PRODUCT REVIEW: Mushroom Coffee!

Um, hello! Could anything sound more disgusting but taste more delish? Answer: NO!

First off, let me say I’ve never been much of a fan of the ‘shroom. The texture, the taste…the smell. However, I know that certain varieties of mushrooms are incredible from a health standpoint, so when I heard about this awesome thing called “Mushroom Coffee” from Tim Ferriss’ podcast, I was just too curious to resist!

Four Sigmatic is made up of some buddies from Finland who have developed easy, tasty ways to enjoy mushrooms, the “super food” that was a super food before super foods were all the hype 🙂  After perusing their website, and trying to decide what to try first, I saw an awesome sampler box that held everything I wanted, one dose at a time!

20160922_104315.jpgSo, although I originally thought I would put together a video about these goodies, I decided there are plenty of awesome videos if you get on YouTube or the Four Sigmatic website and check them out. However, I would like to share my take on each of the “flavors” I got to enjoy…and the one that I didn’t. Here’s my spin on things, in order from my most to least favorites:

  1. Mushroom Coffee w/ Cordyceps: “Stimulation without jitters” Guys, this stuff tastes amazing!!! It smells like coffee, tastes like a zesty instant coffee, and made me feel ohhhh so good! The company promised this good stuff as stimulation without the jitters and that’s exactly what I got! I didn’t feel a jolt or a crash, just a nice, steady, delicious ride through a sea of productivity.
  2. Mushroom Hot Cacao w/ Cordyceps: “Energize & feel good” I don’t know that this would pass as hot chocolate with my kids, but it’s still a truly tasty, chocolaty treat without the choco guilt, milky mucusy gross, or heaviness of the real deal. This hot cacao has a spiciness like a fancy Mexican hot cocoa, and is rich, delicious, and still gave me an awesome pick-me-up on a cool autumn morning!
  3. Cordyceps Elixir: “Energy boost & recovery” So, clearly, I like the cordyceps! I didn’t even know what it was before this sweet sampler box, but I’m officially a FAN! Apparently, this magical mixture helps support adrenal glands and maintain constant energy levels…no wonder I love it so! All I really know is that this elixir tasted as good as the mushroom coffee and hot cacao recipes which include the cordyceps, and it offered a great boost for my day.
  4. Mushroom Coffee w/ Lion’s Mane: “Increase productivity” This coffee, while still delicious, smelled like mushrooms…or feet. I still got all of the feel-good benefits from drinking this cup of hot deliciousness, but enjoyed it much more once I put it in one of my lidded to-go cups so I wouldn’t have to smell it. I know Lion’s Mane is a great addition to my health regimen, and I love the nutty flavor of this ‘shroom coffee…as long as I don’t have to smell it 😉
  5. Mushroom Hot Cacao w/ Reishi: “Melt away stress” There’s just something special about hot drinks; they’re cozy, they’re soothing, they’re something to be savored, they’re meant to take a little time to enjoy. This mushroom cacao is soothing like that. Also nutty with a creaminess that hints at chocolate, this is just a really wonderful, hot cup of yummy.
  6. Chaga Elixir: “Bulletproof immunity” With this elixir, I begin the downward slope of my list, but I do it with this caveat: I drank these on their own, mixed only with hot water. I understand that there are many wonderful ways to enjoy these elixirs, herbs, mushrooms, etc. that may taste more delicious, be more palatable, and even boost the nutritional pow…but I wanted to find out my thoughts on the individual packets before venturing down that path. The chaga was good, and I knew it was good for me, so I enjoyed the warm cup and dreamt of future cuppings which may include some coconut oil, almond milk, or some other variation.
  7. Lion’s Mane Elixir: “Brain power” I even referenced drinking this in one of my “Get Ready with Me” videos! I enjoyed the flavor of this elixir, but similar to the mushroom coffee that included the lion’s mane, it definitely has a distinct odor. Tastes great, made me feel good, but gives my teenage son’s feet a run for their money!
  8. Reishi Elixir: “Relax & sleep deeper” Guys, gotta be honest here. I couldn’t even finish this one. It tasted so bad to me…I don’t know if I got enough into my system to help with sleep or relaxation because I likely only swallowed about three sips. If I ever have an opportunity to try this one again in a different form, or added to some base that would mask the reishi taste, I would like to. I could definitely use the hormonal regulation and lowering cortisol levels that reishi is known for, but straight with hot water isn’t happening again.

There you have it, folks! The quality of all of these handy-dandy packets was so great! Each powdery mixture dissolved like a dream in my hot water, without chunks or anything gross. The packaging is so creative and top-notch, and the natural elements of knowing this is an environmentally friendly operation made me feel extra good purchasing and drinking their goods. When consumed as I did, all of these dual-extracted mushroom mixtures are vegan and paleo-friendly. For every box, Four Sigmatic will use part of the revenue to donate mushroom kits to cancer patients! AND, as an added BONUS, HERE IS A $10 COUPON FROM FOUR SIGMATIC TO USE TOWARD YOUR FIRST/NEXT PURCHASE!

If you have tried this or similar mushroom super food products that you love (or hate, for that matter), I’d love to hear about them! What should I try next? Do YOU love Four Sigmatic??  What helps give you a pick-me-up that also is doing good things for your body? Thanks for sharing!!!

Until next time, my friends…

Make it a great day,

Mari!yn

BOOK REVIEW: Food52 Vegan

Click to know more & purchase

Click to know more & purchase

I am so excited to share with y’all this AWESOME vegan recipe book, Food52 Vegan, an absolutely beautiful book which begs you to turn the pages, admire the stunning food photography, and dive into every recipe with fork in hand. Those of you who have already embraced the vegan lifestyle may already know the author, Gena Hamshaw, from her personal blog, The Full Helping, which is chock-full of nourishing recipes, tips and tricks of the vegan trade!

Rather than focusing on creating vegan dupes of nonvegan dishes, Gena has brought together a collection of recipes that stand on their own, and…oh…they happen to also be vegan. I love that she focuses on creating wonderfully delicious, plant-based dishes without getting hung-up on what’s missing (i.e. animal products).

So many things appeal to me about this particular recipe book. Although I am not exclusively a vegan eater, it is important to me that I feed myself and my family food-fuel from seasonal, nourishing, real foods. Gena’s book speaks to that desire to steer clear of overly-processed, far-from-actual-food foods. As she states in her introduction, “At its heart, vegan food is just food.”

The recipes Gena so eloquently shares with her readers in Food52 Vegan feed our bodies in ways that “fast food” just cannot accomplish.

Because of the abundance of information Gena includes in Food52 Vegan, it reminds me of an abbreviated, less pretentious version of the classic The Joy of Cooking. Gena takes the initiative to teach about the ingredients, rather than merely listing them. When I open up a recipe, I also learn something new, learning options on ways to tweak the recipe to fit my own family’s particular tastes or health needs, which–in turn–gives me a deeper appreciation for the ingredients and the process of gathering, preparing, and presenting this nourishing food to my family.

Food52 Vegan is like a gift to the reader, and I recommend it to any cook willing to move beyond meat and potatoes, and taste how real food can truly make you feel!

Until next time, my friends…

Make it a great day,

Mari!yn

There are so many great ways to get this book AND find out more about Gena and Food52. Check out these resources and keep the high-quality food-fuel going!

FTC: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

RECIPE OF AWESOMENESS: Creamy Chicken Pasta Salad

This homemade pasta salad recipe is just as easy as any boxed mix, and tastes 100x better! It is full of flavor, and even sneaks some delicious veggies and clean proteins in there for those of you with picky eaters!

I originally found this recipe on AllRecipes.com, then I made my own set of Marilyn Modifications to better suit my family’s taste. Either way, it’s sure to be a new family favorite around any dinner table and would also be GREAT for pot-lucks and picnics!

Are you ready for a quick, tasty pasta salad that will have you turning away boxed varieties forever??? Oh yeah, it’s that good!

wpid-img_20150805_192118.jpgFirst, completely mix the following ingredients in a LARGE bowl…the largest you have, really, as this recipe needs growing and scatter room:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing

Now, start your pasta of choice cooking, while you dice and chop the next set of goodies. I prefer to use bowtie pasta because it’s fun and showy!

  • 11 ounces pasta–corkscrew, bowtie, elbow, whatever your family likes best (or, whatever you have on hand!)

While the pasta is doing it’s thing, chop, crumble, and dice the following ingredients…BUT DO NOT add them to the mayo mix, yet:

  • 8 ounces Muenster cheese (trust me, I’m a Wisconsin girl through-and-through…Muenster is a GREAT choice for this recipe!)
  • 1 bunch of celery (because who wants to measure celery??)
  • 2 nice-sized orange bell peppers (because they’re sweet and add such gorgeous color to this dish!)
  • 16 (or so) slices of crispy cooked bacon. BTW…Did you know that you can purchase pre-cooked bacon at the market? Oh yeah! This was such a happy surprise for me because I LOVE bacon, but HATE everything about cooking it (the smell, the feel, the smell, the grease, the way you smell it’s residual odor for days…ug). As an absolute last resort, I suppose you could use good old dried Bacon Bits in place of real bacon, but it’s pretty strong-flavored and salty, so I’d cut the amount in half if you’re going to go that route.

By now, you can totally drain your tasty pasta, and add it to the mayo mix. Stir well to fully coat the pasta.

Next, add the following to the mayo/pasta mix:

  • 1 cooked rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded or chopped (depending on your personal preference)

Once the mayo mix, pasta, and chicken are fully coated, we can put the rest together! Add the cheese, chopped veggies, and whichever bacon option you went with, into the BIG bowl. Stir gently to coat all of the new additions.

Last but certainly not least, add the final two ingredients and lightly stir to incorporate them into the dish:

  • 11 ounces grape tomatoes
  • 1 medium-size avocado, peeled, pitted, and chopped

This dish is best served cold, so I suggest allowing at least 30 minutes of refrigeration time before devouring…if you can wait that long 😉

My wish is that your family loves this dish as much as mine did! ALSO, if you’re on AllRecipes.com, feel free to hook up with me over there. Who knew that social media would also extend into our cookbooks?!? But, I love being connected, and it’s a great way to continue to share my passions with whoever is interested, so I’m game! You can find ME at: http://m.allrecipes.com/cook/15611560/

Until next time, my friends…

Make it a great day,

Maril!yn

You can also follow me on Snapchat @ MarilynHorton78

You can also follow me on Snapchat @ MarilynHorton78

Touring Wisconsin on Two Wheels: Southwest Loop

The greatest thing about moving north to an entirely new state that spends half the year (a slight exaggeration) completely hidden under snow cover is that when the snow thaws, everything is brand new, again! As it is now my family’s second Autumn season in Wisconsin, we see patterns emerging from memories of a year ago when we were finally either unpacking the last of the moving boxes, or wondering why we had bothered to move this or that in the first place, and rather than further deal with it, shove it away in a dark corner of the storeroom. We see the geese beginning to practice their flights instead of their continual summer grazing and lazy swims on neighborhood ponds. The farmers are beginning to cut the crops of corn and soybeans that fill every unpaved spot on the landscape. Wood is being gathered and chopped for the coming winter fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and backyard fire pits. And, the last of the fruits and veggies are being canned and jammed to be enjoyed throughout the coming months of barren ground.

As a way of fully immersing ourselves into our new community, my son, Morgan, and I took to the plethora of multi-use trails around our area. We love living near the capital city of our state for several reasons, and the exceptional trails in our new home state take the cake for this bike-loving clan! Mid-winter, when we were missing the beautifully lined paths, Morgan and I started dreaming of these wonderful trails, wishing we could explore them every day and see how far they would take us. That’s when we came up with a wonderful idea: a cycling vacation to explore Wisconsin!

Our guidebook for the journey. We referenced the maps and charts in this book often throughout the trip!

Our guidebook for the journey. We referenced the maps and charts in this book often throughout the trip!

A quick look at Google Maps (with the cycling paths highlighted) reveals a nice loop through the southwestern corridor of our cheese-loving state. Roughly 131 miles from Fitchburg to Dodgeville, then south to Darlington, over to Monroe, and completing the loop (rather–it’s more of a square) by heading north back to Fitchburg. It was a genius idea!

Morgan and I started dreaming through the snow-lined streets, of a summer vacation on bicycle. And, like one of my all-time favorite motivators, Zig Ziglar, said many times, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” Achieve it, we did!!!

We also recruited a friend and fellow cycling enthusiast, Zach, to join in the fun.

We put together packing lists and to-do lists. We met over coffee and scones to discuss and plan. We checked and double-checked everything from tires or water bottles. And we set out on a journey we will not soon forget.

PACKING LIST (in no cohesive order):

Carrying all you will need over the course of a vacation really keeps your "needs" in perspective!

Carrying all you will need over the course of a vacation certainly keeps your “needs” in perspective!

  • Our homemade guidebook
  • Cash, ID’s, and credit cards
  • Backpack to hold all necessary possessions
  • Quick dry shirt
  • Quick dry pair of shorts
  • Sleepwear
  • Hand sanitizer/wipes
  • Extra bike tubes
  • Athletic tape
  • Energy gels and snacks
  • Phone chargers
  • Bike tools
  • Helmets
  • Bike lights and/or flashlights
  • Pepper spray
  • Water bottles
  • Bike pump and/or CO2 cartridges
  • Socks and underwear
  • Bike locks
  • Sunblock
  • First aid kit
  • Plastic shopping sacks
  • Pen/marker
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunglasses
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
My ride for the trip. It's a simple Trek, but I LOVE IT! The smaller woman's frame made for some modifications like the new water bottle spot. And my road tires were replaced with hybrids to help stand up to the rocks, silt, and unpaved glory to come!

My ride for the trip. It’s a simple Trek, but I LOVE IT! The smaller woman’s frame made for some modifications like the new water bottle spot. And my road tires were replaced with hybrids to help stand up to the rocks, silt, and unpaved glory to come!

TO-DO’s PRIOR TO LAUNCH:

  • Wisconsin state trail use pass (purchased through WI Department of Natural Resources)
  • Full bike inspection and tuneup
  • Hotel reservations (because at the end of the day, we wanted showers, beds, and cable)

Check. Check.. and Check…all the way down the line.

The day we took off from our designated starting spot–a convenience store–the weather was still chilly and quite windy. The first half of the day was spent in some pretty open areas where the crosswinds made us question our sanity pretty often. But, we knew ahead of time that we would each have our doubts along the way, and that it was each of our jobs individually and collectively as a group to keep the momentum up and the spirits light.

For three days and two nights, we had no responsibilities or obligations beyond riding from one point to the next. Stopping along the way whenever we were tired or saw a pretty spot to relax and stretch, or a random stray kitten crying out to us from alongside the path. Our only “job” for three whole days was to enjoy the journey.

Wisconsin has some wonderful trails to offer even the most casual of rider! They're well-maintained, well-marked, and well-loved by this group!

Wisconsin has some wonderful trails to offer even the most casual of rider! They’re well-maintained, well-marked, and well-loved by this group!

The first day began in Fitchburg and ended in Mineral Point, travelling through Verona, Mount Horeb, Blue Mounds, Barneveld, Ridgeway, and Dodgeville along the way. We stopped at a wonderful hidden coffee shop tucked into the back of a convenience store in Mount Horeb called Mary’s Coffee Express, and enjoyed lattes and scones to pump up our energy while we sat and charged our cell phones. Morgan–ever the seeker of future Tour de France mountain climbing glory–took a few additional detours when we came to side-shooting climbs around Blue Mounds State Park. And in Dodgeville, we had to take to the streets where traffic doesn’t seem as accommodating to those of us using two instead of four wheels for our travel. That evening came and our hotel in Mineral Point had an indoor swimming pool/hot tub combination, a Subway next door, and a marathon of Dance Moms on TV. All was right in the world.

We allowed ourselves a slow start on our second day out on the bikes. It was nice to just kind of hang around, eat a slow hotel lobby breakfast, load our bikes back up, and remind ourselves that we weren’t punching any time clocks and could relax into the trip. We had no idea how grueling the second day in the saddle would be, but we were soon to find out.

A ride through the Wisconsin countryside wouldn't be complete without walls of corn for miles and miles!

A ride through the Wisconsin countryside wouldn’t be complete without walls of corn for miles and miles!

The Cheese Country Trail, which stretches from Mineral Point to Monroe (our entire second day’s journey) would be a fabulous, teetering on “heavenly” ATV trail. However, as a bike trail it makes life pretty difficult. It’s very rocky with a loose, silty (is that a word?) under-layer, so on our bicycles (even on Zach’s mountain bike with big, knobby tires) we were literally “spinning our wheels” and getting nowhere. We had a couple of issues over the course of our second day out on the trail. We’d fall over from trying so hard to move forward but going nowhere and just toppling. We’d get angry and yell at the trail when forward progress got really frustrating. And, we’d celebrate when little towns would pop up with their hometown food, benches, and patient folks.

Day two took us from Mineral Point to Darlington, through Gratiot to South Wayne, and on through Browntown to Monroe. We’d never been so happy to see a hotel before in our lives as we were when we reached our destination in Monroe just as the sun was beginning to settle on the horizon, but once we finished the 50 mile day relief kicked in and we felt like we could conquer the world!!! Out of nowhere one of us would exclaim something along the lines of, “If I can do that, I can do anything,” and we’d all chime in, all so proud of our day’s work. That night we loaded up on all the Italian fare we could get into our bodies at a wonderful restaurant just around the corner from the hotel, Vince’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzaria. It was the tastiest way to end the day!!!

Zach, myself, and Morgan--three faces full of pride and joy!!!

Zach, myself, and Morgan–three faces full of pride and joy!!!

Our final day out was also the shortest, with only the last 30 miles left to cover and a beautiful day ahead. Riding the Badger State Trail from Monroe, through Monticello and Belleville, and into Fitchburg was such a relaxing break after the day out on the ATV trail!

We stopped along the way a LOT in this last day. Sometimes, when we’d stop, I’d smile to myself because this journey that we’d imagined had been such a neat adventure that none of us were quite ready for the adventure to end, so we’d let the smallest things distract us and be a cause for pause along the way. My riding buddies are such neat guys; these teenage boys who still aren’t even old enough to drive cars had to dig deep on this trip to keep going and they did so without ever really considering quitting. Quitting just wasn’t an option, and although we had some bumps and tired times, we were operating as a team out on the trails. At one time we’d be laughing and joking around, other times we’d each be playing music for the rest to hear blaring from the tiny speakers on our cell phones, and still other times we’d be riding in perfect precision and harmony like a pro cycling team, sharing the workload in the front of the line and riding in complete silence but for the sound of our tires and trail meeting.

Storm clouds circled overhead and the air was heavy at times, but we never had so much as a drop of rain while we were out on the trails. The weather was just perfect for a little bike ride!

Storm clouds circled overhead and the air was heavy at times, but we never had so much as a drop of rain while we were out on the trails. The weather was just perfect for a little bike ride!

Finally, however, each journey must come to a close, even if it’s just to ask, “Same time next year?” We arrived back at our convenience store in Fitchburg to cheering family, fresh bottles of water, and car air conditioning!

Even though there are more serious riders who will easily get our 130+ miles into a single day’s ride, ours was an adventure of epic proportions to us! Perspective is key when your dreams take you over hurdles or on adventures you never imagined before that you could actually accomplish. Whether it’s your first 5k or scaling Mount Everest, if it’s a BIG accomplishment in your eyes, and you’re proud of yourself, then that’s all that matters in the world!!! Keep your head high and your dreams higher…and just keep peddling 🙂

Until next time…

Make it a great day,

Mari!yn

Let’s Make Ice Cream out of SNOW!!!

What better to do with freshly fallen, fluffy, white, gorgeous snow than to whip up a batch (or 3) of snow ice cream?!?!

My children and I decided to make three snow ice cream recipes for you and judge which we liked best. The results are in…drum roll, please…

ICE CREAM #1, from AllRecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/snow-ice-cream-ii/)
**The winner with 2 out of 4 votes**
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1 cup milk
-8 cups snow

ICE CREAM #2 from Paula Deen (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/snow-ice-cream-recipe/index.html)
**Received 1 out of 4 votes**
-14 oz sweetened condensed milk
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-8 cups snow

ICE CREAM #3 from the Duggar family blog (http://duggarsblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/snow-ice-cream-recipe.html)
**Tied for second place with 1 out of 4 votes**
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
-3/4 cups half & half
-8 cups snow

This was SUCH a fun way to make the most of the snowy outdoor days here in Wisconsin! AND, we also found that they’re even better with all three recipes blended together 😉

Make it a great day,
Mari!yn

5 Steps to Getting Rid of Your Cold FAST {+Video}

Hello all! Today I’m home sick with the same nasty sinus gunk that plagues so many this time if year, so I thought what better way to spend my time than to share with you my sure fire get well quick tricks! Whether you’re just starting to feel puny or if you’ve come down with the full-blown head cold, sinus junk, chest congestion, whatever…these steps will help you recover faster and get back to doing the things you love!

Sinus rinseStep 1: Sinus rinse
Whether you’re feeling stopped-up and congested or not, mixing a saline packet into distilled water, and running the solution through your sinus cavity once or twice a day will do wonders for you! This step not only helps rid your sinuses of any of the allergens that are triggering your irritation, but will also gently dry and soothe your sinuses. With the irritating mucus cleared out and dried out, your sinuses can relax, de-swell, and the wonderful result will be a release of the pressure in your head. Ahhhh.

Step 2: Gatorade-it-upGatorade
My genius doctor uncle told me this secret about ten years ago when I was sick with pneumonia. He told me to get four bottles of 32oz Gatorade and drink one bottle an hour for four hours straight. If you’ve ever had pneumonia then you know how incredibly miserable and painful it is…if you haven’t, just imagine if your lungs were full of cement and shards of glass. When Dr. Uncle gave me this advice I was ready to try anything! At the end of the four hours I felt worlds better! I was still on my meds from my family doc, but it was the Gatorade trick that made for the fastest turn-around in how I felt. Since then, I have utilized this Gatorade step anytime I’m feeling a cold coming on. It’s a miracle-worker! (NOTE: for this step, alternatives like PowerAde or store brands don’t work nearly as effectively…sorry!)

Vitamin CStep 3: Heavy C
I know there are mixed reviews as to whether or not Vitamin C really helps your immune system battle illness, but I know one thing for sure: it works for me! When anyone in my house is sick, my whole family goes on a heavy Vitamin C regimen. My personal dosage is 6,000 mg/day, and I have the kids take 3,000 mg/day. These are pretty hefty doses, so before upping your Vitamin C intake be sure your gut won’t revolt! The best thing to do is to start out at around 3,000 mg/day and always take the Vitamin C with meals or heavy snacks to help prevent tummy irritation. Vitamin C works great for me!!

Step 4: Hot tea & honeyHoney
Drinking hot tea or hot water with locally manufactured honey will help you immensely when you’re battling a cold. The warmth of the drink will help stave off your chills and will help loosen any mucus thickness you have going on. The super-hydration will further help thin the mucus to prevent sinus and throat irritation, and will plump up and empower your body’s cells to get in gear and fight in the name of all things healthy! Local honey is a great ingredient to help soothe your throat from coughing and drainage, but is also a wonderful way to familiarize your body with the natural regional allergens so they will not be viewed by your body’s defense mechanisms as harmful.

ApplesStep 5: Feed your cold
When you are sick and congested and runny and stopped up and feverish and miserable the last thing you need is foods or drinks that well magnify the problem! Therefore, stay away from any dairy-based products and keep meat products to a bare minimum while you’re sick. Dairy thickens the mucus in our bodies, which we don’t need on a normal day but really don’t need when we’re already sick. Meats behave in much the same way, but are also just a lot for your body to digest when it’s busy fighting the cold. So, steer clear of the steers 🙂

*BONUS STEP: Resist the sniffTissues
Do not sniff the junk in your head back up into your head…blow it out! Blow your nose constantly when you’re dealing with any sort of head congestion or sinus issue. If you sniffle or snort, you’re going to keep those irritants up in your head, which is just going to slow your recovery time. So, resist the urge to sniff and get that gunk out!

I hope these tips are helpful to you, as they sure work for me and my family. Thanks so much for checking in. Now, I have to go refill my honey water. Enjoy the full YouTube video below and I’ll catch you on the flip side…

Make it a great day,
Mari!yn