Pretty Things: May 2017

Pretty Things: May 2017

1.  H2o Plus:  Sea Salt Collection. I have been waiting to share this product for months because it didn’t feel right sharing a sea salt spray in the middle of winter.  I found this stuff last year on clearance because they were changing their packaging, and now I’m hooked.  I was worried when I bought it that the “clearance” sticker meant they were discontinuing it– thankfully that wasn’t the case.  There’s a whole line of sea salt products, but the spray is my favorite.  It’s an alternative to moisturizer during the hot months, and it smells like the beach.  Not in a fake banana-coconut sunscreen way, but in a real authentically beachy way.  It’s so refreshing.  I also used it in my hair.bodygloss_hero_h20plus

 

2. Alton Brown: Pickled Watermelon Rind.   Alton Brown is kind of a mad scientist when it comes to food. I love the idea of pickled watermelon rind for several reasons.  First, I usually throw away the rind, but it would be cool to turn it into something new.  Second, I love pickles.  And third, I love watermelon (but who doesn’t??)alton-brown-watermelon-pickles

 

3.  Heather Christo:  Cilantro, Corn, Potato, and Poblano Chowder.  The colors in this soup are so beautiful!  If you’ve never checked out Heather’s blog, it is one of the most inventive and unusually photographed I’ve come across.  Many of her recipes are vegan or gluten free, and the are all made with allergies in mind.  Everything she makes really is this pretty.27136811955_17eceecccb_b

 

4.  A Cozy Kitchen:  Spicy Cucumber Margarita.  If you’ve never tried a cucumber drink, you should!  I love infused cucumber water, cucumber soda, and cucumber sparkling water.  I also love jalapenos and margaritas.  Since Cinco de Mayo is coming soon, it’s a perfect time to buy some tequila and try something new!margarita.jpg

 

5.  Bobby Flay:  Grape Focaccia.  Grapes are at their best between May and September (even though I tend to buy them all year).  I love focaccia because it’s airy and crispy while also being chewy and doughy –kind of like a round baguette, I guess?  But much more flavorful because of the salt and olive oil.  This grape focaccia would be perfect on a warm night with some wine and a good salad.cq5dam.web.400.300.jpeg

 

6.  Soap Queen:  Soothing Floral Bath Salts.  Every time I find a new homemade beauty product, I always swear it’s the prettiest one I’ve seen so far.  And this one is no exception.  This would be a really gorgeous homemade gift for a good friend.Floral-Bath-Salts-Tutorial.jpg

 

7.  How Sweet Eats:  Summer Skillet Gnocchi.  Look at the char on the corn!  And the basil!  And the cheese!  Something about Jessica’s recipes make me want to use exclamation marks.  Her pictures seem to jump off the page, and this is basically like summer in a bowl.  And in May, I’m pretty much behaving as if it’s summer anyway.summer-gnocchi-I-howsweeteatscom-6.jpg

 

8.  Giada de Laurentiis:  S’mores Pizzette.  However, if it’s still a little too chilly to hang outside at night, you can always make these s’mores when you feel the need.  It’s all done indoors, and would be a perfect treat for a kid’s sleepover. 20170108_163630_10358_3095.jpeg

 


How to Make My Fitness Pal Work for You + How to Diet at Work

How to Make My Fitness Pal Work for You + How to Diet at Work

Even though I love Facebook and Instagram, my favorite app of all-time has to be My Fitness Pal.  I discovered it in 2012, and it relieved my brain after 15 years of calorie counting in my head.  That may sound weird to some people, but I’ve mentioned it to others and I’m not the only one who has been reflexively calorie counting since I was 13.  In 7th grade, my science teacher taught us how to count calories, and it was eye opening.  I went from being chubby to being thin within months because of this big secret.  My weight has fluctuated over the years because of different things, but counting calories and taking responsibility for them is the only way to keep yourself in check –unless you’re just very lucky and were born with a high metabolism (to which I say I am jealous!)

My Fitness Pal takes the guesswork out of it, especially if you’re eating prepackaged food or even restaurant food.  The only parts that require your discretion are 1) remembering to use it, 2) being honest about the amount you consumed, and 3) using it proactively.

The first 2 things are pretty simple.  I mean, if you don’t input your food, it’s not going to do anything.  And if you lie to yourself about the quantities, you’re not hurting anyone but yourself.  Remember, My Fitness Pal doesn’t actually care if you lose or gain anything.  My Fitness Pal is not going to go up a pant size if you eat 3 servings of ice cream and said you only had 1!  But seriously, the real accountability lies within each of us.

But what do I mean about using My Fitness Pal proactively?  I didn’t learn that until about a year ago when I started losing baby weight from Benji.  Using it proactively means that I think about where I might go today.  Do I have dinner plans?  Am I going somewhere for drinks?  I am on my period?  Seriously, though.  I think about that, and then I enter in a presumptive amount of calories I may eat because of those things, and then I see how many I have left for the day.  And if I am going out to eat, where?  If so, can I plan my order ahead of time by using an online menu?  All of these things –being proactive –that will help so much.

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my weekly average

Another thing about being proactive with My Fitness Pal is something I do if I did overindulge.  I use a free feature that gives me my weekly calorie average, and I can use it to figure out if I’ve done okay overall (because maybe I overindulged today but barely ate yesterday…if so, it’s probably okay).  So you’ll have your daily calorie goal, and set it to something realistic –don’t set it at 1000 or something crazy –I’m 5’10’…I’d wilt if I only consumed 1000 calories a day.  Basically, let’s say your goal is 1600 calories.  Maybe today you ate 2000 calories, so your weekly average calorie intake is over what it should be.  This feature can help you figure out how much you should cut back, and for how many days, to get back on track!  Isn’t that awesome?  You can go day by day ahead and project your intake –or what you plan to eat –then go back to the weekly average and see how long you’ll need to do that to get back on track.

This may seem obsessive to some of you, but I really hope it’s helpful.  Losing weight is hard, and it is personal.  If you’ve had kids or any other major life change, it’s even harder!  Right now, I’m still working out my Christmas weight!  I lost 24 pounds last year –from 173 to 149.  Now I’m 156, and I’d prefer to be about 145.  I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d love to talk about this more –either in more posts, in the comments, or privately.

Now!  On to some little tricks and easy meals I learned to make when I was a true “working mom.”  When I worked in an office, I had to really plan ahead.  I was a secretary for doctors, and we had so many meals catered by drug reps, plus all kinds of treats brought in all the time, and the cafeteria, and people wanting to go out to eat!  The temptation is everywhere to splurge all day.  Every day.  People used to make fun of me for snacking on “weird” stuff throughout the day, but you know what?  I was happier feeling good about what I ate.  Here are some of my favorite snacks and meals for the office:

  • String Cheese
  • Raw almonds (about 24)
  • A Ghiradelli chocolate square
  • Thomas Multigrain English Muffin with 2 pieces of Canadian bacon (for breakfast)
  • Fiber One Bars
  • A make-ahead, gourmet “anything” salad: In an 8 cup Tupperware container, add a few handfuls of your favorite salad greens.  Top with any dry veggies or add-ins, like bell pepper, onion, carrot, or cheese.  Separate any wet veggies like sliced cherry tomatoes or cucumbers.  Add a small container of protein, like some shredded rotisserie chicken or some salmon (be honest about how much, because salmon is calorie-dense).  If possible, keep salad dressing at work in the fridge.  If not, put some in a Tupperware ramekin.  At lunchtime, add the extras to the large container, seal, and shake to toss!  You can literally have a restaurant quality salad at work without paying $10 plus a tip.  Not to mention, you can control exactly what you put in, how much, and proactively add it to My Fitness Pal.
  • For chillier months, these were my 2 favorite soups to take to work. Roasted Winter Veg is really filling and can be made in batches and frozen ahead of time.  Chicken Noodle is an easy short notice soup because you can have the whole thing done in 30 minutes.  If you want more soup recipes, most of mine are pretty healthy because I don’t like cream-based soups.

 


Spring Vegetable Pasta with Ham + Creamy White Bean Sauce

Spring Vegetable Pasta with Ham + Creamy White Bean Sauce

There are so many other ways to make pasta than traditional spaghetti and meat sauce (although I love that, too!).  This pasta is a great way to use any leftover ham you may have from the holidays.  If you’re doing this in winter, you can change up the vegetables any way you want, but I like that the peas and greens cook right in the pot in only a minute or 2. 

Making this creamy sauce from white beans is something I saw in one of my frozen dinners (very sophisticated inspiration, I know).  But I thought that was a pretty cool idea.  I decided to use cannellini beans because this dinner is semi-Italian.  But if you don’t want to make the sauce from scratch, you can always use store-bought hummus!  Even easier.  And since this sauce recipe makes a little more than what you need (about 2 cups, and you’ll only need 1 ½), you can eat this just like hummus.  It’s really good! 

 

Total Time:  45 minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Ingredients

For the White Bean Sauce

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons garlic powder

½ cup freshly grated asiago cheese

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oila

Salt and pepper

For the Pasta

1 pound whole wheat rotini

1 pound pre-sliced smoked ham

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup arugula or other baby lettuce

2 cups white bean sauce

1 ½ – 2 cups reserved pasta water

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Make the creamy white bean sauce by adding the drained cannellini beans, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and asiago cheese to a food processor. Pulse until it has begun to turn into a paste.  Then with the processor running, stream in the olive oil until the sauce is the consistency of hummus.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the skin and fat off the ham, and slice into strips about the same size as the pasta.
  4. When the pasta is done, but before you drain it, use a liquid measuring cup to pull out about 2 cups of pasta water. Set aside.
  5. Drain the pasta, and set aside.
  6. To the same hot pot, add the ham, and heat through. Add the peas, arugula, white bean sauce, and cooked pasta.  Stir slowly to wilt the greens and heat the peas and sauce.
  7. Add pasta water as need to thin out the sauce until it has the right consistency. (I used exactly 1 ½ cups).
  8. Add the lemon zest and juice. Mix, and taste.  Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve hot.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Tarragon Grilled Shrimp + French Artichoke Vinaigrette

Butter Lettuce Salad with Tarragon Grilled Shrimp + French Artichoke Vinaigrette

This is the perfect lunch for 2—not really kid-friendly, but that’s okay.  Not everything needs to be.  As someone who loves all things French (but who has never been to Paris), I think this salad seems like something Parisians would eat. 

Do you ever get butter lettuce?  It’s got the creamiest, crunchiest texture that goes really well with both vinaigrette dressings and creamy dressings.  I didn’t want to overwhelm the salad with too many ingredients, so a few different veggies plus the shrimp felt just right.

The difference between a French vinaigrette and a regular vinaigrette is Dijon mustard.  It makes the dressing creamy and luxurious without adding mayonnaise.  The pureed artichoke hearts make the dressing extra creamy.  This salad makes 2 generous entrée portions, but the dressing will make enough for 6-8 servings. 

While I’m letting the shrimp marinate, I prepare the dressing and the salad ingredients.  I like to serve the shrimp at room temperature so they don’t wilt the lettuce.  If you don’t have shrimp or don’t want to use it, try it with some pulled rotisserie chicken instead!

 

For the Butter Lettuce Salad

Total Time:  10 Minutes (not including shrimp and dressing)

Serves:  2 Dinner Sized Portions

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Ingredients

1 head butter lettuce, roughly torn2

3 radishes, thinly sliced

6-8 jarred artichoke hearts, drained

4 scallions, tips cut off

Grilled Shrimp, cooled to room temperature (recipe follows)

Parmesan cheese

French Artichoke Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Preheat an indoor grill to high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, to a large bowl, add the butter lettuce.
  3. Arrange the sliced radishes and artichoke hearts.
  4. Spray the grill with nonstick cooking spray. Add the whole scallions (with the tips cut off), and sear on high for about 3 minutes, or until you can see some grill marks.
  5. Arrange the scallions to the salad.
  6. Arrange the shrimp on top of the salad.
  7. Use a vegetable peeler to cut shavings of parmesan cheese directly onto the salad.
  8. Drizzle with French Artichoke Vinaigrette, and eat immediately.

For the Tarragon Grilled Shrimp

Total Time:  45 minutes (including marinade time)

Serves:  2

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

1 pound of raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 ½ tablespoons of dried tarragon

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Add the shrimp, tarragon, olive oil, salt, and pepper to a bowl, and toss to combine. Let marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  (Go ahead and assemble the rest of your salad, and make your dressing while it marinates.)
  2. Preheat and indoor grill to high heat. Once it’s preheated, spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Add the shrimp to the hot grill, and cook until pink (about 6-8 minutes). Watch carefully after 5 minutes to make sure it doesn’t overcook.
  4. Remove the shrimp from grill, and allow to come to room temperature before adding to the salad.

 

For the French Artichoke Vinaigrette

Total Time:  10 Minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

½ of a 14 ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1 cup of loosely packed whole basil leaves

Zest of 2 lemons

Juice of 3 lemons

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Extra virgin olive oil (about ¾ cup)

Directions

  1. Add the ingredients except for the salt, pepper, and olive oil to a food processor.
  2. Pulse until the artichokes and basil have been broken down.
  3. Stream in the olive oil while it’s running to blend everything together to a salad dressing consistency.
  4. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Pulse again, and serve over salad.

Purifying Charcoal Mask

Purifying Charcoal Mask

This mask is one of the first ones I made when I first got into this stuff.  It’s just like the ones you buy from Clinique or other department store brands, but you can make it to “order,” and you can customize it to your skin type.  I’ll give you variations for sensitive skin, oily skin, and one for anti-aging. 

Normally I would consider my skin sensitive and tend to err on that or towards anti-aging. But sometimes I’ll still get a pimple, so if that’s your story when you make this, go towards the oily version.  However, no matter how oily your skin is, always follow up a charcoal (or any mud-type) mask with a good moisturizer.  My new favorite moisturizer is Egyptian Magic, which I referenced in Pretty Things:  March 2017.  I read about it in a magazine, and apparently they only do word of mouth advertising, which is pretty cool in my opinion.  You can use Egyptian Magic as an intense moisturizer, night cream, lip balm, or even in your hair.  It’s made of olive oil, and 5 bee products including beeswax, bee pollen, royal jelly, honey, and bee propolis. 

So for all the product variations of this mask.  You can buy activated charcoal here.  Get the calcium bentonite clay here or at Whole Foods.  Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar is also at Whole Foods.  Rose water is available here.  You can get all the essential oils at Whole Foods or on Amazon.  Lavender essential oil is calming and great for sensitive skin.  Tea tree oil combats oily skin. Frankincense has anti-aging properties.  I use different ones during different times during the month, and I never use more than one mask per week (unless it’s a moisturizing sheet mask).

 

Total Time:  20 minutes (including set time)

Makes:  2 masks

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients for Sensitive Skin Variation

1 teaspoon activated charcoal

4 tablespoons calcium bentonite clay

2-3 ounces water

5-6 drops lavender essential oil OR 1 teaspoon rosewater

 

Ingredients for Oily Skin Variation

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ingredients for oily skin variation

1 teaspoon activated charcoal

4 tablespoons calcium bentonite clay

2-3 ounces Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar

5-6 drops tea tree essential oil

 

Ingredients for Anti-Aging Variation

1 teaspoon activated charcoal

4 tablespoons calcium bentonite clay

2-3 ounces water

5-6 drops frankincense essential oil

 

Directions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together with a small spoon or fork (or both) until it become the consistency of a clay mask. Start with 2 ounces of water or vinegar and add more if needed.
  2. Apply mask to face and neck. Let it set for 15 minutes or until it’s tingling and mostly hardened.
  3. Wash off with warm water. Complete you regular daily skin care routine, and follow up with an intense moisturizer (such as Egyptian Magic).

 

 

 


Banana Berry Bee Pollen Bowl 

Banana Berry Bee Pollen Bowl

This bowl!  I made this on a super warm February day when it felt like spring.  I had been wanting to do a bee pollen post for a while, and it finally felt springy enough.  Also, my friend Megan surprised me with this Olivewood Tea and Toast Set, and how pretty does the honey dip look?  I’d put this set on Pretty Things:  January 2017 because I was so drawn to it.  But in person, it’s even prettier.  The wood is gorgeous, and the pieces feel quality.  Now I feel like I have to have a tea party or something just to display it! 16473764_550727958455582_6492892044207083527_n

I love making smoothies for my kids, and this is like a smoothie, deconstructed.  One of my staples is a bag of store bought frozen strawberries.  For this bowl, I turned them into a puree.  It’s simple:  just let a few cups of strawberries thaw out or come to room temperature.  Pour them into a blender, and blend until smooth.  You could use this on smoothie bowls, as a topping for ice cream, or in something with gin or tequila…

Bee Pollen.  Who would have thought?  It’s supposed to work as an anti-inflammatory, immune system booster, anti-oxidant, and hormone regulator.  I got mine on Amazon.  They’re crunchy little granules, and I guess they’re like the new chia seed!  There is always a new natural food discovery with amazing properties and why haven’t we been eating it all along?

In addition to pouring them over a smoothie bowl, they taste really good blended into a regular smoothie, too.  To turn this into a regular smoothie, add a cup of your favorite milk (I use unsweetened coconut milk)—to turn this into a meal on-the-go.  If you do turn it into a smoothie, add some frozen banana slices to make it thicker.  Instead of buying frozen bananas or freezing them whole, I wait until my fresh bananas are about to turn, then I slice them up and freeze them for smoothies.  It’s much cheaper, and they’re easy to portion with they’re pre-sliced.

 

Total Time:  10 minutes

Makes:  1 large smoothie bowl

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

1 cup of plain, fat free Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons of strawberry puree (see above)

1 banana, peeled and sliced thinly

2-3 strawberries, rinsed and sliced thinly

¼ cup fresh blueberries

2 tablespoons of bee pollen

2-3 tablespoons of honey

 

Directions

  1. Add the Greek yogurt to the bottom of a large bowl.
  2. Add the strawberry puree on top of the yogurt and swirl it through.
  3. Layer the banana, strawberries, and blueberries around the bowl.
  4. Sprinkle the bee pollen on top.
  5. Drizzle with honey, and enjoy. (**see note)

 

**Note:  Alternately, add ingredients to a blender with unsweetened coconut milk and some frozen banana slices.  Puree until smooth, and enjoy very cold.)


Turkey Chili

Turkey Chili

Turkey chili is one of the first things I cooked in a Crock Pot.  Chili is definitely one of my favorite things to make in the cooler months, and I love customizing it.  I make lots of types of chili:  crunchy taco chili, white bean chili, vegetarian chili, and  steak and beer chili.  But turkey chili is the kind I make most often because you use an inexpensive meat, and there is almost no work involved. 

I love food with lots of color and texture, so I use as many types of beans and veggies as possible. 

  I love substituting stuff in chili.  Just like with the salsa, you can substitute taco sauce or Rotel tomatoes.  Whatever you have that saves you from making another trip to the store.  I’m writing this recipe as if I were making my ideal turkey chili and have exactly the ingredients I want.

This time I used fresh bell peppers because I had some in the fridge, but you can also use the frozen pepper stir fry if that’s easier.  It has peppers and onions, so no chopping at all. 

For garnishes, I love a variety.  My favorite healthy ones are a dollop of Greek yogurt, salted avocado, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, or diced tomatoes (or pico de gallo).  I also love tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, and sour cream if I’m not counting calories.  But who am I kidding, I am always counting calories. 

[Note:  I wrote this recipe in Sept. 2016.  I held it over because I hated the photos.  Then I re-did the photos with my point-and-shoot and thought they were much better.  Then I finally got a “real” camera, and now I don’t like these photos anymore, but I’m just tired of sitting on this recipe because it IS delicious!]

 

Total Time:  6-8 hoursimg_6258

Serves: 8

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

1 onion

1 ¼ pounds lean ground turkey

2 tablespoons of chili powder

1 ½ tablespoons of cumin

1 ½ tablespoons of chipotle powder

2 teaspoons of paprika

2 teaspoons of garlic

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of coriander

1 can of dark red kidney beans

1 can of black beans

1 can of pinto beans

1 can of whole kernel corn

1 16 ounce can of tomato sauce

16 ounces of salsa

1-2 cups of water

1-2 beef or chicken bouillon cubes

 

 

  1. Dice the bell peppers and onion into a medium, chunky dice.  Add to the Crock Pot.
  2. Add the ground turkey on top of the vegetables.
  3. Add the Calabria chili paste and all the dried spices.
  4. Drain and rinse all the beans, and add to the pot.
  5. Add the tomato sauce. Add the corn and the liquid from the can to the pot.  Add the salsa.
  6. Add the water and bouillon, 1-2 cups or cubes depending on how thick or soupy you want it.
  7. Cook for 5 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Remove cover to stir and break apart turkey a few times while it’s cooking.
  8. Serve with your favorite garnishes.