Friday, November 8, 2013

Black Beans for dinner and dessert!

Black beans in a dinner dish isn't too weird. But, it may sound rather odd to some of you to use black beans in a dessert. Let me assure you both are delicious and healthy! I stumbled upon both of these recipes during my 3 month vegan trial. The dinner recipe is for "Vegan Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chili" and the dessert recipe is "black bean brownies." These recipes are so good that I continue to make them even though I am no longer eating strictly vegan. Honestly, I make the brownies at least once a week. No joke. 

So here is the link to the Chili recipe:

This chili is so delicious and trust me, you won't miss the beef. It is very flavorful and fills you up. And with black beans, quinoa, and sweet potatoes it is packed with nutrients, protein and fiber. Here are a few pictures of my chili simmering in the pot. If only you could smell it!

Once everything has been added to the pot, you just have to stir occasionally and wait for it to thicken.

You can let it get as thick as you want, depending on your chili consistency. You could easily top it off with some sour cream or avocado, but it so good as is, that I just eat it straight with no extra toppings.

The black bean brownies are by far my most frequently made recipe in the last 8 months. I use it as my after the kids go to bed snack. It can be made healthy enough that it is practically guilt free, while still satisfying my chocolate desires. The link to the original black bean brownie recipe can be found here:
What makes these brownies so great? Well, in my opinion it is the fact that there is no flour or white sugar.
I make these brownies a few different ways. Seriously, I make it so often that I no longer refer to the recipe and change the sweetness depending on my mood. Below, I will post two different versions of the recipe. The first version I recommend if you haven't tried very many "healthy desserts." This version is more sweet and has a better texture. My second version is a much healthier version, so it is not as sweet and has no oil in it. I'm sure most people would probably find my second version a little gross, but oh well, consider this my warning. Make version one, before you even think about trying version 2.
Here are my black beans cooking. To save money, I usually buy them dry and cook them myself, but the easiest way to go is to just buy the can.
And here is the batter after being in my food processor for a few minutes. This recipe needs a food processor for best results. When my kids hear the food processor turn on, they come running to get a spoonful of batter, don't believe me...
They chow down on this stuff! I have to quickly get it in the pan and then the oven before they eat it all on me. I forgot to take a pic of the finished product, but you definitely want to use a small pan like an 8x8 for this and line it with tin foil.

Here is version 1:

One 15oz can if black beans or 1.5 cups drained and rinsed.
1/2 cup of quick oats or ground flax
2-3 tbsp of cocoa powder
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
Optional: 1/4-1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients for a few minutes in a food processor. Line small 8x8 pan with tin foil. Spread batter in pan and place in oven bake for 18minutes. Let cool completely before eating.

Even Healthier Version -try at your own risk
1.5 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup ground flax
2-3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla

Make and bake the same as version one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Crochet infinity scarf

So after making a couple headbands, I felt inspired to make an infinity scarf. After all, it is November in the valley of the sun, so it gets a bit chilly once the sun goes down...
I set out to find an easy tutorial since I am still a novice. I found this one:

This tutorial only required me to learn one new stitch, the treble crochet stitch, so I googled it and read a tutorial and did some practice stitches. Now I know a total of 3 stitches. Woot woot!

Anyway, for the most part I stuck to the tutorial, except I did not make my scarf as wide. Mine is only about 9" wide. I had to undo and redo it a few times, but I am very happy with the end result. The yarn I used is super soft and thick.

Now I just need to wait for it to get colder.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

3 Christmas Play Activities for kids

So I saw on Pinterest this really cute, fun activity for little kids. It was a felt tree hung on the wall with felt ornaments the kids could take on and off. It looked easy enough, so I went to walmart and bought some felt, just guesstimating how much I would need for a tree and ornaments. It cost me less than $5 to get the felt. I spent some time cutting out and gluing the pieces of the tree together and then cutting out the ornaments. For the ball ornaments, I just traced a round cup.
For the other ornaments, I traced my Christmas cookie cutters.
The tree is probably 4 feet tall and I used 9 pieces of green felt and one piece of brown. For the ornaments, I used one piece of yellow, red, and blue and made 18 ornaments. And a helpful tip, painters tape in several places on the back of the tree will get it to stick to the wall. :)
When I was done, I had quite a bit if scrap pieces and realized I could make a mini tree to keep the kids quiet/busy at church or in the car, so I made a mini one.

I just free hand cut the tree and free handed 12 little ornaments to mimic the larger ones.
Cute and fun!
I placed it all in a ziploc bag for easy use.
Then, when I was done with that I realized I had enough brown left to make a small stable/nativity scene too.
I cut out the stable with the leftover brown and made a star with the left over yellow. I found some nativity pictures on line and printed them off (if anyone would like the nativity pictures I printed off, let me know and I'll email you the document). I cut out the little figures and let Ben help me color. Then I mod podged the figures onto some of the left over green felt.
Once the mod podge was dry I cut them out.
All done!
I placed the nativity pieces in a ziploc bag too. Now I have a big Christmas felt tree and 2 quiet Christmas activities for the kids and I was able to make it all for less than $5. Pretty sweet, especially since I originally set out to make just one tree.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Crochet, my newest hobby

So, after seeing someone else post some crochet headbands, I decided to give crocheting a try. A couple years ago I tried to learn how to knit, but I just didn't have the patience for it. But, I had heard that crocheting comes easier to some. So, I bought myself a few hooks, some grey yarn and watched a couple youtube videos and learned some tips from friends.

Here are my first 3 projects:

A pot holder. This was a project I restarted several times until i figured out the whole lost stitches thing. Pretty easy once I knew what I was doing. I didn't follow a pattern for this. Just did double crochets back and forth until I had a size I was happy with.
Next I tackled a headband. 
This one also has a bow that I attached to the front. The tutorial I used is here. I followed her general guidelines, but made my headband a lot narrower and my bow is also smaller.
I think the headband turned out really cute, but I honestly don't see myself wearing the bow, so I think I am going to remove and doing something else to the headband.
I also made an earwarmer/headband. The tutorial for this one can be found here. Her tutorial is cute and she gives a version for baby headbands as well as adults. Maybe Ill make Kennedy one too...
This one came out great and I don't think it looks too bad on me either. Great for those days when I haven't washer my hair in 4 or 5 days but probably should think about it since there is a boatload of hair products in it. :)

So far crocheting, in my opinion is much easier than knitting. My next project is an infinity scarf. Ill share once it is done!

Friday, October 11, 2013

No-Poo 30 Day Update

So, I have not used shampoo or conditioner in 30 days. Sound gross? Well, it probably would be if I hadn't used anything in may hair, but I used this hair stuff instead. I used a mixture of baking soda/water and vinegar/water to wash my hair.

So to give you a little background, before making the switch I was using Pantene. I would wash my hair and try to go a couple days before washing it again. It would start to get greasy near my roots after about 24 hours and I relied heavily on my DIY dry shampoo (corn starch and cocoa powder) to get me through. This past week (about 25 days into my NO-POO challenge) I was able to go 5 days without washing my hair and am using very little of my dry shampoo. So, to keep things simple, here is a list of my Pro's and Con's to using baking soda/water and vinegar/water instead of commercial shampoos.

Cheaper than commercial shampoo (I am not a couponer, so for me this is a much cheaper option)
Chemical free
Can go longer between washings.
More volume/hair feels lighter
Cleans hair just as well as the commercial shampoo (just make sure you don't skimp on the baking soda).

Cold in the shower (pouring the baking soda/water directly on your head is a little chilling since the water in the bottle is cooler than the shower water)
Takes time to make it yourself (not too bad if you just leave some baking soda and vinegar under your bathroom counter to make as needed. And if you have large enough bottles, you could go longer between making it. Mine are 8oz bottles and I get about 4 washings out of them).

I have fine, frizzy hair, so I do need to use a little more leave in conditioner on my ends than I used to, but I think that is a fair trade off. I am cool with using a little more leave in conditioner if it equals more volume on top.
So, in my opinion and based on my experience, I am SOLD on the NO-POO challenge and I plan to keeping doing it. I look forward to seeing if my hair grows out faster and stronger as time goes on!

See! My roots are all clean!

Friday, October 4, 2013

3 Recipes - One Can of Pumpkin

Have you ever made those super, easy pumpkin cookies that call for just a box of cake mix, a can of pumpkin and maybe some chocolate chips? They taste so incredibly good. They are moist, and sweet, and pumpkiny. And it is October, and I bought a can of pumpkin, and I was craving those cookies. But, I wanted a slightly healthier version. so, I did a search and came across this recipe. 
So, I took a look at the recipe and decided to do a little tweaking...and this is how I made them:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups of WW flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix it all together in a bowl and form balls of dough. Place on parchment paper and bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. I only made 12 cookies because I ate the rest of the dough as my lunch, but you could probably make 18-24 cookies with this recipe.

 And here is how they turned out. I was really happy with the results. The taste and texture is satisfying and I am happy with this healthier version of one of my favorite fall treats. However, this recipe did not use the full can of pumpkin. I could have just smudged the numbers and doubled the recipe to use the whole can, but instead I went a little crazy in my kitchen and use the other 3/4 of a cup of pumpkin to make two other treats...
 Here are some pumpkin brownies I made using 1/2 cup of pumpkin with a recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie. I love her blog. So many healthy recipes that also satisfy my sweet tooth.
And I also used the last 1/4 of a cup of pumpkin to make these pumpkin bars. Yet another Chocolate Covered Katie recipe.
 My kitchen was a disaster after the 3 recipe scramble, but all is back in order now! My favorite of the 3 recipes is definitely the cookies. My baby girl LOVED the pumpkin bars though. Honestly, I would have to give the brownies another try. I did some on the fly substitutions and am not too happy with the texture, but it still tastes good.
 And to complete my day, I made myself a cute Halloween piece of decor.
It goes perfectly on top of our TV armoire! Love it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cinder Book Review and a Like New Toilet

Cinder  is one of my most recent book reads. It is an easy, light read. It is based on the story of Cinderella, but much to my surprise and delight, this book really is a story of its own that uses some of the key elements from Cinderella. I really enjoyed the originality of this story and the characters that don't look or act as you expect them to from the original Cinderella. The female character is strong spirited, smart and independent. She is a cyborg (part human, part robot) which gives this book a bit of a sci-fi twist. I personally don't usually read sci-fi, so don't let the fact that she is part machine deter you from reading this.  I loved reading it and I bet you will too. It is part of a series and book two is called Scarlet and I have already started reading it.
In other news, I have had a problem with my toilets. I have lived in our house for over 4 years now. I consider myself a decent housekeeper. I clean the bathrooms on a weekly basis, including the toilets. despite this, my toilets still got ugly, yucky rings where the water is. I had just given up and figured that was life, when I heard about the "Pumie." It is a pumice stone on a stick for scouring out the water rings. I googled it on Amazon and saw that there were many pumice options for toilet rings. I chose to get this one.

Heavy-Duty seemed like the way to go!

Here is my toilet with the WORST ring in the house. I used the pumice stick for a few minutes, rubbing it all along the ring. Only spent a few minutes on it. No crazy elbow strength required either.

And here is the same toilet after I was done with the pumice and gave it a quick flush. The ring is totally gone! And I am so happy! Such a quick fix for 4 years of damage! You would bever know there was ever a ring, it is like a new toilet, well almost! Woot woot!