Archive for November, 2010

A Challenge to Give

With the holiday season in full force, I want to offer a challenge. And this challenge isn’t just for you – I’ll be participating and offering this up to my family, too.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that these boys have stolen my heart.


But Jose and Norman are just two boys out of 60 at Jovenes.

Just 2 kids out of hundreds in a country that gives them the message that children are a nuisance and worthless. That they are easy to get rid of and better off dead.

Two kids that, without Jovenes, would have been left on the street, pick pocketing to survive, and addicted to drugs to deal with the pain and despair of everyday life.

Every year, my family and I travel to Honduras (paying our own way) to volunteer at an orphanage for homeless, abused and abandoned children called Jovenes en Camino, located about 25 miles south of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

This amazing program (run completely from donations) houses more than 60 children and with very limited resources and educates, houses, feeds and gives them the tools so they can start to change the society and culture in the country.

Honduras is in great need of responsible male role models, ones who want to be good fathers and caretakers and contributing members of society. In a country that is still ravaged by poverty, natural disasters and rampant crime, this program is truly needed.

If you would like to read more about our travels in Honduras, check out some of the blog posts here.

In conjunction with Holly and Jovenes, I am hoping to help raise $1000 by Christmas to donate to Jovenes en Camino.

If you can, we would be honored if you all would help out.

It takes $28,000 per MONTH to keep Jovenes running, and while I know money is tight for all of us, every little bit we can raise is going to help them cover their costs.

Just to show you what your contribution can do:

  • $25 = support of children at Jovenes
  • $50 = purchase backpacks & school supplies
  • $75 = funds skills training program
  • $100 = purchase school shoes & uniforms

The minimum donation is whatever you want it to be. Maybe you can go without a new jar of almond butter or coconut milk ice cream and donate that $5-10 here instead. Or maybe you can give more and sacrifice your holiday lattes for the month of December. In the grand scheme of things, it might not be much of a sacrifice for YOU, but it can make a huge difference to them.

I can vouch for this orphanage, for this program, for these boys: anything, everything you can give, is used to keep the orphanage running, to keep the boys healthy and educated and to help give them a life that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Please consider giving this season.

Share the blessings you’ve received with someone less fortunate.

If you are feeling merry this holiday season,
please click here to donate to Jovenes!

Or here.

And perhaps here.

You can click here too.

Donations are completely secure and private.

We would appreciate any linkbacks you can give to this on your blog, e-mails you can send to family + friends as well as any other ways you can think to encourage others to donate (Tweet! Facebook! Call!). 

Again, we are hoping for $1000 by Christmas so we can provide Jovenes with the much-needed funds to help them continue doing their selfless, amazing work.

Thank you all for everything you do – I know how amazing this community is and the power that comes when people truly get behind something they believe in.

Love and good wishes,

Holly + me

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Winner, winner + Coconut Loves

Happy Monday!

I’m very sad the holiday weekend is over, but it’s almost December and that is a great thing. I’m ready for Christmas music, candles, and lights. Plus – we’ll be moving into our first house together in December. It will be an exciting month.

To start the day right, I’ve got the Tropical Traditions coconut oil winner!

So…Congrats to…


stuffing is definately my favorite!

Big congrats!!! Please email me at branappetit [at] gmail and your oil will be on its way : )



Are you like me and love coconut?

What are your favorite dishes using coconut? Cookies? Soups and curries with coconut milk? Baked goods?


Nick and I are traveling back home today, and I’m hoping the roads won’t be too crowded. See ya from home!

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My days are confused. I keep thinking today is Sunday and our weekend is coming to an end.

Yesterday, we shopped ‘til we dropped, ate leftovers, and went to bed at 9:30.

Today, we slept in, ate breakfast, drank coffee, and went out to see the horses before coming back and settling in for some football.

Right now, everyone is napping on the couch – the dogs included.

I got some great deals on things for our new house yesterday! Shopping for house items is so exciting to me – I am psyched to move in and start putting our stuff in the house and decorating. I bought a new quilt for a guest room, some sheets on super-sale, kitchen towels, pillows, and got a few things for our first ever guest bathroom.

Is it weird that I’m so excited about a second bathroom? Because I am.

Also, this was the first time EVER that I have gone shopping on Black Friday and not bought any clothing for myself. I’m pretty proud of that, because I did get side tracked by a jacket at Kohls, but I kept walking to the bedding section.

A few fun recipes are coming soon (we’ll be morphing one dessert into a brand new one later day – I’m excited about that), and a very special post will be here tomorrow.

Hope you’re enjoying your holiday weekend ; )

I’m off to get a little nap in, watch a lot more football, and eat some chili.

I am happy.

I love November.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – always has been, always will be.

I love the smell of pies baking the oven, bread rising on the stove top. The sound of potatoes boiling and oven timers ringing all day long and laughter filling the kitchen. The music from the parade on in the background. All of it.

This morning, I made sourdough garlic knots (which are rising as I type). We made pie crusts, sweet potato casserole, de-boned cornish hens, and have prepped as much as possible for our 4 pm meal.

Having all the food in the kitchen just makes me hungry…now.

My most memorable Thanksgivings were at the Lowell’s house. I’m not sure how many people were there for the meal, but we basically filled their den, dining room, and kitchen with tables and chairs. There was always football on tv, green bean casserole, and lots of pie.

And for some reason, my little sister and I liked to dress up – at least for a few years. I would usually wear this yellow dress, which I think was a flower girl dress I wore in a wedding when I was younger. The best year was when Tiff dressed up in a brown outfit with leather fringe to be the “Indian”. That outfit was usually on this huge stuffed bear, except for that Thanksgiving.

Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, and whatever you’re doing today, be thankful. Take time to remember everything you have and truly be grateful for the blessings you’ve been given.

Today, I am thankful for my family and friends – those that are with me and those that aren’t. I am thankful for food and shelter and a place to call home. I am thankful for coffee and cinnamon rolls and homemade pie crusts. I am thankful for you – for reading, for sharing, and for pushing me to do more than I ever thought I could.

Happy Thanksgiving!



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As soon as I was finished making the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins with the Tropical Traditions coconut oil, I knew I needed to make something savory with it – and soon.


Thankfully, the season for soup is here! While we’re having some unreasonably warm weather this week, last week had a few evenings that were practically begging for a big pot of soup, bubbling on the stovetop.

When it’s already dark once we get home from work…I want soup.

And this, being my first time ever using red lentils, may be my new favorite.

Red Lentil, Couscous, and Kale Soup

  • 1.5 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat couscous (I used Israeli – it’s doughy!)
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  1. In large pot, heat coconut oil and olive oil.
  2. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook until softened, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in seasonings and tomato paste and let cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  4. Add in lentils, broth, and water and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and let cook 15 minutes.
  6. Stir in couscous and kale and let cook 10-15 minutes more or until lentils and couscous are cooked.
  7. Stir in coconut milk.
  8. Serve, topped with cashews or peanuts.


I loved how the soup had great spice but wasn’t too hot. If you love hot and spicy foods, it would be delicious with a sprinkling of crushed red pepper or Sriracha hot sauce.

And while Nick doesn’t normally add the peanuts or cashews, I love the added crunch they gave to the thick soup, tender lentils, and soft couscous.


Have you ever cooked with red lentils?

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Fall has always been my favorite season. Along with being able to wear jeans and a sweatshirt with flip-flops, this season brings me three of my favorite things: college football, changing leaves, and pumpkin.


While I’ve never liked pumpkin pie, I’ve found a ton of other ways to enjoy this winter squash.

Pumpkin is the perfect fall vegetable, whether you cook your own or buy the cans from the supermarket. It’s high in lutein and beta carotene yet low in calories for a large serving, making it a nutritional powerhouse and a great addition to a variety of recipes.


8 ways to think outside the pie:

  • Stir into cooked oatmeal and add fun toppings like granola, peanut butter or – my favorite – chocolate and butterscotch chips
  • Mix into your favorite cookie dough with a pinch of cinnamon
  • Stir into plain yogurt with cereal/granola/oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of salt, and honey for a filling breakfast or snack
  • Make a “pumpkin pie” smoothie or milkshake with pumpkin puree, milk/yogurt/ice cream, cinnamon, ice, and sweetener of choice
  • Mix with cream cheese, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and pecans and spread on bagels or toast or use as a dip for ginger snaps and sliced apples
  • Blend with cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, and ginger and use as a filling for French toast – perfect for a fall brunch or weekend breakfast
  • Blend with sautéed garlic, onions, cream/milk and seasonings for a rich pumpkin soup
  • Mix with ricotta cheese, garlic, and sage and toss with hot pasta

With pumpkin, there are tons of possibilities!

Do you have any non-traditional ways of using pumpkin? I want to know!

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What’s better than a fun giveaway on Monday morning?

Especially when it’s the week of Thanksgiving, there’s a short work week ahead, and…just because it’s Monday.


After my muffin trial last week using this Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil – I want to share the fun!

And Tropical Traditions wants to share, too ; )

The prize? Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, just like the jar seen above.

To Enter:

Tell me what you’re looking forward to most about Thanksgiving. Easy!

For additional entries:

Subscribe to Tropical Traditions’ email Sales Newsletter

– Follow Tropical Traditions on Twitter @troptraditions

*For these additional entries, leave another comment letting me know you did so!


I’ll be picking a winner Monday, November 29th.

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Saturday Snapshots

When Nick is away…


the girls will laze.


This morning was the epitome of perfection when it comes to a fall Saturday.

Nick went hunting with our neighbors, so it was just me, Maggie, and Roxy at home.


We did all the important things, like…laying around in my pajamas until 11:30, drinking too much coffee, cuddling on the couch, and indulging in my two favorite weekend tv programs.

I tried some new fair trade coffee, which was roasted just over the mountain in Floyd, Virginia. Delicious!



Breakfast was quick and easy and around 10:30, which is so late for me! I was enjoying the lazy morning so much that I didn’t even want to get up off the couch to make food ; )  Some eggs, oatbran, and clementines plus a lot of good coffee.


And my favorite things about Saturday mornings: College Game Day, and…


One Tree Hill reruns. I know – a little pathetic, but I can’t help it!

Random fact of the day:

The guy in that shot, on the right? He played Alex in one season of the show and his name is Michael Copon.

Well, I went to school with him! Middle + high school. It’s funny (and very strange) to see him on tv. He quit coming to school in high school when he went off to start modeling and starring as Power Ranger. 

As for me, today includes a lot more football – our game is on right now, and there are two more I have plans to watch later : )

I love days like this! Especially since I was also a little productive – I bought groceries, got my hair trimmed, and will probably work on some laundry tonight after I get dinner started.

Do you know anyone “famous”? Ever met a celebrity? I want to hear your stories!

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How in the world did I wait so long to try coconut oil?


A week or so ago, I got a fun package in the mail – a huge jar of coconut oil from Tropical Traditions.

I know I’m like months behind on this trend, but I’m so happy I finally had the chance to try it.


Coconut oil is…strange. But a great strange!

It’s solid at room temperature, so it’s hard for me to call it an “oil”. But seriously – opening that jar brings up summer time memories of playing at the beach and the smell of my mom’s suntan oil (that stuff was not solid at room temp).

And while I would have loved to make something with limes and pineapple or something else completely tropical, I found a muffin recipe on their website that I knew I had to try.


I made this Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffin recipe, and only made a few changes – I cut everything in half (only making 12 muffins) and used all whole wheat flour and skim milk.

Yeah…I was thinking the same thing after opening the jar.

Pumpkin and coconut? Won’t this be too strong? Will the coconut flavor overpower the subtle spices and dark chocolate chips?

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

Sure, the batter smelled a bit like coconut after adding the melted oil, but after baking, these were simply some of the best pumpkin muffins I’ve ever had.


Nick even liked them, and he’s not a huge fan of pumpkin anything!


Have you ever used coconut oil? What’s your favorite way to use it?

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Mexican Rice

Am I the only one that normally bypasses the pile of rice plopped on my plate at Mexican restaurants?


In most places around me, that rice is an afterthought, a quick and easy way to fill up the plate. I find that most aren’t very flavorful or colorful or appealing. So I push the rice to the side and focus on the other parts of my meal, hoping the staff won’t notice the full pile of rice I hide under my napkin when I’m finished eating.

I know…it’s wasteful. But I know I won’t eat it if I bring it home with me and not every place will let you substitute that rice for something else.

My only option?

Make an amazing Mexican rice side dish myself.


Nick and I had a football date with some friends this past weekend, and our food theme was Mexican. The menu was pretty simple, but delicious:

– grilled steak tacos

– chips with salsa and homemade guacamole

– rice or bean side dish

I was in charge of the side dish and couldn’t decide between rice or beans, so I just mixed everything that I love together in one bowl!

Mexican Rice

  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder (ancho, if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder (or 1 tsp minced garlic)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Thankfully, this recipe is extremely easy, too. As long as you have cooked rice, the only other step is to mix everything together – done!

I loved it with the chewy brown rice, but this would also make a great barley or wheatberry salad. In fact, any whole grain would be delicious.


This rice has it all: different textures, different colors, and bold flavors.

Just how I like it.

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