Thursday, May 24, 2018

4 things that happened when I gave up sugar for 30 days

Pretty sure I'm the last person anyone would think would give up sugar for 30 days.  I've loved sugar forever.  We're BFFs.  My Mom also had a sweet tooth, and loved making desserts when I was a kid & I don't think we've ever had a celebration, extended family dinner or holiday without something sugary at the center.  Andrew & I often have nibble candy on weeknights.  We keep sodas in the house.  I am always up for an office donut or an afternoon coffee with a slice of cake.  New ice cream shop?  Count me in!   

I didn't think I could do it, but somehow, I did it.  For the month of April, I gave up sugar (with the exception of fruit).  Here's what happened...

1.  Nothing.  

No weight loss (boo!) but no headaches or withdraws (yeah!).  I really expected both of those things to happen, and I have to be honest, I was kinda bummed to not lose anything.  But, I did allow myself several savory treats because I was being so 'good' & I think that's why I didn't see a difference on the scale.

I was so thankful to not have any headaches, hugely intense cravings or any other gnarly symptoms.  I was a little more tired than normal, but that was the only downside I noticed.  And that could just be due to work being busier than normal in April.  My sugar consumption had gotten way outta control and I fully expected to be a rage monster when I gave up the sweet stuff. 

2.  It was easier than I expected.  

ALOT easier.  I fully intended this to be freaking hard.  And while it wasn't a breeze, I quickly got into the habit of telling myself no.  I had to remind myself like, 15 times a day, but I was able to walk away, or pull my hand back without feeling super deprived.

One thing that I think really helped was telling my co-workers.  They were amazing through the whole journey, cheering me to keep going, telling me I was doing good.  It helped tremendously. 
I also had one planned cheat.  At work, we had an appreciation ice cream social planned around the middle of April, and I told myself it was my one allowance.  Having that treat to look forward to helped me say no to the leftover cake or store bought cookies, that wouldn't taste as good as that Amy's Mexican Vanilla scoop  with hot fudge & sprinkles was going to.  I may have planned exactly what I was going to have a couple of weeks before the event.  I'm only human!

3. I proved to myself that I can accomplish something if I really want it.

Normally, I'm the queen of good intentions and bad follow-through with personal goals.  I can come up with a fool-proof plan, but when it comes to really doing the work, I blow it.  Quickly, I lose my motivation, or I'll forget to meal prep for a day and it's all downhill faster than you can say 'Cookies in the breakroom!'    

Giving up sweet treats for a month is really hard for a sugar-holic like myself, but I have to say I'm really happy that I set an intention and succeeded!  I really wanted a win and I was able to get it.  I have high hopes that it'll keep me motivated to move forward with other healthy habits. 

4. It's way too easy to hop back on the sugar train.  

I celebrated my first week after the 30 sugarless days with my favorite Godiva chocolate truffles, cookies & cupcakes from the new Lamar location of Hayley Cakes & Cookies & a pint of ice cream from the grocery store.  Damn.  That's probably not how it should've gone.  To keep myself from going overboard on the sweet stuff again, I have plans of going sugar free three or four days each week from now on.  Because eating cookies for breakfast is easier than you think.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Easy Clueless Inspired Valentines

We're a little short of a week 'till V-day!  Are you ready?  I don't know about you, but I feel like holidays always sneak up on me.  I come up with a list of great ideas, gifts & to-dos, and never end up having enough time to make them all happen.

These sweet little 90's inspired goodies are perfect if you're short on time! 

I was watching Clueless the other day, for the first time in a long time and fell in love with the movie all over again.  I was transformed to my former 13-year-old self....mesmerized by the creative outfits,  intrigued by the vocabulary & loving how much fun I was having.  So I promptly got on amazon to see if I could hunt down feather pens. 

I was in luck, they are readily available & pretty cheap.  So, prime yourself some pens, pick out your favorite Clueless lines & make your friend's day.

To make these fun Galentines, all you really need are feather pens.  Print or handwrite your notes, making them as fancy or as simple as you want, secure them onto the pen with a piece of cute washi  or regular tape & you're done!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fall Polenta Bowls with Pumpkin-Seed Crusted Chicken

This post is sponsored by Wheatsville Food Co-op.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I've worn a cardigan two mornings in a row....and even though I've had to shift to A/C on my commute home each day....I'm calling it; I think it's Texas Fall y'all!  Which means my meals are shifting towards winter squash, pomegranate seeds, soups & all the sweet potatoes I can manage.

These cheesy, creamy polenta bowls are overflowing with warm, roasted seasonal veggies, & finished off with a sweet zing from pomegranate seeds; one of my favorite ways to add a bit of fall to any dish.  Pumpkin seed & tortilla chip covered chicken bites round out the bowl & I really love how they turned out.  Just a bit crunchy & even though they are oven baked, there was no soggy breading to be found.  And to season everything, I used fresh thyme.  Fresh herbs have become such a go-to in my kitchen.  I love the earthiness & flavor they add to dishes.

When I was creating this recipe, I wanted to make it quick enough for a weeknight, so I decided to cook everything but the polenta on a sheet pan.  Wow, there's really something to sheet pan dinners.  Chop everything, including the chicken, into small pieces & everything is on the table in about 30 minutes.  Hard to beat.  

One of my favorite places to get delicious, often local, mostly organic, fall veggies is Wheatsville Food Co-op.  They always have a super fresh selection of produce & I just feel healthier when I step inside.  You really can't get any more 'Austin' than Wheatsville.  They are the only retail food co-op in Texas & opened their doors in the Capital City in 1976, with a focus on local, organic, sustainable food options.

Last week, Andrew & I popped in to the South Lamar Wheatsville location with a mission:  polenta bowls topped with as many roasted, seasonal veggies as I could.  Pumpkin-seed crusted chicken bites were also on the menu.  We've been wanting to try making our own breaded chicken for a while & I thought it would pair well with the fall produce & comforting, Parmesan filled polenta.

Wheatsville had a ton of ripe fall produce that we quickly added to our cart, along with a package of pre-marinated chicken breast.  I thought the Wheatsville Chipotle Garlic & Honey Marinated Chicken Breast would go perfectly with the pumpkin seed/tortilla chip crust I was planning.  Bingo!  The slight spice from the chipotle & the sweet honey made for a super moist, flavor-packed bite.  And I love that Wheatsville has these marinated packages ready to go.  We're not great about remembering to marinate, but it's an important step to getting tender, tasty meat.  They made it easy.

We then stopped by the bulk isle & grabbed some polenta & pumpkin seeds.  Bulk bins are my favorite, because you can get just the right amount for a meal.  And the prices are usually much better than what you can get in a package!  Millagro tortilla chips, made right here in Austin, also went in the cart.  I  blended them with the pumpkin seeds & they added just the right pop of crunch to the chicken bites.


I'm giving away a $30 giftcard to Wheastville Food Co-op over on my instagram account (@homemadeaustin).  Head over any time before Monday, October 30th at 10pm &, look for the photo that says Wheatsville Contest! on it to enter to win!

Fall Polenta Bowls with Pumpkin-Seed Crusted Chicken

1 package (2 breasts) Wheatsville Chipotle Garlic & Honey Marinated Chicken Breast, diced into 1 inch pieces
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
salt & pepper
2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 cups tortilla chips (I recommend local favorite El Milagro, available at Wheatsville)

1 small butternut squash, peeled & diced into small pieces, about 1/2 inch
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
2 purple sweet potatoes, peeled & diced into small pieces, about 1/2 inch
1 large handful fresh green beans, trimmed & diced into small pieces, about 1/2 inch
1 bunch fresh thyme
4 teaspoons olive oil
salt & pepper

2 cups cooked polenta, prepared according to package directions
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt & pepper

1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds

Boil water or stock for polenta, turn oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a large sheet pan.

Dice chicken, & create a dredging station.  In one bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper & a few fresh thyme sprigs, stems removed.  Grind together pumpkin seeds & tortilla chips using a food processor, then pour into a separate bowl.  Season with salt & pepper.  Dredge chicken in egg mixture, then seed/chip mixture, making sure to cover each piece fully in crumbs.  Transfer each piece to the sheet pan, keeping them all in the middle.

Dice all veggies, then toss with olive oil, fresh thyme, salt & pepper.  Arrange on sheet pan. Note: you can toss each vegetable with olive oil, spices & herbs & arrange separately, or mix them all together.

Bake veggies & chicken until chicken is completely cooked through, 25-35 minutes.  Cook polenta according to package directions.  Once cooked, whisk in butter, Parmesan, salt & pepper.

Spoon polenta into bowls, then arrange chicken & veggies on top.  Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Wheatsville Food Co-op

3101 Guadalupe
Austin, TX 78705
Open Daily, 7:30am - 11pm

4001 S. Lamar
Austin, TX 78704
Open Daily, 7:30am - 11pm

Friday, July 14, 2017

Week-ending (7/15/17)

I wanted to give y'all a little peek into my week, with a new series I'm starting called 'Week-ending.'  It's a sampling of things I'm obsessing over, the open tabs on my iPad, recipes I'm trying, what's going on in Austin & more.  Have something I need to try/buy/read?  Let me know in the comments, I'm always looking for new loves.

It's my Jam

This week, I'm totally digging:
  • I'm don't usually crave cold treats (I prefer my sugar in cookie form) but I need to make this ice cream from AwwSam to survive Summer. 
  • Foam Rollers.  I've had one for a while, used it off & on, but recently my neck/back have been killing me.  It's now my new best friend. Check out some beginner tips here
  • This print from TalulaChristian's etsy page just made my wish list.  Little by little I've been creating a gallery wall of fierce lady art in my bathroom & this print needs a spot in the collection.
  • Daily commutes are infinitely better & much more nostalgic now that I've discovered the Fan Girl Fridays Podcast.  They discuss all kinds of TV, but focus on shows from the 90s & my inner teenager is LOVING IT!  They've inspired me to re-watch Daria with Andrew, which is more awesome than I even remember.
  • This floral & succulent themed party from Kara at A Kalio Chic Life is making me want to have a get-together ASAP.
  • Speaking of parties, I have a couple of upcoming baby showers to attend & the new Oh Joy! baby clothing collection at Target is bright, completely adorable & must be included in the next few baby gifts I buy.


Articles I came across that have my thinking:

Bruschetta from Sophia's on West 6th Street

What we ate

Making meals during the week can be so hit or miss, but I'm hoping putting our weekly run-down on the blog will help me be motivated to cook a real dinner.

  • Monday: Went with a quick & easy go-to: toast with pesto, prosciutto, cherry tomatoes & fresh mozzarella, melted for just a minute under the broiler. Delicious & comes together in a minute.
  • Tuesday: We tried a new recipe: Chicken & Spinach Saagwala from Beth Behrs new book, Me-Tox.  It was very tasty & I'm so glad I tried something new!  The meal was slightly intense for a spice wimp like me, without much experience with Indian flavors, but it was delicious.
  • Wednesday: On Tuesday, we grilled several chicken breasts, so tonight was Tex Mex Bowls: rice with black beans, leftover chicken, sauteed onions & peppers, avocado, feta & a quick cilantro/yogurt/lemon (outta limes!) sauce.  I love this kind of  'kitchen sink' meal.
  • Thursday:  I had a Austin Food Blogger's Alliance happy hour at Sophia's on West 6th, so dinner was appetizers, drinks & dessert.  I love these monthly get-togethers with my foodie friends & the bites were great.  My favorites were the bruschetta (above) & the butter cake. 
  • Friday: I picked up groceries earlier in the week for this Lemony Pesto Pasta with Edamame & Almonds recipe from kitchn, but I'm not sure we'll make it tonight.  It's been a long week & energy is in short supply.  If it doesn't get made tonight, we will have it over the weekend. 

Get Outta the House

Weather is a factor this weekend, as it's slated to be in the upper 90s with rain chances, so most likely, we will be indoors as much as possible, but here's what's on my short-list of possibilities:

  • Wizard of Oz at Zilker Hillside Theater. It starts every evening around 8:15pm & runs Thurs - Sunday, through Aug. 12
  • Food Crawl! I've been itching to try some of my friend Linda's picks for the best Tater Tots in Austin.  Check out her tour at Girl Eats World.  
  • It's damn hot outside, which is a great excuse to start a new book!  Half Price Books is running an awesome coupon sale through July 16th & I may have to pick up something new. Sign up to receive their coupons here.
  • Not happening this week, but my *favorite* comic, Whitney Cummings is going on a tour to promote her new book & tickets for her October 16th show at the Paramount go on-sale today....I'm so excited!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Reading List

How is it already the middle of June?  And why is it already 100 outside?!?  I'm going to need alot of pool time this year.  And with lots of pool lounging comes plenty of reading.  

My book club is taking the summer off, so I thought that I would challenge myself to read a few books with intention.  All six of the authors I chose are female, with unique perspectives, discussing a variety of topics. After being captivated with the Wonder Woman movie earlier this month, I am looking forward to engulfing myself in other women's stories.  The future is female y'all.   

What are you reading this summer?  I'd love to hear your picks! 

The Total ME-Tox, Beth Behrs

I must confess that this book first peaked my interest because Two Broke Girls is my jam & I love Beth Behrs...I mean, after kinda stalking her instagram page, seeing her feminist leanings, love of outdoors & boho style, I'm pretty sure if we met, we'd be friends.  And you have to buy your bestie's book, right?

Right.  In all seriousness, I'm intrigued & very interesting in exploring this book.  Behrs focuses on small, simple healthy changes, & there are three parts to the book: ditching your diet (liking the sound of this already!), move your body and love your life.  Yes, yes and yes.  After a hectic spring that included me taking a month to recover from surgery, my household could handle a big 'ol dose of wellness.  And the Amazon page for the book says it's meant to 'inspire even the laziest among us.'  Umm, was this written just for me?  Because that line worked on my ultra-sluggish self & I added the book to my cart immediately.

Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

Liz Gilbert is one of my favorite people to seek out when I'm in need of inspiration.  Her words, whether in a book, on her Magic Lessons podcast or in a facebook post are always positive, thought provoking & real.  I've read Eat, Pray, Love before & adore Liz's story of traveling to 3 countries (Italy, India, Indonesia) in the hopes of being her best self.  With each read, I come away with something different & a renewed sense of personal motivation.  Summer feels like the perfect time to dive back into the 'finding yourself' pool.

Are Your There God?  It's Me, Margaret, Judy Blume

This book is a right of passage for every young girl, right?  I hated junior high with a passion (f--- you 7th grade!), but I remember reading, loving & relating heavily to this book. For the life of me, I can't really remember the storyline, but when I saw this on the shelf at Book People, I couldn't help myself.  I am pumped to relive this Judy Blume story & maybe even a few cringe-worthy moments from my early teens.  Thankfully, I don't have braces, awkward growth spurts or mean girls to deal with this go around.

The Baby Sitter's Club, Kristy's Great Idea, Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

As a kid, my Mom bought me a mail subscription to The Baby Sitter's Club.  IT WAS AWESOME.  I received a book in the mail each month & as soon as it arrived, I would devour it. Claudia, the artsy one in her girl squad, was my favorite character & I got overly excited when a book focused on her.  I was in Target the other day when I came across these new graphic novel versions & had to grab the first one.  I got so giddy, I called my sister as I was leaving the store, book in hand.  The first four stories of the series have been published -- I may just have to read all of them.

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

I didn't read this one in school, so I'm really looking forward to reading this story of a young Latina girl in Chicago, trying to find her way.  I'm fascinated with the experience of growing up in large cities, as it's so different from the small, isolated community I was raised in.  Sandra Cisneros is known for a poetic, flowing style (love this type of writing!) & is one of the reasons I picked up the book.  The story is told in vignettes, each describing an event in the main character's life & I think that will make for a very interesting, realistic read.

How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran

Since my summer is all about the world through women's eyes, my final summer book is feminist focused.  How to Be a Woman is a mix of personal accounts & commentary on the modern woman's experience.  Caitlin Moran's work is known for being bold, funny & smart.  I'm sold.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Charred Corn Flatbread

Charred corn is one of our favorite summer go-tos.  It's so easy to make & it pairs with almost anything.  Not to mention, corn is cheap, cheap in the summer months.  We grill up several pieces at once on Sunday & use them all week long in salads, as-is, or our new an awesome pizza topper!

The burnt bits of the corn & grilled red onions are full of smoky flavor & the tomatoes, lime & basil add a pop of bright freshness.  If you're not a basil fan, you could totally swap that out for cilantro & it would be just as delicious.  We have only eaten the pizza by ourselves so far, but I think that if you sliced it into smaller pieces, it would make the perfect appetizer for a fajita night with friends. (Mentally adding that to my to-do list now).

Charred Corn Flatbread

1/4 batch of your favorite pizza dough (We use the Joy of Cooking recipe or this recipe from Bobby Flay)
olive oil spray
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (or 12 ounces fresh mozzarella)
2 ears of corn, shucked, soaked, grilled & cut off the cob
1/3 medium red onion, sliced thin & grilled
handful of cherry tomatoes, diced into quarters
lime wedge
grated parmesan for topping
large handful basil, chopped

Preheat oven and pizza stone to 475 degrees.  Flour your surface and roll out dough thin to form a circle about 12 inches or so in diameter.  Poke a few holes in your dough with a fork & spray dough with olive oil spray.  

Top liberally with mozzarella cheese, then add charred corn, onions & tomatoes.  Bake on pizza stone for 6 - 8 minutes, until cheese starts to bubble & the dough begins to brown.  Top with squeeze of lime, sprinkling of parmesan & chopped basil.  Slice & serve immediately.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Nerfetti Cream Cheese Frosting

As my tastebuds have altered as I age, I have developed an affection for the combo of sweet & sour.  I still can't handle lip-puckering super sour treats, but a little bit of zing with dessert always makes me happy.  A few years ago, I created a decorate-your-own-cupcake bar for a party & it was a big hit.  I filled the table with several different candies, sprinkles & more.  After the party was over, I was cleaning up & created a little combo of regular buttercream, mini chocolate chips & some NERDs candy sprinkled on top.  It was so delicious, I wrote it down in my idea notebook & forgot about it.

In March, I always make chocolate cupcakes with green frosting for Andrew's cousin Marty's birthday.  Often, I just make plain green buttercream frosting, but this year, I wanted to mix it up a little bit & remembered my cupcake bar creation.  I mixed up this fruity, slightly sour concoction & I think it turned out great!  The rich cream cheese frosting with the punch from the candy makes for a unique flavor combo.

Nerdfetti Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. Powdered Sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon Vanilla
5 ounce box Nerds Candy, plus more for decoration

Cream butter & cream cheese together until smooth.  Slowly, in batches, mix in the powdered sugar.  Once all sugar is incorporated, add in vanilla & mix until smooth.  By hand, stir in candy.  Frost as desired.

Note: I tried using a piping bag & star tip to frost cupcakes, but the tip kept getting clogged with the candy bits.  I had a very hard time with it &  abandoned the idea quickly, so frosting by hand is probably best.