Divorce, Diets, Drugs & Dating

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I can’t believe it’s been over 6 months since I last updated this little corner of the internet. For the longest time, I just didn’t know what to say. See, quite a bit has changed in my life since that last post. It actually breaks my heart to read it. I spent a few weeks last month debating on whether or not I should delete this entire blog all together.

I guess I should rip the band aid off first, right? The biggest change is my marital status. I’m getting a divorce.

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No matter how many months it’s been since we both agreed to end our marriage, reading those words never gets easier.

That’s why I spent so much time hovering over the “delete” button on my WordPress admin site. Every single post is a reminder of what I don’t have anymore. Even though we’re both amicable – friends even – it doesn’t mean there aren’t days I cry missing the life I once had.

My ex and I spent 9 years together, most of those during one of the most important decades of my life. We went through so many highs and even more devastating lows. We lost two dogs, went through a fire, dealt with the death of loved ones. Even though we had so much foundation, we just weren’t strong enough to survive the latest blows that came at the end of this summer. Those blows, which I’ll probably never talk about, were too much for us to overcome. And honestly? We weren’t strong this year. We went through a big move, job changes and financial cut backs. I look back and think if what happened this summer happened a year or two ago, we’d probably been able to overcome it. But when you’re already falling so quickly out of love with someone, you don’t have the fight you used to. And you start to see a life where you don’t have to fight to keep things together.

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I respect my ex, which is why I’m going to end the divorce portion of this right now. It’s not messy, I wish him nothing but all the happiness in the world and I know one day we’ll both look back and smile.

Probably the second most substantial change in my recent life is my diet and my weight. It’s not news to anyone I steadily put on weight during the last few years of my marriage. I think back now, and it’s all so simple – I wasn’t happy. I was miserable, actually. And, like so many other women and men out there, I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t do anything but just eat and drink. I told myself that the weight was due to anxiety medicine, that it was due to stress. I never actually spent anytime reflecting inside of myself and facing what the real catalyst for the weigh gain was – uncertainty and misery.

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When my marriage was imploding last fall, I made a change. I decided I was going to stop eating meat. It was a really easy decision, actually. I was getting sick all of the time on my travels. Literally, daily. I just couldn’t digest food, it seemed. I noticed it happened more when I had meat in my diet. So, I just stopped eating it. I remember the last hearty meal I had. I was moving out of the house my ex and I shared and I had a hamburger. I also can remember how I’d never felt so sick in my life those following few hours. That was all it took. I haven’t had a bite of meat since then. To be honest, I haven’t even had a fleeting desire to eat meat since then.

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Well, the first 2 months’ post meat were true game-changers with my appearance. From the beginning of October to the beginning of December, I lost 25 pounds. In mid-December, I decided to make another change – I decided to give veganism a chance. As a glorified cheese and dairy addict, it was much harder than I thought. But I went in with 100% dedication. From the beginning of December to mid January, I lost 15 more pounds.

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I’m now down a total of 40 pounds. I’m not 100% vegan all the time, it’s just really hard as a food writer. But I try. And I notice a huge difference when I don’t do it. I’ve truly never looked better. I’m at a weight I haven’t been since I was a junior in college, my hair is so shiny and my skin is as clear as a baby’s.

Of course, diet isn’t everything, as we all know. I also threw myself into an exercise regime right after my divorce. Which, of course, is also why I think I better than I did in the past. I’m not just thin, I’m fit. I workout 4 times week, doing a mix of totally different exercises. A few days, I do Pure Barre, other days I do Orange Theory. In between, I run, bike and hike. So many of my trips lately have been activity based, so I’ve been lucky to get to tackle some of the world’s hardest hikes and really push myself more than I ever have.

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I still have about 6 more pounds to go until my ultimate goal, but I’m finally happy with myself for the first time in over 10 years. Other parts of my life may be complicated and stressful, but it’s really reassuring knowing I have my health.

Another bonus of exercise and a happy mindset with food? I don’t take anxiety medicine anymore. None. I haven’t taken any medicine in about a month and I can tell you I don’t face any of the crippling anxiety I once had. Maybe it is the endorphins, the change of my diet and my entire outlook on life, but it’s really refreshing not having to be reliant on drugs to feel normal in my day to day life. I’ve found there are other ways I can find peace with myself that don’t involve a prescription.

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Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments I feel that oh-so-familiar rush of anxiety. There are days when I wake up and think I’m going to have a panic attack. But I don’t rush for the Xanax anymore. instead of popping that comforting blue pill, I take deep breaths. I write. I go for a run. I cook. Or I just face it. It sounds terrifying, to face the things that give you the most anxiety, but it’s also freeing. Instead of numbing the thoughts that bright me stress, I face them. I try to find solutions to the problems that pop up. I try to find a way to handle it instead of run away from it. I spent so much of my 20s running away from everything – my marriage, my jobs, my family. And I’m finally learning you can’t run from things that give you stress, you have to face them. Even if you don’t think you’re strong enough.

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If I’m strong enough to face the millions of demons I have, so are you. Trust me in that.

If you’ve been following me on Snapchat (@wayfaringclaire), you probably know all about the last portion of this update – dating. If there’s one thing I didn’t miss in my 9-year relationship, it was dating. I knew the world was changing fast, I have a ton of single friends and watched them go from dating app to dating app, trying to weed through ALL OF the frogs in search of their prince. And even in the thick of the unhappiest months of my marriage, I was never envious of them. I thought “hey, I’m fucking miserable, but at least I don’t have to date!” Which, I know, sounds pretty pathetic. But now that I’m in the middle of the nightmare that is called online dating, I still sort of agree with that sentiment.

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I’ve gone through the ringer in terms of relationships the past few months. The first guy I let in after my divorce and dated decided to ghost me. The second one was just in it for a hook up. And this last one? Pardon my French, but fuck. Just fuck. This last one was with someone I truly saw a future with. Someone who made me happier than I’ve been with anyone in a long time. We were nearly perfect. The only issue? Distance. And that’s not something he could budge on, and I totally understand that. Just like I can’t budge on not traveling, I can’t expect him to budge on distance. It just sucks, considering we both wanted nothing more than to be together.

So, broken hearted with tear soaked eyes, I’m realizing I might be alone for a while. And that’s terrifying.

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So, I’m single again. And instead of jumping back into another app, I’m taking a breather. I’m going to spend some time finding me. Spend time getting to know the person that sometimes looks and feels like a complete stranger. I see my life, how I’m dealing with situations and how I’m handling this new chapter, and I don’t have a clue how I’m managing. I’ve turned into this strong, powerful and no-holds-bar person, and truthfully, it’s such a change from the me I was before, it’s taking some getting used to.

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Al in all, through all of those changes, I’m happy. Not everyday, of course. But most of the time, I wake up feeling good about this next chapter of my life. I feel happy knowing that it won’t be long until I’m truly happy. It’ll take time, I know, but I’m taking the right steps to get there.

I don’t know when I’ll update this again or if. But I needed to say it, needed to get it out there. In a way, this is my journal and this is an entry that needed to be published months ago.

Simple Homemade Lasagna

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PickedAtPeak #CollectiveBias

Today we’re going back to the basics with a simple homemade lasagna recipe. As much as I love the funky recipes like these melon and tofu spring rolls or this beef stew and french onion soup hybrid, I also love classics. When it really comes down to it, the food I most crave are the comfort food classics I grew up eating.

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Like lasagna. I’m such an addict when it comes to Italian food though. I could eat pasta with some sort of sauce, olive oil, crispy italian bread and proscuitto every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it. I’ve been all over the world and some of the most memorable meals I can remember come from my trip to Italy with my family in 2010.

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That trip was so special for a multitude of reasons, but it really changed the way I think of food and eating all together. I saw how much the Italians savored every bite, how meal time was a time to catch up with friends and family. Food wasn’t just something to eat to pass the time to get your nutrients, it was romantic and sensual. I came home with an entire new appreciation for eating, serving and cooking.

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I like to say I held onto that feeling, but when I was busting out recipe after recipe for the past 3 years of my life, I kind of lost it. I turned from cooking with love to cooking for money and income. Even though I’ve been out of that world for 3 months now, it’s still taking me time to find that happiness I once had in the kitchen.

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I will say, though, it’s coming back in spurts and certain foods really ignite that Italian mentality when I’m cooking, like this simple homemade lasagna. It’s not a complicated dish or an expensive one, but it’s one that just brings back so many amazing memories of growing up with my mom in the kitchen. It’s one that you can’t just shovel down in front of the tv. Every bite should be savored and tasted. That’s why I love Prego’s Farmer’s Market Marinara sauces – they taste like something you’d have at a mom and pop shop in Italy, but you can simply hop over to your nearest Walmart and add that fresh, homemade taste to your own lasagna with ingredients you’d find at your nearest farmers market or favorite Italian market, without the $1,000 plane ticket.

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I realize how crazy, corny and “Eat Pray Love” that sounds, but it’s true. This was the first meal in a long time that my husband and I just ate, together, with a bottle of wine and no background noise. And if a dish can turn us away from our TV rut, it deserves at least a blog post, don’t you think?

Simple Homemade Lasagna

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CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 12. Inspired by All Recipes.
Prep time: About 45 minutes – 1 hour
Cook time: 40 – 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 16 ounces lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (I used 92/8)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots **
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 4 1/2 cups Prego® Farmers’ Market classic marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Dash of sugar
  • Dash of salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese (16 ounce jar) (or precisely one pound of low-fat ricotta)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature (I used brown ones)
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mozzarella cheese

*Sub in store bought if you don’t have time to make it from scratch.

** Use onions if you’d prefer.

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and add a dash of salt. Add the lasagna noodles and cook until al-dente, about 8 – 10 minutes. Place in a colander and rinse in cold water, set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, add the ground beef to a large skillet and cook, over medium-high heat, until golden brown. Drain excess fat (reserving one tablespoon) and place in a large bowl. In the same skillet with the fat, add the shallots, garlic cloves and chopped mushrooms. Cook on medium low until fully caramelized and vegetables are softened. Return the beef to the skillet and pour in the sauce, chopped fresh herbs (parsley and basil), dried seasoning, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper and dash of sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until thickened.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, eggs and parmesan cheese. Stir until thick and mixed.
  5. To layer the lasagna, scoop about 1/2 cup of the meat sauce into the bottom of the pan and spread with a spatula. Top with 3 – 4 lasagna noodles. Top with 1/2 cup of cheese mixture, 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of sauce and another 3 – 4 noodles. Repeat until the cheese and noodles have been used. Top remaining noodles with sauce.
  6. Cover the remaining sauce with slices of fresh mozzarella and a dash of pepper.
  7. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is brown and bubbly.
  8. Serve immediately with a dash of fresh parsley.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 490
Fat: 16.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 40 grams
Fiber: 5.5 grams
Protein: 25 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 10

DIY Salsa Chicken Taco Bar

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You know what’s better than a taco party? Nothing – because nothing in this entire world could be better than a taco party. Except, well maybe, a DIY Salsa Chicken Taco Bar.

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Okay I promise I won’t say taco bar anymore. But in all reality, this is the ultimate summer party idea for literally any occasion – from new neighbor welcomes, 4th of July get togethers, best friends birthdays or a warm Friday night where all you have to worry about is just how many toppings is too many for your one (or 10) tacos.

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Luckily, I knew the perfect party couldn’t happen without the help of the ultimate appliance – Braun’s Multiquick 7 hand blender and chopper. Now, we all know I’m a huge fan of Braun’s ultimate blender and knew the Multiquick 7 hand blender would be just as amazing. This item comes just in time for any summertime party or meal prep you have in mind, whether it’s chopping onions for this taco bar or preparing the fruit you need for the ultimate margarita.

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News flash – IT IS. As much as I love my countertop food processor, this thing is even easier to use. You simply dump your ingredients and huzzah – you have perfectly chopped onions, cilantro, jalapeños and more for your fabulous taco party.

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I’m not even embarrassed by how many taco nights E and I have every week. One of the first meals we ate together in college was tacos, adn without a doubt, when I get home from any trip, there are leftover taco fixings in the fridge and taco shells on the counter. Plus, to me, tacos just scream summer. Paried with a homemade margarita, crispy chips and homemade queso and you’ve got dinner, appetizers and cocktails taken care of.

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Have you ever hosted a party where you had all three courses done in the span of just an hour? Plus, this taco bar really brings people together. It’s all hands on- there’s no need for fancy utensils, napkins or serving spoons. Just stack your taco as high as you want with as many toppings a pssobile, pour a few margaritas and just enjoy a party without the stress.

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Isn’t that exactly what summer is all about? Meeting up with people you love, sharing a meal with your hands and not worrying about the clean up? Now that we’ve moved to the South, that’s exactly what summer means to me. Our parties are low-key, but beautiful, and we almost always eat withour hands outside, standing in the kitchen or on a homemade picnic blanket. These longer days, warmer nights and cicanda nightime symphonie aren’t going to last forever. The only thing that will are the memories you make throwing parties or dinner nights with easy to make dishes like this DIY Salsa Chicken Taco Bar.

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So, put away the fancy cookbooks, put down the phone speed dialed to Papa Johns and enjoy some tacos outside. Don’t let another summer night slip away without enjoying every second of it.

DIY Salsa Chicken Taco Bar

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Serves about 8 – 10.
Prep time: About 15 – 20 minutes
Cook time: 7 1/2 hours (for the chicken)
Total time: About 30 minutes + slow cook time

Ingredients: 

For the salsa chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups salsa
  • 1/2 cup diced petite tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican seasoning
  • Chopped cilantro

For the toppings:

  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican seasoning
  • 1/2 cup queso
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup spicy red pepper sauce
  • 3 avocados, seeded and sliced
  • Chopped tortilla chips
  • 10 – 12 flour tortillas
  • Key limes

Directions: 

  1. Mix the salsa and the diced tomatoes together. Place 1 cup of salsa in the basin of a crock pot. Layer the chicken breasts over the salsa. Top with remaining salsa, chopped cilantro Mexican seasoning and salt and pepper. Set the crock pot to low and cook about 7 hours.
  2. After about 6 1/2 hours, shred the chicken with two forks. Cook another 30 minutes and remove from the crock pot.
  3. To assemble a taco bar, spread the toppings into separate bowls. Place the toppings, meat, tortillas and margaritas on a large tray and let the party begin!

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Braun. The opinions and text are all mine.

Middle Eastern Tofu Salad + Freschetta Pizza Night!

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FreschEats #CollectiveBias

One food that always gets a much badder (worse?) rap that it deserves is pizza. Now, let me preface this by saying I get why there’s that “pizza is junk food, pizza is greasy and full o fat” stereotype. I mean, look at the deep dish, stuffed crust, loaded cheese, pepperoni and even pizza stuffed crusts that exist in our world today. As tasty as they are, you can’t eat them on regularity, especially not on a weekly pizza night. And to be honest, that’s why pizza night was so rare in our house, minus those few nights we succumbed to takeout or enjoyed a fresh slice of homemade ‘za. However, that’s about to change, because you know what? Pizza deserves a second chance.

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That’s why I’m teaming up with the folks at Freschetta, who are changing the way we view, and enjoy, pizza. Freschetta is focused on the quality ingredients they use in their pizzas, and for Artisan Crust it is all about the 3 whole grains that go into the delicious crust. Plus, their brick oven pizzas (which are available everywhere, including Publix) feature wholesome, natural toppings, like mushrooms, fresh spinach and just the right amount of natural cheese.

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And since the crust is naturally rising, it isn’t stuffed with weird chemicals or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

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Now, I’d be happy to just talk about this pizza (how amazing does it look?) all day, but enjoying a slice was only half the challenge. I was tasked with creating a healthy, nutritious dish to enjoy along side these pizzas, something that even the pickiest of husbands (ahem, E) would enjoy. And, since I know I’d be pairing it alongside a vegetarian pie, knew immediately what this was going to be.

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Introducing this beautiful, Middle Eastern tofu salad! Now, I’m clearly no stranger to the tofu salad concept – see it here. However, I knew I watned to blend some of those exotic spices I’ve picked up on my many jaunts overseas and give this salad a bit of a Middle Eastern flair. So, I baked the tofu with a blend of Moroccan spices and harissa, and tossed the salad with a few of my favorite, protein packed, low-calorie favorites; red onions, chick peas, kalamata olives, feta cheese and red quinoa.

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The greatest thing about this salad is it stands up on its own, even against pizza. However, the pairing of the Brick Oven Naturally Rising Mushroom and Spinach Pizza was a true match made in heaven. The soft baked crust and simple toppings made every bite of the spiced tofu and zesty quinoa that much greater.

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So go ahead, bring pizza night back to your house, and when you do, make sure this Middle Eastern Tofu Salad is on the menu too. It was picky husband approved, which isn’t an easy feat.

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Learn more about Freschetta’s new, natural pizzas on Twitter and YouTube!

Middle Eastern Tofu Salad

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Serves about 4 – 6.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: About 45 minutes
Total time: About 1 hour

Ingredients: 

For the tofu:

  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Moroccan spice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • 4 cups mixed greens
  • 1 1/4 cup cooked red quinoa
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 15 ounces chick peas, drained
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

For the dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 3 teaspoon spicy harissa paste
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 9 x 13 baking dishes with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Remove as much excess water from the tofu as possible. Then, cut into bite-size pieces. Scatter the tofu pieces along both baking sheets. Liberally add the spice to the pans, tossing the tofu to ensure it’s evenly coated. Then drizzle each pan with one tablespoon olive oil.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Toss the tofu and flip. Cook an additional 10 – 15 minutes, or until browned and firm. Let cool.
  4. Meanwhile, mix all of the salad dressing ingredients together and shake. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, toss the greens, quinoa, onion, chick peas, olives and feta cheese. Add in the tofu and toss to mix. Drizzle the salad with dressing and serve alongside your favorite pizza!

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 425
Fat: 15 grams
Carbohydrates: 17 grams
Fiber: 4.5 grams
Protein: 8 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 

Learn more about Freschetta’s new, natural pizzas on Twitter and YouTubeThis post was sponsored by Freschetta and Publix, but all of my opinions and thoughts are my own. Be sure to visit your local Publix to get 2 pizzas for $10, for a limited time only!

Protein Packed Green Smoothie Bowl

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This might sound sacrilegious as a healthy food blogger, but I’m never excited to have a smoothie for breakfast. Now, that may seem surprising, given how many smoothie recipes I actually have on this blog. But if we’re being honest, smoothies just aren’t as exciting as french toast, a big stack of pancakes , a big bowl of huevos rancheros or literally anything with bacon or maple sausage. They’ve become an easy go-to for busy mornings of after the gym, and little thought is put into it.

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Which is depressing and sad and precisely why I decided to give them a makeover with the help of Braun‘s brand new Pure Mix Blender. Braun is back in North American kitchens with a brand new line of beautifully designed products to help you amp up your favorite recipes and turn them into something new and totally unexpected.

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My mission, if you’ll call it that, was to recreate a recipe that just doesn’t excite or enthrall anymore, and I almost immediately knew I had to make a smoothie. I’ve been trying to perpetually get into shape, and have been resorting to healthy, low-sugar smoothies to do this. But, as I said before, they became monotonous – I’d had handfuls of the same ingredients, mix and drink – without little to no enjoyment.

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So, to perk up my sad smoothies, I decided to give one of my favorite recipes a little bit of a facelift.

I put down the straw and the cup and opted for a spoon and a bowl instead. Now, I’m not new to the smoothie bowl phenomenon – but I have to say, it’s one of the easiest and prettiest ways to perk up an everyday smoothie. For me, my favorite part is the textural contrast. Where I got bored just sipping a smoothie, the addition of crunchy granola on top gives this bowl the perfect textural contrast.

creamy protein packed smoothie bowl

Even though it’s the same smoothie I’ve been drinking for weeks, the swap for a bowl and the addition of beautiful sliced fruits, homemade fruit bars, chia seeds and granola transforms the way I consume it. No more mindless slurping, I truly enjoy each and every bite – and it feels more like a breakfast, one you could sit down and eat (even on the weekends) with as much as excitement as you would with a big stack of pancakes.

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Now, I can’t say everyone will share that same excitement, but for me, the smoothie bowl facelift was exactly what I needed to end the mundane smoothie sips and bring joy back to breakfast.

It is the most important meal of the day, after all. Shouldn’t you enjoy it?

Protein Packed Green Smoothie Bowl

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Serves about 2.
Prep time: >8 minutes
Blend time: 2 – 3 minutes
Total time: About 11 minutes

Ingredients:

For the smoothie base:

  • 1 cup fresh kale
  • 1/2 cup low-fat, no sugar added strawberry yogurt (Greek or regular)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 nectarine, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries (I used frozen strawberry puree**)
  • 1 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup water or sugar-free juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar-free strawberry jam

For the bowl toppings:

  • Granola
  • Sliced nectarine
  • Sliced apple
  • Strawberries or frozen puree cubes
  • Chia seeds

**Simply blend 2 cups strawberries until pureed and pour into ice cube trays. Freeze until solid.

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients (for the smoothie base only) into a blender (I used Braun’s new PureMix Blender).
  2. Blend on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Add additional ingredients (like fruit) to taste, or additional milk for desired consistency.
  3. Pour the smoothies into two bowls. Add the toppings to the tops of the smoothie (in any fashion you’d like) and dig in!

Nutritional information per bowl:

Calories: 425
Fat: 13.2 grams
Carbohydrates: 55 grams
Fiber: 4.5 grams
Protein: 18 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 11

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Braun. The opinions and text are all mine.

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