Chia_Pudding_1

Let’s talk about breakfast. It is, after all, the most important meal of the day, but you already know that, don’t you? I’m always amazed at how many people don’t eat breakfast. Maybe that’s because I go to bed each night thinking about what I’m going to eat each morning for breakfast.

Breakfast gets your ready for the day and prepares you for whatever challenges you may face. Take, for example, when I put too much shredded beef down the disposal all at once on Saturday and it led to a major clog in our basement drain when all the beef tried to go down the pipe at once. Yeah, can you imagine how happy my husband was about that? I imagine he’ll be even less pleased when we get the plumber’s bill today. Thankfully. I had a large, healthy breakfast to keep the hangry (hangry = hungry + angry) at bay while dealing with said plumbing issues.

Since we haven’t been able to use the sink in our kitchen, cooking has been reduced to zero this weekend. We’ve been eating down leftovers from our fridge and freezer and using paper plates, bowls and silverware. This chia pudding has also been on rotation since it doesn’t require a pot/pan to prepare and is incredibly filling. It makes you feel like you can take on the world and fix all the plumbing issues. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but you get the idea.

Chia_Pudding_2

If you’re new to the chia pudding game, don’t be afraid of their less than stellar appearance. The chia seeds plump up as they sit in liquid like milk, water or yogurt, taking on a gel-like consistency similar to tapioca. Chia seeds are packed with fiber, omega-3s and calcium, among other things. Plus, when you’re eating them you just feel super healthy. That’s got to count for something, right?

Since a lot of people (including me) are interested in nutrition when it comes to breakfast recipes, I did a rough calculation of the nutrition information in this recipe, not including the bananas or dark chocolate chips and assuming you’re using stevia instead of brown sugar.

Peanut Butter Chia Breakfast Pudding
 
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Creamy chia pudding made with almond milk and peanut butter is the perfect breakfast when topped with sliced bananas and dark chocolate chips for a bit of decadence.
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon creamy natural peanut butter
  • 1 packet stevia or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Toppings such as sliced bananas or dark chocolate chips

Directions
  1. In small bowl, stir together the almond milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, stevia, vanilla and cinnamon until well combined. Continue to stir for 1 minute longer.
  2. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) until the chia seeds are plumped and mixture is thick. Top with banana slices and dark chocolate chips before serving.

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Cookie_Dough_1
By the time Friday rolls around, Joe and I are both in the mood for a low key night, which means a workout together at the gym, eating Chipotle and watching something on TV. Maybe not the most exciting routine around, but I love it so much. Last week when were were watching Shark Tank on ABC, one of our favorite shows, I was drawn to a particular business idea that was being pitched to the sharks on the show. The company, Cookie Dough Cafe, was talking about their line of edible raw cookie dough in a jar. Um, yum!

Although I loved the business idea, one thing that struck me as strange was the fact that they went on and on about the fact that this product was safe because it didn’t contain eggs, meaning no risk of salmonella. However, they didn’t say a thing about the flour that was being used in the cookie dough. What a lot of people don’t know is that eggs aren’t the only source of contamination and that raw flour can also pose a risk of E. coli. I’m assuming that the ladies who own The Cookie Dough Cafe have this figured out and are just not mentioning it, but I thought that I would talk about it briefly. Better safe than sorry, right?

Well, friends, be prepared to have your world rocked by this recipe. If it’s not one of the best recipes to date on E&C, I don’t know what is. To make this Raw Sugar Cookie Dough in a Jar, you start by toasting your flour on a baking sheet in the oven. Doing so makes it safe to use your flour in any manner of raw forms, including this recipe. It takes about 10 minutes and doesn’t impact the taste but will give you peace of mind when serving this treat to your friends, kiddos and when you eat it yourself.

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This recipe makes a small batch of cookie dough, about a cup. It’s just enough to keep in the fridge when the craving strikes but not too much that you’ll make yourself sick eating a huge batch at one time. I would suggest, for the sake of your stomach and your waistline, to stick to a spoonful of this magical mixture, then return it to the fridge for safe keeping. For someone who always has to end the night on something sweet, this has proven to be the perfect solution!

Edible Raw Sugar Cookie Dough
 
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What most people don’t know is that uncooked flour can be a source of E.coli. To make this cookie dough safe to eat raw, toasting the flour is key.
Recipe type: Dessert

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon high-quality vanilla
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 300°F. Place flour on ungreased cookie sheet. Toast flour in oven for 10 minutes, stirring twice during baking.
  2. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar 2 to 3 minutes or until well combined and fluffy. Beat in the milk, vanilla and salt until well combined.
  3. Cool flour 10 minutes after toasting. Add to butter mixture and beat until well combined. Spoon into a jar with lid. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

photo (6)

At the beginning of the year I talked about the words that I want to define 2014 in my life. Those words, discipline and simplicity, have been on my mind a lot over the past month. I’ve found countless moments when I was in need of more discipline or simplicity in my day-to-day life.

Today I’m kicking off a series of posts over the next couple months focusing on simplifying daily life. Since I don’t have it all figured out (who does?) I’m not going to claim to be an expert in any one subject. I hope this series can be more of a sharing of ideas rather than a one-sided conversation. So, if you have things to add, please don’t hesitate!

Up First: Simplified Spending 

For a while now, Joe and I have been wanting to simplify our spending. We’ve always been responsible spenders in the sense that we we paid off our student loans quickly, don’t have any credit card debt, aren’t lavish spenders, etc. But we’ve both felt strongly that our spending could be more disciplined. When you don’t have kids and don’t have debt, it’s easy to get lazy about tracking your purchases. However, I didn’t feel like we were establishing habits that were going to serve us well in the long run, when we do have kids and have less disposable income. Also, my heart was increasingly convicted about where our money could go, and the good it could do, if we didn’t spend it all on ourselves.

1. Track Your Finances
Our first step was to start tracking our spending to understand areas where we could use more discipline and areas where we didn’t spend as much as we thought. We’ve been using Mint.com for over a year, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the year that we got serious about tracking spending in various categories and spending our money accordingly. Tracking our spending and evaluating our budget was insightful because it allowed us to see where we were spending too much. My greatest weakness in our budget is spending money at the grocery store. Joe’s weakness comes in the form of trips to Home Depot and beers out with the guys, small purchases that add up quickly.

2. Build in Incentives 
Since I’m a big-picture thinker, it helped me to have an incentive to save more money. Instead of just saving money for the sake of saving money, I had to see the bigger picture. We now have a jar in our house where we store extra cash that we’ve saved: money that we’ve made from selling clothes we don’t wear, birthday and Christmas money from family and any extra money that we didn’t spend in our respective budget categories. This isn’t something Joe finds helpful or important, probably because he works in commodities and deals with abstract finances every day, but it’s very helpful for me since I’m highly visual. This strategy also helps when I’m tempted to throw in that cute (cheap) top into my cart or buy that coffee at work when I could easily make coffee at home. Every dollar I don’t spend gets to go into a jar that pays for something much bigger and more gratifying. Imagine how many fun trips you could go on if you just stopped buying cheap clothes you don’t need! Which brings me to my third strategy…

3. Buy Quality 
I’ve been known to get caught up in the quantity vs. quality trap that seems to lurk around every corner. What helped me was to look back in my closet and take inventory of what pieces are my favorites and what has been in my closet the longest. I have a dress and a skirt that I bought three years ago which were both pretty expensive. I remember having sticker shock about buying those items, but they are some of the longest lasting and most worn items in my closet. On the other hand, I only have 1 dress from Target that has lasted more than a year.

4. Take Advantage of Rewards
Credit cards with rewards are a slippery slope, but if you use them responsibly I’ve found they can be a great savings tool. I happen to shop at Banana Republic a lot because it fits my body and suits my style. I’ve had a  Banana Republic credit card for a long time and have reaped a lot of rewards from it, which helps to keep our clothing spending in check. Joe’s always amazed at how I can use coupons and rewards dollars to get quality items for very little money. To get the rewards, we use my Banana Republic card on purchases we would normally make, especially bigger purchases. Just be sure you get a card that allows you to use it as you would any regular credit card, not just a store credit card.

5. Take an Emotions Inventory
Perhaps I should have started with this point, because it’s the most important, but I’ll finish with it because it’s incredibly helpful for me. When I’m tempted to spend, I’ve been making every effort to take an inventory of my soul and my emotions. Examining why I want to purchase an item or go shopping Is it because I need new dress pants for work because my current pair is worn out? Or because I feel ugly and want to boost my confidence? Those things are totally different, and it’s important for me to differentiate between the two. It also helps to curb unnecessary spending.

How do you manage finances and focus on simplicity in your spending? 

Madison

ChocolateChipCookieForTwo_1

Happy Monday, friends! I’m so excited that February is finally here. In my mind, January is always a bit of a dull month where spring feels forever away and the post-holiday blues have set in. But February brings the Super Bowl and the Olympics and Valentine’s Day and spring is just close enough that there is a light at the end of the winter tunnel.

Although I’ve never been much for the pressure associated with Valentine’s Day (the gifts! and flowers! and finding the perfect restaurant!) I do enjoy the fact that we have an entire day devoted to showing friends and family how much we love and care for them. It’s pretty great, right? Plus, Valentine’s Day is all about chocolate, and that’s something I wholeheartedly support.

ChocolateChipCookieForTwo_2

I love baking but having a full batch of cookies or an entire cake in the house with just two people to eat said cookies or cake is a little bit dangerous. My willpower only lasts so long and eventually I have to cave. My friend, Christina, is my hero because she solves this problem every day with her website Dessert For Two. She scales down desserts to serve two people, meaning fewer leftovers and less temptation to eat, say, a dozen cookies.

I took a cue from Christina for this year’s Valentine’s Day and made a small deep-dish cookie cake. It’s certainly not health food by any means, but it is gluten-free and grain-free thanks to the use of almond meal. The resulting cookie cake is gooey, rich and incredibly tasty. I can’t even begin to tell you about the deliciousness that is this cookie cake. If you’re looking to cut back on the sugar in this recipe, I have also had success swapping out Truvia baking blend for the brown sugar in this recipe. When doing so, use 2 teaspoons of the baking blend in place of the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.

Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake for Two
 
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Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate morsels

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 6-ounce ramekin with cooking spray. Set aside
  2. In small bowl, stir together the butter, sugar and egg yolk until well combined and smooth. Stir in the vanilla, baking soda and salt until well combined. Stir in the almond meal until just combined, followed by the dark chocolate morsels.
  3. Spoon mixture into ramekin. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown and center is still slightly soft. Cool 10 minutes. Enjoy warm!

FlyJoy_Box

I feel like it’s been forever since I did a giveaway on Espresso and Cream! Maybe it’s because it has been forever. I’ve been trying to cut back on the giveaways and focus on only promoting products I really love and am passionate about, meaning fewer giveaways. But! When I do have a product I’m excited about, I have to let you in on it.

When I was home over the holidays, I had the opportunity to sample my cousin’s new nutrition bars. Branded under the company name Fly Joy, the bars are made with a bunch of good-for-you ingredients like quinoa, oats, flax and chia seeds. And for those eating a restricted diet, they are also gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free.

I tasted all three flavors of the bars (and got a bunch to take home with me to pass along to friends, family and co-workers) and was blown away by the taste and texture. I’m not joking when I say that they’re amazing. Joe and I both agreed that our favorite flavor is the Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt. Seriously?! So good. They also have Coconut-Almond and Espresso Dark Chocolate flavors.

So, seeing as that I love these bars and want you to be able to try them, too, I’m giving away a box of the flavor of your choice to one lucky reader. There are four different ways to enter to win. See below for the details! And if you don’t happen to win, you can purchase a case for yourself on Amazon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
Madison

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