Sunday, November 3, 2013

Apple Picking


So my small group had been talking about possibly going apple picking since early October and the weekend finally arrived that most people had said they could make it. Those of us who could go decided to meet at the church at 9 on Saturday. 

Saturday rolled around and we all arrived... and then waited, mainly because we thought more people were coming. Finally we left at about 9:45 and hit the road. Since it was just four of us I offered to drive (cuz I'm so nice) actually because I have a weird thing about liking to drive when going on group outings: see control issues in the dictionary ;) and off we went!

It was myself, Emily, Josh and Rolin. It ended up being pretty fun to be such a small group simply because we were really able to all engage in the same conversations and get to know one another a little better. Had it been much larger in the number of people who came, we definitely would have been split between cars for the driving time and then probably gone off in groups once we got there so even though it would have been wonderful if more people had made it, I think it worked out well despite that.

Emily and I had both been to Carter's Mountain before but for Josh and Rolin, this was their 1st time so it was fun to show them a new part of Virginia. Fortunately there was still some color to the trees up in Charlottesville and the whole drive up and back was really pretty with all the trees along the highway.


Once we got there and got directions to where the different apples were we set off and quickly discovered that all the good apples were out of reach, even for our taller guy friends. Fortunately, Josh came up with a solution and Rolin accepted the challenge. 
 Sorry Rolin, I know I said I wouldn't take pictures but the opportunity was too good to pass up!
Yay for having brought along two tall and strong guy friends! We got all the good apples!
We all decided next time we should just find a small child who likes climbing trees to bring with us like this kid who was way up there filling her families bags full. 

 After a juggling show from the guys, we climbed up a rather large hill to get to the Fuji apples (ridiculous only because the signs really made it seem like it was just around the turn) but was actually a bit of a hike. It was worth it though for these views!
I'm just now realizing that I failed to get a photo of myself and/or Emily facing the camera, well I did get a photo of Emily but on my film camera. I really need to be better about forgetting to be in pictures. Oh well!
After some cider and apple cider donuts we went into Charlottesville for lunch and then home. It was the perfect day/weather for a road trip and it was quite a fun road trip we had! Hopefully next time our small group plans one, a few more of our friends will be inclined to join us after seeing all the fun they missed out on! ;)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Easy Fajitas!

Its been a rainy dreary Saturday here and after a most excellent 3 hour nap, because hey, what else is the weekend for, I made some very yummy and very easy steak fajitas for my family that I thought you all might enjoy trying!

This is usually how we do fajitas, well steak fajitas anyway in our house but you can always skip tortillas and put all of this over a salad for a great fajita salad too!


Easy Steak Fajitas
Serves:4-6
Prep Time: 15-20 min
Cook Time: 15-20 min

Grocery List:
2 lbs. cut of London Broil or Flank Steak that is an even 1 inch thickness
2 bell peppers (any colors you like)
1 large red onion
Tortillas
Sour Cream
1 Tomatoes
1 Avocado

Seasonings:
1 tbs Cumin
1 tbs Paprika
1/2 to 1 tsp Red or Cayenne Pepper depending on how spicy you want it
1 1/2 tsp season salt
1 tsp dry cilantro
1 tsp groung black pepper
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch of coffee grounds

1. Mix all seasonings together into a rub, lightly coat steak in olive oil, then salt and pepper and then spread rub all over flesh. Let steak sit 20 min to overnight.

2. Cut bell peppers and onion into 1/4 inch long slices. Heat Black Iron Skillet with 2 tsp olive oil and throw vegetables in over high heat. Cook over until onions are caramelized a bit, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing burns and then turn heat to low and cook another 3-7 minutes depending on how well done you like your fajitas veggies. You can season however you like either just s & p or add a bit of cumin, cayenne or hot sauce!

3. Chop up your toppings- Avocado and Tomatoes and anything else you want and place everything in serving dishes.

4. Heat a grill to at least 300 degrees, place steak on grill for 3 minutes per side. Then remove and let rest 10 minutes before cutting. (This will give you a nice medium rare), if steak is less that 1 inch thick then cook 2 minutes per side and if closer to 1 1/2 inches thick then add a minute per side. If you like your steak more well done, then don't come to my house for dinner! ;)

That's it friends! Its so simple! Then just grab your favorite tortillas and dish up some yummy Steak Fajitas! 
I like to chop my steak up before putting it in the tortillas so its easier to eat, or you can just slice it really paper thin and that will do the trick too! 
This dish is simple and healthy. We don't even do any additional sides because you really get all you need in the fajita and this can easily accommodate any vegetarian friends o family by just skipping the steak since you cook them separately!






Monday, October 14, 2013

Beating the Cold Weather Carb Cravings

Ladies! Its Autumn and the one thing that comes with Autumn and cooler weather that I don't wish for is those awful carbohydrate cravings! 



Already my Pinterest board is suddenly full of pumpkin baked everything and garlic covered crusty bread and carbohydrate filled cardboard because literally anything that has carbs in it I am suddenly craving.  And I don't mean the usual oh I'm a hormonal and sometimes emotional female who sometimes just needs a cupcake, I mean the I have become Cookie Monster (circe 1980's unhealthy version) and I crave everything I see that involves sweet or savory concoctions full of flour! And I know I am not the only one, I can list at least 10 girlfriends off the top of my head who I know get this same "drawn to the mothership" craving as me. But I won't give in! 

Like most of my girlfriends, carbs are my downfall. Cupcakes? Yes please! Cookies? Oh if you insist! Fresh baked gluten free bread to go with a nice hearty winter soup? Absolutely! I hate these cravings as much as I do enjoy the occasional indulgence in them. Cravings are the enemy. 

I realize that in some other time like when our ancestors lived a more subsistence hunter gatherer lifestyle, these cravings were biologically in place to well, help us make sure we ate and stored enough fat and food for the scarcer winter months but guess what, we ain't living in Bible times anymore so these biological safety features only serve to make us all crazy carbohydrate eating monsters who then look in the mirror around, oh, New Years and see some jiggle and start to allow Satan the opportunity to whisper thoughts of self loathing and insecurity. 

Seriously ladies, he does that, he lives to do just that! So we have to say no! 
Don't get me wrong, I want all the baked goodies too but I know I don't need them. This is some serious mind over matter. Put down the cookie, you do not in fact need it and your body will in fact survive, even flourish without it!

So here are some tips, just from my own personal experience on how to overcome the carb cravings during these colder months.

1. And this is super important... allow yourself the carbs 1-3 times per week depending on how well you can really stick to that and how your personal make up handles carbs. Me personally, I have to go for 1 because I'll probably inevitably get to 3 by the end of the week so I need to know I've stayed within reason.

2. Make a list of your cravings. Really! Write them down on paper and leave room to put an alternative list to each food in a corresponding column. 

3. Make the healthy alternative list right next to them and take it with you everywhere!
So for example, I really like potato chips, something salty and crunchy... so as an alternative, I can take carrot chips and other crunchy veg and put them in a mild salt water brine for 5-12 hours so that I have a salty, crunchy, but low carb and healthier snack. 

4. Stop buying things with carbs in them. Don't buy those favorite breakfast breads, cereals and cupcake mixes. If they aren't in your pantry, your a lot less likely to eat them. And that goes for the dairy too, its not good for you and dairy is actually very high in sugars and carbs, and sugars... turn into carbs. 

5. Stock up on dark leafy greens. This might be an adjustment for some but I happen to have found a whole lot to love about Kale, Swiss Chard and other greens. Pack them in every meal, well at least lunch and dinner. Kale and other dark leafy greens (not spinach, darker is better) have a much higher nutrients per calorie ratio and if you really stick to eating at least 1 cup worth in every meal you'll find you are fuller longer than if you'd gone for that left over muffin from breakfast. I say this from experience. 

6. Find healthier ways to satiate that carb craving. Beans are a good source of carbs that require your body to work harder to digest so even though you don't want to pack a way a lot of them on a daily basis, they will help satisfy that "I need carbs" feeling. And fruit! Its harder to get the sweet berries in winter but go explore and find some fruit you can really enjoy on a daily basis. Fruit is packed with sugar (better sugars that the processed kind at least) that again, will turn into fat storing carbs so don't go overboard but think of them as your cupcake craving replacement!

7. Hit the GYM! I say this with all sincerity and as much for myself as for anyone who is actually reading this! Its just like Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde, "Exercise gives you endorphins! Endorphins make you Happy!" :D But really, those endorphins, they're the bomb! I have the advantage of working at the Y where I literally only have to walk 30 feet to change after work and then work out but you too can do this! Go on a nice refreshing walk every day and enjoy that crisp autumn air! Pull out those old jazzercise videos or that Wii Just Dance game and have at it! Just get moving, the natural happy drugs your body creates are so worth it and will keep you from getting into those hibernation all I want to do is eat mindsets. 
8. Do cardio but also get over the fear of the big muscle men in the weight room and go lift some weights! You won't get swole, you'll get shapely! In the most femininely pleasing kind of ways to the opposite sex! And don't be afraid of lifting heavier. Start with 10-15lbs for arms but work your way up, if all you ever do is 10-15lbs and you never progress in weight, then you're not progressing in challenging your muscles either. And do leg exercises that involve weights!! Not just squats which are good for you too but leg presses and squats with a bar over your shoulders or two hand weights in hand to add weight to the squat. If you don't know how to use the leg press, then go find the most attractive male gym attendant on duty, bat your eyelashes and ask for a demonstration ;) 
9. Make all of your food look appetizing when you plate it! Salad on a cold rainy night? I know, not what I'm craving either, but by making it look pretty and filling it with colorful red, yellow and orange veggies, I can dig it once I've gone in for my 1st few bites and know that I am obliterating those typical New Year's revolution before they ever become a concern!


10. L-O-V-E YOURSELF! Look in the mirror every night and say to yourself, You Are LOVELY! You Are Beautiful! YOU CAN DO THIS! If you slip up, DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT IT!! Seriously, get over it! The next meal is a new meal just like tomorrow is a new day! "Just keep swimming" as that silly short termed memory blue fish in Nemo always says! You are perfect and wonderfully made and you are not less because you gave in, you are not a totaled wreck if you let the Carb Craving Cooking Monster side of yourself take over on that last meal or skipped the gym the last 3 days. Just pick yourself up and start fresh! It's all good and you will glow with new found nutrients and endorphins by the time your fitting into that cute dress at Christmas parties because you didn't let the carbs get you down before the festivities had begun! ;)


Note: I am not a trained nutritionist or trainer, the above advice is all given from my own personal experience and results only. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Rainy Day Adventure

So I had Friday off this week and thanks to our wonderfully selfish and inane government's inability to cooperate within its parties... I got to hang out with a dear friend who also had Friday off since she was on furlough. 
Hurray for coinciding days off thanks to work!

So we met up in our alma mater's town of Fredericksburg for a girls day and it was fantastic!


Gill and I are DIY, shabby chic, home decor, antiquing soul mates and we always have a blast when we hang out! And always end up finding something or other thats unique and "just perfect" for one of our places. Haha. 
We've had rain for the last 6 days here in Virginia so it wasn't the prettiest of days but fortunately it was a light enough drizzle to still walk around and explore the lovely little shops of old town Fredvegas! 
This one was definitely our favorite and we both ended up buying black iron skillets here... because, you know, every good homemaker needs a solid black iron skillet for cooking and occasional self defense. 
Plus they had a ton of great vintage clothing, shoes and purses... non of which either of us looked too closely at because as we agreed, we have too many clothes and accessories all ready!

And then after a drive out to some of the back country roads around Fredericksburg to find some more antique shops (unsuccessfully) we had an impromptu and silly photo shoot in front of a random little white country Baptist church we came across!



(The above picture makes me laugh, Gill turned so "more of my hair can show" and I pulled this face and the camera caught it... haha!)

Sigh, girls days do me good! I love fellowshipping with dear friends who love me for who I am and all my quirks and vice versa and catching up on life! If you haven't had one in a while (and your a girl of course) then I highly recommend calling up a gal pal and scheduling a girls day with them! :)


Friday, October 11, 2013

I Heart Autumn

Autumn is pretty much tied with Winter for being is my favorite season but wins out slightly because of all the beautiful change in foliage.

Its one of my favoirte seasons for many reasons like...
the aforementioned foliage, 
Cooler/Cold Weather
Hoodie Weather, 
Camping, 
Bonfires, 
Football, 
Soup, 
Cold Rainy Days, 
Crunchy Leaves to step on, 
and of course, Accessories!

And why do I love accessories for Autumn?
Because...
Scarves
Hand Knits/Crochets
Jackets
Jeans
Layers
and Boots!
Oh Glorious boots!

Today I had the absolute delight of a day off and being able to meet up with a dear friend from college in our college town for some window shopping, lots of conversation and an all around fantastic girls day which will all be in another post. 

But for now... its Autumn and today I got rock all my favorite accessories of the season!  :)
#vintagecowboyboots!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Perfect GF Apple Pie

So I had a bunch of apples left over from an event I did and after much internet surfing for ideas on what to do with a bunch of apples... I settled on Apple Pie! Seeing as yesterday September 22nd was the 1st day of Fall, it just seemed like the best way to bring in my favorite season!


Gluten Free Apple Pie
Crust: 
Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix
Follow the pie crust recipe on the side and do the half butter and half shortening combo for the best crust!

Filling:
10 firm tartly sweet apples (I used Galas because thats what I had left over and needed to use up but normally I would use Granny Smiths of Pink Ladies)
1/2 cup + 1 tbs white sugar 
2 tbs brown sugar
1/2-1 tsp Cinnamon (depending on how much you like it)
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
4-5 tsp Lemon Juice

1. Preheat Oven to 350. Follow instructions for Pie Crust, divide dough in 2 balls and refrigerate for 15 minutes (cover in plastic wrap.
2. Take one ball of dough and roll out between two sheets of parchment paper with large enough surface to cover pie dish. 
3. Grease pie dish with shortening and then sprinkle with gluten free flour (shake out excess). 
4. Then remove top sheet of parchment from dough and roll gently onto rolling pin to transfer crust over pie, unroll gently with bottom sheet on top so you can remove. Gently lift and place crust into dish and cut off excess around the edge. 


5. Poke fork holes around bottom of pie to crust stays flat.
6. Place pie crust in oven to pre-bake for 25 minutes. 
7. Using a potato peeler, remove skin from apples, cut out the core and slice apples into 1/4 thick slices. 
8. Sprinkle lemon juice over apples, use hands to mix apples gently so they dont break up. 
9. Mic sugars and cinnamon and nutmeg together, then sprinkle 1/4 of mixture over apples and mix with hands. 
10. Place apples covered with plastic wrap in refrigerator if crust isn't ready. When crust is pre baked, layer apples into pie crust- (do not just pour it in, layer the flat slices one of the other, this makes a nice thick and full filling that wont "fall" when your pie cools off after baking)


11. Every few layers- sprinkle the extra sugar you reserved over apples. About a tbsp per new layer. 
12. Pull out 2nd ball of dough and roll out to be large enough to cover surface. Using same method for bottom crust, gently roll up onto rolling pin and position over pie. 
13. Using a fork, seal edges of crust gently and cut 3 "leaf" shaped holes out of center of crust so steam can escape. 
14. Decorate crust with left over crust leaf cut outs or other shapes. 
15. Beat one egg and brush liberally over crust then immediately sprinkle large sugar grains (turbinado works well) all over pie for a nice crusty and sparkly finish!

16. Place pie in 350 oven and turn heat up to 375. Bake for 45 minutes, cook another 15 if crust still needs to brown some more. Let pie rest for at least 2 hours so can set up before cutting into.







Enjoy!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Early Mornings

                      
I love this time of day. Watching the world wake up. 
Today I went outside to find the clean scent that comes after rain and the slight crispness in the air that tells me Autumn is on its way. 
As the Morning Glories raised their delicate royal colored blossoms heaven ward, I did as well. Thanking my Beloved for the beautiful morning and the quiet to spend it with Him.