Is That a Challenge?

I don’t know about you, but I love a good challenge. Lucky for me,  November seems to be the month of Challenges!

There is a little trend on some social networking site, where people post one thing that they are thankful for each day of November. I’ve decided to accept this…and to take it a step further. I’ve created a page on this site where I will post my items.  Check it out!

My second challenge? I joined an online group!  I don’t usually like to join groups on the sites I use… but I have a huge goal that I am finally going for in the next few months (more on that later…) and decided that this would be something to help me on that path…and to keep me accountable.

So, I took the plunge and joined a group called the “50 day Challenge!!” on MFP. Basically, it’s to help members stay on track to reach a personal goal by December 18. I am aiming to shed a few more pounds or a pants size, but more importantly, I just want to stay active. I’d hate to see all of my hard work from the last few months go to waste. Because of this group, I’ve added a lot of MFPals in the last week or so…and it’s great, although I do find myself distracted by all of the activity on my page.  No matter, I have people to keep me on track. Boom.

 We also started a new series in our small groups and at church. It’s called The Circle Maker.

In our first meeting, we were challenged to pick something to pray about for 21 days (“drawing a circle around it,” if you will).  We were to come up with an end goal/dream/request and ask God to help us attain that end result. Every day. I have a couple of things that I could pray about, but I’ve got it narrowed down.

So, here I am, doing this. I do pray every day. But I don’t typically ask for something for myself, so this is definitely a new experience. I’m learning as I go.

I’ve also got a race coming up! The hubs and I will be running the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and I am pretty excited. Lots of running to get in before then and I am hoping for a PR!

Lastly, the hubby and I have been eating a lot lately. We’ve been eating out…And not very well…so I am challenging myself to eat better, cleaner and cheaper this month.

No, I won’t be depriving myself of all the wonderful goodies that come from November (Hello, Turkey and Pumpkin Pie!!!), but I will be paying attention to what I eat and challenging myself to eat at home. This means getting up in the morning to make breakfast, planning my lunch the night before and–gasp!!!–making coffee/tea at home instead of going to Starbucks. It’s on!

It’s going to be a month of self-discipline. But I am ready!

Do you have any challenges/goals for this month?  Tell me about them!


Pumpkin Coffee. Need I say more?

Yesterday, I talked about a homemade and healthy version of the quintessential fall caffeinated beverage: the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I used this recipe from Eating Bird Food. I made a few small tweaks, but the main parts are the same. I love that she shared this and that it doesn’t contain any artificial colors or …other ingredients.  Mad props!

This is not nearly as sweet as your Starbucks go-to. But it’s tasty. Try it!

Here is what I did.

Pumpkin Spiced Coffee Goodness

adapted from the above link

What you’ll need:

Brewed Coffee of your choice (French Roast, anyone?)

About 1/2 cup milk. I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk as the post suggested, but I’ll use half and half or whole milk next time for a creamier taste/texture…because I’m naughty like that. 

A few spoonfuls of pumpkin puree–I usually try to do my own, but if you don’t have time for that, this stuff is organic and contains only pumpkin. Just my style.

Cinnamon-a couple of good pinches or grates on the microplane.

Nutmeg--go the fresh route. You’ll thank me later! Again, just a few good grates-the fresh stuff is strong!

Allspice--just a pinch or two.

A good splash of vanilla

Creamed Honey or Maple Syrup-a small spoonful. This would also be amazing with maple cream or brown sugar.

What to do:

Combine pumpkin and milk in a small saucepan, heat over medium-low heat. Using a spoon, break up the pumpkin and stir.

Once mixture gets to a simmer, add in your other ingredients to taste, I just did a pinch or a few good grates of each. Stir.

Pour coffee into a mug.

Using an immersion blender, blend mixture until milk is frothy and foamy. You can also use a regular blender-anything that will fluff up your milk.

Pour mixture over coffee.

Top with ground cinnamon and whipped cream if you’re feeling fancy.

Drink with your hubby or friends over a good book.

Happy Tuesday!


Whipped. Chocolate. What?!

Two weekends ago, Farmer Ben and I went for our semi-regular Saturday morning coffee date, followed by the farmers’ market.

I ordered my usual-unsweetened iced coffee with cream…Ben went for a froo-froo drink.

Actually, allow me to clarify; I contemplated getting a kicked-up, flavored, slushy, coffee drink, but changed my mind, partially because I got the judging eyes from Ben. Then I ordered my iced coffee and he ordered the drink I had decided against. 

My jaw dropped and I let him know how shocked I was… and then, something amazing happened.  Our barista gave me a brilliant idea.

“You know,” she said,  “Chocolate whipped cream on your iced coffee would make it so much better!”

I had never thought of that! 

“I’ll allow it,”  I replied. 

It was delicious.

I’ve been thinking about chocolate whipped cream ever since. It’s the perfect combination, light and fluffy but with just enough give. Not too sweet, yet full of flavor.  So simple…yet, just the right amount of … extra.

I’ve felt a need to whip some up and last night was the perfect chance. The hubs and I both had the night off so I volunteered to make dinner.

As the weather has been especially hot as of late, I opted for something simple. Lentil patties over a salad with yogurt sauce…and raspberry sorbet for dessert.

Don’t get me wrong, I love raspberry sorbet as is… but last night, I needed that something extra.

So I made chocolate whipped cream. Then I chopped up a dark chocolate espresso bar that had been hanging out in our cupboard and sprinkled some over the top. Suddenly, a simple dessert was taken to the next level of delish.

I apologize for the photo quality but I couldn’t stand it any longer-I had to wolf this down!

And now, without further ado, here’s the recipe! Per my usual M.O., I didn’t really measure, so the best way to make this is to taste. Enjoy!

Chocolate Whipped Cream:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup  (1/2 pint) Heavy Cream
  • 2-4 tbsp. Powdered Sugar- do this to taste… I prefer a creamy flavor rather than a super sweet, using less sugar.
  • 1-2 tbsp. Cocoa Powder- again, to taste. I didn’t really measure but 1 or 2 tbsp. is a good amount.
  • A Splash of Vanilla (1-2 tsp.)

Process:

Pour heavy whipping cream into a bowl and beat using an electric mixer.

When soft peaks begin to form, slowly add in powdered sugar and cocoa powder to taste, continue to beat.

Add in splash of vanilla. 

Beat just until stiff peaks form.

If not using right away, cover and refrigerate. Makes about 2 cups.

Serve over ice cream, fruit, cake or with your favorite coffee. It’s a great life decision.


To Plan, or Not to Plan?

I had a major garden score today. Completely unplanned! I took my empty coffee bag to Starbucks so they could recycle it (and so I could get my free cup of coffee for doing so!) and noticed that they didn’t have any of the small bags of used coffee grounds. So, I asked if they had any on hand. I ended up leaving with a garbage bag full of coffee grounds! Pretty exciting stuff…Farmer Ben is going to be ecstatic…and my car is going to smell like burnt coffee. I can’t decide if this is a positive or a negative.

Sidenote: I’ve realized that I am more awkward now than I was at sixteen. Scary.

In other news, big shout-out to Steph for sending me this very cool site/blog: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ 

I highly recommend checking it out. In short, it’s a blog that chronicles a family’s journey of cutting out processed foods, then going further and doing so on a budget. It also has a lot of great recipes, resources, guidelines and best practices.

I’ve said before, you have to read those labels, buy local, in season, and grow your own food, etc., etc., etc.! It’s definitely for your health!

Anyway, check this out if you are interested in making the change and wondering where to start. Thanks again, Steph!

Another cool health plan is The Daniel Plan. Here is the website: http://danielplan.com/ 

It’s a similar concept with a biblical base and more of a community/group-based site. It also focuses on fitness and scripture. Again, give them a visit to check them out. 

Neither of these are your typical “diets.” They are more of a lifestyle change, focusing on real food and health- NOT the next big weight-loss craze.  

I believe that anyone doing this will discover that real food just tastes better. No question.

I’m also still an avid myfitnesspal user-Find me (username: nre820)!-but if any of you are interested in having a partner/support group on a food-based journey, I am totally down! I also happen to be married to a guy with a pretty  awesome wealth of knowledge on the topic of food! And gardening! And eating local! You can also check out my list of “current web obsessions” for some pretty awesome food blogs that focus on real ingredients (namely, 101cookbooks).

Alright, time to step off the soapbox. 

I just witnessed a torrential downpour. Literally 63.5 seconds ago. Now, the sun is shining. Oh April, you kill me.

Lastly, mad shout-out to Liz for being awesome and making some major tracks on the Couch to 5k program.  And to Kristy for killing the Plattsburgh Half-Marathon. And to James for his awesome job on the Chattahoochee Half Iron Tri.

The end. More coming soon.