Baking, Daily Life, DIY, Food, Pictures

Succulent Sundays: Wine & Lasagna (Hint: There’s a Recipe!)

It's An Ordinary Blog

As you may remember (reading back to this post), I’m not really into alcohol but when my husband and I saw a Groupon for a small group wine tasting in our home, we pounced on it. 8 bottles of wine, a relaxed atmosphere, and some time with our friends seemed too good to pass up. I learned something…I like wine! The glass pictured above was one that our consultant said would be good with lasagna and so that’s what I made for dinner last night.

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I thought I’d take some time to share the recipe…

You’ll need:

1 pound lean ground beef (or ground turkey) browned and drained.

Lasagna noodles (you can either buy the oven ready noodles or cook them yourself).

8oz Pasta Sauce (I use unsalted)

8oz Stewed tomatoes drained and sliced.

2 cups mozzarella cheese.

16oz large curd cottage cheese.

2 eggs.

Combine the eggs and cottage cheese into a bowl and set aside.

Combine the meat, pasta sauce, and stewed tomatoes into a bowl and set aside.

Assembling the lasagna is very simple. Start with a layer of noodles and then add a layer of your cottage cheese/egg mix followed by a layer of your meat and sauce and then a layer of mozzarella. Repeat, repeat (typically you get two to three layers per recipe).

Bake in the oven, covered with aluminum foil, at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

Serve and enjoy with a glass of your favorite wine.

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 I suggest pairing your lasagna with fresh salad and homemade garlic bread. To make the garlic bread, I sliced a fresh made baguette from my local bakery, used my new Orblue garlic press that I purchased through Amazon (you can find it here). I combined the fresh garlic with melted butter and brushed it onto the bread before baking it at 400 degrees for about five minutes. It was delicious!

Bon Appetite!

 

 

DIY, Food, Health & Wellness, Reviews, Sustainability

Wellness Wednesdays: Let’s Chat About Gardening!

Ark Garden Seeds

Hello & Happy Wednesday, Everyone!  If you’re new here, welcome!  Allow me to introduce you to my Wellness Wednesday series.  Each week, I spend a few minutes chatting about something I’m doing to improve my overall health and wellness.  So far this summer I’ve covered a variety of topics from skincare to nutrition supplements.  One thing I haven’t touched on yet is the importance of eating whole, natural, real foods.

Garden

A couple of years ago, after the birth of my daughter, I started to research what was in the foods that we were eating.  As she transitioned from a newborn to an older infant (especially when she transitioned from breast milk to solids), I knew I wanted to provide her with the best, most nutrient rich foods that I could.  My goal was (and is) to start her on a healthy diet so she doesn’t have to learn how to eat better as an adult (it’s hard, trust me!).

Garden

Part of my goal to provide healthy, natural foods for my family included the desire to start my own garden with fresh vegetables and herbs but, until this year, I’ve never really gotten my feet wet with that particular part of living a more organic lifestyle. My love for sustainability, my desire to raise my daughter with an appreciation for home grown foods, and a yearning to try something new led me to plant my own garden in 2014 instead of waiting until I was “more ready” to dive in.

Garden

I started out small, growing several of my plants in pots on my deck (I’m absolutely terrified of even the remote possibility of snakes in the yard) and I’m really happy with how well they’ve done so far this year.

Garden

I started several of my plants from seeds (lettuce, summer squash, spinach, catnip, basil, cilantro, tomatoes, and a couple of other plants) and purchased a few starter plants (green peppers, jalapenos, and a supplemental tomato plant). Much to my surprise, most of my plants have done really well with the exception of a few that stopped producing once the Summer heat settled in.

Garden

Even though my little garden hasn’t produced enough home grown goodness to supply my family of three with all of our produce for the season, I’m really happy with how much I’ve accomplished.  As a novice gardener, I wasn’t expecting my plants to do as well as they did on my first attempt. Needless to say, gardening exceeded my expectations and I discovered that I actually (really, really) enjoy spending time tending to my plants.  If I can grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers in pots on my back deck, so can you.  I truly believe that anyone with a little outdoor space can grow their own food.  Gardening is such an incredible experience.  It provides me with an appreciation for this planet and the amazing power of nature.  There’s something truly magical about creating your own food and I can’t wait to grow my garden again next year.

Garden

I am excited to have a starter kit for my 2015 garden provided by my friends over at Ark. They provide 100% USA, heirloom vegetable garden seeds in 30 varieties with over 7500 high quality seeds. Their seeds are non-hybrid, non GMO, organic and come with a lifetime guarantee.  Ark is a company that I personally use and am happy to provide them with my heartfelt endorsement for anyone looking to grow their own food.  You can find more information about Ark and their products by visiting their Amazon listing.

Culture, Daily Life, DIY, Food, Parenting, Pictures

The Graham Cracker Death Trap (A Gingerbread House FAIL)

Gingerbread House Fail

I’ve been dreaming about this day for years.  

The day we would sit together as a family, creating beautiful gingerbread houses that would make any Pinterest goer green with envy.  Oh, yeah. I got this.  Except not.

Gingerbread House

I was so excited to be able to share this special time with my toddler, making gingerbread houses for the first time.  Something I hoped we would be able to turn into an annual tradition. But now, my hopes and dreams have been forever ruined because I realize that I suck at making gingerbread houses.  I mean, I’m terrible at it.  I mean, it’s pretty bad. Like really bad.

Gingerbread House decorating

Let’s backtrack to earlier in the weekend when I  braved the crowds in hell at our local Walmart for some wine and gingerbread house making materials.  Somewhere in the store, nowhere near the candy and graham cracker aisles (because, you know, it’s Walmart and nothing makes sense), I saw actual gingerbread house decorating kits. “Pffft! PAH-LEESE,” I said to myself, “That’s for idiots who don’t know how to decorate their own houses. Not me!” And so I spent more than I care to admit on candy, frosting, graham crackers (which I used, instead of making gingerbread, to save time), and various other little treats that we could adorn our lovely homes with.

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As we sat down at the table to start decorating our homes, I was thrilled.  Mostly at the idea of documenting our awesome journey in gingerbread house making to gloat about on Facebook (yeah, I’m awesome) but also because it’s our first year doing this.  I actually cannot remember the last time I decorated a gingerbread house.  It may have been never.  I consider myself to be a relatively crafty person so I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to rock that shit.

Gingerbread House Decorating

My toddler lovingly placed rainbow sprinkles across her rooftop.

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She was so careful and meticulous about placing the decorations on her house.  I was so proud.

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My husband’s craftsmanship.  He is, perhaps, one of the least artistic people that I know and in this particular case, it worked to his advantage.  He was extremely proud that he created something that looked somewhat like a house and actually remained intact as he completed the project.  HOORAY lowered expectations.

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Pretty quickly after I started constructing my gingerbread mansion, I realized that I’m not cut out to be a contractor.  I have no idea what it means to create vaulted ceilings and it’s safe to say that no gingerbread men will be hiring me to play a part in the construction of their homes.  I opted for a flat roof with Kit Kat solar panels on the roof (because, you know, being environmentally conscious is important to me and it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I was incapable of making a structurally sound roof).  It looks more or less like a safe house that would harbor a wanted terrorist for interrogation rather than a comfortable environment for any loving gingerbread family.

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At some point, through no fault of her own, my daughter’s house came crashing to the ground. Presumably crushing all of its gummy bear residents under mounds of sweet, sweet rubble.

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Here they stand…our condemned gingerbread neighborhood.

Next year we’re buying a kit.

Baking, Daily Life, Food, Pictures, Tutorials

Succulent Sundays: Fried Zucchini (Recipe & Mouth Watering Pictures Included)

Yummm! It’s Sunday! A few weeks ago, at my local Farmer’s Market, I picked up (for the first time) green tomatoes. And I fried them because, let’s be honest, nothing says “let me enjoy these nice, healthy vegetables” like dipping them in batter, frying them in oil, and eating them with some ranch dressing. So naturally, I wondered what other would-be healthy items would taste good fried. It still counts as a vegetable, right?! So today, I want to share my recipe for fried zucchini. In case you’ve missed some of my previous Succulent Sunday posts, you can find them here:

Homemade Stuffed Peppers

Pulled BBQ Chicken Bake 

Homemade Lasagna (Don’t tell my mother I shared that one!)

Homemade Zucchini

For this recipe you’ll need: 

  • 1-2 Medium Size Zucchini Squash
  • 2 Eggs (Lightly beaten)
  • Milk (Aprox. 1 Cup)
  • Wheat Flour
  • Italian Style Breadcrumbs
  • Oil (Preferably one with a high smoke point)
  • Paper towels on a plate

Homemade Zucchini Recipe

Zucchini

 

Nothing beats fresh, locally grown produce. I was excited to find some great, seasonal, vegetables. I think the farmer who sold me the zucchini thought I was a little weird. Of course, my vague sexual references surrounding the size and shape of the produce probably didn’t help. Kidding (but seriously). Once you’re done thoroughly washing your produce, slice it into “chips” (see the picture below for reference).

homemade fried zucchini

Begin heating your oil (with just enough to cover the bottom of the frying pan) on medium to medium-high heat. You’ll want to remember to reduce the heat to medium (even medium-low if you need to) depending on whether or not your zucchini slices are frying too quickly.  I recommend leaving your zucchini in the breadcrumbs until you have enough for the entire pan. Speaking from experience, trying to place them into the pan one at a time, turn them as needed, while trying to be mindful not to burn them can be a daunting task for one person. If you have all of them ready at one time, it makes it just a little (okay, a lot) bit easier to fry them.

By now, I hope you’ve figured out that your milk, beaten eggs, flour, and breadcrumbs need to be in different bowls (/plates) set up in a station for easy access.

Step One:

Homemade Fried Zucchini

 

Dip zucchini into milk

Step Two:

Fried Zucchini Recipe

Coat zucchini with flour (I used wheat flour…you know, to make it healthy)

Step Three:

Homemade Fried Zucchini Recipe

Dip zucchini in beaten eggs

Step Four:

Fried Zucchini Recipe

Coat zucchini in seasoned breadcrumbs 

Step Five:

Fried Zucchini Recipe

Fry it up! It takes a few minutes on each side (or until brown)

Once you’re done frying the zucchini, place them on a plate of paper towels to ‘dry’ them off (get rid of that extra grease). Then repeat, repeat, repeat until you’ve fried up your desired amount of zucchini. Serve with ranch, or marinara, and enjoy!

Homemade Fried Zucchini

Succulent Sundays

 

Food, Reviews, Travel

Historic Corydon, Indiana Series Part II: Point Blank Brewery

Point Blank Brewing Company

As you may remember from my last post in this series, we recently ventured from our home in the central Midwest to the historic town of Corydon in Indiana (fast fact: Corydon was Indiana’s first state capitol. You’re welcome for that tidbit of knowledge ;)). Like any good former scout, I did a little research on the area before we headed back East for our extended weekend and were excited to discover that Corydon has a small gastropub downtown. Since the husband is somewhat of a beer aficionado (read: beer snob), we knew that was a place we definitely wanted to check out. The restaurant is highly recommended both by the reviews they have online and the locals who talked about their extensive beer selection.

Point Blank Menu

In addition to their American style menu (brick oven pizza, sandwiches, etc), Point Blank has an impressive beer menu  for a town as small as Corydon. Their plan is to start serving their own brews later this Fall but, in the meantime, they have over 100 bottled beers and a diverse selection on tap. Within the large bottled list were some of the more rare and obscure offerings from Boulevard (Whoo, Kansas City). After sampling a beer from the tap, my husband decided to pair his Ruben with a German beer he knew that he would love, Franzikaner Hefe-weisse. After a mixup with the wait staff, he ended up with a Weihenstephaner Dunkel.  The Dunkel is still considered a ‘world class’ beer and paired nicely with his menu item so, all in all, it was a happy mix-up.

The beer selection is only a fraction of what Point Blank offers residents and out of town guests. They also offer a full, family friendly, menu at reasonable prices. Although I could nit-pick on certain things about the service (like my husband getting the wrong beer), the drinks were cold and the food was hot. The owner, who was on site during lunch service, obviously knows and appreciates good beer and it was a pleasure being able to spend a few minutes speaking with him about the restaurant and his vision for the future.

Nestled in the shops of the quiet, historic downtown area, Point Blank is an unexpected surprise. It’s a gastropub and brewing supply store you’d expect to find in a larger city but with the comforts of being down home.

Point Blank

Food, Giveaways, Reviews

EKoffee In Review (Plus A Small Gift For You!)

eKoffee

I recently had the opportunity to sample some products from eKoffee, an online coffee delivery shop, that offers the ability to purchase fresh coffee from a variety of artisan roasters from the convenience of your own home. When it comes to hot beverages, I am well documented as a creature of habit. So, while I love coffee, it’s not that often that I try out a new brand. I happened across eKoffee on Twitter when I “favorited” a picture of one of their mugs (I am a sucker for a cute mug). Jason, founder, coffee guru, and avid Tweeter (or is it Twitterer? I can never remember.) sent me a message asking if I would be interested in doing a product review. After taking a quick peek at their website, I knew my answer would be “yes”. In case you haven’t been yet, their site is really well laid out and easy to navigate, which is always a bonus when you plan to do a lot of ordering online. More than that, I was excited at the prospect of branching out from my usual name brand coffee and to support a small and growing business.

eKoffee, as any coffee aficionado should, places a great deal of emphasis on freshness.  They offer small-batch artisan coffee that’s roasted immediately before shipping in order to guarantee that the coffee you receive is fresh.  One of the bags that I received was roasted only four days before it arrived at my doorstep. I cannot imagine something bought in a store delivering that kind of freshness. The assortment that the site offers is also impressive. They have coffee from some of the best roasters all available in one location. The selection on the site are organized either by roast (light, medium, etc), country of origin, type (regular, decaf, expresso, flavored), or by individual roaster. So, whatever it is that drives your coffee purchasing decision, eKoffee will quickly navigate you to your perfect choice.

EKoffee

The first coffee that I tried was Organic Honduran Marcala from Golden Hills Coffee. I like that this was fair trade certified and it tasted great.  Their website mentions milk chocolate, honey and green tea notes and while they are there, they are subtle enough to not be distracting.  I do not generally take my coffee black (I know this likely discredits me with hardcore coffee enthusiasts) but I did have this coffee black with some Tiramasu and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was full-flavored, but smooth and mild enough (and without any of the burnt notes that plague so many national brand coffees) that I was not missing my cream and sugar.

Small-Batch Artisan Coffee

The second coffee that I tried was called Good ‘Ol French Vanilla.  A medium Brazilian roast, with a wonderful natural tasting vanilla flavor.  I had this with just a little bit of milk and sugar with breakfast and it was fantastic. The flavor was subtle, delicious, and a great morning beverage.

Ginger Mango Tea

I also received some Ginger Mango tea that I am really excited about, but have not yet tried as I am waiting on my tea infuser to come through Amazon. I am planning to write a follow up post with my thoughts on the Ginger Mango tea in the coming weeks. Overall, I really like eKoffee.com for their emphasis on freshness and value. It is important, as a consumer, to find a companies with priorities that mirror your own and eKoffee definitely hits the mark for me.

eKoffee Review

The company has graciously offered each of you a 10% discount on all orders placed before June 30th. Just use the code: ORDINARYBLOG during checkout and make sure to stop back by here and let me know what you thought.

Disclaimer: I received eKoffee products (coffee, tea, and a mug) for free in exchange for my review and am under no obligation to write a positive review. My expressed thoughts are uniquely my own.

Please feel free to email me anytime with questions. ItsAnOrdinaryBlog@gmail.com 

Culture, Daily Life, Food, Health & Wellness, Reviews

Eggs, Spinach, and Water (Oh, my!): Revolt Now Fitness

42 Hard Boiled Egg Whites  

36 Cups of Spinach 

6 Gallons of Water 

Revolt Now Fitness

So what do sweat, hard boiled eggs, and a kettle-bell have in common? Revolt Now Fitness. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by this new company with an opportunity to become one of their bloggers. Essentially I’ll be participating in the program for two cycles (each uprising is six weeks at a time) in exchange for sharing my experience, what I’ve learned, and my thoughts about the program every week with each of you. I’m excited to share this journey with my readers and to try something that I really believe, maybe for the first time in my adult life, will become a life changing thing for me. That said, I want to talk a little bit today about what I’ve learned this first week and the challenges I’ve faced.

I always assumed that I had a relatively healthy diet. We try to get in our fruits and vegetables, have whole grains more often than their counterparts, and limit the amount of sweets that we eat each week. It wasn’t until I looked at the foods that I’ll be eating for the next twelve weeks that I really got it: A healthy diet isn’t just about fruits and veggies. It isn’t just about limiting processed foods. It’s the whole package that matters. And even though my diet wasn’t horrible before, it definitely wasn’t as good as it’s going to be from here on out. I’ve learned (and will continue to learn) that it isn’t just about having a vegetable with your meal or a piece of fruit as a snack. The way we pair our foods together can actually impact how we feel throughout the day and how the foods impact our body.

That’s not to say that this first week has been easy breezy, because it hasn’t. When you start Revolt, it’s strongly recommended that you begin with a Detox week, just to get your body used to not having so much sugar (which is in a lot of the foods most people eat on a daily basis). It wasn’t the ‘detox’ that bothered me…it was the amount of food and the repetitive nature of it. Six cups of spinach a day, hard boiled egg whites every morning and evening, and small meals every two to three hours. In looking forward to the next five weeks of meals, I’m really excited. Real food! Lava cake for dessert every night next week (and it’s healthy, SCORE!), celery and peanut butter, and meals that I know I’ll enjoy. The hardest thing, for me, in doing this program is saying goodbye to one of my favorite foods: cheese. Which brings me to the next thing I want to talk about.

In order for any sort of program (diet, fitness, or otherwise) to work, you have to have balance. We have a ‘cheat day’ built into the Revolt program which I ended up having to spread out throughout the week (we had a birthday dinner on Tuesday, an event last night, and a movie night tonight). Since I usually track my meals on My Fitness Pal, I know what my calorie deficit is for the week and I’m okay with the balance I have. So many of us found ourselves ‘caving’ at one point or another this week and having a bite of something that we weren’t supposed to have. I learned that it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world and life goes on. Mistakes happen, not every meal is going to be perfect, and the only thing you can do is accept it and move on. Tomorrow is a new day and an opportunity to be better.

The program combines healthy, clean eating, with a mix of workouts throughout the week meant to target the whole body. Nichole (Owner, trainer, goddess extraordinaire) posts daily workouts for us to follow. Three to four days a week we do large cardio circuits. We have an upper body sculpt workout once a week, a lower body workout one day a week. In the past, I’ve done the 30 Day Shred workouts but I actually prefer the Revolt Now Fitness program because I feel a difference in how my body reacts to the workouts. I’m excited to see how this program impacts my overall fitness level and my body over the next couple of months.

Even more so, I’m excited to share it with all of you. Care to join me?! The Revolt website is under construction until May 6th. Until then, you can find out more by visiting their Facebook page. I will post information about how you can join next week (it will include an affiliate link so if you’re going to sign up, I would love for Nichole to know that I sent you) so be on the lookout for that. Until then…

Disclaimer: I am participating in the Revolt Now Fitness Program for the next twelve weeks for free in exchange for my weekly review of their program. I am under no obligation to write a positive review and the expressed thoughts are uniquely my own. Please feel free to contact me at ItsAnOrdinaryBlog@gmail.com with any questions.