Thursday, October 21, 2010

Flavors of Fall: Pumpkin Spice Latte

What an exciting Thursday evening of Grey's, pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin spice cookies!!

In the middle of class a couple weeks ago, I got an amazing epiphany. I could make my own pumpkin spice lattes!!! I searched around online and found tons of recipes, though all basically the same. Here is the one I've been using. I had to buy practically all of the ingredients but it's been well worth it! Such a delicious start to the morning! Plus I think I finally feel the effects of caffeine! For most of my life caffeine never really had an effect on me. I never woke me up and I could have it right before bed and it didn't keep me awake. Perhaps it is a mental thing, but these pumpkin spice lattes are a good morning picker-upper! Here is my recipe:

1c. Soy milk. (you can used almond, but I think soy taste better)
1 regular spoon scoop of canned pumpkin, amount totally depends on how much you like pumpkin.
1T sugar
1T vanilla coffee syrup (I found it at target)

Mix together and microwave for a minute or two until steaming. Then add

1/4t. pumpkin pie spice
1/4c. coffee (you're supposed to use "strong" coffee since it's subbing for espresso, but I don't)

Super quick and easy! I bought a little electric milk frother for $10 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I used it before I add the coffee so my drink looks even more authentic. Plus the foam helps to keep the drink hot for a longer period of time. I don't add whipped cream, though that would make it extra fancy and maybe make it taste even better. I also bought a caramel coffee syrup at Target and sometimes add a dash of that too.

The recipe says you can used bottled Pumpkin Spice Syrup instead of canned pumpkin and spices. I immediately searched online and found it multiple places and the bottle is only $7-8!! BUT shipping is $10. No thanks! Maybe when I feel like I have extra money lying around? Too bad you can't get the syrup at Starbucks; I wonder what they actually used in the lattes at the store? Anyway, I found a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Syrup and made some and I would say it was quite successful! Basically water, sugar, pumpkin and spices, simmered on the stove until maple-syrup thick. It saves SECONDS off my latte making since I no longer have to add sugar or spices (I still add extra pumpkin). You can also add it to other drinks, esp Chai tea. What a novel idea! I keep meaning to make a Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte but I keep forgetting!

Maybe this weekend I will go study at Starbucks and let them make a pumpkin spice latte for me!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Flavors of Fall: Vegan Pumpkin Cookies!

I love the flavors of fall. Actually I love fall in general. It wasn't until this current fall that I realized it. Since I am not a fan of bittery cold weather, I never considered myself a lover of fall, but I got to thinking about it and realized how much I love everything else about this time of year. I love the gorgeous tree colors and the ability to wear my fleece jacket and a cute scarf and my fur boots. I love decorating for holidays and fall is the beginning of the season of the best holidays! I love college football and the excitement that goes along with it. A couple weeks ago, I stopped at starbucks and got my first pumpkin spice latte and fell in love. Autumn in a trendy cup! I bought all the ingredients to make my own pumpkin spice lattes (at $5 a pop, they aren't cheap!) including a coffee maker. I have been having one almost every morning, though that is for another post. Any way, I used canned pumpkin in them but I don't used a whole can of pumpkin in a week so I was looking for something else to do with it and pumpkin cookies came to mind! Since I don't eat eggs or even keep them around, vegan cookies it is! I wanted a recipe with lots of whole grains (since I have been eating too much junk lately) and this recipe looked delish! Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies from postpunkkitchen. I halved the recipe and it still made a TON of cookies, more than a sheet full. Next time, I'd quarter the recipe. I really like baking so I'd rather make a small batch of cookies more frequently than a large batch less often. Plus it prevents me from super-super pigging.

Here the recipe halved with my own variations

1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2c. + a 1/3c. filled halfway of rolled oats (I think technically 2 and 2/3 T)
1/2t. baking soda
3/8t. salt
1/2t. cinnamon
1/4t. nutmeg (which I didn't have, so I subbed some ground ginger and ground cloves. I should have just stubbed pumpkin pie spice for the cinn + nutmeg)
1/2 + 1/3c. sugar
1/3c. canola oil
1T molasses (I used a heaping T of maple sugar)
1/2c. canned pumpkin.
1/2t. vanilla
optional: 1T flaxmeal (I forgot to add it)
1/2c. chopped walnuts
1/4c. raisins

I am totally lazy and just dump it all in a bowl at once and stir it up. I used a cookie scoop and 2 baking sheets baked 1 and a time and they turned out great! They taste semi healthy too! I don't feel like I am just eating white fluff when I eat them. Since I used Newman's Own Organiz raisins (which are super sweet on their own), I think it would be possible to cut out a bunch of the sugar and the recipe would still turn out great!

You're supposed to squish them down a bit with a fork (like PB cookies) before making them. I totally didn't so I have round cookie balls!


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Learning Enrichement

School is hard. I love school. I love starting new classes and getting new books and new school supplies, but the actual act of serious studying/learning has always been a challenge for me. Mostly because I don't study. Quite honestly I believe this is because I have some weird idea that I would rather fail a class because I was too lazy to study (and there if I did study, I would have done awesome, but my laziness just got in the way) than to say that I studied my butt off but still did terrible because I am just too dumb to understand the information.

I went and talked to the Learning Enrichment center 2 weeks ago. He gave me some goals to work on (1) study outside of my apartment, (2) find a study buddy. Not for social studying, just some to sit at the same table and quietly work on your own stuff. (3) get practice questions. I went to the library and found some great board review books that weren't all clinical questions.

Then I had a follow up a week ago. I think talking to him helped. He gave me some good study advice and ideas for how to improve (or in my case, where to seriously start)

Learning steps
1) preview before class, just enough so you know the gist of what the lecture covers
2) lecture, take the best notes possible
3) review right after class, this is the best time to review, while the info is fresh. the longer you wait and the more you sleep before reviewing, the less you'll remember
4) weekend review, make a study sheet or questions outline if you have not already done so.

Some of the stuff I learned about myself is that when I study, I learn best if I hand-write the notes. When I type, I feel as though I'm just speeding through to get the information copied onto my computer, which in actuality is useless. Though I am totally capable of just speeding through my notes even when writing, so I have to consciously go slowly to actually learn the information.

I have also decided that I want to try to get into a more steady schedule. I have class at 10am on MW and 8:30am on TR and then sleep in FSaSu so I get up at all different times. My new goal is to get up at 7am MTWR and then maybe 8 or 9 on FSaSu. I hate how I wake up at 11 or 12 or even 1 and then feel as though the whole day is gone. I think I could get a lot accomplished in the 2 extra hours I'd have before class on MW. Maybe even some pre-reading, which leads me to my next realization is that I need to do more pre-prep before class. While studying for anatomy I was just thinking about how much more I would have learned during lecture if I had just read the book before class. Not even fancy-read with notes and stuff, just straight reading. Another new goal or me.

I know that I am 26 and should have all this crap figured out by now, but I don't. Well, actually I do. Intellectually I understand everything I need to do and have for a long time but there is some sort of disconnect to the execution phase and I have a tough time actually doing all the stuff on my to-do list.

25 minutes!

So a long time ago I got the Couch-to-5K app for my iphone. I mean months ago, maybe even a year ago. I'd started working on the app and liked it. You can play regular music while you run and then the app tells you when you should be running or walking for interval training. It's great...but I'm lazy. I'd do it for a couple days and then get busy and it'd be a week or more before I could do it again.

It was so difficult for me when I first started. Running for just a couple minutes at a time was physically challenging for me, though I hate to admit it. But lately I've gotten seriously back into it. Over the summer I bough the Nike+ chip and a holder for my shoe and I think that has really made the difference with me sticking to this training. It is so inspiring to be able to see exactly how far/fast you ran and then compare all your data online. Plus they have audio inspiration clips they play when you improve your numbers! So fun!

Today, I ran for a full 25 minutes! Straight! I was sooo proud of myself. There were so many times I wanted to stop, but I just kept saying after I got so much farther or run so many more minutes and then after saying that enough I finished without actually having to stop! Plus it was super gorgeous outside! About 70 degrees with a light breeze. Plus some of the trees are starting to change which makes it even more beautiful!

I want to run again tomorrow and do it again, but I have 3 exams and a quiz next week and I like to run at a park that is like 18 min away, so it would take a good chuck out of my day to go, run, and come back.

5 minute warmup, then 25 minutes running. Yep, I did that! (6.3, 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 are all the same. I think to get your body conditioned at this distance before increasing the speed. 8.1 is up to 28 minutes of running)

After finishing the app, I kept walking for about 10 more minutes, it was such a gorgeous day out! My goal is to run a half-marathon in the beginning of April, so every additional minute helps I think!

I love how it keeps track of my route! You can even click on "pace" and it shows your route in colors where green is a good time and then progresses to red, which is slow for you.

I am really proud of myself that I have kept up with this and can run a decent distance now! I keep saying that but I am not good with challenging myself so this is a big deal for me! I have always been intrigued by people who are "runners" and maybe soon I can call myself one too!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


A couple years ago I read the book Skinny Bitch . When I bought it I had no idea it was about being a vegan. I quickly finished the book and stuffed it away on my self. Life without fried shrimp? Life without cheese? Life without QUESO?!?!? What a terrible idea. The book was soon forgotten and life continued as usual, with the normal American diet.

Fast forward to summer 2010. For some reason I felt compelled to revisit this weird book. I had found out earlier in the year that Ellen was a vegan. A friend from high school mentioned Skinny Bitch on facebook and said it changed her life. I read that Alicia Silverstone wrote a new book on being vegan. I visited family in Michigan and my aunt's a vegetarian. I'd been drinking original soymilk for almost a year and loved it, not missing regular cow's milk at all. I then reread Skinny Bitch. Seriously read. Absorbed every word. Saw the images in my head. My life was forever changed.

After that I read Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet. It did nothing but strengthen my desire to adapt this lifestyle. I love my dogs, I wouldn't eat them, why is a cow or chicken any different? Milk is meant to turn a 50lb calf into a 1500lb cow. I learned that in milk there is an ingredient called casein. It becomes much more concentrated in cheese. Metabolized into casomorphine in the body. Part of that word look familiar? It gives you the slightly happy feeling you get after eating cheese. It's there so the baby cows enjoy drinking their mom's milk and will drink more to get even bigger and fatter. No wonder I like cheese so much!

I watched Food, INC. on Netflix. I was super hard to watch. I know that not all slaughterhouses are quite so cruel, but the fact that even one exists at all is too much for me. I don't want baby male chicks at the egg factories to literally be thrown in the trash. I was so suprised to learn how the genetically modified RoundUp-Ready soybeans have mutilated the farming industry. I try not to buy stuff with GMOs!

Trying to be vegan or even vegetarian while living with my parents was literally impossible, esp for a beginner like me. Luckily I moved to Kansas City soon after for school and once in my own apartment, it was easy to not buy meat or dairy.

I'd never really been a big meat eater. I never really liked steak, but learned to make myself enjoy it because I thought it was I was supposed to like. I mean, a good cut steak is one of the most expensive meals you can buy! I liked chicken, but unless it had a good sauce or is fried, I would usually only eat a couple bites. Fish is great, but it's hard to find good fish in OK, esp fish that doesn't come from a fish farm. I'd never really been a big egg fan either. I did like them hard boiled or deviled or in baked goods, but I never made or ate scrambled eggs or similar for myself unless I was at a restaurant and they came with my meal. I thought cow's milk was gross, unless it came full of chocolate. The only part of the vegan diet I thought would be tough for me to follow was the no cheese. I love cheese. But I like animals more than I like cheese. Not eating cheese isn't as tough as it seems. That being said, I still eat cheese about 40% of my days but I am working on cutting back even more. I don't eat meat. I've only eaten meat 3 times since moving to KC on august 1st. I had a sausage and cheese stuff jalapeno on gameday a couple weeks ago, a frisco melt from steak-n-shake last week (and felt like ass the next day, though probably from all the fries, not the burger) and then I had a chicken finger on an appetizer tray this past weekend while out to eat. They all tasted good. Its not that I dont like the taste of meat. But if I think consciously about how that meat got there, it doesnt taste quite as good.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

digital collages

I made some more digital collages. They are not that great or exciting, but I still have fun doing them. It is good practice for photoshop and I hope that one day I am able to make awesome digital art!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

beauty and art

I have love art and everything about it. I love the creative process. I love seeing people's studios where they come up with all that creativity. I love the way I feel transported to another place simply by looking at someone else's creativity. I do wish that I was better at coming up with original creative ideas. I like to paint and collage but have difficulty creating my own little world. I am better at looking at someone else's little world and then changing it to make it my own. Perhaps this is something that gets better with practice?

A friend gave me Photoshop CS4 on my old dell. I love looking at digital art journaling but had trouble using it. It was too complicated, not intuitive at all. I got my new MacBook and felt I wanted another shot at digital art making. I splurged and got photoshop and some books and am happy with my purchase. Back in January, I joined the Art Journal Caravan. Each week they post a new art journal theme and also include digital scrapbooking/collaging supplies for those who are digital. I was sad that I could not use the amazing and inspiring papers and decorations but now I can! I am still learning how to do things and I need more practice but here is what I made today.

Monday, May 17, 2010

my arsenal

Sick. Yuck. I woke up for work on Saturday with a terrible sore throat. The soreness stayed on throughout the day and was still there when I got up on Sunday. With no other symptoms, this made me very nervous, strep throat means I would have to go to the doctor (which I don't mind, but is a hassle). Yesterday afternoon the nasal symptoms started up. I continued drinking my more excessive than usual amounts of water and hoped for the best. I think this hoping paid off b/c when I woke up this morning my sore throat was gone! Hallelujah! I used my neti-pot (which is amazing) and went for a short run followed by a super long walk. I felt so great when I returned home. I love how I feel when I accomplish an exercise goal. Anyway, just to be on the safe side, decided to purchase some natural-ish aides for my immune system. I don't have a problem taking cold medications, but I believe we get better faster if we let the symptoms do their job to get out the pathogen. All the stuff I got was things I have never tried before. Airborne, Zicam, Cold-Eeze lozenges, a vapor inhaler (I love the smell of vicks!) and then some Theraflu just to see what it does.

Immediately on the way home from Walgreens I popped a Zicam chew. It wasn't terrible, but let's just say it isn't candy. When I got home I effervescented an Airborne and it was pretty tastey. The lozenges are gross, but they were a "just in case" purchase if my sore throat comes back.

I am so thankful that I have such a good immune system and that these minor and uncomfortable symptoms are the worst of what I get. I never know what to think of people who are sick all the time with hard-core colds. I'm not sure what kind of mental-chat is going on in their heads, but it can't be good...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

MacBook Pro

Excitement, excitement, excitement! I am so excited to finally have a new computer! Although I have nothing but love for my old computer, she did me well and lasted 7 years, I am excited to be able to have multiple internet tabs open w/o it bogging down. I love that I can take my computer somewhere and the battery lasts longer than an hour. I love how easy it was to transfer all of my stuff. I just dragged my music to itunes and it knew what to do, I didnt have to search and import and all that crap. I love that I just dragged my photos too and it kept them organized the same way. I love how when I downloaded skype to chat w/ my aunt, it took minutes to get it set up, but when I was talking her through the download on her PC there were so many more steps to do. I love how I no longer have to worry about viruses and reformatting. I am happy with my decision.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

dish delish

After Kirsten's very inspirational post about the joys of cooking yummy food, I decided to make some mac and cheese of my own last week! I did the same recipe, creamy macaroni & cheese with spinach but had to improvise. I added a can of artichokes, half a package of turkey bacon, a couple cloves of garlic and different cheeses.

They didn't have gruyere at walmart neighborhood market, so I subbed smoked gouda and smokey sharp chedder. I still used the same amount of parmesean. Thank goodness for my mom's food processer (that I use way more than she does) because shredding all that by hand would have been a workout!

Chopping some spinach that is fresh from our garden! We love spinach in this house so I used way more then the recipe called for, I used all we had in the fridge and freezer and pretty much all the leaves in the garden!

Sauteing onions is one of my favorite kitchen smells!

After adding all the milk and cream and cheese, I was fearful all the spinach would not fit! It took some very careful stiring to prevent kitchen disaster overflow (gas stoves are a bitch to clean)!

I made the full recipe, but divided it into two dishes and put one in the freezer for a quick and easy dinner in weeks to follow. Unfortunately I didnt think to shorten the cooking time since the casserole dish was only half size. The top got a little too toasty for my liking but it was still some of the most delish mac and cheese on the planet!

I love the idea of monthly macaroni and I will be trying out a new one in a couple weeks!
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