Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!

Celebrate this National Day by treating yourself to a cookie (or more) containing those tasty bits of chocolate. If you’re looking for a quick-and-easy recipe, try this family favorite from my mother’s kitchen.

Ingredients

14 ounces brown sugar
14 ounces white sugar
1 pound Crisco
7 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
12 ounces chocolate chips
7 cups Monarch flour
Dash of Salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cover the bottoms of cookies sheets with aluminum foil.
3. Beat sugar and Crisco.
4. Add eggs and continue beating.
5. Add flour and continue beating.
6. Add the remaining ingredients and continue beating.
7. Shape into balls and drop on cookie sheets.
8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Enjoy!


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Rebecca’s Power of 10 List…This is NOT a Diet!

I’m happy to welcome author Rebecca Marino to the Power of 10 series. Today, Rebecca shares ten rules for losing weight and her latest release, The Drive.

Here’s Rebecca!

(Disclosure—I am NOT a health professional or a dietician. I’m a teacher/author who loves to eat chocolate and peanut butter.)

April rolled around in Indiana after a snowy winter. In one week the high temperature changed from 31F to 68F. Time for a drastic wardrobe change. I pulled several pairs of shorts from my closet and not one pair fit comfortably…My favorite pair were impossible to get into. I finally squeezed into last summer’s ‘loose shorts’ and decided I really needed to do something. Diet??? UGH!


I had all kinds of excuses…

• I’m a preschool teacher and work five days a week
• I’m an author and have been doing a lot of sitting while writing and revising two books
• I hit the golden age of 50 in February
• I run two to three times a week…isn’t that enough?
• I found some REALLY yummy dessert recipes on Pinterest that I just had to try–(and eat the entire batch)

There are more excuses too embarrassing to mention…

BUT, not only was I unable to zip my FAVORITE pair of shorts…I couldn’t squeeze into 90% of my shorts. I jumped on the scale and my eyes bulged almost as big as my protruding gut….I had gained 10 pounds in the past 6 months.

I HAD to do something about this because I couldn’t bear to place my favorite shorts in the Goodwill pile!

I turned to the internet and Googled every diet and exercise program I could find. Everything was commercialized…buy this food…buy this book…buy this exercise program…Diet and exercise is EXPENSIVE! The before and after pictures were encouraging, yet every success story had a small print disclosure stating, ”These results are not typical.”

Hours later I decided to not ‘diet’. I had watched a ‘Good Eats’ by Alton Brown episode a few years back about how he lost weight without being on a ‘diet’. He lost 50 pounds by changing the way he ate…without totally giving up sweets and carbs.

I LOVE bread and I LOVE chocolate and I LOVE peanut butter. Giving those foods up completely was not an option. I knew if I wanted to wear my shorts again I’d need to severely limit my intake of those precious commodities.

I also researched exercising and found out when you exercise is important for weight loss. The best time to exercise to burn fat is first thing in the morning BEFORE you eat. I didn’t increase my running (two to three times a week) because the research showed the best workouts for weight loss were NOT running…they were High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Strength Training. I decided to include a short Tabata workout (The Seven Minute workout on Youtube) and 25 minutes of strength training three times a week.

With a lot of will power and the following 10 rules…I changed my eating habits with the goal to lose those ten pounds. Here’s my POWER OF TEN list…Remember…this is NOT a diet!

1) Eat oatmeal for breakfast. Not the little package kind. Straight oats with water and a dash of cinnamon and almond or vanilla extract. I either cook it on the stove or microwave it. It’s not the tastiest breakfast, but it keeps me full.

2) Eat a mid-morning snack, a mid-afternoon snack, and an evening snack in addition to three small meals. Snacks I choose included: a protein shake (easy to drink at preschool) or a plain rice cake with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter, or a handful of almonds or walnuts, or carrot sticks and humus, or a half cup of plain Greek yogurt, or an apple, or a piece of deli turkey wrapped in a piece of cheese, or any fresh green veggie.

3) Eat as much fresh green vegetables as possible during your six meals/snacks. Spinach, Kale, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, etc.

4) Drink a gallon of water every day. This one is REALLY hard. Most days I didn’t drink the entire gallon…but I found if I carry a water bottle around I come close to drinking a gallon.

5) No snacking in between the three meals and three snacks. AND no eating after 9:00 pm.

6) No added sugar. Read the labels. If sugar is an added ingredient…don’t eat it.

7) No high carbohydrate foods. (Oatmeal, brown rice, and ancient grains like quinoa are slow burning carbs—GOOD. Bread, potatoes, pasta, basically anything with flour in it—NOT GOOD).

8) Limit fresh fruit to one serving per day. Fresh fruit has a lot of natural sugar in it. Berries are the best with the lowest amount of natural sugar.

9) Treat yourself! Eat two servings of bread OR pasta each week…not per day… Two servings per week. That means one bun and one small cup of macaroni in seven days.

10) Treat yourself! Eat dessert once a week or alcohol once a week…make it worth it and keep the proportion small. Desserts taste so much better when you only have one a week!

During the first week I was shocked that I wasn’t hungry. Yes, I missed sweets and breads and potatoes at first, but quickly noted my energy levels had gone up instead of down. The water and the veggies really helped me feel full all day. I even had a hard time remembering to eat my healthy snacks three times a day.

After seven days…I got on the scale…I had lost 5 pounds! My shorts still didn’t fit, but the weight loss gave me some serious motivation to continue.

After three weeks…I remained at a 5 pound loss….UGH! At first I was very frustrated BUT….my shorts were beginning to feel MUCH looser!

After four weeks…I had lost 7 pounds and my shorts were zipping without me taking huge deep breaths!

After six weeks…I remain at the weight loss of 7 pounds…but ALL of my shorts fit comfortably!

I’m very happy after nine weeks….despite remaining at a 7 pound total weight loss. I’ve talked to a registered dietician and she noted my 3 extra pounds is probably added muscle from working out. I lost the fat but gained muscle which helps my body burn fat around the clock—even while I’m sitting. Cool!

Did I ever cheat? You betcha! I had two desserts one week (chocolate brownie and fresh strawberry short cake) I also ate a piece of yummy bread at a restaurant before I ate my grilled shrimp, broccoli, and green beans. I’d remind myself, “It’s okay to cheat once in a while, just don’t make it a habit.”

I accomplished my goal of fitting into my clothes without losing all ten pounds and that is OKAY because I feel new strength in my arms from the muscle I developed. My biggest takeaway is my new awareness of ingredients in the foods I’ve eaten mindlessly for so long. With a little preparation and planning I eat more foods that are healthier and make me feel better.

Plus, I learned how to eat to feel full, yet remain in moderation without completely giving up chocolate and peanut butter. Now that is sweet!

Here’s my favorite snack.

5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Energy Bites

2/3 cup peanut butter (I use natural crunchy)
½ cup Hershey dark chocolate chips
1 cup old fashioned oats
½ cup ground flax seed
2 Tablespoons honey

Combine all 5 ingredients in a bowl. Stir. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to make it easier to roll. Roll into 12 bites and store in a zip baggie in the fridge for up to a week. (I use my small cookie scoop which makes 16 smaller bites.)

I found this recipe at ChefSavvy

I LOVE to try new recipes and read mystery/thrillers so feel free to share your favorites in the comments below. Thanks, Joanne for hosting me today!
Keep reading, writing, and indulging (every once in a while).

Blurb

Three last words…Trust No One.

Kasey Carter’s life changes forever when a mysterious flash drive arrives on her doorstep. Three people with connections to the drive are soon murdered. With evidence in hand, the police and FBI quickly close each case.

A year later, Kasey finds the drive hidden, along with a note from her husband. ‘Deliver this to FBI Agent Dylan Rogers. Trust no one.’ Within hours of contacting Rogers, she finds herself on the run from an organized crime ring, the police, and the FBI.

Who can she trust?

A heart-pounding, action-packed tale of nail-biting suspense that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

buynow

Free on Kindle ~ Wednesday, June 20 – Friday, June 22

Ms. Marino has crafted a riveting thriller filled with nail-biting suspense, multiple murders, romantic tension, and plot twists. I was impressed by the descriptive detail, heart-pounding and action-packed scenes, and smooth handling of multiple POVs. I strongly recommend setting aside large blocks of uninterrupted reading time. You won’t be able to put down this gripping page-turner.

Next, please!

Bio

Rebecca Marino is a preschool teacher, author, and mom of three, almost-grown kids (four if you count my husband of 26 years). I read and write suspense novels and children’s picture books while eating chocolate and peanut butter.

My novel, THE DRIVE is a Suspense Thriller, taking readers on a non-stop ride full of mystery, murder, and unexpected twists from the very first page.

Website | Facebook


Chia Seed Power!

From the start, I loved the sound of the Mayan word “chia” and its meaning: strength. Originally grown in Mexico, these seeds were valued for their nutritional and medicinal properties. Runners and warriors used chia seeds as fuel while running long distances or during battles. Aztec warriors claimed that one spoonful of chia seeds could sustain them for 24 hours.

Recent research has found even more benefits. An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and antioxidants, chia seeds support the heart and digestive system, build stronger bones and muscles, promote healthy skin, and can help reverse diabetes.

Definitely a superfood and one that can be easily incorporated into our daily diets. A reassuring fact for non-foodies (like protagonist Gilda Greco and me) who don’t like to cook.

Continue reading on the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog.


In Praise of Homemade Soup

Today is National Homemade Soup Day, a day devoted to celebrating those warm bowls of comfort that nourish our bodies and souls. Take some time to make your favorite soup or experiment with a new recipe.

Here’s my go-to recipe for vegetable quinoa soup. I like making a large batch and then dividing up the soup into one-cup portions that I freeze for the week.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 small zucchini, chopped
8 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups cooked quinoa
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Rinse 1 cup quinoa under cold water. Add quinoa, 2 cups water, and a pinch of salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until tender (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and zucchini. Continue cooking for another 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the vegetable broth. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook until the vegetables are fork-tender (about 25-30 minutes).

4. Stir in the cooked quinoa and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Yield: Serves 6 – 8

Buon appetito!


Easy Avgolemono

After all her guests stormed out of the restaurant, Gilda Greco (protagonist of Too Many Women in the Room) took refuge in the steaming goodness of Chef David Korba’s Avgolemeno, a Greek lemon chicken soup that warms up body and soul while releasing endorphins.


Find out more about Too Many Women in the Room and get the tried-and-true recipe for Easy Avgolemono on Peggy Jaeger’s blog.


Happy National Homemade Cookies Day!

Celebrate this National Day by baking a batch of favorite cookies or experiment with a new recipe. If you’re stuck, why not try the following recipe for raisin cookies. It’s a family favorite from my mother’s kitchen

Ingredients

1/3 cup margarine or shortening
2/3 cups brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, well-beaten
½ cup chopped raisins
1½ cups sifted pastry flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 Tbsp milk

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Using an electric mixer (or hand mixer), cream together margarine, sugar, and vanilla extract.
3. Add the egg and raisins.
4. Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with milk.
5. Beat until all ingredients are well combined.
6. Drop by spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet.
7. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the centers are soft with a touch of color and the edges are golden brown.

Enjoy!


Happy National Cheesecake Day!

I was delighted to discover a reason to celebrate (and partake of) my favorite dessert. But before doing that, I decided to delve into the origins of cheesecakes.

Cheesecakes date back to ancient Greece. Physical anthropologists have excavated cheese molds, dated 2000 B.C., on the Greek island of Samos. In Greece, cheesecakes were considered excellent sources of energy and served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. Greek brides and grooms celebrated their nuptials with cheesecake.

ancient greece

An actual cheesecake recipe from 230 A.D. has been unearthed: Pound the cheese until it’s smooth and pasty, mix the pounded cheese in a brass pan with honey and wheat flour, heat the cheesecake in one mass, cool and then serve.

When the Romans conquered Greece, they modified the recipe by adding eggs. These ingredients were baked under a hot brick oven, and the cheesecake was served warm.

As the Romans expanded their empire, they shared their recipe with the Europeans. In England, Henry VIII’s chef cut up cheese into very small pieces and soaked these pieces in milk for three hours. Then, he strained the mixture and added eggs, butter, and sugar.

A fan of the New York Style Cheesecake, I decided to research its history. German-born Arnold Reuben (well-known for his signature sandwiches) was invited to a dinner party where the hostess served a cheese pie. Fascinated by the dish, Reuben experimented with the recipe until he came up with the smooth-tasting cheesecake we all know and love.

Over the centuries, different cheesecake recipes have evolved, reflecting the cheeses and preferences of each country: Italians use ricotta cheese, Greeks use mizithra or feta, Germans prefer cottage cheese, and the Japanese use a combination of cornstarch and egg whites. More daring chefs have introduced specialty cheesecakes that include blue cheese, seafood, spicy chilies, and even tofu.

manycheesecakeflavors

I’m willing to try almost any flavor, but I’ll pass on the chilies, tofu, and seafood varieties. When it comes to creating my own cheesecake, I gravitate toward the following easy-to-prepare recipe that actually calls for frozen blueberries.

Enjoy!

Blueberry Delight

Ingredients

½ cup brown sugar
2½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¾ cup butter
8 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
32 ounces sweetened whipped cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3½ cups frozen blueberries

Directions

Combine brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, and butter.
Press into the bottom of a 9” x 13” rectangular pan.
Bake for ten minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cool the crust.
Cream together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice.
Add whipped cream and fold in blueberries using a wooden spoon.
Pour mixture into the pan.
Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Servings: 15

Any other easy-to-prepare cheesecake recipes out there?