Monday, February 1, 2016

Healthy Black Bean Fudge

I am a sucker for fudge!  This past summer we went to Bear Lake, Idaho and wandered into an adorable little shop that sold FUDGE.  I bought a sampler so I could try a bunch of flavors and totally bought m&ms for the kids so I didn't have to share fudge with them!  I don't make fudge often at home because I'll eat it all.  ALL OF IT.  

Chocolate is my friend and when I'm eating healthy I totally miss ooey gooey unhealthy chocolate.  This healthy black bean fudge does not taste like amazingly fattening fudge, but it satisfies a chocolate craving when you're on a healthy diet and need to have the "good for you" stuff instead of the "good" stuff.  My husband came into the kitchen when he heard the blender and after I poured the fudge in the pan we ate the rest right out of the blender.  He was like, "Are you sure this isn't against my diet?" and my kids even ate some, so I can say it's a pretty good healthy substitute for fudge. 

-You can add more sugar if you'd like to sweeten it a bit more.  You can omit the 1/4 cup sugar if you want sugar free, but it tastes very dark without it.  The dates sweeten it very slightly, but not enough for my taste buds.

-I make this fudge in my high powered blender (vitamix), but you can make it in a regular blender or food processor.

-Black bean puree can be made in large batches and frozen in smaller portions to use in recipes like this one.

-If you have a vitamix or similar blender you can start with whole almonds and coconut oil to make your own almond butter and then add the other fudge ingredients into the blender once the almond butter is nice and creamy.

Black Bean Fudge

1 1/2 c. black bean puree 
1/2 c. cocoa
1/2 c. almond butter
2 T coconut oil 
1/2 c. pitted dates
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c. sugar
dash of salt

Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Pour into a loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Refrigerate until set.  Cut into slices.  Freezes well.  Store in the fridge.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Because we're fat...

"Because we're fat?" has become a joke between my husband and I.  Every time one of us wants to do something, anything from getting a milkshake to going on a cruise, and the other person says no, we respond with "Because we're fat?".  It cracks both of us up, but in reality the fatter you get, the less you can do.  My husband especially struggles with weight issues due to the medications he's on.  They make him gain 100+ pounds every single time he's on them and it's a fight just to keep the scale from climbing.

I decided to try a "transition diet" to ease us into healthy eating this time around.  Every time I go gung-ho into healthy eating I CRAVE EVERYTHING.  Going cold turkey off the foods I love just doesn't work for me long term, but this transition diet has been amazing!  No cravings and I started to lose weight almost immediately.  I adapted it from a Beach Body diet I saw online and it's been working fabulously for us.

I printed out each week's plan and I post them in our kitchen so we can see what the focus is for the week.  The first couple of weeks I had cheats on Tuesdays... just one day after the week started, but by the third week I wasn't even thinking about cheating.  Now cheats just kind of happen naturally, like if I'm at a girls night out or something, I eat what is being served without guilt.  I've been surprised at how well my body has adapted into healthy eating this time around.  I've been asked several times to share what's working for us, so here it is, our six week transition diet:

Week 1: 
-No junk food (chips, fast food, pop, candy bars, etc)!
-Two cheats.
-Drink 90 oz of water a day.

Week 2:
-No white carbs.
-Eat a balanced meal or snack every 2-3 hours.
-No food after 7pm.
-No junk food!
-Two cheats.
-Drink 90 oz of water a day.

Week 3:
-Eat veggies & protein every time you eat.
-Eat a balanced meal or snack every 2-3 hours.
-No food after 7pm.
-No junk food or white carbs.
-One cheat.
-Drink 90 oz of water a day.

Week 4: 
-Avoid restaurant food.
-Eat veggies & protein every time you eat.
-Eat a balanced meal or snack every 2-3 hours.
-No food after 7pm.
-No junk food or white carbs.
-One cheat.
-Drink 90 oz of water a day.

Week 5:
-Eat very little carbs & sugar.
-Avoid restaurant food.
-Eat veggies & protein every time you eat.
-No junk food!
-Eat a balanced meal or snack every 2-3 hours.
-No food after 7pm.
-One cheat.
-Drink 90 oz of water a day.

Week 6 (super hard detox week): 
-Don't eat anything man made!
-Eat whole foods only: veggies, fruits, natural meats, eggs, whole grain rice, nuts & quinoa.
-No butter, cheese, breads, cereal, condiments... nothing!!!
-Eat a balanced meal or snack every 2-3 hours.
-No food after 7pm.
-One cheat.
-Drink 90 oz of water a day.

Weeks 7, 8 and forever on: 
-Eat as healthy as possible using the habits you've built over the last six weeks!
-Allow yourself a cheat now and then without guilt.
-Whole grain carbs, protein, veggies, fruits and water are all your friends!
-Menu plan if at all possible.  It helps you from eating unhealthy foods or going out if you already know what's for dinner.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Breaking Molds

Sometimes the hardest mold to break is the one we put ourselves in.  When we tell ourselves that we aren't good at something, things just don't work out for us, we're too busy or we'll never be more than we are right now, we place ourselves in a little box that we can't escape without conscious effort.  

Placing ourselves into these molds can be very harmful.  It feels nice and safe and cozy in the little mold we've made for ourselves, but there is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone!  

I often hear women play the "someday" game when discussing what they think will bring them happiness...  I'll do more for myself when my kids are older.  I'll be happy when we have a bigger house.  I'll wear cute clothes once I lose weight. I'll be able to do the things I want when we have more money.  I'll travel when I'm retired.  We seem to have this idea in our heads that we are stuck where we are right now and we won't find happiness, peace or satisfaction until some future event occurs.  We may be "stuck" in the fact that our kids are the age that they are, our house is the size it is and our financial situation is what it is, but there ARE things we can do within our situation to become fulfilled and it's up to us to figure out what those things are.  If you can't find happiness in your situation now, you never will. 

You need to climb out of the mold you've put yourself in!  You are your only obstacle when breaking free and finding happiness.  Take a class to learn something new, buy that adorable outfit in your size, make a new friend, develop a skill or talent or start putting money away for a vacation!  Whatever it that you dream of in your hidden little heart of hearts can happen.  We need to let go of the negative mentalities holding us back and create happiness for ourselves right now!  No one can do it for us! 

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life outside being a wife and mother, which of course will always be my top priority.  Over the last couple of years I've developed a fear of failure that has been holding me hostage in a lot of ways.  Finding happiness and satisfaction in my life, as it is, has pushed me to decide it's time for me to break completely free of the safe mold I've created for myself and stretch my wings even further.  Who knows?  I might even fly!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Fried Ravioli

Fried ravioli is one of our favorites!  Even my kids who don't like ravioli cooked the traditional way like them fried.  These make a fun appetizer or we've even had them for dinner with a green salad.  Right now my husband and I are focusing on healthy eating, but I can still dream about fried foods, right?

Fried Ravioli

frozen ravioli

egg, beaten with a tiny amount of water

Italian seasoned breadcrumbs & Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind)


Take your frozen ravioli, dip them first in the egg/water mixture, then in the breadcrumb/cheese mixture.  Fry in hot oil until hot all the way through.  Serve with marinara or spaghetti sauce to dip!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I'm doing the best I can.

Something I've been thinking a lot about over the last couple of weeks is how I put myself down.  I like myself.  I have high self esteem, but I constantly put myself down in the form of generalizations I use to explain why I'm not as good as I think I should be.

Today is Sunday, and all day I've been avoiding doing a big cleanup in my kitchen and putting away my sewing stuff from a project I finished Friday night.  Last night I had good intentions of cleaning both the kitchen and my craft room, but instead, Alyssa asked me to do art collages with her and I sure wasn't going to turn down the opportunity to hang out with one of my kids.  

This afternoon while making lunch I said, "I should clean this kitchen right now, but I'm a horrible homemaker."  Why would I say that?  I could have said, "This kitchen is extra messy because the kids have been home on Christmas break for two weeks, I could have done it last night, but I was being a good mom by spending time with one of my kids.  I want to enjoy my Sunday, so the dishes I did today are good enough and I can do the rest tomorrow." but instead I put myself down.  Just because my kitchen is messy today does not mean I'm a horrible homemaker.  

I also say things like, "My kids don't go to church because I'm a crappy mom." or when I say no to doing something or being charge of something, I'll say, "I'm sorry, but I can't.  I'm really flaky these days."  My kids don't go to church because they have their own agency and they choose not to.  That doesn't mean I'm a crappy mom.  I have taught them what I believe and been an example to them.  That's all I can do.  

I can't be in charge of as much as I used to because I'm a full time caregiver with a lot of appointments and our day to day can be unpredictable.  That doesn't mean I'm flaky.  It means I'm in a different stage of life right now and can't do all that I use to.

As women, we seem to put a lot of unnecessary guilt on ourselves.  Every time our kids rebel we think it's our fault.  Every time our house isn't spotless we think it means we aren't clean enough.  Every time we say no to someone we think we aren't good enough.  WHY DO WE DO THIS?  

We will never have perfect kids, a perfect marriage, a perfect house, be able to help everyone we want to help or do everything we wish we could do.  We. just. can't.   We KNOW we can't do it all.  If we heard a friend putting guilt on themselves or being mean to themselves because of something like this we'd tell them to knock it off!  If we can be forgiving of the "faults" of our friends and neighbors, why can't we be forgiving and understanding of ourselves?

I'm doing the best I can!

Every day, sometimes all day every day, I say to myself, "I'm doing the best I can!"  I say it to my husband.  I say it to my kids.  I say it out loud and I say it in my mind.  It's so easy to get overwhelmed with everything I feel like I'm failing at.   

One thing I'm working on is letting go of the word "fail" in my vocabulary.  Just because I'm not where my brain tells me I should be, doesn't mean I'm failing.  I'm doing good!  My house is reasonably clean and organized, my kids are smart and funny, my marriage is happy, I have great friends and I have a lot of gifts and talents.  The end... not my house is clean, but blah blah blah it's not as clean as it could be.  It's fine!   We as women need to learn to state the facts and leave off the negative buts or becauses at the end.  We owe it to ourselves.  I'm doing awesome and so are you!  

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016, Here I Come!

It's New Year's Eve!  I've been pondering on my goals and my word for 2016 all week.  I've decided my word of the year will be MAGIC!  I want to make magic, witness magic and experience magic in 2016.  It's going to be a magical year!

I feel like there are so many parts of my life I want to improve on this year, but I don't want to set myself up for failure by setting too many lofty goals so I've decided to pick one goal in seven different areas of my life to work on this year:

Spiritual-  Spiritual comes first on my list because God is number one in my life.  My spiritual goal for 2016 is to attend the temple at least four times during the year.  I love the peace and clarity that comes from temple attendance.  I'd like to say I'm going to attend weekly or even monthly, but realistically I'll be doing good to make it every few months, so that's the plan. 

Physical-  My physical goal is to lose 20 pounds.  I've put on 20 pounds over the last couple of years, on top of already having been overweight, and after some serious concern expressed by my doctor I've decided I need to get serious about getting healthy.  I'm hoping by losing 20 pounds I'll also lower my blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.  My husband is working on losing weight too, so this is something we will be doing together.  Go team!

Intellectual-  My intellectual goal for the year is to possibly start school this fall.  "Possibly" is pretty weak, but although going to school is part of my plan for the year, I have to be open to the possibility that it won't happen due to my husband's health and my taking care of him.  I've been kicking around the idea of going to a two year culinary arts school, but I've also considered doing something more serious, like psychology or public relations, which would allow me to do online school, if necessary.   A big dream of mine is to go to school to learn herbal medicine, but I don't know if the VA's education benefits would cover something like that.  The bottom line is there's a very good chance I'll be starting school this year, but I'm not sure how, where or for what yet!

Emotional-  My emotional goal for 2016 is to finish the book I've been writing.  It's extremely therapeutic to write out my feelings and experiences about my life as a caregiver to a disabled veteran.  My target audience will be other caregivers of veterans with PTSD, psychosis, depression, anxiety, etc.  It's amazing when you spend time with other people dealing with the same challenges you are and see their eyes light up when they realize they are not alone in their trials.  I'm hoping this book can do that as well.  I'm planning for it to be a quick and easy read because caregivers don't usually have a lot of time for themselves.  Getting everything out on paper is a great emotional release for me!

Social-  My social life has truly suffered this past year.  While I've made great connections with other caregivers through support groups, online groups and Wounded Warrior Project activities, my day to day social life has been almost non-existent!  My social goal for the year is to invite friends over to my house at least once a month.  Tea parties, game nights, lunches and potlucks are all in my plan for 2016.  I'm hoping by hosting events once again people will remember I'm here and I will start getting invitations once again for social outings.  I miss my friends!

Financial-   My financial goal for 2016 is to pay off my van and refinance our house into a 15 year mortgage.   My long-term goal it to put the monthly van payment money towards our mortgage to actually pay down the 15 year loan in 12!   How exciting would that be?

Adventure-  It wouldn't be a New Year's resolution list for me without a travel goal!  My goal is once again to visit at least one state I've never been to before!  We're also seriously considering a trip to Costa Rica this summer to visit all the Costa Rican family members I've never met!  That would be an adventure for sure... I don't speak spanish and my family members don't speak english!

What about you?  Have you made any goals for the new year?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Look Back at 2015

Walking into our house for the reveal.
2015 has been a little crazy, to say the least!  One of the most interesting parts of the year was getting a home makeover in November!  I'm not even sure how it all happened, it was such a whirlwind, but one moment we were just living our life and all of a sudden, a few days later, we were emptying out our house and letting volunteer crews have free run of the place.  We did several new interviews about the makeover, including one for NBCs Nightly News with Lester Holt!  Our favorite things that were done to our house were getting a new furnace and windows!  How cool is that?  My kids love their bedroom makeovers and the complete overall of our basement, which is their hangout spot.  I'm still amazed it happened!

Another incredible happening in 2015 was taking TWO trips to New York!  My husband is featured in a documentary called, Thank You for Your Service.  In November we were able to attend the world premiere at NYC Doc, the New York City documentary film festival!  The showing sold out and there was a huge after party as well... Attention and crowds are not things my husband necessarily loves or does well in, but I loved it!  We were able to stay in NYC for six days and attend a couple of shows.  We even popped over to New Jersey for a day just so I could mark it off my list of states we've been to together.  I loved New York, my husband hated it, but love it or hate it, we did it!  I even bought a dress at my favorite vintage-style dress shop for the occasion, which was a huge deal to me!   

Two weeks after our NYC trip we were flown to West Point, New York for another showing of the film, this time on the West Point Academy campus!  The atmosphere was totally different but equally amazing.  West Point was so beautiful.  We stayed at the historic Thayer Hotel and were able to take a tour of the campus.  It was a short trip, but I loved it so much!  I really love all the people associated with the documentary.  It's like having another family.  

I had been to New York City before 20 years ago (boy, I'm getting old!), but this was my first time seeing another part of the state.  Travel has always been a huge dream of mine, so being able to visit new places with my husband was a great part of 2015 for me!  He is such a good sport.  He's really not a fan of all the attention he gets with the movie or spending time away from home in unfamiliar places, but he goes because it's important to me.  I really believe in the message of Thank You for Your Service and what they're trying to do to improve the mental health care system of our armed forces!


In September I attended a Wounded Warrior Project retreat for wives of wounded warriors.  It was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries!  Being a full time caregiver to a disabled vet is something that can be extremely emotionally, physically and mentally draining!  Spending time with other women in similar situations was so amazing and the workshops we participated in were uplifting and positive.  I loved it so much!

In August we were able to attend a Wounded Warrior Project family retreat at the National Ability Center.  There was soaking at the Crater, archery, bike riding, boating and so much more!  We were able to spend four days with other families similar to ours.  I loved seeing my kids step away from electronic devices and participate in activities they wouldn't usually try.  Alyssa is actually amazing at archery!  Who knew?

Nina with her uncle and aunt
2015 brought about some big milestones in our family as well!  Nina graduated both high school and cosmetology school, turned 18 AND moved out of the house!  She's living in Salt Lake City, working two jobs and doing really well!  Having her move out actually improved our relationship a lot too.  

Alyssa got her learner's permit this year and Caleb started 9th grade!  Big milestones for both of them.  It's been a year of growth for all three of my kids.

In just a few years they'll all be out of the house living their own lives!  It's hard to believe that they're all getting so old.

We took several camping trips in 2015.  We visited American Fork Canyon, Hobble Creek Canyon, the Nebo Loop, Yuba Lake and Bear Lake, Idaho!  My husband and I also spent a few days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for my birthday in April.  It's been a great year for getting out and seeing new things!  Our little camper has gotten a lot of use.

In October we attended a huge masquerade ball at the Utah State Capitol building!  Of course, once again my husband was not a fan, but the rest of us had a ball (get it... a ball... haha).  It was a dream come true for me to dress up and attend a ball!

In early 2015 we started on a new treatment plan for my husband with new doctors, new medications and a new counseling center.  It's been a bumpy, but productive road.  I've been able to be a part of several online vet's wives groups, become part of the national VA Caregiver Program, attend a weekly support group for wives at the Vet Center and our family has been able to participate in several Wounded Warrior Project events!  I've seen many incredible changes in my husband this year.  He had a three week hospital stay in the early summer, which was a big turning point and ever since I've made it a huge priority for me to have a great support team consisting of others who are in similar situations.  I've made a lot of new friends this year!

This year we started going to the movies weekly and love seeing movies in the luxury recliner seats on $5 Tuesdays.  We also feed the missionaries lunch every week, which has been a great experience.   I love having missionaries in my home so often!

I've read several books this year and even started writing a non-fiction book of my own.  After Nina moved out I was able to make myself a craft room again and have gotten back into scrapbooking and crafting.  Creating things is a great stress reliever!

We had a garden this summer and I enjoyed canning the foods I grew.   I have also really loved learning about medicinal herbs this year and have made many tinctures and teas and learned how to use them.  

A year ago I swore that 2015 would be the best year ever... Looking back on it, I have to say that it was!  There were a lot of bumps and bruises throughout the year, but overall it's been amazing!  I look forward to 2016 being even better!