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Mixing Business with Pleasure

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Kale Quesadillas Recipe

black bean sweet potato quesadillas1

I used to hate sweet potatoes. They were too sweet to be a vegetable, yet not a sweetness that was very appealing. But I’ve discovered that, when cooked with other foods, they become a base flavor that actually complements other ingredients – the peanut butter to chocolate, or the raisins to oatmeal.

Sweet potatoes are quickly becoming my go-to vegetable. I put them in nearly everything — from my black bean soup to vegetable stir fries.

Use fresh sweet potatoes for this, or – if you have leftover mashed sweet potatoes – skip the first step and use already cooked sweet potatoes.

black bean sweet potato quesadillas1

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Kale Quesadillas

Yield: 4-6 servings


2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced ½ inch thick

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon oregano

1-2 tablespoons vegetable broth

3 cups chopped kale

3 green onions or chives, chopped

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

4-6 large flour tortillas

1 cup shredded cheddar cheeseSweet Potato Quesadillas-pin-3

Place the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add salt to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes, then add cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Stir until well combined.

In a medium skillet, heat the vegetable broth over medium heat. Next, add in the kale and green onions to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the greens are bright green. Add greens to the mashed potatoes, then add the black beans to the bowl and stir until combined. Set aside to use for the filled tortillas.

Prepare tortillas one at a time on a work surface or plate. Spread about a half-cup of the filling (approximately 1/5 of the mixture) on half of the tortilla. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the cheese on top if desired. Fold the tortilla over to close. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Use a paper towel to wipe out the skillet, then heat over medium heat. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray, then place one filled quesadilla in the pan and cook, turning over after a few minutes to lightly brown both sides. Cut each quesadilla into triangles and serve with salsa or guacamole. Garnish with green onions if desired.

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Discovering the Forest with Kids #ForestChat

discover the forest park ann arborI’m not an outdoorsy person – but my kids are. They love exploring the local parks, following animal tracks and picking up leaves and sticks along the path. It’s also a great way to sneak in a little exercise; the kids don’t realize that they’re getting exercise when they’re busy following a trail or tracking a bird in the woods.

If you’re like me and need a little nudge to get back to nature, is a great tool. Search the site to find parks in your hometown or on vacation, filtered by activity or zip code. There are also free download- and print-able outdoor activities that you can bring with you on your next outdoor adventure.

There are even interactive activities to get the kids excited about nature before even leaving the house. My 7-year-old daughter loves taking photos of birds, and the forest snapshot game is great to get her thinking about the photos she can take at the park or nearby arboretum. Then, when we get home, we can upload her photos right to the site’s photo gallery.

Looking for more ways to get back to nature? Join @Cheecker and @kimorlando for a fun #ForestChat Twitter party all about the great outdoors with the U.S. Forest Service at 1 p.m ET on June 26th.

About Discover the Forest

Discover the Forest is a public-service campaign that aims to inspire tweens (aged 8-12) and their parents to re-connect with nature, experiencing it first-hand. The campaign brings to life the joy and excitement kids have when they discover the wonders of nature, helping create interest in their environment and a lifelong relationship with it. Find out more on the campaign website,, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.



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Cornbread Blueberry Muffin Recipe

blueberry cornbread muffinsWeekends are for long, leisurely breakfasts, lounging in pajamas and taking your time rather than trying to rush the kids out the door so they’re not late for school once again. I often spend my Saturday mornings in the kitchen, baking recipes that I don’t have time to make during the week. Like these muffins. They’re great any day of the week, but Saturday mornings are the easiest time for me to spend baking them.

The recipe makes about 15 muffins (more or less depending on how full you fill the muffin cups), so there are enough to last through the beginning of the next week. They’re right around 100 calories each, lightened up with applesauce instead of oil and coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.

blueberry cornbread muffin recipe

Cornbread Blueberry Muffin Recipe

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup + 1 tbsp. whole-wheat flourCornbread Blueberry Muffin Recipe
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp. lemon juice (or juice of half a lemon)
1 tsp. lemon zest (zest of half a lemon)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin cups with papers and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the first six ingredients (through salt). In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, brown sugar and applesauce until combined. Add the milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Pour into the large bowl and mix until combined. Stir in the blueberries.

Spoon or ladle batter into the muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minute, or until the muffins are form and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool, then enjoy!

(Note: the muffins will stick to the papers until they are completely cooled.)




Hotel Review: Mystic Dunes Resort in Orlando, Florida (+ A Giveaway!)

There is no shortage of hotels and resorts in and around the Orlando area. Many of them are located in and around Disney World, which is fine if you’re visiting the area to see the mouse house. But in case you aren’t – or you just want a break from the theme park theme – consider a hotel away from the crowds.

I recently had a chance to stay a night at Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club, courtesy of Diamond Resorts International, during the annual TravelingMom writers’ retreat. Located in Celebration, Fla., the resort is about a 15 minute drive from Walt Disney World and has one, two- and three-bedroom villas. I stayed in a one-bedroom villa, which was much more like an apartment or condo than the traditional hotel room – big, spacious living area; full kitchen with a dishwasher, full-sized refrigerator, and an oven perfect for cooking up a meal or two – and had plenty of room for me to stretch out.

Mystic Dunes Resort Villa Kitchen

Mystic Dunes Resort Villa One Bedroom
I almost wished I had brought some work with me just so that I could sit in the screened-in balcony and enjoy the Florida weather while I worked. For a small family or couple, the one-bedroom villa would be just the right amount of space so that everyone can spread out without feeling like you’re too close to someone else.

Mystic Dunes Resort Living Area -Indoor

Mystic Dunes Resort Outdoor patio

After checking into my room, I did have one small issue with it – I called the front desk and, while they were not able to switch me to a different room, a maintenance person was sent up and promptly fixed the problem.

Dining at Mystic Dunes Resort

I only stayed one night, and checked in well after dinnertime and checked out early the next day to catch a flight, so I did not have a chance to try out the on-site restaurant, Kenzie’s. The resort also offers delivery to your room of Maui Pizza Express, as well as grocery delivery – great for travelers like me who didn’t have a car at the resort and couldn’t just go out to grab a meal off property.

Things to Do at the Resort

A number of amenities and activities are available at the resort. In addition to a championship golf course designed by Gary Koch and rated a 4 1/2 Star course by Golf Digest magazine, the resort has four pools and offers bike rentals and family and supervised children’s activities. Since I checked out early I wasn’t able to experience any of these firsthand, but another TravelingMom who stayed there with her family said her girls really enjoyed the pool.

What to Know Before Staying at Mystic Dunes Resort

The resort property is large – more than 600 acres – and the accommodations are spread out around the property. A complimentary golf cart shuttle service is available to guests to get from one spot on the property to another, but having a car might help save some time and get you there sooner. A complimentary shuttle to and from the airport, and to nearby theme parks.

Also, the property is a time share. I wasn’t interested in finding out about becoming an owner and was never pressured to do so. There is a sales office near the front desk where interested individuals can learn more about the property and ownership.

My one-night stay at Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club was hosted, courtesy of Diamond Resorts International. All opinions are my own.

All photos taken by myself with the Panasonic Lumix ZS40 camera.

Win a Free Family Vacation #GiveawayGiveaway Time!

Ready to try it out for yourself? TravelingMom has teamed up with Diamond Resorts to give one randomly selected winner a one-week (six nights/seven consecutive days) vacation accommodation for up to four (4) people at one of the following Diamond Resorts International® resort locations:

  • Florida
  • Las Vegas
  • Hawaii
  • Cabo

For all the terms and conditions for this sweepstakes, click here.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Low-Carb Spaghetti (Squash) and Meatballs Recipe

low carb spaghetti squashWe’re always trying to find ways to get more vegetables into our diets (and trick encourage the kids into eating more veggies). To that end, we’ve turned spaghetti night into spaghetti squash night: all the taste and feel of spaghetti, but without the carbs or extra calories. Plus, it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight. I sometimes leave out the meatballs to save a few more calories.

Low-Carb Spaghetti (Squash) and MeatballsLow carb gluten free spaghetti squash

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
1 1/2 cups marinara
6 fully cooked meatballs
1/4 cup mozzarella or parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pre-cook the squash in the microwave: with a sharp knife, pierce the center of the squash on all sides. Microwave on a plate on high for 1 minute, then flip once and microwave for another minute. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with nonstick spray (I love my Misto Olive Oil Sprayer), and place the two halves cut-side-up on the tray. Brush or spray the squash with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast the squash uncovered for about 40 minutes, or until a fork can be easily inserted into the thickest part. Let cool for 5-10 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, heat the meatballs if using and marinara in a saucepan.

When the squash has cooled enough to touch, scrape the insides with a fork to loosen the strands. Add half the sauce and 3 meatballs to each half, then top with cheese. Place back in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
Serves 2.

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VegaSport Recovery Accelerator Review

 Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator product review

How do you recover from a long workout? While I’d prefer to recover with a day at the spa, getting a full-body massage, most days my recovery involves a glass of chocolate milk, followed by lots of stretching and foam rolling. I’ve read a lot of research on the effects of chocolate milk post-workout, but had always wondered if there might be something better out there.

So when I saw that Fit Approach/Sweatpink was offering the chance to try a new plant-based recovery accelerator, I was eager to try it. The product is simple – stir a packet of the powder into a 12-oz glass of cold water, then drink.

I sampled the tropical flavor of the Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, which I found to be similar to the orange flavor of Gatorade – nothing special, but nothing offensive either. The Vega product had a much less chemical taste than Gatorade, though, thanks to its plant-based ingredients. It took some vigorous stirring to get the powder to dissolve, but eventually it did and I was left with a very tangerine-colored drink.

Chocolate milk is usually my recovery drink of choice – I use whole milk and whichever chocolate flavor we have in the house, either chocolate syrup or sometimes Nestle’s Quik if that’s all I can find. The milk goes down easily and leaves me feeling full until lunchtime.

I’ve used the Vega recovery drink after several workouts now, and there is a difference in my muscle soreness after drinking the product. I’m not as sore as I usually am after a hard training run, and my legs feel much more recovered than before.

Disclosure: I was given samples of the Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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Visiting Disney World Without the Kids (This Time)

Visiting Disney World Without the KidsMy kids don’t know that I recently visited Walt Disney World without them – and that I plan on doing it again. Does that make me the meanest mom in the world? Not really. You see, I was there for the annual TravelingMom writers’ retreat, which was hosted by Disney and spent the majority of my time there working – in educational sessions learning about social media and content creation, attending media events in the parks, exploring better ways to take and share photos from sponsor Panasonic (stay tuned for a post about their new Lumix ZS40 – it’s quickly becoming my go-to camera) and learning about new family-friendly features of the vehicles that transportation sponsor Chevy provided to the retreat. We even had a chance to take the cars for a spin in an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt around Orlando, sponsored by Chevy and navigated by OnStar.

In short, I was busy. So busy that I wouldn’t have had much of a chance to even see them during the day, and so Visiting Disney World Without the Kidstired at the end of the day that I wouldn’t want to do more than crawl into bed and snooze or watch TV.

Next year will be a different story; my husband and I are hoping that we can all make the trip down to Orlando. But the part about taking them to Disney World will still be a secret – for a while. We have family about an hour away from Orlando, so we would plan to drop me off at the retreat to stay in an Orlando hotel, where I can work while my husband and the kids visit family. Then, after the work part of the trip is over, we’d rejoin and spend a few days in the park. It’d be their first visit to see the Mouse, and neither my husband or I would want them to experience that without all of us together.

Combining a business trip with a family vacation is nothing new for me; however, having it happen in Orlando is a little more challenging.

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4 Free & Fabulous Fitness Apps

woman train runningThere’s something about signing up for another half marathon that makes you evaluate your own current health and fitness level — and immediately want to make changes. I’m again signed up to run the Detroit Half Marathon in October, and have set a goal to not only lose a few pounds but to also incorporate cross training into my fitness plan.

So how does one keep track of all that? With mobile apps, of course. Here are my current favorite health and fitness apps.

1. Lose It

I downloaded this and, about a week later, saw results. Seriously, this app is life-changing. I always thought that my family ate healthy (after all, we try to eat a clean diet and the only liquids I drink during the day are water and coffee), but logging everything into this app has changed my mind. It’s great for keeping track of how many calories you consume and burn off each day, as well as grams of protein and fat. What’s more, it’s great for setting weight or fitness goals – just plug in your current weight and goal weight, and choose between losing 1/2, 1, 1 1/2 or 2 lbs, and it’ll tell you your daily calorie budget to achieve your goal.

2. Run Keeper

This is my Garmin. I’ve been using Run Keeper for two years as an app to track my running progress. Various running plans are available on the free version, including plans for half-marathon and marathon training, but I usually just manually plug in my own program.

Runners are made, not born. I began with this app and highly recommend it to keep you on track to train your body to run a 5k (and beyond).

4. Road ID’s Crumbs app

This one’s great for people who run alone. Just set up a profile and enter in up to five contacts who can then track your progress on a map. The app can also send an alert to your contacts if you’re stationary for more than five minutes or for a duration that you set.


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Quick & Easy Black Bean Soup Recipe

Black bean and sweet potato soupLoaded with fiber and protein, this black bean soup is easy enough to make on a weeknight when time is limited. It makes about 6 servings so there’s enough left over for lunch (or dinner) the next day.

Black bean sweet potato soup  PinterestQuick & Easy Black Bean Soup Recipe
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped to 1-inch cubes
3 15-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1/2 tsp. dried cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. dried parsley
4 cups stock (I used turkey, but vegetable or chicken would also work)

Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, and sweet potato, and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until onions soften. Raise heat to medium-high and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down heat to simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with cheese, avocado or sour cream on top.


Where to Eat 3 Meals in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Cindys Diner Fort WayneFort Wayne is often called the City of Restaurants for its wide variety of eating establishments, and my family and I made an effort to check out as many as we could during a recent weekend trip. It’s also a highly walkable city, with many restaurants and attractions within a few blocks of each other.

We set off on foot from the downtown Hilton and walked a few blocks to Cindy’s, a (very) small ’50s-style diner with a big following — and, unfortunately, big crowds for early Saturday morning. Outdoor seating was available by way of picnic tables in front of the diner, but it was a little too chilly to eat outside.

Instead of waiting for four spots to open up at the counter (which seats 15 – tiny, right?), we decided to keep walking and soon came across Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island.

Fort Wayne Famous Coney IslandNow, being a southeast Michigan native, the Coneys I know have encyclopedia-sized menus spanning several ethnicities and meals of the day, as well as a plethora of desserts. I soon learned that this characteristic does not carry over to other regions, as this one had a very short menu board on the wall and very few diners inside the restaurant. OK, there was one. And he was drinking coffee and chatting with one of the workers. My four- and six-year-old happily made do with a donut each for breakfast, while my husband and I each ordered a cheeseburger and a side of chili. We often have breakfast for dinner — why not dinner for breakfast?

Cheeseburger Fort Wayne

After spending a few hours at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (highly recommended, especially for families with kids — the new Early Learning Center was created with the young ones in mind) we decided it was time for lunch. This time we walked back toward our hotel and found King Gyros, a sort of Greek fast food restaurant with a wide selection of gyros, chicken, burgers and ribs.

King Gyros Fort WayneWe went with traditional gyros, stuffed with meat and wrapped in pillowy soft pitas. Even the kids finished theirs! Our timing was great — we nabbed four stools in the front of the restaurant and had just started eating when a charity walk began right in front of us. Lunch and a (free!) show!King Gyros in Fort Wayne

The next morning, we decided to try our luck again with Cindy’s Diner. We had heard great things about the tiny diner, and especially about the “Garbage” breakfast entree, so we thought we’d give it a try. We should have bought a lottery ticket because, when we drove up, there were only three diners sitting around the counter! We hurried the kids out of the car and made our way inside, grabbing four seats at the end of the counter. A few minutes later, the little diner was full again and we watched people drive or walk up and peer inside, hoping for a few empty seats.

My husband and I each ordered the Garbage (described on the menu as “A special blend of eggs, potatoes, cheese, onions, and bits of ham prepared our special way”).

Garbage for breakfast at Cindys Diner Fort Wayne

The kids played it safe with stacks of hot cakes, and my son also ordered — and devoured — a blueberry muffin. Best of all, their juice came in adorable kids’ mugs.Cindys Kids Meals Fort WayneThe food came quickly and the portions were large. (We had to “help” the kids finish their hot cakes, although they both enjoyed the sides of raisin bread that came with my husband’s and my entree.) Sitting at the counter also helped to occupy our two hungry kids — plenty of people watching both inside and outside of the diner.

Fort Wayne lived up to its status as the City of Restaurants — and my family and I are already talking about when we’ll be going back, if only for the food!

Disclosure: Our stay at the downtown Fort Wayne Hilton was hosted by Visit Fort Wayne; all other expenses were on our own dime.

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