Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites

Enjoy the taste of pumpkin pie without the guilt! These pumpkin pie energy bites are sinfully good and a healthy alternative to the real stuff. I keep them in the freezer and pull one out whenever I need a sweet treat. 

Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites

1 cup pitted dates
warm water
1/2 cup raw pecan halves (or pecan pieces)
1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, reserve small amount for garnish
2 tsp. pure maple syrup
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 pinch sea salt

1. Place dates in a medium bowl; cover with water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Drain. Set aside. 
2. Place pecans in food processor; pulse until finely ground.
3. Add dates, pumpkin, coconut, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice and salt; pulse until well mixed. Place in a medium bowl. 
Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes. 
4. Using clean hands, roll into Tbsp. size balls; roll in reserved coconut, if desired. 
5. Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container.

1 serving = 2 energy bites
21 Day Fix containers = 1 yellow container treat “swap”
Recipe source: FIXATE Cookbook

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Teaching Kids About Election Day

Yesterday was Election Day 2016 in our town and across the United States. Campaign signs lined the streets, people wore "I Voted" stickers proudly, and news outlets swirled with election coverage.

Tory (at age 5) noted the significance of the day and began to ask questions about it. It seemed like a great opportunity to teach her the basic principles of democracy, so yesterday we spent the afternoon learning about the presidential election.

After a quick Google search, I found some great information on the PBS website with tips for helping kids understand the election. I decided Tory and I would make a ballot box and while we worked side-by-side, we'd talk about it.

"What does it mean to vote?" I asked her. Surprisingly, she knew the answer. "It's when everyone votes for who they want to be something. Whoever has the most votes, wins," she said simply. I suppose in her five-year-old mind an election is comparable to playing a game; the person with the most votes, wins.

"Who gets to vote? Can you become President one day? And, what does the President do anyway?" These questions brought up some great conversation between the two of us as we worked away on our craft project. I admit to not knowing all the answers (thanks, PBS, for the talking points!) so it was a nice way to refresh my own grown-up memory on the rules of the land.

After our ballot box was finished, Tory and I made campaign signs for each candidate and printed election ballots on pieces of paper. We talked about the 2016 candidates for President of the United States and I showed her pictures of each person. We also talked about the historic significance of this particular election -- the first woman was running for President of the United States!

Tory gathered up two Barbie dolls to represent each presidential candidate, and a few more to be "voters" in our pretend election. We each took turns filling out our paper ballots and placed them in the ballot box to be counted. Then, Tory read the results and I tallied them on a piece of paper. We counted the votes and in our living room election, Hillary Clinton was the winner.

Tory and I made our own homemade versions of "I Voted" stickers for she and Aden to wear proudly the rest of the evening. What a fun and educational afternoon learning about the election with my little preschooler.

This morning at breakfast, Tory asked me who won the election. "Donald Trump," I told her. She asked with a somber face, "Why didn't anyone vote for the girl?" (See, at age five, it's all about boys vs. girls...) Then, we had a nice discussion over breakfast about how people voted for both candidates but in the end, the person with the most votes wins. We're fortunate enough to live in a place where we're free to express our opinion through voting and more than anything that's the message I hoped Tory gained from our conversation. It's hard to believe Tory will be NINE the next time a presidential election rolls around; it seems so far away. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

21 Day Fix Meal Plan: Week of November 7-13

It's been a while since I shared one of my 21 Day Fix clean eating meal plans. Click HERE to download a copy of my meal plan for next week (November 7-13).

Note: I'm following the 21 Day Fix Eating Plan and fall into the 1,200-1,499 calorie bracket. Each person should individually determine their own calorie level when following this plan. The colors on my meal plan represents a different color-coded portion control container. If you'd like more information about this Eating Plan, or are interested in joining my free accountability group, email me directly at

Last week, my mother-in-law and I were talking about meal planning ruts. She feels like she's always making the same recipes, and I'm the opposite! I rarely make the same meal twice. I do go back to a few favorites (like the apple cinnamon overnight oats I ate for breakfast the entire month of October), but for me, half the fun of cooking is trying new foods and flavors. It's also one of my favorite parts of being a Beachbody Coach; I love sharing the healthy and delicious recipes I find with others.

On Tuesday, it's my turn to bring snack to the parent's room of Aden's ECFE class and it also happens to be Election Day. I thought create-your-own yogurt parfaits would be a fun, festive treat to take for everyone. Here's the simple recipe:

Healthy Red, White and Blue Yogurt Parfait
Serves: 1

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup mixed strawberries and blueberries, washed and trimmed
1 Tbsp. granola (I like Purely Elizabeth Original Ancient Grains, or make your own)
drizzle of raw honey

1. Add half of the yogurt to the bottom of a cup, glass or mason jar.
2. Top with half of the strawberries and blueberries mixture.
3. Repeat with a second layer of yogurt and berries.
4. Sprinkle granola on top and drizzle with honey.

Yields: 1 serving
21 Day Fix: 1 serving = 1 red, 1 purple, 1/2 yellow and 1 tsp.

I made myself the same sweet treat poolside in Palm Springs last week, so I guess I do repeat recipes sometimes!


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Halloween 2016

Halloween, and the days leading up to it, were pretty fun this year. When the calendar flipped to October, I started playing Curious George: A Halloween Boo-Fest for the kids on Netflx because it's one of my favorite holiday movies. Seriously, it's so cute! I just love Curious George and all the mischief he gets himself into because he reminds a lot of Aden. Ha!

This probably isn't parenting PC to admit, but the kids and I watched Halloween Boo-Fest a few dozen times over the month. Eh- don't worry, kids! TV won't rot your brains! Eventually, Aden started to act out a few scenes in the movie like the "Halloween Boo" song at the beginning of the show. He'd hide behind the sofa, then jumping out and shout "boo!" in an effort to scare us all. It was seriously so adorable.

Over the course of the month, Tory and Aden also changed their minds about Halloween costumes about a dozen times. Tory has a Halloween-themed Disney princess book we'd read together most nights, and the last line says something like "What will you dress up as for Halloween this year? A princess?" to which Tory would flatly respond, "Oh, definitely. I'm just not sure which one!"

Her top choices were Elsa from Frozen, Jasmine from Aladdan or Cinderella ... then one day, out of the blue, she came to me and said she wanted to be a witch for Halloween. I found a pointy witch hat in the Dollar Spot section at Target and some orange and black-striped socks. I wasn't about to invest more money on an outfit given the rate she changed her mind, so I paired the hat and socks with a Trick or Treat t-shirt and skirt she already had in her closet. It came together perfectly in the end.

I thought Aden might like to be a fisherman since he loved fishing at the lake this past summer, so I bought him a toy tackle box and fishing vest to use. I planned to make fishing lures to attach to his vest and find him a fishing hat and boots, but lost steam when we booked tickets to Palm Springs over Halloween. I knew the weather would be warm and I didn't want to travel with a bunch of props in my suitcase, so the few he did have had to be good enough.

Andi had a work event in Glamis, California the week before Halloween, so I decided to take the kids to Palm Springs about 1 1/2 hours away while he worked, and then Andi joined us in Palm Springs when his event wrapped up on October 30.  

On Halloween Day (our only day in Palm Springs with Andi), we decided to take the kids into Palm Springs proper for the day. (The house we stayed in that week was in Indio, CA, about 20 minutes outside of Palm Springs.)

Andi, our expert travel guide, was obviously back in the mix as our day quickly filled with plans. Andi selected a restaurant for brunch in downtown Palm Springs called FARM - an adorable French bistro tucked in an alleyway with lush greenery and climbing vines. Janie and I cooked our own healthy, homemade meals all week so this was the first time we'd ventured onto the Palm Springs restaurant scene. We splurged and ordered several plates to share - a goat cheese and pear salad, strawberry and Nutella crepe, croque madame, a mushroom and goat cheese omelet and a plate of bacon (which was mostly for Aden). The food was indulgently delicious!

Next, we made our way to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The tram begins in the Coachella Valley and glides along Chino Canyon to Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Tory was nervous about the tram ride initially, but then literally jumped with glee when we departed the tram on the top of the mountain. She thought it was the neatest experience EVER!

There are two restaurants, observation decks, a natural history museum, documentary theaters, a gift shop and miles of hiking trails at the top of the mountain. It was as if we'd been transported to a different zip code within our 10 minute tram ride -- the air temperature dropped to 60 degrees and we were surrounded by pine, fir and oak trees (no palm trees in sight)! I immediately regretted not researching the state park before we'd left our rented house in Indio as I was wearing a dress and the kids were dressed in shorts. Andi had warned me the temperature might be cooler at the top of the mountain, but it was hard to believe him when the temperature was in the high 80's on the desert floor. I would've love to hike around all day in the state park, but unfortunately I was cold and wearing flip-flops; not ideal. We did a short loop through the woods and then headed back to tram when the kids said they were tired.

After riding the tram back down the mountain, we stopped for frozen yogurt at a place in downtown Palm Springs. It was close to 5:00pm by this point -- time for trick-or-treating!

We stayed at a house within a gated community in Palm Springs, and were fairly certain there wouldn't be many trick-or-treaters around that evening (the area was largely comprised of retirees and few children). To ensure Tory and Aden had a Happy Halloween, Janie purchased some candy earlier in the day and arranged to have a few of the neighbors hand it out to our kids. While I dressed Tory and Aden in their costumes, Janie buzzed around the neighborhood and "planted" the candy. Our plan worked perfectly, and Tory and Aden were SO EXCITED to trick-or-treat at a few houses on the block.

Minutes before we left to go trick-or-treating, Tory asked Andi and I what we planned to dress up as for Halloween. I didn't have a costume planned, so I told her I was going to be a mom. "You're a mom everyday," she responded in a disappointed voice. So, to be a good sport, I found a bathrobe in the closet and used Janie's hair curlers to throw together a last-minute costume. Janie got in the spirit, too, and threw on a sun hat to go as a "vacationer." Tory was quite pleased.

Aden said his favorite part of Halloween was the candy. He ripped into every single piece given to him before it made it into his bucket. To say he was hyped up that evening would be an understatement! One of my favorites memories of Aden and Halloween this year was how he'd walk around yelling, "Oooh!" as he pretended to be a spooky ghost. Too cute!  

It was so different celebrating Halloween in a warm, sunny climate. The evening temperature was a perfect 75 degrees during trick-or-treating -- far different than Minnesota!

Our Palm Springs vacation concluded the following morning, November 1. We had an amazing time during our stay there, and can't wait to go back again one day.