Liquid Ice (Plus an Appearance from the Hubs!)

You guys, I’ve been exhausted lately. The last half week of work was really tough for me to stay focused and alert. I stayed up far too late putzing around the house and getting sucked into TV or Pinterest. Bad me. Gone are the days in high school when I could easily stay up till 3 a.m. watching hours of Blind Date with Roger Lodge (anyone else remember that show?) and still get up at 7 for school with no problem. Now, I can’t stay up past 11 or I’m a zombie come the next day.

Now, I haven’t gone a single day without my morning coffee since college. Around sophomore year of college I developed my dependency on coffee to get me through all-nighters studying, then to keep me awake in class, then so I could go to work after classes, and the habit just stuck. If I haven’t had my morning coffee yet, don’t even talk to me. It’s kind of like this:

cranky cat

Anyway (and down the rabbit hole I went)! This week I relied on coffee as always to get me through the day, and for the first time since I can remember, I felt failed by coffee. It just didn’t do the trick. I drank two mugfuls and I still was super sleepy and couldn’t stop yawning. By Friday, I knew I’d have a big problem. I was fortunate enough to have some Liquid Ice in my fridge to grab this morning when I knew I’d need the extra boost.

Now, I typically don’t drink energy drinks. I save them for dire circumstances. In fact the only other time I can recall going out of my way to get an energy drink was in jr. high when I went to a church retreat and my best friend and I pounded Amps when we would sneak out of the cabins at night and run around. Well, and there’s always those jag bombs, but we don’t need to talk about that:) The few other times I’d sip someone else’s energy drink, I thought they tasted gross. Kind of like that weird aftertaste that protein bars have. Blech.

My husband, on the other hand, considers himself an energy drink connoisseur. Seriously, he told me that. So we both decided to try a Liquid Ice in place of our usual drinks (mine coffee; his a different energy drink). Here’s our thoughts:

I am pleased to report that I’m a fan. OK, for one, it actually tastes good. Like, really good. No gross aftertaste, and it’s sweet and kind of tropically/fruity. Two, it did the trick. It kept me awake, without making me want to bounce off the walls, a la my Amp experience. Three, it actually has cool ingredients like CoQ10!

I also like that this company is prominent in the Midwest. At my former job for an area nightclub/bar/concert facility, we frequently discussed Liquid Ice, there’s promotions for them all over town, and they’re just a fun, relatable company. The product is made in the good ol’ U.S. of A, too. Oh, and the can is blue. Even more points.

liquid ice energy drink

I asked my husband to write a short synopsis of what he thought, and he turned around with a full review. So, I present to you, for the first time, straight from his mouth…writing from the hubs!:

“Coming from someone who averaged two energy drinks a day with a couple cups of coffee Mon – Fri for five years, I know what a good energy drink is. I’ve had everything from Amp, Monster, NOS and Rockstar, all which are good on the flavor side. But it’s more than just getting the flavor; there needs to be a boost.

I always went back and forth from Amp and Rockstar (16oz) but I never really fell in love with any of these. The flavor was good, but I always needed to get another to keep the energy level up. We got the Liquid Ice pack at home and I saw the little can (8.3oz) and I thought this would not work. Without reading the back for ingredients, I just went for it. I was at work for about two hours before I opened it up, I took a huge swig and quickly realized that there is a lot packed into this little can. I had half of it gone in the first half hour. Being that it was something new, I didn’t want to pound it all in three minutes and end up running around the office for a few hours.

I finished the can in an hour and I was already feeling the rush. It was a good kind of rush, no shakes or jitters. I was ready to run laps around the office, but I remained focused and hammered out a lot of work.

Pros

Look/Feel – small can, doesn’t make you look like a caffeine whore

Can – 8.3 oz can makes it easy to pound it in a few drinks, not recommended.

Energy – 30 minutes after finishing half of the can, I already felt the energy boost

Energy Length – I had the can finished at 11 A.M. and the energy boost lasted until 4 P.M. I did have a slight crash, but nothing major.

Caffeine Amount – Same amount of caffeine per 8 ounces as a Rockstar Recovery (Orange) Energy Drink, so you’re not drinking as much.

Secondary Caffeine – I only had the Liquid Ice and I drank a lot of water so I did not need a secondary source of caffeine.

Cons

Taste – Flavor is a 6.5/10, nothing to brag about just your typical energy drink. Similar to AMP Energy Boost (Original).”

Pretty good for his first time on this blog, eh?! Although I disagree on his taste rating. I give it a 9.5 out of 10! It’s a for sure winner in my book.

Have you ever tried Liquid Ice before? What’s your fave beverage when you need a boost?

I received Liquid Ice items for free in exchange for this review; however, all opinions are 100% my own.

Packing a Manly Lunch

foods for a man lunch box


For a long time, my husband’s job was only a couple blocks from our apartment, so he would come home on his lunch break to fend for himself. But now, he’s got a new job that’s out of town and he can no longer swing home for food. On his first day, I packed him a lunch that I would have packed for me … but then he came home and reported that it wasn’t enough to tide over his manly appetite. So I put in a plea for ideas to fill man tummies from my wise sister in law and online, consulted Pinterest, wrote a few lists of my own and now have a pretty good grasp of what it takes to subside a big appetite during the workday.

Ideally you’d have enough leftovers from the previous day’s dinners to pack up as a lunch, but sometimes you just can’t do that. Here’s a list of foods that we like in our household that work great in lunches — for your man or for you!:

Main dish

-Sandwiches
meat, cheese and veggie
tuna salad
chicken salad
egg salad
BLT
PB&J

-homemade pizzas (even the English muffin or bagel kind!)

-hot dogs or sausage

-pickledinks (or ham, cream cheese and pickles rolled up in a tortilla)

-soup

-big salads with black beans

-pasta salad

Sides and fillers

-Cuties or Halos

-other fruit – banana, grapes, apple

-crackers with peanut butter

-celery with peanut butter (and raisins if he likes ’em for ants on a log)

-carrots or broccoli with ranch

-hard-boiled eggs

-baked beans

-Hawaiian rolls

-chips with dip or salsa

-pudding cups

-applesauce

-fruit cups

-granola bars

-jerky

-cashews or other nuts

-cheese sticks or cubes

-pretzel sticks

-cookies or bars

man lunch box close up

As a last resort, have some frozen burritos, hot pockets, canned soups, Ramen cups, prepackaged macaroni cups or tuna salad mixes on hand he can grab during times you’re running low on the good stuff.

Make it fun and get a new lunchbox, new storage containers with dividers, some small resealable cups for salsa, dressing, etc. It makes it more fun for you to pack and him to eat! (Not that the wife must always pack her husband’s lunch. Cal often packs his own, but sometimes I like to do it for him for fun.)

Oh, and always include a love note!

Refrigerator Oatmeal: A Recipe!

If it weren’t for Katie at A Beautiful Little Adventure, I still would have no clue about refrigerator oatmeal. But thankfully I saw her post about it, followed by a Pinterest and Google search and was amazed by this fantastic breakfast. Apparantly it’s been a “thing” for quite awhile, but once again I’m late to the party. Oh well. I HAD to give it a try.

We love oatmeal in our house, but we are also incredibly lazy, especially in the morning. I’m lucky if I even have time to open the cupboard to grab a granola bar on the way out, let alone make a real breakfast. So I’m always looking for super easy and quick ways to have a better breakfast. Now that I work for a company that distributes health foods, I took it up a notch and ordered Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal and chia seeds as well instead of regular grocery store varieties that have more “crap” in them than they should. After you make the recipe, it “cooks” overnight in the fridge. So easy!

For my first go, I followed this recipe to the T, minus the maple syrup. The next time, I started experimenting and used less yogurt and more fruit and thought it was better. The next time, I cut out the yogurt entirely and used a ton of strawberries instead, and added a little sugar. Better still! Several rounds later, that’s the formula I stick with because it’s been the tastiest to me. I found that using yogurt gave it a nicer texture, but a bizarre flavor and feeling in my mouth, and I much prefer it without. Some recipes also called for flax seeds, but it seems to be that chia seeds are better for you AND keep longer, so that’s what I used.

I made some versions with blueberries, strawberries, bananas and apples and cinnamon. My favorites were blueberry and strawberry. The banana got a little mushy for my tastes. Here’s the recipe I’m using now:

Refrigerator Oatmeal

refrigerator oatmeal


  • 1/2 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats (not instant!)
  • 2/3 cup milk (ish. eventually I stopped measuring and poured enough in to cover the oats, and then some)
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried chia seeds
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh fruit (depending on the ratio you like most. I like mine loaded with fruit)
  • 1 tablespoon or so of sugar it to sweeten it up more
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (optional but not recommended by this gal)

-Pour your oats, chia seeds and sugar in a jar that can be closed (Mason jars or Magic Bullet jars work great).
-Pour milk on top of dry ingredients (and add your yogurt here too if you so choose). Close lid and shake it up.
-Add fruit on top and shake again or just stir it up.
-Refrigerate overnight and take and go in the morning!

overnight oats ingredients

dry ingredients for overnight oats

Add dry ingredients to jar

cut up fruit for oatmeal

cut up your desired fruit

apple banana oatmeal

add to jar

apple cinnamon oatmeal recipe

ready for fridge

shake it up and stick it in the fridge

There you have it! It’s literally so easy and yummy. I highly recommend for any oatmeal lovers that are also too busy/lazy in the mornings to prepare a proper meal. Bonus: It’s super healthy and very filling. I don’t even snack in between breakfast and lunch when I eat it!

It’s especially easy if you use blueberries or raspberries and don’t actually have to cut up any fruit! When you eat it at work (or school!) the next day, it tastes great cold or warmed up. I’ve made this several times a week for our breakfasts and plan to keep it in rotation. Even the husband liked it!

Eat Drink & Be Mary

My Favorite Pins EVER!

Linking up with The Albrechts and A Beautiful Exchange today for The Girl Between the Lines!

A post about my all-time favorite pins EVER has been on my list for awhile, so considering the topic of this linkup, it seemed perfect to finally pick my fave pins. Without further ado, here are the pins that have been the most successful, most delicious, most helpful or most inspiring to me.

1. Through a Rapist’s Eyes: Tips for Women. One of my biggest fears is getting murdered/attacked/raped/something else awful, so articles like these make me feel better about my chances of possibly surviving something like that. Call me paranoid, but I call it prepared.

through a rapist's eyes tips for women

2. Spa in a Jar. I made my own slightly altered version for some friends and family for Christmas, and they loved it. I made my own bath salts too, which made it more special. I’m totally doing more things like this in the future.

spa in a jar project great for gifts

3. Upcycling old candles. We have tons of old candles laying around that I didn’t have the heart to throw away, so this was a perfect project for me. I used the old wax from several to make one new candle! You can even read about the result of my doing this pin one weekend!

upcycle old candles

4. Leo and Harry with a dog and a cat. No real reason for this one besides great for looking at when you need to smile.

leo and harry with a cat and dog

5. I simply cannot pick just one recipe pin. So here’s a few of the recipes I’ve actually made from Pinterest and loved so much that they now are in frequent rotation in our household’s meal plan.

Baked Spinach Eggs. Love this for breakfast on the weekends.

baked spinach eggs

Cheesy Chicken Tacquitos. So easy and delicious! Make extra and freeze for leftovers too!

cheesy chicken tacquitos

Potato Corn Chowder. Best soup I’ve ever made at home. Yum!

potato corn chowder

Chicken with Pesto and Asparagus. Shameless self promo, this is my own take on a pin that I loved so much I made my own pin and blog post about it.

pesto chicken asparagus

P.S. I wouldn’t be upset if you followed me on Pin Land:)

P.P.S. YOU GUYS. I made it into the top 3 in my category for best new blog in My So Called Chaos’ Best of Blog Awards! This is HUGE for me and I am so friggin’ stoked. Please go vote for me and let’s see if I can win this thing. I will love you forever! Every vote counts so I need you! Vote here.

P.P.P.S. I wrote my first-ever guest post on how to be a compassionate spouse for Charlene at From Bisons to Buckeyes and Beyond. Watch her blog on Saturday as I’ll be there! Whee!

Girl Between the Lines Link up

Our Favorite Winter Foods + a Chili Recipe

Winter sucks. Especially this year’s winter. But a few things make it better, namely fuzzy jammies, hot cocoa, weekends snuggled on the couch with blankies and kitties, and soups and chili. While those jammies warm your outside, soups, stews, chili and the like warm your insides. Together, it’s magical.

So in this spirit of this polar vortex, here’s what we like to cook in our house come wintertime. Consider these my go-to trusty recipes and a few new ones that have surprised me enough to make it into rotation:

-Tater tot hot dish. Some of you non-Midwesterners may not know what this is, and I certainly didn’t know either until I moved to these parts. It’s wonderfully Minnesotan, and my mother-in-law makes the best, but mine isn’t bad either. Just bake together a bag of frozen tater tots, some cooked hamburger, cream of whatever soup, some frozen veggies, and there you go.

-Pesto pasta. Any kind of noodle, any kind of pesto sauce (I love the Bertolli kind), together. Easy and delicious.

-Meatloaf. Lately, I’ve been making mini meatloaves instead. Just combine some hamburger, cheddar cheese, chopped onion, BBQ sauce, bacon bits and garlic, and cook in cupcake tins. Delicious.

-Green bean casserole. I could eat this every day. With my mom’s home grown and canned beans, it just can’t be beat. Goes great with mini meatloaves!

-Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato or whatever kind of soup you have on hand. Gooey cheese is one of the best things on this planet. A fun variation we tried was to make it “monkey bread” style – cubed up pieces of cheese wrapped in packaged refrigerated dough baked together, for pull-apart pieces you can dunk in soup. Fun for kids AND adults.

-Breakfast. We’re guilty of having breakfast for dinner many times year round. But warm eggs, fluffy pancakes and bacon hit the spot any time.

-Chowders. Two total hits I made from Pinterest were a brat and beer cheese chowder (recipe here) and a potato corn chowder (recipe here).

-Chili! The best thing about chili is it’s hard to mess up. Some meat, beans, white or red brothy presence and whatever else your heart desires, and you’ve got yourself a chili that pretty much always tastes good. I’ve made many varieties over the years, and learned some fun shortcuts along the way. My friend Jenessa told me once she likes to use salsa in her chili so that she doesn’t have to chop veggies. The second I heard that, I totally stole the idea. It’s saved me lots of time, and turns out, I like the taste better anyway with it! I also one time heard a tip to try using a can of tomato soup in place of actual tomatoes, and for our household that really isn’t a big fan of tomatoes in the first place, it’s been a wonderful variation. I love that it adds a bit of a creamy note that you don’t get otherwise. Lastly, since my discovery of quinoa and a pin for quinoa chili, I add that in now too for additional texture and nutrition. Those, my friends, are my three top chili tips.

Now we all have our own specific tastes, so you should always feel free to adapt recipes. Add or remove ingredients to what you like. No one will know, and it won’t get screwed up, I promise. That being said, here’s the recipe for my chili, Hofland style:

hearty chili with quinoa recipe



Hearty Chili with Corn and Quinoa

-Brown 1 – 2 lbs of ground hamburger in skillet. Drain. Put in crockpot.

-Add 2 cans of your favorite beans to crockpot. (I use one can of navy beans and one can of dark red kidney beans.)

-Add 1 or 2 cans of tomato soup (I’ve used both Campbell’s and Amy’s organic and both are lovely) to crockpot.

-Add salsa to crockpot. However much you want. I probably dump in 1 cup or so.

-Add any additional veggies you heart desires. I love corn and want it in everything, and since it’s not in most salsas, I add a jar of corn as well.

-Cook quinoa according to package directions and add to crockpot. I use approx. 1 cup of cooked quinoa, give or take.

-Add spices to crockpot. I use different spices and amounts each time. I just gather whatever I feel like and dump stuff in. Usually present are a few dashes of onion powder, garlic powder, Lawry’s seasoned salt, regular salt and pepper, cumin, and chili powder. It doesn’t really matter.

-Stir together and cook on low 6ish hours or high 3ish hours or until you can’t wait anymore.

-Serve with cheese, sour cream and crackers. I can’t tolerate spicy food, but if you’re a fan of the heat, add your hot sauce too. My husband throws in a few squirts of Sriracha on top.

I also recommend making a huge pot and adjusting the ingredient amounts based on your family size or willingess to cook in the coming days. One crockpot worth of chili will feed our family of 2 for lunch and dinner for about 2 or 3 days.

What is YOUR go-to winter pick-me-up meal?

Meal Planning and Eating Better

Growing up, I have no clue if my mom planned out our meals or if she just winged it. I just ate whatever was in front of me. And it was always a well balanced meal. Then in college, bad habits started. I snacked. A lot. Like, almost all the time, often skipping real meals to instead chow down on Cheetos. If I did eat real food, it was likely microwaved mac and cheese or cold cereal, with or without milk.

When I visited my cousin’s family throughout college (they were the closest family members to me there), Keisha would often have written out meals for the week. I didn’t think much about it besides “neat” at the the time.

Then I started getting older and could no longer use the college excuse for eating poorly. But I still did anyway. I ate slightly better when I got my first apartment, cooking maybe one real meal a week … like with veggies and stuff! I enjoyed cooking, but I was suffering from laziness and making excuses. I ate terribly for a long time, and it never really bothered me.

When I became engaged, my senses sort of became heightened. I was more aware of my choices in many aspects of my life. One of the things I vowed to do was cook more, dine and take out less, (for financial reasons too) and be healthier. Not that I need to lose weight, because I was blessed with a pretty good metabolism, but just for overall good health.

I recalled Keisha’s weekly meal plans and went out to buy a weekly meal list planner that sticks to our fridge and set out to do the same. So far, I’ve actually been sticking to it, and it’s one of the best things I’ve done. I’m saving money on groceries because my purchases are thought out and based on the food I actually plan to use (rather than buying junk food just because, and throwing half of it away too), and it’s making us eat better, more balanced meals with leftovers for the next day.

I was too embarassed of the fridge clutter to take a picture of the magentic planner, but here’s a post-it instead of our meal plan for this week. 2013-12-17_12.01.29

The chowder I made on Sunday was SO GOOD. Thank God for Pinterest. I use it all the time to find recipes. Here’s how it turned out:

2013-12-15_14.22.43

I’m couponing more too and using money-saving apps like Shopkick and Cartwheel, which is such a great addition to the new me, a wife. At the store, I had coupons for buy one get one free bags of meatballs and packages of chicken thighs, so I saved like $15 just one those things, and will incorporate them into our meals this week. I love this feeling.

I also tried quinoa for the first time a bit ago, and it was so good. So, I’m being brave and trying my own first attempt and making it into some chili. Wish me luck!

In addition to my meal planning, I’ve been more aware of my snacking too. It’s easier to make better choices now that I work for a health food and vitamin company, so I found some snacks that are really yummy and good for me. Win win! Here’s my new favorite item:

1470139_796576358177_1382126273_n[1]

I also have some dried mango slices that are incredibly tasty. I even got myself some supplements to round out my diet:

2013-12-17_12.05.28

Anyone who knows me probably thinks I’ve gone crazy or got abducted by aliens because I’ve been so unhealthy for so long. But now I have more motivation because I have a husband, and maybe some day, will have kids, so I have to learn better habits and make better choices. Another reason is I thought that healthy things tasted bad or were hard work. Seriously, they don’t and it’s not. Who knew!

Taste of Tuesday: Asparagus Pesto Chicken

Isn’t it funny some of the things we hate as children but grow to love as adults? For me, two of those foods are asparagus and pesto. I wouldn’t touch either as a kid, for no reason really because I refused to even try it.

Then, one day it all changed. Well, two days technically. The first was in college when I was in the school cafeteria and I saw this tub of green goo. I had no clue what it was, but I had to have it. I slopped it on top of some noodles and gave it a try. It was amazing. That’s the day I discovered pesto.

Fast forward a few years later to the Harrah’s steakhouse in Las Vegas for a work dinner. My boss ordered some asparagus and passed it around the table. I took it just because it was in front of my face but wasn’t really sure about it. But then I tasted the most delicious vegetable my palate had ever encountered, and my life was changed.

Now, these are two of my absolute favorite things to eat. One day on Pinterest, I discovered a recipe that contained both of these glorious items, and didn’t hesitate to try it. IT WAS AMAZING. It’s now my favorite meal to make at home because it is so tasty and easy. Here it is:

pesto asparagus chicken


Chicken and Asparagus in Pesto Sauce

Ingredients
• 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4″ thickness (I’m kind of lazy and left them unpounded and it still tasted just as good)
• 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
• 1 pound thin asparagus (or 2lbs thick), trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces (I used the thin kind so it’d cook quicker and I could eat it quicker, and I doubled the amount so it was very asparagus-y)
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream
• 2 Tablespoons prepared pesto (I like the Bertolli kind in the small plastic tub, and I added far more pesto than this out of my love for it)

Instructions
• Cut chicken breasts in half crosswise to make 6 pieces (or in however many pieces you want. I just kind of chopped it up till I got bite-size chunks)
• Season evenly with salt & pepper
• In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat
• Add chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and fully cooked
• Remove chicken from skillet, set aside & keep warm
• Add asparagus to skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until just tender (a little longer if you’re using thick asparagus)
• Add cream and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until reduced by half
• Stir in pesto
• Return chicken to skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes longer, or until heated through.
• Serve immediately with rice, pasta or couscous.
This is part of the Tasty Tuesday linkup with Blissfully Miller and Let’s Get Bananas.