Do you ever have one of those days? Yeah, one of THOSE days where either everything is going wrong or you just feel blah? I’ve been having way more of them than I would like to. So I decided that I needed to figure out how to get myself out of my funk when I find myself in a downward spiral headed towards rocking back and forth in a corner. I love essential oils and have tons of them. So I decided I needed to be more intentional with using them. Regardless of your belief in oils, they smell amazing. And to me, good smells help me shift my mind frame. Plus I’m a border-line hippie. So there’s that. I made this DIY room spray to bring the good vibes. I think you’re going to like it.
Yeah! It’s Friday! I’m so glad this week is over. Last weekend I got to celebrate a good friend’s birthday in Palm Springs. Well, I got to spend 4 hours there until I had to head home for an emergency. The time I did get to spend there was sun, pool, friends and music. Totally relaxing. I’m really hoping that this weekend holds a little more of that, just closer to home. And in case you are hoping for the same, here is what I’m in to right now.
Five Songs Friday
1. Lower Dens: I have shazamed this song about 12 times in the last two months. I think I like it.
2. White Sea’s voice MAKES this song by Big Data for me.
3. This Talking Head’s song might be my all time favorite.
4. My head bobs every time I hear this Night Riots song.
5. My kids have been watching a lot of Ghostbusters 2 lately and this Bobby Brown song still holds up I think.
Oh hey there delicious cocktail. While I call this a spiced cranberry bourbon cocktail it can also be called Christmas in a glass. Last year, I had a delicious spiced cranberry cocktail at Mozza and I had to figure out how to recreate it. So I played around with it and this is what I came up with. It is delicious and flavorful and, surprisingly, more steps than I usually do for a recipe. But it must be done to get that full flavor. I love the vibrant color and the yummy, yummy flavor.
One thing I like to do when infusing things with cinnamon is to give the sticks a little whack with the back of the knife to open them up. Then I just scoop up the pieces and dust and put them wherever they need to know. I feel like it helps to open up the flavors a little bit more. And its fun to smash them. Lay the cinnamon sticks as flat as you can, lay your knife flat on top and then give it a whack with the heel of your hand. Take care not to be near the blade. Losing your hand around the holidays would not be cool.
Add your flavor agents to your sauce pot and then add in your bottle of cranberry juice. Let the mixture simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. It will reduce down a bit but does not become syrupy. What I love about this is that once this jazzed up cranberry juice is made, you can easily put together cocktails for the next few weeks. Or have a big batch ready to make them for a party.
Once the cranberry juice mixture has simmered and cooled, strain it in to decorative bottles or put it back in to the cleaned, original cranberry juice bottle. Then you just need to grab a few more ingredients to put the drink together. Bourbon. Ginger beer and fresh nutmeg. Yum.
These bottles of spiced cranberry juice would be a great gift idea. Use a cute bottle like the one above, and then provide the bottle of cranberry juice along with the recipe on a cute card and even a bottle of bourbon and some ginger beer. You could totally wrap that up all cute in a basket with holiday cheer.
- Spiced Cranberry Juice
- 1 bottle 64 oz. Cranberry Juice (I like Langers best)
- 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in to large chunks
- 3 cinnamon sticks, cracked
- ¾ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
- For the Cocktail:
- 3 oz spiced cranberry juice (recipe above)
- 1.5 oz Bourbon
- 3 oz. Ginger Beer
- In a saucepan, add cranberry juice, ginger, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg.
- Simmer on medium heat for about 45 minutes.
- The juice will reduce a little bit but not become syrupy.
- Once cooled, strain with cheesecloth or a coffee filter in to a container.
- For cocktail:
- Add spiced cranberry juice and Bourbon to a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice and shake well.
- Strain in to a glass with ice.
- Top with 3 oz. of ginger beer and give a quick stir.
- Grate fresh nutmeg on top of each cocktail.
- Recipe above makes approximately 2 cocktails depending on your size of glass.
So there is not really a recipe for this recipe. This Roasted Vegetable Farro Salad with Arugula is what I eat for lunch. Like, a lot. During the month of June, I ate ridiculously healthily. Egg whites for breakfast. Salads with tons of fresh veggies and no dressing for lunches. Lean proteins or more salad for dinner. I lost my muffin top and also the will to eat that healthy. While I loved how I looked, the minute I went on my Palm Springs retreat, and had delicious food again, I was off the wagon. When I finally wised up and figured out that I need to continue to eat well, but maybe not in such a rigid way, I started eating this salad. This salad is hearty and satisfying and I think, still pretty healthy. Since there is a little bit of prep work involved, I try to do the rest of my diner prep for the week at the same time.
I try to cut all the vegetables and bag them up based on what recipe they go with all in one afternoon. While I may spend more time in the kitchen that day (usually a Sunday) it makes cooking during the week so much faster. I make the farro and roast the veggies for this salad ahead of time so that they are ready to grab. That is one of my biggest problems. If I am hungry, and there isn’t a good, healthy option readily available, I’m going straight for chips and salsa or cookies. I’ve recently become addicted to iced coffees which seem to help me keep going throughout the afternoons. Going back to school made me tired. I need a little pick me up. So I usually grab or make an iced coffee to have with me in the kitchen on prep days (wine makes me too sleepy) And yes, that is a zombie growing in the container of water. Just try to tell me you don’t have one of those on your counter.
I buy this Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro 5 bags at a time. I love it! For this salad I cook it with chicken stock but it takes on a really lovely, rich flavor when cooked in beef stock. Really you could use either but I like the chicken stock for the salad to keep the flavor a little bit lighter. I find that it takes longer than 10 minutes to get it to the texture that I like, but it still doesn’t take too long.
Follow the directions of your choice on the package. I usually bring one of those big boxes of chicken stock to a boil, then add the farro. I bring it back to a boil and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes, testing it after about 15 minutes and adding more time as needed. I like it a bit firm still, it can get kind of mushy if you over cook it.
I’m grateful that my oldest son is showing interest in cooking and I’ve loved having him in the kitchen with me lately. (thanks Guy and Rachel – your Kid’s Cook Off really helped.) This is a great recipe to have the kids help with because there is a bunch of veggies to prep. We put on some music and start cutting.
This recipe can be adapted based on what is in season. On my last trip to Trader Joe’s they didn’t have zucchini or at least I didn’t see any zucchini. But they did have this squash that I have never tried before. I decided to substitute this instead, I think it is a Delicata? You could also do sweet potatoes or butternut squash. The squash helps make it a little more hearty in the absence of meat.
I have been all about roasted cherry tomatoes lately. Again, these are great to have kids help with. You probably don’t really need to cut them in half but I like to. Add a few cloves of crushed garlic, a little olive oil and sea salt – YUM! Once these are roasted, I keep them separate from the rest of the roasted veggies. That way I can add them to other dishes throughout the week. These are delicious scrambled with egg whites and topped with arugula for breakfast. Or they are fantastic on some crusty toast and avocado for a light lunch or snack. Or over pasta for a really sweet, easy sauce.
Cover your pans with foil for easy clean up. I roast all the vegetables at the same time at about 375 for 15 minutes and then watch them to see if they are cooked or burning. Have I mentioned that I have no cooking training? That’s how I do it. I know my pans are overcrowded so the vegetables sort of steam instead of really roasting and getting all browned and caramely. If you want to get a better brown, put less on the pans. Which means you might have to do it in batches. I ain’t got time for that.
This cheese is amazing. And while I know that cheese is not something you should eat en mass, the smallest little bit in this salad really makes a difference. It’s super creamy. I only use about a tablespoon. In the few months that I have been learning about healthier eating, I’ve realized that you should try to find really flavorful items that don’t add too much in the way of fats, etc. While there are certainly things that are better for you than cheese, this cheese packs so much flavor that you only need a small amount. If you don’t like black pepper, you can also try the red wine soaked version also at Trader Joe’s (which is also AMAZING on top of the farro cooked in beef stock – it becomes super rich, risotto like, and it is total comfort food.)
Like I mentioned above, I started looking for foods that have tons of flavor. Arugula is one of the items that I use in a lot of dishes. I’m kind of obsessed with it. I love the peppery flavor and how it can pair with cold or warm dishes. The arugula adds a nice fresh flavor to this salad and is a great way to add in some greens to your meal. I simply add the cold farro to it and then add my other ingredients. Since everything is already prepared and ready to go, this salad is super quick to put together and perfect for busy weekdays.
I use a little bit less than a tablespoon of the olive oil and a pinch of Maldon sea salt to the top of the salad at the very end. This brand, California Olive Ranch, is my favorite. Their oils are so flavorful. Look for their EVOO that says “mild and buttery.” Delicious!
On this day I was starving and so I was fairly heavy-handed with the ingredients. I didn’t plan on sharing this recipe on the blog until I was just starting to prepare everything so it took longer to make than usual (stopping to take photos of each step can be super time-consuming!). But how good does that look! Look at all those colors!
This can easily be modified to suit your taste preferences. A nice quality parmesan cheese would also add a little creamy, nuttiness in place of the Toscano. Any kind of squash could be used, And you could substitute the arugula for another kind of flavorful green. I love this salad because it keeps me full but is packed with yummy veggies and mostly healthy ingredients. But really, what is life without a little bit of cheese, right?
- Roasted Veggies
- 2 zucchini (or other squash), chopped
- 1 yellow onion chopped (red onion will work too)
- 2 red bell pepper, chopped
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- 2 containers of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 2-3 cloves crushed garlic
- olive oil
- sea salt
- 1 package of Trader Joe's 10 Minute Farro
- 1 box of Chicken Stock (I don't know how much is in the box - about 4 cups I would guess)
- To make salad
- Toscano Cheese (shredded)
- Prepared Farro
- Roasted veggies
- Roasted cherry tomatoes
- olive oil
- sea salt
- Roasted Veggies
- Clean and chop all veggie and toss with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.
- To keep on the healthier side, consider using a spray oil to ensure you aren't using too much oil.
- Roast on cookie sheets for about 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees.
- Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- Clean and cut cherry tomatoes in half.
- Spread out on cookie sheet or roasting pan.
- Add crushed garlic
- Toss with oil and sea salt
- Roast at the same time as the veggies above
- NOTE: these burn easier than the rest of the veggies because of the natural sugars, keep an eye on them.
- Follow recipe on bag (but basically you will boil the chicken stock, add the farro and simmer for about 10-20 minutes)
- For Salad
- Shred Toscano cheese
- To a bowl add a handful or two of arugula.
- Top with 1/2 - 3/4 cup of farro
- Add as many roasted veggies and tomatoes as you want
- Add about 1 tablespoon of cheese
- Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt
- Eat up.
Most campaigns that bloggers participate in are geared towards promoting a product or service. Very few actually encourage you to make positive life changes. I have greatly enjoyed working with ZICO Coconut Water on their #CrackLifeOpen campaign. Through the campaign, they encourage not only myself, but also my readers, to create a Life List. Life List items are small changes you can make to live a better life. You can read my Life List here. But they took it a step further. Once my Life List was written, they made it possible for me to complete one of these items! So cool! Yes, of course you should run out and buy ZICO Coconut Water – especially the chocolate (yum!). It is great for hydration and is high in potassium. But you should also look at your list and actually make some changes! It feels amazing.
I looked at my Life List and tried to figure out what would make the most positive impact on my life right now. To some it may seem frivolous, but I decided on the Keratin hair treatment. Up until a few years ago, I did my hair every morning. That meant that I showered, blow dried and flat ironed my hair. Every morning. I know that most women do this but my hair is really thick and blow drying takes forever. Getting ready meant that I spent about an hour and a half. And somewhere along the line (I truly think it was my oldest starting school) I stopped doing my hair. But I never felt good about it. My hair has lots of natural wave, which I actually like. But my hair also has TONS of frizz. Leaving my hair to air dry saved me lots of time, but I never felt polished. And by mid-afternoon, my hair just went up in to a bun to hide it. Lately, even my bun was looking frizzy and I was feeling really down about my hair. I felt like the blow drying and styling just contributed to the demise of my hair so I reserved those things only for days when I had events where I had to look my best of might end up in a photo. A little vain, I suppose.
The frizz surrounds the entire crown of my head. On sunny days, I can hide it with a hat but most days it’s just there for all to see. It really bothers me. I know that our flaws stand out way more to us than other people but we all want to look our best. So when I met my good friend, Carole, for dinner a few weeks ago I finally knew that the Keratin treatment had to be done. Her hair was glorious. It looked so healthy and she had done nothing to it to get it to look that way. Other than a Keratin treatment. So I called her gal and booked my appointment.
I was giddy with excitement in the week leading up to my treatment. I literally couldn’t sleep thinking about how awesome it was going to be. And then I would get all anxious. What if my hair rejected it?! What if I pay the money and it doesn’t really work?! But I had to try it out and see if it would be as life changing as I thought it would be.
The things you do for beauty, am I right? The Keratin process is really simple. They clean your hair really well to remove any residue. Then they comb through the special sauce. These glasses were for during the blow dry portion and meant to keep your eyes from stinging if they are sensitive to the solution. I felt ridiculous but I just knew it would be worth it for the final results.
There was no down time with the solution at all. Once it is applied, they blow dry your hair and then flat ironed. The flat ironing activates the solution and it works its magic. It took about an hour and a half for the whole process from start to finish.
This was me immediately following the treatment. There are still some flyaways, but my hair felt like silk! Your hair always looks amazing after leaving the salon so the real test would be the following day after my first shower.
Day 2! Sorry for all the car selfies but these were taken while out running errands. Holy, life changing! That morning, I rinsed out the treatment, conditioned and then did NOTHING else! No product, no blow dry, nothing! I felt amazing! I felt so much more polished than I usually do. This was the wash and wear look that I had been wanting forever! I am so glad that ZICO Coconut Water inspired me to complete this item from my Life List. While this is a somewhat temporary fix (it should last about 3 months) and the frizz will slowly start to come back, I know that this is something that I will be budgeting for in the future. If that means I have to give up clothes shopping or a house cleaner, I’ll do it. The confidence that having my hair look good brought me that didn’t take me forever to do, was amazing. I didn’t realize I felt so bad until I felt so good. Where I used to be super bummed out about getting ready in the morning I’m now excited to. It has even prompted me to put in a little extra effort in getting dressed. Toni at Proper Hair (let me know if you need her contact info! she’s awesome!) will always hold a special place in my heart for giving me my first Keratin Treatment.
AND THEN! Since I was so inspired to start really trying to #CrackLifeOpen, I decided to complete another item off my list. I tried out my first Pilates Reformer at Reformer Fit in Dana Point! I have always wanted to try out these machines and thought that this might be an exercise that I really enjoy. I was right. I think I’m in love and I’m dying to take classes consistently. You engage a ton of muscles in each move but it is really fluid. It is more fast paced than yoga, which I need. And less high impact than running. Which I also need. My instructor, Dottie, was awesome.
And look at my hair! So this workout was about a week after my Keratin treatment and still NO FRIZZ! Usually during and after exercise my hair would be fuzzy and unruly all around my face. But not anymore! And once we were done, I took it out of the bun and kind of shook it out. Done. Still the best thing I have ever done!
I don’t think I was fully prepared for making one pretty small change having a big impact on my life. It really made me realize how important having and revising a Life List really is. As things are crossed off, I plan on adding new things. And I am going to continue to make the time to complete items. I am trying really hard to leave my cell phone at home when I walk the boys to and from school, but I’ll be honest, I’ve slipped up on that one a few times. But mostly I am thankful to ZICO Coconut Water for a campaign that encourages living better lives. I’m proud to be a part of their campaign!
So what changes have you completed from your Life List?
Thank you to everyone who entered the #Porktober giveaway from the National Pork Board and Costco! The winner is Anna! I hope you enjoy your prize, Anna!