Monday, August 13, 2012

What's for dinner? Quinoa Mac & Cheese

If you're trying to "hide" good nutrients in your children's meals or aren't even what to think of this whole guinoa craze, this is a great place to start. While quinoa (pronounced 'KEEN-WAH) is usually considered to be a whole grain, it is actually a seed, but can be prepared like whole grains such as rice or barley. Many people prefer quinoa for these reasons; first, it takes less time to cook than other whole grains – just 10 to 15 minutes. Second, quinoa tastes great on its own, unlike other grains such as millet or teff. Add a bit of olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice and - yum! Finally, of all the whole grains, quinoa has the highest protein content, so it's perfect for vegetarians and vegans. Quinoa provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Quinoa is a gluten-free and cholesterol-free whole grain and is almost always organic.

Lots of 2012 buzz words packed into that paragraph eh? Gluten. Organic. Vegan. I can't keep up sometimes. Nor do I think I want to. Regardless, enjoy this rich, gooey, protein packed mac & cheese dish with a whole lot less guilt.

~Baked Quinoa 'Mac' & Cheese~adapted from Monica Nelson Fitness
serves 4-6, and can be easily doubled into a 9x13" pan

1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar & pepper jack are great!)
1 cup shredded cheese, for topping


1) Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Sauté the garlic for a few seconds and then add in and sauté the quinoa for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) Add in the chicken stock, salt & pepper, and onion powder, stirring well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

3) While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 350ºF and lightly grease an 8" or 9" square baking dish.

4) When the quinoa is done, let it sit off the heat for about 5 minutes while you whisk together the egg and milk in a small bowl. Quickly stir the liquid into the pan of quinoa with the 2 cups of cheese and dump it all into the prepared baking dish.

5) Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and place in the oven to bake for 25-35 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sweet Sunday

A little more time intensive than the desserts I usually like to blog about but so worth it. A delicious marriage between carrot cake and banana bread. Two of my all time faves. It's lighter than carrot cake, almost crumbly (though still in a moist way) yet bearing the distinct (though not overpowering) flavor of banana. It has a Cream Cheese Pecan frosting which gives a nod toward the Carrot Cake family. It's light and airy enough for a summer night but rustic and autumn'esk for the fall days to come.
Modified from Country Home magazine (2008)
Prep/assembly time: 45 minutes | Baking time: 25-30 minutes | Cooling time: 15 minutes
Serves: 12-16 people

Ingredients (cake):
3 cups flour (gluten free or regular)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup fresh pineapple, crushed (see below)
2 cups roasted bananas*, mashed (approximately 4 large or 6 medium-small bananas with peel left on)
1 cup chopped pecans
Parchment paper to line bottom of the cake pan

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, chilled
3-8 ounce packages of cream cheese, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 ½ cups finely chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Place bananas on a cookie sheet with peels left on. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until the skins are black (the bananas may leak which is fine). Remove and let cool until they can be handled. Peel bananas, place in a small mixing bowl and mash. Set aside. Leave the oven heated to 350 degrees.

3. Butter and flour 3-9 inch round baking pans. Trace the bottom of the pan (for all three pans) onto parchment paper, cut out circle and place in the bottom of each pan.

4. In a sifter over a large mixing bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Sift into the bowl. Set aside.

5. In a second large mixing bowl combine the granulated and brown sugar; stir to combine. Add the eggs and stir briskly by hand to combine all ingredients into a smooth mixture.

6. Whisk the oil and vanilla into the sugar/egg mixture until combined and smooth.

7. Add the flour mixture all at once and hand stir (do not beat) to combine the mixture fully.

8.  Place 1 cup of finely diced fresh pineapple in a medium mixing bowl and using a potato masher, crush the pineapple. Add the fruit and juice to the batter. Also add the mashed banana and the pecans. Stir just until combined; do not over stir.

9. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Tap the pans on the counter top to release any air bubbles and place in the 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until cake bounces back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

10. Allow to cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes then turn out onto cooling racks to fully cool before frosting. Be sure to peel off and discard the parchment paper.

To Make the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1. Cut sticks of chilled butter into 1 inch pieces and place in the bowl of a standing mixer (can use a hand held mixer if needed). Beat on low speed, gradually increasing speed to medium until the butter is still cool but has softened together (about 3 minutes).

2. Cut the cream cheese into 1 inch strips and add to the butter. Mix at medium speed until fully combined, and smooth.

3. Add the vanilla and slowly add the sifted powdered sugar. Beat until well blended, increasing speed to beat on medium-high for 3 minutes or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.

4. Fold in pecans by hand.

Cake assembly:

1. Place the first layer of cake upside down (the bottom of the cake will be frosted) on the serving plate. Cover with 2/3 cup of frosting. This will be a thin covering.

2. Place the second layer of cake right side up (flat cake bottom onto the frosting) and frost the top of this layer with 2/3 cup again (note: I found I needed just a bit more to cover this layer).

3. Place the last cake layer with cake right side up and use the remaining frosting to cover top of cake and the sides.

4. Allow cake to stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving and store any uneaten cake in the refrigerator. Cake best when made the day prior to serving.

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

What I'm wearing now...

Found this fab find at Target and it's honestly the most TANtastic powder I've worn in a long time. Although Milani carries several shades of this Multitasker Face Powder, I use it specifically as a bronzing powder.

Why do I love it so much? It's a multi-purpose face powder with light to medium coverage so it covers what I need without feeling heavy and caked with makeup. It provides a natural matte finish without any discoball shimmer. I've found it evens out my skin tone from the sun spots on my lower jawbone and aborbs excess oil to reduce any shine. It lasts for hours and alittle goes a long way. For an extreme multitasker like myself, this product, and it's price, lives up to my standards.

The color I wear: Medium Tan - 06.  Available at Target for a whopping $5.99.

See what others are saying about this product HERE.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paper Pile-up Prevention

Between now and the holidays you might feel more inclined to save magazines to be inspired, discover new trends and find the latest fab products. But I have a better idea - download the no-fee Google Catalogs app to your iPad or Android tablet device and say goodbye to piles of clutter while making catalog shopping more engaging, social and creative.

The Google Catalogs app features digital versions of catalogs across many popular categories, including fashion and apparel, beauty, jewelry, home, kids and gifts. They’ve partnered with a variety of top brands including Anthropologie, Bare Escentuals, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's, Crate and Barrel, L.L. Bean, Lands’ End, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora, Sundance Catalog, Tea Collection, Urban Outfitters and Williams-Sonoma, just to name a few of the over 400 catalogs.

In addition they have over 100 top brands including; Barneys, Tory Burch and Trina Turk (Fashion & Apparel); BeautyBar (Beauty); Blu Dot, FLOR, and Ballard Designs (Home); Hanna Andersson, CWDkids, and Serena & Lily (Kids); and Garnet Hill, Uncommon Goods, and Wine Enthusiast (Gifts).

Google Catalogs is an incredibly useful online shopping tool that lets you search through and mark favorite products, and gives you links to make purchases directly from retailers' sites. It also lets you create a collage of your favorite items from across many catalogs. You can even share your collages with friends and family - a visual way to show them what’s on your list for the holiday season!

Love it.

Visit the App Store to download the free Google Catalogs app.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A laundry system that works

If you do one thing before you get hit with the chaos of back to school, it's this - get a laundry system in place. Now.

All you need - a few white laundry baskets. The el cheapo kind. It always kills me when people spend ridiculous amounts of money on trendy organizational products. Let's be real - chevron print does not guarantee functional. I'll admit, I'm guilty. But I've learned my lesson - stick to the basics. The patterns are pretty but they usually lack the key components for ruthless efficiency. And seriously, does anyone really see them anyone?!?!

Phew obviously needed to get that off my chest.

Back to baskets. The key to organization is finding a place for everything and keeping everything in its place. It's always best to find a system that works best for you but here's what I propose - train all family members to put dirty clothing in baskets. Place a basket in each bedroom closet, and in each bath if space allows. Place four additional baskets in the laundry area -- one for dark clothes, light clothes, whites and towels. If you have massive amounts of team uniforms or athletic gear, you may consider a specific basket for those items as well.

If you do laundry on a particular day of the week, make it part of the bedtime routine the night before that you (or the kids preferably) take their basket from their bedroom to the laundry room to sort out their clothes into the appropriate color-coded baskets. Or even if do laundry throughout the week, pick a day (say Sunday) for the kids to sort all dirty clothes for you so they are ready when you are. And if they don't help or stick to the "throw your clothes in the basket, not on the floor" rule - you reprimand them. Take something away that they love. Limit play time on the Wii. No iPad for 3 days. They will learn very quickly that you mean business.

And as your children get older, make sure you assign laundry chores, such as folding socks and towels. And never put your children's clothes away for them. Chase, my now four year old, has helped me since he was two. It started with carrying (pushing) the basket back to it's spot, then throwing away dryer sheets. Now he's graduated to putting his shorts, undies and socks away. All things he can reach. We've been working on hanging his shirts but he hasn't quite mastered hanging them straight yet. Or color coded as I prefer. Kidding. Kind of.

The way I see it - the laundry might take a little longer to do now with the time spent training Chase but I'm convinced he'll be taking over my laundry duties before I know it.

Here are 15 more ways to make laundry day easier with the help of the experts at Better Homes & Garden.

And other laundry related blog posts written by muah:

How often should you wash your sheets:

How often do you wash your towels:

Stain Removal Guide:

How I do laundry:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How bad is it... leave clothes in the dry cleaning bag?

A: Bottom line: Really bad.

What makes your clothes look so fresh is often the chemical perchloroethylene (perc), which the Environmental Protection Agency has linked to many health risks, including cancer. Perc can linger on clothes and when enclosed in a bag, it can build up, putting you in greater danger of breathing it in once you remove the plastic.

So ditch the bag right away, says Peter Sinsheimer, executive director of UCLA's Environmental Health Sustainable Technology Program. As even safer option: Try an ecofriendly dry cleaner, who will use liquid carbon dioxide, a silicone-based solvent, or steam and use non-toxic detergents to remove stains.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quick Tip: Luscious Lashes

I'm a big eyelash fan. Never really gotten into the fake lashes thing though. After all, I am a mom and as much as my husband would like me to wear wedges and lash extensions as my everyday attire, it's just ain't gonna happen.

As all you faithful followers know, if there's one thing I'll put on before running out the door, it's mascara. There is something about knock-out eyelashes that can be a game-changer in how you look & feel. For me, it's my attempt to look glamorous in my running shoes and braids.

Sadly, however, not all of us are naturally blessed with Kardashian-like eyelashes, but know this: There’s a fine line between long, lush lashes and Tammy Faye Baker–ville.

The Solution: First, toss out your mascara - it’s probably far too old. Next, gently clamp your lashes with a baby wipe between your forefinger and thumb, and pull lashes all the way through to remove any excess formula. Then put a little Vaseline on your fingertips and lightly run them across the tips of your lashes to separate, darken, and define them. Then if you wish, apply mascara for clump-free, luscious lashes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Face Mapping: What is your skin telling you?

Have you ever heard of face mapping? Thanks to the combined knowledge of dermatologists who have analyzed skin behaviors and ancient Chinese medicinal methods there is a smarter way to interpret and treat skin imperfections by way of “face mapping.” Face mapping is a type of skin analysis that explains why and how certain areas of your face are connected to other parts of your body.

Why do you break out in some areas and not others?

Think of your blemishes as X’s on a map that is your face. Different zones correspond to different problems. With this “map” as your guide, you can address the underlying causes of blemishes and correctly determine how to prevent them from recurring. (Don't you wish you know about this in middle school?)

So, what are your breakouts telling you?

Using the face mapping method to decode what’s going on with your body is both incredibly informative and very extensive if you ask me. Here is an overview of the basic areas and what breakouts or abnormalities in those areas mean:

Zone 1 & 3: Bladder & Digestive System — Improve your diet and drink more water.

Zone 2: Liver — Try cutting back on alcohol, heavy food or dairy. This area can also indicate a food allergy.

Zone 4 & 10: Kidneys — Make sure you’re keeping yourself hydrated with water and cut back on liquids that dehydrate you. This means nix the soda, coffee and/or alcohol.

Zone 5 & 9: Respiratory system — Those who smoke or have allergies tend to have acne here.

Zone 6 & 8: Kidneys — Dark circles are usually a result of dehydration. Drink up!

Zone 7: Heart — Check your blood pressure and make sure you’re not using makeup that irritates your skin.

Zone 12: Stomach — Consider a detox or adding more fiber to your diet to help with digestion.

Zone 11 & 13: Hormones — Stress and hormonal changes can sometimes be alleviated with more water and a few extra servings of dark, leafy greens but if breakouts in this area persistent, make an appointment with your doctor to look into a possible hormonal imbalance. Additionally, breakouts in this area also indicate when you are ovulating (and which side).

Zone 14: Illness — Can be a sign of your body fighting bacteria to avoid illness. Take a breather and drink plenty of fluids.

So the next time you breakout or notice dark under eye circles, look to your map for guidance.