Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Recipe: cranberry vanilla nut bars

All of my life, I've been a snacker. Maybe it's the always-be-prepared girl scout in me, but for years, you'd never find me without some kind of shelf-stable sustenance hangin' out in my purse. Even before I went grain/gluten-free almost two (!) years ago, I was a huge fan of larabars, a simple bar made just with dried fruit & nuts. While they're tasty & super portable, I can't always justify spending $1.29 per bar every trip to Trader Joe's, and thus-- I got to experimenting in my kitchen :)

The goal was to make these as cheaply and easily as possible-- mostly making do with things I already had lying around, but also ensuring I wasn't spending more in money & time making them than I would buying them, because um, hello. I used deglet noor dates, which can be found a bit more inexpensively & easily than medjool. Slivered almonds were the nut of choice, mainly because they were already in my pantry, and also more cost-effective. Lastly, cranberries, because 1. yum, 2. cheap! I wasn't even going to post about this, but you guys. These were so so so so good, I just had to. Definitely more economical, dare I say even more tasty than store-bought, and a flavor you can't find anywhere but your own kitchen! A win in my book.

Wrapped in saran wrap because hey, I never claimed to be a food blogger :)
1 c. nuts (I used almonds, slivered)
1 c. dates (deglet noor, whole & pitted)
1/2 c. dried fruit (cranberries)
1/2-1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tsp. water

Add all ingredients except for water & vanilla into food processor, process until well chopped. The end goal here is for a dough ball, so if your ingredients are wet enough to form itself into a ball, great! You're done. If not, add the vanilla and water and process until ball forms, or until sticky & holds together. Even if your dough forms without liquid, I'd still recommend adding vanilla, it's delish! Take dough ball out of food processor, lay on a sheet of saran wrap. Fold saran wrap over dough (to protect your hands from stickiness) and press dough until it lays flat and somewhat square-shaped. Toss it in the fridge until it's cool and firmed up, cut into pieces, individually wrap & store in fridge! I make about 9 small squares, but serving size is up to you. Feel free to play around with ingredients within this basic framework-- enjoy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

quick sunday survey :)

Gooooood morning, friends :) I've been thinking a lot lately about the way my blog has changed over the last few years, and I'd love some of your input, so I threw together a quick survey! If you wouldn't mind taking a sec & answering the question below, I'd love your input. Feel free to choose as many options as you like!

Monday, July 15, 2013

1/24: festival weekend & a bikini

As much as I love writing my yearly life lists, sometimes actual life gets in the way & more things are left unchecked than I'd like. Even though I'm still a solid month away from my schedule cooling down a bit, I've solidly decided that's not gonna happen this year, baby. 

So I checked off two things this weekend and planned three more for the coming month. #overachiever 

First things first: I bought... and finally wore, a bikini. Seriously. WHO AM I. This is something I've been wanting to do for a while, and is technically a carryover from last year's list. I was sick and tired of feeling that I had to 'earn' the right to wear a certain type of swimsuit based on my body, and that it was off-limits unless I was 'perfect'. Who needs that, man? Life's too short, I decided. A few months ago, I decided to finally pull the trigger & ordered a bikini from the internet (because heaven forbid girls with boobs want to try swimsuits on at the store, amirite?) and loved it. And then it took me like, six weeks to brave it out in public. I wore it when I took the little munchkin I nanny for the to pool, and it was such a non-issue I could hardly believe it. I felt great the whole day, and was reminded of the age-old lesson that no one is paying attention to you, they're paying attention to themselves. Brilliant. 


Second things second: Festivals! We were all about them this weekend. I've waxed poetic before about how much I love this little city of mine, but Milwaukee is truly spectacular in the summer. There is so much--literally, SO much good stuff to do once the weather warms up, a plethora of festivals being at the top of that list. We spent Friday night on the... erm, townie side of town, drinking adult beverages to the tune of one ridiculous 70s cover band, watching an insane fireworks display blow up a mere city block from our faces. It was glorious. Saturday night was spent at the Bastille day festival, eating all manner of delish French-ish goodies, watching a particularly hokey parade and basking in the glittering lights of one beautifully to-scale Eiffel Tower replica. Oh, Milwaukee. You are my favorite. 

A fairly solid start to my 24/24 list, I think! 2 down, 22 to go :) 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

24 Things in my 24th Year

I said I wasn't going to do it this year. I said that with my 60+ hour workweeks and full-time grad school + job, I was just too busy. A lot of my list last year was left unchecked simply because life got in the way. But then my birthday came and went, and it felt weird. And people started asking me, Mary! Where is your birthday bucket list? 

I wasn't going to do it, until I realized this: no matter how busy I get, no matter how stressed, I still want to live my life purposefully. I've been fully entrenched in my 24th year for a few weeks now, and while I'm certain I would still fare pretty well without it, I do love the anticipation, the excitement of a grand plan. So friends, here we go: a blueprint for a spectacular 24th year!

24 Things in my 24th Year

1. Go total curly girl method for at least 30 days (done 11/13)
2. Do one morning sun salutation everyday for a month
3. Host another clothing swap & donate the rest to the awesome organization where I work (done 9/16/13)
5. Try a new festival in Milwaukee (done 7/12/13)
6. Make Julia Child's chicken liver mousse. (Liver is super good for you, or something. It also gives me night terrors. However, if you add butter, shallots, and cognac, I'm willing to bet it's probably at least okay.) 
7. Tour a local farm.
8. Make pickles.
9. Do a thrift store refashion.
10. Cook something intimidating (see: last three years of lists, re: cooking a whole chicken)
11. Go to a drive-in movie with a bunch of friends, pack a picnic, bring blankets, be all cute and stuff. 
12. Try my hand at making some all-natural makeup.
13. Host/go to a red wine tasting, learn more specific details besides just: um... I like it. (done! 4/3
14. Write one snail mail card/letter/postcard per month.
16. Nail down some definitives on my N=1 experiment (working on it! Made great progress in the first four months of 2014)
17. Make paleo donuts (I didn't thrift a $1 donut pan for nothing, you know.) (done 2/1/14)
18. Try a new artistic medium. (Last year I learned that I love to paint, and have done it several times now. This year, let's see what else I can art!)
19. Go to a U-Pick berry farm. Pick... berries? Or peaches. Or whatever grows in WI besides pumpkins, apples & cranberries. 
20. Pay off my credit card bill entirely. (DONE! Hallelujah! 3/28/14)
21. Spend at least 30 minutes each day in activities that make me slooow down, gets my mind outta the way & help me connect. (doing great on this! It's a continual process :))
22. Graduate with my Master's degree (hells yeah! I'm all slated to graduate in December, and might I say I've worked my @ss off this year especially for this one, so I'm definitely gonna make it an achievement to celebrate!) (done 12/15!
23. Say YES more. (This is always, always on my list. This is why.)
24. Practice compassion. Be silly. Believe more. Treat others and myself incredibly. Live purposefully and eagerly. See the good and appreciate the bad. Do random acts of kindness always. Leave a trail of goodness, happiness and sparkles wherever I go. Be purposeful in the spectacular living of this life, and smile always. :)