Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December Empties: Miscellaneous Month


I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it. Our family ended up sick for Christmas as is bound to happen when you have 2 kids under the age of 10. Just seems the thing to do, huh...pass around whatever germs are of the moment. Because of this, I didn't use as many products this month as I'd normally use. Honestly, I was lucky to wash my face once every 2 or 3 days - this is real life here folks. So here is the random collection of items I DID use up in December...

Up & Up Super Strength Cranberry Supplement - $4.95
Yes, I'm about to get TMI on you, but since I had my second child almost 4 years ago (Lord love him), I had a ton of issues with UTI's and Kidney Infections...Let me tell you, not fun! After much experimentation, I found that taking a Cranberry supplement daily really helped. I tried many different ones and this one from Target's brand turned out to be the absolute best! I only have to take one of these tablets a day to do the job. With others, I had to take 2 to 4 (yes 4) to equal the same mg in this one, and I wasn't having that. So, yeah...I have and will repurchase these. Also, something to note, they are quite a bit cheaper online...Who knew!

Slatkin & Co. Leaves 3-Wick Candle - $20.00 ($10.00 right now and for a limited time.)
I won't bang on about this candle anymore (see past empties posts like this and this), but yes, I used up another of my favorite candle...But really, you should go have a sniff if you haven't already. It is just the best year round (IMHO) scent.

Lush Ultrabland Facial Cleanser - $29.95
Again, another product I've gone on and on about in past posts (here and here, oh and here), but it's worth repeating. If you have angry or dry skin, give this a try. Morning and night it just gets your skin back to basics. I believe the Lush website even says so, and if they say so, it must be true - right?! The only thing I can say bad about this stuff, is use a wash cloth (or flannel if you are over seas) that you don't care about messing up. The oil content in this balm type cleanser can tint lighter colored fabrics - but totally worth it!

Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes - $4.99
Not much to say here. Cleansing wipes. No scents or nasties in. No problem for sensitive skins. Great for pre-cleansing when wearing a face of makeup. The only thing these don't really take off is waterproof mascara, but then again, there aren't many wipe-type products that will take that off completely. I have repurchased these, but I'd like to give the Up & Up version a go, because I do tend to like the brand.

Heartland Fragrance Co. White Tea Epsom Salts - (Can't find this exact scent on their website, but they do have others.)
I received these bath salts in a Glossy Box last year and put them in my bath stash...and promptly forgot about them. I was getting near the end of my back log recently and found them in the bottom of the basket. I used these salts with an Ayurvedic Bath Oil and it was lovely! The scent was very subtle, but they were relaxing. I have a rather large tub, so I probably could have done with a bit more, but they were nice. They didn't irritate my skin and they didn't leave any sort of residue in my tub.

Agave in the Raw - $11.97 (I'm sure I paid less in store at my local Walmart.)
This is a constant repurchase in my house. I put a tiny bit (about a teaspoon) in my tea every morning, and I use this as my sweetener of choice for most things outside of baking. I don't really have a preference on brand when buying Agave Nectar, as long as it is natural. Otherwise, I buy what is either on sale or what I have a coupon for - this brand has been that lately. It tends to last me quite a while since you only need the tiniest amount each use.

Fortune Cookie Soap "I Yam What I Yam," said the Marshmallow Whipped Cream - $10.99 (They do not have this scent anymore, but tons of others.)
This scent came in the Fall Soap Box and smelled a bit like pumpkin pie to me. I liked this even though I tend not to like food scented products. It also didn't have that issue that I had with previous Whipped Cream samples from FCS. It didn't ball up when rubbed into the skin. Plus my 3 year old LOVED it! I'm not sure if it was the name he loved saying when he asked to have some on his hands, or if it was the scent - either way, this name was meant to be said by a 3 year old! Good job FCS!

Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash - $21.00
I can't lie, I was totally roped into buying this after watching Jen's (from OrganizedJen.com) Morning Skincare Routine (2013). It just sounded like something my skin would love. I already loved Origins as a brand, so I figured I'd give it a try. It cleansed my skin really well and never left it feeling stripped and tight. I can't stand when my skin feels tight after cleansing. I used this bottle the entire time I was on Accutane and it never irritated or dried my skin further. For a cleanser to last 5 months - that's saying something! I did use others too, but still...If you have combination/normal/dry skin, give this stuff a try. I think it would work for just about anyone! I've already repurchased it. So, thanks Jen:)

Nivea A Kiss of Moisture Lip Balm - $2.99
Once again, I've talked about these Nivea lip balms endlessly, but they are a great CHEAP option for dry lips. My favorite lip balm is the Fresh Lip Balm, but this one has a similar buttery texture. It's not quite as good, but for those on a budget, like me, it's great. I've already repurchased the A Kiss of Milk & Honey version. 

Fortune Cookie Soap Pick of the Patch Personal Space - $9.99 (They do not have this scent anymore, but tons of others.)
I'm one of those people who hates the idea of bathroom sprays...I just don't like the idea of "something" scented bathroom smells...Ok, it's pretty hard to talk about this product without being gross, but this stuff does more of a neutralizing thing than just an overlapping scent type thing, and it just works. Plus it isn't all aresol-ly and industrial smelling. It smells like you've had a pumpkin scented candle burning. Much nicer! Ok, let's move on...

Origins Ginzing Refreshing Eye Cream - $30.00
Eye Cream! Yes, eye cream...(nice segue huh). Again with the Origins. I like Origins. I was given this free as a gift with purchase and have been using as my day eye cream for a few months. I like it. It does brighten my under eye area and gives a bit of a color correcting effect much like the Ginzing moisturizer does I guess (I've never used it.). It isn't super thick and rich, so if you have oily skin it still would work for you, but if you have super dry skin it may not be hydrating enough for you. I used this while on Accutane and it did fine though. I am nearing the end of my supply, so when I ordered a replacement Checks and Balances from Origins, I chose this as my sample so that I could go a little longer before I needed to purchase a new day eye cream. I love eye cream, and there are tons of them on the market to try, so I may not repurchase this one just yet, but I really do like it.

Slatkin & Co. Cider Lane 3-Wick Candle - $20.00 (They didn't have this scent on the website when I looked.)
Last but not least, *gasp* another candle...from Bath & Body Works nonetheless. What can I say, they really are the best of the affordable candles. They are ALWAYS on sale, and there is a scent to suit anyone's taste. This one, to me, is very Fall like and is similar to the Leaves candle with just a bit more of a sweetness to it. They tend to bring this back every year around the beginning of Fall, so be on the lookout for that in 2014!

What sorts of things did you finish off this month - I'd love to know!

Here's looking forward to an amazing 2014 filled with lots of used up products (*ahem* Don't forget to recycle!). Happy New Year to everyone!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

November Empties: Lots of Tea


I know I've been away for a bit, but the holiday season is upon us and I've been scrambling to get myself ready, but in the meantime the Winter weather has arrived! Cold temps and dry air...I went through a lot of hot tea, lip balm, and body butters. Here are the products I used up and some mini reviews.

Harney & Sons Royal Wedding Tea - $20.00
I'm not going to go on anymore about this tea. I am already on my second 50 sachet bag. It's my FAVE, we all know this...a little agave nectar, a little unsweetened almond milk - done. Get some! (I just noticed the 50 sachet bag is out of stock on their website - WHYYYY!?)

Fortune Cookie Soap You're Insecure, Donut What For..." #fall Milk Bath - $12.99 (scent no longer available)
I signed up for the Fortune Cookie Soap Box in the Spring and I am slowly getting through the sample sized bath and body products I've gotten in them through the year. This one was in the Fall Soap Box. They don't have this scent on their website anymore, but if you want to try the product itself, they have other scents. I have a pretty big bathtub, so I think I could have used more, but it was nice smelling and feeling in the water. I do like a good milk bath.

Fortune Cookie Soap "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" Whipped Cream - $10.99 (scent no longer available)
Again, I got this little pot in the Summer Soap Box, so they don't have this scent any longer. I've been trying to get through all of my sample sized products before I use full size products in my stash, and I have a huge back stock of body butter and lotions...I did really like the scent of this whipped cream, but I just don't like the formula that much. It feels really nice when you put it on, but it would kind of ball up on the backs of my hands once I'd rubbed it in. I'm not sure if it was just mine that did that, but the ones I got in the Spring and Fall boxes did the same thing. I was sad since I do like their products a lot!

Nivea A Kiss of Mint & Minerals - $2.99
I've already gone on about the Nivea lip balms also, so I'll just say I've already repurchased 2 more tubes of this stuff to have on hand for the Winter months. It's cheap, easy to get ahold of, and does the job.

Benefit BADgal Lash Mascara - $19.00
I got this sample sized tube of mascara as a Sephora perk a while back and just didn't want to part with it. The wand is absolutely ginormous (I may have poked myself straight in the eye when applying once.), but it gives me the most amazing lashes and doesn't clump. I even used it well past it's expiration I'm sure and it never really flaked on me. I do plan to repurchase this mascara, but I've been getting through some drug store tubes first - waste not want not.

Bath & Body Works White Citrus Fragrance Mist - $14.00
Alright, this was the never ending bottle of fragrance mist! I seriously have  had this same exact bottle since before I moved to my present house over 7 years ago...I just never finished it....I have never been loyal to fragrance. I always say I will be with each new bottle, but I always stray. Sorry! That's just the way it is...and sometimes (as with this one) I just never get around to finishing it. I finally committed to wrapping this one up - with a strict one in, one out policy. I have to say, I was very relieved with I got that last spritz out. It was nice, but on to the next big thing!

Slatkin & Co. Leaves Candle - $20.00 (Slatkin & Co. no longer on the website)
Yet another product I bang on about time after time. I love this candle, and I will continue to love this candle until they change the formula too much. I currently have a few backups in my stash that I'm hording...Go have a sniff.

Harney & Sons White Christmas Tea - $8.50
Did I say I'm in love with Harney & Sons yet? Oh...well...I'll say it again; I'm kind of in love with you Harney & Sons. I know we just recently met, but call me, maybe?

Oh yeah, White Christmas tea...good stuff! It kind of reminds me of my beloved Royal Wedding, but just a tad bit lighter and not quite as almondy. It is also a white tea and I believe has some white camomile in it. I'm not usually a big camomile lover, but in this it just works.

Olay Refreshing Nectarine Fresh Moisture Body Wash - $5.99
I'm really into the Olay Silk Whimsy Moisturizing Body Wash, but I couldn't find it in store last time I needed body wash, so I picked this one up. It was warmer out and I figured I could do without the more creamy wash. I was wrong...I LOVE the scent of this one, but it has a gel texture and it's just not quite as moisturizing on my skin. It did the job, but I will be going back to a more creamy moisturizing one next!

Nastassja Skin Natural Beauty Age Defy Eye Cream - $40.00
Another.Never.Ending.Product! I thought this tiny pot of eye cream would be a breeze to get through...I was wrong! It lasted me for 5.5 months! You only need a tiny amount of this. It is good, but not great. I used this at night since it was a bit on the thick side (which I enjoy). I'd say this would be great for mature/dry skin. I used it while on Claravis and it definitely kept my under eyes hydrated and didn't irritate my skin. I love eye creams, so I am sure I will be perpetually on the hunt for a holy grail product in this category. I don't mind paying some money for a good one, but at $40.00, this one didn't seem to fit the price tag.

I'd love to know what you used up, or if you've tried any of these products. Oh, and if you try Harney & Sons tea let me know what you think in the comments!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Empties


Happy Halloween! My treat for you; an Empties post!

I don't know about you, but I love to find out what people have loved enough to finish each month. These type of blog posts and videos tend to be great honest reviews of products that were used up. I hope this post will be the same.

You will probably see a trend of moisturizing and Fall like products from here on out since the weather is now starting to change and my already dehydrated skin is really starting to let go of any of the moisture it may have had in it's stores!

Without further ado, here is what I finished up this month!

Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Fortifying Conditioner - $4.29
This massive bottle of conditioner lasted absolutely forever! I can't take all the credit, since my entire family helped to use it up, but I did use enough to be able to report back to you on it. I'm not generally too fussy with my shampoo and conditioner, but right now my scalp and hair are both super dry due to the Accutane and I need a really good conditioner to help combat it. This one was ok, but nothing spectacular. It is a bit heavy for fine haired people, but anyone with normal to thick hair would be fine with this as an everyday conditioner.

Simple Moisturizing Facial Wash - $6.99
I wasn't as big of a fan of this as the original Simple cleanser. It leaves a strange film on my skin that I just didn't like. It is gentle and didn't irritate my skin, but I just couldn't get over the weird film. I did finish it because it didn't really bother my skin - and I hate wasting products I spent good money on!

Nivea A Kiss of Milk & Honey Lip Care - $2.99
I spoke about this in my Evening Skincare Routine post, so I won't go into too much detail here. If you'd like a more in depth review, take a look at that blog post. I have already repurchased this lip balm; just in a different flavor. This is probably going to be my lip balm of choice this winter...unless, of course, I am gifted with Fresh Sugar Lip Therapy. *wink wink*

Bath & Body Works Pumpkin Apple 3-Wick Candle - $20.00
I. LOVED. This. Candle! It is a Fall must have. I will never go another Fall without it in my stash - unless they discontinue it. Please don't do that Bath & Body Works! It is the perfect scent for this time of year. I also have another more in depth review of this candle in my Favorite Fall Releases post. I burned this in about a day and a half because I just couldn't get enough of the smell. Trust me, go have a sniff!

Skintimate Skin Therapy Lotionized Shave Gel Sensitive - $2.44
Shaving gel is shaving gel, right? That's what I used to think until my skin started to dry out as I got older. In the last few years, I've started to realize that I have quite sensitive skin - even on my legs. Again, I've never really been fussy with shaving gel, always just buying what I had a coupon for or what was on sale. I still do that, but when I can, I do prefer to purchase this Skintimate Skin Therapy. It is very thick, and more like a creamy lotion than a foamy gel. I feel like it provides a better barrier between the razor blades and my skin. I have to shave my legs every other day, and this gel keeps me from getting the dreaded 'ashy leg' look. On and less technical note, the smell is lovely too!

What products did you go through this month? What was your favorite?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Evening Skincare Routine - Accutane Edition

 

Finally, I'm here with my evening skincare routine!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am currently on Claravis (generic form of Accutane) 40mg twice a day. Because I am on this medication, my skin is like the Sahara Desert! I've had 4 months to find the right products to keep my skin hydrated without irritating it, and I think I've finally done it. I have 1 month left on the medication and however long it takes for my skin to go back to normal. I'm not sure how these products will work with my post-Accutane skin, but they are working for me now!

So, without further ado (listed in order of use)...

Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash - $21.00
I received a Belk gift card for my Birthday in April, and used it to purchase a bunch of beauty products that I had been eyeing up for some time. This happened to be one of them. Pre-Accutane I experienced oily skin with patches of dryness, but was also sensitive to cleansers that left me with that tight stretched feeling. This cleanser had been said to cater to those with that oily/dry skin without leaving skin parched. I figured if it did what it said, I'd be golden. I think this is a great cleanser and I really like Origins as a brand, so although at the moment my skin really needs something very moisturizing, I can still get away with using this. I even like the minty smell of this super creamy and SUPER foamy product.

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate - $46.00
As far as dry facial oils, this one is a cult favorite, and for good reason! Because I've always had oily/combination skin, I was scared to try anything with the word 'oil' in the name. When I received this as a gift, I knew I was going to be put on Accutane so I held onto it for use while being on it. I use this every single night. It says to use 3 to 4 drops, but I use it quite liberally since my skin can handle it right now. It smells very herbal and calming which is great for using at night, and it doesn't irritate my skin at all. I never feel greasy and my skin feels so much more hydrated the next morning. I believe I will still use this after Accutane, but in a smaller quantity.

Nastassja Skin Natural Beauty Age Defy Eye Cream - $40.00
This eye cream was part of a sample kit that I purchased after getting their skin peel in a Glossy Box ages ago. I apologize that the writing has come off the little white pot, but I assume their full size product has much nicer packaging. This is marketed as an Age Defy product. I can't attest to its anti-aging properties as I don't have much in the way of wrinkles or crows feet, but it is a nice thick eye cream that is great for those of us suffering from extreme dryness. It also doesn't irritate my under eye area, which is uber sensitive at the moment. Though I probably wouldn't purchase this eye cream again, I don't have anything against it, I just think there are so many nice ones to try that I don't want to lock myself into any right now.

Lush Celestial Facial Moisturizer - $24.95
I found this product by accident, and am so so so glad I did! I popped into my local Lush store to purchase the Ultrabland Cleanser and was given a sample of this when I told the sweet shop girl that I was on Accutane and needed super gentle products for my extremely dry skin. I'd never heard anything about it before so I was happy to try it (I'd happily try anything Lush is willing to pass my way.). I took to using it after my facial oil to lock in moisture overnight. First off, it smells AH.Mazing! It's like almonds and vanilla and feels so good on the skin. You need the tiniest amount of this stuff. Seriously, the sample pot was a bit smaller than the white pot of eye cream in the above picture, and it lasted me for about a month. When I woke up the next morning after my first use of this moisturizer, my skin looked like I had never had a day of acne in my life! Ok, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it looked better than it had ever looked. After a week of this stuff, all of my Accutane scarring was gone, and my doctor even said my skin looked 'like porcelain'! No one has ever used those words to describe MY skin before. If I was sold before, I was really sold now. When I finished the sample I was without it for about 2 weeks. I thought, well maybe it was just that the Accutane was finally kicking in. I went back to another night cream that I had been using prior and well, let's just say I threw that one out and placed an order with Lush post haste! My skin broke out again and I started getting dry scaly patches that turned into raw spots...just not good. I got Celestial in the mail and within 2 days it was back to the glorious 'porcelain-like' state. SOLD! I will not be using another night cream again...maybe ;)

Nivea A Kiss of Milk & Honey Lip Balm - $2.99
Although I swear by the Fresh Sugar Lip Therapy, I just can't justify $25 a pop twice a month right now. I have heard all the talk about the Nivea lip balms and decided to give it a try. My local Target had this one and I grabbed it. It's a great balm! The feeling is very much like the Fresh Sugar, but is a bit harder which I think makes this product last longer. Fresh is so soft, you just blow through it when you are in need of lip balm 24 hours a day like you are when on Accutane. The Nivea lasted me almost a month, so I grabbed another one when I went to the store the other day. They only have the A Kiss of Mint & Minerals, so that is what I'm using now. Both are great, the formula is the same, so whatever one is available in your store will work just fine I'm sure. I am sure I will continue to re-purchase this lip balm. It does the job and makes my lips feel super soft. Plus you just can't beat $2.99 for the quality!

Those are my evening skincare items sorted. I think I like the process as much as the products. It helps me relax and with a few extra minutes to really work the products in...it's like having a mini facial before bed!

Have you tried any of these products? What are your favorite nighttime skincare items?

*You can also check out my morning Accutane skincare routine here.*

Friday, October 11, 2013

Favorite Fall Releases: Bath & Body Works Candles

 

This time of year is my favorite for new releases from some of my favorite brands.

Bath & Body Works always puts out their seasonal 3-wick candles early, and I couldn't be happier! I really could burn these scents year round. All have are in a similar scent family (think cinnamon, apples, pumpkin, etc...), but each has its own appeal. I have my absolute favorites shown above - excluding one that I didn't have on hand - I burned it :( sorry... These are the ones that I repurchase every year and will continue to repurchase as long as they don't discontinue them - and they better not!

*Scent descriptions come from the Bath & Body Works website.*
  • Leaves - Celebrate the brilliant colors of autumn with this rich blend of golden nectar, red apple and spiced berries.
  • Pumpkin Apple (Doesn't smell like much in the jar, but once burning it's amazing!) - Experience the blend of your two favorite fall scents - apples and pumpkin - enhanced by notes of cinnamon and clove.
  • Cider Lane - As sweet as a trip to the local apple orchard each year, a delicious fall blend of mulled cider, warm caramel and sweet cinnamon.
  • Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin (not shown) - Celebrate Pumpkin season with this inviting mixture of harvest pumpkin, sweet vanilla cream and fall's rich spices.

I keep an eye out for the 2 for $22 deal that Bath & Body Works does occasionally for these 3-wick candles and stock up then. This is the best, and really the only time (If I'm honest.) to buy these candles. Who doesn't like a 2 for the price of 1 deal!? The reason I choose to purchase them only during these deals is because although the candles smell amazing, and really fill a room with fragrance, they just don't last all that long. Granted, I do tend to burn them about half the day when I light them. I've already gone through a Leaves, Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin, and this Pumpkin Apple candle and it's only October 11th!

If you are in the market for a great smelling candle that will make your house feel like Fall, these are the ones to get. Don't buy them though if you are looking for subtlety. I don't fuss around with other candles since I've found these. You just can't do any better than the best if you ask me! I noticed they have the 2 for $22 deal on for a limited time right now, so get on over there and snatch them up! I see they've already put out the Winter scents too. *makes mental note to get some*

What is your favorite Bath & Body Works candle scent for Fall?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday: Clearing Out the Fridge

 

Breakfast

So...this is what happens when you have a doctors appointment and most of your energy goes toward getting your 3 year old ready to head out the door. Oh, and did I mention it's raining today??? I only mention that because it adds that extra bit of chaos to an outting. I am having one frosted cherry Pop Tart (my older son had the other one for his snack last night). I am trying out a new morning drink. I saw this at my local Walmart over the weekend, and thought I'd give it a try. It's the Oregon Cafe Vanilla Latte Espresso Concentrate. You use 1/4 cup of the concentrate and mix with 3/4 cup milk of your choice (I use almond milk.) then heat. It's ok...but is just way too sweet for my taste! It is really easy to get ready in the morning, and should fufill the cafeine need - just with LOTS of sweetness.



Lunch

I hate wasting food...could be why I love leftovers so much. So when I had kale left from when I made soup last week, I wanted to use it up. I decided to boil it with some bacon, chicken stock, and garlic powder the other night. Now I need to finish that off too - hence a big bowl of kale for lunch! It's not Gramma's kale, but it'll do in a pinch. For some additional protein I had these Italian meat and mozzarella wraps - one of each pepperoni, prosciutto, and soppressata. It's so cold and yucky out today, I could really do with a big cup of hot tea...but I don't have any tea in the house...guess some ice water will have to do.



Snack

Snacktime! I was hungry, so I had a Muller Frut Up to tide me over until dinner time. This is my favorite yogurt at the moment, obviously.



Dinner

I know it's not glamorous, but with such cold and rainy weather comfort food was the thing to do. I had some dried beef and rice in the pantry, so I made Creamed Chipped Beef with rice. I've never made it before now - can you believe that! I've eaten it plenty of times, but never made it. It's super quick and easy, but lacks something green, so I made some peas to go along. It was yummy and filling - what more can you want from dinner...

What is your favorite way to use up what you have lying around in the kitchen cabinets?


Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall Trader Joe's Haul


What spurred me to go to Trader Joe's was the Pumpkin Croissants - well wouldn't ya know - they were out! What a bummer! Obviously, I didn't let that keep me down though, and I bought up all of the remaining pumpkin treats I could get my hands on. Here is what I got:

Organic Frosted Pumpkin Toaster Pastries - $2.49
I must admit that I didn't eat any of these. They are basically Trader Joe's answer to the Pop Tart. The Mr. eats these in the mornings. I assume they are a win since he asked that we buy more...always a good sign!

Pumpkin Cranberry Scone Mix - $3.69
We made these scones for breakfast this weekend. They were easy to throw together (just add melted butter, milk, and egg). They are not quite as dense as some scones I've had, and the flavor is decidedly lighter than I would have expected, but they were really good. They go great with a cup of tea.

Pumpkin Spice Rooibos - $3.99
This stuff is super yummy! It is rooibos, so it has no caffeine, but if you are ok with that I'd highly recommend this. I take mine with a bit of agave nectar and almond milk - Yum! It just tastes like Fall, and what is better than that I ask you!

Big Boss Harvest Time Spiked Pumpkin Ale - $8.99
What signifies the start of Fall more than the arrival of pumpkin flavored beer...We picked up this one because we'd never tried it before. It is very good. It's surprisingly light, but with plenty of flavor.

Organic Canned Pumpkin - $1.99
Sure you can get this anytime from anywhere, but it's pumpkin-y and fit in with the rest of this haul!

Have you tried any of these? Did you get your hands on the Pumpkin Croissants??? Where they yummy?!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hot Cookin': Applesauce 5 Ways


Here it is...our applesauce experiment.

This year we decided to take a step away from our usual and well liked cinnamon applesauce, to try something new. Or rather 5 somethings new.

We started with the standard start of our usual applesauce (with the exception of the roasted applesauce) recipe and then split it into a few variations. I will put our recipe (if you can call it that) below and then explain the variations later.

All of these are super easy and just require some time to cook down and a fair amount of kitchen space to spread out...but don't feel like you can't try it if you have a small kitchen! When we first started making applesauce 12 years ago, our kitchen was the size of a large closet!

Ingredients
  • Apples of Your Choosing (We use a mixture of Red Winesap, Red Stayman, and Golden Delicious because we've found over the years that it gives the best texture and most amazing mouth feel!)
  • Brown Sugar - To Taste. Some apples will need more or less.
  • Water
  • Lemon Juice
  • Lemon Zest
Directions
  1. Peel and core apples. Place in pot on low heat.
  2. Add water just to keep apples from burning. (We used maybe a cup for a 24 qt. pot.)
  3. Add brown sugar to taste. (We added about a cup to the 24 qt. pot at the beginning, but you can certainly add more later if you find it is needed.)
  4. Add the zest and juice of as many lemons as you think you need for your bunch of apples. (Again, we used about 2 lemons for the 24 qt. pot.)
  5. Let cook down on low heat until the apples have broken down to mostly mush. Use an immersion (stick) blender to burr down to as smooth of a texture as you prefer. We like ours super smooth, so we added a bit more water (just eyeball it) and brown sugar to taste, then blended until the consistency of baby food.
  6. At this point, you can either package up and refrigerate, or can/jar it. We did a bit of both. If you make enough to eat in a short period of time, by all means just throw it in the fridge once cooled. If you made more than you think you can eat in a week or so time, I'd can/jar it. There are no preservatives in this applesauce, so it will not last as long as store bought when placed in the fridge.


Roasted

Like I said earlier, the roasted was the only variation that was different than our standard start. For this applesauce, we cored and chunked up the apples - leaving the skin on, and threw in some thick strips of lemon zest. It was all baked in the oven in a dutch oven. When the apples had broken down they were cooled and then burred up with the immersion blender with some water and brown sugar. The flavor of this roasted applesauce is super concentrated and lemony.


Vanilla

I think this is my favorite variation...I am a bit of a lemon fanatic, so the roasted really called to me, but anything that has vanilla bean in it tends to steal my heart. And when it has lemon AND vanilla - *gasp*. I just can't resist seeing the little bits of vanilla throughout the applesauce. I just can't...ok! I mean look at this:


I dare you to not think that looks amazing!

So yeah, this variation is cooked down with brown sugar, apple cider, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a whole vanilla bean (split in half with the seeds scraped into the pot). Once the apples are cooked down, remove the vanilla bean pod and add some water then burr up to the desired consistency.


Cranberry

We love cranberries in this house. At Thanksgiving we make our own cranberry sauce...that will have to be another blog post all together! Craisins are always on hand - we buy them by the 10 lb bag (really only 48 oz, but that's a lot of Craisins)! So we decided to throw about a cup of these sweetened dried cranberries in with the apples, brown sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice as they cooked down. The cranberries plumped up and gave the applesauce a red hue. The finished product tastes like a smooth cranberry sauce with a hint of apple. We left this one less sweet so that it had that sweet tart flavor. It would be great paired with a turkey and stuffing dinner!


Spice

Forgive the messy pot, but this is real home cooking here! In addition to the standard recipe, we threw in some spices for applesauce that smells AND tastes just.like.Christmas! We went heavy on the ground cinnamon and a bit lighter on the ground cloves and ground nutmeg. Seriously, this would be amazing during the holidays. Add some balsamic vinegar and use it as a glaze on pork - Yum! We left this one a bit more textured, but again you can take it down to whatever texture you prefer.


Clockwise from Top: Cranberry, Roasted, Vanilla, Spice, and Plain

To be fair, the Mr. did the majority of the labor this year. I was chief burr-er and taste tester - not a bad gig if you ask me. We were very happy with the results of this experiment. Seriously girls, forget going after men with money - a man who can cook is where it's at!

Which would you like to try?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday: Trader Joe's & Garlic

 

Breakfast

This morning I went for the unhealthy option of 4 Atlanta Bread mini pumpkin muffins that the Mr. picked up from Sam's Club earlier in the week. They are ok, but I'm positive I could make something better! I had a bowl of our homemade vanilla applesauce - you can read about my obsession here. And for the Trader Joe's contribution to this meal - their Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate. You mix it one part concentrate to 2 parts hot water or milk and you've got a good cup of coffee! I really like how quick it comes together, because who wants to spend 10 minutes waiting on or making a cup of coffee in the morning?!



Lunch

For lunch I wanted to use up the remaining Roasted Garlic Hummus I had from Trader Joe's. So I had it with some Pretzel Slims...also from Trader Joe's. I swear this post is not sponsored by them! I rounded out my somewhat healthy lunch with a Muller Lemon Frut Up and called it done.



Dinner

Tonight we had roasted chicken with sweet peas and Garlic Potatoes with Parmesan Sauce from...you guessed it, Trader Joe's! Roasted chicken is an old standby for us most weeks and we just change up the sides. I had a bit of Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce to dip my chicken in. It's not a requirement, but sometimes it's nice.The potatoes from Trader Joe's were frozen and I chose to bake mine. They were awesome and crispy! I will definitely be purchasing them again.

Another pretty boring food day brought to you by Trader Joe's and Garlic...We won't have any vampire's hanging around this house tonight!

What is one of your weeknight go to dinners? 

Monday, September 30, 2013

September Empties


My product usage has finally slowed down. But everything featured in this empties post are also favorites of the month. The skincare bits are a bit pricey, but that is where I choose to splurge because your skin should be cared for. When you have great skincare products, you really only need to use smalls amounts making them last a long time. I really think these items will be repurchases for many many months to come!

Skintimate SkinTherapy Moisturizing Shave Gel for Sensitive Skin - $2.64 at Walmart
I am not loyal to shave gels, but this one is really nice. It is really thick and you only need a tiny amount to do one leg (knee to ankle). It doesn't have a heavy scent, but I do really like the no-scent scent...how many times can I say scent in one sentence! My legs feel moisturized and smooth with this, so it is great for the cooler months. Not much else I can say about a shave gel...

Lush Ultrabland - $29.95
I am currently on Claravis (generic form of Accutane) and if you have been on this or know anyone who has, you will know how DRY your skin gets. I decided to try this cleansing balm after watching a YouTube video about products to use when on Accutane. I love Lush anyway, so it didn't take much convincing! This balm is SO gentle and has no scent or color. It is a bit like rubbing lard into your skin, but it doesn't irritate my skin at all and doesn't leave me with that tight face feeling. I do plan to repurchase this. I think this cleansing balm would be fine for any skin type, and I do plan to use it after I am done with Claravis.

Lush Celestial Moisturizer - $24.95
When I popped into my local Lush store to purchase the Ultrabland cleanser, I was given the sample of Celestial moisturizer. I had to admit I was a bit skeptical about their moisturizers even if I do love their products. But this smells of almonds, and I can't not try something that smells of almonds! It is a medium weight cream with a very light scent, and it is meant for sensitive skin. I decided to try it at night after using the Ultrabland because right now my skin can handle even the heaviest of moisturizers. I LOVED this stuff! I plan to repurchase it as soon as I can get to the store (who wants to spend $6.00 on shipping - sorry Lush...I still love you). The tiny little pot lasted me almost a month even with every night use. It is a pretty heavy moisturizer, but my skin really got on with it! It smells so nice and cozy - perfect for nighttime use, and when I woke up in the morning my face just really looked amazing. I use this after my Khiel's Midnight Recovery Concentrate.

Fresh Sugar Advanced Therapy Lip Treatment - $25.00
What can I say about this stuff...it's ah.mazing! I was given their regular lip treatment as a gift last year and just fell in love with it. I had a few other lip balms to use up after that, but as soon as I did, I was ready to repurchase. I know it is ridiculously expensive for a lip balm, but it really is the best of the best. I was kind of leery about trying this advanced therapy version, because I am always afraid that the formula will be different, but this is just like the original. I love the smell, the packaging, and the results. I just love this stuff! But right now, my lips are so freakin' dry with the Claravis that I can't afford to use this exclusively. I am instead using the Nivea lip balms as a second choice - which is really nice, but just not quite the same. However, if you can't spring for the Sugar version, the Nivea is a good budget option!

Random Empty & Favorite

Harney & Sons Royal Wedding Tea - $12.00
My sister sent the Mr. some tea for his Birthday this year and included a few samples in the package. This was one of the samples. She sent us 2 sachets and I used them both! I was instantly hooked and placed my order. I went through this tin (how darn cute is this tin - by the way, I will be re-purposing) in a month - having drank a cup a day. It is a white tea, but has plenty caffeine to get my going. I have mine with agave nectar and plain almond milk. The website says there are almond and coconut extracts in, but I don't taste the coconut (I don't really like coconut.). I LOVE this stuff and I will be repurchasing it in the 50 sachet bag. So so good!

What were your favorite finished products of the month? I'm always on the lookout for new things to try!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hot Cookin': Apple Cider Sage Pork Chops with Caramelized Apples


Yeah, yeah...I know...another recipe I found on Pinterest. It really is the best place to find new recipes to try. You can see what I've been pinning here.

I saw this recipe after we went to the apple orchard last weekend, and knew it was one I wanted to try this week. My husband loves cooked apples in any form, so I thought this would be a winner. I was right! He said this was a keeper and that he'd serve this to company - high praise from him!

In fact, this recipe does look impressive enough to serve to company, but it is super easy - even for the most kitchen illiterate.

Ingredients

  • 4 Bone-in Pork Chops
  • 2 Land o'Lakes Garlic Herb Sauté Express® Squares
  • Chopped Sage
  • 3 Apples, Peeled and Sliced
  • 3 tablespoons Butter
  • Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Apple Cider
  • Heavy Cream

Directions

  1. Melt the Sauté Express® Squares in a large skillet over medium heat until it bubbles. Pat the pork chops dry on both sides. Add the meat and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until browned. Turn and cook the other side until browned and the pork is cooked through.
  2. In another skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar to the butter and cook for 1 minutes or until it begins to melt. Add the apples and saute over medium heat until the apples are browned and tender. May take 10-15 minutes.
  3. In the pan with the pork chops, add the apple cider and cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the cream, bring to a boil and allow it to bubble for a few minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Sprinkle with fresh sage.
  4. Spoon the caramelized apples on top of the pork and serve.


My pork chops were pretty thin, so they didn't take long to cook. Although I used bone-in chops, you could use any kind and I think it would turn out just as good.


I used some of the apples we picked at the orchard last weekend and they were perfect. Use any sort of apple you have around.

You could serve this recipe over anything from potatoes, to rice, to pasta - I had a basic rice pilaf on hand, so I used that.


Of course, I couldn't be happier when a recipe leaves us with 2 full meals for another time. Why does this make me so happy?! We have a soccer game to go to this weekend, and these leftovers will come in very handy so we can eat before we go to the game...No one wants to spend an arm and a leg for crap food at concession stands when you could have this readymade!

*Recipe is a modified version of the one I found here.*

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday: Leftovers


Breakfast

I go in and out of love with fruit, yogurt, and granola. I had some fresh cut up pineapple in the fridge and we just got this Pecan Praline Granola from Trader Joe's, so I decided to go for it! I used low fat vanilla yogurt, but you could use any combination of fruit, yogurt, and granola to get the desired flavors. Super quick and easy breakfast...not to mention fairly healthy! Lord knows I need more healthy in my life.


 Lunch

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...I love leftovers! We had ground turkey tostadas for dinner last night and there was plenty left to have for lunch. I had refried black beans, medium salsa, light sour cream, and lettuce on mine. Yum! With everything made the night before, it came together in no time...and because most of my lunches are working lunches, that is important!



Dinner

As you can see...I almost forgot to take a picture! My oldest son and I settled in to watch the very last of the Harry Potter movies (we've gotten into it just a bit late), and I completely forgot about taking a picture of my plate! *gasp* I made Trader Joe's frozen Mandarin Chicken tonight. I love this stuff, but always feel like it needs some veggies, so I steamed some broccoli and added it to the mix. Put that over rice, and you've got dinner!

A pretty boring food day if you ask me, but it was a cheap food day...and there were leftovers from tonight's dinner too!

How do you feel about leftovers? What is your favorite meal to eat the next day?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Our Annual Apple Picking Tradition Continues


Every year we've made the trek to a local orchard to pick apples. We just can't miss an opportunity to bring home apples fresh from the tree! This is the place we've visited 2 of the last 3 years; Millstone Creek Orchards. It's a cute little place in Ramseur, NC. They have pick your own and pre-picked apples, as well as seconds (slightly bumped and bruised, but are still great for some applications) if you are looking for them. Their store carries all sorts of homemade apple treats including cider, cakes, and ice cream to name a few!

The Mr. and I have made our own applesauce with the apples we've picked each year, and seem to have come up with a winner of a recipe. We used to jar it and sell it at small craft fairs, but it got too difficult to keep up that sort of thing with two kids. Now we make it and give it as gifts around Christmas time instead. This is a much more realistic goal!

Anywho, we had amazing weather this past weekend when we made the drive to Millstone Creek. The season for the apples we wanted opened Saturday, and they were already pretty picked over by the time we got to them. My oldest son was fine with that, because it meant he got to climb up the trees to grab the best ones left at the tops (Climbing the trees is not permitted, but we were super careful not to damage anything!).


And because everyone needs a job, my youngest son had basket duty!


How darn cute is that! However, Daddy did have to help once we got a few apples in there...


It was a great Fall family outing, and we came home with enough apples to try all sorts of new recipes and one tried and true - with a few left over for eating...What do ya think?


When the weather starts to feel like Fall, I always get excited for our trip to the orchard. Is there a tradition you have for the start of Fall? I'd love to know!

Apple Recipes on the Agenda:

Place to Visit:
Millstone Creek Orchards

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hot Cookin': Pumpkin Waffles with Apple Cider Syrup


I found this recipe on Pinterest last week and knew I had to try it. It was all the things I love about Fall in one dish! Plus it didn't hurt that I had all of the ingredients on hand...Well, last night seemed as good a time as any to give it a go.

The waffles came out perfectly light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. My kitchen smelled like Fall and Christmas wrapped into one with all of the spices in this recipe. The syrup was sweet and spicy, but still had a crisp flavor from the cider.

For anyone that likes pumpkin and cider...you can't go wrong here!

Ingredients

Waffles:
  • 2.5 cups Flour
  • 4 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Clove
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • .5 teaspoon Salt
  • .25 cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1.25 cup Canned Pumpkin
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 4 Eggs, Separated
  • .25 cup Butter, Melted

Syrup:

  • .5 cup White Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 cup Apple Cider
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 2 tablespoons Butter

Directions

  1. Preheat a waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, clove, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the pumpkin, milk, and egg yolks. Whip the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until soft peaks form (or your arm falls off, whichever comes first).
  3. Stir the flour mixture and .25 cup melted butter into the pumpkin mixture, stirring just to combine. Use a whisk to incorporate 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter, stirring gently. Fold in the remaining egg whites. Cook waffles according to manufacturer's instructions (I recommend using cooking spray for these waffles.).
  4. To make the syrup, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a saucepan. Stir in the apple cider and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to boil; boil until the syrup thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the 2 tablespoons of butter until melted. Serve warm.

Because the process of making the waffles from scratch was a bit longer than using something like Bisquick, I made the syrup first and let it sit on my stove top at extra low heat. If your stove doesn't have an extra low burner setting, I'd just set it aside and try to keep it warm until the waffles are made.


This syrup is seriously yummy, and I think you could find many uses just for this! I'm thinking it would go great drizzled over your favorite vanilla ice cream with some candied nuts crumbled on top...*drools*


These were the leftovers...after 2 adults and 2 kids had a dinners worth of waffles. I let them cool fully and then put them in the freezer just like this until they froze through. They are now in a baggie ready for any day of the week when you'd feel like a toaster waffle - move over Eggo! There was plenty of syrup left too, so I put that in a squirt bottle and popped it in the fridge.

So there ya have it, a perfect Fall breakfast for dinner with a ton for the freezer. We loved this. Let me know if you try it!

*Recipe is a modified version of the one I found here.*