Monday, March 2, 2015

This is a great inspirational video! Happy Monday everyone!



Thursday, January 1, 2015

10 Things To Do In The New Year!

Every year we feel pressured to make a resolution for the upcoming year. We tend to vow to be better at something, to stop doing something or to achieve a goal we are not prepared to accomplish, and every year we give up and vow to do better next year. Why do we wait until December 31st to try and be better? Why not spend every day being the best possible version of ourselves? Life is ever changing, we are constantly growing and learning from our experiences, be it successes or failures.  As the new year begins, I do not choose to make a resolution, I choose to do these 10 things today and every day.


Be Happy
Happiness is thrown around more often than not when people are asked what they are looking for in life. Why are we "looking" for happiness? Who would choose to go through life unhappy? Well, surprisingly, a lot of people! In this day and age of "never enough", many people are left unhappy.  We constantly compare ourselves to others and want what they have, a better job, a bigger house, a smaller waist etc etc etc! Enough! Stop scrolling through your news feed being envious of people you haven't talked to in years. Happiness doesn't come from another person, monetary things or success, it is a choice from within. You could have everything you possibly ever wanted, but at the end of the day you aren't what you have but rather who you are, so make a conscious choice every day to choose to be happy and you will be happy. 


Be You
As I have gone through life I have become aware of the many sides of ME. The happy side, the funny side, the sarcastic, stubborn and OCD sides. I also realized that there were many times in my life when I wasn't being ME. I was the girl I thought the boy would like better then me, the girl
I thought would have more friends then the regular me or the employee that didn't speak up about her opinions and became that "yes" girl! They say with age comes wisdom, I envy the people that seemed to know who they were early on, but I also value the journey that brought me to this
realization. Too often, we conform to be what we think others want us to be. I think this goes along with being happy, I don't know anyone who is truly happy not being themselves or anyone who is unhappy being their true self. So let the freak flag fly!


Be Spontaneous
Life can get boring! Relationships can become stale, work gets tedious and "bagel Thursday" becomes redundant. It's like listening to your favorite new song on repeat, it eventually gets old. So, throw a wrench in it! Liven things up, shake it up a bit. Whether it be something big or small, break free of the routine. Say yes to something you normally wouldn't, do something that scares you, make immediate plans you can't cancel, or do whatever it is you just thought about while reading this! 


Be Loyal
Whether it be a friendship or any type of relationship you want to know the other person is loyal to you. Being loyal means always being there for the other, being faithful, honest and having the other persons back. I think it's safe to say that no one can claim they have never talked about someone behind their back. For whatever reason, as a society, we seem to have different rules when it comes to ourselves verses others. Don't believe me? Watch 10 minutes of any reality show! The same person who complains to their friends about so-and-so talking about them behind their back is trashing that same person to his or her friends. Granted it's TV, but it pretty much mirrors real life. Being a loyal friend, spouse, or relative doesn't mean you are always perfect at it. There have been times in my life growing up when the people around me have made a comment or observations of one of my friends and I just kind of let it go, or went along with. I by no means meant ill will by it, nor did I usually feel the same way, but I think at times I felt pressure to agree with that person for whatever reason or just not say anything and hope the topic changed. As I got older I developed more of my own voice, I also considered how I would feel it the situation was the other way around. I learned that I don't always have to agree with the choices my friends make to be loyal.

Be Confident 
Be confident in your choices, your voice and your decisions. Stand up for yourself, take risks, be courageous in your opinions and ideas. You are unlike anyone else and you should embrace that.  Don't try to conform but rather stand out. Too often, we don't achieve our full potential or we give up. Don't let others dictate what you do and don't let "NO" deter you. If no one thought outside the box we wouldn't have things like electricity, telephones or even computers. The greatest success comes from big ideas and even bigger failures. The key is to be confident in yourself. This is something that I have become better at over time.  
 
Be Nice
I don't think people generally choose to be mean! Think about this, you're running late for work, your dog is taking much too long to do it's business (longer then any normal day when you have time to spare), you hit yourself in the nose with the mascara wand while rushing to do your make-up (costing you another 5 minutes to fix), your gas tank is empty so you have to stop on your way, you  spill coffee on yourself as you try to merge on the highway and then you get stuck behind a slower then slow vehicle! Wow, you are having a rough morning! You know that, your bff who you just texted knows that, but you know who doesn't? That lady crossing the street who caused you to slam on the breaks in order to avoid hitting her as you made a right turn, prompting you blast your horn
and yell some very not nice things, because even though you have a green light the cross walk says WALK! As far as shes concerned you are a very unhappy person who may well benefit from an anger management course. Now granted, that's not an everyday situation, lets hope. We have all found ourselves in situations where the stresses of everyday life end up being directed at someone else.  Obviously no one is in a good mood 100% of the time, but don't pass that negativity you are feeling on to others. I truly believe in the idea of "paying it forward" Pay it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor. Likewise, I think you can help spread negativity through interactions with others. Humans have chameleon-like tendencies, if you surround yourself with unhappy people you will be more likely to be unhappy and pass that feeling along. Surrounding yourself with happy, optimistic people leads you to be happy and spread positive energy to others.


Be Excited 
Who wants to hang out with a Debbie downer? Just because you came in second and not first doesn't mean there is no reason to be happy. Celebrate the little things, acknowledge small victories and achievements. Don't dread the future or change, be excited about things to come. Be excited for others! Just because your friend got married first, or your younger sister got pregnant before you, you shouldn't take it as a personal setback. Share in their joy and enjoy the special moments for others as well as yourself.


Be Healthy  
Every new year we resolve to lose weight. That's why commercials for weight loss pills, weight loss programs and fat free foods seem to play every five seconds starting January 1st. It's also why every gym in your area is offering crazy membership deals and seem to be crowded 24 hours a day. Well, until about February or March, then everything pretty much goes back to normal. We set ourselves up for disappointment by trying to go from 0 to 100. Being healthy is not necessarily about losing weight, but rather about taking the best possible care of your body. Like the old saying goes, you are what you eat! Our country has overtime shifted from "real food" to artificial ingredients and processed chemicals as forms of nourishment. Food companies are more concerned about the bottom line than their consumers. Your body is your temple, and such you should treat it that way. What we do today affects our future. We tend to not think about the long term consequences of our actions and instead focus on the now. From what you eat, how much you drink, if you smoke, your activity level, to your emotional well-being, the choices we make today play a role in our future health.


Be Adventurous
Life is short, so enjoy it! I like to think of life as a ride at an amusement park. You can play it safe and ride the classic old wooden coaster, it's fun, it's exciting at times, but its also predictable. Or, you can strap yourself into that new, scary looking, adrenaline pumping roller coaster, even though it intimidates you. You can feel excited and free as it twists and turns, never knowing what will come next, even throwing you threw a loop at times. We can't grow or learn if we never break out of our  comfort zone. Explore new things, follow your dreams, throw caution to the wind and take risks even if you know you are likely to fail. I believe that everyday on this earth is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I don't want to play it safe, wait until I'm 65 to start enjoying what life has to offer or travel the world. There is no right way to live your life, but I truly believe the journey of your life should be an adventure.



Be Honest 
We all have a tendency to lie about the little things. We grow up being told to tell grandma how much we love that awful sweater we wouldn't be caught dead wearing. It starts by trying to avoid hurting others, it then becomes a way to protect ourselves "I did the report but my dog ate it". Over time it becomes easier and easier to lie without trying "Sorry I'm late, there was traffic," "I can't come, I already have plans," "I won't be at work today, I think I'm coming down with something". We allow ourselves to "fib" for our own convenience but don't allow others to do the same to us. Even the smallest lie leads one to feel betrayed. We can not expect others to be honest with us if we continue to blur the lines of truth. No relationship or friendship can survive without trust, and once someone looses their trust in you, it can sometimes be impossible to get back. We have all heard that honesty is the best policy, even though we might not always like the truth. Honesty towards yourself is just as important. We need to be honest with ourselves, about our goals, our short comings and the choices we make. What good does it do to lie to ourselves? Deep down we know the truth anyway! Embrace your truth, learn from it and grow from it.

 Strive to be the best person you can be, surround yourself with positive people, start each day trying to be better then the last, learn from your mistakes while growing from your experiences, and of course, HAVE FUN! If you take life too seriously, you'll never get out alive.

xoxo

Monday, October 20, 2014

How To Make Chicken Stock!

This is a simple and easy stock recipe using your leftover chicken bones.  I tend to roast whole chickens often and I always try to get more bang for my buck by using the remnants from one nights dinner to stock up on this basic kitchen essential.  What's great about making homemade stock is that it's one of those "set it" and "forget it" kind of recipes.  All you need to do is basically throw all the ingredients in a pot

Ingredients:
Leftover chicken bones and skin
3 or 4 carrots (quartered)
1 large (unpeeled) onion (quartered)
3-4 pieces of celery (quartered)
A handful of fresh parsley with stems
2 bay leaves
8-10 peppercorns
2-4 garlic cloves (crushed)
cold water 
Thyme (fresh if possible)
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

Optional ingredients:
Other herbs
1 Parsnip (quartered)
1 leek, white part only(cut in half)

What you need:
Stock pot or Large Pot
Strainer
Mesh strainer or cheese cloth


Place the chicken, vegetables, and herbs in your pot and fill with cold water. 
I usually follow this basic recipe, sometimes depending on what I have I may add the parsnip or leek to the mix. If I have fresh herbs I will add a few stalks of thyme and even a little oregano or basil.  If not I always add a large pinch of dried thyme and maybe a pinch of the other spices as well.  I have a spice blend "Mural of Flavor" and "Herbs De Provence" that I usually add as well. Really you can tweak the basic recipe however you like.

 

Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a slow simmer.
Allow it to simmer uncovered for at least 4 hours, 6-8 hours will yield the best results and flavor. Add hot water throughout as needed to ensure the water level stays above the bones and vegetables. You can also skim any fat off the top occasionally with a spoon or fine mesh strainer if desired.

Strain the stock.
 I like to strain the stock through a colander into another large pot first.  I find it makes removing all the bones and veggies easier.  Once the solids are discarded I rinse out my original pot, then pour the liquid back into it through a fine mesh strainer. If you want you can strain it even more by passing it through the mesh strainer again or even pouring it trough the mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth.

Store the stock.
You can store your stock in a glass or plastic container with a lid in the refrigerator for a few days.  If you don't plan on using it right away the stock can be stored in your freezer for a few months in a plastic container or bag. I sometimes make "stock cubes" for an easy way to add flavor into recipes. 



Tip:
If you want to remove more of the fat from your stock, simply place it in the refrigerator before portioning it into containers for storing.  Once the stock fully cools the fat will rise and solidify on top making it easy to skim off with a spoon.

Chicken stock is a great base for soups and sauces.  I also love using it as the liquid when making quinoa and couscous.  It also comes in handy when I make gravy, mashed potatoes or I want to steam vegetables.  For even more ways to utilize your stock you can check out this list of 25 tasty ways to use chicken stock from Wisebread.com.

What is your favorite way to use chicken stock?


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How To Make Almond Milk!

Many people seem to be switching over to nut milks lately. One of my favorites is Almond Milk! It is a great substitute for dairy milk but is also great all on its own.  I very rarely drink dairy milk these days and always seem to have Almond milk in my refrigerator.  I tend to use almond milk most often for protein shakes and smoothies.  It has a wonderful flavor and a creamy consistency with less fat and calories than dairy milk.

Bonus: Almond milk contains a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals!



 I have been drinking nut milks for some time now and I find myself less and less likely to buy them from a store.  The basic ingredients consist of the chosen nut, water and sweetener, yet its hard to find a brand with that few ingredients.  Obviously they would need to include a preservative to help keep them shelf stable but I don't like buying things, even "healthy alternatives" riddled with chemicals and ingredients I can not pronounce. You may think it would be a hard and time consuming ordeal to make your own fresh almond milk, however it is not. How do you make almond milk? Here is my quick and easy guide to making fresh homemade, creamy, delicious almond Milk! 

Bonus: Aside from avoiding unwanted chemicals you will save money too!

 

What do you need to make almond milk?

You can make as much or as little as you want.  When making almond milk you can choose to use blanched almonds (skins removed) or regular almonds (skin still on). The only difference between using almonds with or without skins when making almond milk is that you may need to strain your milk a bit more if you use regular almonds.  I don't find that it changes much.  For this post I made a small batch. I used one small bag of regular Almonds (about 1 cup)

 

Ingredients
Raw Almonds (uncooked & unsalted)
Filtered Water
Vanilla
 *Sweeteners if desired (dates, honey, agave, maple syrup or cinnamon) 1tsp or to taste

Equipment
Bowls
Mesh Strainer
Blender or food processor
Cheese cloth or Nut bag


To make almond milk there are only a few easy steps.

Soak the almonds.  You want to soak your almonds overnight for at least 8 hours. To do this place your almonds in a container or bowl, then fill with filtered water.  You will want to add about an inch or two of water above the almonds since they will absorb the water and grow in size.

Drain the almonds. After the almonds have soaked you want to drain and rinse them under cool water. 



Blend the almonds. Pour your almonds in a blender and cover with water. I like to use about a 3-1 ratio during this step.  If I started with 1 cup of dry Almonds I would add about 3 cups of filtered water to the blender.  For 2 cups of dry almonds I would use close to 6 cups of water.

Blend the almonds and water on the highest speed for at least 2 minutes. Your almonds should completely break down and the liquid should be white and opaque.  

Strain the almonds. Place a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth over a bowl and pour the almond/water mixture through it.  Once all the liquid has drained through, gather the excess cheese cloth and twist the remaining almond meal into a ball to remove more liquid.  You can continue to twist and squeeze more liquid from the pulp with your hands.



Sweeten the milk. Once you have finished straining all the liquid you will want to taste it.  If you prefer a sweeter flavor you can add a flavoring and or sweetener Pour the liquid back into your blender, add the flavoring or sweetener and blend for about 15 seconds.  For this post I added a tsp of vanilla to my milk.  If you like you can quickly strain the milk again to achieve an even cleaner finished product.

Store your almond milk. You want to store your almond milk in sealed container in the refrigerator.  Your almond milk should last for about 3-5 days since there are no chemicals or preservatives.  This also means that your milk will settle.  You will want to shake the milk up before each use.  If you notice it tastes at all sour you will want to discard it and make a fresh batch. 




TIP: Don't just throw away the remaining almond meal that is left behind.  It can be added to a multitude of things such as cookies, muffins, oatmeal, pancakes and smoothies. You can dry it as well in the oven then freeze for future baking needs.  Stay tuned for posts about ways to use left over almond meal.

Do you drink nut milks? Would you consider making your own?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Homemade Citrus Soda!

Tired of drinking glass after glass of bland water? Since I don't drink soft drinks or fruit juices filled with tons of sugar and calories I am always coming up with new ways to enjoy water!  Don't get me wrong, I love water! Drinking water comes with so many benefits, I think the only disadvantage would be like anything else too much could kill you..lol.. seriously don't worry, that would be hard to do. Anyways.. sometimes you want something different maybe with carbonation or a little flavor! Like with my Apple Cinnamon Water here is another fun way to spruce up your everyday water, this time with carbonated water. Citrus Soda!


All You Need:
  • Bottle of carbonated water
  • Pitcher
  • Sliced citrus fruit (I like to use Oranges, Lemons & Limes)
To Make:


  •  Slice fruit and place in bottom of pitcher
  • Fill with carbonated water
  • Cover with ice
*You can drink it right away but the longer it sits the more citrus flavor it will have


* I actually make this beverage two different ways, you can also just add the fruit to your bottle of water (after removing some of the water of course) which makes it portable.

Tip- If you leave the fruit in your water too long it will take on a unpleasant rind taste.  If you don't finish your soda within 24 hours remove the fruit to keep the flavor from turning.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How To Temper Chocolate!

I never really thought about tempering chocolate.  Even when I started to make chocolate covered snacks I didn't think it was necessary for the recipes I was creating... I was wrong.  The main reason I began to research tempering chocolate was because I couldn't get my chocolate covered berries not to melt within seconds of putting them in my hand.  Aside from raising the melting temperature so your chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands, tempering has a few other advantages.

  • You will avoid fat and sugar bloom, the unappealing white streaks and or blotches that can unattractively take over perfectly good chocolate.
  • Tempered chocolate cools faster
  • It gives your chocolate a shiny, glossy appearance.
  • Your chocolate will have a clean snap when you break it.

It seems like a daunting task but it really isn't.  Also since I don't make large quantities at a time the heating and cooling process is very short. 
  1. Use a double boiler or just rest a metal bowl over a saucepan with 1 inch of water.  Bring the water to a simmer, then add half of your chocolate to the bowl and stir till its smooth and melted. Put the other half of your chocolate to the side for later. Using a thermometer bring your chocolate to the correct temperature: 115°-120° then remove it from the heat.
  2. Now you want to add the other half of the chocolate you put aside. This is the seeding process and helps to bring the chocolate temperature down. Continue to stir until smooth. 
  3. The last step is to bring your chocolate back up to the perfect temperature, for most dark chocolate it's between 88° and 91°.  To do this just place the bowl back over your hot water and stir till you reach the desired temperature.  Then you are done and ready to create whatever chocolate creations you can dream of.
 *You can also temper chocolate using your microwave like in this instructional video below

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How To Clarify Butter!

What is clarified butter? Clarified butter (also known as ghee) is butter with the milk solids and water removed.  It is a great choice for cooking and able to withstand higher temperatures than regular butter or other oils such as coconut oil.  Clarified butter is one of my favorite things to cook with when eating Paleo, it adds a great mild buttery flavor and is simple to make. literally..
Step 1: Melt
Step 2: Strain
Step 3: Store


While it may seem like a lot of work or a hassle it is quite easy, quick and last for a while. Plus it could help your digestion, improve your flexibility, boost your immune system and moisturize your skin!

1. You want to heat your butter in a saucepan over low heat until it melts. Then allow it to simmer as the white "foam" rises to the surface.  I usually make a pound at a time. (though it is less than a pound once clarified)
2.  Once the all the foam has risen (this takes about 10 minutes) you will have three layers.  All the milk solid sediment will be at the bottom of the pan with a layer of golden liquid under the foam. You can skim the foam off with a slotted spoon but I don't like to do it that way.  If you want to skim it off as it forms i suggest using a mesh skimmer.  I prefer waiting the 10 minutes and then straining it though cheesecloth.



4. Using a rubber-band I just secure the cheesecloth around the opening of my "clarified butter jar" and slowly pour the butter into the jar. You will notice the white foam being trapped on top of the cheesecloth. You also want to leave behind that bottom layer of solids so stop straining when you get to the end of the clear liquid gold.



* Clarified butter will keep for 3 to 6 months in the refrigerator, you can also leave it at room temperature on your counter like I do if the conditions are optimal, or freeze it for a similar length of time.








  • * Traditionally, you will find that you should use unsalted Butter when clarifying butter. While I have made it using both salted and unsalted I traditionally use salted.  I don't find that the salt is intensified after being clarified but it may be because I strongly dislike unsalted butter to begin with.

  • Would you clarify your butter?

    Sunday, January 12, 2014

    Homemade Italian Salad Dressing!

    This is a simple recipe to make your own homemade Italian salad dressing that is also Paleo.  It is a fresh and preservative free take on the same bottle versions you may buy at the store and also works as a great marinade.


    You Need:
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon raw honey
    2 teaspoons dried oregano
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/4 teaspoon dried basil
    1 teaspoon dried parsley
    1/4 cup vinegar (white, red wine, or balsamic)
    2/3 cup olive oil



    I like to use a hand mixer to emulsify it all together. You can also use a blender or just combine everything in a bottle and shake it up.  If you can, allow it to sit so the dried herbs soften.  Then just store on the counter. (olive oil will solidify in the refrigerator)