July 24, 2013

Beer Bread

Brad and I really enjoy trying different beers: ales, lagers, porters, stouts (not so much IPAs since neither of us care too much for them.)  We often find amazing new brews, such as Kasteel Rouge, however there are the many unfortunate times in which we end up with a dud.

We purchase most of these unique beers as a single bottle or we try them in a restaurant or bar.  This way if we don’t care for it, at least we only had to suffer through it once.  However, there are frequently times in which we find a beer that sounds delicious but can only be bought as a 6 pack.  Since you don’t know what you’re getting when trying something different we try to limit ourselves to only buying these six packs when they meet one of the following requirements:

  • the beer is something we BOTH really want to try
  • the beer is a variation on something we've been looking for
  • the beer comes from a brewery that we know and trust
  • we are hosting/going to a party where a number of people will want to drink the beer

Brad and I recently picked up two six packs that we had yet to try

Shock Top's Honeycrisp Apple Wheat

Atwater Brewery's Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale 

When I saw Honeycrisp Apple Wheat I was hesitant yet intrigued.  The idea of an apple flavored beer definitely had me curious but I was uncertain about its sweetness.  “Honeycrisp Apple” gave me images of caramel apples making me think the beer would be much too sweet for mine and Brad’s taste, however the imagery of caramel apples in turn made me think of fall and hoodies and football so of course Shock Top had reeled me in.  Brad told me he had also been debating the Honeycrisp Apple, and reminded me that Shock Top had not let us down in the past.

While I was mulling over Shock Top, Brad had picked up Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale.  We both really enjoy Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, but it only comes in the winter seasonal pack. This means we can only get the Chocolate Bock a few months out of the year. Of course even getting it for those few months requires us to also get a few (in my opinion) gross beers like Old Fezziwig and Holiday Porter. It’s for these reasons that we've been trying different chocolate ales, stouts, etc. in hopes of finding something similar to Sam Adams Chocolate Bock.  We were especially optimistic about the Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale because it said “ale” and therefore wouldn't be as heavy as a stout or porter. 

We got home and each opened a bottle of our respective beers and took a swig.  If our lives were a sitcom we would have spewed the beer from our mouths; they were terrible.  The Honeycrisp Apple was beyond sweet, with full cider taste and consistency but none of the wheat ale it’s supposedly made up of.  I would compare it more to a Smirnoff or Seagram’s rather than a beer.  Calling Honeycrisp Apple a beer is a slap in the face to real beers everywhere.  Unfortunately, we were just as disappointed in the Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale.  It’s as if Atwater Brewery tried covering up an extremely low quality beer with an overwhelming taste and aroma of chocolate.  Envision drowning a Natural Light with Hershey’s kisses.

So what do you do with unpleasant beer that you don’t want to drink?  

Make Beer Bread!

Beer Bread

3 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon honey
1 (12 oz) bottle beer
4 Tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°
Spray bread pan with non-stick cooking spray
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt
Using a wooden spoon fold the beer and honey (warm honey in microwave for easier stirring) into the dry ingredients until just mixed.
Pour half the melted butter into the pan, then spoon in batter, top with the rest of the butter

Bake 50-60 minutes


The crust of the bread is extremely hard, making the end pieces hard to bite into.  The end pieces also have a distinct butter taste as it comes in contact with the most melted butter.  However, the rest of the bread is moist and delicious!  I've made this bread with various types of beer and have yet to have the bread take on the beer's taste, so don’t be afraid to bake with what you have.

4 beers down and 8 more to go!

July 17, 2013

Yes, I'm trying to eat healthier...

On the ferry to Mackinac Island

Last week Brad and I took Maggie, our two year old cock-a-poo, to Mackinac Island.  We got lucky with the weather as it was a warm, clear, sunny day with a nice breeze off the lake.  We spent the day touring Fort Mackinac and walking the island, Maggie enjoyed playing in and drinking from Lake Huron.  She did not, however, enjoy the boat ride to and from the island nor the crowded streets.  We stopped for lunch at Grill’n & Chill’n Waterfront CafĂ©.  You’ll find it off the main street down by Archie’s dock.  The food was surprisingly delicious from what I expected to find at a place where you order from a walk-up window.  The girl who delivered our food was even nice enough to bring out a bowl of water for Maggie.

And that pretty much sums up our day at Mackinac Island.

The point of my story is, due to our, although short, vacation it occurred to me that I didn’t do anything to blog about this week (and I’m starting to think that blogging once a week may have been an impractical goal).  Actually, going to Mackinac Island was a new experience for Brad and I and we did have a good time.  However, despite popular belief, I didn’t personally find it so spectacular that I could stretch our trip into an entire blog, leaving me with nothing to write about.

So here I sat staring at the computer eating my chocolate chip, banana oatmeal breakfast muffin and it hits me; the homemade, low calorie chocolate chip, banana oatmeal muffin is (or was about 6 months ago) new to me. 

It hadn’t occurred to me to share the recipe before because I got it from a blog where I get a TON of recipes.  I could basically repeat all the recipes on Emily Bites, and even though my blog is based on what I’ve found/learned from other people, repeating her recipes just feels like stealing because once I share one I will want to share them all! Therefore, in the future I will only repeat my very favorite recipes that I’ve gotten from Emily Bites, but for now let me tell you a little about how I happened upon her blog.

Sophomore Year "Fat"
I’ve had a love hate relationship with food and my body image all my life, even at my thinnest I was convinced I was fat.  I never wanted to get thin the healthy way either, exercising was too much work so I ate less and what I did eat was unhealthy.  My junior and senior years of high school I joined the track team, but anytime they wanted me to actually run I whined about it.  The 400 meter (once around the track) was the most they could pull out of me, and the only reason they didn’t cut me was because there were no cuts.

Over the years I’ve gone through spurts of working out but always giving up in the end.  My goal was always to be thin and once I’d hit my goal weight I'd stop trying.  Honestly looking back at pictures of myself, I was never actually overweight; sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, never unhealthily fat, but never healthy either.  The last time I decided to get in shape was for my wedding.  My parent’s neighbor told us about this workout DVD she had been using called Turbo Jam and my parents ordered a copy.  I worked out with that DVD almost daily from January until my wedding day, August 15, 2009.  I LOVED Turbo Jam, for me it was the most fun, high intensity workout I’d ever done, plus it offered the convenience of working out in the privacy of my own home.  I lost almost 30 pounds in those months before my wedding.  Then, in Brad’s and my first year of marriage I put all the weight I had tried so hard to lose, back on.

Summer Before Wedding
Summer After Wedding

It was almost two years ago now that I decided to start working out again, but this time I wasn’t trying to get thin, I was already married and Brad loved me no matter what size I was.  No, this time my goal was to be healthy which is why I decided to change my eating habits as well.

I asked my parents for my own Turbo Jam DVD as a Christmas gift and was so excited when I opened it!  This time around I didn’t work out every day, only 3-4 times a week.  I didn’t stop living my life for the goal of being thin like I had done many times before. I also didn’t commit myself to doing strictly cardio, I often traded in my cardio workout for “Turbo Sculpt”, a low intensity weight lifting and squatting workout from the Turbo Jam DVD. 

Along with working out I bought two “Eat This, Not That” books.  One book was about items to switch up when eating out, the other about items to switch in at the grocery store. These books explained to me the importance of calories and taught me that just because something was lower in calories did not necessarily mean it was better.
Reading the “Eat This, Not That” books prompted me to find My Fitness Pal, a free online calorie counting tool.  I love My Fitness Pal because it not only lets me count calories but it also has a feature for subtracting calories burned from working out.  I personally am not extremely strict with my calorie intake, I try to keep it close to the number they suggest but I don’t freak out when I go over.  Other perks of My Fitness Pal is the community of people all working toward the same thing, sharing goals and setbacks, giving encouragement, and sharing recipes and websites with low calorie recipes.  This is forum is where I stumbled upon Emily Bites.  

What is so awesome about Emily Bites?  Brad is never aware he is eating low calorie food.  I’ve made a few of her recipes for family, friend, and even work gatherings and I always get rave reviews.  Her recipes are original, easy and DELICIOUS. 

As for me? I still eat what I want, but I’ve learned portion control and when Brad invites me out on a date I still splurge and throw calories to the wind.  My goal this time around is to try and be healthier not thinner. It’s no longer about dieting, it’s just a lifestyle change.  

Pin I found on Pinterest 
Below is the original recipe for the Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Muffins.  I swapped the skim milk for 2% and in the future will probably use dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Enjoy!

Recipe taken straight from Emily Bites

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 egg
1-1/4 cups skim milk
3/4 cup mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly mist 18 cups in a muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Combine the oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg whites, egg, mashed banana, milk and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until blended together.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Spoon the oatmeal mixture evenly between the prepared muffing cups.  Bake uncovered for 18-22 minutes or until oatmeal is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

July 9, 2013

DIY Tank

When I saw this Pin on Pinterest I knew I had to do it, I also knew when my mom saw it she might be frustrated.  My mom is a sewing queen! Seriously, we are talking clothes, quilts, prom dresses, Halloween costumes, Christmas stockings, all sorts of crafty stuff, and even wedding dresses. When something calls for a needle and thread my general rule is to take it to my mom.

My defense in doing this myself?  There is technically...


Why would my mom be frustrated with this project?  Well not only is she a sewing queen, she also happens to be a perfectionist (especially when it comes to her sewing).  This project involves no measuring or pinning, no perfect lines or cuts; it's mostly guesswork.  That's what makes this project perfect for me, I am a fierce guesstimator! 

This week has been hot and humid, so of course it was this weekend that I decide to paint the spare room upstairs. I'm often a mess when it comes to painting, I get it everywhere including my hair, so I know I should wear old clothes but I don't really keep old clothes around, once they've run their course I get rid of them (give away, garage sale, throw away, donate.)  Upon looking in my dresser I was left with some pretty sparse painting clothing options.  I put on an old t-shirt and knew immediately that I would never be comfortable wearing it to paint in the humid weather, then I remembered a pin I had on Pinterest.  Turn an old t-shirt into a new workout tank without any sewing! I quickly pulled it up grabbed the t-shirt and some scissors.

I started this project with the Hawthorne Heights t-shirt I had originally planned on wearing to paint.  However, once I finished I realized that the tank was much to tight to wear.  You have to start with a t-shirt that is too big for you, so I rounded up this Sublime t-shirt I stole from Brad when we first started dating.

Step 1.              Cut off the sleeves and neck line

Step 2.              Cut a deep V in the back of the shirt and cut the front neck line to a desirable depth. (Optional - Trim sleeves to desired width)

Step 3.              Cut the hem, plus about a half inch of fabric, from the bottom of the shirt

Step 4.              Cut the half inch of fabric from the hem of the bottom of the shirt and stretch it

Step 5.              Bring the back of the shirt together and knot one end of the stretched fabric around it.  Then wrap the rest the fabric around the back of the shirt.  Knot the other end and tuck in the excess piece of fabric.

Voila...new tank

As for the painting....well, it's a work in progress but I'll get a lot of use out of this new tank top between the painting, workouts, and other odd dirty jobs around the house.  

Anyone in need of a workout/cleaning/painting/mowing Hawthorne Heights tank that will never fit me again?  Seriously, remember:  Use a T-shirt that is too big for you.

Thanks to Creating Laura for sharing!

July 3, 2013

Uncork the Artist

I have never been an artist; I don’t paint or sculpt, I can’t draw, I've even learned that it takes a special artistic eye to take amazing photographs.  So, when work decided to put on an “Uncork the Artist” class I was, to say the least, skeptical.  I was sure that there was no chance I’d ever be able to replicate the painting chosen for our class.  However, it sounded like a lot of fun so I signed Brad and myself up with about a dozen other people from my office to drink wine and paint.

Apparently these classes are currently all the rage, although I only first heard about it a few months ago when it was brought up as a possible company sponsored fun event.  Upon further online research I found that there are a couple of companies in the area offering these services, with a wide variety of classes / paintings to choose from. 

The basic idea is:  

Get a group of friends, open a bottle of wine, and paint!

The company we chose to go with is “Uncork the Artist.”

  • $35 per person
  • Uncork the Artist provides the canvas/paint/brushes
  • You can choose to go to their studio or have the artist come to you
  • Book your own private class (8 person minimum) or sign up for one of their pre-scheduled classes
  • The only thing you need to provide is your own drink (and maybe a DD)

We held our painting class in the lobby of our office on a Thursday evening after work.  The artist’s assistant set up each paint station with easel, canvas, brushes, water, apron, and a paper plate filled with small mounds of different colors of paint.  At any time during the class we were able to refill our “paint trays” from a table in the back which was set up with an array of paint colors housed in large pump bottles (don’t press down to hard on the pump for fear of spraying paint all over.)  By the end of the class, I had been to been to refill my colors at least half a dozen times and used no less than 3 paper plates.

The artist, Bernard, was an eccentric character who obviously loves his job.  He talks fast and excitedly when giving directions, and although he did warn us that it was his first time teaching that particular painting, it seemed as though he was making it up as he went.  Bernard’s instructions on color mixing weren’t very specific and often included the phrase “and maybe a hint of…”  This teaching style made it obvious that it wasn’t about being perfect, which helped me relax about not being an artist.  If it had been about perfection I would have given up before finishing the first step. 

Bernard instructed us to “mix a little white, with a touch of blue and maybe just a hint of brown” for a color to cover the entire canvas.   What I found was, when Bernard said “a little” paint, he very rarely actually meant “a little” which meant that right off the bat I hadn’t mixed enough of the color to cover my canvas.  I had to try and recreate the base color by mixing the paints again, which is basically impossible. By the end of the first step I had three different colors on my canvas, when there was only supposed to be one.  Fortunately by the end of the painting there is so much going on that it doesn’t matter that the colors didn’t quite match. You paint it, paint over it, and then paint over it again.

I was amazed at how easy Bernard made painting seem.  Once we had the entire canvas painted one color, we were instructed to paint a few precisely placed white dots, which we placed using imprecise measurements of guessing, eyeballing, and two finger lengths.  After we connected those dots, we began filling in the lines with color.  Between the guessing on measurements and the mixing of paints, everyone began creating the same picture only different. It was nice to have Bernard walking around giving compliments on the uniqueness of each of our paintings (“I really like the color you used here,”  “The wild colors are really interesting,”  “This is really cool, what you did here”).  For the finishing touches he encouraged us to add our own style, mine included adding Maggie to my painting.

Although I’d had a really fun time, I spent most of the class judging how bad my painting was turning out.  It wasn't until I looked at it the next morning that I realized, it actually wasn’t all that bad, maybe it was even good! 
My Painting Evolution

I had to walk away so I could come back and see the painting with a new perspective, not by the little mistakes it was made up of but by the picture as a whole.

Finished Product (Brad/Left, Mine/Right)

I would definitely do this again and probably with a little more confidence!  Anyone want to take a painting class with me?