A Bunch of Randoms

Hope y’all had a great 4th of July! We ended up having an easy-going day, which was definitely welcome. :-) It was probably the most difficult on Millie, since she got her summer fur-cut yesterday AND had to deal with 3 neighborhoods in our area FULL of fireworks lovers. Poor gal. :(

1. This might not seem funny to some, but to this dog lover, I was laughing super hard. “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

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2. When I see this in the grocery store, it pretty much makes my day. Banana biscoff protein shake, anyone? Banana “ice cream”? Yes please!

3. This is completely awesome. Completely…maybe I should do this to my sisters when they get married? I’m pretty sure my husband wouldn’t claim me anymore. On another note, I want those shoes she’s wearing. What are those? Sparkly Converse shoes?

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4. I was looking through old iPhone pictures yesterday, and came across my Couch to 5K collages. I found one from the 4th of July last year, and decided to see how it compares to one from my last run. I’m hoping y’all aren’t getting tired of the progress picture comparisons…they motivate the heck out of me to see a huge difference in my face like that!

5. This made me ridiculously happy. My career is in the IT & science fields, and as a woman, I’m definitely in the minority. I have no problem working with men (just sayin’), but it’s something I notice a lot at conferences and in training classes.  If I have a daughter one day, I’d love for her to have toys like this! :-) I used to LOVE playing with my brother’s toys as a kid (sorry bro), and was a huge sucker for science kits/books/games. I hope this toy idea sticks around for a while!

Hope everyone has a great weekend! :-)

 

Ch- Ch- Changes

For the past few weeks, I’ve been having some behind the scenes issues with my blog. I’d report problems to my hosting company, and they’d just go into my directory and delete things before asking. It messed up my blog quite a bit, and so, my husband and I spent the weekend making some serious changes to the blog, including an all-new look. I’m still researching a new hosting company, so that will be coming up soon as well.

Here’s the blog you’ve known for the past few years.

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This was my first WordPress.org theme, and my husband put a ton of work into customizing the theme and making things pretty. I don’t know what I’d do without him…he’s so savvy at this stuff.

There’s two huge changes that happened over the weekend.

First is a complete re-design of the blog. Here’s the new look for The Nifty Foodie.

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I love the new look! I changed a few things around on here, including an all new navigation bar at the top. You can easily click on a category of recipes you’re interested in, and the corresponding posts will load for you. There’s still the regular category drop down in the footer of the blog, if you prefer that, but I thought this new feature would be nice.

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The second change is pretty huge, too. Over the past year, I’ve given a lot of thought about my two blogs. Here I am blogging about weight loss on one blog, and on the other blog, there’s a big picture of cupcakes. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is how I’m losing the weight with a baking hobby. I felt like I needed to connect everything together, so things can make a little more sense to y’all. So, my life blog no longer exists. All of the content has now moved here (I’m still fixing hyperlinks in the old life blog posts to reflect those changes), and from now on, I’ll be sharing everything here. There’s a button for my weight loss journey and my crafting hobby on the navigation bar, too!

I know it’s a lot at once, but I think this is a good move for the blog. I barely blogged about my weight loss journey on here, and now I feel like this blog will be a place where I can just tell my complete story, if that makes any sense. Baking + weight loss + crafts + life. It’s all gonna be here. Don’t worry, though. My recipe posts will still post 2x/week, as normal. Now, there’s the addition of Monday Weigh-In posts and my Friday “Bunch of Randoms” posts.

I hope you guys like the new changes around here! Please let me know what y’all think of the new look. I’d love to hear some feedback. :-)

Turkey Tex-Mex Sloppy Joe Quesadillas & Calphalon GIVEAWAY

sloppyjoequesadillas

Well, HELLO JULY! So many wonderful things going on this month: July 4th, my best friend’s wedding (OMG…hope my bridesmaid dress still fits after the 4th haha!)…well, that’s basically it. However, those are two HUGE events to me. I love the 4th of July. LOVE. The fireworks, the smell of the grills going crazy in our neighborhood and celebrating the holiday with All-American classic dishes. It’s just great. I’m pretty sure I wake up on July 4th craving food from the grill. Wonder if my husband would grill breakfast for me….LOL!

One of my favorite All-American dishes is sloppy joes. My Mom used to make sloppy joes a lot when we were kids, and the klutzy person in me loves the fact that the food is naturally sloppy. Whenever I go out to eat, I end up with a line of food around my plate. I’m not a neat eater at all. I’m sort of a disaster in public…I’m surprised people take me anywhere. Any food that says it’s sloppy means no judgement if I make a mess, right? Right.

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Monday Weigh-In: Week 77

This past week felt really good. I stayed within my calories 6 out of the 7 days, worked out 4 times this week AND upped the weights on some shoulder machines at the gym.

I’m also back to enjoying my occasional splurge meal, and Saturday’s dinner was just that for me. We went bowling with friends Saturday evening, and afterwards, I enjoyed a large (mainly because of the large amount of lettuce) “burrito in a bowl” with chips. It was insanely good. Tex-Mex is my weakness. :-) It’s just amazing to feel in control of things again. My cravings for junk food aren’t that bad anymore, and I’m still motivated like crazy.

Week 76: 229.6
Week 77: 226.2

Weight Lost: 3.4 lbs.
Total Weight Lost: 72.3 lbs.

Some NSVs this week:

  • My 16W jeans are fitting loosely again.
  • I ran 1.5 miles last week, which I know isn’t that much in comparison to where I was. However, I consider 1.5 miles in this summer heat to be a small victory. :-)
  • I noticed when I was doing some yardwork yesterday, that it’s gotten so much easier to reach around the garden. I used to have trouble bending over and reaching for weeds, and I usually had to kneel down in the garden after a while to finish. However, I did it all standing up yesterday. This was a huge deal to me!

Sorry Folks…

ah-huck ah-huck ah-huck…park’s closed for renovations. (Sorry….quoting National Lampoon Vacation here!) Nah, the site isn’t closed, but there’s a few changes happening.

Please accept this cute picture of Millie as an apology.

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Easiest way to put it is that there have been some issues with my hosting site over the past few weeks, so I decided that I’m going to take some time to switch over and since they messed up my theme, I am going to do a temporary re-design as well.

Your favorite recipes and posts will still be around, but the site does look a little different. Thanks for your patience!

 

A Bunch of Randoms

1. It’s been a few years since the last Harry Potter came out, and we finally watched it. Holy cannoli. Um…yeah. Didn’t see any of that coming at all. No spoilers, because I’m sure there are people out there who haven’t seen the end. However, I think I’m gonna finally take the plunge and read the books. After reading the Hunger Games trilogy, I can see where people are coming from when they say “It makes much more sense in the books…”. If you watched the movies, this Buzzfeed post is really gonna put a smile on your face. So much awesome.

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2. I got a fun Influenster box in the mail from Mary Kay. I’m always worried about free make-up, because I’m super fair-skinned and usually the shades just don’t work for me. However, I’ve tried the cream eyeshadow and lipstick yesterday. I was stunned at how neutral the eyeshadow was…in the pan, it’s a purple shade, but on my eyes, it was a purple-ish brown. Very pretty. The lipstick looked like a highlighter pink, but on me, it was a good neutral with a hint of pink. Not too harsh at all! It also included mascara, and mascara is always a challenge for me. As a blonde, I wasn’t blessed with gorgeous Snuffleupagus eyelashes. Instead, I have a few, short blonde eyelashes, and mascara usually just makes them look like spider legs (I’m talking to you, Benefit’s They’re Real mascara…OMG talk about spider legs mascara…glad it was a free sample!). Anyway, this mascara actually made my lashes look great and defined! I’m definitely using these products every day now. :-) I’m glad the colors worked out.

Disclosure: I received those products in the mail for free, from Influenster and Mary Kay. All opinions/reviews are my own, however.

Randoms

3. I’m on Day 9 of the Plank a Day challenge. I had to do a minute today. It blows my mind how much your body adjusts to challenges like this. I won’t lie…I still dread planks, but I’m loving how much stronger I feel!

4. Someone posted that a couple days ago marked 6 months until Christmas. What? Oh man…I know it’s early, but around this time, I start brain-storming ideas for handmade gifts. I will admit that I was completely thrown off when Hobby Lobby already had ornaments out. I completely understand having Christmas fabrics out early, but ready-made decor? C’mon now!

5. Another DietBet bites the dust tomorrow. I ::think:: I’ll make it for this one. I can’t explain how wonderful it is to be “back”. When I got off-track in May, I really felt like I couldn’t control myself. My cravings for junk were out of control, and the constant excuses for work-outs scared me. It’s easier said than done to get rid of those cravings, and to just get out there and work-out, but I’m just glad to be back into a routine and see those numbers going down again. :-)

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! It’ll be Monday before we know it. :-P

 

 

Granola Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Ever since I came home from Food Blog Forum, I’ve been having an itch to register for another food blog conference. I don’t think I realized how amazing the food blogger community was until the conference. Everyone was just so friendly and welcoming…it felt like so many of us had been friends for the longest time. Just awesome. I’m seriously on pins and needles about where BlogHer Food will be next year…I think I’m ready to take the plunge. :-)

Another thing I really didn’t account for were the goodies. Oh man….I brought my checked luggage bag as a precaution for souvenir shopping, but seriously needed the whole suitcase for the bag o’ swag, along with the food from a local food exchange. So much stuff LOL. I still haven’t gotten through it all! In my bag was a container of granola, and since I don’t eat granola very often (I may sprinkle some in yogurt for crunch), I searched in hopes that someone has already invented cookies that would use up some of this granola.

Luckily, I came across this recipe, and the results were SO good. The flavor reminded me of an oatmeal raisin cookie, but it definitely had more to it, with the addition of dried cranberries, nuts (from the granola) and chocolate chips. I had to get these out of the house!

Granola Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Epicurious

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups granola
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and whisk the ingredients together until well-mixed.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, and mix until well-combined. Then, mix in the vanilla extract.
  4. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula and add in the dry ingredients. Mix on low until just combined. With a spatula, fold in the dried cranberries and chocolate chips.
  5. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, scoop each cookie two inches apart on the lined cookie sheets. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time on the middle rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool the cookies completely on the cookie sheets and enjoy!

Pistachio Cranberry Energy Bars

Larabars

While I enjoy eating cookies, cupcakes and ice cream, I could eat fruit all-day, every day. Thank goodness..or this calorie counting thing wouldn’t be working out so well for me. Me and my sweet tooth! :-)

When I started calorie counting, I went to Whole Foods and went on an energy bar shopping spree. I wanted a bar that would carry me through my work-outs, but not feel too heavy after eating them. Most of the bars tasted really good, but the ones that stood out to me the most were Larabars. I won’t lie to y’all. I thought they would taste terrible, being that they only had a few ingredients in them, but I was surprised in how much I liked them. They’re so basic…usually a base of dates, mixed with other dried fruits and nuts. With my favorite combination in cookies (of course, it always goes back to cookies haha!) being pistachio and cranberry, I tried to throw some energy bars together on my own. I was shocked at how easy these were to make. There’s no baking, and your food processor does all the work (which for me, is just a mini chopper, so I did this in small batches).

Pistachio Cranberry Energy Bars
Source: inspired by Use Real Butter

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. pouch of pitted dates
  • 5 oz. pouch of dried cranberries
  • 6 oz. pouch of shelled pistachios (roasted and salted)
  • honey, if needed (depending on how wet the mixture is)

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper (making sure some is sticking out above the sides to pull the bars out easily) and set aside.
  2. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor, except for the honey, and puree the mixture. If you have a mini-chopper food processor like me, do this in small batches.
  3. Check the mixture to see if any honey is needed to help bind the ingredients together better. You want the mixture to be easy to roll into a ball without falling apart.
  4. Once you have your bars at the desired consistency, spread the energy bars out evenly onto the 8×8 pan. Then, cut them into bars and individually wrap.

 

 

Monday Weigh-In: Week 76

Once you fall off the wagon, it’s really really hard to get back on. There were the constant junk food cravings, the constant excuses…always saying “tomorrow”. I fell back hard and got pretty darn scared. I couldn’t gain back everything I worked so hard to lose…I just couldn’t.

I think this past week was the first week in a LONG time where I stayed under my calories every single day. I also worked out for 4 days out of the week. Tiny steps, but it’s wonderful to be back.

Week 75: 234.4
Week 76: 229.6

Weight Lost: 4.8 lbs.
Total Weight Lost: 68.9 lbs.

I’m 4.6 lbs. away from my lowest weight (which was 10 weeks ago), and I’m just super glad that the loss this week was huge. It’s definitely a good kick in the tail to keep things going. While I know these results won’t happen next week, I’m just happy to see results like this again. :-)

Some fun numbers I’ve been thinking about lately:

29.7 lbs. away from Onederland (199.9 lbs.).
18 weeks away from Halloween (my new personal goal to reach 199 lbs.)
49.6 lbs. away from my goal (which could change….but for now, it’s 180 lbs.)
4 sizes away from my ultimate clothing size goal (a size 10)
7 months away from my first half marathon

How was your week? Any victories or vents to share?

Fireworks Cupcakes

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Back when I graduated from college, I moved back in with my family. Being the oldest of 4 kids, I knew that coming back home would mean that I needed to help around the house as much as I could. So, since I got off of work the earliest, there were evenings where I’d try to cook for my family. Most of the first meals were disasters…I’m sure my family just ate them to make me feel better, but I learned very quickly the fundamentals of cooking. I’ll never forget the one night when I tried to make a simple chicken dish with gravy, and my Mom came home to find me essentially boiling chicken. I tried…I think we had pizza that night.

It took me quite a few months to get the hang of things, but after watching numerous cooking shows and sneaking in some reading time of my Mom’s beloved Better Homes & Gardens magazines, I decided to start a food blog. My first post pictures were nothing extraordinary, but those recipes were pretty darn good! I was proud of myself. :-)

After I got comfortable cooking, I got the itch to make pretty cakes. I took three Wilton classes, and my coworkers (who got a fresh, decorated cake every week) quickly became my best friends. I learned a lot in those classes, and accumulated a TON of icing tips in the process. Nowadays, I don’t put my Wilton classes to practice much, and I really only use about 10 of the same tips over and over again (for cookie and cupcake decorating).

However, when I went to Food Blog Forum, I saw these adorable Monsters, Inc. cupcakes (scroll down in Julie’s post), which were decorated using what is commonly called the grass tip. I thought that was so adorable and creative! I definitely wanted to try something like that at home. A couple of weeks later, I found these fireworks cupcakes while I was in a Pinterest wormhole (You know…when you check out the popular pins, then find a random pinner and look through all of their boards? No? Just me?). Sadly, it was just a picture with no tutorial, but I had a feeling I could replicate these cupcakes.

All you need for these cupcakes are a double batch of frosting, piping bags, couplers, a large cupcake tip (I used 1M) & a grass tip (Wilton 233).

First, simply frost your cupcakes, using 1/2 of the frosting and a large cupcake tip. Basically pipe a flat swirl (no height is needed…you’ll get height in the later steps), leaving the edges of the cupcake without frosting.

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Then, divide the remaining frosting into thirds, dying one third blue, leaving one third white and the other third, red.

Put your first color in a piping bag, fitted with a coupler and the grass tip. Pipe the frosting going from the outside in, towards the center (making sure none of the original white icing shows through). You can leave the center of the cupcakes without this frosting, though, since there will be plenty of frosting added to the cupcakes in later steps. Here’s a picture to show what I mean…just keep in mind, I’m a geography major…never took an art class. :-P

Fireworks

Here’s how they come out.

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Next, add the second color to a fresh piping bag, fitted with a (clean) coupler and grass tip. Start piping from the outside going in, but this time, leave a little bit of the red icing showing around the edges.

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For the final step, add the last color in a fresh piping bag, fitted with a (clean) coupler and grass tip, and pipe from the outside in, leaving the first two colors showing.

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Then, for an optional last step, you can add sprinkles to the very center of the cupcakes. :-)

This may seem time-consuming, but once you find your groove, the piping goes by pretty darn quickly. I’m already thinking up some fun, new ways to use the grass tip again on cupcakes. I really should fork out the Wilton tips more often. :-)