Mango Banana Ice Cream

Happy Memorial Day! I don’t know about your family, but for mine today marks the traditional beginning of Summer. The weather outside was gorgeous here, all blue skies and sunny but not sweltering. The pool is lovely, if a tad chilly, but the kids were brave enough to swim for a bit. Lunch was hot dogs, nothing too fancy. The real Summer time celebratory treat came for dessert.

I had a ripe mango in the fridge. I don’t know a lot about mangoes, or even how to cook with them, so I thought a day when the husband is home and I have some free time would be perfect for experimenting. After looking around at breakfasts, smoothies, and a few odd beauty masks, I decided to follow my own path. Mango Ice Cream! Yes! Sounds delicious, I’m sure I can make something work. I have a fancy new “retro” ice cream maker I bought on Amazon.com for quite a good price, I’ve only used it once and I’ve been itching to use it again. Perfect.

Retro, turquoise, and all kinds of snazzy.
Retro, turquoise, and all kinds of snazzy.

This is a recipe of my own design, and I’m not one to use measuring tools, I trust my “eyeballing”, but I’ll be as detailed as I can in case any readers are interested in making it for themselves.

I am Mango.
I am Mango.

I assembled my ingredients and went to work. I began with one mango, very ripe as I wanted to get the full sweetness when I used it. Cut and peeled it on the cutting board, which is the messiest part of this, but honestly I like how it feels to squish mango in my hands. Moving on… I had half a banana in that had been chilling in the fridge, since my daughter wanted some on her cereal this morning. My mouth was watering. This is going to be GOOD. For a moment I felt all “love it when a plan comes together”. It’s a good amount of banana to add flavor and sweetness but not overpower the mango. I hate it when I buy something that has banana in it and banana is all I can taste. I tend to avoid smoothies or yogurts or other products that are “Something AND Banana”.

Just the right amount of banana.
Just the right amount of banana.

My food processor is small (by the way, I’m taking donations), but thankfully everything fit. I used:
1 ripe mango
1/2 chilled banana
“eyeballed” almond milk, (Almond Breeze vanilla flavor) probably 1/4 C
“eyeballed” Fage 0% Greek yogurt, probably 1/4 C
3/4 C granulated sugar

Greek yogurt to add thickness
Greek yogurt to add thickness

Greek yogurt is wonderfully bitter, and acts to dial down the sweetness of the banana a bit. It worked perfectly for this recipe, and I like to use it in recipes that call for heavy cream. Heavy cream is just so… heavy. I wanted this to be light and fresh and guilt-free.

All mixed up.
All mixed up.

Pulse in the processor on “high” for maybe 30 seconds, just until the mixture is smooth. And voila! Ready for the ice cream machine. My wonderful husband took care of the ice and rock salt, and 30 minutes of churning later, here’s what we had:

31 Flavors has nothing on us!
31 Flavors has nothing on us!

Beautiful, no?

It was cold enough to serve immediately, but I put it in the freezer for a couple of hours so it would get a bit harder like store-bought ice cream. To each his own, but I’m glad I did this, as it melts quickly. It came out like a cross between ice cream and gelato. The flavor is off the charts, maybe a little too sweet for me so I might use less sugar next time. I got “thumbs up” across the board from husband and kids. My three-year-old said “This is TASTY!” That’s it. I’m ready for “The Chew.”

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Bold Colors for Bold Workouts

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. Not necessarily an adrenaline junkie, but certainly someone who gives 100% to the things I’m passionate about. One of my passions is fitness. I love working out. I enjoy the struggle, the pain, the sweat. Sweet, sweet, sweat…

For me, how I dress for my workouts is an extension of my personality. I don’t like to wear all grays and all blacks, because I feel like those colors say “ho hum”, “blah”, and “don’t look at me”. I’m friendly! I may not want to chat when I’m in line at the bank and my three year old is hanging off my leg screaming and I need to use the restroom like, 15 minutes ago. But at the gym, at the park, at the game, when I’m in my element, I’m very approachable. I’m happy and confident. I like to dress in a way that shows that.

This is where Old Navy and I have formed a lasting friendship. Did you know Old Navy carries active wear? Yeah, neither did I. I went in today to check out some of their capris, running shorts, tops, and athletic bras, and I have to tell you, this is not your mom’s Old Navy. I saw bright colors, lots of choices, and some fashionable styles. I was off to a good start. I chose about a dozen items and made my way to the dressing room. [I just want to add here that at my local Old Navy store, the attendants are always super kind and helpful and today was no exception. I appreciate that about them.]

Now, I’m not a clothing snob by any stretch of the imagination, but with running clothes I am very particular. If something doesn’t breathe right, it can itch, irritate, crawl to places one might not be too comfortable with… you know what I’m saying. I am happy to report that Old Navy has won me over! Their active wear is comfortable and breathable. Soft, true to size, and what a color and print selection! The prices of most of their active wear pieces are about 1/3 what you’d pay at your local running store. No joke.

So… I left Old Navy today with a new attitude about them as a brand, AND with a gorgeous new workout outfit that I cannot WAIT to wear! If you’ve got some time this weekend, you will want to check them out for your self. The summer is almost here and everyone could use some cute active wear!

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My FAVORITE Old Navy active wear item. Compression jacket with thumb holes. My bike is coming out this weekend just so I can wear this outfit!

 

When it Rains…

… it pours.

And I am learning to dance in it, to praise my God in the middle of it. I do not enjoy being taught these lessons, to be perfectly honest, but I do enjoy what comes after. – Strength, hope, trust, faith, a stronger relationship with my husband, a broader perspective, compassion for others who struggle.

Today I was going to post about some “no bake” goodies, but I’m going to hold off on that. From time to time I’m going to blog about my life and trials, because it’s much easier to speak to the internet [for me] and not fear judgment than to speak openly to my friends who maybe aren’t struggling right now.

We can’t pay our bills. Things are getting shut off. That’s the long and short of it. I never thought I’d be in this place at my age. No, not even close. It is sobering. It is humbling.

I’ve been praying a lot, spending time in conversation with God, and reading my Bible and devotionals on all sorts of things related to this. – Hope, Fear, Faith, Trust, Tithing, Blessings, Trials, God’s Timing, etc. They have lifted my spirit in a time when most would say I should be wallowing. Crying. Stressing. Freaking out. But the reality is this: my problems are tiny, miniscule even, compared to my God. God has promised to look out for me, to provide for me and my family, and God does not lie. So there, stress. Take that, anxiety.

Some verses that have helped me today:

Isaiah 41:10 “”10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Not to harm me. No, never to harm us but only to prosper us. To grow us, to give us HOPE and a FUTURE. God is loving in a way that I cannot even understand. Having a son of my own does give me slivers of insight, though. I find God so relate-able now that I am a parent. I want only the best for my kids. I would give them anything. I want them to be happy and healthy and prosperous. The other side of that is that I must teach them, discipline them, sometimes even allow them to face the consequences of their choices. God is a much better parent than I am, and he loves me so much better than I can love.

So today… even though I’m rambling… even though I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or even in the next 20 minutes… I have joy. I have peace. I have hope. I can dance even though the rain is coming down hard on my head, because I know the one who made the rain will also make the sun shine on us again.

The Meat of the Matter

Reading the title causes me to immediately sing (in my head) “The Heart of the Matter” by Don Henley, except with the word meat in it.  Anyone else?  Bueller?

Moving on…

Primal/Paleo is difficult for me some days.  I crave potato chips when I’m watching a movie with my family.  Stress makes me want to pick up some french fries and ice cream and lose myself in their salty, sweet, carb-filled comfort.  I walk past the bakery and the scent of baguettes stops me, mid-stride.  The smell is enough to make me weak in the knees and question my resolve.  Thankfully, some days (the majority, I’d say) are easy.

Today my husband was home for lunch, so we had sirloin cooked in Plugra butter (the BEST butter, if you ask me) with fresh steamed green beans.  There was dark chocolate after.

Today was an easy day.  Today was delicious, squared.

Two gorgeous hunks of cow.
Two gorgeous hunks of cow.

When I looked in my thesaurus at synonyms for “meat”, I found words like “core”, “crux”, and “essence”.  Fitting, I thought, since meat really is the center of a Primal dieter’s food pyramid.  Protein and fats, amino acids, iron, all found naturally in steak and all good reasons to include it in your weekly meal plan.  I have found that without the extra starches, my runs are easier, my sinus issues have disappeared, and my skin is less acne-prone.  Beyond that, the thing that astounds me, is that my recovery after hard workouts is off the charts.  I ran sprints this morning, and I’m getting faster and faster at it, and my body is adapting incredibly well.  I don’t have that “thickness” in my chest, I’m not gasping for air, in between sets.  As a woman, I feel compelled to mention that my belly looks much less bloated than it used to.  I know that’s superficial, but hey, nobody wants to put on their jeans to find that they look pregnant (when they aren’t), you know?

The perfect lunch?
The perfect lunch?

Now, I’ll admit, most of my life I have identified as a “meat and potatoes” girl.  This is still true.  I love meat.  I love potatoes.  I grew up eating celebratory dinners with my parents, family, and friends, at various steakhouses.  I always got a big steak and I always ordered a baked potato on the side.  However, asked to choose between the two for the rest of my life, steak is the obvious choice.  A good steak is an amazing thing.  It’s so filling and satisfying, I don’t even miss the potatoes.  A good baked potato, even with lots of toppings, without a good steak, on it’s best day is just “meh”.   Am I right?

I’m enjoying all this cooking.  I’m thrilled to have found something that satisfies my foodie taste-buds, satisfies my nutritional needs as an athlete, and satisfies my vanity as a woman.  If you’re thinking about trying Primal Blueprint, go for it.  The benefits far outweigh a few potatoes.  Or breadsticks. Or bagels…

Almond Meal Protein Pancakes

Long title, short recipe, amazing results.

First, an explanation: I have made a concerted effort in recent months to decrease my intake of processed foods and grains.  I do still eat carbs, but only from whole foods as much as I can help it.  I don’t endorse or advocate any specific diet or lifestyle for ALL people, but higher fat, moderate protein, low-ish carb works wonders for me.  My tummy is happy, my skin is happy, and I am sleeping like an old man at the opera.  It’s wonderful!

This pancake recipe is something I came up with on the fly, in an effort to reproduce my “old” favorite breakfast without the oats.  Not so difficult, actually.  If you’re familiar with the Paleo way of eating or the Primal Blueprint, you know there are lots of flour substitutes out there.  One of the easiest to buy or make at home is almond flour.   I SORT-OF used almond flour.  [You’ll see.] Again, the mood to try this hit me when I didn’t have a way to get to the store, but I find necessity and creativity make for some pretty cool dishes.

Here’s what I used:

Ingredients, minus coconut flakes
Ingredients, minus coconut flakes

Raw Almonds – about 1/4 cup, maybe a little more.  I just emptied out my Blue Diamond bag and crossed my fingers it would be enough.

Roasted, Salted Almonds – 7 or 8.  Just to mix it up a little.

2 Raw Egg Whites

Cinnamon, as much as I want.  [And I want a lot.]

Dash of Vanilla Extract

Unsweetened Coconut Flakes [Coconut is a staple in the PB, and it just so happens my mom left some here last time she visited.]

Here’s where I came off the rails, Paleo/Primal wise:  I added about 3/4 Scoop of Body Fortress Vanilla Whey protein, and one packet of Splenda.  Go ahead, judge me.

I promise this is coconut.
I promise this is coconut.

First, I put all the almonds into my food processor, pulsed on low a couple of times, then high, then low…  I’m kidding.  I just let it go until the almonds were chopped, but not powdered.  I wanted the texture to be stout, since it is oatmeal that I’m replacing, which is hearty and quite satisfying.  I measured out 1/4 cup of the almond meal, and added all the dry ingredients.  [If you have leftover almond meal, just dump tupperware container.  It’s great with everything – waffles, pancakes, even in grilled chicken wraps at lunch.  But that’s an entire post by itself…]

Almond Meal
Almond Meal

I gave the dry stuff a stir, and put it back into the processor.  Next, crack those eggs and put both whites in a small bowl or container.  Add just a pinch of vanilla and stir.  Add to the processor with the rest.  By now, the kitchen should be smelling wonderful.  Both of my kids started wandering in and out, curious about what was cooking.

Wet Ingredients, Dry Ingredients
Wet Ingredients, Dry Ingredients

Personally, like I said earlier, I enjoy texture.  So I didn’t mix this much, but if you want a smoother mix just blend to suit you.  Your skillet should be warming on the stove top, with butter or oil or nonstick spray [I don’t judge].  Grab a spoon and start cooking these babies!  Here’s my first one:

Super YUM, right?
Super YUM, right?

At this moment I am kicking myself for making these at night, because along with the delicious smells and the sense of accomplishment comes the agony of knowing I must wait all night to devour them.

The finished product?  Oh, I’m so glad you asked!  Fluffy and golden brown and beautiful.  And the taste?  Even better than I’d hoped!  The coconut and mealy texture of the almonds hits the taste buds “just so”.  Definitely a keeper.  I cannot WAIT to eat these tomorrow, with fresh berries on top and maybe just a hint of butter and syrup.  Thanks for reading!  If you try this recipe for yourself, please let me know what you think!

Look how fluffy!
Look how fluffy!
Gorgeous, no?
Gorgeous, no?

Calamity Cookies

Sounds exciting, right?  Ooh, I promise, they are!

This evening after dinner my husband decided to cut the grass.  Our lawn is rather large, so I knew it would take him a while, and I figured I’d use my free time to bake something.  Usually, the mood to bake strikes at a time when I am not able to go to the store, and tonight was no different.  As a result, I end up foraging in the pantry and fridge to see what I can put together.  This accidental mash-up just happens to be a masterpiece.

Here are the ingredients I found and mixed together.  I didn’t do any exact measuring, sorry. I don’t really cook that way.

Calamitous Ingredients
Calamitous Ingredients

[Preheat oven to 350 degrees.] I started with one medium-ripe banana, mashed with a fork.  Add some oats.  Eyeballed, I’d call it 1/2 cup.  Sprinkle some cinnamon, because I put cinnamon in everything.  Cut up some Green and Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate, wipe drool from face, wash hands, continue.

Mmm...chocolate
Mmm…chocolate

Add a generous serving – maybe 2 tsp – of Agave nectar.  [Not pictured is a packet of nuts from a popular fast food chain.  It was really just a handful of pecans, so I chopped them up and added.]   As the ingredients fall into the bowl, this mixture already smells amazing.  I don’t really love the idea of chewing raw oats, otherwise I probably would have just eaten it all with big spoon, no baking required.

Smells even better than it looks.
Smells even better than it looks.

I suppose you could put these on parchment paper, if that’s your thing, but like I said before these were spur-of-the-moment fluke cookies, so I just lightly sprayed a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and scooped them out.  I ended up with 6 cookies.  Perfect.  Five for me, one for husband if he finishes mowing the lawn in time.  Maybe.

Before baking
On the cookie sheet and ready to go.

Place the cookie sheet with these divinely aromatic balls of sweet misadventure into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Mine took closer to 15 minutes.  Be careful not to leave them in too long expecting them to harden like cookies do.  These are made of banana.  They are supposed to be squishy.  Scoop onto a rack or plate and allow to cool [if you can stand the wait.]  Me, I ate one piping hot and it was worth the burn on my lip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I must say, particularly for something I didn’t mean to do, these “Calamity Cookies” are one of my finest culinary achievements.   Pros: they took all of about 20 minutes, start to finish.  There’s virtually no clean-up.  And the nutrition!  These cookies are totally healthy, great for kids’ snack or for when friends pop over.  I made sure to scribble on a notepad a rough estimate and description so that I can make them again one day.  Oh, and if you’re wondering, Husband did finish his chores in time to try one.

A photo of deliciousness.
A photo of deliciousness.