Friday, February 28, 2014

Fitness Friday~Portion Size and New Nutrition Labels

Companies can be so darn sneaky when it comes to portion sizes.  A can of pop should be a portion size, because...really....are you going to drink it over a couple of different days?  Here are a couple shots of a cookie package I got a while ago. 

3 Servings, but only 2 cookies.  Really?!  Sometimes I just have to shake my head.  I ate both of those cookies in 1 sitting if I remember right...but even if I split it or saved one for later, a more realistic serving size is 1 cookie.  Who eats 2/3 of a cookie?  No one.  It's a sneaky little nasty way they have of making you think you're not eating as many calories as you really are-you take a quick glance (hey, 120 isn't bad....) but in reality, it's 360 per package or 180 per cookie.  Tsk tsk.

I read an article explaining a new proposed FDA food nutrition label (the kind you see on all packaged food in the US).  Serving size changes is just one of the proposed changes.  A couple of the changes I don't care much for, but I like what they're saying for the most part. 

To read the article about the proposed changes and the reason behind them, read it HERE.  What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tasty Tuesday~Homemade Healthy Granola

I love me some granola-it's just so filling, and seems so healthy.  Of course most granolas are not actually that healthy, when you consider all of the fat and sugar added to make it good.  I searched high and low for some recipes that would be healthier and decided to try one.  Unfortunately I don't remember which site I found this on, but I made some changes anyway to make it my own, which of course you can do too :)

4 cups oats
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1-2 Tbsp honey
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1 cup nuts/seeds of choice
2/3 cup dried fruit of choice

Preheat the oven to 275 F.

Mix the honey, syrup, coconut oil, water, and vanilla together in a small bowl.  To make the coconut oil a  liquid, I popped the bowl in the microwave for a few seconds at a time.  I chose to just use 1 Tbsp each maple syrup and honey to keep the calories down, but might use the full 2 Tbsp each next time.

 In a large bowl mix together the oats, flaxseed meal, and salt.  I had an open package of flax seeds so I just ran them though our coffee grinder turned spice grinder.

Drizzle the wet ingredients over the oats mixture and stir thoroughly.  If you want chunks, you can try adding more water and making clumps by hand. 

Spread mixture on a large baking plan and cook in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring at the 10 minute mark.

After the 20 minutes, stir again and add the nuts/seeds.  The recipe called for almonds but I had these pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds I wanted to use.  Cook with the seeds/nuts for another 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and stir in the dried fruit while the granola is still warm.

Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container.  I've eaten it with yogurt and in a bowl with good ol' milk :)  Go HERE for my post on how to make homemade yogurt. 

As you can see, this here granola has little fat and sugar added, but still comes to about 218 calories per half cup.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spiritual Pick-Up Sunday~Loving Where You Are In Life

Today was a little crazy during the last hour of church when I was supposed to be teaching my 12-13 year old girls.  We had talked last week about what happens after death and I wanted to make a couple more comments on that and segue into how that helps us get a bigger picture and what our purpose in life is.  Not as prepared as I could be, but knowing some basics I wanted to say, I realized that because of  some factors out of my control, my 60 minutes to talk about this amazingly important lesson would be widdled down to 15 minutes.  We didn't have time to read the scriptures I wanted, or the quotes that fit.  Really, we could have spent hours if we had the time.  But God's plan, while it has many intricasies, is also very plain and simple. 

I can sum up, in very few words, why we are here on earth: To learn, grow, and be happy!

I expressed to the girls how we are given families and guidelines (i.e. commandments) as well as other help (scriptures, prophets) to help us do just that-learn, grow, be happy. 

Happiness, that's something that we all want right?  But when will we be truly happy?  I like the quote (possibly by Ralph Waldo Emerson?) that "Life is a journey, not a destination".  I also love this talk about finding joy in the journey.

I hate to say that a lot of my life has been spent in the destination mentality.  Once x happens, I'll be so much happier.  X represented getting married, finishing school, being a certain dress size... I spent too many years single and bitter that Mr. Right was waiting so long to make his appearance.  It wasn't until shortly after I was married, I was at church at a friend's baby blessing for their newborn.  One of my single friends was there and I knew how her heart aches so much to be married to, to have a best friend to start the next chapter of her life with.  We chatted a little bit and the subject came up.  I can pinpoint that few minutes at the moment I had a real shift in the way I think.  My friend has the beautiful baby while I don't, my other friend wishes she were married, while I finally am.  Inspiration came to me and I told her something that I've never been able to forget.  Learn to love where you are at in life.  Don't waste a minute.

I wanted so much to be married when I was single that I didn't look around me and appreciate my friends and ease of finances as much as I could.  Now that I'm married it's hard to find time to see friends nearly as often, and putting my husband through school is no picnic on the pocketbook.  We've wanted to start a little family of our own for about 2 years now, with no success.  For a while I was a little bitter, sad, frustrated.  I've come to accept that it will happen when it happens...and possibly when we have more finances to figure out why it's not happening, but that's not the phase of life that God intends for us right now.  Maybe it's a blessing for me to step back and love where I am, unlike how my single adult decade of life went.  Because you know what?  I get to sleep when I want, at the drop of the hat run to the store, and enjoy my hobbies.  While I don't have an adorable cooing baby to snuggle with, I also don't have to stress about it choking on small toys, or changing those diapers, or the sleepless nights.

If you're single, you'll wish you were married.  If you're married, you'll wish you had kids.  If you're a parent, you'll wish you got more sleep.  If they're sleeping through the night, you'll wish for the days that they cuddled more or the days they'll make you proud as they become adults.  When you're an empty nester, you'll wish the house wasn't so quiet. 

I was reminded of this last week when talking to a friend of mine who is out of work right now.  I can sympathize sooo much!  I know that any time I have been unemployed have been the darkest and hardest times of my life so far.  But you can love any time of your life.  She has the blessing now of taking time to learn new things and having more free time, whereas when she finds a job...she'll have office politics and a rigid schedule. 

Don't focus on what you want, don't stress about what you wish you had.  Open your eyes and count your blessings.  See what you have now!  Developing an attitude of gratitude and seeing the big picture has truly helped me be happier in life.  I've had times when I honestly find it hard to sleep because I'm just smiling and happy.  I don't have children, I don't have a nice house, I don't have a lot of things I want.  But I have a wonderful husband, great family, and superb friends, and I won't dare let the joy that brings me be lessened by wants and dreams.  I will enjoy those wants and dreams as they come in the future or reflect warmly on them in the past.  But for now I will enjoy my present, that's what they say you should do with presents anyway right?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stock Up Saturday~Winter Warmth

I know it's a little late to think about it since we're on the home stretch of winter, finally heading to spring, but there is still some coldness to go through.  When thinking about what I would research and post about this week on the topic of emergency preparedness, I couldn't help thinking I was a little chilly...and thus today's post was born!

It's all fine and dandy if you have food and water in an emergency, but what about if the emergency is because of a nasty winter storm that leaves you without power to your home for days?  Would you be prepared?

Here's a little list of some basic recommendations of things to make sure are around the house:
*extra winter gear i.e. gloves, scarves, coats, hats
*blankets, blankets, blankets...the warmer the better
*generator (if possible)
*firewood (if you have a fireplace)
*fire extinguisher

As well as preparing warm gear for an emergency, consider how you could insulate your home.  It's worth it, irregardless of whether or not there is an emergency to make sure your home isn't drafty, but an emergency (especially of an unknown duration) might necessitate extra steps.  If it looks like you might be in it for the long haul, close off certain rooms and have everyone congregate into 1 room.  Body heat, sharing blankets, and not having to think about heating extra space will be a huge help.  Stack boxes or find some other way to make a barrier to large windows and drafty areas to provide extra insulation.  Packing up snow around the place from the outside may provide help as well, as snow is a great insulator and keeps out drafts.

Beware of the silent danger: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
While you might be tempted to cook indoors or use alternate heating methods, it can be very dangerous.  Make sure you have carbon monoxide alarms and that they are working properly.  Lighting up more than candles puts you in serious danger.  If you want to use your gas or charcoal grill for cooking or to assist with warmth, it's best to layer up and do it outside.  If you have some bricks around, warm them up while you are cooking your food on the grill and bring the bricks inside, they will emit heat for a long time, sometimes days.  Unless the disaster includes broken gas lines, gas stoves will still work but will need to be manually lit with a match.  The longer the match, the safer, and you'll need to make sure the room is ventilated to prevent gas buildup.

Candles, flashlights, and fire extinguishers-
Candles are a good source of light when the power is out as well as providing heat.  Flashlights and fresh batteries are also obviously important, especially if you don't want to carry a candle around with you.  Make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy in case those candles or other heating methods get out of control.  I know it's something I hadn't thought of, but like carbon monoxide, fire can be a real danger.  

Last but not least, always make sure to have a small duffle bag or some other method of preparation in your car, especially for road trips.  Warm blankets and flashlights may be all you can manage, but it's better than nothing.

Here are a couple of sources I used in my research:
And for a couple of options on DIY candle heaters:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fitness Friday~Refining Your Palette

I started my weight loss journey almost 7 months ago with my focus being "lose weight, be healthy" though I didn't have hard and fast rules above counting calories and exercising more.  I've found myself slowly moving in the direction of less processed foods, more natural and healthy habits, and it feels great :)  I wanted to mention a key tip I've noticed for a healthier lifestyle:

Try New Foods!!!  I am not a picky person myself when it comes to food (part of my problem with weight control).  I dislike blue cheese and about half of the tropical fruits I have tried.  Other than that, I like food!  But some people are not as open as I am, there are a lot of picky eaters out there.  My new weight loss/healthier living journey has encouraged me to try new foods or to re-try foods.  And if you don't find you like something (maybe the way it was cooked when you were a kid), try it a different way!  Search for recipes, be open. 

Taking my own advice, I have found that I actually enjoy brussel sprouts (somehow my mom cooks them now so they aren't bitter, I remember them being so bitter growing up!) and I even enjoy starfruit, which I hesitantly tried again the other day.

Along with finding that I like foods now that I didn't before, I have re-kindled a passion for foods that I had enjoyed before but forgot about in the fast-food/pre-packaged lifestyle, like spaghetti squash!

If you take on this challenge of exploring the fruits/veggies section of the grocery store more often (or sign up for bountiful baskets and have a fun and surprising menu challenge each week!), you'll find a change in your palette like I have. 

What changes have I noticed?  I've noticed that a fast food burger doesn't bring me as much joy as it used to.  I find I'm craving my spaghetti squash lasagna and raw fruit/nut bars.  I've learned to turn down cheap store bakery birthday cake...because it tastes like sugared cardboard and crisco compared to the high quality dark chocolate treats I've turned to.  I didn't have to force myself to eat salad every day (I rarely eat salad), but by trying new things, I have found how much there is to enjoy out there that is actually good for me!

It absolutely takes more time to cook your own food instead of ordering it or microwaving a meal.  But the cost savings alone should make you reconsider, and then add the health benefits!  Not everyone needs to lose weight like I do, but everyone could benefit from the God-given nutrients that are abundant around us if we make it a priority. 

For some tips on how to buy healthy on a budget, take a look at my Thrifty Thursday blog post yesterday on that very topic!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thrifty Thursday~Healthy on a Budget

I've heard 3 main excuses for people not taking advantage of coupons.  1-lack of knowledge 2-lack of time, and 3-lack of healthy food coupons.  Perhaps I'll counter the first 2 excuses another time, but today we're going to take on #3. 

I will admit myself, I can find some pretty awesome sale/couponing deals on chips, candy, pop, and all sorts of unhealthy foods.  It is actually a rarity to find fresh produce coupons, and when you do, they are not of much value or not necessarily for brands that you might want or can easily find.  Here are a couple of tips that have helped me buy healthier and save some coins.

*Write a letter- If you can't find coupons for items you regularly get, consider writing a letter or email to the company that produces the item you're looking for.  I've written and received coupons in the mail for produce with a little success before (pre-bagged salad.)

**Mobile coupons- I personally don't have a smart phone, but I know that there are some nice deals to be had out there.  I've heard a lot about Ibotta as well as Target's Cartwheel apps.

***Online coupons/rebates- I have been signed up with for some time. has you input your store reward cards and offers online coupons.  The coupons work in the form of rebate-after you have accumulated at least $5 worth, you can request a check be cut to you.  I haven't used them a ton, partially because the stores that are associated locally with SavingStar are slim pickings (Rite Aid, Albertson's, and Fred Meyer here) and because I've been trying to eat healthier, they hadn't had much selection before.  They have recently added Freebee Fridays and Healthy Tuesdays.  This week, they have a deal on bananas :) is another system that I'm newer to but really loving.  You have to wait until $20 to get a payout, but it's much more versatile.  Last week I bought milk, bread, and broccoli-any brand I wanted, any store I wanted, took a picture of my receipt and earned $1.25 credit.  This week it looks like I'll be taking advantage of their banana deal.  And if I choose to buy those bananas following the SavingStar guidelines as well, I'll get credit from both programs!

And last but not least, never discount a couple of minutes of "legwork"-looking at ads to find the sales on healthier items and possibly even price matching at stores that allow it (Walmart, Target).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tasty Tuesday~Pina Colada Panna Cotta

I absolutely love panna cotta-I learned about it and developed a taste for it in culinary school.  It's extremely easy to make, in's basically milk jello.  Panna cotta is very versatile, you can blend bananas into the mix and top it with chocolate syrup, you can mix in vanilla bean and top it with berries, or, as I'm showing you today, you can make it a little more tropical ;)

I mentioned in this post about needing to use up some rice milk (and canned pineapple) that was coming up on expiration in our food storage.  I came up with the idea to try making a pina colada panna cotta since I also have some coconut milk powder that I bought a while back and have never used.


4 C milk (Traditional recipes call for milk and cream, I tend to just use milk to keep the calories down, or in this case, I'm going with the rice milk)
1-2 packets of unflavored gelatin (depends on the type of milk you are using.  If you go for whole milk/cream, you won't need as much.  Skim milk and rice milk need the most since they are naturally thinner.)
1/2 C white sugar (my husband thought this could have used more than this)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Coconut flavoring to taste (we used the coconut milk powder, though not nearly enough so I don't have an exact amount to quote you)
crushed pineapple
Take 1/2 cup of the milk and put it in a small bowl, pour the gelatin evenly on it and let it set for several minutes.  This is called "softening" or "blooming" the gelatin.  If you skip this step, you'll end up with a nasty hot mess, it's worth the time.

With the other 3.5 cups of milk, get it on the stove with the sugar and coconut milk powder.  The milk powder I have doesn't really come with instructions...and I haven't been able to find a way to dissolve it well for other uses, so I used an immersion blender and made sure it incorporated well into the mix-no clumps!  Get this mix to boiling and add in the gelatin mixture.  Once the gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved, take it off of the heat and add the vanilla.  Foodie Fact: When possible, add vanilla to recipes last-boiling/cooking extracts such as vanilla weakens their flavor.

Pour the hot mixture into individual ramekins, bowls, or whatever dish you would like.
This recipe made 9 little dishes and a small mason jar that held about a double serving (that went in my hubby's lunch, packed the pineapple in a separate small container :) )

As with all food, let it cool down a bit before throwing it straight into the fridge, you don't want it to warm up all of your other food.  Once it's not steaming, pop it in the fridge for a few hours. 

For the topping, I went pretty plain-jane with just putting the crushed pineapple on top.  I might have been able to come up with something more enticing...but I'm a pretty simple gal.  I also am not a fan of other tropical fruits like mango or papaya.
All-in-all, not my fanciest or best tasting, I know with some more tweaks it could have been awesome.  I'd LOVE to hear other variations of panna cotta to try if you have any!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Make-It Monday~Re-Purposing Pants

I've been working on a much larger project than this with sewing but don't want to show it until I'm much farther into the project (or finished) but at my whim of this and that, it might take a while.  I thought I'd give a little peek into it with this part of it :)

I had this pair of camo pants that my parents gave me-and old pair my dad had for hunting.

I pieced it out and used it to make 7 different bags.

Pant Legs: I decided to take advantage of the already nicely hemmed edges and made these 2 bags-1 has a button closure, the other has velcro (mentioned the velcro in this post).

Front Pockets: Again, salvaging what I could from its pattern, I kept the pockets intact and wrapped some fabric around the backs for aesthetics.  Using the velcro again, you can fit anything in the bags that you could the pockets originally.

Back Pockets: I chose to put the pockets back-to-back and make a strap out of some scraps.  It was a perfect size for scriptures (we use the Holy Bible-Old and New Testaments, as well as The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants).  We gifted it this morning to a little boy in my husband's class at church, his family is new to church and he loved getting his own set with a cool bag :)  Plus, he has 2 pockets to carry scripture markers or anything else he wants.
Zipper: My husband calls this the "crotch pouch"....oh goodness...I was just trying to use the zipper and keep it as intact as possible, but now I'll never be able to look beyond the name he has given it :P  It's more of a glorified pencil case...

Scraps: Last, but not least, I made this reversible draw-string bag, combining it with a scrap of blue camo we had. 
I really had fun with this project, I think it's a great way to transform old clothes, I could do it with old jeans too!  Hope it gives you some inspiration and you enjoyed today's Make-It Monday post!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stock Up Saturday~Flour and Food Storage

Well hello!  I'm trying to slowly learn more and build up our emergency storage, this blog is helping to keep me accountable ;)  This week, I had an adventure buying rye flour.  I have a few pounds of whole wheat and all purpose flour for baking, but I had a serious hankering to try a Polish soup that I loved from my time across the pond.  The soup is called Zurek and has a sour starter using rye flour and water that sits on your counter for a few days.  I'll post one of these Tasty Tuesdays to let you know how it works out! 

In truth, all I needed was a couple of cups of rye flour for this recipe.  I know it's not the most common ingredient and read that it could be found in Euro markets.  I went to my local Kiev market, loaded up on my favorite Polish sweet treats, and asked the cashier about rye flour because I didn't see it on the shelf.  It turns out they had 20 KG (44 LB) bags, and that was all.  I had to do some serious thinking about it...what would I do with 44 lbs of rye flour!?  I've never cooked with it before... But I justified that I didn't want to keep shopping around...buying in bulk is usually cheaper...I could use this opportunity to support a small local business...a friend just gave me her bread machine....and heck, I can use it for food storage!!!  So off I went with a giant bag of flour, not really having a concrete plan on what to do with it.

I knew first of all, the important thing was to freeze the heck out of that flour!  I learned the hard way in college about bugs in gross!  My mom might have mentioned before that and I just didn't listen, but she has since reminded me to freeze all flour for at least a couple days.  It will kill any bugs and larva chilling inside the flour.  Since we were consistently having 5 degree weather, I just left it out in the car for a couple of days, dreading having to bring it inside the house and sort out storage details. 

Here is a little info I've gleaned and understand about flour, that might help when you are looking into buying in bulk, and working on your food storage:

*Fresher is better.  If you can buy the grain yourself (i.e. wheat berries), and have a grinder, it will last longer.  Grains, like spices, tend to do better whole.  We haven't yet moved to that phase and don't have a grinder.  We do have some whole wheat berries but I've also used them in various recipes so they would still do us good in an emergency if we needed them. 

*Less nutritional lasts longer.  Sad to say it, but this is why you see so much all-purpose flour and white rice sold by food storage companies.  In grains like wheat and rye, the grain germ has fat in it which can go rancid.  I've mentioned it before-I recommend a good mix of short and long term storage.  Since rye has lower gluten levels than wheat, it is usually accompanied by all-purpose flour in baking, and the same goes for whole wheat flour.  Have a mix! 

*Storage options---Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers stored in food-grade plastic tubs is a great way to go.  Again, running a smaller operation here, we opted into something a little less intense, and more short-term.  I went to the Dollar Tree and got some plastic containers (like you would get for leftovers) and filled them up, then stashed them in the freezer (luckily we have a large upright freezer).

I decided to keep the rye flour in the freezer since freezing flour (and refrigerating, to a lesser degree) will make it last longer-it protects it from going rancid.  It's important to store it in an airtight container (the original bag wasn't a good option) so it doesn't absorb moisture or flavor from everything else around it.  It is important to note though, that when you go to cook with it you need to make sure you allow the flour a few hours to warm up to room temperature.

Let me know if you have any additional tips/tricks for storing flour (or cooking with rye!)  I look forward to experimenting with my 44 whopping pounds of goodness!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Fitness Friday Valentine's Day!!!

I'm taking advantage of Valentine's Day and not even tracking food intake today....we'll see how the scale appreciate that tomorrow!  But I do intend to get a fair amount of exercise at our church's Valentine's dance tonight :)

A couple of tips to keep on my Friday Fitness theme with Valentine's---look for substitutions!  We celebrated last night by eating at Red Robin.  They have endless fries with their burgers but you can also choose endless steamed broccoli!  Don't want to miss out on the fabulous steak fries they have?  Ask the waiter if they can alternate your choice or if you are in a party of 2 or more, have 1 of you get the broccoli, and the other steak fries, and share :) 

Another substitution is in baking.  I mentioned back in my Tasty Tuesday post that I had some recipes I wanted to try and I had only posted 1 of the 3 I had planned on.  I finally got around to recipe #2 today (they just got out of the oven and are still hot!)  In this recipe, I decided to do the ol' switcheroo on butter with applesauce.  The recipe called for 2/3 cup butter so I did 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce.

This recipe is something I came up with for the Valentine's special when I worked at a hotel restaurant a few years back (I interned there for my culinary degree and stayed on for a few months until I left for my church mission in Poland).  I absolutely LOVED garde manger in culinary school-which is basically the preservation of food.  When we were in that class's rotation, we had to find ingredients that weren't on the menu of our little cafe that would go bad, and turn them into something else that we could add to the menu.  I remember making kimchi with some greens, and trying to make sushi wrappers (like nori) out of spinach...that one bombed!  Anywho, when I worked at the hotel, the executive chef liked to have me fill that role when we had over-ordered on something.  Around Valentine's he asked for ideas and mentioned he had a huge can of cherries...which was never on the menu, so might as well use it up :)  This is what I came up with-

~Chocolate Cherry Cakes~

Start with a basic chocolate cake recipe or mix.  I honestly wish I had made this with a mix because this took way too much time and mess.  Not to mention the recipe I picked was harder that it needed to be...but it's up to you :) 

Grease cupcake tins well.  In the restaurant we used really big cupcake tins, I a smaller tin today, again it's your preference and what you have on hand.  Grease them well because *ideally* you will want to present the cake upside down, so you want them to slip out easily.  Don't flour it, because again-you want it to look nice on the bottom, you don't want a layer of flour.

Scoop in your batter and then put in a cherry or 2.  I rarely like marachino, I made sure to get a different kind at the store like we had at the restaurant.  It's ok if the cherry sticks out a bit because your cakes will rise :)

As for the juice/syrup in the can, make sure to use that too!  I forgot to add it in as part of the liquid in the recipe, I think I did that originally when I came up with this.  I have a jar of peach syrup from some home-canned peaches that I add to smoothies and I thought about adding this to it but I decided it would be best with the recipe.  I'm pretty sure that when I originally made this, I had a chocolate frosting of some sort.  I played with the idea of ganache (but didn't want to run to the store for heavy cream).  I thought instead of chocolate frosting, adding powdered sugar to the cherry juice and it would be a pink glaze.  I started to add a little of the powdered sugar and then realized it's not just cherry juice, it's heavy syrup so it already has a lot of sugar.  (Can you tell I just make stuff up as I go a lot?  And that I'm indecisive?)

In the end, I decided to make a syrup reduction with the remaining juice from the can.  You could do this with any canned fruit that has heavy syrup and use it on pancakes!  I boiled it down for a few minutes and decided to use it as a light garnish on top of the mini cakes.  To know a syrup is ready, you dip a spoon in and then let the spoon cool down before swiping your finger on it and seeing if it's the thickness you want.  You don't want a soggy cake from the syrup but you don't want to burn it by boiling too long.  All sugar syrups look very liquid until they cool down, that's why the spoon test is important to know its real consistency. 

Once these mini cakes come out of the oven, let them cool down a bit.  I was impatient and tried to take one out for the picture and tasting...and it didn't come out smoothly, probably didn't grease enough.  I just plated it up cupcake style, drizzled on a bit of the syrup, and devoured!  Sooooo good! 

Thrifty Thursday~Valentine's on a Budget

Saying "I Love You" doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, no one understands this more than a wife of a college student!  I'll let you know a secret as well, coming from someone who has worked a temp job at a florist shop during Valentine's-if you're looking for quality flowers, Valentine's is the worst time to get them.

So aside from flowers, what can you get a loved one for the special occasion?  If you're into the sweets, there are coupons for ice cream and chocolates.  If you're into going out for a movie, Rite Aid has a promotion this week for Regal/AMC gift cards-if you purchase a $25 gift card, you get $3 in +UP Rewards, might as well get some chocolates with the rewards right?

What about dinner?  We ended up going to Red Robin (celebrated a day early because of his work schedule), they are running a gift card deal (I believe it was Buy $30, get a $5 card free).  If you want to go a little more low-key then take advantage of Qdoba's deal-Buy One Get One Free if you kiss :) 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tasty Tuesday~Valentine Treats-Pudding Cheesecake

I have 3 recipes I want to try out and share this week, so far I've got 1 done, so I'll post the others as I make them.  The first: No Bake Pudding Cheesecakes!

First, I must confess...I am not a cheesecake person.  Give me a choice between cheesecake and any other dessert and I'll pretty much take the other option.  Give me a choice between Polish cheesecake and a's a tough call.  I can't stand Polish cheesecake about 10x more than American.  Their cream cheese texture is funky, there's very little sugar, and someone thought it was a good idea to put raisins and other dried fruits into the cheesecake....ick!  But back to American cheesecake: I think it's just too thick and rich for me.  In small quantities, I'm starting to get used to it. 

I was pondering on the topic of Valentine's Day dessert ideas and thinking of what I had on hand.  I have pudding that needs to be eaten from our food storage...what can I do with pudding?  Being less than fanatic about cheesecake, I will confess I have never personally made no-bake cheesecake, but I have had mini versions that others have made in cupcake tins with oreo or graham cracker crusts.  I decided to give it a go.

First, I put the cupcake liners in the cupcake pan to help them keep their shape and then put an oreo on the bottom of each liner.  In retrospect, I could have used just 1/2 of the oreos and it would have been sufficient and less awkward when eating.  The nice thing about this recipe is its versatility.  You can choose chocolate oreos or the vanilla kind.  The pudding can be minty, fruity, chocolatey...whatever floats your boat!

It's an easy ratio to remember for the filling.  1 box instant pudding (3.4 ounce size-the small box), 1 block of cream cheese (8 ounces), and 1 cup of milk.  I doubled the recipe and it made 17 mini cheesecakes. 

So I softened my cream cheese and ran it in the food processor with my milk.  I took half of the cheese/milk mixture out and put it in another bowl (2 cups) because I wanted to do 2 flavors.  In this picture I have the reserved mix on the left, and the other half on the right with the packet of vanilla instant pudding mix in it.  I was surprised by how quickly it thickened up the mix...I guess they don't call it instant pudding for nothing!
I spooned the mix in the cupcake liners on top of the oreos.  If you don't care what your cheesecakes look like....feel free to follow in my footsteps.  I hadn't expected it to be so thick and my brain wasn't properly functioning, otherwise I would have grabbed a pastry bag (or ziplock with a corner snipped off) and piped it in so it looked nice.  Mine are less than impressive.

I mixed my second flavor (candy cane) and spooned it on top of the vanilla layer. 
I thought about adding a little red food coloring to enhance the pink factor but decided against it.
Pop these puppies in the fridge for about an hour and when you take them out, they can be decorated or devoured as is.  You can drizzle or spoon on more traditional topics as well of course.

These are best when served cold and these came up to about 195 calories per mini cheesecake. 

Not the prettiest thing....but you can see the layers.  If you freeze them for a while then you can carefully peel off the liner and you have the cute ridges of the liner in the cheesecake (NOT like pictured above ;) )  Also, it tastes kinda good slightly frozen. 

So a short recap:
1:1:1 ratio-creamcheese:milk:pudding mix.
Pipe the filling, don't spoon it into the liners!
Freeze slightly before serving.
195 calories each for 17 (double batch) using 2% milk, regular cream cheese, regular pudding mixes.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Make It Monday~Handmade Valentine's Card

Today has been a crazy busy day with work and shoveling snow.  I've been trying to think of something to make for Valentine's.  We decided to keep things pretty simple and I'll probably make up one of these.
I figured I still need a Valentine's card though.  After a couple of failed attempts...I came up with this little card.  Still not as nice as I would like but kinda fun.  I used black thread and a straight stitch, with a sharpie for the writing. 
If I come up with something I like better during the week, I'll tack it on to one of my other posts ;)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Spiritual Pick Up Sunday~When We Lose Those We Love

Next week I'm teaching my 12-13 year olds about the topic of life after death, what we believe about what happens when those we love die.  Here's a short video that I found really touching on the topic. 

Click HERE to watch video "Until We Meet Again"

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Stock Up Saturday~#1 Thing to Stock Up On

I missed posting this last week and have been looking forward to sharing it with you!  The most important thing to stock up on: Water!  Here are some tips and tricks for emergency preparedness regarding water. 

To watch video, click HERE

My new goal: reuse any pop bottles we have and fill them up with water.  We usually recycle them but might as well get another use out of them!  Will have to figure out a place to store them, I think I see a gap between our couch and the wall that might be lovely.  Of course, I'll put the sealed, store-bought ones back there just in case the re-used ones leak.  Don't put unsealed bottles anywhere they could leak and cause mold or other damage!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fitness Friday~Be Prepared for a Healthier Lifestyle

We live in a busy busy busy day and age, no one can argue that!  As I sit typing my blog, I pat myself on the back for cleaning the kitchen and dining room...but I look around me and see paperwork that I should have done last week, a couple of sewing projects strewn about, and know that I should work more, exercise, shovel the driveway, shower, the list could go on!  I believe that a huge downfall we face with our health is  preparation.  Here are a couple tips that I have found useful in my weight loss/healthier lifestyle journey:

*Plan menus-I personally hate meal planning...I'm the kind of person that goes to the store and buys what looks good.  Usually influenced by sales, which produce looks best, and the "usuals", I make my purchases and then come home with no plan in mind.  This isn't terrible by any means of the imagination, but I've come to learn that having a plan helps.  At the least, you can have a list of meals you want to make.  I don't like assigning specific meals to specific days because I just might not feel like cooking or eating that meal I planned for Saturday when I thought I would on Monday.  Planning meals also helps get you out of food ruts, try new recipes, and not default to buying a boxed meal or fast food.

*Food prep-Again, this is a little "do as I say, not as I do", but I've been getting better at it.  I know with 100% certainty that I would eat more veggies if I had them prepped for snacking.  But if I get ravenous, or just lazy, and want a quick fix...washing and trimming a carrot isn't as easy as opening a package of fruit snacks or crackers or *insert other non-vegetable snack*.  Washing and trimming up snacking veggies once or twice a week makes it so much easier to grab and go! 

I don't know if you're one of the sneak-candy-into-the-theatre kind of people or not, but I'll admit that I've taken some bagged veggies in with me to snack on.  If that's not your style-prep some for road trips or when you're heading out for a long shopping trip (we all know you shouldn't shop hungry!)  However you work it into your life, I know it makes it easier to eat healthier if you take the forethought to prepare :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thrifty Thursday~Keeping it Warm!

I don't know about you, but I'm glad the temperatures are going to be warming up at the end of this week...into the upper teens!  Sooooo cold!

I also live in a basement apartment so the heat rises I have to be creative to stay warm without cranking up the thermostat. 

* Layers and blankets (obviously)

* Bubble wrap-I saw on pinterest that you can put bubble wrap up in windows for extra insulation.  Let me know if you've tried it-I've been meaning to but haven't yet. 

* Focus your heat-we make sure to close off extra rooms that are colder when we're not in them and we use a space heater in rooms we're in to boost the heat when we're there.

*  Re-use your heat.  I make sure every time I use the oven I leave it open afterward-you already paid to heat up that oven, might as well enjoy it as it cools back down!  (Of out for kiddos and their fingers having access)

Any other tips?  This frozen girl could use them :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tasty Tuesday~Potatoes 3 Ways

I had some potatoes to use up the other day and decided to have some fun.  Instead of boring peeling them I decided to run them through my apple peeler-corer-slicer :)  Because they're longer than an apple, most of the potatoes had to be cut in half to fit in the peeler. 

The cores:

These are fun little guys-I decided to roast them in the oven with some coconut oil and spices-YUM!
For the spiral-cut part....I was lazy and threw them in the crockpot.  I was trying to make a soup but they turned into an unhappy mashed potato experience :P  If I had seasoned better, it would have been great ;)  These would make perfect homemade curly fries, I think I'll try that next time!

I decided to give the peels a good wash and parboiled them.  We fried them up in the morning for hashbrowns :)  I normally would toss the peels but I figure they're just as good for you as the rest and just need a little more TLC.