Challenge Accepted & Surpassed! 7-Day Sugar Detox

I am always up for a good challenge, but giving up some of my favorite foods is not a challenge on the top of my list. HOWEVER, when my co-worker mentioned trying this 7-Day Sugar Detox. I figured why not give it a try and take the chance to learn more about the type of food I am putting in my body?

Before I even started this detox, I enjoyed reading through this blog and realizing that what I was already eating was pretty dang good, minimal sugar in my meals, greater sugar in my SNACKS. n her blog post, Rachael includes a shopping list that I found SUPER helpful in starting my prep.

Here are a few of my key take-aways:

Sugar is hiding in EVERYTHING

I would say I typically buy food that I generally think is on the healthier side. I try to shop mostly in the outside circle of the grocery store rather than going through the lanes into the pre-packaged foods. However, I do have a stocked pantry of what I thought was not “too bad.” The food in my pantry is not terrible by any means, but never, before 10 days ago had I looked at the cans and realized that there was so much sugar in EVERYTHING. This was a great learning experience to just pause and look, to be more aware essentially of all the items I cook with.

Items I was surprised by… Cheese – no sugar in the cheeses I normally buy! I thought that was a miracle. But when you cut out sugars, it was nice to have a pop of cheese to add a bit of flavor.

Meal Planning

Bryan and I typically do our grocery shopping on Sundays after planning out what we are eating for the entire week. In our home, I like to cook larger meals that can last us several days (one of our most favorites is this baked BBQ chicken) but unfortunately, I realized that several of my bigger recipes and sauces… contain sugar.

So luckily my patient husband gave me the opportunity to try this detox and we agreed to the following menu:

  • Sunday: New York Steak over a Lemon-Arugula-Avocado Salad with Olive Oil Sauteed Zucchini Noodles
  • Monday: Taco Salad with Avocado, Tomato and Taco-Seasoned Ground Turkey
  • Tuesday: Bun-less Sirloin Cheese Burgers with Grilled Zucchini and Spinach Salad with homemade Dressing
  • Wednesday: Baked Cilantro-Lime Chicken with Cumin-Chili Sautéed Zucchini
  • Thursday: Bun-less Sirloin Cheese Burgers with Grilled Asparagus and Spinach Salad with homemade Dressing
  • Friday: Olive Oil, S&P marinated Tri Tip, with oven roasted Brussel Sprouts & a Fresh Garden Salad
  • Saturday: New York Steak with butter & garlic steamed/sautéed Greenbeans
  • Sunday-Tuesday: Oven-Baked Fajitas (without the sugar in the seasoning) with a chilled Jalapeno & Red Onion Cucumber salad
  • Wednesday: Grilled Cilantro-Lime Chicken with Cumin-Chili Sautéed Zucchini (Would definitely go with grilled vs. baked on this one)

Breakfast: Veggie egg bake (eggs, red bell pepper, zucchini, spinach)

Lunch: Several varieties of SALAD with homemade dressing

Part of me really loved shopping for all of this food and I felt EXTRA healthy when I popped it onto the check-out belt. During this “detox” I ate TONS of greens and some really good protein. I am now more encouraged to shop that outside ring of the grocery store because it just feels so good to check-out!

Fruits

On the detox you are able to consume natural sugars, but obviously you are not supposed to over eat them. You are mainly looking out for “added sugars” versus naturally occurring sugars. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, apples are what I put stocked in the fridge. I found these to be more of my “dessert” items at night when I was having that end of day sugar craving – I’d say a healthy switch up!

I wanted to eat lots and lots of watermelon, but after doing some Googling, I learned that watermelon is on the “high” side of the glycemic index, so I wasn’t able to eat the juicy & delicious watermelon in the fridge… Luckily the hubs was totally happy to do so.

Snacks

When I was prepping, I was really trying to find items I could grab as a little snack (besides fruit) that would be quick and easy. Not hard to believe… LOTS of snacks have sugar. I was able to find a few good snack items without sugar at Trader Joe’s. I also focused on trying not to snack, another habit that I do mindlessly when I am truly not hungry… could that be the effect of sugar calling my name? I also bought a mixture of nuts that I could quickly eat when I just felt the need to eat something. But I would like to think I did a nice job of not being a snack addict for those 10 days.

I was lucky to start off with a pretty good diet, so I did not experience any major side effects of cutting sugar. I definitely also upped my water consumption to help me not feel as hungry so frequently.

So……..

Most of all, I think this was a great learning experience – teaching me take a step back to examine what I thought was “pretty” healthy and making a few tweaks to make it even better. I also learned that my hubs is such a sport because he was also totally willing to try, even when he had to eat a lettuce-wrap chicken salad “sandwich” for lunch. He is always willing to try, but I didn’t make him cut EVERYTHING…. He ate a few pieces of bread and I was thankful just to smell that bread aroma 🙂

Something I absolutely got out of this was that I can, in fact, easily make my own salad dressing with what is just in my pantry

Homemade Vinaigrette Salad Dressing:

¼ cup EVOO

1/8 cup red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all into a mason jar and shake vigorously before pouring over salad.

The best parts of “ending” this detox…lunch date with my hubby at one of my most favorite lunch spots!

Let me know if you try the detox – I highly recommend giving this a try just to learn more about what you are eating and how you can slightly modify what you are already eating to cut out some unnecessary sugar.

Considering the topics of my blog post generally include something that might have sugar… never would I ever suggest that you cut out all sugar… I know I cant live without some of my sweet goodies!

Wedding Planning: Involving Others in Your Day

On our wedding day, we really wanted everyone to feel like our day reflected us and our story. Bryan and I met many years ago (literally 14 years ago) but we reconnected and started our adventure right after we got out of college. Most of our love story happened to unfold at a beautiful Ranch in the middle of California. We wanted to bring everyone into that piece of our love story by having an outdoor wedding that felt like they had stepped into our world.

It was also very important to us to bring people into our wedding day who had been a part of our story and a big part of our lives. We were excited to take the opportunity to both honor and acknowledge the family and friends who were a piece of our puzzle.

Touches throughout the day

My cousin Nikki is extremely creative, and when we became engaged she asked me how she could help. I was absolutely thrilled to include her special touch on our wedding programs, dessert table signs and bar signs (we won’t specifically say which was more important of those three). It was fun to work with Nikki on these projects and seeing her touch sprinkled throughout our day – I know our Grandma would have been so happy to see that collaboration.

Wedding Ceremony

During our ceremony, we wanted to acknowledge a few different things by including our family and dear friends.

To start, I am SUPER lucky because my cousin, Mark, plays the guitar and was gracious enough to play while we entered the ceremony. I loved the sound of the acoustic guitar while I walked down the aisle.

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Bryan & I were married by my mother-in-law’s dear friend, Robin. It was so special to have her marry us and to honor Bryan’s mom by asking her friend to perform the ceremony.

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During the ceremony we asked two people to read a passage. The first is my long, long time family friend, Bruce, who I have known since I was two and is still very involved in my life. The second is the father of the Best Man & another Groomsman, as well as the owner of the ranch that I often talk about. The Ranch, as you can tell, will always be one of my favorite places and I will also be grateful to Chris and his family for allowing us to begin our love story at this special place.

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Dessert Bar

Although asking the Mothers of the Bride & Groom to contribute and make something for our wedding day may seem cruel, we wanted to involve them in a “sweet” way and to also show off their mad baking skills. Bryan and I absolutely LOVE two sweet treats: my Mom’s Toffee & my Mother-in-Law’s Chocolate Chip cookies. So we figured could there be a better way than to share their sweet goodies!?

Here is a shot of my mom’s famous toffee along with the cute sign from my cousin:

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I still don’t feel bad for asking for their help, it was so fun to have their touch!

I also asked one of my mom’s close friends to bake us these beautiful shortbread cookies. And she is actually selling these cookies now at on her website, Momma May’s Signature Shortbread. These are so buttery they practically melt in your mouth when you eat them.

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Momma May’s Shortbread

I will talk about some of the other sweets you are seeing in my blogs to come!

A good friend also made us customized blankets for the chance of a temperature drop.

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And another friend created this beautiful sign to stand at the entrance of the barn.

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I must also confess, we did get married on my Father-in-Law’s birthday, so we had special cupcakes made for him. But…. In the crazy of the evening, we forgot to sing happy birthday and have him blow out the candles (but it is the thought that counts, right!?).

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Happy Birthday, Mike!

There are so many things at our wedding that I think back and smile on. You can see more of our day and lots of these little touches in our wedding video by Barrel 9 Media.

I am forever grateful for everyone who pitched in and made our day a one-of-a-kind event. We are so blessed to be loved by such an amazing group of people to support us.

Easy Baking: Jalapeño-Cheese Beer Bread

As I recently alluded to in a previous post, I have been working on perfecting my very first bread. Fortunately, I have been able to test drive the same “base recipe with a few tweaks (and a few times) and I have arrived at something that is absolutely DELICIOUS, Jalapeño-Cheese Budlight Beer Bread.

Although some of you may think it is odd to go with Budlight… I married a HUGE Budlight fan. Yes, weird I know. It is particularly odd when there are so many options of beer these days… but he is a simple man and he loves himself an ice cold Budlight, any day & any time. And since we are always stocked here at our house…it made it easy to jump into testing this recipe.

AND NOT ONLY did I include Budlight, but I included two of the Hub’s other FAVORITES: Jalapeño & Cheese. Just sayin’…I think I’ve got this wife thing down!

Jalapeño-Cheese Beer Bread

3 cups self-rising flour

(FYI – self-rising flour contains baking powder & salt, hence why you don’t have to add those to the recipe)

3 Tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup cheese (I used a Colby & Monterey Jack mix, pepper jack would probably be AMAZING)

3 Tablespoons diced deli-style, tamed Jalapeño

1 12 oz. beer (Budlight preferred in this home)

3 Tablespoons water

4 Tablespoons butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 375*
  2. In a bowl, combine the self-rising flour, sugar, jalapeño & cheese. Mix together to combine.
  3. Then, slowly pour your beer into the mixture, stirring often. I usually do four pours at about a quarter of the beer at a time so that I can spread the wealth of the beer into the bowl. Once the full beer is poured, mix to combine evenly (but be careful to not over-mix).IMG_5722
  4. Once ALL combined, you will notice that there is a bit of flour still in the bowl. I found that when I added the water (one at a time), the dough came together well. Add water until all the flour is fully incorporated into the dough.IMG_5723
  5. Spray a loaf pan (I use a 8.5 x 4.5 pan) with non-stick spray and then plop the dough into the loaf pan. Try to gently spread the dough so that it is even in the loaf pan.
  6. Melt the butter and then proceed to pour the butter over the dough in the pan, but DO NOT MIX in with the dough. This will leave that beautiful golden crust on the top of the loaf once baked.IMG_5730
  7. Pop into the oven for 45 minutes. When the bread is ready, it will be golden, and a bit crisp/firm.
  8. Allow the bread to COOL before cutting (or it will crumble).IMG_5871

To me, this is a “flexible” recipe. You can add / change whatever you like, but I do caution that you add water to make sure the dough is not dry which will lead it being crumbly once it is baked. I also just totally talked myself into using pepper jack when I mentioned it above…..

The BASE recipe before adding “goodies” is:

3 cups self-rising flour

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 12 oz. beer (Budlight preferred in this home)

4 Tablespoons butter, melted

(THANKS to Tracy who writes one of my very favorite food blogs!)

You can add whatever you’d like from there!

Let me know if you try it & if especially if you mix it up!

Wedding Planning: Where do you even start!?

Although our wedding was already over a year ago, I thought perhaps it might be helpful to pass along some tips, tricks and strategies we learned while planning our big day.

When you are engaged for 14 months you have A LOT of time to plan and strategize how to make your day absolutely perfect. I also do highly recommend ordering this wedding planning binder that The Knot created, it really helped me to remember all of the little things as well as keep me on task and not let me forget the “little things” which were all very “BIG THINGS” to me. When we first began planning, I found it very helpful to focus on the THREE of the biggest details right off the bat.

  1. Venue (picking your venue will help you determine the date based off of their availability)
  2. Catering (caterers can get booked out far in advance, so I wanted to make sure we nailed this down before someone “stole” someone I wanted)
  3. Rentals (Plan this step early to make sure you get exactly what you want – even if it means 20 farm tables)

Deciding on your PERFECT Venue

The husband and I wanted to choose a venue that felt like “us.” Seems like a pretty difficult task, but when a Facebook acquaintance happens to get married at a beautiful farm wayyyyy before you are engaged, trust me and “like” that venue’s page on Facebook so when your time comes, you have an option.

We were married at Jacobs Family Berry Farm which is located in the small Nevada town, Gardnerville. The farm house, the berry farm, and the huge barn were all the perfect setting for our day. The location was also rich in history and had other small buildings on the property including a dairy, a bunkhouse, a Victorian home, an INCREDIBLE historic barn, etc., etc….

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Not only did we love our venue, but our venue also came with an INCREDIBLE wedding planner, Brooke who works out of My Wedding Library in Reno. Part of the contract with the venue was using Brooke as the pre-wedding planning & the day-of-coordinator, which was phenomenal. Brooke new the ins and outs of everything on the farm, which made planning SO easy! Although I did most of the planning with my Mom, I would say that Brooke helped all of our ideas come to life – she was incredible and was there the entire day of our wedding. Dear Brides – please DO hire a DAY OF coordinator so that you can enjoy your day!! And on the day of your wedding, just let it go and remember, it is what it is, you (and maybe your mom) will be the only people who know if something is not just right.

We could not have picked a more perfect place for us – the location reflected our love story and also provided a lot of the “decoration.” We wanted the farm to be the most central piece of our wedding (besides ourselves, ha!) and our decorations that we added, we only wanted to enhance what was provided at the farm. It didn’t hurt that the owners of Jacobs Family Berry Farm are also some of the kindest people – I feel like after all of our planning, they are like family!

Choosing a Delicious Caterer

At first we wanted to go with straight BBQ, but they we sat back and thought about how we wanted the ambiance of the day. This was such a special and nice event, we wanted people to have a lovely sit down meal where they were worried about BBQ sauce splattering on their nice clothes/eating with their hands.

For our wedding, we had Magic Mountain Catering serve our absolutely delicious meal. We checked a few other caterers in the area, but this company is actually a company my family had worked with in the past. Here is a peak at our menu….

Appetizers:

  • Ensalata Caprese bruschetta. Mixed early girl tomatoes layered on grilled sourdough with fresh mozzarella and basil.
  • Spice rubbed Filet of beef tenderloin on roasted garlic crostini with gorgonzola and herb crème fresh.
  • Smoked chipotle, red wine and olive oil marinated Flank steak skewers. Flash grilled and presented with honey, lime and chipotle sauce.

Meat:

  • Alder wood smoked Beef Brisket, dry rubbed and smoked. Thin sliced with our wet green jalapeno and pablano sauce.
  • Seared breast of chicken marsala.

Sides:

  • Farmer’s market grilled baby vegetables.
  • Steamed organic Couscous salad with lemon basil vinaigrette. Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted sweet peppers, green onions, and baby spinach and crumbled goat cheese.
  • Warm bow tie pasta. Farmers market tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, chiffonade of basil, steamed spinach, smoked gouda. And roasted artichokes.

Although scary to eat in a white wedding dress – I didn’t spill once and it was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!!

And of course, I have no pictures of the food because I was… you know, BUSY!

Finding Rentals that compliment your Venue & Theme.

Once you have your venue and date nailed down, the rentals really help you to form what you want your event to look like. When you have a longgggg engagement, you can reserve what you like early so 1) you get what you want 2) you can create an image in your mind of how your day will look right off the bat.

Our goal was to bring a lot of “wood” tones and spring colors enhance the venue rather than cover it up. For the ceremony we went with crisp white folding chairs on the lush green grass under the apple trees. For dinner we went with Farm tables and wooden chairs. We topped the tables with floral antique china to add a splash of color, lace table runners to allow the wood to be front and center and simple silverware with light pink napkins. We topped the plate with the gift for our guests, a jar of jam from the venue which is insanely delicious.

Our goal was to enhance the surroundings by incorporating both a simple design & decor for the day. And… since we book rentals SOOOO early, they had all the farm tables available that we would need!

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Although these were my top 3 items, there were MANY things that followed that were absolutely just as important, you just have to have a moment to step back and tackle your top priorities.

I will be posting a whole lot more about the wedding day, but I figured I better start somewhere!

Simple Grilling: Steak & Arugula

Grilling season is upon us, aka it is WAY TOO HOT to cook inside and nothing will make you want BBQ more than the smell of grills cooking up some yummy dinners during your evening walk!

Although my hubs doesn’t remember eating this meal before, I can’t believe I have NEVER made it for him. Realistically it doesn’t seem possible, and also realistically I can’t depend on his memory recalling those details.

If you are looking for a quick & easy BBQ steak idea, here is a winner…….

New York Steak & Arugula (for two): 

After letting the steak warm to room temperature, prep the New York steak by giving it a GENEROUS sprinkle of salt & pepper on ALL sides of the steak. (I like to envision making a “thin crust” on the steak). Cook on a medium-heat grill to your preferred temperature based off of how “done” you like your steak, we prefer medium-rare (We use this Omaha Steak chart for grilling) .

Into a salad bowl, throw 2-3 handfuls of arugula, a few shakes of salt & pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and squeeze nearly half a lemon over the arugula. Mix together with your hands & taste test.

Once the steak is done, allow it to rest for ~5 minutes before cutting. While you wait for the steak, put a generous pile of the arugula onto your plate (this will also serve as your salad course for the meal). Once the steak is well-rested, cut into thin-ish slices (half an inch?) and lay a few pieces over the arugula. If you LOVE lemon, you can add a fresh squeeze of lemon over the top (also depends on how much lemon you put on the arugula).  After that, go ahead and EAT!

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Super simple, but there is something about the mixture of flavors that is outstanding & refreshing. The arugula as well as the salt & pepper crust give it a bit of spice while the fresh lemon gives it a bit of a pop.

Shopping List: 

New York Strip (large enough for two people), Arugula, Lemon, EVOO, S&P

We love this recipe… judging that we have eaten it twice in the last week, I think this might just become a summer staple!

We also like to cook our veggies in a foil packet on the grill while the meat cooks (again, avoiding cooking anything inside that requires the stove to be turned on). In this picture we have a zucchini sliced into ½ inch slices, coated with olive oil, salt & pepper, a few shakes of Italian Seasoning, and just a bit of sliced Parmesan cheese. YUM. Since the zucchini slices are a bit thick and the zucchini starts off raw, put them on the grill in the foil packet 5 minutes before you put the steak on the grill. Hopefully that will mean everything just happens to be done right at the same exact time!

Oh… and you might wonder what that is in the upper right-hand corner. That is my homemade beer bread. I am currently working on perfecting that when it isn’t “too” hot to bake. Once I perfect it, I will definitely be adding it to the blog!

Enjoy & eat on!!!

Grandma’s Sweet Summer Sundae

It has been a HOT minute since I posted my last blog……. It has also been a HOT few weeks here in Northern Nevada. But what I am about to share is NOT HOT, it is a cool summer treat that is extra tasty when the weather is warm and the fruit is at its peak of deliciousness!

In the not too distance past, my Grandma would make me the most delicious summer sundae when I would visit. It helped that they had a lemon tree in the backyard, but it was most special because it was a sweet treat from my Grandma.

Special shout out to my Grandma, that little cutie in the middle in the blue! 

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With the weather too hot, I wanted to make a scrumptious little dessert for my friends post-happy hour – and baking was not an option (oven + hot weather = boiling inside temperatures). So it was fun to pull this little sundae from the archives in my brain for my girlfriends & hubs who so graciously obliged to taste test, and they HIGHLY APPROVED!

What you’ll need: Your favorite fruits!

What I used to make two small-ish sundaes for me & the hubs:

5 Strawberries (chilled)

1 Apricot (chilled)

2 Tablespoons of your favorite Jam

(Ours just happens to be the most delicious Mixed Berry Jam from Jacobs Family Berry Farm – where we got married!!!)

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Making it is not science, but there is a little trick: Once you spoon out your Jam into a small (separate) bowl, add a bit lemon juice to the jam to make it more “liquid-y.” This will help it to be more like a “syrup” on top of your ice cream.

To assemble your Sundae: Slice strawberries & apricot and divide between the two sundae bowls. Scoop a scoop (or two) of ice cream into the bowl. Drizzle the jam-lemon juice mixture over the ice cream. Devour.

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That IS IT! YUM!!

Other fruit ideas: peaches (Grandma used peaches but they were not ripe at the store), blueberries, raspberries, blackberries…. Whatever your heart desires!

Oh, P.S. here is my cute dog Ellie.

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Oh, and pray for us here in Northern Nevada – I will survive by just eating sundaes 🙂

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Starting off 2018 with FRENCH TOAST!

Hi 2018.

The start of 2018 has come and gone and the year has been off to an interesting start. Fortunately, I expect the rest of the year to be filled with fun and exciting times for Mr. H. and me – including Bryan’s first trip to the South for his cousins wedding is one of the “biggies” I am really looking forward to!

Anywho… in 2018 I am hoping to cook & bake a whole lot more, which in turn I hope turns into more time on my Blog, which makes me extra happy! From our wedding to welcoming our first niece in 2017, I have a long list of blogs in my head I would like to get down, and I will in time.

First off this year…. Leftover Restaurant Bread – you know, the bread in the basket that never seems to get finished. Well, my hope is that this quick French toast recipe with leftover restaurant bread will have you asking for a REFILL of bread before you leave!

Leftover Restaurant Bread, French Toast:

2 eggs

½ cup milk

¼ tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. sugar

2 T. butter

Syrup

Powdered Sugar

Leftover bread slices (I had 6 pieces, but I had enough egg mixture for probably double the bread)

In a bowl big enough to dunk your bread, mix together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar. Once well combined, dunk each side of the bread into mixture; I recommend a slow dunk so there are a few seconds for the mixture to “soak” into the bread. Set bread aside and quickly heat up a pan with butter on med-high heat. Once butter is melted, place the slices into the pan and keep at medium-high heat to help the bread to toast / brown. Once I could hear a good sizzle in the pan, I checked the bread and it was a light brown toasted color, and flipped it over. Then do the same routine on side #2. When side #2 was done, I did few an extra minute on the first side to warm it back up. When it is the perfect color for you, move it over to your plate, and top with syrup & a sprinkle of powdered sugar – YUM!

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Finished Product – YUM!

Ours turned out nice and crispy on the outside, and still soft on the inside – Didn’t think I could pull that off!

I always feel bad about leaving the leftover bread in the basket, but with this recipe in my pocket, I will never have to feel bad again!

Happy 2018 – thanks for joining me on this ride 🙂

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