Thursday, October 17, 2013

I wanted to revisit something that I posted about last year. It's the most popular post on my blog and I think it's for good reason. Everyone wants to have a way to preserve their memories and if you're not in to scrapbooking, making a memory book is a really simple and classy way to do it!

Whether you're single and taking trips with your friends or a family looking to celebrate everyday accomplishments, this is a great first step. 

This time of year, I'm usually knee deep in creating our yearbook (which we run from November 1 - October 31). Although I'm almost fully immersed in preparing for the haunted trail we're involved with, I've got all of the months organized and ready to go (except, of course, October). I'll begin my review of the year in November. If you're looking to try something new this year, check this link (to a past blog post of mine) out. I hope you create the best memories ever...

Family Yearbooks...

Some updates from the 2012-2013 Yearbook:

Creating my own layouts is something new for me. This one shows the
important parts of the photos and still gets the images clumped together.

I added an instagram page - just chose a couple of my favorites!

More examples of some personal layout exploration. Some pages just have
so much that I want to fit - it may not look perfect but I enjoy the tetris-like process.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apple Honey

My hallway bookshelves are full of jams and butters and all sorts of delicious things! I didn't shoot any pictures of most of them because I was focused on teaching my daughter the processes of making all those goodies and how to preserve. With everyone back in school and my days being pretty full, I've had to squeeze in time to make the rest of the things on my list. I've made this wonderful thing...Apple Honey and it's delicious!!!

Let me know what you think, please. Let's get down to it...

Apple Honey
Yields around 5 half-pint (8oz) jars

§   1 Tbl Distilled Vinegar
§   8 Cups, Apple Peelings – No Seeds
§   7 Cups Water
§   4 Cups Sugar OR 3 Cups Honey
§   Juice of 1 Lemon (optional)
§   Whole Spices (Cinnamon Stick, Cloves, All Spice and/or Nutmeg)

Cooking the apple peels to
create a fragrant apple water.
1.      Soak Apples in a sink full of water, plus distilled vinegar – wash them off well.
2.      Peel the skin from the apples (using a veggie peeler, paring knife or an apple peeler-corer-slicer).
a.       Use apple meat to make apple butter, sauce, etc.
3.      Cover peels with water and cook, covered, until soft – 2-4 hours.
a.       Prepare jars and lids for preserving
4.      Strain fruit water through a small-mesh strainer and if necessary, through a nut milk bag or several layers of cheese cloth.
5.      Place juice in pot and heat over medium-high heat; once at a vigorous boil, add sugar or honey.
6.      Boil down rapidly until it’s reached the consistency of honey (it will reduce by about ¾ of what you have in the pot – depending on your desired consistency).
a.      Keep an eye on the pot as it boils down, the mixture will begin to boil up once it’s reached a specific temperature and stage in the cooking down – at
this point, you’ll need to turn your burner’s temperature down just a little.
                                                               i.      Each time you’ll need to do this, turn the burner down just enough to still keep a simmer or light boil going.
b.      Add the optional spices (whole cinnamon stick, whole cloves, whole all spice and a smashed or broken nutmeg). Depending on how strong of a spice flavoring you desire, add in the spices either at the beginning (full flavored) or half way down the pot (lighter flavoring).
c.       Do a saucer test (room temperature or freezer) as it will be thinner in the pot. Stop at any point that you’re comfortable with the thickness of the honey/syrup.
d.      It will darken in color – a nice rich amber color.
7.      Fill jars to ¼ inch; wipe top and process in a water bath for 7-10 minutes.
a.       Place a cinnamon stick in jar if desired.

Beautiful, amber-hued cinnamon-apple honey.

Apple Honey with sugar biscuits - nom, nom, nom...
This is also completely perfect in a spiced tea (like orange spice
or constant comment or chai or pumpkin spice...)

A visual comparison between apple butter (left) and apple honey (right).
Equally delicious, equally fabulous!!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Draggin' Ass...

Last night, I spent the evening in the ER. My husband was having chest pains and we were unsure of what could cause the issue so off we went. They were able to make him comfortable after taking a lot of blood, an EKG and x-rays (and a little pill that would help settle his chest discomfort). We've got a few more things to check out but they sent us home around 5:45 this morning. We both crashed hard. I got up briefly to see that the kids were all doing what they were supposed to be doing and then crashed for another hour or so. Once I got up, I needed a little something to help me focus as I still feel like it's 5:45 and I haven't slept yet - I'm a mess today!

A little off-track comment here: for all the natural choices that we try to make, I'm still a little uncomfortable with so many facets of modern medicine. I'm not educated in it and I'm never sure which ones are there to do the job our bodies should be allowed to do and which ones we should be grateful for within the confines of modern medicine. It scares me a little but I guess it's all a part of the learning process and makes me want to learn more...

Sorry to jump track - I'm back now.

When I worked for a chain sandwich and coffee shop I was almost always an opener which meant I was at work around 5:30a. Most days that didn't bother me - I tend to enjoy mornings (especially if I've had enough sleep) and I'd just kind of sing songs in my head and drink my water and I'd be fine. Every now and then, I had a rough day and just really struggled. One day, I made up a drink that is really sweet and loaded with caffeine. Now, caffeine has never done much for me (I tend to drink decaf or herbal tea) but sugar can send me over the moon! I know most people are different and their bodies do respond to caffeine and if so, this drink will shoot you up!!!

Remember, I said this is sweet and I meant it - adjust sweeteners to your tastes and remember to leave room for all the extra goodies in your mug. I always overfill my mug and either spill some (hey, I'm tired after all) or end up sipping it from the top of a very full mug!

Draggin' Ass
Yield 1 travel mug (about 2 cups)

1/2 C brewed espresso / strong coffee (about 1/3 of the mug)
1-1/2 C brewed chai tea (about 2/3 of the mug)
2 tsp organic cane sugar (or white sugar)
1 Tbls raw honey
2 Tbls caramel sauce
1 Tbls vanilla extract
2-4 Tbls / 1/4 C Almond or Coconut Milk

Mix together while hot.

*Variations on the sweeteners could be Coconut Nectar, Maple Syrup, Brown Sugar or anything that is real and NONE of those artificial sweeteners!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Kiwi Pineapple (Sweet Green) Smoothie

I have been wanting to make a smoothie with kiwi for a while now and apparently, for good reason - its tart and sweet and fabulous (just like a kiwi)!

Kiwi Pineapple Smoothie
Serves 3

6 kiwi, peeled
1 1/2 large handfuls, baby spinach
1/4 fresh pineapple
Coconut water from young coconut (about 2 cups)
1-2 Tbls. coconut nectar or honey
1 1/2 tsp. Spirulina Powder (optional)

Blend together...nom!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pork Brine & Wilted Greens

Today we have a two-for-one! I like all the flavor profiles for my meals to compliment one another, especially because my husband likes to smash all the foods together on his plate - yuck. We had plans for the day so I did a bunch of prep work so dinner could come together quickly and easily. We got home way later than anticipated so we were all grateful that the work had been done earlier.

This is a super simple brine that had me licking my stirring spoon (before I added the raw meat, of course) and my family, after pretty much licking their plates at dinner, decide that it would be a good salad dressing, too.

I barely tweaked it from here - I just added some toasted sesame oil - she did an awesome job!

Pork Brine
Another awful image and my food was nearly gone.
We had been at the beach all day, gotten home around 8p
and rushed to get the prepped food on the table and in
out bellies! There is no image of the sauteed greens as we
devoured those, too! Imagine, it was THAT good!!!
Serves 8

  • 2 Cups warm water
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbls. Kosher Salt
  • 3 Cloves, Garlic (or 1 Tbls. Garlic Powder)
  • 1 Inch Piece, Fresh Ginger, grated
  • 2-3 tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
  • Pork of choice (steaks, tenderloin, medallions, etc.)
  1. In a lidded container add the warm water, brown sugar and salt - stir until granules dissolve.
  2. Add in the garlic, ginger and sesame oil and stir.
  3. Add in pork and stir briefly.
If you're using this for a brine, submerge pork chops in liquid, if parts aren't able to be covered, add a little more water.

If you're using this for a salad dressing, add it to a carafe (this would be a wonderful addition to an Asian inspired salad with pork medallions).

You can also use this to wilt some greens (as I did to go along with the pork):

Wilted / Sauteed Greens
Serves 6
  • 1/4 Cup Pork Brine
  • 1 Tbls. Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 2 Bunches Chopped Greens (Collard, Kale, Mustard, etc.)
  1. Add a little toasted sesame oil to pan and heat.
  2. Add chopped greens to pan and sprinkle with several tablespoons, up to 1/4 C of brine.
  3. Lid pan and allow greens to saute, wilt and absorb flavors (2-5 minutes, depending on greens).
    1. Kale can take longer to wilt than something more delicate like mustard greens.
    2. Greens should be wilted but still bright green in color.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sweet Potato Pasta with Sweet Cream Sauce

My daughter and I like to write recipes together. We get these ideas of flavor combinations and then work to create something that represents it. Sometimes it doesn't work out but other times, we really dig what we've created. Unfortunately, she wasn't around for the inception of this one (summer camp) but we talked through my ideas and we think we have a winner!

The original idea was to make a sweet potato ravioli, which I'm assuming isn't possible but I'm not really skilled in pasta making at all. Maybe we can still do this sometime. Anyway, I was going to fill the ravioli with a ricotta cheese mixture and then make a maple syrup cream sauce and crumble some italian sausage over it. It sounds wonderful, right?

What I found was that I could get a spiral vegetable slicer and use this to make thin and beautiful spiral sweet potato 'noodles'. They're fast and fabulous and such a great way to incorporate a healthy alternative to our menu.

Sweet Potato Pasta with Sweet Cream Sauce
Serves 6

  • 3 Medium Sweet Potatoes, spiral cut 
  • 1/2 C Butter or Ghee / 3-4 Tbls. Butter
  • 1/2 C Flour
  • 2-4 C Coconut Milk (depends on how thin you want your sauce)
  • 1/4-1/2 C Maple Syrup
  • Salt, to taste
  • Coconut Oil
  • Broccoli
  • Spicy Italian Sausage, bulk or links
  • 15 oz. Ricotta
  • Salt, to taste
  • Maple Syrup, 1 Tbls. / to taste 

  1. Use spiral cutter to prepare Sweet Potatoes (this will fill a large bowl), set aside.
  2. Make a roux with the butter and flour - when the flour is cooked off, add the coconut milk and mix until combined.
  3. Add maple syrup and salt to taste (this mixture tastes like liquid caramel corn to me). Set aside.
  4. Thaw and steam broccoli
  5. Brown Italian sausage. Set aside.
  6. In a small bowl, combine Ricotta with salt and maple syrup. Set aside.
  7. Heat sweet potato noodles. 
    1. In a large bowl or wok, heat a large pat of butter and coconut oil to liquid.
    2. Working in batches, add in 1/3 to 1/4 of the sweet potato noodles (whatever will fit well). 
    3. Toss them around right away so that the liquid coats as much as it can.
    4. You want the noodles to stay a bit crunchy so don't let them sit too long. 
    5. Remove and place in a large bowl and toss with a pinch of kosher salt.
    6. Repeat with the remaining noodles.
      1. Be aware that the sugars in the sweet potato will begin to adhere to the bottom of your pan a little so each batch you'll have to get a little faster moving with.
  8. Plate noodles, top with a large dollop of ricotta cheese, sprinkle with broccoli and cream sauce and top with italian sausage.
Sweet Potato Pasta with Sweet Cream Sauce - I forgot to add the ricotta cheese but it was SO delicious!
Absolutely what I set out to create... 

Pineapple Watermelon & Lime Smoothie

When I'm creating smoothies, I really should think them out and plan them better but mostly, I just toss a bunch of stuff in the bender and hope for the best. After all, they all have a fruit base to them...

It's that time of year when we have a plethora of fresh fruits and veggies available to us and I am taking full advantage of that! This baby has a lot of vitamins in it and it tastes delicious! I am out of frozen spinach and we had some leftover broccoli last night so I threw that in, too. I don't really like to make my smoothies without some green veggies or sometimes purple cabbage - they add a little taste (not compared to all those fruits though) and a lot of healthy benefits. It's a great way to incorporate them into your diet a little more...

One more note, I add all sorts of supplements that add something if you've got them but aren't necessary. It adds more minerals and phytonutrients, I"m not in full comprehension on these other than that they are the concentrated good stuff in all the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. We know they're really good for us to incorporate but aren't always conscious of our intake or their effects. If you want more information, a simple explanation can be found here. Today, I've added Liquid Chlorophyll. I know it's best for your body to take in these supplements once or twice a week so I usually pick one and add it to a smoothie each day.

A much prettier picture than yesterday -
thank you, sun!
Pineapple Watermelon & Lime Smoothie
Pineapple Watermelon & Lime Smoothie
Serves 3

  • 1/2 fresh Pineapple, chunks (and juice)
  • 2 Cups fresh Watermelon, chunks
  • 2 Pints / 2 Cups fresh Blueberries
  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Cranberries
  • Juice of 2 Limes
  • 2 Cups Broccoli 
  • 1 Tbls. Liquid Chlorophyll 

Add all ingredients into blender pitcher and blend until fully incorporated.