The Great Somoa Cookie Adventure

Last night I decided to finally get around to making that homemade somoa cookie recipe, since I didn’t have the black beans I needed for another cookie recipe. Let’s just say I’ll be leaving the cookie-making to the Girl Scouts…or whomever manufactures those bad boys.

Homemade Samoas Girl Scout Cookies

It all started out fine. I got the dough mixed up and ready to go, but started going downhill when I found myself skipping steps and combining things that weren’t to be mixed. The first step I skipped was the cooling of the dough. I started the process around 7, so I figured, “Hey, who has time for an hour in the fridge? Not me.” I proceeded to roll the dough out for cutting and quickly realized it was too warm. After I scraped the last glob from my elbow, I decided to just shape these cookies the old fashioned way. No biggie, right? It’s just a shape. After I popped them in the oven, it was time to toast the coconut. Again, trying to save time, I decided to do it at the same time the cookies were baking. What I failed to realize was that I was going to have to open the oven constantly to stir the coconut, thus thwarting the cookies from being cooked thoroughly.

After I got everything out of the oven, it was time to screw up the recipe one more time. I spent the next 10 minutes developing carpal tunnel syndrome by performing the tedious chore of unwrapping each caramel from it’s plastic wrap. I then proceeded to melt the caramels in the same bowl as the chocolate and mix it all together. Albeit not a terrible decision, but definitely a difficult mixture to stir. I finally realized that I had royally mucked everything up and decided to just wing it. I started smearing the caramel/chocolate/coconut mixture onto the cookies and finished by spreading them out to cool. They looked like poop and weighed about 3lbs each. Seriously the heaviest cookies I’ve ever lifted. I rolled the remaining topping mixture into little balls, which looked even more like poo. Beauty be damned; the things were delicious!

So now that I’ve scratched that off my Pinterest list, I can say with the utmost confidence that I won’t be trying that recipe again. Well, maybe next time I’ll have a second party to help keep my head on straight.

My Cooking Tip of the Day: Allow yourself plenty of time to follow a recipe through from start to finish. Baking late at night is not a great idea.

Three Things Thursday: New Artists

TTT 06-07-12

I’ve gotten very far away from Three Things Thursdays, so allow me to take the opportunity to revive it! It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, so when I was doing my annual rewatching of the seasons, I noticed a band that was playing a pretty catchy song while the gang was hanging at the Bronze. Side note: If Morgantown had a Bronze, I would be so happy. Does anyone remember the episode when Aimee Mann played there?! Anyway, I found out that the band was called Cibo Matto, which is comprised of two Japanese women who focus on food in their lyrics. (I found this delightful.) The song is called Spoon and I’ve been obsessed with it. Ok, ok, time for TTT.


1. Cibo Matto – As I said before, this two woman band originally started their career singing about food, but later expanded their topics. The song I first discovered, Spoon, has a great indie pop beat that just feels fun. The other song featured in that same episode of Buffy was called Sugar Water. It has a very sultry, smooth texture with a prominent drum beat. The lyrics are almost spoken at first, but the chorus has a great “la la la” to it. Oh and did I mention Sean Lennon was once a member?! So cool. Anyway, check them out if you are in to a sort of indie rock/pop acid jazz sound.


2. Nicki Minaj – Well, this isn’t exactly new, but I’ve definitely found her music to be very entertaining since I started watching her on American Idol. She’s edgy, in-your-face and definitely profane with her lyrics, but darn it, she produces such catchy songs! My current favorite really shouldn’t be downloaded by anyone under 16, but if you must know, it’s titled Beez in the Trap.


3. Of Monsters and Men – This was actually a Pandora find for me. I listen to the Band of Horses station pretty frequently and they kept popping up. The first song I heard that I liked was Little Talks. This band is sort of a weird mix for me and actually took me a while to warm up to. Regardless, if you like an indie rock/folk feel, this band is for you.

Ok, that’s all for me. Get off here and go download!

Guest Post: Looking Beyond the Well-known Nutrients to Protect Our Hearts

This guest post is by Jennifer Morris. She has worked as a writer for a number of health care businesses for over three years, and is well versed in health, nutrition and fitness writing. Her work includes the promotion of a healthy lifestyle mixing diet, exercise and improved knowledge of the body. This also involves the promotion of fitness regimes and natural dietary alternatives ahead of early adoption of drug treatment programs which is an important message for all ethical healthcare businesses to embrace.

Ask anyone what steps you can take with your diet to reduce your risk of heart disease and you can guess what their reply will be – reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fat and salt, whilst eating more fruit, vegetables and oily fish for antioxidant vitamins and omega-3. While these will certainly help you on the way to achieving a healthy heart and circulation, it’s important to keep in mind that a healthy diet as a whole will provide the greatest benefit. Over recent years new research has indicated that more nutrients are important for heart health than was appreciated a number of decades ago. Here we take a look at five such vitamins and minerals and which foods are the richest sources.

Potassium

This mineral has a number of roles in the body, but in relation to the heart is important in two ways. Firstly, it helps to maintain the electrical activity of the heart so that it beats as it should; you might be unaware of this unless tested, but a deficiency or excess of potassium can lead to problems with this and result in a heart attack. Then its other function is to help to regulate blood pressure; while sodium pushes up blood pressure, potassium helps to bring it down. As high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, this is welcome. Fruit and vegetables – in particular fruit juice, dried fruit, bananas, potatoes and tomatoes –nuts and milk are amongst the richest sources of potassium. While most of us can eat these freely, as the excess is expelled by our kidneys, anyone with kidney disease needs to proceed more cautiously; check with your doctor if you think that applies to yourself.

Magnesium

As with potassium, magnesium is thought to help lower blood pressure. Indeed the large scale DASH found that those who consumed a diet rich in magnesium had a significantly lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.  Magnesium also plays a role in promoting a normal heart rhythm. The foods that provide most magnesium in the diet tend to be those derived from plants, which we should be aiming to base our diet on anyway. Green leafy vegetables, nuts, pulses, dried fruit and wholegrains all make a good contribution to our magnesium intake. We can include more pulses by using them to substitute meat in a range of dishes, while nuts and dried fruit can be added to our morning cereal and used in baking. Vegetables such as cabbage and kale might not be the most popular, but they work well in stir fries, side dishes and salads where they aren’t overcooked, as it is this that usually makes them off-putting.

Selenium

This mineral forms part of the enzymes that work as antioxidants; these mop up the free radicals that are generated in the body, which would otherwise cause damage to the cells of the blood vessels and make them more likely to narrow, reducing blood flow to the heart. While our soils used to be rich in selenium and as a consequence anything that grew in them was too, thanks to intensive farming this is no longer the case; cereals and animals that graze on them will still provide some selenium, but nowhere near as much as they used to. However, the good news is that there are still some foods that are a good bet for selenium. Seafood and Brazil nuts are the richest sources; interestingly just one Brazil nut will provide you with the recommended daily intake of selenium, so are a very easy way to ensure you obtain enough.

Folate

Everyone associates this B vitamin with pregnancy and while that’s very true, we all need to ensure we consume sufficient folate to keep our hearts in good shape. There is mounting evidence that a diet rich in foods containing folate can help to lower levels of a chemical known as homocysteine – produced during normal processes within the body – which if elevated increases the risk of heart disease. The best foods for folate are breakfast cereals that have been fortified with the vitamin, pulses, green vegetables, citrus fruits and berries. Be aware that heat reduces their content of folate, particularly if cooked in water, so don’t overcook peas, beans, lentils or your greens.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is well-known for its protective role in bone health, but making sure we all receive enough will also benefit our heart. Research published last year showed that people with a lower vitamin D level in their body had a considerably higher risk of developing heart disease. This is of particular relevance, as vitamin D deficiency is now much more common; possibly because we spend less time outdoors and are more cautious when we do expose our skin to the sun by applying sunscreen, which means we produce less of the vitamin. While there aren’t many foods that provide vitamin D in the diet – oily fish and egg yolks are the main natural sources – breakfast cereals, milk and margarine are commonly fortified, so opt for these when you can. You may still struggle to meet your needs for the vitamin and if you are worried about deficiency – signs can be vague but include tiredness and general aches and pains – speak with your doctor, as they can arrange a blood test and a supplement if needed.

From this you can see that a range of nutrients can provide protection against heart disease and that many of them come from plant-based foods. Our best bet is to include foods from all the groups in the diet and continue to emphasize our intake of fruits, vegetables, pulses and whole grains, which should ideally comprise around two-thirds of what we eat.

My New Obsession

Many of you may remember how obsessed I was with PBFingers blog when I first discovered it. I tore through her archives like I was some sort of mad Twilight fanatic and spent many evenings glued to my iPad. Though I still love her blog dearly, I’ve recently stumbled on to a new one: The Small Things Blog. I found this blog on Pinterest after seeing this picture pop up more than a dozen times on my friends’ boards.

The Small Things Blog: How to Style your Bangs (and apply Aquage Uplifting Foam!)    It would help if I looked this great! And was 100 years younger. This is a good blog.

I got curious and decided to follow the source. This led me to Kate! I read her “About” section first and really liked her story.

1. Where are you from?
I’m originally from Illinois, but I’ve lived in North Carolina for the past 5 years.

2. What made you decide to start this blog?
I love blogs. I’ve been reading blogs for months and months. I started mine in 2011. It is a place for me to share things I love and hopefully inspire some creativity with my readers.

3. When did you go to cosmetology (beauty) school?
The high school I went to offered a Trade School program for students who wanted to pursue a certain trade. The school offered a variety of other programs, from culinary arts to intro to nursing. The cosmetology program lasted 2 years. We graduated, and took the state board exam, at the same time we graduated high school.

4. How did you know you wanted to do hair?
It was one of those things that always made sense. I remember in middle school my friends would ask me to do their hair for the school dances. That was the first moment where I thought, “I could do this forever!”

5. Did you go to college?
I did. My dad really encouraged me to go. Of course I didn’t want to because I wanted to start working at a salon. I mean, everyone knows what’s best for their own life at 17, right?!
I went to a small Christian college in Michigan for 2 years. It took me forever to find a major since I didn’t care about anything else. I randomly took a philosophy class titled “The Good Life”, which looked at personal opinions from Philosophers about what makes life “good”. It was really interesting to me, so I decided to keep taking classes in that subject. Eventually, I transfered to a university in North Carolina. It was very much a time in my life that I could really see God’s direction. For example, there is no real explanation I have as to why I chose North Carolina. It just looked good and I was anxious to start a new chapter. I met my husband about 5 days after I arrived.

6. How and when did you meet your husband?
Since I didn’t know a soul in NC, I went online and looked into my schools’ Campus Crusade ministry. I emailed a girl named Dorothy and asked her if she could meet me at a meeting and introduce me to some people. She responded and said she wasn’t attending Cru at the moment but she was going to this ministry called TwentySomething at a local church.
She picked me up on a Thursday and brought me to TwentySomething. Don’t ask me why, but I decided we needed to sit in the front row. Normally I was the shy girl that sat in the back, but this time I just felt like sitting up front!
Justin, my husband, plays guitar and sings so he was on stage leading worship. As soon as my eyes fell upon him I thought, “uh oh. He’s really cute”.
He came up to me afterwards and introduced himself. Through some small talk we realized we were taking the same philosophy class, and in fact, we were in the same section!
We flirted relentlessly for a few months and then began dating in October 2006. We were married in May 2009 and settled in Raleigh a few months later.

7. When did your sister move to Raleigh?
Oh my sister! Where do I begin? She’s my best friend and I’m absolutely cherishing the time we have while we live in the same city! She moved here in January 2011. She has come to stay for a month in the summer of 2010 while my husband was away on a school internship. And we loved living near each other. So that is what sort of inspired the move. She was looking for a new major, and a new chapter in her life, so the move to Raleigh was perfect.

8. When did you start making jewelry?
My sister and I started our jewelry line in the summer of 2010 when she lived with me. It was kind of a random start up, but we have enjoyed it ever since! Our Etsy shop opened in July 2010.

9. When did you start cooking?
I started cooking after I got married. I attempted some meals before my wedding and I made some pretty scary food. I gave up and ate Lean Cuisines and cereal. After I was married, though, I wanted to impress my new hubby and make him some good meals. I would often complain about how I just can’t cook and what is wrong with me, and I just am not good at it. He said all I needed was to “put a little Love in it”. (it’s funny the things we remember, isn’t it?) From then on, I’ve developed a love for cooking and actually cared if it turned out well! So I have him, my mom, and Ree from The Pioneer Woman to thank!!

10. Where do you get your craftiness from?
My mom! She’s incredibly creative. Her specialty is room design and hosting. Her parties are the best! Every detail is carefully considered to make sure it all comes together. All of my confidence in doing crafts comes from knowing I have a talented mom.

So right off the bat I realize she has a very similar story to Julie from PBfingers. They both originate from Illinois and migrated to warmer weather. Very cool! Anyway, her site is full of amazing hair tutorials, fashion tips and some cool, crafty ideas.

Ok, I’m done gushing over my new blogger. Check out her blog right now. Seriously, go straight there. How else can you learn how to do these gorgeous hairstyles?

The Small Things BlogThe Small Things Blog: Not Just a PonytailThe Small Things Blog: Casual Half Up Hair Tutorial (+ polka dots!)

 

Crock Pot Apple Butter Recipe

As promised, here is the recipe I used for my Crock Pot Apple Butter.

  • Approximately 3 lb. apples
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • Dash of salt
  • 3/4 cup water or fresh apple cider

Fill Crock-pot 3/4 full with peeled, cored and sliced apples. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until evenly mixed. Cover and cook on low setting overnight or until the butter is of a thick, spreadable consistency.

If apple butter has too much liquid, remove lid and cook on high until thickened. Stir often as butter thickens to prevent scorching.

Store in refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Freeze for longer storage.

I used Granny Smith apples for this recipe and found that it gave the perfect amount of tartness to the taste. You can thank my grandma in Kentucky for this recipe!

Training

So far my 10K training is going well. I’m about to finish Week 4 Day 3, which looks like this:

  • 5 minute warm up
  • 3 minute run
  • 90 second walk
  • 5 minute run
  • 2.5 minute walk
  • 3 minute run
  • 90 second walk
  • 5 minute run
  • 5 minute cool down

As I’ve said before, even though I used to run 30-40 minutes straight, I would often get burned out. Training with a set plan that eases you back into running is a great way to prevent this. Never underestimate the power of simply slowing down to get ahead. So far I’m a little behind schedule. I have about 30 training days left and only 45 days left until the race. I haven’t checked ahead to see what the next few weeks will look like, but there is a chance I may skip a day or two if I encounter repeat days. It all depends on how I feel, though.

Aside from training, I’ve been spending a lot more time in the kitchen. Well, not this week, but in weeks past, I’ve definitely been making more of an effort to cool. First there was my homemade apple butter excitement.

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I think it’s safe to say I’ll never buy apple butter from the store again. This recipe was FAR superior.

After that, I really got into avocados. I took an avocado, sliced up about half of it, then added some feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and dumped it on 1/2 cup of brown rice. Delicious.

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Of course we can’t forget about the many faces of my omelets.

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I think the middle one was my favorite.

Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with this neat graphic I found yesterday.

10 Benefits of Running Infographic

 

Let’s just call that my Healthy Tip of the Day. 🙂

Guest Post: Don’t Eat Meat? Obtaining Nutrients from Other Sources

This guest post is by Jennifer Morris. She has worked as a writer for a number of health care businesses for over three years, and is well versed in health, nutrition and fitness writing. Her work includes the promotion of a healthy lifestyle mixing diet, exercise and improved knowledge of the body. This also involves the promotion of fitness regimes and natural dietary alternatives ahead of early adoption of drug treatment programs which is an important message for all ethical healthcare businesses to embrace.

To someone who likes to eat meat with their main meals, hearing you don’t eat it every day or even every week comes as a bit of a shock. Questions such as “So what do you do for protein then?” or “Aren’t you anemic?” often follow. It’s still a misconception that meat has to be included within the diet regularly to achieve the right balance of nutrients, but as anyone who avoids meat or likes to limit their intake knows, this just isn’t the case. All the components that meat provides can be sourced from other foods. Here we take a look at good alternatives to meat to supply the nutrients that it is rich in.

Protein

This is one of the easiest nutrients to find alternatives to. You don’t often find vegetarians or even vegans for that matter who are lacking in protein; mainly because we don’t need anything like as much protein as most people in the United States consume – it’s just less than 0.5g of protein per pound of body weight, so if you weigh in at 130lb, that’s only 59g of protein daily . Besides the obvious choices – fish, eggs and low fat dairy produce – there are plenty of plant-based proteins to choose from. Peas, beans and lentils make an excellent substitute in a range of dishes, from stews and curries to soups and pasta meals; they can either completely or partly replace the meat. Soya beans are a particularly good source of plant protein, as like that from animal sources they are considered complete, so contain all of the essential amino acids – these are the building blocks of proteins that the body can’t manufacture on its own. Instead of the beans, you can use tofu or soya alternatives to dairy produce; just make sure with the latter you choose a brand that is fortified with calcium and vitamins, so it matches the nutritional profile of dairy milks. Nuts and seeds are another great option, which can be added to cereal, yogurt, salads and stir fries; alternatively enjoy a small handful as a nutritious snack. Many people also don’t realize wholegrains such as oats, granary bread, wholewheat pasta and brown rice make a small, but useful contribution to our protein intake; ideally we should try to opt for these types of carbohydrate at each mealtime.

Iron

It’s true that the iron provided by meat is the form that is easiest for the body to absorb, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make use of other forms of iron in the diet. If you eat eggs, these are another source of iron. However, if you avoid all animal produce, you can still consume your fair share of this important mineral that helps to maintain healthy red blood cells. Pulses, nuts, dried fruit, green leafy vegetables and tofu are all good natural sources, but many breakfast cereals also have iron added to them, which makes them the richest source for vegetarians and vegans. As the iron in these foods is harder for the body to take up, we can give it a helping hand in two ways. Firstly, having a source of vitamin C at each meal helps the uptake of iron; citrus fruit, berries, kiwis, tomatoes, peppers and green vegetables are great sources. The other thing we can do is to avoid drinking tea and coffee near mealtimes, as components of these otherwise stop iron being absorbed as readily.

Zinc

Although meat is the richest source of zinc, other foods that provide significant amounts are fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, pulses, nuts and oats. Zinc mightn’t be as well known as iron, but it is important for a healthy immune system, wound healing, production of new body tissues and to support fertility. A substance known as phytate which is present in pulses and wholegrains can impair zinc uptake by the body, but well soaking these foods can make the zinc more available.

Vitamin B12

If you eat any animal produce you should be able to meet your body’s requirements for this vitamin, which is needed for healthy nerves and red blood cells; research also shows it can help to protect you from heart disease. However, if you’re vegan it’s almost impossible to obtain enough from the diet naturally, but a number of foods that you might already eat have vitamin B12 added to them; these include breakfast cereals, dairy-free alternatives to milk and yeast extracts.

A word about supplements

While it should be possible to meet all your body’s needs through a diet where you restrict or avoid meat, there are a few occasions where you might require some help in the form of supplements. If appetite is poor or your body has increased protein requirements – either through illness or if you are an athlete – additional protein may be needed; Whey Protein is a good option if you include dairy produce or if you avoid these, Soya Protein supplements are available. Iron needs increase during pregnancy, but many pre-natal supplements contain iron to support you both; regular blood tests will be taken to indicate whether you need a prescription of high strength iron tablets. If you develop pernicious anemia due to inadequate vitamin B12 and this is due to your dietary intake, a supplement containing this vitamin will help. However, if a blood test reveals this is the result of your body not absorbing it properly, you will need injections of vitamin B12 every three months. You could always take a multivitamin and mineral as a safety net, but if you are conscious enough to restrict your meat intake for health reasons, you are probably already obtaining a balanced diet and therefore nutrient intake as it is.