Offbeat’s Picks: Pomegranates

Only recently have I started eating fresh pomegranates. It began about a year ago when my husband, Colson, and I were looking for an inexpensive date night idea. We decided we’d make dinner together but we wanted to add a little twist to it: mystery ingredients. We decided we’d go to the grocery store and each pick 1 ingredient without the other person knowing what was chosen. When we got home, we’d reveal our choices and cook one meal incorporating both mystery ingredients.

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Hearty & Healthy Chili

There’s nothing better than a big bowl of chili and some corn bread.  A few weeks ago I started having chili cravings, so I vowed to find a really great recipe and get crackin.  I hadn’t found a good one yet when we were invited to dinner at our friends’ house – and guess what?  They made chili!  It was an old recipe from a close family friend and it made its way home with me.

When I was making the chili grocery list, I decided I was going to try reducing the fat and salt to make it a tad more heart healthy without losing any of that amazing original flavor.  I substituted ground turkey and ground chicken for 2/3 of the ground beef, sprung for low sodium diced tomatoes and sauce, and drained the beans.  The chili turned out AMAZING.  It didn’t have as much kick straight out of the pot, but the next day after the meats had absorbed all the flavors and spices, it was to die for!

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Vanilla Spice Applesauce

We went apple picking yesterday!  This is one of my favorite fall traditions.  Dave and I have been going apple picking once a year since we got married, so this is our third year.  It’s really exciting to be settling into a yearly tradition in my still fairly new family.

Orchards in fall are some of the prettiest places you can visit.  The beautiful rows of trees ripe with juicy apples, the families all bundled up and roaming the grassy lanes, the kettle corn and apple cider stands with lines of kids waiting to taste all the yummy fall-time treats – it’s definitely something you don’t want to miss.

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Healthy Cocoa Banana Almond Smoothie

I don’t actually remember buying a truckload of bananas, but I keep finding more in the fruit bowl. What to do with a mysteriously never-ending supply of bananas? I already did bread so I considered doing cake, cookies or muffins, but I was in the mood for something quick. I decided to throw together a simple and healthy smoothie!

This would have taken me a total of 5 minutes if my blender didn’t decide to stop working. Thank goodness we keep a backup! You never know when you’re gonna have a blending emergency…

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Cold Process Soap Making for Beginners!

About 2 years ago I went on a skincare health kick. I don’t remember exactly what set it off, but it was probably after watching some doomsday documentary about the monsters living in our moisturizers. I’m pretty gullible when it comes to stuff like that, but I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry! I started off by cross-checking almost every bath & body product I was using on EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. This is a great resource if you have a favorite product and want to know its potential hazard rating. I only felt comfortable using products with a rating lower than 4.  As helpful as this was, I started feeling less trusting of the companies behind the labels. The cosmetics industry does have certain standards to live up to, but you can never know for sure if a label is completely honest! I know this mindset can send me off the deep end where I move into a tree house and eat leaves for the rest of my life, so in the interest of REALISM, I decided to take on a new hobby: SOAP MAKING!

The idea of knowing exactly what was going into my most frequently used bath product was definitely appealing, to say the least. I set out on a mission to create a moisturizing, cleansing, fragrant, all natural soap with quality ingredients. It also doesn’t hurt that quality handmade soaps make WONDERFUL gifts!

There are a few different methods of soap making, but the one I ended up loving was Cold Process (CP). This method has a short prep time and a long cure time.  The cure time (4-6 weeks) is frustrating if you’re in a hurry to use your soap, but a long cure is necessary to produce the best quality. Making a batch of Cold Process Soap takes 1-2 hours initially and then an additional 4-6 weeks before you should use or gift it. This is how long it takes for the water to completely evaporate, resulting in a harder, longer lasting bar of soap. One misconception about CP cure time is that the soap is unsafe to use within the 4-6 week time frame because it hasn’t “saponified” yet. Saponification is the chemical reaction between fats, lye & water that produces the substance we call soap! It actually only takes about 2 days for saponification to complete. So technically, you can use your soap after 2 days, but it will be very soft and will most likely fall apart in the shower. “Aging” your soap is definitely encouraged! The long wait was annoying at first, but it allowed me to walk away from the project for a while, thus avoiding burnout (which I am 100% prone to) AND giving me something to look forward to!

Researching a topic like this can be extremely tedious, so I’m hoping to save budding CP soapers a little bit of trouble by consolidating everything I learned into this post. By the end, you will be equipped to try your first batch of CP soap!

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A Quick Tip for Snack-a-holics Like Me!

I wanted to share this super simple (super obvious) snack tip that saves money and helps prevent over-snacking! When you buy bagged snack foods like chips, pretzels, crackers, nuts, etc., portion out individual servings into reusable baggies or containers before you toss them in the pantry. I’ve found that when I snack, I can eat 4-5 servings without even realizing it. When I have individual serving baggies, I grab one and I’m good to go!

Some companies are onto me. They know I want a snack with a healthy serving size and a low calorie count, so they started making “100 Calorie Packs”. I decided to do a comparison to see if buying the packs instead of making them myself was actually worth it. I did my comparison with the Blue Diamond Natural Oven Roasted Almonds in dark chocolate, my current snack obsession.

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