cooking

Fitness Challenge Update and Juicing

Posted by on Jun 1, 2012 | 8 comments

It’s been a while since I updated about my fitness challenge.  I’m amazed at the progress some of the women are making in our group.  Everyone has their battles, and mine appears to be the “comfort zone” my body has settled into.

As I posted earlier, I tried the HCG diet and had great success on it, but it sort of “weirded me out” a bit.  Now I’m on the opposite end:  I’m eating super healthy (with the exception of Memorial Day Weekend- yikes), and I’m exercising again (a LOT), but my weight is coming off a lot slower.  I know this is a good thing in the long run- it will be more likely to stay off.  But getting on the scale and seeing that number budge very little from week to week is discouraging.  We’ll see.  I’m going to keep at it and try to reach my goal weight by… oh, I have no idea.  Someday.

In the meantime, I’m running and doing Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred to get myself back in shape.  Jillian.  Oh, Jillian.  That’s another post, entirely.

Onto my new favorite thing:  juicing!  Now, have no fear.  I’m not going to tell you that you, too, should buy an expensive juicer and fill yourself with fruits and veggies and cleanse your body until you can’t leave the bathroom.   Nope.  But I will say this:  eating this many fruits and veggies does make you feel pretty damn good.

First and foremost, I love the juicer I chose.  It’s this one, and you have to look hard to find it available in any stores.  If you decide to buy a Breville *anything* be sure to call any store before going, because their stuff is pretty much flying off of shelves these days.

Why did I chose to get a ridiculously expensive juicer?  I want it to last.  It was recommended to me by a few different friends (who did not know each other- even better).  And the reviews of these juicers are just phenomenal.  I am also pretty comitted to juicing as a new part of a healthy diet.  I’m not going to do a juice cleanse just yet, but I do want a way to get more veggies & fruits in my system.  Juicing is the way for me to do that.

So what am I making?

It’s funny because when I was waiting for my juicer to arrive (it took FO’-EVA) I went out and bought some juicing books.  Now I hardly refer to them because I’m just having fun playing around with flavors and seeing what my tastebuds (and my digestive system) like.

Below is a photo of one juice I made- it made a LOT of juice, and I drank. It. All.  It was good. Sometimes I’m adding coconut water to my juice because it’s supposed to be good for you.  I don’t like it by itself, but you can’t taste it in juice, and it’s just more hydration.

This particular blend contained:  celery (2 stalks), carrots (2), cucumber (1/3), apples (2 small), spinach (a  few handfuls), heirloom tomatoes (a bunch- they were close to going bad, so in they went).  I add at least one apple to any veggie/green juice, because they give it a bit of sweetness.

Here are some things you should know about juicing:

{juicing is messy}

I had no idea how messy it would be.  It makes sense when you’re making juice twice a day (which is what I’m doing) that you’d have some sticky counters or floors.  And this juicer is great in terms of power, but every once in a while something squirts out of somewhere and catches me off guard.  This is mostly my error- if you push things through it too fast, it squirts.  (There’s a joke there, I know.)  I’m using my mop a lot more, that’s for sure!

{juicing is time-consuming}

This is partly because I have three kids.  I make their breakfast first, and then I make my juice.  I make their lunches, and then I make my juice.  Then I have a normal dinner.   But getting the produce prepped (washed, cored, peeled, etc.) does take some time.  I don’t mind- it’s an excuse to zone out a bit and give my brain a rest.  Even if a juicer is lauded as being super-strong or able-to-take-a-beating, you still have to prep your fruits & veggies one way or another.

{juicing is noisy}

This is only a pain for me because my kids are already scared (as in horrified) of the vacuum and anything else noisy (except helicopters and motorcycles- those are okay).  So bringing in the juicer was not popular at first.  Then I made them pineapple-orange juice and now they are okay with it.  This particular juicer is actually quite tolerable on “low,” but quite loud on “high.”

***BUT***

 

{juicing is good for you}

I don’t need to tell you that it’s good to consume more fruits & veggies.  Duh.

{juicing is delicious}

Unless you screw up your juice by adding too much of something or putting in something you aren’t fond of, you really can’t go wrong.  I will never juice a green, red, or yellow pepper.  I hate them.  Nothing will make me like them.  So I won’t juice them.  Even if you try kind of a wonky combo, your juice will taste at least okay so long as you like most of the stuff you put in it.

{juicing is fun}

It’s a new way for me to make food.  I’m all about that.

Do you juice?

Maybe you have a juicer in your cabinets that you received for a wedding gift, or you bought one and just haven’t used it.  GET IT OUT!

Would you like to see more juicing info here at Crafting Crazy?  I’m thinking about posting the juices I make every once in a while.  I’d love to know what questions you have that I can find answers to, or what other things you’d like to know about  juicing.  Leave me  a comment here or on my Facebook page and I’ll hop to it!

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Our CSA {Love}

Posted by on May 1, 2012 | 2 comments

 

We joined a CSA!  A friend of mine was posting about a local company that will deliver fresh fruits & veggies right to your door.  When I read that I thought to myself, “Well, no more excuses.”  I knew that if we joined a CSA but I had to go pick up the box, I would miss a week here or there.  But if they’ll bring it to me?  Love.  And now that I’m doing a weight-loss challenge (today is Day #1!) it will help a lot that I have fresh stuff to eat.

Now, every Wednesday is Squeeze Play Day.  Sometime in the morning they bring a box of fresh veggies & fruit to our door.  I’m never quite sure what they’ll bring, but it’s always beautiful, plentiful and organic.  How awesome is that?

If you are in California and interested in finding a CSA in your area, you should check out Abundant Harvest Organics.  They have a ton of locations where you can sign up for the same kind of thing, though I’m sure it varies area to area. One thing I love about our particular CSA is that they charge us weekly, which is nice for our budget.  We don’t have to pay for an entire season all at once.

Here are some photos of things we’ve received in our first few boxes.  They make for fun photography practice, too.

 

Time to open the box!

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

And these peas; Oh, my they were so tasty! We cooked them with our butternut squash ravioli and it was heavenly- didn’t even need sauce.  Just a bit of olive oil & salt, good to go.  YUM.

We love you, Squeeze Play!  Thanks for making it possible for us to get good, organic produce!

Note:  I was not compensated for this post.  I am totally writing about it because I love Squeeze Play and think they are all rad.  No freebies here- just the real deal, folks.

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{Operation Organization} Meal Planning: A Free Printable

Posted by on Apr 19, 2012 | 0 comments

 

 

Just a reminder to check out my post from Monday about Clean Up Your Pinterest Boards Day on April 26th!  Hope you can join us!

 

I have a love-hate relationship with meal planning.  When I do plan our meals, things go so much smoother during the week.  I don’t have to think when 4:30 rolls around and it’s time to start putting something together.  I can go into autopilot mode because I already know what’s happening in that department.  However, the process of picking what to make for the week can be tiresome, challenging, and sometimes annoying.

To that end, I decided to spruce up my menu planner.  My old one wasn’t working.  It was an old green frame (you’ll see it soon in an upcoming post), too small to write on, didn’t stay on the wall because the hanger on the back wasn’t that great- it needed to go.

I was at Michael’s Crafts getting a few things and saw a simple, flat glass frame and I knew it was what I needed.  It’s super cheap, too- only about $5.  I played around in Photoshop and came up with this.

 

(Clearly I have not mastered my new camera yet.  More about that later.)

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Mini Cupcake Baking Tips

Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 | 1 comment

To all of my lovely readers:  thank you for visiting my blog as often as you do!  Would you help me out?  I’m working really hard on my blog and I’d love you to help if you have a few seconds.  If you like what you read, if you find it interesting or useful, please pass it along.  You could leave a comment below (be sure you’ve clicked on the post title if you’re on my “home” page), you could pin a photo to Pinterest (there’s a “Pin it” button at the bottom of this post), or you could share a link via Facebook.  Anything helps.  If you’re not a blogger yourself you may not know that the world of blogging revolves around sharing and comments- they are sort of the currency of the blog world.  Thanks so much!  And now, back to the post at hand….

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

I was busy making mini-cupcakes for the kids to take to school, thus the lack of posting yesterday.  I’m capitalizing on the fact that one teacher just said to bring something, and I did not specifically hear the words, “healthy snack,” so I’m bringing mini-cupcakes.  That way, if it was supposed to be healthy, it’s just a mini-cupcake rather than a full-size one, and the teachers can eat them if they want to hide them from the kids- I don’t mind.  Ha!

While I love eating mini-cupcakes (or 7 or 8), I loathe the batter process.  All those tiny cups that have to be filled “just so,” the washing of the pans….  Today I discovered a new trick that I’ll share with you to hopefully make it go faster and neater for you, too.   I’ll also share some other tricks of my cupcake trade.  They aren’t revolutionary or anything, but if you’re a new cupcake-making person, hopefully they will help.

As I said, my issue with the process was getting the batter into the cups.  I didn’t want to waste a pastry bag, but… pouring the batter from a measuring cup into those little tiny cups was also too messy.  Spoons don’t work well- the batter falls off the spoon and doesn’t always go where you want it to.  Yesterday was my “a-ha” moment.

Here’s what you do:

Make your batter.

Also (not pictured) prep your mini-cupcake pans.  Either line them with paper or spray them with a non-stick baking spray.  Or if you’re REALLY good, smear butter all over them- I’m a spray person these days.

Line a 4-cup measure with a gallon food storage bag, preferably one with two layers of zips.  You may have to use something else if your measuring cup is too wide.  My cups are the “OXO” brand and it fit perfectly.

 

Pour in your batter.  (Are you impressed?  I took the photo with my LEFT hand while pouring with my RIGHT.) 

 Zip up your bag.

 Turn your bag and smooth all the batter away from one of the bottom corners.  Snip the corner of the bag.  Make it small- you can always make it bigger.

 Mine was actually a smidge too big, and it was probably about an inch wide, so next time I’ll make it 1/2 inch and see if that helps.

 Carefully move your bag over your pans and start squeezing!  The batter comes out fast unless it’s a thick cake batter, but you’ll get a rhythm going and pretty soon all of your pans will be full.  Love it!

 Here’s that red one up close:

 This made the process of mini-cupcakes sooo much easier.  And here are my finished products:

 

Now some other tips:

  • To frost cupcakes, regular or small, the fastest way… I always use a pastry bag with a #16 Wilton tip (or some other star tip).  It is so much faster to use the pastry bag, and it really doesn’t take that much practice to make them “pretty.”  All frosting is pretty, really.  If you find yourself reading this and thinking, “No way.  There’s no way I can do that…”   If my girl scout troop leader could simultaneously teach 8-12 girls scouts, all sixth graders, to decorate cakes, then you can try it.  Just try it once.  You’ll thank me.  I frosted about 50 mini-cupcakes in 15 minutes yesterday.  Boo-yah.

  • If you’re displaying your cupcakes and it’s possible, frost them AFTER you position them.  For example, I’m taking these cupcakes into school today.  I frosted them after I placed them in their containers.  The less you have to move something after it’s been frosted, the less likely it is to get messed up.  This is impossible with a cupcake stand, but with platters it works great.

  • For the best tasting cupcakes on little time, I use a box mix of cake but I always make fresh frosting from scratch.  If you think about how long canned frosting sits on a shelf waiting to be used…. it’s really just shortening with sugar.  Bleh.   Buttercream or whip cream frosting is yummy and preservative-free.  My favorite is buttercream, and I love this recipe– it’s super easy.   For some reason dry ingredients sitting around doesn’t bug me as much as frosting on the shelf.  Just me.

 

I used that red silicone heart tray for the first time today.  For me, the jury is still out.  I was expecting them to just fall out of the silicone, but they didn’t.   Anyone love them and have any tips?

Do you have any cupcake tricks?  Please share!  I also wrote a post about making a hat cake- you can read it here.

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I Miss My Salad

Posted by on Jan 16, 2012 | 2 comments

Yes, you read that right.  I miss my salad.

If you’re new to Crafting Crazy you should know that I’m currently a breastfeeding mommy.  Emily is currently 6 months old, and she has now earned the title “longest breastfed baby” of my 3.  It’s going really well and I love it, but teeth are on the horizon.  Teeth change everything for me in the world of breastfeeding, but that’s an entirely different post.  Back to why I miss my salad.

This is my salad:

Doesn’t it look AMAZING?  It is.  It’s sooooo delicious!  It’s my go-to salad.  My, “I think I’ll have an adult lunch today” salad.  My, “DAMN.  This is good!” salad.

Why do I miss it?  I can’t eat it right now. Why?  Because every time I do, it makes this little miss….

very unhappy in the tummy department.  And we’re not talking just a few toots and hollers, folks- she screams in pain every time I eat it.  Boo.  I haven’t had it for at least 2 months, and I think I will have to wait to have it again for a while- maybe once she’s on more solids we’ll try.  The sacrifices we make as mothers….

What’s in it?   Well, like most salads, it’s a bit different every time, but I’ll give you the basics and then you can add your own spin.

I use baby spinach as the base.  I LOVE spinach.  It’s my favorite leafy green.  In the photos on this post I think we were getting rid of some other salad mix so it’s romaine that you see up there, but spinach is my fave.

Add to that:

  • chopped apple (I’m a big fan of the Fuji these days)
  • roasted almonds (or unroasted if that’s how you roll), or toasted pine nuts if you want to get fancy
  • cranberries
  • grape tomatoes (I like them better than cherry- they are sweeter and smaller- no slicing)
  • avocado
  • shredded carrot or baby carrots
  • crumbled coat cheese (my husband likes crumbled blue cheese- bleh)
  • cooked chicken or other meat if you need some protein in there- you could even add tofu

And then, there’s the piece de resistance:  my honey-dijon-balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below).

I put the salad in the bowl, I sprinkle everything else on in the quantity that I want (I probably put on wayyyy to much goat cheese because….well, it’s goat cheese), and then drizzle on the dressing.  This salad does not mix well in a big bowl- the toppings are too heavy and they all sink to the bottom.  So, if you make this for a dinner party or something (it’s always a big hit) I usually do a “make your own” and let people build their own salad.  It looks prettier and everyone gets what they want.

The dressing:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (I use Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • *bloob of honey

Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until combined.  If it sits for a while before you use it you’ll need to whisk it up again.

*What’s a bloob ?  Depends on how much sweetness you want.  I usually hold the honey over the measuring cup and squeeze while I count to 5.  Then I taste and add some more.  I could say “honey to taste” but I think bloob sounds more fun.  Almost like boob, but not.

Let me know if you make this- it’s awesome!  And one more shot:

 

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Real Simple Easy Dinners: Roundup!

Posted by on Dec 5, 2011 | 0 comments

If you’re new to this series, start here, then go herehere, and here, and then here.  Or just get yourself a copy of the magazine. :)

So, my brain has had plenty of time to process all of the cooking I did.  I’m rather proud of myself that I made every single meal except one.  That’s 19 new dinners in just 5 weeks (should have been 4 but we lost steam at the end).  Yowzas.  There were meals we will make continually for a long time to come, and then there were meals that we will never make ever again.  But the important thing is that we tried something new and have lots of recipes in our back pocket to refer to.  Hooray!

Our top 5 favorite meals from this experience would be:

#1:  Steak with Cognac Sauce and Salad (from week 2)

#2:  Chipotle Beef & Beer Chili (from week 4)

#3:  Chickpea Spinach Curry with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce (from week 3)

#4: Lemony Tuna and Olive Oil Pasta (from week 3)

#5: Tomato Soup with Roast Beef & Cheddar Panini (from week 1)

 

A few of my least favorites, which I will not visit again:

Chicken with Potatoes, Bacon and Cabbage

Pork Loin with Sauteed Cauliflower and Capers

Lime and Soy-Glazed Chicken with Cabbage Slaw

 

One thing that I love about this whole experience: it has me really thinking about food.  I’m making some changes in our day-to-day diet that I’ll be exploring with you soon.

 

What about you?  Could you try this many new recipes all at once?  Are you looking for new recipes to try or to make a change in your diet?  What’s holding you back?  For me, it’s the fear of change and trying something and failing.  But I learned through this that one bad meal isn’t the end of the world (though it is a pain in the tushie).

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