Breakfast Bites

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These little egg muffins are as good for a fancy brunch as for microwaving every morning for a week to get a quick nutritious breakfast. I could sing the praises of these beautiful bites, but the proof is in the tasting, just make them, they’re too easy! The inspiration for these are based on this recipe by Iowa Girl Eats (awesome food blog).

  • 1 c chopped green onions
  • 1 c chopped zucchini or summer squash (squeeze out excess moisture)
  • 1 c chopped low sodium ham
  • 1 c low fat shredded cheese (cheddar or pepper jack is best)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 c egg whites
  • 1 1/2 c cooked quinoa
  • hot sauce to taste (we love Peach Serrano)
  • 1/2 t sage
  • 1/2 t parsley

Mix it all up, and put in mini muffin tins (preferably silicone) with a very, very light spritz of olive oil. Bake on 450 for 15-20 minutes, until the edges become golden brown. Makes about 4 dozen mini muffins. I have used fat free cheese as well, and at this temperature it actually does melt just fine. My top choice is Cabot sharp extra light or jalapeno (both 75% reduced fat).

Marvel Comics Care Package

Marvel Care Package Contents

Ranger loves helping pack boxes–and he’s learning to be photogenic!

I happened to collect a bunch of Marvel/Avengers themed goodies on clearance just before DH’s bachelor party, and thankfully, most of the items in their hangover bags were returned unused, unneeded. So, candy, bandages, compressed wash clothes, etc, feature Captain America, the Hulk, all the favorites. And, after my pinned link for a Hulk care package has been so wildly popular, I decided to make one of my own. This box includes workout support like: jerky, shake powder, nuts, fish oil, power bars, vitamin C drink mix and instant Starbucks coffee. There are some other requested items too, especially sunscreen, baby wipes, pencils, led lights, and crystal lite. I should have sent batteries, but forgot…oops! As always, I collect the Sunday comments to line the bottom of the box, and decorate the flaps. Not my best decorating job, but keep an eye out for the football season opener and Halloween boxes, I just got the paper for them and they’re going to look sweet.

Captain America flapHulk Flap decor

Nourishing No Bake Chocolate Cheesecakes

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  • 4 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 c hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 t high quality gelatin
  • 1/3 c pasteurized egg whites
  • 2/3 c plain or vanilla greek yogurt, prepared
  • 2/3 c raw sugar
  • 1/4 c  Benefiber
  • 1 t vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • Chocolate wafer cookies

At least a full day before you plan to make this, leave 2/3 of a cup plain greek yogurt open, covered with a paper towel or cheese cloth to let some moisture evaporate out of it (this will make it more similar to cream cheese). Dissolve the gelatin in coffee, and microwave chocolate in a microwave safe mixing bowl about 45 seconds until mostly melted. Whisk gelatin mixture into chocolate and add sugar. Continue to whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add egg whites, yogurt, and salt, and whip. Place wafer cookies (I used Keebler fudge strip cookies) in the bottom of small pyrex cups, or if the wafers are slightly smaller you can use muffin cups. Cover with filling mix and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

It won’t taste sinful or decadent. But, you can eat it without feeling a little sick after only a sliver. I love a good, rich, dense chocolate cheesecake, but I can only eat a few bites before I feel ill these days, my body isn’t used to eating that way anymore. So, I like this recipe because it’s lighter but still silky, sweet and a little tangy, chocolaty without being rich.

Serves 4

Nutrition Info per serving (151 g): Calories-308, Fat-16 g, Carbs- 52g, Fiber- 9g, Protein- 11g Also: 17% of your daily calcium, 26% magnesium,  27% of your iron, 35% copper, and 56% manganese

*These are my best calculations by nutritiondata.self.com based on the exact amounts of ingredients and brands that I used. You should always calculate for yourself.

For comparison, according to Fitday.com, your average 150 g of chocolate cheesecake has:  Calories- 589.9, Fat-37.7 g, Carbs- 57.4g, Fiber- 2.2g, Protein- 9.7g and FIVE times the sodium!

Wedding Blessing Basket

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Books, candle, coffee mug, cross, screwdriver, massage oil, Bible

This basket was a labor of love for my beautiful sister-in-law and her wonderful new husband, who just recently embarked on a crazy little adventure called dual military marriage. I’m sharing it because I couldn’t find anything like this, and I hope it makes a good starting place for others with vague ideas of doing something like it. Please don’t just copy it, it’s not meant to be a project tutorial. Put thought into the bride and groom’s taste and your own wishes for them and make it unique. There are so many ways you could represent the lines of this blessing, or another blessing (feel free to comment if you have ideas for other representations, and the best is when some things in their registry fit the bill). A sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace; DH and I wanted this gift to be a tangible sign of an intangible benediction. Its meaning comes from the piece of yourself you pour into it.

With DH deployed and unable to be home for his baby sister’s wedding, we decided it was really important to give them a significant, meaningful gift. He suggested tying gifts to a little rhyme like our friends did for us. So I looked in books and searched google and scoured pinterest for ideas, poems, quotes, but there were so few good ideas, and the message that stuck out in my mind was the Gaelic blessing my maid of honor toasted us with at our wedding, which had been so touching to us:

Slainte go saol agat, Bean ar do mhian agat.
Leanbh gach blian agat, is solas na bhflaitheas tareis antsail seo agat!

Health for life to you, a wife of your choice to you,
Land without rent to you, a child every year to you,
And the light of heaven after this world for you!

(I know what you’re thinking, and yes, the line about a child every year was met with roars of laughter and yelps of “Irish twins!!” So, like good Catholics, we left it as is and prayed that God has mercy and my sister in law has a sense of humor)

So after some conversation, we came up with small gifts in support of each aspect of the blessing:

  • Health: a phenomenal cook book by a holistic health nutritionist and a cute couples yoga book.
  • Wife: massage oils from The Body Shop and a book on military marriage and separation. I also included a monogram coffee mug with the quote from Proverbs: “A good name is more desirable than great riches” to signify her new name.
  • Land: for their first home, a cross and some picture hangers, and a screwdriver set.
  • Children: a gag book called Safe Baby Handling Tips (with handy “whose turn is it?” spinner), but the real gift is an IOU for a hand made baby blanket. Once they decide to start a family and settle on a nursery theme, we can look at patterns and colors and I’ll get to work.
  • Light: a leather family bible with pages to record christenings, weddings, funerals, etc, with the family name embossed across the bottom. Also a candle, to be literally a light in their home.

Then we wrote tags to go on the items in the basket, with big brotherly wisdom one side and scripture affirming it on the other. It’s just laser printed on good paper, and then glued to pretty scrapbook paper, folded, and tied with 1/8″ gold ribbon. Below is an example, and then the text of each of them.

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A wife of your choice for you

N. (groom), take good care of your wife and she will always be your greatest blessing. N. (bride), bless the crap out of him.

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She is clothed with strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come. “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” -Proverbs 31

Good health for life for you

The Army will take a toll on your bodies and minds, and your health is precious. Hopefully these gifts support you in all forms of health: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” -Jeremiah 33:6

Land without rent for you

Home is where your heart is, wherever you go, no matter how many times you move. Here are some things to help make each home you inhabit a pleasure and a sanctuary.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  -Matthew 7:24

A child a year for you

Okay, maybe not that many…but children are an incredible blessing when the time is right. We’ll look forward patiently to being Uncle and Aunt!

“Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.” -Psalm 112

The light of heaven after this world for you

And when our work is done, our course on earth is run, may it be said, ‘Well Done; Be Thou At Peace.’ May this Bible give you endurance to run your course and keep your eyes on the light.
“I will deliver them and honor them.With long life I will satisfy them and show them my salvation.” -Psalm 91

I had to stack it on the Bible which wouldn’t fit in the basket, but I liked the symbolism that all the other gifts are “grounded” so to speak, on God. Then, I tied it all up with gold shimmer tulle and purple ribbon, because purple was one of their wedding colors, and I enjoyed the theological significance of purple, the color of royalty, and the marriage blessing that invokes such vivid imagery.

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“…By the power of your Holy Spirit, pour out the abundance of your blessing upon this man and this woman. Defend them from every enemy. Lead them into all peace. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads.  Bless them in their work and in  their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking; in their joys and in their sorrows; in their life and in their death…” Amen.

Nourishing No Bake Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes

[In Progress]

I am still tweaking this recipe, so I’m putting it out now for feedback. I will update it next weekend with pretty photos of the next batch and incorporating suggestions from anyone who wants to test it out.

  • 4 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 c hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 t high quality gelatin
  • 1/3 c pasteurized egg whites
  • 1/2 c plain or vanilla greek yogurt, drain liquid
  • 2/3 c raw sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • Chocolate wafer cookies

Dissolve gelatin in coffee, and microwave chocolate in a microwave safe mixing bowl about 45 seconds until mostly melted. Whisk gelatin mixture into chocolate and add sugar. Continue to whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add egg whites, yogurt, and salt, and whip. Place wafer cookies (I used Keebler fudge strip cookies) in the bottom of small pyrex cups, or if the wafers are slightly smaller you can use muffin cups. Cover with filling mix and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

It won’t taste sinful or decadent. But, you can eat it without feeling a little sick after only a sliver. I love a good, rich, dense chocolate cheesecake, but I can only eat a few bites before I feel ill these days, my body isn’t used to eating that way anymore. So, I like this recipe because it’s lighter but still silky, sweet and a little tangy, chocolaty without being rich.

On idea I am going to try is leaving 1 full cup of greek yougurt covered in cheesecloth or a paper towel in the fridge for a few days ahead of time to remove further moisture and make it closer to cream cheese. I will also try adding vanilla extract or orange liqueur. I will also tweak the sugar levels. Again, if anyone wants to experiment and report back, I welcome comments!

Serves: 4

Care Package Bonus

I don’t know if anyone was waiting with bated breath for the promised post about the last item in DH’s birthday care package. He finally received and opened the package, so now I can share my (IMHO) awesome idea.

You may know of a few places that print custom photo pillowcases. So, since I certainly miss being able to see DH’s face when I go to sleep and wake up, I designed a pillow case with a message, our bed time prayer, and a pin up photo of yours truly in sepia. You can see enough to get the idea…

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I highly recommend using Walgreens photo. Walmart is much cheaper but they kept cropping it wrong despite the confirmation looking correct. Walgreens periodically has a 40% off photo gifts coupon that makes it a very reasonable gift and the pillowcase is a nice soft knit.

“Guide us waking, O Lord

And guard us sleeping

That awake we may watch with Christ

And asleep we may rest in peace.”

Gelatin Experiment Day 2

Tonight, I pigged out, and I don’t feel even a little bad. I inserted my caffeine drip and spent nearly all day on the victory garden and landscaping. I have an embarassingly well defined farmers tan going now, I think I’m going to start gardening in a bikini before it gets any worse. I did come in at high noon to keep from burning while I prepped some pumpkin seeds for planting and checked some small tasks off my now full page single spaced to-do list. I planted roma tomatoes, onions and garlic slow bolt organic cilantro and dill for pickling, staked the peppers, pruned the tomatoes, cut back the lettuce and gave the saplings a deep watering. I’m very excited for the slow watering ring that is hopefully arriving tomorrow, because I know they are not getting an optimal amount of water. I sprayed everything down with neem oil again because the japanese beetles are so out of control, and it seems to be doing the job. So far, I have harvested 3 summer squash, 3 tomatoes, 3 marconi peppers, 2 baby bell peppers, and tons of basil and rosemary. It was a long day.

harvest 1

So, since I forgot lunch, for dinner I made sourdough rye pizza crust with barbecue sauce, brie, mozzarella, bacon, onions, and shredded grilled chicken thigh. It was delicious, and whole, and cheap. Then I froze the rest of yesterday’s chocolate pudding and threw it in the blender with some almond milk, some plain greek yogurt and the very dregs of a container of vanilla bean ice cream. It tasted so much like a frosty, just lightly chocolate and so thick I used a spoon to eat it, while watching my guilty pleasure: Bridezillas Marriage Bootcamp. The original show gets under my skin seeing these terrible people hurting each other around what should be such a joyous and blessed, unselfish day. The spin off, about these females and the dudes who chose them facing home truths about their relationships, is fascinating from a mental health perspective. It’s also trashy enough that it doesn’t feel like being at work (although words like borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, enabling and denial do float through my mind). Pizza, milkshake, and a show…it’s almost like a date, but with myself.

Natural leavening pizza crust

Sourdough rye pizza crust with brie, chicken bbq sauce, bacon and onions

Gelatin Experiment

pudding

Some days, I get totally caught up in researching a new health trend I read about, looking for the people who claim it is not actually a miracle, citing studies it is not actually safe, etc. If I don’t find any cause for grave concern and enough people are saying it personally makes a difference for them, I’m game to give it a quasi-scientific shot. Today’s curiosity: gelatin.

In short: Gelatin is made from boiling bones, which extracts the collagen. Collagen is what makes our skin supple and elastic. I’ve seen people claim it helps with hair and nails too, but they are made of keratin, so I’m a little skeptical about that. The collagen in gelatin has been hydrolysed (chemically altered by water), another reason to be skeptical. However, it is also an inexpensive, low fat protein and it really can’t hurt anything. So, I’m going to try including 1t of gelatin into my diet daily for 8 weeks and see what comes of it. I’m just hitting that age where my skin is a little less smooth, a little less elastic, and anything that promises to slow down cellulite is worth a shot, especially if it costs so little and makes really delicious recipes.

My first recipe is an adaption of a number of home made pudding recipes.

Almond Milk Gelatin Chocolate Pudding Recipe

  • 2 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate
  • 1 full scoop Garden of Life Chocolate Raw Meal Replacement (or 1 additional ounce bakers chocolate)
  • 2 packets of knox unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 c demerara/raw sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 t organic vanilla

In a sauce pan I heated the milk and chocolate, while whisking in the gelatin. The trick to home made pudding is whisking a lot, end of story. When the gelatin is well dissolved, about 2-3 minutes, add the salt, sugar, and chocolate powder (yes, I know cooking raw food stuff denatures a bunch of the goodness out of it, but honestly, the mix makes me gag, so I’ve been using it up in baking recipes, and it works great as a substitute for thickeners like flour or cornstarch in chocolate based recipes). Whisk on medium-low heat for another 4-5 minutes, then let cool, whisking occasionally and add vanilla extract, give it a good whisk, and chill, covered,  in the fridge for 2+ hours.

I am lovin’ this pudding. I would make it just as a wholesome dessert if it wasn’t part of my experiment. It actually came out so thick that I added a splash of french press coffee from this morning and it added such a nice depth of flavor (as coffee always does to chocolate). It does have a slight graininess from the powder which doesn’t bother me because it tastes a lot like brownie batter, but if you want a really silky luxurious pudding, I would go with a second square of baker’s chocolate instead. It’s also cheaper 😉

Hopefully soon my grass fed uber-duber gelatin will arrive and I can try it. I hear it’s worlds apart from regular knox, and it’s significantly more eco-friendly and less expensive in a jar than lots of little packets.

Preparing for a TV-less life

I cancelled our TV service. I did. Oh yes, Mediacom, I did the unlikely and voted with my pocketbook against your heinous monopoly. Just a hint: try to avoid lecturing customers on how your company has them over a barrel…it might just make them willing to leave at any cost. It’s worth every cent of the disconnection fee JUST to assert my freedom to choose. So we live in the boonies and there are no other options besides satellite…so what? I’ve lived without cable before. About a year ago actually, when I lived in Chicago and wasn’t willing to buy into Comcast’s evil media empire.

I know what you’re wondering–it wasn’t a temper tantrum that I will regret and call back tomorrow when I’ve cooled down. In fact, my only regret is that I should have run it by DH first, but he’s usually on the same page when I get indignant about bad business. And I did keep our internet. So far from family and friends, I can’t afford not to have semi-reliable (cough, worst connection ever) internet. So we have the networks and PBS, netflix, and a not-too shabby DVD collection. And the library. I’d rather read books and magazines. I’d rather do Sudoku, listen to music, swing in our new hammock, do an exercise video, knit, play scrabble online, write letters, sew, expand the garden. I’d rather do just about anything than feel trapped and powerless by the lack of convenient options.

So I took the inconvenient option. We are not powerless. The lack of an easy alternative is not an excuse to bow to monopolies or any form of bullying. Find the hard option. The more expensive option. The option to disengage, cancel, or reject their premise. The option to do without might just free your soul of a burden you didn’t know you were carrying. Without DH, I leave the tv on all the time and rarely watch it, just to feel less alone. It’s a terrible habit. It does nothing to enrich my soul, it just increases the noise in my mind and probably makes it harder to hear God. So, I’m about to very abruptly wean myself off this habit. I guess I could still keep PBS on in the background but I won’t.

My little conniption fit was a wake up call to something I’ve known for a while: DH and I will have an even stronger marriage spending a little less time watching Chopped reruns and Adult Swim and more time walking our dogs, playing scrabble, monopoly, risk, and croquet, enjoying cigars and bourbon on the deck with our friends, doing crosswords together. We’re nerds. We used to read magazines together like The Atlantic, and somewhere along the way that got lost when things got hectic. Unfortunately for DH, I may not want the TV back when he returns. The money we’re saving will more than pay for a night at our favorite B&B when he gets home, and maybe some honey dust.