I’m nuts about the holiday season – absolutely, positively, literally nuts! Pecans, cashews, almonds, pistachios, macadamia and more, it’s hard to name a favorite. Only chocolate rivals my passion for nuts, and this year, I’ve come up with an exotically-spiced nut recipe that incorporates my love for these two – Paleo Cocoa Chai Spiced Nuts.
A jar full of Paleo Cocoa Chai Spiced Nuts makes an edible gift that most everyone (with good taste) will appreciate. Plus, the smell of roasting nuts is guaranteed to draw a crowd, so make a couple batches because you may just end up with an impromptu holiday party on your hands! Read on to get this paleo diet friendly recipe that is fun, fit and frugal to give as a gift: Continue reading →
Everything you need to know if you want to make Spartan Spear at home — super easy tutorial, however nailing the throw is on you!
To date, I’ve only have 3 obstacle course races under my belt, but I’m trying to nab a coin for the Spartan World Championship . . .maybe that’s a lofty goal, but I think it’s in my reach, especially if I can optimize my performance with a fast run. However, the races I’ve done, like 2015 Spartan Beast Dallas and 2015 Spartan Spring Houston have been so flooded and muddy that I’ve had the wind knocked out of my running wheelhouse. Oh, yeah – but that spear throw is also standing in the way. I am 0 for 3 on the Spartan Spear Throw obstacle, that’s no surprise considering in I am 1 for 40 in the accuracy baseball pitch at an annual 12-event fitness competition I do (although, I do hold the female course record in the mile – whoot, whoot). (Editor update: I DID earn the championship coin and ran in the 2017 Spartan World Championships in Lake Tahoe, nailing BOTH the spear throws on the course).
So, I gotta practice. Practice, practice, practice, so I nail the obstacle and don’t have to take the burpee penalty. With my crazy, busy life, I don’t have time to go to any sort of obstacle course training gym – so I’m bringing some of the obstacle to my plain vanilla, suburban back yard.
If I can make Spartan Spear in less than 10 minutes, you can too. Girl power! Here’s the supply list – it’s amazingly short and available at home improvement stores for less than $10 :
1 60” replacement ash rake handle with ferrule (metal cuff on end) – $8.50
1 12-inch galvanized spike or nail – $0.70
Duct tape or masking tape – pennies
Decorative Duct Tape, optional
After you make Spartan Spear, you will also want to get a few bales of hay from a feed supply store, out here it’s about $12 per bale. I’ve seen it quite a bit cheaper on Craigslist, if you’re willing to drive out to the boonies for your haul.
So, how do you make a Spartan Spear? Easy-peasy! Follow these steps:
Use hack saw to remove head off nail. You have to put some elbow grease into this, let’s see what you’ve got!
Wrap a few rotations of duct tape or masking tape around bottom of nail where head was sawed off. This thickens it up so that it will fit snugly into the ferrule.
If you choose, pour a bit of glue into ferrule and stick in nail head to secure. Let dry. However, I prefer to just wrap tape so that I can remove the nail tip if I want to transport my spear in the car (would hate to get impaled if I slammed on the breaks).
Wrap decorative duct or grip tape around center of handle to indicate where to hold (or to just look fancy), if desired.
And, just how do you do this? Sheez, I don’t know . . .that’s why I’m practicing Spartan spear throw. I do have some tips though from my limited experience:
Quickly scan for a spear without a bent tip, and no blood or vomit on the handle.
Make sure tether is hanging on opposite side of fence from you to prevent tangling up around your legs.
Step into the spear launch and throw hard with a slight upward trajectory.
Show good sportsmanship when completing your 30 burpees and congratulate the successful competitors at this obstacle who are kicking up mud in your face. Okay, hopefully not this!
The Spartan Race Obstacle Guide says you have “One attempt to throw the spear and have it stick into the spearman (wood or hay). The spear can’t be touching the ground.” This means it can’t stick in the hay and then fall out or brush by the hay and land on the ground. Failure to perform on your single try is 30 burpees – yay!
Also, if you head over to the Spartan Store there is other great workout gear that can help you get ready for race day. I like the Spartan in a Bucket Kit — lots of stuff needed to improve strength and skills. Code SCOUT10 gets you 10% off your Spartan Store cart.
If you want to run a Spartan Race – from Sprint, Super, Beast or some of the ultra endurance events like the Hurricane Heat, Hurricane Heat 12 hour, Ultra Beast, use the code FINISH10 at checkout for 10% off your registration. And, don’t forget to make Spartan spear . . and practice!
So, how’s YOUR aim? Good at throwing stuff like spears, footballs, baseballs . . . or maybe just throwing fits of frustration when you miss, like me?! Have you ever run an obstacle course race? If so, what was the biggest challenge for YOU? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer
Yeah, yeah . . . National Pizza Day was yesterday. I may be a day late, but definitely not a dollar short with this easy-to-make homemade garlic pizza sauce recipe that will take your pie to the next level. Store-bought sauces can be kind of pricey, especially the better ones – but my creation saves you some dough (see what I did there?) that can be put towards your favorite fresh toppings. Personally, I love Campari tomatoes, spinach and roasted garlic – but the kids are pepperoni addicts all the way. As for the crust, I’m staying out of the crust controversy – pan crust, thin crust or even cauliflower-carrot crust, it’s up to you. Make it your way, I’m just here to share the sauce. The secret to this pizza sauce recipe is a can of “fire-roasted” tomatoes and Instantly Fresh herbs – I’m a big fan of these freeze-dried herbs and garlic from Litehouse Foods, but you can also use regular dried herbs or fresh if feeling fancy. Those not in the know would think this hearty sauce had been simmering all day on the stovetop and not whipped up at warp speed in a blender. Make a double batch and freeze for a busy weeknight dinner solution. Other recipes that are insanely good with this pizza sauce:Egg & Zucchini RaguMore Eggs . . .Portabello Eggs Inferno:Dip Roasted Spicy Creole Shrimp into Pizza Sauce (instead of cocktail sauce):
So, what is your favorite topping for pizza? Dare I ask, what is your sauce strategy? Do you cut your pizza in wedges or squares? Do you consider pizza something for a “cheat” day or a well-balanced, hand-held meal? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer
Add all ingredients to blender and blend for approximately 45 seconds or until ingredients combined and tomatoes broken down but not completely pureed. Spread out sauce thinly on prepared pizza crust. Makes sauce for 3 medium or 2 large pizzas. Store leftover sauce in refrigerator or freeze in air-tight zip-top plastic bag.
Well, first of all, happy Mardi Gras – Laissez les bons temps rouler! This day of eating, drinking and overindulging that can take quite a toll so, I’m sharing a healthy salad to help keep you fit and fierce for Fat Tuesday . . . or get you back on track later in the week!
You’re going to love my Spicy Creole Shrimp Salad with French Quarter Croutons, it’s like a healthier version of a Po’ Boy sandwich that exploded with loads of lettuces and farm-fresh veggies. Instead of getting fried in oh-my-gawd grease, the succulent shrimp in this quick and easy recipe get a toss in Creole Seasoning before being lightly sautéed in heart-healthy olive oil.
Forget about bland Creole seasoning from grocery store spice aisle, kick up the taste and cut down on costs by making a big batch at home – in addition, making it from scratch lets you say au revoir to weird chemicals and preservatives and control the amount of heat. Often referred to as Cajun spice, this blend of peppers, paprika, thyme, oregano, garlic and onion powders creates the base of bold flavor on practically everything in my shrimp recipe – BAM!
I also use Instantly Fresh Herbs in my Creole Spice Mix, a generous recipe that makes plenty for the salad, dressing and croutons – store leftovers in an airtight jar for up to a year. Use this Creole Spice Mix in soups and gumbos, rub into catfish and tuna, mix into meatballs, and even sprinkle on grilled fruit – this Cajun food seasoning is crazy-good!
The dressing isn’t loaded in fat either; I used the deliciously creamy Greek yogurt-based Ranch and jazzed it up a bit with Creole spices.
To make Creole Spice Mix, place ingredients in small jar with lid. Stir or shake to combine. May be stored in pantry out of direct sunlight for up to one year. Makes approximately ½ cup.
To make shrimp, heat olive oil and Worcestershire sauce in large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat thawed shrimp dry and toss with Creole Spice Mix. Place in hot skillet and sauté for approximately 2 minutes, or until heated through (take care not to over-heat since shrimp are precooked). Remove shrimp from heat to a plate while finishing remainder of dish.
To prepare salad, top lettuce with cabbage, radish and tomatoes on a large platter or individual bowls. For dressing stir, Creole Spice Mix in dressing until incorporated – use more or less depending on preference for spiciness.
For croutons, slice 8-inch length of baguette in half lengthwise. Next, slice each half in half at a long diagonal; place on baking sheet. Brush cut side of bread with olive oil and sprinkle with cheese and Creole Spice Mix. Set under broiler for 60 seconds (keep a vigilant eye) or until top beginning to bubble and brown.
To serve, place shrimp on prepared salad and add one big crouton per person; pass with dressing.
Updated on 12/4/2017: Tired of stale, tasteless, un-sweet tea? My DIY Citrus Ginger Mint Tea Bags with Honey Crystals are the perfect solution and steeped in “I cared enough to make them with my own hands,” that they make a thoughtful holiday gift.
Read on to get the recipe and tutorial on how to make your own tea bags: Continue reading →
The end of summer is especially bittersweet this year, not just because our leisure time is coming to an end (well, the kiddos’ respite anyway), but my oldest is heading off to college. Yup, that’s right – this mama bear is letting go of a cub and even with my stoic sensibilities, I’m getting a little choked up just typing out the words. With the Big Boy literally leaving the den in 10 days, our family movie nights seem even more special this summer.
Movie night is a great excuse to hang out together (an increasing rarity in the teenage years), have some laughs, engage in some invaluable pre and post movie discussions – and, naturally, share some yummy Pop Secret popcorn and sensible snacks together!
Now, over these last 18 years of watching movies with my kids, I’ve learned a several things. First, my lone female vote in a house with four male people means I don’t have a say in what we watch – we’ve made the natural boy progression from non-princess Disney productions to action and shoot-em-up flicks. Not a lot of romantic comedies and historical fiction in the DVR queue – of all the guy movies we watch, I like the superhero stuff best – that’s why I’m pretty pumped to have just watched the 2005 version of “Fantastic Four” in preparations for the reboot coming to theaters. By the way, if you Buy any 3 Pop-Secret items between 7/31 – 8/31 and get a Free ticket to the Fantastic Four movie (up to $5) while supplies last
The second important thing I’ve learned is that no matter the age, boys are just messy – and this includes my husband to a degree. Sharing one big bowl of popcorn means crushed kernels left all over the floor and greasy finger being wiped off on the couch. Hello, napkin? And, of course there will always be a bit of sibling squabbling over who gets to hold the bowl, who’s hogging all the food and exactly what toppings are put on the popcorn. To resolve these irritating movie-time issues, I came up with this a great popcorn-eating hack that will rock your socks off – Popcorn Shakin’ Cups!
These Popcorn Shakin’ Cups allow 1) everyone to have their own portion of popcorn, 2) customizable “mix ins” to be added and neatly shaken up to combine, and 3) the popcorn to be eaten straight from the lid opening to mouth (meaning no messy fingers)! Yes, I know – GENIUS!
It’s easy to put together your own Popcorn Shakin’ Cups -purchase tall, clear plastic cups (mine are 20-ounce but I’ve seen them larger) and domed lids (usually found at an industry or party warehouse or sweet talk your convenience store for some shake/slurpee lids). Next fill with popcorn and your favorite mix-ins – I did almonds and chocolate chips, but Parmesan cheese and garlic salt, or cinnamon sugar and pecans are other yummy popcorn ideas. Add a cute label if you like –and that’s it! Eat, enjoy and toss – no clean up! Great for a party!
I picked up my mom-of-teenage-boys-sized haul of Pop Secret at Walmart – I got the Sea Salt flavor for movie night plus an extra box of the Pop Secret 100 Calorie Pop 94% Fat Free Kettle Corn for me to keep on hand for sensible snacking in the afternoon. Also, note to self – perhaps I should buy Pop Secret popcorn flavors by the cart full because a variety of boxes would be great to slip into oldest son’s college care packages since he has a dorm microwave.
Some people only think of cranberries during the holidays, but these little tart berries are awesome all year ‘round! Especially in summer tossed in recipes like my Creamy Cranberry Orange Smoothie, whirled up and frozen into fruit pops or tossed atop salads. Having a hard time tracking down fresh packages of this bog berry in warm weather months? Then, do what I do – stock up at the produce section right after Thanksgiving and Christmas (they are often also on sale) and then stick the straight into the freezer in original packaging where they’ll stay good for at least six months – or longer if packed air tight in a zip-top freezer bag.
You can also use cranberries to make a really effective and inexpensive sugar scrub! Natural beauty experts say that skin-care with cranberries is perfect for the acne-prone or those who have oily skin because – you can thank the berry’s inherent antibacterial properties. Used in a sugar scrub, cranberries also help to smooth skin texture and brighten your complexion. My DIY berry beauty treatment only takes a few ingredients and few minutes to whip up — the “recipe” for Cranberry Vanilla Body Scrub makes enough for you and another container to give as a gift!
Another important health benefit of cranberries is the prevention of urinary tract infections. After the flu and the common cold, urinary tract infections (UTI) are the most common medical complaint among women age over the age of 18 – and the majority of us will experience the significant discomfort (to put it mildly) of a UTI at least once during their lives. If you’ve ever had one, you know UTIs are a real pisser, to put it bluntly.
You’ve probably heard that drinking cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs. But why? According to WebMD, researchers used to think that cranberries created a more acidic environment that bacteria wouldn’t want to grow in. Now they believe that cranberries contain compounds that prevent infection-causing bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls – while research is still evolving, it appears that either the antioxidants in cranberries alter the bacteria in some way or create a slippery coating on urinary tract walls that keep bacteria from adhering or maybe both.
But, what if you don’t like the taste of cranberry juice, can’t drink it for dietary reasons, or it’s just not convenient to have a jug of the juice on hand at all times? You should try AZO Cranberry Gummies – just two of these mixed berry-flavored gummies provides the equivalent health benefits of a 10-ounce glass of cranberry juice**. AZO Cranberry Gummies contain Pacran®, a super-concentrated cranberry powder that helps flush the urinary tract to maintain cleanliness. The gummies taste really great and are an easy solution if you are worried about UTIs — AZO also has a bunch of other products that help women dealing with other delicate problems.
Have you ever made a DIY beauty product? Do tell! Share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
Disclaimer Stuff: I am being compensated to share my honest opinion of AZO Cranberry Gummies. **Biological activity of 10oz cranberry juice cocktail. *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. AZO Cranberry® used under license by i-Health, Inc. Pacran® is a trademark of Naturex.
I am here to rescue you from last-minute gifting stress and solve holiday side dish dilemmas – both at the SAME time! You can thank me later. In my opinion, there’s nothing more tasteful than a healthy gourmet gift, and my recipe for Fruit & Nut Holiday Couscous Mix will delight all the fit foodies on your list. This homemade gift looks like a lot of time and effort went into it, artistically arranged with jewel-toned layers of cranberries and pistachios between pearled whole wheat couscous. In reality, it’s super simple to make (like a kiddy sand art project) and, for my craft-challenged self, more time and effort went into tying the bows and making gift tags!
You can use a new mason jar, recycled glass jar or any container of your choosing – get creative! Also, I’ve made the same mix and swapped out other types of dried fruit and nuts for the cranberries and pistachios with excellent results. Consider combinations such as Apricot & Almond, Apple & Pecan or Date & Almond – the possibilities are nearly limitless! Here is a gift tag you can print out on sticker paper and place right on the jar – or use with card stock, write your personal sentiments on the back, and then tie around the neck of bottle with ribbon.
While you’re busy making batches of these jar food gifts to give friends, family and neighbors, don’t forget about stocking your own pantry. The Cranberry & Pistachio Couscous makes a fast and festive side dish that pairs beautifully with beef, chicken, pork and more and can be completed from pot to plate in just 5 minutes. I’m serious!
Fruit & Nut Holiday Couscous Mix Recipe
Supplies needed: 3 approximate 12-ounce jelly or mason jars, ribbon, gift tags.
1 tablespoon dried mint*
1 tablespoon dried parsley*
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes*
2 vegetable bouillon cubes that have be smashed into powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pearl (Israeli) couscous
1 1/2 cups regular pearl (Israeli) couscous
• 1 cup raw shelled pistachios (can sub any nut)
• 1 cup dried cranberries (can sub any dried fruit)
In small bowl, mix together mint, parsley, dried onion, crushed vegetable bullion and pepper.
Pour approximately 2 tablespoons of spice mix into the bottom of clean, dry jar. Repeat for total of 3 jars.
Layer ingredients in a manner that pleases you until ½-inch from top. The approximate measurements I used for my layers were 1/3 cup for each couscous layer and 3 tablespoons for each fruit and/or nut layer.
Also, I want to share with you a delicious granola that I was recently sent to sample – Michele’s Granola! I tried the Cherry Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice flavors and they were both oh-so yummy (better than cookies!) that I can’t wait to munch on every other variety of this handmade, small-batch granola. Michele’s Granola is made with 100% organic whole grain oats (most other ingredients are organic too) and everything is also GMO-free, preservative-free, dairy-free, wheat-free and peanut-free.
You can find Michele’s Granola at natural food retailers (Whole Foods in Austin), grocery stores or online at MichelesGranola.com. Use promo code FRESH10 to get 10% off your online order.
Do you make any homemade food gifts for the holidays? Please share your ideas!