10 Healthier Sweets For Your Valentine

If you are like us you are probably still making your way through your Christmas candy. And that was after you threw away the leftover Halloween candy on Christmas Eve. We have a major sweet tooth at our house so I try not to keep processed sweets laying around, but it can be so hard with all the holidays.

Of course, the sweets just keep coming as we roll into February with Valentine’s Day falling right between my husband’s birthday and my own. Thankfully I’ve found several healthier sweets that we can enjoy on those special occasions so we can feel like we are treating ourselves without over doing it.

Here are ten of our favorites:

healthy peanut butter chocolate chip blondies

Healthy Peanut Butter Blondies – Joy Food Sunshine

Paleo Magic Cookie Bars – Food Faith Fitness

Continue reading

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City Girl Coffee Co Breakfast Blend

The Makers: City Girl Coffee Co.

Seattle may be America’s coffeehouse, but the Twin Cities is definitely holding its own. Home to two national brands – Caribou and Dunn Bros – as well as several smaller roasters, dozens of top-notch coffee shops, and a pretty passionate coffee culture.

Somewhere along my caffeinated journey I came across City Girl Coffee Co. The packaging caught my attention with its bright colors and female logo (two rarities) and when I found out it was based out of Duluth and the Twin Cities I was hooked. Besides having great beans this small company also has a great story and a group of passionate people behind it.  Continue reading

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wagon ride through apple orchard

Apple Bread and an apple orchard

Apples are kind of a big deal around here. The University of Minnesota makes news each time it announces a new variety. Apple orchards aren’t hard to come by. In fact, there are so many it can be hard to pick just one. We’ve tried out several over the years and they each offer their own little twist on the experience.

Apples available for pick your own

This year we tried another new one  and we might have just found our annual orchard! Continue reading

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Coffee: A beautiful relationship

Like any good relationship, my courtship with coffee has evolved and deepened. My first taste of coffee came as a kid when my grandma use to give us milk and coffee. Mostly milk with a little splash of coffee . . . so really light brown milk.

When we met again I was far from home living the craziness that is the first year of college. We often met at The Union in the center of campus, coffee wearing the trendy green straw dressed as a frappuccino. Possibly a step closer to the real thing, but still in that sweet early phase when you can’t get enough. Of course, college ended and jobs and the responsibilities of real life hit me hard. Our relationship had evolved to quick and naked jolts of energy before leaving the house. You know, the time in a relationship where you are past trying to impress and you’re just comfortable and don’t always recognize what they do for you.

As always, life continued to evolve and my first baby came into my life. And my reliance on and appreciation for that glorious taste of sanity grew each day. Of course, then coffee went and surprised me and evolved to a smooth delight with the strength to support me all day. When your love for something you thought you knew forwards and backwards is renewed and strengthened – that was cold-press and me. Now we’ve settled into that phase where we just are what we are. We don’t care who judges us for spending to much time together or thinks we should get out with others . . . we are two cubes in a cup and happy as can be.

The Best At Home Cold Press Coffee

1 lb beans, coarsely ground

1 gallon water

Equipment: large bowl or container with a lid; wire mesh strainer; paper filter

Cold press grounds with water

Add the coarsely ground beans to the large container and cover with the gallon of cold water. Stir slightly so all of the grounds are wet. Cover the container and place in the fridge for 18-24 hours.

After 18-24 hours, place a paper filter in the wire mesh strainer over another large bowl or carafe. Pour the coffee/water mixture through the filter to strain out the grounds.

Finished cold press coffee

Enjoy the cold press over ice with your favorite add-ins and watered down to your desired strength. I prefer to use filtered water and add a splash of almond milk, but you do you.

Cold press can be stored in the fridge for up to 14 days (if it lasts that long 🙂 )

 

 

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Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

August Coffee Chat

Where did summer go? I’m not quite ready for cooler weather and sweaters, but it like everything else in life it will come regardless.
Don’t you just hate that though! That those things you wish you could drag out forever always seem to come to an end before you are ready. Yet, the things that you want to change right away seem to take their sweet time. In fact, there is one thing in my life that I know I need to change, my therapist told me I need to change, and my family says I would be happier if I changed. But of course it is the one thing I can’t seem to change.
So instead I cope and try to distract myself . . . that was really the theme for August.
Food
When something is bothering me or not going my way I often turn to food. I am not an emotional eater, but I am an emotional cooker. Give me a day in the kitchen to knead, mix, and bake my way out of my own head and I’m much happier. So this month I clocked more time in the kitchen than I have in a long time. The family got to enjoy the fruits of my labor of course 😃
Cinnamon Rolls
Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie
Parmesan Zucchini Tots
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Zucchini Bread
(If you didn’t notice we had an abundance of monster zucchinis in our garden.)
Exploring
The other activity that helps put me at ease is travel. In August we didn’t travel far from home, but even a little local exploration was enough. We took our first camping trip as a family of four!
Happy campers Littlest hiker
Father daughter hike
Lebanon Hills is a gorgeous park about 20 minutes from our house with walking trails and full hook-up campsites. Yep, camping for this family means a camper with running water 😃 Hey, we still cooked over an open fire and went hiking with an infant and a five-year-old.
Family
Speaking of infants, our little man turned one on August 1! Where did the time go?! How did we get from the NICU to finger foods and crawling so quickly?
But here we are with an adventurous, flirty, and ornery little gentleman in our lives.
First birthday

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chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is it just me or has there already been a National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day this year? Oh, who cares though; we don’t need a special day to celebrate the world’s favorite cookie!

our favorite cookiesThis iconic sweet has millions of recipes claiming to be the best and we have tried our fair share at our house. From skookies to browned butter to chickpea based healthy bars we’ve enjoyed them all, but one recipe has stood out as our favorite. This recipe does take more time than your basic recipe, but every extra minute is worth the wait.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (originally appeared on Delish)
Servings Prep Time
24Cookies 20minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
Servings Prep Time
24Cookies 20minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs and whip until combined.
  2. In medium bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir into the butter mixture and fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  3. Divide dough into 24 balls about 1 1/2-inch each. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and slightly flatten. Place baking sheets in freezer for 15 minutes.
  4. While dough is in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Remove the dough balls from the freezer and bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Let cool on pan for few minutes before placing on wire racks to cool completely.

Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

It is hard to believe it was a year ago that we welcomed our baby boy to the world. It has been a crazy year adjusting to having two little ones in the house, long commutes, and finding time for ourselves. But one thing that doesn’t take any adjustment is my love for birthdays and celebrating.

Little man turns one

My husband isn’t a huge fan of birthday celebrations, but I think each year is a milestone of accomplishments, lessons learned, growth, and memories. So we ALWAYS celebrate in our house, I’m baking so it is my rules. And really who is going to turn down a special treat . . . no one in my house!

Of course, even when celebrating I want to make sure we are being good to ourselves. So not every special occasion includes a sugar bomb. Don’t get me wrong we LOVE sugar in all of its processed sparkly glory. If you follow me on Instagram you have probably noticed plenty of ice cream cones and crazy donuts 😃 But sometimes it is just about getting something a little sweet without all the bad stuff. Which is why I love this recipe!

Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

healthy peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bars

Ingredients
1 (15oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter (you can sub creamy if you prefer)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips, reserve 1/4 cup for the top
sea salt to sprinkle on top
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 9″ tart pan or glass baking dish and set aside. (I prefer the tart pan because I think the triangles make it feel more special)
2. Put all ingredients except the chocolate chips and sea salt in a food processor.
3. Blend until smooth.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Pour dough into prepared pan and spread out evenly.
6. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips and sea salt.
7. Bake 20-25 minutes until the edges are golden brown.
8. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
9. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
We enjoy these bars for special occasions or just because we have a massive sweet tooth at our house. Don’t worry though, we are celebrating little man’s birthday over the weekend with some real sugary cupcakes and frosting.

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National Ice Cream Day: 5 at home and 5 for the road

There is no denying it is officially summer in Minnesota. The time of year when everyone becomes an avid runner or biker, patio furniture makes its much-lauded return, and my love for ice cream is on full display.

The rest of my family could (and does) eat ice cream even when the snow is flying and the temperatures dip well below zero, but for me to really enjoy the icy cold treat it has to be sunshine and shorts type of weather. That is when the ice cream maker makes its triumphant return from the bowels of the pantry and ice cream cones earn a spot on the weekly grocery list.

Here are five easy homemade ice cream recipes to help you enjoy the summer season:

  • Coffee Ice Cream from Baked by an Introvert : A few chopped chocolate covered espresso beans and whipped topping make this a real treat.
  • Chocolate Ice Cream from Ashlee Marie: This is our go-to ice cream recipe and it never disappoints!
  • Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream – Joy Filled Eats: This is great for when you’re on dairy overload, but still want a little ice cream treat.
  • Strawberry Ice Cream by A Latte Food: Strawberry is secretly my favorite flavor of ice cream and this one reminds me of the homemade ice cream we made with my grandparents as kids.
  • Rocky Road Ice Cream by Barefeet in the Kitchen: Rocky Road is probably my second favorite flavor because it reminds me of my other favorite summer treat – S’mores!

Of course, if you buy all the ingredients, tell your kids there will be ice cream post dinner, but forgot to put the ice cream maker insert back in the freezer (really who would do that! J) there are always these great sweet shops to hit up for a dip or two.

  • Sebastian Joe’s  This ice cream brand has sort of found its way all over the Twin Cities. It can be found in restaurants and shops on both sides of the river, but heading to one of the two scoop shops is still the best way to enjoy the unique flavors the team has to offer.

Flavor recommendations: Pavoratti, Salty Caramel, Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Nicollet Avenue      Pothole, and Joe’s Brrr Bars

Edina Creamery: Smore’s and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

  • Edina Creamery  We love this little shop with red topped tables and there is plenty of window shopping in the area if you want to take your treat to go.

Flavor recommendations: S’mores, strawberry, chocolate milkshake, and peanut butter     chocolate

  • Izzy’s You can find pints of Izzy’s in some stores around the Twin Cities, but we still love going to one of the shops to get that cute little Izzy scoop up on top.

Flavor recommendations: Peppermint Bon Bon, Vanilla Bean, Church Elderberry, and Peace    Coffee

  • Peterson’s This popcorn and ice cream shop has been around since 1977, but only recently moved it’s location to just down the street from us. Not only is it an after dinner walk away, but their homemade ice cream is fantastic.

Flavor recommendations: Black Hills Gold, Mocha Chip, Butterscotch Sundae, and Blueberry cheesecake

  • Grand Ole Creamery Grand Avenue is a great place to spend the afternoon wandering and this is the perfect spot to grab a quick treat. If you are going to make a meal occasion out of it head over to Punch pizza before satisfying your sweet tooth at this cute little shop.

Flavor recommendations: North country crunch, Coconut chip, Maple nut, and Marshmallow Man

Now the only question is cone or cup?

Got another scoop we should try? Please let us know 🙂

 

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5 Midwest food and drink fests worth the calories

Spring and summer in the Midwest means it’s festival season. With almost every weekend providing an option for food, drink, and fun which should you make room for in your schedule and diet?

Here are five of our favorite options for a day in the sun, eating and drinking our way through local favs.

Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championshipgrilled cheese

Date: April 23, 2016

Location: 600 Bennett Road, Dodgeville, WI

Cost: Free general admission or $25/ticket Grilled Cheese VIP

The childhood favorite is taken to the griddle by talented home and professional chefs for some tasty results. With four different sandwich categories, food trucks, and vendors, you are sure to find something that hits the spot.

http://www.grilledcheesewisconsin.com/

Taste of Chicago

Date: July 6-10, 2016

Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL

Cost: Free admission; food items are 1 – 5 tickets each; 12 tickets for $8.50

Since 1980 Grant Park has hosted one of the top outdoor food festivals in the nation. Over five days enjoy hundreds of food items, live music, cooking demonstrations, and plenty of family friendly activities.

http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/taste_of_chicago.html

Great Taste of the Midwest

Date:  August 13, 2016

Location: Olin Park, Madison, WI

Cost: Tickets $60 go on sale May 1st; tickets often sell out

Headed into its 30th year this brew fest is the second oldest in the U.S. and for good reason. Featuring over 150 brewers and 1000 beers you are sure to find something that quenches your thirst. You can also enjoy educational and entertaining presentations on topics such as beer and chocolate pairings, beer cocktails, and live music. And of course there are plenty of food options to pair with your brew of choice.

http://greattaste.org

Mackinac Island Fudge Festival 

Street view photo – “Mackinac Island” by Marada is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Street view photo – “Mackinac Island” by Marada is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Date: August 19-21

Location: Mackinac Island, MI

Cost: Free admission; cost of food items varies

I love the Cedar Crest ice cream named after this delicious treat and this event takes it to a whole new level.

A fudge inspired dinner, beer and fudge tastings, and even loompahs delivering Golden Tickets to the fudge shops.

http://www.mackinacisland.org/event/mackinac-island-fudge-festival/ 

Taste of Madison

Dates: September 3 – 4

Location: Capitol Square, Madison, WI

Cost: Free admission; food items priced $1 to $4

This festival has been on my radar since we moved to Minnesota almost 10 years ago and I still haven’t made the time to get there. More than 80 restaurants serving bites, 3 performance stages, and 26 beverage stands make for two days of fun and feasting. Best part – all the proceeds go to local non-profits.

http://www.tasteofmadison.com/

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Giant Irish Soda Muffins (that aren’t green)

It doesn’t seem like we should be talking about St. Patrick’s Day yet. And it definitely doesn’t seem like Easter should be just around the corner.

But here we are, nearly halfway through March. So the green is sneaking up on us . . . even if it is only in the form of glittery shamrocks and leprechaun hats. Hopefully, we will soon see some green sneaking out of the ground and sprouting from our flowerbeds.

Until then I will just enjoy a celebration of the Emerald Isle with some good food. I’ve never really understood the fascination with coloring foods green that should not be green so I am going for some actual greens instead. I suppose when you think Irish cuisine most people don’t think of greens anyway. You think of sausage, fish and chips, and other plain colored items. However, a few years ago I read a wonderful piece in Travel & Leisure that gave me a whole new perspective on Irish cooking.

My favorite still remains the traditional soda bread, but I’ve been getting inspired by a few Irish dishes online as well. Here are a few of our favs and our favorite soda muffins to go along with whatever you choose this St. Patrick’s Day. muffins

Corned Beef and Vegetables

Beef and Stout Casserole with Herby Dumplings

Sausages Baked with Beans and Eggs

Roast Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce

Irish Soda Muffins
Big, delicious muffins that are great for dipping in stew or slathering in butter and jam. This recipe originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Bon Appetit.
Servings Prep Time
6large muffins 15minutes
Cook Time
22minutes
Servings Prep Time
6large muffins 15minutes
Cook Time
22minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray six 1-cup muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. 2. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. 3. Using your fingertips, blend the butter into the flour mixture until incorporated as small pea like pieces.
  4. 4. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to blend.
  5. 5. Spoon muffin batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. 6. Remove muffins from oven and let cool slightly on a rack prior to turning out.


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