Friday Favorites: Healthy Snacks!

I’m not too much of a snacker, in general, but I do struggle with the hangry when my blood sugar dips.  Due to that, I’m always looking for healthy snacks that get me to the next meal, raise my blood sugar, and turn me back into something that resembles an agreeable human being.  So, here are my favorite healthy snacks!

 

1.  Popcorn

jar-topObviously, I’m not talking about the loaded down with butter and salt popcorn (though that is quite tasty).   Unflavored popcorn (though bland) is actually quite a healthy snack!   If you walk down the snack aisle at the grocery, there are an overwhelming number of boxed, microwaveable popcorn options on the shelves.  Avoid them!  It’s much cheaper (and healthier) to just buy the kernels and pop your own.  All you need is a microwave safe bowl, a microwave safe plate, and popcorn kernels.  Put 1/4 cup of kernels in the bowl, cover with the plate, and microwave until you hear the popping kernels slow down to about 2-3 seconds between pops.  Voila!  Popcorn, minus the waste of the bag.  Because I enjoy flavor on my popcorn, I usually add some spices to my already popped popcorn.  Cumin is really nice (use sparingly), as is garlic powder and kosher salt.  If I’m feeling extra lazy, I’ll just lightly salt the popcorn and dig in!  The best part about it is you can totally doctor it up to your taste!  Just remember, the more butter and fats you add, the less healthy it becomes.

2.  Hummus

460px-Hummus_from_The_NileHummus is everything that I love in a snack.  It’s creamy, healthy, tasty…I could go on and on.  Plus, it’s another snack where you can completely tailor it to your individual tastes.  I really like to pair hummus with carrot sticks for a veggie, but it’s also really good with pretzel crisps or a pita (for some extra calories, the pita is amazing).  You can buy a lot of different types at the grocery nowadays (ten years ago you’d have to go to a specialty store), but it’s also incredibly easy to make on your own.  I go both ways…if I’m feeling lazy I’ll buy some, and if I’m feeling more culinary with some extra time, I’ll whip up a batch of homemade.  I enjoy both, and don’t feel guilty about taking some shortcuts.  Just be sure to look at the label to make sure it doesn’t have a ton of “extra” stuff that you really don’t need (if you can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t need it).  One of my favorite recipes (brace yourself, it calls for peeling the chickpeas…and it really does make all the difference) is from Smitten Kitchen.  And please, for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t skimp on the olive oil!

 

3.  Energy Bites

6907215929_29ed2b0329_zI’m sure many of you have heard of the Lara Bar craze.  I get it…they’re chewy, unprocessed (for the most part), and delicious.  They’re also expensive as crap!  Plus, I don’t usually want an entire bar, so then I’m left with half a bar that dries out and is pretty gross when I want some more (usually the next day).  Which is why energy bites is a much better alternative for me.  If you get on Pinterest, you can find plenty of recipes on how to make them, but most of them have the same method.  A grain (usually oats), some seeds, some nuts, a sweetener (I prefer honey), dried fruit, maybe some chocolate, and a binder (either a nut butter, or a sticky fruit).  Gimme Some Oven has a great recipe for Cranberry Pistachio Energy Bites, and it’s my favorite (I’m a sucker for pistachios).  It takes a little longer than the 15 minute prep time, but the results are totally worth it!  I like to make these before J and I go on a hike, because they’re great on the go, and are easily transportable.  Plus, these are fantastic for road trips, because they’re not messy and you can pre-pack them and pull them out as needed.

 

4.  Fruit

fruit-bowlThis one almost seems too easy.  But, raw fruit is a great healthy snack, and is easy to grab when you’re pressed for time.  For many fruits, the peel holds a lot of the fiber, which helps you feel full longer (obviously, this is only true for fruits that have edible peels), so don’t peel them if you don’t mind the taste.  When I’m at work, I like fruits that are easy to eat and not incredibly messy, so berries or grapes are usually my go-to.  However, when I’m at home, I prefer messier fruits, like plums and oranges.  My favorite fruits, overall, are blackberries and raspberries.  They’re tart and juicy, and easy to eat.  Plus, the more color to the fruit, the more nutritional value!  Another great way to eat fruit, especially in the summer, is to spread out whole pieces of fruit (berries, melon balls, and grapes work best for this) in a single layer, on a baking sheet. Then, place in the freezer and let the fruit freeze.  This really offers a sweet, cool treat during the hot summer months!

 

5.  Avocado

72468dd777e471da_cottage-cheese-avocadoI absolutely love avocado, and it’s one of my favorite “snacks,” when I have the time.  I don’t usually keep avocado in the house, so it’s more of a treat when I remember to pick one or two up at the grocery.  One of my favorite snacks with avocado (I have several) is avocado with cottage cheese.  The creamy avocado with the cold cottage cheese…it’s awesome!  Plus, cottage cheese (especially european style) has a more dry texture, so I really like how it tastes with the avocado.  If you feel like adding some more flavor, without a ton of extra calories, a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction would be really tasty on this as well!  When looking for avocados, I’ve found the best way to see if they’re ripe is to peel off the little nub where the stem would be.  If it’s green in there, it’s not too old.  Also, a gentle squeeze to see if it’s hard as a brick is a good trick too.

 

There you have it, my favorites in healthy snacking!  What are some of your favorites?  Feel free to let me know in the comments, as I’m always looking for new ideas!

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites: Wedding Trends

This past month has been a whirlwind of weddings.  Over the past 10 months, I’ve witnessed four friends (four couples) get married, and of that four, three were in the past month!  Which, of course, made me think about my wedding and how I really enjoyed planning the entire thing.  For a brief while, I even considered starting my own business as a wedding planner!  It’s still a dream of mine, but one that probably won’t come to fruition for another 5-10 years.  So, with that, I thought I’d do a Friday Favorites post on my favorite wedding trends!

1. Earthy, Neutral Wedding Color Palettes

gold_cream_white_color_paleI am in love with the latest trend of incorporating earthy, neutral tones into the wedding color scheme.  Creams and greens, paired with taupe and light browns are the sweet and simple colors that dreams are made of.  Earthy inspirations also add a touch of whimsy to the day, by bringing a bit of the outdoors indoors.  Hints of gold or copper can go even further to create a night-time elegance that is perfect for any style wedding, no matter how casual or opulent you want your day to be.  These colors can’t help but suggest understated elegance, plus they’re going to be a classic color pairing that won’t leave you cringing when you look back at your wedding photos 20 years from now.

 

2.  Family Style Reception Dinner Service

family style diningThere’s nothing that inspires the feeling of love and closeness like family style dining.  Brides and grooms are now choosing to forgo the traditional plated service in favor of serving food “family style” at the tables.  This style allows for large plates of food to be served at the table, and individual guests serve themselves, never requiring anyone to leave.  This style really encourages guests to get to know one another, especially if you have some out-of-town guests that aren’t familiar with everyone sitting next to them.  Combine this with long tables that seat several (instead of smaller tables seating 6-8) and you’ve recreated the dining set-up from your favorite old-world restaurant!

 

3.  Typography Invitations

invitesNew trends in wedding invitations are all about reminding the readers what is most important, the actual words!  Typography is the art of arranging type in the most appealing way possible, and invitations are a perfect place to use this style.  What’s more important than the “Who, What, Where, and When” of the wedding?  Making sure that the message gets through to your guests is key, and what better way that letting the message really shine than with typography.  For added elegance, using letterpress and luxurious paper to make your invites is a trick that will really give your guests something to remember!

 

4.  Textured Cakes

wedding cakeI enjoy fondant as much as the next person, but I can honestly say that nothing gets my tummy rumbling like ultra rich buttercream frosting.  Before, brides shied away from buttercream because it wasn’t as sleek and smooth as fondant, but now that textured wedding cakes are making a comeback, buttercream can reclaim the throne.  Another trend that textured buttercream really lends itself well to is the ombre effect that is so gorgeous.  While it’s true that wedding cakes aren’t around for long, many brides find it more economical to have a small tier or two to show for the cake cutting, and then have sheet cakes in the back that can be cut to serve guests.  Bottom line, as long as it tastes amazing, people won’t care if it’s from the cake at the front of the room or from the cake at the back.

 

5.  Making it Personal, a Timeless Trend

welliesThis is a trend that really shouldn’t be a trend at all.  Above all, a wedding should be a reflection of the bridge and groom, and their life and love together.  Weddings are for the happy couple to share their excitement and new beginnings with their closest loved ones, and is a time for celebration and well wishing.  Focus on those aspects that really mean the most to you and your significant other, and let those bits shine throughout the ceremony and reception.  One of my favorite weddings (as a guest) was one where the wedding and reception just looked like the bride and groom.  It was set in Seattle, a location very dear to the bride (and also became a favorite destination for the groom), and incorporated their love of tartan plaids and Wellies (her Welsh heritage) and Slivovitz – a clear liquor (his Slovenian heritage).  Their wedding was understated and simple, and it really focused on their love of each other and the simple things in life, which exemplifies their everyday personalities.  Those weddings are the type that really stick with the guests, the weddings where the focus is on the love of the couple, rather than on the material “things” used during the day.  That is a wedding “Trend” that really shouldn’t be a trend at all, but is one I’d consider of utmost importance, so I had to include it.

And there you have it, my favorite wedding trends!  Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and please feel free to add a few favorite of your own in the comments!

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites: Comfort

Every so often, I find myself in need of comfort.  Maybe something major happened, or maybe it’s just a bad day.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong at all, but I just feel the need for something that comforts me and feels safe.  Either way, we all have those moments, and here are my “Favorites” for various items I look to for comfort.  Hopefully some of these will spark something for you all, or maybe you have some of your own you’d like to share!

1.  Comfort Food.

IG1009_Grown_Up_Mac_and_Cheese_jpg_rend_sni12col_landscapeI have so many different foods that I think of as comfort foods.  But, of all of them, my favorite is macaroni and cheese.  Carbs + cheese = match made in heaven (unless you’re a lactose intolerant celiac’s disease sufferer.  In that case, I imagine it’s closer to hell).  I don’t really discriminate against kinds of macaroni and cheese…my favorite is one I haven’t had to make myself.  Annie’s Organics has a great box mix one, but homemade is better nearly every time.  One of my favorite recipes is from Ina Garten’s Grown Up Mac and Cheese.  It’s creamy and full of flavor, and really easy to make.  It’s great for cold evenings when all you want to do is curl up on the couch and watch a movie!

2.  Comfort Clothes.

tunic sweaterI love sweaters.  In fact, I wait for fall and winter each year, just so I get the opportunity to drag out my box of sweaters.  There’s something so warm and snuggly about them.  I recently bought a new tunic sweater, and I am in love!  It’s soft and warm, and perfect for lying around the house or running errands.  I pair it with warm leggings and some boots, and I’m good to go.  Plus, the color goes with darn near anything, so it’s a great “Grab and Go” option for if you’re headed out and won’t know whether you’ll need an extra layer to stay warm.  I picked it up from The LOFT, which is one of my favorite places to shop, and I am considering getting another one because I love it so much!

3.  Comfort Smells.

hot-spiced-ciderAhh…it’s amazing how a certain smell can bring back so many memories (both good and bad).  There’s been studies done that show smells being one of the biggest links to memories for people, and that is definitely true for me.  I have a very small sense of smell, due to way too many sinus issues as a child.  My mother can’t smell at all, so I’m happy to have what small sense of smell I do have, even if it’s limited and faulty at times.  One of my favorite smells that brings such comfort to me is hot apple cider.  It reminds me of fall back home, pumpkin patches and apple orchards, and freshly baked cinnamon sugar donuts.  The only downside is that it’s hard to find if it’s not fall, so it’s not really something I can get a whole lot outside the fall months.  Sometimes you can find a few small jugs at the grocery store, but it’s rare.  However, I keep the mulling spices in a jar at home (I make my own) that I can use to put in black tea, and that is a good substitute in a pinch.  Here are 15 Cider Recipes (I’ve only used two, but they were good) from Martha Stewart.  I have a plan to try a few more now that fall is upon us!

4.  Comfort Movies.

Daffy_Duck's_Fantastic_Island_PosterThis was an easy one, primarily because I have one (exactly one) comfort movie.  When I am sick, there is a movie that I will watch, regardless of what is wrong with me.  Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island movie has been a favorite of mine ever since childhood.  Whenever I was sick and at home from school, my mom would stuff me in bed and put that movie on to watch.  9 times out of 10, I’d fall asleep before the movie was half over, but since sleep is best for a sick body, it was a win/win.  It’s funny  how, even now that I’m in my 30s, it’s still a go-to for me whenever I don’t feel well.  J has even joined me a few times to watch it, and agrees that it’s a great cartoon (and agreement is agreement, regardless of coercion), so I think this one is a winner.  In fact, when J realized how much I loved this movie, he took my beat up VHS tape that was falling apart (and really, who uses VHS anymore) and had a DVD made of it, so that I’d have it longer.  Now, if that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is!

5.  Comfort Places.

libraryThis one has two answers, both equally important to me.  I think that everyone has a spot that always brings about comfort.  For some, it’s the beach, others it’s the mountains.  One of mine, thankfully, is a place I can find just about anywhere I am.  Whenever I’m down, or just needing a feeling of home, I find a library.  There’s something about the smell of aged paper, combined with the quiet peacefulness of the stacks of books that puts me instantly at ease.  I’ve worked in a few different libraries, and would love to move back into librarianship, and they were always my most favorite jobs.  I enjoyed being surrounded by so much knowledge, and the feeling of having the answer to just about anything at my fingertips was incredible.  Even when I was overwhelmed with school work or life, stopping in to a library, just to find a corner to myself, brought back an amazing amount of perspective for me.

cathedralAnother comfort place for me is church.  Much like libraries, the quiet calmness of churches help bring about peace and tranquility for me.  J and I were in DC a few months back, and we had been racing around trying to see different things, and we took a moment to pop into a cathedral there.  I took a minute to step into a prayer room, and it was as though all my worries melted away.  God has such a calming presence in my life, that just stepping foot into a church is usually enough to release the tension.  I’m so thankful for that, especially when I think about how stressed I get in my job, and how I’m usually always close to a church of some sort, that I can walk into and gather my thoughts.

 

There are my favorites in the way of finding comfort.  I hope you enjoyed them, and that this post inspires you to go out and seek comfort for yourself.  Also, if you have some truly favorite comforts, feel free to share, as I’d love to hear them!

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites: Make-Up

When it comes to make-up, I am a minimalist. In my  mind, less is definitely more, and if I can get away with nothing at all, I’ll do it. But for those times when I’d like to add a little oomph to my outfit, I’ll whip out my make-up bag and slap on my war paint! Some of my favorite make-up tutorials are by the Pixiwoo sisters on YouTube, so if you’re interested in learning make-up techniques, I would definitely recommend them. They do a lot of high fashion tutorials, as well as plenty of your everyday type lessons, so there’s something for everyone.

Because I am fairly low maintenance on make-up, my favorites are very much the basics. For some of you, this will seem ridiculous at how minimal it is. My friend, R, is a make-up goddess and she would shake her head at this if she were sitting next to me. Oh well…this is my Powerpoint, kids…so hang on.

1.  Tarte BB Tinted Primer

BB CreamI love this stuff. It feels like powder after it’s applied, and just has an overall silky feel to it. One of my favorite things about Tarte is the fact that their entire line is cruelty free. It’s harder to find cruelty free make-up out there, but it’s very important to me, and Tarte is my favorite brand of it. The tinted primer comes in five shades, and I have one each of the two lightest. The lightest is for my everyday shade, and the slightly darker one is for summer, when no matter what I do I’ll still wind up with a slight tan on my face. But, because they’re tinted primers, there doesn’t need to be that many options because most of it will blend in with your natural skin tone. I don’t wear foundation, but I do occasionally want minimal coverage, so this is my go-to option for that.

2.  Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in ExposedI wasn’t joking when I said I love Tarte make-up. Their blush is just as awesome as their tinted primer. I have Exposed, which is a nude pink shade. It gives a hint of color without looking ridiculous (as most blushes do when you’re this pale). This is a must have in my tiny make-up bag, and I have used it when both tan and not, so it goes well with my skin regardless of how “sun-kissed” it is. Tarte cosmetics are a bit on the pricey side, but since I absolutely love the way they feel, I splurge. It’s one of the few make-up brands that down break me out, so it’s worth every penny!

3.  Urban Decay’s Naked Palette

Naked UDThere’s a reason why there’s so much hype about this eyeshadow palette. It’s because it really is that good! I can do any look I’d ever need with that palette, and had I bought it first, I never would have spent another penny on eyeshadow. The colors in the Naked palette (the original) are fairly pinky, so if you’re not a fan of pinks and browns, this might not be for you. There aren’t any purples, which surprised me a bit, because all these colors are fairly warm, but even though I’m a big purple color fan (it looks good with hazel eyes), I don’t even miss it in this set. Also, the original Naked came with a trial size of the Urban Decay eye primer, which is another fantastic product. It’s a win/win!

4.  Pixi Large Lash Mascara

pixi mascaraPixi by Petra is another cruelty free brand that I really like. I’ve admittedly only tried their mascara, but mascara is usually one of my biggest issues in make-up, and I’ve never had any problems with Pixi. The wand is quite fat, and doesn’t cause clumping. On top of that, it’s one of the rare mascaras where it’s easy to find a brown/black color, instead of the harsh black that most mascaras come in. You can find this brand at Target (which is where I get it) and while it’s a bit expensive for a brand you can find at Target, because it’s so easy to apply and never clumps, I think it’s well worth the extra money. I’ve had several tubes over the past two to three years, and each one is as good as the last. I’ve had no reason to find a new brand, so that’s good enough for me!

5.  Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

burts-bees-tinted-lip-balmMy last go-to make-up product is one step up from chapstick.  It’s Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm. I love the feeling of the lip balm; it’s not sticky like gloss, and doesn’t have that thick feeling like lipstick. It feels exactly like my favorite chapstick, while giving my lips just a hint of color. I already have fairly red lips to begin with (though they’ve gotten paler as I’ve gotten older), so I don’t need a ton of color. I have the Red Dahlia color, which is a perfect reddish pink color that looks great with my natural lip color.  To top it off, it’s incredibly moisturizing, so even after it wears away my lips are left feeling very smooth and soft.

 

So, you’ve now seen what’s in my make-up bag, but what about you?  What are your favorite cosmetic products that you can’t live without?  I’d love to hear about them!

Much love,
K.

 

Friday Favorites: Date Night Activities

When J and I first started dating, we spent quite a lot of time meeting up for dates and just hanging out.  We hadn’t been dating long when I moved back to my parents’ place for the summer, in order to intern for a judge, after my first year of law school.  During that time, we initiated “date night,” where we’d meet up after work during the week, go on a date, and then go home.  It was a great way to see each other during the work week (when we lived 2 hours apart), while still preventing the relationship from moving too far, too fast.  So, here are some of my favorite “date night” activities, which we still incorporate into our relationship today!

1.  Picnics

Picnic-DateDuring our summer date nights, many times J and I would meet up in the city, pick up take-out from a local restaurant, and then drive to the nearest state park for a picnic.  We’d have dinner in the grass and then walk around and talk, just getting to know each other more and talking about anything and everything.  I really fell in love with J during these dates.  We were only a few months into our relationship when we instituted “date night” over the summer, and those evenings of just sitting and talking brought about a closeness that we probably wouldn’t have developed as quickly, any other way.  Even now, when it’s nice outside, we’ll often pack a picnic and go find a quiet spot to sit and relax, and talk about life.

2.  Duckpin Bowling

HR-UICoverPhotos6I’m the world’s worst bowler.  Seriously.  It was several years before I ever broke a triple digit score in bowling, and even now, J will give me a hard time about my less than fabulous bowling skills.  Regardless, I love it!  It’s fun, it’s active, and it always gets me laughing.  J and I decided to give duckpin bowling a try during one of our early dates, and I have to say that I like it much better than regular bowling.  The bowling balls are smaller, as are the pins, and it’s just so delightfully old-fashioned!  There’s a really neat duckpin bowling place in downtown where we go, that has a lot of really unique restaurants nearby.  It’s a perfect evening and great for a date!

3.  Cooking Classes

couples-cookingJ and I never did this as a date prior to marriage, but we have gone to cooking classes as married couples, and I have to say they’re a great time!  If you and your partner enjoy cooking (or hell…even enjoy eating), then this could be a great date night!  J and I have taken cooking classes in both Hungary and Morocco, and we love the opportunity to learn a new cooking technique, spend time together, and share a great meal that we made together.  Of course, even if you don’t have any local cooking classes you can do for a date night, there’s nothing stopping you from just cooking a meal together in your kitchen.  Sharing space and working together are great ways to improve your relationship, and you can reap the rewards of a fantastic meal afterwards (bonus points for including a good bottle of wine).  And the best thing of all, there are plenty of beginner recipes on the internet that walks you through new recipes and techniques, so just find one that looks good, grab your partner, and get cooking!

4.  Rock Climbing

rock climbingNow, this one isn’t for the faint of heart.  But, if you really like being active, and like to incorporate teamwork into your date nights, then rock climbing is a great way to do it.  Rock climbing is fun, even as a beginner, and it really brings out a sense of adventure.  As a plus, it also really works on trust between couples (because being suspended 40 feet above the ground while your partner holds on to the rope definitely requires trust) and can help bring you closer to your partner.  J and I really enjoy indoor rock climbing, because you can even go in the winter and not freeze your tail off, and it’s a fantastic workout that is fun while being challenging.  If you and your partner are the adventurous and thrill-seeking type, then this date night activity is definitely for you!

5.  Movie Night

movie nightWhat better way to spend an evening together than curled up together (at the movie theatre or at home on the couch) watching a movie with a bowl of popcorn.  Those tentative touches as your hands glance off each other while reaching for the popcorn kernels.  THIS is what date nights are made of, people!  If you want to go one better, pick a scary movie so that you can spend the evening clinging to your man (or, equal opportunity, clinging to your woman) as the suspenseful music creeps you out.  There’s a reason why the most clichéd options are sometimes the best, because they’re the tried and true methods of dating.  So go out there, fight over which movie is one you’re willing to sit through, and hunker down on the couch with your loved one.  If you’re lucky, you might even be able to steal a few kisses and miss the movie entirely!

What are some of your favorite date night activities?  Any that I’ve missed that should make the top 5 list?

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites: Blogs

I get a lot of inspiration from various blogs out there, and love to be able to share some of my favorites with you all!  I always look for inspiration for tons of different things:  new recipes, home décor, crochet patterns, sewing ideas, and more recently, recipes for canning!  I hit up a lot of various blogs, but of course I do have my favorites, and here they are (in no particular order).

 

Favorite for Everyday Recipes: Smitten Kitchen

SMKSmitten Kitchen has some of the best recipes out there!  I adore her fresh take on foods, and so many of her recipes are easy to follow and don’t have a million odd ingredients that you’ll only use once.  Plus, her recipes are categorized in several ways: by ingredient, by season, by dish, by cuisine type…basically, any way you normally look for recipes, you can find them on her site.  I really encourage all of you who love to cook to go check out her page, you won’t be disappointed!

 

Favorite for Home Décor and Renovation Ideas:  Young House Love

younghouseloveThis husband-wife duo have some of the best ideas out there for home décor and all things DIY!  I’ve found so many cute things on this blog to incorporate into our home (or at least cute things that spark my own inspiration), and refer to their blog quite a bit for ways to fix and update things in the house.  Plus, these two are incredibly funny and entertaining, which makes reading their blog a breeze!

 

Favorite for Crochet, Knit, and Craft Patters: Whistle and Ivy

boat slippersThis blog is relatively new to me, but I have really enjoyed reading Bethany’s posts and looking through her various crafts.  She has quite a few crochet patterns available, some for purchase through her Etsy shop, and some for free.  I haven’t had an opportunity to make any of them yet (sadly), but they are currently topping my project list for once I finish my mom’s afghan for Christmas.   I’m currently coveting her pattern for Women’s Boat slippers (FREE!!), so that’s my first project on the list.  I’ll try to do a post on it once I finish them up!  I’m thinking, if they’re super quick and easy, I might be able to make some for Christmas presents to give to friends and family.  Who knows, I might even be able to con J into wearing a pair!

 

Favorite for Sewing: V and Co.

shag pillowVanessa Christenson’s blog on sewing is my absolute favorite.  I’ve used her fabric line a few different times on simple projects, and every time I think about starting another sewing project, I immediately head over to her blog.  Her fabrics are absolutely gorgeous, and she is always making new quilt patterns for her blog.  In addition to her quilts (which are gorgeous), she usually has more beginner projects interspersed within her posts, and I’ve been tempted to make a few of them.  They’re very easy to read and understand, and I imagine they’d be a breeze to make.  Her shag pillow is going to be my next sewing project once I get a moment to work on it!  I’m thinking, if they’re super quick and easy, they’ll be nice little Christmas presents for friends and family.  I might even be able to con J into wearing a pair.

Favorite for Canning:  Food in Jars

foodinjarsI will admit, I’m new to the canning world.  In fact, I’m so new, I’m still waiting for my pressure canner to show up from Amazon so that I can put it to good use.  Growing up, my aunt would can, and my best friend’s mom canned, but my mom was having none of it.  She would garden and cook, and could bake cakes that would make you cry tears of joy, but she had no time for canning.  Nope, no time.  “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”  So, I am a newbie when it comes to this canning craze.  J and I have done our best to make a commitment to clean eating (though who can resist a McDonald’s cheeseburger every now and then) and we’d really like to eat as seasonally as possible.  So, when I suggested we try our hand at canning, he thought it would be a great idea (though probably won’t help much, go figure), and off I went.  I came across this blog and it has a great wealth of information on how to can, ways to can, and a ton of recipes to try!  I think my first recipe is going to be her Tiny Batch Black Raspberry Jam, just to get my hands wet!  So excited!

 

So, there you go, my Friday Favorites, blogging style!  I hope you enjoyed my favorites, and feel free to leave some of your own, as I’m always looking for new blogs to explore and enjoy!

 

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites: Vegetables

Early last year, I decided to give a vegetarian diet a try.  I’ve always struggled with the moral issues around eating meat, and felt that moving away from an animal based diet, to one of a plant-based diet, would be best for me.  I was a vegetarian for over a year, and then slowly started introducing meat back into my diet.  I still rarely eat meat, and plan to continue a primarily vegetable based diet, but every now and then I do enjoy a meat dish.  I still feel bad about eating animals, so I try really hard to make sure that the meat that I do eat is sustainably and ethically sourced.  However, since becoming a vegetarian, I have found a new appreciation for vegetables, so I thought I’d do a Friday Favorites post on my favorite vegetables!

1.  Brussel Sprouts

brussel sproutsI know what most of you are thinking about brussel sprouts.  They’re bitter, and small cabbages, and really tasteless.  And, for the longest time, I would have agreed with you.  But then, I came across some good recipes, and learned how to cook brussel sprouts, and now they’re my absolute FAVORITE vegetable of all time!  Roasted brussel sprouts with shallots, salt and pepper, are fantastic in so many ways.  They’re a great side dish, they’re fantastic cut up in cold salads, and I even use them as the main toppings for one of my favorite pizzas (roasted brussel sprout pizza with potatoes and goat cheese…YUM).  Sure, they get a bad rap, but I’d encourage you all to go out there and try them again, because they really can be amazing!

2.  Eggplant

eggplantEggplant, or aubergine, is another highly overlooked vegetable (in my opinion).  Eggplant parmesan sandwiches were a huge staple in our house during my year of meat-free living, and we still enjoy the vegetable regularly.  I really enjoy it breaded and baked (never fried), with spicy marinara and fresh mozzarella melted on top, but it’s also fantastic just grilled with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  I also use eggplant quite often in my Couscous with Seven Vegetables recipe which I got from the cook of our riad in Morocco.  J and I will also eat leftovers that were grilled and put into the fridge, as a topping for pizza or cold salads.  Another favorite is a roasted vegetable sandwich, in which eggplant plays a starring role, along with onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and feta cheese!

3.  Asparagus

asparagusIn the Netherlands, people anxiously await the spring because it brings with it “aspergeseizoen” or asparagus season.  Both green and white varieties are celebrated there, and they even have specific recipes that include asparagus.  One staple recipe is the asparagus soup (which is divine) and another is its chlorophyl-free counterpart, white asparagus served with thinly sliced ham and soft-boiled eggs, with a lemon butter sauce.  Here in the US, we still eat a ton of asparagus, and it isn’t quite as seasonal as it is there, though we do eat the most of it in the summer.  Grilling the asparagus stalks or roasting them in the oven are our two primary ways of cooking it, though each Easter I do make the Dutch white asparagus, complete with soft-boiled eggs and roasted potatoes, and that delicious butter and lemon sauce.  It’s quite a special treat, and one that we look forward to every year, especially because it brings back such fond memories of our lives in the Netherlands.

4.  Avocado

avacadoOk, this one is cheating, because technically it’s a fruit.  I don’t care, I still love it.  It’s creamy, it’s got fiber, and it tastes amazing with some salt and lemon juice.  Avocado is a go-to adder for a lot of our recipes at home.  We’ll dice it up and add it to salads, we’ll smash it onto toast with an egg for a quick breakfast, and I’ll even eat it plain for a snack (either topped with lemon juice or some balsamic vinegar).  The healthy fats in the avocado add to heart and brain health, and it also improves the absorption of certain nutrients by up to 400%.  Another way we eat them at home is to add them to our protein shakes in the morning.  The velvety texture really adds smoothness to the shakes, plus you can’t really taste the avocado if you are adding other ingredients.  I only started eating avocado a few years ago, prior to that I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor, but I’m so glad I gave it a second try.  Now, it’s one of our go-to snacks in the house and we always have one or two of them ready to eat!

5.  Artichokes

artichokesLast, but surely not least, is my love affair with artichokes.  These are another staple in our house, either raw or in their jarred variety.  I’ll put them on anything: pizzas, salads, couscous or quinoa…pretty much, if I’m making something that has any sort of mediterranean flavor to it, I’ll add artichokes.  My favorite is my Mediterranean couscous salad, which I make with whole wheat couscous, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, garlic, and feta.  It’s basically a “chop everything and add together” type of salad, and it keeps in the fridge well for next day’s lunch.  We’ve also really liked them lightly steamed and then grilled for a side addition to our main meal.  I’ve come across a few stuffed artichoke recipes that I’d love to try, but haven’t given them a whirl yet.  Once I do, I’ll be sure to post back here in a recipe post, because I’m sure that we’ll love it!  While we really enjoy the marinated variety, I’ve found that some of the jarred, marinated artichokes have a high sodium content, and lots of additional fat from the oils, so you should be careful if you’re buying the jarred artichokes.  Be sure to read the label, because you never know what else is in the jar if you don’t look at the ingredients!

There you have it, my top five favorite vegetables (ok…four vegetables and a fruit)!  What are your favorites?  Also, if you have some recipes that include my vegetables above that I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear about them!

Much love,
K.