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bring home elsabeth

Good morning!

Are you happy to be starting a new week?  I am.  As much as I used to dread Monday morning, I am so thankful these days that the end of the weekend doesn’t hold an impending sense of doom.  Of course I was by no means springing out of bed with a smile on my face at 6:30 this morning, but I’m not sure that’s even possible anyway!

We had a slow and easy weekend…just how I like ‘em:)  As I’m sure you can all identify…they are few and far between.  So, we soaked up every moment.

Saturday morning Farmer’s Market trip was picturesque – with the beauty of fall only intensifying every day.  I ate an apple on the way and was positively starving by the time we left!

We picked these up for the baby – and she was a happy girl:)  And don’t worry, they’re vegetarian. Peanut Butter to be exact.

After leaving the market (one bushel of swiss chard in tow) we stopped by Starbuck’s for a soy half caf latte for two.  Aren’t coffees the best when they’re shared?  Having my own straw just isn’t the same.

The rest of Saturday included a long walk down to Main Street.  There was a vintage car show going on downtown, and we were hoping to scope it out, but as we progressed toward Main, we began to notice a disappointingly steady stream of vintage cars cruising past us.  By the time we got there, there were only a few stragglers remaining:(  So, we just turned around and headed back home.  Stopping for mini photo shoots along the way.

Doesn’t matter what kind of face or noises you make, this girl refuses to look at the camera.

Honestly, I was a bit lazy all weekend as far as food was concerned.  I made a huge batch of crock-pot taco soup on Friday, and we ate it probably 4-3 times between then and Sunday.  At least it was delicious!  Leftovers are the way to go in my book:)

Crock-pot Taco Soup

Ingredients

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (really you can use whatever kinds of beans you want!)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans – you got it, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can sweet corn, no salt added, drained
1 can rotel
1 can diced tomatoes
3/4 small can tomato paste
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
about 1 cup water

Directions
1. Dump everything into the crock pot and turn crock pot on low.  Allow to simmer all day.
2. Come home from work, give it a quick stir, and eat up! But careful – it’s hot!

It’s really very complicated.

*You may want to add more or less water, depending on how thick you want it.  The husband and I like it nice and hearty!
**I know this recipe has a lot of “cans” in it – and I know you’re technically supposed to limit canned goods, but sometimes convenience just wins out.  Sorry.  Actually, no I’m not.

Served with a side of homemade corn chips, sprinkled with sea salt and baked at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Watch them closely because they go from not quite done to charred in about 1 minute flat.  Not that I would know.

I also had a side of leftover roasted kabocha squash.

You may have noticed this really hideous looking squash in my fall post a few days ago.  I basically sliced it up and roasted it at  400 degrees for about 25 minutes.  And let me tell you, I have eaten it for about 6 meals since then.  I have tried butternut squash once and honestly really didn’t care of it.  This guy is a whole different ballgame folks. If you haven’t tried kabocha squash – stop reading right now and go get one.  You won’t regret it.  It was a bit expensive (around $5 I think), but it’s lasted so long, and was totally and completely worth every dime.  Every time I get ready to eat it leftover, I just toss a few wedges on a cookie sheet and re-roast them.  Tastes like the first time every time!

Anyway, before I go I wanted to let you guys know about something called “Share the Love Week” going on over at a really lovely blog, 3 Boys and a Little Lady.  I just stumbled upon this blog about a month ago, and I haven’t been able to stop reading since.  Right now their family is trying to bring home the little girl they’re adopting from Ethiopia, Elsabeth.  I don’t think I’ve really mentioned this before on the blog, but Jon and I have a huge heart for adoption.  We hope and pray that we can adopt a child one day, but since we aren’t quite on that road yet, I’m excited about the opportunity to help out a family that is.  Emily is having an auction of sorts with different Etsy shops, and all the proceeds go toward their adoption fund.  It starts tomorrow morning, so please check it out if you get a chance!

Love you guys!

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Burt’s Bees Review

Happy weekend friends!

I am so glad this week is over.  For some reason it seemed ultra long – maybe because of our crazy weekend and not getting much rest.  It’s never good to start the week already worn out.  At least we were worn out from too much fun, though!  Well, that and driving a million miles anyway.  Oh, and pulling together hosting a dinner party in a span of about 5 hours.

Speaking of that dinner party…if you haven’t heard, the results are out for Project Food Blog round 3.  Bad news, bears….at least for me.  There will be no round 4 showing up on ChiaSeedMe.  Of course I’m a bit disappointed, but it’s okay. Not everyone can win, right?  And I’m super excited to follow along and see some amazing entries for the rest of the challenges.  One last time, I have to say thank you so much for your sweet support and votes…I never would have made it as far as I did without all of you:)  Love you guys!

Now, onto the review I promised you all.

As you know, about 2 months ago I started having some issues with my skin.  It was not pretty.

I haven’t really had a problem with my skin since high school, and I can assure you I did not appreciate having to re-live it.  I basically broke out in several areas on my face and also on my neck.  I really didn’t freak out at first…I can handle having a bit of a breakout.  But then it continually worsened…and worsened…and worsened. Finally it got to the point where it was very uncomfortable – painful and itchy – plus I felt very self conscious about it, not wanting to go anywhere without make-up on.

At the time I was using the Mary Kay skincare system.  And no, it’s not just for older women.  I know that’s what you all are thinking:)

I’d been using MK for about 5 years, and really liked it for the most part.  But over the last several months, I had been feeling more and more bothered by using chemicals on my face.  As I talked about in a previous post, I am so careful about what I put into my body, – why shouldn’t my face get the same consideration? So, knowing that I would probably break out if I switched up my cleanser, I decided that if I was already broken out it was as good a time as any to go ahead and make the switch. Sounds logical, right?

I decided to try Burt’s Bees Acne Solutions because it is almost 100% natural, and I have used other Burt’s Bees products in the past that I really loved.  At this time I was really starting to struggle with feeling distraught over my face.  It had become worse than ever…and was making me so uncomfortable, so I started researching online about natural remedies for acne.  Basically I discovered that the following are things you can do to improve skin through natural means: drink tons of water, eat more raw fruits and vegetables, cut out dairy, sugar and caffeine and drink fresh juice.

I immediately made the decision to go full force with all of these things.  For the next week I ate only raw (with the occasional piece of ezekiel bread) until dinnertime, drank lots of water and cut out all the potential culprits.  You may not believe me, but I’m here to tell you it worked.  Within about 3 days, my face was noticeably more clear. I had no way of knowing if it was solely due to those changes or if it was a result of the Burt’s Bees.  Or both.

Either way, I got comfortable…and lazy.  I’m not going to sugar coat it.  The weekend came, my in-laws were in town, and everything went out the window.  Basically, I reverted back to the way I had been eating, which is mostly healthy anyway (as you guys know), but definitely not raw until dinner.  I had caffeine several times and didn’t pay much attention to my water intake.

FAIL.

Within about 2 days, my face was right back to the way it had been.  I was so frustrated.  I felt like I had let myself down big-time. I also felt pretty sure of the fact that the improvement in my skin had been mostly due to dietary changes and not the change to Burt’s Bees.

So, you’re probably thinking I went right back to my “clear skin regimen” right?  Wrong.

I had to answer some serious questions for myself.  Was I willing to carry on that kind of eating lifestyle long term?  Was that realistic for me? Sure it was healthy.  Sure it made me feel really good.  Sure it probably would have even helped me let go of “the last 10 pounds.”  But after some serious soul searching I decided that it wasn’t worth it.  I love food too much.  I love cooking meals and eating oatmeal and squash and nut butter…and I like having the freedom to enjoy these things any time during the day. Call me crazy. While I knew I could surely live that way for awhile, it just wasn’t a good long term solution for me.

So, I decided to give Burt’s Bees until the end of my current supply to see if it would start working to clear things up.  I also decided, upon the suggestions of a couple of readers, that I would try replacing the BB moisturizer with coconut oil, to see if maybe I was overmedicating my face (there is salicylic acid in the BB cleanser and moisturizer).  So, I did that for about 2 weeks.

Finally, the day before yesterday, I used the last bit of cleanser.  Unfortunately, my face is in just as bad of shape as it was before.  I really wanted to have a different outcome for this review, but it just didn’t happen.  I wanted to be able to say that I used only natural means to have healthy, clear skin.  And more than anything I wanted to not feel the need to put chemical laden skincare on my face. I can’t tell you how bad I want that – just ask the husband:)  Poor guy.

But I honestly hit a breaking point this week.  I stood in the aisle at Walgreen’s for about 20 minutes, trying to decide whether to try a different all natural system, or whether to go with something that isn’t all natural.  I made the executive decision to sacrifice my desire for all natural, choosing to go with something that would really clear up my skin, a system called AcneFree. I left feeling kind of defeated honestly.  But now, just 2 days later, my face has improved by about 75%, no exaggeration.  It’s almost like night and day.

And then this morning came.

I noticed right after I washed my face that it was starting to sting a little bit.  I decided to forgo my usual foundation in an effort to let me skin breathe.  When I showed up to tutor Hey-Kyoung, she looked at me inquiringly and asked me why my face was all red.  Gotta love her honesty:) I instantly yanked my mirror out of my purse, and upon gazing into it realized that my face was indeed red…and kind of splotchy.  Great.

So, now the dilemma lives on.  What to do?  I’m considering alternating using the AcneFree system and a natural cleanser/coconut oil.  Not totally sure that’s a good idea though.  I should have seen this coming – going from using all natural, gentle products to a super intense product full of chemicals…it’s not wonder my poor face is reacting this way.

All that being said, I still do believe that Burt’s Bees is a good product.  If you are looking for an all natural skin care system, and you aren’t having serious issues with your skin already, then I would highly suggest trying it.  They have multiple different products – masks, scrubs, toners etc. My face always felt very clean and healthy (aside from the breakout) after using it.  And I felt so good about using an all natural product.

The one negative is that it seemed to not last very long.  For the combined cost of $28 (cleanser+moisturizer), I really would expect it to last for more than one month.

So, that is the very loooong review of the product.  Sorry this post is quite the novel…but it’s been quite the process this last month!  As always, I’m open to any tips or suggestions you guys have…but mostly I just wanted to give a review of the product.  And if there is any question, I was not asked to do this review and have no connection to the company.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!  Get some well-deserved rest and enjoy the beautiful fall weather if you’ve got it!

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dinner party to remember

Happy Thursday!

Today I’m bringing to you the recipes that made up my dinner party for Project Food Blog entry #3.  Also, today is the last day to put in votes for all your favorite entries.  And as always, I would be so thankful if you’d check out my entry and vote if you find it worthy!  Thanks so much for your support thus far!


When I started planning the menu for my party, I knew I was going to be under a serious time crunch, so I needed something simple, yet I still wanted to wow my guests with something new and unique.  The other twist was that my guests were not familiar with vegan dishes at all…so I really wanted to create something that would show them how enticing meatless dishes really can be!

I started off with the vegan chimichanga recipe – I had made it before, so I knew exactly what tweaks I needed to make.  They were so much better this time around!

Vegan Chimichangas
original recipe from Eat Drink and Be Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp chipotle hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups zucchini, julienned
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (I may try black beans next time!)
  • 1/2 cup tempeh, chopped (or an additional 1/2 cup beans)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, for frying
  • fresh lime wedges, for garnish
  • fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish

Directions

  • In a large frying pan on medium heat, combine oil, onion, garlic, chili powder, oregano, chipotle sauce, cumin and salt.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add zucchini and tomatoes and saute for another 5 minutes until veggies are soft.
  • Add beans and tempeh and saute for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Stir in vinegar.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Spoon 1/4 of filling down center of each tortilla, leaving 1-2 inches spae on top and bottom.
  • Fold bottom edge over filling and roll up, tucking in sides as you go.  Place a toothpick to hold tortilla closed.
  • In a separate frying pan, heat oil, then place burritos seam-side down on pan.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side to lightly brown, then transfer to sprayed baking sheet.
  • Bake for 12 – 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and garnish with cilantro and lime.

I also made up a quick sauce to drizzle over these.  For the sauce, add about 1/4 cup of vegan sour cream together with 1/2 tbsp chipotle hot sauce.  Mix well and then scoop sauce into a plastic baggie.  Cut off the end of the baggie and drizzle away!

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Next up was the mini tacos – these were so easy!

Vegan Mini “Party” Tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 can of beans – whatever kind you fancy!  I used lentils, and they worked great.
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground red pepper (I like it hot!)
  • shredded cabbage
  • grilled veggies – green bell pepper, red bell pepper, onion
  • vegan sour cream
  • corn tortillas

Directions

  • Place frying pan over medium heat. Combine beans, cumin and ground red pepper and heat through.
  • In a separate pan saute veggies in a little bit of oil (oops! forgot to add to the ingredient list).
  • While keeping an eye on the veggies, cut tortillas into small circles using a round object (husband used a cup).

  • Assemble! First, seasoned beans. Then, grilled veggies. Next, shredded cabbage. Last, top it off with sour cream!

Note: you could also use the leftovers “rims” of the tortillas by sprinkling sea salt on them and baking.  Then use them as toppers for your salad!  I actually almost did this…but I accidentally charred them.  FAIL!

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Now let’s backtrack just a little bit and talk about appetizers.


Of course there is no way I could possibly have an epic tex-mex party without the star of tex-mex, could I? But I also didn’t think my basic guacamole really fit the bill.  I mean, we’re talking epic here!  So, three kinds of guac it was.  And these are all so easy it’s embarrassing.

Classic Guacamole

Ingredients
1 avocado
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup onion, chopped

Directions

  • Okay, I have to be honest.  All the measurements above are guesstimations.  I basically just eye all the ingredients and have the husband taste test and make recommendations until it is unfathomably awesome.  Works for us.  But I understand some people really might appreciate a recipe, so I tried to estimate exactly how much I use of each ingredient.  I would highly recommend doing a bit of experimentation, though, because we don’t all love guac so hot our eyes water!  The cool thing is that you can add a little bit more of each ingredient until the flavor evens out.  It’s really hard to ruin guacamole in my opinion.  Unless you forget the garlic like I did for my party.  oops!

Barbecue Guacamole – just make the exact same recipe as above, then mix in about 1/2-1 tbsp of your fave barbecue sauce.  Lastly, drizzle a little extra over top!

Chipotle Guacamole
originally from here

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegan sour cream
  • 1 avocado

Directions

  • Mash avocado in a small bowl
  • add black beans, corn, cilantro and sour cream and mix well

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The other appetizer was a beautiful salad!

I mixed fresh greens (any kind will work), with jicama, cut into matchsticks  and sliced red cabbage.  After mixing it all together, I poured a Chipotle dressing over top and mixed it all together.

The dressing really made this salad.  The flavors went together like peanut butter and banana.

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And lastly, was the decadent dessert!  I honestly had huge reservations about making this, I’m not going to lie.  I’ve never fried anything in my life…and it was a bit scary. But somehow I just didn’t think baked plantains would have the same effect as fried plantains.  And in the end, authenticity won out!

I honestly didn’t think I would like this dessert much, but it was so good it hurt.  I bought some soy french vanilla ice cream to pair with the plantains and it was like a match made in heaven.  Love love love.

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And that’s it folks!  I was so happy with how this dinner turned out…and so proud of myself for pulling it together.  Whether I advance or not I’m so happy I took the opportunity to complete this challenge.  I feel like I’ve grown so much, just from the three entries I’ve created so far.  I’d love it if you’d help me get to round 4!

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a four letter word i love

i have an obsession.

it makes me squeal at the most unexpected of moments.

it’s one four-letter word that doesn’t make me cringe.

my face finds its glow.

and my world goes ’round.

savory and sweet, though it doesn’t hold a candle to the husband

and i dream of bottling it up to free at my every whim

oh fall, how i love you.

to crunch through your messy leaves and stand still in your cool breeze is one of the sweetest parts of life.

what are you loving most about this lovely season?

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adventures in iowa part 3

Hi!

Each time I do a series of post to recap a vacation or event, I get so antsy at the end.  I just want to write about today…not 3 days ago!  But alas, I love having this blog as a way to look back on my life, a scrapbook of sorts, so I shall carry on with the last day of our time in Iowa. This also happened with our trip to Europe this summer, except I actually never did recap the last two days.  I very well might still recap them at some point, but we’ll see.

Anyway, tomorrow I’ll be showing you some festive fall things I did today!  Think food (or course:) and home decor!

Our exciting tourist stop on our way out of Iowa was this…

the house used in the painting “American Gothic.”  It was totally an unplanned stop – we just saw the sign and off we went!  I love seeing stuff like this, though.  I mean, I might never be driving by Eldon, Iowa again…I’ve gotta take advantage of opportunities like this! ;)

I did think the house was pretty darn cute, though.  I’d live there:)

Told you I’m obsessed.

And my favorite picture of the day – Jon and I depicting “American Gothic.”  If we were truly trying to replicate it, we’d need to crop the picture, obviously…but Jon played around with the effects instead:)  Do I look angry or what?!

The rest of the day was an ultra boring and long drive home, during which I brainstormed my Project Food Blog entry.  My eats were equally as boring, consisting of a veggie Subway sandwich, spelt pretzels and almond butter, a few pieces of chocolate and a couple handfuls of the husband’s Chex Mix.   It was so hard to be stuck in the car when I really needed to be working on my dinner party…but I tried to use my time the best way possible!

Speaking of PFB, please hop over and check out my entry and vote for me if you think me worthy of advancing!  I’m going to put myself out there and say I feel more anxious about this entry than any of the others.  It just took so much time, energy and heart…I’m nervous!!

I’m off to work on some yoga for my class tomorrow – hope you’re all having a great start to your week!

Still to come this week:

  • Fall fun at our house
  • my review of Burt’s Bees skin care products and an update on Project: Clear up my Skin!

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