Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Time for New Year’s Resolutions


I am completely not into New Year’s Resolutions. You are probably wondering “why are you talking about new year’s resolutions a month after you’re supposed to make them?” Well it’s simply because I decided I did want to do something meaningful in 2014…I just don’t think it’s beneficial to try to do that on January 1st. Why not give yourself a month to adjust to the fact that it is a whole new year? Or maybe that’s just the procrastinator in me…or the fact that 2014 did not start out so great! In any case, better late than never!

Last year I set out to try to make myself a better person overall…I didn’t really set any specific goals, but I think I did pretty good with this. In 2013: I started grad school. I lost 25 pounds (let’s not count the fact that I gained back 10 between November and now!). I made some internal changes to have a more positive outlook and be a more pleasant and happy person. I worked to improve my communication skills (is this a job application?). I attempted to be a better wife. Some days were better than others, but I have to say I did show personal improvement…and even though there may have been days and even weeks and months that I reverted back to my old ways, I did not beat myself up about it or let it get me down. I just brushed it off and got back on the horse.

Enjoying a cinnamon apple martini @ Bonefish Grill!

Enjoying a cinnamon apple martini @ Bonefish Grill!

So for 2014 I want to continue my self-improvement but I don’t want to set “resolutions” which I will undoubtedly break. I am also a person who struggles with long-term commitment so when I came across some other blog posts that talk about “a month without”, I really liked the idea. (Be sure to check out my page with all 12 months!)

So I decided that starting February 1st (this was supposed to be written & published yesterday…still need some work on that darn procrastination!) I was going to give up one thing each month to improve my health and well-being. Most of the things I chose have to do with my terrible eating habits and poor nutrition. I am hopeful that the great feeling giving up my vices provides me after 30 days will ultimately lead me to cut down dramatically. The end result will hopefully be an overall healthier me I’ll be able to control myself better and not over do it with my favorite things (which are mostly bad for me!).

You see I’ve accepted a few things in 2013 that I will continue to follow in the years to come. I’m sure many of you may already know these things or follow them. Such things as, there is no such thing as a diet. You must be in the right mental state to lose weight. You must eat healthy normal size portions (I refuse to say “small” because that makes me think of deprivation) and you must eat whole foods. You can still treat yourself once in a while and it is not the end of the world. There is no such thing as a “restricted” food (or drink) so long as you do not over do it! You do not have to join a gym or hop on the crossfit bandwagon to get exercise…you can walk your dog everyday or run around like a lunatic with her in the backyard. You can feel better and less stressed out simply by getting enough sleep and maintaining a positive frame of mind.

So to start off my year of “withouts”, in February I am going a month without alcohol. I assure you this is not because I am an alcky…I enjoy a glass of wine (ok 2 or 3 glasses) with dinner on the weekends or as long as I don’t have work. I also like to try different martini recipes now and then. So this actually won’t be so difficult since I don’t indulge every day (like my #1 addiction…diet coke!).

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I leave you all with this Apple Cinnamon martini recipe. You will need to prepare this in advance, since it takes some time to infuse the vodka with the apples and cinnamon. I left mine sit for about a week, but within 3 days or so you will get a good flavor. Just remember the longer the better, but be careful that your apples don’t start to disintegrate.

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Apple Cinnamon Martini

Apple Cinnamon Infused Vodka

  • 1 bottle of good quality vodka (I used SKYY)
  • 3-4 apples, cored and sliced thin (I used my mandolin to get them really thin)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

            Divide the sliced apples between two large jars, filling about 2/3 of the way full. Add 1 cinnamon stick to each jar. Pour the vodka evenly into the jars. Seal. Let sit in a cool dark place for 3-7 days.  Strain vodka into a container and enjoy.

Apple Cinnamon Martini

  • 3 oz. Apple Cinnamon Infused Vodka
  • 1 oz. Honey Simple Syrup
  • Splash Domaine De Canton Ginger Liqueur
  • Ice

         Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients, shake well and pour. Top glass with a slice of apple.

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Chocolate Cake Martini


Apparently flavored vodka is all the rage right now and so I picked up a bottle of Pinnacle Cake Vodka after seeing some drink recipes on Pinterest. Unfortunately I didn’t look at those recipes carefully enough because I really didn’t have any of the other required liquors to make them. So I just ended up improvising…

Chocolate goes with cake right?? Of course!!! So here is a really quick easy and very tasty martini recipe for your Saturday night (or any other night for that matter ;)!).

Chocolate Cake Martini (Serves 1)

2 oz. Pinnacle Cake Flavored Vodka

2 oz. Godiva Chocolate Liquorer

1 splash Half & Half

Chocolate Syrup (optional)

Ice

Drizzle chocolate syrup around the inside of a martini glass.

In a shaker, add the ice and all the other ingredients. Shake for at least 30 seconds and pour into prepared glass.

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So Refreshing: Tropical Fruit Slush Slimmed Down


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The past few days have been warm & sunny and I’ve just been reveling in the glorious weather. Hence the reason I missed two days of posting! So in honor of this summer preview I bring you a quick & easy drink recipe. It is great for an afternoon treat or with the addition of a little vodka a great low-cal drink option for a party or barbecue. It is also a great base recipe so the possibilities are endless as to how you want to make it. Try out different types of fruit and different types of sugar free drink mixes and you’ll always have new & creative combinations. I originally tried this out when I saw a drink recipe on pinterest that called for frozen peaches, lemonade & sprite. I’ve tried lots of combos since then…but I’ve included my favorite for this post.
Can you guess the best part about this drink recipe? Aside from the natural sugar in the fruit, it is virtually sugar free….making it 0 WW points! Of course if you add alcohol you’ll end up with a 4-5 point cocktail, but it totally beats those high-calorie sugary drinks they serve in restaurants and bars. Plus, if you’re picky like me and you’re not a big fan of fruit, this is a good way to sneak it into your diet. 🙂

Tropical Fruit Slush
1 cup frozen mixed fruit (I use peaches, strawberries, pineapples & mangoes)
6-8 ice cubes
1 packet Kool-Aid Sugar Free drink mix, Lemon Berry
4 oz. water
4 oz. diet lemon-lime soda (Sprite Zero)
2 oz. Rum or Vodka (optional)

Mix the Kool-Aid drink mix with the water and add to blender. Add all other ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

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Warm Weather Means Cool Treats!


As the weather warms up, I have been getting back into eating Smoothies for breakfast, as a healthy snack or sometimes even as dessert. There are a million and one different smoothie recipes out there but today I’ll be sharing my personal favorites.

(BTW, I haven’t snapped any photos of my smoothies so this was one I found on a free photo site.)

This past week has been a struggle….and I’m not sure why, but I have been feeling so hungry. I did drop 2 more pounds, and really didn’t go off the wagon (stayed in my WW “points” budget despite eating fast food and indulging in some “Faturday” treats! Thanks WW!). I feel like I am eating a lot, but still I am hungry!  I’ve increased the amount of veggies and fruits I eat (since they are 0 points and packed with fiber) but it just doesn’t seem to be helping.  I know all the nutritional information out there says that fiber-rich foods will fill you up but this just does not happen for me!

Which brings me to protein powder…

I do sometimes add vanilla whey protein powder to my smoothies, especially if I make them for breakfast so as to help keep me fuller. I’ve read a bit here and there about protein powders in regards to the average person (not athletes or body builders) and there is a lot of mixed information, including some studies that say protein powders do not work and that you are basically just consuming chemicals….hmmmm…interesting.

So based on what I’ve come across I choose to believe:

  • They can be harmful if over used or not used properly.
  • They should not be used for weight loss (i.e. don’t replace all or most meals with protein shakes) and they should only be used if you are not getting enough protein in your diet.
  • They do make you feel fuller.
  • As long as I am not ingesting more grams of protein than I should be in a day, then I will use them every now and then.

And as I’ve mentioned before, when I begin the “healthy phase” of my transformation (that is when I am finished with my diet, have dropped all the pounds I need to, and work towards a healthier lifestyle), I will try to find an alternative, as I do not think they really fit into the category of what is genuinely “healthy”.

Speaking of alternatives….

I’ve started to switch over to Greek yogurt which has much more protein than regular yogurt. At first I really didn’t like it, but it has grown on me and I do like to use it for baking (it’s awesome in pancakes & waffles!) and now in my smoothies. So if you use Greek yogurt you definitely would not need the protein powder because you’ll be getting a large amount of protein from it. For the recipes in this post that use yogurt, my personal favorite is Dannon Light N’ Fit Vanilla, but you can use whatever you like.

One last note about using a blender…the most important thing to do when using any type of blender is to follow the instructions that came with your blender. They should include instructions on how to crush ice, as well as what order to put the ingredients in. For example, in the case of smoothies or things with ice, you typically would put in the liquid ingredients first and building up to the ice last. Until I realized this, I could never get my stuff to blend well….even with a decent blender.  After getting fed up I turned to the instruction manual and learned that I had been doing it all wrong.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. I’d love to hear what your favorite smoothies are and please feel free to share your own thoughts on making these delicious treats!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Smoothie (WW pointsplus: Without protein powder = 4; With protein powder = 7)

1 cup light chocolate soy milk

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup ice

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

Splenda, to taste (optional)

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until ice is crushed and it reaches smoothie consistency.

 

Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie (WW pointsplus: with protein powder = 7; Without protein powder = 4)

½ cup fat free skim milk or almond milk

1/3 cup fat free cottage cheese

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. splenda

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

1 cup frozen strawberries

2 tbsp. fat free whipped cream (optional)

  1. Add cottage cheese to blender and blend for about 30 seconds until smooth.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Top with whipped cream.

 

Strawberry Banana Smoothie (WW pointsplus = 5)

½ banana, sliced, frozen

½-3/4 cup frozen strawberries

½ cup fat free vanilla yogurt

½ cup fat free skim milk or almond milk

2 tbsp. splenda

 

  1. Add all ingredients to blender and run until well combined and smooth.

 

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie (WW pointsplus: with protein powder = 9; without protein powder = 5)

1 cup fat free skim milk or almond milk

2 tbsp. PB2 or  reduced fat peanut butter

1 tbsp. Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa

2 tbsp. splenda

1 cup ice

1 scoop protein powder (optional)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and run until smooth.

 

Tropical Fruit Smoothie (WW pointsplus =  5)

1/2 cup non-fat yogurt

1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice

1 cup frozen mixed fruit (like the kind by Dole)

1 cup ice

1-2 tbsp. splenda (optional)

  1.  Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

 

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