Friday, August 30, 2013

Baked Plantain Chips

A few months ago I had my first taste of Plantain Chips, when NatureBox sent me some snacks to review.  I loved having them at the house so I could munch on something (yummy and healthy) while I was cooking dinner and was sad to finish off the bag.

Last weekend I decided it was time for some more chips, so I purchased several plantains, grabbed my trusty mandolin, and got to work!  These chips are super crispy, just salty enough, and only use three ingredients.  They're also 1,000 times (maybe I'm exaggerating...) healthier than regular chips, so you don't have to feel bad while enjoying them.

I decided to make chips out of 5 plantains so we'd have some for a while.  By the end of the cooking process, we only had 4 plantains-worth left.  :)

Tip - use plantains that are more green than ripe - they hold up better during the slicing/flipping stage!

1 plantain
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

Using a mandolin, thinly slice each plantain.  (Be careful of your fingers!)  Transfer sliced plantains to a bowl and cover with 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil.

Lay plantain chips in a single layer on a Silpat mat.  Sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until edges brown, flipping plantain chips over halfway through.  If your plantains are thicker, they will take longer to bake.

Transfer to a plate and let cool.  Store in an airtight container when not snacking!  They last for just a few days, so eat up!

for fantastic recipes, cake how-to's, and diy projects!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Weight Loss Update (Through Crazy Stressful Times)

What a whirlwind this last month has been.  After a fantastic vacation to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone, we settled back into a regular routine and got a quick dose of reality:

- Toby (pup) had itched a little cut on his neck until it turned into a giant infected spot (vet visit & twice daily fights to put medicine on the silver dollar sized spot);
- Work hit me square between the eyes with issue after issue;
- My car started making crazy noises and I found out I needed to buy 4 new tires; and the icing on the cake...
- We found out Husband had to have back surgery.

Travis had an appointment with his doctor the Tuesday morning after we returned from Wyoming where we got the news. After doing everything anyone could think of for a bulging disc in his lower back, the doctor said it was finally time.  That afternoon, the nurse called to schedule his surgery and said pre-op would be that Friday...and surgery would be that coming Tuesday!  So the next week after his surgery was spent working from home (such a fantastic perk of my job), helping Husband up and down, and making 2.5 gallons of ice cream for the Ice Cream Takedown I participated in this past week.  

Now is the first time I feel like I've gotten to take a breath since vacation ended.  (Can I please go back on vacation???)

The good news is that through all of this, my eating and exercising habits haven't flown out of control.  I'm excited to say I've now lost 40 pounds since April 5th, and I feel great!

Here are a few things to note from the past month:

Going on a super-active vacation does the body good!  I lost 4 pounds on our week long vacation, thanks to lots of hiking and little eating out.  We ate breakfast at home every day, packed our lunch (and snacks), and made sure to make it home in time for dinner.  We only ate out for three meals of the whole trip (at one, I had the Pub make me some brussels sprouts...the only veggie they had in the entire establishment).  I'm not the kind of person who wants to just lay on the beach for 6 days, so this was perfect.

I'm still running, and feeling better about it.  I'm still doing intervals and have slightly increased my running length, while decreasing the walking portion.  I try to do this 3 times a week.

Some of the things I've talked about in the past that I'm still doing:

- Walking every single day for at least an hour.
- Tracking every single thing I eat - haven't missed a day!
- Eating throughout the day (3 meals, 2-3 snacks).
- No foods are off you can probably tell from my recent blogs (ex: making 2.5 gallons of ice cream...).  The only things I completely cut out are caffeine & artificial sweeteners.

What are some of the things you do/eat/think about to live a healthy life?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tell Us Tuesday # 4

Welcome to the Tell Us Tuesday party everyone!  We’re excited to see what you’ve been up to this week!  Stop by every Tuesday to link up your latest blog posts and show off what you’ve been doing, then check out the other links and find new bloggers to follow, inspiration for new projects, parenting tricks, or a new yummy dinner idea.

Since this party is hosted by several bloggers, your links will be on multiple sites!

Much Ado About Somethin

Here's what your hosts have been up to this week...

Award Winning Key Lime Pie Ice Cream Recipe
How to dice an onion - tips from a chef
Hiking Phelps Lake, a yummy burger, and how we ran into a moose
An ice cream "freeze off" - I won 3rd place!

Shabby Chic Dining Room Makeover - painted furniture, antique shutters, 
and some new accessories = perfect.
Check out Courtney's Vacation Fail at Massanutten
Soaking up the final days of summer - check out these sweet photos of Preston

This week's guest host is a brand new Etsy shop, Flower Lace Prints.  By linking up, you'll be entered to win a 5x7 OR an 8x10 photo of your choice from Flower Lace Prints (up to a $20 value).  Here's a little about the shop:

This is a simple shop with simple, beautiful, quaint photos that would fit any decor. 

I have really made photography a true hobby that gives me such great joy.  I started just taking flower/landscape pictures for fun but I received great response from family and blog friends that I decided to make an Etsy shop.  I took the leap of faith this weekend and hope that others find a photo(s) that could fit their lifestyle, decor, and happiness.

There are some great options with landscapes from West Virginia, Virginia, and Chicago including barns, flowers, and even a few animals thrown in there.  You could also easily create a quick collage for that wall space that you just don't know how to fill!

Now for some of the features from last week!

Food Features
This Mamma Loves...  posted one of the most creative chocolate chip cookie recipes we've seen.  Give this  Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie with Avocado and Pretzels.  That's a lot of yum for one cookie.

These Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Buns have us begging for fall.  What a great Saturday morning treat!

DIY Features
Life on Lakeshore Drive made a beautiful Solar Light Lamppost.  It's one of the most fun solar light ideas we've seen!

Art is Beauty turned an old wooden cutting board into a beautiful display piece using some vintage advertising and chalkboard paint.

Ladies Tellin' It Like It Is
Lamberts Lately put together some fantastic advice on how to make money blogging.  

"Potty training boys is like climbing a mountain in flip flops."  The Jenny Evolution has 10 tips to see if your child is ready for potty training.

If you were featured, grab a button!
I've Been Featured

Now to PARTY!  Just a few basic rules we’d love for you to follow:

Tell us about your recipes, parenting tips, DIY projects, or your family vacation – we want to see it all!
Follow each of us so you’ll never miss a party.  Follow on GCF, Bloglovin’, or your favorite reader – we’d love to hear from you!
Add a party text link or button to your blog.  This helps us in exchange for letting ‘ya link up!  The more people that know about the party, the better.
Click around – find a few links that interest you below and check them out!  Better yet, leave them a comment and tell them where you came from!
Spread the word – Share the party on Facebook and Twitter so more can join in the fun.  The more people that find out about Tell Me Tuesday, the more it benefits you!  
- We’d also love for you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  We follow back! 
- By linking up, you’re giving permission for us to potentially feature your posts on the blog or social media.

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken - 2 Ingredients!

Husband and I love Mexican food.  I love to make it at home, but I especially enjoy a night out at a great restaurant.  I'm pretty predictable when we eat Mexican - I'm either going to get a Chicken Chimichanga (no rice or beans), or a taco salad.  They're my favorites!

I've always wondered howwww they get their chicken to be so delicious and tender...and now I've figured out how to replicate it at home.  AND it's the easiest thing you could make - it takes two ingredients, and you do it in the crock pot!  It's a fantastic "meat base" for any Mexican dish.  Add it to a salad, use it to fill burritos or enchiladas, or top nachos...whatever you want!  It's called Salsa Chicken, and I first saw this idea on a past coworker's blog, SarahFit.  Here's what you need...

3.5 pounds chicken (breasts or tenders)
2.5 cups your favorite salsa (I use a peach mango salsa)

Combine chicken and salsa in a crock pot, and cook on low for 6-8 hours (or 4+ on high).  Halfway through, chicken will be "fall apart" tender.  Remove chicken from crock pot and shred with a fork.  Return chicken to crock pot, mix with salsa, and continue cooking as long as you'd like.  Depending on what salsa you use, you may want to add a little salt at this point.

This is a fantastic base for any Mexican recipe - we made fajitas and taco salads, but you could also make nachos with this salsa chicken!

Salsa Chicken Fajitas - Saute one onion an orange pepper in a little olive oil.  Spread light sour cream on the center of a large wrap.  Place a heaping half cup of salsa chicken on top of the sour cream, then a half cup of onions/peppers.  Finally, add a few diced tomatoes and some shredded cheese.

Taco Salad - A slight variation of my regular taco salad (check it out!).  Layer lettuce, broccoli slaw, diced tomato, refried beans, salsa chicken, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Nachos with Salsa Chicken - Layer tortilla chips, shredded cheese, salsa, black olives, and salsa chicken on an oven-safe dish.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or just until cheese melts.  Top with guacamole and/or sour cream and serve!

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Dice an Onion

A few months ago, I took a cooking class at one of my favorite restaurants, 51 Lincoln.  While the point of the class was to learn how to make 5 different pasta sauces, we spent a good bit of time on knife skills, too.  Today, I thought it would be fun to share with you the proper way to dice an onion!

Chopping an onion willy-nilly is probably ok - your dish will still taste like onion and the world will not end.  BUT, if you chop your onion properly (like this), all the little pieces of onion will be (about) the same size, so they'll cook evenly and look great in the dish.  It all boils down to cuts in three directions (once your onion is in half).

To start, cut one end off the onion (not the root side).

Place onion cut-side down, and slice down the middle of the root, cutting the onion in half.  Remove the outside layer of the onion.

To dice the onion, you'll make cuts in three directions.  First, lay your onion with the newest cut side down.  Place the palm of your hand firmly on top to steady the onion, as you make 3-5 even cuts parallel to the table.  Do not cut all the way to the root (the root will keep everything together until the end).

Your second cuts will be perpendicular to the table, with the tip of the knife toward the root end (just not reaching the root).  Curl your fingers under so you don't accidentally chop one!

Your final cuts will be perpendicular to the cuts you just made.  While you cut, all your diced onion will "fall off" - it's quite rewarding!

Here's a little chart that might help...

     1.                                                  2.                                                 3.

Now...go make something delicious with your perfectly diced onions!  Here are a few things I love to make:

Taco Salad
Italian Chicken & Pasta
Beef Stroganoff
Our Favorite Chili
Spaghetti Sauce with lots of veggies
Honey Mustard & Apple Pork Tenderloin

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Bunnery, Phelps Lake, The Rockefeller Preserve, and the Biggest Burger Ever

Annnnd we're finally to the last day of our vacation, when managed to pack in (almost) everything we wanted to do in Jackson Hole: eating out, another hiking trip, more wild animals, and a few other little things we'd been meaning to see.

We started the morning in downtown Jackson at The Bunnery, a restaurant and bakery known for their breakfasts.  The food was great - especially their GIANT coffee cake.  Most of us had omelets, which were amazing.  Mark got a Belgian waffle in addition to his omelet, which was also fantastic (everyone helped him eat a little of it).  Mmmm.  

After our huge breakfast, we set out for our first hike of the day. We spent this final day in the area around Phelps Lake, with the first trail taking us to the Phelps Lake Overlook, a 2 mile loop.  There were lots of tall, beautiful firs and white aspens on the trail, which Mom loved.  Aspens are her new favorite tree.  At the overlook, you're rewarded with a beautiful view of Phelps Lake!

After we made our way down, we drove over to the Rockefeller Preserve, an 1,100 acre refuge in the Grand Teton National Park.  (On the way there, we saw another elk in the woods.)  We took a trail that brought us to the southern side of Phelps Lake (directly across from the overlook we'd hiked to shortly before).  We were happy for an easy hike at this point in the trip - the whole thing was about 4 miles and only gained about 225 feet (up/down).

On the way back into town, we stopped by the Chapel of the Transfiguration, a small log chapel still active through the Episcopal Church.  Such a cute little church...with the most fantastic backdrop of Grand Teton!  They have guest ministers come in every month of the summer - I told Dad I thought this would make for a fantastic sabbatical next year.  ;)

Around the corner from the chapel were two glimpses into the old west days of yore.  The first was a replica of Menors Ferry that traveled across the Snake River.  Bill Menor built the ferry after he settled on the western side of the river in 1864.  This was his way of getting supplies to his home!  The ferry was a simple platform set on top of two pontoon boats.  It was attached to a cable that ran across the river to keep it from floating downstream.  The trip was short (20 yards), but very important!

Bill also ran an old general store that is still operated today.  There are lots of locally made goods like huckleberry soda and taffy, jams, books, and cookware from the old west.   The old man running the shop was awesome - he just sat there telling stories from his childhood in Jackson Hole.  Just what you'd expect in an old general store!

After these stops, we decided to head back to the house and get cleaned up fro dinner.  What we expected to be a quick stop back at the house quickly escalated into hilarity.  We decided to get all the trash out of the car, since we'd be heading home the next morning.  Mom grabbed an armful of trash and went to throw it away.  The trash was kept under the steps in a locked room (so the wild animals couldn't get to it),  poor Mom went too far in, locking the door behind her!  As we were getting out of the car, we heard mom quietly calling, "Help guys!  I'm locked in the trash room!"

Being the sweet child he is, Mark decided to take a picture of mom before letting her out.  He called for me to throw him the house keys to let her out, so I tossed them his way.  I totally overshot, and the keys landed on part of the roof.  SHOOT.  I went to join Mark in figuring out how to get the keys off the roof (while mom is still calling for help), turned around, and FROZE.  There was a GIANT MOOSE about 20 feet from us chewing on a bush!  I squealed, threw all the trash I had in my hands in the air, and began wildly pointing at the moose (I was unable to speak at this point) so everyone could see...then I quickly grabbed the camera and started taking pictures!!

The moose was just hanging out eating shrubs and willow trees by our car while we were being dummies across the yard - we seriously almost missed him standing there!  He spent about 10 minutes out front, and then finally went on his way.  Don't worry - we had a clear getaway plan (up the steps and into our house) in case he decided to get too up close and personal.

Oh yes, and we did let Mom out of the trash room.

Dinner for the evening was at a restaurant called The Bird.  We tried to eat at a few places in town, but the wait was either an hour long, or it was $24 for a chicken breast.  Insane.  We talked to a shop owner, and he told us about this awesome local joint called The Bird that had the best burgers in the area.  And boyyy was he right!

Their burgers are HUGE.  Mark got a 9 oz burger, but everyone else's were 4 oz.  All of their burgers were served on English Muffins, which I loved - I hate it when there's so much extra bread that you take a bite and there's no burger.  Perfect!  We ate ourselves silly, and then went home to play a few more games.

This was seriously one of my favorite trips I've ever taken.  I really do have the best family - I'm quite a lucky girl!  Thanks for bearing with me through all of these photos and blogs - I hope you enjoyed them at least half as much as I did the vacation!

If you missed something, check out some of the previous adventures:

Jenny Lake & Colter Bay
Yellowstone National Park
Float trip down the Snake River
Hiking Rendezvous Mountain
Horseback Riding & a Chuckwagon Dinner