Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chai Tea Concentrate Recipe

Chai tea latte is probably my favorite comfort drink of all time.  The blend of spices and tea and the creaminess of the milk is the perfect combination for a hot drink on a cool night, or a cool drink on a hot day!  We like to make our chai lattes at home because you could buy a whole carton of concentrate which makes 4-5 drinks for what you would pay for one at Starbucks.  Since we have recently started removing sugar from our diet, we have been much more savvy at looking at the sugar content on labels.  We did a comic double take when we checked out our favorite mix's sugar content. 16 grams for 4 ounces! Woof!!  I decided to make my own version based on what type of spices we like.  I've tried a few different combos and I finally got it right! Here's what you do:




Ingredients:
41/2 Cups of water
3T ground ginger (or 1 inch fresh)
1t. cinnamon
2 whole star anise
1/8 t. nutmeg
1 1/3 t. cardamom
1 1/3 t. cloves
Couple shakes of black pepper
pinch of corriander
1 T of vanilla
5 large black tea bags
3 small orange spice tea bags

Start by adding all of the spices and water to a pot.  Bring to a full boil, then turn down heat to medium low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.  Add the tea bags and cover to steep for 20 minutes. Add the vanilla and stir.  Once cool, pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve or a cheesecloth.  I found a cheese cloth worked best to get the majority of the spice out for the perfect balance.

Use equal parts concentrate and your favorite milk.  I love mine with unsweetened coconut milk or goats milk. Jared likes his with regular dairy milk.  You can drink this heated or over ice for a nice cool latte.

If you prefer more sweetness, add some honey to taste.  If you find this too spicy, try running it through the strainer another time. This does best kept in the fridge so you can pull it out whenever you are craving a tasty treat.
You can find similar bottles to the one I used here:


Bormioli Rocco Giara Clear Glass Bottle With Stopper, 33 3/4 oz.




Hop to it!  That way you can hurry up and relax!!  Enjoy!!


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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coconut Oil Chocolate/Sauce/Magic Shell

I am a chocoholic. There's no denying it. Since I've been trying to cut back drastically on refined sugars, it's been a little tricky cutting out my favorite chocolate treats. This recipe has been a life saver. Using organic cocoa powder, local honey, and organic coconut oil, not only does this satisfy my chocolate cravings, but it's loaded with nutrients.  And an added bonus: you can use this recipe 3 different ways!! Coconut oil solidifies at 76 degrees, so this will harden when you put it on ice cream or anything cold.  You can also line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and pour the heated chocolate into the pan. Let it set up in the fridge for a little bit and you have chocolate bars or chunks, depending on how you break it up.  It also makes a great sauce for dipping at the liquified state, as I have it shown in the picture.  Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
Equal parts organic coconut oil, organic cocoa powder, and local organic honey
Vanilla extract to taste 
A pinch or two of salt

Heat the coconut oil in a sauce pan until liquid. Stir in remaining ingredients. Let cool to thicken for use as a sauce, or pour into parchment paper covered baking sheet and refrigerate.

Enjoy the endless possibilities that this yummy chocolate sauce will bring!! What will you make with yours?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Miracle Mondays: How I Should Have Met My Husband a Thousand Times

 

I'll never forget the day that Jared, my husband, and I were swimming in my neighbors pool.  We were having a good old time, being crazy (imagine that), playing as if we were children. Doing handstands, flips off the diving board, going down the slide, and...I'm not gonna lie, I think there's a possibility I may have flipped my hair like Ariel from the little mermaid a few times. It happens. We were using some boogie boards at one point and I said,"this is what I had to do during swimming lessons when I was little, and the teacher would yell, 'Kick, kick, kick' and 'Deep breath and tuck." He looked at me and said, "That's what we did when I was in swimming lessons."  I said," Well ours was at a woman's house, and her daughter helped teach."  He said," so was mine!"  I said, " Ours had this huge blow up whale we got to play on during play time." "Ours did, too!" he said.  We had been together for years at that point and we never knew that we took swimming lessons at the same place and were quite possibly in the same class!


 This was not the first incident where we could have met each other and didn't.  It starts way back to before we had ever started dating.  I was working as a manager at the Gap, saving up money to go to cosmetology school.  I remember people talking about Jared Storm and how cool he was. Apparently, he was one of the people that left  for whom I hired in to replace.  He had moved to Chicago and transfered to a Gap there. He came in with his friend one time, back from Chicago to visit, and everyone was whispering, "Oh my God, there's Jared Storm!"  I was like, "Big whoop!  Who cares?  I don't see what all the fuss is about!" Little did I know....



After finishing cosmetology school, I decided to move to Chicago myself, my favorite city.  My friend Kristin and I decided to move together and become roommates.  We were getting ready to go up and look for apartments, and her cousin, one Mr. Jared Storm, was going to meet us and we were all going to go out that night.  Fortunately, though we didn't realize it at the time, Mr. Storm ditched us and didn't return our calls.  Apparently, his friend Josh's band was in town and chose to hang out with them instead.   A jealous ex-girlfriend happened to be there, too, so I'm thinking there were multiple reasons we did not get to meet that evening.


The very same weekend that Kristin and I moved to Chicago, Jared moved back to Decatur, my home town.  We just kept missing each other.  My best friend Randi was working as a teacher at that time, and was also working hard to put herself through cosmetology school in the evenings.  She was talking to the receptionist at the school in which she taught.  She mentioned that her son had just moved back in town and was looking for a place to stay, and that he would be a great roommate.   That receptionist was my mother in law.  Randi had also known Jared from back in high school when he was in Big Yellow Ball, a local band, and he took her sister, another one of my best friends, Tracy, to homecoming.  When I came home to visit, we soon hit it off.  From there, its history.

These photos are from our wedding 6 years ago, I had to post these because they are very indicative of our relationship.  Loving, grateful, sassy, and full of real life humor. We crack each other up.





As we started dating, we could not believe how many mutual friends we had.  We did not go to the same school or anything like that.  It was pretty bizarre.  Not too long after meeting his family, my mom and I were out at the mall.  We ran into his aunt Leslie, and immediately, she remembered that she used to go to the step aerobics class that his aunt Leslie used to teach when we were very little. His mom used to go that class as well.  Jared and my sister and I probably played in their playroom while our mom's were sweating their little buns off!


Timing is everything, people.  When I say that I met my husband at the right time, I'm not kidding around.  It was a miracle.  I should have met him all of these different ways, but I didn't.  It's not like we both loved gardening, and remodeling, and cooking, and exercising at the time we met, because really, all we had in common was some music, (oh and he danced the first time we saw a band together, so I knew he was a keeper) but that was it.  *Side note* That same dancing night, we witnessed some guy hopping along, dancing to "Rock You Like a Hurricane" with a beer in his hand, and got so excited about the song that he fell backwards into the drum set knocking all of the drums down but the snare and the high hat, and the drummer continued to play with one drum stick along with the rest of the band! It was like a hilarious scene from a movie!! *End side note*  My point is that we have grown together, and have all of these wonderful new things we love to do because they are things we have tried as a couple.  Had I met this amazing man at any other time, I know he wouldn't have liked me, and I probably wouldn't have liked him either.  We were both completely different people each and every time that we should have met. On that particular day that we met, we were exactly who we were supposed to be, having had all of the experiences to prepare us to be that exact being that we each were at that exact time.  Even when he thought I was probably snobby before we talked... perfect timing. (He, he!)  I am the luckiest girl in the world, and there are LITERALLY no words to describe my love and appreciation and respect for this man, so I'm not even gonna try.  All I can say is thank God for that perfect timing. Boom! Miracle.



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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chipotle Chicken Burrito Copycat Recipe

My husband and I had our first date at Chipotle.  It is my favorite burrito of ALL TIME.  Unfortunately, we live in a town that does not have a Chipotle.  The closest one is 45 minutes away. Maybe that's a good thing.  NO, it's definitely a good thing for us.  We would be there at least once or twice a week. So, to subdue our cravings, I make this "copy cat" version.  Its not EXACTLY like Chipotle, but lets be serious, how could it be, right? It is, however, the closest thing that I have come up with.  And the bonus is that it makes a ton so you can put leftovers in the freezer and bust it out whenever you have a hankering for a burrito.  So here it goes:

Ingredients:

- 1 7oz can of chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Remove the peppers and keep the sauce.
- 6-7 dried red chili peppers
- 1 small onion
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 2.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 6 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 cups water

Throw everything in food processor, blend and cover chicken, throw in crock pot for 5 hours on low.

Pico de gallo : 
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 red onion, diced finely 
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of half a lime
1/2 jalepeno, finely diced
6 ripe Roma tomatoes, finely diced


Cilantro lime rice: 
2 cup basmati rice
4 cups water
Bay leaf
1 tsp salt
Juice of a lime
2 tbsp cilantro, minced
2 tbsp oil

Saute the rice in oil until almost translucent.  Add bay leaf and water, bring to a boil. 
As soon as the water begins to boil, turn the heat down low. Simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, or until all water is absorbed. Turn off heat.  Leave covered for 30 minutes.

Mix salt and juice of lime together until salt is dissolved. remove bay leaf, pour it over rice, fluff with a fork. Sprinkle in cilantro, and toss well to evenly coat with cilantro and lime mixture.

This makes quite a bit for the two of us, so I usually just make about half of the pico de gallo and rice, and then freeze half of the chicken.  I just make fresh rice and pico de gallo the next time I'm ready to use it because it takes very little time to whip those up. 

To Assemble Burrito:

  • Heat up a burrito sized tortilla in on a large ungreased skillet for about 30 seconds on each side, or until hot
  • Put a scoop of chicken, rice, pico de gallo, beans if you prefer, shredded cheese, lettuce and sour cream. (To make sour cream more like Chipotle's, add a little bit of water to make it more like a sauce), and guacamole if you're feeling saucy
  • Fold the top and bottom of the tortilla inward, then roll from left to right to seal it up!

Now dig in!!!



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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Coconut Oil Drops

I'm sure you've all heard about the coconut oil craze that is buzzing about all over the internet and in
magazines.  The health benefits of this good fat are ENDLESS...not only for ingesting, but also as a topical oil as well.  Here are a couple great graphics that demonstrate some of these awesome benefits:



                                

                                           
This is the brand that we use, because it is organic.  There are so many different ways to use coconut oil, so I decided to make some single serving drops that make it much more convenient to just grab and go.  They can be used on toast, in your coffee, in place of oil or butter when cooking or for oil pulling.  

We just recently started oil pulling.  For oil pulling, all you do is take one of the oil drops and chew it until it is liquid and then swish it around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes.  Then spit it out into a baggie and throw it away. Spitting it in the sink could clog up the drain.  I have to tell you, my mouth has never felt so clean and fresh, its almost better than going to the dentist.  It helps pull all of the nasty bacteria out of your mouth which can cause bad breath, digestive issues, stained teeth, and even acne. The swishing also builds up your facial muscles and helps to tighten your skin!!  It may take a while to build up to the 20 minutes, but I do this in the morning when I'm getting ready and so I'm distracted and don't even notice it.  This is the one I use HERE.

To make the oil drops, let the coconut oil melt some by letting it sit out at room temp or heating it up some. You could even go ahead and scoop it into a bag and melt it with your hands.  Then put the bag in the freezer for just a couple of minutes until its a thick paste like consistency.

Twist the top to force the oil to a bottom corner as if you were using a pastry bag and snip about 1/4" off of the bag.

Then on a foil lined baking sheet, make little circles, swirling as you go, to build up the little drops.  Mine are about 1 tablespoon per drop. The heat from your hands will make it a little too melty as you go, so I had to pop mine back in the freezer every couple minutes. This took a little practice, but most of them were good sized. You can always take any mess ups and melt them to do it over.  Pop them in the freezer when you are all done for about 5 minutes and then you are done!

I put mine in a large mason jar with a lid and keep them in the fridge. If you keep them out at room temperature for too long, they will start to melt.

Now its extremely easy to add this super healthy oil to my dietary or beauty regimen, one little drop at a time!!









Monday, July 14, 2014

Miracle Mondays: My Guardian Angel


Most of the time angels are characters in a story, or beautifully depicted light beings in art or movies...but imagine coming across one in real life!  This is something that happened to me when I was about 13 years old, and to this day I can remember every detail of the experience.  Remember when I talked about "hindsight being 20/20?"  Well this story is a perfect example of that, and you'll see what I mean as I go along.

As a little girl, I was always fascinated by the supernatural.  I loved to hear stories of weird unexplainable things that happened to my mom, and my Grandma Austin (my dad's mom). I loved to hear them over and over again so I wouldn't ever forget them, and always wished something like that would happen to me.  I have always had this unshakable feeling that I am being taken care of, and that everything will be okay, no matter the situation. And you know what? So far that's always been true.  I have an eternal optimism that is always burning deep within me, even in the darkest hour. Its little events like this that have validated that my deep spiritual connection.

I was about 13 years old, and I was spending the night at my Grandma and Grandpa Flesch's house (my mom's parents.)  There was nothing particularly different about this night's stay, I had been spending the night there since I was a baby.  I especially loved when I got to stay there by myself, because as anyone with siblings knows, its nice to have a little attention just to your self. We had our own special bedroom to sleep in when we stayed at their house, and we always stayed up really late watching tv or movies.  This room, coincidentally, was decorated in angels.  My grandma loved little angels and cherubs and this was her special room to keep them in.  

That night, grandma tucked me in and kissed me good night.  Her bedding always smelled soooo good.  The smell alone could lull you to sleep, like they had been washed in fresh ocean water and love and dried in the sun.  This night, however, I did not fall right asleep.  I lay there awake in the dark, and kept my eyes closed, trying to talk myself into falling asleep.  Then I heard my grandma come back in the room and felt her sit down on the bed beside me. "She must've forgot to tell me something," I thought to myself. I opened my eyes.  That was not my grandma sitting there on the bed.

Sitting beside me was a beautiful woman that resembled my mother, but I knew it was not my mom. She was smiling lovingly at me with her hands folded neatly in her lap. She wore a pale green house dress, like someone in the 1940's or 1950's  would wear. Her presence was very loving, and it appeared that she was just there watching me.  Did this register with my 13 year old brain? No.  Nothing about this visit was scary, yet it startled me so much that I closed my eyes quickly and opened them and she was gone.  

There was no going back to sleep at this point. I was so jumpy, that I remember going downstairs and turning on the T.V., The Wiz was on, and I watched that until I fell asleep on the couch.  I remember explaining to grandma what happened the next morning.  I don't think she believed that I was awake, she thought I had fallen asleep and had a dream about that happening. But I knew I was wide awake when it happened.  I started looking at pictures, and found a picture that looked exactly like the woman I had seen on my bed the night before.  It was my grandpa's mother, a young version of her.  Her name was Bertha Flesch.  And in that instant I realized, she was my angel.  She was looking after me, even though we had never met in life.

As time passed, I would feel her presence at times, especially if I was having a hard time or sick.  I never did see her again in front of me.  It wasn't until last year that I put something very interesting together.  I was talking to my grandpa about his mother right after I found out that I had appendix cancer and would need surgery.  He told me that she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, but her appendix looked weird, like it had burst at some point, which is kind of what mine looked like.  With the rare type of appendiceal cancer that I had, its usually too late when they find it, because it spreads all over the bowel, which is what hers looked like. A lot of times, that type of cancer is missed by doctors, or they aren't sure what it is, and that's in today's medical world.  We're thinking, that perhaps she had the same appendiceal cancer that I had, but they weren't able to diagnose that at that time.  He also said she probably had endometriosis as well because she endured a lot of the same type of pain that I had. She would come home from work and have to go lay down because of the pain.  

I had no idea about any of these things until last year.  Could it be that she knew of the path that was chosen for me and was there as a guide, watching out for me, and putting me in the hands of the people who could help? Was she there secretly holding my hand and helping breathe my way through the pain? I know she was. I am so lucky to have gotten a small glimpse of this sweet angel in action which has helped me set the tone for my spiritual quest and purpose on this Earth.  Boom! Miracle. 


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Friday, July 11, 2014

Herbal and Flower Facial Steam


This is a luxurious and extremely beneficial treatment for your skin, that can be put together in no time. This makes a beautiful gift, or can be a well deserved treat for yourself.  We put these together for our mothers for Mother's Day this year.  Its times like these, I really wish technology was advanced enough for you to smell what's happening in these photos. Heavenly is the first word that comes to mind.

The benefits of facial's like this include adding moisture, dislodging dirt from pores, promoting circulation, relaxing muscles, and even plumping wrinkles.  You can use any combination of dry or fresh herb and flowers depending on your particular needs.  I used dried herbs for this mixture.  I chose  chamomile and lavender which are all great for calming.  I also used peppermint which is great for releasing congestion, and rose buds and petals which are great for refreshing!  I mixed equal parts of each and mixed together.

To use this facial mix:  
Put about 1/4 cup of mixture into a ceramic or glass bowel.  Pour boiling water over the herbs and let them steep covered for a couple of minutes. When it is cooled enough, place your face over the bowel and cover your head with a large towel so you can breathe in the steam. Keep your eyes closed and inhale the therapeutic steam for about ten minutes.  

I found these beautiful jars with little wooden scoops attached to the sides which are great for gifts.  You can see all of the beautiful colors of the different herbs and flowers. This project is perfect for enticing all of your senses!  Not only is this equally as luxurious as something you would buy at a fancy spa, but it has the special touch of being homemade with organic ingredients.

What kind of mix would you make?

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pallet Fence


So,  I wanted to share our pallet fence project that we built earlier this spring.  We, yet again, doubled the size of our garden this year.  This is starting to become an annual project it seems.  Every spring we are frantically working to build our extended garden, and every time we say  "this the last time, next year all we have to do is plant." Ha! This is the third year in a row, surely we are done now, right?

We started the actual garden plot this year by smothering the grass with black plastic sheeting, and then Jared tilled that area, which is a little over 800 square feet.


My grandpa was able to acquire several 8 foot long pallets for free from a cabinet shop that he buys from, and most of them were about 4 feet tall.  They aren't all exactly the same size so we made it work.
I payed for a huge bucket of white barn paint and busted out the professional sprayer.


Unfortunately, I had a run in with a bad hose on the professional sprayer, and this was the result:


Yikes-a-rooni! So, I ended up using our little hand held sprayer that I had to refill thirty thousand times, but I did not complain.  It got the job done, and there's no way I could complain with my poor hubby out there digging fence post holes.



 Each hole was 3' deep.  I told Jared, after all this, we really need a hot tub. We're no spring chickens anymore, he he he! But, seriously.


Once he got all of the holes dug, the process moved really fast.  We did a nice thick layer of pea gravel in the bottom of each post hole, and then put the post in the hole.  Then we filled the hole most of the way with dry concrete and filled it with water. We then used the level to adjust the post before it was completely set.

We set each post 8' apart, which worked perfect for the length of our pallets. We were able to attach each pallet on the inside of each post. After they were set, we went back and cut the tops off of the posts.  We are still working on a gate for the front, but we are using an extra pallet for now to keep the little critters out.



This is only a couple weeks difference from when we first planted until now! Its definitely abundant!!
This entire project cost a total of $150. This includes:
  • Large bucket of barn paint
  • Two boxes of wood screws
  • 20 landscaping timbers (they were half the price of actual fence posts, with the only difference being that they are slightly rounded on the edges, rather than square)
  • Hinges for the back gate
  • Pea gravel
  • 6 bags of concrete

It's not perfect, but its exactly what we needed and it was much easier  on the wallet.  I will update when we finish the gate, and arbor for the front, and finish painting the fence posts!








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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream



These are my hubby's FAVORITE cupcakes!  I'll admit, the combination of flavors is a little hard to imagine...but holy moly!! The gingerbread is super delicate, not heavy at all, and the orange juice in the batter just adds to that.  The lemon butter cream is super light and bright, not too sweet, which pairs perfectly with the light spiciness of the cake. Scrumptious!!  You can make this with either a regular yellow cake mix, gluten free yellow cake mix, or even a sugar-free yellow cake mix. I've tried all three, and they all work perfectly!   


Gingerbread Cupcakes with Light Lemon Frosting

Ingredients

  • 1 package yellow cake mix, regular, gluten free, or sugar free

  •  1 teaspoon ground ginger

  •  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  •  1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  •  1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted, room temp butter

  • large eggs

  • 1 cup orange juice

  • 2 tablespoons molasses

  • 1 teaspooon vanilla extract

  • Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 large lemon

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, room temp

  • 2 cups powdered sugar sifted ( or powdered sugar replacement such as Swerve, found HERE, this stuff works like a dream, and tastes the same as powdered sugar)



    • Cooking Directions
         
        Preheat oven to 350༠. Line two cupcake sheets with cupcake liners. It should make 16-20 cupcakes.  For the cupcakes: mix first 4 ingredients together.  Add remaining ingredients and mix on low for the first 30 seconds, and then on medium until the batter is smooth. Fill the cupcake liners with 1/4 cup of the batter and bake for 15-18 minutes. Mine usually go the full 18 minutes. 

        As the cupcakes cool, make the frosting:  Rinse the lemon really well with water and zest enough rind to make 1 teaspoon of zest, being sure to avoid any white pith. then squeeze enough juice to make 3-4 tablespoons of juice. Add juice and zest to the room temp butter and powdered sugar. Blend until smooth and creamy.   

        Frost cupcakes, and enjoy! 
              


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        Tuesday, July 8, 2014

        Energy Boosting Green Tea Smoothie


        This is, hands down, my favorite smoothie.  This is my go to breakfast for energy, and it keeps me feeling full until way past lunch.  This contains greek yogurt which is full of protein, banana, coconut milk which is loaded with nutrients (or dairy milk if you prefer), honey, and matcha powder.  1 serving of matcha green tea has the antioxidant equivalent of drinking 10 glasses of regular green tea!! The difference is that the leaves are specially picked from the top of the tree and ground down into a very fine powder, so you are actually ingesting the entire leaf, rather than a steeped version.  When I first had a matcha latte, I was a little shocked by the taste. It was extremely earthy, and I guess just not what I was expecting. But by my second latte, I was hooked!  This smoothie version is much more easy on the pallate, with the banana and honey mixed in, and its a great way to start to add matcha to your diet!

        This is the one I used which is a little more affordable, but not quite as potent:  
        You can find this HERE

        Or, if you are looking for a bolder matcha flavor, this one is worth the extra bit of money, and because its more potent and a much finer powder,  you only need about 1/2 teaspoon per smoothie:






        Green Tea Smoothie
        Ingredients:
        1 ripe banana
        1/4 cup of greek yogurt
        1-2 teaspoons of honey
        1/4-1/2 cup of coconut milk (or milk of choice)
        2 teaspoons of matcha powder 
        3 ice cubes

        Instructions:
        Mix all ingredients in blender adding more or less honey to taste, and more or less milk to desired consistency.

        Happy blending!!
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