When Life Gives You Lemons…

… make Limoncello! Or as I like to call it: Italian Moonshine

My Uncle has been making this stuff for a few years, now. I began my first batch on Black Friday 2014, hoping it would be done in time for New Years. And it was perfect! I don’t know what it was, but its the best I’ve ever had. Even Uncle Eddie left me the best voicemail telling me how fantastic my batch of his limoncello was. “I hope you wrote down everything you did, because I’d use that recipe.” That’s a huge compliment coming from my uncle. One that made me smile ear to ear!

LimoncelloWP_007777

(makes a small batch)

  • 750ml bottle grain alcohol (like Everclear)
  • 1/3 cup water, plus more
  • 1.4 lbs sugar
  • 10 lemon peels
  • large glass jar
  • plastic wrap or wax paper
  • food scale (optional, but helpful)

Shallowly  peel the lemons, ensuring not to include the pith (the white part of the peel). Place the peels into your large jar. Pour the grain alcohol a top the lemon peels. (Save the alcohol bottle!) Cover the jar opening with wax paper or plastic wrap, and seal the lid. Place this jar in a dark spot for at least 3 weeks. Turn the jar back and forth each day.

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After 3 to 4 weeks of the peel steeping, strain the peels into a large pot. While the peels are draining, refill the saved grain alcohol bottle with water. Empty the water into another pot, in addition to 1/3 cup water. Weigh out 1.4 lbs of sugar, and add to the pot of plain water. Continually stirring, bring the pot with the sugar to a rolling boil, ensuring the sugar melts, creating a syrup. Let it slow bowl for 5 minutes. Remove this pot from the heat and allow it to cool completely.

Discard the drained lemon peels. Once the syrup has cooled, stir it into the lemon-infused grain alcohol. Transfer back to the large jar. Reseal with plastic wrap or wax paper and seal the lid. Place back into dark space for an additional week, turning the jar back and forth each day.

WP_007506After the final week, transfer the completed limoncello into your empty grain alcohol and another* bottle. Place in the freezee to chill and enjoy.

*You can find empty bottles at Bed Bath and Beyond like these, in a variety of fluid capacities. Or recycle an old wine bottle, like I do. actually, empty Torani and DaVinci syrup bottles are useful to.

Salud! 

But then you’re left with a bunch of peeled lemons… so now would be a good time to make lemonade… And we did! Brett juiced all the lemons, while I was peeling the zests. We followed this recipe with a change of sweetener, and using 3 cups of water, for the most perfect lemonade! One thing I love about homemade lemonade is the pulp that sneakily makes its way through the juicer. Plus, you can make it as tart or as sweet as you like. After the finished lemonade was refrigerated, we brewed a gallon of tea… Home-brewed tea and fresh squeezed lemonade??? Best Arnold Palmers!

Lenten Promises

ashAsh Wednesday is here. Sure, most people think of today as one or more of the following:

  • people get that cross on their forehead made of burnt palm
  • start of the Easter season
  • start of the Lenten Season
  • no meat of Fridays

In actuality, it begins a 40 day period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It mirrors the time that Jesus Christ spent in the desert, fasting and reflecting, being tempted by sin, Satan to be more precise. As a child, we are told that during this period, we should give something up. My childhood priest would pick a different class every year to watch over his stash of bubble gum. As I entered middle school, I began giving up things I thought would help me lose weight, like soda and chips. In more recent years, I’ve gotten my dad to participate. While I still can’t get him to stop smoking, he does give up his favorite drink of cherry brandy.

Side Note: You’ve mastered giving up cherry brandy! Pick something more challenging!!!

Within the past couple years, my view of Lent has changed. A few years ago, after my mom got clean from a prescription drug addiction, I talked to my priest and asked if my Lenten Promise had to mean I would be giving something up… If I could try to improve my relationship with my mother, instead. That’s when I began to see the true meaning of a Lenten Promise. I really liked how Father put it tonight at mass, “Hey, we’re all sinners! But that does not mean we are to be ruled by sin.” Father Hurley’s homily, as always, made me examine my life.

So here’s my conclusion on Lent:

This is the time we not only repent, but also “refocus” our attention, as Father put it. Lenten Promises are not about giving something up. It’s a time we focus on on how we can live more like Christ, how we can live in a way that reflects God and his message. (But if you ask me, we should be doing this self-examination thing way ,ore often than just Lent.)

This years Lenten Promise:

This year, my goal is to refrain from self injurious behavior. In this term, I include binge eating, purging, and cutting. God would not want me to hurt myself. God created us in His image. When I hurt myself, I’m really hurting God.

2 Songs

Now I just feel stumped! Music is my constant in life.

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2 Songs…

  • All You Need Is Love

I chose this because it sends a great message. This world is so full of hatred and harm. It could all change is everyone adopted this. The Beatles are geniuses being able to place it into one simple lay mans sentence.

  • Keep Your Head Up

Andy Grammer has a way of putting me in a good mood with his songs, whether its the beat or the lyrics. This song does both. When I feel down, I tend to really be hard on myself, so this song is a good reminder I can turn things around.

Can I cheat and mention that these two songs by MGK really resonate with me? They remind me of my eating disorders, the demons in my life that haunt me every day.

D3mons featuring DMX

“Every night I hear them f***ing with me.” Those taunting whispers in my mind that tell me I’m not good enough, I ate too much, I’m a failure, etc…

“Please God tell these demons to stop f***ing with me.”

Lead You On

This entire song I could equivocate to my life, the sruggle and suffering, how I alienated myself from others… everything. “Overdose on your love so I can’t have it again.” When these eating disorders consume my mind and body and I feel as though theres nothing left in my life… At many points during my recovery, I wished the same thing.

3 Films

Wow! Only three?! I better make these good!

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3 Films…

  • Jesus Christ Super Star

jcssI guess “obsessed” might not be a strong enough word… I may or may not own the 1973 version on VHS, DVD, and have the soundtrack on CD. I may or may not own the vinyl recordings. I may or may not own the 2000 Great Britain version on DVD and CD. I may or may not have seen the show performed live 7 times. And I may or may not have met Ted Neeley (1973 Jesus of Nazareth) for one of my birthdays… I could probably put on a one man show…Yeah…. I might have a problem…

  • Armageddonarm

Oh, Bruce Willis, how I love thee…. I love Bruce in every movie/show I’ve ever seen him in. I actually met him once, too! I loved the concept of ordinary men saving the world, the strong love he displays towards his daughter… Plus the cast is absolutely fantastic! Its always on FX. Its one of those movies that I never get tired of watching. I remember my mom and I watched it so many times, we made a song about it when I was a kid. Oh, and another happy memory… that and Mulan were the double feature at my first drive-in movie! Its the only movie I’ve ever laid on the hood of a car to watch.

  • The Ten Commandments

chYes, its an “epic” movie, but its a classic! I look forward to this every Easter season. Some scenes I can recite by heart. Charlton Heston is fantastic in everything he is in, but he blew this one out of the park! His delivery, the language, the voice… everything! Even the terrible 1956 special effects, which, come to think of it, aren’t as terrible as you think they would be…

(I  started this challenge last May.. I don’t know why I didn’t finish it… Its about damn time I did, don’t you think?)

Chocolate Angel

mass prodYes. I’ll admit it. I’m most definitely one of those Valentine’s Day cynics that think it was solely invented for the chocolate and greeting card companies. Actually, I feel about Valentine’s Day the way I feel about Christmas: once a day to be remembered, now corrupted and scewed by humans and selfishness. It’s technically the Feast Day of St. Valentine. Today, its a day that we tell everyone we love them, give candy, flowers, and cards, and overexert ourselves to impress someone else. Today is the day we persecute ourselves if we don’t have a date. But why just today? Shouldn’t we be telling those dear to us how much we love them everyday? Are we really any better or worse, with or without a date? Why just today? Shouldn’t we be performing random acts a kindness everyday, rather than picking one day a year to blow too much money on a dozen roses and a box of gourmet chocolates, that will die in a week and we know we will regret eating, anyway?

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With this lovey-dovey, Hallmark/Russel Stovers-centered week, coming to a close, I did begin to think about what I’d like to find in a partner. I guess you could call it my Match.com ideas:

I think a lot about the future. I know I’m 23. I’m young. I’m still a baby in this world, but my hopes and dreams are that far beyond my age. I want something real. A family man. An honest, hard worker. An animal and music lover, who appreciates black and white pictures and musicals. Who knows who Abbott and Costello, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and the Rat Pack are. Someone who can dig The Twilight Zone. Someone who lets me cook for them. Someone who supports me, understands me, comforts me, and loves me despite how incredibly screwed up I am. Show me. Show me something real. That we are a team. That we can do anything, achieve anything. Be the people we want to be. Be successful, pay our bills, smile, laugh, cry, dance, sing, never go to be angry, go to Church, visit our families, and so, so much more…

Moving on and stepping off this soapbox, lets get to the goods… every channel I turn on is doing a million specials on chocolate. (Apparently, Valentine’s Day is the only day people consume chocolate.) So, in this chocolate theme, I give you a low calorie chocolate angel food cake and mixed berry compote. Sweet enough to get at those cravings but light enough to eat your feelings on V-Day and not feel guilty.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Mixed Berry Compote

based off Trisha Yearwood’s recipe.

serves 12

CakeWP_007684

  • 2/3 cup cake flour (measure after sifting)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated Splenda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Compote

  • 2 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp granulated Splenda (how sweet do you want it?)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, and 3/4 cup of Splenda. Set aside.

WP_007683Using an electric mixer, with the whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt until foamy. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the egg whites and whip on high until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the remaining 3/4 cup Splenda, about 2 tablespoons at a time.

Using a spatula, gradually fold in the flour mix, about 1/4 cup at a time, into the peaked egg whites. Pour the batter into an ungreased 9-inch angel food cake pan and bake about 30 minutes. Let cool for 1 hour. While the cake os cooling, combine all compote ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, continually stirring, for 2-3 minutes. This makes about 1 1/4 cup of compote. Set aside to thicken and cool.

Once cooled, loosen the cake from the sides and center of the pan with a knife and remove cake from the pan. Sift the powdered sugar over the cooled cake. Slice into 12. Top each piece with 2 Tbsp of compote and dig into a light, yet decadent treat sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

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The pairing of a slice and the compote comes to about 75 calories! I can dig that. In fact, I think I’ll dig in!

Blueberry Waffles

My mom and I have a bit of a love for blueberries, but my mom is especially obsessed with Eggo Blueberry Waffles.

I based this recipe off my Easter Carrot Cake Waffles.

My mom was so excited when I told her last night that I wanted to make waffles in the morning, and not the frozen kind! She turned into me! She started coming up with all these different pairings and toppings and ideas. I was so proud! Haha!

I hope you enjoy!

Blueberry Waffles

makes 12 wafflesWP_007610

  • 3/4 cup Bisquick (Heart Smart, if you have it)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Splenda brown sugar blend
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup flax milk (milk of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup sugar free syrup, plus 1 Tbsp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Warm up the waffle iron and ensure it is coated heavily by non stick cooking spray. Combine the dry ingredients. Place the frozen blueberries in the microwave for 15 sec, just enough to start to thaw. Transfer the blueberries to a food processor immediately and give it a few pulses (just enough to break the berries, but not puree them). Whisk the milk, sugar free syrup, and vanilla into the dry ingredients, followed by the pulse blueberries. Using a 3/4 cup measuring cup, pour the batter directly on the center of your well-coated waffle iron. Close the lid and cook to your liking. Repeat the spooning of the batter two more times, ensuring the iron is coated in between each application.

Nutrition: 1 waffle

Calories:56, Fat: 1.3g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 158mg, Carbs: 10g, Fiber: 0.8g, Sugars: 0.7g, Protein: 1.2g

Mom had the idea to top our waffles with an egg over easy. I was game. We drizzled just a bit of our syrup over top the finished product and it created just the right about of sweet to balance that savory yolk! And the flavor of blueberry was scattered all throughout the waffles!

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After mom and our devoured these waffles, I started thinking how light they would have tasted with some lemon zest or how much of a treat they would be with some white chocolate chips! My mom yelled into the kitchen, “Now we need ice cream to sandwich between them!” When my mom likes my food, its a success!

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The waffles wound up being our lunch, as well. But this time, I spread a ripe banana all over it!

Refreshing Shake

So who’s ready for the first protein shake recipe of the year????

I’ve made shakes since the new year but, wow, was this one blog worthy! So much so, that I dropped everything I was doing to write this up!

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Outside the original Starbucks! Best Caramel Macchiato ever!

I was watching Unique Sweets, last night, and they highlighted a cheesecake business, The Confectional, located in Pike Market! I love Pike Market! I spent a week in Seattle a few years ago with Phi Theta Kappa at my first International Convention! Every morning, I walked down to the Market to get fresh produce.

Anyway, they mentioned this lemon white chocolate cheesecake and the gears started to turn… Dang, that sounds good…

Lemon White Chocolate CheesecakeWP_007575

  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp cheesecake pudding mix, sugar free, fat free
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar free white chocolate syrup
  • 1 scoop protein powder (I used cookies n’ cream)
  • Ice
  • Water
  • 1/4 tsp xanthum gum (optional)

Blend everything and enjoy! Top with a sprinkling of cinnamon, if desired.

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I topped mine with some cinnamon and Fiber One bran cereal to complete that cheesecake feel! I loved it! It was refreshing and unbelievably fragrant!

I started thinking about the many ways you could make this using any combination of the following:

  • lemon pudding mix, sugar free, fat free
  • white chocolate pudding mix, sugar free fat free
  • lemon syrup, sugar free

Let me know how yours turn out!

 

In God All Things Are Possible

This is the first post of the new year. Be warned, its a serious one…

Last Sunday was a dark day. I began writing letters to loved ones, making requests, asked for all Christmas presents to be returned and given to those less fortunate…

I was sprawled on my bed, blood dripping from my thigh and arms, bargaining with God to take me to him. You are friends, my confidants, and therefore, I will not and cannot lie to you. I have relapsed. After a series of unfortunate events in my life, I spiraled back into a deep depression. My binging returned, so naturally, the purging did, as well. And while I was at it, so did the cutting. I’ve watched my body gain weight, and no matter how much I thought about working out, or thought about the foods I was eating, nothing gave me the motivation to do anything about it. The feeling of failure from a relapse is unbearable. I didn’t want myself to have a 2015. I didn’t want to have to continue living with this cycle…WP_007508

I woke up from a sound sleep at 3am and suddenly, these lyrics just started running through my head. I couldn’t fall back asleep until I wrote it all down. Now, I’m hiding in a Starbucks, sharing this with you (instead of doing the work I should be doing), hiding from the world, before I need to get to work.

In God All Things Are Possible

By Sammy Bundo

From sound asleep, I awaken

Frantic, Nervous, shaken,

My mind racing a mile a minute

Pumping the brakes, but its in it to in it.

 

Memories of my past mistakes flashing before my eyes

How did I? I could I? How will I survive?

Trembling, ashamed, wanting to cry

This mind fuck is a game, wishing I would die.

 

Take me home, Heavenly Father

I beg of you, please

I’m down here, screaming, crying

Pleading on my knees

 

Swallow another handful to numb myself

Oh God, I’m begging you for your help

This blood I bleed

These scars I see

This pain I feel

Shits getting too real

 

Hearts racing, hearts pounding

All these thoughts, taunting, resounding

Grit my teeth, fists getting tighter

Look out world, ’cause I’m a fighter

 

The good I’ve done

The lives I’ve touched

It must outweigh

This hatred of self

 

I am my enemy

And you are my Savior

With your many blessing, Oh Lord

My faith should never waiver

 

I did it once,

I can do it twice

Can’t hold me down

I’m still alive

 

Dear Disease,

You don’t make me

I make me

And your foolish games

Can only strengthen me

 

The marks on my body

I wear them with pride

They’re not a sign of weakness

They’re proof I survived

That I thrive

That I strive

To carry on

Head held high

 

Watching my world around me crumble

You reached out, Lord, grabbed my hand

Pulled me from the rubble

You’re my rock, my hope

The light of my tunnel

The strength getting me through this struggle.

*Copyright in process

I made this collage of things that make me smile, in hopes it will keep giving me inspiration to carry on and stay focused.

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Repurposed

Never let anything go to waste! I’ve talked, before, about how my grandfather was one frugal dude! Luckily, I have inherited this trait! I am always looking for ways to reinvent and reuse ingredients, just like yesterday’s pancakes!

Last night, mom brought home a whole pie of buffalo chicken pizza! Yum! Too bad it was like 9pm. Naturally, I had to get a taste of it, so I pretty much ate the chicken off of it. When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about that leftover pizza sitting in the fridge. I won’t lie, that when I made this, I was a bit nervous of its outcome, but it was success. Sure pizza is a fantastic way to start the morning, but so is a hearty omelet, and from the reaction of my friend, Brett, this hybrid was too!

All I did was peel the cold cheese, sauce, and chicken off, break it up, and place it in a warmed skillet, sprayed with non stick cooking spray. I poured eggs over top, covered and allowed it to cook over medium heat. I served it over toast. The mozzarella melted and became stringy, like we love, and the buffalo sauce add the right amount of heat.

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And as for the crust? I’m sure the birds appreciate it.

La-La-Leftovers

So its almost been a week since Thanksgiving, and all of the leftovers are gone. My sweet potato casserole, made with butternut squash, is a huge hit so I make two trays every year. This year, I didn’t go to my grandmothers house like usual, but I made two trays nonetheless. I started thinking What should I do with this leftover casserole???

Then it hit me! Pancakes!  Mom brought me home some fresh cranberries and I figured those would be the perfect addition.

Sweet Potato PancakesWP_007393

makes 1 serving

  • 1/3 cup sweet potato/butternut squash casserole (I’m sure pumpkin would work, too)
  • 1/3 cup Bisquick
  • 2 Tbsp liquid egg substitute
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 packet Splenda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • cranberries or pecans (optional)

Combine all ingredients well. Dollop onto a heated skillet sprayed with non stick cooking spray and cook until batter begins to bubble. Flip and cook through. Serve with some sugar free maple syrup.

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I made these for dinner last night and then again this morning for breakfast and I’ve never seen someone clean a plate as quickly as my friend Brett did! Record timing!

I really enjoyed the rich flavor of the batter, and how the tart cranberries were matched by the sweet syrup.

I always love re-purposing foods and creating something new! Its been so long since I’ve posted, but boy does it feel good to write to you guys again!