Posts Tagged ‘challenge’

Jovenes Update

As the holiday season starts to come to a close, I just want to say thank you.


Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the donations, good thoughts, and prayers you’ve been sending for Jovenes, the orphanage that Holly and I are raising money for this holiday season.


As of right now, we’re at $715!!! I can’t tell you how excited I am about this – we are SO CLOSE to hitting our goal of $1,000, but the end of December is coming quickly!

If you’re still looking for a group to give back to or a great organization to support, please consider Jovenes.

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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A few weeks ago, I entered and was chosen to participate in Joanne’s Marx Foods Recipe Impossible Challenge, with the main ingredient being winter squash.


Not one to turn down a food challenge, I was excited to see what showed up on my doorstep a week later.

As part of the challenge, we had three rules:

  • The recipe must use winter squash
  • The recipe must use at least 2 of the secret ingredients
  • The recipe must be posted by October 27th

This recipe challenge was put on by Marx Foods, so each participant was sent a box of “secret ingredients” to use in our final recipes.

The box had such a great mix of ingredients, and (except for the maple sugar), they were all items I had never used before!

  • fennel pollen
  • espresso salt
  • ginger salt
  • maple sugar
  • coconut sugar
  • vanilla beans
  • pasilla negro chiles
  • aji panca chiles

Honestly, this mix of ingredients had me torn.

Do I make a sweet or savory dish? Sweet or savory?

I brainstormed for a few days and decided to just do one of each! I had two great ideas that I really wanted to try with the ingredients I received.

Thankfully, I fought the squash and I won.

Winter Squash Challenge Recipe 1: Savory


My first dish is one you’ve already seen in pictures.


Chunky Mocha Mole Chili

  • 1 acorn squash, halved and sliced
  • 2 pasilla negro chiles, rehydrated
  • 2 aji panca chiles, rehydrated
  • 1 lb. ground buffalo
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans kidney beans, drained rinsed
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp espresso salt
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Halve acorn squash and remove seeds. Slice into 1” slices. Lay on baking sheet and roast at 400 for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through until soft and browned.
  3. Cut tops off all chiles and remove seeds.
  4. Place chiles in bowl of warm water and let sit about 5 minutes.
  5. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.
  6. Add onion, garlic, and carrot and cook 2-3 minutes until softened.
  7. Stir in black beans, 1 can of kidney beans, and crushed tomatoes.
  8. Once mixture is combined, put mixture in blender/food processor and let sit.
  9. In same pot, add in ground buffalo. Brown meat.
  10. Once meat is cooked, add tomato paste, cocoa powder, espresso salt, and cumin.
  11. Stir and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  12. Drain chiles and add them to the blender/food processor with the bean mixture. Blend together.
  13. Pour bean and chile mixture into meat.
  14. Add remaining can of beans.
  15. Once squash is roasted, cut peel away and slice into bite size chunks. Stir squash into chili.
  16. Serve in halved acorn squash, if possible, and top with avocado.


Honestly. I’ve always though that I made pretty good chili.


But this recipe was incredible. I don’t think I can make chili without dried chiles now! There was such a deep and rich flavor in this dish – maybe it was the combination of chiles, espresso salt, and cocoa – but whatever it was, I want it in every chili I have from now on.

I was so surprised that this chili had such a great flavor because I didn’t let it cook for hours or simmer in the crockpot all day long. And that makes me happy. Because now I know – with dried chiles, coffee, and cocoa powder, I can make an amazing chili in 30 minutes, if needed.

And while you don’t have to serve this in a squash bowl, it’s a fun way to eat it.

Winter Squash Challenge Recipe 2: Sweet

For my second recipe…I had a very hard time deciding what to make.

I honestly had a list of about five recipes I wanted to try with these ingredients, but I finally put together a recipe I thought would work and that was something I thought Nick and I would both enjoy.

See…I like winter squash more than Nick. So I wanted to make sure I chose recipes that we would both want to eat.

Challenge accepted, challenge completed.


My sweet creation included 4 of the “secret ingredients”.

  • Vanilla bean
  • Ginger salt
  • Maple sugar
  • Coconut sugar


Going sweet in this recipe meant one thing: Butternut.

Bright orange.

Smooth and creamy.

A sign of fall.

Enough sweetness to carry a sweet dish or contrast spicy heat.


Can you believe this was my first time to ever use fresh vanilla?

I’m not sure I can ever go back to vanilla extract.

This stuff is like black gold. My house smelled amazing for hours.



Butternut Streusel Casserole


  • 1 2-2 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp agave
  • 2 tsp ginger salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean
  • 2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 1/4 cup milk


  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp maple sugar
  • 2 Tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped pecans
  • 1 Tbsp coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Steam squash on stovetop or in microwave. Let sit and cool 5 minutes.
  3. Mix all topping ingredients in bowl and set aside.
  4. Once squash has cooled 5 minutes, mash with potato masher or forks until smooth.
  5. Beat in eggs, agave, ginger salt, vanilla, orange zest, and milk.
  6. Pour squash mixture into 4 6 oz. ramekins or 1 8×8 or oval baking dish.
  7. Top with streusel mixture.
  8. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until topping is golden and squash filling is set.
  9. Let cool 5 minutes and serve.


Fresh vanilla is the key in this! Although, the maple + coconut sugars made an amazing crust…you just can’t ignore the beautiful little black specks in the butternut base.


We had this with our dinner last night.

Sort of side dish, but sort of dessert. It was the perfect item to have along with our Hearst Ranch flank steak and salad.


Thanks to Joanne for offering this winter squash challenge and to Marx Foods for hosting it and sending the secret ingredients.

I felt like I was on Iron Chef opening up the box of samples, wondering what I had to work with.

I had a great time working with all the ingredients and learned so much about new flavors and textures.

And now that this one is over…I’m ready for a new challenge Smile

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Good morning! It’s humpday – are you excited?

So, Katie has issued a little pancake challenge and I decided I needed to participate.

I had never made oatmeal pancakes, so I decided to start by trying it out and adding some fun toppings.

Honestly, what could be better than Strawberry-Nutella Pancakes?


Not much.


This batch of pancakes was:

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Since I wanted to make a little stack of pancakes, I split the mixture into 2 and cooked them in the pan. After cooking, I topped each pancake with:

  • 1/2 Tbsp Nutella (1 Tbsp total)
  • layer of sliced strawberries


It’s so strange eating oats in new ways when I’m used to just having them cooked in a bowl, but it was fun having healthier pancakes this morning.

Do you the think the nutella cancels out the goodness of the oats/fruit? I don’t  🙂  I’m going to say that it just enhances it.

Are you going to do the pancake challenge? I already have another idea brewing…or two  😉


Call for Guest Posts!

Although I’m not sure if our trip to Honduras is going to happen at the end of July like planned, I’m looking for some guest posts to have while I’m gone. Laptops will not be going with us, and while there are a few computers and internet at the hotel, we won’t be there very often and there’s usually a line to use the 2 computers.

If you’d like to do a guest post, put your post together in Word and send me that along with the pictures you’d like in the post and please have it to me by July 15th. And please send clear pictures! I want people to clearly see your awesome pics  🙂

If our trip does get moved/cancelled due to the political happenings there right now, I’ll still post the guest posts over the next couple of months, so they won’t be wasted!

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French Fried Donuts

Sarah posted a challenge a while back, and I’ve been planning to do this since then.

We always have these amazing (and local! not a franchise or anything) donuts at work on Friday, thanks to a coworker, but not just any donuts would have worked.

When I saw these two still left on Friday, I knew it was the day I would accept the French Toast Challenge.


I had one Carol Lee cinnamon sugar cake donut and one blueberry glazed cake donut that came home with me on Friday, while I was plotting in my head how this was going to work  🙂

And work it did! Bwahahaha….I totally felt like Paula Deen making this for dessert on Friday night. I mean, who re-fries donuts?

Me, apparently.

I sliced each donut in half so I could soak the inside with the “batter”:


For the french toast batter, I just mixed one egg with a splash of milk and vanilla.

I dipped each cut side of the donuts into the egg, then put them in a pan with a little canola oil and let them cook until the egg side was browned.

I quickly flipped them so all the sugar on the outsides could caramelize a bit and firm up. Honestly, before I flipped them I wasn’t sure if they would be good because the tops were kind of soggy, but flipping them for a minute fixed all of that!


Nick and I had half of each so we could each taste the cinnamon sugar + blueberry flavors.

Can I just say these were amazing? It almost tasted like funnel cake, but 10 times better!


Now, these are definitely NOT healthy in any way, but they were delicious. Not too bad, though. I barely used any of the batter, the canola oil is heart healthy, so it was really just like eating 1 donut each (not bad by any means) plus one tiny scoop of ice cream.

So sweet, crispy, but light at the same time!

I also added a little scoop of slow-churned vanilla ice cream to our bowls to complete the dish.


So, now the challenge passes on – what are YOU going to french toast?

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