Walk it off

This past winter, I got a great deal on a watch. This was no ordinary watch, but one of those sporty heart rate monitor exercise watches. The only problem with these watches is that the battery doesn’t last nearly as long as a regular watch as they are working so much harder and tracking so much more. So, the battery died about 2 months ago. Last week, Brian was trying to change the battery and accidentally broke the LCD screen on it. He very kindly bought me a new watch, which might actually be an upgrade to my old watch. This one also had a pedometer, calculates the calories you burn throughout the day based on your heart rate and you can set daily goals on it. I really like. It’s also very motivating to move more.

I had a lot of errands to run this weekend and by run, I mean walk. Since we don’t have a car, I do a lot of walking, especially on the weekend. Motivated by my watch to walk a little more than usual, I logged about 20 miles this weekend. How did I fuel all of this walking?

Big breakfasts! And lots of coffee.

Saturday morning, I was very indecisive about what I wanted for breakfast, so I had a little bit of everything. Strawberries and watermelon, an egg with sriracha, and a piece of cinnamon toast. Half with pumpkin butter and the other half with mashed banana and a little cookie butter.

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After a morning trip to the store and an exciting sale on homemade guacamole, I had a lunch of lots of fruits, veggies and an open-faced chicken and guacamole sandwich.  I love homemade guac, but when they sell the good stuff for less than I can make it, I’ll take it!

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A dinner of more chicken and guac, veggies, hummus and chips. I’m really trying to take advantage of the last of the fresh veggies while I can.

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Saturday night, I made some falafel with an extra helping of greens.

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Then I spent a night in with a glass of wine and my sewing machine doing some mending for Brian.

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Sunday’s breakfast was a helping of toast, guac, bacon and eggs with a pumpkin pie muffin.

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That was a very finger-licking and runny yolk! Mmm!

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Brian had a banana and chocolate chip muffin reheated with a smear of cookie butter on top.

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After running errands, a long shoe shopping trip for Brian, lunch at Native Foods(salads for both of us), and buying fabric for me, I did some more sewing. I sewed a yoga mat bag for myself. I have lululemon’s big mat. It is no longer available on the website, but is wider and longer than the average yoga mat and great if you are taller than average and struggle to stay on your mat during classes. Hence it being bigger than average, it doesn’t fit in most yoga bags. So, I loosely followed Kick Stand Fitness’s directions to make a bag. It took me about and hour, start to finish. I even added an interior pocket. Super easy and functional. Definitely work the 1 yard of fabric and one hour of work.

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Sunday’s dinner was fruit, salad and veggie lasagna. I bought the lasagna pre-made and thought it was great. Packed with flavor and protein, I’d definitely buy it again.

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With falafel and leftover veggie lasagna, it looks to be another veggie filled week! And what is great is that during this week’s heat wave, we can live on leftovers and I won’t have to heat up the kitchen!

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Faux KIND bars

I have a love/hate relationship with granola bars. They are delicious and easy to eat on the go, but they are loaded with calories, sugar and usually have little protein. I just don’t feel like they have a lot of bang for my buck, calorie wise. But they are sooo tasty.

And a lot of them are loaded with crap and additives, that is why I really like KIND brand granola bars. Unfortunately, they are a little pricey. So, I was ecstatic when I saw Minimalist Baker posted a recipe that looked like a KIND bar. MB kept it simple, using only five ingredients. I added a few more ingredients for fun.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed dates, pitted( I used medjool)
  • 1/4 cup honey( or maple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup natural nut butter of choice(I used almond)
  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats(not instant or quick oats)
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut(toasted preferably)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt(optional)

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Preheat oven to 350F.

Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain.

Spread almonds, oats and coconut on a baking sheet. You might need two baking sheets. Toast in the oven for about 15 minutes until slightly golden brown and the almonds are giving off a nutty flavor. This step is optional but really enhances the flavor of your granola bars.

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Place oats, almonds, coconut, dates, and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix to combine.

Warm honey, vanilla and almond butter for 20 seconds at a time until it can be stirred and combined.

Pour mixture over oat mixture and mix.

Once thoroughly combined, transfer to a parchment lined 9×13 baking dish. Press down until uniformly flattened. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes to harden.

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Remove bars form pan and cut into bars(mine made 12 bars). Sore in an airtight container for a few days. I individually wrapped mine and stored them in the freezer and they stayed fresh for about a month.

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Doing a taste test at work with the almond coconut KIND bar and a homemade faux KIND bar, the faux KIND bar won the contest. Oh, and its way cheaper to make these yourself than to buy them already packaged, but I’m sure you could have guessed that!

DIY Greek yogurt

If you like Greek yogurt, read this post.

If you don’t want to be ruined on store-bought Greek yogurt, don’t read this post.

Warning: Once you realize how easy, inexpensive and way more delicious this yogurt is, you will be ruined on store-bought yogurt.

I had been wanting to make my own yogurt for quite some time and had researched a lot of recipes on different techniques. I think I settled on the most simple one. And no, you don’t need one of those fancy yogurt making machines that they sell for hundreds of dollars at the store. I simply used a pot, an inexpensive candy thermometer, my crock pot, cheesecloth, a strainer and a bowl. Most people probably own all of those things. I’ve already made it twice with great results and plan on making another batch this weekend.

Add 2 quarts(or however much you want) of milk to a sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 180F. What kind of milk? I have only used cows milk, but you can use any fat percentage that you want. The higher the fat percentage the thicker and creamier the yogurt with turn out. I have tried with a lower fat percentage and a higher fat percentage, both turned out great.

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Once at 180F take the pot off the burner and let milk come down to a temperature between 110-120F. It is important to get the temperature in that range so that the bacterial cultures can work their magic. If the temperature is too high, they will be killed, if it is too low, they won’t incubate properly.

If you are using a pan with a tight fitting lid, you can move on to the next step. If not, I recommend using the ceramic liner part of your crockpot for the next step. Pour the milk into the inner part of your crock pot. Leave the outside metal part in your cupboard.

At this point, take a couple of spoon fulls of store-bought plain Greek yogurt. I have used Fage and Chobani. They are two of the more pure brands on the market. Under ingredients, you want the bacteria listed but not much other junk. No gelatin or pectin or fruit or fake sugar. Stir the store bought yogurt into your milk. The yogurt is the starter to make more yogurt.

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Next, preheat your oven to any temperature for one minute. Shut off your oven. Wrap your covered pot full of warm milk and a few spoonfuls of yogurt in a large beach or old bath towel. Put in your turned off oven for 8-12 hours. By turning on your oven for one minute and then shutting it off, it helps to take the chill out of the air and keep your yogurt in the temperature range that you want for the bacteria to work it’s magic. A lot of sites recommend turning on the light in your oven for a little extra heat. My oven is so old that it doesn’t have a light in it and I had no trouble making the yogurt without a light. It’s probably also a good reminder that you have something in your oven so you don’t absent mindedly turn it on and start the towel on fire.

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After 8-12 hours, your milk should look much more like yogurt than milk. Much like this:

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If you stir it all up at this point, you have runny yogurt. Which if fine, if you like that sort of thing. Congratulations. Put it in the fridge and you are done.

If you are like me and like a thicker and creamier yogurt, you will want to do this next step. Use a fine mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheese cloth set up above a larger bowl. Pour your yogurt mixture into strainer and let the excess liquid strain into the bowl below it. The excess liquid is known as whey. Some people save it and use it. I pour it down the drain. Place straining contraption in the refrigerator for 2 or more hours.

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When you come back, you will have a fair amount of whey in the bowl and a much thicker yogurt on top. Whisk or stir the yogurt a little to smooth it out. Move the yogurt to storage containers and refrigerate. The yogurt lasts for about a week.

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Your yogurt will taste like a tart, unflavored yogurt. You can add a tablespoon of vanilla(to a 2 quart batch) to make a nicely flavored vanilla yogurt. You can also add in sweetener at this point, if that if your type of thing. I have added vanilla and it tastes great.

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How much cheaper is this than store-bought? Well, you can make two batches like this out of a gallon of milk and one small container of store-bought Greek yogurt(about $4 total). It will make the equivalent of about 4 large containers of store-bought Chobani or Fage (about $5 each x 4= $20). I would say that is a pretty significant savings over time.

Since there is a lot of downtime on this recipe, this is the time frame that I like to do it in: I will heat the milk and let it incubate the 8-12 hours over night. A great time as I know I won’t need to use my oven again. When I get up in the morning, I strain the yogurt and leave it straining while I am at work. You can do it all during the day, but I don’t like having my oven tied up all day and unable to use it.

The early morning

Wow. It’s only 9am on Sunday and I feel like I can already give you the weekend update.

It’s amazing how productive a weekend can be when I don’t over schedule myself, go to bed at a decent time and get up at a decent time.

Friday night, Brian had plans with a friend to see Pacific Rim, because I refused to go see it. I brought dinner home and relaxed on the couch. It was awesome.

I went to early morning yoga yesterday. I hadn’t been in a few months and was so glad I went. My knee has been killing me lately from a combination of running and biking and yoga is the only thing that seems to help. On the way home I stopped and Whole Foods to pick up something to drink as I was super thirsty. I tried a new beverage. It was delicious!

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Then I hurried home to change clothes and meet my friend Katie at the pool for some aquatic exercise. There was a super creepy guy in our class which made us giggle uncomfortably most of the time. It was really awkward.
I spent the afternoon running errands and had a delicious dinner of a bleu cheese burger and vegetables.

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For dessert, I roasted myself a giant marshmallow over the stove. The mega marshmallow was an end cap clearance find at Target. While it was amazing, it was almost too much, but I’m sure it won’t stop me from eating another one today. And more importantly, how did I ever live without a gas stove?

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It’s been another early and productive morning. I got up, started laundry, ate eggs with sriracha and got to work on my first ever batch of homemade Greek yogurt.

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After heating up the milk and letting it cool, it has an 8-12 hour incubation period. I got antsy waiting for the milk to heat and we know a watched pot never boils(a good thing in this case as you only heat the milk to 180 degrees), so I swept the house. While I was waiting for the milk to cool, I cleaned the bathroom. The yogurt is now at the incubation stage. Just hoping it turns out well!

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I also have another recipe in the works right now. It’s a raisin bran muffin batter that has to sit and refrigerate. Can’t wait to bake those up later.
Well, off to aquatic exercise, then I plan on spending most of the rest of the day pool side! See, it pays to get up early and be productive!

Fests, food, fun and crafts

This was one jam-packed weekend full of pure goodness.

After work on Friday, I headed straight to Maifest(my favorite summer fest) where Brian and I were able to meet up with several friends from different circles. It was one big fun time filled with German food and beer.

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I spent some time at the garden on Saturday. We are continuing to get strawberries and kale. Everything else is growing nicely with all the recent rain. This picture makes it look like my garden is full of weeds, but those are just onions growing in the spaces between the other plants. I really tried to maximize my space this year.

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I made a big pitcher of iced tea to sip on all of Saturday afternoon and evening. Brian and worked hard on finishing up some details for the wedding and getting the Save the Dates ready to send out.

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Our hard work was rewarded with some teriyaki chicken with pineapple and cilantro rice(so good!) and a batch of flourless almond butter cookies. They looked a little wonky when I took them out of the oven, but they still tasted pretty good.

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Sunday was another fun-filled day. My friend, Katie had a trunk show at her condo showing off some of her crafting talents. She makes adorable hand-made cards and invitations at a great price. Check out some of her great designs:

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Are you dying to get your hands on some of these? Thowing a party and need top-notch invites? Check out more designs on her Pinterest page: Katie*did Cards. Or email her at katiedidcards@hotmail.com

Afterwards a few of us fun-loving girls headed over to Falafill to get our fill(so delicious):

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With a full belly and good night’s sleep, the Save the Dates went out in the mail this morning! Yay!

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Whipped coconut body butter

I’ve made a huge effort over the past year to put less chemicals on my skin and use more natural products or less product.

I’ve always been known to wash my hair a lot. Sometimes twice a day because I felt like it would look greasy. That’s a lot of shampoo and conditioner over the year. After reading about the no poo method, I started cutting back on the washing, initially on the weekends to train my scalp to produce less oil. I am now down to shampooing my hair 1-2 times per week. That is a significant reduction in the amount of chemicals that I am putting on my head and washing down the drain into our water sources. I’m spending less money on shampoo and conditioner(that stuff isn’t cheap) and adding less garbage to the landfill.

Next, I knew I had to face my love of my inexpensive, chemical and synthetic laden moisturizer from the drug store and make a change. I initially tried to use straight coconut oil to moisturize. That didn’t work so well. In the summer it was liquid and messy. In the winter, it was hard as a rock and impossible to chisel out of the container. So, I went back to using my trusty pump bottle of lotion. Last week, I ran across a recipe for homemade whipped coconut body butter. By adding Vitamin E oil, many of the plain coconut oil issues resolved. It doesn’t get as hard and doesn’t really liquefy the same as straight coconut oil.

So I headed to Whole Foods to buy some Vitamin E oil. They has several options. I bought some Jason brand oil in the lowest concentration available(per the nice workers recommendation). I also bought some organic sweet orange oil to give it a light scent.

This is the recipe I used: Homemade Whipped Coconut Body Butter

My hard coconut oil, Vitamin E oil, sweet orange essential oil and a few drops of vanilla:

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Turn your mixer on high and let it whip for 6-7 minutes:

coconut2I stopped the mixer 2 times to scrape down the sides. At the end, my body butter looked like this:

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I transferred it into a glass container that I has previously used for a homemade body scrub:

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Put a lid on it and placed it in the bathroom:

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This stuff is seriously amazing. I may have been converted from a lotion lover to a coconut oil body butter believer. My skin is so soft. It takes a minute to fully soak in after applying, so you may need to wait a minute to get dressed, but the wait it so worth it. Super inexpensive to make, too. And the scent: delightful.