Chocolate Bran Muffins

Years ago when I was on weight watchers, I used to make these muffins all the time. They are extremely fast and easy and they have very few ingredients. They end up being low in calories and high in fiber and taste just like a chocolate brownie. J They are best heated up with a little whip cream on top and this time I added a little shredded coconut to the top to make them prettier.

  •  One box low-fat brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
  • 3 cups bran cereal (I used an organic bran cereal)
  • 2 ½ cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Coconut (optional)

First you soak the bran in the water for a few minutes. Then add the brownie mix and baking soda and mix. The batter will be very thick.

Bake in cupcake tins for about 20-25 minutes at 350. See how easy!

Disclaimer- I wouldn’t recommend eating these muffins all the time as a part of a healthy diet. They are tasty, and full of fiber but the brownie mix is of course full of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Another option would be to use the No Pudge brownie mix from Trader Joes. No pudge is made with what I like to call “real ingredients” (I used Betty Crocker because I don’t live near a Trader Joes, but I would definitely prefer the healthier route). But, as a once-in-a-while treat, these are great! I froze half of the batch to thaw out another time. That way I don’t have to eat them every day in a row for a month before they go bad.

Ground Turkey and White Bean Soup

This is another warm, hearty soup I made last week to take to work for lunch. I found the recipe online a while ago and made a few small changes to make it my own. It was another super easy, super fast recipe that turned out delicious. There are very few ingredients and you can cook everything in one big pot.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed (I used Northern but others will work just fine)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 16oz jar green salsa
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 small can green chilies
  • cilantro for garnish

Instructions:

Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil in a large soup pot until tender. Add ground turkey and cook until brown. Add the canned beans, chicken broth, salsa, green chilies and cumin and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve and garnish with fresh cilantro (sour cream tastes great on top as well). Enjoy!

My Favorite Green Smoothies

I have been drinking green smoothie’s for a while now, but thanks to fellow blogger Homemade Adventure I recently found one I like more than any of the others I’ve made. It is a simple recipe with not many ingredients, but it’s soooo yummy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk (I switch off from Rice, Almond, and Coconut Milk)
  • 1 ripe banana, preferably peeled + frozen
  • 2 handfuls organic spinach
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds OR 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1 tbsp nut butter, optional
  • 1-3 ice cubes
  • protein powder of choice, optional (I didn’t use the protein powder because I figured the Barney Butter I used had enough protein for breakfast)

A few days after trying this smoothie for the first time, I decided to mix it up and add a few more ingredients. I added blueberries (which for some strange reason I actually HATE the taste of, but the rest of the ingredients cover up the blueberry taste), some Kale for a little extra green nutrients, and I used half water, half vanilla rice milk to lower the calorie content. This made for a much darker smoothie that was delicious and super healthy!

Glazed Pear Muffins

I just found this recipe for glazed pear muffins on the Weight Watchers website and had to share. I really like Weight Watcher recipes because they are usually twists on traditional recipes with fewer calories and less fat. Win-win! For this recipe I substituted the sour cream with dairy free sour cream, and the milk with coconut milk because it was what I had in the fridge and I think they turned out great. I plan on bringing these to work for an afternoon snack before going to my half marathon trainings. I think they’d make a great brunch or breakfast too because they have just the right amount of sweetness from the pears and the ginger vanilla glaze, but they aren’t overly sweet. Enjoy!

It’s a Rough Life

My poor Sake has been stuck inside for a week now because of his little injury. He is constantly getting in fights with the neighborhood cats and despite his giant exterior he continues to get hurt, and we continue to take him to the vet. This time wasn’t as bad as it has been in the past, but he is not enjoying his cone or being locked inside with his sister. He sits by the back door and meows and meows until he wears himself out and goes to take a nap.

I thought this photo did a good job of showing his anguish. Oh the life of a cat.. What a rough life it is..

DIY Wall Art

When we bought our house about 3 years ago we had very little art for the walls. In the living room we have vaulted ceilings and a huge blank wall that we had no idea what to do with. We were low on money at the time because of all the expenses that come along with buying a home, so we decided on this little DIY craft project.

We found 12×12 canvases at Aaron brothers on sale so we bought 12 of them to cover the large space. Then we picked out three different fabrics from a nearby fabric store and bought a few yards of each. We cut the fabric into chunks just a few inches larger than the canvases, wrapped and stapled them down. Then we arranged them on the wall until we had them just right. This was such a simple and inexpensive project. I’d recommend it anyone trying to fill a large open wall.

Black Bean and Green Chili Soup

It has been so cold here this week that I have been wanting to make some warm soups to take to work for lunch. Salad just doesn’t cut it in this cold weather! And when I say “cold,” I mean California-cold, which would be laughable to most people who don’t live in the Golden state, but I’ve lived here most of my life and am therefore a complete baby when it comes to harsh weather. So I’m sticking with my story, and saying it is “cold” in Northern California right now.

I wanted to make an easy soup with few ingredients that would be filling enough to have as an entire meal. So this is what I came up with and it was delicious! It may not look very pretty, but trust me, it tastes pretty.

What you need-

– 1 large onion, chopped

– 3 garlic cloves, chopped

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 2 tbsp. cumin

– salt and pepper to taste

– 3 large tomatoes, chopped (canned tomatoes would work too)

– 2 cans of black beans, drained

– 1 4-6oz can green chilies

– 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

– Cilantro and sour cream for garnish

This soup is so easy. Just saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onions  start to turn clear. Add cumin and salt and pepper. Then add the broth, tomatoes, black beans and green chilies. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with sour cream and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

The broth is kind of an ugly green color from the chilies but don’t let that trick you. It’s delicious and perfect for a cold day.

In My Queue

If you read my 2012 post you saw that I want to read more in the next year. I said I wanted to start with 15 but I know I can do much more than that. Especially since I already have a list of books I want to read next. Here are some that are in my “queue” so far (in no particular order).

Steve Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (I liked the movie but heard the book was better).

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy by Caroline Kennedy

Miss Peregrines home For Peculiar Children by Random Riggs (Almost finished with this book now)

What it Takes: The Way to the White House by Richard Ben Cramer

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

So what am I missing? What are some great books you’ve read recently that I just can’t live without? I’d love it if you sent them my way!

Missing Summer

I cannot wait for spring and summer to come so we can get outside and start gardening! Our yard looks so sad and dead right now it’s kind of depressing. And it’s only January! I think I may be in need of a tropical vacation… These are a few photos from our flower garden last year.

T-Shirt Scarves

So I recently saw this adorable idea for re-purposing old t-shirts on Pinerest and decided I had to try it. The idea is to cut up old shirts you don’t wear anymore and make them into adorable new scarves.

They are extremely easy! All you do is cut the seam off the bottom of your old shirt and then continue to cut the shirt into thin strips (about 1/4 inch each) until you get to the sleeves. The larger the shirt you use, the more you’ll be able to do with your scarf. I actually used a jersey-cotton pillow case that didn’t have a match for the scarf below because it only had one seam and was the perfect size! Make sure to cut all the way around the shirt (or pillow case) so the strips stay in loops. At the end you can attach them together however you’d like. I cut one of the loops and wrapped it around the scarf to cover up the seams and keep all the loops together.

You can find a better tutorial on how to do this and other cute t-shirt projects here. I have to say their scarves turned out a little better than mine, but for my first try I think it turned out pretty well. Click on the images to see a larger view.