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Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding

I've been enjoying chia seed pudding for a while now.  I had been using chia seeds sparingly in dessert recipes only prior to that.  I was a little skeptical over using them as a main ingredient in a dish.  If you haven't used them before, when you soak chia seeds in water they soften, plump up (similar to flax seeds) and turn into a gel.  They make a great egg substitute or thickener in many whole food recipes.  Finally, one day I decided to go all in and make the chia seed pudding many of my blogging friends were making.  It's simple!  Soak 2/3 cup of chia seeds in 2 cups of unsweetened almond milk.  Stir every 5 minutes for about 30 minutes and you've got chia seed pudding.  It's about the texture of tapioca, and growing up that was my kind of pudding.  I was ecstatic after my first bite of chia seed pudding!  I like to flavor with a little stevia and vanilla extract.  Yum!  You can also stir in a bit of cocoa powder to make it chocolate chia seed pudding.

Okay, so now that you know my basic chia pudding recipe, let me fast forward a couple years later to my favorite chia pudding of today.  I've been eating this quite often lately, a few days a week, ever since Trader Joe's started carrying organic raw Valencia peanut butter again.  I call this Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding.  If you have picky husbands or children, just leave the word "chia" out of the name and they won't ever have to know it's a healthy dessert!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding
Makes 2 Servings

3 Tbsp organic non-GMO black chia seeds (I like Nutiva brand)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1-2 Tbsp organic raw Valencia peanut butter (to taste)
1-2 Tbsp pure cocoa powder (to taste)
Stevia (to taste)
1/2 scoop protein powder (optional)

1.)  In a clean spice grinder, grind the chia seeds into a powder.  (This step is optional.  I alternate the way I prepare the chia seeds.  Sometimes I grind them first, sometimes I leave them whole and wait a little longer for them to gel up. Both ways are delicious!  Grinding allows them to gel up within minutes, so you can eat the pudding right away after blending.)

2.)  Add almond milk and chia seed powder into blender.  Blend on High for about 15 seconds, until smooth.

3.)  Add all other ingredients to blender.  Blend until smooth.  (Add more almond milk if too thick.)  Transfer to serving dishes and enjoy.  Will last in fridge for 3-4 days.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: April 25 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: April 18 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Challenge: 22 Days to a Spring Clean Home

Are you with me on this?  After having a baby (or multiple..) it's a lot harder to keep up with the house cleaning.  It sure seems that way for me, and as my son gets older, it seems his mess (or should I say ability to make a mess) grows with him.

I like to feel somewhere in between...

...when it comes to the housekeeping of our home.  Recently, I have adopted a new cleaning strategy.  While I used to be a once-a-month cleaner, tackling all the major chores on one day a month, that just isn't possible any more while still being present with my baby through the day.  My new strategy is to do one chore daily as needed.  It's been going really well so far, in the past few months since starting it.  And many of you may have already discovered this way to do things at home!

Now it is time for a good spring cleaning, top to bottom.  I'm planning to do this over almost a month's time in our home (started on Monday), and encourage you to join in on the challenge!  It's a 22 Day Challenge!

A few years ago, while I was between steady work and needed fast cash to pay down student loans, I  took on a quick money-making venture of personal maid service.  I had a few clients with humungo homes in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area and my job was to clean them top to bottom every week.  I thought it would be helpful to share the tips I learned during my cleaning days.  Even the most cared for home needs an occasional spring cleaning!  It will be helpful to make your cleaning experience as efficient as possible, whether you're in an apartment or a large house.  Any time and energy you can save the better!

Tips Before Getting Started

Spring cleaning is a deep, top to bottom, thorough and complete cleaning above and beyond standard or more routine cleaning tasks.

Spring cleaning entails moving all your knickknacks and furniture to clean under them.  Everything is touched, all the way from the ceiling, down to the baseboards and floor.  Everything from top to bottom and in between is scrubbed until it is free of dirt and dust and shines like new.

Work on wet rooms all at once (bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room) and dry rooms all at once (bedroom, dining room, living room, office, play room).  This will be the most efficient as you can dust everything at once, mop everything at once, etc, eliminating the back and forth work that usually happens when working it one room at a time.

I've also found it helpful to work each room from top-to-bottom, left-to-right.  This helps you to not miss any areas, and applies a little organization to your method in case you have to step away, so you'll know right where you left off when you come back.

And don't feel like you have to do these cleaning steps all at once.  Like I said above, I'm using this list as the basis of a 22 Day Challenge.  If you can check off one task every day, in a month you'll have done a spring cleaning to your entire home!  If you have teenagers and a spouse that are ready to help you tackle more at once, take a weekend to get through it all.  Either way, a top to bottom spring cleaning will make you feel better to be in your home and get you buzzing for spring!

I recommend using natural ingredients to clean your home.  You can read a brief summary here.  If you want a specific cleaning solution or recipe, email me and I'll share what I use.  I have also been loving my Thieves oil from Young Living mixed simply with water.  It's been great for a multi purpose cleaner/sanitizer!  You'll notice below that I use distilled white vinegar a lot in my home (also in my dish washer and washing machine).  I buy my distilled vinegar in bulk at Costco, but you can also ask to order by the case at your local grocer and receive a percentage discount that way.

22 Days to a Spring Clean Home

1.  Dust the ceilings, light fixtures and ceiling fans (I use a dry dust mop followed by a microfiber cloth dampened with distilled vinegar).  Sweep cobwebs in corners and along the ceiling.

2.  Dust all horizontal surfaces (tops of doors, picture frames, shelves, baseboards, counters, cupboards).  Wipe down any surfaces that need it (I use distilled vinegar-water mix).

3.  Spot-clean the walls, doors, and light switches (I use vinegar-water, a Magic Eraser when needed).

4.  Wipe down circulating fans (have you seen the dirt that collects on the blades??) and heating/cooling vents (again, vinegar-water).  Remember to change your air filter at least every two months!

5.  Take rugs and mats outside and beat with a broom handle (or when I was a kid, a badminton racket).  Wash any rugs you are able to.  Vacuum the floors underneath the rugs thoroughly before you place the rugs back down.

6.  Vacuum your floors thoroughly.  Use the hose attachment to vacuum along the carpet edges where it meets the walls -- may seem tedious, but dirt and allergens hang out in that crevasse.  Also, get a new vacuum filter (when was the last time you did that?).

7.  Take everything off the bed(s) and launder, including things you might wash less often like comforters and bed skirts.  Use a sifter to sprinkle the mattress(es) with baking soda and let sit for at least an hour, then vacuum it up with the brush attachment.  Also, vacuum your pillows thoroughly.  (Do this while your bedding is washing!)

8.  Vacuum all upholstered furniture, also underneath and behind.  Vacuum or launder curtains.  And vacuum behind dryer, washer, fridge (don't forget to vacuum the coils to save energy!), oven, and any other large furniture pieces.

9.  Spot-treat the carpet, then give a full cleaning.  (I use a two-step all natural process. Will post separately soon!)

10.  Check expiration dates in your fridge, pantry, and supplement cabinet ("medicine cabinet"), and bring oldest things to the front (or garbage).  Don't forget your dried spices -- should replace yearly as they lose potency and flavor after opening (oxidation), and the possibility of cross contamination of raw meats and oils left behind over time.

11.  Give the kitchen a deep clean, especially the parts you usually skip (underneath the dish rack, below the burners, inside the oven, the rubber seal around the refrigerator door...just to name a few).   Don't forget to wipe down the inside and outside of fridge and cupboards (don't miss the handles and knobs!).  Check shelf liners to see if any need replacing.  Replace stove top drip pans if needed (you'd be surprised how easily this refreshens the look of your stove!)

12.  Give the bathroom(s) a deep clean, especially the parts you usually skip (like wiping down the top of the shower curtain rod and behind the toilet bowl -- my reaction after wiping: "O.M.G!!!" -- you may be surprised).

13.  Sweep/dust mop and wet mop your floors.   Here is my protocol for my mop water, and don't forget your Thieves oil.  Wring out your mop until it is just damp before using on the floor (especially for wood).

14.  Go through your make-up and throw out anything older than 6 months, that smells funny, or you never use.  Clean your brushes or throw out/buy new ones.  (In a bowl, 2 parts filtered water to 1 part distilled vinegar.  Soak brushes for 10 minutes then rinse under running water.  Blot out excess water using a towel, then lay flat to dry on a dry towel or hang to dry with bristles facing the ground.)  Clean out bathroom cupboards and drawers.  Throw out anything expired or things you haven't used in the past year.  Chances are if you haven't used it yet, you won't.  Time to declutter.

15.  Wash windows inside and out.  A mix of water and distilled vinegar with a microfiber cloth or crumpled newspaper work great!  (Find my recipe here!)  Scrub out all window tracks with soapy water and an old toothbrush.  Remove and rinse window screens.  Replace (or install) weather stripping as needed.

16.  Go through your wardrobe and donate or recycle/toss items that are worn/don't fit/don't wear.  Bring summer clothes to the front and winter clothes in the back.  Place cedar blocks in your closet to prevent moths and freshen the air.

17.  Take an inventory of your shoes.  Shine up dress shoes (with a dab of olive oil to a dry soft rag), replace worn shoe laces, spot clean or wash sneakers, and toss any pairs that are worn out.  Donate pairs you never wear.  Finally, bring summer shoes to front, and winter shoes in back.

18.  Bring your winter coat(s) to an all natural dry cleaner's (perc free).

19.  Treat any dingy white clothes or musty towels/rags to a soak in vinegar or borax over night.  Follow with a good washing with baking soda.

20.  Polish and condition wood tables and furniture (my natural recipe is here!).

21.  Clean out the junk drawers.  Try to apply some organization to prevent future build up, like re-purposing a silverware organizer or jars/food containers.

22.  Think of solutions for problem areas, like a dish on the table by the front door for keys, an off-the-floor shoe rack in the closet for the pile of shoes that forms each week, or a basket on the kitchen counter for the mail.  (Pinterest can be a good source for inspiration!)

Good luck with your spring cleaning challenge!  Will post my cleaning solution recipes soon -- cost effective, natural, and easy to make!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Leek, Asparagus & Herb Soup

Leek, Asparagus & Herb Soup
Makes About 6 Servings 

1 Tbsp coconut oil
2  medium leeks trimmed, washed and finely chopped
4 clove garlic, minced
1/2 pound new potatoes, scrubbed and diced
2 cups organic vegetable broth, sodium-free
1 1/2 cups fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cups snow peas, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives, divided
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 cups organic unsweetened almond milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt to taste
Fresh pepper, to taste
1/3 cup organic plain Greek yogurt (optional)

1.)  Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over Medium-Low heat.  Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until fragrant.

2.)  Add potatoes and broth.  Bring to a simmer over Medium-High heat.  Cover and reduce heat to Medium-Low.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 25 minutes.

3.)  Increase heat to Medium-High and stir in asparagus and peas.  Simmer, covered, stirring 2 or 3 times, until just tender, 6-8 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in chives, parsley, and dill.  Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (this step is optional)

4.)  Return the soup to the pan.  Add almond milk and bring to just below a simmer, stirring, over Medium heat.  Stir in lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.  Ladle into soup bowls.  Garnish each serving with a dollop of Greek yogurt and sprinkling of the remaining fresh herbs.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lemon Garbanzo Bean Pound Cake

**UPDATE**  I have changed the recipe slightly by removing the whipped egg whites.  I received a few emails about the pound cake falling after removing from oven and it seems the whipped whites + humidity was the problem.  Updated recipe is now reflected and you should get the same results as shown in my picture below every time you bake this tasty treat!

(Originally Posted on March 5, 2012)

I'm not leaving much mystery to the secret ingredient in this lovely light yet dense pound cake.  Garbanzo beans make up the bulk of the batter!  I originally designed this recipe for a friend of mine.  We share the same birthday, and this past January 29th, this was her birthday cake request.  She was trying to stay on the Advanced Plan while eliminating coconut, almond, chocolate, and cashew from her diet.  For a moment, I thought I had no idea what to make her!  But then I thought back to the recipe for Black Bean Brownies, and I know others have made cakes using beans and even veggies like cauliflower.  So using the brownies as a base recipe, I designed this garbanzo bean lemon cake and it was divine!  We topped ours with organic whipped cream sweetened with stevia and vanilla and large scoop of almond milk ice cream.  It would also be lovely on its own with a cup of tea.  You could also add poppy seeds if you wish.

Lemon Garbanzo Bean Pound Cake
Makes 1 9" Round

2  15oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well
6 free-range eggs
1 1/4 cups powdered xylitol
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 2 lemons

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line the bottom of a round 9 inch spring form pan with unbleached parchment paper.  Grease the sides of pan with coconut oil.  Add garbanzo beans and eggs to food processor and puree until smooth, about 2 minutes.

2.)  Pulse in the xylitol, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, sea salt, lemon zest and lemon juice, until batter is smooth

3.) Pour batter into spring form pan and bake about 45-55 minutes, until light brown on top and a knife comes out clean from the center.

In case you aren't already following our 40 Day Renewal through Lent, check out today's post.  It's a guest post from me!  Top 6 Reasons to Eat Breakfast

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Preperation

Who has their Easter menu all planned out?  And who doesn't?  (me!!)  I am still working on a few new recipes for our Easter brunch this year.  A little smaller than in years past, as it's just Dave, Austin and me.  We wish all of our family back home in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota a happy and blessed Easter!

If you're at all like me this year and just getting to the details now, there is still time to have a Maximize Living-approved Easter celebration.  It just takes a little bit of planning.  You CAN pull it off, even on a budget!  I promise!

Check out my past posts on:

Natural Easter Egg Dying

'Maximizing' the Easter Basket

and don't forget to download your copy of my Easter Menu Planner e-book

And here are two great recipes to help use up those hard boiled eggs after Easter:

No Mayo Deviled Eggs

Classic Egg Salad

Hope you all have a very blessed Holy Week and Easter Sunday!  Enjoy this video, which I thought was really nice for remembering and honoring Good Friday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: April 4 2012

You may have seen this done on other blogs you're following.  I've seen a few do it well, and I really like the idea.  It's called "Wordless Wednesdays."  I will post only a picture on Wednesdays, no words from me.  It's a way to share images I feel are meaningful, and allow you to interpret what the picture is saying for yourself.  Feedback is appreciated -- and do let me know if you ever find Wordless Wednesdays 'spammy' or not worth your interest.  But of course, hope you like it!  Let's kick it off right now:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Update #2: We've Got Teeth!

Can you see his pearly whites?
Well, a little extra praising to God is in order, as we made it through the first round of teeth.  Thank you to everyone who wrote in with natural teething relief ideas.  I reallllly really needed to hear your stories of similar situations and the empathy helped me make it through last week.  I liked the creativity in your methods, and definitely learned a few new tricks!

Austin popped out both middle bottom teeth last week after a couple days of misery for all three of us.  I then spent the remainder of last week catching up on backed up laundry, dishes, and other housekeeping.  Finally getting life back into the little routine I had going for us.  Ready to get back to our regular afternoon walks starting tomorrow!  We used to go every afternoon, walking in to Dave's clinic for our adjustments then back home in time to make dinner.  I missed the quiet time in the fresh air.  It's like my anchor every day.  It's some 'me' time even having A with me.  So looking forward to tomorrow's outing!

Out for a walk last month.
If it's a really sunny day, you'll see Austin sporting his shades on our walks.
Oh, and did I mention I started a little garden on our apartment deck?  I'll have to show you what we're up to over here -- my first attempt at anything besides herbs (and usually my herbs die.. I'm not much of a green thumb).  We're using 5 gallon buckets to grow a few different veggies.  So far so good!  More to come on that adventure!  Learning as I go, but so excited to grow our own produce!

Well, a short update is better than nothing.  I wanted to share more, and hope to fill you in on my plan for spring cleaning tomorrow or so (30 Days of Green Spring Cleaning)!  Now, I must crawl into bed.  If I don't sleep while baby sleeps, who knows if I'll ever get any sleep again!

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