Tag Archives: homemade

Homemade Banana Bread Oatmeal

One of the healthy habits I was able to maintain during my crazy January was eating oatmeal every day for breakfast. Usually, I drink a green smoothie everyday for breakfast but during that month I wasn’t going grocery shopping and definitely didn’t have the time and patience for my usual green smoothie routine. It’s a shame, but rather than dwell on the past I’m going to focus with this delicious oatmeal recipe I came up with as a result!

One morning when I was grabbing myself a ziplock baggie of oatmeal to take to work I decided to mix it up a little. Up until this point, I was usually grab about a cup of plain oatmeal from my large container and add a few shakes a cinnamon and call it a day. This particular morning, I decided to add in a scoop of Banana Bread granola from Nature Box (delicious – by the way!) and headed off to work. When I added hot water at work, the granola broke apart and mixed into the oatmeal but still had that awesome toasted flavor and the nuts/seeds/raisins in the granola mixed throughout the oatmeal. It was really delicious! While I love the idea of using the granola in my oatmeal, I decided to make a homemade version with all the same great flavors!

Banana Bread Oatmeal

Banana Bread Oatmeal
Makes one bowl.

    – 1 cup plain oatmeal
    – 1 1/2 tablespoons dried bananas, chopped (I didn’t chop mine out of laziness, but I think they’d be better chopped up)
    – 2 tablespoons raisins
    – 1 1/2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
    – 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    – 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar (to your taste)
    – Approx. 3/4 cup hot water or milk (to cook the oatmeal)

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add hot water or milk and allow to sit and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Alternatively, add cold water or milk and cook in the microwave for 2 minutes, or until soft.

I’m pretty obsessed with this oatmeal blend and I’ve been eating it as an afternoon snack most days – it’s perfect during this last spell of cold weather! 🙂 I love how the dried bananas soften up in the oatmeal – so delicious! I actually ended up making a huge batch of the dry ingredients for this oatmeal in a glass jar and I just scoop out what I need each time. 🙂

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Homemade Chicken (or Veggie!) Stock

This weekend I took some time to make homemade chicken stock which is one of my favorite cooking tricks. Stock is so easy to make at home, and can be made for practically nothing with a little planning. Today I’m happy to share my strategy for always having homemade stock on hand.

My first trick is that I keep a large container in my freezer and throw vegetable scraps in it. The root end/skins of onions, ends of celery, little nubs of garlic, herb stems, etc – all go into this container. And when it’s full – I use it to make stock. When it’s full, it looks like this:

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Seriously, stock made out of stuff you would have thrown away? Genius! I just recently discovered this through an article on Organic Gardening and it’s my new favorite trick. So thrifty! 🙂 Once the container is full, just throw all the ingredients into a large stock pot.

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You can totally make this stock vegetarian just using the saved-up scraps, but I like to add in some chicken to make chicken stock – and you get poached chicken out of the deal! 🙂 Alternatively, you could just add chicken bones/carcass (or any other leftover bones, like from a Thanksgiving turkey) and you would still get delicious stock, just not the bonus of the poached chicken!

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Once you add the chicken to the pot, I like to add a handful of black peppercorns and some sliced lemon, along with enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot. The amount of water you add is the amount of stock you will get, and I usually get about 12 cups from this process.

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Place the pot over high heat, covered, until the water comes to a boil. Note that if you start with frozen vegetable bits, it will take a little longer to boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce it to medium-low and let it simmer for an hour. After an hour has passed, remove the chicken to a cutting board (I use tongs) and allow to cool. Once cool, you can pull the meat from the bones and shred or chop the meat for use in a variety of dishes (soup, pasta, enchiladas, salads – the possibilities are really endless). I like to split the poached chicken up into smaller containers and place them in the freezer so I always have chicken on hand and ready to use in meals.

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Next, strain the stock through a sieve into a container. I usually have to do this a few times as the stock won’t all fit into one container! 🙂

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Discard the odds and ends from the stock, which are now thoroughly used up! 🙂 Split up your stock into containers for storage. I found these great plastic (BPA-free!) Ball freezer-safe storage jars at my grocery store so I used them to freeze about half of the stock.

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I saved the rest of the stock and the chicken for use in meals this week – I’m thinking soup!

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Homemade Exfoliating Sugar Scrub

Today’s post marks post #100! Its crazy how time flies and how blog posts add up! I’m so thankful that I started this blog, it gives me something that I really care about to pour my heart and soul into (since my 9-5 job doesn’t give me that) and I’m even more thankful that I’ve discovered so many like-minded people out there who enjoy reading and sharing their ideas with me. The blogging community is such a vibrant and welcoming place. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.

As my blog grows, I’m always trying to make improvements so if you have any comments or suggestions – please feel free to email me or leave a comment on this post. I’ve been mulling over the idea of transitioning the blog from a “.wordpress.com” account to an official “.com.” I’ve heard great things about wordpress.org (the plug-ins! the design freedom!) but I’m also heard horror stories about the transition. I don’t know much about html coding and blog design beyond the bare necessities so I’m scared taking on the transition could completely destroy my site – plus the cost of the transition is a little hefty. Has anyone out there gone through this change and want to share their story?

Now on to the post I originally sat down to write (before discovering it was post 100! :-)): homemade sugar scrub!

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I love sugar scrub! For a long time, I bought mine at Bath and Body Works but then I discovered through the genius of Pinterest that it’s incredibly easy to make at home! I love to keep a container of scrub in the shower – and this past Saturday I used the last of my mix. I was sort of glad to finally be at the bottom of it as I was dying to try a new recipe!

The first time around I used olive oil based on this recipe, and while it worked fine – there are much better uses for olive oil than in a sugar scrub. Like for dipping bread. Since then, I’ve discovered the crazy goodness that is coconut oil (both for cooking and homemade beauty products) so I knew I wanted to use that in my next batch.

First up, all scrubs are a basic ratio of 2 parts sugar/salt (exfoliant) to 1 part oil. I decided to use a combination of salt and sugar since I feel like sugar can sometimes dissolve a little quickly. I put ½ cup sugar and ½ cup salt into an old sugar scrub container that I re-use for my homemade versions.

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Next, I measured out ½ cup of coconut oil into a bowl. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but melts at 75 degrees so it doesn’t take much to melt it. I knew I wanted to melt it slightly to make the whole concoction easier to mix together, but I didn’t want it to warm because I was worried it would dissolve the sugar/salt. I ended up blasting it in the microwave for about 7 seconds and then stirring it together and it was just melted enough!

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I added the melty coconut oil to the container with the salt/sugar mixture and stirred it together (gently – the container was very full at this point!). Finally, I added 15 drops of sweet orange essential oil for the nice, invigorating scent. You can use any essential oil you have on hand, I just used one that I don’t tend to use very often from my variety pack.

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Sugar Scrub
Makes approximately 1 ½ cups

– ½ cup sugar
– ½ cup salt (or use all sugar or all salt)
– ½ cup coconut oil, slightly melted
– 15 drops of your favorite essential oil

Enjoy! This scrub does a great job of exfoliating, and you can feel good that it’s made from all-natural, healthy, ingredients! I love the idea of beauty products that are safe enough to eat (not that I’d recommend it – I bet it wouldn’t taste good! :-))

Speaking of, I found this hilarious post 20 Signs You’re a Wellness Junkie on the Gaiam Pinterest board the other day! It’s hilarious! Mostly because so many of them are true. I’ve definitely taken a side in the juicer/blender debate, and I use coconut oil for some many things I buy it in a big 5 pound jug.

You’re turn! Do you relate to any of the things in the ‘Wellness Junkie’ post? Any more you’d like to add? I think drinking a ton of green tea should be mentioned in there somewhere! 🙂

Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate

On Saturday after Body Pump I headed over to Barnes and Noble to buy a planner for 2014. Around late summer each year, events start to pop up in the January/February timeframe for the upcoming year. In true OCD-planner-user fashion, I want to write them down, so I’m forced to hunt down a new planner for the upcoming year. I could say I wanted a new planner because I was excited to write my first half marathon on the calendar, which is true, but I honestly do this every year. Take note kids, this is what obsessive planner-ing will do to you.

I did find an adorable little paisley planner for 2014 which means I got to spend the afternoon filling it out with birthdays and other important dates. Seriously, these are the things that make me happy. I also used this as an opportunity to get an Iced, Soy, Chai Tea Latte from the “Starbucks” inside Barnes & Noble.

Iced Soy Chai Tea Lattes are one of my favorite drinks, and before Saturday I hadn’t had one in what feels like forever. The summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, and throughout the breaks of my junior year, I worked at a local coffee shop. I was hired at the coffee shop by the owner/manager before the grand opening so for the first few weeks the other staff and I got to learn and practice grinding espresso and pulling shots, grinding coffee, using loose leaf tea, steaming and foaming milk and mixing various drinks using the flavored syrups. We had the unique opportunity to experiment with different combinations of flavors and create the original drinks that ended up on the menu. The coffee house is still up and running (now with 2 locations! :-)), it’s called Bean There Cafe so if you’re ever in the Hampton Roads area, check it out!

As a perk of working at the coffee shop, we could drink all the coffee and tea our young-adult bodies could handle. And we took full advantage of this perk. The two exceptions to the “all you can drink” rule (due to their cost) were soy milk and chai tea concentrate.

Of course, these are the two ingredients in my favorite drink – an Iced Soy Chai Tea Latte. Isn’t that the way the world works?

So that summer I did not drink my body weight in Chai Lattes, instead saving them for special occasions. And it’s probably a blessing that I didn’t – seeing as to this day I don’t drink coffee because I feel like I overdosed on it that summer.

After absolutely inhaling my drink from “Starbucks”…err the Barnes and Noble Café, I almost bought a container of Chai Tea Concentrate until I noticed 1) the price and 2) all the unnecessary ingredients on the label. I had never thought of it before, but certainly this was something I could make myself at home! Pinterest to the rescue!

I found this recipe for Chai Tea concentrate which looked pretty straightforward. And it cooks in the Crock Pot! I love any excuse to use the Crock Pot.

I made two minor changes to the recipe based on what I had in the house. First, I used ground cloves instead of whole since I keep ground cloves on hand for my Cincinnati Chili and I didn’t want to buy a whole new bottle of spices just for this one project. Also, I had to substitute ground nutmeg for the cardamom seeds. This substitution was the result of me not paying attention – as I thought I had cardamom seeds in the house. Turns out what I have is coriander seeds – which I Googled and are unfortunately not the same thing. The wise internet suggested nutmeg as an alternative and I was happy with the final product, so I guess that was another spice bottle I was saved from buying.

Because of the ground spices, the final product does sometimes leave a little bit of “grit” at the bottom of the glass, but the drink was not gritty in texture at all. Personally, it doesn’t bother me but next time around I may use cardamom seeds and whole cloves like the original recipe.

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Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate
Adapted from ‘@ Home with Gina C’

Makes approximately 4 cups.

– 8 slices of peeled ginger*
– 2 cinnamon sticks
– 1 teaspoon ground cloves (see original recipe for whole cloves)
– 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
– 2 teaspoons vanilla
– ½ cup honey (I use raw, local honey)
– 4 cups water
– 6 black tea bags

*When I buy ginger, I peel the entire thing and place it in a ziplock bag in the freezer to keep it fresh. Then, it’s easy to grate or slice up for recipes.

Place all ingredients except for the tea bags in a slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours. Add the tea bags and steep for 10 minutes.

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Strain out the solids with a fine mesh sieve or colander lined with cheese cloth.

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Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 7 to 10 days. I used mason jars with these reusable plastic lids which are my new favorite find!

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To make hot tea, mix equal parts concentrate with hot water. For an Iced Tea Latte, mix one part concentrate to two parts milk (hot or cold) of your choice. You can adjust the ratio to your tastes.

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Homemade Make-Up Remover Wipes!

The other day I found a wonderful pin on Pinterest about how to make your own baby wipes/make-up remover wipes – you could even use this method to make disinfecting wipes! (Which I plan to do as soon as I run out of the store-bought ones!)

The original blogger wrote such a great tutorial, that I’m just going to link to her tutorial at White House Black Shutters. Plus, I was sort of rushing when I put these together so I didn’t stop to take pictures along the way.

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Homemade Make-Up Remover Wipes


– 2 cups filtered water
– 2 tablespoons coconut oil
– 10 drops tea tree oil (optional)
– ½ roll of Bounty select-a-size towels
– Medium-sized plastic container (about the circumference of the roll of towels or larger)

Mix the water, oil, and tea tree oil together. It’s best to do this at room temperature or slightly warmed as coconut oil has a melting point of 75 degrees. Cut the roll of paper towels in half with a knife (this was easier than it sounded) and place in the container full of the water/oil mixture. Let the towels soak for 5-10 minutes before squishing down into the container and putting on the lid. It looks like it won’t fit – but it does!

Turn the container upside down and allow to soak for at least 30 minutes. Then turn back over and open and remove the cardboard paper towel center. Tada! Pop-up wipes!

Coconut oil makes a great make-up remover so these wipes work really well! I also use coconut oil as my “face wash” (using the oil cleansing method) so I’m using these as face wash wipes as well. My favorite part is that you can pull out a few and place them in a ziplock bag for travel purposes. I’m definitely using them on my trip next week!

Protein-Rich, Whole Grain Cornbread

On Saturday, when I hosted my BBQ Chicken dinner and a movie girls’ night, I also made a couple of delicious side dishes (if I do say so myself). First up, I was going to make corn on the cob but my corn had mutinied and dried out on me. To be honest, it was my own fault as I had basically forgotten it was in the house. I was doing so well with using stuff before it went bad, that I was bound to slip up some time.

So I needed a plan B. I had already gotten the combination of corn on the cob and BBQ chicken stuck in my head, so after digging through my cupboards for an idea I figured it out – cornbread!

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No, not “from a box” cornbread – but made from scratch cornbread. I was pretty sure I had all the basic ingredients. Now to search Allrecipes for a recipe…

I found a recipe on Allrecipes using sour cream, which I was pretty excited about as I use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for just about everything. Not to mention the other 5 thousand things I use Greek yogurt for. The recipe required quite a bit of adaptation since it used all purpose flour (and I only keep whole wheat in the house), and I also only had soy milk on hand since I’ve been experimenting with using it in my smoothies instead of regular milk. However, the food fairy godmother was on my side and the cornbread ended up turning out great! It was rich and definitely has a ton of protein in it from the Greek yogurt. It’s definitely a great side dish for BBQ or chili – I might make some the next time I make Cincinnati Chili in the Crock Pot.

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Protein-Rich, Whole Grain Cornbread
Makes eight individual servings (if you can limit yourself to one piece of bread! :-)).

    – ½ cup whole wheat flour
    – 1 cup cornmeal
    – ¼ cup sugar
    – ½ teaspoon baking powder
    – ½ teaspoon baking soda
    – ½ teaspoon salt
    – 1 egg
    – 1 cup Greek yogurt
    – 1/3 cup milk (I used soy milk – not sure how much it would affect the recipe to use regular)
    – ¼ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease (I used coconut oil which worked brilliantly) a 9×5 inch baking dish (this is the size I used and the dish was VERY full, like in danger of making a mess – but it thankfully didn’t. You may want to use a slightly larger pan).

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir to combine, but do not over stir. Mix until the ingredients just come together.

Pour into prepared baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Chili – Cincinnati Style

This weekend I decided to make chili in the Crock Pot. It’s completely out of season since people tend to eat soups and chilis in the winter, and summer has just started to kick in for the DC area, but I’ve never been very good at doing things at appropriate seasonal times. I tend to cut my hair short in the winter, as I did this past winter – to a pixie cut. And dye my hair darker in the spring. I just can’t get myself on the right seasonal clock. Maybe I’m meant to live in the southern hemisphere. 🙂

My absolute favorite kind of chili is Cincinnati-style. Part of my family is from Ohio, so I was fortunate enough to get to try this style of chili growing up. It has a very unique “sweet-spiciness” to it which is the result of cinnamon in the recipe. Also, in Ohio they traditionally serve it on top of spaghetti. Personally, I’m not one for chili on my spaghetti but I do think this style of chili is the perfect texture and taste for chili dogs. Hello guilty pleasure!

I decided to cook this chili in the slow cooker, as I do with most chili recipes, because chili is one of those foods that only gets better the longer the ingredients have to meld together. Plus, you can’t get easier than the slow cooker! Since it was a warm and sunny day outside, I could start my chili and then leave it while I enjoyed the beautiful weather at the Washington National’s game with my friend Jen. And I returned to a pot of delicious chili! I’ve been fooling around with a few chili recipes for a while, but I think this one is finally perfect! 🙂

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Cincinnati-style Chili in the Crock Pot
Serves 8

    – 2 pounds ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
    – 6 oz of tomato paste
    – 1 onion, chopped
    – 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    – 2 tablespoons chili powder
    – 1 teaspoon unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
    – 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    – 2 teaspoons dried marjoram (can substitute oregano – but it’s a stronger flavor)
    – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    – Pinch of ground cloves
    – 2 15 oz cans of dark red kidney beans

Brown the ground beef in a skillet and drain well. Add the beef and all other ingredients except the beans to the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. You don’t have to worry about chopping the onions or garlic too small, as both will “cook away” and become part of the sauce/beef mixture. You can hardly tell there are any onions in the chili! It could be a good way to sneak in some vegetables if you have picky eaters in the house. Add the beans to the slow cooker during the last hour of cooking. Serve Ohio-style over spaghetti with sharp cheddar cheese, or over hot dogs, or just plain in a bowl with some shredded cheddar on top. It’s delicious in so many different ways! 🙂

Note: I’m a big fan of beans so this recipe is a little bean-heavy. You can reduce the recipe to 1 can of beans if you prefer.