Smart Choices Review: Crockpot Oatmeal

I Love Oatmeal! Yes it is weird but I really do–hot, cold, cookies, breads or whatever, it just has the power to draw me in.

Imagine when I saw this recipe from The Yummy Life!!   It combines Oatmeal and Pumpkin and its pretty much a leave it alone recipe, perfect!

I did make some minor changes, just for preferences, and I used the double boiler method since I had originally planned to do this overnight so I wanted to see how long it should actually cook to avoid drying it out.

Crockpot Oatmeal and Pumpkin Bake

1 3/4 cup 1% milk ( or milk of your choice)

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup steel cut oats (NOT old fashioned or quick)

1/4 cup maple syrup (or honey or sweetener of choice)

1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix, unsweetened)

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce (I used my homemade kind)

1 tsp pure Vanilla extract

2 Tbs pumpkin pie spice (it seems like a lot but it isn’t)

1 Tbs chia seeds

1 Tbs ground flax meal (seeds)

 My suggestion is to combine all dry ingredients together first then add the moist ones–I think the pumpkin pie spice would blend in easier this way–mine took a bit of whisking to get it off the top of the milk/water. If you are using the  Crockpot/slow cooker directly spray with non-stick spray just for easier clean up–my bowl  cleaned up really easy.* I put my recipe into a Corningware oval bowl and put it inside the Crockpot. I had put in water before I started mixing the ingredients to start heating it on high. When I put the bowl in I had to add just a bit more water to get it to come  halfway up the side of the Corningware one. Cover and walk away after you turn it back to low heat. Mine was done in about 4 hours , it might take less if you don’t use the chia seeds (they are really good absorbers). Cooked through but still moist.

You can top it with many options at this point–I added just a drizzle of maple syrup and some chopped walnuts but I could see adding brown sugar or honey as a sweetener or almonds for a bit of crunch.

Yes its THAT good!

And it warms up great the next day! I had put it in my Mason jars and it the fridge overnight. I warmed it for about 45 seconds , added just a touch of milk, stirred and heated for another 30 seconds (this was for about a 1 cup portion). I added a drizzle of maple syrup…..delicious second round.

Review: Definitely worth making again! If I did it overnight I would probably use a ‘delay timer’  so it turned on it the night rather than get up early. I also work night shifts so it would actually be perfect to set up when I get home and have ready to go when I get up. Hey–that’s a great idea!

*for easy clean-up–if you use the double boiler method, and you put the oatmeal away in portions, use the hot water in the crockpot to clean up–just dump it in the second bowl and it cleans up super easy!

Apple “Custard” — Pie

Did you ever see a recipe and just have an epiphany on how you can take it a step further? I saw this recipe for a Crockpot apple sauce and just imagined it being transformed into a dessert. Making it was extremely easy!!

I did tweak the recipe a bit since I knew I was taking it a step further.

The Basics:

1 peck (or small bag) of apples, cored but not peeled(I chose Cortlands but use your favorite pie apple)

1 lemon, squeeze out juice and discard the lemon

2T pure Vanilla extract

1tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

(I DID have pictures showing how much it reduces but my camera seems to have hidden them  from me.)

Place these all in the Crockpot/slow cooker and allow to cook for about 2 hours on high then 2 hours on low.

They will reduce dramatically! I went from a very full crock to about 6 cups of apple sauce. If you left the skins on you will have a deep caramel color instead of the tan but it adds a different dimension to the sauce. Most of the peel should have dissolved but you can run a fork through the sauce to pick out any skins that are left. Its purely aesthetics whether you leave them in or not.

OK–so you can stop here and just enjoy the sauce or take it to a dessert level.

Apple “Custard” Pie

Pie crust–you can use a favorite crust recipe if you have one or use a Pillsbury ready to go one. Roll it out to the size of your pan and prebake for about 5 minutes at 400*F just to keep it from getting soggy.


2 cups of the apple sauce (3 if using a deep dish pan)

1/2 cup evaporated milk (I used 2%), add just a little more if increasing apple sauce

2 large eggs

1 tsp apple pie spice (or combination of cinnamon/nutmeg) if desired.

Optional–taste your apple sauce first to see how sweet it is-I added 2 T Maple syrup just for a bit of flavor and sweetness but you can omit, add honey or sweetener of choice to taste.

Pour into pie shell. Bake at 400*F for about 15 minutes and then reduce it to 350*F for another 45-55 minutes. This will be a ‘soft set’ (not the consistency of pumpkin pie). Remove from oven, allow to cool and then refrigerate until totally cool.

Although it is pale don’t let the color fool you–there is a lot of flavor packed in it!

My next batch of apple sauce will be transformed into more of a souffle in individual ramekins or mini pies in graham cracker crusts…..we’ll see where it goes from there!

Trainer session and Express

Ok–so I am a little bit behind on posting since this actually happened on Friday (9/7/12) but…hey Life happens.

So I got there just a bit early for my trainer appointment so I hopped on a treadmill for 15 minutes to warm up and managed 1 mile/100 calories by walking at 4.1 mph after I warmed up at 3.6 for a minute or so.

Today was my “DYO” appointment. It stands for Design Your Own (workout) which is kinda a misnomer. While you do meet with the trainer to fine tune it based on your needs / condition, desired results and experience it was already a pre-planned action plan (ie on a laminated card you copied to your own).  I did like that the trainer asked in depth questions about what I really had time for and we worked out a plan to fit my time schedule: one upper body, one lower body and one “Express” if I came a third time to the gym (in a week). Warm up for 5-7 minutes before weights and then for 30-45 minutes after to deplete muscle reserves and burn  fat stores.  Although we did not go over what weight to start with we did set a plan for a little less weight and more reps to tone rather than ‘build’ muscle. Sounds good to me!

He also showed us 2 different kinds of elliptical machines-a traditional one and one that turns into a stair climber when you adjust the settings.

After the session I was on my own and opted to do the Planet Fitness 30 minutes express.  This time I had already written down the circuit and kept track to see where I was starting at and to track results.

Station 1-Leg press–1 set 25 reps @85 lbs (just a little too light)

Station3-Leg extension-1 set 20 reps–@ 50 lbs–>40 lbs (need to build right knee up)

Station5-Verticle Chest press-1 set 20 reps @ 20 lbs

Station7-Seated Row-1 set 25 reps @40lbs (next time @50)

Station9-Lateral Pull down-1 set 20 reps @ 50lbs (next time@ 60)

Station11-Shoulder Press–1 set10 reps at 40 (started off time and babying my left shoulder)

Station13-Bicep Curl (preacher curl) 1 set 12 reps @30 lbs

Station15-Tricep extension-1 set 20 reps @30 lbs

Station17-Ab curl-1 set 20 reps @60 lbs (next time @80)

Station19-Back extension-1 set 20 reps @80 lbs (next time @90)

In between stations I did the cardio portion with the ‘step’ and tried to varying how I stepped up and down (kinda boring). I finished today’s visit with another visit to the treadmill and did another 20 minutes at 4.2 mph for 1.5 miles and about 150 calories!


Yardwork kicks butt!

Well it does! Just ask anyone who works outside, whether a job or ‘hobby’–yard work IS exercise!

Yesterday I just couldn’t figure out what video I wanted to do and then it dawned on me: why am I exercising inside when it was nice outside? (Plus then the dog gets exercise too) I need to clear an area in my yard big enough to transplant a whole flower bed or two and had decided earlier in the year to move it to the area by my bird feeder. At that point I moved all the flat stones I had used for a bed I had torn apart last fall to get a perimeter to work on.

OK–so this was the Spring–its grown alot since then–I mean really alot–some of the wild flowers and weeds are over 3 feet tall. So this has been my project to remove it all and add soil to raise the bed up higher. I don’t have a working rototiller so this has all been done with either hand tools (like a ‘Garden Claw”) or just pulling them by hand and carting it away in a wheelbarrow.

                                                                                   It is hard, sweaty work!

But I digress–so for 45 minutes in the heat and humidity I pulled weeds, tilled and carted. It is about halfway done, thankfully!  I have to say when I plugged it into MapMy Run I was pleasantly surprised–I had burned approximately 279 calories! I can verify I was sweating and my heart rate was up (I had on my monitor) in the 130s so I know I was working hard–but just knowing I had burned off that much will make me more apt to do it again.

Just for a quick comparison–these calorie burns are based on a 30 minute time frame for someone weighing about 150 lbs–kinda cool, huh?

So tell me again, still think “yard work” doesn’t burn enough calories? My loose shorts beg to differ.

So many choices, so little time!

Isn’t that always an issue ? We have so many choices that we fail to make one….which is my dilemma today. Over the course of the summer I acquired all these exercise videos so I have a bunch to choose from to prevent boredom. The problem? I don’t know which to do first!

Help me choose!!

Exercise videos–which to choose?

9/5/12– Cardio and Core

Today was definitely a sweaty day! There is just something satisfying about getting sweaty; knowing you are making enough energy within that it shows up on the outside!

I was on my own (unless you count the animals) since school started back up here today and the hubby was at work. What to do with myself? Aside from cleaning that is. Treadmill, bike, or video?

I chose the bike. I really do like our recumbent bike. It is very comfortable and sturdy. It is totally non-electric meaning you can’t cheat–if you don’t pedal it does not stay powered up and record your workout…I like feedback so I keep pedaling.

Today’s Stats:


Time–45 minutes

Program–started with the “interval 2” setting but decided to try the “plateau” one–definitely not ready for that one yet–RL escalates quickly to a level 7! Returned to interval 2 after about 5 minutes .

Music–Podrunner BPM 132 “Everybody  skips”

Avg speed-15.5-16.5 mph


Distance 12.0 miles

Caloric burn–190 cals

THR (training heart rate) range=112-138

AHR (average heart rate)  130s

RPE (rate percieved exertion)-5-6/10

Let me tell you I wanted to stop several times but you know what stopped me? Sweating!

Just the fact that there was a fine sheen of sweat on my arms and legs kept me going. Yea, I know its weird but you had to be there I guess.


I used a “Bender ball”.  It adds to your ROM (range of motion) and allows a crunch to include a back extension.  You can use a kids play ball but I’ve had this one for a while.

Crunches/ extensions–1 set 25 reps (the last 10 were hard!) (ball is behind your lower back)

Reverse curl –1 st 25 reps (ball goes between raised knees and you squeeze the ball while doing the curl)

“Toe reaches” 1 set 25 reps (legs raised and straight with ball between feet and squeezed while using opposite arm/hand to reach to outside of foot)

Needless to say, my abs are a little out of shape but once I get back into my routine….they won’t be!

SO–critique, comments, advice?

9/4/12 Cardio: Treadmill

Cardio today:

Treadmill–at the gym

Time: 30 minutes

Pace:  2 minute warm up at 3.5 mph then 23 minutes at 4.0 then 5 minutes at 4.2 mph

Incline: 1% continual

Podrunner: 139 BPM

Distance: 2.0 miles

Caloric burn: 205

Overall–I had a really good time! The Podrunner was motivating and a good pace!

I’m thinking I am ready to start doing running intervals since I am not at all winded and my HR is in the low 120 range (MY range for age is 116-138 for heart rate)

Comments? Thoughts?

Peanut Butter–the Smart Choice review

I love peanut butter!! It truly is one of my go to foods and comes with me to work and on vacations–really!

Why do I like peanut butter? Despite having some fat (about 72% in ratio to protein and carbs for a regular one) it is primarily healthy fat. It  has a decent amount of protein (about 4 grams/Tbs) as well as some important vitamins and minerals;Vitamin E, niacin & folic acid and magnesium. When pared with a whole grain bread it fills you up for a while which helps slow down the jump in glucose levels and keep you ‘steady’  until your next meal.

According to this Livestrong article “Peanut butter is rich in mono and poly-unsaturated fats, which are the “good,” cholesterol lowering fats. While these fats have heart-protective benefits, they also are what make peanut butter a high calorie food. So, as with most delicious foods, moderation is key. A general guideline is to try to limit yourself to 2 tbsp, which weighs in at about 180 calories.”

But the confusing thing is that there are so many “peanut butters” to choose from: regular, “Natural”, dehydrated (aka peanut flour), flavored, reduced fat….you get the idea. Well, I have tried a few and I am happy to share with you  what I have found.

OK– starting with the Basics

Skippy Natural

OK, maybe just a little bit basic. “Natural” in that there are no artificial ingredients, but more than just peanuts. It is pretty much your basic full fat, creamy peanut butter. “No need to stir”–generally but not always. Its a good basic, maybe just a little on the sweet side but very spreadable and does not rip your bread apart. Melts really easy on toasted breads.  This is great for use in baking since it blends and melts so nicely when combined with baking ingredients.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 2 Tbsp (32 g)
Servings Per Container 13
Amount Per Serving
Calories 190
Calories From Fat 140
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 25%
Saturated Fat 3.5g 18%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 150mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 3g
Protein 7g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0%
Iron 4%
Vitamin E 10%
Niacin 20%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet
Naturally More

OK–this is really a natural PB–you really do need to stir this one! I probably stirred this for about 5 minutes until it was fully combined.  You can really taste the peanut flavor! It was also like old fashioned peanut butter–it sticks to the roof of your mouth!  Although PB normally has good fats the addition of the flax seeds adds a bit more nutrition. I like flax seeds, just not whole ones. I think if they were ground I would’ve liked it better.  It did spread easy and melted nicely without the runny-ness of the Skippy  Natural.

Ingredients are a little more than just peanuts also: soy protein, flax seeds, evaporated cane sugar, salt and molasses.

Update: After I tried this I put it in the ‘fridge (optional) upside down…I really like it now!! Very creamy texture with the oil fully incorporated. I also figured out a way to deal with the whole flax seeds–use chia jam!

Next–Dehydrated, Reduced Fat and Powdered Peanut “Butter”

PB2 and PB2 Chocolate

This is probably the easiest to use for adding into recipes, smoothies, oatmeals. It is a dehydrated peanut butter, essentially a peanut flour. It has about 85% less fat than peanut butter so it is a great option for those looking to watch calories without loosing the option of having peanut butter. You can rehydrate it to use as a spread but I have just added it to things at this point. It does add the PB flavor to what it is added to without having the ‘gloppy-ness’ when you add it to a smoothie. It has become something I add to all my fridge oatmeals for added protein and taste.

Nutrition Facts

PB2: Powdered Peanut Butter


Roasted peanuts, sugar, salt.
Serving size: 2 Tablespoons (12 grams)
Servings per container: 15
Calories: 45
Calories from fat: 13

Value and % Daily Value*

  • Total fat 1.5 g 3%
  • Saturated fat 0 g 0%
  • Trans fat < 0.01 g
  • Cholesterol < 0.01 mg 0%
  • Sodium 94 mg 4%
  • Total carbohydrate 5 g 2%
  • Dietary fiber 2 g 8%
  • Sugars 1 g
  • Protein 5 g
  • Vitamin A < 1%
  • Vitamin C 0%
  • Calcium <1%
  • Iron 0%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Chocolate PB2


Roasted peanuts, cocoa powder, sugar, salt.
Serving size: 2 Tablespoons (12 grams)
Servings per container: 15
Calories: 45
Calories from fat: 10

Value and % Daily Value*

  • Total fat 1 g 1.5%
  • Saturated fat 0 g 0%
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium 70 mg 3%
  • Total carbohydrate 6 g 2%
  • Dietary fiber 1 g 4%
  • Sugars 3 g
  • Protein 4 g
  • Vitamin A <1%
  • Vitamin C 0%
  • Calcium <1%
  • Iron 2%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Better’n Peanut Butter

I’ve had this one in both the dehydrated and the spread form. The spread form has a slightly gritty texture but you get used to it easily. It is not as ‘peanutty’ as I would like but it spreads well and melts nicely on toasted breads without being runny. It has less fat than the traditional so I can understand the difference in taste. Right now, I use this one almost every day. As you can see it it not really a true peanut butter based on the other ingredients.

  • 85% Less Fat
  • 40% Less Calories
  • No Cholesterol
  • No Preservatives
  • No Refined Sugars
  • Natural Soy Lecithin
  • Non GMO Peanuts
Regular Creamy
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 2 tbsp (32.0 g)
Amount Per Serving

Calories from Fat

% Daily Value*
Total Fat


Total Carbohydrates




Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 4% Iron 2%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Low Sodium

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 2 tbsp (32.0 g)
Amount Per Serving

Calories from Fat

% Daily Value*
Total Fat


Total Carbohydrates




Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 4% Iron 2%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet
Flavored Peanut Butters and Nut Butters
 Peanut Butter and Co
These are actually my daughters and I have tried them but they are generally too sweet for my taste. I have found as I have gotten older that I just don’t like (or tolerate) the high sweetness. That being said, the PB& Co has a variety of flavors: Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, Maple, White Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Honey and Spicy to name a few. They are nice for a change of pace but I see them as a treat more than a staple in my life. You can find all the nutrition data here, but these are an example. The Speculoos Cookie Butter is just that–ground up cookies and blended to be spreadable.

and who can forget Nutella? Nutella is a Hazel nut based spead with cocoa. It is very rich and I really do view this as a treat rather than something to eat daily. It is very thick and does spread nicely. Very chocoaltey taste, you really can’t taste the hazel nuts at all. Still, for once in a while…its pretty good.

I tried to copy the ingredients but it was blocked but the first one is ….sugar.

SO–what to do with all these choices?  Which is the best for you, what tastes best, what to buy? Alas, it really is highly personal and depends on your needs and dietary restrictions.  I would say to try a few and see what you like. I will continue to use my PB2 on a regular basis and probably vary the rest based on what I am using it for–baking or eating or adding it to a smoothie/oatmeal.

All the nutrition facts came directly from the individual sites. The images are my own.

Can you recommend any of these or can you suggest another brand or version?