Frozen

As I type this, it is currently 9 degrees outside.  That’s Farenheight.  Or -13 degrees Celsius.   We got some snow the other day.  Not very much, but it is FREEZING.

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Still, it was exciting to get the first snow of the year.  The icy roads were almost too exciting for me.  :/
I’ve been slurping down herbal tea like crazy!  
Since my mom has been here, I took a little blogging break to hang out, plan some landscaping for the backyard, sew curtains for the master bathroom (when I hang them, I’ll post a picture I promise) COOK and take walks in the snow (at least I know where I inherited my crazy from).
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My mom usually cooks for me when she comes out but since I didn’t have school, I ended up cooking for her!  It was a lot of fun to impress her with my skillz!
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This sounded good, but it tasted incredible!  I served it with rice pilaf (from a box) and fresh green beans.
Friday night, we went to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Chapala’s, sorry no pictures!   After dinner, we went to see the movie Morning Glory.  I just love Rachel McAdams, I can’t believe she’s 32!
Caramelized onion chicken burgers (pre-made).
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We added some fresh guac and lettuce, a squeeze of honey mustard and some vegan garlic mayo.  I also slow roasted some sweet potatoes and zapped some frozen peas in the microwave.
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I’d never tried vegan mayo, but this stuff was pretty good!  
Hunter LOVES my mom, he was at her door every morning to greet her when she got up!  
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Here he is parading around with her scarf. 
Crock pot beef roast and veggies.  
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If you’re new to crockpot cooking, I’d start with this one.  It is so easy.
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You put in a roast, add your veggies (I used baby carrots, celery and quarted some red potatoes), mix your spice packet with a cup of water then pour over veggies and meat in the crockpot and cook 7-8 hours on low!
My mom also taught me how to make the easiest gravy in the world.  
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Finally at age 24, I can quit making gravy from a packet.
All you need is 2 cups broth (from the crockpot), 2 tbs butter, 2 tbs flour.  You cook the butter and the flour on medium low until it starts bubbling, then add the broth and simmer until thickened.  
For dessert, I made Jessica’s chocolate cinnamon scones with vanilla sauce
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Delish and not overly sweet!
The recipe called for buttermilk, but I didn’t have any.  So I decided to try my hand at making my own.  1 cup milk plus 1 tbs white vinegar.  Wait 5 minutes.  I was totally freaked out by this.
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Worked like a charm!
Janetha had recently mentioned cooking ham in a crock pot so I decided to give it a try.  I added a simple sweet glaze into the pot for some extra flavor. 
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We had left over sweet potatoes and a big salad on the side.
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Hunter definitely felt like he was missing out.
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He was laying on a towel to dry out after frolicking in the snow.
Don’t feel too bad for him though, look what the local pet and lawn place was giving away.

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Doggie turkey!

It’s this time of the year that I really reflect upon all the good things that have happened since January.  I would be ungrateful if I didn’t express how much I appreciate all the things that God has blessed Jeremy and I with.  Even though we’ve both had to (and continue to) work really hard and make sacrifices, I know that we truly are blessed.  I think about people in my own town who might be homeless or struggling and it really humbles me to look around and see how much we have.

So I challenge all of you to look around you this Thanksgiving weekend and count the many things you have been blessed with.

What are some of the things you are thankful for?



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Just So You Know

I am counting down the days until the end of the semester…
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and at the same time, I wish it was a month longer so I’d have more time to study.
I’m also counting down the days until Christmas…
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even though I have yet to do any Christmas shopping.  (Remember my goals?)
Ok, so I got my Christmas present.  
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I can hardly wait!!
Purses? Meh.  Shoes?  I could browse ALL day.
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Size 7 please!
I was recently asked if I “was one of those brats who never had to clean their room growing up?”.
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Yes.  (I’d like to think I’ve gotten better.)
My momma is coming to visit me this week.
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Think we look alike?  It’s fair to say I was NOT swapped at birth.  
This means I can showcase some of her cooking.   She is a good cook.  Everything I leaned about cooking and most importantly baking, I learned from her. 
I’ve had an aspiration for a long time to make “real bread”.
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The kind with yeast.  But yeast is still scary.  
When I typed in “homemade b”, “homemade bong” came up.  Does anyone remember life before Google?

While she’s here, we’re going to see Hymns of Thanksgiving 
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My friend Sarah will be singing in it.  
I have had a major hankering for sweets this week.
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Hopefully they look as inviting as these.  I think I have to make some.  Right now.

Are you a shoe girl or a purse girl?  

Have you ever made bread?  Any tips?

Gone Bananas

Before I actually get all bananas on you, let’s talk serious.  Just for a moment.

Today is Veterans’ Day so I wanted to take a moment to recognize my hubby, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan

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Love you honey!

I would say that bananas are one of my favorite fruits, partially because they are cheap and quick. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I ate 3 bananas yesterday.  Boosting up on the potassium!

Banana #1
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Green smoothie.  I hadn’t had one of these in a few weeks, so refreshing and energy boosting!

At lunch I ate some leftover Shrimp Lo Mein P.F. Chang’s frozen entree.  This is hardly worth mentioning.  Eating it, it tasted good but soon after, it was sitting like a rock in my stomach.  I don’t know why I didn’t learn my lesson the night before.

Banana #2
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Half eaten, half on Bee’s Knees peanut butter toast.

Dinner was a MUCH better success.  I had booked a recipe over at Healthy Apron for a Healthy Chicken Tamale Casserole.

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It is unbelievably delicious, quick and easy to prepare.  I’m looking forward to these left overs!

Banana #3 was layered with homemade vanilla pudding.

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Have you ever had homemade vanilla pudding?  It blows JELL-O out of the water.

The recipe is a bit tricky.  In fact, I tried making this once before, burned the bottom and swore it off forever.  Last night, my craving won out and I went on to conquer it!

I was a pretty lucky kid to grow up with a health conscious mom who was diligent in making sure we ate plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains (white bread? what’s that?) and lean proteins.  Both my mom and dad are talented at cooking and baking.  My mom makes the best stroganoff and my dad makes potato rolls (a recipe from his mom) that no other roll can hold a candle to.

Sweets were usually saved for Sundays only.  I remember once in a while my mom would make vanilla pudding.  So when I made this, I wanted it to be as close to my mom’s as possible.  Which means the only healthy thing in it was the skim milk.

Vanilla Pudding
(from Cooks.com)

3/4 c. sugar
2 TBS corn starch
1/4 TSP. salt
2 c. milk
1 well beaten egg
2 TBS butter
1 TSP vanilla ( I added just a smidge more for a stronger vanilla flavor)

1. In a saucepan, blend sugar, cornstarch and salt.

2. Add milk and cook over medium heat.  Stir consistently over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. (this is definitely not a recipe you can multitask while making!)  Or in my case, it got a little too hot and starting boiling up!  That’s ok, take it off the heat for a minute and turn the heat down a bit.

3. Cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat.  Stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the beaten egg.  (I added about 2 ladles, one at a time)  This helps the egg cook evenly and not get clumpy.

4. Return to medium heat, cook and stir about 2 more minutes.  At this point, it should be producing thick bubbles when you stop stirring (only stop for a few moments!).  Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.  It will thicken a little more as it cools.

As long as you have everything set out ahead of time, read through the directions a few times and stir constantly, you can do this!

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Sweet, warm, comfort food.  Just like a hug from mom. 

What is your favorite comfort food?


I need a bigger pan

Hello everyone!  I hope you all had wonderful, relaxing weekends.  I sure did.

Friday, I FINALLY got to go visit my friend Audrey, who had her baby four weeks ago.  He had a hole in his diaphragm which caused some complications which required surgery and an extended stay in the hospital.  Being born is no easy feat!  Anyways, he’s home now and doing great!

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This is Ethan.  Such a sweet little guy.

Remember that kombucha squash I bought?  It’s been sitting on my counter for a few days and tonight I finally decided to tackle the beast.  It’s been rainy and cool all day and this sounded like cozy comfort food.

I’m certain that each time I cut into a squash, I think “why the heck am I doing this?”.  I always seem to forget what a pain they are to cut up.  I’m always concerned about cutting myself in the process.  I still have a pretty good scar from cutting my finger while cutting a sweet potato when I was about 10 years old.  The good news is that I came away unscathed tonight.

I had no idea how to cook this, but I’d seen these cut into wedges before, so I did that.  Then I turned my oven to “speed bake” (I love this setting) at 400 F.  Then I drizzled a little agave over the slices.  This is all that fit on my pan.

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And here is what I had left.
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Clearly, I would be baking squash all night.  Hence, I need a bigger pan.  (Hint, hint, Mom?)

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The verdict: ok, I get it now.  This squash is REALLY good.  I’d compare it to a similar taste and texture of an acorn squash with a nice, nutty flavor.  It has a really mild aftertaste as well.  I’m sure I’ll have it again, after I finish eating it in two weeks.  You all are welcome to come over and help me.

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For dinner, I also had some veggie chili with sharp cheddar and cornbread.  Yum.

One last thing: I’ve started a new craft in preparation for Christmas.  I got some plain glass balls, stick on rhinestones, some rub on adhesives, ribbon, and fake snow from the craft store.    I wrapped the ribbon around the ball, tacking at the bottom and the top and voila!  I also put glitter and fake snow inside some of them.  It’s kind of tricky at first, but I got the hang of it after a while.

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And I admit: I listened to Christmas music.  It doesn’t seem right to work on Christmas crafts with out it!

Since I just cleaned up my kitchen, I’m thinking that making Jessica’s pumpkin cupcakes might be in order.

Hope everyone has a good beginning of the week!

New month, new goals, new food

This week I’ve been thinking.  I tend to start things with good intentions and not finish them.  Oops.  So this month, I decided to share my goals and be held accountable.  So here they are:

1. Get Christmas shopping done.
I know this is a big one.  With finals, traveling and everything else that happens in December, I feel like I’m scrambling to get my Christmas shopping done at the last minute.  Plus, I’d rather avoid the Christmas mob as much as possible!
2. Eat veggies with each meal.
I’m pretty good at this one but it could still use some attention.  There is such a variety of vegetables I enjoy, that there’s no reason to skimp!
3. Get to the gym 3-4 days a week.  
I always feel happier, more balanced, less tired and less stressed when I make the effort to get exercise regularly.  
To remind myself of these goals, I wrote them on a sticky and put it on my laptop.  I even got myself some stickers to put on my calendar each day I make it to the gym.  
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What motivates me?  Stickers. Clearly, I never moved on from elementary school.  Such a dork.
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Two days down this week!  That heart sticker on Saturday is a reminder to give Hunter his heartworm medicine.  In case you were wondering. 
Let me tell you a story about the relationship I have with bananas.  I only eat them if they are yellow.  One brown dot and I won’t touch it.  Unfortunately, in the past, this has led to a lot of abandoned bananas.  I try my hardest to either add them to smoothies or peel and freeze them for banana soft serve or baking. 
I went all out and made a loaf of banana bread and a loaf of pumpkin banana bread.  I’m assuming all of you have your favorite banana bread recipe but maybe would enjoy a pumpkin banana bread one?  It’s ok, I know there’s a zillion pumpkin recipes out there.  Cheers to blog trends. 
Pumpkin Banana Bread
(adapted from allrecipes.com)

2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1/3 c. plain applesauce 
1 1/3 c. pumpkin puree (has anyone turned orange from all this pumpkin?!?)
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
dash of salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. raisins (optional)
1/4 c. walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)
1. Preheat to 350 F and grease your loaf pan.
2. Mix banana, eggs, applesauce, pumpkin, honey and sugar.  Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon.
3.  Once the dry ingredients are mixed, add to the wet ingredients.  Fold in the raisins and walnuts, if you are using them.  (I skipped this step, but I think I’ll add them next time!)
4. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 45-50 min.  If a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, you’re done!

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Yummmm!
In grocery shopping news, I found this 100% cherry juice on sale this week and decided to pick some up.  
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No added sugar.  This is good stuff.
I know a few posts ago, I mentioned I’m not a huge fan of oatmeal.  I’m not.  Sort of.  Mostly, I don’t  like making it from scratch.  I’m lazy.  But I do like it on cooler mornings.  Now you think I’m a hypocrite.  Hey, this box will probably last me all winter.
Anyways, I picked up this flavor to test out and gave it two thumbs up.
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The nutrition stats are decent.  I think.  Anyone want to give their thoughts on this?
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I like to add some freeze dried fruit before cooking for more texture.
I also bought my first ever kombucha squash.  I have to find out what all the raving is about.  Although there were several other interesting types of squash I may have to try once I’ve eaten this one.
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Kombu-what?
After noticing these in the grocery store for a couple of weeks and then seeing Julie’s tutorial on how to cut one open, I was dying of curiosity.
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Pomegranate! 
I want to say I’ve tried one once before a long time ago.  Apparently, you’re supposed to pick one that is heavy for it’s size.  This thing was huge, like the size of a grapefruit!  Are they usually that large?
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It begins.  
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This sucker was juicy!
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Reaping the rewards.
The verdict: kind of tasted similar to red grapes.  To be completely honest, I’m not a fan of seedy fruits (like raspberries) so the seeds kind of bothered me.  But I really liked the sweet/tart flavor.  It was definitely an amusing snack!  
When trying a new fruit, I always get a little anxious.  About a year ago, I discovered I was allergic to mangoes.  The hard way.  I get fever blisters on my lips and they get very swollen and stung as if someone had put cinnamon oil on them.  For someone who already has full lips, this made me look like collagen injections gone bad!  Keeping fingers crossed, just in case.
I better get some sleep, I haven’t been to BodyPump in quite a while and I’m sure it’s going to kick my boo-tay.

How do you like to prepare kombucha squash?

What’s you’re opinion on pomegranates? Like them or not?

Change is the Only Constant

-Proverb Quote

Happy November everyone!  Sheesh, where has the last year gone?  Time really flies when you’re getting old having fun.

I ended up not dressing up for Halloween this year which was sort of lame.  But at least Hunter got in the spirit!

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Remember this? It even glows in the dark.  Am I the only one who thinks things that glow in the dark are just the coolest?  I had a gazillion glow in the dark stars on my ceiling growing up.

Yesterday was pretty low key, just went to a friend’s house and spend the evening with her and her family.

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For dinner, they made this fantastic beef stew in a pumpkin.  Lorna said “I knew that you would put dinner on your blog, so I had to make something interesting.” Awesome.  Now I know whose house to go to when I’m having cooking block.  😉

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I was amazed by this.  It was so good!

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We carved pumpkins (well, the kids started them and we finished them), played games, watched the halloween special for modern family and funniest home videos.

After territory was established, Hunter and their dog Scout got along pretty well, they even played tug-o-war together.

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Scout gave Hunter a pretty good fight!

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Aren’t they cute??  I love this look on Hunter’s face.

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When I came home, I had some surprise goodies left by my friend, Amy.

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She always comes up with some cute little craft!

Lately, I’ve been experiencing a lot of changes/letdowns/stress.  Ah, this makes me sound like an emotional mess, but hey, I’m a woman.   Anyways, one day I was thinking to myself “I hate change”.  In fact, the reason change is disliked, it because we fear the unknown.  

After further reflection, I realized that good or bad, changes happen all the time.  And maybe, just maybe, change is a necessary thing.  Change brought the end of WWII, the end of the Berlin wall.  If we did not have change, there would be no children, no growing wiser, no change of heart.  I realize that, like all things in the world the good balances the bad.  Sometimes, it feels as though there are a lot more uncomfortable changes than easy ones, but I think that they all even out in the end.

I was talking with Jeremy about this and we came to the conclusion that we’d rather take bad changes with the good, than no changes at all.  The quote below pretty much says it all:

“We cannot change the past.  We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
-Charles R. Swindoll


I think this is a powerful quote because, as humans we do have an amazing power to overcome anything we put our minds to.  We have the choice to give up because of a difficult change or to persevere.   It gave me comfort that no matter what comes our way, we can learn and grow from experiencing it.

How do you deal with change?


What are you looking forward to about November?