Easy & Delicious Chipotle at Home


I love Mexican food. New Mexican food, Tex-Mex, really anything remotely in the Mexican food family and I’m yours. The flavors, the aromas, even the spice…. yum!


Originally, I feel in love with the cheese that punctuated every Mexican dish I tried. Cheese enchiladas, quesadillas, Chile rellenos. However, when I become a vegan and significantly cut my cheese intake (I do cheat once in a while, oops!) I discovered that Mexican food could be so much more than a ooey-gooey cheese puddle. In fact, traditional Mexican food doesn’t even contain that much cheese; they use cheese at a garnish rather than the main portion of the meal. As such, Mexican cuisine is very adaptable to a vegan diet. The use of seasonings and spices lend such a complexity to any dish that you won’t even miss the lack of animal products. Therefore, I am always creating new dishes that are vegan but still contain the Mexican flare that I love so much.

Last weekend while we were out running errands, we popped by Chipotle for a quick bite to eat. I ordered the soft tacos with pico de gallo and sautéed veg. While the food was tasty and my belly was happy, I couldn’t help feeling how much better homemade would taste. So naturally, we went to the grocery store and made it the next day.

We make a bunch of items that are great alone or together and combine them at random for a variety of meals throughout the week. The great thing about having a few staple items is that you can combine them endlessly! You could make tacos, burritos, nachos, a burrito bowl, a salad, etc with any or all of the recipes here.  I like to use chickpeas in my burrito bowls, but I’d rather put the black beans in a burrito. Add avocado to your salad but keep it off your nachos. Whatever you like!


1.       Rice
Anyone ever had that delicious Cilantro Lime Rice? You know the one. I love that stuff. And when I learned how to make it at home and how easy it was to make, I knew I would never be deprived. Ok so get your pen and paper out. You better take notes on the ingredient list; it’s pretty long. Ready? Rice. Cilantro. Lime. Yes! THAT’S IT. Literally.

Cook your rice. You can use white rice like the restaurant variety, but I like brown. It’s one cup dry rice to two cups liquid. Usually it’s made with water but veggie broth would be so yum. Be sure to rinse your rice! There are many videos/articles on how to rinse your rice, but I just add it to a mesh strainer and run it under the tap until the water is clear. Add it to your rice cooker (best kitchen gadget I ever bought, only $10, too) or a pot on the stove. I add a little bit (about 1 tablespoon) of oil so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom. Cook on low/medium heat about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally or according to your rice cooker’s instructions.

Meanwhile, wash and finely chop your cilantro. For two cups of cooked rice (that’s one cup of dry rice) use ¼ cup chopped cilantro. Once your rice is cooked and cooled, add your cilantro and the zest and juice of half a lime. Zest your lime before juicing, it makes life easier. Save the rest of your lime for garnish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Super easy!  


2.       Beans
Pinto, black, garbanzo/chickpeas, whatever kind of bean floats your boat. I like black beans best, especially for Mexican dishes, but the great thing about beans is that they are so versatile. You can use canned beans if you’re in a pinch, but cooking beans from scratch is super easy and way cheap!

In general, if you want two cups of beans, then cook one cup of dry beans; they’ll end up doubling in size once they’re cooked. Rinse your dry beans for a few minutes to ensure they’re clean and then soak them in water for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight. Make sure you add enough water. Again, if I am using one cup of dry beans, I’ll add two and a half cups of water. Transfer the water and beans to a pot with a lid and cook on low/ medium heat for about four hours. Stir occasionally and add water if necessary. If you’re beans are too soupy, take the lid off and let the steam evaporate. Your beans will be done when they reach your desired firmness. I like my beans to be a bit firmer, but if you like soft beans or plan on mashing them, cook a bit longer.

 I like to make a large batch at the beginning of the week that I can use in various ways throughout the week. Because I cook a large batch ahead of time, I do not season my beans while cooking. I may want to make burrito bowls AND brownies with my black beans. If I add seasoning—even salt—to the beans while they cook, it will contaminate them for future uses. If you know that you’ll only be using the beans for one specific meal, you can certainly season them! Try garlic powder, salt and pepper. You could also add Chulula or sliced jalapeno. YUM.

A note about beans: If you have slow cooker, add them to your cooker’s pot before you leave for work along with the specified amount of water and cook. They will take about 8-9 hours to cook on low and 4 hours on high, depending on the type of bean. If I know I will not be home to monitor my beans, I will add excess water so they don’t dry out. Bigger beans=more water.

Another note on beans: The reason we soak them overnight and cook them low and slow is to break down the bean and therefore make them easier to digest. Ever heard that saying about how beans make you toot? Well cook them slow and they won’t!

3.       Veggies
This is my favorite part. It’s not even funny how much I daydream about a big ol’ serving of sautéed peppers and onions. I don’t know what sorcery occurs, but for some reason a plan bell pepper can turn into a delicious morsel with just a few minutes sizzling in a pan. Add a sliced onion and—here’s the game changer—some sliced poblanos to the pan, let it sizzle for a few minutes and BAM! Deliciousness ensues.

I used three poblanos, two medium yellow onions, and a yellow, orange, and red bell pepper. Turn the burner on and add a teaspoon of high heat oil, once the oil is shiny and moves easily about the pan (indicating its warmed up) add your delicious veggie mix. I like to add my favorite taco mix and some salt to the batch and give it a good stir. Ensure everything is evenly coated in your oil and spread it out evenly in your pan. Use a large flat-bottomed pan for this. Don’t crowd your veggies. Now the trick is to leave it alone! Let your peppers and onions sit undisturbed for a few minutes. This will ensure your veggies get browned on the bottom. Stir and repeat until your veggies are tender but not mushy.

Once I had my peppers and onions cooked up nicely, I put them in separate bowl and used the same, dirty pan to sautéed up a few mushrooms. I sliced the mushrooms vertically into slices and added them to some hot oil, already in the pan. After stirring occasionally and a few loooong minutes they were a deeper shade of brown and thoroughly cooked.


4.       Toppings
Variety is the spice of life y’all. Have a few options to choose from and you’ll never get bored. Avocado is a staple. But you can also have a few less common items. We like to add chopped spinach or mixed baby greens to our burrito bowls. It’s a great way to add another serving of veggies and some extra vitamins to your food. You could also try tomatoes, zested carrots, pepitas (yum) or some chopped jalapeno if you like things on the spicy side.

5.       Garnish
I am a sucker for fresh cilantro. I always add this to my Mexican dishes. I even have pot growing on my patio so that I am never without my beloved herb. You could also try parsley or chopped green onion. Try a quick corn salsa or some pico-de-gallo! And make sure to add a squeeze of lime. Fresh lime is the difference between an ‘ok’ meal and an ‘out-of-this-world’ meal.


6.       Spicy Bits 
Of course, this is optional, but it can elevate your meal. I am a big whimp and can’t handle anything overly spicy, but I do add a few squirts of Chulula. It adds a nice zing and boosts your metabolism. You could also add spicy salsa. Check out the MOST delicious and easiest authentic Mexican Salsa here.

If you eat meat, you could easily add an animal protein to the mix, like grilled chicken and use sour cream or cheese. Alex likes to cook a batch of nachos in the stove with his cast iron skillet. If you don’t eat cheese you could try a non-dairy cheese (I like the So Delicious Dairy Free Shreds). Or you could just forgo the cheese altogether. These fixin’s are soo good, you won’t even miss it!


Okay…I’m off to go eat another taco. No, YOU’RE the one who already ate four.

Feel free to leave a comment it you have any questions, tips, or ideas!

Enjoy!

Lots of Love,
Anne


Basic Self Care


A few weeks ago, we went out with some friends for a rugby game. We had a great time enjoying the warm weather and each other's company. As the afternoon progressed, I felt a killer headache coming on. I knew I must be dehydrated so I began drinking water at every opportunity. However, my headache only got worse. An hour or two later and nausea hit. Fast forward, I ended up laying in bed upchucking my brains out. I was INTENSELY dehydrated after a day of staying in the hot sun. By the time I actually had some water, it was too late. Eventually, I felt fine, but the whole ordeal got me thinking about self care and how I wasn't making it a priority. I was ignoring the signs of my body and I paid the price.

Our cute faces before the whole ordeal!

Many people are so focused on everything else, that their needs often come last. It's important to remember that you cannot be the best you unless you take time for yourself. Having a moment each day to care for your body, mind, and soul does not make you a selfish person. Rather it allows you to better care for others. Here are a few self care tips that I will be incorporating into my routine.

Drink water.
Obviously, I learned this one the hard way, ha.

Have a hobby. 
Do you like to craft? Are you a gamer? Find something you find rewarding and schedule the time to do it. There are many budget friendly hobbies you can start today!

Friends/Family/S.O./Children
Call your bestie and ask about her week. Visit your mom. Have a date night with your significant other. Take your son to the park. Spend quality time with the important people in your life. Surround yourself with good humans who are great role models and deserving of your company.

Eat well. 
A well balanced diet can make you feel like a new person. Eat whole, fresh food because you love yourself, not because you're punishing yourself. Also pay attention to the foods that don't agree with you and limit them.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Exercise.

Just move your body. You don't need a gym membership to take your dogs for a walk or play tag with your kids. Soak up the feeling of euphoria after physical activity.

Get some fresh air. 
Why not have your breakfast on the porch or walk around the block before work? Fresh air helps to wake you up and calm you down.

5am feels
Do something that makes you feel good. 
Buy yourself flowers! Maybe you like to get manicures or take a hot bath. Take thirty minutes to do something just for you!


Remeber that you are the most important person and treat yourself accordingly. Use a day planner or monthly schedule to set aside time to workout or have a date night. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to drink water. And practice being grateful for all of the wonderful things in your life.



What is your number one self care tip?

Lots of Love,
Anne

Free Summer Wallpapers

It's officially summer!

What is on your summer bucket list? 

My summer plans include: 
Picnics in the park
Cooking lots of fresh, healthy food
Enjoying the fresh morning air 
Walks with my dogs
Splashes in the pool
Getting a new couch (I'm super excited about this one!)
Watching the sunrise
Hanging with friends
Drinks downtown
Grilling up some great vegan meals
Reading some great books
Blogging 
Learning something new
Touring local museums
Exploring my state
Ice cold tea on the patio
Using these awesome summer-y wallpapers

Enjoy the summer with these super cute home or lock screen wallpapers!










Tiny Patio Gardening

Happy Sunday! 

One of the many things I love about summer is growing my own herbs. It is so rewarding to watch the little seedlings sprout and a bit later, reap the rewards of my success. Cooking with items from your garden makes you appreciate your meal in ways you never imagined. After a long day at work, I love to sit on my balcony and breathe in the fresh aromas of my herbs or revel in the relaxing atmosphere of greenery. You don't need to have a large yard to get planting either. Here are a few things I 've learned along the way for gardening in a small space.



1. Keep in mind your storage situation.
Do you have lots of room to store pots, shovels, and other gardening gear during the winter? Chances are, space is tight. When buying gardening supplies take a peek at the compact tools. We have a small hand shovel and use bins to store our extra gravel and soil. Our gardening equipment is small enough to fit in a corner when not in use.

2. Start your seedlings indoors.
Buy and start your seeds as soon as you can, ideally as soon as the seeds hit the stores. Plant your seeds in an egg carton and label each section according to the seed. Ferry your lil' seedlings outdoors during the day to get sunshine, water as needed, and bring them inside during inclement weather or at night. Once it they have sprouted and the weather has improved, transplant each section directly into your pots.

3. Ensure adequate drainage.
Use gravel or rocks to create a drainage layer at the bottom of your pots. As your plants will not be in the ground, the water accumulates in the pots and drowns the soil. Mediterranean herbs in particular like dry well-drained soil. So be sure your rosemary has proper drainage!

4. Find ways to hang your pots.
Use wire racks to hang your pots from the balcony railing. Purchase basket hangers or try making your own using rope. You could even try a macrame plant hanger!



5. Use small and portable pots.
This works well if you're only planting a couple of herbs. Using smaller pots allows for easy transportation if you need to bring the plants inside at any time (think cold nights or high winds).



6. Determine which plants suit your needs and space.
We love having a variety of fresh herbs on hand for cooking, so we made sure to plant all of our heavy rotation herbs. Maybe you like lavender or lemon verbena instead. Perhaps you want to gaze at an array of colorful flowers. Plan what you'd like to plant. Make a list of everything you'll need including gravel, soil, seeds, and bring it to the shop.

7. Plan ahead.
Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to water your garden. Before you leave for the day, check the weather report in case you need to bring your plants inside.



Once your plants get large enough, you can harvest your goodies! Use your fresh herbs to garnish your favorite dishes or create a beautiful bouquet from your flowers. Floral bouquets also make great gifts!

 Enjoy your garden! I'm sure you'll want to plant every year.

Lots of Love,
Anne

Meal Planning 101

Waste less food and save time and money by creating and following a meal plan schedule; its easier than you think!



Meal prep and meal planning are not the same things. Meal prep can be defined in two distinct ways. The most common form of meal prep is making a large quantity of one meal and dividing it into servings. You can also meal prep one or two specific ingredients that will be used multiple times throughout the week. You can incorporate meal prep into your meal plan by making a large quantity of one specific item you use in several recipes.

Meal planning is simply creating a set schedule of your meals for the week. Sit down on Sunday and compile a number of meals you'd like to eat for the week. Make a list of all the ingredients you'll need. Next, take a peek in your pantry and fridge to determine what items you already have and what you'll need to purchase. Your grocery list should contain everything you'll need for your meals plus items for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and desserts. Depending on the serving size of your meals, you may be able to use leftovers for lunch. The more familiar you become with meal planning the better you will be at guessing the additional items you need and the quantity of each. For example, we buy fruit for breakfast and enough for one piece per person for lunch. I buy a few in season, on sale fruits and veggies that serve as quick sides. Stick to your grocery list and you'll be surprised how much money you save AND how much less food goes to waste.

A few factors to keep in mind when creating a plan:
-Pay attention to the number of servings in each meal.
-Take stock of what item you already have, including staples like rice and pasta.
-Plan your meals around items that are in season.
-Note your schedule for the week and plan quick meals or have leftovers on the days you're short on time.
-Make a large quantity of staple items that can be used for different meals.
-Have a mix of recipes. Incorporate meals you have previously tried and a few new recipes, you've had your eye on.



Sample Week #1
Staple Item: Rice

Buddha Bowl
Use rice to create a base for the bowl and add sauteed carrots, zucchini, and bell pepper. Top with cooked chickpeas or other protein.

Sweet and Sour Cauliflower
Create a paste with equal parts flour and water. Dip cauliflower florets into the paste and bake in the oven until crispy, about 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Coat with your favorite homemade sweet and sour sauce. Serve over rice. This is great with any kind of sauce; my boyfriend LOVES buffalo!

Burritos
Add chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime and a little bit of zest to leftover rice. Fold rice, beans, and various veggies into a tortilla. Try sauteing bell and jalapeno pepper, corn, and onions for the filling. Serve with salsa (check out my recipe here).

Dessert
Make some good ol' rice pudding. Or add a bit of liquid sweetener to milk and pour over warm rice. Top with dried berries and cinnamon.

Sample Week #2
Staple Item: Sweet Potato and Black Beans

Mock Ravioli*
Cook a sweet potato until tender using your preferred cooking method. Top with pasta sauce and serve with roasted broccoli and garlic bread.
*The sweet potato is so creamy, you can barely tell it's not really cheese ravioli.

Hamburger and Fries
Make a hamburger patty using black beans. There are a ton of great recipes depending on your preferences. Use the sweet potatoes to make sweet potato fries in the oven.

Black Bean Tacos
Finely chop sweet potatoes and sautee with onions. Add black beans and chopped spinach to the pan. Add your favorite taco seasoning to mix. Serve on warm corn tortillas and garnish with cilantro.

Dessert
Black bean brownies! Make sure to use regular black beans (no added spices) and you won't taste the difference between these and regular brownies.

Other great staple items include chickpeas, noodles, broccoli and cauliflower. Oats are great too! Use oats to make banana bread, overnight oats and even savory oatmeal with avocado and spinach.


Create a binder of your favorite recipes or add a folder to your phone screen with recipes you'd love to try!

What are your favorite recipes?

Lots of Love,
Anne




12 Period Hacks You NEED To Know

Let me start this post by saying: YOUR PERIOD IS NATURAL. Please do not feel ashamed or embarrassed by something as normal as menstruation. I think most women go through a period (pun intended) in their lives where they feel humiliated by their monthly visitor. Perhaps it comes when they bleed through their pants in Language Arts or when they accidentally drop their used tampon into the, erm, unflushed toilet and have to fish it out, but dealing with your body’s natural changes is all part of the job.


Growing up, I was very unfamiliar with the things I was experiencing. I was dealing with pain, mood swings, and acne all by the age of ten. It was difficult. There weren’t many adults I could speak to and googling wasn’t really a thing. In the past thirteen years, I have developed a few tried and true techniques to make each month run a little bit smoother.

1.     Use a period tracker.
Definitely a game changer. Download an app from the app store to log your cycles. I use Eve but there are so many to choose from. Not only can it usually predict when you'll start, but there is a daily log you can use to document how you feel, what you're craving, activity level and so on. Another thing I love about Eve is the whole community of supportive women. It is a place full of insight and advice; very handy if you don't often have the period convo irl. 

2.     You don't have to use tampons.
Frankly, there are way more items out there than the traditional tampon and pad. There are period cupspanties or pants, reusable pads and even sea sponges! Explore your options and decide what works best for you. If you do decide to use tampons, know that different brands fit in various ways. For example, Tampax tampons open like a rectangle when full. Whereas Playtex tampons open more like an umbrella. Perhaps one works better for your body than another. Whatever method you choose, do your research and understand fully what chemicals or toxins you may be exposing to your precious flower.

3.     Winter is coming. 
Whatever you use during your period keep a few of these items with you at all times. You may never know exactly when you'll start, so have a stash in your car, locker, at your desk, and even in your purse. Obviously, pads and tampons are much more portable, affordable, and easy to stash away than other menstrual items like the diva cup and period panties, but figure out what works for you. In your emergency kit think about adding items like a painkiller, a snack, and maybe even a few dollars (then you can buy even more snacks #winning)

4.     Use heat for pain.
Heat therapy is something I did not discover until my twenties. I suffered in agony for TEN years, sorry lil Anne. I always get pain in my shins and knees in addition to abdominal cramps and lower back pain. So that's fun. Luckily, a heat pack/pad works on each of these places. If you're having all the pains, try a hot bath. You'll be amazed how much better you feel. My boyfriend (what a gem he is) filled one of his old socks with lentils and created a DIY heating pack. I pop it in the microwave for about 90 seconds and viola.

Ironically the sock shape works really well for laying across my abdomen or back. We have since replaced the lentils with garbanzo beans, but I imagine any dried good will do. 

5.     Go for a walk.
Just like with a small child, going outside can serve as a great distraction, especially when you aren't feeling your best. Soak up some rays and take a few big gulps of fresh air. Plus you'll likely find the endorphins released during your exercise will make you feel a whole lot better.

6.     Get a massage.
Depending on a variety of factors, particularly my stress level, diet, and recent activity level certain cycles can be waaaaay worse than others. During one memorable and scarring episode, I was in such pain that normal functions were simply out of the question. In an effort to easy my pain, my boyfriend furiously googled ways to help with period pain. He came across the “give your lady a massage” tidbit of wisdom and our lives were forever changed. When nothing else—not heat, not exercise, not meds—helped my discomfort, a little gentle rubbing worked wonders. My lower back, knees, legs, arms, shoulders felt so much better when he was done. Perhaps it’s the human contact or the general pressure that helps, but a massage can do what nothing else can. Ask your partner to help, book an appointment, or even do a self massage.  

7.     Pop some pills
In moderation, taking a couple of painkillers can greatly reduce your suffering. I have intense cramps in the first couple of days. By looking at my period tracker and reading the signs of my body, I can determine when I'll likely have cramps of hell. UPDATE: You may find that deep, slow breathing helps your pain tolerance. Try some calming breaths, it might help more than you know!

A note about medicine: Learn what is in your painkiller and how it affects your body. There are painkillers that are specifically marketed to women for menstrual cramps but a close peek at the label reveals that these brands generally contain the same painkiller (either ibuprofen or acetaminophen) as non-menstrual meds. Sometimes these "menstrual specific" pills contain pamabrom, a diuretic (makes you pee), which is most likely to help with bloating. Other versions even contain a sedative! Read your labels thoroughly before purchasing!

8.     It's not you. It's me your period.
All the things happen during your cycle. When you're on your period you might be constipated or experiencing the opposite, a sort of "Thar She Blows" situation. You may be giddy and full of energy or dead tired. And don't even get me started on the rest of the month. Your hormones take you on a roller coaster EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH. That can be tough. Learn to recognize how you feel at each given time in your cycle and this will help you cope with hormone whiplash. Eve, the period tracker mentioned above, has a little gif for each day describing what your hormones are doing and how that is likely affecting you. 

9.     Treat yo'self.
During your period, your body is literally shedding your ENTIRE uterus lining--and if that weren't enough--you also grow an ENTIRE new one. So if you want to eat a brownie. THEN EAT A BROWNIE. If you're tired, sleep. If you just want to sit in a warm bath, with a glass bottle of wine, and watch  Broad City, then do it. Relax and nurture your body during this time. Something else to mention here and hide yo' kids for this... a bit of self pleasure (yes that kind) can help with pain and improve your mood.

10. Listen to your body.
Learn to read the signs of your body. Do you get an upset stomach and a headache every time you're about to start your period? Are you feeling particularly argumentative? Are you sitting in Le Peep crying about the french toast you ordered because you've just realized you hate french toast and wish you would have ordered pancakes instead? Oh...that's just me? (yes this did happen, mostly I was ashamed that I allowed myself to be hoodwinked into ordering something I hate by the fancy words like brioche on the menu) The point is, over time you will learn to read the signs of your body and what they mean.

11. Respect yourself and DEMAND others do the same. 
Possibly my biggest pet peeve is when someone *cough usually a cis-gender male cough* guffaws and says, "You must be on your period." Firstly, guffaw elsewhere Kevin. And secondly, I can politely tell you your idea sucks without being on my period. Oh ho! What a thought. I can have opinions that differ from yours, I can be passionate about a topic, I can even EXPRESS MY THOUGHTS all without being on my period. You can be whatever you want ladies, even on your period or off. Anytime really.  

12. Normalize Menstruation
As mentioned above, your period is completely natural. Do what feels right for your body at that time. Please do not be ashamed or embarrassed by this. Have a chat with the important people in your life and open the lines of communication. By nixing the taboo on menstrual cycles, women will discover freedoms they may have otherwise been denied.
·        Do you know a male who refuses to buy tampons? Help him see that tampons are no different than shampoo, razors, or any other self care routine item.
·        Does your boyfriend know how to help you when you’re having cramps? Explain to him that a cup of tea and a foot rub may be just the thing to help you relax.
·        Do you have other strong females in your life you can turn to for advice and tips? Create a supportive, non judgmental community with these ladies. 

What tips do you have for a positive period?
Happy Menstruating!

Lots of Love,

Anne 


The Many Wonders of the Mason Jar

Yes, I’m basic. I. LOVE. MASON. JARS. And honey, if you don’t love them too, you’re missing out. Here’s why…

I can't pinpoint exactly when my obsession with Mason Jars began but I don't regret a day of it! To be fair, the term “mason jar” is used loosely in this post as I love glass jars of all kinds.

I bought a few large glass canisters to house my baking ingredients. Slowly I began to incorporate more. Whenever I bought a product that came in a glass jar, I saved the jar to reuse. As I began to find new ways to use them, I started to buy jars. At this point, I've accumulated so many jars that literally EVERYTHING in my house is stored in some kind of glass canister.

When I began exploring the safety--or lack of safety--in plastic dishware, I found that I needed something to use instead of plastic. However, the majority of glass food storage doesn't have a spill-proof seal. To add to that, I wanted a budget friendly option that won’t break the bank in case I accidentally break it. (Which happens quite a bit.)

Here are some of my favorite ways to use mason jars.

Small, Glass Bottles
I use these for my spices. You can buy the spices that come in glass jars or you can buy a uniform set.

Flat, Half Pint Mason Jars
Store items that come in small quantities and aren't pourable. I use these for baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and ground flaxseeds. You could also use them for single servings of oatmeal or fruit.


Pint Mason Jars
These are good for items that are pourable like nuts, beans, seeds, and even drinks. Store things like extra marinara sauce or jam in them. I like to make overnight oats in them.

Regular Mason Jars
I mainly use these to freeze vegetable broth (see my recipe here) and for glassware. I'll use them for water or to take iced coffee to-go.

Top tip: Brew a single serving of tea right in the jar! Place one tea bag in a jar and fill 2/3 with HOT tap water. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Fill to the brim with ice and shake. Voila, iced tea!
(When you heat plastic up, like when you're making tea, the plastic chemicals leach into your drink. If you use a glass jar instead of a plastic pitcher, you forfeit those nasty chemicals!)


Wide Mouth Mason Jars
I think these babies are my favorite. The large ones are just the right size to plant household herbs--make sure to place rocks at the bottom for proper drainage. I like to make artificial flower arrangements inside them. They're great for storing household things like laundry detergent or vinegar. You could also use the smaller ones for cotton balls, q-tips, bobby pins, hair ties, nail polish, sewing supplies, pens, spare change, EVERYTHING!


Large Glass Canisters
I put regularly used, large quantity items in these. Think oats, flour, sugar, pasta, rice, beans, cookies, crackers. The airtight seal keeps items fresher for longer and because it's glass you don't have to worry about BPA or other harmful chemicals contaminating your food.

Perhaps the best thing about glass jars is using them for gifts! Use them for homemade jam or create a Pamper Night in a Jar with nail polish, face masks, and travel sized lotion. Make DIY bath salts or spice rubs in interesting jars. Use one to share your grandma's homemade chocolate sauce with your girlfriends or send some homestyle ranch dip in your child's lunch. The possibilities are endless.

How do you use glass jars around your house? Leave a comment and let me know!

Lots of Love,
Anne

Blueberry Vanilla Muffins

Whenever blueberries are on special, I always pick up a few clamshells. I know I'll find a way to use them. Sometimes I make jam (see my recipe here) or sprinkle berries on my overnight oats (recipe to come) but this time I knew I wanted to bake with the berries.

Before we start, hit the follow button to get notified everytime I post! -------------------->


I started with a basic muffin recipe and added the vanilla and blueberries until I had the perfect muffins. Just a little sweet, literally popping with blueberries, and perfect for breakfast, these bad boys are a definite make again!

Ingredients
1 egg replacement
1 single serve vanilla almond milk yogurt (5.3 oz)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages, 6 oz each ripe blueberries

Directions
Preheat oven to 425. In a large bowl combine the "egg", yogurt, maple syrup, and almond milk. In a smaller bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix. Slowly fold the blueberries into the batter. Using a cupcake scoop, dollop batter into a lined muffin tray filling each cavity about 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes rotating the tray halfway during baking time.


These are best served warm from the oven.

Note: For the egg, I used Bob's Red Mill Egg Substitute. You could probably use a chia or flax egg to the same end.

Leave a comment and let me know what kind of muffin you like best! Thanks for reading!

Lots of Love,
Anne

REAL Mexican Salsa

I am obsessed with Mexican food. Probably about 80% of the restaurants we go to serve Mexican food. At least 80% of the food we eat at home is Mexican food. Seriously. It's the beeeest. (Name that movie)


The best part of going out is the homemade salsa that comes fresh (and free) to your table. In the world of salsa, supermarket jarred salsa is literally like the McDonald's of the hamburger world--not worth the $5 you spend. Once you make this recipe for homemade salsa, you will NEVER buy the pre-made kind again.

Somehow, I fell in love with a guy from New Mexico. By some stroke of luck, his mom makes the best food you'll ever eat. One fateful day she made some homemade salsa for us which--of course--I devoured and just HAD to have her recipe.

Over time I have tweaked things just a tad..mainly because I'm a big baby and can't handle anything spicy. So here is my perfected homemade salsa recipe!

Don't worry about chopping anything, you can add it whole to the blender.

1 lime
1/2 medium peeled onion
2-3 cloves peeled garlic
1 jalapeno, slice off the stem
1/4 cup cilantro, stems included
2 8oz canned tomatoes*
1 teaspoon salt

*I use one can of regular tomatoes and one can of fire roasted.

Drain the tomatoes as thoroughly as possible, setting aside the juice. Dump ONE can of tomatoes, juice the lime, and add everything to a blender. Pulse on high until everything is very finely chopped. Then add the remaining can of tomatoes and blitz VERY BRIEFLY. Add more salt to taste.

Don't over blend the salse or you will end up with a very water product. This is also why you should drain the tomatoes. Tomatoes are FULL of water, so I find by pouring out the juice from canned tomatoes it is much easier to control the water content than if using fresh.

Feel free to use more or less jalapeno. Each pepper's level of capsaicin can vary drastically, so always taste before serving and adjust to preference. The great thing about this recipe is that it can be tweaked to suit your personal tastes, whatever they may be!

Variations: Try adding roasted peppers or corn. This is also good with pineapple and mango for a sweeter salsa. Experiment with different textures too. Do you like chunky or smooth salsa?

This salsa is such a great afternoon snack with corn chips or even vegetables.

I hope you like it!

Lots of Love,
Anne


Succulent Strawberry Lemonade

I realize it's only spring, but summer is just around the corner! We had a bunch of lemons and so I made lemonade. (pun intended)

Whip some up to get you in the mood for those long, sunny days lounging on the patio. 



Ingredients:
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup water plus 4 cups of cold water
1 lb strawberries (I used fresh)

Start by hulling and rough chopping the strawberries. Place them in a medium saucepan with the sugar and one cup of water. Stirring occasionally, let the strawberries simmer on low to medium heat for about 30 minutes (more if using frozen). As you stir, smoosh the strawberries with the back of a spoon or a mallet. Remove from heat once you have a syrup-like consistency. Allow to cool off a bit.  Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer making sure to push all of the liquid out. Pour the strawberry syrup and lemon juice into a pitcher and mix well. Add the four cups of cold water. Enjoy!

Makes a little over one and a half quarts.


Lots of Love,
Anne

Easy Apple Chips



Whether you have a surplus of apples or just genuinely enjoy those tasty bagged apple chips, I've got an easy recipe for you!

Generally speaking, the heartier apple varieties like Granny Smith, hold up a little better but you can use any variety you'd like. My favorite is Red Delicious! If you like sweeter apple chips, add a bit of sugar to the cinnamon. Any sugar will do the trick, but I LOVE the flavor of coconut sugar with them. This recipe is so flexible it can easily be multiplied based on your quantity of apples. The sky's the limit! (Or rather, the max dimensions of your sheet pan lol)

Ingredients
3 medium apples
1 tbsp cinnamon

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees

2. Thoroughly wash apples.*
*Check out last week's post here to make your own fruit cleanser.

3. Carefully, core and thinly slice apples (about 1/8 inch thick).

4. Shake apple slices and cinnamon together in a large plastic bag until apples are evenly coated.

5. Grease a sheet pan with neutral tasting oil to prevent the chips from sticking. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!

6. Lay apple slices in a single layer on cookie sheet and bake for 6 hours or until crisp.


I hope you enjoy this recipe! It takes a while to bake, but those crunchy apples are so worth it!

Lots of Love,
Anne

Vinegar: The Next Beyoncé?

There are three things I love most in this life: my boyfriend, chocolate, and vinegar. Yes, that vinegar. Despite its pickling origins, vinegar is definitely a household staple for everyone--regardless of your condiment preferences.

White vinegar has countless uses for cleaning, deodorizing, and disinfecting. It is cheap, eco-friendly, and readily available. Vinegar is so great y'all. Like the next big thing. 

On my journey to convert my friends to a vinegar based lifestyle, I have encountered the same feedback time and time again. "I don't want my house to smell like vinegar." I understand your sentiments but I have great news! Once vinegar dries, the smell disappears. Say it again for the people in the back... VINEGAR DOES NOT SMELL ONCE DRY. Try it if you don't believe me. 

Here are my favorite ways to use it!

Laundry
Add half a cup of vinegar to your washing machine along with your detergent.
  • Soften crunchy towels and jeans.
  • Remove urine smell.
  • Helps remove pet hair.
  • Eliminates trapped bacteria in items like sweaty gym clothes.
  • Helps soften hard water.
  • Boost your laundry detergent.
Vinegar will eliminate the stinky odor that hangs around in your fleece blankets and jackets!

DIY Cleaner
Make your own homemade cleaner by combining one part vinegar to one part water. The uses of this concoction are truly endless.
  • Streak free window or mirror cleaner
  • Disinfect surfaces like countertops and tables
  • Use as a spot cleaner for spills or sticky spots
If you use Swiffer products but find the wet pads dry up before you've finished mopping, spray the floor with this as you go to extend the pad's life. 

Around the House
She can sing, she can dance, she is useful all around the house.
  • Add half a cup to your bucket of mop water to help cut through grime.
  • Wash produce by mixing one part vinegar to three parts water.
  • Run your dishwasher with a couple cups of vinegar (no dishes) to clean the machine.
  • Soak your stinky shoes in a bucket of vinegar to get rid of the smell. Rinse and let dry.
  • Use as a rinse agent in your dishwasher for sparkly dishes.
  • Periodically, spray on your mattress and let air dry to remove smells and disinfect.
  • Clear and deodorize your drains by pouring baking soda in them and following with vinegar.
  • Clean your coffee maker by running equal parts vinegar and water through the machine. (This is especially good for k-cup dispensers as the puncturing needle is prone to clog.)
Spot clean carpets by spraying with vinegar and scrubbing with a cloth. Then sprinkle baking soda on top and vacuum once dry. (This also works well for pet accidents. Be sure to soak up the accident before you spray vinegar or you'll just spread the accident around.)

Cleaning vinegar has a higher acidic content, however, I use the regular food grade kind and find it works just fine.

Keep in mind that vinegar is acidic so do not use it on wood floors or granite! In general, vinegar is a great all around cleaner that works on practically every surface.

In truth, I have almost eliminated my entire arsenal of cleaning products. It is so much more budget-friendly than a cabinet full of chemical laden products that can only be used in specific areas of the house. Often, these products are extremely detrimental to our health (many advise washing your hands after use) and the environment. 

Come over to the...umm... acidic side. You won't regret it! 

Do you have a favorite use for vinegar? Let me know in the comments!

Lots of Love,
Anne


How I Dye My Hair


Going to a salon to get your hair dyed can cost upwards of a hundred dollars! If you frequently change your hair color and don't want to shell out a ton of money, try dyeing your hair at home. You can use box dye from the drug store, but I find beauty supply stores, like Sally's, offer more color variety. Their staff is willing to answer any questions you may have and they're probably having a sale!

Disclaimer: This is the method I have used for years. However, I am not a hair stylist and do not have any certifications or formal training.


Before you start:
> When picking your dye color, keep in mind that dark hair will not take light dye. In order for the dye to take, you must choose a color that is darker than your current color. 
> Developer comes in several volumes. Essentially, the higher the number, the better the color. However, higher volume developer causes more damage, so be careful. Read more here.
> My hair falls to my mid back and is very thick. I purchase three boxes of dye and have leftovers. I'd say chin length=1, shoulder length=2 and so on.
> If you need more than one box, I recommend buying two similar colors instead of two of the same color. I know that sounds crazy but it creates a more dynamic color. For example, if you buy Strawberry Red 2.0 then try Strawberry Red 2.1 as well. Keep your colors in the same family, but slightly different.
> Make sure to allow for adequate ventilation. Turn on your bathroom fan and open the windows. Leave the door to your bathroom open and take periodic breaks outside to get fresh air. Remember these are heavy chemicals and can cause irreparable damage, so use caution.
> Dye your hair back to front. Start with the back of your head and work your way to the front (fringe) area. 
> If you use something from your kitchen, make sure to designate it as "dye only" and DO NOT use it in the kitchen ever again.
> Dyeing your hair is very damaging. As such, make sure your hair is DIRTY before you start. The natural oils in your hair will help better protect your scalp. Also, I recommend doing a hair mask or oil treatment at least once a week to keep your hair silky.

Assemble your supplies: 
Dye
-Better to buy more and have too much than not enough. I like ion dye best. 
Developer
-I use 2o volume developer. You will need twice as much developer as dye. In general, each tube of dye is 2 oz. So if you buy three boxes of dye (6oz) you will need 12oz of developer. 
Measuring Cup
-Use one with ounce measurements so you can measure the appropriate developer amount.
Bowl
-You can buy a special dye bowl with a handle but my hair requires so much dye that they are usually too small. I just use a plastic food storage bowl from IKEA. 
Applicator Brush
-Any kind
Plastic Gloves
-DO NOT NEGLECT THESE OR YOU WILL DYE YOUR HANDS
Hair Brush or Comb
-Self Explanatory 
Clips or Barrettes 
-Not required but very useful
Disposable Shower Cap 
-Not required but very useful
Chapstick or Vaseline
-Not required but very useful for preventing the dye from bleeding onto your skin. 
Spare towels, washcloths, and crappy clothes
-You will make a mess; don't dye your floor!

Directions:
1. Read instructions thoroughly. Determine how much time your dye needs to sit. 
2. Lay spare towels over every surface. Cover the counter, floor, and save one for after your shower. Lay a few extras near your workspace to clean up any spills or drips. Then lay out your supplies.
3. Brush or comb your hair thoroughly. Separate into sections and pin up all but one section in the back using clips. 
4. If using, rub Chapstick or Vaseline along your entire hairline.  
5. Pull on gloves. Mix your dye and developer. Read the instructions on the box for accurate ratios. If in doubt, look it up on the manufacturer's website. Stir well! 
6. Start timing. Using the brush or your hands, evenly spread the dye over the back section you've left out. You may need to use your fingers to smoosh the dye over every bit of hair. 
7. Pin that section back up and choose another to work on. Continue until your whole head is dyed, pinning each section back up. 
8. Cover with a shower cap and allow hair to absorb dye for allotted time (usually 30-45 minutes).
9. Once your time is up, take a shower. Rinse the dye out of your hair until the water runs clear. (This can take a while.) You do not need to shampoo! Finish with conditioner or a hair mask. Use the designated spare towel instead of your regular one as your hair will still have dye in it and it will stain. 
10. Style as usual. 

Clean up:
> For a fresh dye stain, you can wipe it up with a wet cloth. Spills that have been allowed to sit--even for a few minutes--will leave a stain. Soft Scrub with bleach can usually get rid of the stain. Only use on white surfaces though!
> You can likely wash all of the towels and clothes that have dye on them in your clothes washer. Remember, these will be stained forever so use them the next time you home dye! 

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions! 
Have fun! 
Lots of Love, 
Anne