Thursday, February 15, 2018

Awesome Life Friday #148 - February New Moon TUSAL

Welcome to Awesome Life Friday!

We're so looking forward to seeing what you've been cooking, creating, growing, decorating, reviewing, giving away, and thinking about this week!

While you're here, leave your posts at the other link up we co-host here - Party in Your PJs!  It starts on Tuesday evenings, and runs through Sunday.  I hope you'll join us there as well!

Today is the February New Moon - and that means several needleworkers share their TUSAL (Totally Useless Stitch-A-Long) container of thread snippets from the work they've done this past month.

Honestly, I've done a bit but not as much as I hoped - we have decided to move in March, and that's kept me too busy for much stitching time.  I'll share what I've been working on in a few days, but here's my ORT jar (that's Old Ratty Threads).  Our dog Sasha lost interest as soon as it was clear there was no bacon hiding in there.

And now the best part of Awesome Life Friday -  the FEATURES!

As February hits the halfway point, I'm starting to long for Spring - while we wait look at all the ways to evoke blooms soon to come!

Savory Flower Bread // Treat n' Trick
"This Savory Flower Bread is soft, tender and tasty.  It was made with a basic sweet bread."

Wedding Mason Jars Made with Cut Felt // The Country Chic Cottage
"You can make your own wedding mason jars in minutes with some cut felt and a little twine.  Okay, maybe you are not planning a wedding but these jars are just too cute to resist for any occasion." 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Lavender Buttercream Frosting // Sparkle Living Blog
"Torani’s Lavender syrup is amazing. The lavender isn’t strong and overwhelming like I had worried. Instead, the flavor is light and delicate. It’s absolutely exquisite. Immediately, I knew that this lavender flavor would pair well with chocolate cake."

Fabric Flower Boutonnieres & Faux Leather Steampunk Label Pins //
Blowing Away Out West
"My challenge this month is to create stylish fabric flower boutonnieres and faux leather steampunk lapel pins using those Pinterest pins as inspiration." 

Garden Guide Planning for 2018 with Printables // Comfort Spring Station
"In most of the country, winter is a “downtime” in the garden. For the next few months, you have time to consider what you want to add or change in your garden."

DIY Mason Jar Sconces // Live Craft Love
"I love mason jars.  Like really, really love all the jars.  So how do I work more DIY mason jar ideas into my decor?  Hang them on the wall with a mason jar wall sconce of course."  

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Thank you all so much for sharing your awesomeness!

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Chocolate on a High Protein Diet? Yes!


When discussing what I wanted to write about this month with one of the RCH editors, we talked about chocolate, and she was surprised when I said I would be happy to share a recipe. "You mean you can eat that while training?!"

Challenge on!!

During my prep for a body building competition, I was eating SUPER lean, no sugar, and high protein. But, that doesn’t mean my sweet tooth went away!

One night, in total desperation, I mixed cocoa powder with Stevia and water in a tiny Tupperware container, the size used to store a serving of dressing for salad.

I placed it in the freezer to solidify, and decided it was just like ice cream…. To my ice cream starved brain, at least - ha!

Then I really started thinking, how can I make this more beneficial: uh, duh, PROTEIN!

You see, me and protein go way back. So, I played around with the liquid, using egg whites in place of water.

Egg whites are a great super bland base that absorbs the flavors of whatever is added to it.

As I played, I got more creative with toppings, too. This is one of my favorite desserts even now, even after the reintroduction of a little bit of ice cream.

Chocolate Protein Mousse with Peanut Butter Topping

4 oz pasteurized egg whites
2 tbs pure cocoa powder
2 tbs sugar-free fat free Chocolate Pudding Mix
2 packets Stevia

Peanut Butter Topping:
2 tbs powdered peanuts (I usually use PB Fit, but used a different brand this time)
2 tbs water
2 packets stevia (or 3 of you want it sweeter!)

For each layer, it's super simple, just combine all ingredients, and mix. I use a small whisk and mix until blended smooth.

Mix the chocolate protein mousse first, then place it in the freezer for the few minutes it takes to mix the peanut butter frosting. Take the mousse out of the freezer and slowly pour the frosting all over to evenly coat and cover the mousse.

Place in the freezer again until cool, about 10 to 15 minutes, and devour!!

18g protein
24 g net  carbs
2 g fat

Side Note:
Again, in the name of experimentation, I have added PB Fit to non-fat plain Greek Yogurt, or just the plain Greek yogurt with a packet of Stevia for a cheesecake-like tang.

I have not yet attempted other concoctions, but I am thinking about how to incorporate Almond extract, and Walden Farms sugar/fat/calorie free caramel or chocolate syrups into this protein packed dessert.

I would love to know if you try this, and how you change it up and personalize it!! Definitely let me know!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Party in Your PJs #195

Happy Tuesday!

Welcome to the Party in Your PJs Link Party, where your posts will be seen on four different blogs each week.

You'll also find the Awesome Life Friday link-up here at RCHReviews, every Thursday evening at 8pm ET so we hope to see you there as well.

What are you up to in this week? I can't wait to see what you've brought to share!

 Meet the Co-Hosts

Nina @ Grandma Ideas 

Lynda @ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos 

Facebook // Pinterest // Twitter // Instagram

Teresa @ Aging Like a Fine Wine

Facebook // Pinterest // Twitter // Instagram

The rules for the group board include:
1. Limit of one pin a day.
2. Just like the party anything goes, but clear wonderful pictures with great descriptions are most successful.
3. Please no Spam ( Spammers will be deleted without warning)
4.  If you pin to the Pinterest Board, please link to the Party in Your PJs Party also, the party runs from 7 pm Tuesdays-Midnight Saturday (Central Time)
5.  Finally have fun and share this group board  with blog friends and followers!  The more success the group board is the more success you will see from your pins.

Lynda's Features!

 Make sure you head over to the other members of Party in Your PJs
 to see their features - we each pick our own!

All links are pinned to a Party can follow the board on Pinterest...feel free to follow the board, there is lots of inspiratioPn to be found there.

Ok...let's party!

Rules -Link to post, not your home page
-Link to something YOU made, wrote or thought
-No Etsy or Business Pages
-Link Parties, Roundups and Giveaways welcome
- Don't Link and Run! Please visit other links, make friends, learn something new, leave a comment.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Blue Owl Preserves (Discount Code)


After a month of no sugar at all while on Whole30, I was really looking forward to breaking my sugar fast without diving back into overly sweetened, highly processed junk.  My biggest anticipation was to (finally!) break into an adorable sampler set of handmade preserves I'd received for review  from Blue Owl Preserves.

I love homemade jams and preserves - especially when, like Blue Owl, they are made so that the flavors shine through rather than simply tasting like, well, sugar!  These are listed as low-sugar (cane sugar - no artificial substitutes), and each of the four I tried are sweet enough while letting the fruit flavors take center stage.

I was able to try a sampler of four 1.25 oz varieties (Strawberry, Apricot, Mango-Lime and Blueberry Rhubarb), which came stacked in a cute clear tube.

To take advantage of these jams, I made some grain-free muffins (they use coconut and almond flour), and my husband and I enjoyed them as a treat-filled brunch along with eggs and bacon. 

As a side note - this is the fun part of having a sampler set to play with - some muffins, or crepes, or even toast are made special-occasion because everyone can have a little bit of everything.

Strawberry and Apricot are my two favorite single-note jams, and these lived up to all the expectations my sugar-free month had built up, tasting like the fruit they're made of.   These are jams rather than preserves, so while there were some texture from the fruits, for the most part these are nice, thick spreads.

The Apricot, in particular, was a lovely burst of bright flavor I really enjoyed!  It would be excellent as a glaze for chicken or pork, and I regret that I didn't hold some aside to try. (So, I'm glad that Blue Owl Preserves sells 8 oz. sizes as well!)

The real star for me was the Mango-Lime - it is bright and bursting with flavor, and is another one that would be wonderful as a sweet note for a savory dish.  I'm thinking how amazing this would be with a good seared salmon filet!

I practiced a little discipline with the Blueberry Rhubarb, because I wanted to use at least one of these as a part of a meal instead of simply enjoying them as a spread - I'll be sharing a recipe with you in a couple weeks, but I really do want to encourage you to consider the wide array of uses there are for high quality jams like these, apart from the most obvious choice.

Here are just a few ideas:

- stir into plain yogurt as a 'make your own' fruit at the bottom treat
- use to top pancakes and waffles, either alone or spread with a bit of nut butter instead of syrup
- crepes filling, with or without some whipped cream cheese.
- as a topping for a bowl of oatmeal
- as the jam part of thumbprint cookies
- as part of a fruity vinaigrette
- as a glaze for chicken, fish or pork
- as a glaze for roasted root vegetables
- ??? Use your imagination!

Meanwhile, they made a delicious treat for the two of us - biscuits or muffins and tea or coffee shared with the ones you love is no small thing., and Blue Owl Preserves were the perfect way to have this moment.

In addition to the varieties we tried, Blue Owl Preserves full line includes several varieties:  Apple Butter, Apricot, Peach, and Strawberry as single-fruit jams, and Blackberry Nectarine, Blueberry Rhubarb, Mango Lime, Mixed Berry, Peach Habanero, and Spiced Pear - Cranberry as blended fruit jams.

If, like me, you find yourself wanting to try them all, there are also a few sample four-packs to select from.  These vary from time to time but currently available are these:

The Berries Sampler Set that includes four 1.25oz jars (Strawberry, Mixed Berry, Spiced Pear - Cranberry, and Blueberry Rhubarb).

For a limited time, you can even choose from among a few personalized Valentine's Day labels. This set is on sale for $12 and order soon because Valentine's Day is almost here!

The other currently available sampler sets, available for $13.00 each are:

Classic Sampler Set - four 1.25oz jars (strawberry, mixed berry, peach and apricot)

Colorado Sampler Set - four 1.25 oz jars of jams that highlight the fruits of Colorado (peach, blueberry rhubarb, spiced pear cranberry and blackberry nectarine).

Blue Owl Preserves is offering our readers a a discount, useable between now and  - if you purchase 3 Sampler Sets between  now and May 15, 2018, you'll get a %10 discount off your order, a $3.90 savings.

Use the discount code RCH at checkout to get your savings!

These little samplers would not only make fun and unique Valentine's Day gifts, but they'd be a great tuck in to an Easter Basket or as part of a Mother's Day gift basket!

I hope you'll check out Blue Owl Preserves, soon - and if you're in Colorado you'll find them at several local area shops and markets. I love supporting small businesses, and Blue Owl is a great example of why - the love and attention put into each product is so clear.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Awesome Life Friday #147

Welcome to Awesome Life Friday!

We're so looking forward to seeing what you've been cooking, creating, growing, decorating, reviewing, giving away, and thinking about this week!

While you're here, leave your posts at the other link up we co-host here - Party in Your PJs!  It starts on Tuesday evenings, and runs through Sunday.  I hope you'll join us there as well!

My favorite part of this link up party is the FEATURES!  

"Some of my best childhood memories were getting creative with the most random materials and making “gifts” for my grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, cousins and friends! These You Rock Valentine rocks are a fun project the kids will LOVE to gift!"

Family Traditions For Valentines Day // Paradise Praises
"If you don't have a habit of doing something special on Valentines Day, I would encourage you to start, if for no other reason, than it's reason enough to make a little extra effort to make the important people in your life feel special and loved, and it doesn't have to be expensive gifts either."

Triple Wreath Heart Decor // Mandatory Mooch
"It took me a while to decide this time what to do with these wreaths and wooden hearts.  After painting and a lot of strategy, I came up with this festive addition to my home decor."

"...this Valentine’s Day, take some time to tell those special people – be it your partner, your kids, friends, or other family members – just how happy you are to have them in your life."

Glitter Heart Valentine Banner with Blank Tickets // Duct Tape & Denim
"Today I’m sharing a Valentine banner that I made by adding glittery hearts to the tickets.  It’s a super quick and easy Valentine’s Day craft."

Valentine's Day Monkey Bread // Home Cooking Memories
"This Mini Heart-Shaped Valentine’s Day Monkey Bread Recipe is a special treat for breakfast or dessert on Valentine’s Day, for anniversaries, or anytime you want to say “I Love You”."

If you are one of our FEATURED bloggers, this button is for you!

Thank you all so much for sharing your awesomeness!

Are you all ready to party?  If you like, we'd love it you'd help spread the word by grabbing our button:

Here we go!

Carne Asada Fries #improvcookingchallenge


This month, I decided to join in the fun and participate in the Improve Cooking Challenge, a monthly collaboration in which bloggers cook a dish that combines a couple of foods - this month's theme is Steak and Potatoes! I mean really? These are staples in my household. We have some sort of steak at least every other week and almost always have potatoes to go with it.

For me, steak can be cooked and enjoyed so many ways. There are so many cuts of steak that the possibility are really endless! My choice was easily made by my family's favorite food genre, Mexican style!

I decided to go with homemade Carne Asada Fries! Carne Asada is a seasoned Flap Steak (also sometimes called Sirloin Tips, and generally a thin cut of meat) that is generally used as either a main dish with sides or used in burritos. I'm sure you have all heard of a Carne Asada Burrito!

Where we live in Southern California, we are super close to Mexico and are blessed with being able to eat as close as it gets to authentic Mexican food.

Carne Asada fries originated in San Diego (where I am from and live).

It comes with a plate of fries topped with beans, steak, guacamole, cheese and sour cream. Doesn't that sound amazing? Ugh, I am starving as I write this!!

Generally, you see Super Nachos or Carne Asada Nachos on a menu, but most restaurants have only recently added the fry option to their menus. It is a highly popular item and full of goodness!

I would say 98% of the time that my family goes to order Mexican Food either in a restaurant or a drive thru, my husband gets these fries!

It is almost a guarantee that this is what he wants. So with that in mind, why not try my hand at making them at home for him?

I went to my local grocery store, Stater Bros., and went to the meat counter, selecting 1lb of pre-seasoned Carne Asada.

You can find this usually in Citrus flavor as well as Rancheros. I always opt for the Rancheros flavor. It has more heat than the Citrus one.  If you don't live where State Bros. is, a fast Google of  'Carne Asada Marinade' will give you plenty of options - just add a day to your preparation to give the meat time to marinate.

The amazing thing about these Carne Asade Fries is that you can add whatever you want to them to top them how you like. I chose to make mine simple and to the point!

As you're planning to do this, don't forget to give yourself a few hours to let the potatoes soak and to allow for drying times along the way - this is going to give you restaurant perfect French Fry perfection!

Carne Asada Fries
serves 4-6

1 lb. flap steak, marinated in Carne Asada marinade

Homemade French Fries
5 large Russet Potatoes
Oil for frying
Water salted with 1 tablespoon  salt

Toppings, as desired
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheese
Sliced Avocados
Diced Onions
Diced Tomatoes
Canned beans (pintos, kidneys or black beans)

(I would usually top mine with beans, BUT I completely forgot to buy them when I was at the store!)

French Fries Preparation:
Peel potatoes, the cut into french fries. The easiest way I have found to do this is to slice the potato in half, than cut that half into 3 vertical slices, then cutting each slice into sticks. This keeps them from being too thick and it is easier to cut them the same size(ish).  This is important so that they all cook at the same speed.

Add the freshly cut potatoes to a pot of cold salt water and let them soak for 2-3 hours. This removes the starch from them and makes them puff up and gives you that wonderful 'tender inside crispy outside' french fry texture when they're fried.

Once this step is done, remove them from the salted water and let them dry off on a clean dishtowel or a bunch of paper towels. Let them dry for about 30 minutes - you want to make sure that they are dry, or they will pop and not cook properly once added to the oil.

Once dry, heat up oil to about 325F (on my stove, this was the lowest setting of 2 - use an instant read thermometer if necessary to check your temperature).

The point here is to try to cook them before the actual fry. Cook them in the warm oil for about 8 minutes. You want them to still be white on the outside like when you put them into the oil.

Remove and drain them, letting them rest again (30 minutes or so).

This is a good time to put together the toppings and set them aside.  If you don't have an assistant to cook, you may want to do the meat now, too, so the fries are at their fresh, hot best come serving time.

Using the same pot and oil, turn the heat up to about 375 (again on my stove, it was at a 5). This is when you will "fry" them up. Cook until they are crisp to your liking.

Once you remove to drain them, that you make sure to give them a quick shake of salt while they are still drying. This will make sure that they hold the salt onto them and have a little flavor!

To cook the Steak:
Generally, I like to grill the carne asada to crisp perfection, but sometimes it is just easier to fry it up on the stove, especially on cold days!

Start by heating up the pan on the stove to medium high, and sear the meat to your preference. It only takes this meat a few minutes to cook, as it is sliced very thin to begin with.

Once the meat is cooked, let it rest a couple minutes and then slice it up into little bite size pieces.

Once your fixings are all prepared comes the fun part!

Start with a pile of fries, top with some cheese and give it a quick blast in your microwave to melt it a little bit. (you may not need this step if your fries are still piping hot)

Once this is done, it is time to add the meat, a little more cheese, your sour cream, onions, tomatoes and avocado slices! Add as much or as little as you like.

The great part is - everyone can top theirs to their own taste!

I hope you all enjoy making these! They are delicious and I think you'll enjoy this fun little piece of San Diego!

Be sure to check out the other Improv Cooking Challenge Steak and Potato entries!  You can check out past entries on the Improv Cooking Challenge Pinterest page, too!

Note: This link up is only for Improv Cooking Challenge entries - if you'd like to join in, please join the Improv Cooking Challenge Facebook Group and see what's coming next!

Otherwise, I'd love to see you share your non-related posts with Awesome Life Friday and Party in Your PJs, right here on Reviews, Chews & How Tos!