Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kale & Blueberry Salad

Another Salad Sunday for you today!! It’s no secret salads are one of my favorite go-to meals. Healthy with a punch of flavor—you just can’t go wrong! Oh, and that fantastic healthy-full feeling that I love so much.
With salads I always want to go all-out and add tofu, nuts, seeds, raisins—you name it—but we keep it simple ‘round these parts for the sake of moo-lah. I realllly wish we could squeeze a salad into every meal plan, but it’s actually kind of difficult on a $40 weekly grocery budget. I’m working with small potatoes here, folks. Typically any meal that costs more than $5 is out of the question. That’s $5 for two people…talk about slim pickings!
During our weekly grocery shop at Aldi we discovered that they now sell KALE for relatively cheap. I almost did a happy dance in the middle of the store. The baby carrots I used in this salad were also a huge steal—a whopping 48 cents for a pound of carrots. Other than that we added a cucumber for 29 cents and rounded it out with cabbage. Luckily we had some blueberries, apples, and pinto beans on hand.

Can I just say that I LOVE adding fruit to salads?! Blueberries and apple bites add great texture with lovely little bursts of sweetness, and I actually really enjoyed the carrots rounds I used this time, as it was a nice change from the shredded carrots I typically add. This salad is well-rounded with multiple textures, protein, fiber and flavors of sweet and savory…making for bite after bite of yummy goodness.
We previously scored a bottle of balsamic vinegar at Aldi for cheap, so we used that with some canola oil and a bit of orange juice for a dressing with a touch of tang. Mmm good!

Kale & Blueberry Salad
Yields 4-5 large salads


For the salad
1 (16oz) bag kale—remove stems and cut the kale (w/kitchen shears)
1 head of cabbage—cored and chopped
1 (16oz) bag baby carrots—cut into rounds
1 large cucumber—peeled, seeded, and diced
3 cups pinto beans (homemade or canned)
2 apples—cored and diced
½ cup blueberries

For the dressing
2/3 cup canola oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste


For the salad
In a very large bowl, mix the kale, chopped cabbage, carrots rounds, diced cucumber, pinto beans, and diced apples and mix thoroughly with your hands (or tongs). Don’t add the blueberries yet! Set mixture aside.  

For the dressing
Add all the ingredients to a small container or Mason jar and shake to combine.

Fill a bowl with the desired amount of salad mixture, add a bit of dressing, cover with lid, and shake well. Top with a handful of blueberries (these are added last, so they don’t get squished).

Store leftover salad and dressing separately in the refrigerator. The salad should be kept in an airtight container to maintain freshness.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Love Yourself

Thank you to Greg Dupuie Photography!!

I’m disappointed in myself. And society. Why?! Because I look at this picture of myself with my sweet and beautiful niece, and I immediately start picking myself apart. At first glance, the picture is gorgeous, but then I look closer.

…and closer.

You know what I see? Imperfect teeth that could be a few shades whiter. Wrinkles, or “crow’s feet”, around my eyes. A deep crease in the skin between my eyes. Scraggly hair. Acne scars on my cheek near my mouth. My big nose.

Take a look at my texts to my sister upon seeing this picture:

“…wish someone would've told me my hair was scraggly”

“…I look olllllld”

“He needs to Photoshop them wrinkles and acne scars, I tell you”

This is a direct result of the pressure society puts on girls and women to be perfect. I am not perfect. No one is. But, I am me. The person in that picture is me—imperfect, no retouches, no airbrushing—just me, in my purest form. Society needs to lead by example and encourage girls and women to love themselves as they are. There are a few examples that come to mind…

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty—we need more campaigns like this one.

Colbie Caillat’s music video for her new song Try. I love that she goes make-up free in parts of the video. She looks drastically different without make-up, but she’s still beautiful. That’s the message that needs to be sent to girls and woman alike—you’re beautiful just as you are. My favorite lyrics from the song:

Take your make-up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
Cause I like you

Time to think real.
Time to get real.
No supermodels.
No retouching.
The real you is sexy.

When I looked at this picture (the first one in the article) it was refreshing because I thought to myself that’s more like it, my thighs and belly look more like that.

Campaigns like these help shine light on the illusion that woman look anything at all like the pictures we see online and in magazines.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see what I see in that picture of me up there. On the contrary, I actually like me. I love my hair, my eyes, my smile. In fact, I love my body too. Therefore, it boggles my mind that it’s so easy for me to rip myself apart for the way I look in a picture. I think the difference is that the picture is frozen in time—making it easy to skip past the beauty and begin pointing out the flaws. But that’s no excuse. At the end of the day, there is no reason for me to completely fail to see the beauty in this picture.

After all the negativity, my thoughts are as they should’ve been from the start…

  • What a lovely moment, captured in time     
  • Such a beautiful hair color I have
  • Gosh, isn't my niece absolutely gorgeous—those perfect little lips, beautiful eyes, chubby cheeks, sweet little nose
  • So much love in this picture
  • Love how her little hand is grasped on my tank-top

You see, it’s the little things.

Just be you. Love yourselfbecause you're perfect just the way you are.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chocolate & Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

I LOVE smoothies and for the last month or so I've been having one for breakfast most every morning. I typically drink my Banana & Peanut Butter Smoothie, but recently I've been making this fantastic Chocolate & Pumpkin Spice Smoothie. I know, I know…it’s not fall yet, but I tried this one day on a whim and it’s here to stay.
Chocolate is my weakness and pumpkin spice is the epitome  of fall, the most delightful time of year—combine the two and you have yourself an incredibly scrumptious cup of fall. Oh, isn't that a cute little catchphrase!? Makes me want to squeal with excitement!
For this smoothie I use milk, instead of orange juice, because it creates a much creamier smoothie. Also in the mix are some vanilla yogurt, banana, peanut butter, oatmeal, and a touch of honey. This smoothie is simple yet so deliciously satisfying, and it will help keep you full until lunch…or at least your mid-morning snack!   
Take 10 minutes to make this smoothie at night before bed, so you can wake-up to a quick and healthy breakfast...2 mornings in a row (or you can be kind and share!).   

Chocolate & Pumpkin Spice Smoothie
Yields about 2 (16oz.) servings


2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1½ cups water
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
2 very ripe bananas (fresh or frozen)
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
¾ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
2-3 tsp. honey or brown sugar
14 ice cubes


To a medium bowl, add the old-fashioned rolled oats and water. Microwave for 4½ minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add the milk, vanilla yogurt, bananas, cocoa powder, pumpkin pie spice, creamy peanut butter, and honey (or brown sugar) to the blender. Blend on high until smooth.

Add the cooked oatmeal to the blender and blend again on high until smooth. If the oatmeal is still hot, make sure to open the pour hole on the lid of the blender to release the steam.

Add the ice cubes and blend on high until smooth and creamy. Pour into cups and enjoy!*

*Note: if the oatmeal was hot when added to the blender, you might want to chill the smoothies for an hour or so before indulging. I always make my smoothies the night before, so this is not an issue.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Virtual Coffee Date #4

If you're new to my blog, you can click here, here, and here to read my previous Virtual Coffee Date posts.

I have been craving coffee like whoa lately. I’m not really a regular coffee drinker, but Panera’s hazelnut coffee really did me in. I.need.some. Steve and I are planning a coffee date for tomorrow night since I can’t shake the craving. If you haven’t already tried the hazelnut coffee, you should…and you should take a cup home and chill it in the refrigerator. Oooh, it tastes like candy when it’s cold. Yummmmy!
Speaking of coffee dates; let’s kick ours off, shall we?! So, I’ve been extra tired this week. I came back from vacation to deadline after deadline at work. I hit the ground running and haven’t stopped in almost 2 weeks. I came home work twice this week and fell right asleep for hours. I’d really prefer to enjoy my evenings, instead of sleeping them away. Have to work on that.

Generally speaking, my life feels incredibly disorganized lately. I really have to step up my game! Tell me, how do you organize your days? I swear by my Outlook calendar for work, but a calendar for home just doesn’t work for me (yet!?). I tried my Google calendar, but it’s so easy to not follow. Grr! Guess it’s best if a I take a few hours to write down some ideas and start experimenting. It just takes finding what works for me, I suppose.

I’m still very much struggling with not having a budget for baking. I want so much to post all.the.time about sweets, but it’s just not an option right now. I feel like I cannot make this blog into what I want it to be without a budget for doing so. Self-discipline is sooooo hard, but I have to stay focused until we’re out of debt (click here for more on that). Sometimes I just want to kick and scream like a kid who doesn’t get their way. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ß that’s me kicking and screaming.

In other news, I think I’m getting old. I’m less than a year and a half from 30. Ooooh, that makes me cringe. Maybe I need to make one of those “30 before 30” lists to make myself feel better about this. It’s not really the number that makes me feel old, it’s just that years are passing by and I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much. Is that a typical feeling? Maybe so. Go ahead and tell me it is. Please?  

Confession. I haven’t read in almost 2 weeks. That’s ridiculous, I tell you. I started a really good book on our way back from Our Trip to the Mitten (Part 1, Part 2), but I had to return the book half read. Again. This keeps happening to me. I need to start speed reading, or maybe I just need to take more time to read. Have you read any good books lately? Tell me, tell me, so I can put them on hold at the library.

My mindset appears to be a bit on the negative side lately, so I have to work on changing that. How do you keep a positive mindset? I enjoy being a positive, sunny person who is always optimistic—I need to find my way back to that place. My motto has always been the sun is somewhere shining even when it rains. You might remember that from “How You Gunna Act Like That” by Tyrese Gibson. Yessss, that’s a super old song. See, I am getting old. It’s confirmed.

Take it easy and have a lovely day today! Psst…really, grab a hazelnut coffee from Panera and pop it in the fridge for later. You won’t be sorry.