Monday, September 1, 2014

Recipe Reviews-Days: Homemade Chocolate Banana Coocnut Ice Cream

Welcome to another installment of Recipe Reviews-Day. These posts are where, as the name implies, I review a recipe that I have made for my family. I am not one to create my own recipes; not at this point in my life right now anyway. The recipes have to meet our whole-food standards of eating. We don't prescribed to any one diet such as gluten-free, paleo, veganism, etc., but we do try to minimize processed foods as much as possible. Do we eat the occasional processed cracker, candy, or stop at a fast-food chain. Sure, life happens. But with some planning we can make those times few and far between. Without further ado, here is the recipe review.

The original recipe can be found at A Girl Worth Saving. The recipe below calls for an ice cream maker to be used, but I don't think you necessarily need to have one. It, however, does make life a lot easier and is so much fun for the kids. I highly encourage those that can get one to do so...but check you local yard sale, eBay, or Craigslist first. We scored ours practically brand new for a fraction of the retail price.

  1. 1 - 13.5 ounce call of full fat coconut milk
  2. 3 small very ripe bananas
  3. 3 (heaping) tbsp of cacao powder
  4. 1/4 c maple syrup (optional)
  1. Blend all ingredients together with a food processor until combined.
  2. Pour into the pre-frozen ice cream machine mixing canister.
  3. Mix until ice cream is of a soft serve consistency...about 15 to 20 minutes.
  1. This ice cream is very, very easy to make! So easy in fact that I let my 4 year old do a lot of the work while I stood there watching. 
  2. While I LOVED the consistency of the ice cream in the soft serve stage, I did NOT love the flavor. Oh, don't get wrong...if I liked bananas I would have wanted to marry this paleo-inspired ice cream. But I don't like bananas and I didn't think they're flavor would be so prominent in this ice cream. 
  3. I will be making this ice cream again, but will only use one banana if any and will substitute another fruit that I prefer over bananas.
  4. If you cannot tolerate, are allergic to, or simply like the taste of coconuts and bananas you HAVE to try this recipe. Despite my lack of banana love, it's too easy and too good to miss!
  1. I did not use full fat coconut milk because all I had was light coconut milk.
  2. Try to use organic cacao powder if you can. I actually used unsweetened cocoa powder because, again, that's what we had on hand.
  3. I used 1/4 cup of maple syrup. To make things a bit easier, 1/4 cup is the same at 4 tbsp so I measured the syrup that way. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Micro Steps of Baby Step #1

I, just like many others around me, have various aspects of life that I'm passionate about. REALLY passionate about. Health, including fitness and nutrition, is one aspect of life that I strive to be successful. Childbirthing is another area of life that I am incredibly interested in and love helping folks transition from couple-hood to parenthood. And I would say the last big piece of the pie lies in home finance. I'm not talking about which penny stock I should be selling today and buying tomorrow. That part of finance does not interest me at this point in my life. I'm talking about how to make sure we have enough money to pay our bills, save for retirement, give to a great cause, and still have some fun when it's all said and done. 

Over the years, Adam and I have read and tinkered with budgets but nothing every seemed to stick right with us. We'd either over-complicate the situation or simply not have the tenacity to see the budget through til the end. I don't want to sugar coat anything -- we were mostly lazy in the beginning, which turned into not seeing the value of {making} time for it later. The tides turned one day when we finally sat down and set our goals for 5 and 10 years down the road. We wanted more children. We wanted me to stay home with them. We wanted to build our Forever Home on Adam's family farm. And we wanted to do it all on just his, at the time, lack-luster salary. We turned to our financial adviser and instead of working with us to achieve those dreams, simply told us that we didn't have enough money to do any of those things. It was not the reception or support we were after and we vowed right then and there we were going to make this happen. 

I decided to stay at home, which wasn't a real loss of money considering all of my paycheck basically went to daycare costs. We then moved into Adam's parent's home, which we still are at today, saving as we build our Forever Home. We budgeted from the day we moved into their home, but we still weren't seeing the money pile up like we thought we'd be seeing. Right about the time we thought we *might* have to admit defeat and buy a home elsewhere, a couple from our church hosted a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course. It was nine weeks and there was an upfront cost, but it was eye-opening and life changing. We {highly} recommend signing-up and attending one of these courses. At the very least, pick up a book, read it, and DO IT. You'll thank me and Dave later.

Dave Ramsey breaks down debt-relief and savings into seven Baby Steps. They are as follows:

We're going to focus on Baby Step #1: Save $1000. We call it our Small ER Fund, but you can call it whatever you'd like. Just work your bum off until you reach your Small ER Fund goal. But wait - what goal? It says $1000. Right! But sometimes that number is too large for a single person in a very low-paying job. That person should reduce that $1000 amount to $500 or $750. People who have higher-wage jobs, more mouths to feed, etc. should probably have closer to $1500 or even $2000 in their Small ER Fund. Most people, though, will be comfortable at the $1000 Small ER Fund amount. If you find after an emergency or two that $1000 simple doesn't let you sleep well at night, up your amount and save with Dave's "gazelle intensity" until you have your desired Small ER Fund amount fully funded.

The reason to have this Small ER Fund is simple. If something goes wrong in life, you'll be able to pay for it with it without getting yourself further into debt. No credit card needed. And the reality of the situation isn't "if" something will happen, but when something will happen. It will; we all know it. It's just a matter of when and how much. Plus, you'll have the hardest time focusing on your debt slashing if you're constantly racking up even more credit card debt going from crisis to crisis. If you have a little nest egg, most likely there will be less crises, less worrying, and more debt slashing!

No matter if you're trying to save $500, $1000, or $2000, that's hard if you're not used to saving. Enter the Micro Steps of Baby Step #1. These are little, everyday changes that lead to BIG, life changes. Everyone can do them; they're NOT hard. The first one is simple:

This step is the cornerstone of your entire financial make-over. Budget. Rebudget. And then rebudget again. You MUST set a budget and tell your money where it's going for the month. Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar didn't mince words when he said, "you're going to have to make changes in your spending." If you want to save money, you absolutely have to give up and sacrifice some luxuries in life that you're taking granted right now. Pack your lunch. Hot coffee now will come from your personal coffee maker and not Starbucks. Last Fall's pumps will be have do this Fall. Adam and I go for the zero-balance budget because it makes sense. We used these sheets for months, but have since tweaked them to fit our lifestyle and put them Excel. The first month you'll redo the budget almost daily as you remember to add in line items you forgot about. Then as time goes by, your line items just seem to fall into place and the budget comes more naturally. Dave Ramsey says routinely that the routine of a budget takes upwards of 90 days. THAT'S THREE MONTHS. Stick with it and stick to your budget.The second micro step takes a bit of effort, but can yield some great benefits:

Yep, sell your stuff. We all have stuff just sitting there taking up space. Get rid of it! Of course you could go through your house and put everything into one of three boxes: donate, sell, trash. But the point is try to make some extra money and build our Small ER Fund as quickly as possible. I would try to sell the "sell" as well as the "donate" stuff and then whatever doesn't sell you can either hold another sale at a later date or donate it. We tend to donate it after two sales because I simple don't want the stuff around any longer. Don't forget that a traditional garage/yard sale isn't the only route to selling your stuff. Online community sales, craigslist, eBay, etc. are great ways to let loose of your stuff while not setting it out on your lawn. Just be weary of any online fees; again, the point is to make money to feed the Small ER Fund. The last micro step towards achieving success in Baby Step #1 is the hardest, and to be honest, might not even be needed by many. 

Are you able to babysit during the day for a couple of hours? Are you able to handle the books for some one's small business? Something as small as that can help add to your coffers quickly. I know that I became a labor doula as well as a health & fitness coach. I wanted to make some extra money and finally pursue my dream job while staying home with my babies. Since our Small ER Fund is fully funded, I now able to use the money I make to help pay for gifts, small vacation luxuries, a local 5k, or a round of golf for Adam. None of that money comes out of our other Baby Steps, which was one of the main reasons for taking on those extra jobs, no matter how small. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Oven Baked Meatballs

One of my favorite and easy ways to make meatballs is using the oven. It's part laziness, it's part time-savings, and it's part calorie-savings. There really is no trick to this method of cooking; it's just mix and bake. You can use your own favorite meatball or meatloaf recipe. I usually just throw together whatever I have on hand or am craving at the moment. I have a standard meatball/meatloaf recipe but it OFTEN gets switched around because of little add-ins here and there.

Our family uses grass-fed beef and I try to maintain a dairy and gluten-free diet as best I can. I'm not severely allergic or intolerant, but I do try to avoid them both as much as  possible. And finally, this is a very rustic recipe. There are no real measurements used...just eye-ball everything.

  1. 1 lb of ground meat (grass-fed or pastured, if possible)
  2. a splash of milk (I use unsweetened, original almond milk)
  3. a big squirt of ketchup (pick one without HFCS or make your own)
  4. a lesser squirt of mustard
  5. 1 egg (organic or pastured, if possible)
  6. a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce (pick one without HFCS)
  7. a tossing of gluten-free bread crumbs (see note below)
  1. Line a full baking sheet with foil and cover with wire cooling racks.
  2. Spray with non-stick cooking spray if you wish
  3. Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl with your hands. Yes, your hands. It's the best way and you can wash them when you're finished.
  4. Use and old-fashioned ice cream scoop to form the meatballs and place them on the racks.
  5. Bake at 375°F for anywhere to 15-20 minutes. 
  6. When no longer pink inside (internal temp of 160°F), remove the meatballs from the oven and let them rest. About 10 minutes.
  7. Enjoy!
  1. A meatloaf mixture would be very good in this recipe. I don't buy a mixture because I tend to stick with my grass-fed meats from local farms. 
  2. BBQ sauce (again, pick one without HFCS) is a GREAT addition!
  3. I ALWAYS use the cooling rack because that allows good air flow under the meatball and also allows the fat to drip down and off of the meatball.
  4. I make my own gluten-free breadcrumbs one of two ways;
    1. I toast gluten-free bread and then finely chop it in a Magic Bullet blender. Some of the bread won't be toasted completely, but that's okay. It still works fine as a binder.
    2. I use crushed up gluten-free square cereal, like Chex -- usually the Rice variety, but have used corn squares with success. Almost all Chex (or the generic form) are gluten-free now and will do in a pinch. 
  5. I have also made these meatballs with no binder/filler at all and they have turned out okay. They obviously weren't as moist, but were eaten up by my family just the same.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tips for Labor Day Weekend Clean-Eating Survival

As we head into this holiday weekend, we know that we're going to have at least one picnic or party to attend. While these are usually very fun and festive, I routinely get asked the question, "How do I stay on track?"

It's not hard to stay on track, but I'm not going to lie and claim it to be a walk in the park either. It does take willpower and a sense of {reasonable} expectations. Obviously, staying at home will be easier to meet your expectations than if you're running around the whole weekend. Here are some tried and true tips to keep on you track no matter what your weekend holds:

  • DRINK YOUR WATER. This tip goes for everyday life in general and doesn't get excused because it's a holiday weekend complete with beer-infused BBQ celebrations. You'll be less likely to keep grazing at the picnic. You'll be less likely to have that 3rd or 4th drink, which just dehydrates you anyway. Keep bottled water on hand and don't forget that most tap water is a perfectly acceptable alternative to bottled water. Keep refilling that water bottle!
  • KEEP HEALTHY SNACKS ON HAND/BRING YOUR OWN HEALTH FOOD. Be {that} friend who brings the healthy food to the picnic. By bringing your own healthy food, you know that you have at least one healthy option on the buffet table. Speaking of buffet table, try to avoid all the mayo-laden salads or at the very least keep your portion on the minute size of things. While in the car or at home, keep small bags of pick-me-up snacks such as apples, bananas, a small bag of raw almonds, a small piece of cheese with fruit. 
  • GET YOUR WORKOUT IN EARLY. And in my opinion only skip one day. Rest days are important, but rest holiday weekends are set-backs. Keep up your streak of building-a-better-me with some early morning exercising....even if you're an evening exerciser. While I choose to push play, there are many other options out there. I'll also be lacing up my running shoes once this holiday weekend, and don't forget about hiking with your little ones. A simple 10 minute booty routine is doable while the kids are playing outside as well. You'll feel energized the whole day through if you get your workout done in the early AM.
  • STAY ACCOUNTABLE. Tell someone that your plan is eat healthy, workout, and drink your water. When you do it, tell them. Or post it to Facebook. Or Twitter. Something. Let people know because there is {someone} out there that cares! You don't think so? Tell me; I care!!
  • HAVE FUN. While keeping in mind all of the above points, it {is} a holiday weekend and the unofficial close to Summertime. One last hurrah before the routine of school begins. One last hurrah while Summer Hours at work are still in effect. One last hurrah before the "it's-the-end-of-the-year" push takes hold and doesn't let go. Enjoy yourself!