Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie

I've never been interested in juice cleanses and I was certainly never interested drinking one of my meals (minus the occasional night out with my girlfriends)...until I found this recipe. J & I discovered a beautiful park near our home that has some AMAZING hiking trails.  In the spirit of not being so lazy, we've even been getting up before work to hike. If you know me...that is a BIG deal!  Below are some pics from some of our recent adventures.

Coldwater Canyon at Sunset

Coldwater Canyon

Palos Verdes...a hike with one hell of a view!
The following picture I just HAD to share. We recently stumbled upon this trail in Palos Verdes with some friends.  It was such a perfect day with beautiful views. At the end of the hike, I demanded J take a photo with me, despite being sweaty & gross. I had NO IDEA what Dukes face looked like until I got home & was going through the photos taken...

Freaking HILARIOUS!  So glad to know Duke enjoyed the hike! What a little ham.  Anyways, with all the hiking, I needed to start getting more protein.  I'm not super into smoothies because the only crushed ice I can handle is in slurpees.  I've always preferred a smooth beverage, even my Nana would pour OJ through a strainer for me when I was a kid.

Well thanks to Pinterest, I found a recipe from Prevention with normal ingredients that was healthy & could be made without crushed ice!  I also happened to have all the ingredients already on hand, which was so helpful. I've made these twice now and they really make a nice breakfast after working out.  I really can't even believe I typed that last sentence. WHO AM I?!!! Just don't make the mistake I made the first time and assume that the recipe below is for one serving...it is definitely for 2! Luckily it was so good, I didn't mind that I drank 2 portions. 

Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie
Serves: 2
Blend time according to Rachel: 5 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? Easy!


1.5 cups fat free milk
1/2 cup vanilla or plain fat free yogurt
2 tbsp reduced fat peanut butter
1/2 ripe banana
1 tbsp honey
(if you want ice, 4 cubes)                            

Dump everything into the blender

Blend until smooth. 

How difficult.


Roasted Italian Potatoes

Oh man, these potatoes were awesome. Crunchy and full of flavor on the outside and soft on the inside. I am already craving them again!  The recipe didn't exactly have ingredient amounts so I had to do some guessing.  The only error I made was only using half the potatoes and not the entire bag. My stomach is small and gets full pretty quickly, but even I was wanting more once they were gone. I wish I had a site to give credit to, but really the directions came from a pin on pinterest

Roasted Italian Potatoes
Serves: 1 bag of red potatoes should serve 3-4
Cook time according to Rachel: 50 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? Easy!


1 bag small red potatoes
1 pkg zesty Italian dressing mix
2-3 Tbsp grated Parmesan
olive oil
1 large ziploc bag
Salt & Pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cube red potatoes.

Put potato pieces, parmesan & Italian mix into ziploc bag. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Add a little salt & pepper if you choose.
Shake bag around until potatoes completely coated.

Place potatoes on greased baking sheet. Spread apart somewhat evenly.

Bake potatoes for 40 mins. At the 20 min mark, take potatoes out and shuffle around so they don't burn.


{Recipe} Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

I'd like to formally welcome my new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer into my life. Lucky for me, my birthday and Hanukkah fall within a month of each other and family members are all too happy to get me one mega gift for both occasions. My sister, Jen, got this for me, and my world is now just a little brighter.

 knew the first time I used the mixer, it had to be for something big. Of course, I found a recipe that required me to use the mixer TWICE...and it was awesome. I almost didn't know what to do while it was mixing. I literally just stared in awe.

J and 2 of his friends were going on a weekend man-cation and what better time to make a super rich dessert that I can sample and then send off with the boys and OUT of my house. I knew these were a success when I got a text that night telling me how half the tray was already gone...and this was after I was told I wouldn't hear from J because he was with "the guys"...win for me!   Big thanks to Brandy's Baking for this awesome new recipe!

An important note, these bars need at least 3 hours-overnight of refridgeration. I didn't see that part until it was too late, so I had to send 95% ready bars off with the boys. This final picture came from J in the midst of them chowing down.

Serves: 9-12
Cook time according to Brandy: 50-60 mins
Cook time according to Rachel: 55 mins PLUS 3 hours to chill in the fridge (or overnight)
How difficult was this for Rachel? Not too hard & worth the work!

1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
(I used graham cracker pie crust & broke it)
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup chocolate chips (I used mini)
Cheesecake Filling
10 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 F.
Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper or fil allowing some overhang.
Spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Mix the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs until thoroughly combined. 
Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
Bake in oven for 6 mins.
Remove pan to a cookling rack.
Leave oven on while preparing the dough.
While crust is cooling, prepare chocolate chip cookie dough.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly combined. 
Mix in flour on low speed until mix is just incorporated. 
Mix in chocolate chips and set aside. Note: mix will be try. More like a crumble topping)
Clean bowl and using your mixer again (stand mixer, use paddle attachment) cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
Mix in the egg and vanilla on low until just incorporated.
Pour cheesecake batter into prepared crust.
Cover the top with the cookie dough.
Mash until top is completely covered using all the dough.
Bake for aprox 30 mins until the top feels dry and firm.
Give pan a gentle shake; nothing should move. 
Move dish to a cooling rack allowing to cool completely.
Chill in fridge for 3 hours -over night.
Lift bars out by the overhang and cut into squares.


Spicy Chicken Rigatoni

Dear God...this meal was a NIGHTMARE. I will never make this again...and not because it wasn't delicious (it was!) but because I have a PTSD from this meal. This dinner took two nights to actually complete...and not because the recipe called for anything to happen overnight.

Mistake #1: assuming this meal was going to be easy. Mistake #2: assuming your local grocery store will have boneless chicken breasts that aren't frozen. YEAH...has YOUR grocery store ever been OUT OF CHICKEN???!!!! Well, that was a first for me.  Of course, I discovered this after my cart was full of other items I needed. By this point, it was already 8:30pm and the thought of going to another store that night and THEN going home and making dinner was out of the question. We ordered in.  Mistake #3 getting home and discovering you bought  a small can of green beans when the recipe calls for peas. I mean...really?! (sad part? That isnt the first time I bought a can of green beans thinking they were peas. I now have 2 cans of green beans taking up space in my cupboard). 

So, night #2 attempting to make this meal, I chose a different grocery store that did in fact have chicken and I was able to get a can of peas. I wish this is where the mistakes ended...nope. Read through the directions to see what else I screwed up. I guess I can't blame Kerry from Tastebook because all these mistakes had nothing to do with her recipe.

An important note, it is possible to make the recipe not super spicy.

Spicy Chicken Rigatoni
Serves: 4
Cook time according to Kerry: Does not say
Cook time according to Rachel: On a normal planet? 45-50 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? A nightmare...for a NORMAL person? Easy!

3 tbsp oil
1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper (I used 1/4 tbsp)
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced or cubed
3/4 cup Marinara sauce
1/4 cup Alfredo sauce
1/4 cup peas
Parmesan cheese for garnish
1 lb Rigatoni Pasta
Note: if you don't want to buy 2 sauces, Bertolli makes a Parm Rosa sauce that can be substituted. Use 1.5 cups.

Cook pasta according to package

While noodles are cooking, in a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper, salt and garlic. Saute garlic long enough to carmelize. The original recipe called for more oil, I felt like there was too much. Use your own judgement.

Do not knock the pan causing 1/4 of it's contents to spill on the floor. Mistake #4. I had a photo of J cleaning the floor, but he thought the photo was unflattering, so being nice, I won't post it.

Add chicken to oil mix. Be careful of splattering oil.

Add Marinara first and then add Alfredo and bring to a simmer. 

Cook until sauce thicken slightly and chicken cooks through. This was a fun part, telling if the chicken was done while covered in sauce.

I mean...really? Mistake #5. At this point, J was just about dying laughing. Me...not so much. You can take a guess who cleaned up my messes.

Turn off flame and add peas into sauce and mix through. Add noodles to pasta sauce. Mix through. 

If you're looking for more heat, garnish with red pepper flakes like J did. I added  Parmesan cheese.

Serve immediately.


Sweet Potato Souffle

Holy crap, these are DANGEROUS! My sister and I decided this year for Thanksgiving we were going to change things up and skip the traditional sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows that my family always serves. This soufflĂ© was sinfully delicious...and when you see the ingredients, you will see why!!  This recipe will definitely be saved for special occassions as it doesn't scream healthy...but it's the holidays, it's OK to splurge!

If you saw my Thanksgiving Post, you'll know that prepping the meal was, well, chaotic. This was essentially the only recipe I was able to actually photograph and the sad part is I took photos up until the dish was finished.  Lucky for me, Jen did a trial run of the recipe before Thanksgiving and took a final photo then. Big thanks Jen for finding this awesome dish on  All Recipes AND for providing me with a final photo!

Sweet Potato Souffle
Serves: 8-10
Cook time according to All Recipes: 1 hour 20 mins
Cook time according to Rachel & Jen: 1 hour 35 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? Pretty simple, just follow directions!

6 sweet potatoes, peeled
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup melted butter &
1/3 cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans


Place peeled potatoes in large stock pot. Fill with water covering 1 inch above potatoes.

Recipe calls to boil for 20 minutes. Potatoes must be VERY tender or you run the risk of killing your Kitchen Aid/mixer. And no, the metal should NOT be bent that way. We boiled an extra 15 mins. Test by sticking a fork in a potato to see how tender it is. Drain water.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 qt casserole dish.

Place potatoes in a mixing bowl. Using either a stand mixer or handheld mixer and beat on low until potatoes begin to break up. Increase speed to medium until potatoes are smooth.
Reduce speed to low and add sugar, milk,  1/2 cup butter, vanilla, eggs and salt. Mix well.

Do NOT clean off the potato remains on the beater. Those are the "fibers" and should not get mixed in.

Pour sweet potato mix into casserole dish.

To make the topping, in a small mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, 1/3 cup melted butter, flour and pecans. Pour mixture over the top of the potatoes.
Bake for 40 minutes. Serve immediately!