Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Vegan, Sugar-Free Ice Cream

Did you know you can make ice cream out of nothing but bananas? It's pretty much the best thing ever. Personally, I put a few more things in just for flavor, but if you really like banana flavor you can just make banana ice cream, and here's how you do it:

One-Ingredient Ice Cream
  1. Buy a bunch of bananas
  2. Peel them and chop them into chunks
  3. Freeze the banana chunks for at least an hour and up to two weeks
  4. Run the frozen banana chunks through a blender
If you like soft-serve, stop here. Otherwise, or if you want to make it ahead of time, store it in a tupperware and re-freeze. If you freeze it longer than a few hours you may have to let it thaw a little bit before serving (a few minutes on the counter or 10 seconds in the microwave should do the trick).

I like to put cocoa powder (about a teaspoon per banana, adjust to your personal taste) and peanut butter (about a tablespoon per banana) in the blender with the bananas to make chocolate-peanut butter-banana ice cream. You could also put in just the cocoa powder to make chocolate ice cream, or strawberries, raspberries, or some other fruit to flavor the ice cream.

It turns out there's another super magical thing you can do with these frozen bananas, and that's make milkshakes. This is one of my absolute favorite recipes, and it makes a great breakfast in the summer. Healthy milkshake for breakfast? Yes, please!

Vegan, Sugar-Free, and Unbelievably Delicious
Chocolate & Peanut Butter Breakfast Milkshake
  • 1-2 frozen bananas (I freeze pre-cut bananas by the bunch, so I usually just grab a little more than a handful and drop it in the blender; if your bananas look like most supermarket bananas, you'll only need one, but with the smaller non-GMO bananas you sometimes need more)
  • 1 generous spoonful of peanut butter*
  • 1 generous tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon superfood powder (optional)**
  • 1/2 cup hemp milk or other non-dairy milk (or, if dairy is not a concern for you, dairy milk works fine--my boyfriend is allergic to dairy so we use Pacifica hemp milk)
  • Put all the ingredients in a blender, put on the lid, and blend it on up.
  • Taste test and adjust flavor and thickness as desired. You may want more or less cocoa powder or peanut butter, or for a thinner milkshake add more liquid (in this case, hemp milk or whatever milk you're using).
  • Pour into a tall glass and enjoy (share only if you want to)!
I always wash my blender before I'm even allowed to sip my milkshake. That way it gets washed and reassembled quickly and easily (otherwise, it never happens until I need to make another milkshake).

*It's only sugar free if you use sugar free peanut butter--Trader Joes, Organics, and Nut'n Better all make peanut butter where the ingredients list consists of literally nothing but peanuts and salt, and it doesn't get better than that. Those three brands all taste the same to me, but I'm not sure if the TJ's PB is organic or not. The other two are definitely organic.

**I use a superfood blend from the good folks at Enchanted Cedar in Lorena, TX. It contains Arriba Criollo Cacao Powder, Macca, Lacuma, Mesquite, Cinnamon, & Vanilla, and is 100% raw and organic. It's great blended into milk (dairy or non-), chaga tea, or coffee, and I also like to slip it into my milkshakes to bring the nutritional value up an extra notch.

January: Abstain From Sweets

When I originally set my goal/resolution/project for January, it was simply to abstain from dessert-type things (e.g. cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy, hot cocoa, etc), and to refrain from adding sugar to things myself (e.g. sugar or honey to coffee or tea, honey on cheese, etc.). When January arrived, I was actually much more strict than that--I didn't eat anything that had any added sugar at all. I had bought some non-fat vanilla yogurt from Trader Joe's because I was on antibiotics, but when I noticed it had sugar in the ingredients list, I let it go bad. After two days of nearly starving myself on this madness*, I reconsidered.

*Allow me to clarify: NO added sugar is a great thing to try, but because I was staying with my parents for a while (i.e. I was NOT in charge of grocery decisions), and because my work requires me to do a good deal of restaurant dining, it did not work out for me to be quite that strict this month. I wasn't going to starve myself at my mom's house just because much of her otherwise healthy food had something like 1 gram of sugar per serving, and I'm not going to interrogate waiters for hours trying to figure out exactly what I'm allowed to order, because I don't have a deathly allergy or a medical or dietary restriction.

I've pretty much stuck with my original plan, although I did have a mixed drink that I later realized probably had a good amount of simple syrup in it, and I did order a few pancakes sans-syrup that they put the syrup on anyway, but I figured I already paid for it, I was hungry, I did my best to get them without syrup, I might as well eat them rather than throw them away. I also had a teaspoon of honey the other night to fight off a cough and sore throat I was dealing with, but I had allowed for that use when I originally wrote the rules of my challenge.

Here on day 13 it's pretty easy to avoid temptation. I remember the first three or four days were awful--I had one constant, dull headache for at least 3 days straight, and for the most part I would just not eat. Both my parents' houses were in Holiday mode (especially Mom's), so they were full of homemade cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, and candies, and frankly not much else ready-to-eat (even the cereal selection was FULL of added sugar), and my low blood sugar made me super tired so I never felt like preparing anything. This meant that I pretty much skipped breakfast and lunch for the first two or three days--not something I would recommend or repeat. If you're thinking of severely cutting down on the sugar in your life, I recommend you go pre-purchase some ready-made, no-sugar-added food beforehand, enough to last you two or three days (think prepared salads, etc.), because if you're anything like me you will NOT want to cook anything, and you probably won't want to drive anywhere either. Good luck if you want to start this on a workday.

Around the middle of day 4, my headache just went away and never came back. I wasn't so tired anymore, and making gyoza for lunch sounded doable, so I did. I still would occasionally open a box of See's Chocolates and just smell it, so I will say it's easier now that I'm home at my apartment, largely removed from temptation.

I've also been juicing a bunch, since it's a way for me to get sugar from fruit and a whole bunch of nutrients from fruits and vegetables at the same time. I'm making a sweetener-free dessert today, too, since my bananas finally ripened. Expect a few recipe posts from me soon.

All the best,
Lovely Wednesday

The Minimalist Game (part 10)


That's the number of things we've listed on here as things we got rid of, out of our total goal for number of things to get rid of in the Minimalist Game. This leaves us 391 things to go, which is roughly 80% of our total goal. Crazy that half the month only came out to about 20% of our item goal.

I have a few lists of things we already got rid of and didn't blog about, so I'll start with those things:

  1. 17 more neckties
  2. 5 orphan socks
  3. a fitted sheet, two regular sheets, and two pillowcases (none match)
That's already 27 more items, so we're at 132/496.
  1. two hairbows
  2. old digital watch
  3. two lighters (one has the White House on it)
  4. mystery key
  5. empty Hearos (musician's earplugs) box
  6. unused smoke bomb
  7. frayed velvet microphone bag
  8. rainbow striped headband
  9. broken suitcase (protects luggage just fine but won't stand up on its own)
  10. unopened lipgloss sample (I gave it to a friend)
Now we're at 144/496.
  1. We got rid of our rice cooker because Boyfriend got a new and awesome saucepan for Christmas. Granted, they take up about the same amount of space, but the saucepan can hang from our ceiling, where there is lots of space, and the rice cooker had to sit on the counter, taking up rare and valuable counter space. Plus, I don't know why he wanted that godforsaken rice cooker in the first place when you can make better rice in a pan anyway, even if your second-hand rice cooker isn't broken and actually came with instructions, or wasn't so old that you couldn't even look up the instructions online.
145/496, but if you ask me that rice cooker should have counted as at least 2 items. Now I've got to go find the other list, which I wrote on the back of an envelope and hopefully didn't throw away with the suitcase. 

I remember that I gave away 50 tea lights and a glass vase, which would bring us to 196/496. It may be a while before that update, because I just went looking for the list (albeit without my glasses) and I have no idea where it is.

Happy New Year,
Lovely Wednesday

Monday, December 29, 2014

2015 Goals (part 2)

In the last post, I went into detail on my monthly projects, such as November's Gratitude Journal, December's Minimalist Game, and this coming January's No Sweets Policy. In this post, I want to talk about the Goodreads' annual reading challenge, and some crafty projects and general progress goals I have for myself.

Reading Challenge
For the 2014 Reading Challenge, I set a goal to read 50 books. When 2014 ends, I will have read about 40 books. I won't quite have met my goal, but I'll still have read twice as many books for fun as I did during high school and college put together. The ones that stand out in my memory and which I would definitely recommend are Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future, Covencraft, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Good Omens, Uglies, and Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

For the 2015 Reading Challenge, I think I am going to make my goal 50 books again. It's about a book a week, and I really should be able to do it, but I won't be upset if I don't make it to 50 as long as I put out a good effort towards reading consistently. I've done some thinking about some books I want to read as part of the 50, so here's a nifty bullet list:

  • I want to re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Series.
  • I definitely want to finish Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the Harry Potter read-alouds, and if we can I really want to do Goblet of Fire as well.
  • I at least want to give The Satanic Verses my best shot. It's huge and dense and very different from Haroun, but I loved Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Luka and the Fire of Life both so much that I really want to read the book that made Salman Rushdie have to hide from his government. Plus, I already bought it.
  • I want to read some Terry Pratchett. I really enjoyed Good Omens (Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman) this year, and read it in a FLASH. If the rest of Pratchett's stuff is anything like that, I'll love it. I'll probably read some Discworld. Also I think he's written some stuff about witches that I'd really like to read. That may or may not actually be part of the nigh-infinite Discworld series.
  • I want to read The Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman, and at least one Neil Gaiman novel. I loved Anansi Boys, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but I never finished Neverwhere or American Gods (didn't get very far in that one, even) back in high school, and I never even started Stardust. That's three big problems right there, and I know I can solve at least one of them this year.
I'm noticing a strange pattern: 2014 was definitely over 50% non-fiction for me (largely metaphysical), but everything I've written as a goal for 2015 has been a novel (or graphic novel).
There's two more:
  • This one's kind of iffy and I don't know if I mean it, but I kind of want to read the Game of Thrones series or whatever it's called. What that means is that I want to have read it, but I know what reading it is and what I would be getting into, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that level of committment given that I already definitely want to read The Satanic Verses and re-read LotR.
  • And let's throw one non-fiction in there to retain my sanity: I've got two Stephen Hawking books and I haven't read either one, so I'll try to read either The Universe In A Nutshell or The Grand Design. I'm leaning towards the latter.

As far as Crafty Stuff goes, here are some goals.

Abstract things to achieve:
  • Sell my wares at a market regularly.
  • Give Etsy a serious shot.
  • Repair my woodburner and do more woodburning
  • Get my craft room up and running
  • Teach Minimalist Girl to sew
  • Do more crafting than Pinteresting
Things to make:
  • Finish Britt's cloak
  • Finish my already-cut-out teal-blue linen Renaissance overdress
  • Make something to wear under it
  • Make a Spirit Quilt (I'll probably do a series of posts about my Spirit Quilt, as it will be my first quilt and a big project). This involves quilting, applique, embroidery, beading, and a lot of patience.
  • Quilted leaf potholder
  • Make a woven seed bead bracelet in a pattern of my own design (I'm about halfway done with my first one, actually, but it's got a lot of mistakes)
  • Anything (seriously, anything) out of all the fabric I have accumulated. I keep saying I need skirts--well, there are at least three different fabrics that I bought for the express purpose of making skirts. Make some skirts, goddammit.
And I know I already talked in-depth about my monthly projects for 2015, but here are a few more thoughts, general goals and stuff:

  • By the end of the year, have developed healthy habits for cooking, eating, exercising, and socializing (be less lazy and more accountable, cook more, eat better, exercise more often and get better at it, and don't be so gosh darn afraid to go out and do things and meet people)
  • Keep a clean, organized, and largely clutter-free home (hopefully a large part of this will come naturally out of having played The Minimalist Game)
  • Actually make enough money to contribute a full half of the rent
  • Build skills
  • I'm kind of thinking about doing weekly projects as well. For example, my monthly project for January is no sweets/sugary things; I may also have a week in January where I'm not allowed to use any prepared food from Trader Joe's or anywhere else and I have to cook everything from scratch, including packed lunches (I thought about that for a month, but with our schedule it is NOT realistic at this time). I might have a week where every day I have to practice a certain aria, or a week where I have to finish a Quilt block every day, or read a short story every day, or write a song every day. I like the idea of these shorter weekly projects for things like skill-building and creative productivity. Expect to see a January post soon

I think that's all for now (I know it was quite a lot).

Good night and Happy Almost New Year,
Lovely Wednesday

2015 Goals (part 1)

My New Year's Resolutions are going to be a bit funny in 2015.

In 2014, I made no New Year's Resolutions, but did a much better job of keeping the ones I would have made or had made in the past. This year I did more of what I wanted; I have had jobs, I broke free from a toxic system, I read more, I belly danced more, I did more art, I cooked and cleaned more, I was happier. I can't say I've ever had an unhappy year, but 2014 was a particularly happy one. I even get along better with my parents than I did before this year.

Towards the end of 2014, though, I tried a sort of resolutions project almost on accident... and it worked really well--at least, it worked far better than any New Year's resolutions I've ever made. What I did was for November and December, I gave myself monthly projects. They both happened spontaneously, but I like this pattern so much I'm going to keep it going less spontaneously. For November 2014, I kept a Gratitude Journal. The goal was to write at least one thing in it every day. I definitely missed days, but I also definitely ended up with way more than 30 things written out, an enhanced awareness of all the things I had to be grateful fore, and a habit that has carried through to at least late December. For December 2014, Boyfriend and I played the Minimalist Game, which you can read about by going back a few posts. I left town in the middle of the Minimalist Game, which made it difficult to finish throwing things away at my house, but Boyfriend and I fully intend to finish with a total of at least 496 things donated, recycled, trashed, used up, given away, or otherwise gotten rid of upon my return to the Lone Star State. That sounds like a lot, but when you take into account that we're two scatterbrained people who both hoard potential project materials and just condensed two households into one, it's really not. Even though we're pretty behind in the Minimalist Game right now, we still achieved a LOT towards our more relevant goal of having a neater, cleaner, more efficient, better organized, and more streamlined apartment, and our related goal of not being such materialistic hoarders. As proof, I helped my mom get rid of a shit-ton of Christmas decorations she probably hasn't used in the last decade (that's not to say there aren't still at least 6 big boxes worth of Christmas decorations in her house not including front-yard-reindeer, but every ornament counts). Even if we haven't yet gotten rid of 496 things this December, our attitudes towards "stuff" have changed. We're far less attached to it, and far more honest about what things we genuinely want to hang on to.

What I'm trying to say is that these monthly projects seem to work for me, and so I want to continue them: a different monthly project for every month of the year, with the goal of building habits that outlast the month. For example, I have decided that for January of 2015, I will have no sweets at all. No cookies, cake, candy, ice cream. No maple syrup, no sugar in my tea. Honey only for coughing or a sore throat, no soda, no juice with added sugar. Fruit is fine, and dried fruit as long as there's no added sugar. The worst will be no chocolate. I have a HUGE sweet tooth, and I pretty much always have at least one or two options around the house for sweet snacking. Usually it's a bar of dark chocolate to snack on and a box of non-dairy ice cream sandwiches for the evenings. If I don't pay attention, I can go an entire day eating nothing but sweets--every child's dream, and the quickest way to diabetes.

Diabetes runs in my family and, speaking of gratitude, I am seriously lucky that I don't have it by now given how much sugar I can consume if I don't watch myself, especially in combination with my tendency to enjoy stationary activities (piano, handicrafts, and the worst: cooking).

I've tried a couple times to set a strict, all-encompassing regimen for myself: only one small portion of a sweet thing once a day, eat all different colors of vegetables, and do a half hour of exercise every day. You'd think that would be easy enough (so did I), but I've found that when I add in so many new factors at once, it's just too much to keep track of and I lose motivation within two weeks or less. So, I want to build up these healthy habits one at a time, and I'm starting by cutting down on the sugar. I know I am not strong enough to refrain from sugary things completely for an indefinite period of time, so the month-long time limit gives me something to look forward to. I think it will be a hell of a lot easier to stay away from sweets altogether knowing I only have to do it for a month than it would be to limit myself to one serving of sweets per day for eternity. I guarantee eternity would not last very long. However, while a month is short enough to give me something to look forward to, it's also long enough to give me time to break my sugar addiction, flush it out of my system, and hopefully build a habit of not even wanting sugary things that often. I'll admit I picked January because I really didn't want to miss out on my mom's Christmas cookies, but I think that's totally within my rights. I'm actually looking forward to this no-sugar project.

I'm not sure yet what all my other monthly projects for 2015 will be, although I know a lot of them will focus on building habits of healthy eating and exercise, and you can bet you'll hear all about them right here on this blog.

This post was actually supposed to be mostly about the books I want to read and the crafts I want to do this coming year, but I think this post is too long and I am too tired to even include that now. That's the other half of my New Year's Resolutions this year, and I'll probably go into those tomorrow.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gratitude Journal

So I've been keeping my Gratitude Journal in an actual leather-bound journal, but it's at my mom's house and I'm at my Dad's house, so I wanted to make a few short entries here before I forget to write them down.

  1. Dads who, without asking why, will happily drive their daughters to Rite-Aid at 9pm on a Saturday are the best dads. I am lucky to have one of them.
  2. This particular Dad is also the sort who will make bread pudding for breakfast and Yorkshire pudding for dinner. I am grateful to have experienced this today, and grateful that I do not eat this way every day. It was delicious but my body is full of too much oil. On the other hand, that leftover Prime Rib from Christmas was just what my body needed today.
  3. I am grateful for the heated blanket my stepmom gave me for Christmas last year. It makes it much easier to be grateful that my family is energy conscious and refuses to turn on the heat until it's literally freezing, which, in Southern California, is never.
  4. I am grateful for 24-hour pharmacies. When I was in the Netherlands I really needed one and all the pharmacies were closed at 1am on a Wednesday for some reason, but in the U.S. (at least the parts I've lived in) that particular aspect of life is better, I think. Dutch breakfasts are something else, though.
These are just the few I was itching to write down. You may hear more gratitude later. 

Also, if you are considering keeping a gratitude journal, or even if you aren't, do it. It's one of the best things I've ever done. It has made me much more aware of all the wonderful things I have to be grateful for, many of which I could easily take for granted. This isn't even about God or anything, although it could be if that's what you're into--it's just about really appreciating every moment and living it to its fullest potential, and realizing how amazing this world and our lives are. More than once since I started this have I found myself breaking down in tears of joy and gratitude that I just can't hold in. Even if all I am is alive, I have more than someone else, and I have that much to be grateful for... and every moment, I am so much more than alive. It's amazing, it's just amazing.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Minimalist Game, Part 9

December 14th is boring and I suggest you skip it and move on.

  1. Boyfriend and I found three redundant textbooks in our collection, so we're selling Fiero 4,
  2. Fiero 5,
  3. and Fiero 6. They're actually called something more complicated than that, but I'm not looking at them right now so whatever.
  4. We donated a houndstooth sheet set, including a sheet,
  5. a fitted sheet,
  6. and a pillowcase.
  7. Boyfriend is donating one of his strobe lights. Yes, you read that correctly: one of his strobe lights. That is to say, he has a second strobe light which he is keeping. Well, I can't really blame him.
  8. We found a DKNY glasses case with no glasses in it, so we donated it just in case someone who has DKNY glasses (or really any glasses) and has lost their case can have another one.
  9. Here's another thing I got rid of by using up, although I might as well have thrown it away: I had a little box of lavender bath salts, one of those things that you want to save for a special occasion, but then the day never comes. Well, I used it up, only they didn't smell like anything at all. At least I only paid, like, a dollar for them.
  10. We also threw out some expired cortaid.
  11. Finally, here are one,
  12. two,
  13. three,
  14. and four more neckties we donated.