Posts made in January, 2012

things i’m digging…


Posted on Jan 31, 2012 in Lifestyle

1. Homemade circle skirts.

They take about 20 minutes to sew, are totally versatile, comfy and super fun to twirl in. I’m addicted to making them and will probably live in nothing but circle skirts and tank tops this summer.

2. The headband method for curling hair.

I’ve tried a lot of different techniques for curling my hair without heat and this is, by far, the easiest with the best results. I can use a thick headband and get big, beachy waves or a thinner headband and get spiral curls. I now wear my hair everyday this way.

3. My organized closet.

This weekend, I did a major closet clean out and donated a ton of clothes to the Goodwill, including my very last pair of size 24 jeans. I was hanging onto them because I thought it’d be good to remember but I think the truth was, I was just keeping them because I wasn’t ready to let go of the girl I was when I wore that size. I am now, very ready, to let go of her. My closet is now only full of clothes that fit me and make me feel great about myself (like my circle skirts!).

4. Polyvore.

I know Polyvore has been popular forever and I’m way late to the party, but I started playing with it last week to help figure out what new outfits I could make out of the stuff I already own (much easier than trying them on) and now I’m totally obsessed. It’s a fun way to figure out what’s missing from my wardrobe and what items I can use in new and different ways. Right now, I’m planning out my clothes for our beach trip in March and it’s amazing how just buying a few staple items can make my summer wardrobe stretch a lot farther. No need for a whole shopping spree for vacation clothes.

5. Felicity.

It wouldn’t be a Things I’m Digging without a TV show, would it? We’re all caught up on all the Netflixed epsiodes of Army Wives, The Vampire Diaries and How I Met Your Mother (the last two, we still need to get caught up on the current seasons) so it was time to start a new show and Felicity won out. Considering I had a major, huge love of the WB CW in its heyday, I figured it was worth a shot. Once I got over the fact that it feels so dated and I’m supposed to take the pink Power Ranger seriously, I got into it. It’s good, but it’s no TVD, yo.

What are you digging?

smoked salmon carbonara [giveaway]


Posted on Jan 27, 2012 in Food

A few weeks ago, I got a nice email from the folks at Rushing Waters Fisheries in Wisconsin asking if I’d be interested in trying some of their smoked fish. I was hesitant at first, because I usually try to avoid farm-raised seafood, when possible. But after doing some research I found out that while Rushing Waters is a salmon and trout farm, they use all natural and organic farming practices and truly care about the fish they raise and the end product.  They actually still harvest each and every fish by hand! Something almost completely unheard of in today’s fish farming industry. After learning of their responsible practices, I signed on to review their products.

I was incredibly impressed with the quality, flavor and variety of the products they provided. I’m a big fan of smoked fish and this stuff was no exception! It was just as good as my sister’s world-famous smoked salmon that she makes for us every Christmas. And that’s saying a lot!

Rushing Waters sent me a ton of fish and while I’m a big fan of just simply having some smoked salmon on crackers, I knew I needed some fun recipes to divvy out the haul. The first of those dishes is this smoked salmon carbonara. I took my classic spaghetti alla carbonara recipe, cleaned it up and added some flavorful, flaky salmon. The end result is guilt-free comfort food at it’s best. I’m sure you guys are sick of hearing about how good salmon is for you, but let me give you just a little reminder. Salmon is packed with lean protein and omega-3 fatty acid, which helps keep your brain, eyes and heart all in tip-top condition. The American Heart Association recommends we get two to three servings of oily fish like salmon a week. This recipe will help you reach that mark.

Oh! And I forgot to mention, it comes together in like 2.2 seconds 10 minutes. Perfect for a weeknight dinner. Now this is some fast food I can get behind.

Smoked Salmon Carbonara

by Cassie Johnston

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Makes: 4 servings


  • 10 ounces whole grain thin spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 ounces smoked salmon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg whites (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Cook spaghetti according to directions, omitting salt and fat. Before draining, reserve 2 cups of pasta water.
  2. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, heat olive oil and add garlic. Cook until garlic is softened, about 3 minutes. Add in salmon and cook until salmon is warmed.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and egg whites.
  4. Remove Dutch oven from heat and add cooked spaghetti. Stir to evenly distribute salmon and garlic.
  5. While stirring briskly, stream in eggs until egg is no longer slimy-looking and thickens. Add in pasta water, 1/2 cup at a time, until pasta is creamy and saucy.
  6. Divide pasta into four bowls, divide cheese on top of the pasta.
  7. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Both the salmon and cheese are salty, so you might not need to add any salt.
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Want to win some goodies from Rushing Waters for yourself? I’ve got the hookup! They’ve offered to give away a sampler pack to one lucky fish-lovin’ BTHR reader. If you win, you’ll receive five-eight ounce fillets of their line of salmon and trout flavors. The lemon-dill is my favorite!

Can’t wait to try out Rushing Waters’s products? You can purchase them at Roundy’s Supermarkets and Whole Foods in the South and Midwest.

Now let’s win some fish!

giveaway rules, regs and how to enter:

  • This contest is open to U.S. residents age 18 or over only.
  • There will be one winner of the Rushing Waters sampler pack.
  • To enter: leave a comment here telling me what you’d do with all that delicious smoked fish. Help a girl out! Links to recipes would be greatly appreciated. :)
  • Entries close on January 31, 2012.

official rules and legalese:

To enter you must be 18 or older and a valid U.S. Resident. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from the pool of comments on this post. To be considered for the prize, you must provide a valid email address. Once a winner is notified and verified, Rushing Waters will be provided with the contact information of the winner and they will be responsible for  prize fulfillment. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. To enter, leave a comment on this post stating what you’d do with the prize if you won. No purchase necessary to win. Entries will close on January 31, 2012 at noon (EST). The winner will be contacted by email on or before February 2, 2012. If the winner does not claim the prize within seven days, the original winner forfeits the prize and a second random entry will be chosen from the pool. This contest is sponsored by Rushing Waters Fisheries of Wisconsin and is void where prohibited by law.


In exchange for this blog post, as well as posting this giveaway, I was compensated with one sampler pack and two tubs of spread. My review of the product was not biased or influenced in any way by this compensation.

Good luck!

[guest post] accepting gradual change


Posted on Jan 26, 2012 in Motivation

I asked a few of my favorite blog friends to guest post for me while I’m getting the hang of my new culinary school schedule. It’s an opportunity for me to catch up on homework (so. much. reading.) and for you guys to get introduced to some of the people that fill my heart with joy.

First up is a post from my dear friend Krissie from Questions for Dessert. Krissie is one of the most inspiring, warm and well-spoken people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I think the world would be a much better place if we were all just a little bit more like Krissie (including me). Take it away, awesome lady.


I kinda have a love/hate relationship with gradual change.

In the last three years, I’ve lost a lot of weight. I’ve kept it off through some very discouraging times. I’ve gone from the girl who used to pray that the XXL would fit to a girl who can usually fit into a medium. I’ve gone from the girl who struggled to walk a mile to a girl who can run 10 miles without being sore the next day.

I’ve come a long way, friends. When I started my journey to health, though, I didn’t think it would take this long. I guess that’s the hate part of my relationship with gradual change. These changes didn’t happen overnight. I would never be the person on the infomercial who proudly lost a huge amount of weight in a small amount of time. I have lost 65 pounds in three years. Just like when I run, I am slow and steady. When I look back at pictures from 3 years ago, I look so incredibly different. But from 6 months ago or even a year ago? The Krissie that looks back at me looks very similar.

Sometimes this bothers me. Sometimes I want to be the person who loses 2 pounds a week. Sometimes I just want to get this weight off once and for all. Sometimes I think I would just give in to some crazy fad diet just so my Wii stops yelling “that’s OBESE” whenever I step on. But that’s not me.

Because even though gradual change in my body is frustrating, gradual changes in my behavior have been the key to my success. Three years ago, I started making small steps toward being healthy. And as I became accustomed to my new habits, I wanted to see what else was out there, how much farther I could go. I kept looking for the next step. The more good choices I made, the more they snowballed. And the less they felt like punishment or restrictions. My healthy choices became who I am.

Three years ago, I didn’t set out to eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I just wanted to cut out most fast food. But then I stopped eating all fast food (except Chick-Fil-A – long story). And then I stopped eating most processed food. We drastically reduced how often we ate out anywhere. And then I stopped eating meat unless I knew how it was treated. And then I wanted to make as much of our food as possible just to see if I could. My health choices have been a gradual progression, and I’m sure I haven’t stopped growing. I don’t know that I could ever become 100% vegetarian – this girl loves her sushi – but I’m willing to get really really close. I do think about making more of our dairy products, learning how to can, and figuring out how to make (and store) our on-the-run foods.

Three years ago, I didn’t set out to run a marathon. I wanted to run a 5K someday. I started walking on a regular basis. Then I started training for a 5K. That was a horrible, discouraging, incredibly fulfilling experience. Then I trained for a 10K. And then a half-marathon. And then a few trail races and 5 more half-marathons. Now I’m smack-dab in the middle of training for the Flying Pig Marathon. How crazy is that? Three years ago, I struggled to run for 60 seconds. And in 3 months, I’m going to run 26.2 miles. Twenty-six point two. I have no doubt in my mind that I can do it. I don’t know how long it will take me. I don’t even have a time in mind, and I’m okay with that. My goal is to cross the finish line in a run, with a smile and the desire to keep running.

I am really trying to use that type of thinking with my weight loss journey too. I don’t want to be thin, but I would like to be thinner. I know I am healthy, but I can be healthier. I would like for there to be less weight on my knees. I’d like for the scale to tell me that I’m “normal.” I want to feel comfortable in my skin for the first time in my life. And, honestly? There’s a part of me that is vain and just wants to know what it feels like to wear an article of clothing that is less than a 10.

And I’ll get there. Eventually. I am trying to do less projecting, to think less about what I should be losing, what I could weigh in 6 months, or when I will get to a certain weight. I am trying to recognize and appreciate gradual change. I am trying to remember that I never dreamed that I could live the life I have today, that I would have the health I have today, and that it would feel happy, normal and not at all restrictive. I don’t know when I’ll get smaller or how small I’ll get, but I know I’m not done.

Just like running, weight loss it isn’t about how fast I get there. It isn’t about who gets there faster and who I leave in the dust. It is about being steady, being happy, and being thankful. It is about finishing with a smile and a desire to keep on going.

Do you prefer the quick fix or gradual change?

whole wheat cottage cheese pancakes with mixed berry chia syrup


Posted on Jan 26, 2012 in Food

Raise your hand if you don’t like pancakes.

I really hope none of you raised your hand. I mean seriously, who doesn’t like pancakes? While absolutely delicious, pancakes can be a bit of a health nightmare. Sure you can doctor them up with whole grains to make them a bit better for you, but the whole point of pancakes is to cover them in sugar, sugar and more sugar. After a nice stack of flapjacks, you might feel full, but you are full of simple carbs, which don’t fuel you for long and certainly aren’t balanced. To turn pancakes into a balanced breakfast, this standard needs the sugar levels to drop and the healthy fats and protein numbers to skyrocket. Enter these pancakes…

The cakes themselves are made with whole grains, egg whites, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. The egg whites, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are barely noticeable after cooking, but add in a nice bit of healthy fat and protein. These pancakes are big, fluffy and everything I love about Sunday morning breakfast. Not a fan of thick pancakes? Check out my recipe for Johnston Finnish Pancakes. Those’ll satisfy the folks on the thin side of the pancake fence. Although, I have to say, these pancakes may have even converted the thin pancake lover in our house (*coughBabyfacecough*).

Whole Wheat Cottage Cheese Pancakes

by Cassie Johnston

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

These fluffy pancakes will fool even the biggest whole grain hater. Babyface took one bite of these and said, “Do these have any whole wheat flour in them at all?” Yes, they certainly do!


  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup egg whites (8 eggs)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray


  1. In a large bowl, mix together bread flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add cottage cheese, yogurt, applesauce, egg whites, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir until just combined.
  2. Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet over medium low heat. Coat in cooking spray and spoon batter into middle. Cook until edges begin to brown and bubbles rise to surface, about 4 minutes, flip and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Keep warm in oven while cooking remaining pancakes.
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I chose to top my pancakes with a simple mix mixed-berry syrup that I thickened up using chia seeds. I know chia seeds are still a bit out there for most folks, but if you can find them, get them! Chia seeds have almost no flavor but add an awesome amount of healthy fats to everything they’re in. Plus, in this case, they play the part of syrup thickener. No need for the full cup of sugar most fruit syrup recipes call for.

Mixed Berry Chia Seed Syrup

by Cassie Johnston

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Makes: 4-6 servings

This slightly-sweet syrup is great on top of pancakes but would make an awesome yogurt or ice cream topping as well. If your berries are particularly tart, try upping the maple syrup amount by a couple of tablespoons until the sweetness is to your liking.


  • 10 ounces frozen mixed berries (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a medium saucepan, mix all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until syrup is thickened. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the larger berries. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before serving, syrup will thicken more as it cools.
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Thin pancakes or thick ones?

healthy game day food link love


Posted on Jan 25, 2012 in Food

I’m bitter about the Super Bowl.

You see, it was supposed to be our year. As a Colts fan and Indiana resident, this was supposed to be our Super Bowl. When Indianapolis was announced as the Super Bowl city for 2012, us Colts fans had all these fantastically ideal pictures of a home game Super Bowl. Lucas Oil Stadium packed to the gills with fan decked out head-to-toe in blue and screaming at the top of their lungs. Our beloved Peyton throwing touchdown pass after touchdown pass. Streets filled with celebratory Hoosiers. As soon as it was announced, I turned to Babyface and said, “We are going to that game. No ifs, ands, or buts.”

And then this happened. And we ended the season 2-14. Didn’t even come close to making the playoffs (for uh, the first time in 10 years). I guess it is the Football Gods’ way of balancing out the game. Because a Peyton Manning-led Colts in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis just wouldn’t have been fair. Sigh.

So, I’m bitter and obviously, not nearly as excited. But at least now, instead of being stressed about the game, I can focus on the second most important part of the Super Bowl—the food. Here are a few of the healthier foods from around the internet I’m thinking about make for our Super Bowl wake party (I also threw in a few of my game-friendly dishes).

Oh, and because a Manning is better than no Manning….GOOOOOOOO GIANTS!

P.S. Want to make game day truly healthy? Skip the halftime show (really, Madonna? Blech.) and go out for a nighttime stroll. Most folks will be indoors watching the game so it should be a nice, calm and relaxing walk around the neighborhood. If you aren’t keen on walking in the dark, avoid watching the 6 hours of pre-game coverage and set up your own touch football game before kick-off. You’ll work up an appetite for all the yumminess to come!

Alright, what’s the verdict? Pats, Giants, just in it for the commercials, or really don’t give two hoots?

I’ll never EVER cheer for the Pats. Us Colts fans have a special package of rage just for the Patriots. Don’t expect Indy to be a friendly place for you on game day, New Englanders. Colts fan for life. Giants fan for two weeks.