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!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wooden Signs

I have been busy creating some wooden signs in preparation for the holidays. Here is one of them below. They are painted by hand and made from solid wood. I do custom orders. If you want to see some other examples of my work, you can go to my blog featuring my work called: Wooden Designs. There is also a link at the top, left of this blog. I love this one because it is reversible. You get two decorations in one.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Have you ever made cookies with a box of cake mix? I have made them many times and in many different ways. I like them because they are quick and easy. I also like them because you don't have to use butter to get a yummy cookie. Don't get me wrong, I love my chocolate chip cookies made with butter. However, they can be temper-mental since the butter has to be at just the right temperature to get a good dough. So, when I have to bring cookies somewhere and want to do an easy cookie, I do cake mix cookies. However, I don't like all the ingredients in cake mix, and I don't care for the refined flours in them either. 

So, this is my recipe for cake mix cookies from SCRATCH without the box of cake mix. Specifically, "Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies." Maybe kind of silly to make an easy cookie a little more complicated. But, I like it because it makes them a little bit healthier. In this recipe, the only "unhealthy" ingredient is the sugar. Everything else is pretty good for you and a little sugar every once in a while isn't so bad. And if you want, you could always use a boxed chocolate cake mix instead of making the cake mix yourself. 
Here are just a few of the ingredients I used. The applesauce is UNSWEETENED and the oil is COCONUT oil. 
 First, I prepare the chocolate cake mix. It is just some whole wheat white flour, white sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder,  baking soda, and salt all mixed together! See, not too hard. Right? (As a disclaimer, I have never used this cake mix to make a chocolate cake, just cookies).
 Then, I just add the rest of the ingredients to the cake mix. I start out by making my flax egg. It is a TBSP of ground flax whisked together with 3 TBSP of water and I let it sit for a few minutes. If you don't want to bother with a flax egg, you could use a regular egg. I haven't ever used a regular egg in this before, but it should work fine. Along with the flax egg, you add some coconut oil, applesauce, vanilla, and oats (I usually use quick oats, but rolled oats are fine too). You could also add some chocolate chips, nuts or other mix in if you like. I usually don't bother adding anything.
Once everything is in the bowl, mix it really well. I usually have to get my hands in there and mix it by hand. It may seem like it needs more liquid at first, but just keep mixing. Trust me! Once everything is well incorporated, the dough will look like this big clump in the picture above.
 Then, roll the dough and place it on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. You should be able to get 3 dozen good sized cookies. This cookie dough also freezes well, so you can place the balls of dough you don't need in a freezer bag to use another time!
Don't they look so good! And with whole wheat flour and oats, they aren't too sinful either! The applesauce makes this a soft, chewy cookie.  If you prefer a crunchy cookie, you can up the oil to 1/2 cup and use a 1/4 cup of water instead of the applesauce.

And here is the whole recipe:

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

2 C. soft whole wheat white flour (all purpose flour would also work)
1 C. cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 3/4 C. white sugar

1 C. oatmeal
1/4 C. coconut oil
1/2 C. unsweetened applesauce
1 flax egg
1 tsp vanilla
Chocolate chips or other mix in, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the first 6 ingredients to make the dry cake mix or use a boxed chocolate cake mix. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Form balls of dough and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. (Makes 3 dozen)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

When it comes to breakfast, I have stayed away from cereals for the last couple years. After eating them almost every morning for breakfast for 20+ years, they have kind of lost their appeal.  I have gone through different phases when it comes to breakfast since giving up the cereal. I have done eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, etc for different periods of time. Currently, my usual breakfast is some toast with peanut butter made from home made whole wheat bread. It is simple, quick (provided that I already made the bread), and healthy.

But, one of my favorite treats to make myself for breakfast is Oatmeal Breakfast Bars. They are quick to throw together and only take 20 minutes to bake. Plus, they taste delicious and can be vegan, fat free, and sugar free (with the exception of the chocolate chips, which are totally optional). And they taste sooo good that I'll have them for breakfast and as a late night treat. 

My recipe is adapted from this: Healthied Up Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

Her recipe is pretty healthy and she also has a second version of the recipe that isn't so healthy for when you want something a little more indulgent.

I took her recipe one step further and use applesauce as the main sweetener. Success? I think so. It is still tasty and it makes it even healthier. This bar is hard to describe. It is not fluffy. It is chewy, moist and dense. Not really muffin like or quick bread like. I guess you'll just have to try it and see for yourself.

What makes this recipe quick is it is a one bowl recipe. Just throw everything in the bowl and mix it. The first ingredients are some regular rolled oats and whole wheat flour. I grind my own wheat and use soft white wheat from Wheat Montana.

 And here are the rest of the ingredients in the bowl. The applesauce is sugar free. The chocolate chips are not sugar free, but you could omit them or use sugar free ones. The red stuff is some freeze dried strawberries. This makes them extra yummy and even more healthy! 

 My freeze dried strawberries are from Thrive Life. They have a ton of freeze dried berries to choose from. I think you could easily use freeze dried raspberries or blueberries instead of the strawberries, or even do a combination. Amber Larson is my consultant and you can order from her here.

 Once it is all in the bowl, just give it a quick mix. My kids love the batter and since there are no eggs, you could totally eat it as just batter.

 Here it is all ready for the oven. I like to line my pan with foil for easy clean up. This recipe makes a small batch for an 8x8 pan. If you have a big family, you may want to double the recipe. 

 And here it is fresh out of the oven. This tastes good warm from the oven, cold, or even reheated in the microwave. 

 Here is my breakfast. I love topping this with a little peanut butter and a glass of water to wash it down. It would probably be even better with a glass of milk, but as part of my healthier diet I drink only water during the day and stay away from dairy.

So here is my recipe:

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

§  2 C. Whole Wheat Flour (you could also try all purpose or GF flours)
§  1/2 C. Rolled Oats 
§  1 C. unsweetened Apple Sauce
§  1 T. Ground Flax Seed
§  1/2 C. Almond Milk
§  3 t. Vanilla
§  1 t. baking powder
§  1/2 t. salt
§  1/2 -2/3 C. mix ins of choice (I did 1/4 C. choc. chips and 1/4 C. freeze dried berries)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Line an 8x8 pan with tin foil and press batter into pan. Bake for 20 minutes. 

Be sure to let me know if you try it!