Weekend Things

>> Friday, January 31, 2014

I want to find a way to use my slow cooker for an entire week of meals. Mostly, I'm curious to see how it impacts my grocery bill and lessens the loads of dishes we usually do. The whole convenience factor is undeniable, but eating lots of soups would get boring, so I need to branch out.

I was so happy with the positive feedback I got on my 10 Steps to Slow Cooker Perfection for soups and stews. I'd love to develop a similar guide for other meals, so stay tuned for that post as I refine my own process as it relates to his handy device.

(Some of you asked what slow cooker we have. It's an old hand-me-down, but it's similar to this one that's just under $12. I'd also love to possibly get a double crock pot in the future for cooking up, like, dinner and dessert at the same time. And yes, I am intrigued by slow cooker desserts!)


// Crock Pot Dessert //
100 Crock Pot Desserts, Whole Foods Style via Stacy Makes Cents
Mississippi Mud Cake in the Slow Cooker via Recipe.com

// My Writing, Elsewhere //
(I don't get paid per click, so check these out!)
Help for IT-Band Pain via WalkJogRun

// Fun Stuff //
Which Golden Girl Are You? (I'm Part Rose, Part Dorothy)
Here's How I Feel about the Super Bowl (Superbowl?)
Meet the Original Hipsters Inside Brooklyn Homes in the late 1970s

// Health + Fitness Deals //
FREE! KIND Bar Sample with these qualifying purchases
Select colors Nike Women's Free Run+ as low as $65/pair
Not fitness-related, but 20 Kindle eBooks just $2 each!

// This Time, Last Year(s) //


And here's what you may have missed on Writing Chapter Three:
Have a great weekend!

Psst: You can check out more Weekend Things here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here.

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Bake Better Kale Chips

>> Thursday, January 30, 2014

We make kale chips about once a week. Over the years, we've certainly refined our process quite a bit. The very first batches we made were either too crispy and burner or too soggy and limp. As with any cooking method, mastery takes time, but GOOD NEWS! I have a few shortcuts to share if you're scrambling.

Here are 5 ways to make better kale chips -- tonight!



// Use Tuscan (Dinosaur) Kale

I had never even heard of different varieties of kale. Silly me, but I thought the packaged stuff was pretty much it. Enter our CSA share, and we were up to our elbows in thick, hearty Dinosaur Kale. We first made chips using this variety back in 2012, and we've been hooked ever since!

// Dry Leaves Well

A big mistake I made for the longest time was rinsing off my kale and not drying it properly. Water plus heat equals steam. And steam doesn't exactly crisp kale chips to the desired texture and crunch. After rinsing and chopping kale, I always press a clean tea towel onto the batch before adding my oil and spices. I get those suckers as dry as possible.

// Massage That Oil 

I used to be more of a drizzle and toss kind of gal, but now I get down and dirty with my olive oil. After drying kale leaves, I use around 1-2 tablespoons of oil and spend a good minute rubbing it onto the leaves and into all the little crevices, making sure to get everything well coated. More oil means more flavor and crisp.

// Use More Toppings

After that, it's time to go to flavor country. For us, this usually means salt, pepper, and a scoop of nutritional yeast. But adding more exotic spices, like curry, smoked paprika or other flavor enhancers like soy sauce, or lemon juice or zest surely kicks this up a notch.

// Crank the Heat

Oven temperature surely have an impact on the initial shock, and therefore, crunch, the kale gets in the oven. I actually crank mine all the way to 400 degrees (20 minutes) for a near-burnt result, but whatever temperature you use from 350 to 400, make sure to check on your kale every 10 minutes and stir around to get all areas baked evenly.


If you've never made kale chips -- now's the time to start. If you're looking for an excellent food to fuel your exercise, kale has lots of nutritional benefits to boast.

Here's the first recipe I ever made and the best recipe I follow to this day.

Have any tips to share of your own?

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Freezer Drawer // Love or Hate It?

>> Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Airing my dirty laundry today. Or, I guess in this case, it's my cluttered freezer drawer.


We have an upright freezer in our basement that I have filled to the brim (and organized, labeled, etc.!) with all sorts of foods, from Vegetarian Freezer Month eats to big bulk bags of veggies + fruits to glass containers of homemade staples, like applesauce, waffles, and chili.

Our refrigerator's freezer drawer is quite another story, as you can see. It's a catch-all for leftovers that aren't as, well, planned. Like bananas that are too ripe. Or half bags of frozen stuff. Or old freezer packs. (We have a million on them somehow.) From what I discovered . . . stuff expired in 2007 and ALL . . . what we keep upstairs is stuff we rarely eat.

Hmmm.

I think a huge part of it is my own lack of labeling and organization coupled with the poor design. Or let me re-state that. The poor design for my own preferences. When we bought our refrigerator several years ago, a drawer was a HOT item on my must-have list. Now? I don't really like hate it! Everything gets lost in there.

After doing a major cleaning, I ended up getting rid of the majority of what you see above. Including a few rogue breastmilk bags from Ada's first year. Now we're left with an empty space looking to be filled.

Here's the deal:
  • I'm planning to keep a roll of masking tape + a Sharpie next to the fridge to make labeling simple.
  • I'd also like to create a list of what's in the freezer to post on the refrigerator door.
  • I might invest in some smarter storage for that type of space, maybe something like these taller, slimmer containers.
  • I may also try to create some loose zones in the freezer (like fruit, veggies, meals, desserts, etc.) so everything is easier to find.
  • And obviously, I need to clean the freezer more regularly to keep everything under control.
I'm hoping to unveil a much more inspiring freezer space the next time I share. But I guess I'm wondering if any of you have tips you could give me. Do you have a freezer drawer? Love or hate it? And, it not -- maybe there are universal methods that would work for everyone?

I need all the help I can get!

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Is Homemade Always Best?

>> Monday, January 27, 2014

We don't live near many restaurants you'd classify as walkable. (Or much else you can stroll to, for that matter.) However, of the couple that are only a short trek, there's this little mom + pop crêperie. We'd go every other weekend during my pregnancy, which is when we truly discovered the place. Since we're creatures of habit, we'd usually order one sweet (Nutella or PBJ), one savory (something with eggs, veggies, and cheese), and always a huge mug of hot chocolate.

We haven't been back in a while for a variety of reasons -- money, time, toddler restaurant tantrums, etc. -- so, when the craving struck me, I figured:

How hard could this crêpe-making be?


I followed Alton Brown's recipe as well as I could, but had trouble getting my batter to the right -- super thin -- consistency. Probably because I used a 50:50 mix of white + whole wheat, which may have been was too heavy. Plus, the actual cooking method is rather delicate -- and I'm definitely more of a baker.

Obviously, I can refine and master with time and practice. But it got me thinking about those foods that are just better out versus in. The list is unique for everyone because we all have different strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen. For example, Stephen and I have perfected our home pizza recipe (by simmering various homemade sauces and following this genius baking method) to the point we much prefer it over takeout.

These crêpes?

They tasted alright (especially with a thick layer of homemade blueberry jam), though much egg-ier than I would have liked. More than that, the texture has a lonnng way to go, probably due to over-whisking. I think we'll have to pay our friends another visit to take care of this Nutella and hot chocolate craving. Otherwise, I'd say more exotic dishes, like Indian and Thai meals, are difficult for me to perfect at home because I'm too lazy/cheap to buy all the necessary spices. I'd like to work on that!

Is homemade always best?

For budget and health reasons, we choose to cook/bake/assemble the vast majority of our meals. Still, when it comes to flavor and texture, there are times we like to indulge. What foods/meals do you like better out versus in?

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Weekend Things

>> Friday, January 24, 2014

This photo has been taunting me for almost a year. I came up with this wicked awesome recipe for 6 veggie burgers and 6 puffy buns that could all be cooked at the same temperature for the same amount of time in a single standard muffin pan.

So, my goal this weekend is to recreate + tweak it (because the original burgers were pretty thick, am I right?). Hopefully you'll see something along these lines on this site next week!


// Food for Your Weekend //
Salted Chocolate-Rye Cookies via Apt. 2 Baking Co.
Zucchini + Chickpea Tagine via Herbivoracious

// Smart Stuff //
4 Weeks to a More Organized Home, can it be done that fast?

// Interesting! //
6 Superfoods You Aren't Eating -- surprising list!
X-Ray Yoga Poses . . . whoa.

// On My Mind //

// Health + Fitness Deals //
An amazing 40% off Women's Active Leggings/Tights by a variety of brands
Up to 40% off Bestselling Adult Bikes for exercise and leisure
Various pieces of At-Home Gym Equipment  

// My Writing, Elsewhere // 
(I don't get paid per click, so check these out!)

// This Time, Last Year(s) //


And here's what you may have missed on Writing Chapter Three:
Have a great weekend!

Psst: You can check out more Weekend Things here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here + here.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Half Dozen Double Chocolate Chippers

>> Thursday, January 23, 2014

I'm not sleeping well these days. So, baking is a priority for my sanity. Cookies = happy. Here's another great half dozen cookies recipe to add to the bunch. I think I've mentioned before that I'm trying to use less sugar in my baking and, instead, swapping it for lower glycemic sweeteners. Ones, like honey or maple syrup, that have more nutrition for Ada's sake. And my own, for that matter.

This recipe is an effort toward healthier snacking -- with loads of flavor and texture to boot.

Let's get to it!


HALF DOZEN GF DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIPPERS
refined sugar free, peanut free, vegan, and gluten-free

What you'll need . . .
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup GF oats, pulsed into flour
  • heaping 1/4 cup walnuts, pulsed into flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • handful or two chocolate chips
  • handful or two crushed walnuts
  • handful or two GF oats*
Method . . . 
  1. Pulse your oats + walnuts + cocoa powder + flax meal + baking soda together in a food processor (this is the one we have) until flour-like. Takes just a few minutes. Set aside.
  2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
  3. Cream together the Earth Balance + maple syrup + vanilla extract using the paddle attachment on your mixer. (You can also do this in your food processor.)
  4. Mix on low adding the oat flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips, walnuts, and extra oats.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for half an hour or more.
  6. Then scoop into 6 generously sized cookies onto a lightly greased baking sheet
  7. And bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until edges are golden brown. 
  8. Let cool completely before eating (they set nicely this way).

* The yield of this recipe is slightly more than with the other half dozen varieties because of all the add-ins. Still, this is a nice small batch for those nights when you don't want to make 5,000 cookies and eat them all. Right?

// RELATED RECIPES

Half Dozen Chocolate Chippers
Half Dozen Brownie Cookies
Half Dozen Peanut Butter Cookies
Half Dozen GF Chocolate Chippers
Chocolate + Peanut Butter Cookies Mashup
Crazy Layer Bars, Made Healthier

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Sustainable Fitness: Fitting It In

>> Tuesday, January 21, 2014

One of the hardest parts about completing workouts and, therefore, keeping fitness consistent and sustainable is finding time. Our days fit together like puzzle pieces, and those jigsawed edges are constantly morphing depending on a number of life factors. No matter what, we all need to assess our unique situations to form some realistic expectations and be sure to take care of ourselves first and foremost.

Finding time and desire to move often requires adaptability and creativity. We can forge paths to the places we want to go with our fitness goals -- even big goals. But it's not always simple or straightforward.


I think we all can relate that sometimes fitting in exercise is easy. When the weather is nice and the sun lights the sky for long stretches, those hours for activity seem infinite. Everything feels brighter and lighter, even the number on the scale slides in our favor. Our motivation is boosted in all regards. We move more because it feels good -- and -- a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

Then there are those darker periods of time when work or home or other extenuating circumstances get in the way. When it's cloudy and icy and beyond frigid almost every single day. No one loves going out in that mess. We skip exercise one day -- and -- it somehow landslides into the following week or even month. Hibernation feels good at first, but eventually it manifests in this nagging emotional weight + makes us feel stagnant.

The good news: I strongly believe that most people can fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, not matter the time of year or level of stress or busy schedule at work or insanity at home.

The tricky part: It takes effort -- and that doesn't always feel good/comfortable/worth it.

+     +     +     +     +     +     +

// GET UP EARLY

I think one of the most commonly shared tips for fitting in regular exercise is setting the alarm clock earlier. How far back is up to you, but even 45 minutes could allow you to exercise and shower before you start your day. It's not always fun to transition to morning workouts, but -- from personal experience -- it can be done.

Just make sure to get enough sleep and adjust on the going-to-bed side accordingly. And if you're waking up super early and still plan to do some serious moving, you'll want to eat something so you don't bonk halfway through your workout!

// USE YOUR LUNCH

If you know your day is going to be crazy, a simple walk during lunch can do the trick. I've had a variety of work situations, from working on a campus with awesome trails to working in an industrial park where I walked indoors, etc.

A walk usually doesn't work up too much of a sweat, but if you have shower facilities (or can go home!), you could even do some more intense stuff like running or biking. Just be sure to pack a portable/simple lunch so you don't skip your nutritional needs for the mid-afternoon.

// UTILIZE ALL OPTIONS

We used to be members of a gym, so working out whenever childcare was offered helped tremendously. You may have that option -- and it's worth going through a potentially rocky transition to earn it. Otherwise, consider swapping childcare or asking the grandparents or other relatives to watch children.

If you don't have children, think about walking/biking/running to work. There are a number of ways to find time or reasons to move no matter your stage of life. I'm sure you spent enough time thinking, you might discover some awesome opportunity you never considered before.

// BECOME A NIGHT OWL

I actually prefer working out at night. I always have. After all tasks seem completed for the day, lace up and head out for a jog around your neighborhood (here are some tips for running in the dark). Or after you put the kids to bed, pop in an exercise DVD from Jillian's Shreds to Barre to Yoga.

Stephen even does core and body weight exercises in the late evening because they're quiet and contained. When I exercise in the later evenings, I eat a lighter dinner and then munch on more after I've completed my training.

// SWAP ACTIVITIES

Ever notice how much time you might waste on social media? Consider cutting that out for even a week and see how much time it frees up. Or do you have a TV habit? If you don't think you have time to exercise, examine what IS taking up your time first before you restate it as fact. We all engage in things that suck time away from us . . . it's just a matter of identifying what these activities are an shifting accordingly.

// WRITE OUT A SCHEDULE

One of the more frustrating parts in my own experience is balancing out my goals/workouts with Stephen's. He's at a higher level and, as such, runs many more miles/hours than I do each week. Since I work in the mornings and we quit our gym membership -- we're sometimes at odds with who gets to run first and who gets the priority when it comes to time.

So, we worked out a schedule where we've both had to compromise. Long runs sometimes happen on Saturdays or Mondays depending on who is racing or wants to go with the group that week. Stephen might want to do some hard workouts every single day, but has decided to keep it between 5-6 so I can get my 4-5 and we can still eat dinner together. It's such a balancing act and can be hard to figure out -- but it's worth the effort!

// LOAD YOUR WEEKENDS

Another option is to exercise more when you have larger chunks of time to devote. For a lot of people, this means the weekends. Say you need to skip a lot of days during the week due to a project for work or other responsibilities. Start making Saturday mornings your gym ritual. Spend time doing cardio and weights. Maybe add a yoga class for stretching, too. You can also simulate gym stuff at home with DVDs.

Or do an extra long run or ride, provided you've worked your way up to whatever the distance is already (to avoid injury). In other words, take advantage of the time you do have and move the most you can with it. Just be sure to get in at least one or two shorter workouts in the week to balance things out.



How do you find time to move?

If you're catching up:

#1: Sustainable Fitness: Assessing Your Unique Situation
#2: Sustainable Fitness: Redefining Success
#3: Sustainable Fitness: Thinking Holistically

Automatic Healthy Eating Tips:
#1: Stock up on frozen veggies 
#2: Buy greens and actually USE them 
#3: Create simple, go-to meals
#4: Learn to love alternatives
#5: Prep, Make, and Store
#6: Add In: Convenience to your advantage
#7: Eliminate Food Waste
* 20 Ideas for Make-Ahead Meals

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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What's Your Jam?

>> Monday, January 20, 2014

While organizing my kitchen cabinets this weekend, I was struck by the variety of baking dishes and tools I have. Even more than that, I noticed I clearly have preferences with material -- silicone, glass, cast iron, plastic, wooden, etc. -- whether I realized it or not.

For example, I have a beautiful wooden mixing spoon that was hidden way back in a drawer -- like I'm almost too afraid to dirty it. On the hand hand, one of my favorite silicone spatulas is broken because I use it once or twice a day. And instead of using the wooden spoon, I'm on the search for a new spatula.

So, I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at some mixing bowls, measuring cups, cake pans, pie dishes, baking stones, etc. Clearly some materials are better for certain uses than others.

SILICONE


STAINLESS


NON-STICK



STONE + WOOD



CAST IRON



PLASTIC


GLASS



I'd say overall . . .

  • I like using silicone for mixing, but not for baking. 
  • I like glass baking dishes for cakes and breads.
  • I prefer stone for making crisp pizzas.
  • I love my plastic mixing bowl set over metal.
  • I steer clear from stainless because it sticks.
  • Non-stick baking sheets are my go-to for cookies. 
  • Cast iron dutch ovens are THE BEST for crusty bread.
  • Wooden mixing spoons are my mom's favorite, but not mine!
What's your preference? Or do you, like me, use a mix?

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Grown-up Hot Chocolate

>> Friday, January 17, 2014

It's been a while, but I'd like revive our Weekend Things series, just not this week. I whisked together quite an adult treat this morning. Certainly a mug of hot chocolate your kids wouldn't particularly enjoy. It's bright and, that word again, zesty. (If you didn't catch our Zesty Orange Ricotta Muffins, you're missing out!) And a pinch of cayenne pepper gives it a nice kick.

I'm sure you know by now that I like making cocoa at home!




ZESTY ORANGE HOT CHOCOLATE

What you'll need . . . 
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • juice 1/2 large orange
  • zest from that half orange
  • 1-1/2 cups unsweetened almond or soy milk
  • palmful dark chocolate chips (5-10)
  • pinch cayenne pepper

Method . . .
  1. Whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, and orange juice until it forms a thick paste. You may need to add a couple teaspoons water.
  2. Put this paste in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Pour your almond/soy milk over top and whisk to incorporate.
  3. Add in zest, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips. If you like some spice, add the cayenne.
  4. Enjoy immediately.
+ + + + + + + +


So, like I said. Weekend Things will return next week, but that doesn't keep me from sharing a few of my favorites today.

Here's some fun stuff I read/saw/liked or felt inspired by recently.
On Writing Chapter Three lately:
HAPPY FRIDAY!

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10 Steps for Slow Cooker Perfection

>> Thursday, January 16, 2014

I make a soup or stew in our crock pot at least once a week. Yet, we don't have a lot of crock pot-specific recipes here on the blog. That's because I usually toss in whatever is available at the time and season accordingly. I thought I'd share some tips with you for creating a delicious result from this seemingly sloppy way of cooking.

Recipe independence is really your best weapon in the kitchen. It allows you to use your ingredients up without having a specific plan. It encourages you to eat a more varied diet and not shy away from foreign foods. In other words, it makes healthy eating more automatic.

Heck, it makes cooking more enjoyable and satisfying -- empowering -- too.



10 STEPS TO SLOW COOKER PERFECTION
Follow these steps and create your own tasty crock pot creations!
// 1: Use (32 ounces) of low sodium vegetable broth as a base.
  • adds fuller flavor
  • adds nutrition
  • regulates salt (if you don't add more!)
// 2: Add puree or other base enhancer.
  • canned tomatoes chopped, whole, or even sauce
  • pumpkin, squash, or other veggie purees
  • miso paste, curry paste, coconut milk, roux, even tahini!
// 3: Toss in at least one or two cans of (rinsed) beans for protein.
  • kidney beans
  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • black-eyed peas
  • canelli beans 
  • lima beans
  • edamame
  • pinto beans
// 4: Use 1/2 to 1 full cup of a grain or grain-like filler.
  • white or brown rice
  • quinoa of all colors
  • couscous -- my favorite is Israeli
  • wheat berries  
  • bulgur wheat
  • dry lentils
// 5: Chop veggies small or use canned/frozen + 2-4 cups, 1 each, depending. 
  • carrots
  • celery
  • potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • broccoli
  • kohlrabi
  • zucchini or summer squash
  • onions + garlic
  • kale or other chopped greens
  • bell peppers
  • parsnips
  • butternut or acorn squash, etc.
  • corn
  • peas
  • green beans
// 6: Add a tablespoon or two of oil for healthy fat.
  • Olive oil for mild flavor.
  • Chili oil for some spice.
  • Sesame, truffle, walnut, etc. oil for complex, exotic taste.
// 7: Pinch in salt and pepper for basic seasoning.
  • Don't forget salt is in the stock you already added, if you're regulating.
  • You can always add more, not take away.
// 8: Scoop other seasonings in 1 teaspoon at a time. 
  • Oregano
  • Smoked paprika
  • Curry powder
  • Cayenne pepper (start 1/4 teaspoon at a time!)
  • Saffron
  • Fenugreek
  • Dried basil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric 
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
// 9: Add water (if necessary) + stir until the mixture reaches the top.
  • Evaluate your liquid to veggies ratio. 
  • More liquid, soupier soup.
  • Less, more like stew.
  • Don't forget items like rice will absorb liquid.
  • You can remove veggies/add liquid if ratio doesn't please you.
// 10: After cooking for several hours on high, I season again -- to taste. 


While writing this post, I tested these tips and slow simmered a delicious soup, including the following ingredients:
  • 32 ounces veggie broth
  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes + juice
  • Black beans
  • Chopped carrots
  • Chopped celery
  • Israeli couscous
  • Olive oil
  • Water to fill the pot
  • Salt + pepper
  • Paprika, cayenne, and basil
Not ready to go it on your own? Take it slow. The worst that can happen is you eat lots of veggies that aren't seasoned perfectly. Plus, with mistakes comes learning. Just try again!

Here are more slow cooker recipes:
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Sustainable Fitness: Thinking Holistically

>> Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I've observed a trend in my own exercise cycles, the successful and the failed, that's worth noting. When I treat myself well -- mind, body, soul -- my running/exercise falls into place. When I treat myself poorly, my activity level stalls and everything falls apart. And, on the flip side, when running is going well, I'm much more able to keep the whole cycle going.

It makes perfect sense. How we treat ourselves when we're not moving is just as important as following training plans to stay active and achieve big goals. This information isn't anything new. It's what we hear or read or gather around all the time.

So, why is it such difficult advice to heed?


The whole "taking care of yourself" phrase can surely take on a lot of different meanings depending on your stage of life, your motivation, your usual habits, etc. Surely in my early 20s I could ignore a lot of my health and still keep moving at lightning speed. Age 30 isn't old by any stretch, but it's crazy how things change physically -- and fast!

If you're looking to make fitness/exercise a sustainable part of your routine for life and all its many seasons, consider focusing on the following areas:


// NUTRITION

I get on kicks from time to time with different ways of eating. Diets or just modifications, whatever it is -- it usually derails my training if I'm not eating enough. "Enough" doesn't just apply to quantity of food, but also to quality and contents. Whereas I used to be able to run on candy and crap, I'm finding my body far less responsive these days -- and for good reason.

There are a lot of fads that come and go with diets. Truth is, your unique body has unique nutritional needs for its unique habits and activities. If you're struggling, experiment with whole foods (here are some that are specifically good for runners!) or seek out some advice from a professional. There's no one-size-fits-all approach no matter how many books or blogs or television doctors may promote one.

My best piece of advice? Eat a well-balanced, healthy breakfast to set the tone each day. Regardless of how you ate the night before, starting fresh can happen on the daily. Or if you need more instant gratification, drink a tall glass of water, take a deep breath, and step away from the candy pile.

I sometimes toss in a silent, "healthy foods nurture a healthy, active body" for good measure.


// SLEEP

We all thrive on a different number of hours per night, and for me that magic number is 8.5. On a good night, I get a broken 7, but -- that's pretty good -- it's been far worse! Regardless of your circumstances, creating steady, reliable sleep habits is a job worth your while.

Whether or not you have total control over your sleep schedule, going to bed even a half hour to an hour early can help. (Or sleeping later, but I know very few people who have this option.)

Getting more rest means more time for your body and mind to repair + replenish. I've heard people boast about how little sleep they can go on, but I don't think it's anything worth bragging about. Then again, I don't drink coffee (it gives me headaches, how's THAT for weird) . . . so maybe I just don't get it!

Here are some articles you might want to check out:


// GENERAL HEALTH

We can't perform well or expect to engage in regular exercise if we aren't generally in good health. I see too many people -- including my former self -- dragging through chest colds, the flu, or worse. Along these same lines, I see too many people -- including my former self -- ignoring injury warning signs, and neglecting any other health concerns just to get in miles/workouts.

No bueno.

At heart, running/exercise should serve to promote and enhance health. But if you're reaching the point of abusing your body to get in those sessions (which is easy to do when you're motivated to reach a goal, I promise you!), it's certainly going to catch up to you eventually . . . in a bad way.

Finding a balance is up to you, but I'll just put out there that I'm relatively conservative about it, and my training and race times haven't suffered as a result.


// MENTAL HEALTH

Matters of the mind are indeed part of general health, but they are trickier than identifying a cough, cold, or sore IT-band. (Weird selfie, but I had titled this one "funk," so I thought it was fitting!) But mental health is an aspect of the whole package that we often neglect, runner or not. Keeping our bodies healthy involves the mind, there's no doubt about it.

Very generally, if you notice a lack of motivation that just won't shake no matter what, consider looking to see if it extends to other areas in your life. Depression or other issues crop up in a variety of different ways and can be hard to identify in the daily grind. A lack of motivation or interest in hobbies is a sign.

Alternatively, if taking even a single day off from exercise makes your skin crawl, that's another warning sign.

If you're catching up:

#1: Sustainable Fitness: Assessing Your Unique Situation
#2: Sustainable Fitness: Redefining Success

Automatic Healthy Eating Tips:
#1: Stock up on frozen veggies 
#2: Buy greens and actually USE them 
#3: Create simple, go-to meals
#4: Learn to love alternatives
#5: Prep, Make, and Store
#6: Add In: Convenience to your advantage
#7: Eliminate Food Waste
* 20 Ideas for Make-Ahead Meals

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Zesty Orange Ricotta Muffins, etc.

>> Monday, January 13, 2014

Our new favorite pizza topping is ricotta cheese. Thing is, we usually have quite a bit leftover after using only a few dollops . . . a couple nights a week. Anyway, I was making Ada chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast on Friday, it's sort of our tradition, and I got this idea to give them a dose of protein with ricotta.

I made myself a few, too, but added adult flair with orange zest and honey.

Whoa. Good decision.


We don't have time for pancakes everyday. So, with our Juice Pulp Muffins // Bread fresh in my mind, I experimented + discovered this recipe works very well as pancakes, waffles, and muffins. It just requires a simple tweak. More or less almond milk. More for thinner batter for pancakes, a moderate amount for thicker waffle batter, and less for these muffins.

Or, should I say, your new favorite muffins?


ZESTY ORANGE RICOTTA MUFFINS
Or pancakes. Or waffles. Best with dark chocolate chips.

What you'll need . . .
  • 1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 tablespoons honey 
  • Zest one large orange 
  • Juice of large orange (hand-squeezed works great)
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal + 3 tablespoons hot water 
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 3/4 to 1 cup almond milk (or other milk)***
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Handful or two chocolate chips, dark chocolate
Method . . .
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan with oil or butter or substitute. Or line with muffin papers. Alternatively, skip this step if you want to make pancakes or waffles. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  3. In another bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients (starting with 3/4 cup milk) -- except the chocolate chips. 
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until just  combined. Batter should be thick, but not like bread dough. Add more liquid, depending. 
  5. Fold in chocolate chips + portion equally into the muffin tin.
  6. Bake for between 18-22 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on a cooling rack to avoid sogginess.


*** To make pancakes or waffles, thin out batter with almond milk until familiar textures start to happen. Honestly, I'd make waffles with the muffin batter so they are extra thick. Pancakes tend to work better with a full cup of milk + be sure not to flatten while cooking.

ALSO: Make sure pan or waffle iron is well greased. And for pancakes, set heat to medium, as the juice and honey will tend to make them brown/burn a bit quicker.


The texture is almost like baked doughnuts. I was really surprised by all the airy lightness these guys pack. I'm not used to that happening when not using eggs. It was one of those lucky "mistakes" where -- instead of it being in the plan, it just happened that way. I'm pretty sure it's because I used just one flax egg. Or, again, just luck.

You may also substitute maple syrup in for the honey. You'll notice there isn't refined sugar in the recipe, as I'm trying to moderate how much gets in Ada's diet. It's funny how turning two opens up this new world of junk food, whether we intend for it to happen or not!

We do what we can.
We eat what we love.
It's a delicious balancing act.

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Purple Cabbage Garlic Knots

>> Friday, January 10, 2014

Without planning to, I've set a new goal for myself. I'd like to create pizza dough in all colors of the rainbow, naturally. As you already know from the millions of recipes, our favorite dinners involve either pizza or garlic knots, so we've made an effort over the years to find a way to make it a healthier option. Using purees has really transformed this process.

So far, we have:

And now PURPLE!


As I mentioned in yesterday's Curious George Juice post, I actually juiced the cabbage for this recipe instead of pureeing it. However, I'll give the puree option as well -- since it would be more like the other recipes we have on this site (in other words, if you'd like to try a similar dough, but don't have a juicer).

What's different with juicing versus cooking + pureeing is that the flavor is far more intense and concentrated. I'd describe purple cabbage knots as sweet and earthy. What I can't necessarily tell you is the difference with regard to nutrition. Obviously when juiced raw, the cabbage retains most of its nutrients, but loses the fiber. I don't know how much is lost in the baking process, but I am thinking more remains than with pureeing.

As you can imagine, the color is more vibrant, too.


PURPLE CABBAGE GARLIC KNOTS
works equally well as a pizza crust recipe

What you'll need . . . 
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 warm water
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar in the Raw (or sugar)
  • 1 cup cabbage juice (room temperature or warm, not cold)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-1/2 cups bread flour
Method . . .
  1. To make our cabbage juice, we set our Breville Juice Fountain on high and juiced quartered purple cabbage until we got 1 cup. Set aside.
  2. Mix the yeast into the 1/2 cup of warm water + the sugar. Let sit until frothy -- proofed -- about 10 minutes.
  3. Mix in the cabbage juice and olive oil until well combined.
  4. Add in the flour a cup or so at a time until you reach 3 cups, then start kneading and add more as needed. You may need more or less flour, depending on a lot of factors. Just knead until you form a smooth, elastic ball that isn't sticky . . . but not dry either!
  5. Cover with plastic wrap or a wet tea towel + let rise for at least 2 hours in a warm place.

My prettiest knots to date!


// PUREE ALTERNATIVE

If you'd rather use puree, just steam cabbage and puree in a food processor until smooth. You can experiment with using just a 1/2 cup puree . . . up to a full cup for the juice in the recipe above. Adjust your water content accordingly until you reach the same smooth, elastic round. All else should be the same.


// COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

  • For knots: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F, preferably with a pizza stone inside. Divide dough into two large balls and save one for another day. Divide one of these balls up into between 10 and 16 knots, depending on size preference. Roll and knot your dough and then bake for up to 12-15 minutes. Top with a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast for a non-dairy option).
  • For pizza: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F, preferably with a pizza stone inside. Divide dough into two large balls and save one for another day. Spin or otherwise stretch your dough into a crust that will fit on your stone. Then bake for a few minutes before taking out of the oven + topping with your favorites. Bake for another 12-15 minutes.
Happy Friday!

Have you tried any of our colorful pizza dough recipes? Which one is your favorite? And do you have a suggestion for BLUE?! My mind briefly wandered over to a sweet blueberry recipe, which I might just have to try, but I'm not sure about that.


And don't miss our 90 healthiest recipes of 2013! Lots of delicious, wholesome foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beyond. Includes both vegan and vegetarian recipes to please the entire family -- even toddlers!




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Curious George Juice

>> Thursday, January 9, 2014

I'm a fruits + veggies artist now.

Portrait of Stephen in carrots, romaine, cabbage, apples, and lemons.


Mix this up to make a colorful beverage that serves 2-4.


This combination was inspired by a Curious George episode I watched with Ada. George becomes interested in a local juicer's recipes and decides to create his own. One of his mixes is a huge hit. His special ingredient? Cabbage! And it's really quite delicious and beautiful, isn't it?

Now, the baby carrots aren't a usual staple in our house, but we had a huge bag leftover from the holidays/entertaining . . . so, no better way to use them up, right? (Oh, and if you've seen some nasty news about baby carrots, I found this post that puts a lot of that misinformation to rest, at least with regard to the organic varieties.)

As you can probably tell from my recent explosion of juice posts, the whole process/drink is addicting. I'd say we drink homemade juice every three days or so. We try to keep it as veggie-heavy as possible to cut down on excess calories and sugar. A little lemon zest or ginger can go a long way toward brightening the flavor of vegetables. And beets, for example, have their own natural sweetness, all while boasting high levels of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, vitamins A, B & C, beta-carotene, beta-cyanine, and folic acid.

Anyway, purple cabbage.

George is such a clever little monkey.

I might just have to try out his actual recipe from this episode!



I'll be back tomorrow with an earthy garlic knots/pizza crust recipe featuring pure cabbage juice. This one is a KEEPER, you guys! We're in love with it -- plus, it's PURPLE!


And don't miss our 90 healthiest recipes of 2013! Lots of delicious, wholesome foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beyond. Includes both vegan and vegetarian recipes to please the entire family -- even toddlers!




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Deep Freeze + Indoor [Zero Equipment] Workout

>> Monday, January 6, 2014

As I type up this post, the winds are kicking up and the temperatures are plummeting. This winter has been brutal, and I've been running through the worst of it (here's how!). When the words "danger" and "frostbite" enter the forecast, I don't mess around. My hardcore winter running facade melts and I resign myself to some indoor sweat sessions.

Brrrrrrrr!


// AT-HOME GYM EQUIPMENT

Working out at home has become even more important this year since we quit our gym membership to save money toward potentially buying another vehicle. We no longer have the option to warm up the car, pack some shorts and a tank, and head to the gym to hit the treadmill or weights.

Thankfully, we've amassed quite a collection of (simple) workout equipment over the years, including:
We also have a Spinning Bike, which I've been using often, and Treadmill, that we got second hand. I don't like running indoors because it aggravates my IT-band, so if I'm not getting in some cardio on the bike -- I'm usually doing basic kettlebell swings.

Stephen, on the other hand, has quite an indoor routine he does to supplement his running, and I've asked him to do a writeup on the specifics another day.

// WORKING OUT WITHOUT EQUIPMENT
 
Even if you don't have any equipment at all, you still have one of the best workout tools of all. Your own body weight can provide quite a cardio/strength session all on its own. If you usually slug slow miles outdoor in winter, incorporating some more challenging moves, like burpees, to your routine can help kick things up a notch.

Here's a quikie I've been doing once a week:


You could easily speed through this workout in less than 30 minutes, but please take time to focus on form and engaging the right muscle groups versus trying to win the race. I'm thinking specifically of the air squats and burpees. The pushups, too, are infinitely harder if you go the entire way up/down.

Oh, and just a note that "cheerleader" situps are the only thing I could think to call the sort of situps where you lay flat on the ground, arms above head + legs extended straight out . . . and then you use your abs to pull yourself up, all while spreading your arms + legs and touching your hands to your toes as if you're doing a split in the air.

That's a horrible explanation, but does it make sense? And, yes, I was a (middle school) cheerleader and we used to do up to 100 of these in practice! I suppose they made me silly, which is why I can't better explain the move!

PS: A couple readers reminded me that "cheerleader sit-ups" could better be called "V-ups"! Exactly! Thank you, gals!

Stuck indoors today? A lot of us are in the deep freeze! How are you staying active?


And don't miss our 90 healthiest recipes of 2013! Lots of delicious, wholesome foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beyond. Includes both vegan and vegetarian recipes to please the entire family -- even toddlers!




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One-Bowl Juice Pulp Bread // Muffins Recipe

>> Sunday, January 5, 2014

As with any new toy, the juicer has certainly consumed my attention this past week. And I'm already learning so much about certain fruits and veggies. Likes and dislikes. Opportunities to save and interesting flavor combinations. So far, I really like apples, romaine lettuce, carrots, and lemons + limes. They are all tasty, easy to clean, and yield a lot of juice.

The kale in this photo, on the other hand, probably gave up 2 drops of juice total . . . and mostly just ran through the machine into the pulp drawer. I don't think, necessarily, all kale in general is like this -- but ours was particularly dry.

Live an learn.


But I figured this folly was an opportunity to experiment with using pulp in fun ways. So, I made bread! And, then again today, I made this same bread recipe -- doubled it -- and baked muffins. The pulp gives baked goods flavor, any residual nutrients, and lots of fiber. This mix includes beets, carrots, oranges, limes, and celery.

(PS: Don't have juice pulp? Sub in shredded carrots, apples, or other fruits/veggies 1:1 ratio!)

(Also: I promise not all recipes going forward will involve juicing. But some will. I'm hooked!)


JUICE PULP BREAD/MUFFINS
(makes 2 loaves or 24 muffins -- use any pulp)

What you'll need . . .
  • 3 cups white-whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon (or other spice)
  • 2 cups (fluffed, not packed) fruit/veggie pulp 
  • 1/2 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other milk, even water)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup maple syrup (depending on sweetness desired)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Method . . . 
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. If you've baking bread, lightly grease your bread pans; muffins grease muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, flax meal, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon together. Then mix in the pulp and follow with the oil, almond milk, and maple syrup. 
  3. Mix until just combined. Batter should be like normal quick bread or muffin batter, so if it is too thick, add more liquid -- milk.
  4. Then divide into half for bread or portion out into individual muffin tins. 
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes for bread or 20 to 25 minutes for standard muffins.
  6. Repeat with rest of batter -- bread is done when set in middle and lightly golden brown. 
  7. Let cool before serving or storing in your refrigerator (or freezing!).

We made our bath of muffins this morning, and I'm happy to report that we have a great centerpiece for our breakfasts this week. Ada loves this bread. It's sweet without being overly so. The pulp really just injects it with flavor. Oh, and it goes great with . . . juice. So, more pulp.

What to do next?

Have you tried/made pulp bread, crackers, or other baked goods?


And don't miss our 90 healthiest recipes of 2013! Lots of delicious, wholesome foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beyond. Includes both vegan and vegetarian recipes to please the entire family -- even toddlers!




Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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