Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

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I ran my first 5K on Saturday and considering I’ve run only one other time in 2015, I would consider it a success. I didn’t run the entire time but most of it and was able to beat the goal I had set for myself. Plus, it was for a cause very near and dear to my heart so I would be proud no matter what. I’m going to talk about it more on Friday so stay tuned for that.
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Last week we were craving some comfort food so I whipped up some BBQ meatballs (recipe coming soon) and this delicious, cheesy, creamy bowl of goodness. I like potatoes in any form but these may be my new favorite. Joel thought the only thing that would make them better is bacon. Because bacon makes everything better.
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Sharp cheddar is diced small and stirred throughout then shredded and sprinkled on top with some crispy whole wheat panko (that makes them healthy) and parsley. The crispy panko topping gives a nice crunchy texture to the smooth, creamy potatoes.
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A little buttermilk is added to the potatoes to provide some tanginess. I’m kind of addicted to buttermilk in mashed potatoes ever since these bad boys. And adding cheese is always a good choice.
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I know mashed potatoes are more of a winter food but if you are having the weather we have lately, rainy and dreary, these will warm and fill you up.
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Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice 4 ounces of the cheddar into small, 1/4-inch pieces. Shred the other half. Place potatoes in a pan and cover completely with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain potatoes and return to pan.

2. Mash potatoes then add butter, buttermilk, milk, salt and pepper. Stir in the cubed cheddar. Place in a greased baking dish. In a small bowl, mix shredded cheese, panko and parsley. Sprinkle over the potatoes and bake for 15-20 minutes.
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Photo Friday

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Since this was our third year visiting Vegas, we decided to get away from the strip and explore Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. We were driving the loop and our breath was taken away by this view. I had Joel stop the car right away and I jumped out and stood in the middle of the road to take this picture. He doesn’t love the sign in the photo but I kind of find it charming. What do you think?

We didn’t make the best decisions the night before at the party Joel’s company threw and didn’t get back to the hotel until 3 in the morning so we got a later than planned start. We departed on the Ice Box Canyon Trail and it proved to be trickier than we had anticipated. Turns out when the trail sign says difficult, they actually mean it.

A large amount of the trail was climbing over big boulders like this. No bueno. At least it was good exercise to get us ready for our 5K tomorrow.
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Although I complained a lot through this hike, we had a great time experiencing some nature on our little getaway. The craziness of the strip can get to be a bit much for this introvert so it was nice to escape it for a few hours.

Breyers Gelato Indulgences {Partnership with Unilever}

Every year in Vegas, I stop at a little shop in the Bellagio for some pistachio gelato. I love the creamy, silky texture and the richness just can’t be beat. Well, you know what happened this year? I totally spaced the dang gelato. Luckily, I’ve teamed up with Unilever again and had some Breyers Gelato Indulgences in my freezer waiting for me when I got home.
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Unilever has rolled out 16 new frozen treats this year and among them, 4 different gelato flavors. I picked up two of the new flavors, the Mint Chocolate and Strawberry Truffle varieties because I just couldn’t decide. Mint chocolate chip ice cream is my absolute favorite flavor so that was a total no-brainer for me. The mint was so refreshing and so delicious when paired with the rich chocolate.
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Noah voted for strawberry truffle and I’m so glad he did. It tasted so fresh, just like biting into an actual strawberry. The dark chocolate was intense but perfect with the sweet strawberry gelato. And they are indulgent for sure, one scoop was super satisfying. I can see a serious addiction in our future.
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I can’t wait to try the other new ice cream treats they released this year. I especially have my eye on Good Humor Thin Mints Bars and I know Joel will drool over the Klondike Cookie Dough Swirl. I mean, seriously, how could you go wrong?
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If you have kiddos, make sure to look for the new Disney Frozen Popsicles and Tootsie Pops Popsicles. They will be the perfect treat to cool down on hot summer days.

*I was provided these products free of charge but all opinions are my own.

Buckwheat Pancakes {Clean Eating and Gluten Free}

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I’m bringing you a healthy recipe today in honor of the weekend I just had because there was not a single thing healthy about it. Every year, Joel’s company has a work retreat in Vegas and the spouses come along for a fun filled weekend. While the guys work for a couple days, the girls brunch, walk the strip and lay by the pool. Then the company throws a big party Friday night and we do whatever we want during the weekend.

I had every intention of laying by the pool and writing posts to share with you all last week but the hotel wifi was terrible so it just didn’t happen. So instead of writing about food, I consumed lots of it.
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My main goal on our Vegas trips is to eat all the food. We have a list of favorite restaurants that we always try to hit and usually add a new one each year. Next year will be our fourth year so it’s going to be tricky fitting in all our necessary eats. I ate fries, burgers, tacos, pizza, brunch and so much more that I just don’t even want to think about because I’m scared just dreaming of them will add more calories. At least we walked a ton, right?

And now I have a growing list of things I want to recreate from our trip…did somebody say carne asada fries? This guy.
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Photo Friday this week will be dedicated to our Saturday adventure in Vegas. Since it was our third visit, we decided to get out of the city and do something different.

So, onto the pancakes. These bad boys are clean, gluten-free and dairy-free. Plus, you mix up the batter the night before so all you have to do in the morning is heat up the griddle and cook them up.
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I had never had buckwheat pancakes until I whipped these up when the in-laws were visiting. I love the nutty, hearty flavor it brings. I promise you I wouldn’t have guessed they were healthy or sugar free if I hadn’t made them. These are the perfect way to start a lazy, yet healthy Saturday brunch. Much better than mine last weekend…..

Buckwheat Pancakes
recipe slightly adapted from The Leftover Queen

2 1/4 tsp. (1 packet) instant dry yeast
2 cups warm water (about 100°F)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon
Maple syrup, for serving

1. In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, salt and buckwheat flour. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave on counter overnight.

2. In the morning, preheat griddle or skillet to medium heat. Meanwhile, Stir in molasses, baking soda, coconut oil and cinnamon. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, portion pancakes onto the griddle. Cook until edges set and bubbles start to form on the surface. Flip and cook until no longer doughy, about 30 seconds. Repeat until batter is gone. Serve with maple syrup.

Honey Orange Shrimp

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During Lent I ate a lot of shrimp. I’ve never been a big fan of seafood but shrimp has always been something I could tolerate. During the past month and a half, honey walnut shrimp has become a new favorite of mine. I decided it was about time to try an at home version but I wanted to change it up a bit since Joel doesn’t like nuts. So I took out the candied walnuts and added some orange zest to make it our own.
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Not only is this a tasty recipe, but it’s really quick and simple too. The shrimp are dredged lightly in cornstarch then cooked in a small amount of olive oil. While the shrimp were cooking I whipped up the sauce, lightly steamed broccoli and warmed up some brown rice. Less than 30 minutes FTW.
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Honey Orange Shrimp
recipe adapted from Le Crème De La Crumb

2 lbs large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 Tbsp. olive oil

for the sauce:
2/3 cup mayo
1/2 tsp. crushed red chili flakes
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. sweetened condensed milk
1 orange, zested

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge the shrimp in the cornstarch. Place shrimp in a single layer in the skillet and cook about 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove to paper towel lined plate.

2. Meanwhile, mix sauce ingredients together. Toss sauce and shrimp together and enjoy.
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls

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How was your Easter? We spent Easter this year in Kansas City with my in-laws. We had a wonderful day that started with Easter service at my sister-in-laws church, followed by an Easter egg hunt, cooking and lots of indulging. I ate way too much ham and candy. Do I regret it? Not a bit.
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Noah was beyond excited about his felt pasta and played with it all day. When we were waiting in line at Walgreens today, he was telling the lady behind us all about it and proceeded to tell her “I’ve wanted fake pasta all my life and now my wish came true.” That kid is too much.
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If you are having a little sugar withdraw after all the candy this weekend, I have a snack for you. It will feel like you’re indulging but you’re actually doing something healthy for your body. These energy balls get their sweetness from a ripe banana and taste very similar to a no-bake cookie just without all the sugar and butter.
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Plus, they come together in a snap using ingredients you most likely have in your kitchen right now. I love having healthy snacks on hand for when a craving strikes. Otherwise, I tend to make bad choices. And because the ripened banana is so sweet, these really do seem like a treat. I made them small because I personally would rather have a few small treats versus one bigger one. It tricks my inner fat kid into thinking I’m getting more than I really am. Whatever keeps her happy and trapped inside, right?
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls
recipe adapted from The Lemon Bowl

2 ripe banana, mashed
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp. flax seed meal
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 cup old fashioned oats

1. Mix all ingredients, except oats, together until thoroughly combined. Stir in oats.

2. Using a cookie scoop, portion out energy balls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. I used a mini scoop to get about 75 energy balls. If you use a regular cookie scoop you will get 25. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

 

Photo Friday

Noah had his first soccer game on Sunday and it was just the best to watch. It’s pretty hilarious to watch 3 and 4 year olds run around in a pack on the field. At first Noah was just following the pack but after a bit he started to really get into it and try to get the ball. Halfway through the game he made a breakaway and made his first goal.
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He was so excited and ran to us as we cheered for him asking if we saw his goal. My heart felt like it might burst. Then his teammate and friend from school came up and put his arm around him and I just about died over the cuteness. We can’t wait for the next game!
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