Find Joy In Today

As I laid in my bed Sunday night and reflected on the day, tears began to fall down my face. It was 11 p.m. and the baby was nuzzled up next to me. If she or I moved, she quickly searched for me to nurse  and then would fall back asleep in a matter of seconds. Uh oh. “This is going to be a long night.”

The day was not too drastically different than any other Sunday, except I didn’t go to church because the baby had come down with either a cold, or teething. Not sure which, but something was bugging her, so I decided it was best to stay home. “Maybe I’ll actually be able to straighten up a little, pick up the toys, start the laundry…”

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As soon as the older girls left with my husband for church, I sat on the couch and immediately felt overwhelmed. Not just with the messy house, but with life. I began to feel like I was not on top of things lately.

I got up and began to collect the toys. They were everywhere. Like in every room and corner of the house. It can be annoying to be constantly stepping on them, but in a way I love it. I started to think about my two older girls and how forgiving they’ve been to me over the past year. Being sick and tired every day through the pregnancy, and now reliving the new born years, I haven’t been as attentive as I wish I could be. But man, they’ve become the best of friends (and sometimes the worst), and they’ve adapted really well. Seriously, I love them.

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I didn’t get too far in picking up the toys when the baby seemed fussy/hungry/tired so I went up stairs to rock her. It was not an easy task but she finally fell asleep. As she laid there I thought about the million things I needed to do, and kept telling myself I could finish them just as long as she took a good nap. I laid her down, shut the door, and went down stairs. I peeked at the monitor and noticed two big eyes staring right at me. “Well, that didn’t last long.”

I ran back up stairs hoping I could put her back to sleep before she fully woke up. I scooped her in my arms and realized, yea she’s fully awake. But I continued to try to put her back to sleep hoping it would help. As I rocked her I thought about my family, extended, and how much I missed them and wished they were here. Having my husband gone so much for work is rough. (Don’t you hate bills?!) Not a week, and maybe even never longer than 2 days went by when I was younger that I didn’t see my cousins or my grandparents. I started to get sad about my girls and how they are lucky to see their family only every few months, and cousins are non existent, (and probably will be for a very long time.) “Arielle, stop being such a debbie downer!”

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I got up since the babe decided 5 minutes was enough rest time and went back to the chores. I didn’t accomplish much due to the fussy baby, and before I knew it the rest of the family was home.

The day continued and then soon enough, it was time for bed. I tucked the girls in and laid the baby down. I cuddled up next to my husband, but once again that little bebe was wide awake and not happy. I pushed the piles of clean folded laundry off my bed, held my sweet baby in my arms, and got her back to sleep. That’s when the tears began to flow.

So, why am I sharing this (pretty personal) day with you?…Because Monday, even though it wasn’t much more of a different day, was much better. And here’s why.

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Sunday night as I held my baby right up next to me, trying so hard not to move, I scrolled through my phone. I happened to come across a blog post from In The Head of AL and it was exactly what I needed to hear.  I’m going to take a quote right out of her post. Here is what she said…

‘Love where you are. A perfect reminder when things are hard to not spend your time looking ahead pleading for things to be over and things to be different. But just to stop. Stop looking backwards. Stop yearning and waiting forwards. Today, where you are right now, is a joy. Because today, right now, is the best place to be. Because happiness does await us in this day. Because His blessings and promises are here, right now.’

Bam. Like a ton of bricks right to the gut. I had spent practically my whole day being sad. Being frustrated about things in the past. Being overwhelmed with how I wish certain things were different because if they were, life would be totally easier right? I had totally avoided the Joy that I had THAT day. I missed it. I had overlooked the tremendous blessings that I had in that moment, and my friends, I have SO many blessings. So many things currently to be thankful for RIGHT NOW.

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I had a messy house, but I so quickly forgot that I HAD A HOUSE, that we OWNED thanks to the extremely hard working husband I have! We are free from worry because of him! There were toys everywhere, but I didn’t focus on the fact that I had three beautiful daughters of god that were healthy, smart, creative, and beautiful. Each ‘mess’ resembled a time where they sat together and played. The baby was fussy and not sleeping, but I was holding my baby. A baby that I was able to have, a baby that was healthy and growing. A baby that has brought so much joy and togetherness to our family.

It’s easy to look past what we have and focus on things we wish were easier or different, but let me tell you…It’s easier to find the blessings we have now. There are so many things to find Joy in today.

Monday was so much better, and I was so much happier. (Including my family)

Find Joy in Today.

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

Have you ever been to a Cold Stone? Do those even exist anymore?

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

Besides paying an arm and a leg for a scoop of ice cream, cold stone was THE place to go way back when. There was one right by my house and a lot of times all the cool kids would be like, “Let’s meet at cold stone?” In my mind I was thinking, “Hell to the yea!” , but what came out was, “I mean, sure yea that’s cool. If ice cream is your thing.” I couldn’t let people know my TRUE love of food, although the size of my JLO booty might have said otherwise…So I had to play it cool.

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

Founders Favorite.

I can still remember the taste to this day. Cake batter ice cream, soft and rich brownie chunks mixed with caramel and chocolate sauce. It’s definitely a girls night/stress eating/my boyfriend just broke up with me kind of ice cream.

And to think they rejected my application to work there…

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

This ice cream I made doesn’t taste anything like a Founders Favorite. You’re welcome.

I really do want to re-create/health-ify that ice cream some day, but for now there is this Blueberry Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Ice Cream. Waaa Waaa. (Way to sell that one Arielle.)

It all started when Jessica from How Sweet It Is shared her Blackberry Chip Ice Cream which sounded and looked delicious! I knew I was going to make it for our Fourth of July Party! Then the night before I completely spaced and hadn’t purchased any of the ingredients. What’s new?

So I searched through the fridge and realized I had multiple containers of plain greek yogurt and a ton of blueberries. Light Bulb!

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups plain greek yogurt ice cream
  • 1½ c. blueberries
  • 2 tb. water
  • 1 TB. vanilla
  • ¾ c. pure cane sugar*
  • heaping ½ c. dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • *If I were making this for myself I would be fine with ½, but greek yogurt can be pretty tart so if you are making this for a crowd I would keep the sugar at ¾ c. You could also sub a liquid sweetener to taste, but it will change the taste a little. I haven't tried this with coconut sugar, but it's a possibility.
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, blend the blueberries and water until pureed.
  2. using the back of a spoon, push the mixture thorough a fine strainer to remove all of the skins.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, vanilla, blueberries, and chocolate.
  4. Let cool in the fridge for about an hour.
  5. Make your ice cream in your ice cream maker according the makers instructions.
  6. Serve immediately or freeze in the freezer.
  7. If it's frozen in the freezer, allow it to thaw for about 15-20 minutes before serving.

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

Greek yogurt ice cream might be my new favorite thing! Can you imagine all of the flavor possibilities and combinations?!

Maybe, just maybe, there will be a Founders Favorite Greek Yogurt on here some day…

Watermelon American Flag Sheet ‘Cake’

I cannot believe the 4th of July is tomorrow! It feels like I just took my Christmas tree down, when in reality, it’s almost time to put it back up again!

4th of July Watermelon Flag Cake

I really wanted to make a fun dessert for tomorrow, but wanted to keep it pretty healthy and light. I’m sure many of you have seen those watermelons cut into the form of a cake and then frosted with whipped cream right?

So let’s pretend that watermelon cake had a baby with a patriotic flag sheet cake, and well..

This is what I came up with! :)

First thing, cut your watermelon. I cut mine into rectangular strips so they would be easy to assemble in the baking dish.

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4th of July Watermelon Cake

First you add a layer of watermelon, and then frost it with a layer of whipped cream. You can make this vegan by using Coconut Whipped Cream if you would like.

4th of July Watermelon Cake

Then add more watermelon…

4th of July Watermelon Cake

And then a nice generous spread of more whipped cream.

4th of July Watermelon Cake

Then using blueberries and raspberries, assemble the good ol’ American Flag!

4th of July Watermelon Cake

Watermelon Flag Cake
 
It may look like your typical 4th of July sheet cake, but it has a nice 'healthy' surprise that's used instead of cake! Fresh Watermelon!
Ingredients
  • (This recipe makes an 8x8 or 9x9 size sheet cake)
  • ½ watermelon, cut into strips
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 8TB. powdered sugar
  • 1 TB. vanilla
  • Blueberries, raspberries
Instructions
  1. Make the whip cream by beating the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla until peaks form. Set aside.
  2. Assemble the cake by first adding a single layer of watermelon over the entire bottom of the pan.
  3. Frost the watermelon layer.
  4. Then add another layer of watermelon.
  5. Then top it off with another layer of whipped cream. Be sure to cover the entire watermelon so it doesn't show through.
  6. Make an American Flag with the berries.
  7. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve!

 

4th of July Watermelon Cake

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Happy Fourth of July friends!!

Chopped Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing

Salads have become my mommy life saver recently.

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This is not a fabricated sentence at all, so believe me when I say this…

My baby slept 45 minutes total during the day yesterday. That’s right. 45 minutes. Not a solid 45 either, I just added all the minutes she slept and it was 45.

I had a little heart to heart with myself and realized that maybe it’s not a coincidence that all three of my children are horrible sleepers. I think I sleep trained them that way.

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That being said, when it comes to meals for myself, I need them to be quick. Obviously a s’mores pop tart would do the trick, but seeing that I’m trying to kick my butt back into shape I’ve been stuffing my face with salad beasts!

I love salads! Even the simple ones like lettuce and tomato :). But since I’m nursing and I’m hungry 90% of my life, I need it to be filling.

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I’ll usually prepare a large salad/salad ingredients once or twice a week and have it last me a few days for ‘quick mama lunches.’ Then I’ll sometimes use leftover proteins from dinner to add on top, and if I’m lucky and have a ripe avocado I will throw that on too!

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But my favorite part of a salad is always the dressing. Always. A good salad dressing can make or break that salad beast, and I wish I was the kind of girl that was good with a little lemon juice and EVOO…

Nope.

Just like I wish I was good with just eating a strawberry and calling it dessert. I.Just.Can’t.

Unless it’s covered in chocolate. That’s a different story.

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Chopped Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing
 
Ingredients
  • (For the Salad)
  • ⅓ green cabbage, thinly sliced, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ purple cabbage, thinly sliced, roughly chopped
  • (opt.) ⅓ ice berg lettuce, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, cut into thin slices
  • 1 large carrot, sliced into thin pieces and roughly chopped
  • ½ cucumber, skin removed, diced
  • ½ c. baby tomatoes, I used yellow, cut in halves
  • ⅓ c. diced peanuts
  • 2-3 small avocados, diced
  • (opt.) chicken, grilled or shredded
  • (opt.) crispy wontons or Chinese noodles
  • (For the Peanut Dressing)
  • ½ c. peanut butter
  • 3 TB. soy sauce
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 TB. coconut or brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • ½ c. water**
  • **If you refrigerate the dressing for a few hours it will become thicker as it sits. You may need to thin in out with a little water before adding to the salad.
Instructions
  1. Assemble the salad on a platter with all of the ingredients. Leave out the chicken and avocado for those that don't want it. (If you are planning to use this salad over the coarse of a few days, don't use the avocado until you are ready to eat it, that way it doesn't brown.)
  2. In a small blender or food processor, add the salad dressing ingredients and blend until creamy.
  3. Add the dressing to the salad and toss,before serving. OR, if saving the salad for the next few days, use salad dressing on your individual salad and keep dressing covered in the fridge.
  4. Enjoy!

 

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Now…

Someone tell me how to properly sleep train, otherwise, this mama just might start eating s’mores pop tarts for dinner.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Every year on my birthday, I go all out on Dessert. I indulge in something sinfully delicious, and it’s been a tradition that I really really really enjoy. Like really.

Of course I don’t wait a whole year to have dessert, but if I do happen to be in a situation where dessert is present, I usually don’t eat a big (regular) serving. (Even though I’d be all over that warm brownie and ice cream.)

But on my birthday, I eat a nice big serving of my favorite dessert…

And usually, I’ll eat it for dinner.

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake via The Diva Dish

It all started in 2010  when I was 8 months pregnant with my first baby. It was my birthday, and my husband and I went to the Del Mar fair in San Diego. We had been walking all day and I’d watched my husband eat one fried treat after the next. I was insanely jealous because at that time, I was still really careful with what I ate.

As we drove home that night, I got a little sad because I hadn’t allowed my self to enjoy a treat, even on my DANG BIRTHDAY!! I decided that night I wasn’t going to restrict my self so much, and I would allow my self to enjoy dessert here and there without feeling so much guilt.

So I made my husband stop at In N Out for a chocolate milkshake.

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake via The Diva Dish

I remember enjoying that milkshake SO much, almost feeling a kid who had no shame in pounding down a few pieces of birthday cake without their parents noticing.

Since then, I’ve made it a tradition to have a rich dessert each year on my birthday. And for the past 4 years I’ve made it a tradition to have it be an insanely rich chocolate cake.

This year I asked my mom to send me chocolate cake recipe from my grandmas cookbook. She sent me this one:

 

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(If you’ve ever made The Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Sheet Cake, you will notice the recipe is pretty dang similar.)

Now, let’s talk about oleo!

Just kidding. Do they still make oleo?

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake via The Diva Dish

I decided that my grandmas PTA cake would be the best base for my birthday cake. But I didn’t stop there.

Next, I made a Whipped Chocolate Buttercream. Back in the days when I used to make cupcakes for people, buttercream was my most requested frosting. I could make it with my eyes closed, and could eat it with my eyes closed too!

Then to top it all off, I poured a dark chocolate ganache over the entire cake.

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake via The Diva Dish

Chocolate ganache IS my favorite food, in all seriousness.

If I read chocolate ganache on a  dessert menu, I order it. No matter what.

Now, You could leave the cake as is, but I think we all know that sprinkles on birthday cakes are a requirement. Bonus points if you use chocolate jimmies! My grocery store didn’t have any, which practically sent me into depression, but I recovered quickly.

Rainbow sprinkles work wonders.

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake via The Diva Dish

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake
 
Ingredients
  • (For the cake)
  • 2 sticks butter (or 1 cup coconut oil)
  • heaping ¼ c. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 c. flour (can use white whole wheat, spelt, or oat flour)
  • 2 c. sugar (can use coconut sugar)
  • dash of salt
  • ½ c. buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 TB. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • (For the Whipped Chocolate Buttercream)
  • 3 sticks softened butter
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 3 heaping TB. cocoa powder
  • 5-6 TB. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 TB. vanilla extract
  • (For the Ganache)
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. chopped dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar, then set aside.
  3. In a sauce pan, add the water and bring to a boil.
  4. In another sauce pan melt the butter and cocoa powder. Once the water is boiling, add it to the butter/cocoa mixture and let boil for about a minute.
  5. Remove from heat and let it cool for a minute.
  6. Fold in the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture. Don't over mix.
  7. In a bowl, whisk together buttermilk, then eggs, vanilla, and then baking soda.
  8. Slowly fold it into the cake batter.
  9. Grease two round cake pans, or a jelly roll pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  10. Allow the cake to cool COMPLETELY before removing.
  11. (Make the Whipped Buttercream)
  12. In a mixer, whip the butter until it's creamy. Add in the rest of the ingredients and beat on high until whipped and all combined.
  13. Spread the frosting on top of one cake layer, then place the other cake on top. Spread more frosting on top and all around the sides. Use all the frosting, mostly in the middle and on top. Place in the fridge for a few minutes to set while you make the ganache.
  14. In a small bowl add the chocolate.
  15. In a sauce pan, heat the heavy cream on low/medium heat until it is about to boil. (Don't overcook.)
  16. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 2-3 minutes, then stir it slowly till the chocolate has melted and it's creamy. Let it sit for about 5 minutes so it cools.
  17. Pour the ganache over the entire cake, top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
  18. (Keep cake refrigerated, but let it sit out for about 20-30 minutes before serving.)

 

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake via The Diva Dish

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake via The Diva Dish

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake via The Diva Dish

So the moral of the story is, eat dessert on your birthday. No if’s, and’s, or big butts about it.

My Journey to a Healthier Me

Life has a weird way of teaching you lessons.

Before, I didn’t really know what was good for me.

Like a jelly bean green juicy jumpsuit.

Yes, yes I did.

It’s weird, because sometimes we truly don’t know that what we’re doing isn’t the best for us.

Since I was little girl, I’ve always had an issue with the way I felt about my weight. Even at the young age of 10, I had this negative view about my weight and body image. Always wanting to be skinnier, to feel better, and wishing I could feel comfortable in the clothes I wore…Without feeling like I wanted to run home and put on baggy sweats.

This was me in high school.

I’m not going to sit here and say, “Look how fat I am, I’m pale, I was bloated, I look tired, and why in the heck aren’t I wearing cuter shoes…yidda yadda!”

See, that would be mean.

But it’s how I felt.

I was in the constant battle with myself, trying to feel good enough. You see I thought I was making the best choices for my body.I thought I was healthy. I thought that if I ran for 10 minutes it was okay for me to scarf down 3 chili dogs when I got home. I thought that eating a salad loaded with bacon, eggs, cheese, ranch dressing, and garlic croutons wasn’t bad for you. I mean, it was a salad! How bad could it be? I struggled because I thought I was doing everything I could to be healthy, happy, & skinny. Why wasn’t I?

I carried this (non) confidence in my self with me to college, and like most college students, eating & socializing is pretty common. It was a struggle for me to try to make the right choices, considering I really didn’t even know what was right. Then something happened. I got sick.I felt bloated, crampy, and sick to my stomach ALL the time. (Could it be the chili dogs..no?!?)  I went to several doctors, and no one could figure out what was wrong. Then one doctor took an x-ray of my stomach, and everything was black. My body wasn’t digesting food. The doctor suggested I omit gluten and dairy to see if that worked. So for the next 2 years I did just that. You see, back then, there wasn’t a lot of gluten-free/dairy free products, like there are today. So I had to eat really fresh and natural things like lean meats and fresh produce. At first, it was SOO hard. NO OLIVE GARDEN BREADSTICKS!!

With this new “lifestyle” I was living I began to notice not only a difference in my appearance but also how I felt. I had SO much energy. I was no longer tired and lethargic, now I felt awake and energetic. I decided to take up exercising, in particular running. I would wake up early in the morning and run…

Let me just add that I was never ever a runner. One time a friend and I tried out for track in HS, and we quit the next day.

Anyways I began to love it so much I started doing mini’ “races” at school.

I felt great!

But I became obsessed. Then the doctors told me that I really wasn’t allergic to gluten, but I was lactose intolerant, and I could start eating wheat again. I remember crying hysterically to my mom saying, “I’m gonna get fat again!” After that, I promised my self I wouldn’t let me get back to the old me again so I started really watching what I ate. Canned vegetables and rice crackers were my staple. I probably consumed 300 calories a day.

Luckily through the support of family and friends, I knew that things had to change.

I knew my goal was to become healthy & happy, and not focus so much on the skinny part.

I decided the best way to make this change was to do some research and become educated. I quickly switched my major to Health and Nutrition, studying up on some reading, and began to really learn and understand the beauty of living a healthy lifestyle and all it has to offer.

I stopped the fad diets, kicked the low carb, fat free foods the curb. Diets just weren’t working and I could never seem to stick with them, and there was no way I was going to diet the rest of my life. I knew that if I wanted to feel great inside and on the outside, I had to stop worrying about calories and counting my carbs. It just wasn’t the way I wanted to live.

My goal was to eat food, enjoy it, and feel great. The only way I was able to accomplish this was by eating wholesome and natural foods. After that I not only began to feel great inside, but I was able to maintain and feel great about my healthy weight. Taking the pressure off of myself of dieting was a load off my shoulders, and now I knew that I could eat foods without the constant worry that I struggled with.

Life has thrown a lot of curve balls. Some have been more challenging than others, but I am still learning to this day to be grateful for the body I have been giving. I know now how to make the best choices for my body. I know now that I am healthy. I know that I can run for as long as I want and still come home and eat chocolate, and this is because I know that I am no longer afraid of food. Instead I know that what I put into my body is going to contribute how I feel on the outside. And I must add I know I feel great when I eat chocolate =]..

Now I know.

Everyday is a new day. I’m not going to say I’m perfect. I mean I usually eat a gallon little bit of chocolate every day. I don’t always have time to work out, let alone shave my legs (TMI?). And sometimes my breakfast includes a cookie and left over brown rice.

This blog is about my life, my journey to making better decisions. All the while, trying my best to be an amazing wife and mother, and  keeping my family healthy and happy.

My focus is to raise my family with the attitude that our bodies are temples and we need to respect and take care of them. That doesn’t mean that we need to be skinny or fit into a size 2. That means that we need to give our bodies the food it needs to thrive, grow, and become strong to live healthy and happy lives.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Lightened Up Pasta Primavera

I ordered a bathing suit online last week, so…

Lightened up Primavera Pasta it is!

Lightened Up Pasta Primavera, The Diva Dish

If you’ve never had pasta primavera, it’s basically a pasta dish with cooked, yet crisp, veggies and a nice creamy sauce. Cream as in heavy cream.

I love heavy cream.

My grandmother always had heavy cream in her fridge for her tea, and one time I poured myself a glass thinking it was milk. I remember drinking it thinking it was the best tasting milk I had ever had in my ENTIRE life.

I then proceeded to pour myself another.

Lightened Up Pasta Primavera, The Diva Dish

Eventually someone told me what I was really doing, but unfortunately it didn’t stop me. I snuck a glass every time I was at her house. And after that I licked my finger and dipped it in her sugar jar.

Oh my gosh, no wonder…nevermind.

 

Lightened Up Pasta Primavera, The Diva Dish

This recipe makes a huge amount of pasta, and would be perfect for your weeknight family dinner. (It only takes about 30 minutes total to make!) You could add a nice herbed lemony protein to it and it’s a complete meal! OR, you could do what I did and make it on a sunday so you have a ‘mommy’ lunch ready for you everyday! Because busy mamas don’t always have time for lunch, am I right?

And when that happens, that’s when we start drinking heavy cream and dipping our fingers in the sugar jar. Take my word. Make this pasta, and save your digestive system.

Lightened Up Pasta Primavera, The Diva Dish

Lightened Up Pasta Primavera
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
This dish takes only 30 minutes to make!
Ingredients
  • 2 TB. coconut oil or EVOO
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 head of broccoli, stems removed
  • 1 red bell pepper,cut into strips
  • 1 TB. coconut oil or EVOO
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, bottoms chopped off
  • 1 box bowtie pasta
  • ¾ c. chicken broth or veggie broth
  • 2 TB. EVOO or butter
  • 1½ c. non dairy, unsweetened, regular milk (Like cashew, coconut, soy)
  • ½ c. chopped fresh basil
  • ½ c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 bag frozen peas, 12 oz
  • Salt, Pepper
  • ½ lemon, juiced and zested
Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil on the stove and cook your pasta until al dente. Do not over cook.
  2. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan add your oil and cook your onion and garlic for a few minutes, until translucent.
  3. Add your carrot and broccoli and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove ingredients from the sauce pan and add to a plate and set aside.
  4. Next add the peppers and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove and add to the plate and set aside.
  5. Next add the additional oil and add the zucchini and squash. Cook for 1 minute, then remove and set on the plate.
  6. Next add your asparagus, toss, and cover. Steam for a few minutes until it has softened a little. Remove and add it to the plate.
  7. Drain your al dente pasta.
  8. Next add your broth and butter. Using a whisk, scrape the bottom of the pan and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Then add in your milk and fresh basil and cheese. Let it cook for about a minute, then add the frozen peas, pasta and cooked veggies. Toss and season generously with salt and pepper. Then add the lemon juice and zest. Toss and adjust seasonings and extra cheese if desired.

 

Lightened Up Pasta Primavera, The Diva Dish

Thank goodness my grandma doesn’t read my blog, otherwise I don’t think she would be too happy…

Blackberry Lemonade-Naturally Sweetened

Summer has begun.

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No more school or extra curricular activities to break up the day. No more cooler temperatures to play at the park. No more leggings.

Now my kids are bored by 8:30 a.m., and by 10 a.m. I need a nap.

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But in all honesty, I’ve kind of loved having my kids home the whole day, everyday. Yea sometimes I feel like the minutes are longer and my kids won’t stop fighting, and “Oh my gosh, let’s just get out of this house and do something!!”…

But I feel like without the pressure of ‘time’, and not having to run here or there to be somewhere, I’ve been able to sit and enjoy my kids more.

To tickle them, laugh with them, read with them, break up their fights, play barbies, and introduce them to movies from the 90’s.

Like Casper. Or Mary-Kate and Ashley Movies.

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We have also drank our weight in lemonade.

My girls LOVE lemonade, and enjoy making it. We have fun coming up with new and different flavors, all though peanut butter and chocolate lemonade might not work. Or maybe…

We came up with the idea of blackberry lemonade since we had an abundance in our fridge. And in our house, an abundance of berries isn’t a good thing. My kids would overdose on berries if I let them.

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Blackberry Lemonade-Naturally Sweetened
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 12 oz blackberries
  • ½ cup honey*
  • 4 cups water
  • *Depending on how tart your blackberries are, ½ c. might not be sweet enough. You can adjust and add more honey if you want. Be careful though, the more honey you add, the lemonade will have a 'honey' taste to it. To avoid this and to keep it naturally sweetened, I'll sometimes add a sprinkle of stevia to sweeten it up!
Instructions
  1. In a pitcher, add your lemon juice and water.
  2. In a saucepan, add your berries and honey. Turn heat on medium/low and toss the berries around the pan. Then begin to mash the berries with a potato masher, or fork.
  3. Once all of the berries have been mashed, allow the mixture to come to a boil, and then remove from heat.
  4. Strain the mixture, and allow the juices to strain into a bowl. Save the mashed blackberries for homemade bread or toss!
  5. Once the blackberry juice has cooled, add it to the lemon and water mixture.
  6. Stir and if needed, add a little stevia to sweeten.
  7. Serve cold over ice, and enjoy!

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This drink kind of reminds me of Hot Dog on A Stick. Have you ever been there? I don’t do corn dogs, but hand  me a gallon size of that strawberry lemonade they serve and IM GOOOOOD!

Happy Summer Friends!

I would love if you would share with me some of your summer plans or things you do with your kids to keep them entertained! This mama needs some help ;).

Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream


I don’t mean to brag, but I consider myself a connoisseur of the chocolate aisle in the grocery store. I find myself there often. Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream
I’m often browsing the different types of chocolates, mostly dark, and I always find myself reaching for the same brand of chocolate, Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate. They are an all organic and Fairtrade certified company and they are my favorite chocolates to snack on and bake with. During the day I’ll grab a few squares of the 85% Dark Chocolate, and BAM! I’m a new woman!

Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream

With summer quickly approaching in Vegas, I find my kids (and myself) craving cold and satisfying treats. Popsicles and smoothies are usually our go-to, but lately my kids have been on a milkshake kick. Do ya blame them?!

Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream

I wanted to create something that was light and refreshing, but also indulgent and sweet for those hot summer afternoons. I knew that the Dark Chocolate Mint Bar would go perfectly with coconut ice cream! But then…

Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream

Fold in that Mint Dark Chocolate in some coconut whipped cream for a topping on the milkshake and it takes everything to a whole new level.

A level I like to call perfection.

Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream

4.9 from 17 reviews
Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream
 
Ingredients
  • (For the Milkshake)
  • 1 pint good quality coconut ice cream OR coconut Greek yogurt frozen ice cubes
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • ¼ - ½ c. coconut milk
  • 12 squares GREEN & BLACK'S ORGANIC Mint Dark Chocolate
  • Ice-optional
  • (For the Whipped Cream)
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk, placed upside down in the fridge overnight
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 4 TB. pure cane powdered sugar
  • 6 squares GREEN & BLACK'S ORGANIC Mint Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Make the whipped cream first. Turn the can right side up and open. Remove all of the thick cream and discard or save the water for later use.
  2. Whip the cream and the rest of the ingredients (not the chocolate) together with beaters or a mixer until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Fold in the chopped chocolate.
  4. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to use.
  5. To make the milkshake, place all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy.
  6. Top with the whip cream.
  7. Eat immediately and enjoy!
  8. Serves 2 milkshakes or 4 small ones.

  Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream

The second I finished whipping these up my girls were jumping up and down begging for a glass! Too bad I didn’t share… Just kidding! I let them have a sip ;).

They loved the little bits of mint chocolate inside, which added a whole new level of excitement for them. Being a kid is the greatest right? The whipped cream was probably my favorite and I can definitely see using it again for other sweet treats in the future!

 Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Coconut Milkshake w/ Mint Chip Coconut Whipped Cream

Have you ever tried Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate? It’s amazing and made in great taste! There are 11 flavors!

Dark Chocolate:  Dark 70%, Dark 85%, Hazelnut & Currant, Mint, Maya Gold, Ginger, and Spiced Chili

Milk Chocolate:  Milk Chocolate, Almond, and Toffee

White Chocolate:  White Chocolate

If you had to choose your favorite chocolate bar, which would it be? Answer in the comments below for a chance to win a $100 cash equivalent gift card plus a GREEN & BLACK’S ORGANIC Chocolate prize pack! (I always choose 85% Dark Chocolate every time! :) )  

 

This sweepstakes is sponsored and fulfilled by BlogHer

 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of GREEN & BLACK’S ORGANIC Chocolate. All opinions are 100% mine.

Entry Instructions:

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You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

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2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

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This sweepstakes is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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This sweepstakes runs from 5/21/2015 – 6/30/2015.

Be sure to visit the Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

The Reality Of How My Family Lives A ‘Healthy Lifestyle’

I would say that 80% of the emails I get are from parents who are struggling with having their family and their children eat healthy. Even though it’s an email or a comment, I can tell that they are stressed, worried, and feel a sense of failure because their child or spouse just hates eating healthy.

As parents, we are responsible for the health and well being of our family, so living a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating are a sensitive and sometimes touchy subject. There are A LOT of different ways to live healthy and with those ways come A LOT of different opinions.

So why not give you mine right?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, but never really had the ‘courage’ to do so. Saying how we ‘actually’ live is kind of scary, not that I am ashamed. But what if people think I’m a fraud?! Majority of social media and blogs today are all about perfection. It’s rare to see a REAL glimpse into someones life. As far as we know, all the other moms and dads are doing it perfectly, or at least better than you are right? Getting a good workout in every morning, eating healthy, feeding their kids all organic homemade, teaching their kids, dressing in the cutest clothes, and of coarse having the perfect house. One of my favorite quotes that I think fits perfectly is, ” Love her dress, hate her.”

So let’s begin…

How do we really live a healthy lifestyle in our family…

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There was a time when I had one baby where I made homemade crackers.

Yup.

Homemade crackers with different nuts, seeds, and all things healthy.

I remember an older mom friend of mine saying, “I CAN’T believe you are making your own crackers?! How do you find the time?!”

I laughed but in my head thought, “Well you can accomplish anything at nap time!” I also thought, anyone can afford to buy majority of their food organic. Vegan diets are easy. Eating out at healthy restaurants is do-able. You can make anything homemade, during that beloved nap time. Fitting in exercise is the easiest thing…yada yada yada.

Well my friends, my opinion has definitely changed. I woke up. Or in my case, I never slept. Having 3 kids under 4 will do that to you. So where do I/my family stand now you ask?

Here is our reality.

Right now, I like to call our life the “Survival Stage.” 

With 3 kids under 4, a husband who works two jobs and 60 plus hours a week, along with a massive load of student debt, well we are just trying to survive ;).

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Do we buy all Organic Food?

No.

In an ideal world we would buy organic meats, fruits, dairy, grains, etc. There was a time when I did this, again when I was a young mom of one, and I spent A LOT. At the time we were a small family, technically only 2 and 1/2, so we weren’t eating a lot, but buying organic in general was EXPENSIVE. I also shopped locally at the farmers markets and bought organic produce. I loved it.

But things have changed. Now with 5 mouths to feed, grown up bills, and our desert climate, organic isn’t always possible. I just can’t afford to spend 100 on produce alone. I can’t. I’ve been to our local farmers markets and you can buy a tiny things of berries for 8 bucks, and that would be a snack for my 4 year old. It just isn’t possible. Not with a mortgage and all the other bills right?

What about meat? I’m so excited because we just recently got a sprouts market in our city and their organic prices are so much better! If their organic meat is on sale and it’s a good and similar price to what I would pay for non organic, than I will buy it. Otherwise my friends, at this point in our life, I can’t spend 50 just on meat. Of coarse there is always the idea of incorporating for vegan/meat free dishes that way every meal isn’t solely meat based. But still, a package of organic chicken breast at my local store is about 20 bucks. (That’s one night of chicken dinner.)

What about Dairy? The same goes for dairy as it does meat. If it’s on sale, we buy it. If not, we don’t.

It’s a hard reality for me to share, but I’ve learned that we all, if not a lot of us, are not in perfect financial stability. We just can’t afford to pay 300 bucks a week on groceries,  and frankly I don’t really want to. I truly believe you just do the best you can. If you can’t afford organic, great! If you can, great! But don’t buy an 8 dollar mini organic watermelon. That’s just crazy ;).

Does that mean I’m buying crap?

No.

I still buy an abundance of fresh produce and majority of the time I make 3 meals a day for my family. Not always, but a lot of the time. Unless I had 3 hours of sleep the night before because I stayed up to watch the Bachelor. Then it’s cheerios for breakfast.

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Do your kids eat healthy? Do they eat vegetables?

Yes and Yes.

No and No.

Are we clear? haha! Here’s the lowdown on healthy eating with my kids. My girls are learning who they are and developing a sense of, “It’s my way or the highway” kind of attitude. It’s a fun stage. Sometimes when I place vegetables in front of them they either laugh, cry, scream, or just eat them. Everyday is different. But I try and be consistent. I serve veggies with every meal. Sometimes they eat them, sometimes they spit them out and tell me that was disgusting.

With that being said, my kids have had boxed macaroni and cheese. And Oreos. This goes back to that “Survival Stage” where I had a new born baby who nursed on demand every hour, a toddler who was going through pacifier withdrawls, a 4 year old who thought she was 16, and a husband at work. The LAST thing I wanted to do was think about what to make for dinner. When those days happen, don’t feel guilty about making a boxed macaroni and cheese. Just pat yourself on the back that your kids are being fed dinner! There were multiple times, yes multiple, where I would put a movie on to try and fit in a 30 minute nap only to wake up to find my 2 year old knee deep in a jar of nutella. It happens.

Do you exercise every day?

No.

At this particular time in my life I would say I exercise 3/7 days a week. Is it a good solid workout? I wish, but no. I’ve been blessed with very alert kids. Kids that at the age of 4 still don’t sleep through the night. Add a new born to that and when I wake up in the morning I’m crawling down stairs half asleep. I also have a husband who leaves at 6 in the morning for work and by the time he comes home, I am way to tired to work out.

With that being said, I try to fit in a walk, jog, or a workout video in every so often. But it’s not easy right now, and THAT is ok. There was a time when I had a 18 month old and a 3 1/2 year old and I wasn’t pregnant. I would run every day and get a great workout in. The kids were sleeping a little better and I felt more alive. That time will come again, but I know right now I just have to do the best I can. Are there moms who are better at this? Definitely. But I’m not that mom.

We are all different and we do things differently. Like I said, we do the best we can right?

Do you eat at healthy restaurants?

Yes and No.

(Aren’t you loving my answers? SO clear.)

If you ask my husband, I’m constantly begging him to try new healthy, vegan, and sometimes raw food places. Sometimes he is willing but most of the time he isn’t. If we eat out as a family, we try to be spending conscious and if I have a say, health conscious. We have definitely ordered a pizza, and my husband loves to take the girls to McDonalds. (I try and put my foot down on that, but marriage is compromise right?) It’s not a weekly thing or even monthly, but my girls have had fast food. (And I really like red burritos without cheese from Del Taco. AHHHH!!) But if we eat out, I usually always order sometime healthy/light and my girls usually stick to similar things, like macaroni and cheese, or chicken. They don’t really stray from that.

A long those lines, my girls love to eat at healthy juice places and have fresh juice and healthy baked goods. I usually take them with me to try new places and they are really open to doing things like that.

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In closing…

I love finding ways to live a healthier lifestyle. It truly changed my life and the way I feel. Somedays I am on top of it, and sometimes I am just trying to survive. I love to be in the kitchen, so I’m always trying to make healthier dishes. It’s a passion. I love sharing those recipes and ideas with others so they can try them on their family. I also love the way exercise and healthy eating make me feel. Nothing makes me feel more energized for the day then when I get a good solid workout in.

This is why I am SO excited about this breakfast book I’ve been working on! I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

But I’m not perfect, and neither are you. I’ll be the first person to say I love a big slice of chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookie! You have do to what works best for you and your family. And if you are a young mom with little babies like me, well then just remember you are doing the best and just trying to ‘survive’ :). There will be a time when all those babies are in school and sleeping through the night, (or so I hope!). Then getting up at 6 to workout will be easier right? :)

 

Again, this was kind of scary for me to share, but I hope that I was able to answer some of my most frequently asked questions! More importantly, I hope you feel better about yourself! Thanks for all of your support and love my friends!