Big Step In Parenting

Last night I was so exhausted that the thought of writing a post was out of the question. We are all allowed those nights, right?? Smile I really have no idea why I was so tired, (well ok maybe it was the 13 miles I did…I’m insane- I know!) but it just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Anyways, back to regular posting today!

So I wanted to talk about HOW MUCH friends mean to me. I know it may sound silly, but I really can’t tell you enough how much my friends have been there for me. It’s been an interesting month- lots of both ups and downs. But what helped get through the not so good moments was the support from friends.

I know when I first had Gabriella my Mother in Law very much encouraged me to try to find some other Moms in the area. Not just so that we could have play dates & talk about our crazy kids but also for the support they offer. Also for the advice and relatable stories that they have- makes you feel like your child really isn’t all that crazy. Winking smile

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I have been loving that Gabriella is getting more socialized. Honestly the past two months she has changed SO MUCH! We have play dates every week, and she is friends with one of the neighbor’s kids as well- who she sees every day. (His Mom & I go walking in the afternoon with the kids) She used to really only let Craig or I hold her, and at one point (sometimes even now) she only lets me hold or play with her.

But since being around other children & babies, she is little miss social butterfly! Even my Mom made a comment while we were in Jacksonville as to how much she has changed. That she was completely fine with playing and I didn’t have to be right next to her all the time. My Mom & Dad were able to play with her and they enjoyed their time together. It was really sweet!

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This past weekend was a new step in our world as parents. Craig and I were invited to a cookout at a friend’s house. It started around 4pm, and we were planning to leave around 7/ 7:30pm in order to get Gabriella to bed. Well, while I was getting all of her stuff together (isn’t it AMAZING how such a little person requires SO.MUCH.STUFF?!) I threw in her PJ’s, so that we could get her all ready for bed before getting her in the car.

Well we decided to try something new. Our friends also have kids. So they had everything we needed. A pack n’ play, a sound machine, and a quiet room. Can you say perfect?!! Another reason you have to love friends with kids- they understand what you are going through and tell you NOT to apologize.

Craig & I wanted to stay for a bit to hang out with everyone, since we really don’t get to do that often and we were having a GREAT time.

ANYWAYS, to make a long story short, Gabriella did WONDERFUL!!! She was able to sleep in the pack n play until we were ready to leave. We actually stayed longer than expected (after midnight…OMG…who are we!?! Winking smile ), and I ended up just nursing her back to sleep when we got home.

It was SO nice to know that we can actually DO THINGS! We can go to other people’s houses, and enjoy ourselves. I know that sounds SO silly, but it really was a HUGE step. I was nervous to take her out of her element, but she did better than expected. That’s why half of the time I feel like I’m the one that has issues instead of Gabriella Winking smile I just need to trust in her, girlfriend knows how to impress her Momma!

And one way to win over all of your friends’ hearts, just in case your child is a crazy person is to make them Better than Crack Brownies! You gotta be prepared, people! Open-mouthed smile

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I have made these before for my family in Maryland, and they were a hit there. With the ingredients, you CANNOT go wrong!

Better-Than-Crack Brownies

(Copied DIRECTLY from How Sweet Eats)

1 batch brownies (boxed mix or oooey gooey brownies)

1/2 cup salted peanuts (if don’t have salted, add sea salt)

1 cup chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups

1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal

Mix brownies according to directions, and bake for 20-25 minutes in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Remove and top with peanuts and peanut butter cups, and bake for 4-6 minutes more.

While they are finishing baking, melt chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter. Stir in cereal. Remove brownies from oven and evenly pour chocolate mixture over top.

Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

DELICIOUS!!

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I know it sounds sad but I feel like it was a big step in our ‘parenting life.’ Smile The fact that we know she can sleep OTHER places, not just her crib, is HUGE.

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Have you tried these brownies??? PLEASE DO!!

Parents: Did you have this same issue? Was it a big deal when you realized you could actually ENJOY yourselves rather than adjusting to your child’s routine?

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Homemade Clif Z Bars

HAPPY JULY!!! How is 2013 already half over?!?!?

After having a child, I now understand why people try to buy a lot of organic foods. I did some research on the pesticides used on fruits and vegetables and it is kind of scary.

I try my best to buy only organic produce, especially for Gabriella. Sometimes it’s pretty pricy, so if I can’t buy everything organic I at least buy the ‘dirty dozen’ organic.

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Have you guys ever tasted the difference between organic apples & regular apples? It is UNREAL! The organic ones are SO much sweeter! I found that the regular apples sometimes taste very bland, and then I switched to organic. So much better! And when they are in season the price really isn’t bad at all.

One thing that Craig & I have enjoyed doing is going to the local farmer’s market on Sundays. I get all of our produce for the week, and we enjoy showing Gabriella all of the sites & sounds. She also usually gets to play at the park and with the ducks when we are finished, so it’s a win win for her. Smile

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Did you know that getting the ‘USDA’ organic recognition is pretty expensive? So most of the produce sold at farmer’s markets is actually organic (or they use organic controls), they just don’t have the money (or don’t want to spend that much) to get the ‘USDA’ organic label. Just ask the people that have the produce while you are there. I did that this past weekend and was told that most of the items were actually organic, and those that weren’t only had VERY minimal pesticides. (Just pesticides to keep the worms away when they first start growing the produce.)

While I was making her food this week (& smoothies- she LOVES smoothies!) I got to thinking that I can’t wait to make her ‘big girl food’ too. I started looking around for different recipes to ‘pin,’ just for different ideas. Since I volunteered for snacks for Bible study last week I got to find one of the recipes that I had pinned. It happened to come from one of my very favorite Mom bloggers- Mama Pea!

When I saw that she had a recipe for ‘copy cat’ Clif Z bars, I knew I HAD to try it!

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Not only does this recipe use all natural & pretty healthy ingredients, I also found it VERY easy to make!

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I figured the kids at Bible study would enjoy them, because what kid doesn’t like chocolate?! Smile And they were something that I would want to feed Gabriella in the future. They are healthy, but the kids don’t have to know it! As long as they taste good, that’s all that matters!

Copy Cat Clif Z Bars

(Adapted from Mama Pea’s recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups oat flour (old fashioned oats ground in a food processor)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 & 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 & 1/4 cups unsweetened Almond milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup chocolate chips, divided
  • 2 tsp coconut oil

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or spray an 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine oats, oat flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine applesauce, vanilla and milk.
  • Add applesauce mixture to oat mixture and stir until just combined. Add brown sugar. Fold in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.
  • Pour mixture into baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until bar is set and pulling away from edge of pan.
  • Allow to cool completely before cutting into kid-sized bars.
  • For chocolate drizzle, place 1/4 cup of chocolate chips in a resealable plastic bag and microwave in 30 second increments, kneading bag until chocolate has melted.
  • Add coconut oil to melted chocolate and knead again.
  • Snip a tiny corner of the bag with a pair of scissors. Pipe chocolate across cooled bars and stick bars in fridge or freezer to allow chocolate to set, if desired.
  • Store remaining bars in the fridge.

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Easy, peasy!! And you know what?? I thought they tasted EVEN better than the actual Clif Z bars!

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They were a hit with the kids and the adults! I kept taking little bites of the extra bars that I made, I couldn’t keep my hands off of them.

From now on I’ll be making my own Clif Z Bars! They are freezer friendly & perfect for a snack on the go!

If you like Z bars, you MUST make these!!

I hope that most of you have a short week this week, or at least a break in the middle of the week! Smile My boss actually gave us a half day on Wednesday & off both Thursday & Friday! We are planning a trip to Jacksonville for the long weekend- we have LOTS of people to visit & things to do. I can’t wait!!

Any fun plans to look forward to for the 4th of July?

Favorite granola bar??

Andes Crème de Menthe Cookie Bars

Things are looking up around here!

I had my doctor appointment yesterday & good news: nothing but a flare! All of the results from the tests they ran just showed a ‘normal’ flare, no infection or parasites. (<—Gross, but one thing they tested for)

The other good news is that my new medication is really kicking in! This past week I have felt like my old self (*knock on wood*) & only continue to feel better. Thank you all again for all of the kind comments, emails & thoughts and prayers my way. MUCH MUCH appreciated! ❤

Anyways, remember that new wine I showed you on Tuesday? Apothic Rose.

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Verdict? Not a fan. I was bummed. It was too sweet for me and had a weird after taste.

But, I’m not one to waste wine.

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So I finished my small glass & that was enough for me. I’ll have to find someone that enjoys it. (& No, Mom, this wouldn’t be sweet enough for you…even though it is extremely sweet. I know how you like your sugar water wine. 😉 )

While I was drinking my wine,  I decided to bake. I have three ways that I like to unwind or de-stress: Running (or any form of working out), Drinking wine & Baking. So after the crazy day on Tuesday I was ALL about finding something good to bake. I also wanted to surprise Craig with a treat when he got home from his trip.

I had some chocolate mint baking chips and thought about making cookies with them, but I didn’t feel like having to make a bunch of batches of them. So instead I decided to make cookie bars!

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Andes Crème de Menthe Cookie Bars
(recipe adapted from here)

Yield: Approximately 20 bars (depending on your cut size 🙂 )

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
– 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
– 1/2 cup white sugar
– 1 tsp. baking soda
– 1 tsp. baking powder
– 2 tsp. vanilla extract
– 2 eggs
– 1 package (10 oz.) Andes Crème de Menthe baking chips
– 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and set aside.
2. In a large bowl beat butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extra & eggs until mixed.
3. Stir in baking chips and then flour. Mix well, until combined.
3. Pour cookie dough into the 9 x 13 inch pan. The dough may be kind of thick, I just sprayed a fork with cooking spray & spread the dough out in the pan so that it was even throughout.

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4. Bake for 25 minutes, or until knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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Craig is a HUGE mint chocolate chip fan and these were right up his alley! As soon as he walked in the door he ate three bars. He loved them! I had a bite of one (mint chocolate isn’t really my thing), and I really liked them too. I really like baking with brown sugar, I think it adds such a good flavor over regular white sugar. Just gives it a boost, if ya know what I mean. 😉

I sent the rest of the bars in with Craig to work and he said they were gone almost immediately! I would say this recipe is a WIN! 😀

Well, I’m off, I have some reading to do for my first Bible study meet up! A group of ladies and I are starting this new study (based on the book ‘Tune In’) and we are meeting every Thursday morning. The kids will be upstairs with babysitters & the Moms will be downstairs discussing the book. I . CANNOT. WAIT!

Enjoy your Thursday!!

Questions for ya:
– Are you a mint chocolate lover? Favorite mint chocolate chip food?
– Are you reading any books right now??

Grandma’s Visit & Crock Pot Dessert Cake Recipe

Well hello there! Long time no talk.

Sorry this week has been a little crazy. (Sometimes I feel like I say that every week, maybe I should say crazy month instead. 😉 ) I thought Gabriella had a possible ear infection. Whenever she would nurse, she would tug on her ears. I figured it was just part of the teething process or maybe she was just discovering her ears…OR that it was an ear infection. She had no other symptoms, but I wanted to get her checked out just in case.

I took her to the doctor this morning, and everything went well. She is A-OK! Yay!

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…and right back to her old self. 😉

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I knew she was probably fine, but it makes this Momma feel better to know that she really is ok.

This past weekend Gabriella had a special visitor.

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Grandma!

We flew Craig’s Mom in for a long weekend for her mother’s day present. We knew it would be the perfect present, since I know she loves seeing Gabriella…and living in Maryland they don’t get to see her often, other than through Skype.

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We had a really fun time having her here, and Gabriella showed her all of the things that she has been up to lately. Like playing in her new kiddie pool…

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Swinging at the park (probably her very favorite thing right now)…

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Jumping in her Jumperoo, (<—LOVES that thing…and life saving for Mommy 😉 )

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Rooting for the Orioles, (in Craig’s Jim Palmer shirt from when he was a baby)

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& of course watching other kids at the pool.

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She LOVES watching other children. It’s the cutest thing. She will just stare at them, smile, laugh & coo. I have a feeling we have a little social butterfly on our hands.

On Saturday we watched the Preakness and we all picked our horses. Gabriella even chose one, Mylute, who ended up coming in third! Girl has gambling in her blood. 😀

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I also attempted to make a ‘Black Eyed Susan’ drink, which is the drink of the Preakness.

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It wasn’t exact, I couldn’t find all of the ingredients, but it was a mixture of orange vodka, clear rum, orange juice & fresh pineapple juice. It was quite flavorful, and you couldn’t taste the alcohol, which is always a sign of a good drink. 😉

I figured we would top the weekend off with a recipe that I found on Pinterest for a crock pot recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Cake.

Below is my version of the recipe, the original recipe is linked above!

Crock Pot Peanut Butter Lava Cake

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Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Truvia baking blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon unsweetened apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate topping:
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup Truvia baking blend
1 cup boiling water

Optional:
Vanilla Ice cream or frozen yogurt
Melted peanut butter

Directions:
1. Use a 4-quart slow cooker coated well with cooking spray.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup Truvia baking blend, baking powder and salt.
3. In the microwave, melt peanut butters for about 30 seconds, and then add to the mix along with milk, apple sauce and vanilla. Stir really well to combine. Spread this mixture into the bottom of your slow cooker.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together cocoa powder, the remaining 1/4 cup Truvia baking blend, and 1 cup boiling water (be careful!) Pour this evenly over the peanut butter batter in your cooker.
5. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours (or high for 2-4 hours), or until the top has set and an inserted toothpick (into the cake–underneath the cake is molten chocolate) comes out clean. Let the cake sit uncovered in an unplugged crockpot for about 20 minutes, then serve warm in dessert bowls, top with ice cream & melted peanut butter, if desired.

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I recommend the ice cream & peanut butter…it’s like the cherry on top. 😉

We all had a really good time, I wish our families were not so far away. I would LOVE for us all to get together more often. Gabriella does too.

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She would love to have someone else to stare at the grass with her.

NEW workout coming soon!! I just did it & I think you will really like it.

Any other Preakness watchers out there?? Did you pick a horse? How did you do?

I picked Departing…no idea how it did. Not too well I am guessing.

Favorite crock pot recipe? I need some more, crock pot cooking makes life SO MUCH easier! I have a ton on Pinterest, but would love some recommendations for recipes that you have tried & love.

Brown Butter Peanut Butter M&M Blondies

Good Morning!

I have come to realize that my blog has slowly turned into more of a Mommy blog. I apologize, kind of, for that. You see whenever you have children, they do turn into a HUGE part of your life. So it’s hard to NOT talk about Gabriella whenever I write a post. I also realize that not everyone is interested in what my daughter is up to on a daily basis. 😉

But I will do my best to try to mix it up a bit more- with some recipes & workouts. I have a whole list of workouts that I have made up, I just haven’t put them on here yet. They are coming!

Today I have a recipe to share with you. It’s not my own, it’s from one of my favorite baking websites that I have mentioned on here many times…Sally’s Baking Addiction. Trust me, just one look on her site & you will want to make EVERYTHING.

To be honest, I really don’t bake often, only because it’s just Craig & I and the last thing we want is a bunch of sweets laying around. But this week we have guests, my in laws are in town, and I always like to have some kind of goody! 🙂

After spotting some Easter M&M’s in the store this past weekend, I knew I had to find a recipe to use them in.

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After searching around on Sally’s site, I found THE recipe- Brown Butter Pretzel M&M Blondies. Now, I was wondering after reading the recipe what kind of impact the brown butter actually made. Let me tell you, it’s HUGE. Seriously. You MUST brown the butter. It gives the blondies SO MUCH FLAVOR. I really had no idea what a difference browning butter makes to the flavor of butter.

The only thing that I changed about the recipes was the I used peanut butter M&M’s instead of the pretzel M&M’s. And to be completely honest, the only reason was because Craig & I did a number on the bag of pretzel M&M’s that I had. Oops 😉

Brown Butter Peanut Butter M&M Blondies

makes 16 blondies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter M&M’s

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly. Remove from heat immediately when the butter begins to turn brown (about 6 minutes). Pour browned butter into large mixing bowl. Stir in brown sugar. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×8 square baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. To the cooled down butter/sugar mixture, stir in egg and vanilla extract. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in peanut butter M&Ms.
  4. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Allow blondies to cool for at least 1 hour and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Notes

RECIPE SOURCE: sallysbakingaddiction.com

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These were FANTASTIC!! Like I said before, the browned butter is KEY!

And of course, because I CANNOT go a post without a Gabriella photo…I had to show you what she did when I put the blondies next to her, she was longingly looking at them.

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(PLEASE notice her belly button. It’s mandatory 😉 )

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Poor girl wanted to try one SO bad.

Then she got mad at me because I wouldn’t let her have one, and look what she did. Knocked them RIGHT over. Notice that hand mid swing.

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That’s the it wasn’t me Mommy! look.

Love that girl to pieces.

If you are looking for an Easter dessert, I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend these. I think they would be a hit with anyone, which is sometimes hard to find with a dessert.

Have a great Thursday…some of you may have off tomorrow- ENJOY!! 🙂

Sunday Dinner + Whipped Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Pie

Boy do I have a treat for you guys today. I promise it will banish those Monday blues.

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But before I get to that…let me tell you about our dinner last night.

On occasion Craig’s Italian roots really show. For example, he loves pasta. But not just any pasta, Craig LOVES just plain pasta. I think it’s odd, but I make it for him when I’m not hungry for dinner, or when he’s having a rough day. He likes it that much. I other on the other hand need some kind of sauce with it.

Another thing is that he is obsessed and I mean OBSESSED with Italian movies- Goodfellas & The Godfather. I know most guys are, but he is EXTREME. He will quote both movies (well, all of The Godfather movies) LINE BY LINE. He says he can relate things growing up to the movie…not quite sure what that means, considering all of the blood & guts…but hey, whatever floats his boat. 😉

Recently he decided that he wanted to create a new tradition for our little family of three. Big Sunday dinners. But not just any type of dinner, an Italian dinner. Full of pasta, bread, cheeses, you get the picture.

It works out because we usually eat a big breakfast, skip lunch & then have a large dinner. So then we have plenty of room for a feast!

We started it last Sunday, with the Rigatoni Pasta Pie.

This Sunday was another type of pasta- Crunchy Oven Fried Cheese Ravioli.

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I will not be surprised if I immediately get a phone call, email or comment on this post as to WHY on earth I have not made these for her yet. It is one of her FAVORITE foods to order out, and since she was just down her for a girls weekend with me & G, I know she is saying right now WHY didn’t Holly make these for me then?!! Well, Mom it’s because I just found the recipe & I do apologize, I promise to make these for you soon! 🙂

Now the best part of these is that they are NOT at all fried, as the recipe may imply. They are 100% baked! Gotta love a pasta recipe that is somewhat ‘healthified.’

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I followed Jessica’s recipe exactly- no changes were made. No need to mess with a good thing!

I served them, as suggested with a side of marinara for dipping.

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And because it’s necessary to get our greens with every meal, I made a side Caesar salad (with light dressing). Oh, and don’t laugh at my Valentine’s placemats, they are being replaced with St. Patrick’s Day ones tomorrow. 🙂

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Now onto dessert. I mean that’s the part you were really waiting for, right?! Isn’t that WHY we eat dinner, so that we can have dessert?! 😀 I know that’s what I did as a child, my parents said ‘Three more bits & then you can have dessert.’ Oh boy! It was like dangling a carrot in front of a horse. 🙂

This recipe was one that I just came up with on the fly. I saw a big container of Vanilla Chocolate Chunk Chobani in my fridge & decided to run with it.

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And then I got to thinking…which lead to pulling random ingredients out of the pantry and refrigerator. I swear I was just grabbing whatever sounded good.

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Favorite part about this pie? How EASY it is to make. It’s literally dump everything in, mix it up & freeze.

Whipped Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Pie

Ingredients:

For the crust:
-1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
-2 tbsp. vanilla chocolate chunk Chobani (or just plain vanilla Chobani)
-2 tbsp. brown sugar
-1 tbsp. smooth peanut butter, melted
-1 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

For the pie:
-16oz. (one large container) 2% Vanilla Chocolate Chunk Chobani
-8oz. Cool Whip
-3/4 cup chunky peanut butter (can also use smooth)
-1/4 cup light chocolate Silk Soymilk
-1/4 cup powdered sugar
-1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, optional
-Reese’s peanut butter cup, chopped (optional)

Directions:

1. Make the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9” pie pan. Take all of the ingredients for the pie & mix together well. I used a potato masher to really mix it up well. It will NOT be smooth, be course, but that’s how it is supposed to be. Bake for 5 minutes.

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2. While the crust is baking, take all of the ingredients for the pie EXCEPT the Reese’s peanut butter cup & mini chocolate chips. mix well in a stand mixer. I mixed everything for about 3-4 minutes on medium low. It was a nice smooth texture. I then poured in the mini chocolate chips & mixed it by hand, until combined.

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3. Pour the pie mixture into the baked pie crust. Top with chopped Reese’s’ if desired. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

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I drizzled melted peanut butter & chocolate syrup over the top….makes for a prettier picture 🙂

**Notes about the pie: ”
-The is PLENTY of filling, it will almost look like too much, but it should JUST fit in the 9” pie pan. It may look like it is about to overflow, but it end up all fitting in the crust.
-I recommend that you like Greek yogurt if you decide to make this pie. Since it is a main ingredient, it definitely does taste like Greek yogurt. Just a heads up!

Now I do NOT normally make dessert for dinner when it is just Craig & I. But yesterday I just felt like baking, and I thought Craig deserved a treat. I mean he does have to live in a household with two crazy girls. 😉

Poor little Gabriella is teething & she has been pretty fussy for the past couple of days. She is too little to use Oragel, so we are just giving her lots of things to chew on. Her favorite is my finger though, and she LOVES when I rub her little gums. She just smiles at me. Craig has been awesome with her, and I really appreciate it. I had to run a few errands yesterday, and although I normally do them with her, it’s MUCH quicker if I can run them without her. Nothing like a little chocolate &peanut butter to show him my appreciation. …the way to a man’s heart…;)

I hope that you have a great Monday, if you are working! For those that have off for President’s Day, ENJOY every moment!!