Surprise Muffins

This is a basic pancake recipe made into muffins. I bake them in mini muffin tins and put a “surprise” in the middle. My kids love surprises and think it’s SO FUN to find these in their lunch bag.


  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk (you could also sub milk with a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp oil (I used canola)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • Surprise filling: frozen or fresh fruit: blueberries, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, banana, diced apple, chocolate chip, peanut butter, applesauce, walnuts

Pre heat over to 425 degrees. Mix together the dry Ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together the wet ingredients in another bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir. Fill half the mini muffin tin with batter, add the surprise filling and top with more batter. Bake for 11 minutes.

*Sometimes I use one filling per muffin, while other muffins will have a combination of the fillings.

Sweet Talk on Sugar

Now that another sweet Holiday is over let’s take a look at the sugar in our day.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the biggest source of dietary sugar in the US diet. There has been a good amount of research on how soft drinks have a negative impact on health.

The questions that remain unanswered: Is sugar added to nourishing foods a health hazard? Is sugar added to pasta sauce (to make it less acidic) bad for you? What about the sugar added to bread (to help make the dough rise) — Is that a cause for concern?

Too many consumers fear foods which list sugar on the food label.

Sugar may be one ingredient in the food, but don’t forget to look at the others too. For example, cooked tomato products are a great source of the photochemical, lycopene. Bread is a hearty carbohydrate source and provides some protein and fiber. Chocolate milk has sugar (that refuels muscles) but it also offers protein (to repair muscles), sodium (to replace sweat loss), calcium & vitamin D to enhance bone health.

10% of calories should come from added sugar according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you eat 2000 kcal in a day, that’s 200 kcal from added sugar or 50 grams. This does not include sugar coming from milk or fruit.

Focus on limiting added sugars from foods such as cakes, pies, cookies, soft drinks, candy, pastries, ice cream, jams and syrups. It’s not that you can never eat these foods, but they should not be foods you choose to eat often, in large quantities.

Base your diet on fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, unflavored oatmeal, unprocessed meats, fish, nuts, seeds, milk, yogurt, cheese and drink plenty of water. Occasional sweets can still have a place when you start with a healthy base.

The Activity Factor

On average, a person accumulates about 6,000 steps per day.  If you have a desk job or drive around all day, you may be surprised at how little activity you get throughout the day.

Walking more has been shown to help prevent and manage diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It helps with weight maintenance and is also a great way to help relieve mental stress. Going for a 10 minute walk can help clear your mind if you’re mentally fatigued.  I also find it to be a good time to brainstorm. The next time you feel the need for a 10 minute break – go for a walk and reap it’s benefits!

Activity trackers, like Fitbit or Misfit (which looks more like a bracelet) are a good tool to have up your sleeve to monitor how active you are during the day.  Some track basic steps while some track your heart rate and monitor your sleep as well.

When I use to work in research, our participants wore accelerometers attached to an elastic belt. It’s FUN for me to see these things come mainstream where anyone has access to these tools.

My activity tracker is built into my Apple watch and its just something I don’t take off until bedtime when it’s time to charge it.  10,000 steps (which is equivalent to about 5 miles)  is a great goal from everyone to work towards (12,000-15,000 steps if your goal is weight loss). Try increasing your steps by 2000 at a time to start.

Here are a few things to try:

1. Make time for a 30 minute walk each day.

2. If you can’t fit in 30 mins, take a 10 minute walk once or twice a day.

3. Park father away at work or while running errands.

4. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

5. Every hour, get up and walk around for a few minutes. My watch will notify me if I’ve been sitting for 50 mins and suggest I more around.

6. If walking sounds too boring, turn on music and have a dance party!

Instant Pot Chicken Soup

This recipe (inspired by Jo Cooks) came in handy recently when I decided at 11am Chicken Soup was what was on the menu for today. Usually I would make this in the crockpot, but it would end up taking 6 plus hours. This was made in about an hour, just in time for lunch! I will say it tasted EVEN better the next day as leftovers.
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 medium carrots chopped
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme dry
  • 1 tsp parsley dry
  • 1 tsp oregano dry
  • 4 cups chicken broth (no/low sodium)
  • 12 oz chicken
  • 4 cups water
  • 5 oz egg noodles uncooked, (about 2 cups)
  1. Turn your Instant Pot to the saute setting.

  2. Add the oil and the onion, carrots and celery and saute for 3 minutes until the onion softens and becomes translucent.

  3. Season with salt and pepper, add the thyme, parsley, oregano and stir. Pour in the chicken broth. Add the chicken pieces and add another 4 cups of water.

  4. Close the lid. Set the Instant Pot to the Soup setting and set the timer to 7 minutes.

  5. Once the Instant Pot cycle is complete, wait until the natural release cycle is complete, should take about 10 minutes. Follow the manufacturer’s guide for quick release, if in a rush. Carefully unlock and remove the lid from the instant pot.

  6. Remove the chicken pieces from the soup and shred with two forks.

  7. Add the noodles to the soup and set the Instant Pot to the saute setting again. Cook for another 6 minutes uncovered, or until the noodles are cooked.

  8. Turn off the Instant Pot, by pressing the cancel button. Add the shredded chicken back to the Instant Pot, taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Garnish with additional parsley if preferred.

Taking a Sick Day

Seems like this has been a doozy of a year for sickness. Schools are closing for deep cleanings, Influenza is taking a toll and there’s a cough going around that last for weeks. What’s your Game Plan when you start feeling low energy, congested, sore throat, stomach bugs etc.?

First off, try to rest as much as possible. You want your body to be able to use all of its resources on fighting off the foreign invaders.

Second, fluids are important to replace those you may have lost due to vomiting or diarrhea and to help loosen mucus if you are congested.

There are some foods which can have anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties.  These include foods such as avocado, salmon, ginger, and blue, red and purple produce like berries and pomegranates. You could mix up a fruit smoothie (fresh or frozen) or make ginger tea to get in some fluids at the same time.

Oatmeal, bananas, and crackers are bland foods which are easy to eat when you’re not feeling well. Basic broths and chicken soup also taste good and can provide fluids, electrolytes and protein.

The steam from hot tea, as well as soups and broths, acts as a natural decongestant and help you stay hydrated.

Spicy food can help to clear up your sinuses due to the capsaicin found in foods like chili peppers which stimulate mucus secretion. Beware though as they are not so easy on the stomach.

Finally, please wash your hands with soap often. This will help keep the germs from spreading. Germs can get in your body through your eyes, nose and mouth.

The best advice is to take it easy and REST. Focus on fluids and eat as best you can. Soon enough you’ll be back to your regular routine and felling 100%.