It’s Been a Year and I Still Don’t Look Like Gwyneth

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Anna Quindlen Quote Things at Babble have been in transition for the last couple of months, and I haven’t been posting as much as I once did, and it has been nice to have a bit more time to dedicate here, and I hope you’ve noticed. Lots of new recipes as well as the prep work that went into the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge, most especially the Clean Eating Swapping Guide, which I hope many of you have found helpful. This month I’m only writing 2 articles at Babble, but they’re two that I feel especially good about, and I hope you’ll pop over to visit.

When I write, I write from my own perspective, garnered from my personal experience this past year. So when I published this article on the 5 Diet Fallacies Too Many Women Still Believe, in my head I was right and that was that. Someone over in the Andrea Made Me Do It Facebook group agreed with all but 1 point, and shared her own personal experience with a juice cleanse, and what a positive effect it had on her, most especially her sugar cravings. It was great to hear a different perspective, and it just goes to show how truly unique each and every one of us are, and why not one diet fits all. This is why the notion of following strict diets, and expecting the same results across the board, can be detrimental to our health, but physical and emotional. That’s just my very humble opinion anyhow.

Last weekend we spent a few hours on the canal with friends, and I tried paddle boarding for the first time. It was such a great day, and when we got home I looked at some of the photos Art took of me paddle boarding and jumping into the canal, with my skimpy bikini. I’ll be honest guys, for a few minutes I felt really, really bummed. My stomach looked not how I “wanted” it to look, and my butt looked bigger than the one I look at in the mirror. After I spent one too many seconds feeling down, I took a deep breath and mentally gave myself a smack across the face. I will not allow myself to fester in that negative body image crap, and all those stupid emotions turned around into some positive feelings after a few moments, and I subsequently wrote this piece on being okay that after a year of drastically changing my diet, I still don’t look like Gwyneth. Honest, honest, I feel great in my skin 99.9% of the time, and while every now and then some negative crap sneaks in, I’m able to sucker punch it into oblivion.

Hoping you all had a wonderful weekend and were able to enjoy some celebrating with the important dads in your lives.

See you back tomorrow for gasp, an outfit post!

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Traditional Pho Ga – Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

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chicken-pho-recipe-2
Having the good fortune of being born in Southern California is one of the many things I am continuously thankful for. While I may have just recently been interested in eating healthier, I have always had a deep love of food, and Southern California has an ever evolving cornucopia of interesting and unique food to offer. All throughout the Southland, you can find almost any type of ethnic cuisine you can think of, including the most delicious and authentic Mexican food,  pockets of towns offering traditional Indian, Ethiopian and Chinese food, and just 10 minutes down the freeway, we have Little Saigon, where you have prime pickings for amazing, affordable Vietnamese food. My love of the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup pho, pronounced duh, is something that’s only developed in the last few years, but boy is it intense, and Art and I have passed on that love to all 3 of our kids. I craved pho the most during my last pregnancy, and the last few weeks, while the kids were in school, I would often find my car driving to my then favorite place to get a delicious bowl of noodle soup, where I would sit alone, enjoying my noodle soup and a favorite book. I knew that my hours of freedom would soon be gone once Hayden came along, so I sat and sipped, savoring every bite and slurp. chicken-pho-soup

Another wonderful bit of good fortune I’ve been graced with, is having many friends who love food as much as I, and many who can cook well too. From decadent desserts to the most amazing corned beef, I have several friends I lean on for cooking advice and recipe exchanges, including my friend Mary, who has proven herself quite adapt at cooking some amazing Vietnamese fare. Mary has grown up learning to cook traditional Vietnamese food firsthand from her mother. When I found out she had recently got the hang of cooking chicken pho from scratch, I asked (begged) her to teach me how. Several weeks back I ventured to her house, and got quite an amazing cooking lesson from someone who is as precise as she is intuitive in the kitchen. She respects recipes, but also has the confidence and knowledge to know when to stray off a bit or even wing it; my favorite kind of home cook. chicken-pho-toppings-and-sauce

While it’s easy to mark pho as just another Asian noodle dish, it really is more than that, and it’s uniqueness is in the rich deeply flavored broth which is cooked for several hours. While beef pho is probably most popular, and is made by simmering marrow rich beef bones for quite a while, at least 3-4 hours, the soup I learned to make from Mary is a little less intimidating to tackle, especially for a first timer like myself. The broth is made of chicken bones, and the simmering time isn’t nearly as long as with beef pho, so it makes for a good first entry into making this flavorful dish. Eventually though I would like to set a day aside to hang out in Mary’s kitchen and learn to make beef pho. For now though, this does just fine, especially when I can pick up a bowl of beef pho almost any time I’d like. chicken-pho-1 The ingredients to make this dish can be found at most Asian markets for a very affordable price, or if you don’t have an Asian market in your town, a specialty foods or health foods store should have everything you need, perhaps at a higher price though. The toppings can vary in terms of how much variety you have, but in keeping in line with traditional toppings, you should definitely aim to have some bean sprouts, basil, and limes, and if you’d like to add a more intense flavor, you’ll need the hoison and hot sauce too. chicken-pho-toppings A few helpful techniques I learned from Mary was to really hack into the bones of the chicken with a knife, allowing the rich marrow to transfer into the broth. And soaking my noodles in warm water just a bit, before adding them into my pho. In writing this recipe, which she was so nice to share with us all, she has been quite thorough, but please let us know if you have any questions. IMG_4418 IMG_4421

When we made or batch, she was a bit conservative on the fish sauce, not sure how intense I would like my flavor. But I would say you could easily add another 1-2 tbsp to your broth, only to its benefit. And when heating the roasting the onions, her stove top foil wrapped method was nothing short of genius, although it does make a bit of a mess during peeling, so I suggest doing it over a bowl or your sink. IMG_4413 IMG_4414 When you’re going to serve your pho, Mary suggests starting with placing your noodles in the bowl first, then chicken, before adding your broth, and finally your toppings. This allows the broth to gently separate the noodles if they’ve become stuck together, rather than inserting the noodles in the broth and hoping for the best. At restaurants they of course always do it the other way around, bringing you your broth and noodles separate, leaving you to dump noodles into broth, but I assume at a restaurant there’s more cooks in the kitchen, and things turn around a lot quicker than when at home trying to feed multiple mouths with just your single hands. At any rate, I’m sure there’s no wrong way to eat pho, so just go with your gut. chicken-pho-recipe

I do find it helpful though to have a big spoon and a pair of chopsticks or fork on hand. To get both noodles and broth in one mouthful, I usually wind my noodles in my spoon, dip the spoon in to get some broth, and then enjoy. So let’s get on with the recipe, shall we? Again, let us know if you have any questions, and thanks again Mary for the amazing lesson and for allowing me to share this with you all! chicken-pho-soup-and-toppings

Traditional Pho Ga - Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Traditional Vietnamese Pho Ga
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • (Broth Ingredients)
  • 1 yellow onion, unpeeled
  • 1 three inch piece of ginger, unpeeled
  • 2-3 Tbsp oil
  • 1 whole free-range chicken, (about 4 pounds), breast removed and cut into 4 pieces, remaining chicken cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3-4 quarts water
  • 1 inch chunk of rock sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 10-12 cloves
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2-3 cardamom pods
  • 4 star anise pods
  • (Noodles)
  • 1 pkg rice noodles (banh pho)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • pinch of salt
  • (Optional Garnishes)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Thai basil
  • Sawtooth herb
  • Scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Onions, thinly sliced
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • Limes, quartered
Instructions
  1. To make the broth - Wrap the onion and ginger in a large piece of foil. Place directly over open flame on a gas stove and cook for 15 minutes until soft and charred. Turn over at half-way mark. Remove from flame. Once cool, peel both the onion and ginger removing any charred layers. With the onion, trim off the root end then cut into it halfway, as if cutting it in half but still leaving it in tact. Bruise the ginger with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife. Set both aside.
  2. While cooking the onion and ginger (step 1), toast all the spices (last 5 ingredient items) in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes to release their fragrance and heighten their aroma in the broth. Allow to cool, then wrap in double layer of cheesecloth and tie securely.
  3. Heat oil in large soup kettle, stock pot or dutch oven. When oil shimmers and just begins to smoke, add the chicken breast pieces; brown on both sides,
  4. for about 5 minutes total. Remove and set aside.
  5. Add the remaining chicken pieces to the pot; sauté until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. (Do this in batches if it does not all fit into the pot without overcrowding). Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes.
  6. Increase heat to high; add 3-4 quarts water along with the breast pieces, rock sugar salt, fish sauce, and cheesecloth pouch of spices. Return to simmer, then cover and barely simmer until chicken breasts are cooked and broth is rich and flavorful, about 20 minutes.
  7. Remove all chicken pieces from broth; set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove skin, then remove meat from
  8. bones and shred into bite-size pieces; discard skin and bones.
  9. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain broth; discard onion, ginger, and spice pouch. Add more salt and fish sauce to the broth according to your taste.
  10. To prepare your noodles - Place the dry noodles in a large bowl and cover it with hot water. Soak for about 10 minutes until the noodles have softened and are pliable. Drain water and rinse noodles until water runs clear. Drain and set aside.
  11. Fill a large pot with water and heat. Just before it comes to a boil, add oil and salt, then noodles. Turn off heat and stir noodles for 30-60 seconds. Pour noodles into colander and drain. Shake out excess water and toss with chopsticks to prevent clumping.
  12. To assemble your bowl of pho, start with noodles, add the meat on top, then ladle in boiling broth. Condiments are usually Sriracha, chili sauce, and hoisin sauce. Then squeeze a quarter section of lime, add bean sprouts, basil, sawtooth herb, onion slices, scallions, and cilantro.

 



Roasted Chickpeas 3 Ways

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Rosemary Sea Salt Roasted Chickpeas Are you ready for one of the easiest, tastiest, most addictive-est snacks ever? Roasted chickpeas, friends, are where it’s at. They are loaded with protein and vitamins. And there’s not room for any guilt with these babies. We roast these by the bucketful…well, not really, but I should. They get snatched up by big and tiny hands just as soon as I pull then out of the oven. Why are they so addictive, you ask? It’s hard to say. It could be the plethora of seasoning options, like rosemary and sea salt, curry, cinnamon and sugar. Or it might be the delectable way they are slightly crunchy on the outside and creamy in the middle. Roasted Chickpea Snack For a long time we were told to stop snacking and eat three square meals a day. And then came the ubiquitous 100 calorie packs of…empty calories. No, no, no. I don’t get sucked in by that stuff. I am all for real, whole food snacks that help satiate me. That’s why I love these. A handful is just enough to stave off hunger while satisfying that craving for something a little salty and crunchy. But if I’m craving something sweet? Then I season them with cinnamon and a wee bit of sugar, or honey. Roasted Chickpeas with Rosemary and Sea Salt One thing, be sure to give them a good toss with a little olive oil to keep them from drying out as they roast. The temperature is pretty hot and the goal is for a toasty exterior and creamy center. I like to cook dried chickpeas in a slow cooker, but canned works just fine. If the papery skins are coming loose, you can remove them. Or not. That can be kind of time consuming. And we don’t want to become too impatient for our afternoon snack. Another tip – use a rimmed baking sheet. The chickpeas roll all around and you’ll be glad you aren’t picking them up off the floor of your oven instead of popping them into your mouth by the fistful. Roasted Chickpeas We also find that we enjoy these within an hour or two of roasting or they can go kind of stale. Not inedible stale, just not as good as fresh, stale.

Roasted Chickpeas 3 Ways
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A healthy and nutritious snack that will solve any savory snack craving.
Author:
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans or 3 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Desired seasonings
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Blot chickpeas dry. Toss with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Season with desired seasoning and eat.
  4. Suggested seasonings:
  5. salt and coarse ground black pepper
  6. dried herbs
  7. finely grated lemon zest
  8. cinnamon and sugar
  9. curry powder
  10. herb blends - ras el hanout, five spice, etc.

I’m dying to know what your favorite roasted chickpea flavor is/would be. I can’t decide between rosemary and sea salt, or curry. Or smoked paprika with the tiniest pinch of cayenne. Or tamari with a little lime. Or…



DIY Yarn Tapestry

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DIY Wall Tapestry Wall tapestries are totally the new hot thing, didn’t ya know? It’s true I am jumping on the wall tapestry bandwagon and not looking back. In my summer lineup I plan to take a tapestry class and learn from a pro. I’m also going to buy a real tapestry loom to call my own! But I’m guessing that not everyone has the time to go all tapestry-crazy this summer, so I came up with an easy, quick, simple, and easy (did I mention it was easy) yarn tapestry DIY that you can customize and make it your own!

Supplies you will need:

DIY wall yarn tapestry | A RUFFLED LIFE for For The Love Of

DIY wall yarn tapestry | A RUFFLED LIFE for For The Love Of

- Yarn in the colors your prefer

- A wooden dowel or a stick/twig, depending on the look you want. This week I am working on a second yarn tapestry using a stick and it will be a little more messy- and whimsical-looking

- White paint and a painting sponge brush

- Hot glue gun and glue sticks

DIY wall yarn tapestry | A RUFFLED LIFE for For The Love Of

Step 1: First thing first, I began by painting my wooden dowel a crisp white. I really wanted the yarn to be the star of the show, so I covered the dowel in white and let it dry for about 10 minutes.

DIY wall yarn tapestry | A RUFFLED LIFE for For The Love Of

Step 2: Next, I cut the yarn. Because you will be draping yarn across the wood dowel in a “U” shape, your yarn pieces will need to be cut progressively longer. This is where the customizing comes in. I wanted my yarn colors to be strung in a random pattern so I mixed up the color order of the yarn and made sure to keep them in order, ready for gluing. As you can see, there isn’t really any rules on the length and spacing of the yarn; when deciding how long to cut the yarn pieces, just hold the yarn up to the dowel and play around with the length to help you decide on the look you want.

DIY wall yarn tapestry | A RUFFLED LIFE for For The Love Of

DIY wall yarn tapestry | A RUFFLED LIFE for For The Love Of

Step 3: When I started gluing, I chose to not center the “U” on my dowel, so the first string I glues slightly left of the dowel center. To glue, place a dab of hot glue on the wood dowel surface and then stick the end of the first yarn piece (most likely your shortest yarn piece) to the glue. Be careful to not burn yourself while using the glue gun (but you already knew that :) ). Then continue to glue all the yarn pieces to your dowel (in order of shortest to longest) gluing in the direction away from the center of the dowel. In other words, glue from the center out to the dowel end. Make sure that all your glue dabs are in a straight line down the dowel; this will be the back of the dowel that will not show.

DIY wall yarn tapestry | A RUFFLED LIFE for For The Love Of

DIY wall yarn tapestry | A RUFFLED LIFE for For The Love Of

Step 4: For step 4, after all your yarn has been glued to one side of the dowel, you will begin to glue the other end of the yarn pieces to the other side of the dowel. This creates the “U” shape. I began with the most inside (i.e. shortest) yarn piece, glued the other end to the other side of the dowel, and continued to glue the rest of the yarn pieces. Some pieces I had cut longer than I wanted them to drape, so you will notice some “extra” yarn hanging off the dowel.

DIY wall yarn tapestry | A RUFFLED LIFE for For The Love Of

Step 5: Once you are done gluing the second yarn end, simply trim up any extra yarn hanging off the dowel. This will give you a clean line and will hide all those yarn ends behind the dowel once you hang it up.

Which means you are done and it’s time to stick that tapestry up on the wall! DIY Wall Tapestry Wall Tapestry

 



Rethinking Food Prep

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7 Food Prep Tips For Clean Eating Success I both love and despise food prepping. When done right, it can be a life saver, but when done wrong, it can be a waste of time and money. I’ve had my overzealous times, spending literally all day in the kitchen to prep tons of meals only to watch some of it go to waste. I stand back and admire my accomplishment, shown by mounds of food, and then think, “Well crap, now we’ve gotta eat all that.” And then I’ve had days like yesterday, where by the looks of it I didn’t make much headway, but know the few things prepared will be completely worthwhile, saving me time and money.  As we enter week 2 of the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge, I wanted to share some practical tips, based on my own personal preferences, that have helped save me time in the kitchen when it comes to making our meals, and have helped us eat clean consistently throughout the week. What I’ve found works best for us is to just prep some key foods, which saves me from spending all day in the kitchen, allows some flexibility in the week’s meal plan, and even allows for no meal plan at all, and saves me time when I need it most.

These tips go off a few of my own personal preferences including:

  • I love leftovers, but I don’t love my whole meal to feel like a leftover
  • I love to eat based off my cravings, so when I prep too many meals for the week, I don’t always get to fill those cravings
  • I don’t mind a little bit of cooking each day if it will ensure fresher tasting food and I can adjust the meal to suit specific cravings, moods & unexpected activities

IMG_5805 With this in mind, I much prefer to prep different foods that I know will save me time in the kitchen when I need it the most, and will be there for me when I’m hungry and impatient, when I would most likely reach for the tortilla chips. I also like to prep foods that will get me eating more fruits and vegetables each and every day, and I’m sure many of you have the same goal, especially since most of us including our children, don’t eat our daily amount. The times I rely on my meal prep the most are in the morning when everyone is groggy and rushed, and during that mid-afternoon slump before dinner time, when we’re all hungry and antsy from a long day. Here’s my routine that best ensures a smooth week in the kitchen, and a nutritious week of eating.  Keep in mind that each week my prep fluctuates based on our needs, and where we need to replenish in the kitchen and our own personal tastes, therefore there is no one fail proof meal prep guide for all, since every family’s needs are unique. IMG_5816

BEFORE ALL ELSE, CLEAN OUT THE FRIDGE
Cleaning out our fridge is one of my most dreaded chores, but so important. Taking inventory of what we have and what’s about to go bad is the biggest indicator of our meal plan for that week, followed by cravings and wanting to try specific recipes. Cleaning out the fridge also makes room for the new, including produce and groceries, and drastically cuts back on waste. Yesterday during my fridge clean out, I discovered 1 old loaf of bread and half a package of hamburger buns from Memorial Day. Both were stale, so I crossed breadcrumbs off my grocery list and made my own.

PLAN YOUR MEALS FOR THE WEEK & MAKE YOUR LIST
After I’ve cleaned out the fridge and taken inventory of what we have on hand, I set out to plan a very rough guide of our meals for the week, knowing that I’m not married to the meal plan. Things come up, invites are extended to do unexpected activities, and moods change, so I personally don’t like to plan out course for course what we’ll be eating for roughly 15-20 of our meals each week. But I definitely like to have some rough idea of what we can eat, and I usually like to try 1-2 new recipes each week. So I jot those down, add in a couple of simple protein or vegetarian meals, plan for a day of leftovers and plan for a day of eating out. Lunches and even breakfast are almost never planned out completely, but I make sure I have key things on hand for each, including a good nutritious boxed cereal, some sort of hash or veggie scramble that tastes great with eggs, and plenty of greens for salad fixings. I try to be realistic about our week’s activities and when taken into account, foods I can actually make from scratch. During slow weeks I can set aside time to make stocks and beans, but during hectic weeks I stock up on pantry life savers like frozen veggies and canned beans. IMG_5838

SHOP & PREP PRODUCE
Our produce will treat us as well as we treat it, so with that in mind, when you’ve come home from the grocery store or farmer’s market, set aside time to clean and prep it for the week. I soak all my greens in a water bath to get off dirt and even snails, and then lay them out on a towel lined counter to dry. A salad spinner works well too, but for large jobs I just use the counter. I rinse off carrots, green beans and any other veggies that need a good wash, soak berries in a water/vinegar bath, and peel carrots or cucumbers for snacks to munch on or juice through the week. When salad and juicing greens are washed, I shred/chop them up into bite size pieces and store. This prep work ahead of time makes the task seem all that less daunting mid week, when I would usually dread rinsing and chopping greens to make a salad. For some odd reason the chore of cooking and eating produce seems less like a chore when the prep work is done this way.

Keep in mind that sometimes, shopping for or prepping my produce happens before I’ve even meal planned. If I happen to the farmer’s market early Sunday morning after church, before I’ve had a chance to meal plan for the week, I will pick up what looks most beautiful and what offers the best value, and meal plan based off my findings. IMG_5799

IMG_5819 MAKE FOODS THAT MAKE MY LIFE EASIER
Prepping entire meals, besides casserole dishes and even lasagnas, often feels like a daunting task which requires hours of strategic planning, time I don’t seem to have. So instead, I find the most useful and least resentful use of my time is to prep simple items which take up bits of valuable time and money throughout the week, and leave me vulnerable to eating crappy replacements. So I love to prep simple breakfast items, like Quinoa Granola, snacks like these Carrot Cake Energy Bites, beverages like iced tea and orange juice and grinding coffee beans ahead of time. Simple proteins that reheat well, like Baked Chicken Nuggets or meatballs, are a great food to make in batches, and I also may make big batches of grains like quinoa or freekeh, and put beans or brown rice to soak, or make pantry necessities like stocks and breadcrumbs. Like I said, it fluctuates based on our weekly needs. By setting out to make foods like this, I can also make them here and there throughout the week, as I find the time. If I wake extra early one morning, I may put some veggies to roast, or set up a crock of beans to simmer while I’m home in the morning. IMG_5836

Food prep doesn’t have to happen all at once, but can be tackled throughout the week as you find the time.

SET REMINDERS TO THAW FOODS DURING THE WEEK
Despite my best planning and cooking, let’s be real, some foods just taste better when cooked fresh, while others seem to get better after sitting for a day or two. I love a roasted chicken straight out of the oven instead of reheating one stuck to all sorts of bits of gelatinous goo. Roasts also seem to taste better when eaten right away, and tend to dry out the more you reheat them. So with this in mind, when cooking from my freezer stockpile I try to do my best to take out foods to thaw in the morning, or the night before, writing myself reminder notes or setting alarms on my phone. This could include meats, stocks, beans and other sauces. Of course most thawing can be sped up with a water bath and forgetfulness often leads to this method, but it’s nice to not feel so rushed.

While food prepping in huge batches seems to work quite well for some people, and is even better suited for certain processes like canning and preserving, I personally prefer to spend some upfront planning time over the weekend, make a few easy food items, and then cook here and there throughout the week when I’m already in the kitchen.

The idea is to make your time in the kitchen count for something more than just the meal you’re preparing.  IMG_5809

This concept has been one of the most liberating and genius ways of cooking, I’ve learned over the past year. Inspired mainly by Tamar Adler in her book An Everlasting Meal, this idea of cooking came about with one simple paragraph from her book:

“It almost always makes sense, if you’ve bought a slew of vegetables, to cook more than you need for a given meal. If you can muster it, you should go ahead and cook vegetables you’re not even planning to use that night. The chapter “How to Stride Ahead” explains how and why to cook a lot of vegetables at once, then transform them into meals on subsequent days. In it, I recommend roasting because you can fit a lot in your oven at one time and the go do other things. But while you have a pot of water boiling and are standing near it, let it do you proud.”

With this in mind, a few food ideas to cook both on the stove top and in the oven.

GREAT FOODS TO PREP ON THE STOVE TOP
If I’ve set a big pot of water to boil some vegetables like potatoes, I love to dig through my fridge and find others to cook as well. Start with lighter vegetables like cauliflower, then move your way towards darker and more starchy vegetables, adding water as needed, and salt too. What you’re left with in the end is flavorful water that leaves remnants of good taste on each subsequent vegetable it encounters. By the end, if you’re boiling pasta or potatoes, these starchy foods will be well salted and flavorful, needing less butter or oil to make them rich.

If your water isn’t left too starchy, you can add some vegetable trimmings, some more salt and pepper, and simmer some vegetable stock to keep on hand.

Since you already have one pot of boiling water going that you have to watch, boil another smaller pot and cook up hard boiled eggs, or toss in a ripe bunch of tomatoes and blanch to peel the skins, leaving you with the perfect start for Scarpetta’s spaghetti sauce.

Now that you have quarts of stock on hand, you can whip up a simple soup on the stove any day of the week.

Saute a vegetable and potato hash in a big stove top batch, or even ground meat, and keep in the fridge to add to meals here and there as needed. Ground turkey or beef is great for impromptu taco nights, and vegetable medleys like the one from these Vegetable Quesadillas are great scrambled in eggs or served cold on top of salads. The possibilities for the stove top are endless. IMG_5811

GREAT FOODS TO PREP IN THE OVEN
Most of the yummy foods we love to eat cook up in the oven at the 400 degree range. When baking, you need to be precise with your temperatures, but when roasting, I tend to let my oven fluctuate 25 degrees and adjust cooking time from there. So if I know my oven will be roasting a chicken at 425 for the next 60-90 minutes, I’ll set up some vegetables to roast along with them, even though I usually roast those at 400, and shorten their standard cooking time by 5-15 minutes, tasting and poking my way through the process. The idea is to get bold, creative and courageous in batch cooking.

You can poke some holes in beets or sweet potatoes and set them straight on the rack, allowing them to roast for an hour or so.

Dice up squashes, onions and peppers, toss with olive oil and salt & pepper, and place on a baking sheet to cook for 20 minutes or so.

Since you have your baking sheet out, dig through your pantry and put stale bed to bake for croutons or breadcrumbs.

Meatballs are wonderful baked in the oven and avoid oil splatters all over your stove top. I will be sharing a new recipe I came up with over the weekend, which subs out breadcrumbs for almond meal, for those of you watching your wheat/gluten intake.

Again, the possibilities in your oven are just as endless as they are on the stove.

Thinking and cooking this way takes just a bit of practice, but very soon you’ll have the hang of it and will be tackling food prep bits and pieces at a time, leaving yourself feeling triumphant and slightly less exhausted.

There’s not a whole lot of method to my madness, so it’s hard to detail a set routine I follow each and every week. It’s partial planning on my part, primarily making sure I have good food on hand to cook, and partial spontaneous, cooking things as I find the time.

Some weeks I fail miserably and find myself digging through the pantry for munchies or hitting up Chipotle, a little more than I’d like. Those weeks and days are usually a result of over-scheduling though, and not a result of me not knowing what or how to cook. There is a big difference. I allow myself grace and you should too. But with grace comes an awareness that I can always do better the next week, and so I set out to get back on track, an ebb and flow pattern that I’m sure many of you can relate to.

So this is how I cook and meal prep each week. A little chaotic at times, but it works for me and leaves me feeling like less of a slave to my kitchen since I spend bits of time in it each day. Do you meal prep or cook in batch? If so, how does that process work for you and do you have any other tips and advice to share? Would love to know how and where I can improve.



Vegetable Quesadillas

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Sauteed Vegetable Quesadillas While we’ve been progressively cutting down on our meat consumption over the last year, sticking with vegetarian meals for at least 3-4 nights a week, the concept of Meatless Mondays is still relatively new to my parents, especially my dad. Mondays happen to be the day they come over and help watch the kids while I run errands and do some work. It’s been that way for years now, and it’s a consistent routine we all look forward to each week, most especially my parents I think. They stay on for dinner each week, and my mom and I usually gather in the kitchen around 5 o’clock and cook a meal together, while my dad tries to manage watching over 3 kids. It sounds quite serene I’m sure, but my mom and I are often passing off Hayden back and forth since papa doesn’t have quite the same soothing touch of either of us, while we take turns telling my dad not to get the older two kids so riled up. In other words, its chaos, but for some reason we seem to enjoy it and keep coming back for more and more.

For years I made sure to plan our Monday meals centered around some sort of beef dish, since my dad is your typical meat and potatoes guy, even turning his nose up at  pork, and scoffing at chicken. This makes him sound quite ornery and picky I’m sure, but he’s not, he just really loves his red meat. But red meat isn’t all that great for his cholesterol, especially when he’s having it most other days of the week. So for the past couple of months, my mom and I have been making it a point to enforce Meatless Mondays, which as it turns out, is a concept enacted during WWI, a fact I just discovered when researching the history of my new vintage “don’t waste food” print. While my mother and I stand together in the view that our husbands will eat whatever food we cook for them, and indeed they do, we do strive to make these vegetarian meals interesting and delicious, to help show my father how good meatless meals can be. And to show him that one can actually feel full without meat. Side story, my dad recently attended his nephew’s wedding. My uncle and his family follow the Seventh Day Adventist religion, therefore are vegetarians. When he returned from the wedding we talked a bit about the vegetarian food he ate while there and in response to their diet he exclaimed, “They look like they’re surviving!” As if one must eat meat to survive. My dad, he’s a funny guy. Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

All this to introduce you to these amazing vegetable quesadillas we whipped up the other night. I had just received a produce delivery box, bursting at the seams with produce fit for a Mexican feast, and so quesadillas and tacos it was, topped with fresh pico de gallo salsa. Syd to no surprise, was the only one who scoffed at the vegetable mix, but everyone else including the baby and my father, absolutely loved it. I made quesadillas for the family and left mine as simple tacos, topped with a bit of goat cheese. Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quesadillas The vegetable mix made for a wonderful addition to scrambled eggs the next morning, and I even had a tiny bit left to add to a halved avocado, sitting atop a bed of lettuce for lunch. If you’re skipping dairy, feel free to do as I did and just use the mix for tacos, but if you can handle some cheese, you won’t regret eating this as a quesadilla (I know, because I stole a bite or two off Art’s plate when he wasn’t looking.) IMG_5754

Vegetable Quesadillas
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Savory and delicious vegetable quesadillas make a healthy main meal for Meatless Mondays.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ears of fresh corn, shaved off the cob
  • 2 Mexican squash, diced
  • 1 Pasilla chile, seeded and diced
  • 1 garlic glove, diced
  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • 5-6 basil leaves, julienned
  • 4 ounce log of goat cheese and about 1 cup of jack cheese, shredded
  • 6 whole wheat or sprouted grain tortillas
Instructions
  1. Sauté the corn, chili, squash and garlic in the olive oil, over medium heat. Add in a dash of salt and grind of pepper, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost done, about 5-7 minutes. Add in spinach and basil and cook till wilted. To assemble your quesadillas, heat a pan or grill and add a slick of olive oil to coat. Add a scoop of the vegetable mixture, and a bit of each cheese, enough to help the tortillas stick together, but not so much that it overtakes the wonderful vegetables. I found about 4 drops of goat cheese and ¼ cup of jack cheese was plenty. Fold tortilla in half and grill on each side for about 3 minutes, until browned and cheese is melted.

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DIY Repurposed Skateboard With Rust-Oleum ® Universal® Spray Paint

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DIY-Skateboard-Deck-1
Let me preface this DIY post by saying that I love our home, or rather, I’ve grown to love it. I think it’s pretty and relaxed, and contains some nice pieces of furniture throughout. Not “nice” in terms of expensive, but pieces which we thoughtfully considered and now fit in our home perfectly. In terms of home decor though, many days I feel like it lacks a certain sense of personality. In many ways, I think it lacks a dose of “us.” We are not one of those well-traveled families who collect pieces of antiquity or unique works of art on our many adventures, bringing them back home to proudly display, telling the tale of all our adventures. Most of the artwork isn’t really artwork, just pictures of our family, and nick-knacks are just that, items I’ve picked up at Home Goods or random little stores. There isn’t usually much of a story to tell, or fond memory attached. In some ways I suppose it keeps us from hoarding due to sentimentality, but in many ways it means the belongings contained within can be plopped down in someone else’s home across the country and it wouldn’t seem the least bit out of place.

Enter this skateboard DIY. You may already know we have a certain fondness for skateboards, and may recall this swing DIY we did last summer. That skateboard swing is indeed one of the funnest pieces we have, and so in that vain and inspired by this home tour, I decided to re-purpose my husband’s old skateboard from high school and make it into a piece we could display somewhere in our home. He’s quite attached to that old skateboard, and while he doesn’t ride it much as the wheels and bearings are shot to hell, he can’t seem to part with it. And so it sits in our garage, often in the most inconvenient of places, waiting for someone to come along and do a slip and slide and break their neck! So my intentions with re-purposing this skateboard was as much about holding on to sentimentality, as it was to save a life. IMG_5675 A quick consult from my guy to get his approval, and we decided that while we wanted to maintain the original integrity of the board, with it’s marks and grooves from all his years skating planters, it could use with some nice new wheels and bearings. We also decided to remove the trucks and try to give them a cleaning, and of course before I painted the deck I had to give it a nice sand down.

Supplies Needed:
Old skateboard deck
Rust-Oleum ® Universal® Spray Paint
Painter’s tape and paper
Sand paper
Optional – new wheels and bearings and rust remover to clean up trucks
IMG_5677 IMG_5678 Begin by removing all the hardware from the board, and then giving it a quick but thorough sanding. Wipe clean and set your nuts and bolts to soak in your rust remover, if you really want to give it a makeover. By the way, your eyes don’t deceive you, that is Pamela Anderson sporting a bikini top and lace undies, underneath all those scratches. To say this board needed a makeover is an understatement. IMG_5680 IMG_5681 Once your board is prepped, simply mark off the design you want to start with. Because I wanted to make this board look fresh and new, I gave it a couple of all-over coats with white spray paint first, and then painted the bright colors over the white. No need to prime first, as the Rust-Oleum ® Universal® Spray Paint is paint and primer in one. IMG_5684 IMG_5687 I started with painting the edges of the board orange, and then once dry, I taped off a wide stripe in the middle, to paint yellow. I didn’t think the yellow would spray outside the blue tape, but it did. It turns out I loved the faint sprays of yellow on the outer edges, but if you want a really clean look, then make sure to not cut corners like I did, and use paper and paint. Make sure to keep babies away from your board if still wet. Luckily his animal parade didn’t mess anything up.  IMG_5688 IMG_5691 I loved the look of the yellow, orange and white together, so decided to leave it as-is and skip the blue. We put the trucks and new wheels back on after the deck had completely dried, and then decided that it did indeed need a pop of blue to tie in with the blue on the wheels. IMG_5704 Once the paint was all dry, you’re pretty much done! I searched for the perfect home for the board. I love it where it is, but so do the kids, and they are drawn to it like moths on a flame. I’ve already had to tell them to stop riding it in the house about 10 times since they got home from school. I’m thinking that the perfect home for this would actually be hanging on a wall, out of anyone’s reach. I really love the idea of hanging it in the boy’s room, once we move them in together this summer. IMG_5746 There’s a part of me that wishes the large divots in the center of the board could have been better filled in, but I know how much Art loves seeing them there, like a badge of honor from lots of years of riding hard. I get it, so they stay, and my ideas of perfection are tossed aside. IMG_5741 We love the new look of this old board, and love even more that it’s a piece of decor in our home, which actually has a story to tell, which actually means something to us. While I never was much into riding skateboards, I always loved skater boys, and when Art and I met all thsoe years ago, I loved that he rode skateboards, snowboarded and even knew how to surf. So rad. And now we have that radness on display, to always remind us of our fun days of young. IMG_5742

Rust-Oleum Universal Logo
Rust-Oleum ® Universal® Spray Paints offer a variety of on-trend colors and unique finishes, and boast the first-of-its-kind 360 degree any-angle delivery system that allows DIYers to tackle those hard to reach areas, even upside down.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Rust-Oleum® via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Rust-Oleum®.



Life Lately

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IMG_5555 Photos we’ve taken lately that I love. Unrelated, all from different places and events, but sweet pictures that capture their personalities so perfectly. IMG_5563 A photo shoot for a DIY, my girl is both playful and shy in front of the camera. After these she ran off to play handball, declaring the shoot done. IMG_5568 IMG_5569 Water play at the Phoenix Zoo when we visited my friend Lea and her family. There are some cute shots of her 2 year old daughter raising up her dress to get tickled by the water, flashing everyone in the process. Cutest thing ever. IMG_5338 IMG_5320 IMG_5319 IMG_5087 IMG_5091 Every Monday I take Hayden to Gymboree and the bubbles are his favorite part. Imagine his delight when his two sweet cousins put on a bubble show just for him. IMG_5099 IMG_5100 IMG_5101 IMG_5102 Life is hectic and chaotic, and I don’t use my camera as often as I should, but even if I don’t take another photo the rest of the year, these represent 2014 for us just fine. Related, isn’t it funny how few photos each of us has of our childhood, in comparison to now a days? Film was expensive and tedious, so they took few photos but made them count, and we treasure those, don’t we? Do you think our kids will be less appreciative of their childhood photos, in this age of digital? Since they were born, we’ve captured at least 7,000 photos each year. What on earth will we do with all these? Imagine our kids trying to sort through them when we’re dead and gone? Not to be morbid, but really, they may all hate us for the task we’ve presented them with! Something to think about on teh months I only capture 100 photos of them ha!



30 Day Yoga Challenge

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A few months back now, I was offered an opportunity to try out a newer yoga studio in Newport Beach. While it was 30+ minutes away, something in me told me I should try it out anyhow. So I trekked into class, a little unsure what to expect since it had been years since I had done yoga, and the last time I had practiced I found myself in a crowded gym class, bored out of my mind. I was going into this surprisingly open-minded though.

Fast forward 3 months, and I found myself signing up for a 30 day yoga challenge in a studio much closer to home. The experience in Newport Beach had indeed been so positive that it had crushed a lot of my previously held notions about yoga, including it not being challenging enough, and being too spiritual and woo-woo. The classes I took were intense yet strangely relaxing, and the instructors played a variety of music that let their own unique personalities shine through, always ending with a very powerful and positive message. I suddenly understood why so many people loved yoga.

photo Today I completed that 30 day yoga challenge, and practiced 22 days out of the 30, for a total of 1,560 minutes. I had originally planned on going for 20 classes, and then after practicing 13 days in a row, I had a crazy idea that I could maybe even take 30 classes. After completing my 3rd week, I took a few days off though because I found my muscles tightening up on me rather than loosening, a sign they were being over-stretched. After taking a few days off, I went in the past few days and finished strong, feeling very powerful in the last 3 classes I’ve taken.

The studio I practice at codes their classes by color, not the type of yoga you’re practicing, so when often ask what type of classes I was taking, I just replied, “The hard kind.” I mostly did what would best be described as vinyasa, and I took an equal combination of room temperature and heated classes. In all classes I sweated buckets and left feeling stretched and stronger than when I had stepped in. If you think you’ll fall asleep in yoga, I promise you’re not taking the right class. Also, if you get a great workout, take a look at the physical changes in my body after just 1 week. While there hasn’t been much change in my midsection after that first week, I notice that my arms are dramatically more toned and leaner, and my legs are more tone and firm.

Yoga requires patience and consistency I’m soon learning. In just 30 days I notice subtle yet important changes in my postures, and am able to move a lot easier than before. I am by no means doing handstands or contorting into dramatic postures, but the small changes are meaningful to me and encourage me to keep going. There was a woman next to me holding side crow for what seemed like several minutes, as I struggled to balance into regular crow for just 2 seconds. I asked her how long it took her to achieve that position and she simply replied, “years.” Like I said, patience. And consistent practice.

I’m proud of myself for sticking with this challenge and achieving my goal. I have had a hard time getting really motivated to exercise consistently since Hayden was born, but this challenge seemed like just the thing I needed to get me going. If you’re struggling a little with finding a form of exercise you enjoy and are motivated to get to, don’t give up and be open to trying new and different things. Let the judgments and preconceived notions go, and you may just find what you’ve been looking for.

In other 30 day challenges, a few things to catch up on for the Andrea Made Me Do It 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge.

A private Facebook group has been started and now has close to 400 members. You DO NOT need to join this group to join the challenge. As a matter of fact you don’t need to sign up for anything to join in the challenge, you just have to do it! To help hold yourself accountable though, and to get encouragement, recipe ideas, or ask questions, you can join in on social media either through Instagram. The hashtag to see all the posts is #andreamademedoit. Or to join the Facebook group, visit this link and ask to join! I have been accepting requests almost as soon as they pop up so if you want in, just request to join. It has been a great place to post questions and follow really interesting comment threads, without having to do it all on IG.

We have also started a group Pinterest board you can follow along and contribute to. I also have my own Clean Eating Pinterest board you can follow, which I will most likely pin to most.

So I never really talked about my personal goals for this challenge, did I? As you guys know, I already eat pretty clean, so what could I improve? Well, there’s always room for improvement right? I am cutting back drastically on my potato chip/crunchy snack habit, and I am cutting down on drinking alcohol of any kind to just 1 day a week. The chips thing isn’t a huge disastrous vice, I realize, especially because I eat pretty minimally processed chips which contain few ingredients. But they are still fried, and they replace an opportunity for me to have a really satisfying and healthy snack. Plus, they just fuel my mindless snacking urges. I eat a fistful of chips, and am rarely full, but just hungry for more. The drinking thing is another vice that, when I’m not mindful, has become another vice that leaves me feeling less than stellar. It’s easy to get into this habit of having a glass of wine to unwind for the night, and before you know it, you’re pouring another half a glass or two, which ignites your snack cravings, and then you’re eating chips and drinking wine, waking up feeling sluggish and just blah. Or is that just me? I love my wine and occasional spirit, and will never cut them out, but I can definitely cut back a bit. Right now, I drink on average 4 nights a week, but would like to keep that at no more than 2 nights per week.

So who’s in the challenge with me, and so far, how’s it going? I can’t wait to see the progress we can make over the next 30 days! It’s not too late to join in. Scared or don’t know where to start? Visit these 2 links for the low-down on the challenge! The lowdown on the challenge, and the clean eating swapping guide.



Athleta Must-Haves & Event Details

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While my interests may have heavily swerved left into health and wellness this past year, my foot is still firmly planted in my love for fashion and clothes. You can only imagine my absolute excitement when I was contacted by Athleta to collaborate on a store event at their Fashion Island location. To say I did a few jumping jacks is an understatement. Following are the event details, and I sure hope some of you can make it next week! Andrea Howe and Athleta I visited the store this past week and walked their new collections, and tried on a ton of merchandise to get a feel for the sizing and what looked best together. While I was there I ran into a good friend shopping for a suit, and another friend texted me when she learned I was there, to show me what items she had just received in the mail from Athleta. It makes me so happy knowing that people I love already love this product, and makes me even more thrilled and honored to partner with them. I’ve been receiving their catalog for a couple of months now and was happy to finally get the opportunity to try on some of the items I had been eyeing. I was hard pressed to narrow it down to these, out of about 40 items I took into the dressing room, but these are my absolute favorites I tried on while there.  Athleta-Top-Picks 1. Shiva Tank (one of the most flattering tees I’ve worn in a very long time. Nice and long and super lightweight, fits more like a muscle tee than a tank. I’ll be wearing this in white, with the Aspire Ankle Pant for the event.)  2. Shiva Shimmer Tank (same flattering and cute tank as the Shiva, but with a light shimmer to the fabric. I did notice that this ran larger than the regular Shiva, so size down.) 3. Shiva Stripe Top 3  is another great lightweight shirt, but the long sleeves make it ideal for chilly summer nights and spring days. It is slightly sheer but not too sheer, looks fine with a regular bra.) Paired with the Up Tempo Tie Dye Bra (this sports bra is great for all ranges of workouts, especially floor and yoga type workouts. Best part is, it has a removable padding like in bathing suits, so those of us who are smaller chested don’t feel so smashed down as with the case of a regular sports bra! I wore it this morning to yoga and found it to be very comfortable.) 4. Malti Maxi Dress (I actually got this in black to serve as an all purpose easy dress to run around in. It comes with a self-bra so no need to mess with a strapless and is super flattering on, especially for the arms and shoulders!) 5. Printed Tee Racerback Dress (comes in a variety of solid colors as well as this print and a cute nautical stripe in navy. Fits a bit large so size down, and is very flattering.) 6. Laser Cut Go Time Tank (lightweight silky feel with a flattering hi-lo cut perfect for lighter weight workouts or going out!)  7. Foil Chaturanga Capri (these are super fun with a shiny foil brush wash finish. Very comfortable for yoga, studio work or weight lifting.) 8. Aspire Ankle Pant (these pants are beyond amazing! So comfortable, easy to clean, don’t wrinkle, nice and lightweight, super flattering and cute zipper detail at the pockets. Shirring can be worn undone as an ankle pant or cinched up as a capri. I’ll be wearing these to the event!) 9. Andale Pant (another pant from the City Collection that is full length and super flattering on. Unfortunately they didn’t have my size in the gray so I didn’t get them, but they fit well and true to size.)

Athleta Fashion Island is located at 1071 Newport Center Drive Newport Beach, CA 92660 949-717-6650

The event will run from 1-3 pm, with the option to stay going till 4 if it’s hopping. They will be passing out Luna Bars, Nektar Juice Bar juices, and there will be a free gift with purchase. Please email me or leave a comment if you are planning to come. I will be on hand to help style you in some great workout or lifestyle wear, and will be able to answer any clean eating questions you may have. I’m so excited to meet some of you, or say hi to familiar faces too!