This isn’t about the Christmas song entitled “Grownup Christmas List”, where the singer (it’s been covered by many different ones over the years) wishes for world peace, healed hearts, togetherness, love, and friendship. Of course, I want ALL of those things + some.
But, today I’m talking about my material Christmas list – what I sent to Santa. I didn’t think much about what was on the list until one of my friends told me she laughed at what she told her parents to get her – “grownup things”. Hmmm, I looked over my list. It sure looks different from the lists I wrote as a kid, but I’m okay with it, and I’d venture to say I’m just as excited about these items as I was then. So, here’s what I asked for this year:
Lighted Mirror – For daily use, I’m good with my standard bathroom mirror. However, when I need to pluck my eyebrows or stare at my pores, I need more lighting! I also want something I can use pre-performance; I’ve learned by now that the lighting backstage is subpar. Here’s a portable light up mirror from Conair.
“Cravings” by Chrissi Teigen – If you’ve been following Ms. Teigen on Instagram over the years, you KNOW she is always whipping up something so delicious, it makes you wonder just how she keeps that model body. Amirite? According to the book’s description, her first cookbook has got recipes from fried chicken and Thai classics to breakfast and salads. Grab your copy here!
Birchbox Subscription – I’ve had a subscription to Birchbox for a few years now, and I can’t imagine my life without it! Each month, I get a small box that contains at least five luxury samples, based on my custom profile. This way, I can try beauty and lifestyle products before I decide to buy them. Over the years my Birchbox has sent me candles, perfume, hair care products, makeup, and nail polish, among other items. It’s a fun thing to get in the mail each month! Subscribe, or gift a subscription to your favorite guy or gal, here!
Glass Food Containers – I don’t know about you, but I’m freaking SICK of plastic tupperware containers. I pack my lunch five days a week, and I don’t think my little containers ever get as clean as they could be, and who knows what sort of chemicals go into my food when I pop the plastic sucker into the microwave. I’m ready to upgrade to glass, even if it means a heavier lunchbox. Here’s a set of various glass containers and lids from Glasslock.
“Hatching Twitter” by Nick Bilton – I’m teaching a course on Twitter Tips in March and I’m trying to learn as much as possible about the platform before then. I stumbled across this book by listening to a podcast, and cannot wait to read it! Supposedly, there was a lot of greed and betrayal in creating Twitter, and this is the first book to spill the beans. Get your copy here.
Donut Baking Pan – I always see the cutest donuts when I’m scrolling through Instagram, and while most of them are from bakeries, why not make them at home (and make them a tad healthier)? With my very own donut pan, I can turn all sorts of flavors into delicious donuts! Here’s a pan that fits one dozen of the yummy suckers.
Various Facial Masks – If you follow me on SnapChat (@OrangeJulius7), you know I love to test any kind of face mask – sometimes multiple in a single night! I really like to live on the edge 😉 I am always looking to expand my collection of face masks to keep my skin looking fresh. Here’s a pack of 11 sheet masks I found for just $10!
Over-Ear Headphones – You probably know that I’m OBSESSED with podcasts (and recently downloaded the Sirius XM app), and I listen to them all day long at work. Well, earbuds are starting to really hurt my ears, so I need a solid pair of earphones that block outside noise. Check out these cool white ones.
Various Makeup Sponges – I know the Beauty Blender is ALL the rave, but I like to try different things when it comes to makeup. And life. For awhile I was going with the brush sets to apply makeup and now I want to see if there’s a good sponge that will work better. Here’s a pack of various-shaped sponges, for just $5!
Rechargeable/Battery-operated Vacuum – I’ve lived in an apartment for 9 years, and one of the biggest downfalls is not being able to plug in your regular vacuum and use the attachments to clean out your car. Amirite? Because it’s like $10 to use the vacuums at the car wash. So, I need a portable vacuum. Here’s one that plugs into the cigarette lighter – smart!
…And there you have it, my Christmas list! I’d love to know what you all are wishing for this year, too!
Last week, I announced that I’m getting back on track with my life. I’m getting sleep (when possible), exercising six times a week via dance classes (and shopping, of course), and I’m eating right. So, this weekend, I pretty much took everything Trader Joe’s had and spent a lot of time in my kitchen prepping meals for the week.
If you’re anything like me, each new week presents a challenge of what to eat. Why? Because if I’m going to keep eating healthy (which I’m planning on it), then it’s got to be exciting – no eating chicken and veggies for every meal, because I’ve definitely done that, and although I looked great, I hated it.
So, I’ve found that eating something for lunch and then something different for dinner helps keep things fresh. I usually pick something easy to pack for my lunches, and then something perhaps a little more complicated for dinner, since I usually eat at home during the week. Here’s what I’m eating this week:
Breakfast: Pumpkin Waffles
No, I’m definitely not up making these suckers from scratch – I bought frozen pumpkin waffles from Trader Joe’s (they have pumpkin EVERYTHING out now). Pop two in the toaster, slice up a banana, drizzle with a little raw honey, and bam, breakfast is served!
Lunch: Salmon & Apple Salad Wrap
If you’re looking for easy, yummy, healthy recipes, sign up to get the email newsletter from Self magazine. I have found so many awesome recipes there, and this is my latest try.
1 can (5 oz) skinless, boneless wild salmon
1/4 cup chopped apple
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup chopped lettuce
1 8-inch whole-wheat wrap
1/2 cup broccoli
3 tablespoons hummus
In a bowl, mix salmon, apple, celery and red onion. In another bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil and honey; season with pepper; toss with salmon salad. Spread salad on whole-wheat wrap; top with chopped lettuce; roll up. Serve with broccoli dipped in hummus.
Please note that the recipe above is only for one wrap. To make a week’s worth, which I did, I completely eyeballed the ingredient-measurements and just tasted along the way. And yes, I even got hummus and veggies to eat with it! Yum!
Dinner: Deep-Dish Pizza with Turkey Sausage & Brussels Sprouts
You might be thinking – okay, this isn’t really that “healthy”, but truthfully, it’s not so bad. I got this recipe from an old issue of “Real Simple”, and catered it to what I could find. I used whole wheat pizza dough and chicken sausge (because I already had some in my freezer), so it’s really a pretty wholesome meal. Plus, I love brussels sprouts!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ pounds store-bought pizza dough, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup prepared pesto
- 1½ cups shredded provolone (6 ounces)
- ½ pound uncooked turkey sausage, crumbled
- ½ pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
- Heat oven to 425° F with a rack in the lowest position. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
- Press the dough into the pan, covering the bottom and sides. Top the dough with the pesto, cheese, sausage, and Brussels sprouts. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Bake until the crust is golden brown and the sausage is cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Snacks & Extras
I’ve been going to dance after work for two hours at least three times each week. So, I definitely need a good snack in the late afternoon to keep me moving until 8pm when I can get home to that pizza. This week, I stocked my kitchen with the following:
- Apple sauce with cinnamon
- Celery (leftover from the salmon salad) and peanut butter
- Organic nut & dried fruit mixes
Usually a combination of two of these, plus a cold can of La Croix, and I’m good to go.
I also did some baking over the weekend, as one of my coworkers found a new job. I wanted to get her a little goodbye gift, so I bought her a coffee mug and baked some decadent cookies to pack inside of it. And yes, I saved a few back for myself – remember to treat yourself! Plus, these things looked so good, I couldn’t resist. I made Double Chocolate Chip and Caramel cookies using a recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 ½ cup dark chocolate chocolate chips
½ cup caramel bites
1/2 cup Oven Roasted Sea Salt Blue Diamond Almonds, chopped
Maldon salt for dusting
- Preheat oven to 375° F.
- Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, caramel bites and chopped almonds. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheets and dust with Maldon salt.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are puffed. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
- Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.
What are you cooking up this week?
Over the weekend, I was in search of simple – and cheap, if not free – joys. I’m sure I’ll talk more about this at some point, but I’m currently in a personal budgeting crisis. At the same time I lost two of my good freelance gigs, I owe a massive tax bill, like now.
Money stresses me out more than anything, and every extra penny I’ve got must go to paying off this bill. So, I needed to have a weekend full of free stuff (I see a lot of weekends like these in my near future).
On Friday night, I hit up the laundromat, which didn’t cost me anything since I had money loaded up on my Washatopia card. Score! I did go to the grocery store afterward, as I needed eggs and something to drink at the pool on Saturday. I found this organic cucumber-lime and chile Italian soda that I figured would go perfect with some tequila I had in my freezer. I escaped the store in $7.
On Saturday, I spent a little time looking for freelance work, and then I hit the pool. I packed a small cooler with some snacks – chips, hummus, cheese, and grapes – and enough tequila and Italian soda for three large drinks.
For two hours, I was the only one there. I sat, and I read – finishing one book and starting another. I stayed out there for almost five hours. Cost: $0 and I even improved my tan.
I came home and tended to my plants, replanting some grass for Blanche, watering all the other plants, and sweeping the patio. I also made dinner instead of going out – I made brats and fries – and had a few beers that were already stashed away in my fridge. I watched a few episodes of “Dexter” before I was sufficiently freaked out (I only have a few more episodes before I’ve watched the entire series twice) and had to switch to “The Vanilla Ice Project”.
On Sunday, I slept in, enjoyed some coffee, searched for more writing jobs, and then I went to a library that’s pretty close to my house. I’d been there once before to tutor someone, and it’s really nice. I decided to get a library card and spend a few hours hunting for more good reads for Blanche’s Book Club.
The library is really nice, but I will say they checked my address twice to make sure I actually lived within the district. I had no clue libraries were so exclusive. After about an hour of searching, I got “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs and “The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating” by Carole Radziwill.
I spent the remainder of Sunday reading, looking for writing gigs, cooking, and I baked these paleo lemon chia seed muffins to eat for breakfast during the week. I found the recipe on The Iron You, and I’ll say that even though he calls them Coconut Lemon Chia Seed muffins, there is no coconut flavor in them.
They were pretty easy to make, and for paleo muffins, they turned out delicious – better than anything I tried to bake when I was actually on the paleo diet. The only other thing I’ll say is that my batch didn’t rise that much, so they look like “half muffins”. I will probably make another batch, and I think I’ll use the mini muffin tin to make them look more muffin-y.
The good news? One muffin is 92 calories, with only 3g carbs and 3g of protein! Yes!
- 1/2 cup of coconut flour
- 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
- Pinch of fine grain sea salt
- Zest of two lemons
- 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup of milk of your choice (I used coconut)
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 4 eggs
- 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine coconut flour, chia seeds, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, milk, honey, coconut oil, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar.
Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix very well until fully incorporated, the mixture has thickened, and there are no clumps of coconut flour left. Pour the batter into the lined muffin tins, 3/4 the way to the top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Carefully remove from muffin tin and let cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.
Let me know if you make these muffins, or have any other great healthy recipes!
If you’re lucky enough to have today off, I’m jealous. But, maybe it’ll give you a chance to whip up a treat for the man in your life, and his best friend – his dog!
Even though I’m currently bitter on the guy situation, I’m NOT suggesting men are dogs and we should bake them dog treats… or am I?
No, really, I got Haylie Duff’s cookbook, “The Real Girl’s Kitchen” for Christmas, and one of the first recipes I noticed was the one for baked dog treats! I know so many people with dogs, and I was about to go visit several friends, so I thought it would be the perfect little gift.
They are super easy to make, and you can either cut them into squares or use a cookie cutter (I used a small heart-shaped one). I am certain the man in your life would appreciate you showing some love for his four-legged best friend!
- 2.5 cups of whole wheat flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of flax seed
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Stir together the flour, eggs, pumpkin, peanut butter, cinnamon, and flax seeds in a bowl.
- Add water as needed to help make the dough workable (it should be dry and firm).
- Roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick slab. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces (or use a cookie cutter).
- Bake in preheated oven until hard, about 40 minutes.
The recipe says it makes 25 treats, but when I made it, it was more like 45-50. Not really sure why, and I was happy to have plenty for my doggie friends, but just an FYI.
Once the treats cooled completed, I divided them up and put them in decorative, Valentine’s-themed treat bags. I delivered them, and as far as I could tell, they were doggie-approved!
And, before I go, I know it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I always do a poor job of blog planning for this day, because he’s a leader very inspirational to me. So, I wanted to leave you with a quote of his, because it empowers me, and that’s something I could use every day, and even today.
Given that I did about ZERO reading in 2015, I only asked for one book for Christmas, and it wasn’t even a novel. Instead, I asked for a cookbook, particularly Haylie Duff’s “The Real Girl’s Kitchen,” which serves as a companion to her TV series on the Cooking Channel.
Upon getting with the times and treating myself to DVR in September, I know I mentioned my slight obsession with her show. I kept seeing plugs for it on Hilary Duff’s Instagram, and wanted to check it out.
To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what “Real Girl” kitchen she’s referring to, because I don’t usually find myself in the situations that Haylie does: cooking up late night eats for hot Los Angeles bar owners or throwing impromptu Texas Barbeque parties in my Hollywood backyard, but I’ve got a big imagination and I’ll take any excuse to dream. Maybe one day, Haylie, maybe one day.
But seriously, the 30-minute show usually features some sort of adventure where viewers get to see inside the kitchen of a restaurant, see how a dish is made, and then Haylie replicates it in her kitchen, and/or puts her own spin on it. Plus, she’s got lots of little kitchen hacks that are pretty cool.
The cookbook features several meals and appetizers she’s made on the show, but of course, there’s a slew of other recipes in there. Upon first glance, I was really impressed with the beautiful photos for the book, as well as the amount of actual writing – there’s lots of stories in there behind the recipes and the cooking in her family. Very cool.
On Christmas Day, I’d already planned to make a recipe I saw on the show, “Short rib stew” and it was very, VERY delicious! It was hearty, warm, and full of flavor. The recipe called to cook it in a Dutch oven, but I don’t have one, so I just slow-cooked it in my crockpot for around six hours. It was fantastic!
I also whipped up a batch of organic dog treats that I saw in the very back of her cookbook. I’ll write more on these another day (they’re super easy) and delivered them to all of my puppy loves when I went to visit my friends in Indiana over the weekend (and yes, they are now puppy-approved).
I’m so excited to explore the cookbook some more and see what other simple, yet fabulous and delicious meals I can whip up a la Haylie Duff!
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Y’ALL. Where has this week gone? It completely flew by, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I kicked things off by making this pumpkin coffee cake for my coworkers.
Originally, this recipe called for sweet potato puree instead of pumpkin, but I wanted to jump on the pumpkin craze, plus, it’s way easier to buy a can of pumpkin puree. But, feel free to alter it to your liking.
1 box Gluten-Free White Cake Mix (14 oz.) box makes one 8 or 9-inch cake
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (or sweet potato)
4 tablespoons light olive oil or coconut oil
1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer (made with 1/4 cup warm water) (or 2 eggs beaten)
1/2 cup vanilla hemp milk– or non-dairy milk or orange juice
1 teaspoon mild vinegar or lemon juice
2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or 2 teaspoons fresh grated, if you prefer
For the topping:
2 tablespoons Organic Spectrum Shortening or coconut oil
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon gluten-free flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl; rub and crumble it between palms to create a sandy texture.
Place a large plate on the cake pan; quickly turn over and release the cake; repeat onto a clean cake plate.
Makes 8 to 10 slices.
Happy Monday, y’all! After the weekend I had, I feel like I need another few days just to rest, what about you?
I did a ton of cooking and baking (look for a new recipe right here on Thursday) over the last few weeks, and as promised, I told you I’d invite you into my home once I got things settled.
With all the traveling I’ve done lately, I won’t say things are “settled,” but they are getting there. My kitchen is probably the best it’s going to get for awhile, so I’m inviting you into my kitchen today!
As you know, I moved into a smaller apartment (although it doesn’t seem that much smaller), so I’m getting creative with how I store things — my kitchen is especially one of those places.
The video will give you the full tour, but I’ll provide a few things to note.
- While my kitchen may not appear as organized as many other blogger-kitchens out there, I cleaned out a ton of my kitchen stuff in attempts to get things as neat as possible (including my fridge).
- I haven’t had a pantry in 4 years! At my old apartment, I turned the coat closet into a makeshift pantry by hanging a shoe rack in it! Now I have a full pantry to house my dry goods, cookbooks and cocktails guides, and hide my trashcan.
- There is no room for all of my cooking utensils in this kitchen, so I utilized an old vase to house a majority of my wooden spoons and spatulas right on the counter near my stove — it’s turned out to be quite handy.
- A hanging wine glass rack leaves more shelving space for other glassware — plus it looks really cool. I got mine from Amazon.
- I have never been one to go for “traditional” kitchen decor. Sure, I love lemons, but my kitchen has always been part of an open floor plan, so it leads into other areas of my home. For that reason (plus the fact that I’m the only one who sees it), I go for creative pieces that inspire me — even if it means a shirtless picture of the Biebs, right above my cabinets.
I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things — grocery shopping, cooking, baking, and meal planning. I’m well-aware it sounds so weird to say that, but my world was completely flipped for almost a year, and nothing was on any type of schedule. It feels so great to be getting back to the way I’m used to things being; and being in my kitchen creating yummy food is a big part of that!
Hope you enjoyed the tour — even the”organic” production!
I’ve spent the last few months trying to make different protein bars from scratch, so I could avoid buying the expensive ones from the store. I used bags of coconut flour, coconut oil, unsweetened coconut, protein powder, flaxseed, paleo-friendly chocolate chips… and while, some of the recipes I tried were okay, they weren’t really what I had in mind.
So, I looked for some options that were partially-homemade, and I finally found what I was looking for. Here’s my method, and you can switch it up any way you please:
- 1 package of Pilsbury Family Size Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix (Sugar, flour, cocoa)
- 1 15oz can of black beans
- 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
- 2 scoops of Cellucor Whey Peanut Butter Marshmallow
Put the brownie mix and the protein powder into a mixing bowl. Drain the can of black beans (rinse, if desired), and puree them until smooth. Add the peanut butter to the food processor, too, and blend until everything is completely mixed.
Add the beans/peanut butter mix into the dry ingredients, and mix until smooth.
Now, here’s where you can mix things up, if you want. You don’t HAVE to use the Pilsbury brownie mix, I just love it’s consistency. You’re using the black beans and the peanut butter instead of oil, water, and eggs, so if you start mixing and things aren’t quite coming together, feel free to add one egg or a few tablespoons of water. The consistency should be thick, but you want to make sure all of the powder is mixed in.
If you want, you can omit the protein powder, and still have fantastic, pretty healthy brownies. Feel free to add nuts, for extra protein and flavor, too.
Use the instructions on the brownie package for pan size, oven temperature, and baking time.
Using the above recipe, the entire batch of “Prownies” has 101 grams of protein in it. If you cut it into 12 prownies, that’s a little more than 8 grams of protein per piece, plus fiber from the beans and peanut butter. It’s really not bad for a delicious treat!
When I got my first apartment (by myself) after college, my mom gave me an extra crock-pot she had, as all I had was a bed, a dresser, and a slew of clothes.
It took me years to get enough furniture to make for a decent home, and lots gifts to fill my kitchen with all of the things I needed to be the little chef (Ratatouille!) I wanted to be. Today, kitchen gadgets are nearly popping out of my cabinets, but that’s not my story.
I kept the hand-me-down crock-pot for years and used it often. In fact, I didn’t get a new, modern one (with a timer and a thermometer) until two Christmases ago, from my mom. However, I still kept the old crock-pot for one reason: it was a perfect fit for my Bread ‘n Cake Bake pan—also given to me by my mom.
It came with a little recipe book, so old the pages don’t hold together anymore. Although there are several delicious recipes, I’ve only made the Pumpkin Tea Bread, but it’s so deliciously dense, I wouldn’t bake it any other way.
Over the weekend, I pulled out my old crock pot, along with my Bread ‘n Bake pan, and whipped up a batch of the bread, only this time, making it a little healthier:
- 1/2 cup oil (unsweetened apple sauce)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (organic coconut palm sugar)
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 cup solid-pack pumpkin
- 1 1/2 cups sifted flour (coconut flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup chopped dates (unsweetened dried cranberries)
Blend oil and two sugars. Stir in beaten eggs and pumpkin. Sift together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in nuts and dates. Pour batter into greased and floured Bread ‘n Cake Bake and cover. Bake in covered crock pot on high for 3-4 hours or until done.
If you don’t have a Bread ‘n Cake Bake, just follow this recipe, and follow a similar bread recipe for baking in an oven, as far as temperature and time goes.
When I finished baking, I let it cool completely before slicing it in half, wrapping it up, and giving away half of it to my awesome personal trainer, a boxer who won his fight two weekends ago.
Because everyone deserves a little treat.