Protein Hot Chocolate

I am super excited to share this one with the world.  I love hot chocolate and have often thought, “I would drink a cup of hot chocolate everyday, if I wouldn’t gain 20 pounds over the winter from it.” And now I can drink it everyday! In fact, I’ve had this as my first meal of the day for a week. I love it. I have tweaked the recipe over and over to achieve a delicious, healthy, low sugar, low carb, high protein cup of rich and chocolaty cocoa. In fact, 1/4 c. of mix has only 130 calories, 15 grams of protein, and 14 grams of carbs. So let’s get to it, shall we?


I start with chocolate protein powder; any favorite brand will work.  I buy this giant bag at Costco in chocolate and vanilla. To the chocolate protein powder, I add cocoa powder, Stevia, French Vanilla coffee creamer, and Hazelnut coffee creamer. If you don’t like hazelnuts just use double the french vanilla, or use any other flavor you like.


I mix them all together really well until totally blended and then put in a container with a tight fitting lid.  That is it, seriously, so easy and quick!


Pour in 1/4 c. of the protein hot chocolate mix.


There are a couple different ways to prepare the hot chocolate. 1- Add water, whisk really well and microwave for 1 minute.  Whisk really well again and you’ve got yourself a treat!  2- I have found that using a hot cocoa maker like this or like this, works even better for me in getting a lump-free and smooth consistency.  Just add the water to the hot chocolate maker, add 1/4 c. of the mix, place the lid on and push the ON button.  It only takes a few minutes and I don’t have to whisk at all.





1 c. chocolate protein powder

1/3 c. cocoa powder

4 tsp. (or 8 packets) Stevia

4 tsp. hazelnut coffee creamer powder

4 tsp. french vanilla coffee creamer powder


In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients until totally incorporated together. Pour into a container with a tight fitting lid.

To make hot chocolate, use 1/4 c. of the protein hot chocolate mix with 1 c. water.



Chicken and Dumplings Soup


I just posted my chicken stock recipe and I wanted to share this Chicken and Dumplings Soup I made with the homemade stock. This soup turned out to be rich and creamy yet not heavy.  The dumplings were just like light, soft pillows and we all loved it.  This is absolutely going into our regular meal rotation.

This soup begins like many soups, with carrots, onions and celery (mirepoix). I saute them in a little butter and seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground, black pepper.

Once the veggies start to soften, add some shredded chicken. I used some of the chicken I set aside from the rotisserie chicken I used to make the chicken stock. Next I added the stock, a bay leaf, parsley and thyme. Time to make a roux for the white sauce.

A roux (ROO) is used to thicken sauces and soups. It is a mixture of melted butter (or fat), to which you add flour and cook until it bubbles and the raw flour taste is cooked out. There are different shades of roux from white, light (blond), medium and dark. The shorter the cooking time the lighter the color of the roux. The lighter the color, the thicker it will make the sauce or soup. So, if you cook it a long time it will turn a dark, nutty brown with loads of flavor, but won’t thicken as much as a blond roux, like we are using. When making a sauce with the roux, once you’ve cooked the butter and flour to the desired color, you then add the liquid. In this case the liquid is milk, to make a white sauce.

You can see that the roux is a tan color and foaming, this is what we want.  Now add the cold milk and whisk a couple minutes, until thickened.

Now that the soup has had time to cook and the vegetables are soft, add the white sauce and whisk well to incorporate, until creamy. Doesn’t that look so yummy? Now we make the dumplings while the soup simmers away.

These dumplings are a simplified biscuit dough and it is just that, simple. I mix flour, salt and baking powder together, make a well in the middle and pour the milk and oil in the well.  Next, I stir until it just comes together into a ball and then comes the fun part, rolling the dumplings.


I keep them small, like 1″ across. They will grow and puff up and become the perfect size for eating. Once they are rolled, I gently place each one into the soup and cover.  They quickly pop up to the top and steam in the hot, covered soup.

The picture on the left is immediately after I dropped them in and before I put the lid on.  The picture on the right is after 10 minutes of cooking and steaming in the covered soup.


That’s it, the soup du jour.  Now serve with a side salad and remember, whoever has the bay leaf in their bowl gets to make a wish!! ENJOY!

Chicken and Dumplings Soup


1/4 c. butter

1 onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled, and sliced

4 stalks celery, washed and sliced

2 cups shredded chicken

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

8-10 cups of chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 c. butter

1/4 c. all purpose flour

1 c. milk

For the Dumplings:

1 c. all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 c. milk

2 T. oil


In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt 1/4 c. butter and add onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper.  Saute until onions are translucent. Add shredded chicken, stock, bay leaf, parsley and thyme.  Bring soup to a simmer.  In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, melt 1/4 c. butter then add the 1/4 c. flour.  Whisk, and allow roux to foam and bubble until it becomes a light tan color, about 5 minutes. Pour in the milk and whisk well to incorporate. Once the white sauce is thick, add to the soup and whisk well, until creamy. Continue simmering the soup while the dumplings are made.

To make the dumplings, mix the 1 c. flour, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the milk and oil. Mix with a fork until the dough forms a ball.  Form dough into 1″ balls and set aside on a plate.  Keep the dumplings covered with plastic wrap until 10 minutes before serving the soup, then add them to the soup and cover.  Serve immediately. ENJOY!!







Chicken Stock

The very first thing we learned to cook in Culinary school was stock. We made chicken, beef, fish, and vegetable stocks.  It is a basic and important skill as stocks are foundational to so many foods. I know it may seem daunting or time consuming but it actually takes very little effort, comes together very quickly and you just go about your life while it simmers away. I understand that you can buy chicken stock at the store, but I promise this tastes better, is healthier, you know exactly what is in it and it is cheaper! Who wouldn’t want to make it, right? 🙂


Let’s start with the bird.  I love Costco’s rotisserie chicken.  They are a bargain! Other stores are selling much smaller birds for much more money.  My little girls love to pick one out and eat the drumsticks for lunch.



First we remove the meat from the skin and bones. I know this may not be your favorite part but it really goes much quicker than you think.


TA DA! Just look at that moist, delicious meat.  Notice I placed the skin and bones back into the black plastic container the chicken came in, this is because I don’t want the stock to miss out on all the flavorful drippings in the bottom of the container.

I drop the bones, chicken and juices into a large, heavy pot and fill the black container full of water, three times. This is 12 cups of water. Now let’s talk aromatics.  You may notice how many recipes call for onion, carrots and celery.  This is called mirepoix (mee-ruh-pwah).  It is as basic as stock and as a general rule it consists of 2 parts onion, 1 part, carrots, 1 part celery.  Along with the mirepoix, I add garlic cloves, peppercorns, kosher salt, bay leaves, thyme and parsley.


Am I the only one who thinks that is beautiful? i just love REAL, hand-made, home-cooked food. Do you see that the onions, and garlic have the peel on them and that the celery leaves are still on? This is one of the reasons this is such a delicious, and quick recipe.  Because stocks are strained after cooking, there is no need to peel, chop or remove these things.  They add flavor and depth to the stock. Now bring this pot to a boil, cover and then reduce to a light simmer for 4+ hours.


Viola! You just made rich, delicious chicken stock from scratch! Now we strain the stock and you have a few different options.  This stock can be used immediately, refrigerated for up to a week, placed in jars or plastic containers and frozen for up to 6 months (please be sure to leave a few inches of space at the top for the stock to expand while freezing), or you can even bottle and process this beautiful stock and store in your pantry for a few years. Refer to the Ball website for instructions on how to do this.


Place a fine strainer over a large bowl or measuring bowl to catch all bones, veggies, etc.


I made this yesterday and I got 10 cups of stock from this recipe. I used it to make chicken and dumplings soup which was super yummy!



1 (3 lb.) rotisserie chicken

1 large onion, ends removed, quartered

4 carrots, ends removed, cut into thirds

4 stalks of celery, bottoms removed, cut into thirds

4 cloves garlic

1 tsp. Kosher salt

15 black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. dried parsely or 1 T. fresh parsley

1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 2 sprigs, fresh thyme

12 c. water


Remove all meat from chicken and refrigerate or eat. In a large, heavy pot, place chicken bones, skins and juices.  To the pot, add the remaining ingredients.  Bring stock to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Let simmer for 4+ hours.  Turn off the heat and strain through a fine sieve. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for up to 6 months.






Garden Pasta Salad


This Garden Pasta Salad has to be the healthiest pasta salad ever! Look at all those vegetables and their vibrant colors. I love the addition of yellow zucchini in it. There is even some protein from the cheese cubes. This summer my friend Kelly gave me her recipe for this gorgeous salad and asked me if I’d make a giant batch of it for her daughter’s outdoor wedding reception. During the reception she popped into the kitchen to find out which food items they were going through the fastest and they said it was the pasta salad. She definitely has a winning recipe. Since then, I’ve made a couple changes.  I have added the red onion for taste, crunch and color and I use Ken’s Steak House Lite Northern Italian Dressing because it is a favorite of mine. Isn’t this the most colorful salad you’ve ever seen?  You’ll get a little of everything with this gorgeous side dish, which is an impressive side to share at your next neighborhood get-together or family potluck dinner.


A couple of reasons this salad is so good are the quality of the pasta used, the preparation of the broccoli, carrots, and yellow zucchini, and adding the cheese cubes at the last minute. Kelly said Barilla pasta is a must in this recipe. The Barilla pasta holds it’s shape and texture. She has tried other brands of rotini and the Barilla rotini has a tighter spiral and is a quality made pasta.  No one likes mushy pasta that unravels and falls apart in the salad.


See what a nice twist and color the pasta retains? Now get that pasta in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

The second trick is blanching and shocking the zucchini, broccoli, and carrots for one minute. Boiling these three veggies for 1 minute takes that raw, dry bite from them and they become a welcome addition to the salad.

Be sure to have a slotted spoon or spider and a bowl of ice water ready to place the parboiled veggies in, to stop the cooking process so they don’t get soft.


Once you’ve prepped all the veggies and cooked the pasta, it is time to season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss the salad in half the dressing and refrigerate for a couple hours. Right before serving, add the cheese cubes, toss the salad with the remaining salad dressing and serve. ENJOY!


Garden Pasta Salad



1 lb. Barilla Tri-Colored Rotini

1 yellow zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced

1 crown broccoli, cut into florets

3 carrots, peeled and sliced on a bias

1/2 red onion, quartered and sliced

1 can black olives

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

8 oz. cheddar or mozarella cheese, cubed

1 (16oz) bottle Ken’s Steak House LITE Northern Italian Dressing

Salt and Pepper to taste


Fill a medium to large bowl with ice and water, and set it next to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add sliced carrots, zucchini and broccoli florets and cook for 1 minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and put veggies directly into the ice water. Let veggies soak for 2-3 minutes to cool, remove from water and place in a large serving bowl. Add more ice to the ice water if needed.  To the boiling water add 1 T. of salt then add the pasta.  Cook pasta until just soft, a minute or two beyond al dente.  Remove pasta to ice water and let cool for a few minutes. Place cooled, drained pasta into the serving bowl then add the onion, olives and tomatoes. Pour 1/2 of the dressing over the pasta salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, add cheese cubes and the remaining dressing and toss well.



Healthy Enchilada Stuffed Peppers

This summer, our bell pepper plants are growing and producing like crazy.  I have actually never had bell peppers grow so well.  The other day when the kids and I decided it was time to harvest some of our garden, we were amazed how many large bell peppers there were.  What do you do with such a plentiful harvest? You make stuffed peppers, of course. This recipe is easily adaptable to fit anyone’s specific tastes.  I used lean ground turkey, but ground beef would also be delicious.  I threw in some black beans and cooked quinoa, but if you have a different kind of bean on hand, or you want to use brown or white rice, go right ahead. One ingredient which I used and feel like it really made the dish extra yummy was fire roasted, salsa style, diced tomatoes. IMG_8416 They added just a little heat and some delicious flavors to the dish.  These stuffed peppers came together really quickly and my family LOVED them.  I thought for sure there would be leftovers for my husband to take to work but after the kids wanted seconds, they were all gone! I was happy they liked them, especially when these peppers are full of nutritious ingredients.

In a large saute pan I cooked the lean ground turkey with a diced, red onion and some spices. Can I tell you how much I love this meat chopper? It crumbles meat 5 times as fast and is so easy to use. It is also safe to use on non-stick pans.  Love it!


Now for the black beans, cooked quinoa and fire roasted, salsa style diced tomatoes.  Give them a good stir to mix well.


Next, I added a can of plain tomato sauce.  If your family likes more heat or if you don’t use the salsa style diced tomatoes, I would recommend using enchilada sauce instead of the plain tomato sauce.  As it turned out, these peppers had just the right amount of heat for my children with the plain tomato sauce.


I have seen stuffed peppers where the tops of the peppers are cut off and the seeds and ribs are removed and they are stuffed up-right.  I like to slice them length-wise, as these make a better portion for my children, and are super easy to fill and cook.

I used an ice cream scoop to fill the peppers and that made the job even easier.  Then I topped with cheese.  I think next time, I would allow them to cook for a while and add the cheese towards the end to keep the cheese gooey.

I baked them, uncovered for 30 minutes and then topped them with lots of avocado, fresh tomatoes, green onion and cilantro. My goodness, these were loaded with so many healthy ingredients and vegetables! I love easy, healthy recipes like this.

Healthy Enchilada Stuffed Peppers

I added a dollop of plain, fat free greek yogurt in place of sour cream and served with steamed corn. My husband said he could eat them every day. In my house, that is how I know when something is really delicious.  ENJOY!


Healthy Enchilada Stuffed Bell Peppers



1 lb. lean ground turkey

1 small red onion, diced

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 c. cooked quinoa (I cooked mine in chicken broth)

1 (14.5 oz). can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14.5 oz.) can fire roasted, salsa style diced tomatoes

1 (8oz.) can tomato sauce or enchilada sauce

6 bell peppers, sliced lengthwise, seeded and ribs removed

1-2 c. shredded cheese


Diced tomatoes

Sliced green onions

Diced avocado

Fat free, plain greek yogurt


In a large saute pan, cooked the ground turkey and red onion. Stir in spices, and cook for 1-2 minutes, this allows the spices to bloom.  Add diced tomatoes, black beans, and quinoa, stir well.  Pour in tomato sauce or enchilada sauce and mix.

Into a 9×13 casserole dish, place bell peppers, cut side up.  Scoop the meat mixture into each halved bell pepper, to fill.  Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, topping peppers with the shredded cheese after 20 minutes.  When the peppers have cooked and the cheese has melted, remove from oven and sprinkle on desired toppings.


A few of my favorite things…

This is one of the posts that I have been most excited to add to my blog. I am sharing my most favorite things, you know, the things I can’t live without.  I love when people share their favorite finds with me. These must-haves are tried and tested by yours truly and I adore every one of them.

Let’s start with hair products.  A couple years ago my hair was in pretty bad shape. It was dry, wiry, coarse, dull and unhealthy.  I thought it was just an inevitable result of getting older.  I went to my friend Amy who is a hairstylist and she introduced me to some fantastic products, which over time have restored my hair’s health, strength, silkiness and shine. First is the renewing argan oil  . I use this every time I wash my hair.  I towel dry my hair and then I rub 2 drops of oil into my hands and then rub the oil on the ends of my hair and my hair soaks it right up.  Next comes the Matrix miracle treat spray. I call this hair lotion.  I spray about 10 squirts all over my hair and then brush it throughout my towel-dried hair.  I love the way this helps the brush glide through and detangle my hair and it makes it feel so soft and silky.  It also helps prevent hair static without any greasy, heavy effects. Now for the brush. A few years ago I bought my two oldest girls American Girl Dolls for Christmas and one of the recommendations for caring for the hair was a wire-bristle brush.  A while later I was in the store and saw this brush that promised not to snag or damage your hair, and it works! I love this brush.  The copper bristles reduce natural build up, and it works easily through wet and dry hair.

Now for great skin care.  I have used Cetaphil cleanser and Cetaphil moisturizer on my face, neck and back for 16 years.  It was recommended by my dermatologist to keep pores clean and skin clear.  It works so well, I’ve never gone a day without it.  I use the cleanser morning and night (with or without water) and the moisturizer is always applied after lightly towel drying my face. I was told to only use the tub of moisturizer and not the pump lotion as it has thinning agents to be pumpable, these ingredients are not as good for your skin.  One of the first things I noticed was how soft my face felt.  I had acne issues before and I’ll forever be grateful for these products.  Another moisturizing cream which I swear by is CeraVe.  My daughter’s hands get so dry, especially in the winter, that they crack and bleed.  This was also dermatologist recommended and it totally healed her hands. It is thick and creamy and works wonders.  Next is one of my newer finds.  I was waiting for my daughter in the orthodontist’s office, reading a magazine and saw this award winning foaming tanning moisturizer. Since it is a foam, it is super easy to apply and I haven’t had any orange spots.  It is subtle and gives your skin a nice glow to it.  Apply regularly and your skin will look naturally sun-kissed.  Now for my last skin product, Harry’s razors, blade refills, shave gel and after shave. For years I stole my husbands razor to shave with because the blades worked so much better than the ones made for women.  The only bummer was the cost of the blade refills.  Then my husband found these razors and refills by Harry’s and we both fell in love.  He bought two, one for each of us and the refills are much cheaper.  He loves the shave gel and after shave, and for a man who never spends money on himself, these are products he is always sure to order more of.

I was not blessed with beautiful, soft feet.  I have always suffered from dry heels, and no matter how many times by husband tells me to just wear socks and shoes all the time, I still love being barefoot or wearing sandals.  I found this Amope wet or dry foot file a year ago.  It is a pedicure at home.  I love that it can be used in the shower and washes right off. It is rechargeable and holds a charge for a long time.  You can purhase refills, which makes it very cost effective! It has a power button and 2 speeds.  I like to soak my feet in warm water and then it works quickly and effectively.

Now for a household product that works as promised.  As you can see from my pictures this wasp trap is incredible! Those pictures are after 4 weeks use.  The product attracts yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets.  I don’t know how, but I haven’t seen a single bee in there, which is good for my garden and fruit trees.  We have emptied it out and used a refill kit twice now.  We love this trap and have seen a huge decrease in wasps around our house.

My last, “can’t live without” item I have used for 3 years now.  As you can probably guess, I am extremely busy as a stay-at-home mother of 7.  Between dance, sports, music lessons, school activities, work functions, and church responsibilities for 9 people, our schedule is unreal.  I know there are apps and digital calendars that so many people love, but I am a paper girl.  I need to see it all laid out in front of me.  I refer to my Erin Condren life planner many times a day, every single day of the year.  They have thought of EVERYTHING with these planners.  There are almost too many designs to chose from. The covers are interchangeable not to mention personalized with my name on the front. The genius of these planners is in the coil that allows for moveable bookmarks, travel packing lists, to-do’s and to-buys, along with pockets and a year long budget book for my monthly expenses and income. I used to feel like I was always forgetting things and events and this has helped me stay organized and helped reduce much of the stress that comes with being a busy mother and wife.

Fresh Strawberry Sheetcake


My mom started making this cake when I was a teenager and it immediately became a favorite in our family.  Indeed, this cake is a top-pick for those of us with summer birthdays.  While strawberries are now available most of the year, this cake is a must-have during strawberry season.  What makes this cake so delicious is the flavors in the three layers, soft vanilla cake, creamy and tangy cream cheese with whipped cream filling, and then it is all topped off sliced, glazed strawberries. This mouth-watering cake is light, fresh and delicious.



First, is the soft and moist vanilla cake.  It is baked on a jellyroll pan, which makes for a thinner layer, thus creating the perfect cake to cream cheese frosting to strawberry ratio.





Now for the glazed strawberries. My mom makes this cake with a store-bought, strawberry glaze, which is an easy and yummy option.  I like the taste of my homemade glaze better and I always have the ingredients on hand which makes one less trip to the grocery store.  The glaze is made from strawberry jello, sugar, cornstarch, water and a little red food coloring.  This strawberry mixture is brought to a boil for a minute and then it must cool.  I like to stir it occasionally to help the heat escape and to help it along in cooling.



Now wash, hull and slice 2 pounds of fresh, ripe and sweet strawberries. The strawberry slices are then added to the cooled glaze.



This layer is probably everyone’s favorite layer and for good reason.  It starts with fresh whipped cream with vanilla extract in one bowl and whipped, softened cream cheese and powdered sugar in another. Next we mix the two together, making a sweet, creamy and tangy filling that will have you licking the spoon, the bowl and your fingers.





After the cake is cooled, spread the filling in an even layer, covering the entire cake.





Isn’t that gorgeous! But it isn’t done yet; here come the strawberries and glaze. Carefully, push and spread the strawberries to the edges of the cake, covering the cream cheese filling.  Cover with wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.




Honestly, this is a cool, and refreshing dessert you’ve got to try this summer.  I also think adding some blueberries in a stars-and-stripes design would make it a fantastic Fourth of July dessert. ENJOY!




Fresh Strawberry Sheetcake



1 vanilla cake mix, mixed as directed

2 lbs. strawberries

2/3 c. sugar

1 c. water

4 T. strawberry gelatin

2 T. cornstarch

2 c. whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened

1 c. powdered sugar



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper, a silicone baking mat (my favorite) or spray pan with cooking spray. Pour mixed cake batter into jellyroll pan and bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, strawberry gelatin, and water.  Heat over medium high and bring to a boil, whisking constantly for one minute.  Set aside and allow to cool.

While glaze is cooling, wash, hull and slice strawberries.  When glaze is cooled mix with sliced strawberries.

In a large bowl, beat the whipping cream and vanilla extract until very thick.  In a medium bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, add the powdered sugar and incorporate well.  Add the cream cheese mixture to the whipping cream and mix until combined.

To assemble the cake, spread cream cheese mixture on top of the cooled cake. Then top with glazed strawberries. Cover with wax paper and refrigerate at least one hour or until ready to serve.