Sunday, July 21, 2013

Easy ~ Healthy Kale CHIPS

We finally got Kale in our weekly CSA.  Time for healthy snacks!  Kale chips are the easiest snack ever.  They are healthy.  You should make some!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.  Tear kale from its stems/stalks.
2.  Cut or tear into small pieces (1-2 inches).
3.  Toss in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  (Depending on how much kale you have.)
4.  Lay on cookie sheet (we always line with tin foil for easy clean-up).
5.  Sprinkle with sea salt.
6.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Keep an eye on them so they don't get too crispy!

ENJOY!  They are salty, crunchy, healthy, easy, and scrumptious!  I don't think you can argue with any of that.

Eat kale chips.  Nom.

Almost-Paleo Oatmeal Bars {Breakfast Madness}

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I need to eat breakfast.  Nothing too substantial, but I need something in my tummy and a plain "granola bar" won't cut it.  If not, I'm eating something an hour later.  I made some breakfast oatmeal bars last year.  They were good, and big enough to fill me up in the morning.  But, they had sugar and other naughties.

We have been eating pretty healthy, and I needed an updated/upGRADED recipe.  Enter:  Paleo recipes.  Almost fully Paleo.  That's how we eat.  Mostly Paleo, but nothing super restricting.  This, and a little more activity at my new job has lightened me by 20 pounds in the last few months.

I'll take it.

But, I love oatmeal.  Especially for breakfast.  So, lets mesh this all together.
Oatmeal-mostly paleo-breakfast bars.
You. Are. Welcome.

My base recipe is found here.


*2.5 cups regular rolled oats (not instant oats).  Please, don't buy instant oats.
*3 tbsp chia seed  (I didn't have any, so I skipped this.  But they are VERY good for you.)
*1/2 cup + 1 tbsp ground flax
*1 tsp cinnamon  (I love cinnamon, I always add extra)
*1 tsp baking powder
*1/4 tsp salt
*1.5 cups almond milk
*1/2 cup pure maple syrup
*2 tbsp nut or seed butter (I used natural peanut butter.  If you don't eat natural peanut butter, you should switch.  It is much better for you and tastes SO much better!  You don't need to consume sugar and preservatives in something easy like PB!)
*1 banana, chopped small (I used a fairly large banana, very ripe)  I suggest cutting into SMALL pieces.
*1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.  Use a food processor to blend 1 cup of your oats into an oat flour.

2.  Use large bowl to combine dry ingredients.  Your oat flour, the rest of your rolled oats, chia seeds, flax, baking powder, salt, cinnamon.  Wisk together.

3.  In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients.  Milk, syrup, peanut butter, banana, vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.  This is where how small you chopped your banana comes into play :)  (This little mixture smells just amazing, FYI.)

I had to use a masher to get these banana chunks smaller.

4.  Slowly incorporate your wet mixture into your dry mixture.

5.  You can now add any additional healthy bits that you wish.  I added dried cranberries, fresh blueberries, also some almonds that I chopped up in my food processor.  (You could add other nuts, fruit, or even chocolate.)

**This is a very WET mixture, more "sloppy" than I expected, but don't fret, it will come out great!

6.  Add combined mixture to 8x8 pan.  I do not have one (weird, I know) so I used a muffin pan.

BEST IDEA EVER!  This way, everything is perfectly divided into individual servings.

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  I did 15 minutes, rotated my pan, 15 more minutes.  Then I poked them with a knife (we don't have toothpicks) to check consistency...and cooked for probably about 5-7 more minutes.

They came out PERFECTLY!  

The muffin pan was a genius idea, but of course, you can use a regular pan and have more reign of your serving size.  **Note:  the mixture divided perfectly into 12 muffin sized portions**  They have a nice shape, and are easy to handle/consume.  They taste like a delicious banana bread with an oat texture added, and of course the fruit gives it a little zing.

There are a lot of substitutions available here as well.  You can use any type of milk.   You can use a nut/seed butter instead of regular peanut butter.  You can add any other type of seed/nut, like hemp seeds or walnuts.  Instead of maple syrup, you can use something like liquid Stevia.  Instead of a banana, you can use one egg (which will obviously not give you the great banana flavor).  You can also add sugar or brown sugar if you are feeling rebellious.  But that is one FANTASTIC thing about these:  NO SUGAR and NO FLOUR!

I hope you enjoy these as much as I am going to {all week}!  Remember to store tightly so they stay moist and delicious!  Let me know if you come up with any great variations.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My 50th Post!

So apparently this is my 50th post.  That's a lot.  I started this new blog in October of 2012.  I'm so glad I did!  It really has been a nice outlet for me.  It occupies some time.  Keeps my mind going.  And I enjoy it.  I don't claim to be a good writer, but I hope that you enjoy it, too!

In honor of this momentous occasion, I am going to compile a list of 50 things that I love or that I am thankful for. 

1.  My patient, loving, supportive husband.
2.  My growing relationship with my parents.
3.  Having a real best friend after so many years.
4.  Over three years with my Lola girl.
5.  The fact that I OWN my car.
6.  Happy hours.
7.  Large decorative vases.
8.  Purple.
9.  Photography/Photos.
10.  A growing friendship with someone new.
11.  Letting go.
12.  My new job/raise/benefits/security.
13.  Patios and grilling.
14.  Travelling.
15.  Not-So-New books to read.
16.  Nights out.
17.  My memories.
18.  Listening to records on Sundays.
19.  Long walks around the neighborhood.
20.  Visiting the Minnesota Zoo.
21.  Iced coffee.
22.  Trying new foods.
23.  Learning how to hem pants.
24.  Clearance/Sales.
25.  Surprises.
26.  Making desserts.
27.  Recycling.
28.  Coconut oil.
29.  Sunshine.
30.  New music.
31.  A clean house.
32.  Accepting my curly hair.
33.  My dad's insane sense of humor/life.
34.  Sisters-in-Law
35.  My improved patience.
36.  Hand-me-downs.
37.  Giving back.
38.  Nail polish.
39.  Chocolate. 
40.  Getting snail mail.
41.  Making someone smile.
42.  Spending time with grandparents.
43.  Even numbers.
44.  Pastries.
45.  My new attitude.
46.  Sweatshirts and jeans.
47.  Feather pillows.
48.  Weddings.
49.  Hot tea.
50.  My life. 

Have you taken inventory of the best things in your life lately?  Remember, nothing in life is free.  Except what you make for yourself.  Enjoy each moment and make every memory count! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The D Word {You Never Say} - Divorce

I heard someone a while back say that you should never use the "D" word in your relationship.  Ever.  I agree.  It is not something you should ever use as a threat or picture it as an option.

I do believe that some people get married without knowing 100% whether or not they should be doing it.  In that case, the answer is probably not.  Do they think of divorce as an option?  Do they think, "oh well...if it doesn't work out, we can get divorced"?  On the contrary, I know many people get married knowing full well that divorce is not an option for them, and they end up divorced.  How does that happen?

My coworker:  in her 30s, divorced with a son, remarried with two daughters.  Definitely not the idea she had when she entered into her first marriage.  She did not expect to get a divorce.  How does a marriage fall apart to the point of no repair?  How does it get to that point?

Trust me, I am no where near a divorce, and this is not where this post came from.  It came from a few casual conversations about relationships with coworkers and girlfriends about how people end up divorced.  HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?  People get married, have kids, fulfill dreams...and get divorced.

Is it just a fact of life for some people?  Of course, there are the obvious situations:  not ready to get married, unhealthy relationship, feeling like they missed out on something or someone.  But I'm referring to the people who were madly in love, had the time of their lives, built a family, and then lost it all.  Where is the disconnect?  What happens to a couple to make them give up on it all?

I feel supremely lucky that my parents (and Mike's, for that matter) are married over 33 years, and going strong.  Yes, my parents had hard times.  My dad was very candid about a situation many years ago (I believe all three of us kids were born), where my parents had a rough patch.  A really rough patch.  It was hard for me to hear him talk about it at the time (this was probably about 2 years ago). Looking back...maybe it was my dad's way of sharing wisdom on how to have a good relationship?

{I've been thinking about writing this blog for a while, and that tidbit just came to my mind.  
Good job, Dad.}

I think the moral of my story is to love your marriage.  Work for and with your spouse. Make memories every moment you can.  Love every bit of your spouse.  Never give up on making time for one another.  Leave love notes.  Kiss in public.  Talk about the good and the bad.  Spend all day in bed cuddling.  Be spontaneous.  Work it out.  Bake their favorite dessert.  Be WITH them.

All in all, at the end of the day, remember that marriage is precious.  Although it sometimes gets pulled through the mud by horror stories, celebrities, and just plain bad people...marriage is special. Remember that those negative aspects generally come from "the D word" and not from marriage itself.

Don't enter into a marriage that you are not 100% ready for.  Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT something you can take back.  Marriage is a fantastic commitment, and one that will last forever if you have the right tools, the right attitude, and the right partner!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

First Wedding of the Summer!

Going back to work after a four day weekend is hard, but dang it feels good to be back in our own bed!  We have slept in 5 different beds in the last nine days:  Duluth, ours, Bismarck, Max, and Minot.  Too much travelling!

Last week, I spent a few hundred dollars on wedding gifts for the summer, and over the 4th, we chalked up our first wedding.  Mike was a groomsman, and I was a lonely tagalong, as everyone I knew was also in the wedding.  But it was worth it to spend time with our friends from NoDak.

We left Wednesday after work to make the seven hour drive to Bismarck.  Now THAT is exhausting.  Mike drove the whole way and we arrived after midnight.  The next morning, we got to sleep in and then meet Lucy, his dad's 5 month old Boston Terrier.  She was really hyper and excited to meet us, but eventually calmed down.  She is pretty tiny and very well behaved.  I have to say, I am glad we didn't get a puppy about a month back.  They are a lot of work!  Although cute, I am not ready.

Thursday was the 4th and Lincoln (just south of Bismarck where they live) is allowed to shoot fireworks off at any time.  They are banned in Bismarck, so I'm literally not exaggerating when I say it is solid six hours of everyone shooting off gigantic fireworks from their driveways.  For a few days.  Like the real, big kind that towns shoot off for their festivals.  We bought a few cheesy ones (smoke bombs, parachutes, tanks, sparklers) and set those off earlier in the evening.  I'm not a big fan of fireworks, so we just buy the kid kind to play with :)  And then the pandemonium ensued.  Eventually, Lucy and I went inside to relax...because you can only see so many fireworks until you lose your mind.

Friday we drove to Minot for the rehearsal and groom's dinner followed by a bit of bar hopping with the groomsman.  It was fun to meet a few people I never had the chance to, and hear the guy's stories about growing up and all the dumb stuff they used to do.  Oh, small towns!  We finally settled in Mike's hometown of 300, Max, ND.  We stayed with the groom that night (his bride was in a hotel in Minot with the bridesmaids).  Saturday was wedding day!  Mike and the groom woke up feeling less than sober, but we all safely made it to Minot.  I got to spend some time relaxing in the hotel room because Mike was a groomsman and everyone I knew was in the wedding.  I ate dinner with Mike's friends parents, and it was nice to get to know them a little better!

We danced, ate desserts, drank homemade liquor, and had a blast.  Congrats to Cody & Randi for tying the knot after 8 years!  So happy we could be a part of it.  We were tired but not hungover, and slept in a bit to prepare for our almost 10 hour drive home.  It was looong and it felt so good to be home.  Lola also enjoys settling back at home.  She isn't a fan of travelling.

Now we are trudging through another work week and awaiting visitors and more weddings.  Every weekend in July is booked!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Duluth Trip - Bluegrass Style

Last weekend, we finally made it up to Duluth to visit Mike's friend Ryan, and his wife Brittany.  We usually do concerts with them at least once a year and it had been a long time.  We all got tickets for the Atmosphere & Trampled by Turtles show at Bayfront Festival Park.  If you have a chance to take in a show at this outdoor venue, definitely do it!  Although it was a bit mucky from rain, it was a huge, beautiful venue.

We started our day with lunch at Fitger's, at the recommendation of my friends.  I had the pub style wild rice burger, and Mike had the elk burger.  I chose to have the root beer since it was before noon.  SO GOOD.  I love root's really weird, I know. (I had two beer kegs and a root beer keg at my graduation party.)  I would highly recommend the wild rice burgers.  Also, GET THE FRIES!  They are so freaking good.

After lunch, we surprised my friends by meeting them at Bent Paddle Brewing Company.  This is a super new brewery and they just opened their tap room.  Delish beer, good vibe, and friends!

We headed to Ryan's place to drop off our stuff, and the music began.  We saw Charlie Parr at the Rhubarb festival, Atmosphere and Trampled at the Bayfront show, and two bands, including Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank at The REX.  Dinner was awesome grilled burgers, and hand cut french fries on Ryan's deck.  Deeeeeelish!  This was an awesome day filled with banjos, harmonicas, beer, and other good stuff.  I linked the bands, and I suggest you check them out!  It was a great Duluth experience, as the music scene there is insane.  Thanks to Ryan and Brittany for giving us the full 

Sunday we ate at Northern Waters (I do NOT recommend the lamb), walked out on the pier, indulged in mini donuts, and the sun was shining!  On the way back to our car, we made the best discovery ever.  An Olive Oil Bar, The Rustic Olive.  Yep.  We are olive oil fans, and have been looking for some new, good, balsamic vinegar.  This is like a winery, but for olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  There are taps, you sample, and it's freaking amazing.  YOU MUST GO HERE.  You will never think of olive oil the same.  And fun fact: the olive oil you're probably using is old and bad for you.  

We stopped at Third Street Bakery on our way out of town.  GO TO THIS BAKERY.  It is freaking amazing and super cheap.  Their cookies were out of control, and we got a six-pack for only 6$!  And they are made with local, good for you ingredients.  

Duluth was a fun time, and I'm glad we finally made the trip.  We just hit a few of the big things, and hopefully next time we can do some more things off the beaten path.  Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions!  Duluth has a lot to offer, and it's not too far away from the twin cities.  Make a fun weekend out of it!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Losing People Who Matter

Last week I experienced a strange event you don't normally think about.  One of my coworkers passed away unexpectedly.  Not something you prepare for, or know how to handle.

To tell you the short story, she didn't show up to work for two days, I (as well as others) were literally sick with worry, and our supervisor probed her father to go to her house.  They found her on Wednesday afternoon, and said she passed away Monday night.  I could tell the moment my old supervisor found out, I could see it on his face.  They took our team to a conference room and told us, and then told the rest of our site after.  It was really hard, a few of us were crying.  It was just SUCH a shock.

She said goodbye Monday night like she always did.  I remember what she was wearing.  I remember her walking out.  27 years old.  Gone too soon.  Her funeral was yesterday.

Yesterday was July 1st, which happens to be the day my mother-in-law passed away.  Yesterday was one year that she was gone.  Sadly, she didn't even make it 30 days past our wedding.  But she was there to celebrate our special day and fought so hard to be there.  I wish I would have included her more, given her the experience of watching someone she loves try on a wedding dress, taste cakes, etc.  Although we didn't do a lot of those "typical wedding" things, and they live in ND, I wish we had done some of those things just for fun.  She won't get to see her own daughter in a wedding dress.

Life is just too damn precious.

I have a really hard time dealing with death.  I simply cannot process the fact that the person is gone.  Lately I have been extremely paranoid about losing someone I love.  There have been a few anniversaries of people I loved passing away and it makes you think.  Makes you worry.

Mike's bit of wisdom was "You never know when it's your time to go."  Um...NOT HELPFUL!
But he's right.  I know it is said all the time, but what would you do if your loved one was gone tomorrow?  What would THEY do if YOU were gone tomorrow?  It's awful.  Awful to think about.  I can't get over the fact that my 27 year old coworker went home and never came back.  I'll never forget her smile and awesome attitude.  But she was taken away...for some reason.  My mother-in-law won't ever see her grandkids.  She, too, was taken away for some reason I can't understand.

Make sure that every moment you have is worth it.  Make memories, make friends, live your life.  Give hugs hello and kisses goodbye.  Call your parents.  Send notes to your grandparents.  Check in with your friends.  Make your life a story to remember.