Arizona Vacation recap #1

This week it was back to the grind for me. Last week, we were happy to spend time doing various activities in Arizona. I know not everyone loves to hear how great of a time I had while they were here working away in cold North Dakota but I wanted to recap our week to make sure I had all our memories in one place.

I have to say that I highly recommend taking at least a week’s vacation every year. Taking 3-4 days off is just not enough. A week away really gives you time to reset, forget about work, forget about eating healthy, forget about working out and just enjoy living and experiencing things you generally don’t have the option to. For those of us in cold climates, I also really love going on vacation in February. This is the second year we have done it and it really helps break up the winter. Sure, we will still have cold weather and snow yet, but at least I had a week to break out those summer clothes. Although I am pretty sure I will have to get back on the healthy wagon to fit into those clothes again, ha! One nice surprise is when I was leaving for work on Monday morning, I turned around to turn off a light and was pleasantly surprised to see it was actually the SUN shining through my window! So at least our days are getting longer and we can enjoy some more Vitamin D.


Above is the golf course at the resort we were staying at. Such beautiful weather.

We flew out of Bismarck on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 12:30pm. The flight was lovely. We had a few drinks and before we knew it, we were landing in Mesa. My parents were on hand to meet us and take us to where we were staying. My folks rented a park model home for the month of February and had been to the Mesa area before so they are fairly familiar with the area and things to do. We viewed their home and resort and then were off to stay at our resort in a different retirement community. Don’t laugh! It worked out really well as my parents friends had just moved into a new park model and still had their older one for sale and open for us to stay in. Therefore, we saved $$ on a hotel and still had our own space. We also saved money by eating breakfast at home each day. It was wonderful and I’m so grateful to my parents for hosting and their friends for letting us use their home and both couples for carting us around and entertaining us!

Saturday – after viewing everyone’s resort and homes we basically unpacked, had dinner and drinks, played cards and enjoyed our resorts pool, hot tub and sauna facilities.


Lots of 7 Up 7 Down card games – fun!

Sunday – we were up and hit the Mesa Swap Meet, aka Mesa Market.This is a huge mostly indoor market open Friday, Saturday & Sunday in their high season, winter. I can liken it mostly to the commercial exhibits at the ND State Fair maybe? There are sales – food mixes, indoor furniture, rugs, jewelry, trinkets, gadgets, food, beer and live music. Almost anything you could want! It took my Mom and I HOURS to cover the tents of 900 merchants and 1600 shops!! I ended up buying a tank top, jalapeno popcorn, some amazing low-calorie bread (seriously loved this stuff) and beer.


My tank which I wore to the pool each night says: I Love My Red Cup Let’s Have A Party


I enjoyed this bread so much I took a photo. I think it was made in California? It was like 40 calories a slice and seedy which I like.

To refuel we hit up the nearest sports bar called Uncle Bear’s Grill & Tap. This was a wonderful dog themed place with their own dog-themed named brews. Bear was the owner’s lab dog so I was in love with the place and all the dog photos. They served nuts in a doggie water dish. Love those little touches. My flight of beer came on a dog bone paddle. I got the chicken street tacos and they were delicious! Later that night? More games and pool activity.


Monday – this was my husband’s birthday. I started my day out slightly hung over but determined to run my first ever double digit mileage outside. I struggled a bit for obvious reasons and texted my hubs to meet me on his bike for the last mile. (I should mention we got to use two bikes throughout the week and they were awesome to get around the area!) I finished a little over 10 miles a bit sore in my hips but super happy! Maybe I’ll work up to some more miles this summer?


We decided to go to the local clubhouse to celebrate his birthday lunch. The restaurant is called Fat Willy’s – they have a good half dozen locations in the valley area and it was a fun, laid back atmosphere. They have an excellent happy hour and daily specials. All burgers were on special so I got a California burger with guacamole. It was wonderful. I was able to sneak off and request a dessert birthday treat of apple crisp for my man.


Later that day we went to the market in Mesa. I’m not sure what they are called but they are like little Farmer’s Markets dotted everywhere. Food is SO cheap there. I suppose it because they have access to locally (maybe Mexico) grown fruits and veggies? We are talking 3 lbs. of strawberries for $1! 3 heads of broccoli for $1. 5 heads of lettuce for $1! It was insane. I’d probably eat so many fruits and veggies if I lived there. We were also able to get locally homemade soft tortillas as we were treating all our hosts to a homemade taco bar that night. Best tortillas of my life. Super thin but very strong. Stuff dreams are made of. I must also mention most of the “regular” groceries (the local place we went to was Fry’s and I LOVE that store – I have a thing for grocery stores I guess) were quite a bit cheaper than here. A gallon of milk was $1.99 compared to $4+ here. They do seems to have a lot of dairy farms in AZ. Beer was quite a bit cheaper – $20 for a 30-pack versus $24 for 24-pack here for light beer. Maybe I am sheltered but I was surprised at the price differences on most items.

We hung out at the pool at my folks and then prepared a big taco spread and played more games with everyone. I think we went home and probably hit up the pool – you might sense our evening theme?


I made a fresh batch of pico with all the cheap onions and peppers and guacamole was only $0.50!!


How fun is this tank my Mom scored for my husband at the swap meet? LOL!

This is already getting kind of long so I’ll be back soon with the next few days recap! I hope you enjoy reading along with our travels.

Posted in Feisty Eats, FeistyLife, Misc | Leave a comment

Broccoli with Garlic, Bacon and Parmesan

I love veggies and eat them for every lunch and supper. I could probably easily eat steamed broccoli every night and not get sick of it. But I know my husband might not be as happy with that. When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to give it a shot and we both liked it.

BroccoliWithGarlicBaconParmesanCheese2 (2)

I mean if you add bacon, garlic and cheese to almost anything why wouldn’t it be even better?


Broccoli with Garlic, Bacon & Parmesan, adapted from Taste of Home

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bunches broccoli (about 2.5-3 pounds), stems removed, cut into florets
  • 6 thick-sliced venison bacon strips, chopped (could sub regular or turkey bacon)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 7 to 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (less if you don’t care for spicy)
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Fill a 6-qt. stockpot two-thirds full with water; add salt and bring to a boil. In batches, add broccoli and cook 2-3 minutes or until broccoli turns bright green; remove with a slotted spoon.
  2. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Discard drippings.
  3. Add oil to skillet; heat over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook and stir over medium heat 2-3 minutes or until garlic is tender (do not allow to brown). Add broccoli; cook until broccoli is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in bacon; sprinkle with cheese. Yield: 6-8 servings.


The garlic and red pepper really add to broccoli. Even without the bacon this would be good.


Freshly grated parmesan tops off the dish.


I served our broccoli alongside a seriously good wrap for a healthy supper.


Enjoy this tasty side dish!

Posted in Sides, Veggie | 2 Comments

Chili Cheese Fries

Often times my husband will have friends over at the drop of a hat and they will be visiting away out in the garage. They are always working on one project or another it seems like. I usually feel like I should provide these hard workers with a snack. So here is an easy method you can use to whip up a man pleasing appetizer using stuff you might have on hand. 


Frozen seasoned potato wedges, leftover (or canned) chili is dressed up with some cheese and fresh onions.


Easy Chili Cheese Fries

  • A few servings of frozen potato wedges
  • Leftover chili (I used pepperoni pizza chili)
  • Cheese
  • Green onions

Bake frozen potatoes according to package instructions. Remove from oven and top with chili – bake another 8 minutes. Remove, top with cheese and bake until cheese melts. Top with green onions. Serve.


Bake your frozen potatoes first so they get cooked through and crisped up. Top with your leftover chili and bake to warm through. Finally top with cheese and bake just a few more minutes until it melts. Top with green onions if you like.


If you don’t have any leftover chili – feel free to use canned, leftover sloppy joe mixture or even just sautéed veggies. Make it your own!



Posted in Appetizer, Main Dish | 1 Comment

Almond White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I big puffy heart LOVE almond tasting desserts. I had to buy a new bottle of almond extract and the box had a recipe on the back for cookies that sounded delicious. I took what I had on hand and slightly altered the recipe to make it my own. The results were a perfectly butter crisp cookie on the edges and super soft on the inside. My favorite type of cookie. They are studded with toasted crisp almonds and white chocolate chips. Both my husband and I loved these.

AlmondWhiteChocolateChipCookies2 (2)

Sometimes a chocolate chip cookie just doesn’t cut it, you know? It’s nice to switch it up.


Almond White Chocolate Chunk Cookies via McCormick

Ingredients for about 4 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups four
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 12 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 2 oz. sliced almonds, toasted


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add eggs and almond extract; mix well, another 3 minutes or so. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Stir in chocolate and almonds.
  2. Drop by heaping tablespoons about 1 inch apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet 4 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.


Before baking and after.


I love you, cookies!


And I tried to get a shot of the inside – super rich and soft.



Posted in Baking, Cookies, Dessert | Leave a comment

Easy Cheese Buttons

Generally my husband eats whatever I make us for dinner. He is fairly easy to please. Lately though, he was requesting cheese buttons. His dad and grandma used to make them using cottage cheese or eggs. And truth be told, I didn’t want to do the work. Luckily, I remembered that my virtual friend, Prairie Californian, had posted a lazy way to make this sturdy German main dish. I used her recipe and added a few things to suit what I had on hand and my husband’s tastes. I think they turned out great. However, I have never had his dad and grandma’s original buttons and I’m sure they don’t quite compare.


I topped our easy cheese buttons with caramelized onions with garlic, venison sausage and some fresh parsley for a pop of color.

Easy Cheese Buttons, just slightly adapted from Prairie Californian


  • 1 large (1 1/2 lb.) 24 oz. carton cottage cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder


  • 1/2 – 1 full pint heavy cream
  • 1 onion, sautéed in 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 – 1 lb. venison bacon, cooked and diced
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced


Mix all the ingredients for the buttons together in a large bowl. Place rounded tablespoons full of the mixture on a well greased baking sheet. Mine fit on two jelly roll pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, switching pans on oven racks at 10 minutes. While buttons are cooking, prepare sautéed onion. Place 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a pan, add onions and let sauté until caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. At the last minute or two add minced garlic and cook. Add cooked venison sausage to pan and stir to combine. Place baked cheese buttons in a 9×13 casserole dish, top with cream and sautéed onion mixture. Bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven, top with fresh parsley and serve.


In typical German fashion, these are basically pillows of dough. I find most German cooking to be quite bland. I prefer spice and seasoning. However, these buttons are meant to be simply seasoned with salt and pepper and elevated with the butter and cream. You could certainly skip topping them with bacon or onions, but I think they really add to the dish.


These are the buttons after they first cook. They puff up nicely, almost like cookies.


And here is the dish straight from the oven and then topped with parsley for a fresh bite and color. I only used a half pint of cream (that’s all I had!) but you could easily use a full pint.


Dig in – be sure to get bacon, onions, garlic and cream with each spoonful!


If you have anyone in your family that grew up eating cheese buttons, try this easier to make dish for them. They will love it. Enjoy!

Posted in Main Dish | Leave a comment

Swanson Health Products

Never say never. I am becoming the person I said I never would. You just never know I guess!? I always thought I’d never be giving in to eating chia seeds or using coconut oil. I get kind of annoyed at the hype behind these so-called health foods and uses. But, now I am that person. Oh well! I was lucky enough to be gifted with a $50 gift card to Swanson Health Products (thank you!!), so I wanted to share a little bit about that company and what I purchased for $50 AND a few ideas on how to use the products I purchased.

I have been using the protein powder I talk about below for the past few months. I had been ordering it from Amazon but I saw it was shipped from Swanson’s. So I thought why don’t I just go to their website and use them instead of Amazon? Swanson’s has quick and cheap shipping. They are primarily an online company but they do have a small store in downtown Fargo as well.

Swanson Health Products is a huge company. Have you ever heard of it? My husband actually used to work there when we lived in Fargo. But, the whole time he worked there I never bought a single item from them. It’s kind of crazy really. I wasn’t as much into health and fitness then and thought all the vitamins they sold was just a bunch of hype. Ummm, whoops. Kind of regret that now. Ha.

Swanson Health Products (SHP) – you can learn all about their history here, but here is a quick rundown:

  • Swanson’s is family owned since its beginning in 1969.
  • Swanson’s is a strong corporate citizen and supports many activities in the Fargo-Moorhead area, such as the Fargo Marathon and Special Olympics.
  • Dedicated to customer service.
  • They offer low prices on items because they are able to offer products direct.
  • Guarantees – SHP guarantees 100% satisfaction, money back guarantee and price matching.
  • Not mentioned online, but SHP employs probably around 400 people of many different nationalities.
  • I love the website – easy to see nutritional facts, product descriptions, and customer rating and reviews. Kind of similar to Amazon.


Pictured above is what I purchased – I describe each product below and how I’m using it.

French Vanilla Whey Protein – Jarrow brand – $21.99 for 2 lbs, 35 servings, I think Lindsay from Run Like A Girl actually recommended this product to me? From the website:

  • Ideal source of protein and branched chain amino acids for muscle development
  • Provides important immune factors for wellness
  • Ultrafiltered under low temperatures

I am trying to grow my muscles (it’s going very slow) and I like to take this extra protein at breakfast. I love meat and getting protein from meat, but not at breakfast. I like this mixed with yogurt or fruit, or in a smoothie. Some protein powders are super spendy and high in calories, I like the stats on this and it mixes in very well/smooth with food or drink. I also use them in pancakes. I believe there are some people out there who think cooking or baking with the powder makes it ineffective but I’m not one of those people. I mean I’m not exactly an Olympian so I’m not too worried about it.

Organic ground flaxseed – Badia brand – $4.99 for 16 oz, 30 servings. From the website:

Here’s an easy and convenient way to add omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to your daily diet. Badia Ground Flax Seed is certified gluten free and organic, making it suitable for most dietary needs. Flax has been widely used for over 100 years due to it being a strong, natural source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Use it to make breads or other baked goods, sprinkle it over yogurt or salads or add it to your daily smoothie. It’s a great source of fiber, too!

So far I have added this to my “healthy” cookies I bake almost every week. I can’t really tell a difference in them when adding the flax, maybe a slightly nutty taste? It’s quite mild.


Healthy Cookies

  • 1 cup oats
  • 2-3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Mash your bananas and add in other ingredients. Scoop into tablespoon cookies and bake on a Silpat at 350 for 15 minutes. Store in fridge.

I like to grab these for a quick snack or after a workout. They are really good sandwiched together with some peanut butter too. Also, unlike “real” cookies, these are not good out of the oven in my opinion. I prefer them after they are cooled off and refrigerated.

White Chia Seeds – Healthy Origins brand – $9.98 for 16 oz., 30 servings. From the website:

Chia was cultivated by the ancient Aztecs and was recognized as a “superfood.” Healthy Origins 100% Natural White Chia Seed is a whole food with a neutral flavor that blends with any food while adding a punch of omega-3s, fiber, calcium, antioxidants and much more. Add to cereal, sprinkle on salads, or even hydrate into jelly!

So far I have added this to my morning yogurt (see below) and smoothies. I love how it gels up and make the yogurt super thick. I’ve seen a few recipes for homemade chia jam and I definitely want to try that out.

Bonus – if you are vegan or allergic to eggs (or don’t have any), you can make a “chia egg” or “flax egg” by grinding up flax or chia and then adding 1 Tablespoon of chia or flax to 3 Tablespoons of water. Let it sit for about 15 minutes to gel together and you can use it for baking.


Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – Swanson’s Organic brand – $21.89 for 3 lbs., 109 servings. From the website:

Our Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is minimally processed to bring you the flavor and aroma of fresh coconuts while retaining all of the oil’s natural nutritional goodness.

This versatile oil can be added to smoothies, used to sauté vegetables or to replace butter in baking—even on toast! Take it out of the kitchen and use coconut oil in place of lotion or shaving cream.

Swanson’s also has a blog and lists 50 ways to use coconut oil here.

I have used this to sauté veggies. I love the way it smells and can’t wait to bake with it. Like any oil, it is super high in fat so use it sparingly.


Another way I have been using coconut oil is by using a bit (a little goes a long way) as oil for my protein pancakes. I love these cakes!

Protein Pancakes – make 3 servings

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • a few drops of lemon juice
  • 3 scoops Jarrow Whey Protein Powder, French vanilla flavor
  • Coconut oil to grease pan

Whisk together the first 5 ingredients very well. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Add powder and whisk together. It will be slightly lumpy, that’s OK. If you need to thin out the batter, add another egg or milk. Heat skillet over medium/low heat and add 1 tsp. oil to pan. My recipe generally makes 6 pancakes using 3/4 cup of batter per cake. I add oil to the pan every other cake. These store well in the fridge and reheat in the microwave to toaster. I like mine with syrup or peanut butter. Or both.

Chocolate Almond Milk – Blue Diamond brand – $2.99 for 32 oz., 4 servings. I ordered 2 of these. From the website:

If you need a dairy free alternative to cow’s milk, try Almond Breeze Almondmilk from Blue Diamond. This unsweetened chocolate almond milk is rich and satisfying and only 45 calories per serving. The American Heart Association has even certified this almond milk as a “heart-healthy food.”

I have nothing against dairy milk but I don’t drink a lot of any sort of milk. I like this since it lasts much longer than dairy milk. I use this in my smoothies.

I know another thing I could make using some of these products are the Energy Bites or Protein Balls that I’ve seen posted seemingly everywhere on the blog world. I feel like they could probably be called cookies? I mean most have nut butter, some sort of honey and oats. They are healthier than cookies but, really. I’ll probably whip some up using some chia seeds and flax. It’s nice to have those when in a rush or when I am hangry.

I’m already planning my next purchase from Swanson’s. I urge you to check them out. They have so many products, not just vitamins. I’ll probably be trying out some more of those hyped up foods like almond flour, brown rice syrup, trail mix, nuts or try out Swanson’s own Peak Performance line of protein powders and pre-workout.

Posted in Feisty Eats, Misc | Leave a comment

Fitness Classes

I’ve had a great 2015 so far. Since the New Year I have seen a lot of family members, got to visit a lot of friends (or made plans to visit soon) and I have tried out a lot of fitness centers with some new to me classes. Do you ever plan your ideal Saturday? I play this game all the time. Right now mine would look like this: Wake up early after a night of excellent sleep. Eat a healthy breakfast of yogurt, fruit and peanut butter. Go to the gym and take a fitness class and then have time to do some treadmill or weights work and wind down by walking on the treadmill and catching up on social media on my phone. Follow that up with a dip in the Whirlpool and a nice long, hot shower. After that would be a healthy lunch – maybe a wrap and some steamed broccoli and iced tea. Next would be a little exploring/shopping downtown. Finally, there would be some beer tasting and pizza and or nachos. All with friend(s) or family. I’d end the night playing games and/or having drinks with friends. I cannot picture much more of a perfect day. Basically food, fitness, friends/family and beer. All my faves.

I have had a chance to have a lot of Saturdays pretty similar to the one described above. I thought it would be fun to recap where I went and my thoughts on my experiences briefly.

Missouri Valley YMCA – Bismarck – cycle and then kickboxing with Nicole, beginning of January – Jan. 10 maybe?

Kickboxing: Cardio kickboxing uses easy to follow steps for a total body cardio workout!


I have been wanting to take a kickboxing class for a while. I have never before and even better, my co-worker (at a different location than where I work) teaches the class. I started out with a cycling class and it was great. Generally a cycling class has to be pretty bad before I say it sucks. I really like cycling because you make it your own. You can push yourself or take it easy. I have done both depending on how I feel. I took it fairly easy and then hit up the treadmill for a few miles before taking kickboxing. As the description says it’s cardio kickboxing and the instructor made it easy to follow along. Nicole was the instructor and she is spunky and fun. She incorporates cardio, plyo, Insanity moves and more. This was definitely a whole body workout. The floor length jumping burpees at the end were killer. I’d take this class over and over. The studio it is held in is super big, airy, lots of light and mirrors. Perfect for this class.

Courts Plus Fargo – Cycle – Saturday, Jan. 17

Cycle! This group cycling class is designed for all fitness levels. It involves various cycling drills that offer an exhilarating cardiovascular workout. 45‐60 min.


This class was packed, not an empty bike. I think it might have been one of the best classes I have taken. The instructor was just so great and had a great variety of tunes playing. Her name was Emily and I loved her attitude. Even better, I got to sit next to one of my sister’s friends so I even had a workout buddy.

Minot Family YMCA – Well Beats on Jan. 24 – link to my review

Cycling-Change up your exercise routine with a cycling workout. Join us for hill climbing, sprints, flats and so much more. Side effects include greater cardio conditioning and improved stamina.


Bismarck YMCA – cycle with Kat Wed, Jan. 28

Cycling: One of the most popular group fitness classes at the Y. No complicated choreography with easy to learn techniques. Intensity is controlled by you, making cycling appropriate for all levels of fitness.

Again, great instructor! Kat made the class and had great tunes pumping. She was constantly challenging us to go higher and further.

Minot Family YMCA – Well Beats on Jan. 31

Another Well Beats class at the Minot Y but this time with two awesome girlfriends. The gym is about 90 minutes from my home and I was running a little late. I still got a good workout. I stand by the fact that the virtual class isn’t nearly as good as the in-person class but it is great to have the alternative when the in-person classes doesn’t fit your schedule. The classes are not as long as advertised either so keep that in mind.

Bismarck Aquatic Center/BisParks – Deep Water – Sat., Feb. 14

Deep Water Aerobics – 45 MINUTES – a great workout, where the intensity is increased through the resistance of the water. Using floatation devices, you power walk or run with enough vertical space so your feet do not touch the bottom. Comfort in Deep Water required.

I went to this class with my friend Jen. It was great getting in the water, especially considering this day it was about –5 degrees outside. We wore flippers and used weights in the water. Super relaxing and fun.


In between these fun events I kept up my regular at home exercise and of course continued going to my home gym at Beulah – The Fit Club.


I love the quote below on the wall at the Fit Club.


Where I work we also have a gym. It’s kind of stinky and old but it works. Especially since I am a fair weather person and don’t run outside in the cold.


I have some more fun out-of-my-area fitness plans coming up and I can’t wait. I’ll be sure to share!

Posted in Exercise, Feisty Eats, FeistyLife, Misc | 1 Comment