Meatballs for everyone!

And when I say everyone, even those of you who don’t eat meat!!!!

Yesssssss that means these meatballs are meatless, and while that may sound strange, trust me, they are DELICIOUS!!!! Now I need to say this…I don’t typically seek out meatless recipes. I am a hardcore carnivore, and I love meat with every meal. However, I saw a friend post about these eggplant meatballs, and I had to try them, especially since I follow a “veggies most” mentality.

I know what you are thinking….eggplant meatballs, gross! Just try them….because I was prepared to hate them, and I freaking love the things.

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Look at this plate of deliciousness!

Eggplant Meatballs
Ingredients:

-3 cups fresh eggplant, dice into small pieces (you can leave the skin on the eggplant)
-1/4 cup fresh basil
-2 Tbl EVOO
-1/2 cup breadcrumbs
-1 tsp salt and pepper
-1/4 cup parmesan cheese
-1 tbl garlic powder
-1 egg

How to make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a saucepan, cook EVOO, eggplant, salt and pepper over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to soften the eggplant. After eggplant is softened, allow it to cool for about 10 minutes, then transfer to food processor and pulse with the basil until eggplant is in smaller pieces. Combine eggplant with parmesan, bread crumbs, garlic powder, and egg. Stir until well combined. Roll mixture into balls and transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes until “meatballs” are golden brown and firm to the touch. Serve over zoodles or pasta with marinara or your homemade sauce!

If you are struggling with veggies, try these. If you love eggplant, try these. Just try them!

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Super easy to prep for the week!

 

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Apples: The Versatile Fruit

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year….pretty much because I’m a basic bitch that just wants all things pumpkin, flannel, and ugg. The past few years I haven’t fully embraced the wonders of the season as I have wanted to, so this year I created a fall bucket list to make sure I did all the things I have missed out on the past few years. Here’s my fall to do list!

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Naturally, I took care of that pumpkin donut right away….I had to!

Once that pesky donut has been crossed off the list, I decided I wanted to tackle the apple farm next. I’m fortunate to live in a part of Ohio where I have a ton of great apple orchards nearby, which made my decision of where to go somewhat challenging. Finally I decided on Rittman Orchards, a local orchard that many of my friends recommended. I was not disappointed.

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We couldn’t have picked a better day weather wise to pick apples!

Rittman is a great local farm that I strongly recommend to those in the Cleveland/Akron area. While we went to get apples, they also have a great market and pumpkins to pick as well. From a price perspective, apple picking was very reasonably priced. We were given a bag that cost $19 to fill it up with the apples available that day .The day we went we were able to pick Red Delicious, Melrose, and Jonagold apples, and trust me….we got our money’s worth. Check out how many apples came home to our house that day! And your eyes aren’t deceiving you….they were huge apples!

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So what did I make with all these apples??? I made lots of stuff, including two of my favorite recipes that I want to share with you today: Easy crockpot apple butter AND apple dumplings.

If you are a fan of apple butter (who isn’t), you have to try this recipe. It is super simple and turns out so, so, so good!

Katie’s Apple Butter

Ingredients:
-6 lbs apples (I use a mixture of apples…my favorites are pink ladys, honey crisp, and Melrose apples, but you can use any kind)
-1 cup brown sugar
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-1 tbl cinnamon
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 tbl vanilla extract

How to make:

Core and peel all apples, cutting into slices and placing in a crockpot. Mix together the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and sugar, then toss apples with the mixture. Cook on low in your crockpot for about 10 hours. After the 10 hours is up, stir in vanilla and smash up any larger apple pieces that still are visible. Cook on low for an additional 2 hours. Allow the apples to cool, then puree in either a food processor or with an immersion blender. Store in airtight containers in either your fridge or freezer! This could double as a great gift or housewarming present, too!

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The finished product: Beautiful apple butter

When it comes to apple dumplings, I have two recipes I go between. The first is one that is much more sugary and calorie filled; the other not nearly as heavy with sugar. Since I have been trying to limit my sugar intake to just my donuts, I opted to make the healthy-ish version this go round. Again, this is a simple recipe that everyone always loves and is a great fall dessert.

Apple Dumplings

Ingredients:

For the apples:
-Puff pastry sheets (found in the frozen section at your grocery store) . If you prefer, you could make your own dough instead of purchasing it.
-6-8 medium sized apples (go for tart)
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
-6-8 tbl unsalted butter

For the syrup:
-2 cups water
-1 cup granulated sugar
-3 tbl unsalted butter
-1/4 tsp cinnamon

How to make:

Preheat oven to 425 and spray cooking dish with nonstick spray. Core and peel apples (this is a great time to buy an apple corer if you don’t have one). Set aside. Prepare the syrup by bringing 2 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar, 3 tbl butter, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a medium heat and allow to simmer until it becomes thicker and more syrup-like. In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Cut your pastry sheets into squares (I can get four squares per sheet with the store bought kind). I set one square aside for later, so I typically make 7 at a time. Place one apple on a square, filling the core with the sugar mixture and a bit of butter. You have butter freedom here….use as much as you want or as little as you want. Bring pastry points up over apple to wrap it, tucking the ends into the core cavity. Moisten with a little water to seal, then place in a baking dish. Repeat with remaining apples.
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Pour the syrup over the apples once all have been wrapped. You can pour excess around the dumplings as well. I get next level with mine and use a cookie cutter and some extra dough to cut out a small leaf to top the dumplings, and I like an extra sprinkle of the cinnamon sugar mixture here, too. You can do something similar if you choose, or just go without. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is a light golden brown. Serve with the syrup warm and if you want to get crazy, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!

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Crostinis….because they sound fancy, right?

And who doesn’t like being a little fancy??????

With the holidays approaching rapidly, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite quick appetizers that you can serve at your holiday gatherings. I’f you’re like me and swamped during the holiday season, the quicker and easier the app the better, especially if you are entertaining and making a variety of foods to serve.

I recently made this appetizer for a luncheon I was going to with some friends and had to share the recipe with you all. To be honest, I was also going through a peach kick and kept buying them in excess, and this is perfect with peaches. However, with the winter months around the corner, we all know (especially those of you in Ohio) that produce can be a little iffy when the cold weather hits, so don’t be afraid to change up the fruit you use here. I’ve made this same recipe with strawberries, blackberries, and even blueberries.

                                                          Katie’s Peach Crostini

Ingredients:
– 10 oz goat cheese
-2 oz whipped cream cheese
-1 french baguette, sliced
-1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
-2 Tbl EVOO
-2 peaches, sliced
-1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Begin by laying the baguette slices on a baking sheet, drizzling with olive oil. Do not overlap slices or stack. Bake for about 7 minutes at 375 degrees or until lightly browned. In a saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar to a simmer over medium heat. Allow to simmer for about 5-7 minutes until the balsamic has a thicker syrup-like consistency. Remove from heat, and set aside, allowing to thicken slightly more.

For the whipped goat cheese, place goat cheese in food processor with the cream cheese, as well as salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until combined and mixture is smooth.

To assemble, place a spoonful of whipped goat cheese on each baguette slice, then top with one peach slice and some fresh basil. Drizzle some of the balsamic syrup over and serve.

***A few tips…….

-If your local grocery store doesn’t have baguettes on their floor, ask for them. I purchase mine from Giant Eagle, and I have learned they typically keep them frozen in the back. You also want to make sure they are the mini baguettes and not full size (unlike you want super big appetizers).

-Chop your basil into strips. I feel this not only looks better for presentation purposes but ensures you get some basil in each bite of the crostini.

-Do not use canned peaches. The excess juice in the fruit itself can make this soggy.

Enjoy!

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WTF, Katie?

That’s exactly what I said this to myself when I realized I have been slacking so badly and haven’t posted any of the blogs I had planned and prepared for September. WTF!

If we are being 100% honest here….I feel like the entire month of September went by in the blink of an eye. It was just one of those months where I felt behind with everything…..my house, my to do list, my business, my LIFE! We all have months like that I suppose.

A big reason why September was a little crazier had to do with my business. I know, I know…I just said I felt behind with it, but I don’t know if I could’ve gotten ahead of the curve if I tried. My team and I are pushing for some huge business goals (eek….so close to hitting them) which means I am being pulled in more directions than usual as we get into crunch time. I’m not complaining though….this is what I live for, and I love what I do so much that I didn’t even notice how much work I was putting in with Sparkle Fitness. I can’t wait to see how our year ends up.

I have had some other things shaking besides business stuff….from my favorite charity to travel, I’ve been a busy bee.

Thanks to that skank Hurricane Florence, my family had to cancel our trip to Myrtle Beach a few days before we were scheduled to leave. Initially I was upset because I love Myrtle, but I was pleased when my mom decided we would all just head to Hocking Hills and rent a big cabin for the week. To me, the most important thing was getting to spend time with both my mother and brother at the same time because we rarely get to anymore, and this allowed us to do so.

We had so much fun relaxing, cooking out, hot tubbing, making candles, and hiking at the various caves in the area. I’m not someone who typically loves spending that much time in nature, but I actually loved it. Sometimes it is nice to slow down a little.

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When we got back from Hocking Hills, I FINALLY was able to visit an art exhibit I had been trying to get into all summer long, the Yayoi Kasuma Infinity Mirrors exhibit at The Cleveland Museum of Art.

This exhibit was a nightmare to get tickets to. Every Monday at 9am a limited amount of tickets for the exhibit were made available for purchase. One they were sold out, you had to wait until the following Monday to try again. I tried for weeks and weeks! The final week of Kasuma’s exhibit being on display I was successful! I woke up 2 1/2 hrs early to get in the ticket queue and snagged two tickets….so stressful!

The exhibit itself was unbelievably amazing, and it was so worth it. This was the largest grouping of Kasuma’s work ever showcased together at one time, and it won’t be together again until she either turns 100 years old or she passes away. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience her unique brain and artwork in person. My favorite of Kasuma’s work: her “All the Eternal Love I have for the Pumpkins” piece. We weren’t allowed to take our phones into that room and had to have a chaperone, but I assure you, it was fantastic. Her exhibit is making just a few stops before returning to Kasuma’s home in Tokyo, so if you have the opportunity to get tickets to this, DROP EVERYTHING AND GO.

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The fall means it is time to support one of my favorite charities, The Alzheimer’s Association, and its annual Memory Walk took place the final weekend of the month. This was the a year of firsts for my family. For starters, my mother, who had managed the raffle for nearly the past decade and rocked the socks off of it, had made the decision to strictly walk this year and no longer assist with that aspect of the walk. I was always so proud of her for how hard she worked with fundraising and leading that auction, but it meant she wasn’t able to walk with our team. I was very proud to be able to walk with her for the first time in a long time, especially since this was the first year our family was walking in memory of my Grandma, as Bubu passed away just days after last year’s walk. I brought Luigi with me for support, and we represented our team along with my mom, her best friend Bobbie, and two of my besties, Kelly and Krista (plus baby Whitney).

Of course, a HUGE part of the month was spent on the development of my book. My goal is to have it published by the end of the year, so I am working tirelessly to make that happen.  I can’t wait to get it published and to share more about it with you!

I promise, you’ll be hearing from me much more!

These sliders are a real peach.

Sliders…..they are the best, aren’t they???!!!!

Tiny little sandwiches that can help you stay on track by not overeating…..or tiny little sandwiches that you feel you need to eat ten of to eat an entire regular sized sandwich. Such a versatile food, right?

For my Labor Day picnic I wanted to do something a little different than the usual cookout foods and thought about sliders. After some trolling around on Pinterest I came across this recipe that sounded delicious and selected it to be the slider recipe on the menu!

Spicy Peach Chicken Sliders

Ingredients:
-1 large yellow onion (sliced thin)
-1 3/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
-1 cup peaches, sliced (you can use fresh or frozen)
-1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
-3/4 cup bbq sauce
-1 tbl chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (mince peppers
-1 tbl adobo sauce (I just use some of the remainder from the chipotle pepper can)
-1 tsp salt
-Slider buns
-Coleslaw

How to make:

In a slowcooker, place sliced onions and peaches, then top with chicken. Whisk together vinegar, bbq sauce, chipotle peppers, salt, and adobo sauce, then pour over chicken. Cover. Cook on low for about 6 hours . Use a fork or your Kitchenaid mixer (paddle attachment) to shred chicken. Serve on sliders topped with coleslaw (you can make your own or purchase). The coleslaw is a great accompaniment to the spice of the chicken!

Enjoy!

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Drop everything and go buy a Sushezi.

After talking about doing it forever, I FINALLY checked something off of my never-ending bucket list: I made homemade sushi.

Honestly, I have no idea what took me so long, but I will tell you this: I have been a sushi making crazy person this entire week!

I think deep down part of me thought that it would be very involved and challenging to make my own sushi. Where I got that from beats me. The truth is…..making your own sushi is really quite simple, especially when you have my sushi secret weapon: the SUSHEZI!

One of my best friends had purchased this for me (I tend to like gadgets), and as I read various Pinterest articles on how to make the sushi without a device like this, I questioned if it would even work. So many of those kitchen gadgets are duds that I thought this might not do what it was supposed to.

The concept behind this kitchen tool is to load each side with the sushi rice (the kind I use is this brand) then push down the middle section where you will then place the ingredients you have chosen for your sushi. Once completed with your ingredients, close the Sushezi, and, using the rod that comes with it, twist several times to pack the rice. After that, you are ready to push the sushi roll out onto your nori sheet.

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The assembly of the Philadelphia roll has begun!

I cannot tell you how easy it was to use this gadget! The sushi roll came out perfect onto the nori sheet, which I then rolled using a damp towel (my bamboo mat was nowhere to be found). I was beyond pleased with the final presentation….they looked legit!

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If you have been holding back from making sushi, do yourself a favor: go buy the Susezi and start creating sushi masterpieces. It really made the process easy and enjoyable, and the sushi tasted delicious after being chilled in the refrigerator for a bit!

Let me know what you think after you get one!

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My sushi handiwork.

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Just a Cookie from Akron…that you need to try.

 

My heart belong to the donut, that’s for certain, but the cookie is a close second! Who am I kidding…..just gimme all the sweets!!!!

Awhile back a friend of mine told me about a local cookie she had tried that was ginormous in size and absolutely delicious. Immediately I knew I had to try one….not just because of the fact they were so large in size, but because if they were as good as she claimed I knew I just HAD to blog about them and share the love on a local small business. My readers are foodies who love trying stuff like this! A few weeks later I got my hands on a few of these cookies and a love affair with Fat T’s was born!

In typical Katie fashion, I did a fair share of creeping on this company before I tried the cookie for the first time. What can I say, I’m curious! Since my friend had picked a cookie up at a local farmer’s market, I needed to see where they were located nearby. I was delighted to see that The Northside Marketplace, a small business hub located in Akron, Ohio (you’ll see a blog on them soon…be on the lookout) carried the cookies and went there the next day to clean house with the flavors in stock.  Clean house, I did…I left with the remaining flavors and left the Fat T’s stand empty.

 

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Fat T’s For the Love of Chocolate Cookie


Guyyyyyyyyysssss……….t
hese cookies are phenomenal. I’m not even joking.  In fact, I loved them so much that I headed up to the Cleveland Flea the following weekend to ensure that I was able to try every flavor that Fat T’s had to offer. Cookie victory was mine! I took home a sampler that included the following cookies: The OG, Fat T’s Favorite Cookie, S’mummer Camp, For the Love of Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cinn City, and Moose House. While I loved them all, my favorite was the Fat T’s Favorite Cookie (anything with a cookie in a cookie wins me over). I am also a huge fan of the Cinn City cookie, which you can also purchase in a one pound form. Yes, you heard me right. ONE POUND!

 

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Hanging with Travis Howe, the man behind the fabulous Fat T’s cookie!


I wanted to get to know more about Fat T’s and was able to ask Travis Howe, the creator of these cookies, some questions! Here’s what he had to say!

How did the concept of Fat T’s come to be?


TH: So, long story short. I moved back to Ohio from Grad School (Illinois State University) in pursuit of my dream job of being a high school athletic director. About two months into the search nothing came to fruition, and I needed to find a way to pay for a gym membership. I toyed around with a few ideas (none of which were cookies) that could make me $40 pretty quickly. I went to the store to fill a sweet tooth and didn’t see anything I liked, so I went home and baked for the first time in my life. Sold cookies for two weeks then stopped because I made my money for a gym membership. Started to get phone calls and emails asking me when I’d be back, so I figured what the heck. About two months later, Cleveland Magazine informed me (which I originally thought was a prank by my friends) that I was named the ‘Best of CLE’ for 2017. That’s when I decided to go and make my business official. The rest is kinda history I guess hah!

2. What is your best selling cookie?

TH: My top selling cookie is The OG (chocolate chip). It’s everyone’s safety cookie. Top three sellers would be: The OG, Cinn City, and S’mummer Camp.

 

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S’mummer Camp is right there with my favorites.

3. What makes your cookies different from other cookies out there?

TH: For starters, they are roughly the size of a hockey puck. The thickness is what definitely sets them apart. After you get past the size you get to the taste. I definitely don’t skimp on the add-ins/flavor. I’m also pretty big on not taking shortcuts and putting the labor of love into my cookies. S’mummer Camp for example. There are a few companies across the nation that do a “s’mores cookie.” Their version involves putting toppings on top of a chocolate chip cookie. Mine is a graham cracker base cookie. So, if you take the toppings away mine is not just a chocolate chip cookie like everyone else’s.

All of my products I make are cookie-centric. Edible cookie dough is not a cookie, but has the idea of a cookie. The same goes for my Cookie Puddin’ line that comes out sporadically. There are a few other lines of products I am thinking of that will follow this same philosophy.

4. Where do you presently sell your cookies/ do you have your own store?

TH: A large majority of my sales take place at my weekend markets. I have sold in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. ***I’m always looking for more markets to tap into so hit ya boi up*** A close second is through my website (www.FatTsCookies.com). I have shipped to over 35 states and 4 countries; basically, wherever there is a hungry stomach. Retail wise, I am in a retail incubator in Akron called the Northside Marketplace. I am presently in two coffee shops: Compass Coffee in the Middlebury district in Akron and Corner Cup Coffee House in Stow. As for having my own store…. I guess the #FatFam will just have to wait and see

5. Do you do custom orders?

TH: Custom orders are a little tricky. I am just a solo operation near max capacity, so custom cookies, no. I’m also pretty strict on not going under a quarter pound since that is kind of my thing. I am always open to hearing new ideas and flavors. I have a giant list of about 60 different types that have struck my curiosity.

6. Do you have a background in baking/culinary?

TH: My background in baking/culinary comes from being a fat child and watching a lot of Food Network….so no, no background.

7. What are some of the seasonal cookies people can look forward to?

TH: Since my company is almost a year old, I’m getting close to releasing some seasonal/monthly cookies from last year again. Punk’n Patch is my Fall seasonal and I’m about a month away from that rerelease. As for NEW cookies, I tend to keep those on the down low until they are available for sale.

8. Describe Fat T’s cookies in 3 words.

TH: Jaw-dropping. Unique. Thicc.

9. Can any cookie be made into a Poundtown size?

TH: I haven’t formally announced it yet so this is BREAKING NEWS. Starting on September 9th (Actual Fat T’s birthday, not the company) any of the Regular Rotation cookies will be able to be made in the #Poundtown size. This will be the Fat T’s Cookies’ version of a cookie cake.

10. Do you partner with any other local businesses?

TH: I have in the past for ingredients. For my Christmas cookies last year, I partnered with Akron Honey Company and HiHo Brewing Co. I used the spent grains from the brewing process to make a whole grain flour, reduced the beer into my own version of a simple syrup, and I used the honey to make a honey butter glaze. There are one or two other companies I can see myself partnering with for ingredients in the future for some ideas I have, but for now they are just ideas.

11. What else does the world need to know about Fat T’s?

TH: I have a partnership with Akron Creamery (a Thai-rolled ice cream shop in the Northside Marketplace) and I supply them with edible cookie dough. I am in the works with a few other ice cream shops in the Cleveland area for ice cream sandwiches. There is one other very well-known Cleveland food company I have talked to about a collaboration, but saying what type of food they make would give it away pretty quick haha.

Half of the net proceeds from the sale of my S’mummer Camp cookie go to the Akron Rotary Camp. The Akron Rotary Camp is a camp for children and adults with special needs on the Portage Lakes down here in Akron.

I am on Facebook and Instagram (@Fat_Ts_Cookies). Once you follow you are an official member of the #FatFam

Make sure you stop everything and follow Fat T’s!
IG: https://www.instagram.com/fat_ts_cookies/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/FatTsCookies/
Website: https://www.fattscookies.com/

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A whole bunch of happiness in a box

 

******************************GIVEAWAY ALERT********************************

You’ve seen me share about them on my Instagram stories….you’ve read about them on my blog…..now it’s time for a GIVEAWAY to hook one of you up with some Fat T’s cookies!

I love these cookies so much…so much that it’s difficult to choose my favorite one. The winner of this giveaway won’t have to worry about choosing one though …..you are winning a SEVEN cookie sampler pack that features one each of the regular rotation cookies AND the seasonal S’mummer Camp cookie!

CONTEST DETAILS:

  1. Go to my Instagram and like the Giveaway post with Fat T’s Cookie. 
  2. Must be following @Fat_Ts_Cookies and @sparklefitnessbabe
  3. Tag one cookie loving friend
  4. Unlimited entries, but each tag must be a separate comment!
  5. US only please!

Winners will be selected on Sunday, 8/26 at 9pm EST! Good luck!

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Crack Chicken Soup

You guys know I love my crack chicken…..I shared a recipe awhile back for my easy Instant Pot Crack Chicken (get that recipe HERE), so when I stumbled across a recipe for it in soup form, I figured it was an absolute must to try. The recipe is incredibly easy and one everyone will be begging for over and over.

Disclaimer: This isn’t a soupy soup…it is more of a creamy pasta soup, if that makes sense. If you are looking for something with a lot of liquid, you may want to change up this recipe a bit.

INGREDIENTS:
-2 carrots, diced
-2 stalks celery, diced
-1/2 yellow onions, diced
-3 cups cooked chicken, chopped (no seasoning)
-8 oz spaghetti noodles (I used whole wheat)
-2 tablespoons EVOO
-1 32oz box of low sodium chicken broth
-1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
-1 cup half and half
-1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
-1 package dry ranch seasoning mix
-salt and pepper top taste

TO MAKE:

Heat olive oil in stockpot with carrots, celery and onion. Mix in seasoning packet, then add broth and condensed chicken soup. Add spaghetti noodles, then slowly add the remaining ingredients (with the exception of the cheese and half/half), cooking for about 15 minutes or until spaghetti is cooked and veggies are tender. Finally, add in the half and half and cheese, cooking for about 3 more minutes. The spaghetti will act as a thickener, hence why it isn’t as liquidy as your typical soup. Top with crumbled bacon (if you prefer) and a sprinkle of cheese before serving.

Wasn’t that easy?

ENJOY!

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All prepped and ready for the week….just need to top with bacon and cheese before serving.

 

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My Gym Musts!

I get a ton of questions about my favorites when it comes to health and fitness, so a blog on my must haves is long overdue!

I will preface this blog by saying this: there are so so so many great products out there that can help you reach your goals. These are the things that I like best because they are best for MY goals and MY needs. Make sure that you think about what works for you, your lifestyle, and your budget when you are trying to determine alternatives and things that will help you. The one thing I love about health and fitness is that it is not a one sized fits all kind of thing and there are options for literally everyone out there. Do your research, ask your friends what is working for them, and make your own opinion based on YOU!

In no particular order, here are the things that I absolutely cannot live without when it comes to my health and fitness lifestyle.

1. Junk Brands headbands. Those who follow me on Instagram know that I cannot work out without a headband. Even before I ditched 14 extra inches of hair I relied on them to keep my hair out of my eyes when working out, but now having shorter hair I am even more obsessed with them. I have tried so many brands of headbands, but these are the best for not moving around, breathability, and overall cuteness. Are they a little pricier than others? Yes, but they last longer and are much better quality. Worth it a million percent.

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My donuts Junk Bands are my favorite….obvi. 

2. Beachbody On Demand Workout Library. This has been a huge game changer for me. As someone who loves working out at home……but also sometimes likes going to a gym….and travels more than most but wants to still stay on track, this is my go to. Every single workout program Beachbody has ever released is in the library, plus all of the workout materials and meal plans. I can stream it from my cell phone or tablet or laptop when on the road or I can use my Apple TV or Roku when at home. From a cost perspective, this is the best value out there. A year of it breaks down to about $8 a month. Don’t tell me you can’t fit that into your budget, because that is less than a Starbucks visit or drive thru McDonalds run. Factor in that anyone in your home can use it and you have a budget friendly option for everyone to get/stay in shape.
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3. Bowflex Select Tech Weights. I told myself for a long time that I didn’t need these weights. Why, I have no idea. I think in my mind I worried they would be clunky or hard to use, but after completing my 80 Day program earlier in the year, I realized I needed heavier weights to take my results to the next level. I went between these and the Power Block weights, and after visiting Dick’s Sporting Goods, opted for these Select Techs. I am beyond happy with how easy they are to use. ***Tip: Use Ebates and shop around to get the best pricing on these.
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4. Spotify. If you need music to rock your workout, Spotify is the way to go. I love creating new playlists using this easy app, and I also love that the Beachbody On Demand app has coordinating Spotify playlists for all of the workouts. There is a free version if you don’t want an added expense!

5. Grrrl Leggings. I always get a lot of questions about my leggings, and this is brand I wear 99% of the time. Yes, they are colorful and fun, but beyond that they are jump-approved, squat approved, and all things cardio approved. That is important when you are an active person. I recommend everything from this line.

 

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6. Comfort Mat. I never in a million years thought I would like this mat. I had yoga mats already, so when I won this as an incentive for a business contest several years ago I assumed it would just collect dust. When I actually pulled the mat out of the box and laid on it, I heard angels start singing from the heavens. It was incredibly cushioned and comfortable, and since that day I have used it nonstop. Even if you are just doing crunches on a harder surface, you need a mat like this!

7. Unicorn Blood. If you follow me on IG, you see me make my beloved unicorn blood every morning. As far as preworkouts go, this is the best on the market. I have tried so many that have made me feel weird, given me strange tingles, or have hooked me up with awful headaches. This is the first workout that I actually love the taste and also don’t have any weird feelings with it. It also gets me the fired up feeling I need when I’m riding the struggle bus (which is basically every day).

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8. Workout Dice. At the end of every workout I roll my workout dice to add a little extra burn, and I love it! The dice are inexpensive and have a great combo of moves. If you are looking for something to up your workout game, grab one of these. I also take mine when I travel if I need a quit workout and have access to literally nothing else.

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9. S’well Water Bottle. I am a huge fan of S’well bottles and use mine every day, but if you aren’t a fan of the price point, they do have a sister brand available at Target called S’ip. Either way, these bottles are great for keeping your water or whatever you drink during your workout cool.

10. CliniqueFit Wipes. Clinique launched a Fit makeup line awhile back, and these wipes are great post workout to make sure your face is properly cleansed. I think the entire Fit line is a great product line for those of you who workout with makeup on (something I don’t encourage because no one likes clogged pores).

Have a product you love? Tell me about it….I’m always on the lookout for amazing products!

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Grief….does it change you?

We all know I love IG…..IG stories to be exact….and lately I have been loving the Questions option where you can have your followers ask you a question. I always find this intriguing because I get to see what things my followers find interesting about me and want to know more about. Recently I had a newer follower ask me how grief has changed me. In a conversation back and forth with her I realized she had recently lost her father and was just starting to resurface when it came to her normal activities, something I could 100% relate to. Since it has been awhile since I have talked about grief on here, I figured it was a great time to not only address her question, but to share that answer with those of you who are reading who are also going through some more challenging times.

Grief is a topic I discuss a lot, and for some I think that makes them uncomfortable. What I cannot stress enough is that why you may be sick of me talking about my grief journey, I am sick of my dad being dead. Seriously. I would give anything to NOT have experience on this topic and NOT have anything to write about regarding it.

November will be three years since we lost my dad unexpectedly, and for me, talking about how grief has impacted my life not only helps me keep him alive in some way, but it also helps me help those of you who feel lost and unsure about the feelings and things that you may be experiencing after a traumatic loss. It is my way of dealing with the grief I feel every day. As I have shared before, grief is something that everyone deals with differently. No two people are the same. All I can hope for is that something I say….even the smallest thing…..can help someone in a small way. I’d love to say that my dad’s death has not changed me, but the truth it, is has.

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Change #1: I now struggle being in large crowds.

For some people, this may be very menial, but as a former social butterfly, this has been a difficult change for me and one some have struggled to understand. I have learned that it isn’t so much the people in the crowded areas that bother me, but rather the fact that I worry about being able to leave quickly if I am overcome with emotion. I’m not someone who likes to make a scene (emotionally), so to cry or get uncomfortable in front of large groups of people gives me a sense of panic. Grief is one of those things where something incredibly small can set you off…..for me, it is often a song, a number, a date…..but it could be honestly anything that reminds me of a memory, and there is no saying when something will hit me in a more emotional way. Because of this I often like to drive separate so I have an escape, and usually I try my best to avoid those kinds of plans if at all possible……after all, I do love staying at home with dogs.

Change #2: I am more focused on being a better daughter and friend. 

I have always valued my loved ones and the time I have spent with them more than anything, but ever since losing my dad so abruptly I have been more focused on spending more time with those I love and making more memories, whether it be taking pictures, going places together, talking on the phone more….whatever I can do to be there for those in my life. I’d give anything to have been able to spend more time with my dad…to have gone home more to visit…to have more family dinners together…to go on more runs together….all the little things I miss so much. I want to make sure those in my life get as much time as humanly possible because we never known when that time will be cut short.

Change #3: I have realized the importance of letting go of the bad apples. 

They always say that the best times and the worst times in life show you who your real friends are. That’s one saying that is 100% spot on. To be honest, the majority of people in my life have shown me that they were even more incredible than I already believed them to be. I’m not just talking about when things happened with my dad that awful November day, but ever since. Grief is a nasty journey, and having someone just let you know they are thinking of you on hard days or be understanding when you can’t do something because you are having a panic attack over it or just listen to you talk means so much. I have had a few people who I believed to be extremely close to me treat me like complete garbage since the loss of my dad. At first, it hurt me, especially when I would look at the length of the friendship.  Then I realized that life is too short to spend time with people who are lackluster. Why give up my precious time that could be spent with those who truly DO care about me? #Byefelicias

Change #4: I have realized that I have to find something positive out of the loss of my dad. 

I will never ever be one of those people who says “Everything happens for a reason,” and if you say that to me, I’d take two steps back if I were you because you may be at the receiving end of a pretty aggressive bitchslap, and trust me when I say I pack some power. Things don’t happen for a reason. They happen to us, and we have to choose how we are going to react. I have always remained firm in the thought process that I have to use this loss to move me forward, not back. Unfortunately, being one of the first in my group of friends to lose a parent as an adult, I was in pretty unchartered waters. One of my high school friends, Crystal, had lost her dad several years prior and helped me a great deal, but other than that I didn’t have much to go by. Was what I feeling normal? Should I do this or that? Where can I go for support? I had so many questions. Unfortunately, two of my closest friends each lost their father in the past few months. Both had been dealing with difficult illnesses, and it was so hard to watch them begin the grieving process. If anything, the loss of my dad gave me some tools and experience to hopefully provide them some comfort and help them with their grieving process. It sucks knowing that at some point in your friendship, all of your friends will go through this. It may sound morbid, but it is true.

Change #5: I take bigger risks. 

I’ve always been one to dream big and set crazy goals for myself. It wasn’t until losing my dad that I realized how important it was to go after the things I always talked about. We only have a limited amount of time on this planet. I’m going to do everything in my power to live the fullest life I possibly can and check things off my bucket list, one by one. I’m more driven than I have ever been. I’m more focused than I have ever been. I think most of this stems from me knowing that my dad is watching my every move, and I want to make him proud.

I truly believe that as people we have to be willing to grow every day. One of my favorite authors, Rachel Hollis, couldn’t have said it better. She said: “Is life happening TO you or is life happening FOR you?” Often bad things happen to us and we wallow in sadness and say we can’t do more/ be more/ try more because we are victims. Why? ALL of us have bad shit that has happened in our lives. We all have our own story, and we all have the CHOICE to move forward and not backward. Sharing about my grief moves me forward.

I’ll be dealing with this loss for the rest of my life. Don’t sit there and try to tell me it get easier. It doesn’t, and if someone tells you it does, they are a liar. You learn over time ways to try to cope…..but that pain and sadness becomes a part of your heart until the day it stops beating. I’m still living my best life. I still have fun and laugh and do all the things I did before this happened to me. I’m just now living with more zest and passion because I know at any moment it could be gone, just like it was for my dad.

For those who have been my rock since November 20, 2015, please know how much I love and appreciate you. Your kindness means the world to me.

For those who have shown me their true colors, thank you for allowing me to see them so I can make more time in my life for those who truly care about me.

For those new to this grief stuff, please know you are not alone, and it is OKAY to share how you feel and how things have changed for you. “Those who matter will not mind, and those who mind, do not matter” -Dr. Seuss

And for all those who have a pulse, never, ever judge. You never know what hardships others may be facing behind closed doors. Smile at strangers more, give more hugs, and spread kindness around like confetti.

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