Archive | August 2013

When in doubt…

Today marks exactly one week that I’ve been home, and one week sure brings about a world of difference. From home, to school, to work, it’s all fresh and new again.  Trust me, I LOVE being home and can say for certain that American soil never felt so good. However, I won’t lie…moving back was emotionally,  physically, and mentally draining.

Did I do the right thing?

Make the right choice?

Choose the right path?

Only time will tell….so when in doubt, I’m:

Laughing
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Crying
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Remembering
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Smiling
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Praying
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Hugging

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Leaning on family and friends
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Exercising
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Baking
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Indulging (i.e. eating ice-cream / drinking copious amounts of iced coffee)
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…and remembering everything happens for a reason

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How do you deal with doubts?
I do all the things I love above, try to think positive, and eat WAY more ice-cream than necessary : –)

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This week, In a nutshell

This week, in a nutshell, I’ve been quite an emotional basket-case. It’s my last few days here, which means it’s crunch-time. Time to cancel contracts (gym, phone, etc.), deal with the last of my university withdrawal paperwork, order books for classes back home, and above all else, say goodbyes. UGH, I dread goodbyes. Oh and I should probably start packing too, but I despise packing. Clearly this means I’ll likely be doing this right up until the morning I leave #likemotherlikedaughter  (kidding, kind-of…haha love you, Mom!)

Anyway, in other news this week:
-I’ve had quite possibly the sorest throat of my life (maybe this is my body’s way of telling me it doesn’t want to leave Australia?) Either way, it’s been fun to soothe it with pretty coffees, tea, and  and lots of gelato and fro-yo:
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Sue and I on a cappuccino date : –)

-I’ve had to say goodbye to some of my closest girlfriends here:
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Love you girls! Please come visit in the U.S.A.!!!

(Side-note: I wore my new high-low dress, and although I was a bit scared to buy this and not-so-sure about this trend, I’m loving it! #tjmaxx4life)
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-I’ve drank my favorite sparkling wine every night with Sue to celebrate/mourn the last of vacation and this beautiful place:
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-I’ve taken advantage of outdoor workouts and walks daily, to soak up this view as much as possible:
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-I’ve done a lot of cooking because I’m really going to miss this kitchen and the view:
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-I may not have started packing…but I did find the perfect suitcase:

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hehehe thanks to Brandon’s Dad for posing. Look how big that thing is!

-Any other last-minute packers like me out there?
-Do you have a high-low dress/what do you think of this trend?
-What’s your week been like in a nutshell?

Easy Low-Sugar Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bites

The baking bug officially hit me this week and I  honestly couldn’t be happier about it.  It’s been so fun to find new recipes and experiment/adapt them to sugar-free and lower-sugar treats;  it’s becoming a new hobby of mine! So far, I’d say they’ve all been pretty successful, and these oatmeal raisin cookie bites were no exception. I stumbled upon these Cinnamon and Raisin Granola Cookies via Pinterest and was immediately intrigued.  Jennifer makes some great looking healthy recipes!

Anyway, since I’m a big oatmeal lover and an even bigger oatmeal-cookie lover, I  was excited to experiment with these, yet somewhat skeptical of how they would turn out due to the lack of butter and brown sugar in the recipe. An oatmeal cookie without brown sugar? Neverrr …or so I thought. I was proven wrong once I tasted the dough. These are chewy, full of raisins, and have just the right amount of natural sweetness. The only change I made was adding a half-tablespoon of protein powder in place of a tablespoon of maple syrup, since I thought this would bind the dough together a bit more. It worked! I’m calling these ‘bites’ because they’re a bit smaller than a traditional cookie, at least for my standards.
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The portion-size of the cookies can be whatever you want—I used an ice-cream scoop to spoon-out the dough for mine and simply flattened each slightly with a spoon before popping them in the oven. Remember, whatever portion you spoon-out for the dough will be the size of  each cookie, since they don’t spread.  I loved that these were easy to make and portable enough to eat pretty much anywhere, and you can enjoy a few without any guilt at all! I enjoyed mine with a side of vanilla ice-cream, but that’s an optional (excellent) addition.
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Low-Sugar Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bites
Adapted from this Peanut Butter and Peppers Recipe
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Ingredients

  1. 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (I used store brand)
  2. 1 tbsp. maple syrup (sugar free)
  3. 1/2 tbsp. protein powder (I used chocolate by Arbonne)
  4. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  5. 1 cup oats, ground (I used whole oats)
  6. 1/2 cup oats
  7. 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ground
  8. 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  9. 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  10. pinch of salt
  11. 1/3 cup raisins

Instructions

  1. Preheat  the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit  (176 degrees Celsius). Then line your baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Mix well until combined.
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  3. In a blender or food processor (I used a blender), grind one cup of oats  until it is a flour-like consistency (this should take about 30-45 seconds max.)
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  4. Then add the oat-flour, oats, cinnamon, protein powder, baking soda, baking powder and pinch of salt to the bowl; mix until combined.
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  5. Fold in the raisins.
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  6. Scoop the amount of batter you’d like for each cookie bite into cookie-form and place on the cookie sheet, about an inch or two apart from one another. (I flattened each with the back of a spoon, so they weren’t so round). Then bake them for about 8-10 minutes or until bottom is lightly golden.
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We all loved these. Next time, I’m doubling the batch!
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Thanks again Jennifer for the recipe idea!

I’m off to enjoy the sunshine today, with the help of my new floppy hat.
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Another first for me, thanks to Sue! She insisted on getting it for me yesterday, and I’m already  obsessed with it! I just love the hat trend in Australia. Is it just me, or do big hats scream “royal”?! 
It might just be me…oh well, I love it!

Happy almost-weekend!

No-Bake Pretzel & Peanut butter fudge bars…OMG

I have to admit, I haven’t baked much since moving to Australia. I didn’t plan on this at all, especially since it is one of my favorite hobbies (second to shopping, of course). However, I attribute my lack of baking mostly to the fact that it is just so darn expensive to buy ingredients here. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that having a tray of desserts readily available for a household of two people is VERY dangerous. The mortifying realization of ‘where did all the cookie bars go? Oh wait…we live alone, I ate them’ has happened to me too many times to count. So when we have guests, I find it to be the perfect time to bake.
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Brandon’s Dad is a diabetic, so I was on the search of a low-sugar dessert that we could all enjoy. Did you think this was going to be a low-sugar recipe based on the title of this post? Probably not, but it really is! I found this recipe on Pinterest, and after I read the words ‘Peanut Butter Fudge Caramel Pretzel Candy Bars’ and saw the pictures, I figured it would likely be a winner. Pretzels, peanut butter, and fudge in one low-sugar recipe? SOLD. This recipe looks and sounds fantastic as-is, but I can say that adapting it to fit the ingredients I had on-hand proved to be pretty successful, too! I substituted chocolate protein powder for the vanilla, left out the butter extract, and opted to leave out the caramel swirl in favor of a sprinkle of sea salt on the top instead. Other than that, I followed the original closely.

I found these to be the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Oats & Pretzels on the bottom with peanut butter and chocolate on the top made each bite extra-special. Plus, these fulfilled my constant sweet and salty craving too, which seems to be a constant of mine this year. Seriously, a bag of pretzel m&m’s stand no chance around me. But these are WAY more fun to eat than pretzel m&m’s.
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  Obsessed, obsessed, obsessed. Make these as soon as possible!

No-Bake Low-Sugar Pretzel & Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
Adapted from Natural Sweet Recipes

Ingredients:

For the Pretzel Crust Base:
1 Cup Pretzels
1/2 Cup Oats (I used whole oats)
1/4 Cup Coconut Sugar
2 Tablespoons Chocolate Protein Powder (Or vanilla)
1/2 Cup Butter (very softened)

For the Peanut Butter Fudge Layer:
1 Cup Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
1 cup Sugar Free Chocolate (or any chocolate)
1/3 Cup Coconut Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder

For the Topping:
3-6 Tablespoons Crushed Pretzels (depending on how much pretzel topping you want)
Sea Salt

Directions:
1) Line a 8 by 8 baking dish with parchment paper or spray it well with canola oil cooking spray.
2) In a food processor or blender, blend the oats until they become a flour-like consistency. Add in the pretzels and pulse them together until fine. (I used a blender and it worked great!)
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3) In a mixing bowl, combine the oat flour, pretzels, coconut sugar and protein powder. Add the soft butter and mix to combine well. The dough should be moist, but not too sticky. (If it seems too sticky, add a little more protein powder and mix well.) Transfer the dough to your prepared pan and press firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place this in the freezer while you make the fudge, for about 10 minutes.
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4) In a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate and coconut sugar. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or until all the chocolate and coconut is melted and combined. (Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn!)
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5) While the chocolate is warm combine I with the peanut butter. Allow the mixture to cool slightly for a minute or two and then add the vanilla and cocoa. Mix well. (Warning: this smell is intoxicatingly-good!)
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6) Pour the warm fudge mixture over the chilled base and return it to the freezer to chill for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, crush up the pretzels. (I crushed mine up in a zip-loc bag!)  Sprinkle the pretzel mixture over the fudge layer, then add sea salt if desired. Return it to the freezer for about one hour. Then transfer them to the fridge, cut, and serve.
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The natural sweetness of these bars is shockingly delicious. Although this was my first baking experience with coconut sugar,  I’ll be using it again and again. I made these yesterday, and they are nearly gone today. A good sign? I think so!

Focusing on the firsts

Happy weekend, all! Can you believe it’s August? I for one sure can’t. But so far, I’m loving August, and especially loving our special visitors:
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They’ve only been here a few days, but we’re loving every second. It’s going to be a fun two weeks : –)

Anyway, I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comments on my last post. It was difficult for me to write and express what I was feeling, and I truly appreciate the heartfelt words.

After writing that post, I got to thinking and I must admit I was getting sad, too.  August is going to be full of ‘first and last’ experiences for me in Australia. What I mean by ‘firsts and lasts’ is: ‘first trip here, last meal there, last dinner here’, etc.  I realize it’s a pretty depressing way of thinking, so I know I need to change that. Instead of getting sad over this, I’m making it a goal of mine to embrace each and every experience I have left in my two weeks here and focus on the ‘firsts’, instead of the ‘lasts’. This week’s firsts included:

My first rugby games (Go Cowboys!):
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First meat pie (it was actually roasted vegetable, but it was deeeelicious!):
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First official ‘winter porridge’ in Australia:
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First run in my new sneakers (I am loving these Nike Free’s!):
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First trip with B’s parents to Hervey’s Range:
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First fancy coffee’s with Sue at Jam Corner (flat whites and cappuccinos, yes please):
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First attempt (and a successful one, at that!) cooking potatoes on pizza:
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First time wearing my ‘Boston Strong’ tee (love you Michelle!):

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First attempt cooking Cauliflower Rice (my new favorite side dish, I think!)
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First hat shopping experience in Australia:

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First time wearing my starfish scarf (I seriously have an accessory problem addiction):
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(Sidenote: I am REALLY going to miss wearing t-shirts in the winter!!)

Well, I’m off to enjoy this beautiful Sunday. Have a special rest of your weekend!

Did you have any ‘firsts’ this week?