01/5/18

Fit & Fresh Jaxx Fitpak Meal Prep Bag!

**Congrats Vanessa P.! Check your email for details on how to claim your Jaxx Lunch Meal Prep Bag!**

We are almost at the end of the first week of 2018! 

How has your new year been so far? 

Did you set any intentions, goals, or actions you’d like to focus on this new year? It’s totally ok if you haven’t (or if you don’t plan to). Setting goals and resolutions is definitely a to each their own’ thing. What works for some, may not work for others. Some people feel like setting goals creates added pressure, while others believe that added pressure= accountability. Whatever your take on the whole “new year’s resolutions” mindset is, just make sure you are doing what supports you in creating your happiness, healthiest life. Because when it’s all said and done, only YOU know yourself best!

Some of you have reached out to me on my social media channels after reading my last blog post on my own goals and intentions for the new year, specifically asking questions about the ketogenic way of eating. If you’re interested in learning more (or maybe even jumping in and trying it for yourself!), we’ve started a support/motivation/recipe sharing/info group! Just visit my Instagram page (@Orangespoken), and click on the link in my profile to request access to the group. It’s totally free and is hosted in a private group on Facebook. You’ll find TONS of resources and like-minded individuals in the group who are either finding great success with Keto, or are just getting started. And I PROMISE you this group is, in NO way, affiliated or associated with any type of product, “coaching” opportunity, or any other requirement to buy or do something. Scouts honor!

If you are like me, and have set nutrition goals to continue or start this new year, I’d love to support you with an AWESOME giveaway!

With all goals, preparation is key. Whether it’s a professional goal, a health and fitness goal, or another aspiration you’ve got your eyes set on, when you prepare specific action steps to take to achieve the results you’re hoping for, you’re more likely to succeed! When it comes to nutrition, I know that prepping my meals ahead of time is what has always worked for me- especially when it comes to my work. As many of you know, my job involves a lot of traveling- including places that I need to fly to, and places that are closer to home where I can drive a short distance to. When I work close to home, I pack my lunch and snacks to take with me on the road. When I travel away from home for a few days at a time, I try very hard to:

1) Book a hotel where there are refrigerators in the rooms.
2) Visit a grocery store when I arrive to stock up on healthy options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the duration of the trip. 

If I absolutely can’t make this happen, I make sure to scope out options and menus ahead of time to see what’s around where I’ll working to ensure I’m not stuck without any options that fit into my way of eating. 

No matter where I am, I love love LOVE bags and containers that make packing a lunch a breeze. And I really love this compact, all-in-one  Fit & Fresh Jaxx Fitpak Meal Prep Bag! 

It is SO convenient and literally has everything you’d want and need in a meal prep kit (from the website):

  • It’s insulated and has an easy to carry handle
  • It has a PEVA lining that is easy to keep clean and PVC free
  • An interior mesh pocket
  • Full zipper closure
  • 8.5-inches wide by 6.5-inches deep (front to back), and 8-inches high
  • (2) 1-cup leak proof containers 
  • (4) 2-cup leak proof containers 
  • (1) 28-ounce shaker cup that blends ingredients perfectly
  • (1) pocket vitamin pack w/ 5 compartments
  • (1) large non-toxic ice pack
  • And the containers are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe

I also love that these bags come in a variety of colors, are reasonably priced, come in BIGGER sizes and other configurations, (if you must plan more than 1 meal, or meals for two), and have the measurements clearly labeled on each of the containers for easy measuring! 

 

I am giving away 1 complete Fit & Fresh Jaxx Fitpack Meal Prep Bag (the exact model pictured above) including everything inside to one lucky Orangespoken friend! You will have a choice of colors and it will be delivered straight to your door! I will choose a random winner on Friday, January 12, 2018, and the giveaway is only open to US residents. There are a few ways to enter (and opportunities to get your “name in the hat” multiple times): 
 
1) Use the Rafflecopter giveaway widget below to receive a few entries. 
2) Visit this post on Instagram and leave me a comment for an extra entry!
GOOD LUCK! 
01/4/18

Over the river and through the woods with the Mitsubishi Outlander GT 3.0 AWC!

This adventure was made possible through a partnership with Mitsubishi, who provided me with a vehicle to test drive in December. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveMitsubishi and #MitsubishiOutlanderGT!

Hello there beautiful!

Meet the gorgeous Mitsubishi Outlander GT 3.0 AWC! 

Last month a group of family and friends rented a cabin in the beautiful town of Blairsville, Georgia in the north Georgia mountains. This trip is a tradition I started with my family almost 15 years ago, and now share with my husband and friends who have also fallen in love with the area. While we were there, we were able to explore the amazing blue ridge mountains with the Outlander! We had SO much fun climbing steep mountain roads, traversing streams, and navigating the winding lower Appalachian roads in this comfy, yet stylish vehicle. 

We picked up the Outlander near Atlanta, then drove the 90 mile drive to Blairsville. We were able to spend that time getting to know the ins and outs of the Outlander, and getting a feel for how it handles on the open highway. What stood out most during our initial drive was the smooth ride and steering. It was dark on that drive up into the mountains, so the crystal clear LED headlamps, and impeccable control of the steering, made me feel safe and secure behind the wheel.

I loved how in control I felt once we got to the mountains. Navigating the twists, turns, and inclines of mountain roads can be a scary thing, especially at night, but the Outlander made for an easy and enjoyable experience. It has the smooth and steady feel of a luxury car, but it’s also rugged enough to take us to locations like the top of the highest peak in Georgia, Brasstown Bald mountain, to watch the sunset and the supermoon rise, and to Helton Creek Falls, a beautiful spot surrounded by roads that often make my stomach turn and my knuckles turn white! 

This crossover vehicle had SO much to offer. It can seat 5 adults comfortably, with an optional fold up 3rd row for additional seating. Although Mitsubishi says that this can seat 7 people on its website, the last row does not provide adequate space for an adult to sit or travel comfortably for long periods of time. Our friend Nayra, who was vacationing with us for the first half of our trip, offered to sit in the back row while on an excursion to Tallulah Gorge, and at around 5′ in height, she did not have enough leg room and needed to sit sideways in order to stay comfortable. The back row would be the perfect spot for bigger children who are no longer in car seats, but it’s probably a good idea to let the adults sit up front. 

The Mitsubishi Outlander GT proved to be the PERFECT road trip car. Comfortable, stylish, smooth, good on gas, lots of cargo space when the 3rd row is folded down, an amazing 710 audio sound system with 9 speakers (for all of those road trip tunes!), Apple and Android car-connect capabilities, overhead backup camera with a crystal clear display, cup holders and chargers galore, a gorgeous sun and moon roof, and bells and whistles that help to make traveling easy peasy. 

But the fun really began halfway through our vacation when this happened…

North Georgia gets about 1-2 snows each year, and typically this area in particular gets a few inches at most. It was cold, yet comfortable when we arrived earlier in the week, and we kept our eyes on the forecast, which included snow towards the end of the week and into the weekend, but we weren’t prepared for just how MUCH snow we would get.

The snow began late Thursday evening, and continued all day Friday and into Saturday. It snowed more than I had ever seen in my life, and I was thrilled! Over those two days Union County measured record amounts of snowfall at a whopping 10 inches! It was such an unexpected treat! 

In all of our snow excitement, we lost sight of what 10inches of snow means for things like power outages and closures. Our friends who we rent the cabin from stayed in contact with us and gave us updates on what their neighbors were experiencing. Although the cabin we rent is quite secluded, there are a few cabins in the surrounding area. We learned that as the day went on, most of those neighbors had already lost power- and since everyone is on a well out there, losing power meant losing water too. 

We had planned to drive out to Helen, GA for dinner and some holiday festivities on Friday, but because of the snow, most roads and places were closed. It would have been way to dangerous too drive to Helen anyway, since the road to get there from Blairsville is an up-and-over high mountain trek. We still had a few things that we could snack on from our grocery trip earlier that week, but we decided that it would be a good idea to make a run to Walmart (who was thankfully still open and running on a generator!) to get some supplies for the night, especially since we had two young children with us. 

This gave us an opportunity to test out the Outlander’s AWC snow settings, which made us feel much more confident about tackling the 20 minute drive into town. I have zero experience with driving in this much snow, and so knowing that there was a setting to help with our inexperience was a big relief. The snow mode can be activated with just a push of a button, and works by sending additional power to the rear wheels sooner when driving in snow than when driving on the road for added traction. We scraped as much snow as we could off of the Outlander, and then headed out! 

 

We were able to get to the store and back to the cabin safely with supplies to take us through the night (including all of the ingredients to make a nice warm family meal of spaghetti and meatballs!) thanks to the Outlander! 

Luckily, we never lost power or water, and spent our last night in the cabin cozy and warm. The snow continued all through the night and into the morning, but by midday, the snow had stopped, and the sun started to peek out over the mountains, making it safe to venture out again and make our way back home to Tampa. 

All in all it was another amazing and memorable trip in the books! We love Blairsville and we’re already looking forward to 2018’s winter trip!

If you’re in the market for a road trip friendly crossover that is not only a head-turner but functional, comfortable and safe (especially in unexpected weather conditions!), definitely look into test driving the Mitsubishi Outlander GT AWC and see for yourself just how great this vehicle is!

For more details on the entire Mitsubishi fleet, be sure to follow on social media using the links below, and the hashtag #DriveMitsubishi.
Twitter: Mitsubishi USA
Facebook: Mitsubishi USA
Instagram: Mitsubishi USA

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01/1/18

My word for 2018

It’s 2018!

My friend Christy, from real life AND her blog, Living Daringly, posted this on social media a few days ago, and it really resonated with me: 

2017 was a wonderful year for me, but other years haven’t been. But what I’ve learned, (and what Christy so beautifully wrote), is that the events of each year (the good, the sad, the beautiful, and the challenging) make you a little more “you”. 

There is no one else in the world that owns YOUR story, and who has lived through the experiences that YOU have. Be proud of those moments, even the hardest ones. Be proud of the person who overcame the challenges, the hurt, and the sadness of the past. Be proud of person that you are today. Be proud of the person you work on becoming in the future. Be proud of YOU.

Speaking of the future…

I love setting resolutions, goals, and dreams to achieve- not just at the start of a new year, but anytime really. Goals make me jump out of bed in the morning. They give me something to look forward to. They teach me how to celebrate successes, AND bounce back from failure. They show me that it’s ok to have a plan b, c, d, and e, and help keep me grounded and motivated. They give me something to talk about, (something to write about!), and opportunities to connect with like-minded people. The make me excited about, well, life!

In the past, I’ve heard a lot of people in my circle talk about setting focus words or phrases to represent the year ahead. I’ve even started to see people ask “What will your word be for 2018?” I can’t really say I’ve ever thought of a word of the year in advanced. I’ve found that by the end of an entire trip around the sun, a word or theme emerges. 

I’m certain that 2017’s word was bliss:

bliss
noun

And as I think of ways that 2018 can be just as wonderful, I think of all of the things I’m going to GO for this year: 

Run. With my recent weight loss (41lbs gone since August!), I am feeling stronger, more energized, and lighter on my feet. I’m ready to jump back on the pavement, and have already signed up for a 5k and a 10k! I have my sights set on my 2nd half marathon in the near future, and will possibly put one on the books after seeing how I do with the 10k distance later this winter. It’s been a while since I’ve tackled anything longer than 3.1 miles, but I am ready to get up and GO!

Keto On. I started the clean ketogenic way of eating (low carb, moderate protein, high healthy fats) back in August and have had consistent success! Not only have I said goodbye to 41lbs, but I’ve also had numerous non-scale victories! I’ve gone down from a size 24 jean size to a 20 (and sometimes an 18!), FEEL amazing, have reduced and eliminated knee pain AND the Plantar’s Fasciitis I’ve battled for years, and so much more. I doubted this way of life for 2+ years as I watched good friends have awesome success. Boy am I glad I decided to GO for it! 

Travel. I travel quite a bit for work, however, I’d love to find more opportunities to extend those trips into weekend adventures with my husband, as well as plan some additional excursions with him as our schedule permits. We have a trip planned to NYC coming up, and hope to get summer tour dates for the Dave Matthews Band so that we can plan some destination concerts to GO to!

Strengthen the relationships that matter. It’s crazy to think that Brian and I have been married for 8 months already! We spent almost 6 years building an awesome foundation of friendship and love before we tied the knot, and as newlyweds, we’ve continued to add to and enhance that foundation. I’m excited to see what’s next for us! In addition, my 38th year of life has taught me about the importance of keeping your circle of friends small and mighty. I’ve learned to embrace the fact that people drift apart- and that’s totally ok. Friendships can ebb and flow, and they can also end (even if both parties don’t agree with the decision) because if one person in a friendship isn’t feeling it anymore, then it’s not fair to pretend that there’s something to hold on to. Explain your feelings to that person, hold onto the good memories, release the need to be right, or to have all of the answers, GO forth and move on. Give yourself permission to walk away from someone, without guilt, if you know deep inside that it’s the right thing to do. Not only do you have the right to build your circle of friends in the way YOU want, you also deserve to. 

Write. Write. Write. I have so much to say (and not enough time to say it, it seems!). But in 2018, I want to dedicate more time to writing. Writing here on the blog, writing recipes, writing in the groups I run, writing for work, and continuing to work on my book that I started over the summer. If we are close, you know that I’m a major talker. But those who I’m not as close with will know me as someone who is more of a quiet observer. This is why I love writing here on my blog so much. Writing helps me bring voice to my thoughts that may otherwise go unsaid. Writing helps me to connect with others that I may have never crossed paths with. If I have something important to say, you will most likely see it in writing, rather than talk about it aloud. This year, I am making a promise to myself to spend more time in my journals and my laptop working on writing projects and goals. I’m ready to GO and write the next chapter of it all! 

After I jotted down all of these thoughts down on paper, I realized that a word had already began to emerge: GO. I chuckled to myself when I saw it, because “GO” is something I say to myself often. 

For example: when I’m on a run, and I feel as though I can’t continue any further, I always, always tell myself to “Just go, GO!” over and over again, and it helps every time. 

I tell myself to GO a lot- but never in a negative way, but instead, as in a “Go forth and be awesome”, and a “Let’s see how far you can GO” kind of way. 

Maybe GO is my word for 2018.
I can totally get behind that. 

What will your word for the next 365 days be? 

Wishing you a beautiful, joyous, and fruitful 2018 filled with all of the things you love, and everything you hope to be! Happy New Year!

 

12/29/17

Low Carb, Sugar Free Flan de Queso (Cheese Flan)

Flan was one of those things I never liked as a child. I remember my grandmother and great aunts making it often, but it would always turn my stomach for some reason. I think it was the texture and the overall “look” of it. But with age, I’ve learned to like traditional flan, and have learned to LOVE Flan de queso! 

Flan de queso is like flan and cheesecake got together and had a dessert baby. It has the flavor of traditional caramel flan, but with the texture of a creamy cheesecake. It is DIVINE!

I was watching a hilarious video about flan the other day when it hit me- flan (and flan de queso) can TOTALLY be made to be low carb and keto friendly! With a few tweaks to the batter, and making the caramel sauce out of a healthy sugar substitute, this modification might actually work!

And it did, my friends… it totally DID. 

Now I want to preface this by saying a couple of things:

First, this is my very first attempt at making any flan. Like ever. 

Second, since zero calorie sweeteners aren’t sugar, the caramel sauce is *almost* right, but not quite. It was delicious, but hardened a bit (making the top of the flan queso a little rough/crater-like). I’m going to keep working on it, and I’ll post updates as the recipe improves. By the way, I used Sukrin Gold for the caramel sauce and you can get it here.

Third, the caramel sauce not being perfect doesn’t matter. This flan is DELICIOUS, just DELICIOUS. So delicious that there was NO way I was going to wait until it was perfect to post this recipe. Believe me when I say that you’ll want to put this on your to-do list ASAP. 

Here’s the recipe! (Don’t be intimidated by the steps! I’ve embedded some tips within the steps, so it looks a lot longer than it actually is. Plus, flan de queso is a very forgiving dessert- you really cannot mess it up, promise!)

Low carb, no sugar #Keto friendly Flan de Queso
Serves 10
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
1 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
1 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 large eggs at room temp
  2. 8oz full fat cream cheese at room temp.
  3. 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  4. 1/4 cup Swerve or Truvia no-calorie granulated sweetner
  5. 1/2 cup Sukrin Gold no-calorie sweeter (or an additional 1/2 cup of Truvia + 1 tbsp. molasses)
  6. 2 tbsp. water
  7. 2 tsps. vanilla extract
  8. 1/4 tsp. sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease a 8 or 9in cake pan or round casserole dish with at least 2-3in sides, and then place that greased dish inside a larger pan (like a 13 x 9 lasagna pan) to prepare for baking the flan in a water bath.
  3. Heat 1/2 cup of Sukrin gold (or Truvia + molasses), 2 tbsp. water, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract in a small, heavy-duty saucepan over medium-low heat stirring constantly until sweetener is dissolved and caramel in color. Keep a close eye on the sweetener, as it can easily go from golden to burned in seconds!
  4. Immediately pour the melted sweetener into the greased round dish, being very careful to NOT touch (nor taste!) the melted sweetener- it's SERIOUSLY hot and will severely burn your skin and tongue!
  5. In a blender, blend the cream cheese, heavy cream, eggs, sea salt, 1/4 cup Swerve or Truvia, and remaining tsp. of vanilla until it becomes a smooth batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the cake pan over the caramel.
  7. Add hot water (from the tap is fine) into the larger pan, and around the cake pan, making sure to not get water in the flan batter. It should come up the sides about an inch deep. The cake pan will be sitting in a water bath.
  8. Bake for 1 hour and then remove from oven and let the flan cool in the water bath. Once it is cool to the touch, refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or overnight to prepare it to invert.
  9. When you are ready to serve the flan de queso, run a sharp knife around the edges of the flan to loosen. Place a larger serving plate over the flan, and then quickly flip upside-down to invert. If it doesn't immediately fall onto the plate, run the bottom of the pan with warm water from the tap to loosen.
  10. Slice and serve cold!
http://orangespoken.com/
Enjoy and Happy New Year! xoxo Steph

12/24/17

Not Your Abuela’s Deviled Eggs

Happy Noche Buena!

Today is our Christmas, as our family celebrates Noche Buena, or the Good Night (read all about our Christmas traditions here on this post). 

So tonight is allllll about food, fun, friends, and family!

I’m currently working on finishing up the Lechon Asado (roast pork), made with mojo, which is an amazing marinade of garlic, sour oranges, and oregano… which is making our home smell AH-mazing. My godmother is prepping the black beans, yucca, and her world famous salad (which she says no one can have the recipe to until she has it carved on her tombstone), the rice is fluffy, my dad picked up the Cuban bread from the infamous LaSegunda bakery here in Tampa, and we even have a tray of green bean casserole courtesy of my friend Nayra. We also have cousins bringing desserts and appetizers- when I say Noche Buena is alll about the food, I mean it! 

A few weeks ago Brian asked if I was planning on making deviled eggs any time soon. I hadn’t planned on it, but I’ve never been one to turn a foodie request down! 

Deviled eggs weren’t my favorite thing growing up. I always remember them being kinda tasteless. So when I perfected my deviled egg recipe a few years ago, I knew I needed to spice things up and make these little guys a flavor bomb. Because, well, deviled eggs shouldn’t just taste like hard boiled eggs ya’ll! These little guys are super creamy, smokey, and just a little bit spicy. I love the addition of avocado, and of course BACON makes everything better! 

You probably have most of these ingredients on hand right now, so if you need a last minute Christmas appetizer, these would be perfect! Here’s the recipe:

Not Your Abuela's Deviled Eggs
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. 12 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cooled (you can buy them pre-boiled!)
  2. 1/2 cup good Mayo (I like Duke's)
  3. 1/2 ripe Haas avocado
  4. 2 tbsp. yellow mustard
  5. 1 tbsp. smoked paprika (and extra for garnish)
  6. 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  7. 2 tbsp. dried parsley (and extra for garnish)
  8. 2 tsp. onion powder
  9. 2 tsp. sea salt
  10. 2 tsp. black pepper
  11. 1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
  12. the juice of 1/4 lemon
  13. 2-3 slices of crispy crumbled bacon for garnish
Instructions
  1. Slice the eggs in half lengthwise; remove the yolks, and set whites aside.
  2. Add all of the ingredients (except for the egg whites) into a bowl and mix well. I like to use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer or a food processor to get a super smooth texture.
  3. Using a spatula, scoop the yolk mixture into a gallon sized bag, squeeze the air out of the bag, and then seal it tight. Clip off a corner of the bottom of the bag to create a piping bag.
  4. Sprinkle the egg whites with salt and pepper.
  5. Pipe egg yolk mixture evenly into the whites.
  6. Add a piece of crumbled bacon into each egg. Sprinkle with paprika and dried parsley.
  7. Place in a storage container with a lid or plastic wrap. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
http://orangespoken.com/
Merry Christmas and Happy Noche Buena! 

12/23/17

Perfect low carb, sugar free chocolate chip cookies

Happy Christmas Eve Eve!!!

I’m SO excited about the upcoming holiday!

The stockings are stuffed, the presents are wrapped, the food is prepped (or ordered!), and the cookies are baked!

A few days ago I posted about all-things-CHRISTMAS COOKIES. Well I’m back to add one more cookie to the list!

There’s still time to bake up a batch of these chewy, crispy, buttery, chocolately, low carb, sugar free, keto friendly chocolate chip cookies to share with family and friends this holiday! These cookies are a winner. They’re SO delicious you’ll think you’re snacking on the real thing! 

I met up with my friend Nanci this morning to collect some Christmas gifts that I had ordered from her shop, This Crazy Life Designs, and decided to bring her a batch of these so that I could recruit her as a taste tester! 😉 She is also super focused on health and fitness goals, so these would be something she could indulge in without worry! She just posted about these little morsels, so I’m assuming they were a hit! 

“Treated myself to one of these delicious little cookies this morning thanks to my friend Steph! They are chock full of healthy goodness!”

 Here’s the recipe! Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Low Carb, Sugar Free Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields 36
Made with almond flour, and sweetened with stevia, these cookies are sure to be a holiday hit!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
11 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
11 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups of blanched almond flour (I get mine at Trader Joe's or Costco)
  2. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  3. 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  4. 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  5. 1/4 cup of virgin coconut oil (not melted, but soft)
  6. 2 large eggs
  7. 3/4 cup Sukrin Gold stevia blend (I get mine from Amazon) **If you don't have Sukrin Gold, use 3/4 cup Truvia + 2 tbsp. molasses)
  8. 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  9. 1/2 tsp. maple extract (if you don't have this, omit!)
  10. 2 cups of Lily's brand chocolate chips or chunks (or a mix of both!)
To make the dough
  1. In a bowl, stir almond flour, baking soda, and sea salt together. Set aside.
  2. Using a mixer, beat together butter, coconut oil, and Sukrin Gold (or Truvia, without the molasses) until creamy.
  3. Add in the eggs, vanilla extract, maple extract, (and molasses if you used Truvia), and mix well.
  4. Slowly add the almond flour mixture together, 1/2 cup at a time, while the mixer is running, and mix until the dough is all combined.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips, and then place the dough in the fridge for about an hour to set.
To bake the cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan with parchment paper (or spray with non-stick cooking spray if you don't have parchment).
  3. Remove the dough from the fridge, and roll out into gumball sized balls, then place onto the cookie sheet, leaving space for spreading.
  4. Bake at 350 for 13-14 minutes, or until golden brown.
  5. Cool on a baking rack and enjoy warm!
Notes
  1. If you are looking for a thinner, crispier cookie, skip the fridge and just bake right away. 🙂
Adapted from Meaningful Eats
Adapted from Meaningful Eats
http://orangespoken.com/
12/21/17

Christmas Cookies Galore! (And some low-carb ones too!)

It’s no secret that I love to bake. 

Especially around the holidays!

Baking dozens upon dozens of Christmas cookies for family and friends was a tradition my mom and I started way back in once upon a time time when I was a child. Her friend Mary Kelly would join us and we would literally bake all-night-long. 

Oatmeal fudgey bars, rum balls, Tollhouse cookies, Spritz cookies, jam dots, snickerdoodles- the list goes on and on. By the time we were done, we’d have enough cookies for my dad to take to work, my mom to share with her co-workers at school, and a plate for just about everyone else! 

My mom loved the holidays, and I’ve carried on that enthusiasm in her absence by continuing these fun traditions that we started long ago. 

I started baking on Sunday, when we held our annual Christmas Cookie Swap for the families at the Ronald McDonald House in Tampa! 

We baked tons of cookies for the families staying at the house while their child receives medical care, and each family was gifted with a gorgeous plate of cookies- just like at a traditional cookie exchange. We also whipped up an Asian themed dinner, and brought home some cookies for our own families too! 

We even brought my mom’s spirit into the house by using her Kitchen Aid stand mixer that I brought over from my kitchen! 

Yesterday I tapped into my inner Mrs. Fields 😉 and started baking for my nearest and dearest, and will continue through the week. I baked a variety of cookies for Mr. Fields to take to work, and to share with family and friends. I made SO. MANY. COOKIES! Jam dots, blondies, cinnamon palmiers, oatmeal, rum balls, lemon crinkles, and savory sausage and cheddar balls! 

I also whipped up a variety of low carb, no sugar, keto friendly cookies that turned out to be SO delicious! Paleo blondies, cream cheese sugar cookies (with homemade colored Truvia), melt-in-your-mouth pecan snowballs, and iced sugar cookies (just like those iced cookies you buy in the grocery store!). 

Here are the links to all of the recipes listed above! With a few days left before Christmas, you still have plenty of time to make a batch of these for your loved ones!

Low Carb Sausage Balls 

Sugar Cookies (sprinkles and iced) 

Pecan Snowball Cookies (keep in the fridge overnight for more of a traditional ball shaped cookie)

Paleo Blondie Bites (use Sukrin gold sweetener and Lily’s chips to keep these sugar free and keto friendly)

Lemon Crinkle Cookies 

Cinnamon Palmier Cookies

Chewy & Crisp Oatmeal Cookies

Jam Dot Mini-muffin Cookies

Traditional Sausage Balls

Rum Balls

PS- If you’re local and want some cookies, message me! I have to-go boxes! 😉
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
xoxo Steph

11/26/17

Low carb Fiddle Faddle (or Poppycock if you’d like!)

When I was around 7 or 8, my grandfather, Abuelito, built me a treehouse. 

It wasn’t fancy or elaborate, just a big wooden platform, about 7 feet off of the ground with a ladder to get up to it. He even added green indoor/outdoor carpeting over the wood to add a little extra something, but other than that, it was a super simple design (unlike my life-size, walk-in, air conditioned playhouse him and my dad built me when I was a toddler which WAS elaborate, but I’ll save that for another post). Continue reading

11/21/17

Strawberry Butter

Last summer my supervisor added an assignment to my scope of work, supporting new teacher mentors in 13 rural districts in Northwestern Tennessee. The work would take place at the University of Tennessee’s satellite campus in a small town called Martin, TN. 

I had been to Tennessee dozens of times- Nashville, Memphis, The Smoky Mountains- but Martin? Where in the world was that?  Continue reading