Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sweet Pea Crostini

Small bites. I love them. And I believe everything tastes better when it's bite size and all you need is one hand to eat it, leaving the other available to hold onto a cocktail. Some nights I just want to whip up a bunch of appetizers, open the wine and call it dinner. This is a perfect girls' night in my opinion and now I'm starting to wonder why my girlfriends and I don't do tapas themed nights more often. 

I was looking for a light and fresh starter for Easter and I remembered this sweet pea crostini that has been patiently waiting to be debuted. Crostini is always a crowd pleaser and sweet peas are the perfect Spring vegetable. Mint gives this pesto spread a refreshing finish and prosciutto adds a nice salty punch. This is the perfect small bite for Spring!

Now, who wants to come sit on my screened in porch for a tapas and wine party?

Sweet Pea Crostini
recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis

Sweet Pea Pesto:
2 cups water
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen organic sweet peas
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 ounces finely diced prosciutto

1 baguette, sliced into 1/2" thick slices
Good extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
3-4 cloves garlic

Warm water in a medium saucepan with red pepper flakes until it comes to a rolling boil. Add frozen peas and cook until they are tender, about five minutes. Drain peas in a mesh strainer

Place peas in a food processor with mint, salt and pepper. Puree the pea mixture. Place pea mixture in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to cool. 

Meanwhile, for the crostini, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange baguette slices on a baking sheet. Using a kitchen brush, brush olive oil on each slice. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crostini is nice and crisp. When the crostini is done toasting, rub with garlic cloves to give a hint of garlic.

To finish, whip the whipping cream until still peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pea puree. Top each crostini with about one tablespoon of pea puree and some diced prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Skinny Limits: Juice Cleanse Review

Guess what? I completed a three day juice cleanse compliments of the friendly people at Skinny Limits of Austin, Texas...and the verdict will just have to keep reading to find out.

At first, my plan was to write daily posts while I was on the cleanse but halfway through the first day, I decided it would be better to consolidate my thoughts in one place. If you asked me how I liked the cleanse at the end of the first day, I would have told you I hated it, and that I never wanted to another one again, but by the end of the third day, I can honestly say that my attitude took a 180 degree turn.

A juice cleanse is something that I have always had the desire to do, but have never bit the bullet to make it happen. When the friendly people at Skinny Limits contacted me to see if I would like to try one of their 3 day cleanses, I was all over it. I own a juicer, but because of the prep and cleanup, I don't take it out as much as I would like. After a three day cleanse, that is definitely going to change!

Some benefits of a juice cleanse include:

- increased energy
- reduced inflammation in your skin and other parts of your body
- reduced bloating
- an overall "reset" button on your body
- flushing out toxins

I chose the Standard Juice Cleanse, which included four varieties of juice to drink throughout the day. After reading some reviews from other bloggers, I wish I had chosen the Variety Cleanse- the Lotus beet juice has my name all over it! Each bottle was labeled and numbered, so that I knew which order to drink the juices in. The Standard Juice Cleanse includes the following tasty juices:

Pure & Simple- Kale, Cucumber, Spinach, Apple, Parsley, Celery, Lemon
Balance- Kale, Cucumber, Spinach, Apple, Parsley, Celery, Lemon, Ginger
Scorpion Lemonade- Lemons, Agave Nectar, Cayenne and Filtered Water
Crescent Moon- Raw cashews, Vanilla Bean, Cinnamon, Agave Nectar, Filtered Water

These juices were all full of fresh flavor and I honestly enjoyed drinking them. I have had a few other raw juices before and Skinny Limits juices are by far some of the best tasting. The Pure & Simple was so fresh tasting and has tons of flavor. I was surprised at how much I loved the scorpion lemonade and am looking forward to juicing my own similar blend at home. And the Crescent Moon...well that was like a milkshake at the end of the day. So, so good. I kept some personal notes each day, so that I could track how I was feeling and thoughts that I had over the three day experience.

DAY 1-
My juice arrived via overnight Fedex at 9:30 on Wednesday morning. I literally paced around after Will went down for a nap waiting anxiously for my box of juices. I was instructed to start my cleanse no later than the following day to preserve freshness of the juice. As soon as I opened the box, I popped open my first bottle. The thought of only drinking seemed like such an abstract thing for me to do. I love my time in the kitchen and I enjoy preparing meals for my family so thinking about skipping that part of my day and just opening a bottle of juice was a strange feeling for me. I skipped coffee that morning and drank a cup of Earl Grey instead. At lunchtime, I ate about 1/4 of an avocado because I felt like I needed something. The rest of the day was pretty good and although I didn't feel hungry, the thought of two more days of just juice were somewhat annoying to me.

DAY 2-
I actually felt awesome waking up on day 2. I opened up my first juice of the day almost immediately after waking up and guzzled it down. It tasted great, and I was ready to take on my day. In hindsight, I wish that I would have weaned off of my morning coffee but since I didn't, I had one cup with a little half and half after my first juice. The real test would be an Easter brunch that Will and I had with our playgroup that morning. I downed my second juice of the day on our way to the party and I was feeling good. There was a kitchen island full of delicious food and I didn't touch a thing! I shared a little bit of avocado at lunchtime with Will and had a couple of slices of deli roasted turkey breast for some protein. I was hungry at night and roasted a little bit of cauliflower to eat before I drank my last juice of the day. 

DAY 3-
I felt even better waking up on Day 3 and skipped my morning coffee and didn't even switch it with tea. Drinking juice felt like a normal thing to do and while I was excited that it was my last day of the cleanse, my body was craving a giant salad or a bowl of roasted vegetables- it wasn't craving junk. Day 3 was by far the best because I just felt so good.

When I woke up on Saturday morning and my cleanse was over, I felt super light and healthy. I found that my body was craving clean and healthy foods and I truly felt like a "reset" button had been pushed on my body. I was actually craving juice to start my day off!

A few things that I learned.
I am a VERY habitual eater. It's part of my routine and as a person that thrives on a daily routine, it was hard for me to skip that part of my day. With that being said, I also learned that I'm probably not always hungry for a 3pm snack of apple and almond butter, but because it has become a daily thing, I feel like I need it. I'm learning to listen to my body more. I wasn't necessarily hungry while on the cleanse, I just didn't feel satisfied. I'm not a person that can eat the same thing two days in a row, let alone meals in a row, so the lack in variety was hard for me. And I missed cooking!  I also reaffirmed that healthy eating habits take your food cravings in a healthier direction. I was putting all of those good nutrients into my system and when I thought about the foods I would eat when I was done, my focus was on anything fresh and healthy.

Would I do a juice cleanse again? 
Absolutely! I am a healthy eater but I am also human and like to splurge every now and again. If we go out of town, or if it's the week after a holiday, and I feel the need to clean up my eating again and get back on track, I think this is a great way to do it. It's a little pricey, but well worth it, especially if you don't own a juicer. I also believe that a juice cleanse is a great way to keep your body and your cravings in check.

How to Order?
Skinny Limits is based in Austin, Texas and they ship nationwide. You can place your order online. A 3-day juice cleanse will cost you $147, which is on par with many of the other cleanses available. 

If you are interested in learning more about juicing, the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is a good one to watch. 

Thank you, Dave, and the rest of the Skinny Limits team, for the tasty juices and for providing me with a great overall experience!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Little Will- Ten Months!

Look at this little ten month old monkey! 

It's hard to believe that this time last year, he was still snug in my belly and we were knee deep in a house renovation, just praying that he stayed nice and cozy until his due date. Now he's less than two months from his first birthday! Time is moving at lightening speed.

It's been another wonderful month, with lots of little milestones to celebrate along the way. 

At Will's nine month appointment, he still wasn't crawling and really didn't even seem close. He wasn't even pulling up on things either but our pediatrician assured us not to worry. Literally three days after his appointment, we found him pulled up in his crib after his nap. On the day before my birthday, he took his first official crawls slowly. It was no time at all before he was cruising all over the house. It's so funny to see his little butt go. 

Mr. personality is also quite fond of accessories these days- bunny ears and sunglasses especially. The bunny ears were quite fitting for the Easter season and thanks to his aunt in California, he enjoys sporting his baby wayfarers on a daily basis. 

Also adding to the personality profile, Will started WAVING! It is the cutest thing and he is so proud when he does it. His entire arm moves up and down and his face is covered in a happy smile. 

Feeding this little guy is SO MUCH FUN. I don't know what I would do if we had a picky eater on our hands, but so far, Will likes almost everything he eats. He has started eating less purees and more solids, and is getting better each day at picking up finger foods and putting them in his mouth. I have been roasting his vegetables in Pour Olive's organic butter olive oil and he LOVES it. I also add it to quinoa with pureed butternut squash, asparagus or sweet potatoes. Will's first taste of meat was a turkey basil meatball and he gobbled it up. 

Around nine months, Will's top teeth started to pop through very slowly, but they are surely visible now! His smile is so funny and cute with those tiny baby teeth!

During Will's tenth month, we spent a lot of time with my grandparents, which was so nice. My sisters and I have been lucky to be around my grandparents our entire lives and we are so thankful for the relationship that we have with them. Little Will brings them so much joy!

In mid- March, I took Will to his very first birthday party! We celebrated sweet Emmy as she turned one, and it was so much fun to see so many of the other babies from our playgroup. I am so thankful for this sweet bunch of moms and babies- and thankful for the crazy internet that brought us all together!

We also celebrated my birthday in March and having Will this year was so, so special. Last year, I got to enjoy crazy belly kicks after eating my cake and ice cream and this year, he was right by my side. It was a wonderful day!

This little boy makes us happier than we ever thought was possible and we love him so much. I am so lucky to spend my days at home with this tiny lovie.

Happy ten months, little one!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites

Easter candy is a slippery slope for me. Once I start, I can't stop, so it's just best to avoid it all together by making sure it doesn't make its way into the shopping cart! Peeps are my weakness and on Easter Sunday, I very well may polish off an entire package on my own. 

Here's a healthy-ish bite sized treat to sweeten up your Easter week. I made a batch to keep in the fridge last week and they were the perfect sweet bite at the end of the night. 

Chocolate Coconut Bites
recipe from Pinch of Yum

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
4 Tablespoons REAL maple syrup
5 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla
4 oz. dark chocolate for melting (I used Ghiradelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips)

In a food processor, pulse coconut until it's a thick flour consistency. Transfer to a bowl and add maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla. Stir until you have a thick paste. Using your hands and a 1/2 Tbsp. as a scoop, form the mixture into balls. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and stick them in the freezer for 30-60 minutes to let them firm up. 

When you are ready to coat the coconut balls in chocolate, create a double boiler by placing the chocolate chips in a glass bowl sitting on top of a small saucepan filled with water. The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl as it sits atop the pan. Slowly melt the chocolate.

Using two forks, roll each coconut ball in the melted chocolate until completely covered. Roll them off of the fork and onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Let chocolate harden and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.