Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls 4

I wouldn’t consider myself a cinnamon roll person. Not by any means. Maybe I ate one too many of those slightly stale vending machine versions as a kid (you know, the ones wrapped in crinkly cellophane that left you wanting to guzzle a big glass of milk afterward.) Generally though, I find cinnamon rolls can be very hit or miss.

But oh my oooey gooey goodness–these pumpkin cinnamon rolls are a whole different story. I’m not sure what I love most: the pumpkin spice filling, the soft and slightly sweet dough or the generous drizzle of cream cheese frosting on top, but the combo of the three has me sold on cinnamon rolls. They’ll not only steal the show at your holiday breakfast table but the leftovers (assuming there are any) will also double as dessert.

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Pastry-virgins, don’t be intimidated. The dough isn’t the least bit fussy–not like some other pastry doughs I know. Made with all-purpose flour, water, yeast, and a handful of other ingredients, the dough is soft and easy to work with–but probably most importantly, it’s hard to mess up.

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As it turns out, the only way to mess these up are to seriously over- or undercook them, the latter of which is totally fixable. I know because I made that mistake the first time around.

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What can I say. I have an irrational fear of overcooking things–red meat, eggs and baked goods in particular. So between that and my utter excitement to bite into one of these lovely little, cream cheese-covered rolls it was bound to happen.

Speaking from experience though, if you’re going to make one of those mistakes, undercooking is definitely the way to go–as is the case with most baked goods. Brownie bowl lickers and cookie dough nibblers, you know what I’m talking about.

These lasted about 25 total minutes in the oven, but if you like yours a little more well done, expect more like 30.

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Regardless of how well done (or not quite done) you like them, these cinnamon rolls will please even the pickiest of cinnamon roll fans this holiday season.

A special thanks to The Grain Foods Foundation for sponsoring this delicious recipe!

P.S. While we’re on the topic, DIY pumpkin pie spice, homemade pumpkin spice latte syrup, pumpkin-herb quinoa and delicious pumpkin pie bran muffins

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Simple Superfood Pesto Pasta

You guys know I seriously love my carbs. So it’s probably no surprise that pasta is one of those foods I frequently turn to for a quick weeknight dinner or a cozy, comforting meal with friends. It’s inexpensive and quick to prepare, not to mention totally, completely and utterly satisfying.

Especially when it’s coated in good-for-you superfoods.

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Lately I’ve been trading jarred tomato sauce for more satisfying, vitamin-rich pesto–particularly those made with dark leafy greens. I find pine nuts, cheese and olive oil give pesto a little more staying power than your average tomato sauce, adding a dose of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats to a comforting bowl of carbs. When I’m pressed for time and fresh out of the homemade kind, my go-to has been this Superfood Pesto from Three Bridges.

A San Francisco-based company with a delicious line of refrigerated meals, pastas and sauces made from fresh ingredients, Three Bridges prides themselves in making good-for-you convenience foods that are minimally processed, free of hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and preservatives and that are made with premium, natural and organic ingredients.

An Easy Way to Upgrade Pasta 1

Just the other night I used their delicious Superfood Pesto to make a nourishing meal for two (well, 4 if you count the leftovers) in under 20 minutes. While the pasta boiled away on the stove, I quickly sauteed some mushrooms and roasted a container of grape tomatoes in our little toaster oven. Once the pasta was done, everything, including the pesto, went into the pot for a good stir.

Let me just say, this veggie-packed pasta lasted about three minutes on the table. It was so tasty the hubs and I even licked the green flecks of kaley goodness from the bottom of our bowlsthe true sign of any seriously good meal.

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Whether it’s homemade or made for you, nutrient-rich superfood pesto is a great way to liven up any bowl of linguine and give it a nutritional upgrade in no time. Cook up and throw in whatever veggies you have in the fridge for extra good-for-youness! Oh, and the next time you’re pressed for time but don’t want to compromise health or freshness for convenience, definitely check out Three Bridges. (Shopping Tip: You can find them at Safeway, Target and Fresh & Easy)

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A special thanks to Three Bridges for bringing you today’s delicious recipe! 

Got any other tips for giving pasta a nutritional upgrade? Let’s hear ‘em!

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Elf for Health 2014

It’s that time of year again! Elf For Health is back for the third year in a row and we’re kicking things off today!

Three years ago Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean and I started this challenge to promote health and wellness during the holidays, a time when healthy habits tend to fall to the wayside. In years past, all challenge participants were paired up as elves to support and encourage each other during the holidays.

Lindsay and I recognize this is an especially busy time of year and not  everyone can commit to having an elf, so this year you’ll have the option of having an elf assigned to you, or participating solo. Regardless of whether you want your very own elf  or choose the solo route, all elves are welcome to join our awesome community on Facebook, as well as by using the #elf4health hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.

Challenge Details

What is the Elf for Health Holiday Challenge?
This is a 4 week challenge that will run from the Monday November 24th – December 21, 2014. The challenges fall into 4 different categories: Food, Fitness, For You & For Others. There will be daily tasks, daily winners, prizes, weekly newsletters, and a Facebook group for support.

What’s the best part?
You can be assigned an elf to support and encourage you!
When you sign up, you will have the option to be assigned an elf buddy while committing to be their elf in return. Elves are reassigned halfway through the 4 week challenge.

Sounds like a great way to stay motivated and meet new people over the holidays doesn’t it? 
Since this challenge is internet based, anyone can participate… no matter where you’re located! All you need is access to the internet and an email address.

Elf Duties

So what does an Elf do?
As an Elf, you are expected to support your assigned buddy with their holiday health goals and the daily challenges. Elves & buddies will be reassigned after 2 weeks so that hopefully you get to meet 2 new people! You are only asked to email your buddy 2 times per week:

Monday: Send your buddy an email to help them with the challenges for that week. Ideas of things to include/attach: your own personal tips & tricks, inspiring words and/or images, a new, healthy recipe or workout to try.

Thursday – Saturday: Any time during these days, check in with your buddy! For example, ask them if they tried a new recipe, workout, or had fun with any certain challenges. Feel free to tell them how you did with your challenges, too!

Anything more than those 2 emails is up to you but feel free to go above and beyond this to show your support! Just a few ideas: send your buddy Tweets, shout outs on our Facebook Page, email a fun workout you liked or send a hand written recipe or note.

Important Dates

Friday, November 21st at 11:59pm EST: Round 1 sign up deadline
Sunday, November 23rd: Round 1 Elf assignments emailed
Monday, November 254h – Sunday, December 7th: Round 1
Sunday, December 7th: Round 2 Elf assignments emailed; Round 1 “Best Elf” winners chosen
Friday, December 5th at 11:59pm EST: Round 2 sign up deadline
Monday, December 8th – Sunday, December 21st: Round 2
Sunday, December 21st: Round 1 “Best Elf” & participant grand prize winners chosen
If you missed the initial sign up deadline, you can still participate on your own, and by signing up before December 5th for Round 2.

Not clear about something? Email Elle or Lindsay!

Prizes

We have some fabulous prizes from some of our favorite companies to give to the winners.

  • 2 prizes for “Best Elf”, one awarded at the end of each round
  • 1 grand prize for best participant awarded at the end of the challenge determined by participation, hashtagging and being an awesome Elf.

There will be a daily challenge winner chosen each day. Daily winners will be entered for a chance to win the grand prize!

Best elf prizes will given based on participation and nomination. If you love your elf, let us know so we can consider them for a Best Elf prize. Best Elf prizes will be awarded at the end of each round.

Prizes will be provided by our 2014 Challenge Sponsors:
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Prize packs will include 3 months of meal planning from Cook Smarts, beautiful workout gear from Sweaty Betty, hemp seed protein powder from Manitoba Harvest, and more from Swanson Health, Love Grown Foods, Nuttzo, Cabot Cheese, and Sizzlefish.

Due to shipping costs, only USA residents are eligible to win prizes. But we’d still love to have you participate, even if you’re from somewhere else!

Challenge Calendar

Here’s a nice square image that you can save on the lock screen of your phone to remind you of the challenges!

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You can see more detailed descriptions on the calendar below and we’ll expand even more on the challenges in each weekly newsletter. See below for a printable list! Print it out and hang it somewhere to remind you participate, or add it to your Google calendar!

Sign Up

Want to sign up?! Fill out the form below.

We will be sending out a weekly newsletter reminding you of the weekly challenges so look out for a confirmation email to confirm your participation & newsletter subscription. If you don’t receive a confirmation email, check your spam box. If you still can’t find a confirmation email, let one of us know ASAP and we’ll add you to the list.

Elf4Health Sign Up Form

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Do you want to be paired with another elf?


Buttons

Did you sign up? If you’re a blogger, grab a button for your sidebar!

According to Elle
The Lean Green Bean

Follow

Make sure you’re following us for the latest updates, daily challenge reminders and winner announcements by social media.

Elle: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest

Lindsay: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest

Don’t forget to join the Elf for Health Facebook group, too! We’ll be posting pictures and updates there too.

Info Pages

We’ll both have Elf for Health info pages up and running on our blogs if you’re looking for the calendar of daily challenges, the sign up form, important dates etc…

Well, I think that’s everything. Let me know if you have questions! We’re SO excited to have lots of you join us for a happy, healthy holiday season!

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5 Adorable Instagram Dogs To Follow

Instagram Favorites Dog

Not being able to have a dog is one of the only downsides of our great little apartment here in San Francisco. But between our busy jobs and travel schedules, the hubs and I have conceded it’s probably just as well for now. Eventually we’ll have more time and space for a dog of our own, but in the meantime we’ve made several furry friends on Instagram to fill the void. There are so many adorable ones out there, but I’ve grown particularly fond of these five Instagram dogs whose owners are not only wonderful pet parents but talented photographers as well.

Consider this your warning though… Side effects of following adorable dogs on Instagram include frequent bouts of forefinger petting, cell phone smooches and the unrelenting urge to show them off to complete strangers who just happen to be sitting next to you.

From top middle to bottom right: 

@ifitwags (probably my all-time favorite)
@lilythewhippet
@archieandlexi
@thiswildidea
@harlowandsage (Sadly, Sage went to doggy heaven after a long, happy life so it’s technically Harlow + Indiana now. Indiana is one adorable sidekick, though!)

Have furry friends on Instagram too? Share your favorites below!

P.S. Five incredible Instagram foodies

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Slow Cooker Bacon, Egg & Hash Brown Casserole

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Slow cookers are truly magical kitchen appliances. I mean, really. No matter what you throw into it or how long you think you’ve overcooked it, whatever it is you’re making comes out freaking amazing.

Exhibit A: This slow cooker egg casserole that I completely abandoned on the countertop for well over 3 hours, during which time I nearly emptied the shelves at our local Trader Joe’s, made (and drank) 2 homemade pumpkin spice lattes, washed, dried and folded two loads of laundry, and fit in a 4 mile run with 2 rounds of stairs.

Whew.

It probably won’t surprise you when I say I nearly dove head first into this badboy after walking in the door from my run.

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This slow cooker egg casserole is like one of the easiest things you could cook and still actually be proud of. Eggs cook amazingly well in the slow cooker which makes this a perfect dish for a post-Turkey Trot breakfast or a Black Friday brunch.

The key to keeping it super simple is using frozen, already shredded hash browns. Yes–I used frozen hash browns and I’m not the slightest bit ashamed because, when they’re covered with eggs, bacon, cheese and green onions and slow cooked to perfection–who cares?

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If you must, feel free to brown your frozen hash browns a bit on the stove before layering them into the bottom of the slow cooker. I had to, so no judgements will be passed, but it doubles the work for no noticeable difference. You know why? Because all potatoes come out soft and delicious after a few hours in the slow cooker no matter what you do to them beforehand.

What makes this breakfast casserole different (and arguably better) is that it’s healthier than most! Eggs pack high-quality protein as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and all that bacon comes out to just 1  slice per person. Let’s be honest… that’s way less than I’d eat under any other circumstance.

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Here are three other completely awesome (and unexpected) reasons I love this crock pot breakfast concept:

1.  Eggs are an incredibly affordable breakfast option. Serving this for a big group brunch will leave more money in your pocket for holiday gifts this season.

2. Slow cooker egg casseroles free up your hands for far more important tasks like popping bottles for mimosas.

3.  If you’re down with having breakfast for dinner on occasion, this reheats like a dream in the toaster oven, perfect for those weeknights you’re too wiped to cook.

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A special thanks to The American Egg Board and The Good Egg Project for sponsoring this delicious post.

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