Sunday, September 21, 2014

8 Ways to Use Produce Before It Spoils

Part of eating healthier meals means buying fresh produce at least once a week. And unfortunately, sometimes that produce spoils before I get around to using it. I'm not sure if I forget that it's there or I'm not sure what to do with it....I just know that I've been working toward the goal of not wasting food (and money). So I made a list of all the ways I can use our produce before it goes bad. For those that are in the same boat, here are eight tips for making the most out of your produce.

1. Just eat 'em. This is obviously the common sense answer and probably one of the least used when it comes to vegetables (at least, in our house). Although, I do enjoy raw zucchini (random, I know). I also recommend using dips if you're struggling to eat produce by itself. Hummus, fruit dips, guacamole, even ranch dressing would work.

2. Grill 'em. If we're already cooking on the grill, I try to throw some veggies out there, too. Most of the time we don't even use skewers or a grilling basket. I tear off a piece of foil, chop up large pieces of veggies, toss some olive oil/salt/pepper/garlic powder on them and fold up the foil. I recommend using two sheets to make sure it doesn't leak. Poke some holes in the top and throw it on the grill. Bada-bing. Bada-boom.

Fill-in-the-gap meal: Pasta Salad

I used to think of pasta salad as strictly Italian. That it had to have tri-color pasta, Italian dressing and the seasoning packet with dried olives that comes in those pasta salad kits at the grocery store. But in an attempt to use up some produce, I started experimenting with pasta salad and decided to push back the barriers. Why set up boundaries for myself when it isn't necessary? By removing the Italian constraints, pasta salad has become a bonafide fill-in-the-gap meal (also known as, I didn't know what to make for dinner and/or I needed to use up this produce that's going bad in the fridge). Here are some pics of the one I made today for lunch.

I had some leftover bell peppers from earlier in the week so I started with those.

I added some corn, fresh basil and tomatoes. 

Fill-in-the-gap meal: Homemade Pizza

I love fill-in-the-gap meals. These are my go-to recipes when a) I'm not sure what to make for dinner and b) when I really need to use up ingredients in my fridge before they go bad. For example, this week I bought six bell peppers, but only needed three for my tortilla roll-ups (way better than they sound). So I decided to make a homemade pizza to use up half of the bell peppers that were left.

I recommend the Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce. Only $1 at the commissary and tastes great.

We've tried lots of pizza doughs, but the Pillsbury one is currently our favorite. It requires a quick pre-bake in the oven. 

Pile on your toppings.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Learning to love my food dehydrator & homemade granola recipe

A couple of weeks ago, Nate bought a food dehydrator. His basil plant was running wild and basil doesn't freeze well (learned that one the hard way). At first, I wasn't too happy about the purchase. Not because I'm an advocate of spoiled foods or plants gone wild, but because of the work involved. But Jen, you say, you just throw it on the tray and plug it in. True. But then you have to wash said trays. By hand.

Every time I look at the dehydrator I think work, work, work. And it also takes a lot to make a lot. It's kind of like juicing. Like you need a bag of oranges to make a glass of juice. With dehydrating foods, you need half a melon to make a handful of melon candy.

But I can't argue with the results. We dehydrated two trays of basil and crunched it up and put it in the same bottle as our store bought basil. Can you see a difference?


After. You can see how the color changes right above the line of the label.

Monday, September 15, 2014

DIY: Toddler friendly fall garland

Last week, a friend of mine (hey, Rachel!) posted about a super cute DIY fall garland she did with her son. So I did what any person trying to entertain a toddler 24/7 would do - I stole her idea (muahahahahaha - no, seriously, thank you). I hadn't previously attempted anything this crafty with E because I wasn't sure he could handle it. I'm the mom that worries about her kid choking on a dry bean instead of gluing it to the paper. And yes, I realize I won't be winning the title "cool mom" in the near future ("we could've told you that" - you). But it actually went really well. So well that I don't mind recommending this project to other parents that have toddlers. Here we go!

First, put something down to protect your floor. I am a clearance nut so when Target had their Easter clearance I bought this waterproof tablecloth for a couple of bucks. It's now used to define our crafting area. Layla approves.

Next, get your materials together. I bought some foam cutouts at Target in the dollar spot. We only used the large shapes this time, but I'm sure we'll get around to doing something with the smaller shapes as well. We bought pumpkins, leaves and turkeys. I also got a box of red plastic table scatter shaped like leaves for $2. Bonus: Right now you can use a 30% off Cartwheel coupon to get your foam shapes for only $.70 each. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Stitch Fix #3

My third Stitch Fix showed up this week and I have to say, I was a little disappointed in this box. In my previous two boxes, the blouses they'd sent me were way too big so I made sure to tell them that when I critiqued each piece. So I was a little irritated when two more blouses showed up that were again, way too big. 

I decided to send an email to them to see how I could better explain my sizing issues and received a lovely email from their customer service rep. She was very apologetic about the size problem and said it normally takes a few boxes to get the sizing right. She also said their stylists read all of the comments and take them into consideration before they pick out your fix. Finally, she gave me store credit because I was so disappointed in the fix and she wanted to make sure my styling fee was covered for next month.

I have to say, I'm impressed with their customer service. Not so much with this box...but definitely with them in general. For this fix, I mentioned that I was serving on the board for a local organization and that I'd like some more business casual type stuff to wear to meetings. Here's what Erika sent me: 

I know there are people that can pull off the oversized blouses, but not me. It looks like I'm playing dress up in Blanche's closet at the Golden Girls' house. Also, that pink is not a great color on me...

The back of this blouse is sheer with polka dots. It's actually pretty cute in person and would've been great if it hadn't been so big. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dirty Diapers & Car Damage = Rough Week

Well, the first part of this post is kind of gross, but if you can make it to the end there's a nice payoff. So there's your incentive (or you know, you can scroll down). Anyway, the past few days have been rough around our household. Mainly because E is battling a bout of teething diarrhea.

The first day, we changed 11-12 dirty diapers. The poor kid couldn't keep anything in his system. What went in, immediately came out. He also repeatedly stated (and by stated I mean pushed his cup over) that he does NOT like pedialyte. He's also now traumatized about having his diaper changed because his bottom was so sensitive. Needless to say, it took TWO people to change a dirty diaper at that point.

The second day, there were only a handful of dirty diapers - yay! And since Nana is in town, we wanted to go do something fun, but not too fun (no diarrhea water fountains at the splash pad for us! PS - you're welcome). So we drove to the Topsey Safari Ranch on the other side of Copperas Cove. E wasn't as into as the last time, but I think it's because he was still recovering from the day before. He did throw feed out to the animals and he liked sitting in the driver's seat. We were literally going 2 mph. Please don't yell at me. This time, we also got to feed the zebras, which was pretty awesome. And of course, the camel stuck his head in through our sunroof. Oh and a baby elk tried to make his way into the backseat with Nana - ha! I digress. The second day wasn't so bad. Things were looking up.

And then we got to the third day and the flood started at about 2 a.m. (nothing good happens after 2 a.m. - HIMYM). E was rolling around trying to get comfortable and I put my hand on his back. Big mistake. Because when I removed said hand it was covered in liquid poop. Not a good sign. I woke Nate up, turned on the lights and thanked our good fortune that we invested in a mattress cover. Because there was E, covered in poop in the middle of our bed, which was also now covered in diarrhea. The sheets, the blanket, his arms, his legs, my pajamas (the frack) - everything fell victim to his blowout diaper. So we go upstairs and clean up E and I throw all of the bedding into the washing machine and put new sheets on the bed. Good to go, right? Fast forward about four hours and E gets off the bed and starts walking around the room because he can't sleep. Ten minutes later his butt erupts (just like a volcano) and you know it's going to be bad. Nate and I briefly argue about whose turn it is to change him, but in the end, it required two people. We get upstairs and it's all over his pajamas and his back (how does poop go UP his back when he's already standing up?). It's on Nate's clothes because he carried E up the stairs. The smell is...not pleasant. And overwhelming. Nate decides to get in the shower with E and in turn, the house is filled with screams because he doesn't want to be in the shower (E, not Nate - figured I should clarify since it could go both ways). It is approximately 6:15 a.m. Then I started another load of laundry. And used bleach. Lots and lots of bleach.

It probably goes without saying that we are exhausted. And Poor E. He's the real victim here. 

And for those of you who stuck around for the whole story, here's the payoff. While we were at the ranch, my car was attacked by a pony. Yes, a pony. I was taking its photo and it got impatient with me so it KICKED my car with its hoof. It's times like these I wish I could swear like I used to...

Nate attached a GoPro camera to the car so we even have video of the little sh...pony doing the damage. Too bad the ranch isn't liable. Ugh. And don't worry, it wasn't harmed when I flung food at its face. Don't send me hate mail.

And here's a double bonus. The first time we went to the ranch, an ostrich snatched the feed bag right out of my lap. The back story is that I fed this giant ostrich and I thought it was gone. Then it snuck up on me. Mean little bugger. Here's the video: 

Anyone else having a rough week? 


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fitness Fusion Challenge: PiYo

I had been doing Supreme 90 Day Workout, but I think I'd hit a plateau. Sure, I could've increased the weights I was using, but I wasn't motivated to do it. And once I lose motivation, it's hard for me to give 100 percent (or even 75 percent). So when I saw my friend's Facebook posts about how awesome PiYo was for her I decided to check it out. And by check it out, I mean go to Amazon and order it (honestly, I didn't even watch the clips).

PiYo is a blend of Pilates and yoga bodyweight moves (no equipment required!) and the workouts are usually about half an hour (perfect since E only sleeps about an hour). The host is super chipper, but not in an annoying way. She also says random things like, "get it, young blood" which I find hilarious coming out of these teeny blonde woman's mouth. Anyway, I'm really enjoying PiYo and started my fourth week today.

I randomly mentioned to my friend that I was doing PiYo because of her and she invited me to join her fitness challenge group. We started today and now there are people holding me accountable (uh oh) for working out. I'm determined to finish the 30 days though because I can tell that PiYo is making a difference in me. Better posture, stronger, more flexible, more toned - you name it, PiYo does it for you. Correction. YOU do it for you. Hard to believe I'm getting such awesome results when before I was using dumbbells and stability balls to stay fit.

And if you think that yoga and Pilates isn't work, you aren't doing it right. Today, I did the "sweat" workout and I was literally dripping sweat onto the carpet. "This ain't recess" - she really does make me chuckle. You know, when I'm not gasping for air.

So if you're looking for a new workout program, I highly recommend giving PiYo a try. Take a look at the clips online (or blindly trust me) and order it. I'm not getting anything from endorsing them so know that this is coming from a neutral standpoint. Also, they push a shakeology program, which seems helpful but I'm not doing it. I'm not huge into shakes (I ordered a protein shake a few weeks ago and it was so gross) and we eat pretty healthy for the most part anyway. Plus, my favorite part of working out is the post-workout snack and a shake just doesn't make the cut.

Is anyone else doing PiYo? Let me know what you think of it!