Wednesday, April 30, 2014

May Fitness Challenge: Get Movin' May

It's "Get Movin" May!

Lace up those tennis shoes... the May Fitness Challenge is here!!!!! Summer is around the corner so this month we are going to get moving, get our heart rates up, and burn some serious calories. Cardio is such an important part of weight loss and/or for maintaining your weight; 30 minutes of cardio activity a day can make all the difference in shedding those last couple pounds before summer!

The May Fitness Challenge was created with a weekly cardio goal on top of the regular daily fitness challenges. Walking, running, biking, indoor cycling, elliptical, stairs... these all count towards your goal for the week! You get to choose what cardio exercise works for you! And since the cardio goal is a weekly goal, you can determine on which days and for how long you do your cardio.

Join in the May challenge... Let's get fit and swim-suit ready together!!! For current challenge updates, tips, and motivation go to our Facebook page and 'Like' us!

Click here or go to our Facebook page for a printable calendar.

Hope you are enjoying these monthly fitness challenges as much as we are!! Check out the previous month's challenges on our "Fitness Adventures" page of our blog.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Carrot Cake of All Carrot Cakes!

It's just not Easter without a big slice of Carrot Cake, right? 

For Easter this year, my mom made what I like to refer to as "the carrot cake of all carrot cakes". Using a recipe that claimed to be the World's Best Carrot Cake, she worked her culinary magic, made a few changes to the original recipe and the end result was a super moist, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth carrot cake definitely worthy of such a title.

This is one of those desserts your friends and family will demand the recipe for... because it's AMAZING!

Instead of using the cream cheese frosting the original recipe called for, my mom decided to use vanilla pudding and orange marmalade for the center of the cake and then a whipped frosting for the outside of the cake. She also replaced the white sugar the cake recipe called for with brown sugar. (I don't think I need to tell you this is NOT a low-fat or low-calorie dessert, but I still will. Enjoy this cake in moderation!).

WOW!! This carrot cake is NO JOKE....

The World's Best Carrot Cake
adapted from

3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (1 lb.) bag carrots, peeled and grated
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained well
Instant vanilla pudding (prepared for center layer)
Orange marmalade (optional, for center layer)
Whipped Cream Frosting (recipe follows)

Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside. Combine sugar, milk, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract in a large bowl; stir until all ingredients are well blended. Add flour mixture, carrots, and pineapple, stirring just until well blended.

Grease 3 (8 inch) round cake pans. Line bottoms with circles of parchment or waxed paper; grease and flour paper. Pour batter into cake pans.

Bake at 350°F. for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; loosen cake layers from edges of pans with a sharp knife and invert onto wire racks. Peel off waxed paper and cool completely.

Spread a layer of orange marmalade between the two cake layers, then spread a layer of prepared instant vanilla pudding over the marmalade. Stack the cake layers.

Once cake is stacked, spread Whipped Cream Frosting (see below) over the top and sides of the cake. Cover and refrigerate overnight before cutting.

Whipped Cream Frosting
recipe via 
Makes 5 cups

1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups heavy cream

Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth. While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.

Another job well done by my food mentor..... she's seriously awesome. Thanks for sharing the recipes Mom!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Grilled Lemon and Dill Salmon Foil Pack

Did you know salmon is a heart-healthy food!? According to Mayo Clinic, the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other fish "may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk, reduce irregular heartbeats, and in children may improve learning ability." Research shows that eating at least one to two servings a week of fish that's rich in omega-3 fatty acids appears to reduce the risk of heart disease. Not only does salmon have heath benefits... it tastes delicious too! 

Amy and I have been eating salmon for as long as I can remember, we actually used to salmon fish in Washington every summer as kids! Our family would come home with coolers full of salmon fillets, so over the years we created many different ways to prepare our fresh-caught fish. Awhile back Amy posted a recipe for Easy Baked Salmon, which is a great way to cook salmon in the oven. 

Since summer (and outdoor BBQs) are right around the corner, I thought I would share my recipe for Grilled Lemon and Dill Salmon in Foil Pack. Using a foil pack on the grill is a tasty and easy way to cook your salmon, or any fish! This Grilled Lemon and Dill Salmon turns out super moist and flavorful. Not to mention, the prep and cleanup for this recipe is a breeze... just throw the foil away!

Grilled Lemon and Dill Salmon Foil Pack
adapted from
Makes 4 servings


  • 1 ½ lb salmon fillets, cut into 4 serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 medium lemon, cut into 1/8-inch slices (about 12)

1.  Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 2 large sheets of heavy-duty foil. In center of each foil sheet, drizzle olive oil.

Place 2 of the salmon pieces on top of olive oil in the center of each sheet.

Sprinkle each piece of salmon with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Brush 1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise over top of each salmon piece (evenly). Sprinkle ¼ tablespoon chopped dill on each salmon piece. 

Then place about 3 lemon slices flat or overlapping on each piece.

2. Bring up 2 sides of foil over salmon so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.

3.  Place packets on grill over medium-low heat. Cover grill; cook 13 to 16 minutes, rotating packets 1/2 turn after about 7 minutes, until salmon flakes easily with fork.

4.  To serve, cut large X across top of each packet; carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape.

Serve with a lemon wedge (optional).

I have to say, this is the perfect quick and easy, healthy weeknight meal! The best part (besides a delicious piece of fish) is there are not many dishes to do... ;) 

Also, you can use light mayonnaise for a lower-fat and lower-calorie version of this recipe. 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Almond Poppy Seed Bread

I made a batch of this Almond Poppy Seed Bread as a yummy treat to gift away. Thankfully, the recipe makes two loaves so Amy and I could enjoy the deliciousness of this bread too! I was in such a rush the day I made this recipe, I neglected to take pictures in the process... but the recipe is very quick and easy to throw together. This Almond Poppy Seed Bread is moist, fragrant, and absolutely delicious. It's great as breakfast, dessert, or even a mid-day treat! It also would be an excellent addition to an Easter brunch...


In the words of my sister, "this is exactly how Almond Poppy Seed Bread should taste."

Almond Poppy Seed Bread
recipe via
make 2 loaves - about 32 servings

2-1/4 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
3 eggs
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups 2% milk

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, poppy seeds, lemon juice and extracts; beat until well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beating just until moistened.

Pour into two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Combine glaze ingredients until smooth; drizzle over warm loaves. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Note: This is NOT a low-calorie, low-fat recipe... so enjoy this bread in moderation.

I must say, this Almond Poppy Seed Bread is so good it's hard to stop eating it. Seriously, what a treat! Give it away as a gift, serve it to your loved ones, or enjoy it all on your own... ;)

YUM.... I might try this as a muffin recipe next time.

- Janel

Monday, April 7, 2014

'Melting Moments' Cookies

Another one of my favorite cookie recipes comes from the 1980's book Cookies by Natalie Hartanov Haughton. My mom has been using this baking book and making these delicious Melting Moments for as long as I can remember. For every holiday she makes a big batch of them... these cookies are quite festive when rolled in some colored sugar (or sprinkles)! 

These Melting Moments cookies are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Not only are they pretty, they are also light, buttery, and highly addictive! These cookies are so easy to make, only require four ingredients, and can be stored in the freezer (I actually prefer my Melting Moments still cold!).

Melting Moments are one of those 'crowd-pleaser' cookies... you can't go wrong with a batch of them! My co-worker absolutely LOVES these cookies, so for her birthday I decided I would bake her a batch.

And finally give up my recipe...

Melting Moments
recipe from Cookies by Natalie Hartanov Haughton
Original recipe makes 2 dozen

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch

Cream butter and confectioners' sugar until fluffy. Add to flour and cornstarch and beat thoroughly. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll shaped dough in sprinkles, colored sugar, or white sugar if desired.

Place about 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 12-14 minutes. Don't overbake.

Let cookies cool on sheet for a few minutes after removing from oven, then transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely. BE VERY CAREFUL, these cookies are super delicate!


If you can get your hands on a copy of Cookies you won't be disappointed. Another one of our family's favorite cookie recipes comes from the book too (see Snickerdoodle recipe here). I have yet to try a cookie recipe out of it that I did not like...


- Janel

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fitness Challenge: 'All-Over' April

Ok guys, the fitness challenge for April is going to be hard. There are burpees included in this month's challenge... yes, BURPEES! But "no pain, no gain" and "there is no change without challenge" and "what doesn't challenge you, doesn't change you" and... well, you get the idea. Also, it just so happens me and Amy a have vacation coming up in May which requires us to be in serious swimsuit-shape! So, that means all of you get to reap the benefits of the all-over body toning April Fitness Challenge I put together. :)

Sit-ups, bicycle crunches, lunges, tri-dips, squats, planks, push-ups, and burpees (yes, I had to do it) all combine to target some of our "extra- baggage" problem areas! And as always, DON'T SKIP THE CARDIO. Try to get at least 30 minutes of cardio 5 times a week.  

For those of you who don't know what a 'burpee' is, the exercise looks like this:


As with the previous months' fitness challenges the rules are:
Rules -
1) You don’t have to do the exercises in 3 sets, but you have to complete the total daily goal.
2) You can do ANY variation of these exercises!
3) This is supposed to be challenging… so if it’s too easy, you can add more reps to each set. If it’s too hard, decrease the reps. It’s YOUR workout.
4) These exercises require no equipment and can be done anywhere! No excuses :)


Go here for a printable 'All-Over' April calendar. Get April Fitness Challenge here!

Make sure to 'Like' us on Facebook to get more April Fitness Challenge information, status updates, and motivation!

You can follow us on Instagram and Pinterest too!



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Soft Sugar Cookies

How cute are these Easter-themed Soft Sugar Cookies?!?! 

If you are looking for an easy, go-to Soft Sugar Cookie recipe... I created a delicious, simple version yesterday! Just a few basic ingredients come together to make these soft, buttery sugar cookies.

Frost them, decorate them, sprinkle them with sugar, or eat them plain! Any way you choose to enjoy these Soft Sugar Cookies, you won't be disappointed. :) See the additional ingredients used for these adorable Easter-themed Soft Sugar Cookies below!

Soft Sugar Cookies
adapted from a recipe by Cheryl E on
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups flour (plus extra for rolling)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Beat together eggs, butter, vanilla and sugar; add flour, baking powder and salt and mix well.

2. Refrigerate dough for at least 15 minutes.

3. Drop by heaping teaspoon approx 3" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, then flatten dough with bottom of glass moistened with water and dipped in sugar.


Roll out cookie dough out on a floured surface with a rolling pin (or floured glass), then use cookies cutter to cut dough into desired shapes.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet 3" apart.

4. Bake at 400°F for 6-8 minutes or just until lightly golden.

Cool, then frost and decorate as you wish...... :)

For these super cute Easter-themed soft sugar cookies here's what I used -

Chick cookies: 
Betty Crocker 'Rich & Creamy' frosting (lemon)
yellow, crystal sprinkles
yellow Mike & Ike's candy (for feathers)
orange slices candy, cut (for feet and beak)
mini chocolate chips (for eyes)

Bunny Cookies:
Betty Crocker 'Rich & Creamy' frosting (vanilla)
pink Mike & Ike's candy (for ears)
mini chocolate chips (for eyes)
mini marshmallow (for tail)

Carrot Cookies:
Betty Crocker 'Rich & Creamy' frosting (vanilla)
green food coloring, mixed into frosting
green Mike & Ike's candy (for carrot stem)
orange slices candy, cut to shape (for carrot)

Easter Egg Cookies:
frosting, any
sprinkles, any
Easter-colored M&M's


- Janel