Five Pumpkin Breakfast Recipes for Fall

(Just about) everybody loves fall. But do you ever get tired of the leaves, the brisk morning air or the pumpkin everything? NEITHER DO I! I don’t just love pumpkin because of the weather. It’s also delicious and really good for you. Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, which help promote the health of your eyes and skin. The fiber in pumpkin also works to keep your digestive system happy. That’s why I enjoy these pumpkin breakfast recipes all year long (shhh…don’t tell fall).

Print Recipe
Warm Autumn Oatmeal
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine oats, pumpkin, milk, and apple into a bowl.
  2. Microwave for one minute.
  3. Add peanut butter and pecans, stirring to combine.
  4. Top with cinnamon.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Protein Smoothie
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Granola Bars
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8 by 8 pan with partchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together oats, walnuts, spices and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, honey/maple syrup, applesauce and vanilla until smooth.
  5. Pour over oats and stir to combine. Mix in chocolate chips.
  6. Evenly press the mixture into the pan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until edges are golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes before cutting into bars.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Parfait
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, layer yogurt with pumpkin puree and granola.
  2. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Pancakes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
pancakes
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
pancakes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and whisk gently until combined. Let the batter set for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat a pan to medium heat. Drizzle vegetable oil on the warmed pan.
  5. Ladle 1/3 cup of the batter onto the pan for each pancake.
  6. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bubbles around the edges are open and set. Flip and cook on the other side for an additional 2 minutes.

Looking for a cozy dinner for an autumn evening? Check out our recipe for Tasty Crock-Pot Beef Stroganoff.

11 Easy Snacks to Help You Sleep Better

Almost everyone loves to grab a snack before they go to sleep. But what you choose to eat could determine whether or not you fall asleep right away.

Before you begin nighttime noshing, ask yourself:

  • What’s your motivation?
  • Are you bored? Stuffing emotions? Munching while watching TV?
  • Or, are you really hungry, and if so, how hungry?

If you’re eating just to eat – or to cure boredom or make you feel better – you might want to think twice before indulging.

But if you’re really running on empty, opt for snacks that won’t add extra pounds or result in a restless night.

Large portions and high fat foods (like French fries) interfere with falling asleep. Spicy foods slow down digestion. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and have a relaxing effect at first, then cause you to wake up because it interferes with deep sleep and interrupts the sleep cycle. The stimulant powers of caffeine, found in coffee, tea or chocolate, take several hours to wear off. Even decaf has some caffeine. High-sugar foods and overeating can also interfere with your ability to sleep.

Not all bedtime snacks are bad for you. Some can help you take in more nutrients that you still need for the day. Going to bed hungry can actually keep you awake.

If you’re considering a bed time snack, try incorporating foods that help boost your levels of serotonin, the calming and “feel good” hormone. You could consider:

  1. Nuts, including walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios
  2. Seeds, such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  3. Lean protein, such as chicken, fish and low-fat cheese

Choose a small snack with protein and carbohydrates – these types of foods either contain or help create an amino acid called tryptophan that can cause sleepiness.

Try these protein and carbohydrate combinations:

  1. Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk
  2. Peanut butter on whole-grain toast
  3. Low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers
  4. One ounce of turkey or chicken on a slice of whole grain bread

Other snack options could include:

  1. Bananas and other foods high in potassium, which helps you to stay asleep

Foods high in calcium also contain certain sleep-causing hormones, such as tryptophan and melatonin. So don’t feel bad if you grab a snack that consists of:

  1. A container of low-fat yogurt
  2. A cup of low-fat milk
  3. A slice of low-fat cheese, such as mozzarella.

Good snacking and good night!

For more advice on what to eat at night, go to:
sleep.org
health.clevelandclinic.org
sleepassociation.org
sleepfoundation.org

10 Pumpkin Patches To Visit in Upstate New York

Fall has arrived and you’re ready to hit the pumpkin patches. But which ones should you visit?

To help, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite pumpkin patches in these regions of upstate New York: Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Utica. Grab your kids, camera and in some cases your pet. Head over to the pumpkin patch to enjoy some fall family fun.

There are a lot more great pumpkin patches in upstate New York. If we missed your favorite one, add it to the comments section below!

For more, read Pumpkin Picking at Chase Farms in Fairport, NY.

Rochester

1. Stokoe Farms

    • Admission: General admission is $15 on weekends (also Columbus Day weekend) and $10 during the week. Discounts for seniors and members of the military (with ID). Kids under age 2 are free.
    • Activities: They have over thirty-five activities for their visitors, including picking pumpkins fresh from the field, enjoying a wagon ride, trying out their pumpkin launchers and apple cannons, and exploring the corn maze.
    • Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 15 – Oct. 28.
    • Location: 656 South Rd, Scottsville, NY 14546

2. Wickham Farms

    • Admission:  They offer “fun passes,” which are not required but are a great option for people who are looking to enjoy multiple attractions for a flat rate. Otherwise, the separate activities have fees.
    • Activities: They have 20 activities, including a pumpkin hayride, pumpkin patch, corn maze, jumping pillow, and miniature golf.
    • Food: Fresh doughnuts and homemade cookies at the farm bakery, apple cider (hot or cold), Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters coffee, and farmer food trucks.
    • Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Orchard is 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekends.
    • Location: 1821 Fairport Nine Mile Point Rd, Penfield, NY 14526

3. Pick’N’Patch

    • Admission: It’s free to enter, but many of the activities require tickets.
    • Activities: Some of their fun activities include the barnyard bouncer, corn maze, apple blaster, and hay rides.
    • Hours: Fall season is Sept. 15 – Oct. 31. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Location: 2205 Rts. 5 & 20, Stanley, NY 14561

Buffalo

1. The Great Pumpkin Farm

    • Admission: Admission is $8 per person at the gate for all seven festival weekends (Children ages 2 and under are free). Weekdays are free.
    • Activities: Pumpkin picking, boo barn, jumping pillow, playground, and more!
    • Hours: 10 a.m. to dusk every day, Sept. 15 through Oct. 31.
    • Location: 11199 Main Street, Clarence, NY 14031

2. Wheatfield Pumpkin Farm

    • Admission: There is no admission fee, but the activities do have fees and they are cash only.
    • Activities: Haunted hayrides in October, family farm hayrides daily and a corn maze.
    • Hours: Sept. 23 – Oct. 30, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (extended hours on haunted hayride nights)
    • Location: 6920 Nash Rd, Wheatfield, NY 14120

3. Kelkenberg Farm of Clarence

    • Admission: General admission is $13 per person, children and adults.  No charge for children under age 2.  Admission includes the pumpkin picked in the field. They don’t allow pets.
    • Activities: Pumpkin picking, hay rides, pony rides for kids, farm tour, straw maze, and more.
    • Hours: Open starting Sept. 15. Open every weekend in October and Columbus Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. without reservations.
    • Location: 9270 Wolcott Road, Clarence Center, NY 14032

Syracuse

1. Tim’s Pumpkin Patch

    • Admission: Free admission, additional charges for certain activities.
    • Activities: Corn maze, animal barn, tractor wagon rides, the hay fort, the fossil dig, and pumpkin picking. Dogs welcome.
    • Hours: The season is Sept. 15 to Oct. 31. Open every day of the week 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the fall season.
    • Location: 2901 Rose Hill Rd, Marietta, NY 13110

2. Katie’s Pumpkin Patch

    • Admission: Free admission. Free corn maze with any purchase, and $1 hay rides.
    • Activities: Pumpkin picking, hay rides ($1 per person) and a corn maze (free with any purchase).
    • Hours: Season starts Sept. 21. Weekdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (when it starts getting dark before 7 p.m., they will close at 6 p.m.). Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Saturday.
    • Location: 8484 Dunham Rd, Baldwinsville, NY 13027

Utica

1. Pumpkin Junction

    • Admission: Free general admission and their corn maze is free.
    • Activities: They have pumpkin picking, a Halloween store, and the free Cornfusion Corn Maze.
    • Hours: Open Sept. 10 to Oct. 31 daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Location: 2188 Graffenburg Road, Sauquoit, NY, 13456

2. Cullen Pumpkin Farm

    • Admission: No admission fee, but wagon rides are $3 (kids under age 5 are free).
    • Activities: Pick your own pumpkins, wagon rides, the Pumpkin Express, corn maze, and fun places to take pictures!
    • Hours: Open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting Sept. 8 through Oct. 31.
    • Location: 587 Cullen Road, Richfield Springs, NY 13439

Did we miss your favorite pumpkin patch? Add it to the comments section below!

Can’t get enough pumpkin? Check out  5 Pumpkin Breakfast Recipes for Fall

How to Stop Work from Killing Your Gym Motivation

It’s 8 p.m. on a gloomy Monday and you just had a long day at work. You finally finished cleaning up after dinner and are exhausted. Your feet hurt, you’re mentally drained, and all you want to do is sit on the couch and scroll through your Facebook feed or catch up with your latest TV show. You realize you wanted to get to the gym, but today just isn’t the day. You think to yourself that you’ll definitely go tomorrow because you’re going to bed “early” tonight.

This is the dangerous habit we let ourselves fall into. I like to call this the, “I’ll do it tomorrow” excuse.

Let me start this off by saying that I am an avid gym-goer. I enjoy going to the gym, sweating, and working hard. When I tell people this, their usual response is, “Well aren’t you lucky, I can’t even get myself off the couch,” or some sarcastic comment not too far off.

My friends then proceed to ask me how I do it (stay motivated). “Don’t you get sick of going to the gym?” My response to that is – well of course.

Getting motivated and staying motivated aren’t easy. The way I see it is a mind game.

I think naturally we all want a quick and easy fix to getting motivated and are all in search of the golden secret, but when it comes down to it, it’s about your own willpower and mental strength. If you are having a hard time getting motivated try these tips to step up your mental game:

1. Set a goal for yourself.

It’s important to know what you are working towards. Working out becomes a lot more motivating when you have a destination in mind and can visualize it. Start simple, set a goal to get in 10,000 steps a day and get to the gym at least once a week.

2. Find a Role Model.

Find influencers that speak to you and make you feel inspired. It’s great to see how others are getting motivated and pushing themselves. My personal favorites are Jill Christine, and Linn Lowes.

Side note: Just because your fitness role model may be on page ten of their fitness journey doesn’t mean they didn’t start from their own page one. Transformation photos can be fun to look at, but don’t get bogged down when you don’t see your own instant results after only a week. Keep pushing. We all have to start somewhere.

3. Change into Gym Clothes When You Get Home from the Office.

It’s one less step later in the evening. Maybe you still need to cook dinner or so some other chores around the house, but at least you’re ready to go. This takes away any possible ongoing battle you could have with yourself later in the night about getting ready or staying home.

4. Pep-Talk Yourself.

Don’t be afraid to give it a try. You can really amp yourself up with this one. Remind yourself that you are strong enough to do this and you will feel great afterward. Positive thoughts are key- don’t get in the way of yourself. Even try a power pose to boost your mental game and attitude.

5. Eat healthy Throughout the day.

Oftentimes junk food can make you feel bloated and sleepy. Your body will likely thank you for eating healthy and fueling it with the proper nutrients and a wholesome diet. Check out some of our recipes so you can change it up for yourself.

6. Listen to Music.

Roll down your windows on the way home from work and jam out to music that gets you energized. Create a gym playlist that has your favorite hits. Listening to upbeat music can really change your mood. Need inspiration? Try our Fearless Playlists.

7. Find a Gym Buddy.

Let’s face it, some days it can be hard to hold yourself accountable. One simple way to fix that is finding someone to work out with. Set goals together and make sure each is holding up on their end. Maybe even make it into a tiny competition.

8. Take a Power Nap.

Twenty to 30 minutes is the perfect amount of time to nap and wake up feeling productive again.

9. Get outside and Enjoy the sun.

The gym isn’t the only place you can get out and get active. There are plenty of outdoor activities to get your blood pumping and body moving. Grab a friend and get some fresh air. It’s good to find other sources of activity; the gym can become mundane and uninteresting. Keep it new and exciting for yourself!

Need more help? Check out these articles:

5 Tips for Cutting Soda from Your Diet

You drink over 38 gallons of soda each year.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), that’s how much the average American drinks each year, which is equivalent to eight 12-ounce cans of soda each week. This statistic shocked me, too.

But it also opened my eyes to my own soda-drinking habit. I typically drink at least two Mountain Dews per day and sometimes it’s more than that. After reading this statistic, I did a little more research.

The reality of soda

The CSPI reports that a typical 12-ounce can of soda contains nearly 9 teaspoons of added sugars and a typical 20-ounce bottle contains 15.5 teaspoons of added sugar. While this may not seem like a lot of sugar, it is. To put it into perspective for you, the American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily intake of 6 teaspoons20 of added sugars for women and 9 teaspoons for men. This means that an average 12-ounce can of soda puts you at or above the recommended maximum daily intake of added sugars.

I don’t know about you, but that kind of blew my mind.

I have been drinking Mountain Dew regularly since I was in middle school. It’s probably contributed to cavities, stomach aches, and weight gain. I have tried time and time again to stop drinking it, but soda has a way of holding your affections. Mountain Dew is no exception.

I decided to track down the best ways to get rid of this habit. After doing a lot of research, I have come up with five tips and tricks for cutting soda out of your diet.

1. Start slow

You don’t have to quit cold turkey. Start by drinking less each day. If you usually drink two sodas a day, start by drinking only one.  The next week, try one soda every other day. And so on.

2. Set yourself up for success

If you don’t want to drink a lot of soda, then don’t buy a lot of soda. It doesn’t help if you keep putting it in your refrigerator. Take away the temptation and only buy the amount you are planning to drink. Another tip was if you only like to drink cold soda, then only put one in the fridge for the next day.

3. Find alternatives

It helps to fill the space that you’d be drinking soda by drinking something else. Drink water. If water is too boring for you, try flavoring it with fruit. Swap in coffee or tea if you’d like some caffeine. Flavored seltzer water may also be a good option if you like something with fizz. For many people, beverages can account for almost 20 percent of total calorie intake,  so it’s important that you find healthier alternatives. Plus, if you don’t find something else to drink, it will be that much harder to resist the call of the vending machine in the break room.

4. Exercise

If you drink soda for the caffeine, then try working out or simply getting some exercise to gain more energy along with some other great benefits. It’s much healthier for your body and has zero added sugars! Here are some great tips to help you replace your soda habit with an exercise habit.

5. Track your calories

If you’re a numbers person, it might be a good idea to sit down and track how many calories you’re drinking every day. Calories can be found right on the Nutrition Facts label. If you pay attention to the amount of calories you’re drinking, then you’ll see how quickly they add up. You could also track how much exercise you need to work off all the calories you’re drinking. The numbers may just motivate you to work harder on quitting. The MyFitnessPal app can be a useful tool to help with tracking calories.

After trying out all of these tips, the most helpful to me was finding alternatives. While I’d normally drink a soda with dinner, I’ve started drinking a glass of milk. When I’m thirsty at work, I drink water. Have any of these tips been helpful for you?

Still thirsty? Check out Is Diet Soda Healthier than Regular Soda?

4 Tested Ways to Break a Caffeine Addiction

Americans consume 400 million cups a day of a very addicting drink. Coffee! Latte, macchiato, black, iced, hot, cappuccino; there are so many ways to indulge in the morning beverage. It’s almost impossible not to find one you love. However, too much of this enjoyable and invigorating drink can lead to some serious health problems, such as insomnia and high blood pressure.

Don’t worry coffee enthusiasts; the delicious beverage does have its health benefits. However, if you find yourself feeling super dependent on it, it may be time to find other ways to get some pep in your step.

I recently decided to test four ways to get an energy boost without that second (or third) cup of Joe. I recruited some reluctant co-workers to put them to the test.

Lemons, lemons, the magical fruit.

One possible substitution for coffee aficionados is drinking warm lemon water in the morning. After getting over the week-long coffee withdrawal she had to undergo due to pregnancy, Erika Gruszewski said this coffee replacement actually made her feel better throughout the day than coffee did. Erika said “I feel better drinking the water than coffee. Sometimes in the morning, I’m tired when I wake up, but by the time I get to work, I feel fine. I also don’t get a crash like I used to have on coffee… and I never get jittery”. So, maybe it’s time that lemons become your daily grind.

Jam to some upbeat beats.

Music and dancing might not solve all problems, but it may set a good mood for the day. When trying this method, Joy Auch found the music that made her most energized on her morning commute was the songs with a very quick beat cranked up loud. Joy said, “It distracted me on my morning commute from the fact that I was missing my morning java”. However, Joy said this challenge still won’t keep her from her beloved brew, since she loves coffee and drinks it in moderation. But if you are looking to consume less coffee, Joy said this method may be worth a try!

Send a chill down your spine… literally.

If you’re looking for a sudden burst of energy, why not add cold water to your morning shower?  When I tried this method to skip my morning coffee, it definitely made a difference. While I did get tired later in the afternoon, the cold shower helped me get through the morning without coffee. This was definitely a simple way to integrate a caffeine-free energy boost into my routine.

Get your blood pumping!

Not all of us can find the energy to do a full workout in the morning, but could simple stretching or yoga sessions kick start your morning?  As a busy mother of two, Julie Goonan is a coffee fanatic. In fact, before I came up with this challenge, she drank coffee from 5:30 a.m. until she got to work at 8 a.m. But, replacing her caffeine fix with a meditation and stretching session delayed her need for caffeine until she got to work. When asked about the challenge Julie said, “As a mom of two this is not easy. But I totally get it. And I am hoping the longer yoga sessions pay off in the long run!”

There you have it, four ways to put the pep in your step that don’t include caffeine. If you consider yourself a coffee addict, consider substituting the third cup with one of these tricks.

Hidden Gems: Sonnenberg Gardens

(Photos courtesy of Sonnenberg Gardens)

My aunt and uncle recently visited from out of state, and I was deputized family tour director. We decided to make a day trip to Canandaigua which included the Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park.

Videos and photos give you a sense of the sprawling 50-acre estate. In person, you can see why the Thompson family kept the name Sonnenberg, meaning “sunny hill” in German. I recommend 2 to 3 hours to visit.

The author enjoying Sonnenberg Gardens on her recent visit.

Volunteers are Key

In 2006, the State of New York declared Sonnenberg a state park. However, the state does not fund daily operations. Therefore, the park relies on admission, donations, and 320+ volunteers who pitch in by driving visitors around, answering questions, and even tending rose bushes.

The knowledgeable, friendly folks we met added charm to the visit. The volunteer who drove us around the estate gave us lots of local stories and interesting information.

The Highlights

The Italian Garden. Photo courtesy of Sonnenberg Gardens

You can wander around on foot and listen to an audio tour available through your cell phone that provides an overview including:

History of the Estate: Sonnenberg was the summer estate of Frederick Thompson, a New York City banker, and Mary Clark Thompson, an area native and daughter of a New York governor. They both came from wealth and privilege, a fact that is certainly on display in their home. Yet they also gave back to the community by funding universities, museums, and scientific research.

Japanese Garden: Mary visited Kyoto, Japan in 1903. This inspired her to hire Japanese craftsmen to build her a garden complete with a Buddha statue and tea house.

The Japanese Garden. Photo courtesy of Sonnenberg Gardens.

The Rose Garden. Photo courtesy of Sonnenberg Gardens

Rose Garden:  In the original garden, only red, pink, and white roses grew. The garden was reconstructed in 1973 to resemble the original. Today, 2,500 rose bushes are in bloom.

The Rose Garden. Photo courtesy of Sonnenberg Gardens.

Deer Park: Mary imported European fallow deer and created a special area for them to graze on the south lawn. We saw one up close while we were there!

Roman Bath: Although in ruin today, in 1914 water was pumped from Canandaigua Lake and was warmed for this heated pool.

Mansion: The 40-room Queen Anne style home has large windows and breezy porches. 19th-century furniture, clothes, and accessories give you a flavor of what the mansion may have looked like. You can wander around by yourself, poking through the rooms.

Photo courtesy of Sonnenberg Gardens.

Statues: There are a number of statues throughout the park, including one of the Roman goddess Diana (she had her own temple on the grounds but the statue was relocated to another garden due to decay) and a statue of Pan in the rock garden.

The Details

  • Location: 151 Charlotte Street, Canandaigua, NY 14424
  • Hours: Open 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week May 1 through October 31.
  • Extended Summer Hours (Memorial Day-Labor Day): 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible with the exception of the 2nd floor of the mansion and some areas in the Rock Garden. A tram service may be available from the parking lot to the mansion and back.
  • Dog-friendly? The park does not allow pets, except service animals.
  • Admission: $14 for adults (discounts available), $2 for children ages 12 and under

For more info: Visit the Sonnenberg Gardens Website or call (585) 394-4922.

Don’t Miss

Check the online calendar for lots of events throughout the year like an orchid show in the spring, moonlight concerts in the summer, haunted walks in the fall, and holiday decorations in the winter.

How I Came to Love These Zucchini Bread Recipes

I didn’t care much for my first-ever attempt at making zucchini bread. I didn’t want to make it, but my mom had asked and I wanted to help. However, the problem was, zucchini grossed me out.

Overcoming my Fear of Zucchini

I have nothing against zucchini. I had just never eaten it or even seen zucchini up close until my mom handed me a giant mixing bowl filled with grated zucchini. I didn’t want to touch it. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to actually eat it.

The author initially had some hesitancy about eating zucchini.

My mom handed me the recipes and I made the bread. But I never got around to trying it. Later on, my friend convinced me to try one of her zucchini muffins. Although I was terrified the muffins would be the strangest and grossest thing ever, they weren’t. This was a big step toward overcoming my fear of zucchini.

My Journey to Loving Zucchini Bread

Flash forward a year and I actually decided to make zucchini bread for a work meeting. My mom didn’t have her recipes anymore, so I looked up recipes for zucchini bread and chocolate zucchini bread.

I started with the plain zucchini bread. I’m not a fan of nuts, so I skipped that ingredient. I was pretty excited once I put the pans in the oven. I then began to work on the chocolate zucchini bread.

The author bakes zucchini bread.

Halfway through the directions, I realized I didn’t have enough white sugar. At this point, it’s about 10 p.m. on a Sunday night and I was not in the mood to drive to Wegmans. I did a little googling and realized I could substitute the brown sugar I did have for the white.

I didn’t know if it would work.  But I hoped for the best.

Being a chocolate fanatic, I may have added extra chocolate chips. As I was about to start pouring the batter into the pans, I realized I had already used my only two loaf pans! I got creative. I pulled out two round cake pans and poured in the batter, effectively changing chocolate zucchini bread into chocolate zucchini “cake!”

On Monday morning, I brought the zucchini loaves to the meeting and the favorite by far was the chocolate zucchini bread because of the sweet chocolatey goodness. However, my favorite was the regular zucchini bread. It was sweet and tasty!

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Try them out for yourself and let me know what you think. Trust me, as an extremely picky eater myself; it’s not as weird as it sounds (or looks).

Print Recipe
Zucchini Bread
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two 8x4 inch pans.
  2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well.
  4. Stir in the zucchini until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let completely cool before serving.
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.com

Print Recipe
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place grated zucchini in a sieve to drain any excess moisture.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
  3. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and cinnamon until smooth.
  4. Add melted butter and almond extract to egg mixture. Beat until smooth.
  5. Stir grated zucchini into egg mixture.
  6. Slowly add flour mix to the bowl and mix everything together.
  7. Divide the batter into two pans.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from SimplyRecipes.com.

Healthy Substitutions

Note that there are many substitutes you can try to make your zucchini bread even healthier. Try using:

  • Egg whites instead of the whole egg;
  • Unsweetened applesauce instead of oil or butter;
  • A smaller amount of chocolate chips;
  • Whole wheat flour instead of white flour;
  • Agave nectar instead of sugar;
  • More healthy alternatives

15 Ways to Stop Stress Now

You’re stressed. But you don’t have to cruise to a tropical island to relieve your stress or anxiety. Here are some simple ideas to get you out of your rut:

  1. Drink a cup of hot tea.
  2. Breathe … deeply.
  3. Step outside. Breathe in the fresh air.
  1. Have lunch with a co-worker, friend or family member.
  2. Doodle.
  3. Listen to music.
  4. Walk!
  5. Plant-ify your house or workspace.
  6. Stand and stretch. Every hour.
  7. Praise others.
  8. Smile! Try a full-fledged smile that leaves crinkles around the eyes.
  9. Erect a “wall of inspiration” in your work area.
  10. Clean up your house or workspace.
  11. Skip work email. Talk in-person or over the phone.
  12. Set work meetings for 45 minutes (instead of one hour). More time between appointments!

More Stress-Free Inspiration

Read 12 Ways To Workout On The Cheap and 50 Small Changes For A Healthier Life.

New To Medicare? This Cheat Sheet Should Help

You may not have given much thought to choosing a health insurance plan if you always obtained a plan from an employer. The benefits were there when you needed them.

But when your 65th birthday comes along, you’ll probably need to pay more attention to your insurance. Why? You’re now likely eligible for Medicare. You’ll likely have to go and pick your own plan from a health insurance company. This can be especially daunting if you’re retiring and need to protect your health and your budget.

Don’t worry. My job is to explain Medicare in an easy-to-understand way. I’ll let you in on what you need to know and how to go about choosing a plan.

First, let’s understand the basics.

What is (Original) Medicare?

Medicare is health insurance from the federal government for US citizens and permanent residents who are at least 65 years old. Congrats! Through years of hard work, you’ve earned coverage.

Medicare is separate from both Medicaid (an income-based program) and Social Security.

Younger people with disabilities or people with end-stage renal disease may also be eligible for Medicare.

What are the Parts of Medicare?

Medicare has four parts:

  • Part A helps cover inpatient stays at hospitals or skilled nursing facilities, home health services, and hospice care.
  • Part B helps cover medically necessary doctor’s visits, outpatient care, and some medical equipment and preventive services.
  • Part C plans, also known as Medicare Advantage, are approved by the federal government and run by private insurance companies. These plans provide all Part A and Part B benefits, but you may pay less for certain services. They may also include extra benefits and Part D prescription drug coverage.
  • Part D covers only prescription drugs. Private insurance companies offer Part D plans.

What does it cost?

Watch the following video to learn if you have to pay for Medicare Parts A and B:

What if I want more coverage?

Private insurance companies offer other types of plans with extra benefits and lower out-of-pocket costs. There is typically a monthly premium for these plans.

For example, you can purchase a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) which includes Part A, Part B, and Part D all in one plan. The private insurance company sets out-of-pocket amounts like deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. These plans may also include extras like gym memberships, dental cleanings, and coverage for glasses and hearing aids.

These plans allow you to choose your doctor from a network. You should check with the insurance company to find out if your doctor is in their network.

You can also choose to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan (also known as Medigap). In this case, Medicare is your primary insurance and pays the majority of your costs. The Supplement plan will fill in the gaps, helping pay Part A and B deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance for things like hospital stays and doctor visits. These plans are regulated by your state, and benefits are the same regardless of which insurance company you choose. These plans do not include prescription drug coverage, but many companies also offer stand-alone Prescription Drug Plans (Part D plans).

With a Supplement plan you can visit any doctor’s office or hospital in the country that is currently accepting Medicare patients.

Choosing Between Plans

You cannot have both a Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plan at the same time. You pick one or the other.

Why choose a Medicare Advantage plan? Why choose a Medicare Supplement plan?
Lower monthly premiums, and the convenience of having all the coverage you need in one plan. Little to no cost out of your pocket in the form of deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.
Extra benefits like gym memberships and dental cleanings. Choose a doctor nationwide.

Watch the following video for Medicare Advantage enrollment periods:

In New York State, you can buy a Medicare Supplement plan at any time throughout the year.

When to Sign up for Medicare

If you’re working past 65, ask your employer how Medicare works with the employer’s coverage. This depends on the size of your company. For more, watch this video:

That’s it!

I hope this helps! If you have any other questions, please feel free to review some of the resources created by myself and my colleagues at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield by going to ExcellusForMedicare.com.

Ok, one more thing

Looking for information about new Medicare cards? Click here to learn more.