Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Baking my favorite banana bread November 8, 2017

Filed under: do it yourself — Heather @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,
bananabread

Delicious smells and tastes with this banana bread!

There’s something about the drop in temperature and the clock falling back that jump starts my cooking interest. Maybe it’s something to keep me busy while stuck inside. It sort of amuses me to suddenly want to cook only because I swear I should be super skinny for how often I forget to eat (thankfully my stomach growls pretty loudly!).

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But alas, I walked past some quickly ripening bananas several times today before finally stopping at my cupboard where I store recipe books. One binder holds many recipes I’ve collected over the years. Among my favorites is a delicious banana bread recipe. Amazingly, all of the ingredients were in my cupboards and refrigerator. This rarely happens so I’m going to chalk this up to kicking off a great week!

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I originally found this recipe on the Weight Watchers website years ago when I was looking for a semi-healthy version of banana bread (the recipe used the old points system so I’m not going to share any of that information). Sometimes I swap the egg substitute for shell eggs (like today because I’m out of egg substitute), the cranberries for dark chocolate morsels (no judging; dark chocolate is the healthy version!), once added nuts (didn’t really like) and another time left out the cinnamon (I forgot it, oops). My point is, as with most recipes, you can make it what you want. Here’s the recipe:

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp light salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup fat free egg substitute (or 2 eggs)
  • 3 medium ripe, peeled and mashed bananas
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, dark chocolate chips, nuts or any ingredient
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INSTRUCTIONS:
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

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Combine both flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Stir and set aside.

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In separate large bowl, beat sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed until sugar begins to dissolve, about 2-3 minutes.

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Beat eggs in to large bowl mixture. Beat in mashed bananas.Don’t forget to scrape down sides of the bowl. Remove beaters. Stir in flour mixture and cranberries (and/or other ingredients) with rubber spatula. Be sure to scrape sides of bowl to moisten everything.

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Pour batter into sprayed loaf pan, smoothing top. I lightly tap the pan on the counter to ensure batter is evenly distributed. Bake approximately 45 minutes or until browned – a toothpick inserted in center of loaf should come out with only a few moist crumbs. Place pan on wire cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then transfer loaf from pan to directly on rack to continue cooling.

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Cooled loaf can be sliced to enjoy and stored in plastic wrap at room temperature.

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Another idea is baking the batter in multiple small loaf pans (see my picture). I like these smaller, individual loaves as you can freeze for later, and this size is great for giving to family and friends. The cook time is a little shorter (usually 30 minutes for my oven) so keep an eye on them.

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5 activities for fun with girlfriends October 23, 2017

girlfriendsonwall

Sometimes simple fun is the best fun!

I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by kind, courageous, fun people, including a wonderful group of women who I call my good friends. I’ve certainly learned over the years that it’s not the quantity of friends but the quality of friendships that help make life meaningful and fun. I love spending time with these friends. And as with most circumstances, it’s not so much what we do, simply that we’re spending time together.

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One thing I look forward to during the cooler months is indoor fun with friends. Our activities of choice change a bit when the weather changes. Makes sense as we want to be outdoors to enjoy beautiful, sunny weather and move indoors when the weather isn’t so beautiful.

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I love spending time with girlfriends, especially lately as I’ve really built some strong bonds with amazing women. We’ve been talking about activities and plans for the winter months. Here are some ideas I’m working to put on our calendars:

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Ceramic/pottery studio: I recently went to a local ceramic studio with a girlfriend and had a blast creating a vase. I love being crafty and artsy so enjoy the opportunity to paint something to take home. It’s a nice time to relax with friends, enjoy girl talk and see what creativity we can spark.

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Painting class: You may think you aren’t an artist and can’t paint, but the popular step by step painting classes are really for anyone. I’ve even seen great pieces by children! These group classes are often by reservation so get a group together, choose the piece to paint and get artsy. It’s fun to compare paintings at the end because no painting looks alike!

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spinningclassImage

Motivate yourself with others!

Girls night in: Sometimes the best fun is hanging out at someone’s home, with drinks, food, movies, games or whatever, and girl talk! As much as I’m dreading the cold weather, I’m looking forward to inviting some girlfriends over, building a fire (a requirement with my new home!), serving snacks, pouring drinks and enjoying time with friends – perfect indoor fun.

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Fitness class: While not everyone loves to work out, many of my friends are willing to try classes if someone goes with them. And I’m usually ‘that friend’ who is game to try something new! Indoor cycling, Zumba, Pilates, yoga, boxing, water aerobics, whatever. There are SO many choices of fitness classes (almost too many) and it’s always better with a partner or three! I love attending Zumba classes for the great exercise I get while dancing to fun music, however, more so lately, I enjoy seeing the girlfriends I’ve made over the years of attending the same class. I even arrive early for the chance to catch up with them, and we meet for happy hour now too (when we aren’t sweaty!).

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Progressive dinners: These can be fun, simple events if you live in close proximity to your girlfriends. Someone hosts the appetizer course, you all move to another house for the main meal and then move to another home for dessert. Have 2-3 women take on a course so it’s more fun, schedule 1-1.5 hours at each stop, and enjoy!

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What are some fun activities you look forward to with your friends?

 

A few miles at a time reaches a goal April 9, 2017

bikeshoesGarminbottleSometimes our good intentions go….a little unplanned. For instance, I had plans to get up with the sun today, after a rainy, dreary week, to be on the bike trails so I could ride some good miles. However, those good intentions didn’t go as planned because I wrenched my back yesterday and could hardly move by the time I went to bed.

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So I woke up, iced my still hurting back, drank a cup of coffee and watched the beautiful sun rise in the clear, blue sky. And took some Motrin, rub a cream on my lower back and put on my biking clothes. I thought I could ‘just try it.’ If my back hurt too much on the bike, I promised myself I would stop. And instead of the planned 20-30 miles, I set a goal of five. Instead of the bike trail, I stayed closer to home in case it got too uncomfortable.

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You know what? My back felt great! I cruised through a new neighborhood I recently discovered, enjoying the early morning hour that kept the streets fairly quiet. My body felt so good that my Garmin registered 10 miles before I knew it. I decided not to push my luck and headed home. Off the bike, I was pretty sore so I showered, iced my back again, stretched, ran errands, ate lunch….and decided to head back out on the bike because my back was feeling a little better and had felt fine on the bike.

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So I rode another 10 miles. This time was a bit more difficult as the wind had kicked up Rubybikeso it took more energy and effort to get the miles done. But I did it. I got home, stretched my legs and back, iced my back. I relaxed, read some of my current book, talked with friends….and got back on my bike. This time I did stick with five miles! And admittedly, the five miles might have pushed my back a little too much. I’m pretty tight and sore tonight.

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But I’m proud that I was still able to hit my mileage goal. It was a good lesson of breaking down a larger goal into smaller, manageable goals. It was also a good reminder that we need to listen to our body as to what we’re able to do, be happy with what we can accomplish, and not beat ourselves up if we don’t quite hit the original goal.

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I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and accomplished whatever goal you set!

 

Riding into spring April 2, 2017

HHBike32017It was a long, physically tiring week. I pushed my leg (with a titanium rod) too much and the days of rain didn’t help. I felt exhausted enough that I assured my body a weekend of rest if I could get through it. And I had very good intentions to honor that assurance. Except then I didn’t. Because it was SO beautiful this weekend! Sunshine, warm temps, no rain, soft breezes. How can a nature lover be expected to stay indoors and not be active?? I needed some fresh air to clear my mind anyway.

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And Ruby needed some loving. Um, yes, Ruby my bike. It’s been a few weeks since we shared a ride so today seemed like a wonderful day to get fresh air, test Ruby’s gears, and stretch my legs. The great news is that despite my leg aching all week (I mostly blame this on the ongoing rain and chilly temps, not the heavy lifting), it felt fine while riding. No pain, no ache. And I didn’t completely beat myself up….I stuck with a shorter ride of 10 miles. I didn’t even wear my cycling shoes so there wouldn’t be any pressure on my leg when I unclipped from the pedal (although my brain must be wired to clip now when I ride Ruby because I caught myself doing the motions every time I came to a stop! I’m sure I looked funny to passing cars).

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I recently discovered a nearby neighborhood and school are great for biking. The school is empty on the weekend and has a large parking lot and straightaway so I like to do some loops as I practice higher speeds, turning quickly and clipping/unclippping (not today). The neighborhood is usually fairly low on traffic, which makes it safer for biking. It was wonderful to see so many people outside enjoying Michigan’s spring weather. Neighbors were doing yard work, children were playing basketball and riding bikes, dogs were lounging on the lawn. I love this time of year when people start venturing outdoors and become a community again.

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It’s supposed to rain again this week so I’ll be sure to give my body some rest time. As long as Mother Nature doesn’t change her mind……

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What fun activity did you enjoy this weekend?

 

Trying the coffee craze February 8, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 11:00 am
Tags: , , ,

keurigbrewingIn a kick off to my best year ever, I decided to finally kick my pop habit (yes, that’s what we call the liquid in the Midwest).

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I didn’t drink coffee so Dr Pepper was my daily caffeine. I usually had one in the morning, at my work desk, while I caught up on email and prepared for the day’s meetings and projects. I’d drink one here and there on the weekend and vacation. But here’s the weird thing – I only drank Dr Pepper so if the store/restaurant didn’t carry that brand, I wouldn’t drink any pop. At any rate, I know that pop isn’t the best for you (even diet pop is bad) so I decided to kick it. And I did. I stopped drinking Dr Pepper over the holidays and have drank only two since then (and I didn’t really even enjoy it anymore so didn’t finish those!).

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I also needed to cut back on my Starbucks Chai latte, which is high in sugar. Not to mention adds up in cost. I didn’t drink these daily but enough to note that I needed to scale back. So I convinced myself to limit the crave to once per week. And I’ve been able to manage that since early January (and it’s a yummy indulgence when the one time arrives!).

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So as I removed both of these drinks from my regular routine, what could I add in place when I need a pick me up? I drink plenty of water and have enough tea. I suddenly found myself starting to drink…coffee! I haven’t had coffee since I was 10 when my mom let us drink a cup on Saturday mornings while watching cartoons (keeping in mind that cup was mostly milk, a dash of sugar and some coffee!).

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Some people ask why start drinking anything new? Why start drinking coffee at this point in life? Good questions….but I didn’t commit to cutting out caffeine and can drink only so much tea, so why not? On a funnier note, several cycling friends said that many cyclists drink beer and coffee. I guess I’ll fit into the cycling community a bit better this year (whew, because you know I was worried. Ha)!

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I’m still figuring out my tastes. Dark roasts are too strong. A few of the light roasts are too….well, light. I’m on the fence on flavored coffees, although I like a hazelnut flavored coffee, but vanilla is a little strong. I definitely need a creamer or splash of milk. I like some flavored creamers but nothing too sweet. I don’t even want to know about ‘fancy’ coffees until I get a bit more settled  – OMG do I sound like an adult or what?? Geesh. Although, now that I mention it, I do feel a bit more adult-like, getting my coffee in the morning, enjoying the aroma and warm taste!

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What’s your favorite brand, flavor, way to drink coffee? I need some suggestions!

 

**PS. Yes, I recycle my K-cups. 🙂

 

5 ways to motivate yourself to be active January 25, 2017

fitnessmotivationblogheader

I kicked off the new year with a new fitness routine that includes cardio and strength training to get my butt ready for the list of outdoor activities that I want to participate in once the mild weather arrives in Michigan. As much as I like to be active and exercise, even I at times need some motivation. So I like to mix up my routine and activities when I can. Good thing there are so many fun activities to keep me busy!

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While going to the gym provides great exercise for both cardio and weight training, I get bored if I go too much. Plus, I frankly enjoy too many other forms of activities to be a gym rat. If you need a variety of activities to get you moving, consider some that I enjoy:

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biketrainer

Riding indoors!

Indoor bike trainer: I’m anxious to be outdoors riding my bike again, but the weather hasn’t been on my side the past few weeks so I just want to ride my bike. When I mentioned that to my friend, he offered to let me borrow his bike trainer (so nice!). It’s not the same as riding outside but it lets me stay comfortable on my bike, remind my bottom what it feels like to sit on the seat (!), and keep up the cardio. I set it up in my living room near the television so it’s a good excuse to catch up on some shows (hey, whatever works).

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Zumba: I love Zumba! I love the music and dancing. I love seeing the lovely ladies who are also regulars in my class. This class is for any fitness level as you dance to your comfort zone. You don’t need to be super coordinated or a great dancer. You can modify moves as needed (I do at times due to the titanium rod in my leg). I love my Zumba class because the instructors often play music that I can sing along with and the dancing keeps me focused so I forget I’m working out!

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Cyclebar: This fun version of a spin class offers good music, low lights and energetic instructors. While you can get a fairly intense workout, you really ride at your own fitness level and pace. So if the instructor says to ride an entire song out of the seat and you don’t feel like it, then don’t. There are some days that my leg is achy so I might not pedal as fast/hard as others. I’m cool with that since riding at my own pace is still keeping me moving. That’s truly the important part of any physical activity – keep moving!

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hh_ahweights

Working out with my trainer is fun!

Group workouts: I like working out with others but can’t always find someone to exercise when I can, who will commit to a regular schedule, etc. A local studio gym offers small group fitness classes with a dedicated personal trainer so I decided to participate (good accountability when you register/pay for a class). We meet twice a week to focus on strength training using weights, balls, bands, various exercises, and more. I really like my group’s trainer (she spunky, sweet and shakes up the exercises so it stays fun!), and the other women are motivating and inspiring. We laugh a lot throughout our class. If you don’t have this option of a ‘formal’ group workout, find a few friends who are willing to commit to getting together with you. I suggest agreeing on the number of days per week and the specific days/times you all want to commit to so everyone knows the expectations up front.

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Indoor walking: With the unpredictable winter weather in Michigan, I haven’t been able to walk or bike outside very much (it’s either snowing, sleeting, raining or bitter cold). But I like to walk so decided to check out the local indoor mall. I had no idea so many people walked at the mall! Window shopping is a great distraction (one suggestion: go before the mall opens so you save money!).

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I often have people comment that “it’s nice I have so much time to work out and they wish that they had the time too.” Guess what? I’m just as busy as the next person with work, volunteering, family, social life, and other commitments. But staying healthy is important enough to me that I make being active part of my lifestyle. That’s the trick – once it’s part of your lifestyle, you find the time. My friend gets on her treadmill at 9pm three times a week after her kids are in bed (she also bought a small TV that’s perched in front of the treadmill so she can catch up on shows. Good distraction.). My sister participates in a 5am class twice a week because it’s when she has ‘free time’ (God bless her because there is no way I could get up this early to work out!). I add my Zumba class and now fitness class to my calendar so it blocks off my time and sends me reminders. It’s really easy to make excuses to put off being active and healthy. So stop.

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What activities do you enjoy that keep you moving?

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If want to kick off your exercise routine while helping support people with cancer, join me on Saturday, Feb. 18 for a fundraiser to benefit LIVESTRONG – we’ll be having some fun at Cyclebar in Troy! This cycling/spin class is for all fitness levels (ride at your own pace). Riders receive a LIVESTRONG bracelet, Cyclebar water bottle and snacks. Register today!

 

Warm up with delicious chili and soups January 15, 2017

Filed under: do it yourself — Heather @ 7:54 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Winter weather is still finding its way to Michigan. When the temps are low and cold, I enjoy a warm meal at the end of the day. I try to eat fairly healthy, which means trying to cook more at home.

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I love using my slow cooker. It’s so easy to drop ingredients in it, go to work and come home to a great smelling home and food ready to eat. Something about cold winter weather makes soups and chili sound pretty appealing so those type of slow cooker recipes keep making their way out of my cookbook. These are a few of my favorites that I’ve made several times, with variations of my own.

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Chicken taco chili

I love tacos and chili so a combination of the two is a win for me. And this slow cooker chictacochilirecipe is a definite win in the taste and easy to make categories.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) diced petite tomatoes
  • 10 oz frozen corn
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 package taco seasoning (I use low sodium)
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder

Place all ingredients, except chicken, in slow cooker and mix well. Place chicken breasts on top and gently press down so chicken is covered by liquid mixture. Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6 hours. About 30 minutes before cook time ends, remove chicken breasts. Shred chicken and return to slow cooker and stir, then let sit for remaining time. Serve with whatever toppings you prefer (sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, cilantro, etc.).

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*Adapted originally from skinnytaste.com

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Chuck Wagon-Style Turkey Chili

I’ve made this Weight Watchers recipe many times and slowly have added my own adaptation of it to fit my tastes. It is delicious and filling. The only downside is that the original recipe makes only enough for one bowl for maybe four adults (and not really hungry men) so if I’m having company, I make a double recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound uncooked lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 15 1/2 oz canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10 oz bag of frozen corn
  • 3/4 cup barbecue sauce (I’ve used hickory, honey or Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1/3 cup canned tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Spray a large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium high heat. Add the turkey, break it up, and cook thoroughly. Transfer the turkey and any juices to a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and cook until vegetables are softened – usually 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low. Stir in additional water if chili appears dry.

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Vegetable soup

This soup is healthy and delicious (yes they can be both!). It’s easy to make and full of vegsoupgood things! You can increase or decrease the vegetables listed below, based on your preference. For instance, I like the shredded cabbage in this soup so sometimes add more.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 1-2  celery stalk(s), diced
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 2-3 cups green cabbage, shredded
  • 10 oz frozen corn
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp table salt or to taste (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional)

Add vegetables, broth and oregano into large pot. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to low heat, partly covered, and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to your taste.

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You can also use a blend of frozen vegetables for the soup. If you want to add a meat, I sometimes add cooked, diced chicken or sliced chicken sausage.

 

 
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