Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese

By Katie, 5:59 pm

A healthy-but-still-delicious version of Mac ‘n’ Cheese? Yes, please! :-)

One that incorporates the creamy sweetness of Butternut squash? Even better! :-D

This dish has all of the necessary components of a classic Mac ‘n’ Cheese: creamy texture, cheesy flavor, the comforting feel of baked pasta, and the somewhat disturbing bright orange/yellow color. ;-)

And yet it is, without a doubt, GOOD FOR YOU!

It’s simple to make too! First you cook your butternut squash (either by roasting or steaming it), then puree it using your preferred method (blender, food processor, potato masher, fork, whatever!). Then you make a simple sauce by mixing the squash with a little bit of butter or oil (I used Earth Balance), flour, water, and some salt to taste.

Then you add your cheese – a little bit of shredded mozzarella and a little bit of cream cheese. You will be SHOCKED by how cheesy this tastes for how little cheese you actually use! 8-O

Then you just stir together your cheesy squash mixture, some frozen peas, and cooked whole wheat pasta. Bake for 25 minutes, and you’re ready to dig in!

So creamy and cheesy!!!

Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Adapted from Branny Boils Over

Serves 4

1.5 cups whole wheat penne pasta (dry – about 150 grams)
1 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp reduced-fat cream cheese
1 cup butternut squash puree
1 cup frozen peas (could also substitute frozen chopped broccoli)
1 tbsp butter or oil (I used Earth Balance)
1 tbsp flour
3/4 cup water
salt to taste

1. Peel butternut squash. Roast or steam until very tender, then puree. (I used a blender, but you could use a food processor, potato masher, or just a fork!)

2. Cook the whole wheat penne until al dente. Reserve.

3. Meanwhile, melt your choice of butter in a sauce pan. Stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 3/4 cup water and salt to taste, and stir until a pale sauce forms. Add pureed squash and stir well.

4. Add shredded mozzarella and cream cheese; heat until cheese is melted.

5. Add the cooked pasta and the frozen peas to the cheese/squash mixture. Stir well, then spread into an 8 x 8″ baking dish.

6. Bake at 350* for 20-25 minutes. Enjoy! :-)

What’s your favorite kind of Mac ‘n’ Cheese? The baked, homemade kind? From a box?

What I Ate – 2/27/2010

By Katie, 10:45 pm

Hi, everyone! I hope you are having a fabulous weekend! I had a wonderful day today, filled with delicious food and some quality time with my family. :-D


Well, I’ll actually start before breakfast. I woke up and immediately snuck in a quickie workout – Jillian Michaels’s No More Trouble Zones DVD. Such a good workout!!! (Including the Surrender – my arms were BURNING! :-) ) Afterward I enjoyed a super delicious breakfast!

This delicious bowl contained:

  • 1/3 cup oatbran, cooked in 1 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • lots of cinnamon
  • sliced banana (most added at the beginning of cooking, with a few slices reserved for garnish ;-) )
  • crumbled slice of Gingered Applesauce Bread with Dark Chocolate (so good!)

The dark chocolate got all warm and melt-y…yum! :-)

The perfect bite!


After breakfast Dave and I drove an hour north to my hometown of York, PA to spend the day with my mom and brother. We went to a wonderful place called Central Market for lunch and some food shopping.

Central Market is a landmark of sorts in my hometown. It’s been around since 1888. It’s filled with vendors of all kinds – farm fresh produce, meat/poultry/fish, baked goods, candy, crafts, and small restaurants. A foodie’s heaven! :-D

The market holds a special place in my heart; almost everyone in my family has tended a market stand at one time or another. I myself spent my middle and high school years selling fresh produce at this very stand:

Such good memories.

We enjoyed some amazing food for lunch. My mom had “the most delicious Reuben sandwich of all time” (her words), which consisted of pastrami, swiss cheese, “czarist dressing” (???), and house-made slaw on rye bread.

Dave enjoyed a very traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food: hog maw. You might gag when you hear this, but hog maw is basically a cleaned pig’s stomach stuffed with potatoes and pork sausage. Here it is before they cut off Dave’s slice.

I gotta say, most of the food associated with my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage is a bit less than healthy. :-? But I still respect it, even if I don’t really enjoy it.

I opted for a salad + soup combo. Check out this GLORIOUS salad!!!

This was incredible! In the mix:

  • spinach
  • pear slices
  • pecans
  • blue cheese
  • roasted wild mushrooms
  • ajo verde dressing on the side (not sure what this was…it was green and creamy)

I also got a cup of Tuscan spinach and white bean soup. It had spinach, white beans, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts.

I actually only ate a small bit of this and gave the rest to Dave…I was too busy filling up on that amazing salad!

Afternoon Snack

Some dried peaches and pears that I picked up while at market.


Before dinner we just relaxed and chatted. Nice shot of my brother and me. :-)

He’s currently sporting a wrist brace…not good, considering he’s an avid golfer and bowler!

For dinner we headed to a new little pizza and sub shop. My mom, Dave, and I split this veggie pizza.

I had this slice x 2. It was pretty good, but quite greasy…it required multiple napkins for blotting. :-|

I debated having a third slice but decided against it so that I wouldn’t spoil my dessert.

My wonderful mom. :-D

(Note to self: it’s time for a haircut!)

Evening Snack

Dessert was a lovely little tasting plate of sweets!

Two shortbread cookies (I only ended up eating one), and a delicious heart-shaped cookie with fig filling. It was so soft and buttery!

And a piece of homemade, creamy milk chocolate.

All-in-all, a wonderful and delicious day! :-D

Two questions for ya!

Do you enjoy the food associated with your heritage? I can’t say I’m into hog maw, but Pennsylvania Dutch-style chicken pot pie is unbeatable!

Are you a pizza-blotter like me? I often get some eye-rolls when I do it, but sometimes it’s just too greasy for me!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! :-)

Squashing the Green-Eyed Monster

By Katie, 5:33 pm

A friend of mine shared with me recently that she received a promotion – complete with a raise – at work. While on the outside this currently-unemployed woman smiled and expressed how happy I was for her, on the inside I felt a twinge of the green-eyed monster. :oops:


I admit it. I was jealous.

I hate feeling jealous. Envy is an uncomfortable emotion, one that leaves me feeling irritable and isolated in the very moment I should be feeling happiness and connection.

I used to feel jealous of others all the time (it went hand-in-hand with my bad habit of constantly comparing myself to others). Then I realized that my envy had absolutely nothing to do with the other person; it stemmed completely from my own insecurities. Deep down, the only reason I was jealous was because I saw myself in competition with other people, so their success made me feel somehow lessened or inadequate.

I couldn’t stop feeling envious until I gained greater confidence in myself – the kind of confidence that emerges from within rather than through comparisons to others.

While of course I still feel jealous sometimes (like when I heard about my friend’s promotion), now I try to combat that ugly feeling by cultivating sympathetic joy. Sympathetic joy is a feeling of true happiness for another’s good fortune. It removes the “me” from the equation and focuses entirely on sharing someone else’s delight.

Sometimes it’s easy to experience sympathetic joy, particularly when the other person’s good news does not pertain to one of your own desires. Other times it’s a lot more difficult: your best friend gets engaged when you’ve secretly been dying for your boyfriend to pop the question, your co-worker gets promoted to the position you desperately wanted, an acquaintance goes on your dream vacation (the one you currently cannot afford).

While those are the situations where sympathetic joy is most difficult to cultivate, they’re also the situations where it’s most important. Because who really wants to feel jealous, right? :-?

The next time I feel that twinge of envy, I want to try my hardest to replace it with sympathetic joy by remembering that happiness is not a non-renewable resource. There is not a fixed amount of it in the world and when it’s gone, it’s gone. When we feel sympathetic joy for another’s good fortune, happiness only multiplies. And that is always a good thing! :-D

What do you think about the idea of replacing jealousy with sympathetic joy?

Gingered Applesauce Bread with Dark Chocolate

By Katie, 9:10 am

I don’t bake very often. Why? Not because I don’t enjoy it. (I do.) Not because I don’t love baked goods. (I very much do!) I don’t do a lot of baking because I am the MESSIEST baker on the planet. Somehow I always end up with a smudge of flour on my cheek and bits of batter in my hair.

But sometimes getting a little messy is worth it. Case in point: Gingered Applesauce Bread with Dark Chocolate.

A few weeks ago Dave happened to walk behind me while I was blog-browsing, and what he saw on Bran Appetit! stopped him dead in his tracks. Brandi’s beautiful photos of her gingered applesauce cake made his mouth water, Pavlov’s dog-style.

Unfortunately Dave had a pretty stressful week, so I decided to surprise him yesterday, and boy am I glad I did! :-)

You will love this bread even if you’re not a huge fan of ginger; it’s subtle and sweet. Of course you could always omit it, but I think that would be a shame. ;-)

And you can’t go wrong with the chocolate! Just wondering is white chocolate really chocolate.

Gingered Applesauce Bread with Dark Chocolate
(Source: Bran Appetit!)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 350*.

2. Melt the butter and then set aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, mix the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

4. Add in the chocolate chips and chopped ginger; stir to mix.

5. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add the applesauce, yogurt, and melted butter and mix until combined.

6. Pour the wet mixture into the dry, mix until just combined (don’t overmix!)

7. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan.

8. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. (Be sure to savor the delicious smell coming from your kitchen during this time. :-) )

9. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Let me know if you try this one!

A Suitcase Surprise

By Katie, 8:03 pm

WARNING: This brief post is not exactly health and fitness-related. Although it just might put a smile on your face, and I believe that smiling often is an important part of living a healthy life. :-D

I’ve been looking for an excuse to share this video with you, and I discovered that February is Responsible Pet Owner Month! In the words of the oh-so-awesome Bob Barker, “Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

So today I am being a responsible pet owner by sharing my silly furry friends with the world! Enjoy this 16-second video: Domino’s Suitcase Surprise!

Do you have a pet? A dog, a cat, or some other animal? Do you exploit display them proudly on YouTube/your blog/social networks like I do? ;-)

Warning: This Image Has Been Airbrushed

By Katie, 12:01 pm

Perhaps you’ve seen this advertisement from Ralph Lauren, in which the image of a perfectly healthy model has been drastically distorted.


Or maybe you heard about the controversy over Self magazine’s cover image of Kelly Clarkson, which the editors admit to altering significantly via Photoshop.


And you might have come across this inspiring video from Dove, which visually illustrates the elaborate process of transforming the “raw material” of a model into a suitable billboard ad.

We are surrounded by images of women that have been airbrushed and Photo-shopped and altered like crazy to reflect the media’s definition of perfection. But is there anything to be done about it?

On Tuesday, the UK’s main professional organization for psychiatrists called for a code of ethics to be created to hold the media accountable for the types of messages it sends. The organization also called for a symbol to be placed on images that have been airbrushed, in the hopes of raising awareness that such images do not reflect “reality.”

One of the doctors calling for these changes said:

“Eating disorders…are serious mental illnesses. Although biological and genetic factors play an important role in the development of these disorders, psychological and social factors are also significant.”

The editor of a best-selling teen magazine in the UK countered the psychiatrists’ proposal by calling it impractical; where do you draw the line? She argues that almost all images are digitally enhanced in some way, usually to brighten the colors or improve the clarity. How do you determine which images require the symbol?

I think it’s an interesting debate. As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, I know how powerful media images can be; for a long time I had to avoid women’s magazines completely. On the other hand, we cannot claim that magazines and advertisements cause eating disorders, or else everyone would have one!

What do you think? Should images that have been significantly altered be required to carry a symbol indicating so? Should the media follow a “code of ethics” in its portrayal of women’s bodies?

(Sources: The Independent, Feministing, and Medical News Today)

What I Ate – 2/24/2010

By Katie, 9:33 pm

First and foremost, a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my momma!!! I am so grateful to have been raised by such a wonderful, loving woman. Mom – you’re an amazing person, and I love you so much!

I hope you had a wonderful Wednesday! My day involved a huge ENERGY OUTPUT on my part. We’re supposed to get more snow tonight, so I decided to double-up on my workouts today in case I’m stuck tomorrow.

FYI: I usually do not exercise twice in one day, or exercise for so long, for that matter. But with this being my first week of training for my 10-mile race, I really didn’t want to miss a run. At the same time, after my fun first experience with hot yoga, I also didn’t want to miss that! So I opted for both, and will be resting (and shoveling :-? ) tomorrow.

Ok, on to the eats!


I’ll be the first to admit my breakfast was boring. Cascadian Farms Multigrain Squares with skim milk and banana slices.

I try not to eat cold breakfast cereal too often because 1) it’s expensive, 2) it often doesn’t fill me up, and 3) I find it addicting and could easily polish off an entire box in one sitting! But since I was headed to yoga, I just wanted something quick and light in my stomach, and this fit the bill.


Hot Vinyasa absolutely ROCKED this morning! 8-) The class was packed, and my body felt strong the entire time. We did a lot of balance poses, which I love because they force me to FOCUS my mind. (Left to its own devices, my mind inevitably wanders…a lot.)

After yoga I needed to do some school work, but I wanted a change of scenery. So I packed a cute little to-go lunch. (In my Bento Box!!!)

Natural, crunchy peanut butter and Trader Joe’s Organic Superfruit Spread on a whole wheat Arnold’s sandwich thin.

And an assortment of snacky things. Grapes, candy grape tomatoes, two itty-bitty clementines, and a string cheese. :-)

Such an adorable little box!

Packed up, headed to Barnes & Noble, grabbed some hot tea, and got WORKING!

I did a bunch of reading, took a break to enjoy the contents of my Bento Box, and then completed a written assignment. It was a productive afternoon! :-)

Afternoon Snack

I left Barnes & Noble and headed straight to the Y for workout number two. Hopped on the treadmill and ran 4 miles, plus a short warm-up and cool-down. Mentally it was one of those “just get it done” kind of workouts, but my body felt pretty good the whole time. That actually surprised me because I just ran 5 miles yesterday (which is my longest distance at this point), so I thought I’d feel more tired today. I’m just glad I got my mileage in before the snow!

I came home feeling like a hungry beast! So hungry that I snacked right away…before taking a shower. Gross, but true! :-) I had a 2% Pineapple Chobani Greek Yogurt (which, dare I say, may be my favorite flavor!).

Topped with Annie’s Honey Bunny Grahams. Yes, more kid food! ;-)


I’ve discovered an unexpected benefit of documenting my food for this blog: it allows me to monitor my diet more closely and make up for any deficiencies. For example, I was uploading my food photos before dinner and realized that I was lacking in the veggie department for the day. So I made sure to incorporate several into dinner.

First up,  Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage in a whole wheat hot dog bun

…that I proceeded to cover with sauteed onions and green pepper strips.

Sauteed mushrooms and spinach with minced garlic. Wow, I could eat mushrooms all the live-long day. Any other mushroom lovers out there???

And finally, a big salad with Romaine, cucumber, and carrots, dressed with a splash of rice vinegar.

Altogether! :-D

Evening Snack

Dessert combined 3 of my favorite foods: bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate!

I sliced a Fudgy Peanut Butter Chip Vita Top in half, then stuffed it with banana slices.

30 seconds in the microwave and out came a scrumptious little dessert! :-D

Not going to lie – I’m considering going back for a second one of these…it was really good! We shall see. ;-)

Your turn! I’m really curious to hear your answers to this one.

Do you monitor your food intake throughout the day? If so, how? Do you focus on avoiding the bad stuff, or on getting enough of the good stuff? I don’t keep track of anything formally, but I do think through my meals to see if they each have a lean protein, a healthy carb, and at least one fruit or veggie. If I’m lacking in one area I’ll try to make up for it at the next meal or snack.

Turn Off the Television! Eating Without Distractions

By Katie, 12:25 pm

When you sit down to eat, do you just eat?

Or, when you eat, do you simultaneously check your email, check your voicemail, and catch up with your DVR?

The notion of intuitive eating has taught me a lot about how to eat. One way is by eating mindfully, focusing entirely on the food and the eating process, instead of on everything but.

That means when I eat, I try really hard to do nothing else at the same time. No TV. No Internet. No book or magazine. Just me and my plate. ;-)


Before I learned about eating intuitively, this was a common occurrence for me: sitting in front of the television, engrossed in Grey’s Anatomy or What Not To Wear, I’d reach into my bag of chips and realize the contents were totally gone. And I’d wonder, “What just happened? Where are the chips???” In my stomach, of course! :roll:

I’d barely even taste the chips. One minute the bag was full, the next minute it was empty. And I didn’t even get to enjoy them! :-(

Unfortunately I think a lot of people eat this way. And when you think about it, it’s not entirely our faults. Our society teaches us – encourages us, even – to eat this way. We are a society driven by productivity; we are a people praised for getting more done. Multi-tasking is the name of the game.

But when it comes to food, the equation often looks a little something like this:

Multi-Tasking + Eating = Overeating + Under-Enjoying.

So I encourage you to try eating without distractions, if you don’t already. You might feel a little silly at first; I certainly did! My first attempts occurred while I was working at a 9-5 desk job. It seemed odd, both to me and to my co-workers, that I didn’t just eat at my desk, simultaneously browsing the Internet (or just continuing to work, as my boss probably would have preferred!).

But I pressed on. I found a comfortable area away from my desk and just ate. At first I didn’t know what to think about, because I felt like I had to be thinking about something else. But eventually I learned how to think about the present moment, which was essentially the food: the texture, the taste, what I liked, what I didn’t.

Turns out eating this way can be pretty darn enjoyable! :-D I found it relaxing and rejuvenating. During my lunch break, time actually seemed to slow down (and when does that ever happen, right???). And instead of mindlessly overeating, I learned to eat until I was comfortably full but not stuffed.  I’d get up from my meal feeling satisfied, rather than thinking, “hey, where’d my food go???”

Of course I don’t eat like this all the time. Sometimes it’s fun to eat dinner while watching a football game, and sometimes my schedule forces me to eat while cranking out a paper. But those cases are the exception, not the norm. These days I make a point of eating my meals with as few distractions as possible.

What about you? Do you try to eat without distractions, or are you a multi-tasker all the way?

Skipping a Workout

By Katie, 3:30 pm

At the beginning of every week, I sit down and map out my exercise regimen. Most of the time I stick to this schedule. But, of course, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I skip a workout. 8-O

I used to think skipping a workout was a very big deal. Whenever I did it, I felt like a lazy bum; I was convinced I would wake up the next morning and instantly have gained 5 pounds. Even just cutting my workout short would make me feel extremely guilty.

It was all-or-nothing thinking, that’s for sure.

Even though I now embrace the idea of moderate exercise, sometimes I still find myself feeling guilty or anxious when my workout schedule doesn’t go as planned. To combat those feelings, I try to remind myself of these key points:

1. Feeling guilty serves no productive purpose.

All it does is make me miserable and cranky. Just because I skipped a workout doesn’t mean I have to have a bad day. I try really hard not to beat myself up so badly because deep down I know it doesn’t do any good.

2. One workout does not make or break my fitness level.

Taking an extra day off does not mean that suddenly I will morph into a weak, out-of-shape couch potato. I will be just as strong and physically fit tomorrow.

3. Perhaps my body – or my mind – needs a break.

It’s entirely possible that when I get the urge to skip a workout, the real reason isn’t that I’m lazy or “just don’t feel like it.” In some cases, the real reason is that my body is asking for a little extra rest, or I might just need a “mental break” from exercise. In these situations, the best course of action is not necessarily to “push through,” but rather to give my body and/or my mind the rest it needs.

4. Life happens.

If I never expect to have something – be it my attitude or my responsibilities – get in the way of my exercise schedule, then I’m not being very realistic. Missed workouts are just a part of life. Go with the flow, Katie, go with the flow… :-)

5. Come back strong tomorrow.

Knowing that I have an extra day of rest under my belt is great motivation to really give my next workout my all. :-D


When I keep these five points in mind, I find that one skipped workout is likely to remain just that – ONE skipped workout, instead of a week or even a month of them.

How do you handle the inevitable skipped workout? Do you struggle with feeling guilty, or are you good at just going with the flow? If you’re the latter, please share some of your tips with me!!!

Passing Along Some Sunshine

By Katie, 11:56 am

I’m excited to share that the beautiful and inspiring Nicole of Prevention RD has passed the Sunshine Award on to me. Thank you, Nicole! I’m honored!

“The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blog world.”

Since entering the blogosphere, I’ve discovered so many wonderful bloggers whose upbeat attitudes and creative approaches to healthy living are truly inspiring. I’d like to pass the Sunshine Award along to these 7 bloggers, whose ideas and comments have provided me with much encouragement and motivation.

  1. Lisa from Early Morning Run, whose posts offer such wonderful insight into a wide variety of healthy living issues
  2. Christie from Honoring Health, whose amazing message of self-acceptance and authenticity reminds me of the connection between health and happiness
  3. Lara from Thinspired, whose openness about her pursuit for balance is so admirable
  4. Brandi from Bran Appetit, whose amazing cooking skills and beautiful food photography inspire me to branch out in the kitchen
  5. Tiffnie from through a glass darkly, whose honesty and sincerity I so deeply respect.
  6. Kelly from Kelly B Well, whose posts always make me smile…and want to cook!
  7. Monica from Monica On The Go, whose posts always teach me something new - about nutrition, exercise, and balancing it all!

A big thank you to all of these bloggers – and many, many more – who are helping all of us embrace a more healthy lifestyle. :-D  And another thanks to Prevention RD for thinking of me!

Who is bringing some sunshine into your life today?

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