Nighty night. Wind down and goodnight! 

  
It may be the middle of summer, and it may still be in the mid-80s at 9 pm here in Maryland, but the one thing that can help me unwind after a long day is a hot cup of tea. 

For the longest time I didn’t understand why people had bed time rituals. Like, didn’t you just go to bed? Yet, as the stresses of life have become more than just thinking about myself, a little unwinding before heading to the bedroom is 100% necessary and 100% non negotiable. 

If I don’t take the time to let my brain stop spinning, if I don’t acknowledge all I have done, as well as all I haven’t completed I take that energy to my pillow. 

I’m one of those people who is horrible at focusing on the what I haven’t dones and the last thing I need is to be focusing on what hasn’t been completed. Guess what happens when you focus on everything you haven’t done? You don’t get any freakin’ sleep! 
I need my bedtime wind down time! 

So what do I do? I have a hot cup of tea and I reflect on what I have done that day. I give myself time to reflect,  I acknowledge that I need to take this time to assess what I have accomplished and what I haven’t. And then I breathe and clear my mind. 

Dare I say it? It’s like a nightly mini meditation exercise that helps me just be, without being a crazy me! 

It’s taken so long for me to get to this point. I’m still far from perfect and I am still not the worlds greatest sleeper but it’s a step in the right direction. 

I would love to hear what you do to unwind at the end of the day! 
xoxo,

Stephanie

Homemade Organic Coconut Milk

I love coconut milk in my daily superfood shakes. What I don’t love is all of the extra ingredients that you find in most canned coconut milks and I really don’t love the carrageenan that you find in the majority of refrigerated coconut milks.

I also don’t like spending a ton of money. So even if I wasn’t already less than thrilled at the ingredient lists I was seeing I would have eventually found my way to making my own coconut milk. I never made my shakes with a full can of coconut milk and it’s rare that I even use a full can in a recipe!

Best thing…you only need two ingredients! That’s a serious win in my book.

Homemade Organic Coconut Milk
A quick and easy recipe to make your own coconut milk for any recipe!
Servings Prep Time
1 cup 5 min
Servings Prep Time
1 cup 5 min
Homemade Organic Coconut Milk
A quick and easy recipe to make your own coconut milk for any recipe!
Servings Prep Time
1 cup 5 min
Servings Prep Time
1 cup 5 min
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup manna amount varies based on thickness desired
  • 1 cup water
Servings: cup
Instructions
  1. Make sure your manna is at room temperature and a smooth, slightly runny consistency. If necessary, place the container into a bowl of warm water to soften.
  2. Stir the manna before measuring and scooping out into your blender.
  3. Add the cup of water and blend, blend, blend!
Recipe Notes

When I make this for my shakes I use the personal sized blender cup and blend before adding my Shakeology and any additional fruits or veggies.Nutiva

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Flying Dog: Dead Rise Release Party

Most of the posts on this blog will be mainly be on how our family is trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Emphasis on trying because some days I really, really struggle to make the right choices for us.

Sometimes the events we find ourselves wanting to go to around our new home in Frederick, MD don’t perfectly match a healthy lifestyle. But does this mean we don’t go?

Heck no! We want to explore and meet new people!

If you have ever moved to a new city/state/country where you know absolutely no one you know that you have to push out of your comfort zone. Sometimes that comfort zone is going to events where you are confronted with some not so healthy food and drink choices. In the past when I was trying to be healthy I would either avoid the event like the plague (not great when you are trying to meet people),or I would eat before hand and stare enviously at the little bites being passed around.

I swore to myself not this time.

Have you heard of Flying Dog Brewery before? It’s in Frederick, MD and last year when my husband and I first arrived to the East Coast their Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale was the first local beer we sampled. Anyone who knows us who is reading this already knows that my husband could almost single-handedly keep Old Bay in business, so when he found out that they were hosting a Double Dead Rise release party he knew what he wanted to be doing on Friday night.

I decided to embrace the evening and enjoy every second! And I am so glad that I did. We even ran into a few people we actually know!

A few of the bite sized goodies that they served up were Maryland Blue Crab deviled eggs, Croaker ceviche, and Snakehead summer rolls.

Normally I find myself trying to defend my hometowns love of Dungeness Crab to the locals, but tonight I just enjoyed the scrumptious flavor of each deviled egg I could get my hands on. With deviled eggs tending to not end up on the clean appetizer list parties and this little bite of goodness being too delicious I am going to have to come up with a recipe that takes some of the guilt out of this party staple for summer parties.

I honestly had never heard of Croaker before tonight. A west coast transplant, Croaker isn’t really a fish that you hear of in the Pacific Northwest. The little ceviche in one of the tortilla scoop bowls was super yummy and I definitely am going to find a way to recreate this little goodness in a cup for a future appetizer. The Snakehead summer rolls were a good take on a traditional summer roll and definitely helped fill me up a bit more.

All in all it was a great evening. Hope you were able to have a great weekend too!

Spicing up the Kitchen

Spices

Have you been “cleaning up” your diet? Sick of the same seasonings on your chicken week after week? Beginning to wonder if you are going to be eating boneless skinless chicken breasts flavored with lemon and garlic the rest of your life?

I’ve totally been there…and I was beginning to have chicken burn out. Quickly my mantra was becoming:

do. not. feed. me. another. piece. of. chicken.

I was looking to the spice aisle of my local grocery store to inspire me, but most of the premixed spices I tried just seemed one note.

With chicken having less fat then the red meat I was accustomed to eating on a regular basis I personally needed a a bigger flavor profile than I was finding with Mrs. Dash.

Enter ethnic spice blends to my life. The flavors I found in these blends are bolder, more complex, and oh so amazing on a wide variety of proteins.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Ras el Hanout. So many variations of this are available since it literally means “best of the shop” yet this North African spice blend is so packed full of flavor that it works well on chicken, fish, even amazing mixed into a little bit of couscous. I personally think this spice blend is like a warm hug from fall that likes to appear in the summer with a little homemade tzatziki to brighten your day.

Herbes de la garrigue. Do you like grill your chicken? This robust herb blend from the Mediterranean is the more fun, bolder, skirting on the edge of trouble cousin of the Herb de Provenance blend. It also holds up very well to some of the more gamey meats you may like to try.

Garam Masala. Garam Masala is to Indian cuisine what Ras el Hanout is to North African cuisine. There is no one perfect version of this spice blend as it varies from region to region and according to taste. With a good Garam Masala the flavors are blended in a very balanced way that allows the blend to have heat along while still allowing for many layers of flavor.

While these are just a few of my newest favorite spice blends I would love to hear yours!

Savory Roasted Garlic Pesto

When we started our clean eating journey one of the many things I missed was canned sauces. To me canned sauces were one of the ways I was able to get quick, easy, and tasty meals on the table fast. The problem was many of my go-to (even organic) brands included some not so clean ingredients. And the ones that were as close to “clean” as I could find?…not super affordable.

Let’s be honest. If you are taking the time to plan and cook a meal at home often you are doing it for two reasons. Reason number one, you can completely control what you are eating and serving your family. Reason number two, you don’t want a food budget that is ridiculously out of control.

With it being the summer many of us are finding our gardens over flowing with basil since it is an easy to grow herb. Okay, okay, full disclosure, not us…I have’t managed to grow anything on our little apartment balcony, but growing up my parents always had basil and mint growing like weeds in pots in our back yard so I figured many others might as well. If you are like us and don’t have lovely basil growing like a weed, the herb is actually decently priced at most grocery stores so don’t fret you can make this and stay within budget!

The husband approved recipe is below, but here are some tips I have to make the best homemade pesto that you possibly can.

1. Don’t try to make it low fat! This is what I would call a pretty clean eating sauce. Some people may argue about that because it does include cheese, but unless you have a diet with a dairy restriction this is cleaner than 99.9% of what you can find in the store. Buy high quality, when possible organic, ingredients and feel free to use with no guilt.

2. Use a hard, salty, aged cheese. Traditionally you will find pesto made with a Parmigiano-Reggiano , but a Pecorino Romano or even a Grana Padano could work in a pinch. Key here being that those other cheeses are also hard, salty, and aged. Could you imagine trying to mix in a soft cheese? You’d end up with a pesto-cheesy paste!

3. Store it properly. Guess what? Pesto oxidizes pretty dang fast when it’s made fresh. You can prevent your lovely creation from turning brown and yucky though by storing it properly. Cover the top of your pesto with a thin layer of olive oil and seal in an air tight container, refrigerating until you are ready to use it.

4. Plan on freezing it? I have found that I have been most successful freezing sauces in silicon ice cube trays. With the larger sized trays available I find these trays easier for meal prepping than the smaller hard plastic trays. Simply make a larger batch of your pesto, omit the cheese and nuts (if using), pour into the tray, pour a little olive oil on the top to prevent browning (or use a misto to lightly spray), place saran wrap on top in contact with the pesto, freeze until solid and then pop out of the tray.

I omit the cheese and nuts when freezing for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons, cheese does not freeze well and in my opinion nuts don’t do much better. Really, the biggest reason to me to omit these ingredients is it allows me to use my frozen nuggets of goodness in other recipes where the nuts wouldn’t be as welcome and neither would the the cheese.

I’m all for being able to use things multiple ways here!

Hope you enjoy the recipe as much as my hubby did on top of some Alaskan Sockeye salmon…love how versatile this stuff is!

Roasted Garlic Pesto
Clean, simple, and fresh. A great topping to many summer dishes with many layers of flavor.
Servings Prep Time
6 cups 15 min
Cook Time Passive Time
55 min 55 min
Servings Prep Time
6 cups 15 min
Cook Time Passive Time
55 min 55 min
Roasted Garlic Pesto
Clean, simple, and fresh. A great topping to many summer dishes with many layers of flavor.
Servings Prep Time
6 cups 15 min
Cook Time Passive Time
55 min 55 min
Servings Prep Time
6 cups 15 min
Cook Time Passive Time
55 min 55 min
Ingredients
Servings: cups
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Remove the majority of the garlic "paper", slice off the top of the head of garlic, exposing the cloves, and with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil coat the head of garlic, wrap the garlic securely in aluminum foil. Place in your preheated oven for 55 minutes, or until the cloves have caramelized and can be squeezed out of the paper easily.
  3. Either while your garlic is roasting, or after it has cooled, clean all of your basil. I like using a salad spinner to clean and really get all of the dirt off.
  4. Put the now cleaned and dried basil into your food processor, adding half of the remaining olive oil, salt, pepper, and the lemon zest. Pulse the ingredients and slowly add the olive oil until the desired consistency is achieved while being careful to not overwork the mixture. This is also where you would add the pine nuts if using.
  5. Take your now cooled garlic and add into your food processor a little by little. I love garlic, but the real purpose is to add depth to the sauce so don't over do it.
  6. Once you have incorporated the garlic, spoon the pesto mixture into a large bowl and fold in the freshly grated parmesan.
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Our National Zoo Adventure

One of the first dates that my husband and I went on was a trip to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, so when we moved to Maryland I knew that at one point I would want to make a day of going to the National Zoo. With the east coast quickly heating up we knew that we would want to make a day of it while it was still “spring” and not yet summer, so we decided to go this last Saturday.

To get there we drove down to the Shady Grove metro station because driving into Washington DC is pretty much out of the question. Now, the metro has a station that is dedicated to the National Zoo, but the Zoo is really just about equal distance between the Cleveland Park and Woodley Park stop. IF you were coming from the south the Woodley Park stop would obviously be the stop for you, but since we were coming from the north we decided that we would get off at Cleveland Park to save a few dollars on our metro fare. From Cleveland Park it is a flat walk to the Zoo with only a few streets to cross so this is a great option for anyone taking the Red Line from the north so I think more people should consider this option!

Once we made it to the National Zoo it was time to explore! Unlike most Zoo’s you may have been to in the past there are no ticket booths or kiosks because the great thing about the National Zoo is that it is FREE! This is a great thing for families who want to take their children for a fun day of seeing the animals, or like us, a couple who likes to explore the budget options for adventures where we live. If you have never been before you can pick up a Zoo map for $3, or download the interactive app that the Zoo has available in the Apple Store or Google Play for $1.99. Or, if you don’t mind just wandering aimlessly and following signs you can take the completely free route!

Here are my tips for the National Zoo:

Check the Events Page! There is a Daily and Upcoming Events page that can help you decide what day you will want to go to the Zoo as well as what time you will need to be there by! Checking these pages will help you see all the fun that the Zoo has to offer while being able to customize your trip.

Wear appropriate footwear. You are going to be doing a lot of walking and the National Zoo has hills. I can’t even begin to describe the number of people I saw ditching their footwear and walking barefoot around the park. The zoo is not a place to be walking barefoot!

Bring water. There are food kiosks around the park and a fair number of vending machines, but since you can bring your own food and water into the park save a few dollars and bring your own.

Be patient, understanding, and aware of your surroundings. This zoo is FREE to the public and that can translate into crowds on the weekends and weekdays as summer breaks are about to begin. You may need to wait a few minutes at each exhibit to get to a spot where you can see the animals. With that being said, also try to be aware of where you are standing and do your best to not block walkways especially inside any of the exhibits inside buildings. Your fellow zoo goers will really appreciate you if you keep these items in mind!

I hope you are able to enjoy the Zoo wherever you live!

The Toothpaste Cap Saga

I am letting you in to my shame, my not so clean secret…

If there was a ranking of the worst people at capping their toothpaste, at the top it would be me.

This drives my clean and standards exceeding Gent insane. Since we never lived together before our marriage I was able to keep this little imperfect detail a not so intentional secret. It’s not like I was purposefully hiding this flaw, just when you don’t live together it is amazing the little quirks that don’t really show up. I have quirks, he has quirks, some we might try to change, others we may just say are not worth even trying to change.

…I now just buy toothpaste with a flip cap not a twist on.

Goodbye Twenty-Eight

Entering the last year of my twenties is somewhat bittersweet. I can still remember being a teenager and thinking thirty is so old! Now I stand on the doorstep of thirty and while I may be older, I am far from old.

My twenties were full of triumphs and mistakes, as many good moments as there probably were regrettable, but I wouldn’t take back one of them. There is no way to know if one decision had been different that I would be where I am today. Right now I am sitting in our apartment in Maryland with my husband next to me on our couch, our kitty crew around us, and I haven’t felt more blessed and loved in my entire life.

Life is still far from perfect. I still have awkward moments where I stumble over my words and what I am saying comes out wrong. I still have a fear failure like I always have, not wanting to be a burden to anyone when I need help, and a fear of accidentally offending someone by mistake, but at the end of the day for all of those quirks to my personality my life is still very blessed. I wish I had known when I was younger that being quirky and imperfect was okay. It has taken me twenty-nine years to figure out that I am pretty awesome the way that I am even if someone doesn’t like me! Oh, the horror!

Now with 30 knocking on my door I am going to embrace these next 365 days with every fiber of my being. I will push myself out of my comfort zone and embrace every moment I have to the absolute fullest potential. Not only will I chase my goals of a healthier entrance into my fourth decade, but I will give back to the community in which I am and seek a more spiritually fulfilling lifestyle.

Most importantly….

I will be me.

with love and acceptance,

Stephanie

Birthday Celebration Begins!

I was so excited that I was able to spend last night celebrating my birthday with the Gent! Now, it wasn’t my actual birthday, but I like to lay claim on the entire weekend my birthday is closest too. The best part about a birthday weekend is getting to spoil yourself!

To get the birthday festivities off to a start we went out to dinner at Firestone’s in downtown Frederick. If you haven’t been to downtown Frederick it is worth exploring and has such an amazing charm that I have never had in a city I have lived in before. With Friday being a part of Restaurant Week the city was even more bustling than normal and you could just feel the energy. It’s like the snow storm that we had on Thursday that kept everyone at home pushed them to emerge from their cocoons on Friday!

I cannot say enough about how wonderful our dinner was or our service. The amuse bouche to start and between courses was a wonderful touch that I really enjoyed. Being the oyster aficionado that I am I started with oysters on the half shell with a really lovely mignonnette. Being from Seattle I am really used to knowing down to the inlet where the oysters I am eating come from and having a huge list to choose from, but even without that Firestone’s knows how to rock an oyster.
Now for the main course…I want to know how the make the rosemary potatoes! Seriously, my hanger steak was delicious, but its the potatoes I cannot forget! I think some experimentation will have to happen in our kitchen on creating a recipe to mimic those potatoes. Dinner ended with an even more amazing tiramisu that had me dreaming of Italy in my sleep. I love taking advantage of restaurant weeks since it prompts me to try more food than I ever would on a normal basis, to include dessert!

If there is a restaurant week in your town you should definitely try it out!

Image Dinner Party Dreams

When you live in a small apartment throwing dinner parties can be somewhat difficult, and when you live in an apartment the size that we currently live in it’s basically impossible.

Two bar stools does not a dinner party make.

Until the day I can throw a party in our home I will spend hours dreaming of how I will execute the perfect event. Personally, I love dinner parties because they are incredibly intimate and allow you as a host to throw an event that would be more difficult with a larger invite list.

One of my favorite dinner parties I draw for inspiration was the 30th birthday that Sally Balt, of la Happy had for her big day. Sally did the custom paper goods for our wedding and you can tell by the gorgeous work she did for her own celebration how incredibly talented she is.

La Happy Invitation

From the moment a guest received one of these amazing invitations in the mail how could they not feel like they were a part of an amazing event. Having an invitation hand-lettered in scrumptious calligraphy just sets the tone for the event from the second your guest takes their invitation out of their mail box. I am just a little envious at her amazing skill of taking an art form that for years many thought of as antiquated and adding a touch of whimsy that completely modernizes it.

Now, to what really makes me love the details of this dinner party…the napkins.

Yes, napkins. But these aren’t just any ordinary napkins, these napkins double as place cards with Sally having hand-lettered iron-on transfer paper with the guest’s name and applying it to the cloth napkins. I seriously cannot get enough of this and would never have thought of this fantastic idea on my own.

Place Card Napkin

Don’t you just love it!

All the calligraphy in the world would not look amazing if it was not set upon a gorgeous back drop, and for this event we have the amazing talents of Finch & Thistle Event Design to gush over.

Tablescape Pink and Gold

Rachel Bowes, of Finch & Thistle, probably has more design pizzaz in her little pinky than I have in my whole body and when we have an outdoor space where I can do my best to recreate a version of her magic. What I love best about the design is the juxtaposition of the black and white table runner with the lush florals in an array of pinks. And really, there is no such thing as too much pink when executed with gorgeous roses and peonies on a backdrop of dinner plate dahlias and natural elements like fresh hops.

Dinner Party Florals

So amazing!

Days like today I just dream of summer nights where I can pretend to be just as fabulous of a party thrower with as much talent as these amazing ladies.

This event was originally posted on 100 Layer Cake, a fabulous place to get inspiration for any occasion.

Floral, Event Design and Styling: Rachel Bowes of Finch & Thistle Event Design / Stationery, Invitations & Calligraphy: Sally Balt of La Happy / Photography: Scott and Ashlee of O’Malley Photographers