had a fateful run-in with a waffle iron, and the family enjoyed a waffle-induced coma for 17 straight hours. Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch.

So by dinner time last night, we were ready for a very non-waffle taco meal.

It was so fresh and summery-feeling, I think we'll do it again tonight.

(plus, we have LOTS of left-overs)

I made these slow-cooker beans, but used black instead, and didn't mash them. I think next time, I will add green chiles and lime.

Then I whipped up some

Easiest Spanish Rice Ever

1/4 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1.5 C. rice (one day I will be brave enough to try brown, but I love my Jasmine too much just yet)
2 C. chicken broth (homemade, if possible)
1 C. salsa (also homemade, if possible)

Melt the oil in a large pan. Saute the onion for 5 minutes. Add the dry rice and saute until it starts to brown. Then add the broth and salsa. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

(That reminds me, if you have a favorite Spanish Rice recipe, let me know. This is the only one I have ever made, and I always wonder what else is out there.)

I made some

Guacamole (I'm sure you know how, but just in case...)
1 avocado - mashed
garlic salt - to taste
lime - squeezed over, to taste
cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, whateverelsesoundsgood

I heated up the corn tortillas, chopped some fresh stuff, and threw some cheese in a bowl.

Such an easy meal (well, as long as you plan a little ahead for the beans - they take all day).

Also, for lunch yesterday I filled a bowl with brown rice and black beans. Then I poured over a little salsa and sour cream. It was super tasty and, more important, easy!

I am determined to find more ways to eat beans and rice. They are cheap, nutritious, and delicious (not to mention crock pot-able, which is so helpful). So, if you have any ideas, please share them here!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I'm back! And ready to return to my seat on the healthy wagon.

I enjoyed 10 sumptuous days of eating without concern for nutrition. I highly recommend it - occasionally. What is a vacation if you have to worry about additives, anyway?

The drive down to Phoenix actually went very well. We all stayed hydrated and snacked on fruit and vegetables (thank you very much for all the suggestions!).

Until after lunch. When I passed around the m&ms (peanut butter, in case you're curious), licorice, and animal cookies.

After that, it was basically a free-for-all, in which I convinced my cute little sister in-law to make Texas sheet cake, caramel syrup for waffles, and lemon bars (which, by the way, you have never really even had unless you use fresh-picked lemons. Yep, I spend a week in AZ and I am suddenly an expert. Get used to it).

Anyway, I am still trying to catch up on all my grocery shopping and cleaning after being gone, so I will just quickly share a couple tips I learned over the last few days:

1. If you live in Arizona or California (or any other place where fresh fruit and whole foods markets abound), you have no excuse for not eating healthy. Unless you are like me and just can't seem to get enough lemon bars.

2. The granola recipe I shared here a while ago, and that I make every single week, ready for this...indestructible! Seriously. One more reason to love it! Apparently, if you happen to leave the house right before it is finished baking, and don't return for over an hour, not only will your house not burn down, but your granola will be just as delicious as always. Now THAT is a granola miracle, if I ever heard of one. Especially since it costs so much to make! You can't ruin it. It's fail-safe. Try it. You'll thank me some day.

3. If you stop drinking your 2 quarts of water/day and exercising for two weeks, it is really hard to start again. So don't stop, if you can help it.

4. Go on vacation! Seriously. If I had the wherewithal to describe the benefits I have felt physically, mentally, and yes, even spiritually, from our recent get-away, you would be convinced to leave. Right now. It was that good.

5. I am willing to participate in a study on the health benefits of vacationing. If anyone is looking to fund one...

p.s. I really did try to include pictures with this post, but I have no patience for things that don't work the first time exactly how I desire. Sorry.