Monthly Archives: October, 2012

My Favorite Things: October 2012

It’s time for My Favorite Things.  For those who aren’t familiar with monthly favorites, this is where I share my favorite non-beauty items of the previous month.  This can include food, clothing, entertainment… you name it.  If you want to see my beauty favorites over at my beauty blog, click here.  I should be putting the monthly favorites post up in the next day or two.

Home-made Pumpkin Butter

I made pumpkin butter for the first time and I absolutely loved it!  I made a relatively large batch, so my husband and I had almost a week of pumpkin goodness.  Other than spreading it out on toast, my favorite use for it was to mix it into my quick oats for fantastic pumpkin spiced oatmeal.  It tasted so good, and I will definitely try it again.  Here is where I got the recipe.  I altered the spices a little because I don’t have cinnamon sticks or pumpkin spice mix.  I ended up using a heaping 1/4 tsp of both ground ginger and ground nutmeg, and a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.  It was perfect for me.

Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax Bars

Speaking of pumpkiny goodness, these Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax Bars taste like pumpkin pie in bar form.  They are fantastic!  I really like Kashi granola bars, and always have them on hand for a quick snack.  The Pumpkin Spice Flax Bars are perfect for Fall and really satisfy that pumpkin pie craving.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to have one of these for desert after Thanksgiving dinner, but they may help me to hold off eating pumpkin pie until the holiday actually arrives.  😉

LARABAR

I like snack bars (in case you couldn’t tell) and LARABARS have become a real favorite.  What sets LARABARS apart for me is that they have hardly any ingredients.  They literally are just fruit and nuts, with nothing else added to them.  I really appreciate that I know exactly what I am eating with these bars, and they taste great.  My favorite flavors are Blueberry Muffin and Cherry Pie, but LARABAR has a huge variety including Peanut Butter Cookie, Chocolate Coconut Chew, Key Lime Pie, and many more.

Go On

A new TV favorite of mine is Go On starring Matthew Perry.  Go On is sitcom featuring the character Ryan King, a sportscaster trying to move on from the loss of his wife by joining a support group full of wacky characters working through their own issues with the help of a well meaning, but somewhat ineffectual leader.  Frankly, the show is hi-larious!  I was a psych major in college and have spent a decent amount of time in therapy, so the main character’s resistance to the touchy-feely support group and their idiosyncrasies is both familiar and fascinating while making me laugh.  The writing is intelligent, surprisingly touching, and Go On is a really good show in my book.

Dinosaur Sculpture at the UNC Botanical Garden

Finally, I have really been enjoying photography this month.  My anniversary was in early October, and part of our celebratory weekend was spent at the Botanical gardens at UNC Charlotte.  I took several pictures, including a couple of this crazy dinosaur sculpture.  I even got to bust out the macro lens and get some great close up shots of the plants and flowers.  Macro photography is some of my favorite to both take and look at, so I was very excited to use the lens for the first time.  I got my new camera for my birthday in July, so I’m still trying to learn how to use it.  Switching from a point and shoot to a DSLR is a huge difference, and takes a long time to learn, at least for me.  I had a great time playing with my camera this month, and got some excellent shots.  I plan on posting more of my photos here when I get the chance.

That’s it for my favorite things of October.  How about you, what have you been loving this past month?

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Personal Sausage and Pepper Flatbread Pizza Recipe

No pizza for me, I’m dieting

Pizza.  Who doesn’t like pizza?  The doughy crust, the melted cheesy goodness, it is so yummy.  However, the average pizza is about five million calories (a rough estimate) and not really what you can call “diet food” in any way.  Since I’m trying to lose weight and not gain a clogged artery, I’ve sworn off the real stuff for the time being.  However, the pizza gods still call to me.  So, to curb my pizza craving, I started eating home-made flatbread pizzas.  This lightened up version is actually really good, and very easy to make. I use Flat Out brand flatbread (the multi-grain with flax flavor) as a base.  You just toast it up and top it with your favorite pizza toppings and you are all set.  It doesn’t taste like “real” pizza, but it does taste great.  It satisfies the impulse and keeps me on target to achieve my goals.  You can make any kind of pizza you like.  I really love doing a barbeque chicken and caramelized onions version that is so tasty.  I’m going to show you a more traditional sausage and pepper version today, but feel free to get creative.  You know what you like, and what will satisfy you.  The photos below are of two pizzas that my husband and I made for lunch the other day.  The great part about doing pizzas this way is that it is easy to adjust quantity for all family sizes.  You can feed a family of four just as easily as a single person, or cook some up to share as a snack.

Personal Flatbread Pizza Recipe:

1)  Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

Toast flatbread

2)  Toast flatbread (I used Flat Out, but you could also use a tortilla or wrap to do this.  Just adjust cooking time for the difference in thickness.)  I lay my Flat Out on a foil wrapped cookie sheet for ease of clean up.  Spray lightly with cooking spray (I use Pam) and bake for 3-4 minutes.  Take out, flip over, and repeat the process to toast up the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Ovens vary (a lot) so keep a close eye on it.  This isn’t a recipe where you can walk away.  These puppies will go from “not quite done” to “charcoal briquet” in a flash, so stay put and watch it carefully.

Add sauce

3)  When flatbread is toasted enough to keep its shape and bear the weight of your toppings, add sauce.  I use Hunt’s Garlic & Herb Pasta Sauce.  2 Tbls is plenty of sauce for me, but go with your heart on this one.  Use a spoon to spread the sauce evenly across the whole flatbread, leaving a tiny rim around the edges, so that every bite has sauce on it.

Add Toppings

4)  Add desired toppings and cheese.  For this sausage and pepper pizza, I used one sliced Casual Gourmet Tomato, Basil, & Mozzarella Cheese Chicken Sausage per pizza, and a bell pepper.  We like sweet peppers, so we split a red pepper and a yellow pepper between the two pizzas, but again toppings are where you can get creative.  For cheese I used Sargento Reduced fat 4 Cheese Mexican Blend because that’s what I had on hand, but you can use Mozzarella if you are looking to be more traditional.  One serving of shredded cheese is 1/4 cup (pictured below), though I usually add a bit more because I like my pizza cheesy.  1/3 cup is usually sufficient.

Add Cheese

6)  Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted, around 4 minutes.  Be careful not to burn it.  Again, keep a close eye out and don’t stray too far.  When the cheese is nice and melty, take it out of the oven, cut and serve.  I usually cut it in quarters.

Flatbread Pizza

Like I said, it isn’t the same as your Papa John’s delivery, but it certainly saves you money and calories.  And it tastes great!  This personal flatbread pizza with the toppings that I chose comes to only 380 calories and 17.5 g of fat.  If you can find another sausage pizza with those stats, I’d like to see it.  This would be great with grilled chicken breast instead of sausage, or skip the meat entirely and load it up with veggies to lighten it up even more.  I hope that you give flatbread pizza a try.  Just because you are trying to eat healthy or lose weight, doesn’t mean that you can’t have your pizza and eat it too.

Has Anyone Else Discovered These?

Cadbury Screme Eggs

I really need to work on posting more in this blog.  Keeping two blogs going at once is tough, but I hope to improve.  Anyway, I’m here today to talk about candy.  Specifically, Cadbury Creme Eggs.  Cadbury Creme Eggs are my absolute favorite Easter candy, and I look forward to them every year.  They are an “extra special” treat that are only available for a limited time.  Or, at least they were.

Enter Cadbury Screme Eggs.  I’ve never seen these before, so I assume that they are new this year for Halloween.  They taste exactly like my beloved Easter version.  The only difference that I can see is that the creamy egg center now has a green yolk instead of yellow, implying that the Cadbury chicken is now an alien, or a zombie, or at the very least has been exposed to large quantities of radiation.

Now, like I said, I love me some creme eggs, but I’m not sure that I’m as thrilled by this new discovery as I would have thought I’d be.  When I first saw the Screme Eggs, I squeed with delight.  But once I started to eat them, I felt strange.  Easter is a long way off.  It doesn’t make sense to eat Easter candy in October.  My brain and my taste buds experienced and unexpected dissonance.  My “extra special” treat is suddenly less special and that ooey gooey center tasted cheap and wrong.  I don’t want Cadbury Creme Eggs to go the way of Peeps.  Peeps used to be an Easter-only tradition as well, but now there is a Peep for every season.  There are so many Peeps about that I never feel the need to buy them anymore, knowing that if I pass on them another round of sugar-coated marshmallowy goodness will pop up just around the corner.  Peeps are the cheap slut of the seasonal candy industry, and I can’t stand to see that happen to a classy candy like Cadbury Creme Eggs.  Where does it end, I ask you.  Where does it end?

But seriously, has anyone else seen these Cadbury Screme Eggs?  Do you think there will be more for Christmas?  Maybe they can make them dark chocolate eggs with a red-yolked peppermint creme center.  That’s festive, right?  Right?

My Favorite Things: September 2012

It’s time for My Favorite Things.  For those who aren’t familiar with monthly favorites, this is where I share my favorite non-beauty items of the previous month.  This can include food, clothing, entertainment… you name it.  If you want to see my beauty favorites over at my beauty blog, click here.

Better ‘n Peanut and Butter Banana Waffles

Oh my gosh, I haven’t had this combination since February or so, and I forgot how good it is.  I am a peanut butter junkie, but since I’m on a diet I don’t want to eat something so high in fat like regular peanut butter.  I eat nuts, seeds, and avocados, so it’s not like I don’t get those healthy fats elsewhere.  I found Better ‘n Peanut Butter about a year and a half ago.  It’s a fantastic PB substitute, with only 2 g of fat per 2 tbl.  It comes in several varieties, including chocolate, but I prefer the low sodium version.  I like to spread it on Van’s Lite toaster waffles, which are great for those counting Weight Watchers points (like myself), and top it off with sliced banana.  This is such a good breakfast or snack.  It’s low in fat and calories, and it tastes so good.

Multi-Grain Cheerios

Sometimes I just want some cereal.  Frankly, cereal can be a dangerous food for me because I can eat a crap ton of it.  I love cereal, especially the sugary ones like Pops, Frosted Flakes, or Captain Crunch.  When I started to try to be more health-conscious in my eating I cut out cereal completely.  After a year or so, though, I missed it.  I have started eating Multi-grain Cheerios occasionally, and really like them.  They are a generally healthy option, have good WW stats, and are just sweet enough to satisfy without crossing over into the sugary cereal category.  I still need to be careful to stop myself from going overboard, but I am very happy to be eating cereal again.

Chia seeds

Ch-ch-ch-chia, ch-ch-ch-chia… seeds.  That’s right, it’s the same stuff that grows into Homer Simpson’s grassy hair, or the fuzzy green body of a pig or a kitty.  Chia seeds are all the rage because it turns out that they are really good for you.  Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants and Omega 3, and packed with fiber, protein, calcium, and potassium.  You can eat them dry, sprinkled on food, or your can make chia gel.  Chia seeds absorb water and expand to form a gel like consistency that adds volume to food, without adding a ton of fat and calories.  I’ve been eating them mixed into my yogurt.  They expand in the stomach, making my yogurt a more satisfying snack because I feel more full.  The seeds have a very mild flavor that is hardly noticeable, so they blend into food really well and are an unobtrusive addition.  I’m going to try  chia pudding with almond milk as my next experiment.

Pill Box

Yes, I am a 90 year old woman.  Okay, not really, but I do have a terrible time trying to remember to take my vitamins.  I simply could not manage to take them every day, no matter where the bottles lived.  I tried putting them by the bathroom sink, on my computer desk, in the kitchen.  No dice.  Finally, I broke down and got a pill box and all of a sudden my memory lapses are over.  I put the pill box by the bathroom sink and the days-of-the-week compartments serve as a reminder to take my vitamins in a way the actual bottles didn’t.  And if I do happen to forget when I wake up, I can see that I haven’t taken that day’s pills when I wash my hands throughout the day.  What can I say?  It works for me.

Angry Birds

I have been obsessed with Angry Birds this month.  I have played Angry Birds in the past, but I was never really into it.  Well, I got my husband the new Kindle Fire HD for his birthday, and have discovered that I actually really love Angry Birds.  Something clicked in my brain, and all of a sudden I can’t stop playing.  I love the birds, I love the pigs, I’m an Angry Birds junkie.  Do you think they make a patch for that?  🙂

Hulu

We signed up for a free trial of Hulu throughout September.  Normally, I don’t watch TV.  We don’t have cable or satellite, and barely pick up local reception.  We usually wait for out favorite shows to come out on DVD or get released to Netflix instant.  Watching the Olympics, though, introduced us to a couple new shows, so we decided to give Hulu a try.  I’ve liked it for the most part.  I’ve been able to catch up on Bones, and Castle, as well as a few other of our favorites.  I do wish that Hulu showed How I Met Your Mother, though.  I don’t like having to keep a schedule according to the TV, so I will probably never watch my shows as they are being aired.  Hulu is a cheap alternative to things like a DVR, or other more expensive options.  I don’t know if we will keep it, but I have enjoyed Hulu so far.

That’s it for this past month’s favorite things.  What have you been enjoying lately?

Shame, Silence, and Breaking the Cycle

My friend Kelly recently posted an entry on her blog that has me fired up.  In general, her blog is about analyzing the books that she is currently reading (largely romance novels) and talking about the random musings that the books spark.  I do not read romance novels, and I don’t think that I have read any of the books that Kelly has featured on her blog, but I love her witty, self-deprecating writing style so it hardly matters that I will never read any of these books.  Today, she posted an excellent entry about women and silence, the topics that we are not allowed (by society, our mothers, our friends) to discuss.  The topics range from bodily functions, to the ins and outs of pregnancy, to rape.  This last bit is what really caught my attention and cheesed me off.

While talking about a rather unpopular dinner party conversation topic, there was this quote: “the conversation was fascinating, because we kept getting stuck on our own culture (in a conversation about how rape is rape regardless of what either party is wearing, it was still important to point out and consider that if one chooses to wear revealing clothing, one should not be surprised at the inevitable result.”  (This was a small portion lifted out of the whole of the post, and not representative of Kelly’s viewpoint.)

I have to say that I got stuck here and couldn’t move on.  The “inevitability of rape”?  Really?  I am shocked that people still use that as an argument.  Think for a moment about what those words mean.  Basically, if you believe that rape is “inevitable”, then you are saying that the perpetrator couldn’t help but force sex on an unwilling party, that they didn’t have a choice.  It completely removes responsibility from the aggressor.  The rapist becomes a victim to circumstance.  This is absolute bullshit, plain and simple.  Taken to its logical conclusion, anyone who truly believes that rape is inevitable is a very dangerous person because they are admitting that there can be a set of circumstances where they, themselves, could be driven to be a rapist.  If it is “inevitable” then they wouldn’t be able to stop themselves. I certainly would never want to be alone with that person.

People, please, can we stop blaming the victim?  How many times have you heard the sentiment “oh, well they deserved it”?  The victim of gay bashing should have been more discreet, but they “flaunted it”, so what did they expect.  That person went into a bad neighborhood where they didn’t belong, so of course they got mugged and beat up.  That kid should dress better/stop acting so weird/try harder to fit in, and then he wouldn’t be bullied so much.  The woman dresses like a slut and is promiscuous, so she got what was coming to her.  God is punishing them for their sins.  No!  No, absolutely not, stop it!  Stop blaming and shaming the victim.  What are we, animals that can’t control ourselves?  Are humans so depraved that we can’t help but be violent and aggressive?  We need to put the blame back where it belongs, on the perpetrators.  No one deserves to be a victim of a violent crime,  no one is “asking for it”.

And we need to speak up.  Rape, abuse, discrimination, bigotry, sexual harassment… we need to call these things out.  Perpetrators are allowed to continue to be perpetrators because we as a society do not want to hear about such ugliness.  We shame the victim into silence, and the violence is allowed to continue.  We create a society where it is unsafe to come forward.  We tell the victim that he or she is lying, or that he or she deserved it, and take all of the responsibility off of the abuser.  The only way to break that cycle is to have open and honest dialogue.  We need to create a safe environment for victims to come forward.  We need to educate ourselves.  We need to stop bigotry and victim-shaming by calling it out for what it is.  We need to be able to talk about what it means to be a women is today’s society and the realities we face.  We need to stop sugar-coating.  Women and men need to come together and openly discuss our shared human existence, so we can better understand each other.

I was really pleased to read a blog entry about speaking up.  Granted, I took it in a whole different direction than the original post went, but I was a little pissed off.  In general, though, I agree with the sentiment that women, especially, should speak up.  It’s not the 1950’s anymore, and social taboos aren’t so taboo these days.  If we’re doing it, we should be able to talk about it, no matter what “it” is.  For a less ranty take on the subject, plus a book review, you should check out Kelly’s blog.   Read her post here.