The View From Here: May

May has been full of sunshine and warm weather here, perfect for walking outdoors. We’ve had a few of the really hot days that will become the norm later this summer, so we are soaking up the mildish warm weather while we can.

View From Here-May 1

Now that Josh is out of school (as I mentioned here), we’ve been trying to catch up on some projects around the house (okay, maybe just one project—unpacking!) One of the annoying things about moving is that the boxes never seem to go away. But I think this really is the last of them. It feels good to be somewhat more settled. Now if we could just make everything fit…

View From Here-May 3

Budgeting has also been on our radar this month. We’ve been looking for ways to really stretch our income without compromising on some of the things we are committed to (such as high-quality food sources). It’s a challenge to say the least, but budgeting/analyzing our costs (as much as I didn’t want to do it) has been very beneficial. I’ve been able to monitor and keep tabs on exactly where our money is being spent and look for ways we can cut back. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more about this in the coming months.

View From Here-May 4

Favorite New Recipe: While I am currently on a grain-free diet, my husband is not. But we still do our best to make sure the grains he eats are prepared for optimal digestion (think traditional methods like soaking, sprouting, etc). I made these gluten-free Soaked Granola Muffins for his breakfast one week and they were pretty amazing (yes, I did try one…or two…). By soaking the oats overnight, the antinutrients are broken down for easier assimilation and absorption (check out this article for more information on traditional preparation of grains).

Frugal Change: We started cutting my husband’s hair here at home. It’s pretty easy because he keeps it short. We’ve talked about doing it for a while but finally pulled the trigger this month.

I’d love to hear how your month was or any new recipes or changes you’ve made. Please feel free to share!

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Baked Sweet Potato Fries

So, I have to say our Memorial Day weekend is off to a great start. Our seven-month- old son has been sick with a cold this week and he hasn’t gotten much sleep (which by default means I haven’t either!). But I’m happy to say that he’s feeling better and slept the entire night—win-win!

sweet potato fries 4

I wanted to share a side dish that has become a staple in our house. These tasty fries usually find their way to our table at least a few times each week and for good reason. First, they are delicious. Second, they are super easy to make. Third, it’s way cheaper and healthier than buying them from the store (no added ingredients or inferior oils). And fourth, they are delicious (okay, that needed to be said again).

sweet potato fries 3

I almost didn’t share this recipe, because I figured everyone already knows how to do this (and if you haven’t done it before, you’d be able to figure it out). But to be honest, I only started eating sweet potatoes this way within the last several months. So, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to throw this out there for anyone who hasn’t made sweet potato fries (or regular potato fries if you aren’t a fan of sweet potatoes like my husband).

Just cut the sweet potato into fry-shapes:

sweet potato fries 1

Coat with a little olive oil (or softened coconut oil), sea salt, and fresh-ground pepper, and spread out on a pan (I like to line the pan with parchment paper for easier clean-up):

sweet potato fries 2

Bake at 350 for somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes. You can flip them midway through the bake time, but I usually just leave them (because I’m a bit lazy). And that’s it!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
2 sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil or softened coconut oil (more or less to taste)
Sea salt
Fresh-ground pepper

Cut sweet potatoes into fry-slices. Place in a dish and add olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Coat all pieces thoroughly, and then lay flat on baking pan (I like to line with parchment paper, optional). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Flip midway through the bake time (optional).

What’s your favorite way to eat sweet potatoes?

 

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Paleo Honey Nut Bread

Happy Monday, everyone (as happy as Mondays can be anyway)! I hope your weekend was exceptional.

I want to share a bread recipe with you that I’ve been toying with for the last several weeks. I don’t eat bread much since I’m currently on a grain-free diet, though it is nice to have some every now and then. But most of the bread recipes out there include almond flour. See, I’ve found that I just don’t do that well with almond flour (plus, it’s pretty expensive, usually not fitting in our budget, homemade or store-bought). I can handle almonds pretty well in small portions (like with this recipe) but just not as a flour.

Paleo honey nut bread 5
So that pretty much leaves coconut flour. This is a challenge, too, because coconut flour is so dense, not to mention it’s distinct flavor. Sigh. But I’m happy to say that I’ve found a winner.

This is a really, really moist bread, definitely not your “sandwich-type.” Butternut squash and honey provide a nice, mildly sweet flavor and account for the moist texture. And the walnuts—well, no explanation needed there—walnuts just make everything better 🙂

Paleo honey nut bread 2
This makes a small loaf, but again, it’s just from the density of the coconut flour. It is very filling though. I like to have a slice as a snack or for breakfast with scrambled eggs.

Paleo honey nut bread 4

A couple quick notes on the recipe: First, if you aren’t comfortable using baking powder, you can omit it. I left it out once and still had good results. Second, move the loaf pan from the top rack to lower rack (or vice versa) in the oven about mid-way through the bake time. I’ve found that if it stays on one or the other the entire time, it doesn’t bake very evenly (either the top or bottom ends up a bit burnt).

Enjoy!

Paleo honey nut bread 3

 

Paleo Honey Nut Bread
2 cups pureed butternut squash (or 1 can)
3 eggs
3 Tbsp raw honey (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 Tbsp arrowroot starch
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder (optional)
1/4—1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine the squash, eggs, honey, and oil in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the coconut flour, arrowroot starch, sea salt, baking soda, and optional baking powder. Once thoroughly mixed, add in walnuts. Pour batter in a loaf pan—I like to line with parchment paper, optional—and bake at 350 degrees for 70-80 minutes (stick toothpick in middle to test). During the middle of the bake time, move loaf pan from top rack to lower rack (or vice versa) to ensure even baking. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.

 

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Fitting In Fitness: Benefits of Regular Exercise and Four Easy Ways to Work It Into a Busy Schedule

Do you ever feel like it’s just really hard to work in exercise? I know I do. When I was working a 9-5 kind of job (being a stay-at-home mom is still work, just a different type) it always seemed hard to fit it all in: Come home. Change. Go workout. Come back. Cook. Clean. It gets tiring really quickly. And of course, I always thought “I could work this in better if I had a different schedule.” Um, think again. Even with being at home all day (again, still work!), I have trouble keeping up a consistent routine of strenuous physical activity. During the very small window of free time I have, I usually just want to plop down in front of the TV…

rebounder1

So why is exercise important again? (i.e., Is it really that necessary? Everything else feels more necessary…and I’m already tired…) We all know at least one big reason: It helps manage weight. But there are a whole host of other very important reasons we should be intentional to exercise regularly. Exercise has been shown to:

  • Relieve stress
  • Detox the body
  • Manage and/or prevent disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Boost immune system
  • Improve mood
  • Increase energy
  • Help depression and anxiety
  • Improve sleep

With all of these benefits in view, exercise should be moving up to the top of our priority list (and I applaud those of you who are already there!). But then comes the question of how to add it to your probably already over-booked schedule, and in such a way that it will be a consistent pattern. This is easier than you think. Below are four pretty basic and inexpensive ways to work in physical activity:

  1. Walking—This is the most obvious, and probably easiest, way to get more physical activity into your day. It’s a nice way to unwind and you can usually do other things like chat with friends, enjoy the outdoor weather, catch up on TV shows or reading (if using a machine such as a treadmill). It doesn’t require any gear or special clothing or a certain place. In fact, during the summer while I was pregnant with my son, I would go to the mall just to walk (and enjoy some window shopping!) when it was too hot to be outside.
  2. Mini-Trampoline (also referred to as “Rebounding”)—This is probably my personal favorite. Not only is rebounding easy on your joints, it helps drain your lymph nodes and detox your entire body. It’s very easy to do in the convenience of your home and is also quite fun. (Here’s a great article on the benefits of Rebounding).
  3. Exercise videos—This is a very convenient way to get physical activity integrated into your routine. Exercise videos can be done during anytime of day or night and in the convenience of your own home (or just take them with you if traveling). They generally require little to no equipment or accessories and there are tons available to fit what you need (Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, basic aerobics, just to name a few).
  4. Everyday tasks—There are many practical ways to increase physical activity, such as gardening, rearranging furniture, cleaning, mowing with a push mower or helping a friend move. These tasks not only fulfill a practical purpose, but can increase our daily physical activity. What this looks like for me right now is toting (and soon-to-be chasing) my infant son around our house.

One final note—making intentional choices to add activity instead of avoiding it will go a long way. For example, choose the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the back of the lot rather than circling over and over for the closest spot. Walk to the mailbox instead of picking it up while pulling into the driveway. There are tons of small things we can do to simply be more active. And while none of these are very much in and of themselves, together they can add up.

How do you fit exercise into your schedule?

Sources
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/staying-active-full-story/
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389
http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression
https://www.wellbeingjournal.com/rebounding-good-for-the-lymph-system/

 

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Dark Chocolate Almonds

I’ve always been a pretty big fan of chocolate-covered almonds, because, of course, they contain my two favorite foods: chocolate and nuts. 🙂 And, like popcorn, they are absolutely addicting. When I start munching on them…I can’t seem to stop.

chocolate covered almonds 1

I wanted a way to eat these tasty little guys without buying them from the store. Why is that? I’ve found that most of the store-bought chocolate nuts contain added ingredients and are loaded with sugar.

Another benefit of making these at home is that you can soak and dehydrate the almonds beforehand, which make them more digestible. Raw nuts contain enzyme inhibitors that make them difficult to digest, so this extra step is really important for those who have digestive issues (and really, even for those who don’t). See how to soak and dehydrate almonds here or here, as well as the benefits of doing so.

chocolate covered almonds 2

I love that this is such an easy snack to make. And not only that, but they are a nice “decoration” snack—try placing them in a decorative jar on the breakfast bar or in a colorful dish on the coffee table (if they last that long!). They would even work well in a gift basket.

And the only items you need? Almonds and chocolate. That’s it. I’ve been using a combination of unsweetened chocolate (Baker’s Unsweetened chocolate bar) and chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand) to make a darker chocolate and lessen the sugar content. But you could also use only chocolate chips if you don’t have unsweetened chocolate on hand. Or if you are going for a refined sugar-free option, use only unsweetened chocolate and add honey. Doing this produces a strong dark chocolate flavor, which I personally love. BUT just keep in mind that the coating won’t be as smooth as when using chocolate chips or a combination of the two (see picture below). If you aren’t going for looks, then it certainly doesn’t matter!

Refined sugar-free option: coating contains only unsweetened chocolate and honey

Start off by soaking almonds in filtered water and sea salt for at least seven hours or overnight. Drain and dehydrate using a dehydrator or in the oven at lowest temperature (see this link for more detail). This step can be done several days beforehand—just store almonds in the refrigerator until you are ready to add the chocolate.

Melt the chocolate (exact measurements below) on the stovetop at very low heat or in the microwave. Do not overheat! When about 2/3 of the chocolate is melted, remove from heat and stir until it’s completely melted.

chocolate covered almonds 3

Place a handful of almonds in the bowl, stir around and fully coat, and then lay flat on parchment paper. Continue doing this until all the chocolate has been used up. At this point, you can sprinkle a little sea salt on them if you prefer. Place them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes and then remove and store at room-temperature.

Happy snacking!

Dark Chocolate Almonds

40-50 soaked almonds
1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 tbsp chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life brand)
sea salt (optional)

Melt chocolate on stovetop or in microwave. When about 2/3 of the chocolate is melted, remove from heat and stir until completely melted. Immerse almonds in chocolate and stir with spoon until coated and lay flat on parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt (optional) and place in freezer for 5-10 minutes. Remove and store at room temperature.

*For refined sugar-free option, substitute 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate and 2-3 tsp of raw honey (no chocolate chips).

 

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