31 January 2014

Smitten with the Mitten

...aka January Goals.  The first couple weeks of January were frigid, and I was really feeling the inactivity.  So the second half of January brought some hard labor outdoors - regardless of temperature!  The biggest accomplishment?  A snow sculpture!  A local photographer (Phil Stagg) captured this shot before we hard started doing any carving.
Here's the middle stages - we started carving, but didn't have a ladder.  It's Michigan!  We're participating in the NASF Snow Sculpture contest.  Check out our entry in the park, right by the parking lot across the street from the Consumer's building in Cadillac. :)

So let's get into it.
  • Get back on track with healthy eating and working out.  I did this!  Maybe not as healthy as I was last November, but I've been getting my workouts in, either weightlifting or outdoor (!) activities.
  • Breakfast recipes!  Check 'em out:  homemade protein bars and hashbrown quiche.
  • Birthday!  Pics below.  We went to Short's Brewery and enjoyed some music by The Accidentals.  Check out both - highly recommended!
  • Go through my closet and get rid of clothes I don’t wear anymore.  Well...this one is still on the list.  Oops.
  •  Make a photobook.  I am 95% done with it.  95%!  So that's close.  I just got to the point where I needed to take a break from it and come back with a fresh perspective.
Look!  It's a crappy photo of the The Accidentals!  And my brother's doppelganger.
It occurs to me that I need to pick some goals for February.  Truth be told, I am EXHAUSTED from some long days at work + working on snow sculpture.  So these are going to be non-goals.
  • Get the photobook ordered.  Only 5% to go.
  • Go through my clothing and get rid of the stuff I don't wear.  Yeah, it's still on the list.  
  • Win first place with our snow sculpture.  The competition's pretty weak at this point so I'm getting a little arrogant.
  • Bottle the peach wine.
  • Make a nice warming soup to survive the revenge of the polar vortex.
So I hardly took any photos in December, and I made sure to take extra this month.  So prepare to be bombarded, starting with my birthday flight at Short's.
A big thing we did this month was going snowshoeing with some friends!  It's always hard to convince myself to go outside when temps are this low, but it was a nice sunny day and by the end of the walk I was even shedding some layers!
We left some cool snowshoe prints, and even scared up a few deer (they are dead center in the photo below - very small and far away though).
And...whatever, one more snowshoeing photo - one with actual people!
Here's an action shot from our snow sculpture.  Just so you have an inkling of how much work it is.
Okay, I think that's all I've got.  Sorry about all the cellphone shots, I actually have some good ones on my camera but I have been so busy trying to keep warm that I haven't had time to get photos from my camera.  Happy Friday!  (for more on the mitten, click here)

24 January 2014

Guest Kitchen: Skillet Cornbread with Chilis

I took my ingredients on the road this month!  What's the occasion?  A birthday / chili cook-off extravaganza.  It's possible I took the easy way out by making some cornbread instead of chili, but there was plenty of chili to go around.  Five chilis, three cornbreads, and lots of socialization.  Throw in a few birthday presents and some wine and it's a party!
I added some peppers to this one - canned chilis and rehydrated pasilla peppers.  If you want to add peppers, start here because the chilis need to drain!  Otherwise, start out with the dry ingredients:  flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Mix in the egg and buttermilk.
Add in the peppers.
Melt the butter in the skillet.  This can be done in the preheated oven or over the stove.  Pour in the batter and then put the skillet in the oven.  Isn't cast iron great?
Except maybe this is an unfamiliar oven and maybe things aren't happening quite as planned.
Twenty minutes later, beautiful cornbread!
Here's my take on the whole pepper thing:  if you want some heat, then add fresh hot peppers.  Canned chilis didn't really do much for the heat factor of this cornbread.
Skillet Cornbread (based on this recipe)
  • 1/2 c. diced canned green chilis
  • 1 1/4 c. cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 c. buttermilk*
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbs butter
1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.   Drain the chilis and put them in a bowl lined with paper towel to remove excess moisture.
2.  Mix all the dry ingredients.  Stir in the buttermilk and egg.  Add the chilis and stir until well mixed.
3.  Put the butter in a 10" skillet and set it in the oven for a couple minutes to melt the butter.  Remove the skillet from the oven and swirl around the butter to coat the pan.  Pour in the cornbread batter.
4.  Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve warm.

*No buttermilk on hand?  Me neither.  Instead, you can make your own by adding 1 tbs vinegar per each cup of milk.  In this case, I would pour 1 3/4 cups of milk into a measuring cup, then add 1 tbs + 2 tsp of vinegar.  Stir it and let it stand for at least 1 minute.
This cornbread is best warm.  It's a little on the drier side, which makes it a great cornbread to eat with chili.  And it glides out of the skillet without any sticking at all.  Fantastic. 

10 January 2014

Easy Homemade Protein Bars

I have been trying to eat a balanced breakfast.  The problem is that if I make a little omelet with meat and veggies, I generally end up with way more food that I really want to eat in the morning.  I need something a little smaller, but that still has lots of healthy components.
This one has it all.  Fruits, veggies, carbs, fat, nuts, and of course, protein.  I used vanilla flavored protein powder in these, which was a good choice.
Okay, so I forgot to add the carrot.  So there are no veggies in the bars pictured.  Whoops.  The good news is that these bars are no-bake!
The original recipe had them topped with melted chocolate chips.  I tried out a Nutella topping, and was not disappointed.  Either way is good, though.
Homemade Protein Bars (adapted from this recipe)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 1/2 c oatmeal
  • 3 to 4 tbs ground flax seed
  • 3 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1/4 c almond butter
  • 1/4 c unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 c coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 c shredded carrot
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/2 c Nutella hazelnut spread
1.  Mash the banana.  Mix in everything but the Nutella.  The mixture should be sticky.
2.  Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper.  Press the oatmeal mixture into the pan. 
3.  Melt the Nutella in the microwave.  Spread over the oatmeal mixture.
4.  Put the pan in the freezer for at least two hours.  Remove from freezer, cut into 12 bars.
These bars are a really good breakfast option.  There isn't really any flavor from the carrots or flax, most of the flavor comes from the protein powder, the banana and the oatmeal.  They're really easy to make.  Give them a try!

03 January 2014

A New Year

2014 has started off with some COLD weather.  I think if I can nurse my car battery through the first few days of next week, I can avoid replacing it for a while longer, but so far I’ve been crossing my fingers that my car starts up every morning.  Not great.
So it’s a new year!  I have no idea what is in store for me this year, which makes it pretty difficult to figure out what goals to put down.  That being said, here are some generic goals for the year:

  • Get more art in my life.  I feel like I’m losing touch with my artistic side, and I don’t have a lot of artsy people that I talk to on a regular basis.  I’m starting to forget the language of art, and it’s time to reverse that.
  • Speaking of learning languages, I want to learn the language of finance this year.  Mutual funds, bonds, calls, puts and options.  It’s time to become an expert at preparing for my future, financially.
  • Get involved in a local charity and donate some time to helping people.  I think my life is pretty selfish right now.  I would have never gotten to where I am today without help, so it’s time to pay it forward.
I forgot the source of this image so if it's yours let me know and I'll either give credit or take it down :)

Now, on a more local level, what does January hold for me?

  • Get back on track with healthy eating and working out.  I was doing REALLY well this fall, but then after we got back from Mexico, I was sick for a while, then I had that business trip, and basically I just fell out of the habit.  I’m having a really hard time getting back into it because winter has made me lethargic and when I’d rather wrap up in a blanket than put on cold workout clothes, it’s just hard to find the motivation.
  • I’ve also got a couple breakfast recipes coming your way.  I have been eating more breakfast in an effort to start the day out right, and post about my two favorite options.
  • Birthday!  Plans are still being finalized, but it sounds like my favorite brewery will be featuring an awesome folk group that I’ve newly discovered.  Now I just need to decide what cake to make.
  • Go through my closet and get rid of clothes I don’t wear anymore.  I’ve been adding quite a bit to my closet this year, but I haven’t gotten rid of anything.  Bring back the balance!
  •  Make a photobook.  I’ve wanted to do this for a while now, it’s time to just do.

That’s probably a good balance of self-improvement and fun.  As long as I don’t turn into a popsicle next week (seriously, a high of 2 degrees F?) I’m starting to get the itch to plan my next warm vacation just so I have something to look forward to.