Birthday Wishes

Classic Birthday Cake | Betsylife.com

Each year on my birthday, when I reflect on my greatest lessons learned throughout the past 365 days, I wonder if its the same lessons every year. The beauty of writing a blog is that I have the ability to go back and check.

When I turned 31 I wrote about changing friendships, making a conscious effort to bring more quality time to my life, and following my creative voice.

When I turned 32  I expressed gratitude for the benefits that the lessons of 31 had brought to my life. I wrote about learning to have patience, and putting one foot in front of the other each day no matter how hard the road became.

When I turned 33 There was more gratitude, more confidence, and a reflection on the significance of the small things in life, and the benefits of having a good attitude.

Now here I am, 34 years old, reading these old posts and truly marveling at my life. Not only because I can clearly see my progress, but knowing how quickly things changed, and knowing with certainty that the future holds adventures beyond anything that I can imagine. If I try to remember myself 5 years ago, before my whole life was documented, I know that I was fine, but I was terribly unfulfilled. In retrospect, despite seeming hopeless at times, it wasn’t really all that hard to make the switch. It has actually been pretty fun.

Obviously small goal setting and reflection has worked for me, so for 34 I’ve got a few things I’d like to note.

My main lesson from this year, and goal moving forward, is to always give your very best to those who matter most. When you’re fully connected with those who lift you up and bring joy to your life, problems seem to shrink, and everything in life becomes easier. When you give all of yourself to those things that are dragging you down, your whole life seems like one never-ending struggle. This year will be about recognizing the difference between who matters, and who doesn’t, and making sure that I give the best of myself to those that count.

My other huge, glaring lesson from this year is to always lead by example. Words are worthless, while actions are incredibly powerful. The only way to bring any kind of validity to life is to fully represent what you stand for. I will continue to remind myself of this each and every day.

Thirty four, ready for more! I am ready. Each year is better than the last and I’m absolutely ready for more challenges, more triumphs, more joy and more gratitude. Let’s do this.

Tater Tot Shepherds Pie

Tater Tot Shepherds Pie. A fun twist on classic comfort food | Betsylife.com

Shepherd’s pie is one of our favorite meals. It’s pretty easy to love something that’s covered in potatoes in my opinion. Beyond the carbs, what I really love about shepherds pie is that you can completely customize it based on what you have in the fridge. Most vegetables will work in a shepherds pie, and you can use ground beef, turkey, or even lentils if you want to go vegetarian.  What I learned this time around, is that you can even replace the classic mashed potato topping with tater tots!

Recently I found myself with a lot of miscellaneous vegetables and a bag of frozen tater tots on hand. I figured why not try to make a shepherds pie out of this, and the result was delicious!

Tater Tot Shepherds Pie. A fun twist on classic comfort food | Betsylife.com

I now consider myself an expert at cooking random stuff I have laying around. I’m here to encourage all of you not to be scared to combine ingredients without a recipe! If I didn’t have the tater tots, I still would have eaten this skillet of meat and vegetables as is, or cracked an egg on top. A cliche as it sounds, when in doubt, put an egg on it. It also would have been great with pasta, or topped with melted cheese. If you have mixed vegetables and/or ground meat, you have a  blank slate for dinner.

Gone are the days of the 4 component dinner. Meat, starch, two kinds of vegetables (did everyone’s mom serve them this or just mine?) Garlic and onions make a flavorful based for any healthy combination of skillet friendly ingredients. Plus, when you cook everything together in one pan, there are less dishes to clean!

If you have tater tots, or the makings for mashed potatoes, make a shepherds pie. If not, don’t discard this “recipe” just turn it into something that works with what you already have.

Tater Tot Shepherds Pie. A fun twist on classic comfort food | Betsylife.com

Tater Tot Shepherds Pie

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 c chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 zucchini chopped
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 t. dried thyme
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1 bag frozen tater tots, thawed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat 2 T oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add carrots, zucchini, asparagus and tomatoes. Cook 6-8 minutes until tender. Set vegetables aside.
  3. Heat remaining 2 t. olive oil in the same skillet and saute turkey until browned. Add thyme, oregano and pepper. Return vegetables to pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Transfer turkey mixture to 9 inch pie plate or shallow cassarole dish. Top with an even layer of tater tots.
  5. Bake on a baking sheet for 12-15 minutes until top is golden brown.
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Ratatouille Pizza

Ratatouille Pizza Recipe with Fresh Veggies and Sausage | Betsylife.com

Sorry for all the pizza lately, but I’ve been so wiped out from this cold that I really don’t have the energy to make much else. Yes, I realize that ordering pizza is most people’s go-to when they’re tired or busy, but making pizza is actually really easy too.

On top of my cold, my car is broken down and I just cannot muster the strength to walk to the store to buy anything, so I’m forced to make something with what I’ve got laying around. Luckily, that’s my specialty. One of the perks of being a food blogger is that you often get food sent to you. Recently I’ve received some steamed artichoke hearts from Melissa’s produce, as well as some pasta sauce from another company.  My garden is overflowing with eggplant, and I’m still getting zucchini in my CSA boxes, so I thought a veggie pizza would be a great way to use up all those fresh ingredients.

Ratatouille Pizza Recipe with Fresh Veggies and Sausage | Betsylife.com

As you know, the Hubs doesn’t always take too kindly to meatless food, even if it is pizza, so I added some andouille sausage I had in the freezer. He loved it.

We both managed to get dinner and lunch the next day out of it which allowed me some extra rest. Cooking once for multiple meals is awesome not only when you’re sick, but when you’re busy as well.

So that’s it! I’m definitely on the mend and have some really excellent recipes coming at you in the near future. I hope you’ll stick around and check them out.

Ratatouille Pizza Recipe with Fresh Veggies and Sausage | Betsylife.com

Ratatouille Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 Japanese eggplant, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 package Melissa's steamed artichoke hearts sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 package andouille sausage, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 package refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add eggplant, zucchini, and onion; sauté 3 minutes or until eggplant begins to soften. Reduce heat to medium. Add artichokes and sausage, and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add Italian seasoning, salt, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  3. Place crust on a baking sheet. Bake for 6 minutes at 425 degrees.
  4. Remove from oven and spread marinara sauce evenly over crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with vegetable and sausage mixture,sprinkle evenly with cheese.
  5. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is brown. Sprinkle with parsley.
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**Recipe adapted from Cooking Light 

The Great List 10.17.2014

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I’ve had a head cold all week long and I realized that I also had a cold at the same time last year. It seems as though Fun Month might be a bit taxing on my body. That doesn’t mean I’m going to give it up! I’ve got my cold buster drink , and I’m carrying on as planned starting with some weekly gratitude.

1. My old car, Senty, finally broke down this week after more than a year of miscellaneous troubles. I know this doesn’t seem like something I should be grateful for, but in its breakdown, we finally discovered what the real problem has been all along. It’s a major repair, but The Hubs is going to try to fix it himself (he’s very handy when it comes to cars). If he can fix it, then she should run for a good long time, if not, then I’ll be getting a new car very soon. I’m grateful to finally be free of the daily guessing game of “will she start or will she not?” Sometimes peace of mind comes from difficult situations.

2. I flew home early from Kentucky last week to spend the weekend with some old friends who were in town with their new babies. Back in the day we had quite a large circle of friends here in San Diego. Throughout the years people have moved away for various reasons, but whenever we see them, whether its here or wherever they live now, its like nothing has changed at all. Even with all the new babies. I swear there is something about those early years in San Diego that was sort of magical. It was such a pivotal time in all of our lives, and those years bonded us together for life. I’m so grateful to have friends like that.

3. My brief trip to Kentucky last week was so great. I’m most grateful for the fact that although my Grandpa had a rough couple days before I arrived, he was dressed, out of bed, and doing better the day I was there. It’s always great to spend time with my aunt and uncle, and being able to see a few of my cousins was also fantastic. Beyond my family, the state of Kentucky is so lovely. People were very kind and helpful, everything was so reasonably priced (!), the speed limits were fast, the scenery was beautiful, and they have this stuff called high caffeine coffee that was like my dream come true. If you ever have the chance to go to Kentucky, I highly recommend it.

4. I worked on a great shoot yesterday with one of my favorite crews. It’s so Great to work with people you know, who trust your creative vision, and allow you the freedom to work in the way that you think is best for the client. Plus, we had a lot of laughs which is always a Great thing on a long shoot.

See? No head cold can get me down! I’ve got a busy (and FUN!) weekend ahead. I hope you all can find a few moments for gratitude in your day, and carry that throughout your weekend.

Cheers!

 

 

Apple Cider Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake

Apple Cider Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake | Betsyilfe.com

Now that it’s finally fall in SoCal I figured it was time to bust out the apple cider. Fun Month deserves a fun bundt so I took my apple cider and concocted this apple cider cinnamon roll bundt. Talk about comfort food!

Food indulgence is the name of my Fun Month game. So far I’ve had a fancy dinner with my friend Katie, ice cream and teppanyaki with my 7 year old nephew in Chicago, also beef sandwiches in Chicago (duh), a fancy dinner for one in Kentucky complete with wine, plenty of airport bloody mary’s, pizza and ice cream cake with old friends who were visiting, heck, I even ate donuts one day! Let the binge continue with some gooey and delicious apple cider cinnamon roll cake.

I see a lot of spin classes in my future.

Apple Cider Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake | Betsyilfe.com

I’m not really worried about it though, Betsylife is all about balance, and I’m pretty good at making up for my indulgences down the road. Work hard, play hard am I right?

I really encourage everyone to give themselves a break once in a while, and do something frivolous that makes them happy. Super crazy bundt cakes might not be your thing, but maybe buying a special pair of shoes is, or ditching work in the middle of the week to go surfing. Even if you can’t celebrate for an entire month, you deserve to treat yo self every once in a while.

Apple Cider Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake | Betsyilfe.com

I find that the real key to life though, is finding things that you can have every single day, that make you happy and feel like an indulgence, but are actually good for you too. There is no way I could eat cinnamon rolls all year round. This much sugar does not really agree with me, but I have managed to find healthier breakfast options that I love so even if I’m not indulging, I’m enjoying myself.

I still love that this bundt cake made one recent Sunday extra special.

Apple Cider Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake | Betsyilfe.com

Speaking of enjoying myself, I’ve got big plans to mix up the rest of my apple cider with some mulling spices and rum. Now that the weather is cooler (73 degrees) I see sweatpants, a quilt, a boozy cider drink, and some trashy TV on my weekend agenda. Celebrating doesn’t necessarily have to mean elaborate plans.

Spin class can wait until November.

Apple Cider Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake | Betsyilfe.com

Apple Cider Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake
  • 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 package quick-rise yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup butter, softened, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups finely chopped peeled tart apples
  • 1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • For the frosting
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine 2-1/4 cups flour, sugar, and salt.
  2. In a small saucepan heat milk, cider and 1/4 cup of butter until the butter melts. Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast over the top of the milk mixture. Allow to proof for 10 minutes.
  3. Pour milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined. Stir in remaining flour until a soft dough forms (dough will be sticky).
  4. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes until dough becomes smooth and elastic. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, grease and flour a 9 1/2 inch bundt pan. Set aside.
  6. In a medium bowl combine apples, brown sugar and cinnamon.
  7. Roll dough into a 15X10 inch rectangle. Spread rectangle with remaining butter. Top evenly with apple mixture.
  8. Roll dough, lengthwise, jelly roll style, pinching to seal the seam at the end. Cut into 12 even slices.
  9. Place slices into the prepared bundt pan so they fit snugly. Cover, and allow to rest in a warm place for one hour.
  10. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown.
  11. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting.
  12. Boil apple cider in a small saucepan for 20 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup.
  13. In a large bowl cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Slowly add confectioners sugar until creamy. Add in reduced apple cider until fully combined.
  14. Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a plate. Top with frosting and serve immediately.
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The Ultimate Cold Buster Drink

Chase away that cold with this cold busting drink recipe |Betsylife.com

I kind of asked for this by  exposing myself to 10 children (and subsequently 2 schools and 5 daycares) 4 flights full of people, 4 airports, countless public places, and temperatures ranging from 95 degrees to 40 degrees over the last seven days. I have a cold.

I refuse to let this inhibit my Fun Month so I’m on a mission to bust this cold before it even takes off. Luckily, I have a secret weapon. This cold busting drink is my go-to remedy for speedy healing throughout the winter months.

Garlic is packed full of nutrients to boost your immunity. Crushed fresh cloves will give you the best result, but I didn’t have any at the time this photo was taken so I figured minced was better than nothing. Lemon is full of vitamin C which we all know is great for colds. Ginger helps to increase perspiration which will cleanse your body of toxins. Apple cider vinegar balances your body’s PH level to keep more germs from getting in, while cayenne pepper increases circulation to get all the good stuff moving through your body at a faster pace. It’s like the perfect storm of cold remedies.

No cold stands a chance if you start drinking this at the first sign of infection.

The Ultimate Cold Buster Drink

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and take as a shot, or combine in a 16 oz glass and top off with filtered water.
  2. Drink twice daily.
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#POPtober with Oxo {Sponsored}

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The Hubs and I live in a small space so staying organized is an absolute necessity. Especially in the kitchen since I’m always finding new cooking products that I’m dying to try. Lately The Hubs has been getting kind of annoyed by the way the cabinets and pantry explode on you when you open them. One of my biggest problems is storing my dry goods that I buy in bulk.

Oxo-Poptober-before

See those plastic bags sticking up back there? Those are all bags of lentils, quinoa, cornmeal and more that I buy in bulk in order to get a better price. I try to shove them to the back of the pantry so as not to annoy The Hubs, but no matter what, they always stick out like a sore thumb because there is no real way to neatly store plastic bags full of loose material like this.

Lets not even talk about when one of them gets a hole in it. Total mess.

Lucky for me, my friends at Oxo and The Container Store (my favorite store) are in the midst of a promotion they’re calling POPtober to promote their line Pop containers. We have been storing our coffee in a Pop container for years, and it is easily my most favorite container in my kitchen. It’s rectangular shape slides perfectly in next to the coffee maker , and the fact I can open it with one hand is a bonus for those groggy mornings when I’m fumbling around trying to get the coffee made.

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Thanks to Oxo, my pantry got a Pop-tastic makeover. My quinoa, barley, lentils, black-eyed peas and cornmeal have new, spill-proof, air tight homes. Oh, and can we talk about pasta and dried chiles for a second? Why do they never come in boxes or bags sized for 2 people? Now, after I use half a box of pasta, or a couple of dried chilies, I can put the rest in a Pop container for later use. I also filled a Pop container with half used bags of chocolate chips and marshmallows to avoid spillage, a.k.a wasting chocolate, a major kitchen foul in my book.

Oxo-Poptober-after

Heyo! Would you look at the difference?!?! Pop containers are so awesome for stacking too, and I love that they’re clear so I can easily grab what I’m looking for when I’m in the midst of a cooking bonanza.

You can buy Pop Containers at Container Stores (my favorite store) nationwide or at www.containerstore.com, but you know what’s even better than buying Pop containers?

Winning them for free!!!

Now through October 31st you can head on over to Facebook and enter to win a $500 gift pack from The Container Store (my favorite store) and Oxo including $250 worth of Oxo Storage and Organizational tools and a $250 Elfa gift card.

You guys will seriously love these containers. They are the best.

Meanwhile, for more organizations inspiration, you can check out my home organization board on Pinterest.

Follow Betsylife’s board Home Organization on Pinterest.


Pumpkin Pie S’mores

Pumpkin Pie S'mores | Betsylife.com

Presenting the Fun Month edition of 12 bloggers featuring all things pumpkin! Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice, you name it, we’ve got you covered in our October pumpkin-palooza!!!

I know people are wild for pumpkin this time of year, but I have to say, it’s often hard for me to jump on the bandwagon living in San Diego. It often doesn’t feel like “fall” until late November around here, and by that time everyone has moved on to Christmas stuff. I was pretty stoked when I was chosen to host this month’s theme because it gave me a chance to really get into the fall spirit.

My pumpkin recipe of choice are these pumpkin pie s’mores. I kind of get the best of both worlds with a fall twist on a classic summer dessert. I know for the most part I eat pretty healthy, but it’s Fun Month so it’s time to indulge in things like pumpkin spice marshmallows! Did you even know such a thing existed?!?!?  Pumpkin Pie S'mores |Betsylife.com

A little schmear of pumpkin pie filling on a couple of cinnamon grahams, some chocolate and a couple of toasty pumpkin spice marshmallows make for a darned good fall dessert. If I had an entire slice of pumpkin pie I would have smashed that in there in place of the filling. Perhaps I’ll give that a try after Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Pie S'mores |Betsylife.com

Pumpkin Pie S’mores

Ingredients

  • Cinnamon graham crackers
  • pumpkin spice marshmallows
  • can of pumpkin pie filling or a leftover slice of pumpkin pie
  • Hershey's chocolate bar

Instructions

  1. Turn on oven broiler. Alternately, you can roast marshmallows over an open fire.
  2. Spread a teaspoonful of pumpkin pie filling on a cinnamon graham cracker (or smash a leftover piece of pie on a graham cracker) top with chocolate and 2 pumpkin spice marshmallows.
  3. Place in the oven for 2-3 minutes until chocolate and marshmallows begin to melt.
  4. Top with a second cinnamon graham. Smoosh and enjoy!
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As per usual I don’t just have one fabulous pumpkin recipe for you, I’ve got TWELVE! Whoop! You guys have got to check out what my pumpkin partners in crime are creating this month as well. You’re going to love it! Be sure to click around and check them all out.

12 amazing pumpkin recipes for fall |Betsylife.com

 

The Great List 10.10.2014

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Friday’s are for gratitude here at Betsylife and this week’s Great List is coming at you from the Midwest. I’ve spent my week catching up with some family, first in Chicago and now in Kentucky.

I adore my nieces and nephews, and I got to spend a good deal of time with three of them this week. I love seeing them grow, I love hearing their tiny voices say “Aunt Betsy”, and I love the hugs and kisses, but this week there were a couple of things that nearly made me cry with gratitude.

1. My 7 year old nephew Luke has had a tough time since his twin sisters were born 2 years ago. I always take him on a special date when I’m in town and this trip was no exception. My brother coaches freshman soccer at the high school I went to, so I took Luke to the game. He got to sit on the bench with the team and all the kids were so sweet and gave him high fives and really made him feel special. He got to slap five and say “good game” in the line with the team at the end of the game, and you could just see him beaming. I of course was choking up behind my sunglasses at the kindness of not only my brother’s players, but the other team as well. They weren’t aware of how much this meant to Luke, but I was.

2. We went to a teppanyaki restaurant for dinner, and out of nowhere Luke said, “I think I would like to try sushi” I was bowled over by his boldness, as most 7 year olds I know are not such adventurous eaters, and I KNOW my brother and his wife are not either. It made me feel like a little bit of Aunt Betsy might be rubbing off on him. He didn’t love the sushi, but didn’t spit it out or overreact to it either, but he did inhale steak, onions, zucchini, broccoli and fried rice. I was beyond proud of his enthusiasm for food.

3.I took all 3 kids on a “nature walk” around the big field behind their house one day. When you get the twins’ little hands away from Luke’s legos, he’s actually a very loving an attentive big brother. I love that he calls them ladies, as in “c’mon ladies let’s go look for red leaves” and is dutiful in ensuring their safety. “Now don’t stand on that sewer drain ladies because your foot might get stuck.” I see a lifetime of friendship brewing here.

4. We got to have dinner with my cousin and his wife last night, and meet their sweet baby Caydence. What a charmer! Our meeting was brief but I’m grateful that we got to catch up even for a short while.

I’m off to see my Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle this morning then home to San Diego tomorrow. I’m definitely looking forward to some predictable weather that’s for sure!

Spiced Butternut Squash Bread

Spiced Butternut Squash Bread | Betsylife.com

I’m ditching this summer weather and heading off to the midwest tomorrow. I suspect that by the time I return fall will have made its way to the left coast, but you never really know around these parts. To get in the fall spirit (did it snow in Illinois this week?) I’ve dug out my sweater, dusted off my boots, and baked this festive loaf of butternut squash bread.

The Hubs came in the kitchen and said to me, “can I eat this bread? What is it?” I replied, “butternut squash bread”. He frowned and said, “never mind”. I had to convince him that he would like it, and that it tasted just like pumpkin bread. After a few bites he was totally on board. The loaf vanished in no time.

Butternut squash is actually an awesome, and easy to manage alternative for pumpkin. Quote me on that. The next time you think something butternut squash-y sounds unappealing, definitely think twice. This bread with change your mind.

I’m looking forward to furthering my fall-festive attitude this week with some colorful leaf viewing, scarf wearing, and even possibly some soup eating. All novelties to this California girl. Be nice midwest! I’ll see you tomorrow.

Spiced Butternut Squash Bread | Betsylife.com

 

Spiced Butternut Squash Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup roasted butternut squash, pureed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 1 1/5 qt loaf pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the butternut squash puree, eggs, oil, water and sugars until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice.
  3. Stir the dry ingredients into the butternut squash mixture. Combine just until incorporated; do not over mix. Pour into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
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The Great List 10.03.2014

Pacific Beach, CA Crystal Pier

It’s a time of new beginnings around here. Boozer went home yesterday so we’re officially a one dog house for the first time in years. It’s really, really quiet. I recently stopped working with a client who has been a big part of my life for nearly 8 years, and took on some new endeavors work-wise. I’ve got tons of exciting stuff I’m working on for Betsylife, and the seasons are changing all at the same time. Despite all the upheaval, I feel very peaceful. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.

One thing that never changes is my commitment to gratitude via this Great List. It’s the very thing that brings peace to my life. Here’s what I’m grateful for this week.

1. Despite being noticeably sad, Olive has been adapting well to being alone for the first time in her entire life. I was definitely concerned with her acting out, but so far so good. That’s not to say we’re not in for some destruction in the future, but overall I’m feeling very proud of her. She’ll definitely be getting a lot of extra love over the next few weeks.

2. Fun Month is upon us and even though it’s only been 3 days, it’s been awesome! I ate donuts (something I never do), I took a beautiful walk on the beach with a great friend, I drank a beer for lunch yesterday, I had an amazing foodie dinner with a friend who I’ve been trying to catch up with for months (we ate all the weird stuff on the menu), and I’ve got lots of fun stuff in the pipeline including a little trip next week to catch up with a few family members I’ve been missing. It’s going to be a Great month, I can tell already.

3. Without giving too much away, I finished a major part of a new project I’m working on this week. It’s been a very cool learning experience, and I’m excited to share it with all of you soon. It should be smooth sailing to finish it up, but it’s something I’ve never done before so we’ll have to wait and see how it goes. I’m nearly 34 years old, and trying new things still is super exciting to me. In my opinion, that’s what life is all about. Finding things you love, making them a part of your daily routine, but always remembering that the world is vast, and there’s always something to learn that might make your life even better.

Not to shabby this week huh? Do me a Fun Month favor and take a second to find some gratitude in your life today. You won’t regret it.

“For now the world keeps turning and I keep breathing, in and out, in and out. I breathe in the life that is all around me, in this garden, in this city, in the fields beyond it, in the seas beyond them and the shores on the other side; life that reaches out towards the unreachable, unknowable space that is beyond all of us and the stars that burn there.” ― Clare Furniss, The Year of the Rat

Fun Month Kickoff with Uncommon Goods {Sponsored}

Perfect Nachos | Betsylife.com

Sound the fanfare, Fun Month has arrived! For you newcomers, Fun Month is my birthday month, and I like to go all out. Although I try to have fun as much as humanly possible throughout the year, I always put the extra effort in during the month of October. That means more eating out, more wine, more beach, more baby hugging, more fun recipes, and more time with my friends and family. Plus, less grind, less chores, and less boring stuff (like dental appointments). Fun Month is the best.

I’m thrilled to have partnered with one of my all time favorite shopping sites, Uncommongoods.com, to kick of this year’s fun month. Uncommon Goods is always my first stop when it comes to buying gifts for others and I am not just saying that. I don’t like to give people just any old thing. Gift giving should not be generic. I mean, if it seems that way, why even bother? Uncommon Goods are true supporters of artists and artisans and have the most incredible selection of hand made gifts. THAT is something that I like to be a part of.

Beyond that, the majority of their products are environmentally friendly, recycled, and made in the USA. This is a company that is using their business to impact the world in a positive way….and the stuff is awesome.

Starting off my Fun Month gift extravaganza is this insanely gorgeous (not to mention practical!) Handmade, stoneware nacho plate by artist Tony Holman. This thing is microwave, oven and dishwasher safe and arrived just in time for football season. Sorry Hubs, I don’t share my nachos during Fun Month.  Handmade Ceramic Nacho Plate. Dishwasher, Oven and Microwave Safe. A great gift!

If anyone knows me, they know that I loooooooove a kit! Trying new things is something I’m all about, and despite all my experience in the kitchen, making french macarons is something  that I have long shied away from. Uncommon Goods made it easy for me with this macaron kit.

DIY Macaron Kit.

Boom! I was making macarons in no time. The very first batch came out perfectly, and so has every batch since. The innovative pastry bag alone had me sold. Hey neighbors, guess what you’re getting for christmas this year?

Macaron recipe

Rounding out my gift bonanza is one of those things that you always knew you needed but never knew existed. This prep and serve bowl is a must-have for any kitchen.  Prep and serve bowl. Best kitchen gift ever!

I cannot tell you how many things I’ve felt had too much liquid in them which I awkwardly tried to pour out only resulting in a mess. This bowl with built in strainer is my new go-to bowl for every type of cuisine.

A huge thank you to Uncommon Goods and their fabulous curation of gifts for helping to kick off my 2014 Fun Month in style! I hope you’ll all check out their selection and get those you know with October birthday’s something fabulous. Cheers to a great month!

Dark chocolate orange macarons | Betsylife.com

This post is sponsored. All opinions are my own. 

BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ Chicken Pizza  | Betsylife.com

I thought starting the week with some pizza might be a good thing. Strangely enough, I’m not usually a big pizza fan. What?!?! I know, right? It’s really pizza sauce that I don’t love (I’ll eat it if it’s put in front of me, but I would never choose to order it) so non-traditional pizzas like this BBQ chicken with tangy slaw are more my speed.

You know, I write a LOT of really positive stuff on this blog, but today is Monday, and I already mentioned that I don’t like pizza, so I think I’ll just start this week out by unloading a list of all the things I don’t like. It’s like the opposite of The Great List. Brace yourself.  BBQ Chicken Pizza  | Betsylife.com

In terms of food I also don’t like bananas, mayo, olives, beets, almond milk, mangoes, ketchup, lamb, and chardonnay.

BBQ Chicken Pizza  | Betsylife.com

In life, I could do without people who don’t use their turn signals, paper straws, bedazzled adult jeans, lateness, time wasters, snow, cobwebs across a sidewalk, bad parking, complainers, litter, garden pests, junk mail, rude people, and technical difficulties.

Who’s with me?

BBQ Chicken Pizza  | Betsylife.com

Phew! That felt great! Now that I’ve released all my irritations, I feel ready to tackle this week head on starting with some BBQ chicken pizza. I’ve found this exercise to be strangely therapeutic. Perhaps I’ll continue it (personally, not on the blog) in the future. Sometimes you’ve just got to vent and let it all out in order to make room for some good stuff in your day.

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.”  ― C. JoyBell C.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces refrigerated fresh pizza dough
  • 1/3 cup unsalted ketchup
  • 1/4 cup lower-sodium marinara sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon honey mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lower-sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 ounces shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 2 teaspoons cornmeal
  • 3 ounces reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Dash of sugar
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons grated carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Instructions

  1. Remove dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature, covered, for 30 minutes.
  2. Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in oven. Preheat oven to 500° (keep pizza stone or baking sheet in oven as it preheats).
  3. Combine ketchup and next 8 ingredients (through onion powder) in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat; cook 6 minutes. Combine 2 tablespoons ketchup mixture and chicken in a small bowl; toss to coat.
  4. Roll dough into a 14-inch circle on a lightly floured surface; pierce liberally with a fork. Carefully remove pizza stone from oven. Sprinkle cornmeal over stone; place dough on stone. Spread remaining sauce over crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Arrange chicken mixture over dough. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 500° for 9 minutes or until crust and cheese are browned.
  5. Combine vinegar, oil, and sugar in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in cabbage, onion, and carrot; toss to coat. Top pizza with cabbage mixture, parsley, and red pepper. Cut into 8 wedges.
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Recipe from Cooking Light 

The Great List 09.26.2014

San Diego

This week was not the best. Again. I’m a super planner, and when everything is going as planned I’m the most productive person you have ever seen. I got derailed after Tally’s death last week, and now everything has piled up, including a stack of emotions I’m still trying to process, and I find myself kind of paralyzed. I’ve been slogging along, completing a task or maybe two per day, and trying to be kind to myself, but I’m having a hard time finding the intensity that I normally use to power through my days. I know I’ll get there, but I’m still feeling anxious about getting behind. I’m hoping this Great List will help me to get to a jumping off point in order to get back into my regular life again.

1. I took my first ever level 2.5 yoga class this week, and did not die. The power flow part was no problem for me, but some of the poses were crazy hard! I was excited though because I’ve been wanting to expand my yoga practice for a while, and a lot of the classes I take are the same old stuff. Even though I couldn’t do many of the poses, it definitely gave me some new goals to work towards. I started practicing yoga just over a year ago, and it has been a complete game changer in my life. Not only is my body stronger, but the mental strength I’ve gained from yoga has been invaluable. Without it, I’d probably be a complete and total mess right now.

2. My favorite show ever, Survivor, started back up this week. It’s been like a bajillion seasons, but I still love it. Jeff Probst is my favorite celebrity. I know its totally lame, but sometimes you just look forward to the little things. I still remember watching the very first season finale while working at a bar in college all those years ago.

3. Leila’s 4 year old bestie, Charlie came up to me at Leila’s birthday party and said in the saddest little voice, “I heard that Betsy’s dog died”. It was the sweetest act of sympathy I’ve received yet. She didn’t exactly know how to put it, or to offer real condolence, but I could see the sentiment in her face, and I was very touched. The innocence of children is often the most comforting thing in the world am I right? Thank you for that Charlie.

Major TGIF this week. I’m so looking forward to some home organization this weekend. That’s always therapeutic for me. I hope you all have and equally, if not more exciting weekend.

Make Your Own Pill Pockets

Save tons of money by making your own pill pockets | Betsylife.com

For those of you who have old dogs, sick dogs, or just jerk dogs who won’t take their medicine, you are probably familiar with pill pockets. Pill pockets are soft, tasty little treats that you can stuff medicine into to disguise it to your pet. They’re generally effective (except when trying to get Olive to take her monthly flea pill), but become very expensive if you have a dog on a multiple-times-per-day pill regime.

Before Tally died, we were giving her medicine 3 times daily. At $12.99 for a 30 count of pill pockets that lasted us 10 days, the cost really started to add up. So I set out to make my own and found that it’s actually a lot easier than you think.

2 Tablespoons peanut butter

2 Tablespoons flour (or other dry substance like almond meal, wheat germ etc.)

1 Tablespoon milk (or other liquid like water)

That’s it! The best part about this, is that you can portion off however much you need. Tally had large pills that we gave her in the morning and evening which required more pocket coverage, and in the middle of the day she took small pills that required less. Totally customizable.

Seeing as I just saved you tons of money, feel free to send me a thank you note over on Facebook.

You’re welcome.