Sunday, January 29, 2012

Whole Wheat Muffins

One of my favorite cook books is the Square Table Cookbook from Oxford, MS.  If you don't already have this gem, I recommend picking one up.  It will quickly become a household staple!

I recently tried a Whole Wheat Muffin recipe that is part of this cookbook from Bottletree Bakery in Oxford.  If you are ever on the square, take a walk down the street to enjoy a bite.  You won't be disappointed!

The whole wheat muffin recipe in this book is fairly basic and can include 2 cups of fruit that you choose.  I have used cranberries and loved the results.  However, I would recommend using whatever fruit is in season or that you particularly like.  The recipe is as follows below.

Bottletree Bakery Whole Wheat Muffins

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups diced fresh fruit or berries

Streusel Topping
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.  In a separate bowl combine oil, buttermilk, lemon juice and zest.  Gently stir diced fruit or berries into flour mixture.  Make a well in the center and pour in buttermilk mixture.  Stir until barely blender.  Spoon into greased muffin tins.

For topping, a small bowl combine sugar, flour and butter.  Sprinkle muffins with topping.  Bake 20 minutes.

Makes 18 muffins.

A few hints and tips about this recipe:
  1. The batter or dough really is going to seem like something is wrong when you make this.  It is the consistency of a cookie dough.  No, you haven't left out an ingredient.  Trust me.  It will work out just fine.
  2. I like to play with the topping.  Try making with a mixture of brown sugar, oatmeal, little flour, butter and cinnamon.  I always feel the need to tweak everything.  But, it is great just as listed above as well!
  3. If you want to change the amount of oil in this recipe for a less fat and calories, substitute applesauce.  You can even use the cinnamon applesauce!  Do a one to one substitution then add back 2 tablespoons of oil to improve the overall texture.  
  4. Line your muffin tins with squares of wax paper or parchment paper.  They are easy to remove and clean up and look like they come straight from the bakery!  
  5. You can always lighten this recipe with applesauce.  Substitute applesauce for the oil and add back 2 tablespoons of oil.  The consistency is still good an is moist.  You can even use cinnamon applesauce if you prefer.  
These muffins do keep and reheat well for a nice breakfast treat every day.  It makes a great addition to a breakfast of brunch where you are serving a crowd.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Eating Healthy on the Run

I keep a supply of squirrel food in my car as I'm traveling around for work each week.  Its my little stash of food to keep me from scarfing down convenience store snack cakes and drive through goodies.

Three years ago, I gained 10 pounds despite the fact that I wasn't having Big Macs or fries with anything!  So, how did I manage that?  A steady diet of 'healthy' and non-perishable dried fruit and granola were definitely the wrong choices.  I revamped what I was riding around with after having a dietician to tell me to positively stop it!

So, what do I keep as squirrel food staples?
  • Bottled Water - lots of it or a refillable water bottle
  • 100 calorie packs of something savory such as Pringles Pizza Sticks or Cheeze Its
  • 100 calorie packs of nuts
  • Fiber one bars - sweet and like having a candy bar!  Really!
  • High protein bars that substitute for a meal if needed - Atkins, Special K or any kind will do
  • Apples
Portion control is a big thing.  It's way to easy to pick up a bag of chef mix for a little snack.  An hour later along with 800 calories, you've had the whole bag and about 4 servings!  Portion control is a good way to save me from myself and mindless munching.

Amy's Organic has lots of great frozen meals that are both healthy and tasty.  They are certainly different and pack a lot of flavor.  Healthy Choice and Kashi also have great meals.  Just read the labels.  Frozen meals can have a lot of sodium or might have more fat than you think.  I look for meals that are low fat and low carb.  This rule usually equals low calorie and meets all of my requirements.

Greek yogurt has become my new dessert in my hotel room at night.  If I want something sweet, its creamy and sweet and has a lot less fat and calories.  There are a lot of flavor options.  Think of it as cheese cake without the crust!

Bananas are a sweet treat.  You can always snag a single banana at the grocery store.  Also, many hotels offer fresh fruit.  I take advantage of this with a single serve pack of peanut butter.  Pick up these two things with a knife and napkin and you have an easy mid morning snack.

I spend a lot of time in hotels.   I eat at hotels just as I would at home.  I don't eat waffles and cinnamon rolls at home daily.  Therefore, I pass them up at the morning breakfast at my hotel.  I stick to oatmeal and an egg with fruit.  

I make the same kind of rules when eating out at restaurants while traveling for work.  I think about what I would have at home and try to order along those lines.  Select restaurants that specifically cater to healthier options.  Ask for dressing on the side.  Avoid fried foods and extra breads.

So, you've read this and think, what fun is all of that?  I didn't say its always fun.  But, it does make a difference.  And, no, I don't always do that right thing or make the best choices.  I won't even go down that trail.  But, with a little advanced planning, I'm not making bad food choices because I'm starving and 'can't find anything else'.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Wii Zumba 2

Okay.  I know that most people are tired of hearing about New Year's resolutions, loosing those pounds from all of the holiday fun or needing to get back in the gym....Blah, blah, blah!

Yep!  I'm going to talk about it too.  I have two hard and fast rules about the gym and exercise.
  1. Pick something that you like to do for exercise.
  2. Try new things to keep your routine from getting boring!
I think that these two things have helped me to keep a daily exercise routine and to actually like it.  I don't dread going to the gym or working out.  My days are busy, and it is something that gets worked in when it works for me.

Over the holiday's I got Wii Zumba 2.  It comes with the game and an belt that you wear on your hip to use with the remote.  You wear the belt with the remote tucked into the pocket during your work outs.  It measures your movements throughout the workout and monitor calories burned.  

After a couple of weeks, I can honestly say it is a hard but fun workout!  For starters, it burns a lot of calories.  In an hour, you can burn over 600 calories.  That is most definitely worth my time!

You can determine the length of your workouts along with the intensity.  You also have the capability to customize workouts as well.  

If you are just starting out or just want to improve your game, practice your steps through a learning mode that is programed into the game.  Then apply your new skills to practice with a single song on the game.

There are low, medium and high intensity songs/classes.  You can also select for a short, mid or full length classes.

Overall, its a high energy workout that is fun!  Its a great way to do something different inside during the cold winter months.  I like that I can get up and do this work out without having to leave the house.  I can also squeeze in a workout between tasks at home.  It has increased my endurance for running and weights. The benefits are worth the hard work.

And well, since I can be a certified nutter and go just too far, I've now added a Salsa channel to my Pandora line up!  Sure, I'm probably slightly obsessed.  And, I'm driving my husband over the edge in the process.

Zumba has gotten a thumbs up in my book.  If its not your thing, look for something else that you enjoy.  But I do advise the music regardless!  Great for cleaning house and those boring household chores - and it might just motivate you for a work out!  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Getting Organized

New year's resolutions!  Most are easier said than done.  I'm busy taking down the holiday stuff, organizing and cleaning.  There are lots of ways to reorganize all of your 'stuff'.  Why not give your stuff an electronic make over?  

I work from multiple devices and locations daily.  I can't rely on a single hard drive, and forget thumb or jump drives!  Keeping up with paper notes and information cluttering up my life on paper is a lost cause.   There are lots of web based tools that you can use, but which ones are the right ones for you?

First, look for ways that you can combine information and utilize apps on multiple devices.  One of my favorite ways to do this is with an App called Evernote.  You can install this onto your smart phone, tablet, and computer!  You can use your account to access your notes and information from any of your devices.  Use it to save web addresses, recipes, grocery lists, meeting notes, ideas and anything else that you need to save.   It will even integrate with Microsoft Outlook to add emails into your notes for easy access as well.

  • Create notebooks based on category and topic.
  • Add your notes into your notebooks for easy organization.
  • Create checkable lists.
  • Attach files to a note for projects that you are working on.
Another favorite is Mint.  This money management tool allows you to monitor and track all of your accounts electronically.  You can easily monitor you accounts while on the go.  Login to any Internet connected computer to monitor account activity, or use the downloadable app on your phone for access  with just one click!  Its an easy way for you and your spouse or significant other to make sure that you both have a handle on your finances.  You can also mark items into appropriate categories for tax purposes.  Mint will remind you of upcoming bills and show you where you money is going each month as it monitors cash flow.
  • Monitor your investment accounts.
  • Track your savings.
  • Establish a budget.
  • Alerts will tell you when you have gone over budget.
  • Advice updates will provide tips about money management.
Another way to access your information is through Dropbox.  It is a cloud based application that allows the user to  upload files to use at any location.  You can share files and folders with others.  Someone showing you a file or document that you like but you don't have your jump drive?  No problem!  Login to drop box and upload it to your account right there.  Voila!  No need to email and download  and save.  You will have your files with you wherever you go.

I use it to keep up with files that I use for training at my job or collaboratively work on projects.  And while I use this more professionally at the moment, I know that this could have many personal uses that would be very handy!

  • Organize folders to save your files according to purpose.
  • Upload files to your account for easy access.
  • Share files with colleagues or family.
While there are lots of tools that you can use, look for ones that meet your specific needs.  Keep your passwords safe and secure.  Always log out from shared or public computers when using cloud based applications.  And most of all, enjoy how easy it is to keep up with all of your daily tasks and information. Its a time saver and a New Year's resolution you can keep all year long!


Friday, January 6, 2012

Shaker Lemon Pie

Shaker Lemon Pie is quite possibly one of the easiest and best lemon pie's that you could make.  I like that you use the entire lemon, and there is no waste.  It also calls for very basic, simple ingredients. 

You start with 2 large lemons.  Slice your lemons thin and remove the seeds.  I have found that it is much easier to work with firm lemons for this.  You can put them in the fridge ahead of time or even in the freezer for a bit before slicing.  Mix with two cups of sugar and allow to sit covered for 24 hours at room temperature. 

The next day, you will add 4 eggs and a couple of tablespoons of flour and butter.  Pour into a prepared pie crust.  Top with a second crust and bake until done. 

This time, I tried a new recipe that calls for zesting the lemons before slicing.  This recipe comes from Saveur Magazine.  Again, this is about simplicity!  So, if you don't have a zester or don't want to take the time to do so, I'm sure you will enjoy your pie all the same.  The first time I tried this recipe, I skipped zesting the lemons.

I have used Meyer Lemons to make my pie.  They have a sweeter and slightly less tart taste and a thin skin.  However, you can use regular lemons from the store.  I would recommend a lemon with a thinner skin since you are using skins and all. 

And, I have come to find out that using store bought crust is just fine!  Who has time to make homemade crust?  Okay!  I'm sure that someone does, and if you are reading this and the answer to the previous question is yes...just keep it to yourself! 

This pie makes a great ending to any meal from casual to something special.  It is certainly the unexpected and simple.  I hope you will try this for yourself and find it to be as tastey as I have!  Happy baking!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Top Five Beauty Faves for the New Year

So, its a new year, and I kind of let my blog basically die over the past few months, but one of my goals of the new year is to actually do something with my blog!

The holidays are an overload of giftbags full of soaps, creams and goodies that Santa may bring.  Plus, you may have that extra time to shop around and score something great with some Christmas cash!  I have a few favorites that I really love and are perfect for this time of year!

Here are my top five beauty faves that are perfect for the winter beauty blahs!

1. Ahava Mineral Foot Cream
This creamy lotion is non-greasy, has a fresh clean smell and will keep your feet soft over the winter months.  This is the best time to get a jump start on having your feet ready for summer sandles!  Use the cold weather and need for socks to your advantage.  Lotion up your feet before bed and wear socks to allow the lotion to soak into your feet.

2.  Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint
I discovered this gem over the summer.  This lightweight tint will keep your skin soft without a heavy, greasy foundation.  It will make your skin glow and adds a nice finish to your skin year round!

3.  Revlon Color Burst Lip Butter
Lipstick and balm all wrapped into one.  There are lots of creamy shades to choose from to keep your lips soft and chap free all winter long!  I just purchased Pink Truffle.  It is a nice neutral shade that has just enough color.  This is a great way to give your face a touch of color even on days that you are skipping make up or if you don't wear make up normally at all!

4.  Attimo by Salvatore Farragamo
Looking for a new fragrance?  Or just looking for a hint of spring during the cold summer months?  This is a new fragrance must!  Light, floral and happy!  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

5.  Clarisonic
Okay.  So this is a bit of a splurge, but it is worth every penny.  It was my gift to myself last year at Christmas.  One year later, this is still my favorite product hands down!  There are a number of options.  You can purchase the travel version called the Mia or get the full on packaage that charges and has interchangeable brushes.  I shopped around using to help me find the best price.  By doing this, I got free shipping and saved $50!  It was worth doing the homework!

Don't let the winter months give you a case of the beauty blues!  With a few wise choices and practical, yet fun products, you can get out of a rut.  You don't have to paint on layers of sparkels to make  a statement.  Clean skin and fresh choices will always be winners season after season!