Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Healthy Week in the Kitchen

Nibbling on all of those wonderful Christmas treats was fun while it lasted.
Clearly it was time to reign in the sugar consumption and get back on track with healthy eating habits.
So, I recently gathered all of the magazines that had been piling up around here and pulled out the ones focusing on healthy eating.  My personal favorite being Cooking Light.
I selected a collection of recipes that appealed to me and then spent the past week trying them out.
Something to satisfy my sweet tooth in a healthier way seemed a good place to start.
A "dessert with benefits" sounded like just the thing.

I've been seeing recipes similar to this for awhile and been curious to see if they really could satisfy my chocolate cravings.
They went together quickly.  Apparently hazelnuts are hard to come by in my area so I skipped them altogether and, instead, rolled them in chopped toasted pecans.  Pecans are everywhere here and I do love them.

I've got them stored in the refrigerator and pop one out when those chocolate cravings hit, often around 3:00 in the afternoon.

This whole grain quick bread caught my eye.
Could it really be possible to have a slice of bread like the one in the photo without any yeast or rising times involved?
My mouth was watering for toast in the morning, so I got busy on this one.

It also went together quickly.
Before going into the oven it was looking good all covered in pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds.  A little flaxseed too.

Nicely risen after baking.
We've been enjoying it all week for our morning toast and to accompany soups and salads for lunch and dinner.
Will definitely be making this one again.

In case you are interested, here's the recipe.

A lightened up version of the classic meatloaf dinner.
Comfort food in a healthier package.
The magazine recipe was for a whole grain meat loaf, but I used my long standing favorite turkey loaf recipe.  I did, however, make the Quick Creamy Potatoes and Roasted Brussel Sprouts to go with it.  Yum, Yum and Yum!!!
This meal was delicious.  Those potatoes with the cauliflower and garlic were so creamy and smooth.  In the past I have tried the "faux tatoes" made with just cauliflower mashed up to imitate mashed potatoes.  The texture just wasn't right and they tasted to me like what they were (mashed up cauliflower).  This recipe was that wonderful mashed potato consistency and that subtle hint of garlic made them so flavorful.
Brussel sprouts are something I've never really made much.
Growing up I remember them being boiled and mushy.  Yuck!
Roasting them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper is like eating an entirely different vegetable and one that I will gladly eat over and over again.

For me the new year is like a clean slate.
A good time to re-up the efforts on the things that are important in one's life. 
So far I'm focusing on:
healthy eating
mindful exercise
more reading time
learning new things
trying more of the recipes I think someday I'll try.

Off to a good start so far.

How is your new year progressing?
Have you tried any new recipes or read any good books?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Snow, Snow...where did you go?

Saturday was definitely not a day for picnics.
Unless, perhaps, you were a snowman.

Today (Thursday) a picnic would be entirely possible.

When the snowstorm was predicted I brought a few of my potted plants into the garage. 
This one was too heavy so I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn't be done in by the cold and snowy conditions.
I'm pleased to report that it is looking just as nice now as it did last week.
Hooray for snowstorms that know how to come and go and not wear out their welcome.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Savoring This Snowy Day

Just before bedtime last night the snowflakes began falling.
The morning brought with it a sense of excitement as to exactly how much accumulation those snowflakes would amount to.
A quick peek out the window and it was clear that the landscape had been transformed to a true "winter wonderland."

A warm breakfast of steel cut oats topped with blueberries , walnuts and chia seeds.  Doing my best to get back on track with healthy eating in the new year.  Outside the birds were thankful for a healthy supply of their favorite seed.

After breakfast it was time to head upstairs to work on another goal for the new year.  Up there it was a snowy scene to the lake across the street.  Brrr!

Caught up on last night's episode of 20/20 while putting in time on the treadmill.

My favorite part of the exercise routine...
logging my achievement onto Susan Branch's adorable calendar.
I fell off the exercise wagon to some extent in the latter part of last year.  With the new year I am determined to get back to it.

Coming back downstairs after my exercise session, I was pleased to see the sun putting in an appearance.  The winter wonderland was now sparkling like glitter.

Today was the day my Christmas ham bone was transformed into a delicious pot of white bean soup.  While working on that and starting a loaf of crusty bread, it was necessary to drop everything and chase this beautiful cardinal with my camera.  This seems to be a game I play every time we have a snowfall.  Red cardinals in the snow are a lovely sight to behold.

With the soup bubbling and the bread baking it was time to write my thank you notes.  That job seemed like it would go smoother with a mug of hot cocoa.  A snow day called for a snowman mug so I fetched one that I had just put away with the Christmas d├ęcor.
He looks happy to be out of the cupboard.

Soon the timer will ring calling me to take the bread from the oven.
The sun is beginning to set and soon the darkness will descend upon my beautiful winter wonderland.

A good time to light the candles and then the fireplace.
Perhaps also a good night for soup in front of the fire.
Sounds like a nice way to stay warm on this wintery evening.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas to You

~ Merry Christmas to You ~

If, like me, you have been enjoying the seasonal treats a bit more than usual...
let's worry about that in the new year.

For now it will be our little secret.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Savoring the Season ~ The Joys of Toys

Yesterday I did some Christmas shopping for grandson, Jaxson.
It went something like this.
Grandma comfortable in her bathrobe (coffee at hand).
Links being sent via text from Jaxson's parents.
Grandma marveling at the toy's that appeal to 3 year old boys in 2016.
Grandma clicking a few buttons to order gifts which will arrive on her doorstep in a matter of days.
No need for getting dressed, fighting traffic or standing in long lines.
Grandma is reminded (once again) how the times they are a changin'.

So, while I'm making attempts at changing along with the times (would you believe I sent my first text just last week on the smart phone we finally caved in and bought), my sentimental side still surfaces now and then.  Perhaps especially at Christmastime.
During the big attic cleanout last month, a collection of my own childhood toys was unearthed.
Hello Barbie dolls and Raggedy Ann & Andy collection.

The collection was culled.
The pony tail Barbies had to go.
Was I the only little girl who just had to comb that long hair?
The resulting bald on top head was a bit disturbing and impossible to return them to their former beauty.
The bubble cuts, on the other hand, were still looking pretty good after all these years.
While I enjoyed the hair grooming aspect, I'm not sure the bathing ever happened.  After 45 years or so, it seemed like the right idea.
A spa night was in order.

While the gals enjoyed their spa time I did up their laundry.
Most of my Barbie clothes were handmade by the neighborhood moms for the Christmas bazaar (circa 1960 something).
Most of them went.
The few real authentic Barbie clothes were kept.
The sunglasses are missing one side, the shoes were a hodge podge and the rest was a wrinkled mess.
What can I say, we used to drag those Barbie cases all over the neighborhood and play with them all day long.
Well-loved, you might say.

My Raggedy & Andy collection extended well past my childhood.
That collection was greatly edited too.
These little ones aren't going anywhere.
Made by the Amish in Shipshewana, IN, they appeal to me as much now as they did the day I bought them.
Not only are they handmade, but they are tiny and nicely painted.
But, even better than that is the surprise they contain.

Tiny treasures for boys and girls.

For the girls:
A wee little blue house (swoon).
A teddy, a dolly with a bottle, a hobby horse and a teddy bear.

For the boys:
A truck
An airplane
Baseball and bat
Cowboy boot and pistol.

Like everything else, the toys have changed through the years.
Jaxson would, no doubt, be bored with Raggedy Andy and his hidden treasures in no time flat.
That Winnie the Pooh above was a Christmas gift given to me in elementary school.  He almost didn't make the cut.  But then I looked at him again and was transported to my own childhood and the hours and hours of fun I had playing with him.  He slept with me and was the finishing touch to my bed after I made it in the morning.  A trusted friend.  Nope, no way could I ditch him.
So there he sits under the tree all these years later.
A gentle reminder of the joy and excitement toys provide for children on Christmas morning.
This year my greatest joy of the season has been the FaceTime sessions with Jaxson walking from room to room showing us his Christmas decorations.  He then asks to see ours.  His wide-eyed wonder at each little ornament and decoration is a moment in time which I could pause and savor over and over again.

What joys are you savoring this season?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Happy Holiday Kitchen

Hello and Welcome to my Happy Holiday Kitchen.

The sun is streaming through the windows, but don't let that fool you as it's rather chilly outside today.
Might I interest you in a cup of coffee, tea, hot spiced cider or hot cocoa?

Decorating the Christmas kitchen allows the opportunity to retrieve holiday treasures both new and old to blend happily into a festive atmosphere for creating yearly sweets and special treats.
Man, was that a long sentence or what?

Before we know it will be time to set out cookies and milk for Dear Old Santa Claus.

Red is a color not normally found in my home.
That rule goes out the window at Christmastime when I say "bring it on."  For some reason during the month of December it seems cheerful to me. 

I have noticed that many of you are already well into your cookie baking.  I wish I could say the same.  Play baking is fun, but a bit disappointing to those looking forward to sinking their teeth into the real thing.

Cutest ornaments Hallmark ever made, in my humble opinion.

I know we are all busy at this time of year.
I thank you for taking the time to stop by today.
Maybe a little lunch is in order before you head out.
Pull up a chair.

After you leave, I'd better put my apron on and get serious about the baking... or at least get the grocery list started.

A Very Happy Weekend to You,


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Seasonal Spa Night and an Easy Gift Idea

At this busy time of year I think it's important to create calm within the chaos.  With so many demands on our time, it's nice to have a spot to get away from it all to relax and recharge.
I recently started a weekly "spa night" and have found it to be something I look forward to with great anticipation.
It usually involves a nice warm bath.  I haven't been much of a "bath person" until spa night began.
For the Christmas season I decorated the shelf above the bath tub with angels and wispy bine boughs.
It's important to create a relaxing atmosphere :D.

Since there is no electrical outlet nearby, I wove battery operated micro lights through the pine boughs. 

They provide just the right ambience for an evening bath.
Candles are also a nice addition.
For my spa time I like to do any or all of the following:

~ Use bath salts or bubbles in calming scents like lavender.
~ Prepare a cup of green tea.
~ Try out new products like face masks, foot scrubs, etc.
~ Listen to relaxing music.

I recently went to a favorite local shop and found this in my bag when I returned home.
A little gift from the shopkeeper to her customers.
The ornament is filled with bubble bath powder.
I thought it was such a cute idea.
Cute and fairly simple.

Perhaps you are in need of a small hostess gift or stocking stuffer.
I'm planning to make them for table favors for the young gals in the family.  I think I'll set them in a crystal goblet.

It looks like a few words in the last three lines are obscured by the bow.  They should read:

Into a tub of warm water, it's time for a break.
Lie back and relax, cast all your cares away.
Oh what a perfect ending to a long hard day.

In this instance they glued the poem to a pretty piece of scrapbook paper and tied it to the ornament with ribbon.  The ornament would be filled with the bath powder of your choice.

At the end of my spa night when the cares of the world float down the drain with the bath water I enjoy the small tree in my bedroom.
Peaceful and calming.
With luck pleasant dreams are soon to follow.