Sunday, May 12, 2013

Amazing Lifestyle Changes!

Since losing my weight with Take Shape For Life and becoming a health coach through the same program, I've started noticing that I'm making more health-conscious decisions. It's interesting how in the last 3 years, our diet and lifestyle has changed and how far we've come from eating all the processed foods and canned fruits and veggies. Now, it's more time consuming, but something that is well worth it to me to know what is in everything we eat. I've had quite a few opinions made of me that said that once we have children, things will change and it's hard for me to accept that since it's so important to me. I'm not always in the kitchen making everything from scratch- I think ahead and make dried beans overnight in the crockpot the put in containers and freeze for future uses- it's so cheap and really easy with the use of my crockpot. .Things like that make it easy for me to use everything as fresh as possible while still having some convenience.

Needless to say, it does take some time and attention, but aren't those things more important than what's on TV or stressing over the health of your body but then not following through with all the changes you can make. I know not everyone is going to be like this and it's a choice for me that I choose to make, but in the process of doing all of this- I was told by a nutritionist to focus on gluten-free eating and through a webinar conference on infertility, it was also suggested to go dairy-free if possible. Both of those things are hard for me- I'm a carb lover and especially love cheese. A good grilled cheese just makes my day! Of course, those things had to change and it's all for the better. If you had a choice to change your life to affect your fertility, would you do it? I know most people don't need to worry about this, but we've been struggling with fertility for about a year and a half and I've just decided to do everything I can to give my body what it needs. If eating an apple instead of a piece of toast for breakfast makes a difference than I'm all for it!

So let's get into a little more of what the changes have involved. I've already hit on the gluten and dairy-free changes, but we've also added on daily fresh juice. We got a really great brand juicer for pretty cheap on craigslist and it's paid for itself in just the month or so that we've had it. We really look forward to making it each day and I'm slowly learning what we like and what we need to tweak each day to get a juice we'll love. The best part of juicing is knowing that I'm giving only the freshest fruits and veggies to my body and I can just imagine the nutrients and vitamins that my body is getting. We don't buy organic necessarily, but we buy only local veggies and fruit so many of the farmer's can't afford to do the necessary paperwork and go through the red tape to be certified organic, but they don't use the non-organic pesticides so I take comfort in that.

Sugar is my one weakness- I tell myself that if I'm eating a gluten-free cookie than it's ok but really it's hard to completely give up sugar for me. With my cake decorating every time there's cake around I feel the need to eat just a little and that sometimes turns into more than a little. I think the key for me is going to be not keeping it in the house and making sure what I do keep in the house is homemade and as low sugar as possible while still feeling decadent. That's a hard thing to do so I'll have to do some searching for how to do that.

On top of all of those changes, I'm having knee surgery in a few weeks which kind of prevents me from hitting the gym. I don't like the gym normally so taking a break is okay with me, but I want to do what's best for my body and once I'm there, I don't mind getting in as much exercise as possible to get healthy for a future baby.

Just a side note- the following is said from my soap box so if you'd rather, just skip to the end of the post. It's not meant to be mean to anyone and I have great encouragement and admiration for those Mothers that are in my life. I've had an amazing replacement mom (I don't like to use the word stepmom for her) and a spectacular mother-in-law so I can't complain. I've had great examples of what mothers need to be in my life and I can't say anything more positive to these people as words don't describe it enough. Anyway, I'm on my soap-box now....You may have noticed that I'm writing this on Mother's Day which might not seem odd to you, but it's my way of making sure that the getting the information out there without making people upset that I'm being selfish. It's easy for everyone to focus on the Mothers that have children and that's the way it should be, but I also don't want people to forget and to keep in the back of their mind that there might be people out there who are struggling to become a Mother and would like nothing else in the world so the day is a hard one. For me, it's always been hard since my mom died when I was 12 and now with wanting to have a child and not being able to, it's hard for me to focus on the positive. Everywhere you look today, there are so many greetings for Mother's Day and that's all great- but no one remembers the people who want to be a mother and can't. Why can't we recognize these people as well while still giving credit to the people that are doing an amazing job as mothers to their children? Now a-days it seems that mothers often feel it's not their duty to take care of their children all the time and fathers step in as a mother too- why can't we remember these people as well? My brother is one of those and I'm so proud of him for what he's done for his children. Anyway, off my soap-box now.

I hope all of those that read this will have a wonderful Mothers Day- I greatly admire you for your time and commitment to your family and for the energy that it takes above and beyond what your body is probably capable of! I didn't mean to make this post so long, I guess I was just wordy today. Enjoy a fabulous day with your families!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Free Stuff!!! Yes, you can get it too!

So, in the world where it seems you have to buy everything- there's always a way to get it for free and that's where I come in. I love getting products from companies and trying them out then reviewing them to see how they work and sharing with my friends and family! It's such a great experience and I normally always seem to find something that I love that I wouldn't have tried before.

 

Here's your chance to do it too! check out smiley360.com and become a member to see what you can get. Missions are emailed to you and then you complete a survey and then get another email telling you if you are going to get that product to complete the "mission". I just started myself, but am looking forward to getting some GREAT stuff! Check it out- signing up was easy and I got 5 smilies just for sharing about it on my Twitter account and Facebook. Share it in multiple other ways and earn even more to get yourself closer to getting a mission! Make sure to complete the surveys they send to your account so they know what you like (and don't like) so you can get the best missions!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Photography 101

Thanks to a local Groupon deal, I scored a 5 hour basic photography class last evening and spent the entire evening having terms, camera parts and lenses drilled into my head in an attempt to better my pictures for my blog, for future scrapbooks and for my baking adventures. I'm not sure if I even comprehended half of what they were talking about but tried to take as many notes as possible since the two instructors were two of the best instructors and who have done some amazing work in so many places in the world but who have also created Vision Culture which has helped so many women in other countries get out of horrible situations like human trafficking. Anyway, it was a great experience!

Their advice for after the class was to practice, practice, practice so that's what I did today. I know they pictures aren't that great yet and this isn't really related to baking or cooking directly but I wanted to share what I took today along with the info for the couple that taught the class. Their organization called Vision Culture is amazing and a great way to use their photographic skills while sharing stories from around the world.

First my pictures.....










Make sure to check out the couple who taught the class- David and Ally McKay of McKay Photography and Vision Culture.....here's the links to their Facebook pages and


Vision Culture- https://www.facebook.com/NewVisionCulture?fref=ts
McKay Photography Academy- https://www.facebook.com/mckayphotographyacademy?fref=ts

McKay Photography Academy Website- http://www.mckayphotographyacademy.com/
Vision Culture part of their website- http://www.mckayphotographyacademy.com/Vision-Culture.html


Check them out and if interested, check to see where their next classes will be at! They're amazing and passionate teachers!


Spring, where are you? I'll take anything!







http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-eEUWRkDjLeY/T7UqDAWhlDI/AAAAAAAACc0/2zey58sKcFI/s1600/FreeSpringClipArt.png

With the temperatures rising drastically then dropping to cooler weather, I'm definitely looking forward to when the temperatures stay more consistent and it's starting to show in my cooking!

Like tonight for example....normally I don't want to cook on the weekends, but since it was semi-nice outside with a little breeze, I thought it might be the perfect time to get the grill out. Of course, that means the hubby gets to cook on that then! With hubby taking over the main course of steak, it was up to me for the side dishes. Potato salad reminds me of summer so much, so I thought maybe making a quick potato salad was in order. A quick search on pinterest brought back only a few results and I didn't have many of the ingredients on hand to make what I did find. Of course they weren't very healthy as potato salad is a comfort food- not a health food necessarily. I knew the basics of what went into a potato salad so I decided to try my hand and what took place in about 15 minutes of prep and cooking turned into an outstanding, yummy and soo flavorful side dish. It could have almost been the main dish if the steak hadn't already taken that place! It's definitely a keeper and the hubby made my day when he said that he loved it despite not really liking potato salad normally! 
Try it and let me know what you think!







Healthy Potato Salad

4 red skinned potatos, mine were small/medium and just enough for 2 people- cut into small bite sized chunks
1 cup water....or so, I just put some in to help steam the potatoes.
1 cup plain organic yogurt (I buy Stonyfield plain)
1-2 tsp grainy mustard
2-3 tsp grapeseed oil (you can use vegetable oil as well or even just water as it's mainly for thinning it out)
Paula Deen's Steak Seasoning- it comes in a grinder type thing
1 tsp sea salt


In medium bowl, place potatoes cut into bite sized pieces and water then put saran wrap over top pulled tight and microwave for 10 minutes. I had to do 11 because the 0 and 5 buttons on our microwave don't work :-) Once done, make sure to take off saran wrap and check potatoes with a fork for tenderness. Ours were a little too tender and broke apart easily but maybe 1 minute less would change that.

While potatoes are in microwave, combine rest of ingredients aside from the sea salt. I used a whisk to combine them all together and streamed in the grapeseed oil while whisking to get it all combined well. Add seasoning as you like. When potatoes are done in microwave, drain and add dressing and gently stir. Check seasoning and see how much sea salt you want to add. I just added a pinch since I don't really like salt but the hubby does.

I let it cool for a few minutes before we ate so it was warm and not boiling hot, but I'm sure it would be good cold like normal potato salad too. I put it with steak that was seasoned with the same steak seasoning and some salt before grilling and a simple and local mixed greens salad with some shredded cheese and local tomatoes....it was all soo yummy! Check out the pictures!



Of course you have to have dessert and I made some gluten free chocolate chip cookies earlier today from my brother-in-law's church fundraiser so maybe a few of them will make their way into my tummy by the end of the night....until then maybe it's time for some exercise. Heading out to the local trail sounds like a great idea right now!


























Monday, April 8, 2013

Ice Cream Success!


 





 


So the weekend has passed and let me just say, the ice cream was a HUGE hit! Since the last post, I finally figured out the flavors- I chose a chocolate marshmallow ice cream and a vanilla frozen yogurt with homemade mixed berry syrup in it. The picture I have for you above, is the chocolate marshmallow with extra marshmallows and homemade chocolate syrup on top for an extra sugar-rush!

Since I didn't use the recipes that came with the ice cream maker book, I did some improvising on the ones I found online and the frozen yogurt with the mixed berry syrup ended up over-churning by the time I got the mixed berry syrup done so it didn't turn out so well. Oh well, it happens sometimes! I forgot to take into account that the yogurt would need more of a gentle touch so it might not have needed as much time in the ice cream maker as the actual ice cream did. That's the way things go and everyone loved the chocolate marshmallow flavor anyway which was soo easy to make so I'm excited to share the recipe with you!




 (Link to this recipe is actually a Rocky Road Ice Cream Recipe, but I adapted it for me and just made a chocolate ice cream with mini marshmallows. It would be a great base for any flavor of ice cream for sure)

I actually doubled the recipe to fill my ice cream maker, but you'd have to base the number of recipes you need on how big your ice cream maker is. The recipe below is mine, so it's doubled. If it won't fit in your ice cream maker, just half each of the ingredients and it'll be the original recipe.


2- 14 oz non-fat sweetened, condensed milk
1 cup cocoa
4 cups half and half
2 cups mini marshmallows (I just used a whole bag though)
2 cups light cream
2 Tb. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans (optional- I didn't add them, but you can)

 Mix ingredients, except for marshmallows and optional pecans in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Add to ice cream maker and follow the directions for your ice cream maker for timing. I did mine for about 40 minutes, but my ice cream maker is very old so it varies depending on machine. Once it's done, I scoop it out of the ice cream maker and into another container and mix in handfuls of marshmallows and optional pecans as I scoop the yummy-ness into the container. I froze it for about 2 days before we ate it and everyone raved over it! Definitely a keeper recipe!



Rocky Road Ice Cream Recipe


I'm definitely keeping this recipe for the summer, but will have to make it healthier for me to eat. Maybe I'll just plan on a chocolate marshmallow frozen yogurt since I can use homemade yogurt for it, so I"ll know ALL of the ingredients in it and feel good about eating it! Feel free to keep this in mind for the future months and come back to let me know your favorite creations and how yours turned out! I'm always looking for ideas!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ice Cream, Ice Cream, We All Scream For Ice Cream!

Picture of Ice Cream - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com






Well, with spring upon us and summer following closely behind it we'll start to see more recipes for summer treats including ice cream show up on pinterest and other blogs I'm sure!

I'm getting a head start by making some homemade ice cream for a late family Easter this weekend. We share ice-cream maker custody with my cousin and her husband so we swap it back and forth as we each need to use it so I'll have "custody" of it this week to make some flavorful treats for my family. In my family, I have so many siblings that we each bring something which leaves my parents to provide very few things or just the main dish and the location for our gatherings. 

This time, instead of the normal Easter brunch or big feast, we chose to host a homemade pizza party and ice cream sundae party! I'm in charge of bringing whole wheat pizza crusts for whoever wants them, a gluten-free pizza crust for me and some ice cream or frozen yogurt and a topping so I'm starting to get my creative juices flowing to see what I can come up with. Of course we have a spring picnic on Sunday as well and I'm taking a cake to that so maybe I'll bring some homemade ice cream too since I've got the equipment already!

In thinking of all the flavors and combos that are out there, I've done some pinterest searching and have come up with some ideas for sure! I'm not sure yet if I'll go with a frozen yogurt type thing or a true ice cream- I'll probably done one of each so that there is a healthy alternative for those who want it and if I'm going to go for health with one of them, I might make a banana "ice cream" to go the whole way healthy with it. I've read numerous recipes where you can freeze bananas, blend them up until smooth then add all your mix-ins to make it AMAZING! Of course, if you've been following my blog at all, you'd know that I love to get creative with things, so with the true ice cream, I'll probably go for vanilla with swirls of something in it- chocolate, candies, chocolate chips, who knows what. Either way, I'm sure it'll all be amazing!

Oh, and I can't forget the toppings, so I'll probably take some of my homemade chocolate syrup, maybe make a mixed berry syrup and then maybe some sort of fancy candy chopped into pieces for those that want to go all out! I can't forget the whipped cream so I'll grab a container of that to make it a true sundae. Keep an eye on the blog to see what I come up with as the week goes. I'll probably be making one of the two batches of ice cream either tomorrow night or Wednesday and then another on Thursday or Friday so that I can have it nicely frozen and ready for our gathering on Saturday. I'll plan on the toppings to be prepped on Friday probably so they're nice and fresh and so I can get to the store then so I'm sure it'll be so interesting and a fun adventure! 

I'm always on the look out for ideas- what flavors are your favorites? Do you prefer the basic chocolate and vanillas or are you one for the chunky ice creams? I love the chunky mix-in type ice creams- especially with chocolate chunks, cookie dough, candies, all the large chunky things in it. What's your favorite?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all my readers/followers! As you go about your day, think about WHY we celebrate! It's not for the candy, food or even the eggs even though there are always plenty to go around and lots to love about the day. Instead, focus on Christ's death from Thursday and his risen appearance Easter morning.

Can you imagine how everyone felt who witnessed that day? How could that change the way you go about your day today?

We're headed off to church to celebrate with our choir by singing in 2 of our church's services then heading to my in-laws to celebrate with the whole family. Should be an amazing day, but I'm trying to keep in the front of my mind the reason why I get to celebrate with them!

What family traditions do you have with your family for Easter?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Granola- is it really as healthy as you thought?

Ok, well now that you're a little focused you can see that granola is the topic of the day. Since going gluten-free in the last 3 weeks I'm beginning to understand how hard it is for people with allergies like this to eat on a daily basis. No, I'm not allergic to gluten or anything like that but my nutritionist thought it might be good to cut it out since when I added it back in after losing my 20 pounds since July that my doesn't handle it right. For that, I'll blame it on the pcos.

Anyway, off on a tangent I went so back to the granola.....One of the things that my nutritionist suggested was to eat steel cut oats and I found a great deal on them a few weeks ago at a local organic and natural store which I was so psyched to be able to go through- I could spend hours in those places! Since finding such a great deal on the oats, I decided to start making granola to keep on hand and take to work with organic plain yogurt that I can add some fruit to. Well, finding a granola recipe I liked was a little harder than I thought and I finally found one that isn't hard to make, has only 5 ingredients that I always keep on hand and is healthy for me.

Going back to the title of this post- granola isn't always healthy, meaning that sometimes it has so many high calorie items in it or even tons of added sugars and things that aren't healthy that when we eat it and assume that since it's granola, that it's healthy- we're actually doing more harm than good! I've been realizing how many additives are in all of our foods nowadays and if I can make something like this in a matter of 5 minutes of prep and 10-15 minutes in the oven then I'm going to plan on it! Knowing what goes into your food is so important! Why would you want extra additives and things in it that you don't need? Everything I put into my body, I'm responsible for choosing and making the decisions and it's important to me to know that I'm putting only healthy things in. Well, onto the recipe and off of my soap-box regarding the health and etc of society's choices.......sorry, didn't mean to rant at you!


After much ado and searching, I've found my perfect recipe thanks to shape.com and their dedication to finding the top 10 peanut butter recipes (or so they say!). This granola recipe is so easy and has just enough peanut butter to taste it in every bite but not too much to overwhelm since I still want to taste the yogurt and fruit in my lunch or snack.

Peanut Butter Granola

Sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt or enjoyed on its own, this peanut butter granola is made with pantry staples, making it an easy recipe to whip up without making a special trip to the grocery store.

Ingredients:
Makes four ¼ c servings

2 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp. honey
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. oats

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Combine peanut butter and honey in a bowl and microwave until peanut butter melts (approximately 20 seconds). Stir.
Stir cinnamon and vanilla into peanut butter and honey mixture. Add oats and stir until oats are completely covered in peanut butter mixture. Spread out oat mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for 7 -8 minutes until granola is slightly browned. Let cool until granola is crunchy.



I love this sweet and crunch recipe so much that I make a double batch. Don't be afraid to estimate the ingredients as you go, tasting, testing and checking as you go for your preferences. I just use a giant serving spoon to measure out the peanut butter, squirt in enough honey to equal the peanut butter, sprinkle in some cinnamon and pour in enough vanilla to make the mixture thin so it coats the oats. It's quite a sticky mess once it's all mixed together but it's soo worth it- especially licking your hands afterewards before the baking part. Of course to test the granola to see if it's done, you have to continue tasting! By the end of the baking and cooling process, I've probably eaten a whole serving without the yogurt but adding the sweet and smooth in with the sweet and crunchy makes for a great treat! Try it out and see what you think!


What's your favorite healthy treat or snack? Is there something that you constantly go back to and will never get enough of because it's just sooo good? Feel free to share and your recipe might be my next favorite!

Spring has Sprung!

From top left to bottom right: Poker cake, Bear cupcake toppers, Valentines Day cake, Snickers cupcakes, Peek-A-Boo Ducky Cake with edible blanket, Fruit pizza, Nexus cake with minerals from StarCraft, Cow skinned Horsehoe and a John Deere combine tractor.


Well, it's been an interesting few months and from what you've just seen through the pictures above, it's been a busy few months, and with spring "sprunging" (yes, that's right! I made up my own word!), it's time for me to turn my attention to my blog and starting "anew" throughout my life in general. I'm so excited to share with you a little of what I've got in store and you'll see new additions to the different parts of the blog each week- that's right, my dream is to write on here at least once a week and it's actually written on my calendar which means it should get done as long as the day goes like I want it too....when does that ever happen?!?

Anyway, back to the topic at hand- SPRING! With Easter coming this weekend, I've been focusing on spring-type designs. I'm making a family favorite for our Easter gathering this weekend- Orange Fluff Jello Salad! It's so simple to make and so delectable! Thanks to the Six Sisters at sixsistersstuff.com for sharing their mother's recipe through their blog and when searching for a family event recipe a few years back, I found their site! Check out their site for more amazing recipes, but make sure to come back and see what else I've got for ya!

For today, here's the Orange Fluff Jello Salad recipe from their blog but you can see from my picture that I've added candy eggs on top for that extra Easter-touch! I'm sure the kids will pick those off immediately then the adults can get to the good part- the salad! It's salad so it's healthy right?!?



Orange Fluff Jello Salad Recipe:
Ingredients:
1 large package Cook and Serve vanilla pudding
1 large package orange jell-o
2 cups water
1 16 oz Cool-Whip (lite or fat-free is fine)
1/2 bag mini marshmallows 
1 can pineapple tidbits (Any size, depending on your preference)
1 can mandarin oranges (Any size, depending on your preference)
2 bananas, sliced (Optional, put in before serving so they don't turn brown in the fridge)

Directions:
Mix together pudding, Jell-o, and water over medium heat until it boils. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate until mixture has thickened (about an hour). Beat until creamy. Fold in Cool Whip, marshmallows, and fruit. Chill about an hour before serving.


What does your family enjoy at holidays? Is there anything that you've found that you've become known for or ask for again and again? I'll be posting some more of my favorite recipes from other blogs over the next few weeks so make sure to check them out....the next one will be my favorite homemade granola recipe- 5 simple ingredients that everyone seems to keep on hand!