Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Goals for the New Year


I am a work in progress in many regards. I will work towards several goals in the coming year, but I don't so much feel as if I'm making New Years Resolutions as I am striving to do better in general. I aim to eat less refined sugar, move towards a more organic and vegetable based diet, and find more ways to embrace the little bits of goodness all around me in the coming year.  The difference is, these are actions I have worked on in the past and know that I will continue to strive towards.  I will not be done with them at any point in the coming year, and I'm so okay with that.  Also, I'm not resolving to give up anything. I am almost positive I will eat cheeseburgers and have bad days in 2015, it is what it is. 

New Year's Resolutions are believed to have originated in ancient Rome, as people would make promises to their gods to return borrowed items and pay off debts.  I'm not completely sure why, but I find this to be so positive. Ancient Romans were aware that they could do better and were willing to strive for that. I think having goals to eat a little better, be a little kinder and work a little harder is wonderful, but I think the best part is that you are making a goal. I don't mean that we are all screwed up and should probably do something with ourselves. By making a goal, you are recognizing something you could do a little better and focusing your intentions.

You have to wonder if the resolutions of the Ancient Romans were better kept at the time. I think the aspect that hinders many goals and resolutions is the grandeur of the goals. While losing weight may be a good goal for you, eating more vegetables, or exercising 3 times a week, may be more obtainable resolutions which would enable you to meet your overall goal. If you were making a shopping list, wouldn't it make more sense to list the individual groceries that you needed rather than just writing "groceries" on your list. In this sense I have come up with my own obtainable goals:
  1. Experiment with and using more honey, molasses, sucanat, sorghum, and 100% maple syrup
  2. Develop meat based dishes into more vegetarian friendly options
  3. Start waking up earlier to allow for a calmer morning and less hectic commute
  4. Running and walking more- this isn't for health as much as a time of reflection
Need help coming up with your own goals and resolutions? Here are a few interesting articles that may help:
      I love the focus of these articles from The Everygirl
      Also, Erika's less and more approach
      Lastly, a fun and ridiculous way to hash out goals

Hope your New Year is Bright!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Blue Apron


I have found a favorite new way to cook.  Blue Apron is a subscription service which you can opt in an out of and personalize to your dietary preferences.  I initially loved the idea of using fresh and seasonal produce and learning new recipes but wasn’t sure about the value.  Having someone plan, purchase, and lay everything out for you sounded like a great time saver, but I haven’t been leading such a hectic life that I don’t have time to come up with a few meals and make a weekly trip to the local farmers market and grocery store.  Also, spending $60 eating out or even ordering in for 6 meals (3 dishes of 2 servings) would be a great deal, but I don’t generally spend that much on home cooked meals. 

After trying Blue Apron, I definitely see the value in the system.  This company goes into so much detail in their directions (with additional tips online) as well as their products.  I think I contributed 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper to the last meal, but really and truly, everything else was provided, right down to the butter and seasoning.  Not only are you provided with fresh and seasonal produce, but also the opportunity to try things that may not be readily available at your local supermarket.  Even better, I feel like the recipes could be easily reproduced (with potentially a few substitutions).  In addition, the 2 meals that each recipe produces are so large!  Granted, I don’t eat large portions, but what was supposed to be 6 meals, really gave me 10-11 delicious meals.  


Earlier this month, I received the chicken schnitzel with watercress, apple, beet and red walnut salad, the shrimp & mustard green laing with jasmine rice, and the orecchiette pasta with roasted cauliflower, capers and garlic breadcrumbs.  While the chicken schnitzel was good, the orecchiette pasta was my absolute favorite.  I loved that each meal really brought together ingredients which I would not have thought to combine and did so in such a delicious meal.   I will definitely continue to use blue apron and encourage you to try it as well.  I received a free week of Blue Apron through a friend, but was not contacted or compensated by Blue Apron. I just loved it enough to share!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas to All


I  hope your Christmas is filled with delicious food and loving family and friends.  Merry Christmas and God Bless.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Brunch with the Birmingham Bloggers

Saturday morning, Brittany and I met in Birmingham for a brunch hosted by the Birmingham Bloggers.  The brunch was held at The Nest in Avondale.  Located just across from Avondale Brewing Company, The Nest is a beautiful new event space in a very cool historic area.  The brunch kicked off with a food photography/instagram workshop with Rachel, a food stylist for Cooking Light and blogger at Stupid Good Rachel. She covered lighting, angles, and backgrounds, among other things I had never thought of and offered great pointers.  

Rachel also coordinated the wonderful four course meal.  In addition to our yogurt bowls which we somewhat beautifully assembled (part of our workshop, we had a super green salad with pistachios, tahini and satsumas, baked eggs with crispy proscuitto and lemon zest home fries, and a citrus scented scone with grapefruit cream. With great food, wonderful people, and beautiful decorations like this, I'm reminded of how much I absolutely love brunch






I hope you manage to fit brunch into your busy life this week.  Do you have a favorite brunch-like meal?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Five Favorites for Friday



  1. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family. We all gathered around the giant table that my dad built, and had way too much delicious food. Mom has a way of making even family dinners look beautiful. I took a carrot cake. This is my absolute favorite dessert to bake and the recipe is from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, in which I have yet to find a sub-par recipe.
 
  1. I also contributed sugared cranberries. I actually don't think I had ever had fresh cranberries before last week, but now I have, with and without sugar.  Sugared is way better. The recipe is super easy, but does require an overnight step. This kid really enjoyed them (this is not the best picture due the constant motion of this kid, but I love it). 
  2. I spent the weekend following Thanksgiving with Seth's family in Mountain Brook, and finally bought a decent pair of reading glasses at Kate Spade- Hooray Black Friday!
  1. I've been trying to read up on photography tips and tricks, see Shortcomings in Photography.  This National Geographic article on lighting was helpful.  I also finally got a picture of Butkus before he had chance to turn around (he has some type of aversion to cameras in general that generally results in his turning his bottom to the camera). 
  2. I put up a Christmas Tree! Actually, some of my family came over to help me put up a Christmas Tree. Now to find present to put underneath it!
This weekend I'm looking forward to a brunch with the Birmingham Bloggers and Sunday afternoon with my sister. Hope you and yours enjoy a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What on earth am I doing (shortcomings in photography and a new camera)

I will be the first to admit my shortcomings, especially in the realm of photography.  In effort to better my knowledge of this subject, I recently purchased a Samsung NX1100.  I looked into a few DSLRs but quite frankly they intimidated the mess out of me. The NX1100 is part of the Samsung's family of compact system cameras with interchangeable lens.  From what I've read on the camera, it has excellent reviews, and aside from limitations of low lighting, really has been great.  I'm still learning photography basics and trying to figure out how to use it (outside of it's easy to use SMART mode; I've got that down), but I thought I would share a few of my recent pictures. 



 The pictures above were taken at the Cloverdale Road Park, B's favorite of the many parks in the area. First United Methodist sits at the heart of Old Cloverdale. 



My dad and one of my nephews at my niece's Frozen themed birthday party. Dad and Gray painted a lovely Olaf the Snowman.

None of the photos have been edited.  I would love to hear any photography advice you may have.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cranberry Orange Scones

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I hope wherever you may be spending your Thanksgiving is filled with love and good food and more than anything, thankfulness.  I will be spending the holiday and I'm sure eating a ridiculously rich dinner with my large family.  It's easy for me to get frustrated in the chaos of the holiday.  So many people going in so many directions (and so many sales to remind me that I haven't started on any Christmas shopping), but I will be doing my best to rest and take in the time I get to spend with nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters.  I hope you will too, whether it is time spent with sibling, parents, or friends, I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with those you care about.

An easy way to start off your Thanksgiving day would be with these cranberry orange scones.  I love a good scone, and the orange-y sweetness is a great complement to the slightly tart cranberries.  This could easily be made with fresh or dried cranberries and are would still be delicious without the orange extract if you don't have it on hand.  The best part is that these are very quick and easy to throw together, allowing you to get onto more important things like whipping together casseroles and basting turkeys.

Cranberry Orange Scones
Makes 8 scones

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 18-22 minutes

Ingredients:
2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar +2 tablespoons
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup cranberries
zest of 1 orange (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup very cold milk +1/4 cup (ideally full fat milk or even cream)
1 teaspoon orange extract

Ingredients for the Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
a dash of cream of tarter (will help glaze to set up)

Directions: 
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Sift together your flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the brown sugar. 
  3. Cut the cold butter into pea-sized chunks and add to your dry ingredients. Blend the butter in with a wooden spoon or stand mixer. A great idea would be to use a food processor or pastry blender like Ashley suggests (if only I had read that sooner). I ended up just using my hands to finish kneading this together; you want the butter blended in, but you don't want to over mix to the point where the butter starts to warm.
  4. Mix in dried cranberries and orange zest.
  5. Add the milk and orange extract and work the dough together by hand until just combined. Over mixing may produce some hard scones, which nobody likes.
  6. Gather your dough into a ball and roll out onto a floured surface until about an inch thick.
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  1. Use a pizza cutter or a knife to cut the circle of dough into slices. You can always cut those slices in half for smaller scones. 
  2. Move the scones to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush the extra 1/4 cup of milk mixed with a teaspoon of vanilla on top of each scone. An option is to sprinkle the two additional tablespoons of sugar on top.
  3. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a slightly golden color begins to appear on the corners. You can serve them warm for an quicker option or allow them to cool and add an orange glaze (that I promise is worth the few extra minutes.)
  4. Create the glaze by whisking together the orange juice, powdered sugar, and cream of tarter.  The cream of tarter will allow the glaze to set up, it's okay to exclude it if you don't have it on hand or don't intend on waiting on the glaze to set up. Drizzle over the cooled scones and serve.
Hope you enjoy and have a wonderful Thanksgiving,


Friday, November 21, 2014

Five Favorites for Friday


Welcome Friday, and thank goodness. I don't believe in constantly waiting for the weekend and really love what I do.  However, I'm so excited for this weekend, just for the time I plan on spending out in the precious few daylight hours.  Not having a window in my office, I've grown to really appreciate time spent outside. Knowing that I won't have any conference calls for couple days is also a welcomed little treat.

In celebration of this welcome, somewhat winter-like weekend and alteration in general, here are a few of my favorite and for the most part unrelated findings over the week.  I hope they will inspire you to storm a farmer's market, bake something delicious, and spend a crafty night in.

  1. I had a wonderful weekend with lovely friends in Tuscaloosa. So many of my favorite people were in town for a sorority alumnae event.  I cherish any time I get to spend with my friends, but getting to see so many of them in one weekend was just wonderful.  I also got to spend time with a few four-legged friends, like Winston, Brittany's adorable little yorkie.
  2. I can't ever keep my seasonal produce straight and I need a plan before hitting up the local curb market. I love Kate's Monthly Produce Guides and her blog in general.
  3. I'm so tempted to bake bread this weekend, just to have an excuse to make/eat Emma's Chipotle Butter.
  4. I'm so amazed by the number of bloggers in the state. I am a newer member of Birmingham Bloggers and I have found so many wonderful girls through this network. I've quickly come to love the blog, Double Thyme and really wish I could just be a test taster for the wonderful baked goods Beth Cakes comes up with.
  5. Between, the sleeping, cleaning, running, and baking I'm already planning to do this weekend, I'm hoping to practice my calligraphy. Julie Blanner has a few tutorials I've used so far and really like.
Hope your weekends are wonderful!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Almond Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies


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I made these a couple of weeks ago for a family lunch that I ended up getting to about 45 minutes late.  A positive aspect of staying in Alabama, is my family.  It's big, loud and a little crazy, but very happy.  Everyone is nearby, and able to regularly get together. My mom cooks lunch every weekend for everyone who can join and it's always delicious. As I said, these were meant to be dessert, but a hodge podge of issues resulted in my arriving after everyone had eaten.  They were still sampled, and everyone seemed to really enjoy.  My grandmother even thought they were the best I had ever made, but of course, what are grandmothers for if not complements.

If Thanksgiving had an official cookie, I would like to think this would be it.  The cranberry, in addition to the beautiful color it provides, adds a bittersweet kick to the white chocolate.  The almonds give a great texture and add a delicious little flavor.  Personally, I think the solid amount of butter also aids in the warm fuzzy feeling of Thanksgiving in this cookie.  I may be biased, but I loved these and hope you will too.

Almond Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
Makes 28 cookies

Prep Time: 12-15 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients: 
½ cup and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
1 ½ cup unbleached all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
½ cup sliced almonds

Directions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and sea salt and set aside. 
  3. Cream together butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).
  4. Add in vanilla and beaten egg, mix until just barely combined.
  5. Add in your flour mixture a third at a time.
  6. Mix in the dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, and almonds. 
  7. Drop heaping tablespoon-sized dollops of cookie dough onto the parchment paper, leaving a 2 inches between each cookie, I even smooshed them down a little.
  8. Bake 15-20 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are slightly golden. 
  9. Let rest on the cookie sheet for just a minute, then move to a cooling rack. 
                                                                                                                     Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Three Bean Vegetarian Chili

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Does anyone else feel like the time change kicked their butt?  While it's been great to feel like I've gotten to sleep in every day, the nights have been a complete drag.  I've barely managed to walk B and eat dinner before half way falling asleep on the couch.  Thankfully, I have had plenty of leftover chili to eat after making a big batch early this week.

I've previously mentioned my love of soups and my search for more vegetarian soup options. This is more of an old favorite, but it is vegetarian and delicious. I've always associated chili with football and cold weather, making this the perfect time of the year to whip some up.  This recipe is very simple and can easily be customized to your preferred amount of spice.  The chopped chili peppers really don't have too much of a kick once cooked down and the listed recipe is pretty mild as is.  If you'd like more of a spice try adding a little more chili powder or throwing in some red pepper flakes.

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili
Makes 8-10 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 chili peppers, finely chopped
1 large (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 ½ cups water

1 tablespoons chili powder
½ tablespoons cumin
½ tablespoons dried oregano

½ tablespoons seasoned salt
½ tablespoons sugar

Directions
  1. In a stock pot, saute the olive oil, onion, garlic and peppers on medium heat until slightly cooked, stirring often 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. 
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 30-45 minutes.
Easy as pie. All that's left to do is to throw some cheese on top and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Flourless Pumpkin Oat Muffins


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Sometimes mornings are hard. While I've become so much more of a morning person over the past few years, cooking a full breakfast while having a leisurely cup of coffee is not even remotely in my weekday routine. My breakfast generally consist of a smoothie or overnight oats. Anything you can throw together quickly (or the night before). 

These muffins were very easy to throw together and, stored properly, could easily last a few days. Better yet, the recipe is so simple, you could easily put in the extra 5 minutes to bake them in the morning. They make a very filling breakfast and a great way to start the day, if I don't say so myself.
Flourless Pumpkin Oat Muffins
Makes 16
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 28-30 minutes

Ingredients:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin
¼ cup canola oil              
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup vanilla soymilk
3 cups old fashion rolled oats2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a muffin tin with cupcake papers
  2. Combine oil, sugar, pumpkin and eggs until just combined.
  3. Gently whisk in milk. 
  4. Separately combine oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and fold into wet mixture. 
  5. Scoop ¼ cup of batter into each liner and top with whatever goodies you'd like. Crushed macadamia nuts, sliced almonds or white chocolate chips are all delicious. 
  6. Bake for 25-28 minutes. 
Hope you enjoy!
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Vegetable Lentil Soup

Vegetable Lentil Soup

It's just starting to cool off, and I'm already getting excited about making soups and chilli's.  I love making a big pot of soup on the weekend and being able to freeze it or take it for lunches.  It's easy, nutrient rich, can help prevent bloating, and has been noted for aiding in weight loss (depending on what you're throwing in).  This year I'm looking for more vegetarian soup ideas outside of the usual vegetable soup.  This one seemed like a great addition to my limited list of soup recipes and it will definitely be a repeat.  Lentils are low in fat and a good a source of protein and fiber. The carrots, celery and other vegetables bring some great nutrients to the table as well.  This soup is super flavorful. It definitely has a kick to it (back off on the cayenne if that doesn't sound like a good time to you) but the oregano, paprika, and lentils bring out a somewhat sweet taste. This recipe is a perfect fall meal.

Vegetable Lentil Soup
Makes 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 ½ cup chopped celery
1 ½ cup chopped carrots
1 cup dry green lentils
1 medium tomato, diced
1 ½ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
a couple dashes black pepper and salt
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups water

Directions:
  1. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until tender. Stir often.
  2. Add celery, carrots, tomato, lentils and spices and continue to cook 5 minutes.
  3. Add vegetable stock and water and bring to a boil for a couple minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Allow to simmer for 45 minutes until lentils are tender, stirring periodically. The soup will be done after 45 minutes (everything will be thoroughly cooked) but allowing it to simmer for a couple hours really brings out the flavors.
This could easily be frozen and saved for later. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Buffalo Hot Wing Pretzels

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I have now made these a few times in the past month, I love them that much.  This is not even remotely a healthy recipe, but I am already a sucker for hot wings and anything buffalo flavored.  A great bonus to this tasty little snack is that they pack that hot wing kick without the huge mess.  I made a batch of these for our beach trip from a recipe I originally found on Mom In Time Out.  They were good, but they turned out a little Worcestershirey for me. A little tweaking brought me to the recipe below, which has a little more of a buffalo kick without the aftertaste of Worcestershire. It is definitely my favorite.

Buffalo Hot Wing Pretzels
Super easy and a great game day snack

Makes: 1lb Pretzels

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 30-45 minutes

Ingredients:
½ cup Frank’s buffalo wing sauce
½ cup butter
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp seasoned salt
16 oz bag of pretzels

Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 300F and line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
    2. Melt butter, wing sauce, and Worcestershire sauce over medium heat until combined. Stir often; this should take less than 5 minutes.
    3. Add garlic powder and seasoned salt
    4. Empty the entire bag of pretzels into an over sized bowl
    5. Drizzle hot wing mixture over pretzels and gently toss until all pretzels are coated. 
    6. Spread pretzels across parchment paper somewhat evenly and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until dry.
If you have extra time, let the pretzels sit for 10-15 minutes after coating. If really gives it an extra pop of flavor. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Burrito Bowls and Burrito Salad


I eat way too many burrito bowls.  Not only do these fix my weekly Chipotle cravings, they are quick go-to meals that I can easily pack up for lunch the next day.  I don’t really have too defined of a recipe I go by, but instead try to work with whatever produce I have in my kitchen.   This is definitely a fun flexible meal.

A friend and I happened upon Chipotle a few weeks ago and I decided to try the salad.  It was not only huge, but delicious.  It was like a burrito bowl on a bed of lettuce with this wonderful chipotle vinaigrette and I thought “I can do that.”  Well this week was the first I’ve made and while not the same as Chipotle’s, it was delicious (and I would like to think, a little healthier).  Instead of a recipe, I’m just going to list the components and let you handle the assembly.  I stick to a love of vegetables, but you can really however much you would like of each component.

1.       Cilantro Lime Rice
I know everyone has their own tricks for cooking rice but I generally cook mine in the oven.  It’s how my mom does it, and I have yet to burn it this way.  Combine ½ cup rice and 1 cup water in small casserole dish add a dash of salt, 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro (or a little more if using dried cilantro).  Cover dish with foil and cook for 30 minutes at 350F (45 if doubling) then turn off oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

2.       Black Beans
I used organic canned black beans, but if you read the labels, a lot of products are sticking to more natural preservatives like salt.  Heat up and maybe throw in a little garlic ( ½ clove at the most) and dash of cayenne pepper

3.       Sautéed onions and peppers.  If I have any on hand, I’ll usually sauté in extra virgin olive oil for just a few minutes, until slightly soft.

4.       Tomatoes, sweet corn, avocado, anything else that may sound good.  Once again, if it’s on hand.  Corn and avocado are so good to top off your bowl/salad. 

5.       Dressing, salsa, guacamole.  I haven’t been able to find a chipotle vinaigrette and haven’t yet experimented with making my own.  I did find Marie’s chipotle ranch in the refrigerated section and while it may not be as healthy as the vinaigrette, man is it good.

My burrito salad, shown above, included romain lettuce, cilantro lime rice, black beans, sweet corn, avocado, and Marie's chipotle ranch. Like I said, assembly and the little extras you can include are totally up to you.  I can’t imagine it not being great! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mentone, Alabama

I think my first time going to Mentone, Alabama was during undergrad for a weekend retreat.  Between working at Riverview Camp for Girls for a following summer and returning for semesterly retreats, I have grown to love Mentone.  It is this tiny, adorable town sitting on top of Lookout Mountain.
 When Seth told me one of his friends was getting married up there, I eagerly agreed to be his wedding date (not that I would have done it any other way, but still…Mentone).  Friday night we stayed at Cragsmere Manor.  It was spacious and then some.  The best part were the views.
While Seth was busy with pre-wedding festivities, I got to meet up with a long lost friend at Riverview.
 

The wedding and reception were held at Camp Desoto and were absolutely beautiful.  We didn’t have time to visit Desoto falls or the wildflower café (I highly recomend both), or any of the little art galleries, but the weekend was still absolutely wonderful. Mentone is a great place to unplug and get away; you should go!

Foliage photo disclaimer: I know the leaves are just starting to change, but it felt like fall and I just couldn't help myself. Does anyone else get way too excited about fall?


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumpkin French Toast


I truly believe fresh is always better.  That being said, I would rather stump my toe on hot coals than try to puree a pumpkin again.  An old roommate and I had a go at making pumpkin pie from scratch several years ago. That pie remains on my top 10 list of the worst things I have ever eaten.  So, the following recipe is super easy and uses canned pumpkin.  French toast is one of my favorite breakfast foods and is so easy to make.  This made a small batch for two or three people (6-8 slices of toast)

Pumpkin French Toast

Makes 8 slices

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:
  bread (I used white, but wheat works as well)
  ¼ cup pureed pumpkin
  ½ cup milk
  2 eggs
  ½ teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
  ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  Maple syrup

Directions:
  1.  Grease a skillet with butter and bring to medium heat
  2.  Whisk together your eggs, milk, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg
  3.  Dip a slice of bread in the egg mixture, make sure the bread is covered and move to skillet
  4.  Cook on medium heat until the egg is fully cooked, look for a light brown color before flipping (approximately 3-4 minutes on each side).
Notes:
   French toast can  be easily saved for later by freezing it between sheets of parchment paper and reheated by toaster or microwave. 


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Santa Rosa Beach

For the second year in a row, we made the short drive down to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida to celebrate Brittany's birthday.  Located just a few minutes east of Destin, Santa Rosa is an adorable little beach town on 30A.  I think this is probably one of the prettiest spots on the gulf.  The water was so clear and felt amazing for late September.

The trip was very relaxing and much needed.  Living so far away from some of my favorite people just makes me appreciate the time I get to spend with them.  We rented bicycles (checking that off the list) and ate great food but spent the most time reading, relaxing and catching up.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

No-knead Wheat Bread


Who knew it was so easy to bake your own bread?  I don't buy bread anymore because there is no way for me to eat a loaf before it goes bad.  Not that this recipe didn't make more bread than I could eat, but I feel like it is way more acceptable to share fresh baked bread with a neighbor than trying to get someone to go halvesies with you on a bag of sliced store-bought bread.  An additional benefit to making your own bread is the wonderful smell that will fill your home.

I found this recipe on the side of a bag of Gold Medal all purpose flour and thought, "I bet I can do that." You can find the original recipe here.  For the most part, I followed the original recipe.  The few changes I made included using mostly whole wheat flour and cutting back on the salt.  The bread is best within the first couple days (and amazing when eaten fresh out of the oven).  I will definitely be experimenting with added herbs and cheese in the coming weeks.

No-Knead Wheat Bread

Makes 4 small loaves

Ingredients: 
3 cups lukewarm water
5 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 package active yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

I used a stand mixer and allowed the dough to set in the bowl with a towel over it. The dough rose for about 2 hours at room temperature.  I then transferred the dough to the refrigerator where it stayed for an hour.  This step wasn't completely necessary, but it did make it easier to handle.  You can tell from my picture, I got a little excited with the flour.  It is very necessary for handling, but too much will make it a little tough.

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

101 in 1001


Happy first day of Fall!  In a lovely surprise, I stepped out into a crisp chilly morning when I went to take B out.  I love autumn.  I’m not sure if it is getting away from summer’s ridiculous Alabama heat and humidity or pulling out sweaters and boots and everything pumpkin.  The arrival of Autumn is always welcome.  The turning of a new season, especially spring and fall, always feels like a fresh start.  So, to kick off this lovely season, I'm staring a new to-do list.  101 in 1001 is a list of things I would like to accomplish in the next 1001 days (which equals approximately 2.75 years).  The idea, which came from Mackenzie Horan at Design Darling, is a happy medium between a to do list and keeping a bucket list.  In addition to a lot of personal goals I have had for some time now, my list includes a lot of activities around Montgomery.  Despite growing up just outside the state capitol and actually moving to Montgomery a little less than a year ago, I really haven’t explored the city as much as I’d like to.  I  really think this list will encourage me not only to live a little better, but to be more intentional in the weekly plans I make.  I have until the start of summer 2017 to meet my goals and will happily donate $5 to a charitable organization for each I do not complete.  I’ll keep you updated and hope that you will join in with your own list!

Personal Goals: 
1. Donate $5 for every uncompleted task (charitable organization TBD)
2. Take a pottery class
3. Learn calligraphy
4. Sew a dress by myself
5. Evenly hem a pair of pants
6. Finish my t-shirt quilt
7. See a TED talk live
8. Get a new camera 
9. Learn how to use said camera
10. Join a book club
11. Read 5 career books
12. Read 3 biographies
13. Pick back up with Spanish and get to a somewhat conversational point
14. Get a massage
15. Take a cooking class
16. Learn how to dry herbs
17. Learn how to can and make jam
18. Bake a soufflé 
19. Make ravioli from scratch
20. Bake doughnuts
21. Make macaroons
22. Make my bed every day for a month
23. Clean out my living room and office
24. Keep my desk/table clean for an entire month
25. Research savings options
Professional: 
26. Learn how to code VBA
27. Take someone I want to learn from out to lunch
28. Interview an environmental scientist about their career
29. Keep a separate work to do list, leave it at work
Wellbeing:
30. Drink 8 glasses of water every day for 2 weeks
31. Go a month without eating fast food
32. Try a juice cleanse
33. See the sun rise every morning for a week
34. Run every day for a week
35. Run a 5K with a family member
36. Run my 6th half marathon
37. Join a yoga studio
38. Try hot yoga
39. Yoga outside
40. Be able to do a headstand
41. Go rock climbing
42. Try a new workout class
43. Take a self defense class
44. Gardening-figure out what I’m doing
45. Join a CSA
46. Stick to a vegan diet for a week
47. Stick to a vegetarian diet for a month
48. Go a week without caffeine
49. Go 3 months without killing a cactus
50. Go a week without swearing, may involve taking a different route to work
51. Complete 50 hours of community service
52. Join a local church
Travel:
53. Plan a trip to Europe
54. Visit a new city
55. Visit a new state
56. Visit a new country 
57. Rent bicycles at the beach
58. Go camping
59. Visit an aquarium
In Town: 
60. Visit the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art
61. See a play at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival
62. See a play at the Cloverdale Playhouse
63. Go to Montgomery Ballet’s holiday show
64. See a movie at the Capri Theater
65. Explore the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
66. Visit the Museum of Alabama at the Alabama Department of Archives & History
67. Visit the Moo-seum (take Gray)
68. Take a dinner cruise on the Harriott II
69. Go to the planetarium
70. Eat at 10 new restaurants around Montgomery
71. Visit the Nature Center at Lanark
72. Spend a day at a spa 
73. Do yoga at Old Alabama Town 
74. Visit 2 local art galleries
75. Visit the Montgomery Zoo
76. Kayak 2 new places in the area
Friends and Family: 
77. Buy my mom or grandmother flowers just because
78. Take my dad out to eat
79. Do something special with each of my nieces and nephews
80. Go a year without missing a single family birthday
81. Watch a sunrise with Seth
82. Plan and cook a brunch for friends
83. Throw a dinner party
84. Reconnect with friends from high school
85. Reconnect with undergrad friends
86. Find ways to be more involved with other alumnae 
87. Go on a hike with friends
88. Have an arts and crafts day/night with friends
89. Celebrate 3 little holidays I normally wouldn’t with friends
90. Ring in a new year with friends
91. Bake cookies for the mailman
92. Bake cookies for my landlord
93. Bake cookies for my fix-it guy 
94. Buy a stranger coffee
95. Leave a 100% tip for good service
Blogging: 
96. Learn and use html design elements on my blog
97. Join a blogging network
98. Meet other bloggers
99. Start a blog series
100. Add pin it feature to images
101. Figure out my blogging routine






Friday, September 12, 2014

High Five for Friday


1. My new planner came in the mail! Its the Kate Spade Large Agenda and I absolutely love it. As environmentally friendly as I try to be, I absolutely love planners and to-do lists. I have yet to find an app or online calendar that makes me feel as prepared as having my day written out does.

2. I have gotten in such a habit of snacking, I completely forgot about lunch yesterday. I am not one to starve myself or anything; I just eat a lot of really small "meals" throughout the day. This week included granola (homemade), cranberry almond trail mix, apples, overnight oats and some awesome snacks from Graze. I especially love the Mississippi BBQ Pistachios and the Key Lime Pie Mix.

3. I have gotten back to running. For me, running is a very freeing practice. Every few months I get out of the practice, generally because I have clumsily injured myself or I get frustrated with how it is constantly hot here, but I'm always surprised by how easy it is to get back into it. My running partner makes it ever better too; he will hopefully be a little more enthusiastic as the weather starts to cool off.  My current running motivation was learning about SeaWheeze. Yoga, running and brunch...count me in! (I'm so sad to see that registration for next year is already sold out!)


4. I got to spend a little time with Seth in Mountain Brook, Alabama this weekend. Mountain Brook is this adorable little town in the Birmingham area and it happens to be Seth's hometown. I love the botanical gardens and the zoo, but just walking around the villages provides plenty to see and do. This adorable little guy is in a community garden in Crestline Village.

5. Following this month's challenge of self-improvement and growth by The Everygirl, I've been working on blogging.  I'm hoping this will help me in learning a little html and learning how to cook a few healthy meals. I've been researching recipes and all things blog related and have found so many interesting tidbits, but haven't put many into practice just yet.

Hope your weekend is wonderful!


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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cinnamon Raisin Granola




I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I love cinnamon. Also, raisins, the original favorite dried fruit. I love mixing the combination into oatmeal and of course adding cinnamon to oatmeal raisin cookies. I’ve never tried making granola before, and couldn’t believe how easy it was. With the honey and brown sugar, this isn’t the healthiest snack, but it is very filling. I love eating it dry for a snack, or with cold milk or yogurt. With a little warm milk, this would make a great cold weather snack.






CINNAMON RAISIN GRANOLA
Quick and easy homemade granola

Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time:  30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
3 cups old fashion or steel cut oats
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup grape seed oil (you could also use coconut or canola)
1/4 cup brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven to 300F and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Once again, grind the flax seed. A coffee grinder would be ideal for this, but I used a food processor/blender. It took a little more patience and stirring but still worked well.
  3. Combine the oats, raisins, almonds, flax seed, cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt in an over-sized bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan and over medium-low heat, combine the oil, honey and brown sugar. Stir frequently until the brown sugar starts to dissolve, this should take no more than 5 minutes; do not bring to a boil.
  5. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the oat mixture and stir. This isn’t something you would need a mixer for. Just a few quick stirs to make sure everything is coated and you’re good to go.
  6. Spread the oat mixture on the parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. After the initial 15 minutes, stir/flip/turn the granola. Check and turn the granola every 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Mine was done in 30 minutes, but I have a gas oven- which can be a little dryer of a heat.
  7. Let cool. I left mine on the cookie sheet for a few hours.
NOTES:
Deciding when the granola was done was probably the hardest part of this process with all the cinnamon in there. I taste tested each time I pulled the pan out and stopped when the granola started to reach a crunchy consistency.



                                                                                                    Hope you Enjoy!





Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No Bake Energy Cookies


I've made a couple batches of these over the past week and I really like how they've turned out.  It's similar to eating cookie dough, but with a little less refined sugar. I've been enjoying them as mid-morning snacks
and they have been super filling.  Kept refrigerated, the cookies should be good up to a week.

No Bake Energy Cookies
A healthier and energy filled sweet treat

Makes about 24 cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Set Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
1 cup old fashion or steel cut oats
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1/3 cup white chocolate chunks (finely chopped)
1/4 cup protein powder
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Directions: 
  1. Line a couple of large cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Grind the flax seed.  A coffee grinder would be ideal for this, but I used a food processor/blender.  It took a little more patience and stirring but still worked well. 
  3. Combine the oats, peanut butter, honey, flax seed, white chocolate, and protein powder. You could also add dried fruit or nuts. 
  4. in a separate bowl, mix together the chopped almonds and chocolate chips
  5. Roll the dough into a ball and flatten into a cookie shape. Dip into chocolate-almond mixture and place on parchment paper. 
  6. refrigerate 1 hour and enjoy!
Notes: 
If the oat concoction isn't sticking together very well, try adding more peanut butter.

Friday, August 22, 2014

High Five for Friday

1.       I kicked off the week by cleaning every bit of coconut out of my house and I have felt so much better!  No more allergic reactions and I ended up getting rid of a lot of products.  The thing is, most of those products haven’t been used in at least a month. Getting rid of so much stuff inspired me to clean out my bathroom which then led me to start cleaning out my closet and my kitchen… I love feeling a little more minimalistic.  Listening to this week’s TED talk on NPR, specifically this TED Talk by Graham Hill definitely helped with motivation.
2.       Since I have this abundance of stuff to get rid of I decided to try ThredUp.  A friend told me about this a  month or two ago.  I signed up this week and a rather large prepaid bag arrived in about 3-5 days. I love the thought of cleaning stuff out and shipping it off for someone else to figure out the consignment aspect.  The best part is ThredUp will send items they do not accept to charitable partners or textile recycling.  You can also shop the finds; check out how it works here.
3.       I did yoga.  This is a weekly thing for me, but it is always one of the high points of my week.  I’ve been going to the local YMCA, but also started taking another class.  Both of the teachers are just awesome.  I’m a little sad to say, it’s easier for me to go to a class and push myself when people are around.  When it’s just me, it’s harder to slow down and spend more time in the postures I don’t like as much.  In addition to the classes, I’ve been using the Yogify app by EA Sports. The app is free and it comes with a few courses, but you have the option to purchase additional courses specific to your level and you can also buy some really good classes which are based on ability and focus on balance, strength and flexibility.
4.       I made some pretty delicious no bake energy bites.  Recipe coming soon!
5.       I found a recipe on the Everyday Occasions blog for Lobster Mac and Cheese and Seth and I fixed it for dinner together. Delicious!   

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

Over the past few months I have developed some type of aversion to coconut, which is really unfortunate considering how much I love coconut. I typically break out on my face after eating actual coconut or drinking coconut milk (which is delicious by the way). Until this week I hadn't really had much of any issues with coconut oil unless I used mass amounts of it, but using my EOS lip balm one too many times led to another annoying reaction.  Most allergies can progressively get worse with each exposure, and while I have had no other allergy related symptoms, I think its probably best to quit while I'm ahead.  This weekend I've started cleaning coconut out of my house.  I had almost exactly 3/4 cup of coconut oil in the kitchen cabinet, and being the good decision-maker that I am, I decided to use it to make some blueberry oatmeal cookies to take to work. I have made these a few times before and really love them. Not to sound like a chubster, but eating a warm one almost feels like a hug, and it was also really hard to avoid eating this cookie dough. I’m sure this won't be my last time making these, but I may be reverting to butter in future cookie making.



Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

A summer twist on the classic oatmeal raisin cookie

Makes 24 cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
¾ cup coconut oil
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
3 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups old fashion oats
1½ cup blueberries fresh or frozen

Directions: 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a couple cookie sheets with parchment paper. The paper isn’t completely necessary, but it is easier to get the cookies off the pan and to the cooling rack.  If you don’t use parchment paper, just be sure not to butter or grease the pan.
  2.  Cream together the coconut oil and sugars on medium speed. I left the mixer going about 4 minutes. It isn’t going to look very creamy, as butter would, just make sure it is well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla; the concoction will look something like brown sugar soup at this point.
  3.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, then slowly mix the dry mixture with the sugar mixture. 
  4. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to fold in the oats and blueberries. I used frozen blueberries; making It a little easier to fold the berries in without breaking but also a little harder to mix and scoop as your dough will start to freeze if you don't work quickly enough. Don’t worry if you do break blueberries, it’s inevitable, the cookies will still be delicious. 
  5. Bake for 16-20 minutes. I made some pretty large cookies, a little smaller than a golf ball when all rolled up. Because of the size and the fact that I used frozen berries, it took a little longer to bake, closer to 20 minutes. Leave the cookies on the pan for a minute or two before moving to cooling racks.  Enjoy!

*disclaimer… coconut oil melts at 76ºF. As it is summer in Alabama and I live in a very old house, it was about 77ºF-80ºF in my kitchen at the time I was baking these; do not try to combine coconut oil with any type of cold ingredients (ie. cold butter or milk). It doesn't go well.