Jun 082016
 

This post is sponsored by Stonyfield as part of my participation in the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club.

summertree

This month Stonyfield Clean Plate Club is partnering with sustainable clothing brand prAna to ask what we are craving this summer! You know I love a seasonal goal list, so I spent some time this thinking about what has the potential to bring me JOY this summer and created a  2016 #SummerCravingsTo Do List for myself.

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Here are the things I’m craving this summer and will myself to make time for before autumn arrives…

#SummerCravings To Do List

Sway my way at outdoor concerts.  Is there anything better than being outdoors warm evening listening to live tunes as the sun sets into sweet summer nights?  I think not! Thankfully, there is a park very near by that has a variety of amphitheater performances all season long. I’ve also seen a handful of local bars hosting outdoor shows, too. I could get down for jams with cider and pub food! Who’s in?

Find a go-to easy up-do. I’m 100% in favor of the gather hair on-top of head in the messiest, uneven bun possible and finish with BAMR band look, but I’m also really digging this quarter-up top knot found at The Beauty Mark [Though I did also find a few BAMR band patterns I’m digging from the new release, too…]

prAna

Get away from my Weekend Leggings routine.  I’m uber thankful for this month’s partnership with prAna giving me the chance to take a pair of the Kara Jean our for a spin.  These pants come in a variety of solid colors and prints, too; my pair is indigo. I love how soft and stretchy these low-rise slim-fit jeans are, but my favorite two features are the length [perfect for my fellow tall ladies!] and the beautiful design detail on the button.  The Kara retail for $89 regular price, which is a bit outside of my normal clothing price-point for a pair of jeans, but I’ve seen them on sale for $59.50 which is much more my style. For a chance to win a pair of Kara Jeans for yourself, leave a comment on this post telling me what’s on your #SummerCraving To Do List!

Go Garage Sale Hunting! I’d love to stumble upon some treasures to help me complete one of my DIY Dream List Projects; I am hoping to find a clip board collection in need of some decorating.  And I’ve got a handful of buttons ready to create my own wall art inspired by this Brigitte Herrod piece, I’d love to uncover more on the lawns across town.

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Pack a breakfast picnic. Who says picnics can’t happen in the morning? We’ve got a great location a couple blocks from THS HQ; just close enough that even a pre-work day breakfast picnic would be do-able! 

Sip on Shugarmom’s Summer Slush is a summertime staple.  We recently picked up new rainbow colored lidded containers that will be perfect for storing batches in the freezer!

smores

Create some more s’mores! Can we talk about these 9 fancy-them-up s’more recipes? [Side note: I really dig the stuff that is shared on the Shari’s Berries blog, and this is yet another example of that.]

Venture to outdoor Happy Hour with my co-workers. There are a handful of locations in Schenectady with great patios and there is one specific location I’m really looking forward to visiting – Centre Street Pub. I’ve visited inside for trivia a handful of Tuesday evenings, but I’ve yet to take advantage of the outdoor space which I’ve heard has a great vibe and includes yard games like corn hole. I also know of some rooftops in need of a visit soon; I’m looking at you Nico’s.

time capsule

Build a time capsuleShameless reminder of these “Let’s Make a Time Capsule” instructions from #THS30Days.

Enjoy COLD foods. Fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast, stacked sandwiches for lunch, crunchy crisp salads when it comes time for dinner and endless frozen treats for dessert.  I’ve been collecting some refreshing meal ideas here: Summer Yums

Add more tarty citrus drinks.  Fresh squeezed lemonade is one of the BEST nostalgic summertime treats, and lately I’ve been all about lime beverages after trying [and falling for] this Stewart’s Fountain Classics Key Lime soda on a whim. I’m all about tart, sweet, citrusy drinks right now.  As a matter of fact, lemon and lime tarty goodness totally inspired my smoothie creating in the kitchen this month.

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Straw-Cherry Limeade Smoothie [Single Serve]

Add ingredients in order listed to single-serve blender cup. Pulse until well blended. Enjoy!

Wild Blueberry Lemonade Smoothie [Single Serve]

Add ingredients in order listed to single-serve blender cup. Pulse until well blended. Enjoy!

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Both of these smoothies are fabulous, but the Straw-Cherry Limeade Smoothie blasted to the top of my favorite smoothies list so much so that it has replaced my previous go-to morning blend [Pineapple Coconut Cherry] which I haven’t made since first sipping this new fav!

_PRANA2Hey, you!! Don’t forget: For a chance to win a pair of super soft, hella-flattering prAna Kara Jeans for yourself, leave a comment on this post telling me what’s on your #SummerCraving To Do List!  I’ll choose a winner at random after Wednesday, June 15th so be sure to enter by then! 

Feb 232016
 

This post is sponsored by Stonyfield as part of my participation in the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club.

February is known for a lot of important annual celebrations and fun holidays, and 2016 is turning it up on the party front thanks to Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl, and Chinese New Year joining the regulars: Ground Hogs, award shows, and you better not-forget-it-even-though-its-been-over-for-10-days-VALENTINE’S DAY.  It was a no brainer when I heard that Stonyfield is partnering with Divine Chocolate to celebrate love this February that I should use it as an opportunity to celebrate something that I love, too.

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Divine Chocolate is co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine. As owners, they get a share in the profits, a say in the company, and a voice in the global marketplace.

Divine is not only doing good for the world, but their chocolate does seriously good things for your taste buds, too. We found a handful of Divine bar flavors at our local Hannaford and decided on three to take home with us: Intensely Rich 70% Dark, White Chocolate with Strawberries, and Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts.

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I was inspired by something I love very much when day-dreaming-up this recipe: US PRESIDENTS!!!  Totally on point since February is also host to several important days in Presidential History, including but not limited to the best holiday to the world of THS – President’s Day!!  Though it’s not an off-of-work holiday for my office, the past several years I’ve tried to bribe my coworkers into celebrating with me by bringing in POTUS Day treats for the group. 

Here’s a ramble-y explanation of how this recipe came together: I have made a few variations on one of FDR’s favorite birthday cakes in the past; a recipe featuring the mighty “with their powers combined” WOAHS! of rich chocolate and smooth coffee.  And I’m well experienced in using Greek yogurt in baked goods, and the Stonyfield Smooth & Creamy Whole Milk yogurt I keep well stocked in my fridge [I use it in cooking ALL THE TIME] was sure to make the same moisture magic. 

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When it came to the major flavor players in this POTUS loaf game, the coffee and the vanilla, I went with two favorite powerhouses.  A favorite bean of so many people we know, including my Dad who gifted us this batch, Raven’s Brew was a must for the coffee element.  This coffee is so silky smooth with a deep, dark flavor, which seemed like a great pairing for the chocolate in the cake and the Divine milk chocolate featured in the topping.

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As for the vanilla, years ago we were gifted some Watkins extracts and flavorings from a regular visitor to the coffee shop, and since then the brand has been a go to for pure vanilla.  Using quality spices and ingredients really take your dishes up a notch.

This loaf cake is a simple recipe, but what really knocks it out of the park is the ganache.  The process for making the topping couldn’t be easier, and yet adding it totally elevates the cake loaf.  Using a decadent, quality chocolate like Divine brings the topping to A+ status in my book.  Just look at that chocolate, glazy goodness!!!!

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Chocolate Java New Deal Celebration Loaf with Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache

Ingredients

  • 6 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 3/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 6 oz. plain, Whole Milk Stonyfield yogurt
  • 1/2 C brewed STRONG coffee, chilled
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Divine Chocolate Bars, chopped into small pieces [I cut each tiny square into 2-3 pieces] 
  • 1 c heavy cream

Instructions

PREP STEP: make sure your butter is at room temp and your coffee has been brewed and chilled.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a loaf pan by lining with parchment paper.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.  Add the beaten eggs and fold together.  This is your batter base.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
  4. In another bowl, whisk yogurt, coffee, and vanilla.
  5. Alternating between the two and adding about 1/3 of each mix at a time, fold the dry mix and wet mix to the batter base. Mix until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 1 hour.
  7. Remove from the oven; cool in pan for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from pan and place on rack; let cool completely.
  9. Make the ganache:
    1. Put chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl, while heating the heavy cream on the stove over medium low until it’s slightly simmering.
    2. Pour cream over chocolate and let stand 6-8 minutes.
    3. Whisk until smooth.
    4. Cool completely, whisking on occasion.
  10. Once ganache is cool, immediately spoon over top of loaf. 

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_stonyfieldloafcakemix

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Jun 012015
 

This post is sponsored by Almond Breeze Almondmilk.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Blue Diamond.  I’ve been choosing Blue Diamond at my local markets for several years now, long before I became part of the Blue Diamond Tastemakers program.

Last month I was sharing a whole bunch about the new-to-me Blue Diamond deliciousness.  Honestly, I have been really impressed with all the new products and flavors that Blue Diamond has been rolling out over the past several months.  The flavors are bolder and better than I expect before tasting them, the protein content in the nut-thins hit my happy spot, and adding some coconut to the deliciousness of Almond Breeze is a flavor combo I’ll never complain about.

In terms of impressing me, the newest fresh-to-the-shelves product I’ve received to review has been no different: Hint of Honey Vanilla Almond Breeze Almondmilk. It’s rich and creamy with a slight sweetness that rounds out the flavor perfectfully.  I’ve tried it latte-style with the help of my Mr. Coffee Latte, to thin out my post-workout smoothies, and as a substitute for water in my morning oats.  I’ve also used the honey-delicious-AlmondBreeze in an ice pops recipe I share below because I’m all about the cooling-down these days.

bluediamondcollection

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in the CDNY it seems that we’ve skipped right over spring and headed straight for early summer.  We have one window unit air conditioner at the apartment, which we keep in the bedroom because sleeping well is a top priority for my overall health.  This means all the other rooms of THS HQ can double as a hot yoga studio, even when the oven remains in the off position. [Let’s not talk about what it feels like when I dare to turn it to the on position, okay?]

All in all, though, it’s not THAT bad.  Maybe it’s the several years spent on the gulf coast of Texas, but even the hottest days here in NY seem incredibly bearable, especially with all the best tools to my disposal.  I keep a pitcher of water in the fridge so I can always cool down via hydration.  The back porch is a fantastic spot to spend some time when the air near my computer feels stale.  My go-to at-home summer wardrobe = a running skirt and a tank, hair in messy bun on top of my head, and occasionally a BAMR band.

Another cool-down tool I’m swearing by these days are treats coming from the freezer.  I’ve been making smoothies more regularly than ever before in my life and recently realized that I could easily turn all my favorite smoothies into ice pops with the help of my dollar store plastic mold.  The steps are SO EASY and the outcome is well worth the [very little] effort.

popsicle round up

Destination Beach Vacation Ice Pops
I love island-flavor freezer pops for closing my eyes and imagining the heat I’m feeling is because I’m enjoying a moment of R&R on a beach vacation. 

Ingredients:

The steps are simple:

  • Fill a single serve [16 ounce] smoothie cup with frozen fruit, Greek yogurt and coconut.  Slowly add Almond Breeze to fill line on cup.
  • Blend into smoothie-like consistency.
  • Pour or spoon into mold and add sticks or plastic holders.
  • Freeze for several hours until firm.

12 popsicles

Frozen Pops Recipes to Cool Down with This Summer
With the addition of honey in many of these recipes, I feel especially kitchen-confident subbing in the Hint of Honey Almond Breeze Almond Milk for my own freezer creations! 

popsicles1

Lime Pina Colada Popsicles from Back to Her Roots. Another tropical vacation straight from my apartment freezer? Yes, please!

Vanilla Peach Pops from Love and Lemons. Who would turn down a classic flavor combo like peaches & cream?

Key Lime Pie Ice Pops from Freutcake. Pie turned pop?  I can get down with that.  I love the gram cracker outer crust on these beauties.

Papaya Coconut Popsicles from Floating Kitchen. I love the look of a layered freezer treat – so gorgeous!  And papaya and coconut are another imagine-yourself-watching-the-waves flavor combination to embrace this summer.

popsicles2

Bumbleberry Chia Pops from The Healthy Everythingtarian. This advice from my girl Holly in this post pretty much sums up life for me: “Wherever you are at, be there. Push forward. Eat popsicles.”

Blueberry Lemon Popsicles from Try Anything Once Culinary. High School Heather fell for berry flavored lemonade at chain restaurants and I’ve never stopped being a fan of the partnership sweet berries and sour citrus.  These pops make me dream of another favorite summertime treat, Lemon Ice from Culver’s.  Yummmmmmmmmmmm.

Summertime Dessert Banana Berry Acai Popsicles from Lauren Lives Healthy. I totally agree with Lauren that the best way to beat the heat come summertime are frozen treats. These antioxidant boosted treats will totally do the job in my book.

popsicle3

Green Smoothie Protein Pops from Eating Bird Food. These seem like a great post-workout cool down treat if you ask me!

Almond Coconut Fudgesicles from Bliss N Balance.  Almond + coconut + fudge = my favorite mini-candy bar treat – an Almond Joy!  I’m digging this flavor combo!

Pineapple Mint Popsicles from Fitnessista. Pineapple Mojitos are one of my favorite hot weather cocktails, and these ice pops fall right in-line with those flavors.

Watermelon Whole Fruit Popsicles from Nutrition by Angelique. These freezer treats are made with 100% fruit, using puree, slices and chunks.  What a great way to amp up your fruit servings during the hot summer months!