Friday, April 26, 2013

Healthier green drinks--for St. Patrick's Day and every day!

I started this post right after I posted about our homemade shamrock shakes back in March.  I wanted to give you some healthier green alternatives to drink on St. Patty's Day and beyond.  I mean, shamrock shakes are yum, but they're not something one should consume every day.

Green smoothies, on the other hand, are also yum and a great way to sneak green leafy veggies into your diet. 

Have you heard of green smoothies?  So basically you take some green leafies, like spinach or kale, and blend them together with some sort of fruit, a liquid, and protein.  They're called green smoothies because they usually end up green in color, but I promise you, you cannot taste the green stuff.

If you're not feeling confident enough to just throw a bunch of stuff in the blender, go ahead and google it.  There are tons of great recipes out there.  To get you started, here's my favorite:


Green Monster Smoothie
Blend together
  • 2 handfuls of spinach (green leafies),
  • 2 Tbls peanut butter (protein--you can use any peanut butter, but Peanut Butter & Co.'s White Chocolate Wonderful is divine...and available at Target), and
  • about 1/2 c. unsweetened vanilla almond milk* (liquid--more or less to get desired consistency), until well combined. 
  • Add 1 banana that has been sliced and frozen (fruit) and blend until smooth. 
  • You could also add protein powder, ground flax or chia seeds to up the nutrition.
This makes a very filling meal or 2-3 snack portions.

* You can also make this with cow's milk or soy milk, or any kind of milk you like.  It's your smoothie, so make it how you want to.  I just think the almond milk tastes better.  You can also add non-fat vanilla or plain yogurt to up the protein and calcium.  Make it your own.

I know what you're thinking: but it's green!  And there are little green flecks in it (that's because my blender isn't very powerful).  I promise you, friends, it tastes like a banana peanut butter shake.  So yummy.

And because I started this post talking about shamrock shakes, here's a recipe for a Shamrock Shake green smoothie style from Hubby's cousin.  The blended banana acts like ice cream--this tastes creamy and minty just like the real ones, only better.

Blend together 1 frozen banana, 2/3 cup soy/almond milk, handful of spinach, 1/8 tsp peppermint extract.  She likes to add a little piece of a cacao chocolate bar and some stevia too.

Have you tried green smoothies?  What's your favorite?
Happy green smoothie-ing!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bored

Becoming increasingly annoyed by my boy's repeated insistence that he's bored and there's nothing to do (oy! and it's not even summer yet), and by his repeated rejection of all of my perfectly good and unboring suggestions, I gave him an ultimatum.
 
Son, if I hear you say ONE MORE TIME that you are bored or that there is nothing to do, I WILL GIVE YOU something to do. 
 
I know that doesn't sound like a threat, but you know it is, my friends.
 
And FINALLY, he gets it.  All on their own (I didn't even have to get the set out), the brothers built...
 A Rocket Ship!  And went on a trip to the moon.  Last I heard, they were collecting moon rocks, and finding the perfect hiding place for a moon pearl.

"We're so creative" --Bubby
"And we didn't even use the instructions" --MC

***********

And Hubby wanted me to show you this--he's so proud of himself.  His hangers are all back hanging the "right" way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 23

What a night.  It started around...well, I'm not sure when 'cause my brain doesn't work too well between 1 and 2 in the morning.  Our power started flickering in and out, which woke Bubby up and sent him to our bedroom.  Because in Bubby's world, flickering power is cause for alarm.  I sent him to the bathroom, at which time the electricity failed.  While he was peeing.  Oh, the poor kid--probably traumatized for life.
 
Well, actually I suppose you could say it started long before that, with the rain changing over to snow and dumping about 6 more inches overnight.  Sure is pretty...

I think the power going out must have woken MC as well, because within a few minutes he showed up too.  We ended up having an impromptu slumber party because everyone was too scared to sleep on their own.  And slumber parties?  With those two?  Let's just say not a whole lot of slumbering actually occurs.  I'm already fighting the cranky due to lack of sleep.
As you can probably tell from the fact that I successfully posted this blog entry, the power has been restored.  Super fast customer service over there ;)

In related news, Beaver-ly sent me some cozy socks to keep my toesies warm.  Perfect timing.  Thanks Beaver-ly.

Also in related news, my husband and oldest son are crazy.  They have informed me of their plans to go kayaking this evening.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What we made this weekend

 MC made
BLUE BELT!
 
Bubby made
a SCOOTER.
 
AKD made MEMORIES on the river.
(and I can't find that camera, but I'll add a picture when I do)
 
Sawblock made
a BIKE RACK
 
Scarlet made
 
...and pints number 8 and 9 of maple (boxelder) syrup.
 
What did you make this weekend?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Southwestern Chicken Wraps

I made these southwestern chicken wraps for supper the other day and they were sooo good!  Oh my good gracious they were delicious.  And so easy.  And totally customizable--you could very easily make these vegetarian or vegan, or even just have the the ingredients laid out separately so folks can customize their own.  It was also the perfect recipe for eating in shifts--Hubby, Bubby and AKD ate while MC and I were at karate, and then we ate while they were at Boy Scouts.


Click the picture for the recipe.

MC even ate his with the black beans, green onions and green pepper in it.  That's amazing, let me tell you.

Just a few notes: Hubby and I did use the sour cream, and it was so yummy and creamy.  I also had part of one without sour cream and while it was still delicious, it wasn't quite as snarf-worthy.  We also used whole wheat tortillas, which was amazing.  I imagine if one used home made whole wheat tortillas, these would be divine.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another sappy update

Good gracious, people!  When we started this sappy experiment, we had no idea it would be such a rousing success.

To date, we have finished 5 pints of syrup.  Just in case you're not up on your English unit volume measurements, that's 5/8 of a gallon.  And just in case you're not good with fractions, that's more than half a gallon of yummy pure maple (boxelder) syrup.

But we have a little bit of a problem.  I'll show you:

The season's gone on a little tiny bit longer than we thought, and we've been getting a lot more sap than we imagined we would. 

GIVENS:
  1. The most sap I've ever cooked in a day was 3 gallons.  And that was going non-stop from about 8 a.m. to about 10 p.m.
  2. I currently have 8 gallons of sap waiting to be cooked (yes, we still have snow on the ground--there's snow in the forecast, too. Don't let that distract you). 
  3. Yesterday, I collected 5 gallons of sap at around 3 p.m., and this morning, I collected another 4.  Overnight, FOUR gallons.
  4. Based on the weather forecast, we've got at least 5 more days of sappy weather coming*.
Sap!  You are not supposed to flow at night!  And I really should not have taken a break from syrup making yesterday.

I can't keep up.  Soon, Every. Single. Container in our household that is capable of holding liquid will be holding sap.  That's our cake saver up there. 

It holds 2 gallons, just in case you were wondering.

Yes, this whole experience has exceeded our expectations tremendously.  We were hoping for a quart of syrup.  We're gonna end up with more than 4 times that.

* With a conservative estimate of 5 gallons per day for 5 more days, um...uh...help?  If we do this again, we're gonna need a bigger evaporator.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I made modeling chocolate (and a trampoline cake)

As you probably surmised, we had a birthday last week.  Our middlest child turned double digits.  He chose to celebrate by taking a couple of his buddies to a magical building filled with wall-to-wall trampolines.  You can literally bounce off the walls at this place.  We love it.  LOVE it.  And yes, there is a foam pit.

 Blurry.  'Cause he's bouncing.

Due to the nature of his celebration, MC wanted a trampoline cake.  Go ahead and google it--pretty much all of the trampoline cakes out there in cyberspace use fondant.  And look like round back-yard trampolines.

That would not do.  Not at all.  Not gonna do fondant.  And we needed ours to look like the wall-to-wall trampoline place.

So I made modeling chocolate.  Modeling chocolate is playdough made out of chocolate (or in my case, orange candy melts).  Anything you can do with polymer clay, you can do with modeling chocolate.  It is super easy to work with, tastes good, and requires just two ingredients.  Modeling chocolate has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me as a cake artist.


I baked a 9x13 cake and left it in the pan to support the "walls".  I frosted the cake with chocolate frosting--for a more authentic look, use buttercream tinted black, allow to set, then use a clean basketball or a piece of window screen to add texture.  Next, I frosted graham crackers and placed them on the cake along the edges for walls.  Hint--you can use a serrated knife to cut graham crackers into triangles for the corners.  Pipe more frosting to fill in any gaps, then smooth seams with a wet finger.

Next, I rolled out my orange modeling chocolate and cut it into strips using a table knife.  Then I placed the strips on the cake in the wall-to-wall trampoline grid shape.  I found some silhouette jumper clipart and printed it out on cardstock.  Then I found some pics of the boys who were celebrating with us, printed them out and stuck their heads to the clipart jumpers, attaching them to popsicle sticks.  And yes, the heads are big like that on purpose.

The boys got a kick out of the fact that they were jumping on the cake (even though Thing 2's hand started smoldering)--they all wanted a piece from "their" section of the trampoline--and MC loved it.

Happy modeling chocolate and trampoline cake making!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Unstoppable

I recently read Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action by Nick Vujicic.

 
In this book, author Nick Vujicic explains, through stories from his own life and others, how he put his faith into action to become unstoppable in adversity and difficult circumstances, including personal crises, finding love, job challenges, health concerns, self-destructive thoughts, and bullying. 
 
I wanted to like this book.  I mean, look at the cover: here's this man, born without arms or legs, and he's surfing.  Surfing.  This man has not let what others see as a disability sideline him--he has built a successful career as a motivational speaker and leads a full and meaningful life by clinging to God's promise that he was created for a unique purpose and that his life has value.  It's incredibly inspiring, and I can see why people flock to hear him speak.
 
I had a hard time connecting with this book on a personal level, though, and I've been trying to figure out why.  For one thing, the book is too Nick-centric for my taste.  He was always talking about what he has done, what he's said, and what people have said to him, but never expanding on any of those conversations.  I was expecting more of a self-help (that's not exactly the right term) book, but what I got was a biography.
 
I also had a hard time connecting with this book because the issues addressed didn't really apply to me.  It seemed written to someone much younger than I, addressing things like bullying and finding a spouse.  I found myself stretching to find anything that would apply to me in most of the chapters.  It does seem like much of his speaking is done to young adults, and Nick is much younger than I--perhaps his writing will mature as he does. 
 
In addition, I was distracted throughout the entire volume, wondering about the how of Nick's life.  How he gets around, how he types, how he eats--which was never addressed.
 
In conclusion, while I find Nick's story to be inspiring and I did find a few nuggets of wisdom in its pages, reading this book felt like a waste of time.  It just wasn't for me.
 
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Did you like this review?  Please take a moment to rank it below:


For additional info see:
  • Author's Web Site

  • Book Trailer Video

  • Follow Nick on Facebook

  • Nick on CBS Sunday Morning

  • Nick on Oprah

  • More Info

  • Read Chapter One

  • Author Bio

  • Friday, April 5, 2013

    Syrup Success!

    Believe me when I tell you, my friends, that when I wrote this post yesterday, I had no idea I would be writing this post today.

    As I was cooking it down, the sap was looking awfully syrup-y, and was wanting to boil over, so we decided to finish off a batch of syrup last night.

    We made syrup!

    !!!

     Isn't it beautiful?  Such a gorgeous maple-syrup-y color.  And a yummy maple-syrup-y taste, too :)


    FAQ (OK, so no one's been asking any questions, but I'm sure that's just because I've been doing such a good job of explaining everything.  These are the questions I'm sure you would ask if I didn't take the time to answer them now.  You're welcome).

    How did you know the syrup was done? 
    Well, here's the deal.  As we're cooking the sap to concentrate it, it's mostly water, so it boils at around 212*.  As the sugar becomes more concentrated, the boiling point starts to rise, and when the syrup is 66% sugar, the boiling temp is 7* higher.  So when the temperature of our syrup reached 219*, we knew it was done.

    Why does the syrup turn color, and where does the maple taste come from?
    The color and flavor are due to a Maillard reaction. You can read about it here (thanks to my brother for the link).  And no, I didn't know this, although I should have because of all that organic chem-misery I had to take.

    How many gallons of sap did it take to make how many pints of syrup? 
    We cooked a little less than 10 gallons of sap, and it yielded 1.5 pints of syrup.

    Are you going to keep collecting sap? 
    Yes, we're going to keep collecting sap as long as it's still flowing.  The combination of below freezing temps at night along with above freezing temps during the day is what makes the sap flow, and as of right now, that's the pattern we're in.  As soon as any buds pop, though, the gig is up.

    Will you get enough for another batch?
    I don't know.  I sure hope so :)  We've got another 2 gallons of sap ready to go, and I think we've got at least a week left to collect more, so there's a pretty good chance.  We'll need about 7 gallons to make a pint of syrup.

    May I please have some of your homemade syrup?  Please?  Pretty please?
    Well, if you happen to be here while we're eating it, then yes, of course you can try some.  I doubt it'll last long around here, though!

    This is very interesting. Where can I read all of your sappy syrup posts?
    Right here.

    What are you having for breakfast tomorrow?
    Pancakes with homemade maple(boxelder) syrup, of course!

    Thursday, April 4, 2013

    A Sappy Update

    Since I'm sure you've been wondering how our boxelder (maple) syrup experiment is going, I thought I'd give y'all a little update.
     
    This is how much sap I collected this morning (after not collecting all day yesterday because it got busy.  And then it got dark).  Yes, we still have snow on the ground.  Don't let that distract you. 

    Three gallons.  From 4 (leaky) taps.  That makes a total of about 10 gallons collected so far.  Do you know what this means, my friends?  This means that, quite possibly, with a week or so to go of sap season, we will get a quart or more of syrup out of this.

    How long will that last us, you ask?  Well...about 3 weeks ;)

    Thought I should show you this, too.  On the right, we have sap.  On the left, we have cooked sap.  This is what it looks like after cooking about 7 gallons of sap down to about 3 cups (almost syrup).  As you can see, it's getting darker.  You didn't really believe it was possible, did you?  It's also tasting much sweeter, and is acquiring that distinctive maple syrup flavor.  Yes!  This is a very good thing because it starts off tasting like tree bark.  Which I think we can all agree is not something you'd want to put on your pancakes. 

    By the way, you can click here to see all of my sappy maple/boxelder syrup posts.

    Public Service Message:
    A friend of mine noticed in this post that I was cooking the sap indoors.  I'm doing it inside rather than outside because we're anticipating having such a small amount.  But, she mentioned that cooking the sap inside could ruin the finish on kitchen cabinets, because of humidity, but even more because sticky particulates can be thrown up into the air and deposit on the cupboards, which are then difficult, if not impossible, to remove.  So if you're going to cook syrup inside, be sure to protect your cabinets.  She suggested using freezer paper, or I suppose you could use plastic sheeting or even garbage bags.
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