CostcoItems2

Every 3 weeks or so I make a trip to Costco to stock up on a select few products that we go through in larger quantities. Since there are only two of us, it’s important that we choose wisely what we buy at Costco. That means it either needs to 1) have a long shelf life or 2) be able to be frozen and thawed. This doesn’t include fresh produce, which I still purchase from time to time.

If you’ve ever been overwhelmed at Costco and not sure where to start, I thought I would compile a list of the healthy foods we love to buy there. Since Joe and I try to eat as much organic as makes sense financially, I’ve included a lot of organic items in my list. I find that Costco is one of the best places to find reasonably-priced organic food.

Dairy
-Cage-free, organic brown eggs (2 dozen)
-Organic Whole Milk (three 1/2 gallon containers that last for weeks!)
-Greek yogurt case of 15 (we usually just buy Joe’s fruit-flavored Greek yogurt at Costco)
-Organic butter (It comes in a 2-pack and butter can be frozen and thawed, giving it longer shelf life)
-Almond milk

Refrigerated Misc. 
-Pre-packaged guacamole (they have a couple different types, and we go through it quick in our house!)
-Hummus (lots of varieties to choose from)

Dry Items 
-Old-Fashioned Oats (two VERY large bags, we keep the bags downstairs and refill a canister for our pantry to save space)
-Kirkland Signature Natural Creamy Peanut Butter (two very large jars, the pb only contains peanuts and salt)
-Nut’N Better Natural Almond Butter (two regular-sized jars, contains only almonds and salt)
-Organic TruRoots Quinoa (4 lb bag)
-Cinnamon (we go through a lot of cinnamon so it makes sense to buy the big Costco container)
-Chia Seeds (they usually have great prices on large bags of chia seeds)

Frozen
-Trident Seafoods Wild Alaskan Salmon Burgers (these are so easy to throw in the oven straight from frozen for a quick meal!)
-Wild alaskan salmon or other wild frozen fish filets (we rotate between salmon and halibut most times)
-Frozen organic mixed berries (a very large bag for a very reasonable price compared with traditional grocery stores)

Fresh Produce
This is a hard category because the bags of produce are very large so we sort of have to pick and choose each time we go what we’re going to buy. These are just a few of our regular picks:
-Organic Hearts of Romaine Lettuce (a bag of 6 heads of lettuce)
-Berries (I always have good luck with the quality of their berries)
-Avocados (usually they come in a bag of 5 or 6 avocados)
-Broccoli florets
-Green beans (they usually come in a 2-bag pack and we go through them very fast in the summer)

Other
-Bread (I don’t eat much bread, but Joe has a lot of sandwiches for lunch. We buy a 2-loaf pack and keep one in the freezer)
-Nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc. – They store well in the freezer)
-Food Should Taste Good multi-grain tortilla chips (one very large bag, we eat them with dinner and for snacking)
-Beer and wine! (Okay, not really healthy, but they do have great prices so we shop there when we have larger parties)

Are you a Costco shopper? It’s one of my favorite places to stock up, but I try to avoid it at all costs during the peak weekend hours. What items would you add to this list? 

Madison

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A few weeks back I posted a photo of my new Fitbit Flex on Instagram. I got a lot of comments asking for my thoughts on the Flex, and now that I’ve had some time to wear it and use it for a few weeks, I feel ready to share my thoughts. I should mention first that my Fitbit Flex was given to me free through a program at work. We logged our fruits and veggies every day for 5 weeks and received a Fitbit at the end, which means a lot of my co-workers are walking around with the same green Flex.

Appearance
My biggest hang-up with the Flex before receiving it was the appearance. It’s not ugly by any means, but it looks much more sporty than the clothes I usually wear to work. I found that after wearing the Flex for a few days, I quickly got over this issue. Sure, it looks a little sporty but for work and play I don’t mind wearing it at all. Additionally, swapping out band colors is quick and inexpensive and I think when I get around to buying a grey or black band I’ll like it even more. Did you hear that they are planning on doing a collaboration with Tory Burch? I may be the first person buying a gold bangle for my Fitbit!

Comfort
I don’t wear many bracelets at work because I find they get in the way with typing and working on my computer. The designers did a great job with the Flex because it doesn’t bother me at all throughout the day. It’s amazing how comfortable it is to wear the Flex!

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Utility
Prior to getting the Flex I knew that 10,000 steps was the recommended number to get in a day, but I had no idea what 10,000 steps really looked like or if I was getting anywhere close to that number. I’m very active many days at work, so I figured I was doing pretty good, but I didn’t have any data to back that theory up.

My first observation wearing the Flex was how little things add up to big things. When I park at the back of the parking garage, take the stairs a few extra times, go on a short walk with the dogs around the block a few times,  it’s much easier to get to 10,000 steps. Of course, I knew this in theory, but I like having tangible evidence that little things add up. It motivates me throughout the day to take  walk around the building or take a short jog if I’m low on steps for the day.

The sleep function is one of the most interesting features of the Flex. You tap the Flex five times to let it know you’re going to sleep, and again when you wake up. In the meantime, the Flex keeps track of how many times you are awake in the night and how many times you are restless. It gives you a little recap each day on the efficiency of your sleep.

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Ease of Use
This is one of the strongest areas for the Fitbit Flex. Once you set up your Flex you can track your progress on your desktop at fitbit.com (as seen above) or you can track your progress on the mobile app that automatically syncs with your Fitbit via bluetooth. The desktop interface has much more information but I love the mobile app for convenience. Both interfaces allow you to change your goals based on personal preference.

There is also a place to log water intake for the day (a favorite feature of mine!) and your food and calorie intake. Since I already use My Fitness Pal, I linked my apps to streamline the process. The whole system is very easy to use and quick to set up, which I appreciated. It’s certainly not a product where you need to be super techy to use and enjoy.

Overall
I really love my Flex! It’s been so much fun to know more about my fitness and activity levels along with my sleep patterns. For the price (a little under $100) I think it’s a great value and I really enjoy using and wearing the Flex.

Do any of you have a Fitbit or something similar? I would love to know if your experiences have been the same! Love it or leave it? 

Madison

berry breakfast cobbler 4 | espresso and cream

I love breakfast more than any other meal of the day. We’ve been over this before, right? I tend to get pretty protective of my mornings, especially slow and lazy weekend mornings when Joe and I can watch the morning news and drink a pot of coffee together and eat breakfast with the sun shining through our big picture window. Although I love waking up early, even on the weekends, I don’t like to be rushed into action first thing in the morning. I’m all about having a little time to wake up and settle into the day.

If you’ve eaten dinner at my house any time in the last year and a half, the chances are pretty good that I’ve served you berry cobbler for dessert. This recipe from Sprouted Kitchen is one of my absolute favorite recipes because it’s easy, slightly healthier than a traditional cobbler and I always have the ingredients on hand. Usually I use frozen mixed berries in place of the blueberries and whatever Greek yogurt we happen to have in the fridge.

The other day I found myself thinking about that dessert and how fun it would be to have berry cobbler for breakfast. Since the base of any fruit dessert is, well, fruit, I figured it couldn’t be that hard to make a slightly indulgent yet totally breakfast-acceptable dish. And you know what? I was right.

berry breakfast cobbler 2 | espresso and cream
This Berry Breakfast Cobbler is going into regular rotation at our house, I can just feel it now. It’s perfect for breakfast, but Joe and I have also been eating it after dinner as a healthier way to ward off that need for something sweet at the end of the day. It’s packed with antioxidants from the berries and whole grains from the flour and oats, which add a hearty, earthy taste and texture in the best possible way.

Although I’m not one to typically use a lot of low-calorie sweeteners in my baking, I did sweeten the berry mixture with stevia instead of sugar to keep the calories in check and prevent this dish from becoming a morning sugar bomb in disguise. If you don’t want to use stevia, I would suggest swapping 1/2 cup of granulated sugar for the stevia in this recipe. I’m sure it would be every bit (if not more) delightful.

Berry Breakfast Cobbler
Author: 
Recipe type: breakfast, dessert, snack
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • Cobbler Topping
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup old fashioned oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 (6 oz) Greek yogurt (plain or some type of berry flavor - I used Greek blueberry)
  • Berry Base
  • 6 cups frozen mixed berries
  • ¼ cup granulated stevia (such as Truvia)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and baking powder together until well-combined. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your hands until the butter is in very small pieces and mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add in the Greek yogurt and stir until just combined (mixture will be lumpy.) Set aside.
  3. Toss together the berries, stevia and 3 tablespoons flour. Transfer mixture to the prepared pie plate. Sprinkle topping over berry mixture.
  4. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until berry mixture is bubbly and topping is browned and crispy. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

 

Cheerios Protein Cereal Treat Bar 1 | Espresso and Cream

As a food editor, I spend a good chunk of my days developing recipes for our brands. It’s a wonderful job, one that I’m so incredibly thankful for, and I love seeing the way recipes and food content can solve problems and provide inspiration for each season and family event.

But when it comes to blogging, lately I’ve felt quite conflicted.

It’s not that I don’t have recipes to share or food ideas, goodness knows I have plenty. But there are so many people sharing amazing food content that sometimes I worry that I’m just one more person adding to the chaos and noise. There are bloggers doing such inspiring work and magazines and food websites that continue to do one great thing after the next. I’m so energized by what they create that sometimes I can’t imagine what I have to add on this site is even worth sharing.

In those moments when I’m tempted to stop creating all together, I find focusing on why I create recipes or share personal stories on this space is the only remedy. I’ve long since abandoned writing for page views or sponsors or new followers (although, let’s be honest, they’re always nice.) I realize that my blog may very well be a small corner of the internet forever rather than the next mega site. More than anything, I write to share life and connect with other like-minded women (and a few men!) who are striving for the same things: authenticity, health, community, a deeper faith, and really great food.

It seems that the most popular type of writing voice on the web is one that’s witty, sarcastic and always chipper. I can’t tell you the number of bloggers I’ve met that are nothing like their online personas, and it always baffles me why everyone feels they need to fall in line with that type of writing. It’s so easy to start to believe that you need to write in that same popular style, but I for one and not all that witty in real life, rarely sarcastic and more direct than chipper. This is your free pass to hold me accountable if ever I seem to veer off course.

Brown Butter Cheerios Protein Cereal Treat Bar 2 | Espresso and Cream

I’m not sure there is any natural transition from authenticity in blogging to cereal treat bars, but this recipe is too good not to share. It’s everything I expect from a dessert: simple, delicious and easy to make. Working at General Mills the word “Rice Krispie” is completely off limits. I’m only sort of kidding, but I have found that my time there has given me a lot of appreciation for marshmallow bars using other types of cereal.

Recently I got a chance to take home a few boxes of the new Cheerios Protein and it didn’t take me long to realize the Cinnamon Almond flavor was the perfect base for a cereal treat bar. But of course I couldn’t stop there, I decided that browning the butter was the best way to bring out the flavor of the cereal. If you’ve never browned your butter before adding the marshmallows I would strongly suggest you give it a try. This little trick reaps so much in terms of flavor that you’ll never want to go back to making them any other way.

Brown Butter Cheerios Protein Cereal Bar
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, Snack
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9
 
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 bag (10 oz) miniature marshmallows
  • 5 cups Cheerios Protein Cereal (I used the cinnamon-almond flavor)
  • 4 oz milk or semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Instructions
  1. Place butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Melt butter and continue to cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes or until butter is brown and fragrant. Reduce heat to low and stir in the marshmallows. Continue to cook and stir until marshmallow mixture is melted and smooth.
  2. Stir in the cereal until well combined. Press mixture into an 8x8-inch square pan that is sprayed with cooking spray. If desired, drizzle with chocolate. Let set 30 minutes. Cut into 9 bars.

 

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I’ve mentioned this before, but Instagram has quickly become my favorite form of social media. I share a lot of food photos on Instagram, and some of those photos include meat now and again. And, as you can probably guess, it means quite a few people have questions about if I’m still a vegetarian or not. The short answer? No.

It’s been quite a while since I talked specifically about my food choices, and truth be told I’ve been on a bit of a food journey over the past few months.

Over Christmas and the entire month of December I decided to give paleo-style eating a try. I heard great things about paleo from a number of people and wanted to see what all the hype was about. As you can imagine, it was a huge shift for me having been a vegetarian for the last 3 years. After about a month of eating paleo, I realized that it wasn’t an eating style that suited me at all. I loved the focus on whole foods, but I really missed my grains and their filling nature.

What really sent me fleeing from paleo was the fact that I actually gained weight during that month and I felt sluggish. I’m not saying this to bash paleo in any way, since I have had friends who love it and thrive eating that way, but for me and my body it wasn’t a good fit. This experiment further emphasized what I’ve always believed: A one-size-fits-all style of eating just doesn’t exist.

After my experiment with paleo I was at a loss as to what was next. Go back to vegetarian? Eat completely without rules and restrictions? While I don’t really like food labels, I did crave some type of structure in my diet so going without any guidelines seemed strange, too.

I decided to go back to eating vegetarian 85-90% of the time and allowing myself meat when my body craved it or it was the healthiest choice available. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in an airport or restaurant and been stuck eating a baked potato or something similar in the name of being a vegetarian when, in reality, getting a grilled chicken breast would have been the more nutritionally-sound choice. It didn’t make sense to me to make an inferior food choice in the name of following a set of self-imposed rules.

The past few months of eating with a more relaxed yet mindful approach have been wonderful! I don’t eat much meat during the week, but occasionally I’ll have a hamburger on the grill or a little shaved turkey with my lunch. As always, the meat is more of an afterthought and the veggies are front and center on the plate. It’s freeing to be able to make the choice to include meat now and again without having to eat it all the time. The more I play around with what I eat, I have realized that all-or-nothing rarely works.

How do you approach your eating style? I’m curious if others of you steer clear of hard and fast food rules, too?
Madison

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