Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spinach Berry Smoothie Packets

I have been a longtime reader of CensationalGirl. I love almost everything Kate does design wise. I have total house envy too - she had a beautiful home in California near wine country. But I digress, with my goal to be a bit healthier, I have been on the lookout for a smoothie recipe. I have been reading about green smoothies for awhile, but the thought of drinking something made entirely out of spinach or kale or celery just isn't appetizing to me. Then, just last week, Kate had a post about berry smoothies.

Even more appealing to me was the fact that she made little freezer packets so they are ready to make one at a time! So when Joe went food shopping last week, I had him get the necessary ingredients. Friday night I froze my yogurt in an ice cube tray and rationed out 6 spinach leaves, half a banana and the berries in little baggies.
Of course my packets look a hot mess and nothing like Kate's.
Saturday morning, after I finished my workout during JJ's nap, I decided to give the smoothie a try. I pulled out my packet, added a half cup of skim milk and half a cup of cranberry juice and blended...

Looks good, but is something missing??

My blender had a hard time getting through the frozen banana. Perhaps I need to invest in a new one.
 I gave it a taste, and, well, I wasn't a huge fan. It tasted a little too sweet and gritty and I felt like I could taste more of the spinach than I should have.

It took me until I was halfway done to realize I had completely forgotten to put in the frozen yogurt cubes. Fail. I dumped it back in the blender, and threw in a cube.

Yes, that's a Mickey Mouse cube. Its the only ice cube tray we have in the house. First world problems: having an ice maker in the freezer means we have only one ice cube tray.

Much, much better.
 Again, my blender had a hard time getting through the frozen yogurt. It felt like it was just mixing the frozen little ball around and not breaking it up. I finally got it somewhat blended and give it another try.

JJ in his little hoodie photo bombing.
The Verdict:
Much, much better with the yogurt. It was pretty tasty. I think Joe was a little skeptical of the spinach so he didn't try it, but he is a smoothie lover and I think he would love it. Clearly, I didn't use the SuperFood powder Kate used - I wanted to make sure I actually liked it before I ordered the powder. Once I give it a try a couple more times, I might give the powder a whirl.

Things to Consider:
My kitchen was a mess after I finally got it right. Berry juice was everywhere. Obviously it came from me going into and out of the blender 10 times, but I had to bleach my counters when I was done. Apparently I was supposed to mix the liquids first and then add the solids so perhaps that's why my blender had a hard time getting through the frozen stuff? Either way, does anyone have any recs for a new blender? 

I used frozen berries, and the 2 cups the recipe calls for used more than half the bag. It makes a big smoothie. I filled the glass in the pics to the top almost twice. Once I get through these initial packets, I think I am going to half the recipe for the next round.

I think I am going to try and pull out a packet before I start my workout so it thaws up a bit, then blend it up when I am done. I will report back after I get the hang of it.

SuperFood Berry Smoothie Recipe
by  Kate at Censational Girl
2 cups fresh or frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)
3 frozen cubes nonfat yogurt (vanilla, plain, or fruit flavored)
5-6 spinach leaves
1/2 banana
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup nonfat milk, almond milk, or soy milk
1/2 scoop SuperFood Berry powder*

In a blender, mix liquids (1/2 cup cranberry juice and 1/2 cup milk). Add berries, yogurt, banana, spinach leaves, and SuperFood powder. Blend for a full minute on high until contents are thick and creamy. Add additional liquid or ice cubes or banana and berries to taste.

*Green Berry SuperFood is made by Amazing Grass, and is available at Whole Foods, at the Amazing Grass website, and Amazon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Coconut Oil Part 1

Has anyone else noticed the buzz surrounding coconut oil recently? If you just type coconut oil in Pinterest’s search box, you’ll see hundreds of pins with all different uses and benefits of using coconut oil.

Last week I pinned this from How Does She?. The caption of the pin promised that using coconut oil helps grow your hair longer and healthier.

How Does She?
Then I started to see this pin all over the place as well. It promised the same thing.

My hair is severely damaged. I've been straightening it almost every day for the last 10 years. I know, I know – it’s terrible for my hair. My hair dresser has been reprimanding me for years. To make it even worse, over the summer I somehow burnt off a ring of hair around the crown of my head. It’s not totally noticeable but I see it every time I look in the mirror. So, when I saw these pins I just knew I had to try them out.

[Side note: I apologize for most of the pictures in this post. I had to take them of myself and I am not the best photographer for self portraits – nor do I particularly enjoy being in photos.]

How Does She recommended using Nutiva’s Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. I was able to find some at GNC for $15 a jar. It was buy one, get one half off – so of course I bought two. Sales people can talk me into anything!

I gave the treatment a go on this past Sunday afternoon. I started by flipping my hair over and spread the coconut oil in my dry hair. The coconut oil is solid in the jar but once you scoop the it out, it starts to melt in your hands- making it easier to put it in your hair.

I focused mostly on the ends of my hair. I ended up putting some more oil in after these pictures were taken. The goal is to saturate your hair in the oil.

I barely used much of the coconut oil - the two jars are going to last me a long time.

Once your hair is saturated in the oil, pull your hair back in a clip and cover it with a shower cap.

I left the shower cap on for about 45 minutes. Then I hopped in the shower to rinse it out. I shampooed twice and then conditioned.

Here is a [terrible] finished shot.

This is after just blow drying. My hair felt so soft! I didn't notice any improvement with my split ends that some websites promised but my hair was definitely less frizzy. I didn’t even need to straighten!

Granted -I’m due for a hair cut. I have one scheduled for Wednesday evening. So that explains the terrible split ends. I'm thinking that if I keep using the coconut oil after my hair cut, it may help to prolong how long I can go before the next hair cut.

Many of the sites said the coconut oil will help your hair grow longer if you use it over time so I’m going to keep using it.

I also saw somewhere that coconut oil is supposedly good for dandruff and psoriasis. I have psoriasis on my scalp which unfortunately causes me to occasionally have dandruff. I didn't notice any difference in the dryness on my scalp with this first use - maybe I’ll see a difference after a few applications? We shall see.

Stay tuned for a few more posts on coconut oil. Tonight, I am going to try and leave it in my hair overnight and see how that goes. I also want to try using it as a skin moisturizer. I’ll keep you posted of course.

On an entirely separate note- Grace created us an instagram specifically for the blog. Our username is pinstersisters. Check it out! We post pictures as we test pins so you can get a sneak peak on upcoming content!

Update: If you like this post, check out my coconut oil update!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Easy Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

First things first: on keeping up with the resolutions - I actually woke up an hour early yesterday morning and this morning to work out. I have also been diligent with taking a vitamin daily. Obviously I have been keeping up with my one post per week goal as well. Lastly, I hit up Amazon for a Photoshop Elements guidebook and have slowly started to read through it (there are seriously like 100 pages of how to crop things - super intimidating!). I realize its only the third week in January, but lets be honest, in years past I have given up by this point already!

So in going through my post topic archive, I came across these Peanut Butter Cup Brownies.

These pics have been in my computer so long I had to look up the date on my calendar to remember what I made them for. We hosted JJ's Christening in late August (after a case of HFM disease forced us to cancel the original date) and while I had our post ceremony lunch catered, I made a couple desserts. The idea came from this original pin:

that linked back to Risa's post in 2009 on her blog Baked Perfection. Once again, I failed to read the recipe before starting, and in this case it actually turned out to be so much easier than I thought. I figured I would be making some sort of major adjustments to the brownie batter and then making some fancy peanut butter frosting, but it really just turned out to be basic brownie mix baked into cups, with some peanut butter and chips on top.
Mixing up the brownie batter

Brownie "Cups" with their centers smooshed down

Dollop of warmed peanut butter

All finished
I decided to use a little chocolate frosting (the canned variety) in case someone didn't want peanut butter. A couple sprinkles finished them off.

The Verdict: Ridiculously easy. I overcooked them a bit (I always seem to when making brownies in a non traditional form) so they were a little hard, but still tasty. They are the sort of treat that is so easy to pop that you can wind up eating a bunch before you even realize it. And who doesn't love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate??
Things to Consider: The middles of my cups never really fell, which I think can be attributed to by overcooking. Other than that though they were pretty foolproof. Now that I am reminded of these - I might have to make them again!
Peanut Butter Cup Brownies, from Baked Perfection
Recipe adapted from Nestle’s Very Best Baking

Makes 40 brownies as adapted

1 box of your favorite brownie mix
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease 40 mini-muffin cups.
Prepare boxed brownie mix as directed. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups (about 1 heaping teaspoon). Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top is set and a toothpick inserted into center comes out slightly wet. After brownies are out of the oven, wait for centers to fall. This will happen upon cooling. If not then tap the centers with the back of a teaspoon to make a hole for the peanut butter.
Place peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds then stir. While brownies are still warm spoon about half a teaspoon of peanut butter into the center of each brownie. Top with semi-sweet chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Cool completely in pan.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Pretzel S’mores

Still going strong with the resolutions – two weeks in a row with a post! As an aside, Grace and I are both loving Instagram. My username is sborden86. Grace’s is gvk506. Feel free to follow us. We've been taking pictures of pins we’re attempting, among other things.

Okay so back to the business at hand - I pinned these Pretzel S’mores from Love from the Oven last week and couldn't wait to try them out.

Love from the Oven
I thought they looked so yummy & easy. And other people must have too, because the second I pinned it, it was immediately repined 20 times.

Christi had melted her marshmallows in the microwave but mentioned the oven may work as well. So on my first attempt, I tried making them in the oven. I figured I could fit more pretzels on the baking sheet then on a plate in the microwave.  I used Jumbo marshmallows and cut them up. I used half for each pretzel.

Then I put a bit of chocolate on top. I used a Hershey’s dark chocolate bar. I figured I didn't need too much chocolate since I was going to dip them in chocolate anyway.

I put them in the oven at 350 degrees for 4 minutes. The results were far from ideal.

The marshmallows puffed up way too much and poured over the sides. The chocolate slide right off – it was a disaster.  So I decided to cut down the amount of marshmallow I used for each pretzel and use the microwave. I used a quarter of each jumbo marshmallow and microwaved them for about 15 seconds on medium power. Once I took them out of the microwave, I placed another pretzel on top of each one.

This time the marshmallows didn't puff up too much. However, the chocolate didn't melt enough, making it difficult to place the second pretzel on top.

The next and final step is to dip the pretzel s’mores in chocolate. While I was melting the chocolate for dipping, I stuck the pretzel s’mores in the freezer to harden up for a few minutes. I dipped half the pretzels in milk chocolate and half in dark chocolate.

I threw some Valentine’s sprinkles on some just to make them festive.

Once the chocolate is hardened, you are all set to enjoy!

I was bringing these to a friend’s house so I threw them in a Valentine's Day tin I picked up at CVS.

Isn't this tin cute? I was surprised they sell this stuff in CVS.

The Verdict: I wasn't too impressed. The marshmallow/pretzel/chocolate ratio just wasn't working. It was difficult to balance the chocolate bars on top of the marshmallow before heating them up. Also, the marshmallow didn't taste that great coming out of the microwave. It doesn't have that same great campfire taste. All in all, they were a lot more work then I expected for not great results. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I definitely ate a bunch (can’t let them go to waste after all!) but I probably won’t be making these again. Christi’s looked great though, I was probably doing something wrong (as per usual ha).

Things to Note/Consider: One big mistake I made was not putting wax paper down on the plate I used to microwave the marshmallows on. They were very difficult to remove from the plate when I was ready to dip them. If I was ever to make these again, I would maybe try using marshmallow creme or fluff instead of actual marshmallows or perhaps try them in the oven again but on the broil setting.

Like s'mores? Check out the S'more Cups Grace tried a few months ago.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Years Confetti Clock Cookies

Well so far, so good with the resolutions! I got my elliptical over the weekend and started using it. And today was day one of eating healthier. I’m even keeping a resolution by writing this post!

Anyway, a few days before New Year’s I tried my hand at these confetti cookies.
So I gathered my supplies:

I don’t really like sugar cookies that much –whether home made or from a mix. So I figured I might as well take a short cut and use the Betty Crocker mix.

I whipped up the dough and using a drinking glass, I cut it into circles. Then using a smaller glass I cut the center out of every third cookie.

Once the cookies were baked, I started to layer them up using icing. In the middle layer I poured the sprinkles in.

Then it was time to work on the top. I used the red gel to outline. Then I used the icing to fill it in. (Unfortunately the store didn't have any white icing).

I had to let the icing dry overnight before I could write on it with the food dye marker.

The next morning I drew on the numbers and clock arms. This was the first time I’ve used a food dye marker. It was pretty difficult to write neatly. But I still think they are pretty cute.

However, I went to try one of these cookies before my friends came over on New Year's Eve and they were hard as rock! Almost broke a tooth. I guess I didn’t cover them properly? In any case, I didn’t end up serving them. What a waste!

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