Thursday, July 11, 2013

Beauty Update

Since my last post on beauty (over two months ago!), I have switched to Crystal deodorant and eliminated all commercial facial cleansers and products. Unfortunately, I have not stopped using shampoo, conditioner, or styling products, although I still swear by my sulfate-free commercial brand. I found out that vinegar changes or fades colored hair and coloring my hair is just not something that I am willing to give up, so I'm still using commercial products.

The Crystal deodorant is working surprisingly well. I'm generally a sweaty person anyway and no anti-perspirant really made much of a difference, although I guess that I could tell if I wasn't wearing any. I just never felt fresh all day. In my opinion, the Crystal deodorant is as effective as any anti-perspirant/deodorant combination that I've tried, but keep in my that I didn't find them extremely effective anyway. After I started using this product, I found Soapwalla Deodorant Cream and  Primal Pit Paste which I am intrigued with since it now comes in a stick. I plan on giving these a shot in the near future and doing a comparison post. I'm already betting that I'll never use antiperspirant again!

Using coconut oil for facial cleanser took more trial and error. I began by using coconut oil every day. I immediately noticed a difference in my coloring, all of the red undertones were fading and my face was becoming a peachier color. I loved it.  As time went on, my face began to naturally balance and I noticed that the daily coconut oil washes were just too much. I took them back to every two days, then every three days, until I finally got down to once a week. That made me feel kind of dirty, though, so I began incorporating witch hazel into my routine. That stuff is magic! I use it nightly (or in the morning if I forget) as a toner and then my once a week coconut washes are plenty. My complexion is good and much better than it has been in the past.

My coworker also switched her cleanser to coconut oil. She loves it. She still washes with it daily and didn't find a need to incorporate witch hazel. We are definitely perfect examples of finding your own skin's natural balance. Her only complaint is getting "coconut oil eye" (when the oil is too melty and runs into your eye) at least weekly, but even that is manageable!

Overall changing my beauty routine to include more natural products has been incredibly positive. I imagined writing these reviews a couple of months ago and always pictured that I would write how these products were a disappointment and allover failure. I'm so happy that our earth has come through again.  If you don't already I challenge everyone to give it a shot! 

If anyone else has a success story with these or other natural products, I'd love to hear it!
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Monday, July 1, 2013

POW!erful Detergent (amazing homemade laundry detergent)

Laundry detergent has been one of those things that bothered me after we started switching over to organic and a more natural lifestyle, but not enough to make any changes. The thing is, I have two messy boys and my preferred products worked for us. I was always hesitant to change. I'm not sure exactly what my fear was, but I definitely had one and laundry detergent was nonnegotiable in my opinion.

Then one day, for no reason that I can pinpoint, the detergent that I've used since I began doing my own laundry started fading and bleeding the colors from our clothes. I tried to ignore it, but the problem continued and I decided to make a change. With the recommendation of a close friend, I decided to use her brand. I was actually excited for the change and fully embraced the new products. This isn't so bad, it's just detergent...right?

I gave it over a month. I felt exactly like I did when I realized my favorite and go to detergent was slowly ruining our clothes. It just wasn't working. Sure, it wasn't fading or destroying our clothes (thank goodness), but it wasn't cleaning them either. I would have to run numerous cycles to remove any strong odors (chlorine is the worst!) and it never seemed to even touch stains. I felt let down. I was lost. My awesome detergent was now unreliable and I just didn't know if there is a suitable replacement out there.

I realized that now is the time to make a change. I'm pretty stringent (obviously) about the level of clean for our clothing, so I knew that I didn't want something super natural and mild, but I'm not impressed with any of the commercial brands out there. It was time to make my own laundry detergent. I was excited and apprehensive, but I searched until I found a recipe and then I took the plunge.

Surprising even myself, I chose a powdered detergent. I've used liquid for as long as I can remember, but I just found so many positive reviews for the homemade powdered version and when I really thought about it, I couldn't even tell you why I prefer liquid. Powdered it is, then. Now I just needed to find a concoction that I thought would work for us.

I quickly noticed that Borax, washing soda, baking soda, and laundry bar soap were the core ingredients. Of course, my detergent would have to include all of these.  Here's why:

Borax - actually sodium biborate, a natural mineral compound. It has powers that can clean, and bleach, by converting some water molecules into hydrogen peroxide, and because of the boron, salt, and oxygen, it is able to disinfect. We are cold water washers, but Borax is most effective in hotter water.

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda - this stuff is almost magical, the powers that it has! "The high alkalinity of washing soda helps it act as a solvent to remove a range of stains, and unlike bleach, washing soda does not usually stain. It is also used in detergent mixtures to treat hard water; the washing soda binds to the minerals which make water hard, allowing detergent to foam properly so that clothing will come out clean without any residue. Sodium carbonate is also used by some textile artists, since it helps dyes adhere to fabric, resulting in deeper penetration and a longer lasting color." If you have hard water, this is just another reason to make your own laundry detergent.

Baking Soda - a household superhero. Most families use baking soda in baking and to remove odors, but it's cleaning powers are amazing, as well.  It can do everything from dissolving grease to softening clothes. It also works to remove stains, such as perspiration (I've heard that homemade detergent is great for runners and this is probably why), remove odors (another must for runners or swimmers), softens fabric, and is a bleaching agent that won't harm clothes. Another positive for hard water homes as it helps to prevent the stain buildup that comes with having hard water. Most people use Arm & Hammer for their detergent, but we chose Bob's Red Mill due to their chemical free extraction process.

Laundry Bar Soap - different kinds have different powers. Some are amazing stain removers while others give a cleaner and softer feel. The two most popular are Fels-Naptha and Zote. I found that there seemed to be strong opinions on both sides about which one is truly the best and I just couldn't make up my mind. Did I want the stain removal powers of Fels-Naptha or the cleaning and softening powers of Zote? They were even located in two different sections in the laundry aisle - Fels-Naptha with the stain removers and Zote with the detergents. Then a lightbulb - why not use both? All recipes require more than one bar, so couldn't I mix them? I couldn't find anyone before me that used a mixture of both, so I purchased both and prayed that my washing machine wouldn't explode.

Now that I had the basic requirements, I set out to make it work for us.  I noticed that some people use OxyClean, which I have used quite a bit of in the past. I currently have Legacy of Clean Tri-Zyme on hand, which is pretty much the same thing, so I used that. I'm sure that I will switch to OxyClean once I run out since it's much easier to attain. With my dirty little guys, I know that I will need all of the stain fighting and detergent boosting powers possible and felt that this product provided that.

I also added doTERRA Wild Orange Oil. I've been looking into incorporating essential oils into our lives and thought that this was the perfect first step to do so. The oil is light and adds a nice citrusy scent to our clothes.

POW!erful Detergent Team
1 (4 lb. 12 oz.) box of Borax (we used 20 mule team) ($3.38 at Wal-Mart)
1 (3 lb. 7 oz.) box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda ($3.24 at Wal-Mart)
1 (3 lb.) container of OxyClean ($7.52 at
2 (5.5 oz.) bars of Fels-Naptha (97 cents each at Wal-Mart)
1 (14.1 oz.) bar of Zote (97 cents at Wal-Mart)
5 lbs. Baking Soda (Bob's Red Mill or any other brand) (4 lbs. $9.30 on Amazon)
25 drops doTERRA Wild Orange essential oil ($11.55 on Amazon)

Using a cheese grater, grate the 3 bars of laundry soap.  I was terrified of this step. Almost every homemade laundry detergent guide complains about this step. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't bad at all and took less than 10 minutes. Easy, peasy, people!

Take the grated soap and about 1 lb. of the baking soda and process into a powder using a food processor, blender, or other similar appliance. I found the Ninja worked perfectly. I mixed in the baking soda to keep the grated soap from clumping and to it really worked. It was much easier to process into a powder with the baking soda mixed in.

Combine the now powdered soap mixture with the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the essential oil. I know a lot of people use a 2 gallon bucket, but I just used a huge stock pot. I also know that a lot of people like to mix it outside since all of the fine powders create a dust. I did not, but I plan to take their advice next time! A portion of my kitchen was definitely coated with a some dust. And this stuff isn't the easiest to mix, and it gets a bit messy, it's better to be outside than inside.

Separate about 5 - 6 cups of the detergent. In the separated detergent add the 25 drops of essential oil. The oil will clump a bit, but just continue working it into the detergent and the clumps should separate. Once the essential oil is thoroughly mixed, blend separated detergent and essential oil mixture into the large portion of detergent. Make sure that this is well blended. That's it! You know have a huge batch of homemade laundry detergent that should hopefully last at least six months. I firmly believe that the mix of the laundry bars is the unique blend that makes this detergent so POW!erful.

Fels-Naptha is yellow and Zote is pink. The combination is pretty and looks a little bit like cotton candy to me!

To use the detergent dissolve 1 - 3 tablespoons (depending on how soiled the clothes are) in the water before adding the clothes. For front loading washers about 2 tablespoons of detergent with 2 tablespoons of hot water before adding to the dispenser.

Here are the labels that I used on my container. I also made smaller labels for gifts.

Enjoy! And let me know how it works for you!

Information source
Detergent adapted from
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Homemade marshmallows

My first plate of homemade marshmallows
I haven't posted lately because I just feel uninspired about food right now.  Our dinners have become a dull rotation and our lunches have been there for quite some time.  Whenever I feel that I have an awesome idea or recipe to mix things up, my family isn't game, turning up their noses and asking for cheeseburgers or pizza.

I'm so frustrated because this is the time of the year that I get most excited about food.  Everything is so fresh and tastes amazing.  I love seeing the vibrant colors on our plates and the thrill of buying in season locally.  Our garden is still looking great and it's in our schedule to stake our tomatoes this weekend.  I should be thrilled about food right now, but I'm just not.  We are in a rut of bland.

Here's my confession - I actually sent hot dogs, cheddar cheese, and ketchup in the boys lunches this week. I honestly felt like I was serving them cigarettes and whiskey, I felt so guilty.  I just didn't have it in me to send yet another peanut butter and jelly.  Any suggestions to help with this rut are greatly appreciated!

Still feeling the guilt, I mixed it up the following day with tortillas filled with peanut butter and sliced bananas.  I am assuming that they went over well, or the sitter's dog really liked them, because they didn't come back in their lunchboxes.  Today I made an effort again by sending what I called "deconstructed s'mores".  I chopped up some homemade marshmallows and mixed them with Back to Nature Honey Graham Sticks and organic chocolate chips.  Although I haven't gotten any feedback yet, I know that William will be very excited when he sees chocolate AND marshmallows.

Marshmallows are so easy to make if you have an electric mixer.  And they are so much better than the store bought.  Just another way that I avoid HFCS (the devil).  Here is my no fail recipe.  Enjoy!

Homemade Marshmallows

Makes 24

Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1.  Brush a 9 x 13 inch glass pan with oil.  Line with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang over the sides.  Brush parchment with oil.  Set aside.
2.  Put granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water into a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Cook, without stirring, until mixture registers 238 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 9 minutes.
3.  Meanwhile, put 3/4 cup cold water into a bowl of an electric mixer.  Sprinkle with gelatin.  Let soften 5 minutes.
4.  Attach bowl with gelatin to mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  With mixture on low speed, beat hot syrup into gelatin mixture.  Gradually raise speed to high; beat until mixture is very stiff, about 12 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Pour into prepared dish and smooth with an offset spatula.  Set aside, uncovered, until firm, about 3 hours.
5.  Sift 1 cup confectioners sugar onto a work surface.  Unmold marshmallows onto the work surface.  Remove parchment.  Lightly brush sharp knife with powdered sugar then cut marshmallows into 2-inch squares.  Sift remaining 1/2 cup confectioners sugar into a small bowl and roll each marshmallow into sugar to coat.  Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Original recipe adapted from
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homemade popsicles

It finally feels like summer has arrived in Ohio. I love this weather. I look forward to it every year and can't wait until I can comfortably wear maxi dresses, flip flops, and unwind on our balcony. I took a leap of faith this week and switched out all of the boys winter clothes to summer. Jason even installed one of the window air conditioning units. Summer is on it's way and I refuse to believe differently.

Last weekend we worked in our yard trying to clean it up and make it a suitable play area for the boys. We finally set up our sandbox and added a slide, in addition to the regular maintenance of mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, etc. Now we can let them loose for some fun.

Days like this always give me a craving for something sweet and cold. Ice cream is usually my go to, but since it's an after dinner treat, I wanted to avoid a bedtime sugar rush. I felt like I found the perfect solution when I stumbled upon some adorable monster popsicle molds - homemade popsicles.


Like smoothies, this isn't really a recipe. Whatever you have on hand that tastes good together is the recipe. The popsicles pictured are made with almond milk, banana, frozen berries, mango juice, smoothie packet, and chia seeds. Everything blended together in the Ninja, then pour into the molds, and freeze. Both boys devoured them.  The next night they asked for another.  

Besides these popsicles having tons of nutritional value, the best part is that we didn't notice a sugar rush before bed. They easily went through our nighttime routine and off to sleep.

Popsicle molds are Monster popsicle molds by Joie. I found these at TJ Maxx for $5.99. They do not indicate on the box if they are BPA free, so I contacted customer service and was informed that they are BPA free. Initially, I was a little worried about Collin handling it, but these are wonderful for little hands. I love these, my boys love these, they're so cute and fun! This is my opinion and I have not been compensated by Joie or any of it's affiliates.
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Monday, May 20, 2013


I'm currently testing my green thumb with two big projects (well, big for me) - my avocado seeds and my container garden.  Neither prospects are looking very promising right now.

The avocado seeds did not sprout as planned.  One looks like it's half rotten, another shriveled up, and the third actually looks good, but I just realized that it's been sitting in the water upside down for weeks.  I really doubt that it will sprout.  Maybe we'll try again with some new seeds soon.

The garden was actually doing quite well.  That is, until the neighbor cats started using it as a litter box.  In an effort to deter them, I've place some crinkled aluminum foil in the soil.  Fingers crossed that it works!  With both things happening at the same time, I'm losing any faith that I previously had to overcome my lack of a green thumb.

William is way more dedicated and optimistic than me, though.  He dutifully waters the garden every chance he gets.  He refers to it as "my plants" and loves them as such.  He keeps me going and realizing that regardless of the outcome, it's fun to work together and spend time together on these projects.  That said, I would love for him to see these plants that he loves so much turn into vegetables that he has grown.  I hope that our crop does not disappointment him this year.
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Food Revolution Day!

Food Revolution Day…have you heard of it?  It’s an amazing cause and a great reason to celebrate (and enjoy delicious food) with friends and family.  And it's happening TODAY!

Food Revolution Day was created by Jamie Oliver (aka the Naked Chef and my food hero).  It’s a day for people to take action and make a stand for good food and essential cooking skills.  It’s a opportunity for people to gather within their homes, schools, businesses, and communities to cook and share kitchen skills, food knowledge, and resources.  This day aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and increased food education for everyone by focusing on three simple actions – cook it, share it, live it.
The first Food Revolution Day took place on May 19, 2012 with more than 1,000 events in 664 cities across 62 countries. 

Food Revolution Day is celebrated globally as an individual, or within schools, business, or organizations that want to take part in hosting or attending activities in their area.  Many of these activities can be organized by voluntary Food Revolution ambassadors who play a leadership role across the work in connecting individuals, schools, businesses, and organizations at a local level.

Cooking skills that were previously passed down from generation to generation, are now lacking in millions of people.  We need to get back to the basics by cooking and eating fresh local produce, sharing cooking skills and food knowledge, and joining forces within our communities to get as many people involved as possible.  Food Revolution Day is our opportunity to get the world to focus on the importance of good food and essential cooking skills, by rallying our efforts to empower people with better cooking skills and inspiring them to cook fresh from scratch.

Food Revolution Day will happen in kitchens of homes and communities around the world inspiring people to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle.


Now go and enjoy Food Revolution Day.  Make a difference because this matters.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Natural beauty

Since I've been working toward an organic, natural lifestyle, I have done my best to research my decisions.  With every little piece of information that I seek, I am flooded with realizations about things that were not even on my radar.  The latest is beauty products.

As early as my teenage years I heard about animal testing and disgusting additives, but I always associated it with makeup, and I wear little to none on a daily basis.  Shampoo, face wash, soap, etc. never even crossed my mind.  To me these were necessities for cleanliness, not a function of beauty.  Now I realize that these things are full of toxins and dangers which can be quickly absorbed by your skin.

Recently deodorant came up in discussion.  My friend Leslie posted this article regarding the effects.  It caught my attention since it stated a huge increase in breast cancer and that is very close to home.  Sorry to get personal, but I am not a person that can go without.  I heard of someone using baby powder and found it quite laughable.  I don't think that I could make it from our bathroom to our bedroom without it wearing off, forget about all day.  I became frustrated because it is such a necessity for me and decided to ask her what she used instead.  Of course she is one of those people that doesn't need deodorant, but one of her friends recommended Crystal.  I ordered a stick and will give it a shot tomorrow.

Next up is eliminating my facial skin care regimen.  This is another tricky area for me.  I am prone to acne and general bad skin.  It's not overly sensitive, but I've had reactions to certain brands of face wash.  I plan to use coconut oil as my wash and witch hazel as an astringent, if needed.  My coworker, Allison, recently switched to washing with coconut oil and loves it.  My sister, Jamie, has been using coconut oil instead of lotion and also raves about it.  I'm excited to give it a try!

One small step that I've already made is eliminating sulfates in my shampoo.  I've done that for years and now it doesn't feel like a big enough step.  I'd love to go to no poo or homemade shampoo.  Please share any methods or experiences with no poo or homemade shampoo.  Any methods that have worked (or not worked) for anyone would be greatly appreciated.

Here's to natural beauty!
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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Our first garden

This winter I decided that we are going to garden this year.  I figured that we would start small, probably a container garden, but we would have something growing.  I became excited with the idea and spent cold winter days researching container gardens and preparing for the upcoming spring.  I had visions of perfect matching clay pots neatly lined up growing our amazing vegetables.  I couldn’t wait for spring.

As soon as the seasons showed signs of change, my attitude changed as well.  I couldn’t see past the dollar signs involved with my perfect matching containers and organic seedlings.  It didn’t take long to table the idea with the thought of “maybe next year”.

Then one day my stepmom showed up with a flat of seedlings and quite a few containers and told me to buy soil.  I looked at the not perfectly matching plastic pots and the nonorganic seedlings for over two weeks.  The images of my cute, perfect garden were gone and that was fueling my excitement.  It's not that I'm not extremely grateful of the gift, but even with everything delivered to my doorstep, it still seemed like so much work.  Finally I just decided to do it.  Seriously, who turns away a free garden?  I had to get these poor little plants into some soil this weekend, I just knew that they wouldn’t make it another week.

Sunday morning I brought the boys outside and began planting.  William immediately wanted to help and quickly figured out how to cup his hands to transfer dirt from the bags to the pots.  He loved watching me put the seedlings in the soil and cover up the roots.  He even started adding sticks and picked dandelions to imitate the little plants.  We made several references to The Lorax.  Collin was more entertained by our horse tire swing.

When we planted about 2/3 of our seedlings, I realized that we were not only short on soil, but containers.  With William’s help, I watered the already planted containers and then went to buy more soil and containers.  This is what we planted at this point:

William.  My dirty little helper!

When I got home the boys were taking a nap, so I finished planting the containers myself.  When I finally planted the last seedling, I couldn’t help but to proudly look at our garden for a while.  The containers may not all match and the plants may not be 100% organic, but we put a lot of work and effort into it and it’s ours.  Honestly, I think that it looks pretty cute, even all mismatched!  We have nine cabbage, three broccoli, three red bell pepper, three hot pepper, and six tomato plants.  Not bad for a first garden.
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Peanut butter chocolate chip muffins

I'm not sure which I love more, the marriage of peanut butter and chocolate or the marriage of caramel and chocolate.  Both combinations are heaven to me.  I also love making muffins.  They are quick and simple and perfect for freezing and packing in little one's lunches.  When I found these peanut butter chocolate chip muffins on Pinterest, I just knew that I would be baking in the near future.

I realized that I had everything on hand already, so I whipped up a batch.  These muffins did not disappoint.  My partner in crime at work, Allison, was just as smitten as me after her first taste.  I feared that they would be more of a cupcake than a muffin, but they really are a more of a muffin and the not too sweet with the chunks of chocolate and just yum!

Here it is:
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
6 T butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky, creamy, whatever you prefer)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used huge chunks, the original recipe called for mini, so again, personal preference)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar.
In the bowl of your mixer (or another large bowl) combine butter, peanut butter, eggs, and milk until smooth.  The peanut butter may remain a little clumpy and that's ok.  Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture until just combined (you do not want to beat muffin batter too much).  Fold in chocolate chips.
Scoop batter into paper lined muffin tins filling about 3/4 full.  Bake for 17 - 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I couldn't help myself and had to try one right out of the oven.  The melted chocolate and warm peanut butter was amazing.  Although warm and melty is my preference, Allison prefers them at room temperature and claims that they were even better the next day.  Enjoy!

Original recipe adapted from
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Roasted turnips

Last Saturday I received an amazing turnip from my CSA share.  I love turnip greens and have a few go to recipes, but I've never had much luck with the turnip.  I cleaned and chopped it and put it in the fridge hoping that I would find a use for it.

I was sitting at work and then it hit me - roasted turnip.  Recently I've been roasting every vegetable possible, so I was excited to give the turnip a chance.  It didn't disappoint.  I thought that it was delicious.  And incredibly easy.

Turnip (mine was rather large)
Olive oil (enough to lightly coat turnip)
Rosemary (also from my CSA share)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss chopped turnip with olive oil, rosemary, and salt until turnip is lightly coated in olive oil.  I put all of the ingredients in a plastic bag and just gave it a good shake.  Roast turnips until tender and browned, start checking on them after about 30 minutes.  Try not to eat the entire pan at once.


Recipe adapted from

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring has sprung!

Every day I see more and more evidence that Spring is finally arriving in Ohio.  The daffodils are finally blooming, the grass is turning green, and the air is definitely warmer.  Another indication, last Saturday we had our first CSA share delivery and I forgot how much I missed it.

I love our CSA share and our farmers.  We've bought from them for years and they are always extremely generous and genuinely concerned about customer satisfaction.  I am sad to hear that they are struggling a bit this year with a family illness and I really hope that they can continue offering shares in the future.

I have to admit that this time of year I love our share more than I do in the summer.  Seems like a strange statement, right?  The thing is, once we pick up our share, it's a lot of work.  I take at least an hour, and most of the time longer, to clean and prepare everything so that it's easy for us to eat during the week.  If I don't take this time, then we end up tossing a lot of it, and what a waste!

Of course I am busy now, but I'm "winter" busy.  I don't mind sticking a movie in for the boys and working in the kitchen for a while.  When the weather breaks, it just about kills me to be inside (and to keep the boys inside so that I can keep an eye on them) while I clean and prepare our share.  That warm area and beautiful sunshine beckon to me as I stand over my sink washing and chopping.

Since I fully realize my struggle, I've vowed to myself to use more and more of our share this year.  I plan to utilize our freezer and I'm already looking forward to fresh summer produce during the cold months of winter.  I'm constantly looking for new recipes that incorporate the vegetables that we receive and to keep meals interesting.  Any tips or tricks are welcome!
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

I realized that in the long months on winter, we've been slipping on serving vegetables every single dinner. I always feel guilty when this stuff happens. It's not intentional, but I still feel like I am missing an opportunity to make my kids a bit healthier and introduce them to nature's yummy foods.

Last night I decided to break this trend and pulled out a bag of frozen green beans. Feeling more inspired than the usual steamed with butter, I found a recipe for Parmesan Roasted Green Beans. Yum, right? Super easy, too.

Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

Green beans
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place dry (since mine were frozen I patted them dry with a towel) green beans (ends removed) in a bowl. Add enough olive oil to just coat green beans and salt and pepper to taste. Spread on a baking sheet (as single layer as possible). Top with parmesan cheese (we love it, so ours got a pretty good coating). Place in oven for 15 - 20 minutes. Enjoy!

My boys (Jason included) each ate healthy servings. I've never seen them go after green beans like this. They've eaten them before, but not so willingly and happily. I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of the process and final result. I will take one next time and update this post. This will definitely become a regular in our house.

How do you get your kids to eat vegetables?
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Friday, March 22, 2013


Lately the subject of food labeling has been popping up frequently. Either friends are interested in a cleaner eating lifestyle and have questions, the topic finds its way onto facebook, or it's in the news, either way it seems to be mentioned a lot lately. Those of us passionate about the organic lifestyle can spot marketing labeling lies a mile away, but for those that are new to the process, this can be one of the most confusing and intimidating things to learn.

I was trying to find information quickly about the subject, but was repeatedly routed to the confusing laws on government websites. Sure, at least it was a more trusted website, but reading through the legalize was overly frustrating. I decided to come up with a quick guide that will (hopefully) be easier to read and understand.

100% Organic - must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids.

Organic - must contain (excluding water and salt) at least 95% organically produced ingredients and processing agents. Any remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produces agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form.

Products meeting these requirements must display these terms and the percentage of organic content on their principal display feature. These product packages may contain the USDA seal. Agricultural products labeled "organic" cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation.

Made with Organic Ingredients - processed products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients can use the phrase "made with organic ingredients" and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. For example, soup made with with at least 70% organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled either "soup made with organic peas, potatoes, and carrots" or "soup made with organic vegetables".
These products cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. The USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package. However, the percentage of organic content and the certifying agent seal or mark may be used on the principal display panel.

Any product containing less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the term "organic" anywhere on the principal display panel. Although, they may identify specific ingredients that are organically produced on the ingredients statement on the information panel.

Natural - there are no regulations on the label "natural". This term can be found on any product. Beware of this word!

I hope this helps in deciphering labels. Good luck at the grocery store!

Information source:
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Growing avocado trees from the pit

Suddenly I feel like I might have a green thumb. I don't know why because I still kill every plant that enters my house. Anyway, I decided that I can grown avocado trees from the Ohio (in March). This does not sound at all like a failure, right?

The instructions seem easy enough, at least the first step. Insert four toothpicks into the pit. Put the pit in a glass of water with the point facing up and the water covering 1/3 - 2/3 of the bottom portion.

So, the first pit was a disaster. I ate the avocado at work and the pit was dried and peeling by the time that I made it home. I wasn't going to let that stop me, though! I inserted the first three toothpicks into the pit. I was surprised at how easily they went in. Now for the fourth. Darn it! It broke off IN THE PIT! Now what? Ok, I'll just insert another toothpick close to the first hole. A little wood stuck in the pit shouldn't hurt it from sprouting...right? Now I just needed to put them in water. Of course, I put the toothpicks too low on the pit and they don't balance very well at all on the glass. Now this thing has a million holes in it and it didn't look that great to begin with anyway.  Just more confirmation that as much as I like plants, we really have issues understanding each other.

I decided to break open a second avocado that night. I cut it up and froze for future smoothies. Now I had another pit to work with. Luckily I learned from all of my previous mistakes and I now have a nice looking pit semi-emerged in water. Fingers crossed that this thing sprout!

I started this pit experiment about a week ago.  I decided to waive my white flag and throw out the first pit.  It never seemed to recover from getting so dried out throughout my work day.  The second one looks no different, but I'm still hopeful that I will see it sprout in about two weeks.

I'll keep you updated on it's progress!
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Think Spring!

Even though I can still see this

I can also see this

Spring is coming!
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013


About a year ago I became fascinated with flax seeds. It seemed like such a simple idea, to add this little seed to so many recipes and enhance the nutritional value. So simple, right?

For anyone unfamiliar with the flax seed, it boasts many nutritional benefits. The primary three are:
Omega-3 essential fatty acids - "good" fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy benefits
Lignans - contain both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities, which may contribute to protection against cancer and heart disease
Fiber - contains both the soluble and insoluble types
All that packed in one little seed and that's just the primary benefits.

Just as I was about to run to the store to buy infinite pounds of flax seed, I read that you need to grind them right before use for maximum benefit. What? Yes, I am seriously just that lazy. Totally deflated me. I wanted that easy solution. Something to just toss in and enhance my health.

That's when I found my new best friend, the chia seed. Yes, it is the same seed found in packets with ceramic heads known for the catchy theme song. If only we had known back then how beneficial they were to consume instead of turning them into vegetation hair.

The more that I researched chia seeds, the more excited I became. These seeds are also rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. In addition, they pack 18% of your daily calcium value per ounce. I am always looking for ways to increase my calcium intake. Unlike the flax seed, they can easily be digested whole. This is my answer, something to just throw in to enhance my recipes.

I've been using chia seeds for about a year now and I don't have anything negative to say about them. I add them to bake goods and smoothies. My sons eat them without being the wiser. I love these little seeds so much, I don't even hesitate in agreeing that they are a "superfood". My favorite definition of a superfood is a food that packs a huge amount of nutrients, but contains very few calories. These definitely are a superfood!

I plan to try additional recipes, specifically chia pudding, in the near future. I'll let you know how that goes!

Nutritional information obtained from and
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Saturday, March 2, 2013

My not so green thumb

It's finally March! I know that everyone has had enough of winter. I woke up this morning in disbelief of the amount of snow that fell last night. Although it doesn't feel like it, I've heard that this is the time of the year that you need to start thinking about, and even planting, your garden.

I've never had a green thumb. I don't even know what the opposite would Anyway, that's the color of my thumb. Every plant that enters my house dies pretty quickly, not matter how hardy it is. I've had friends and family members share bountiful plants from their yards and all of these lovely gifts have lived a short life once in my possession.

Regardless of my past, I can't help but want to try a garden. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I know that I would love to teach my kids about where their food comes from. If I'm unsuccessful, maybe I can teach them the circle of life.

My yard is incredibly small and I know that I'll have to get creative to make it worthwhile. I've looked at container gardens, which is the direction that I am leaning. I've also considered vertical gardens and overhauling our flower beds into small traditional garden. Any advice in this area is greatly appreciated!

I am the first to admit that I don't have a clue what I am doing. I've been researching and trying to figure out when I need to plant what. I found a handy guide on Pinterest. Although it doesn't encompass everything that I plan to grow, it is a good start.

I hope that I will be able to post pictures of my healthy, growing garden. Most likely I will be posting pictures of sad, empty dirt. Good thing I just purchased our CSA share for 2013!
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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chicken Parmesan

One of my favorite parts of recovery was all of the visitors. I had friends and family visiting, some that I haven't seen for years. I can't even describe how happy I was to hang with everyone.

Kate and I were friends during my college years. Never extremely close, but we would hang out one on one. When she moved to NC I was sad to see her go. We kept our relationship going enough to always be able to contact each other (you have to remember that this was long before facebook and other social networking sites), but would lose touch years at a time. Our relationship became much stronger when we started our families and would share our parenting triumphs and follies. It didn't take long to bond and become best friends over emails.

I finally got to visit with her when she came to Ohio after surgery. I was feeling pretty good at that point and was hopeful that we would be able to spend some time together cooking dinner and sharing a bottle of wine, which we always talked about in our emails. We took the opportunity and did just that.

After a brief discussion we decided on Chicken Parmesan. Delicious. Next was a quick trip to the grocery store and we were ready to cook.

1 sweet onion
1 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus more for frying)
56 ounces whole peeled canned tomatoes
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
20 ounces stewed tomatoes
1 bunch basil
7 cloves garlic
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese
1 bottle Pinot Noir red wine
3 pounds chicken (we used thighs, the original recipe recommended breasts)
Seasoning (oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper, etc.)
6 eggs
4 cups bread crumbs (we used homemade, the original recipe recommended Panko)
1 box spaghetti

Heat olive oil in a stock pot, medium high heat.
Dice onion. Add to heated oil, cook for 10 - 15 minutes. Soften onions without turning them brown.
Dice garlic cloves. Once onions turn opaque, add diced garlic.
Add tomatoes. Add 1/2 cup red wine. Add seasoning (we seasoned to taste using my Italian dressing seasoning and adding other spices as needed, the original recipe suggested 1 tablespoon Penzey's pasta sprinkle).
Slice mozzarella into thin slices. Whisk eggs in a Pyrex dish. Add seasoning (we used a healthy dash of my Italian dressing seasoning). Dip chicken in eggs. Coat chicken with breadcrumbs. Repeat until all chicken is finished. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and place in freezer.
Preheat oven to 400.
Start a boiled pot of water, heavily salted.
Using submersion blender, blend marinara sauce to desired thickness. Pour a layer of marinara on a baking sheet and sprinkle Parmesan on top.
Heat olive oil in large pan. When oil is hot, add breaded chicken. After about 10 minutes, once edges of the chicken start to brown, flip.
Add spaghetti to boiling water.
Layer the chicken on top of the marinara. Repeat cooking chicken and continue adding it to the marinara covered baking sheets. Give the chicken a thin coat of marinara on top. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on chicken. Layer mozzarella on top. Put in oven and set the timer for 12 minutes.
Slice some basil into thin slices (chiffenade).
Add finished cooked spaghetti to leftover marinara sauce.
Continue to check on chicken in oven. Once it is bubbling and the cheese is beginning to turn brown, it's finished.
Pour remainder of wine into glasses. Plate generous portions of spaghetti and chicken and sprinkle with basil. Enjoy!

Kate's admitted that she's always been a bit intimidated to make Chicken Parmesan. I've never made it. We both thought that this recipe was not only easy, but incredibly delicious. My boys ate a ton of it. She made it for her family shortly after she returned from Ohio with success (cooking and family enjoying). I haven't made it again, but plan to invite some family over for dinner soon and this will most likely be our entree.  Without further ado, treat yourself to this deliciousness!

As written, this recipe makes enough to feed an army. Recipe adapted from Diane's Chicken Parmesan.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Banana "ice cream"

Last Friday after looking undesirably at my to do list, I figured that my time would be better spent in the kitchen. I cleaned out the refrigerator, made chocolate chip cookies, and looked around for something else to do. I eyed the four remaining bananas and thought that I would try the banana "ice cream" recipe that I see on Pinterest so frequently.  Bonus that I get to use the new Ninja, yet again.

I'm not usually a fan of "mock" recipes. I don't mind swapping ingredients like vegetable oil for healthier options like coconut oil, but I still like my ice cream to be ice cream and cake to be cake, etc. I really didn't have high hopes for this "ice cream", but figured that it couldn't hurt to try.

The recipe is easy enough. The ingredients are four bananas, two tablespoons peanut butter, and two teaspoons cocoa powder. Pretty much the only part that takes any kind of work is slicing and freezing the bananas (single layer) for at least an hour. I usually freeze bananas whole once they are about to turn for muffins, bread, etc. I think that I am going to start slicing and freezing them in the future, though.

Anyway, once the bananas are frozen, combine with the peanut butter and cocoa powder and blend until smooth. I originally tried to use the single serve cup on the Ninja, but found that it was too much density and too little liquid. I had to use the larger blender attachment and the process went quickly after I switched. I had to pulse a few times to make sure that all of the lumps were out of the bananas. The final result was a texture very much like soft serve ice cream.

I put the finished product back into the freezer and saved until the boys were finished with dinner. Collin ate a ton during dinner and didn't have much interest in dessert. William ate two bowls of the "ice cream", though, and I know that he would have eaten more. It definitely wasn't ice cream, but it was still so good!

This is one of my favorite Pinterest recipes that I made to date. I feel like it really is no fail and I enjoyed it along with my kids. I also felt good about giving that to them as dessert. I think that it would be excellent with a few chocolate chips added.  The recipe as written above makes about four servings. I hope that your family enjoys it as much as we do!

Original recipe from:
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Welcome to the family!

As I posted earlier, our beloved Magic Bullet finally decided to retire. I knew that we couldn't afford a Vitamax or other awesome blenders, so my research led me to the Ninja and Nutri Bullet. A few weeks of reading reviews and watching various YouTube videos, I was still left completely undecided.

I went to Bed Bath and Beyond armed with a 20% off coupon and excited to make a snap decision and buy a blender. I could only find the Ninja, so that made my decision pretty simple. The cashier did tell me where the Nutri Bullets were located (a special display) as I was checking out, but I already had the Ninja in hand and just took the plunge. The family was excited to welcome our new addition, our Ninja blender.

My review so far... It's definitely better than the Magic Bullet. I've used it for a couple of weeks and already I can tell that it doesn't leak, which was always a problem with the Magic Bullet. The Ninja is also much more powerful than the Magic Bullet. Although, it doesn't "pulverize" as it claims. I use chia seeds and berries frequently in my smoothies and those seeds are always left untouched and whole. The smoothies are blended much better than with the Magic Bullet and overall for the price, I would recommend it. I've also used to blender (not single serve, but the bigger one) for a recipe and it worked really well.

I was originally leaning toward the Nurti Bullet since it was made my the same company as the Magic Bullet and I hoped that we could use some of the cups and other attachments from the Magic Bullet. Although I do like the Ninja, I can't help but still be curious about Nutri Bullet. Does it pulverize? Is it better? There is no reason that our family needs two single serve blenders, but what if one is way more superior than the other?  Any other opinions on cheap(er) single serve blenders?
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

I had two predicaments.  The first was that Jason just bought a bag of apples that Collin promptly threw to the floor, so now I have an entire bag of badly bruised apples.  The second was that my beloved MIL accidentally picked up plain oatmeal packets instead of the flavored that my kids prefer.  I could only think of one solution - bake muffins.  I have to admit, it was a wonderful decision, so I am excited to share.

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins
Adapted from Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins at

1 1/2 cups oats (quick or old-fashioned, I used quick)
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsweetened applesauce*
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 egg
(I also added some chia seeds to sneak in a bit more nutrition)

1/4 cup oats (quick or old-fashioned, again I used quick)
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Heat oven to 400.  Line 12 medium muffin tins with paper cups.  Combine oats, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add applesauce, milk, brown sugar, oil, and egg.  Mix just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Fill muffin cups almost full.

For topping combine ingredients.  Sprinkle evenly over batter.

Bake 20 - 22 minutes until deep golden brown.  Serve warm.

*I made applesauce.  I just peeled and diced the apples, added a bit of water, and simmered for 1-2 hours over low heat.  It was still a little chunkier than I prefer, so I hit it with my submersion blender.

These muffins are delicious.  I can't even explain the topping.  I tasted a bit before baking and was unimpressed, but after it caramelized and bonded with the oats, it is just amazing. 

Problems solved!
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is tomorrow.  I love all holidays, but since I've had kids Halloween and Valentine's Day have dropped to my two least favorite.  I love candy and I'm all about celebrating with food, BUT I hate the price that I have to pay with two little boys all hopped up on sugar.

Luckily, mine are still too young for school, so I don't have to worry about other parents giving my kids HFCS and sending them home to me.  I know that one day I will not be so lucky, and since I can't control other parents, I figured that I would at least look into some valentine alternatives to candy in the classroom.  I don't want to be that Mom, that brings in oranges or other lame food, so I looked for fun ideas that kids will still love, even without sugar.

I started a Pinterest board solely dedicated to the creative Valentine's Day ideas of other families which you can follow at Full Plate Momma, but here are my three favorites.

Valentine Bubbles

I love the saying on this tag.  If you follow this link you can find a free tag printable and ideas to make it more affordable for an entire class.

Valentine Glow Sticks

I found quite a few glow stick options, but again this tag was the cutest.  Follow this link and you can find that cute tag printable and how she made these affordable.

Valentine Crayon

I'm not as in love with the tag on this one (I'd prefer this one), but I do love how they made their own crayons out of those useless ends.  Follow this link for incredibly easy instructions to make your own crayons.
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Thursday, January 3, 2013

What's for dinner tonight

I originally found this recipe on Pinterest and weimmediately fell in love with it.  It isso, so delicious.  Initially the boyswere less than enthusiastic, but it is so good, I couldn’t help but make itonce in a while anyway.  To my surprise,tonight both boys were clean platers and William even asked for more twice!  

Do yourself a favor and make this as soon as possible.  Without further ado:

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Penne

1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil**
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried Italian style seasoning***
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well.
*the recipe originally calls for ½ bottle of Lawry’s Herband Garlic marinade.  Of course, one ofthe first ingredients is HFCS, so I opted to make my own.  Original recipe: Garlic and Herb Marinade 
**I substituted olive oil
***I used a teaspoon of my Italian dressing seasoning 

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup pesto (luckily I have a family member that makes it,but if you aren’t quite as lucky I strongly suggest making your own)
8 ounces penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chicken broth
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 cup half and half

Cut chicken into one inch strips.  Make slits in chicken strips.  Marinate chicken in herb and garlic marinadeand ½ pesto overnight (or longer).

After the chicken is marinated:

Boil water to start noodles. Pour entire batch of chicken, marinade and all, into skillet and simmerover medium heat.  Cook chicken throughcompletely and the marinade will cook down.

Heat olive oil and cook garlic.  Once garlic becomes fragrant, add remaining pestoand chicken broth.  Simmer until broth ishalf cooked down.  Add tomato sauce andhalf and half.  Simmer an additional fiveminutes.  Toss pasta with sauce.

To serve – plate pasta and place chicken on top.

Recipe adapted from: Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato CreamPenne at 

Enjoy and you’re welcome!
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