Friday, November 21, 2014

To My Husband

Today is a special day. It's a day filled with love and happiness and joy and all things wonderful.


It, like almost every other day (I say almost, but without validation as I cannot think of a day this is not true... but want to leave room for error), reminds me how much I love my husband and how truly lucky I feel to have him in my life.

It is a day that I am reminded that through the very worst days, he has stood by my side, held me close, and helped me weather the storm.

He is brilliant. He is obnoxious (true). He is hilarious. And he is all mine.

Today I am reminded that he should be celebrated. Not only today, but every day.

Also, today is his birthday.

Happy birthday, handsome.

I love you a bushel and a peck!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

GO OUTSIDE!! #CleanItForward {Sponsored}

For my final post in the #CleanItForward Campaign by Finish Power & Free Alliance of Moms (which is a network that explores a new product line, Finish Power & Free, featuring less harsh chemical formulas, without sacrificing the power of Finish results – a win for even the tiniest members of your family! ), I want to discuss my family's favorite thing. Something I think all families should spend time doing. That is, playing outside.


I really truly and completely believe there is a lot to learn from the outdoors. I am 25 years old and I'm STILL learning things almost every time our family goes on an adventure. If not about the adventure itself, then it's something about my surroundings. Take my 25 years in comparison to my daughter's (almost) two years (which makes me want to cry) and you know that there is a wealth of knowledge for her to attain just by stepping outside. And when we DO get outside, it's almost PAINFUL to come back inside! From the minute the weather is bearable after a long cold winter to the moment our snot starts to freeze, we get out as often as possible.


We do several things outside as a family. Baseball, the zoo, parks, picnics, camping... The one that comes to mind immediately is gardening! Now I will say this, it takes several years to decide what you do and don't want to plant and what you will and will not eat. For example: I HATE lettuce from my garden. It tastes limp and gritty. Not my cup of tea. But I LOVE snap peas and fresh beans. Heck, even my baby tomatoes have yet to see indoors this year because they are DELICIOUS and so easy to just pop in my mouth right when they are picked. The food is heavenly. More than anything though, I LOVE watching my daughter's shock and surprise when she sees the garden after a day or two. She's astounded that her PEAS keep growing! Gardening has been such a great experience for us all.



Also, because I can't do a post without thinking about food or sharing a recipe, try this:

Sauteed Bacon Beans



1lb fresh green beans rinsed and ends snapped off
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 c fresh bacon bits OR chopped bacon (browned)

Heat up skillet (medium heat) and simmer garlic in olive oil until JUST browned. Toss in beans and cover, stirring every couple of minutes until the beans soften. Add bacon and continue simmering (covered) until beans JUST start to brown. Serve HOT! Soooooooooo good. Last time we made it (late last week) the main course was blackened salmon served over brown rice. Excuse me, my mouth is watering.

Speaking of blackened salmon, have you TRIED it?! Oh my word. My recipe is here. Get that grill out and make it. While you're at it, take off your shoes and run around in the grass. Nothing like the soft green blades of grass between your toes. And what a SENSORY experience for your tiny tot!

Moving on. (And you have to move on like Kylie is (with style) in the top right photo below.)


Our family also loves CAMPING! Even Kylie! We have been campers ever since I've known my husband and we hope that Kylie loves it as much as we do. It's great exercise and (as I have been saying) she's learned SO much! Last year she learned that eating sticks was not OK and I imagine that when we go camping this next weekend, she'll learn new, more valuable lessons. Like starting a fire or hunting for food. I'm totally kidding. But really, I hope she sees things that will amaze her. Like waterfalls and rivers and lakes and trails. Man, sometimes I really wish I could see things through her eyes.



I really believe that fresh air is good for the soul. If you don't have a yard or a garden, simply take a walk. I would suffice to say that at least 3 days a week, we pop Kylie into the jogging stroller and take her for a walk around town, often stopping at a park (or ice cream shop) or two. It makes for the very best memories (and pictures).


You'll never see today again, so the least you can do is appreciate it, learn from it, and remember it. Get outside, people!


To clean our grilling supplies and camping (food) gear, I have switched to Finish® Quantum. It has been SEVERAL months now since I made the switch and it was such a SIMPLE transition. In fact I rarely think about it anymore as all I have do is grab a tablet and toss it into the dishwasher! That easily I can control (and limit) the harsh chemicals I am using to keep my dishes AND Kylie's eating necessities clean. That's right - Finish® Quantum is mild enough to use on NUKs and bottles!!!  I like to say that I (try to) keep my kitchen a germ-free zone and Finish® Quantum has been an integral part in that.

You can help put Finish Power & Free to the #FinishMoms test! Share the news of a "less harsh chemical formulas" dish washing product and help us #CleanItForward!!

Learn more about the Finish brand from my previous Alliance of Moms post and my SMART SNACKING post!!!

Now, because this is the FINAL  post in the #CleanItForward Campaign by Finish Power & Free Alliance of Moms,  Finish® has decided to host a GIVEAWAY! Probably the best one I have ever done on my site. One lucky winner will receive a $100 Visa Gift Card!!!! Entry options are simple.

  1. Comment on this post with your favorite outdoor activity AND what you would use the gift card for. (Leave your e-mail in the comment so I can let you know if you've WON!)
  2. For extra entries follow the listed social media sites below. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

A winner will be chosen at random on August 6th. This contest is open to US residents only. Entries will be verified. If I do not hear from the winner within 24 hours of announcing (and e-mailing them), a new winner will be selected at random. GOOD LUCK!

disclosure: i received product and payment in exchange for my open and honest opinions/review of Finish Quantum products. These opinions were not swayed in any way, but simply reflect my experience with the product.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Three Years Ago Today...

I feel like I have shared the story of our wedding day ten thousand times and it never gets old to tell, but may get old to hear. So on this, our third wedding anniversary, I want to say a few special words to my main squeeze. My daughter's father. The love of my life. The boy I fell in love with seven years ago. The man I am in love with now. My perfect other half.

Tyler, 

Simply put, you are the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I am a better person because of you and I am so very grateful for all of the amazing experiences we've shared. We are quirky and we sometimes bicker, but our love is deep, strong, and fierce. These past three years have gone by wayyy too quickly and in those three years you have given me the greatest gift of a little girl. It has truly been a privilege to watch the relationship you share with our daughter. To say I am proud of you two is an incredible understatement. That being said, I am anxious and excited to spend the rest of my days with you. Three years is just the beginning. You're the peanut butter to my jelly. The cheese to my quesadilla. The applesauce to my pizza. I love you a bushel and a peck! Happy Anniversary!

XO

Year 7 (3)

Year 6 (2)

Year 5 (1)

Year 4 (Newlyweds)

Year 3

Year 2

Year 1

Babies

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Healthy Family = Happy Mom #CleanItForward {Sponsored}

In continuing with the #CleanItForward Campaign by Finish Power & Free Alliance of Moms (which is a network that explores a new product line, Finish Power & Free, featuring less harsh chemical formulas, without sacrificing the power of Finish results – a win for even the tiniest members of your family! ), today I want to talk food. I love food. I love food more when it is healthy and/or promotes a healthy lifestyle for my two main squeezes.


My personal view of snacking and food in general is this: I want to serve my family meals and snacks that are not only tasty, but a good source of nutrients and essentially sustainable. I want to keep these people in my life for as long as possible and all that's in my control is the food consumed. That being said, we snack healthily. I have a lot of healthy (and some not-so-healthy, but it's OK to indulge sometimes) recipes on my Recipes page if you want to meander over there for a peek. Some favorites include: Green Chili Chicken, Granola Bar Muffins, Stuffed Peppers, PB-B Bites, and a recipe I will share below: Wonton Dessert Cups. AMAZING and less than 150 calories for the whole recipe which makes FOUR dessert cups (I usually say two per person so boom. Dessert is 75 calories.)! They are delicious. That'll be below but first, I want to talk about healthy snacking.

I have been able to lose 50 lbs over the last few months (since November 4th, 2013 to be exact) and while it's been a challenge because it was mostly running and I used to HATE running (now I crave it), I attribute a lot of my success to the choices I've made in the food department. Specifically my diet. Tyler and I have never been the kind of people who strictly buy organic or locally grown items. Not that there's a problem with that, it's just not how we were raised thus not the path we are familiar with. I shop with coupons, plain and simple.

Just to prove it, here is my before and after which was when I was down about 45lbs. Some of you have seen it already but that is A-OK! I'm showing it again anyway. Portion. Control. Works.


I refused to sacrifice any foods I liked being that I wanted a diet modification that was sustainable. Cutting out carbs? That would work for me for about a week. I love breads and pastas and I would absolutely gain all my lost weight and then some back in about 2.5 seconds if I decided to go that route. Not a productive diet for my lifestyle so instead I really began to focus on portion control. Now portion control is intimidating and a lot of people say they don't have the time to portion things out because quite frankly, it's just easier to eat snacks right from their original bag, but today I will share with you the EASIEST way to use portion control.

Step one: buy snack-sized bags or sandwich bags.
Step two: buy healthy yet tasty snacks (I suggest veggie straws or the reduced fat options for almost any cracker. Pretzles, puff chips, and some snack bars are also great.)
Step 3: take ten to twenty minutes one night a month and portion out a couple dozen snack bags.


Now we take these snack bags everywhere. They're great for the snack cupboard, the diaper bag, and I even keep some in the center council of my car! Whenever Kylie asks for a "nack", I have one handy which eliminates a panicky, unhealthy, hasty purchase, saves a few dollars, and ensures Kylie never starves (never a risk anyway, but I fancy the dramatic).



I do the same thing with meats. Cook a lot in advance, store in freezer bags in their appropriate portions, and freeze so you can have a quick, easy supper! (Great when cooked/grilled with a low/no sodium sprinkle like this Mrs.Dash Lemon Pepper.) By preparing the meat this way, you can cook (re-heat) the whole bag and eat the whole bag with absolutely no guilt because you know what's in it. Easy. Peasy.


Finally, we do the same thing with our produce purchases. If the fruit and veggies are clean and readily portioned, they are much more likely to get selected than if they weren't cleaned and grab-able. Welcome to the almost-always-stuffed Knott fridge where we have fruit and veggie bowls at the ready. And we always have hard-boiled eggs peeled and in the fridge too. Kylie loves them and they are a GREAT source of protein. Not to mention an egg white is only 17 calories. WHAT?! Yes.


What do you and your family do to promote HEALTHY SNACKING in your home? I'm always looking for new and effective ways to keep the healthy snacks flowing!

Continuing on with my food rant, because I love food, Tyler and I love dessert. OK in the interest of full disclosure I love dessert, which forces my husband to tolerate it after almost every supper. I know... it's a big sacrifice he has to make for love. ;)  In fact, I think I love eating dessert more that I love eating real food! My waistline doesn't share the affection. Kidding because these don't change your waistline. Indulge without OVERindulging. 

Check out this crazy concoction I like to call Berry Cups. Or Wonton Dessert Cups. Or Dessert Cups. Name them what you want just make them and indulge (you can use almost any berry... but I stick to blackberry, raspberry, or blueberry).


 photo IMG_4179_zps30a4ac38.jpg

This recipe makes 4 dessert cups (think 2 per person or 2 servings)

1/4 c fresh blackberries (15.5 calories)
10-12 (about 1/2 c) mini marshmallows (40 calories)
1 - 7" wonton/egg roll wrapper (93 calories)

Total: 148.5 calories (or 74.25 calories per serving)

Preheat oven to 375*

Cut wonton wrapper in 4 equal parts. I folded mine and tore and it worked like a charm. Line 4 spots in mini muffin tin with wonton wrapper

Half each of the marshmallows with scissors.

Mash blackberries (I tossed them in a baggie and smooshed them up, cut the bottom corner of the bag, and piped them in... use the easiest method for you!!) and spoon into the bottom of the wrapper. Sprinkle with marshmallows.

Bake for 10 minutes or until marshmallows are almost gone/browned and tips of wrapper are golden brown.

If your cups are a little tart, don't hesitate to add a sprinkle of powdered sugar (1 tsp = 10 calories).

 photo IMG_4177_zps92a75718.jpg 

So good and not so bad. 

 photo IMG_4178_zps8a0328dd.jpg

Now I have other means of keeping my family as healthy as possible as well again, doing everything (in my control) to increase their longevity. Another thing I have done, and I've mentioned this before, is I have switched to Finish® Quantum. It has been months now since I've switched to Finish® Quantum and it was such a SIMPLE transition. In fact I rarely think about it anymore as all I do is grab a tablet and toss it into the dishwasher! That easily I can control (and limit) the harsh chemicals I am using to keep my dishes AND Kylie's NUKs and sippy cups clean. That's right - Finish® Quantum is mild enough to use on NUKs and bottles!!!  I like to say that I try to keep my kitchen a germ-free zone and Finish® Quantum has been an integral part in that.

You can help put Finish Power & Free to the #FinishMoms test! Share the news of a "less harsh chemical formulas" dishwashing product and help us #CleanItForward!!

Learn more about the Finish brand from my previous Alliance of Moms post!!

disclosure: i received product and payment in exchange for my open and honest opinions/review of Finish Quantum products. These opinions were not swayed in any way, but simply reflect my experience with the product.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tips For A New Runner

Like most things in life, I have learned a lot of things the hard way. Today, I want to share some tips that have changed my whole running experience and some things that turned my bad experiences running good again!

You should know that I am not an expert. In fact, before November 4th, 2013, I had never been a runner so this advice/these tips are what worked for me as a new runner. I have gone over 600 miles since starting in November and have had to take quite a few days off due to injury so remember, these are my experiences that you get to learn from. :)

First thing first: SOCKS! I had no idea that the socks mattered as much as they do. In January, I wanted to start the year off with a bang by running a lot. I mean, I had 1,000 miles to go, so I thought I'd get a jump on things. Little did I know, I would have to take a couple days off because I had blisters on every. Single. Toe. My feet took such a beating and I couldn't figure out why until some friends suggested I get better socks and what a world of difference they have made!! I bought 6 pairs of these (different fits available) and they are amazing.

here
Next, if you already have blisters or sores on your feet, WRAP THEM! I put a band-aid on every toe when I do long runs to prevent running which when tied to moisture leads to blisters. Again, this has saves my soles (funny, right??)

STRETCH! Just a short time ago, I experienced bursitis which is inflammation in the bursa sacks in your hip joints. Your IT band begins to fray and constant rubbing of that frayed muscle on the joint causes this inflammation. I am not a health expert. I'm in marketing. This is just my understanding of it after speaking with my healthcare professional. MY professional opinion on the topic is this: HURTS LIKE HECK!

The best way to stretch the IT band (again, something I learned from my HC person, check with yours to see if they agree) is to get a foam roller (sold at Target among other places). Between that and icing, I was able to alleviate most (and now all) of the pain. Rest is always beneficial too which I learned the hard way.

Image found here. And you should probably read the article. :)

Eat before you run. Not a giant Thanksgiving dinner by any stretch, but even just a banana! It may be a mental thing, but I truly believe that before any workout, you have to give your body the energy it needs to perform at its best. Re-fuel before you run out of fuel. :)

Create a good play list! At the Half Marathon a couple weeks ago, I decided to listen to Imagine Dragons and it was an AWESOME Pandora station. That's my recommendation. It totally got me pumped for almost two hours of running.

The last thing that's worked for me is my Garmin watch. My husband bought it for me a few weeks ago and I LOVE it!!! I got the Garmin Forerunner10 and it is the greatest thing ever. My only complaint is that it sometimes takes a while to find my location. Otherwise it's awesome. You can set your pace which allows it to alert you when you are on, ahead of, or behind pace by beeping. It also tells you your distance, calories burned, running time, and how long it took you to complete each mile with an overall average pace. You can then go online and look at a map of your run which also goes through the weather conditions, a line graph of your pace, and a number of other things. Seriously, I can't say enough great things. I love it.

Here. This is also where I got the watch!

There you have it. MY recommendations for making running fun (and bearable) :).

HAPPY MONDAY!


Friday, April 4, 2014

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken

This is the most SIMPLE and beautiful meal that you can make. Not to mention it is DEEE-LICIOUS.


I threw this together, let it cook on high for 4 hours, and served over brown rice. So good and the leftovers are equally as tasty. You will need:

3lbs raw chicken breasts (I used frozen chicken breast tenders (and thawed them) so they'd cook faster)
1 can pineapple chunks/pieces in 100% juice. Keep the juice from the can.
3 cups baby carrots
a bunch of fresh broccoli cut into pieces
1 large onion chopped into 1/2" pieces
1/4 c teriyaki marinade of choice
Brown Rice cooked according to directions on package

You can also add peppers and whatever else you'd like. ALSO, this is a great freezer meal. Meaning you can throw ALL the ingredients in a gallon-sized bag and freeze it until you're ready to cook it!!

Throw all ingredients (with juice from pineapple) into the crockpot and turn the temp to high for four hours until the chicken is cooked through. Serve over freshly cooked brown rice.

See? SIMPLE!

Enjoy! :)


Friday, February 28, 2014

Sweet Carrot Cookies {Recipe}

I love cookies. Well, sweets in general kind of make me crazy. This has proven to potentially be counterproductive with my weight-loss/fitness goals and because I wasn't willing to cut things out of my diet, I wanted something sweet and I wanted it now.

I had just recently gotten the Ninja blender with the food processor and single-serve attachments and I LOVE it!! It also came with a recipe book which is where I found the recipe for Sweet Carrot Cookies. The best part is that I don't feel guilty at all letting Kylie gnaw on one of these because there are only 50 calories per cookie!!



Here's the recipe:

2 eggs
3/4 c sugar
1c carrots (peeled and grated)
2c flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Using a mixer on low speed (or the ninja food processor on #1) until JUST combined. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Push down just a little so it doesn't turn into a cookie ball :)

Bake in preheated oven (350*) for 8-10 minutes. I do 8 because I like them softer.


ENJOY! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Finish Power & Free Alliance of Moms {#CleanItForward}

I was recently asked to join the Finish Power & Free Alliance of Moms which is a network that explores a new product line, Finish Power & Free, featuring less harsh chemical formulas, without sacrificing the power of Finish results – a win for even the tiniest members of your family! If you've been reading this blog for any duration of time, you know that the tiniest member of my family is basically my everything, so I was on board. I am a busy full-time Marketing Coordinator and full-time mom who does the majority of the in-house work (not to discredit my main squeeze, but he does the things I don't want to do (like yard work) and I do what he doesn't want to (like laundry and dishes)).




When I was approached by Finish, I asked myself: What can I do to SIMPLY keep harsh chemicals away from my baby? Switch to Finish® Quantum.

You all know that I am doing my best to change my lifestyle. I had a New Years resolution to run 1,000 miles in 2014 (progress report to come) but the resolution wasn't simply for running. It was to lead a better, healthier lifestyle. Not only for me, but for my whole family. Finish® Quantum is helping me to achieve this resolution.

Now that I have this little tyrant running around making my life a million times more busy exciting than it was before, I also seem to have more dishes (and laundry and general cleaning chores) to do. And let me tell you, we go through a LOT of dishes. Funny how that works, right? Someone so small can increase your daily chores so much... just baffling.



In any case, dishes are no longer on my "chore" list. Yes, they're still a to-do, but it's a feel-good to-do that I actually enjoy doing now because I see amazing results. The best part of these results, apart from the spot-free appearance of my dishes? The knowledge that I am doing my part to reduce the number of harsh chemicals that my child is exposed to. It really is a simple, satisfying, and effective transition.

I was sent a few packages of Quantum™ Power & Free™  to try and quite honestly, I was a little skeptical because sometimes when you hear that something has less harsh chemical formulas, you automatically assume they are less effective than they were when they included the harsh chemicals. In this case, that is untrue. My dishes come out of the dishwasher clean and spot-free! I am confident that the dishes that my family eats off of/drinks out of are clean. Quantum™ Power & Free™ is an effective and healthier alternative.

This may seem like a silly topic that not many people feel the need to discuss, but as moms I feel that it is our responsibility to support our children in any way possible, including the things we choose to (or in this case, not to) expose them to.



I have made the switch to Quantum™ Power & Free™  and encourage you to do the same. You can help put Finish Power & Free to the #FinishMoms test! Share the news of a "less harsh chemical formulas" dishwashing product and help us #CleanItForward!! 

Stay tuned for some AWESOME giveaways from the Finish Power & Free Alliance of Moms!!!

What is special about the Power & Free products products? 

  • Features Hydrogen Peroxide Action to power away the toughest food messes 
  • Detergents (Quantum & Powerball) contains no chlorine bleach, use less fragrances and dyes versus regular Finish detergents 
  • Finish Jet-Dry® Power & Free™ contains less harsh chemicals versus the regular formula 


Finish ® Quantum Power & Free™ is a three-chamber capsule featuring powerful cleaning ingredients with Hydrogen Peroxide Action. This product delivers sparkling clean and amazing shine, all with less harsh 
chemicals than the regular Quantum formula. 

And because I am such a fan of this company, here's a little bit about Finish:

Finish® is the #1 recommended dishwasher brand worldwide and has been a leading dishwashing product pioneer for the past 60 years. The brand is continuously innovating and testing its products to ensure families ultimate clean and amazing shine. This commitment has made Finish’s products recommended by more brands than any other dishwashing brand. The brand’s wide range of products meet anyone’s dishwashing needs.

Finish® Quantum was recently voted a Better Homes & Gardens Best New Dishwasher Detergent of 2013 by consumers. The product was also voted Product of the Year in the Dishwashing Detergent Category based on the 2013 BrandSpark/BHG American Shopper Study.

This January 2014, Finish® released a new line featuring less harsh chemical formulas. The products include Quantum® Power & Free™, Powerball® Power & Free™ and Jet-Dry® Power & Free™.

You can find the Finish brand here:
  • Product Website Product Website Website: http://www.finishdishwashing.com/powerandfree
  • Facebook: Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FinishDishwashing 
  • Receive dish cleaning tips cleaning tips cleaning tips from Finish’s Dishwashing Experts: http://www.dishwashingexpert.com/ 
  •  YouTube Channel: YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/FinishDishwashing
  • Check out special offers and discount special offers and discount special offers and discount opportunities: http://www.finishdishwashing.com/news-and-offers/offers/coupons/
disclosure: i received product and payment in exchange for my open and honest opinions/review of Finish Quantum products. These opinions were not swayed in any way, but simply reflect my experience with the product.

Friday, February 21, 2014

California Roll {Recipe}

In the last year, I have discovered I LOVE sushi. Raw fish, cooked fish... you name it, I love it.

Tyler and I wanted sushi and didn't want to pay an arm and a leg to get it, so we decided to have a date night in and try to make it! 

The first one turned out bad... we didn't realize that you only use HALF a sheet of nori so it ended being a giant ugly roll, but now we're basically pros. Today, you can make it too!


We used the Food Network recipe.

Ingredients:

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces
4 sheets nori
1/2 batch sushi rice, recipe follows
1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into matchstick-size pieces
4 crabsticks, torn into pieces
Wasabi, for serving
Soy sauce, for serving

Sushi Rice:

2 cups sushi or short grain rice
2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt


Directions:

Squeeze the lemon juice over the avocado to prevent browning.

Cover a bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap. Cut nori sheets in half crosswise. Lay 1 sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the plastic covered mat. Wet your fingers with water (CRUCIAL because sushi rice is extremely sticky) and spread about 1/2 cup of the rice evenly onto the nori.

Sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds. Turn the sheet of nori over so that the rice side is down.

Place 1/8 of the cucumber, avocado and crab sticks in the center of the sheet. Grab the edge of the mat closest to you, keeping the fillings in place with your fingers, and roll it into a tight cylinder, using the mat to shape the cylinder. Pull away the mat and set aside. Cover with a damp cloth. Repeat until all of the rice has been used.

Cut each roll into 6 pieces. Serve with wasabi and soy sauce.

Sushi Rice:

Place the rice into a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off and repeat 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.

 Place the rice and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi. Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/california-roll-recipe.html?oc=linkback

This was the perfect (and most fun) date night in that we've ever had. We laughed a lot ant ate a ton. SO much fun. Also, we're getting better... :)



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"That Was My Best Dad-Moment Ever"


Have you ever heard someone say something and it just does something to your heart that makes it feel like it will explode out of your chest because it is so full? That's about where I'm at. I am filled with so much love with my family that I feel like my heart will burst.

Not too long ago, Kylie was a little ill. This comes as no surprise though as she's almost always sick with something these days. Which reminds me, I am SO stinking sick of winter. These kids need fresh air and to escape the cootie-filled prisons that are the indoors. I digress.

Anyway, Kylie began to fuss one night after being put to bed so Tyler got up from the couch where we were likely watching a movie or tv or something and went to tend to her. He was in her nursery a little longer than the typical Nuk replacement and when he finally returned, he said it. The thing that caused my heart to grow three-sizes that day (Grinch reference anyone?).

"That was my best dad moment ever. I picked her up and she just laid her head on my shoulder."

That was it. Those simple words that may mean nothing to some, turned me to mush. I knew his feeling. He felt what I've felt before. I could feel the love he had in that exact moment like she was resting her head on my shoulder. I knew that contentment.

I have been so consumed with thinking about how much I love Kylie and the 'look what she did's that I sometimes forget to just sit and spectate. To watch Tyler as he falls more and more in love with his baby. When I glance over at him and notice a smile playing at the corners of his lips and see his focus on his little girl, those are the moments I live for. 

I suppose I am doing a horrible job describing this but quite frankly, the feeling is indescribable. I just want to note it for me. For the future me, to remember those moments that, like every other moment, have to be documented before being forgotten and lost forever. And for Kylie so that she can know and maybe someday remember that those minuscule things meant so much to her daddy and I. All because they involved her. 

And then, my heart exploded. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Homemade Caramel Rolls {Recipe}

Work hard, play hard. Right?

Remember when I said I haven't sacrificed taste for healthy? Well, I may have sacrificed healthy for taste here however it's a rarity and I still ran a 10k... so I am totally at peace with it. Not to mention these are thee best breakfast in the history of breakfasts and I made 8 dozen of them this past winter (not all for me). EVERYONE loves them. No joke.

I want to warn you that this recipe makes 4 dozen rolls so you may want to divide it up if you don't want that many. If you make them in advance of an event, freeze them so they don't go bad. Otherwise we keep them in the fridge until we eat them and when we do eat (devour) them, we warm them in the microwave for 40 seconds with a dab of butter on top. Oh. My. Yum. 

This is a Betty Crocker recipe from the 80s I think and I've basically summarized it below. I may have lacked a little description though so if I did, ask and I'll provide tips. They're time consuming to make but totally worth it. 

Caramel Rolls

  • Make 4 c lukewarm milk with Dry Milk
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 1 c soft shortening
  • 4 pkg yeast dissolved in 1 c warm water and 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 eggs slightly beaten
  • 14 c or less of flour (try to get by with 13)
  • ½ c light corn syrup
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • ½ c butter
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ c white sugar
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup

Make warm milk and add 1 c (one stick) Crisco shortening.

Add 1 c sugar.

When cool enough (so they don’t cook), add eggs and beat.

Add salt.

Take the 4 packages of yeast and 1 tsp sugar and put in 1 cup of warm water. Let bubble. ** do not stir. If there are dry parts on the side of the bowl, jiggle or shake the mixture. Once the yeast has risen, add it to the milk mixture.

Add 14 c of flour and knead until mixed.

Place in a greased bowl. Let it rise until it doubles in size or you stick your fingers in it and the finger holes stay. Punch down, flip over and let rise again (until double)

*** While dough is rising, prepare caramel mixture in a 9”x13” baking dish (I like to use glass)

½ cup melted butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup

When doubled, slice the dough into 4 equal pieces

Sprinkle flour on your flat surface as well as the top of the dough and roll out into a 9” by 18” oblong.

Spread 2 tbsp butter over surface of dough and sprinkle with 2 tsp cinnamon and ½ cup sugar.

Roll dough and pinch sides so they are not exposing any sugar or cinnamon.

Using thread, cut into 12 equal pieces and place on top of the caramel mixture.  (I highly suggest using string to cut. I have a YouTube video demonstrating if you want to see it)

Bake the rolls at 375* for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.   

Using a knife, go around pan to loosen rolls and to prevent them from sticking to pan.

Turn onto waxed paper. Scrape out the remaining caramel and put on top of the outside rolls.

Let cool and put into a 2 gallon bag to freeze. When eating, thaw and eat room temp or microwave to warm.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Homemade Granola Bars (Muffins) {Recipe}

I have been watching what I eat for almost 100 days now and not ONCE have I had to sacrifice taste for health. This is one of those amazing, go-to breakfast recipes that I will likely use over and over again as not only did I love them, but so did my kiddo!

These turned out so delicious AND Kylie scarfed one down this morning so I would call that a double win. They are super easy and I made some slight modifications from a recipe I found somewhere on Facebook so bear with me.



Granola Bar Muffins

Makes about 2 dozen. 144 calories per muffin.
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 c unsweetened applesauce (I used homemade applesauce with apples we cored, peeled, and sliced last fall and froze)
  • 1 medium banana, mashed
  • 1.5 tsp stevia 
  • 1/4 c ground flax
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 3/4 c milk (I used skim)
  • 5 c oatmeal (I used quick oats)
  • about 1 cup milk chocolate chips
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, applesauce, banana, stevia, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Mixture will be creamy.

Slowly stir in the milk and finally, fold in the oats.

Place liners in two muffin tins. Fill cups evenly (will be about to top of muffin pan holes (is that the technical way to say it??)) and sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

Bake in a 350* preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You'll want to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge OR freeze them. 

Yum.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Card Organizer

This past Christmas, I was at a TOTAL loss for what to get for my grandma, Tyler's grandma, and for my dad. I mean, what do you buy for the people who have everything? Then I thought: what is one thing that people buy often that I could give them so they don't have to buy it? Better yet, what can I make them?

My dad likes to get cheap cards and add a ton of value to them by writing long notes or really customizing them. This inspired me to make a Card Organizer!!

Every one of these three people LOVED their presents and have already begun using them. The best part is, for all three of them, I spent less than $150 and they are complete.

You will need:

A file tote (Walmart has them on sale all the time)
A stack of greeting cards
A permanent marker

Boom. Done.


I went to the dollar store and got a ton of 2 for $1 cards AS WELL AS Goodwill! I never would've thought that Goodwill and other second-hand stores would have NEW cards for sale, but they do! And they are only 10-25 cents! Also, for the Thank You tab, you can buy STACKS of Thank You cards at the dollar store... for ONE DOLLAR!

Take the file tabs out and label them with your permanent marker. To get started, I have provided you with a list of topics I used for labels:


Sort the cards so there are a few for each occasion and close it up!

Seriously, this gift is so easy and so practical. The tote makes the cards easy to find and by filling it up with some cards in advance, you are giving them something they can use in a bind! Happy sorting!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I am in a book club. For this book club, I have gone to three meetings. We picked out our first book last week and will be discussing it in February. Instead of reading, we've been getting together, eating, talking babies (since many of the girls are having or already have babies), and for one of the meetings, we had a cookie exchange!

I was told that it is best to make one kind of cookies for everyone. I was also told to bring 1/2 dozen for everyone meaning about 7 1/2 dozen cookies. That's a lot of cookies.

I got to work searching for the best recipe and while I had never tried these, they are now my new favorite. I tripled the recipe below.

CHOCOLATE CRINKLES (Allrecipes)


Makes about 3 dozen. 
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

In a stand mixer ( or you can use a hand mixer but know that the dough gets TOUGH and could break the hand mixer... mine started to get a little iffy), cream together white sugar and butter.
Beat in eggs one at a time, and then stir in the vanilla. Once mixed add the coco powder slowly making sure to mix very well.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture. Let me just warn you this dough is THICK and STICKY!
Cover the dough  and chill overnight (makes it easy to work with).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees  & Line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into one inch balls (I used a cookie scoop and they were all about the same size) and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Chill the cookies for 10-15 minutes just to firm them back up. In a bowl add the confectioner’s sugar. Roll each dough ball in the sugar making sure to coat the cookie as much as possible. Place the cookie balls back onto the parchment lined cookie sheets.
Bake in preheated oven for no more than 10 to 12 minutes (otherwise they get hard). After baking, remove from oven and let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.
ENJOY!!
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