Monday, February 25, 2013

7 Days 1 Challenge: Nine

Wow. Anyone watch the Oscars last night? I thought Argo winning "Best Picture" was quite a shock (but, then again, I haven't had the pleasure of seeing that film). I adored Jennifer Lawerence (she's even classy when she stumbles), Jennifer Garner, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams, Kristen Chenoweth, Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, and Reese Witherspoon. But my absolute favorite dress of the night was Zoe Saldana's. I thought her dress was GORGEOUS.

And, of course, George Clooney, Richard Gere, and Hugh Jackman were very handsome. But they feel short of my favorite, Jeremy Renner. Yessss. My huge celebrity crush. Don't tell Mr. B. :)

My favorite part of the night was the performance by the Les Miserables cast. LOVED.

And of course, Avengers assemble!

My least favorite: Why did the Oscars take so long?! Ugh. Some people have to get up and work in the morning and can't "party" into the wee hours of the night. I hope this isn't how the award show will be from now on...

I digress. Moving on to our next challenge.

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Spend no extra money. 

This week I'm challenging you to keep that money in your wallet. That's right. Forget the macchiato, brown bag your lunch, skip the random buying at Target, etc. I'm hoping this challenge will help you (and me!) see what things we can go without. I don't really need my morning Americano when I have coffee and espresso sitting at home, nor do I need to go out to lunch when I have multiple containers of leftovers in my fridge. Only go to the store if needed, AND stick to what is on the list.

Let's see how much money we keep in our pockets, shall we?

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dessert of the Month

This month I'm introducing a new feature I'm hoping to continue on the blog (cough...I have the best of intentions...cough). It's called "Dessert of the Month", where I showcase a succulent dessert recipe I stumbled upon somewhere and am dying to make my mouth waters just thinking about it.

February seemed like the perfect month to start because 1) it's the shortest month and it needs a little something special, and 2) I just thought of it a few days ago when I wanted to make these brownies and really didn't have a reason (but, who am I kidding, who needs a reason to make brownies?) so I created one.

And these brownies are perfect for February because they're pink.

And I probably should have made these for Valentine's Day now that I'm thinking of it. But I'm thinking a little celebration for the end of the month will do just fine.

I found these brownies on Pinterest, of course, and immediately thought these would be my next baking project. I mean they have chocolate, espresso, cream cheese, and fresh blackberries (which are in abundance at my grocery store right now). Perfect.

And you can eat the eggs :)
However, when I took a peek at the recipe I knew I'd have to make some Sweet B adjustments. I like to indulge every once in a while, but I still try to keep it natural and healthy (well, healthier). With my substitutions, I was able to cut out 135 calories. Yes, I'm excited to share these delicious gems with you!

Fresh Blackberry Cheesecake Swirled Brownies
*adapted from Beantown Baker's recipe

Makes 16 brownies

For the Blackberry Sauce:
6 oz fresh blackberries, washed
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp water

Place blackberries and sugar in a pan and heat until the blackberries release their juices. Combine cornstarch, juice, and water in a small bowl. Stir together until smooth. Add slurry to pan and stir to mix completely. Bring mixture to boil for a few minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the Brownie Batter:
1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 c + 1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract + 1/2 Tbsp, divided
1/2 c + 2 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp espresso powder
2 Tbsp ground flax + 6 Tbsp water (= 2 flax eggs)
3/4 c black beans, pureed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8" baking dish.

In a bowl melt butter in the microwave. Then add olive oil, 1 tsp vanilla, and sugar; stir to combine. Return the mixture to the microwave and heat another 30 seconds. (Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.) Transfer the sugar mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and 1/2 Tbsp vanilla. Whisk in the flax eggs, stirring until smooth. Add the pureed beans, mixing thoroughly.

For the Cheesecake:
8 oz Greek yogurt, plain
1 egg
1/4 c sugar
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp flour (or use cornstarch to be completely GF)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Add all ingredients into a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Add the blackberry sauce and stir until mixed thoroughly.

To Assemble the Brownies:
Spread about 2/3 of chocolate batter into prepared pan, and spoon cheesecake batter over. Dollop remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter. Swirl the batters together by running a butter knife back and forth through the pan. (My substitutions make the batter thick and the cheesecake part a little runny. So if it doesn't swirl perfectly, it's okay.) Bake for 55 minutes (it will still be jiggly and the brownies are gooey so don't fret), or until center is set. Turn oven off and let brownies cool in oven about 20 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack and chill before cutting and serving. (I put mine in the freezer to speed up the process.)

Nutritional Information
Per brownie: 127 Calories, 16 Carbs, 7 Fat, 3 Protein, 3 Fiber, 11 Sugar

These are gooey and fudgey, and the berries and espresso bring so much flavor. My new favorite brownie recipe. Ever.

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Photo an Hour

7 AM

8 AM

9 AM

10 AM

11 AM

12 PM

1 PM

2 PM


4 PM

5 PM

6 PM

7 PM


9 PM

I borrowed this idea from Katie (love her). I'm giving my readers an insight into my days, every once in a while, with a picture walk, a photo taken each hour. This particular day was this past Monday, which I had off because of President's Day (woot woot). Nothing too glamorous, just a day full of chores, errands, and snuggling up with Mr. B in front of the fire. A pretty perfect day. However, I do want to clarify the PURSE photo. Every few months I switch up my Veras, this time going from wintry blue to a more spring-like pattern.

*P.S. I'm very sad all of my patterns are now retired....Mr. B thinks it's a scam. Good thing the VB Outlet Sale is less than two months away! (We all remember the loot I brought home last year.)

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, February 18, 2013

7 Days 1 Challenge: Eight

Last week's challenge? Nailed it until Valentine's Day. Until a co-worker brought in some beautiful pink cupcakes his wife made for everybody. It was V-Day. They were pink. And beautiful. And had sprinkles inside. I couldn't be rude.

So, yeah, this week's challenge.

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Kick the condiment.

Source: Yahoo! Images

This week is all about discovering which foods (which you normally drown in condiments) you actually like plain. A lot of times I find myself unable to acquire the condiment and have to eat something and realize, Hey, this actually doesn't need ketchup. Try seasoning something before you cook/bake it. (And when I say season, I don't mean a ton of salt. Think outside the salt and pepper shakers.) Challenge yourself this week. Find out if you really do need the mayo on your sub, or the ketchup on your fries, or that egg roll covered in soy sauce.

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Lenten Season

Giving up all electronics one night a week.
Fasting after 7 PM.
No television.
Fasting from dairy, meat, or bread.
Not wearing makeup for 40 days.
Quitting smoking, or swearing.
Not giving out my opinion unless asked for it.

These are some of the answers I received when I asked others what they were doing for Lent this year.  (Read last year's post here.)

I like to remind people that while you are giving up something that takes you away from the Lord, it's important to add something that brings you closer to Him. And you don't even have to go that far. As I say with any fast, you must return to the Father whenever that temptation arises. For example, in January when I fasted from eating after 6 PM, there were many days my stomach wasn't in agreement. Instead of breaking down and filling myself with food, I filled myself with the Word. I turned to God and drew closer to Him. When that late night TV show or cigarette or negative remark is calling your name, close your eyes and bow your head. Call upon the Father in prayer. Lose yourself in Scripture.

On the way to work in the mornings I listen to a great Christian morning show. Today they were talking about the Lenten season and spoke about accordion words, like "good-bye" and "hobo." These are words that stood for something but were shortened. The phrase "God be with you" is where we get good-bye from, and hobo comes from "homeward bound." (Civil War Vets were called hobos as they made their way back to their families.) The hosts were mentioning how people observing Lent can be looked at as hobos, because we're on our way home. We're using this time to bring us closer to God. I really liked this visual.

This year I'm adding something in honor of Lent. Scripture says, "What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, KJV)

I really enjoy NIV's translation: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

This scripture has been speaking to me over the past few days. God has laid it on my heart, and I'm encouraged to be proactive about it. I haven't been glorifying Him with my body lately. Although I'm always health-conscience about what I put into my body, I'm lacking in the physical part. This past month, I have no motivation when I get home from work. (I partly blame it on the cold weather and the cold house. All I want to do is curl up in a blanket on the couch.) I fear I've become lazy (!) in this department. Even my yoga hasn't been doing it for me. I'm stuck in a rut and need to do something about it.

And, most importantly, God knows I'm in this rut. One thing I know about my Father, he cares about everything involving his children. Even the tiniest things, like my workout routines. He knows how they motivate and de-stress me, how my yoga practice brings me closer to Him, and how I haven't been doing them lately. There's an "answer" for everything in His Word. For this season, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is mine.

For the next 40 days I'm glorifying the Father with my body. I'm leaning on Him for the strength and motivation to add 20 minutes of physical activity (not counting my yoga or story time programs at work) every day this Lenten season. I need to get out of this rut! My body needed a wake up call, and I got it.

Are you observing Lent? What are you giving up or adding this season?

Enjoy this video by Matt Maher. "40 Days" is a cartoon-like/illustration video on Maher's interpretation of Jesus' 40 days of temptation in the desert.

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, February 11, 2013

7 Days 1 Challenge: Seven

I love breakfast. I think it's my favorite meal of the day. Or maybe it's because I love breakfast foods. Oatmeal. Grits. Eggs. Waffles. Smoothies. Bagels. Biscuits and gravy. Ohhhh, my. I hope everyone made plenty of time to eat something in the A.M. this past week.

Now sticking with food, here's the next challenge.

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
No snacking between meals.

Sometimes all I need is a Larabar or some trail mix to get me from lunch to dinner. Or maybe that Hershey Kiss in my drawer or the red Starburst sitting in that bowl on the table. But not this week. (Which is a good thing considering Valentine's Day is on Thursday and candy is everywhere.) This week I'm challenging myself to be satisfied with my meals.

I like to do this every once in a while to get my meals in check, to find out if I'm getting my fill at meals or am I so hungry I end up eating something before my next one. It's important to have a decent serving of protein at each meal because that is what keeps you energized and full. If I find myself desperately needing a snack, is it because I'm "bored," it's there, or I'm hungry? Do I need to revamp my meals? Join me in taking this week to find out!

P.S. It's how the French stay thin...they don't snack between meals.

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mama

Today I celebrate you. Today my mother and my best friend is a young 45. I pray your day is special, wonderful, perfect, and blessed.
Love you to the sky and back, twice.

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, February 4, 2013

7 Days 1 Challenge: Six

Sadly, as I'm sure all of you know, Mr. B's 49ers did not win the Super Bowl. He's off the next four days and it's 11 o'clock and he's still in bed claiming he's sick. Need I say more?

So I'm going to get right to this week's challenge....

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Eat breakfast.

We all know how important this meal is, and in case you don't, IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY! Starting off with a serving of protein kick-starts your metabolism and gets your body ready for the day. So, eat up! Check out my favorite oatmeal dish or some delicious smoothies. Make the time to eat your breakfast.

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Our Super Bowl Party

We are obsessed with football in my family.

With so many favorite teams, there was always a favorite team playing and a football "gathering" every weekend. Some times we participated in more than one a week. We had high school football, and College Game Day (to say we are HUGE Ohio State fans is a HUGE understatement), and of course NFL Sunday. It was always fun and always entertaining. Cousins (and siblings) went to separate high schools, so there were occasional rivalries. But Ohio State always united us every Saturday. When Sunday rolled around, it was every fan for himself.

Browns. Cowboys. Bengals. Vikings. Packers. (The Titans for a short time.) Bears. (Oh, and a team I refuse to mention on my blog. And it's not only a Browns' fan's dislike. This team is strongly disliked by everyone...another united stance.) And later on, boyfriends and husbands added the 49ers and Colts to the mix. Everyone was allowed to have their own team. BUT we had one can't like a team just because they win, and not be a fan when they lose. In other words, you couldn't be a front-runner. You couldn't jump from team to team. We strongly dislike front-runners over here.

There were victories and defeats, tears, and yelling, silent treatments and, yes, one incident of a perturbed fan getting up and turning off the TV. (Daddy's Cowboys were beating my aunt's unmentionable team.) Needless to say, everyone watching was not happy. This then resulted in Daddy leaving Thanksgiving dinner at my grandma's house, deciding he would walk home in the rain and snow to finish watching the game at our house. Well, we don't live in what you would call a city (or town, haha), so it wasn't going to be a short walk. Mama wasn't too happy when she had to hurriedly pack up two kids, who found the situation hysterical and upsetting at the same time, say good-bye to her stunned family, and drive down the road to pick up a stubborn husband.

Yeah, football is a BIG DEAL.

Growing up, I wasn't like other kids who put their homework off until the last minute, running around like a chicken with its head cut off Sunday night. I worked ahead in study hall, did my homework throughout the week, and studied for exams during commercials. I had to go to our school's Friday night games, and I wanted to enjoy football with my family on Saturdays and Sundays. No time for school work. Only food, yelling, and games. A girl has her priorities.

That's the kind of football game days I grew up with, so I was excited when we moved into our new home with lots of room for entertaining. Hello, football gatherings! (Except Mr. B's family isn't like mine. I mean they watch the game, but there's maybe two or three people and no food. And most of the time Mr. B wouldn't even stay at our house to watch the game. We have all this space.....I like to make food....What the....? Hmmmm...) Well, in case I haven't mentioned it, Mr. B is a huge 49ers fan. He has been ever since he was a little boy. And he's obsessed. A very true and dedicated fan. I've never known anyone like him. So, you can imagine how SUPER excited I was that they made it to this year's SUPER BOWL. It's time to plan a party, my friends.

Go big or go home is how we do it in my family. Especially when someone's team is in the Big Game.

We have balloons, and party stuff, lots of room, games, and plenty of food. AND cake. (In my family, football days are usually all day events. Mr. B's is a tad different. It's a shame, really.)

On today's Super Bowl menu we have my famous nacho bar (you can find the recipe here). Football and nachos are a must in this household on any game day. Mr. B would not be happy if they didn't top the list.

Next, we have a generous bowl of what I like to call the "Good Stuff." It's my Chicken & Wild Rice Salad. I'm obsessed with this salad, and so our my in-laws. Lately it's been a must every time they come over. Mr. B won't touch the stuff, so I buy him his favorite coleslaw, KFC's. (Which, funny enough, he never used to eat before four months ago.....)

And while there, this morning, Mr. B decided we might not have enough food, or that people might want meat, so he brought home a bucket of chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy.

I've been craving homemade pizza for a couple of days now, and last Sunday I made a double batch of pizza dough, giving me four pizza crusts. Earlier this week I made a tasty Margarita pizza for me and the hubby, knowing I'd be making my absolute favorite pizza today. (My in-laws have not yet had my homemade pizza and they can't understand why Mr. B and I hate ordering greasy pizza, so hopefully today they will jump on our train....) Oh, it's so good. Straight from the oven, room temp, or cold.

My Spicy-Lime Popcorn (recipe below), which is the only way I prefer to eat popcorn. This stuff disappears before I realize it. And then I realize I'm the one who ate the entire batch.

And, of course, the celebrated team: 49ers cupcakes and ice cream, with a Football Berry garnish.

We also have a plethora of beverages, and Mr. B would kill me if I forgot his pretzels. (I wanted to dip them in red chocolate and decorate, but he wouldn't let me "ruin" them.) And for some reason he thought we needed chips and dip. Holy frijoles.

Obsessed with Football. Yes.

Spicy-Lime Popcorn

Makes 4 cups popped.

4 c popcorn, popped (bag or air-popped)
1 tsp cumin
pinch of ground pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest

*NOTE: If using air-popped, add 3 Tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp salt.

Mix everything, except popped popcorn and lime juice, in a small bowl. Add seasoning to popcorn and carefully mix together. Sprinkle with lime juice and enjoy!

Football Berries

Serves how ever many you need.

Dark chocolate, melted
White chocolate, melted

These are quite self-explanatory. Dip the strawberries in the dark chocolate and allow to chill in refrigerator overnight. The next day, using a toothpick, draw football lines on top of the harden dark chocolate. Allow to chill in refrigerator until ready to eat.

Sadly, the white chocolate was not cooperating.
*Looking for even more tasty recipes to please your crowd during the Super Bowl? Then don't forget to check out my seven days of Game Day posts, including nachos, cold pizza, broccoli dip, and many more!

Go 49ers!
With Love and God Bless,